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Shadows of the Heart
Casey lifted Nicholas into the seat of the shopping cart. Tossed her purse in beside him. She had exactly fifty three minutes to get the shopping done, pick Emily up from school, take kids and the groceries home, and get to the base for a meeting with Duncan and Jack. She hoped that her mother remembered that she was needed to watch the kids for the afternoon.
Daniel had a meeting of his own, or so he had said. When he had come home for a late lunch, he had told her to take the Blazer and run her errands, that it was possible he would be working late, and would be too tired to drive her around. So, she had driven him back to the base, and then returned home to finish up the laundry she had started.
That he had insisted she take the morning off still had her confused. Something was up, she just didn't know what. Christmas was still a little over two months away. She didn't think his 'meeting' had anything to do with the holidays. She did know he'd been very closed-mouthed about whatever it was he was up to. That was really no surprise. When Daniel wanted to keep something a secret, nothing and no one would ever succeed in dragging it out of him! With considerable effort, she shoved it all to the back of her mind and concentrated on her shopping.
Diane and Ed both greeted her, commenting on Nicholas and how quickly he was growing. She managed to get away from them within a few minutes, and hurried through the store, picking up what she needed.
She stopped at the meat counter. It had been awhile since she had fixed a nice steak for him…Stop it! Everything is just fine! she told herself. If it's so fine, the shadows taunted, why hasn't he told you what he's up to? Why didn't he want you on the base this morning? He never keeps secrets from you! Until now. She shook her head mentally. Daniel loves me, she reminded herself, forcefully. Yeah, so he says. Did you make love this morning? the shadows asked. She pulled her lip between her teeth. For the first time since she had returned home, he hadn't awakened her to make love. The alarm had gone off, he had kissed her cheek and hurried to take a shower. That haunting darkness, the black fears that plagued her, began to squirm and nudge her.
The steaks did look good, and a nice steak dinner was one of his favorites…she picked out a package, tossed it into the cart, and headed back to the produce section for the ingredients for one of her 'super salads'; he always seemed to enjoy the salad with his steak. A few potatoes for oven fried potatoes, and a bag of chocolate walnut cookies, and she was ready to checkout. She glanced at her watch and barely held back a groan. She was going to be late picking Emily up…again.
The cashier was new, and had to void and rescan seven items. Then there was a problem with her credit card. The young woman apologized, taking the blame for the mistake, and telling Casey she would have to void the entire purchase and scan it all again. By the time Casey got to the car with Nicholas and the groceries, she was working on a headache. She blessed her Immortality, knowing that it wouldn't get worse than what it was, and would soon gone completely.
A A A A A A
Traffic in Hope had become much heavier with the sudden influx of five thousand additional people. There were seven new traffic lights, and every one of them turned red as she approached. Mrs. Waters was waiting on the front steps of the school with Emily when Casey finally arrived, whipping into the nearest parking stall.
"I am so sorry," she said, hurrying to where her daughter stood.
"It's all right, Mrs. Jackson," the teacher said, a smile on her face. "I was just telling Emily that you are a very busy woman, and we busy women tend to set up schedules for ourselves that are often impractical."
Was that a polite way of saying that the woman thought she was trying to do too much? Or that she couldn't organize her time efficiently? "Sometimes we have toddlers who need an unexpected bath at inconvenient times," Casey replied dryly. She was running late because Nicholas had discovered a new favorite past time - decorating himself with magic markers. It had taken almost thirty minutes to get the majority of blue and black and green marks off of his face, arms, legs and tummy - and bottom.
"Ah, yes. Emily tells me that her little brother is quite…adventurous," Mrs. Waters said, her smile widening with understanding.
"I personally think he's trying to see if he can drive me crazy," Casey admitted. "I hate to rush, but I have a meeting with Duncan MacLeod and Jack O'Neill in ten minutes."
"Well, you must go then. It's always a pleasure to speak with you, Mrs. Jackson," the teacher said.
Casey flashed one of the smiles she was well known for. "Thanks. It's always nice to speak with you as well, Mrs. Waters." She hurried Emily to the still running Blazer, buckled her into the booster seat, and with a wave, tore out of the parking lot.
Mrs. Waters watched the red vehicle flying down the street. She wondered if being the Casey Jackson would prevent the young blonde woman from getting a speeding ticket.
A A A A A A
Erin was waiting at the house when Casey arrived. She helped her daughter carry in the bags of groceries. "I thought you had a meeting at three-thirty," she said, handing vegetables to Casey as she put them in the refrigerator.
