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Daddy's Little Girl
"Have I told you lately that I love you
Have I told you there’s no one above you
Fill my heart with gladness
Take away my sadness
Ease my troubles, that’s what you do..."
"Have I Told You Lately"
(Performed by Rod Stewart/Van Morrison)
Daniel sighed as he carried the last of the grocery bags into the house. It seemed that Casey's concern over the whereabouts of her purse, which she'd expressed on the Prometheus, had been due to the grocery list she'd tucked inside it. He didn't think it had been that long since the last time they'd been to Piggly Wiggly. Apparently he'd been mistaken.
Although, he conceded, she'd told him as they were leaving the base, doing their best to ignore the metaphorical elephant that had suddenly appeared in their lives, that she needed to spend a day preparing the casseroles that were their mainstay during the week. Since they had the following day off, she'd picked up the ingredients she needed for all of his favorites. Thus the 'extra' bags of groceries to be dealt with. If it meant a home cooked meal every night, he wouldn't complain!
He watched her for a minute as she put away the food they'd just purchased. He was an incredibly lucky man. How many women would be as willing to welcome a child from her husband's past into her life? Knowing her, she was already making plans for entertaining the little girl when...if...she was allowed to spend time with him...with them...
Little girl. For one moment he felt as if his knees were going to give out. He was a father. Okay, he suspected that he was a father. It was highly likely that he was a father. Oh, god, I'm a father! He barely made it to the bar chair before his legs did give out. He wondered briefly if this was what Gary had experienced when he'd found out about Casey.
Maybe, his brain pushed forth. Maybe you're the father. No sense getting wound up about the situation until after the DNA test. Janet, the one person who was in the position to offer the most help, was in D.C. visiting Major Davis. She had a few days of leave, and had decided to take them. Cassie was staying with her best friend, and from the phone conversation he'd overheard, or at least Casey's side of it, was having a great time.
His thoughts turned to Amelia. The person she'd been when he'd known her. She'd been a very pretty girl. Long brown hair and hazel eyes...which could be green or blue, depending on what she wore. She had a nice smile, although a genuine smile from her had been rare. She'd been certain of her charm, turning it on him almost as soon as they'd been introduced. She'd been kissing him an hour later, her hand down his pants giving him a hand job. She'd been audacious, and demanding.
Their second sexual encounter had been the next night, when Amelia had slipped into the tent where he slept. Somehow he'd managed to get a tent to himself, a rarity on most excavations, and certainly unusual for a more junior member of a team. It was undoubtedly because he had a well-known habit of staying up half the night writing in his journal, or reading one of the books he always carried with him.
She'd stripped, and settled herself on the sleeping bag beside him before he was even aware of her presence. As soon as he was awake, which had been the almost immediate result when she'd started stroking him, she'd straddled his hips and began to ride him. The tone for their entire relationship had been set that night. She'd informed him...while she dressed after they'd finished...that whenever he wanted her, all he had to do was send a message, and she'd join him in his tent. Then she was gone, as silently as she'd arrived. The son of one of the camp workers took a message to the white house on the outskirts of the small village on a very regular basis.
Daniel had never known a woman like Amelia. She'd made it clear what she did...and did not...want from him. They'd seldom talked to one another. That was one of the things she didn't want to do...even though he so badly did. He missed long conversations and gentle teasing and laugher. The few times they did have any sort of discourse was while she dressed, just before she left the tent. She admitted that her boyfriend had been 'less than attentive', and so she'd broken up with him. He told her about Carrie's departure from his life.
They had fucked. It was just as simple as that. No strings attached, each knowing from the onset that 'love' would never play a part in their 'relationship'. And if the truth be told, if either one of them had been stupid enough to utter the word 'love', even in jest, the other would have run for the hills. Love hadn't been what they'd been looking for, or needed, from their encounters.
Hell, had they even been friends? Now that he thought about it, he wasn't certain. From what he could remember, there had been nothing more than mutual, consensual, sexual gratification. She'd used him to make her boyfriend jealous. He'd used her to forget Carrie. They got off, and went about their own business. He'd never known how she spent her days...or what she did when they weren't in his tent...fucking. She'd never offered to tell him. He'd never asked.
