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In Your Own Backyard
The team met at the edge of town. The ATVs had been delivered there earlier in the morning by one of transport trucks from the base. Daniel and Sam had spent the prior evening making sure that all of the needed supplies and equipment were crated and ringed up to the Phoenix. Colonel Bailey would wait for their signal before ringing the plastic and metal boxes down to the coordinates that Sam had sent her.
Because the trip was going to take four days, the packs had to contain enough water and food, as well as clothing. Which meant extra packs. Daniel had decided that Emily was big enough to sit behind Casey on an ATV, Nicholas would sit in front of him, and two extra packs could be strapped to his ATV. Likewise, Evvie would ride with Sam, and Amber in front of Jack, he would carry the extra packs for his family. Duncan had opted to use just one ATV for Tessa, Richie and himself. Teal'c and Carly would each ride an ATV, taking all the extra packs on their vehicles. Helmets were strapped onto the kids, who were so excited that none of them could stand still. Several people, who lived in the neighborhood from where the trek would begin, watched with interest.
Daniel pulled his helmet on. "Everybody ready?" When he heard the affirmative replies, he crawled onto his ATV, picked Nicholas up and settled the tot in front of him. Casey got onto hers, and Teal'c lifted Emily on behind her, then hurried to lift Evvie behind Sam.
The engines of seven ATVs roared to life. With a nod, Daniel led the way, quickly leaving Hope, which represented the whole of civilization on planet Gamma, behind him. Tessa had readily agreed to record as much of the actual trip as possible. Daniel knew that there was always the possibility that their eyes might miss something important, but the camera could catch it. Every minute of recording would be carefully examined upon their return.
He was on his way to what could be an incredible find. One that would go down as Casey's discovery. She was, after all, Gamma's expert on Cardorians. Hell, she was the only expert on the ancient civilization in the galaxy, as far as he knew. He smiled at the thought. He had often thought about encouraging her to go back to school for her degree. The University of Gamma had only been open and operational for two years. Before that…well, living without her, even if it was only during the week while she attended classes and lectures, did the required lab work, was not something he would ever be willing to do. And being addicted to her meant that they were limited in the time they spent apart. Now it wouldn't be a problem...
He had argued with her for two days about letting anyone know that it was now possible for him to get his fix of her on the astral plane. He didn’t want to lose the leverage he had over Jack, and Duncan as well, when it came to the two of them working together. She hadn't liked it, in fact she insisted that it was dishonest. He had finally convinced her that it was more important that they not be separated when they worked. Experience had proven time and again that whenever they worked separately during missions, he lost her, literally. He wasn't above using her misplaced guilt about her last death to keep her at his side. It made him an ass, he knew. But it also kept them together. Where he had a better chance of being able to protect her. Because experience had also taught him, quite cruelly, that he couldn't survive without her.
He shook his head mentally. The sun was shining. His Wife and children were going on a dig with him. He would have the company of the people who had become family to him. He pushed all the worrying thoughts to the back of his mind, to deal with later. When things had gone to shit around them. Which would probably be on the next mission. They had been on half a dozen that had been cakewalks. Statistically, they were due for a bad one. Again, he shoved the thought to the back of his mind.
Casey could feel his excitement. He did so love archaeology, loved going on digs. To take his family with him was a dream come true. He still talked about the mission to P7X 411, where Emily had discovered the scepter that a Goa'uld named Darilla had used, the pride in his voice still as strong as ever that his baby girl had been the one to unearth the device. If only this was all that they ever had to do, just go from dig to dig, finding whatever they could about the ancient civilizations who had occupied what were now only ruins, learning as much as they could about each group of people, tracing histories, examining cultural and societal laws and mores.
