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Deceptions and Illusions
"…You're so vain, you probably think
this song is about you
You're so vain, I'll bet you think this song is about you
Don't you? Don't you?…"
"You're So Vain"
by Carly Simon
Klaxons shattered the peace of the early morning air, the red of the warning lights bathing the corridors in moving color. Daniel wiped a hand over his face, adjusted his glasses, and headed for the 'gate room. Why had he decided to let him come here? Why had he hired him? Pride? A way to get a dig in for hurt feelings? Pretty damned pathetic. Lousy reasons to hire someone that he was going to have to work with. He might not be psychic, but he knew that this was a really bad idea. He could feel it.
He shoved his hands into his pants pockets, wishing he'd insisted that someone else greet him. Susan had offered, he should've let her. He shook his head, rubbed the back of his neck with one hand, pushed it back into his pocket as he stood at the end of the ramp and waited.
Dr. Steven Rayner thought he was going to die. So cold, so…he felt as if he was being stretched and pulled and shoved into a compacted ball all at the same time. He stumbled the tiniest bit when his foot came in contact with the ramp. He looked around. Damned if this place didn't look a lot like the room he had just walked out of! Waiting at the bottom of the ramp was Daniel Jackson, wearing green fatigues, looking a bit ill at ease. Wasn't he the head of the entire Archaeology Department? Hadn't Daniel been the one to hire him? Or had someone else insisted, thus the look of disquiet? Whatever the reason, it was enough to know that on some level, Daniel didn't want him here. "Daniel," he said amiably, offering his hand.
Daniel looked at the outstretched hand, offered his slowly in return, forced a smile. "Steven."
"So this is Gamma," Rayner said, a smile on his handsome face.
"Actually, this is just the SGC. Gamma is twenty-seven levels above us," Daniel replied dryly.
The dark haired man laughed. "Good one! I see your sense of humor hasn't changed." That wasn't the only thing that had remained the same, he thought, looking Daniel over surreptitiously. The good Dr. Jackson looked exactly as he had the last time the two had seen one another, in that hospital in Cairo. He had shown more self-confidence then; now the man reeked of it. Not arrogant, just a man sure of who he was and what he was capable of.
Daniel was taking the time to examine his former colleague as well. Rayner's dark hair was showing signs of gray, mostly at the temples. His face was a bit harder, a few more lines around his eyes and mouth than what Daniel remembered. It had been what, fourteen years? When he had last seen Rayner, the man had been lying in a hospital bed in Cairo; listening to Sam tell him that Sarah had been killed by terrorists…who had supposedly surprised them in that temple, and had stolen all of the artifacts there…that anything else he might remember was no doubt a result of the drugs that had been administered as soon as they had been found. Now the dark haired man knew the truth, or most of it, anyway. "Well, this way. We've arranged for you to have a room in the barracks until you find a place."
"That will be fine, thanks," Rayner said. He shifted slightly, his suitcase in one hand, a garment bag in the other, when Daniel remained standing there, looking at him.
He cleared his throat. "Yeah, well, this way." Daniel turned, both hands in his pockets, his broad shoulders hunched forward slightly, and led Gamma's new resident archaeologist out of the 'gate room.
"Whoa! What's this?" Rayner asked, coming face to face with the "Snake Memorial" wall.
"List of all the Goa'uld we've killed. Casey…my Wife…takes care of it."
Rayner nodded. "Very nice. Excellent spacing. Colors are used correctly. I'm impressed."
"You should be. Casey may not have any formal training, but she's one of the best archaeologists around," Daniel said proudly. He was delighted to learn that many of the questions that came to the Gamma Archaeological Research Center were now just as often addressed to her, as to him. She had written two articles about two large digs that SG-1 had been on, as well as a treatise on being Immortal, and all had received raves from the scientific community.
"So I've read. Will I be meeting your lovely wife?" Rayner tried to keep his voice neutral.