His wounded pride, his heartbreak...his emotional turmoil over losing Carrie; and Amelia's almost cold reaction to him any time they weren't in bed, had allowed him to push his own concerns, and a nagging guilty conscience regarding their most...unusual...relationship, to the back of his mind. He'd been young, and male, and had reacted normally to what was offered. Took the gift of her body simply because she was warm and soft...because he was trying desperately to fill the void Carrie had left in his heart. He'd learned a lesson from that brief affair...one that he'd held closely ever since: using one person to ease the pain of losing another didn't work. It just made that heartache all the more intense. Better to just stay out of new relationships until the emotions of the old had been worked through, and dealt with.
What had there been between him and Amelia? Besides the sex? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. He sighed mentally. Now they had a child together. Like it or not, his life was permanently entwined with hers. He couldn't help but wonder what kind of woman she'd become. How much had she changed in the years that had passed?
No doubt he'd learn the answer to that question soon. He'd called Dillon Pierce, Amelia's attorney. Had agreed to meet with the man the next morning. Apparently the lawyer was flying in from Phoenix to meet with him. He knew that he'd be pushed for the DNA test. But he had to put that off until he had a chance to speak to Janet. Which hopefully he would be able to do tomorrow as well.
Damn it, he'd hated calling her cell phone; leaving the message. Janet so seldom took time off. And to interrupt the time she was able to spend with the man she loved...it just wasn't fair! He had his cell phone in his hand, ready to call her back, to tell her it wasn't anything that couldn't wait.
Except...a little girl's life was at stake. She couldn't wait. What would happen if he just took the DNA test? Would the people who did the comparison even bother with the genomes that had to do with life expectancy? Would they notice that all of the known genetic flaws had been 'repaired'? Would they see anything other than a sequence of genes that would tell them whether or not he was a father?
Her soft voice broke through the thoughts that whirled and collided in his head. "Hmm?"
"Are you all right?"
"I'm fine..." He shook his head. "To be honest, I'm not sure. Casey, I'm a father!"
"Might be a father," she corrected gently. Felt a stab of pain to note how excited he was at the prospect. Wondered how disappointed he'd be if it were proven that he wasn't this little girl's father. Couldn't help but think that maybe, just maybe, he'd been less than honest with her about wanting to start a family of his own, simply because he knew she wasn't ready.
"Might be a father," he agreed. He was so wrapped up with his own tumultuous thoughts that he missed seeing it when she tugged her lower lip between her teeth, or the flash of worry that filled her eyes for one brief moment, before she was able to push it aside.
Knowing that he had a lot on his mind, and that his emotions had to be in turmoil at the moment; wanting to give him the chance to sort through his thoughts and feelings, Casey quietly left the kitchen. Slipped to the front door to check the mail. Three days away...the box was completely full. Not wanting to disturb Daniel, she dropped down onto the upholstered chair in the den. Sorted through the stack, putting the bills in one pile, and tossing the junk into the trash basket.
Her heart sped up when she came to a letter-sized envelope, with now familiar handwriting. Tossing the rest of the unsorted mail onto the desk, she anxiously ripped the envelope open.
She smiled as she ran her fingers over the page. She had a feeling she knew what he wanted to discuss. He'd mentioned it briefly before, and now that it seemed he was looking for something other than his business to keep himself occupied, it was the perfect time for him to make the transition. Besides, having her dad nearby would be a dream come true. Kansas City was only a state away, but it still prevented her from spending time with her father as often as she wanted.
She glanced up when she realized that Daniel was leaning against the door frame.
"Letter from your dad?" he asked, nodding at the sheet of paper in her hand.
"Yep. He's going to be here this weekend. I thought-" she stopped, swallowed hard. Realized she'd automatically started to make plans for his visit. "We won't be here this weekend, will we?"
He frowned at the disappointment that flooded her eyes. If he was forced to take that DNA test tomorrow, which was possible, given that there were two subpoena's ordering him to do just that, and it proved that he was the father of Amelia's daughter...what had General Hammond said her name was? Or had he? If he was the father, he'd no doubt be preparing to undergo surgery. To remove one of his healthy kidneys in order to give the little girl...his little girl...a chance at a healthy life of her own. "I don't know, Angel," he replied honestly.
"I'll call Dad and tell him that things are a little...up in the air...for us at the moment," she said softly.
"Or you could spend the weekend with your Dad. If I...if it turns out that I am...if I'm going to be a donor, you don't necessarily have to be there," he offered. He knew how much being with her father meant to Casey. If he was going to be having surgery, he'd no doubt be unconscious most of the time for at least the first day or so. He could survive without her that long. She could spend the day with her father, and then come to the hospital to be with him.
