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Deceptions and Illusions
Daniel walked into the kitchen. Casey was standing in front of the sink, her head down, her arms wrapped around her slender waist. "Case?"
She turned her back toward him when he reached for her. Didn't want him to see the tears in her eyes. It was ridiculous, she knew, to be standing here crying because she was getting ready to take her four-year-old daughter to Kindergarten for the first time.
Unwilling to let her move away from him, Daniel gently pulled her into his arms, smiled when she turned and settled against him, her head on his shoulder. "What's wrong, Angel?"
"It's silly," she replied, her voice muffled against his neck.
"This wouldn't have anything to do with Emmie starting Elementary school today, would it?" A nod against his shoulder. "It's not silly, Angel. It's not easy watching our baby girl growing up so quickly."
"You're not standing in the kitchen crying about it," she said, her voice wavering slightly.
His smile became a grin. "Yeah, well that has to do with the macho thing." He was rewarded when she giggled. "It's okay, Angel. I hear that most mothers do cry when their kids start school."
"She's been in Pre-school for the past year," Casey pointed out.
"Yeah, and you cried the first time we took her there, too," Daniel reminded her. "Come on, you get her ready to go, and I'll get Nicholas." He planted a kiss on the side of her head, let her move away, and headed outside to find his son.
Casey found Emily in her bedroom, pulling on her shoes. The little girl was wearing the brand new denim skirt and jacket that they had picked out together the day before, with a little white tank top and white socks. She looked older than her four years, and for a second Casey flashed on future days, when her Baby Girl would be a teenager, a young woman. She shoved that thought away as quickly as possible. Dealing with Kindergarten was enough for today. "Ready for me to fix your hair, Baby?"
Emily nodded. "Will you braid it like Daddy braids your hair?"
"Sure will," Casey replied with a smile. She followed her daughter into the kid's bathroom, found Emily's hairbrush and two matching barrettes. She quickly braided the long, blonde hair, put the barrettes on either side. "You look mahvelous, dahling," she said, in a game that had developed between them after the latest visit to Silver Scissors.
"Thank you, dahling," Emily replied, then giggled.
Daniel had been standing quietly at the door, watching and listening, Nicholas in his arms. He remembered when Casey had worried that Emily hated her. The child doted on her mother, emulated her at every opportunity. "You'll be the prettiest girl in the class," he said softly.
The two females in his life turned to look at him. "Do you think I really will, Daddy?" Emily asked anxiously. "Nichole Anderson is very pretty, but she's still in Pre-School," the little girl said smugly.
"Nichole Anderson isn't anywhere near as pretty as my Princess," Daniel replied. He watched blue eyes light up. Isn't she too damned young to be worried about this kind of stuff? he fretted silently.
Casey double-checked Emily's backpack to make sure that everything she needed was there, including her lunch. Kindergarten was a full day, although naps were taken in the afternoon. The prayer rug that would serve as Emily's mat was carefully marked with her name and address, and was rolled up, ready to take. She blinked back another round of tears, and announced that Emily was ready to go. The child bounced to the back door and into the garage, her excitement over going to 'for really school' evident in her shining little face.
Daniel put Nicholas into his mother's arms. If she was holding one of her babies, it would make it easier to let the other one go…to Kindergarten at least. He helped his daughter onto her booster seat, fastened the seat belt around her, in spite of her protests that she could do it for herself. He dealt with his own twinges of grief over his little Princess growing up so quickly.
A A A A A A
The New Horizons Elementary School was different from the other elementary schools in Hope. Prevailing thought there was that children were at their most curious, learned the quickest, and would easily learn anything taught to them from the ages of three to ten. So the children were started on a curriculum of advanced studies. So far, the theory was proving to be accurate. The children in the sixth grade classes were ready to tackle algebra, and trigonometry; geology and chemistry and plant biology. English grammar, writing and punctuation, as well as spelling were a high priority, English being the agreed upon 'official' language for Gamma. Fourteen other languages were being taught as well, including Langaran, Terran, and Tollan; each child choosing two to study and learn. History was keyed down to verifiable facts, leaving the moral and emotional discussions of the issues for high school, when the students would be ready emotionally and mentally for the complexities of historical events. The success of the program was visible in the high enrollment numbers, and the fact that the Hope High School was already preparing for these students, offering advanced courses that were college prep and first year college level courses. The dean of the newly opened University was eagerly awaiting the first group of these students as well.