Daniel glanced at the man. Warning bells started going off in his head. He silenced them impatiently. Rayner had asked a simple question…a legitimate one. "I'm sure you will. She works with me in the Center."
He bit back a grin. Was that a hint of jealousy in the good Dr. Jackson's voice? Certainly his eyes had flared with it, for just a second. "Of course. I'm prepared to start work immediately," he replied. The sooner to meet that beautiful wife of yours, he thought to himself.
"Good. I'll take you to the barracks so you can sign in. Come over to the Center whenever you're ready."
"How will I find it?" Rayner asked.
Daniel gave a genuine smile. "You won't be able to miss it. It's the big building just across the street from the barracks.
"Ah. I see. How convenient."
He shrugged. "I guess so." He turned and led the way to the elevator.
"So, will I be meeting any of these…Immortals?"
"I'm Immortal, Steven," Daniel said softly.
"Yes, I guess you are, aren't you? Tell me, what's it like to know you'll never die?" Rayner asked presumptuously.
He bit back his smile. "Actually, I've died dozens of times."
The casualness of the remark took him aback. "Of course."
Daniel lowered his head, shook it slightly. "It's a blessing most of the time. Sometimes it's a…burden," he said softly.
"A burden?" Rayner couldn't see that Immortality could have any down side.
"Immortals were created to protect the Innocent. When SG-1 was granted Immortality, we were given the same task. It can be…overwhelming…at times," his voice still soft, a little sad.
Rayner didn't know what to say. He had read every article printed about the man, watched every interview, every news story. Never had the thought occurred to him, when he was sipping his scotch and thinking that once again Daniel Jackson had it all, that there were…requirements…that came with his Immortality. "I…I never realized," he responded just as softly.
Daniel looked over at the man standing beside him, could feel Rayner's sudden nervousness. "I'm still the same man you knew twenty-two years ago," he said.
Rayner shook his head. "Not hardly."
Casey had said the same thing. She had told him that he had continued to learn, grow; that the things he had experienced; his place as The Chosen One made him different…wiser…than the men around him. Inside, in his heart, however, Daniel Jackson was the same man he had always been; shy, modest, passionate, compassionate. "Close enough."
"Maybe." Rayner watched the numbers decrease as the elevator moved up toward the surface of the planet, an alien planet, at least for him.
"Tomorrow night there's a fundraiser for the new museum. I want all of the archaeologists from the Center there. Your ticket is in my office. Remind me to give it to you before I leave tonight," Daniel said, abruptly changing what was becoming an uncomfortable topic of conversation.
"Yes, of course."
"It's black tie. The Men's Wearhouse in the mall has a pretty good size selection in stock if you need a tux," Daniel said.
Rayner's eyes widened. "Mall? Men's Wearhouse? Here?"
Daniel laughed. "Hope is just like any town on Earth, Steven. We just have a few extras."
"Extras? Such as?"
"We have a spaceport, I haven't heard of a lot of those being built on Earth. I don’t think there are any businesses owned and operated by Langarans or Terrans there, either, at least not yet. Although from what I understand you can get anything you want from either planet."
"If you're willing to pay for it," Rayner replied.
"Well, those items probably aren't as expensive here," Daniel told him. The doors opened, and Daniel led him to the guard station, where he stopped and had Rayner sign in and fill out the paperwork for a permanent I.D. pass, then out the double doors into the Gammian sunshine.
"Wow, it was about seventy-five degrees in Silver Springs this morning," Rayner said, tugging his suit jacket off as the heat hit him.
"Weather is usually pretty warm around here all of the time. Seasonally, we're off about three months from Earth. We've kept the same calendar, although we had to add a few days. We have three-hundred-seventy two days here." He walked down the narrow street toward the barracks.
"So, how did they add the days?"