"But if you're going to have surgery-" She broke off. Turned to look out the window as she fought down the panic that started to grow. If he was going to have surgery, no doubt it would happen in Phoenix. Amelia would be there. Maybe he'd cared more for this woman than he had admitted. Maybe he was hoping for time alone with her, time to reconnect with the mother of his child. If he's the father, her mind insisted on adding.
"If I'm having surgery, I'll be out. No need for you to sit in a waiting room when you could be spending time with your Dad."
Casey turned back. Locked her gaze with his. Was he trying to let her know, subtly, that he didn't want her...involved? That what happened between him, Amelia and their daughter was not her concern...none of her business? That thought made her simultaneously scared to death and madder than hell. She pushed forward, even as the worry of what his response might be had her shaking inside. "I'm your wife, Daniel. If you're having surgery for any reason, I want to be there. Even if I am just in the waiting room."
He noted the guarded look in those amazing green eyes. Heard the 'but' she hadn't voiced. "But?"
She sighed. "If you'd rather I wasn't there, just say so."
Daniel crossed the room. Dropped into the leather chair where he spent so much of his time at home, or so it sometimes seemed. Leaned forward, wrapped his hands around hers. Noted the trembling of her fingers. "If I have to have surgery, I'd prefer you stand right there at the surgeon's elbow, and make sure he does the job right. You're the only one I trust, Angel."
Casey couldn't help but smile at the mental image. "What makes you think I'd want to be there at the surgeon's elbow?"
"And watch him cut you open...and all the blood...and innards...and...yuck!" She gave a shudder of disgust.
He couldn't help but laugh. "Okay, you don't have to stand at his elbow. But I need you there, babe."
"Then why tell me to stay here?" she asked bluntly.
"I don't want you to feel pressured...obligated...to go," he replied honestly. Just as she battled with the scars of her childhood, he had a few of his own to deal with. He'd learned quickly, at the tender age of eight, after the deaths of his parents, that he was on his own. He'd had to look out for himself. He'd never had anyone to worry about him, not really. It still surprised him at times to realize that Jack, Sam, and Teal'c cared as much as they did. Knowing how much Casey cared, how deeply she loved him, often overwhelmed him.
She shook her head. "Daniel Jackson, for a man as brilliant as you are, you can be a complete idiot at times!"
"What?" he asked, genuinely confused. He was trying to be generous, allow her to spend time with the father she'd only so recently found, rather than in a hospital under what were sure to be very tense, very trying circumstances.
"I love you. No matter what you have to face, I'm going to be right there at your side, facing it with you! I'd go crazy sitting here, wondering what was happening, were you all right...had anything gone wrong...if you missed me."
The last was spoken so softly he almost didn't catch it. "Angel, I miss you when you're in General Hammond's office going over MALP reports and I'm in the lab."
"Then why tell me to stay here?" she asked for the second time.
"Because I'm an idiot?" he offered, giving her a smile. Feeling the warmth of hers all the way to his toes.
That shy smile of his could do such a number on her insides! "Bingo. I don't know how you could think that it would be remotely possible for me to be anywhere but at your side! Don't you understand that the only place I want to be is with you, no matter what? I'd never be able to enjoy being with Dad if you were just sick with a cold! I'd forget he was even around, because I'd be too worried about you."
"This might not be easy," he said quietly. "Not just the surgery. But...Amelia. She wasn't the...friendliest...person I've ever known."
"It doesn't matter how friendly she is or isn't. Daniel, I'm your wife. She's married to someone else. What happened during a brief affair ten years ago can't, and won't, change those facts."
"C'mere, you," he whispered, sitting back in the chair. He locked his arms around her slender frame when she settled herself on his lap. "I love you."
"I love you, too."
He toyed with long, blonde silk for a moment, before meeting her eyes. "I don't suppose you've...seen...anything?"
"Sorry, Stud Muffin."
He nodded. Bit back a sigh. It would be nice if she'd get an information dump that would give him an idea how to deal with the situation, or whether or not he even had to do so. For now, all they could do was go on...as much as possible. "So, what's for dinner?"
"Let's go find out," she replied. She leaned over to kiss him...lost herself in the wonder that was Daniel's kiss.