She couldn't help but reach out and caress him softly, smiling as his presence moved gently against her mind, his love filling her, wrapping around her like a warm, protective blanket. She had told her friends several times that she would have lost her mind long ago if not for the fact that they could communicate mentally…talk to one another, touch one another, send their love to each other. Now, knowing that they could make love, and that it was as incredible on the astral plane as it was in their reality, that she could give him what he needed to keep from suffering withdrawal, only added to those mixed feelings of gratitude, excitement and awe. That Daniel had been adamant she not reveal to anyone that he was able to get his 'fix' from her on that plane still bothered her. She understood his reasoning - he was terrified of them being forced to work apart again. Whenever that happened, it wasn't good. She had died twice; the second time had nearly killed him as he tried to deal with her absence for six long weeks. But not telling Jack and Duncan just felt so damned dishonest! Eventually, the team at least would know about it. No doubt Daniel would be able to convince Jack, Sam, and Teal'c to keep their…secret. She sighed. He had always gotten his way. One look into those blue eyes, that 'puppy dog' look or that shy smile and she was putty in his hands. She would honor his wishes. She didn't like it. But she'd do it. For Him.
Two hours out Daniel called a halt to walk a bit, and drink some water. He grinned as he watched the five children race around, laughing and shouting their excitement. Yeah, the team needed this. Duncan and Tessa needed it as well. Duncan bore the weight, and Daniel knew he carried the guilt of sending teams into dangerous situations, sometimes with heart breaking results. Tessa didn't work on the base, but he knew that she was aware of what was going on; and watching Duncan, living with him as he battled in his own way against the Goa'uld, was every bit as wearing on her.
Casey took her helmet off, pulled her ball cap down over her braided hair, glanced up at the sun. "Emmie, Nicholas, come here," she called softly. Her children ran gladly to her side. She dug out the tube of sunblock, carefully covered every inch of exposed skin on both of her offspring. She walked over to where Daniel was talking to Jack, began to rub the cream into the back of his neck.
He smiled down at her. He was perfectly capable of applying his own sunblock. But she liked to do it, and he sure wasn't going to complain about having those soft hands touch him, no matter what the reason. "Thanks, Angel," he said softly.
"You're welcome," she replied.
Sam and Tessa had also taken the chance to apply more sunscreen to their own children. The two women, and Carly, followed Casey to an odd grouping of rocks, where the young Immortal was crouching.
"What'd ya find?" Sam asked easily.
"I think we can forget about the idea that there isn't any type of animal life on Gamma," she said quietly.
"What?" Tessa squeaked.
"I only got a glance at it. Sort of a cross between a rabbit and a rat. Maybe more like a rabbit and a gopher…but with one hell of a long tail. Dark brown," Casey replied.
By now, the men had gathered as well. "Why haven't we seen any near Hope?" Duncan asked.
"Maybe they don't like the sounds…or the smells. Maybe our valley has never been a home for them," Daniel theorized.
"Are they dangerous?" Tessa asked nervously.
"I doubt it," Casey replied. "The fact that the little bugger seemed to view me as a predator, or at least a threat, and ran to hide in that hole means they're probably very shy. I doubt that we'll see them except accidentally."
Daniel smiled. She was right. Although she would never admit, not even to herself, that she was a very intelligent woman. "Well, we'll keep an eye open. Frank Stiller will love hearing about this," he said, referring to the head of the biology department at the SGC.
Jack looked around. He was damned glad he had insisted that the team bring their 9mm's with them. "What are the chances of something else being out here, something that hunts these things?"
"No clue," Daniel admitted. "It's possible that these…animals…don't reproduce quickly, if their numbers are low. It's also possible that we'll find more of them the closer to the Six Lakes area." He and Sam had started calling the vast grassland where the lakes were located 'Six Lakes'. In fact, on the maps they carried, carefully copied from the information taken from the satellites, that was what was written there. Which, he thought absently, was probably how almost every place on Earth had been named.
"Well, everybody keep your eyes open," Jack said, glancing around again. "Ready?" he asked the young archaeologist.
"Yep," Daniel replied.
"I ride with Daddy," Emily insisted.
He glanced at his wife. "Will you be able to drive with Nicholas in front of you?"
"I think so. If not, we'll stop and switch kids," she replied with a smile. She climbed onto the ATV, Daniel lifted their son into her arms.
Once again Teal'c put Emily and Evelyn behind their parents, Evvie also demanding to ride with her Daddy. If the little girls were crowded by the extra packs, they would never complain. They were with their Daddies!