"Every month has thirty-one days now, February has thirty-two," Daniel replied. "This way," he said, leading the other man into the cool lobby of the barracks. The building looked like a hotel, with a wing off of each side of a central lobby. Behind the lobby was the large kitchen and cafeteria that served those living on the premises. Every two rooms shared a large bath, and each room was set up for two people. There were single rooms with private bathrooms available, and it was into one of these that Daniel had registered Rayner.
He decided to wait in the lobby while one of the young SF's escorted Rayner to his room to drop off his luggage. He rolled his head, felt the tightness in his shoulders. Stress. Casey would work all of it out of his neck tonight, those soft hands massaging every bit of stiffness away. He thought about Rayner's question regarding Casey. It appeared that his…what was Rayner anyway? Friend? No. Never had been. Daniel wasn't sure it would ever happen. Competitor…adversary? Most definitely. The two of them couldn't be near one another without the need to best the other surfacing. Employee. Daniel grinned. Yeah, that had a nice ring to it. Dr. Steven Raynor was his employee. Well, whatever he was, he was most decidedly interested in meeting Casey. And that had a foreboding sound to it.
Rayner stepped off the elevator in the lobby. He had left his suit coat in his room, it just felt too damned hot to want to wear it. He was surprised to see that Daniel had waited for him. "I’m ready," he said. All at once he felt nervous, his stomach in knots, his hands sweating. He was going to see…be working with…artifacts taken from other planets! He glanced at the man who walked beside him. For years Daniel had known that his theories were correct. Had seen so much, discovered amazing things that he hadn't been allowed to share with the rest of the archaeological community…with the world. How had he stood it? How had he managed to contain the knowledge that he was right, and literally the rest of the world was wrong? How had Daniel been able to keep from laughing in his face at Dr. Jordan's funeral?
It took a few seconds for their eyes to adjust from the bright sunshine of the outdoors to the carefully lit Center gallery. When they did, Rayner couldn't stop the whistle that left his lips. Large worktables filled the long room, and every one of them were covered with artifacts. Incredible, unbelievable…alien…artifacts.
Daniel grinned. "Amazing, isn't it? Everything you see right now is being re-tagged for storage. A lot of it will be moved to the Museum for display there."
Still overwhelmed, Rayner managed to nod.
"If you're ready to go to work, let me introduce you around, and then you can just fill in wherever you're needed," Daniel said.
"You're the boss," Rayner replied glibly. He watched Daniel's eyes. Saw nothing there to indicate that the man would 'lord' the position over his head.
Damn straight I am, he thought smugly. Then chastised himself for the thought. "This way," Daniel said.
It seemed that everyone who worked in the Center was waiting to meet him. Rayner didn't know whether to be flattered or not; he had no way of knowing if all new arrivals were treated this way. He met the Whitman's, a charming couple; Mike and Terry, neither man seemed impressed to meet him. Three young grad students who appeared to compare him to Daniel and found him lacking. The person he most wanted to meet however, stood just to the side, her hands wrapped around Daniel's arm, as if he were her anchor to safety. God in heaven, none of the pictures he had seen of her did the woman justice!
"Casey, this is Doctor Steven Rayner. Steven, my Wife Casey," Daniel said. He watched Rayner's eyes light up, the way the man stood taller, squared his shoulders. He bit back at the jealousy that reared its ugly head as Casey responded to the man's charm.
Casey offered her hand. "It's nice to meet you, Doctor Rayner."
He flashed his best smile. "Please, call me Steven. Doctor Rayner makes me sound old. I don't look that old, do I?" When she smiled, he thought he'd never seen a more enchanting creature. His body was reacting to her, more ardently than to any woman he had ever known.
"No, you don't look that old," she replied, forcing a smile. Something in the back of her mind told her not to trust this man. There was something…familiar…about him. She recognized it on a subconscious level, although her conscious mind couldn't name it…yet. She turned to Daniel. "I need to get back to that tablet, but I'm having trouble with one section. Help me?"
Daniel smiled. "Always." He turned and nodded to the group still standing around him. "Okay, let's see how much we can accomplish today. Mike, you're in charge, put…Steven…wherever you need him."