"Then you're almost fifteen minutes late," Erin replied.
With a groan, Casey jumped to her feet. "Would you mind-"
"Go, my darling daughter. I think I can handle putting a few things away for you," the older version of the young Immortal smiled.
"Thanks, Mom. And keep an eye on Nicholas. I don't know how he does it, but he keeps finding the places where I hide the markers.
"I will. Now, go."
Casey ran to the Blazer, gunned the engine as she pulled onto the street, and raced towards the base. She sent up a silent prayer of thanks that Daniel had assigned parking. She pulled the vehicle into the spot in front of the Center, grabbed her purse and dashed for the entrance into the mountain.
A A A A A A
Duncan and Jack were already going over the third mission folder when she ran into the room. "Nice of you to join us," Duncan said, a slight frown on his face. It wasn't like Casey to be late when it came to her work on the base, not unless she and Daniel had stopped to mess around on the way to a briefing. That rarely happened, although it was always a source of amusement to watch their faces when it did.
"I'm sorry," Casey said, dropping breathlessly down onto a chair. "I'm going to have to get rid of every marker in the house," she said.
"Why?" Jack asked, taking a sip of coffee, and handing her the folders that he and Duncan had already looked at.
"Because Nicholas is practicing to become a tattoo artist."
Jack nearly spit the coffee across the room. Duncan snorted, ducked his head and began to laugh. "He what?" Jack asked, managing to get the mouthful of liquid swallowed.
"He had green, black and blue marks on his arm, his legs, his tummy, his face…I'm not even going to try and figure out how he got three on his fanny. And magic marker ink is very hard to get off toddler skin!" Casey explained.
Jack was shaking his head as he laughed. "At least he's not digging holes in the yard."
Casey glared at the man. "I think I'd rather him do that!"
"Daniel wouldn't!" Jack exclaimed, still chuckling. The archaeologist had complained long and loud to his friends about his son's 'excavation' attempts, admitting that while he wouldn't mind seeing the boy become an archaeologist, he was tired of filling in the holes that were scattered throughout the yard.
"Daniel doesn't have to bathe him," Casey retorted.
Duncan grinned. "Take a breath, honey. Get a cup of coffee. Then you can tell us what you 'see'."
With a grateful nod, she grabbed a mug from the wall and filled it with coffee. "Oh, yeah, sanity in a cup," she murmured, taking her first sip.
Jack and Duncan exchanged glances, grinned, and waited for her to look at the folders in front of her.
She went through the first two rather quickly. She shook her head. "These two are going to be boring, I think," she said, nodding at the first two mission plans. "Hot, dusty and boring. Please tell me that SG-1 will be going on one of them!"
"Sorry, Case. SGI-5 and SGI-11 get them. I'll tell them to take a deck of cards," Jack replied.
The third folder had her frowning. SGI-3 was set to go on a standard 'meet and greet', with a group of people very interested in trading with Gamma. Just as Seleconne had done, this group had contacted the SGC, having learned of the Tau'ri of Gamma through mutual contacts. "Is this all of the information you have on them?" she asked.
Duncan's frown matched hers. "I'm afraid so. Why?"
"They're hiding something. I just can't see what it is."
"Want me to call Daniel down here so you can do a search?" Duncan asked.
Jack shot a look at the dark haired Scot, shook his head slightly. "Daniel is…uh…in a meeting."
Casey didn't miss the look the men exchanged. Just whom would he be meeting with? If there was a meeting at the Center, she would know about it. Any meetings in the mountain would undoubtedly involve the two men sitting with her. She couldn't think of anyone else that he would be meeting with. Her heart plummeted. Something was going on. Something that she knew she wasn't going to like. Something that she had a feeling was going to hurt…deeply. "That's okay," she said softly. "It's about time I learned to stand on my own two feet and do things for myself." She closed her eyes, and began to reach out. Her heart was hammering against her ribs; she felt alone…vulnerable…and afraid.
"Casey! Stop it!" Jack said sharply. His heart was pounding as he watched her; remembered well what had happened the last time she had sat in this office and done a search 'alone'.
"No, Jack," she replied, opening her eyes and looking at the man beside her, the green depths full of sadness. "I think we both know it has to be this way."
Again the men exchanged a look, both of them concerned by her comment. The look in her eyes was enough to make them cringe; it was too much like the one that had filled them when Daniel had appeared to spurn her for that dark-haired Goa'uld bitch. Neither of them were happy with the current situation, not at all.
