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 Daddy's Little Girl

Chapter 5

Janet was chewing on her lip as she watched the ground speed by below them. She'd overheard the colonel speaking with the pilot, and the two men figured that the Jacksons had maybe a forty-five minute lead on them. Jack mentioned that more than likely they only had duffel bags, so there wouldn't be a need to wait at the baggage claim area for their luggage. However, they still had to get off the plane, and get their rental car. That alone could take half an hour. Then they had to drive to the hospital. Best estimate was that they'd reach the facility just minutes after Daniel and Casey had arrived. Hopefully before any tests could even be started. Or Daniel signed any consent forms for the surgery, foregoing the DNA test altogether.

"Relax, doc," Jack said, offering the petite woman a smile. "Casey isn't going to let Daniel do anything stupid."

"She let him fly to Phoenix," Janet countered.

"Yeah, but that's just so she can pull out the big guns and hold off that test. I'll bet she even knows we're on our way."

It was silly, she knew, to let herself hope that somehow Casey's gift had shown her what happening, and did indeed know that she and Jack would arrive with the information that would prevent Daniel's secret from being revealed to the world. Or at least to the techs in a hospital laboratory in Phoenix, Arizona.

Her fingers were cramping as she clutched the folder. But she refused to let go of it. The discomfort was a small price to pay for what Daniel and Casey had been going through for the past twenty-four hours. Which they wouldn't be, she reminded herself for the umpteenth time, if she'd only tried harder to talk to Daniel about those damned test results!

She couldn't even imagine the anxiety that they had to be experiencing. She could only hope that Casey wouldn't find this lover from Daniel's past a threat to her and her marriage. Daniel didn't need that stress on top of believing he was the father of a very sick child. Casey would do her damnedest to hide any fears, any insecurities. But Daniel knew his wife well, and could read her like an open book. Something that Casey had complained about a time or two during girls' night out.

She began going over what she wanted to say. How sorry she was. That she never should have even run the tests without his knowledge...that it was only what had happened to him, his abuse at the hands of that damned Goa'uld bitch, that had made her overly sensitive to approaching him. That as soon as she suspected, she should have talked to him. Certainly as soon as she knew for certain. She should have found a way...made the time, insisted that he meet with her, regardless of what else had been going on at the moment.

Another glance at her watch. Three minutes later than last time she had checked. She didn't notice the look of concern on Jack's face as he watched her. Didn't realize that her guilt was written plainly on her face.

Jack sighed. He only hoped that Daniel would be able to see for himself just how torn up Janet was about all of this. At the rate she was going, she'd have a full blown ulcer by the time they made it back to the SGC. Daniel was a fair man. A calm man, most of the time. He wondered just how the archaeologist would take the news. Would he be relieved, or disappointed?

 

A  A  A  A  A  A

 

The ladies at the information desk were friendly and helpful. One of them even offered to call up to the room, to let Kirsten and her parents know that two visitors were on their way up.

Daniel looked at Casey. "I guess that would be a good idea, huh?"

Casey nodded. "Probably."

The woman with the carefully coifed gray hair smiled. "Well, you just take that elevator over there, and I'll let them know," she said, picking up the phone.

"Thank you," Daniel said quietly, flashing the smile that had won the heart of many a woman, unbeknownst to him. And charmed as many leaders, human and alien alike.

Casey was every bit as nervous as he was, holding tightly to his arm. He took comfort from that, feeling the gentle pressure, the slight trembling of her fingers. Knowing how fragile Casey's psyche was, he knew that he had to make it obvious to Amelia that he was head over heels in love with his Wife. Not that he really cared about what his former lover thought. But it was important that he made the effort so that Casey knew, and felt secure in his love, especially considering the rather...stressful...circumstances they were in. "Relax, babe," he whispered.

"Shouldn't I be saying that to you?" she asked.

"I'm doing all right."

She looked at him. He looked calm. Completely unflappable. No one would ever know if he were scared to death, or furious, or worried. She envied him that ability. The one thing she was grateful for...neither of them had taken time to change their clothes. They were still wearing their black suits. Illogical as it was, she took consolation from that fact. She had no idea just how attractive, how completely composed she looked; or that the fact that she was wearing shoes almost the same color as his shirt made it obvious that they were a couple. It hadn't been intentional on her part, she'd grabbed the heels before she'd even seen what Daniel was wearing.

When his hand went to the knot of his tie, Casey gently pushed his fingers away. Moved to stand in front of him, and carefully straightened it for him. He loved that she did that. It almost seemed to be habit now, anytime he was wearing a tie. Like old married folks, he thought briefly. A thought which brought a rush of happiness that overrode every conflicting emotion banging around in his head...and heart. "Thanks."

"You're welcome."

Daniel glanced at his watch, a nervous gesture that neither of them acknowledged. Half past three in the afternoon. Had it only been that morning that they'd had breakfast with Casey's father? It certainly seemed longer than the five hours it had been since that meeting with Mr. Pierce. Would this damned day ever be over?

The elevator dinged, and the doors slid open. His heart pounding a tattoo against his ribs, Daniel tightened his grip on Casey's hand. The room numbers were listed on the wall, and directions for each wing given. With a deep breath, he led her toward the room where Amelia and her daughter waited.

