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Deceptions and Illusions
Rayner stepped out of the Stargate, onto a totally alien world. Arid mountains and deep valleys surrounded them. The landscape resembled the Grand Canyon, only on an even larger scale. He gasped when he looked up into the sky and could make out the outlines of three nearby moons. He was still trying to adjust to seeing two moons in the night sky above Gamma.
Casey was carefully taking inventory of the supplies that were strapped on the back of each ATV, along with the personal packs. She checked Daniel's pack, smiled to see his personal dig kit lying on the top. "Steven, did you remember a dig kit?"
He bit back his caustic reply. He was a trained archaeologist…legitimately trained, he didn't need anyone to remind him of something so basic, especially a blonde bimbo who knew only what one man had taught her. It was like asking if he had remembered water and malaria pills! Instead he gave her one of his most charming smiles. "Right here," he said, pointing to his pack.
She nodded. "Okay, good. Daniel, it looks like everything is here," she said, handing the sheet to her Husband.
Daniel raised an eyebrow. This was the first time she had ever found it necessary to check all of the equipment planet side. The checks had been made before their last briefing, just before walking through the 'gate. "Good," he said. 'What's going on?'
'Just making sure that Doctor Rayner remembers who's in charge around here.'
He barely kept from laughing out loud. A smile spread over his face. 'I love you, Casey Renee Jackson.'
'That's good. I love you, Daniel Melburn Jackson.' With a wide-eyed look of innocence, she waited for him to get on the ATV.
"Okay, Danny, lead the way," Jack said, firing up the engine on his vehicle.
Daniel put on his helmet, settled onto the seat, waited for Casey to crawl on behind him.
Rayner had been a bit unnerved to learn that he would be riding with Teal'c. The large Jaffa was quiet, but he could feel the disapproval. Daniel's 'fan club' was very loyal, he thought bitterly. Which made it much easier to make all of his achievements seem more important than they probably were. He hadn't had time yet to go over all of the mission reports, and learn about all of the things that Saint Daniel had accomplished. Most of what he had read seemed so far fetched as to be unbelievable. He looked around again. Perhaps, his mind told him, there was more truth in those reports than he wanted to admit.
A A A A A A
They had been riding for less than an hour. Casey could feel the man's eyes on her. She shivered, cuddled closer to Daniel's back in spite of the heat.
'What's wrong, Angel?'
'I can feel his eyes on me.'
Daniel bit back a curse. "Jack, how about water break. It's pretty hot here."
He knew that Jack understood that something was up. "We need Case to look around, too."
"Good idea," Jack's voice said in his ears.
The ATVs slowed and stopped near a sheer drop off of several hundred feet. Daniel made sure that Casey was able to stand as far away from the edge as possible, kept himself between her and the cliff.
Jack approached them. "What's up?" he asked softly.
"Steven is staring at Casey, as usual," Daniel replied.
The older man glanced over to where the new archaeologist stood, looking around him with obvious excitement. "Okay. Casey, would it help if you were driving?"
"Okay, you and Sam can switch. Tell me what you 'see'," Jack said.
She closed her eyes, waited for that gentle, familiar presence, then reached out. She could feel it. Something was going to happen. Before she could open her mouth to tell her Husband and her friends, she was flooded with the feeling that what was about to happen had to…needed to…happen. She searched farther, looked carefully around the man she loved. There was…something…she knew that he was going to be taken from her. Not for long…she could feel…a short separation, but that was all. She moaned mentally, hoped that he hadn't heard it. Whatever was about to befall them was unavoidable. Even if she warned them now, something would happen. Better to allow things to flow, knowing that the end result would be Daniel's safe return to her, rather than to tempt fate into taking him forever. "Looks like we might run into some trouble. Nothing dangerous," she said quickly. "It feels…annoying."
"That happens on every mission," Jack grumbled. "Okay. If you get any details, let us know."
She nodded. When she had 'feelings' like these, she rarely got details until just before whatever was to happen, happened. She took a drink of water from the bottle that Daniel had opened, watched him tie a bandana over his head.
Rayner watched from the corner of his eye, disappointed to see that she would be driving the ATV now; he wouldn't be able to see her as well. One of the Marines situated his ATV between the one the Jackson's were on, and the one that the Jaffa was driving. He was fairly certain it was on purpose. No matter. He had plenty of images of her in his mind to entertain him.