Once again she closed her eyes and reached out. Wanted to call to him, wanted to feel his warm, gentle presence. She held back the tears as she looked, and listened. "Tell Becca to be very careful," she said softly. "These people are very…deceitful. They'll say whatever they think she wants to hear in order to get what they want."
"What do they want?" Jack asked quietly. He couldn't protect her the way that Daniel could, but his fingers were wrapped around her hand nonetheless.
"Technology. Weapons technology. They're not as advanced as they're trying to appear. I don't see anything of value…nothing worth trading for, certainly nothing worth giving them weapons for," she replied. Her frown deepened. "They…Duncan, I think it would be better to just hold off contacting these people, at least for awhile."
Duncan nodded. "Mission scrubbed," he said. He wrote out a note and attached it to the outside of the folder. He watched her as she opened her eyes. She avoided looking at him or at Jack, but he could see the fear, the worry. Thought briefly that Daniel had picked a hell of a time to decide to do this. He should have done it while Casey was…away. Wondered how she would react when she found out. He forced his mind back to the matters at hand. "Okay, now, we have reports of Kinsey being sighted in Kolamar."
She searched her memory. SG-1 had gone there, she and Sam masquerading as slave traders, seeking information about Nergal. "That's the planet that serves as the trading hub for the Hibernian System, isn't it?"
"Yep. We have no idea what he's up to. The only thing we know for sure is that he's still working for Ptah."
"Any new info on him?" Jack asked.
"None," Duncan replied. "Methos says that Ptah seems to have very little; one mothership, not more than a hundred Jaffa, and no planets under his control, at least none that he's aware of."
Jack frowned. "It's almost as if he's been…gone…out of the picture for awhile."
"Maybe he was 'entombed' like Hathor and Pelops," Duncan suggested.
"It's possible," Jack agreed, glancing at Casey. "He was a contemporary of Ra's, right? Maybe Ra entombed Ptah the same as he did Hathor. Or maybe Hathor is the one who did it, like she did to Pelops."
"I wouldn't know," she said softly. "That's Daniel's area of expertise."
Again the two men exchanged a glance. And her heart fell even farther. She took a deep breath. "So who is the lucky team that gets to go check all of this out?" she asked.
"SG-1," Duncan replied.
"Why am I not surprised," Casey said. She tried to force a smile. "Will Sam and I need our leather outfits?"
Jack grinned. "I dunno. Better take them just in case." If nothing else, he thought, grinning like a wild man inwardly, he and Sam could play a little 'slave-trader and slave'. He shook himself mentally, returned his attention to the folders on the table in front of him.
Two more files to go, she thought. And then…then what? Then she would find out what was going on. Her heart clenched in her chest. She could feel the darkness moving closer to her, could feel the shadows churning and stretching in her soul. "Okay, what's next?" she asked brightly. Too brightly.
Duncan wanted to tell her. Damned Daniel for putting him and Jack in this position. Hoped that she would understand when she learned the truth. "Two more recons," he said, handing the folders to her.
She reached out again, barely resisting the urge…the need…to call to him. She began to block him, just knowing he was 'there' was becoming a distraction. "These people need our help," she said. "Their land is suffering from a drought. I think…it feels like it's been…years, no… decades…since they had adequate rainfall. I have no idea why. But they need food, water, and medical supplies."
Duncan was making hasty notes. "Okay, I'm going to send SG-1 on this mission first. I want more info from Methos before we make a move against Kinsey and Ptah. He should have something for me by the end of the week."
Jack nodded his agreement.
She took the last folder into trembling hands. Felt nothing. Another boring mission. Wished desperately that there were more folders to sort through, search for. "Another boring one. Better put a note for the team assigned to this one to take cards along, too." She smiled, but it never reached her eyes.
"Well," Duncan said, "that's it for this week, possibly next week as well. Depends on what the MALPs find, and what we hear from Methos."
Suddenly she didn't want to leave. Didn't want to know whether or not her heart was about to be broken. She could see that damned cliff moving closer. She closed her eyes, missed the look of frustration that the two men in the room shared. "I guess I should go see what Daniel is up to," she said softly. "Then again, maybe I'll just go over to the Center."
"Why don't you go see if Daniel is up for a cup of coffee in the commissary," Jack suggested. "I'll go get Sam."