The group headed out, moving farther and farther from the place they called 'home'. Two hours and already a discovery had been made. Daniel had carefully recorded the half dozen small holes, and the area round them. His heart was racing. It had never ceased to amaze him to know that some of the most astounding discoveries were often made by people in their own backyards. So what other discoveries would they make? What would they find in Hope's 'backyard'?
A A A A A A
Gamma was very much a desert planet. To Daniel, it looked very much like the deserts of Arizona and New Mexico. As the ATVs purred along at top speed, he glanced to his right. In the distance was a true desert. Sand, sand and more sand. The satellite pictures had shown nothing of interest, although Sam was having the Phoenix do a scan of the area while it hovered above them, waiting for their arrival at Six Lakes. Just the sight of it made his heart pound. It reminded him of the digs he had been on in Egypt. Of one beautiful, unforgettable, precious year on Abydos. The next memory to flash across his brain had him chuckling. When Casey took down Osiris. His gorgeous wife had played the Goa'uld like a pro. There was still a bit of a sting connected to that memory…the failure to save Sarah. She had been able to 'emerge' long enough to beg him to kill her. He had been unable to do so. He shook his head mentally. Why did it seem that when it came down to the line, he could never do what needed to be done? Casey would argue with him on that point. Had several times over the years. But she loved him, she tended to overlook his many faults.
Casey. God how he loved her! If a miracle hadn't brought her back to him, by now he'd be dead, drifting on the endless sea of PY2 498; he knew that eventually the pain of her loss would have driven him back to that planet. A few shots of Southern Comfort and he would have swam out to where that city had once stood, dived down and done his best to be with her. Or he'd be locked in a padded room, his mind gone from the pain of her loss. She had told him several times that she feared losing her mind if she lost him. He had no doubt that he would have lost his had she not been returned to him; he had felt his grip on reality slipping a little more each day without her, the depression of her loss steadily closing in on him. After almost six months, he still couldn't stand to let her out of his sight for long. They still made love every morning, and every night, his need for her, his desire for her insatiable. Not that she seemed to mind. Take yesterday for example. She had called him to arrange a tryst. He had barely closed the supply closet door when she was on him, kissing him, touching him, then dropping to her knees and giving him one of her incredible, turn-his-body-to-jelly-and-his-brain-to-mush blow jobs. It hadn't taken long to bring her to climax, and he'd had to cover her mouth with his hand to mute the cry that she made.
He felt little arms wrap tighter around his waist. Emily. His daughter. His daughter! She was as excited about going on this dig as Casey was. How absolutely incredible was that? He couldn't stop the grin that spread over his face. Right now, in this moment, life was as perfect as it could ever get!
Casey glanced over at him. She couldn't see his face behind the black shield of his helmet. But she could sense his happiness, his excitement. Nicholas had shifted again, requiring her to grab onto him with one hand and pull him back toward the safety of her body. He seemed bound and determined to climb onto the narrow handlebars! She slowed down slightly, made sure that her son was firmly against her stomach before returning her hand to the grip.
She glanced again to her right. Emily was clinging to Daniel, a grin as wide as the one that was probably on her father's lips lighting her little face. Once again that pleasant thought of doing nothing more than being archaeologists bounced around in her head. She shook herself mentally. She reached out around them, could sense no danger. She relaxed, willing to grab at these few days of happiness, of respite from the war against the Goa'uld.
Her thoughts turned to what might possibly be waiting for them. Cardorian ruins! She had yet to actually see any in person, even though Duncan had agreed with Daniel that what they had discovered so far warranted further exploration of several of the sites. Such an interesting race! Passionate, capable of hiding things from the Goa'uld who tormented them. Their masonry skills were remarkable. And the blown glass that had been discovered on the last dig was extraordinary. The people were very artistic. It was amazing that their government worked at all - like their written language, it was a hodge-podge of ideas and laws culled from nearly a dozen other races. It was as if the Cardorians were a race of people who had come from various other civilizations, gotten together and started their own colony. Her mind jumped at that thought. Could that be true? No, surely not! The Asgard wouldn't have…but what if…what if the Asgard had managed to rescue groups of people from different planets where they had been taken by the Goa'uld? Her heart began to pound. As soon as they stopped for lunch, she would write this idea, this theory, in her new notebook. The notebook of her most recent poetry was in her bag as well. But she had overheard Daniel talking to Stephanie about keeping a journal, and how it often helped him. He had never encouraged her to keep one, but then, he'd probably never thought about it. To be perfectly honest, she'd never had a need to keep a journal…until now.