A A A A A A
The sun was nearly touching the horizon when the group stopped for the night, just inside the city walls of what had once been a bustling metropolis. The teams set up camp with an efficiency that came only with repeated practice. Rayner learned that he would be sharing a tent with the Jaffa. Had Daniel arranged this on purpose, making sure that the large man was always nearby? If so, was it for protection? And whose protection? His - or was it merely for Daniel's peace of mind?
Daniel sat down beside the fire that the Marines had started, using the scraggly brush that surrounded them. He had the UAV images in his hand, and was studying them, trying to get an idea of the layout of the city from where they sat. "Okay, the temple that we want is that way," he said, pointing to his right. "We'll start there in the morning."
"How do you know that?" Rayner challenged.
"Because the UAV images show a temple. Over there."
"How do you know that's what it is? It could be…a flea market…a dress shop, for all you know," the dark haired man argued.
"I've done this a time or two," Daniel said coldly. "I know a temple when I see one."
"Temples are usually the easiest structures to identify," Casey said. Daniel had told her that first year archaeology students learned that fact. "Especially when they're still standing."
"Why do you think that the information you're looking for will be there?" Rayner asked. He refused to let the issue go. He wanted to show the poor blinded fools around him that Saint Daniel wasn't all knowing.
"Because Goa'uld love to hear about themselves," Daniel replied. "And their priests, and priestesses have the unenviable job of keeping the Goa'uld happy."
"We're dealing with an alien culture. Daniel is an expert on Goa'uld," Casey said, smiling sweetly. "You have to remember, this isn't like a dig on Earth. So what might be true on Earth isn't necessarily true here. There are basic fundamentals that hold true for all archaeological digs, of course."
Daniel bit his lip. Rayner looked like a man on the verge of a temper tantrum. He was sure the dark haired man wanted to jump up and down and scream 'listen to me!'
"Oh, yes, and you're an expert in your own right," Rayner sneered. "Forgive me, what university did you get your doctorate from?"
Casey's eyes dropped immediately. Her lip went between her teeth. Her silent reaction, and the self-doubt that flooded her eyes, was apparent to all those sitting around the fire.
"Goddamn you!" Daniel hissed. She struggled enough with low self-esteem; she didn't need this arrogant ass attacking her, dragging it lower. "Casey knows more about Goa'uld than you do. She knows more about Langarans than you do. She knows more about Terrans than you do. She knows more about the Asgard, and the Nox, and the Tollan, and the Cardorians! She's a damned good archaeologist! By the way, Steven, when was the last time you published a paper? Casey had one published last month. She may not have formal training, but I'll put her up against any archaeologist, any damned day of the week, and even money says she'll find more, extrapolate better, and translate more accurately than all of them!"
"Hell, Doc," Turk said slowly, his eyes burning a hole in Rayner, "I'll take a piece of that action. Put a whole paycheck on it. I'd use the winnings to buy me that Harley I've been looking at."
Daniel threw a grateful smile at the Marine. "You got it." He looked over at Casey, noted the flush on her cheeks, the bright eyes, the small smile that turned her lips up.
He took her hand, raised it to his lips. 'You're welcome. I meant every word.'
'I know.' That, she thought, was what made the entire tirade so amazing. Daniel really did believe what he had said. She felt him caress her gently, reached out and returned the tender touch. She thought about the reviews her three papers had received, the resulting correspondence, the questions that she had already answered. For the first time in her life, she was able to push her low self-esteem aside. She looked at Rayner. "I may not have graduated from a university. But I had the privilege of being taught by the best there is. I have never claimed to know everything. Only fools do that. But I have been on enough off-world digs, know enough about the Goa'uld to know that Daniel is right. Get used to it, Doctor Rayner. He always is."
Now it was Daniel's turn to blush. "Thanks, Angel," he murmured.
"It's true, Daniel," she said firmly.
Rayner realized he had made a fatal error when he had chosen to challenge Daniel. He had compounded that error by turning his attack on Casey. His pride would not allow him to admit that his rival, and that beautiful woman, had bested him. He would, however, take…embrace…nurture…the humiliation burning in his gut. He tossed what was left of his coffee onto the ground, and stood up. "I'm turning in," he said quietly.
Jack watched the man slip inside the tent. "What an asshole," he muttered. "Okay, let's get watch rotation set up."