She nodded. "Sure. See you there." She picked up her purse, pulled the strap over her shoulder, and slowly walked toward the elevator. Daniel hadn't reached out to her all day. Usually he did at least once during the day. She started to reach out to him, shook her head mentally. There was a chance that he wouldn't want to 'hear' from her. She took a deep breath. And re-enforced the mental block she had put up. She had a feeling that she was about to step off that cliff. She could only hope to survive the fall.
A A A A A A
Daniel smiled at the woman sitting in the chair in front of him. He stood up, walked to the front of his desk, handed her a folder, leaned back and crossed his arms over his chest. "Okay, so how would you handle this?"
The woman tossed her dark hair over her shoulder, looked up at him and smiled, then opened the folder and scanned the contents. "Obviously this is something that you or Mrs. Jackson should deal with. It doesn't seem to be urgent, though."
He nodded. "So, what would you do?"
"Put it in the daily in-box," she replied. She carefully placed the folder on top of the others he had questioned her about.
He grinned. "Works for me. You do realize that I'm making this job sound much easier than it's really going to be, right?"
She giggled. "Is that so I can delude myself into thinking I can do it?"
He laughed out loud. Carly was right, this woman had the necessary skills and experience to do the job he wanted her to do. The others had been nowhere near as qualified. And she had a pretty good sense of humor, an absolute must when working in the mountain of Gamma's SGC. "No, it's so that you'll take the job, and hopefully tell me that you can start right away. You are going to take the job, right?"
She smiled. "Right." She offered her hand, her smile getting wider when he wrapped his fingers around hers.
Casey heard the sound of a woman's giggle coming from his office. She didn't recognize it. It was quickly followed by his laugh. She stopped, put a hand to her stomach, willed herself to remain calm. She made it to the doorway, and froze. Daniel was leaning against his desk, holding the hand of a woman with long dark hair. It was her! That…woman…in her dream! The one who had taken him away from her! He looked up at her, was that…surprise…in his eyes?
"You're finished sooner than I thought you would be," he said calmly, smiling at her, pulling his hand away from the woman's, casually slipping it into his pants pocket.
The woman turned around, her dark eyes assessing the blonde in the doorway.
"Sorry. I didn't know you were…busy. I'll just go on over to the Center." Shaking, her heart on the verge of shattering, she backed out of the door. Without another word she turned and fled back the way she had come.
"Casey?" Daniel made it to the door just in time to see her disappear into the elevator. He turned back to the woman who was now standing behind him. "I guess you'll have to wait for that introduction."
"That's okay," she smiled. "So, when do you want me to start?"
"I suppose if I said right now you'd say no, right?"
She giggled again. "Actually, I don't have anything pressing to do. I'm all yours."
Daniel grinned. "Welcome aboard, Julie."
"Thank you, Doctor Jackson."
"If we're going to be working together, you might as well call me Daniel."
"I'd like that, Daniel," the woman said. She couldn't believe her good fortune. She'd been looking for a job with better pay for nearly a year now. This one had seemed to fall into her lap. Carly had mentioned to her that she'd heard that Daniel Jackson was looking into hiring a secretary, and promised to put in a good word for her. Julie Harwood had been the office manager for Plimpton Insurance ever since her arrival on Gamma. She had been making the same wages since she arrived, as well. Mr. Plimpton just didn't see a need to give her a raise, after all, her duties hadn't changed, he told her. This job offered better wages, and a better benefits package. And working for Daniel Jackson would certainly be more pleasant, the man was very easy on the eyes!
"Okay, well, I'll let you tackle what's on the desk right now. I'm going to go talk to Duncan about getting you set up in your own office. There's an empty room across the hall that would work nicely."
"Whatever you say, Daniel," Julie replied. She settled her slender body into the chair. Her already short skirt rode higher on her thighs. Daniel was male, and alive. He noticed. And she knew that he did. She gave a mental sigh, well aware of the 'score' when it came to Dr. Daniel Jackson, and began to sort through the stack of folders and papers that cluttered the desk. It looked as if he'd needed a real secretary for some time! She gave an audible little sigh and set to work.
A A A A A A
Casey made it to the Center without breaking into tears. She walked into the ladies room and splashed water on her face. One glance in the mirror had her reaching for her hairbrush. She searched for it, found it, stared at her make-up bag, tempted to put on just a bit of blush and mascara. She shook her head. No way. She didn't normally wear make-up to work. She wasn't going to start now. If that woman was what he wanted…She gasped as the pain flooded over her. Oh, god, was she what he wanted? She held tightly to the pedestal sink for several minutes, head hanging down, her hair hiding her face from view, her eyes closed against the pain and darkness that continued to push and stretch inside her.