His brain, his cock, and his stomach began to compete for his attention. He wasn't sure which part of his anatomy would have won...Casey slowly moved her lips away from his, then stood to her feet. He allowed her to pull him to his, and lead him to the kitchen.
A A A A A A
Dillon Pierce tapped lightly on the door of the hospital room as he entered. Amelia Harmstead was sitting on the bed beside her daughter, holding her hand. Whatever they had been discussing was interrupted as he stepped closer, smiling down at the little girl. "How are you today, Kirsten?"
"Better. Mommy says you found my biological daddy, and that he'll be here soon," the little girl replied, her blue eyes shining with excitement.
Pierce looked sharply at the woman, then gave the little girl a smile. "Can I borrow your Mommy for just a few minutes?"
Kirsten nodded, smiling brightly.
Amelia smiled indulgently, brushed sandy blonde hair from the girl's forehead. "You just think about what you want for dinner, while I talk to Mr. Pierce."
"All right, Mommy."
She leaned over and kissed her daughter's cheek, pleased to note that the fever had once again been defeated. For how long this time? An hour? Two hours? Forty minutes? With another smile, she rose and followed her attorney into the hallway. "So when will he be here?"
"Mrs. Harmstead, is it wise to tell your daughter that Doctor Jackson is her father, before we have the results of the DNA test?" Pierce asked immediately.
"If Jim isn't her father, then Daniel is. It's as simple as that," Amelia replied firmly. "When will he be here?"
"I returned his call as soon as I was back in the office. I'll be flying to Colorado Springs to meet with him tomorrow morning. I would imagine that he'll want to be here as soon as he knows for certain that he is Kirsten's father."
"She needs that operation, and she needs it now!" Amelia hissed. Dr. Richmond had told her that Kirsten's condition continued to deteriorate at an abnormally...and alarmingly...rapid pace. He had no explanation as to why the disease seemed to be so accelerated in her small body. Only that it was. "I'm tired of the delays! I want that man in surgery tomorrow night! My daughter's life is at stake!"
Pierce sighed. "It's not that easy, Mrs. Harmstead. Even if Doctor Jackson is proven to be Kirsten's father, there's no legal way to force him to donate a kidney."
"I know Daniel, he'll do it even without the test," Amelia replied smugly.
"Don't be so certain," the attorney warned. Even if the man was willing, no doubt General Hammond would insist that he wait for the DNA test. Which, he admitted, he'd advise the doctor do, if he was Dr. Jackson's legal counsel.
Amelia narrowed her eyes, but said nothing. Apparently Daniel had changed over the years. The young man she'd known had been hell bent to help those around him who were in need. "What about child support? Especially back child support...Kirsten's medical bills..."
"Mrs. Harmstead, let me explain something to you. I can't even begin filling out those papers until I have proof in my hand that Doctor Daniel Jackson is indeed the father of your child. Let me remind you again that the doctor has very high level friends. I was notified that an investigation into your past life, and your marriage, has begun." The call had come from Washington D.C. The Secret Service agency no less. Pierce shuddered mentally.
"They can't do that!" Amelia objected vehemently.
"Yes, Mrs. Harmstead, they can," Pierce told her, holding her gaze with his own. "If I was Doctor Jackson's attorney, I'd have suggested the very same thing. Is there anything that I should know about, before I'm hit with it in the courtroom?"
"No!" Her eyes darted right, then left. "Well, maybe."
Pierce heaved another sigh. He took Amelia's arm and led her toward the waiting room near the elevator. Thankfully it was empty. "Tell me. Everything."
"I...we'd been fighting so much, and Jim was never home..." Amelia shrugged. "Greg was there, and fun...we had an affair. It lasted three, maybe four months. We were never serious, it wasn't like I'd have left Jim or anything," she added hastily. She didn't acknowledge the fact that she and her husband loved one another, but had never been in love. She never thought about the fact that she and Jim had simply been comfortable together, the only American children in an small Egyptian village, whose parents worked for the charity that offered schooling to the children of that village. She'd made up her mind at age thirteen that handsome Jim Harmstead was going to be hers. And she'd never let anything deter her from that goal. She'd kept a tight rein on him; never allowing him to wander far from her side, lest he discover that she wasn't the only woman available to him. What she'd learned with Daniel had been of great use in keeping Jim satisfied, and more than willing to drift along with her plans while he finished college, and she stayed home and took care of their infant daughter. If her marriage was one more of convenience and habit than one of love, she would never admit as much. She didn't admit even to herself that Greg's dark blonde hair and blue eyes had been what had attracted her to him. Nor had it ever occurred to her that what she'd had with Greg had been much more of a relationship than what she'd shared with Daniel. Daniel had served his purpose...giving her the sexual experience she wanted, and making Jim jealous enough to propose to her.