Any children at New Horizons who were struggling, although there were very few who were doing so, were paired with mentors and tutors, volunteers from the community. Daniel was one of the parents helping with history and the foreign and alien language classes, and Casey joined ten other community members in volunteering for the English classes, helping children with essays and poetry. Sam was one of the mentors for the mathematics courses; Jack was a mentor for math and history both, putting a serious dent in his 'stupid military grunt' persona. Carly was helping with dance classes, and Teal'c had volunteered to teach the children self defense, more for the exercise than the actual need for the knowledge. Tessa was teaching art two days a week, and even Duncan was lending a hand, teaching fencing.
Daniel parked the Blazer, and looked over at Casey. "Ready?"
She shook her head slightly. "Are you sure this is the best thing? Maybe she should go to one of the public elementary schools," she said softly.
"Angel, we've already talked about this. Lou Ann thinks this is where Emmie belongs. She scored highly on her entrance tests. If we don't keep her challenged, she'll get bored, and she could totally turn off to learning."
Casey turned and looked out of the side window. "It just seems so…I don't know, like I'm pushing her, tossing her…tossing her into the lion's den."
He reached over and took her hand, lifted it to his lips. "You're offering her the best education we can give her, Casey. She's a very bright little girl. She deserves that."
"I go here, Mommy," Emily piped up from the backseat. She had already met the principal and the woman who would be her teacher. She had taken to both immediately.
With a sigh of defeat, Casey nodded, opened the door and stepped out. She pulled Nicholas from his car seat, held him close. The tot was always willing to be cuddled by his mother, and clung tightly to her neck.
Daniel took Emily's hand and led her up the wide sidewalk into the impressive building. She insisted on wearing her backpack, and carrying her mat. He was sure the pack weighed at least as much as she did, but allowed her to pull the straps onto her shoulders.
The Kindergarten classrooms were on the first floor, toward the back of the building. Helen Waters, the teacher who would be welcoming Emily Jackson into her classroom, opened the door and greeted them brightly.
Twenty other sets of parents, excited Kindergartners, and assorted younger siblings were already waiting in the large room. Several couples began to whisper amongst themselves when the well-known Dr. Jackson and his lovely wife entered the classroom. At least a dozen mothers smiled and commented to one another on the fact that their son was the spitting image of his father, while the little girl was a carbon copy of her mother, with the exception of the blue eyes.
Daniel helped Emily look at the names on the desks, until she found hers. She put her backpack and mat on the desk and sat down, beaming up at him. He ran his hand over her silky blonde hair, gave her a smile in return, and went to join his wife in the back of the classroom.
"I'd like to welcome you all to the first day of Kindergarten," Mrs. Waters said, addressing the seated children. "We will have a very exciting, fun time together, learning so many wonderful things!"
"What kinds of things?" Emily asked eagerly.
Casey and Daniel glanced at one another, both trying to hide their smiles. Other parents chuckled out loud.
Mrs. Waters smiled at the precocious little girl. "Emily, that is an excellent question! Thank you for asking it! We'll learn about numbers, and all the magical things they can do. We'll learn how to spell many wonderful words using our A,B,C's, and use those words to tell exciting stories. We'll learn about Gamma, and how the Immortals came here to start a special place for all Gammians to live. We'll even learn about Earth. How many of you have actually lived on Earth?"
Several hands went up. Emily looked around the room, and then turned to look at Daniel. He shook his head slightly. With a frown, she settled back into her seat.
Mrs. Waters hadn't missed the action. Lou Ann Donovan had told her that Emily was a delight, and that keeping up with her would be a challenge. "How many of you have ever visited Langara or Terra?"
Emily's little hand shot into the air. Hers was the only one.
"Emily, can you tell us where you went?" the teacher asked, a smile on her face. No teacher ever wanted to admit to having favorites. All of them did. And Helen Waters knew in those first few minutes that Emily Jackson was going to be hers.
"We went to Langara and played on the beach and swam in a for really ocean. My baby brother Nicholas and I slept in the room with Meemaw and Peepaw 'cause my Mommy and Daddy maked love in their room. Then there was a big storm and all the lights went out. Then Meemaw and Peepaw and Auntie Carly and Miz Peterson taked us and Evvie and Amber home, 'cause there was some bad mens after my Mommy and Daddy."