"Casey? Are you ill?" Susan asked from behind her, her voice full of concern.
"No. Well…no," Casey said. She pushed her hair back with one hand, glanced at her watch. "Susan, could I ask a really big favor of you?"
"Of course, my dear!" Susan exclaimed.
"Could you give me a ride home? Daniel said something about working late tonight, and…I…I just need…I want to go home," she said softly.
"Casey, is something wrong?"
She shook her head. "No. There's nothing wrong." She was amazed at how easily the lie fell from her lips. She must be learning that little skill from her Husband. She shook her head, tried to force the angry, hurtful thoughts away.
Susan studied the young woman for a few seconds. "If you ever need to talk, I'm available."
She forced a smile. "Thanks. Um…about that ride…"
"Of course. Let me tell Arlen where I'm going."
"Sure. I'll meet you out front."
Susan nodded. She turned and left the room, a small frown on her face.
A A A A A A
Daniel knocked on Duncan's door. "Got a minute?"
He looked up, gave a single nod of acknowledgement. "Well?"
He grinned broadly. "We…well, Case and I, have a secretary!"
"Does Casey know? You were planning on telling her, right?" The questions sounded snippy. Duncan didn't care. He'd seen the look of fear in Casey's green eyes. She suspected that something was wrong. With that mindset, and her penchant for twisting things into the worst possible scenario, even the most innocent of actions could take on a totally different meaning.
Daniel frowned. "I did all of this for her! Of course I'm going to tell her! She didn't give me a chance to even say anything," he replied.
"Excuse me?" Duncan wondered briefly if Daniel really believed he was getting a secretary for her, to free her from the endless paperwork that their jobs produced; or if he realized he was actually doing it for himself, to satisfy the need to have Casey close, working with him.
"She came into the office long enough to say she was going over to the Center, and then she ran out."
The Highlander leaned back in his chair. "I see. I just wonder what Casey saw…or what she thought she saw…when she walked into that office."
He thought about the incident. His face paled. He'd still had Julie's hand in his, shaking on their agreement to her employment when his wife had walked in. "Oh, Christ! I was so excited about getting someone who would take care of all the sorting and filing and email…I just wanted Casey to be able to help me with all the translating that needs to be done!"
"I suggest you tell her that, Daniel. The sooner the better," Duncan said quietly.
He nodded. "I…uh…I came down to see if Julie could use the office across the hall from mine. It would be convenient; Case and I can continue to work in my office, then we won't have to move anything."
"Sure. I'll have it set up right away," Duncan replied.
"Thanks." Daniel turned to leave.
"She…uh…she did several searches this afternoon."
"She what?" His eyes widened, his heart began to pound. She hadn't reached out to him, hadn't called for him..."And you let her? Why didn't you call me?"
"You were busy interviewing your new secretary. And she-" Duncan dropped his eyes. He knew that Casey was a smart woman. She had been well aware that something was going on behind her back. She never responded well in situations like that. He just hoped Daniel remembered that little fact as well.
"She said that she needed to start standing on her own two feet. When Jack objected, she told him that he knew that it had to be 'this way', is how she put it."
He closed his eyes, tried to tamp down the fear, and the anger, that were moving through his heart and mind. "Is she okay?"
"I don't know, Daniel. You tell me," Duncan said softly.
He reached out for her. Blocked. Totally, one hundred percent blocked. When was the last time she'd kept him away… intentionally? The last time he could remember her blocking him from her mind was when she'd had that nightmare involving Wade and Nergal, and in his anger, he had blocked her first. He didn't know whether to be worried or pissed. He settled for a combination of the two.
Duncan watched him walk away. Hoped for Daniel's sake that Casey wasn't so hurt, so angry, that she would refuse to listen to him, let him explain.
A A A A A A
Susan met Casey on the sidewalk in front of the Center. She led the young Immortal to the sports car that she drove. She took in the young blonde's pale cheeks. "Are you sure you're all right?"
Casey looked at the woman beside her. "To be honest, Susan, I don't know what's what anymore. I'll let you know as soon as I figure it out." She knew she sounded bitchy. She really didn't care, not at the moment. The pain that had settled in her chest was almost too much to bear.
Susan didn't reply. For a man as brilliant as he is, Daniel can be a bloody idiot at times, she thought. She glanced at the young woman beside her. Hoped that the incredible love, that almost magical love that the two shared, would see them through this…situation.
The little car was cruising through the parking lot when Daniel walked toward the Center. He never noticed it, or the passenger.
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