"I see. Where was Kirsten while you were having this affair?" Pierce asked.
"Usually Greg came to the house," Amelia admitted.
"So you were having sex with a man who wasn't your husband, while your daughter was in the house?"
"You're making it sound more...sordid...than it was! It wasn't as if Kirsten was an infant I was ignoring in order to have sex...she was six years old! He'd come over while she was in school...she was in Kindergarten at the time."
"Did Kirsten know about Greg?"
Amelia nodded, lowered her eyes. "She...uh...she walked in on us once. Time sort of got away from us that afternoon. I...I told her that we had...that we were taking a nap."
He let out another heavy sigh. "That's going to look very bad for you. It could even provide grounds for Doctor Jackson to request primary custody of his daughter. If he is Kirsten's father."
Amelia paled. "I won't let him do that! He hasn't been there for Kirsten-"
"Because he didn't know about her," Pierce pointed out bluntly.
"He doesn't even know her!"
"That is because he was never notified of the child's existence. Mrs. Harmstead, I will advise again that pursuing a course of action to seek financial payment, and back child support, could have very long lasting, and very negative results. I suggest that you forget the past, and move forward. If Doctor Jackson is Kirsten's father, then no doubt he will insist on being a part of her life, and will be willing to pay reasonable child support."
Part of Kirsten's life? Would Daniel demand visitation? Would he expect her to visit...spend summers and every other Christmas with him? No, Daniel was an archaeologist. He spent most of his time on some god-forsaken dig in the desert, or in some jungle somewhere. He lost himself in his work for days at a time. He wouldn't want a child to interfere with his life. Amelia nodded mentally. He'd be willing to write out a check just to keep from having to make...inconvenient...arrangements to see Kirsten.
Pierce watched hazel eyes go from wide and frightened, to narrow and guarded. No doubt she was trying to think of a way to make certain this situation turned out exactly as she wanted. Amelia Harmstead was determined. She knew what she wanted, and she'd do whatever she deemed necessary to have exactly that. She wasn't an intentionally cruel woman. Calculating, without a doubt, but never did she set out to be cruel. It seemed to him that her main motivation was her daughter. There was no denying the love she had for the child. From all that he'd been able to learn, Amelia was an excellent, even doting, mother. With the exception, it seemed, of one lapse of judgment.
Amelia shook her head slightly. "Daniel is a good man," she said softly. "He'll do what's right, he'll do his best for Kirsten. I know that."
The attorney nodded. "I'm sure that he is, and he will. Until it's proven that he's Kirsten's father, however, I suggest that you not insist on calling him that. It might make the situation more difficult if the DNA results are...unexpected."
"I was with Daniel, and I was with Jim, there was no one else!" Amelia insisted.
"Then I'm sure the DNA results will prove that." Unless there was something else she hadn't told him. After her admission, Pierce wasn't so certain that there might not be another secret or two lurking in Amelia's heart.
"If he goes in for the test tomorrow, we could have the results fast-tracked, and have them by tomorrow night," Amelia sighed.
Pierce knew for a fact that it would take at least twenty four hours to get the final results of any DNA test. He was also aware of the fact that Amelia knew this. She was so desperate for the miracle that Kirsten needed... He thought again of what General Hammond had said. It was true, Jim Harmstead could just as easily donate the kidney. If he just said the word, signed the forms, the transplant team would have him in the OR within an hour. In fact, Jim had tried twice to do just that. He wondered now if advising the Harmstead's to wait had been the best thing he could have done. In a perfect world, having the donor from a first degree relative was preferred. But it wasn't a perfect world. And it wasn't even necessary. His instincts were beginning to tell him that finding Dr. Daniel Jackson had just made this case one of his most difficult.
A A A A A A
It had been at least two weeks since she had last spoken to him. Curled on the sofa, she dialed the now familiar number. "Hi, Dad," she said, as soon as he answered.