Snickers filled the room. Casey felt her cheeks redden. Obviously privacy had just gone right out the door. She needed to have a talk with Emily and explain that certain subjects, like making love, were not for casual discussion.
Daniel ducked his head, his own face burning. He glanced at Casey, saw that she was absolutely mortified. 'It's okay, Angel. Every set of parents in this room do the same thing.'
'But their kid didn't just announce it to the world!'
He took her hand, squeezed her fingers tightly, felt them trembling.
"Emily, can you tell us about the ocean you swam in?" Mrs. Waters was fighting her own battle to keep from laughing out loud. A glance at the Jacksons told her that neither parent had been prepared for such…honesty.
"It was warm and the water was blue and it went all the way to the sky."
"That's silly! Water can't go to the sky!" a little voice called out.
"It did too!" Emily argued.
"Actually, I'm quite sure that it did look like it touched the sky. We'll talk about why it looks that way just as soon as we say goodbye to our Mommies and Daddies. Everyone turn around in your seat, and find your parents with your eyes," the teacher instructed.
The children obeyed. Emily's bright blue eyes focused on Daniel and Casey.
"Now, wave goodbye, and tell them that you'll see them later this afternoon." The room filled with little voices calling out good-byes.
"See you s'afternoon, Mommy!" Emily called, waving her little hand enthusiastically.
"See you this afternoon, Baby," Casey replied softly. Daniel grabbed her arm and prevented her from going to the desk and hugging and kissing her daughter. He led her to the door, followed by other parents. He wasn't the only father leading a mother not quite ready to turn loose of their little one.
"I can't believe she said that!" Casey muttered as they walked down the hallway.
"At least she didn't tell the neighbors about seeing her Daddy naked…and…er…uh…aroused," said a small woman with tawny blonde hair, who happened to be walking beside them.
Casey looked over at the woman. "Oh, good lord!"
"Yeah, that was pretty much my reaction," the woman grinned. "Debbie Haverton," she said, offering her hand.
"Casey Jackson," Casey replied, shaking the outstretched hand. "So, can you face the neighbors yet?"
Debbie laughed. "Well, I don't cringe when I see them now."
"Nobody told me that once they started talking, things would be so…why do they even care about…those …things?" Casey asked, shaking her head.
"It's part of growing up, I guess. We weren't exactly ready to tell Tasha about the birds and the bees," Debbie admitted. "But we had to."
"I hear that," Casey agreed. She shifted Nicholas on her hip. "So, is Tasha your only child?"
Debbie grinned. "Tasha is my oldest. She's in second grade now. Elizabeth…we call her Lizzy, is in this class. So far, she hasn't gone around telling any family…secrets. That we know of," she added with a chuckle.
Daniel grinned. "I just have to ask, so that I'll know how to handle it when Emily does it to me…how did your husband deal with it?"
The woman laughed again. "Well, to be honest, Tasha's description was rather…flattering. So he tended to strut around for awhile."
Casey burst into giggles. "How did the neighbors handle it?"
Debbie shook her head. "They all laughed, and teased Brad a lot."
The three parents had reached the parking lot. Casey offered her hand once more to the woman. "Thanks. I needed that," she said softly.
"It's called parent-preservation. We have to be ready to jump to the rescue of another parent whenever necessary. It's the only way we'll all survive raising those…people!" Debbie replied, grasping the outstretched hand firmly. "So when Lizzy tells something about us, you get to come to my rescue."
Casey laughed again. "It's a deal." When they had settled into the Blazer, she turned to Daniel. "We have to have a talk with her," she said.
"Tonight, Angel. We'll get the books out tonight, and then try to make her understand that she shouldn't talk about making love."
She frowned. "I don't want her to think that sex…making love…is something bad. We just need her to understand that it's…private…a very personal private thing."
Once again she was proving what a wonderful mother she really was. "We'll figure it out. You're great with that kind of stuff," Daniel told her.
"I am, huh?"
"Yep." He started the engine. "Let's get Nicholas to your Mom's. We have to get to work."