Casey and Daniel had drawn last watch. They crawled into their tent. She went straight into his arms.
"Don't you dare let that bastard get to you," Daniel whispered, holding her close.
"I won't. He's so jealous of you he can't see straight. I don't understand why he wanted to work for you! It doesn't make sense."
"It does if you understand that he wants to 'expose' me," he said quietly. "He's hoping to make a big find here. To prove that he's a great archaeologist in his own right. Everything Rayner has done has been on the backs of others. He uses the research of others, puts out theories before the owners of the research can do so, he has stolen artifacts from cultures, which then causes trouble for whatever institution he happens to be working for. Doctor Jordan held him in check for years, kept him…honest. Once he was gone, Steven did what Steven does best. Make himself look good at the expense of others. He's always wanted attention, praise, glory."
"And he's furious that you, a man who has been his rival for years, one who was once thought of as a fool, has been proven right, and that you're the darling of the archaeological community, the one getting the attention, the praise," she replied. "So what are you going to do?"
Daniel sighed. "Steven is a good archaeologist. One of the best. Or he could be, if he just stopped worrying about getting credit for everything. I'm going to let him do his job. I know what he's up to, so I don't have to worry about being blindsided by his actions. Hopefully the excitement of actually finding something will temper his need to compete with me."
"You have a good heart, Daniel. I don't think the man is capable of being anything more than a troublemaker."
"Let's get some sleep, Angel," he replied.
"Really? Just sleep?" she teased.
"You have something else in mind?" he grinned.
"I might have. Come here and let me show you."
"Now who's insatiable?"
"Only for you, Stud Muffin."
A A A A A A
Casey was working near the temple, digging near what appeared to be an altar when Rayner approached her, sat down beside her.
"I want to apologize for last night," he said, without preamble.
"You should," she said quietly.
"Well, I do. I’m really sorry. I…I guess…it embarrasses me to admit this, but I guess I was feeling a bit out of sorts. All of the digs I've been on in the past fifteen years, I've been the head archaeologist. It's…I guess my ego was bruised to realize that I’m just…well, actually I'm a student, since I'm learning about alien cultures that I know absolutely nothing about," he said, watching her face carefully. Hoping that she would forgive him. Needing her forgiveness. If she was angry with him, it would hinder his plans considerably. "I was totally out of line, and I am so very sorry for what I said to you."
She looked up at him, into dark eyes filled with remorse. She was surprised at his admission. "That took a lot of courage to admit. I forgive you."
He flashed a smile. "Thank you. Now, what can I do to help?"
She smiled at him. "I think we have an altar here."
"Okay, I'll agree with that," he said, looking at the way the stones were piled on top of one another.
She stopped when her brush revealed dark, rust colored spots. She looked up at the man beside her.
"Blood," he said softly.
"So damned cruel!" she whispered.
"Are all the Goa'uld this…brutal?"
"It seems that way."
He noted the look of fear that filled her eyes. He wanted to put the light, the laughter back into those green depths. She would be much easier to flirt with that way. "Hey, let's go take a look over here. Remember that dress shop I mentioned? I might have actually found one!"
The look of mirth in his brown eyes made her giggle. "Okay. I could use a break from this," she admitted.
Rayner offered his hand. Smiled when she hesitated only a few seconds before putting her soft fingers against his. He helped her over the broken down wall that had surrounded the temple at one time. Held her hand as he led her to an area where a small building had stood. "I'm trying to learn Goa'uld, but I'm not sure I have it down just yet. I found a sign, at least I think that's what it is." He pointed out a small, flat stone, one that would have been propped up beside the door.
Casey took her brush and carefully exposed all of the cuneiform letters, read it, and began to laugh. "Oh, my god! Steven, you found an ancient love doctor! This sign advertises potions for the lovelorn!"
Rayner laughed with her, thrilled that he was 'Steven' once again, rather than 'Dr. Rayner'. "I guess the idea of a Lover's Package, or For Lover's Only, isn't a modern concept."
"Apparently not," she giggled. "Makes you wonder if they had the same kind of toys!" She gasped, put her hand over her mouth, her green eyes wide, her cheeks pink with embarrassment.
Rayner doubled over with laughter. "I hadn't thought about that! They didn't have plastic, did they?"