A A A A A A
As soon as Daniel had called a halt for lunch, Casey was digging in her pack, her movements frantic, her need to get down her ideas, the thoughts burning in her brain, fueling her impetus. She grabbed the notebook, and dropped to the ground, writing before she was fully settled.
He watched his Wife for a minute, made sure that Emily and Nicholas were eating the sandwiches that Erin had packed, then walked over to her. She was sitting on the ground, her back against the tire of the ATV, a notebook on her lap, writing furiously. A poem? He'd never seen her write like this before, especially when things were…good. He frowned slightly. "Casey?"
She held up one hand, continued with her writing.
He grinned. Was this how he looked when he was in the middle of a project, trying to get thoughts written out before they deserted him? He squatted down in front of her. Waited until the pen in her hand paused above the paper. "Case?"
"Just a minute, I have to get this down," she murmured. Not more than a minute later, she looked up at him. "What?"
Her green eyes were dancing. He couldn't help but smile at her. "Are you all right?"
She smiled. "Oh, yeah. Daniel, I've come up with a theory on why the Cardorians use so many different languages in their own written language. I'll bet that their spoken language was the same combination of those spoken languages!"
"Tell me," he said softly.
"We couldn't figure out how, or why the Cardorians knew of the Asgard. What if the Asgard took people from other planets: Egyptians who had been taken from Earth; Langarans taken from Langara; Terrans taken from Terra, and so on. Rescued them maybe, from the Goa'uld. Or maybe even some other threat. And then put them together on a planet. These people learned to work together, live together, they advanced at an amazing rate! That's why they were able to colonize those other planets!" The words tumbled from her mouth.
Her excitement was contagious. Daniel didn't stop to realize that she was making the same leaps of logic that had made him a brilliant mind in the field of archaeology, as well as linguistics and anthropology. His ability to 'think outside the box' was what had led him to discover the true purpose of the pyramids. Because she hadn't been formally educated by the staid and stale 'facts' of archaeology, she was better able to 'think outside the box' as well. What he did know was that her theory was fascinating. "Case, that's incredible! It would explain why the Cardorians tried so hard to use all of those languages in conjunction with one another!"
"It would also explain why there are Langaran influences in their pottery, Terran influences in their farming, and Egyptian influences in their religion. Those seem to be the three major 'contributors'," she added.
He nodded. "Their art seems to be a reflection of those three civilizations as well."
"The Goa'uld influence, which always puzzled me," she admitted, "had to have come from their combined enslavement."
Jack wandered over to the couple. "What's up?"
Daniel's eyes flashed a warning. He didn’t want anyone to know that he had seen those markings. He wanted this discovery to be Casey's, and hers alone. "Just talking," he said.
The older man frowned. "Everything okay?"
Casey smiled. "It's fine, Jack, really. I just had some…thoughts…I wanted to get down."
"Ah. I see. Well, I'll leave you to your poetry writing. Will I get to read this one?" Jack asked.
She smiled. "If I ever finish it. Several of my poems are languishing on the page, waiting for the inspiration to strike so they'll finally have an ending," she said. She closed the notebook, pulled herself to her feet and tucked it back inside her duffel.
"Come eat lunch, Angel," Daniel said softly. He was on his feet as well. He laced his fingers with hers, and led her back to the spot where everyone had gathered to eat.
'I hate lying to him.'
'I hate lies.'
'I know that too.'
'So why all of a sudden are we lying to our best friends and family?'
'Just trust me, Angel.'
His love wrapped around her, filled her so softly, so gently that it almost brought tears to her eyes. She sighed. 'All right. But I hate it.'
'I know.' He knew that she really did hate not telling her friends the truth. But the two 'secrets' were well worth keeping, as far as he was concerned. Both affected Her. One kept her at his side, where he was better able to protect her. No surprise in that desire…need. The other would establish her as an archaeologist in her own right. He had yet to examine the reason that this was so important to him. Refused to allow himself to dwell on that question. Right now, all that mattered was her making this discovery.
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