A A A A A A
Rayner was watching the front doors of the gallery anxiously, waiting for a glimpse of Casey. He hadn't seen her all week, she had remained working inside the mountain. Daniel had been there as well, finishing up his book. He'd already heard about the manuscript from his co-workers, had even seen the collection of photographs of the find. Howard Carter should have been so lucky! He had no doubt that the book would hit the best seller list. His own book had fallen from grace upon the revelation of the Stargate, and the fact that Dr. Daniel Jackson had been right all along.
When she walked in, he almost jumped for joy. She was alone! He watched her pick up the box with the broken pottery shards that she had sorted out the week prior. He had overheard her tell Susan that she would get it put together as soon as possible. He didn't wait long after she went into the workroom to follow her.
Casey carefully arranged the pottery pieces on the table in front of her. She donned latex gloves, then began to sort the pieces. She had always loved puzzles, and putting together pots and bowls and the other bits of pottery that were discovered was usually tasked to her. She had the patience to sit for hours and sort through broken shards, and try to make them into the whole again. With a sigh, Emily's words still ringing in her ears, which brought the blush to her cheeks all over again, she settled onto the stool and began working.
He watched from the doorway as she started fitting pieces together, putting to one side those that didn't fit. When two pieces melded together, she grabbed the glue and carefully applied a thin layer, then held them together until the glue set. She was so damned beautiful, and he could smell her sweet perfume where he stood. He went over to the table where the coffeepot waited. He poured two cups, added one sugar and three packages of creamer to one of the cups. Just the way she liked it.
"Hi," he said, sitting the cup down beside her.
She looked up at the coffee, then up at him. "Hello," she murmured. "Thank you." No sense in being rude, even if the man did make her nervous. Every fiber of her being was telling her that Steven Rayner was up to no good. She had an idea of what he was trying to do. She could only hope that whatever Daniel might see, he wouldn't believe it.
Rayner sat down on a vacant stool beside her. "You have an amazing eye. You seem to be able to choose the right piece every time," he said, smiling at her.
"Just luck," she replied, holding two just glued pieces together. Six down, only a bunch to go, she thought. She glanced at the man beside her. "Is there something I can do for you?"
He almost choked on his coffee. Oh, yeah, sweet thing. I can think of a dozen or so things you can do for me, and all of them involve my bed and your naked body, he thought. "Well, I was wondering if you had any idea when we'll be going on a dig," he said.
She smiled. "Anxious to see a few ruins for yourself?"
He chuckled. "Yes, actually. It seems that every time you go out, you find something…amazing."
"We have been lucky, especially lately," she admitted. "But more often than not we don't find anything. Daniel says that the finds we've made in the past few months make up for the past three years of finding very little."
"You were…away, for a time recently, weren't you?" he asked, having heard all about her death, Daniel's depression as he mourned for her, the 'miracle' that returned her to his life. And the fact that the man didn't like letting her out of his sight.
"Yes," she replied tersely.
Hmm…not willing to discuss it. Okay, moving right along. He began to toy with several of the shards. "I remember the first dig I went on. I found a clay pot, in pieces…at least as many as this one. I was absolutely convinced that I had stumbled across the site of an ancient camping ground for Asakiwaki Indians. I was crushed to find out it was an old dumpsite for a nearby pottery! Even worse was when I realized that the Asakiwaki didn't make pottery!"
Casey couldn't help it, she giggled out loud. "I just have to ask, how old were you at the time?"
"I think I was…ten. Maybe eleven. I'd already determined I wanted to be an archaeologist by the time I was eight. I had an aunt who was married to one. I loved to listen to them talk about the 'digs' they went on, and they always went to the coolest exotic places. Libya, Egypt, Turkey, Iran, Iraq. I had visions of going to one of those countries and becoming the next Howard Carter. I never realized that those places meant heat, sand, and no water - unless you brought it in yourself, dysentery, guides who had no clue about personal hygiene," he said, grinning at the memories.
She smiled. "The first forty-three years that Daniel and I spent together-" she started.
What? Forty three…years? "Excuse me? I don’t understand," Rayner said, confusion on his face and in his voice.
Casey smiled, and put down the section of the pot she had been working with. She picked up the cup of coffee and took a sip. "Daniel and I were married for forty-three years. He died, and I was…I missed him so much," she whispered. "Two years later, Duncan and I were about to complete the Fire Ceremony."
