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The waitress approached the table, took the orders, using several sheets of her order pad as each person, or couple, requested separate checks. It had been a long time since Jack’s had seen so many people at once. It would take some getting used to. And Harvey, from the hotel, had told her that the rooms had been rented for three full weeks. Something about archaeologists and those caves up on Harrington Ridge. She liked the man with short gray hair and brown eyes, and the hunk with the blue eyes and sandy blonde hair. The older man teased her, and the smile from the younger man was enough to set her pulse racing. The man with the weird tattoo was very nice, and wasn’t at all upset to have to change his order from raspberry tea to regular tea, since they'd run out during lunch. The two blonde women were nice as well. The others...well, they were friendly, but there was an air of...smugness...about them. It wasn’t overt... probably not even intentional...but it was there. She hurried back to the kitchen, calling out the orders as she walked, using 'diner lingo' that had the group chuckling as they listened.
Conversation focused on the members of the ‘expedition’, each of them telling a bit about themselves. All eyes were on Casey when it was her ‘turn’. "I’m really rather boring," she said apologetically. "I haven’t done anything exciting, or gone anywhere...I didn’t finish college..." Just fought Goa’uld, been hurtled through space in a wormhole to far away planets, and learning two alien languages, she thought.
"You look like a model," Mike said, matching her tone of voice.
She blushed, and shrugged. "I don’t know about that."
Every woman at the table...except Sam, who already knew the young woman quite well, and had already reached the same conclusion...immediately realized that someone had beaten down Casey’s self esteem. She was shy, and had so far spoken only if she was asked a question directly. She was also clinging to Daniel’s arm as if he were her life line.
"So, how did you and Daniel meet?" Bernie asked.
Casey glanced at her husband. "A...friend...mutual friend...told him about me. He showed up at my door one night...and we’ve been together ever since."
"Love at first sight, huh?" Annette grinned.
She smiled. "It certainly was."
"I took one look into those green eyes, and I was a goner," Daniel grinned. His arm was around her shoulders, his thumb tracing lazy circles on her cheek.
"Didn’t get a bit of work out of him until he had her safe and sound in Colorado," Jack teased.
"Oh, where are you from, Casey?" Alley asked.
"I know we’re all dying to ask, so I’ll be the one to do it," Katelynn said, tossing a sheepish look at the young blonde. "I saw you on the news...how on earth did Senator Kinsey know you? Why would he want to kidnap you and that teenager?"
Jack cleared his throat. "Senator Kinsey is aware of our...work..."
"Deep space telemetry," Sam added quickly, to ward of any questions about that work.
Mike glanced at Daniel. Okay, why the hell did the Air Force need an archaeologist/linguist in a program like that?
"And when we'd gone to DC for...budget meetings...Kinsey took the opportunity to snatch Daniel’s wife. Cassie just happened to be with her." It was a far cry from the truth, Jack knew. They were all certain it was the other way around, the bastard had been hot to get his hands on Cassie because she was an alien, and Casey just happened to be with her.
"Oh," Katelynn said. She was disappointed that the answer was so...pat. So pat as to be boring.
The more he heard, the more Mike was certain that something was going on. If it had been anyone but Daniel, he probably would have made excuses and sent them all on their way. But this was Daniel. And the Daniel he'd known wouldn’t hook up with the military just for a job. No matter how bad things had become because of his rather...bizarre...theory. He would've found a teaching job, or worked in a museum, or some such thing. Something that the Air Force was up to, something they needed a trained archaeologist, or linguist for, had caught the young man’s attention. And was still holding it firmly. "Okay, enough about us. Let’s talk about religion and politics," he grinned.
"Mike! You promised," Bernie objected. For years she'd been trying to ‘polish’ his rough edges. Those ‘edges’ were part of the reason she'd resisted him, and moving their friendship into a full-fledged relationship.
"Hey, we’ve pretty much shot Miss Manners ‘polite dinner conversations’ rules to hell, why stop now?" Everyone laughed.
"The trouble with politics," Casey said softly, "Is politicians."
"Hear, hear!" Alley said, raising her beer bottle.
"We are not going to discuss politics. Or religion," Bernie said firmly.
"So what are we supposed to talk about?" Mike asked.
"There are lots of things to discuss," Bernie replied.
Laughter moved around the table again when the woman frowned, trying to come up with a ‘safe’ topic.
"We could always talk about our sex lives," Alley said, her cheek twitching, her eyes on the label she was meticulously peeling off of the beer bottle.
"Or lack thereof," Annette replied, rolling her eyes. Again laughter surrounded the table. "What about the old stand-bys, you know, latest movies, books we’ve read, favorite television shows..."
"I don’t see why we have to force a conversation," Katelyn complained. "Just let it roll!" She took a sip of her coffee.
An awkward silence settled over the table, Mike and his colleagues stealing glances at Daniel, his wife and friends. SG-1 watched the faces, and the eyes, of those sitting across from them.
Bernie slapped her hand down on the table. "This is ridiculous! We’re intelligent adults!" She looked at Sam. Felt a affinity for another woman whose nickname was decidedly masculine. "Sam, have you ever used your nickname to open doors in your...uh...career?"