She was giggling hysterically. "Not that I know of. I've heard of some cultures using jade, or wood…" her eyes flashed wickedly. "Never thought wood was such a good idea. Splinters in that…um…area…of the body could be very painful!"
He dropped down onto the stones, still laughing. He held his hand up, she took it and settled beside him. "I guess this just proves that no matter how far we think we've come, we're still no different than people who live thousands of years ago."
"My next question is why is it so close to a temple?" Casey asked, marking the distance visually.
"It's possible that ritual sex was part of their ceremonies. A lot of cultures associated sex with strength, power. Wiccans and Pagans still believe that ritual sex can make a spell stronger," Rayner replied easily.
"Do you believe that?"
He looked out at the ruins, then back at the woman beside him. "Yeah, I think I do. There is a lot of…power…between a man and a woman when they make love. Do you believe it?"
"Absolutely. There isn't a power in creation that's stronger than what occurs when man and a woman make love," she replied. She looked around them. "But really, love potions? Like…'Love Potion Number Nine'?" She stood up and began to sing the familiar song, dancing and gyrating, Rayner cheering and laughing as he watched her.
A A A A A A
Daniel watched from the shadows of the temple. His hands were clenched at his sides.
"She's just being herself," Jack said quietly. "Doesn't mean she sees him any more than she sees any other man."
He forced a smile. "Yeah. If you say so."
"Have you ever known Casey to flirt?" Jack asked.
"No," he admitted. At least, he'd never witnessed her flirt. Except with him. He had to smile at memories of her flirting with him, shyly, but flirting nonetheless, at the SGC right after their return from her 'boot camp' training.
"I doubt that she's suddenly going to start now. If you're worried, talk to her," Jack said, before walking toward his own wife.
He decided to at least get a closer look at what was going on. They were still laughing when he approached them.
"Daniel!" Her eyes lit up with pleasure. "Steven found a 'love doctor'!" She pointed to the sign.
"We were speculating on why it was so close to the temple, and what the love potions were," Rayner said. He bit back a smile at the look of unease in Daniel's blue eyes. He was positive there had been a flash of jealousy.
"Really," Daniel replied noncommittally.
"Really," Casey said. "Daniel doesn't know about things like love doctors and love potions," she told Rayner.
"He doesn't?" Rayner asked, raising an eyebrow.
"Nope. He has no need to know about them. He doesn't need any potions. Just being near him is all it takes for me to be under his spell," she said, smiling at her Husband, running her fingers over his arm.
He couldn't hide the pleased smile that crossed his face. "Under my spell, huh?"
"Oh, yes," she whispered. "Totally, completely, forever under your spell."
Daniel moved closer to her, pushed a wisp of blonde hair from her face. "I thought I was the one under a spell," he said softly.
She leaned against him slightly, her eyes locked with his. "No, Beloved, it's you that has cast a spell on me. You show me things that I would never see alone, take me to places where only you can take me," she said softly.
"What you do to me, woman," Daniel said softly, just before he lowered his head and kissed her.
Rayner looked away. He was certain that she had forgotten he was even sitting there. When Daniel had walked up to them, his eyes guarded, he was hoping that she would become flustered, defensive. That would have added to the illusion that something was going on. Instead…he shook his head mentally. Stephanie had told him that they saw only each other. He hadn't believed it…until now.
Casey could feel Rayner's discomfort. And his disappointment. 'He's totally ticked that it didn't work.'
'What didn't work?'
She couldn't help but giggle. 'Never mind, Stud Muffin.' She wrapped her arms around Daniel's neck. "So, do you want me to look around for recipes, just in case?"
Daniel cracked up. "Think you'll find any? You realize getting the ingredients could prove to be a problem."
She frowned. "Yeah, eye of newt and dragons lips aren't so readily available, are they? But I really wanted to find a good recipe, to keep you in love with me," she grinned.
"Angel, you don't need any potions to keep me bewitched," he said softly.
"Okay, so I'm taking that for a no. How about I finish with that altar?"
"How about you do that?" Daniel grinned.
"Crack, snap, crack," he replied. He pulled her arms from his neck, wrapped her hand in his, and led her back to the altar where her tools still lay.
Rayner watched them walk away. Stephanie was right. Those two had eyes only for one another. With a sigh, he stood up, and went back to the corner of the temple plaza that Daniel had assigned him to.
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