"You and Duncan MacLeod?"
She nodded. "Well, when we got to PX3-695, I just…I loved Daniel, always have, always will. Oma was still Ascended at the time. She brought Daniel back to me, brought all of them back to me. That was when Daniel, Sam, Jack, and Teal'c were granted Immortality. She sent all of us back to the week before our, Daniel's and mine, first wedding anniversary. She can't tell me why she did it, certainly not how she did it, mostly because her memory of that time, her time of being Ascended, has been…removed. Anyway, during those amazing, wonderful years, Daniel taught me everything I know about archaeology. He has me listed in the Archaeologist Society, now. When we first…got together, the only reason I wanted to learn was simply so I could be with him. Now…now I love it as much as he does. Daniel is so passionate about what he does, feels so much excitement when he's learning about an ancient civilization, trying to understand who they were, how they lived, what they believed, and how they fit into our modern society, that it's impossible not to be interested in what he does."
Rayner frowned at this new information. He knew that they had been married for ten years. They had just celebrated that 10th anniversary. Young Ramir had been willing to tell him about the belated but very jubilant barbecue that had occurred in late July, when she had been returned to Daniel. To learn that they, or she, at least, had memories of forty-three years together…he shook his head. "This is a bit…unbelievable," he admitted.
"Get used to it, Doctor Rayner. Weird, unbelievable stuff happens around here on a daily basis," Casey replied coolly.
Okay, no doubting the stories. "Please, call me Steven," he insisted.
She made no reply, instead took another sip of coffee. "I need to get this finished. SGI-7 just brought in a new Cardorian tablet that I want to get to work on," she said softly.
"Ah, yes, the Cardorians. Mike mentioned them. This is a civilization that may not have roots on Earth, is it not?"
Her eyes lit up. She was enthralled by the civilization, and loved talking about it. "Not necessarily. Their written language seems to contain bits and pieces of ancient Egyptian dialects. Their funerary processes parallel the Egyptians as well. Of course, there are at least fourteen other languages that are recognizable in their writing. And those 'respectives'! Sheesh!" She giggled. "It's not a language you'd want to try and translate with a hangover!"
He laughed at her sense of humor, and was pleased that he had struck on a topic of conversation that was apt to keep her talking to him just a bit longer. "I…uh…I'd be interested in seeing it, if that's allowed," he said shyly.
"Of course it's allowed! There aren't any secrets around here!" she grinned.
"Then, I'd love to see it!" His grin matched hers.
She glanced at the pot, pulled off the gloves. "I'll do this later. Wait here, I'll go get it."
He watched her walk out of the room, his body reacting to the site. He had spent nearly every night in his room, his hand stroking his aching flesh while visions of her danced in his head. His grin widened. Yep, Danny needed a bit of competition. He was just too damned sure of himself, thought himself to be above everyone else. Including Steven Rayner. And no one put himself above Dr. Steven Rayner!
She came back, carrying a huge tablet. Rayner jumped to his feet and took the incredibly heavy chunk of stone from her arms. She quickly cleared a place for it on the worktable, and he gently put it down. Her green eyes were dancing when she looked up at him. "Okay, tell me if you can recognize anything."
Rayner's eyes moved over the stone. "I see a bit of what looks like Egyptian there," he said, pointing to three lines of cuneiform.
"Very good. This, is Goa'uld," she said, pointing to three lines above the Egyptian markings. But down here, this is Terran! These marks are definitely Nox, and I've identified twenty Tollan phrases."
"I'm afraid I have no clue about Goa'uld, or Nox, or Terran, or Tollan," he sighed.
"Want a quick Goa'uld lesson?"
He grinned. "Absolutely!"
She grabbed a legal pad from a nearby table, found a marking pen, and made half a dozen marks on the page, then handed it to him.
"This looks…it looks very similar to an old, rarely used dialect of ancient Egyptian," he said, looking up at her.