Gripping his hand firmly, Casey led Daniel up to their office. She cast a glance over her shoulder. Steven Rayner was watching her. He grinned and winked when he saw her look back at him. Cocky bastard, she thought irritably.
Rayner watched her walking away. Saints preserve us, what a fine ass she has! What a thing of beauty! That subtle sway of her hips was enough to have him hard and wanting. It took a few seconds for him to realize that Mike was talking to him. He didn’t miss the look of disapproval that flashed through the man's eyes. Let him think what he wants, Rayner thought. The only thing he had to worry about was getting caught. And that had become very easy to avoid over the years.
Casey sank down in the chair by the worktable. Tried to force the look in Steven Rayner's eyes as he had watched her from her memory. She glanced at Daniel. He hadn't seen the look, or the wink. She pulled her lip between her teeth. It was possible that the behavior was typical for Dr. Rayner, and that he behaved that way with all women. He had certainly puffed up when Stephanie admitted to reading his book. He had been charming when he had kissed Susan's hand in the Continental fashion of greeting. Just a big flirt, she decided. Nothing to get upset over.
Daniel had pulled another chair to the table beside her. It was a Cardorian tablet, a civilization they were only just learning about. SGI-9 had found the first ruins of the civilization three months ago; a mission to a planet in a nearby solar system had netted more artifacts from this newly discovered people. Their written language seemed to be a conglomeration of nearly fifteen other languages including Goa'uld, Ancient Egyptian and Terran, and having no less than eight 'respectives', which dictated how certain words and phrases were translated. Casey read the language as well as he did. Knew more about their culture at this point than he did. If she was having problems translating, then it would no doubt be a challenge for him as well. "Okay, show me where you're having trouble," he said, settling close at her side.
She breathed deeply of the wonderful, masculine scent of the man she loved. Resisted leaning over burying her face against his neck. Barely. She pulled her mind back to her work. She pointed to a section of text. There was a deep crack through the middle of it. "I'm not familiar enough with this dialect to be able to fill in the blanks on what's missing," she told him. She had to admit, however, if it was what she thought it was, those blanks would become very easy to fill in. Oh, yeah, very easy indeed!
He didn't remind her that she was probably more familiar with the dialect than he was as he skimmed the text around it. "This is a prayer," he said absently, his eyes moving to the words before and after the lines in question.
"I know. Which means it should be translated in the third respective, but when I do that, from here to here," she indicated seven lines of cuneiform, "it suddenly makes no sense at all."
He spent several minutes studying the tablet. "You're right. Suppositions?"
She shook her blonde head, pushed the hair back from her face in one fluid movement. "Unless it's supposed to sound ridiculous, my only guess is that it's not really a prayer."
"Good start," Daniel allowed.
"If it's not a prayer, then it should be fourth respective."
"Go on," he encouraged.
"If it's fourth respective, then it changes to sixth there. This line would indicate that…well it would if it weren't missing. If that is true, then…I…I think it's a piece of adult literature." She frowned at that thought.
He skimmed the text again. "My lover stands before me, his red lance at the ready, prepared to impale me. Rains of anticipation fall in that secret garden which I hold between my thighs," he read out loud. He grinned. "You think ancient human cultures on other planets weren't capable of having a Vatsyayana, or a D. H. Lawrence?"
"More like Erica Jong," Casey muttered. She would not let him know how the ancient text had affected her. Absolutely not. No way. She glanced over at him. His beautiful blue eyes were watching her, laughing at her. He knew, the big jerk!
Daniel slid a hand up her leg, rested it high on her thigh, his fingers just inches from that sweet twat. He could feel the heat radiating from her, even through her fatigues. "So, you needed help with this, huh?"