"Casey! I hope you're calling to tell me that we can get together this weekend," Gary said jovially.
In that moment it all hit her. It was possible that Daniel was the father of a child conceived years ago, and that the weekend could see him in surgery, in an attempt to save that child's life. She drew a deep breath, then let the tears fall. "Um...about that..."
He knew in an instant that something was wrong. Could hear the tears in her voice. "It's okay, honey, take your time," he said soothingly.
"Well, first of all, we just spent two days marooned on a damned cold planet where we almost froze to death, and we were there because we managed to get away from Ba'al," she said. "We did prove the existence of Bigfoot, well, there anyway..."
His blood ran cold. He heard nothing after she'd mentioned the name 'Ba'al'. General Hammond had told him about that particular Goa'uld. What the snake, as Jack called them, had done to Casey. The plans he had for her. Gary had a few plans of his own, that he'd like carry out on the alien known as 'Ba'al'.
"...Then we get home, only to get hit with the news that Daniel has been subpoenaed for a DNA test. It seems he might be a father. He knew the mother in Egypt ten years ago, and the little girl has a kidney disease and needs a transplant and he's meeting with Amelia's attorney tomorrow and we might be in Phoenix this weekend-" She couldn't continue as the sob she'd tried to hold back escaped.
"Honey, I'll be there tomorrow," Gary said firmly.
"You don't have to," she objected, struggling to regain control; of her voice, if not her emotions.
"I'll be there tomorrow," he repeated, the firmness in his voice letting her know his mind was made up. "You will not go through this without me."
In spite of the emotions that continued to rage in her heart and mind, she couldn't help but smile. Gary Franklin was determined to be the best father he could be, no matter that he came into her life so late. "Thanks, Dad."
"You're welcome, honey."
"Um, I was just wondering, in your letter you sounded a little...well, open for something new," she said, changing the subject, wiping tears from her cheeks.
"I am," Gary admitted. Knew that she didn't want to, or perhaps couldn't, discuss further the sudden and surprising situation in which she and her husband found themselves. "I have a question for you, and I want an honest answer."
"Okay," she said, her smile going wider.
"I've been thinking about getting an apartment there in Silver Springs. I can work from anywhere, I do damned near everything online as it is. Travel I can do from anywhere that has a convenient airport. But I don't want you to feel...crowded."
"I wouldn't feel crowded at all. What if I crowd you?"
Gary laughed. "Nothing to crowd."
"I would love having you close. We can go apartment hunting after the meeting with that attorney," Casey decided.
"Sounds like a plan to me," Gary replied. "So, how are you feeling?"
"A bit...shell-shocked. Probably not as much as Daniel is at the moment. But it was damned unexpected."
"Have you been able to...sense...anything?"
Another smile. "Nope. At least not yet. I think a part of him is actually excited about the possibility of being a father," she confided.
"I can relate," Gary replied. He probably knew exactly what Daniel was feeling. Shock was certainly the main emotion to deal with. But there most assuredly was excitement. Possibly some anger, as well. At least Daniel had only lost nine years, would still be able to be a father during the times of his daughter's life when she'd need him. Be able to walk her down the aisle when she got married.
"Which has me rethinking a decision I made," Casey continued. "We've talked about it, and I thought we were in agreement. I can't help but wonder if maybe he was telling me what he thought I wanted to hear, and not what he really feels."
"Which would be?"
"That he's ready to start a family."
"I see. You're not?"
Casey sighed. "Not really. But I won't deny Daniel a family if that's what he wants."
Daniel shook his head as he poured another cup of coffee. He was able to tell from her part of the conversation just exactly what was being discussed. As soon as his Wife was off of the phone, he and she were going to have a discussion of their own on the subject. And they would continue to talk about it until she understood that he had been honest with her. He didn't want a family. Not yet. He'd do his best to be a good father to Amelia's daughter. And, truth be told, he was a bit excited at the prospect of being a dad. But that situation had nothing to do with him and Casey, and the family that he wanted to have with her. Someday.
"Honey, if you're not ready, even if Daniel is, you shouldn't rush into anything," Gary replied.
"If Daniel is ready, then I will be," Casey said stubbornly.
Gary sighed. "You're just like your mother."
"And stubborn," he replied, hearing the smile in her voice.
"Charley says I get my stubborn streak from you," Casey teased.
"Charley never met Brenda," Gary said drolly.