"That's because it is," Casey replied. "From what we've learned, Egypt was…founded…by the Goa'uld. They assumed the roles of gods, and lived the highlife there on Earth. It's amazing that they seemed to be able to live together, for the most part. Belus, well, he was better known as Marduk, killed an Oannes woman during an uprising, but she had already planted the seeds of rebellion. The Babylonian slaves rose up, and we find that the Goa'uld decided that Earth wasn't the friendliest place to be. So, they started taking groups of humans through the 'gate to other planets, and setting themselves up there, making damn sure that any thoughts of rebellion were crushed, very cruelly in most cases. It wasn't until Ra was defeated in an uprising of the slaves in Egypt that the Goa'uld abandoned Earth."
He was shaking his head. "To think that all of our…gods…were actually these…Goa'uld!"
"Not all of them. So far, all of the gods of Nordic and Norman mythology seem to be based on Asgard. Thor for example. He and his people have studied humans, and the Tau'ri in particular, for millennia. They were very benevolent, protected the people who 'worshiped' them, most likely these people were carefully studied. The Asgard moved several Nordic and Norman tribes to other planets to keep them safe, set up defenses at the 'gates to protect them from the Goa'uld."
"Have you…met…any of these Asgard?"
"Yep. Thor is…he's a friend," Casey replied. "SG-1 and Marine 1 and 2 were honored at a ceremony and given medals for saving them from the Percuese." She shivered slightly.
"I take it these…Percuese…weren't exactly pleasant to deal with?" Rayner asked, noticing her shudder.
"Bugs. Like big ugly roaches." Casey shivered again. "I almost died on that mission," she said softly. "Daniel saved me." She looked up at Rayner. "Daniel has saved me so many times, in so many ways. It's a wonder he doesn't get tired of it!"
"That will never happen, Angel," a voice said from the doorway. He had been watching his wife and his…rival. Wasn't at all pleased at what he had witnessed. He walked over to where she stood beside the table, put his arm around her shoulders. Was thrilled, and relieved, when her arm went around his waist and her head to his shoulder.
"I missed you," she whispered, one hand moving gently over his chest.
Rayner felt as if he had suddenly become invisible.
"Missed you, too," Daniel replied softly. He kissed her forehead. "I see Casey is teaching you Goa'uld. That's good. You're going to need it."
Rayner had been leaning against the table, trying to be as close to Casey as possible without making her uncomfortable. He stood up. "Why?"
"Because we're going on a dig tomorrow."
"Cardorian?" Casey asked excitedly, her face lighting up with excitement.
"Sorry, Case," Daniel replied, grinning at both her excitement, and the resulting flash of disappointment. She loved this work as much as he did. "We've located some ruins for another Goa'uld we've never heard of."
She shivered. "I hate those type," she murmured.
Daniel understood her fears. The Goa'uld they had discovered in the 'Babylonian' sector of space had proven to be a nasty bunch. Nergal had been the worst of all. "We'll be okay, Angel," he said softly, pulling her closer.
Rayner knew that something…significant…had happened when they had discovered 'new' Goa'uld. The more he learned about this place, and the SGC…and Daniel and Casey, the more he wondered if perhaps he hadn't set an unrealistic goal for himself. The finds that Daniel had made were amazing. If the man never found another thing his fame, his accomplishments, would be difficult to beat. And the love that this beautiful woman obviously felt for him, well, the best he could hope for in that department was to make Danny-boy jealous. Unlike Sarah, Casey wasn't being ignored. He already understood that there was no way that she would come to his bed…his arms. Not willingly. Not…knowingly.
"We leave first thing in the morning. The team is going, Marine 2 is going. And you're going," Daniel said, looking at Rayner.
He swallowed. Going on a dig was always exciting. Going on a dig on an alien planet was almost more than he could wrap his mind around.
"There's an English to Goa'uld dictionary in the filing cabinet. I suggest you spend today studying it," Daniel said, nodding toward a group of battered metal cabinets and their sagging drawers. They had been old when they had stood in the storeroom in the SGC in Cheyenne Mountain. One day, he told himself, they were going to have to replace all of them.
"It's under 'G'," Casey offered, a smile on her face.
"Thanks," Rayner replied, smiling at her. With a glance at Daniel, he hurried to find the book.
Only to discover that it wasn't actually a book. Just a folder full of sheets of paper, which in turn were covered with words, phrases and their meanings. Already fascinated, he found a chair, and within minutes, was absorbed with learning the language. It seemed that being consumed by one's work was an occupational hazard for all archaeologists…not just Dr. Daniel Jackson.
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