Sam grinned. "Several times. I found that the men in charge of whatever project I was working were more willing to read reports from Sam Carter, and seriously consider the recommendations, than they were to read the same report from Samantha Carter."
"I hear that," Bernie nodded knowingly. "Of course they try to back peddle as soon as they find out that the Bernie is short for Bernadette."
"Or give some lame excuse as to why all of a sudden the idea they were raving about in their emails is no longer ‘suitable’," Sam exclaimed.
"It’s because men are threatened by strong, intelligent women," Alley tossed in.
"Oh, that is so not true!" Jack exclaimed.
"Of course it is," Alley argued. "On the outside you try to convince us that you respect us, and our point of view, but on the inside you’re wishing we’d all just shut up and go back into the kitchen and let the men-folk deal with the ‘important issues’."
"I don’t think it’s always been that way," Casey said softly. "For example, the ancient Celts were led by women just as often as men. When a lord or a king died, his wife often continued ruling in his stead. Boadicea was probably one of the most charismatic leaders the Celts ever had...she managed to unite all of the clans against the Romans. I think the farther back you go, the more...cooperation...you find between the sexes. In the earliest records of several native American tribes, women were regarded with just as much respect as men."
Daniel couldn’t help but beam proudly. In spite of what she said, or thought about her abilities, Casey was an intelligent woman. No one would ever convince him that she hadn’t learned more in two years in the university than most students learned in four.
"Exactly!" Katelynn exclaimed. "From what we can find, women were the gatherers, men were the hunters, simply because a man’s size and strength made catching and killing large animals, like the Woolly Mammoth, or a bison, much easier, and a woman’s smaller hands could get in between tight branches to gather berries. It doesn’t mean that men didn’t help gather, or that women didn’t help hunt...it was a cooperative effort."
"Simple survival," Daniel said. "When you have a limited number of adults, who are ultimately responsible for the welfare of an entire clan, which included children and the elderly, you don’t have any other choice but to work together."
Mike nodded. "Let’s look at the Salish. What we find in the very earliest signs of their civilization, when they were coming down from across the frozen Bering Sea, there weren’t clearly defined jobs for men and woman. A few hundred, perhaps even as long as a thousand years later, there were clearly defined jobs for the women, clearly defined jobs for the men. That concept evolved."
"Sort of like specialties," Jack said.
"Yes, exactly," Mike said, nodding vigorously.
"So when did things start changing?" Annette asked, a frown on her young face.
"About the time that tribes and clans began joining together," Daniel said. "The larger the group, the more need for cooperation, and the easier for people with certain talents, such as flint knapping, or weaving, to do just those things. They also developed more intricate customs and mores for their society, to keep the peace. Some groups were matriarchal, some were patriarchal."
"That probably had more to do with the tribes and clans," Sam suggested. "If a clan or tribe had more women, it just makes sense that they'd be more involved in what was happening."
Alley nodded her agreement. "How long did people have shamans, wise men, whatever they wanted to call them...and evidence points to the fact that either man or woman could hold the position...who served as both healers and spiritual guides? I think the changes that we live with today happened when ‘organized’ religion came into being...when religious leaders wanted...and took...more control over the people. Look at the Abrahamic religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. All three of those religions relegate women to second class citizenship."
"Which was really contrary to most of the cultures around them, the existing societies," Daniel pointed out.
"So they became that way to be different, to separate themselves?" Casey asked.
"Probably," Daniel replied.
"And let’s face it, men embraced that attitude gladly," Alley added.
The waitress was bringing out the meals. By unspoken agreement, no one began eating until everyone had been served. The conversation continued to flow; ideas and theories, known facts and questions tossed out as they ate.
Mike stretched, looked at his watch. It was nearly eight-thirty. "Okay, folks, let’s head back to the hotel. We'll have sunlight around six-thirty in the morning. I want to be up there by seven. We’ll meet here for breakfast at six."
"How far is it to the caves?" Daniel asked.
"About thirty minutes," Mike replied.
With their thanks to the waitress, and the cook, who was sitting with the older woman, drinking a cup of coffee, the group headed out the door and toward the hotel.
Casey pulled her jacket tighter around her slender frame. Lights glowed in the windows of the half dozen houses that they could see. For those people, life was simple. Almost as simple as the life the Salish Indians had led. Oh, they had all of the modern conveniences. But that was really the only difference. She sighed softly. She'd left that life behind the day she'd taken the elevator down twenty-seven levels into the heart of Cheyenne Mountain, to be introduced to General Hammond. To learn about the Stargate Program. And it would never be the same. She smiled when Daniel’s arm tightened around her shoulders. Being with him made it worth every minute of knowing what she knew.
Daniel watched Bernie follow Mike, her head down, her brow wrinkled with thought. He recognized the look. Wondered what she was puzzling over. The letter crackled in his pocket. He'd decided not to return it. That would be too much like a slap in the face. Better to just acknowledge that he'd read it, and say nothing else. She already knew that he was madly, deeply, passionately in love with his wife. There was nothing left to be said.
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