"I wouldn't have asked if I didn't," she replied irritably. Now he'd think she asked him to look at it just to get him all worked up as well. Big jerk. Hornball. Gorgeous hunk of archaeologist. The warmth of his hand was sending sparks up and down her spine. Sparks that would leap into all consuming flames at the slightest touch. She could feel how close his fingers were to her aching womanhood, tried to push down the need that was flaring in her body.
He let his fingers move on her thigh, edging ever closer to that source of heat. "Uh huh."
"Daniel!" she protested, her body responding to his gentle caress. She wanted to be pissed off at him, just a little bit, for assuming what she was sure he was assuming. Her body, however, didn't give a damn what her Husband was thinking, it cared only that he was the one capable of quenching the Fire that was beginning to burn.
"Conference room?" He whispered suggestively.
She glanced down at the gallery floor. The double doors of the conference room opened to the gallery. And every person who worked in the Center was in the gallery at the moment. She shook her head. "Supply closet," she whispered in return.
He leaned over to kiss her, gently, tenderly. "What you do to me, woman," he whispered, his lips against her ear. He stood up, tossed his pencil on the desk, and walked out of the room and down the stairs, hands in his pockets, whistling happily.
Casey watched the people on the floor for a minute. No one had even looked up when Daniel walked by. She smiled. They were all well aware that he had, and in which direction he had gone. They would be just as aware when she followed him, in a few minutes. But none of them would ever let on. Goddess bless 'em, each and every one, she thought, smiling to herself.
A A A A A A
Rayner glanced up when Casey walked by, the sweet scent of her perfume…something light, floral with a hint of - vanilla?…drifting toward him, filling his senses. How had Daniel managed to find and marry a woman like her? When he had first met Daniel, the man had been such a geek…had been so awkward around women he was usually too tongue-tied to speak to them. True, he seemed to do okay with Sarah, except for the entire burying himself in his work and forgetting about her thing. Sarah was attracted to him because of Dr. Jordan. Daniel had been her ticket to that particular research project, so the lack of attention didn't bother her - at first. At least, that's what she had told him. Somewhere along the line, Sarah Gardner had fallen in love with the geeky scientist. Daniel had cared for her as well, Rayner had been able to see that. But his work had continued to come first in his life, and Sarah wasn't a woman willing to take second place. She had walked out on him after a particularly stormy confrontation dealing with a missed 'anniversary' dinner. Daniel hadn't even noticed her absence for almost a three days afterwards. By then, the damage done was too extensive, the hurt too deep to ever be repaired. Shortly after that incident, Daniel finished the project. A few weeks later he put forth his theory of the pyramids and left Chicago only a few months after that.
He wasn't a bad looking man, Rayner supposed. And no doubt Daniel had managed to become less…awkward. But never would he have thought that a woman like Casey would even notice a man like Daniel Jackson. She could have her choice of men, hell, he had heard the comments made on television by several actors during interviews on late night talk shows, all declaring that they would love a chance to meet her. So what did Daniel have that attracted her? Was it just the whole scientist thing? Was she turned on by intelligent…brilliant men? That would certainly be…beneficial. Or was there something else that made her see only him? What an intriguing puzzle she was. He would enjoy learning that puzzle, piece by piece. He watched her turn the corner, entering the hallway near the front entrance. The sign for the restrooms hung above that corridor. He grinned. No time like the present.
"I'll be back," Rayner said, glancing over at Mike. "Three cups of coffee can take a toll on a man."
Mike grinned. "I hear that. Coffeepot is always on around here. Danny and Casey are both addicted to the stuff."
Well, well, well, a common denominator. Damned useful one as well. "I suppose everyone around here drinks coffee then?"
"Pretty much. Susan and Arlen prefer tea, but that's just because they're Limeys," Mike said, tossing a laughing look in the direction of the couple. Susan stuck her tongue out; Arlen rolled his eyes, both of them smiling behind their pretended offense.
Rayner smiled. "Well, I'll be back." He hurried toward the restrooms. He would just wait until the lovely Mrs. Jackson emerged, and…bump…into her. That routine had never yet let him down.
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