She giggled. "I should probably go. Call me when you get into town. I'll pick you up."
"No need. I'll just rent a car."
"I'll be home all day. Well, except for the meeting with that attorney. I'm going to that no matter what Daniel says."
"For this you can stand your ground?"
"Say goodbye, Dad."
"Goodbye, Dad," Gary responded instantly.
"At least I know where I get my smartass traits from."
He laughed. "Damned straight. I'll see you tomorrow, honey."
"Yes, you will. Goodnight, Dad."
She hung up, feeling much better than she had been. Amazing what a conversation with one's Dad can do, she thought, smiling as she flipped her phone closed. She gave a start when Daniel dropped down beside her.
"Stay put. We need to talk," he said firmly.
Uh oh, she thought, noting the way his beautiful blue eyes were flashing. Half a dozen fears clashed, contended for her attention. Had her shuddering inside. "Okay."
"It wasn't my intention to eavesdrop. But you and I are going to sit here and hash this out until you have it in that pretty head of yours that I'm not simply telling you what you want to hear. Casey, I'm not ready for a family. As selfish as this sounds, and God forgive me, as selfish as it is, I'm not ready to share you. With anyone. Not even our child."
He put his finger on her lips. "No buts, Casey. Am I excited at the thought of being a father to Amelia's daughter? Yeah, part of me is. I'll do my best to be a good father. I want to be there for her whenever she needs me. But you will always come first."
She let him take her hand, watched as he laced their fingers together.
"We won't be responsible full time for this little girl. She's already nine years old...hell, for all I know she won't like me and won't want to spend any time with me."
"She'll adore you," Casey said.
Daniel smiled. The thought of having a little girl, his little girl, adore him...was a damned nice one, he admitted to himself.
"Can I ask you a question?"
"What happens if she's not your daughter?"
He frowned slightly. His heart had been demanding the same answer from him. He hadn't been the most comfortable with the answer his head had supplied. "Then we go on with our lives. Nothing changes."
"You'll be disappointed."
"A little bit, maybe." He toyed with her fingers, running his thumb over the ridge of her knuckles, carefully observing each movement.
"How much of an ass does it make me to admit that I'd be more relieved?" he asked softly, admitting to her what he had been unable...unwilling...to admit to himself.
She smiled. "It doesn't make you an ass at all, Sweetheart. It's not like you were given nine months to get used to the idea. Or told about this before that little girl's life was hanging in the balance. It's rather unfair, actually. Learning that you might be a father like this is difficult enough, but being expected to part with a kidney immediately as well...that's overwhelming."
"Tell me about it," he muttered. He settled back against the corner of the sofa, tugged until she was sitting between his legs, leaning back against him. When he locked his arms around her, he could feel her love. Felt the warmth and the support she was so tenderly offering him. Accepted it gratefully.
"Together, Daniel. Whatever happens, we'll face it together."
He pressed his lips against the side of her face. "Love you," he whispered.
"Love you, too."
"Now, do you believe me when I tell you that I'm not ready for a family of our own?"
"I believe you," she replied softly.
"What if...what if I'm not ready for a family for...a year or so?"
He took a deep breath, blew it out slowly. "What if I'm not ready for longer than that?"
Casey twisted around to look at him. "Like how long?"
"We're Immortal, Casey. There's no...well, we don't have the normal age thing to wor-" He was unable to finish his thought, because she'd turned in his arms, and was kissing him for all she was worth. Something in the back of his mind, the small part that was still capable of cognizant thought, considering the sensations that were racing up and down his spine, told him that he'd just said the right thing. That her thoughts had mirrored his own. And that she'd been too afraid to voice them, too worried that he'd be upset or hurt.
To know that he felt the same way as she did, that he understood they literally had forever, sent her heart soaring to the stars. Someday they would have a family. A boy for her. A girl for him. When they were ready. And that someday didn't have an expiration date.
He grinned when she finally moved away from him. "I guess we're on the same page about this family thing?"
"I'd say so," she smiled.
"Gonna finish what you started?"
"I always do," she teased. She climbed to her feet, tugged his hand until he was standing beside her. Wrapped her arms around his neck. "Let me love you," she whispered.
With a shiver of anticipation, he swept her into his arms, and carried her to the bedroom. Every worry, every fear, every doubt faded from their minds, at least for the moment, as they made love, taking one another to the stars again and again...and again.
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