He rapped his knuckle lightly against the open door, peeked inside the room. Oh, god! The bed seemed huge in comparison to the little girl who lay within it. Movement caught his attention, and he saw Amelia rise to her feet. Would he have recognized her had they passed on the street? He wasn't sure.

"Daniel!" Amelia smiled, held her hands out as she walked toward him. His hair was short now, his glasses just a bit different. But she'd know those beautiful blue eyes anywhere. Her glance went to his hands...and those strong, slender fingers. She pushed away the memory of how they'd felt as they had moved over her naked body.

"Hello, Amelia." He offered one hand, slipped the other arm around Casey's slender waist. "May I introduce my Wife, Casey? Casey this is Amelia Harmstead."

His body language was screaming at her. His hand had barely stayed in hers long enough to be considered a proper greeting. He'd pulled the beautiful blonde tight against his side. She wasn't surprised that Daniel had such a gorgeous wife. After all, he was a very handsome man. She struggled to keep the smile on her face. Wrestled with the feelings of jealousy that washed over her. "It's nice to meet you," she said. Hoped she didn't sound as catty as she suddenly felt.

"Likewise," Casey said softly.

Needing a chance to compose herself, Amelia turned her back to the newly arrived couple, motioned her mother forward. "You remember my mother, Amanda Wheeler?"

"I'm sorry, it's been a long time," Daniel replied, accepting the older woman's hand.

Amanda smiled. "Yes it has, and we only met once, quite briefly, if my memory serves me."

Amelia was standing beside the bed now. "And this is Kirsten. Your daughter. Kirsten, this is your biological daddy, Daniel."

Casey winced mentally. Nothing like putting the friggin' cart before the horse! No matter what Amelia thought, she shouldn't refer to Daniel in that manner until that DNA test came back positive...if it did.

Daniel stepped closer to the bed, offered his hand to the little girl who looked as ill as she was. "Hello, Kirsten."

"Hello. Should I call you Daniel, or Daddy?"

His heart lurched. He caught sight of the man standing in the corner of the room. Jim Harmstead, no doubt. "Daniel will be just fine," he replied.

"Okay, Daniel," Kirsten said. She studied the beautiful woman who was standing just behind the man who was her father. "You're very pretty."

Casey blushed. "Thank you. I was just thinking the same thing about you," she said, giving the little girl a soft smile. There wasn't one thing about the child, other than her blue eyes and blonde hair, that could be Daniel's. Nor did she look all that much like her mother. Daniel had been correct, her eyes were the same shape as Amelia's. But her very sharp chin...there was something about her chin...damn it, she hated it when that happened! If I'm going to get a dump, she groused irritably, do it and let's get this over with!

"I'm Jim," the man standing in the corner said, moving forward when it appeared that Amelia had forgotten about his presence altogether.

Daniel shook Jim's hand. Wondered just how he would feel, put into the man's position. Probably madder than hell. And heartbroken on top of it all. It couldn't be easy to learn that the child you had believed to be your own suddenly wasn't, he thought.

"Oh, yes, forgive me," Amelia said, glancing at Jim. "My husband."

Casey noted that Amelia wouldn't actually look at him. However, it seemed that she couldn't take her eyes off Daniel. It was if she was drinking him in like water from a desert oasis. Not that she could blame the woman. He was devastatingly handsome, especially in that black suit.

"Mr. Pierce said that you were willing to have the surgery," Amelia rushed on.

Daniel frowned. "I'd prefer to have the DNA test first."

Casey glanced up at him. Was he seeing the same thing she was? A little girl who had no resemblance to him, or any pictures she'd seen of his parents and grandfather. Or was he simply trusting the vague feeling of unease that continued to plague her?

"Oh, yes, of course. I just assumed that after seeing Kirsten-" Amelia broke off, looked over at Casey, her eyes narrowing slightly. "I'm certain that the two of you must have discussed the matter during your flight." And the bitch talked you out of doing what's right, her mind added spitefully.

"As a matter of fact, we did. Casey thought that it might be necessary to have proof of paternity. I'd like visitation rights."

That she was able to keep her jaw from hitting the floor was only due to the fact that Amelia's reaction nearly caused Casey to giggle out loud. Amelia looked like a shocked trout. It took several seconds for the woman to recover.

"Visitation?" Amelia managed to say.

"If Kirsten is my daughter, I have every right to get to know her, spend time with her." Daniel looked over at the little girl in the bed. "I apologize, Kirsten, we're talking about you as if you're not even here."

Kirsten studied the man. He didn't believe that he was her Daddy. She echoed what she had heard her mother tell Mr. Pierce. "I think you should have the DNA test, too. To prove it once and for all."

"If I'm your father, I would very much like to spend time with you. If that's all right with you," Daniel said gently.

"Mommy says you live in Colorado."

"Yes, I do. In Silver Springs. It's a suburb of Colorado Springs."

"Are you a teacher, like my Daddy?"

Daniel smiled. "I've taught a few university courses. I'm an archaeologist."

Kirsten's eyes lit up. She'd read about archaeologists in school, and had seen them on television, on the Discover Channel. "Wow! Did you ever find anything really important?"

"Oh, a few tablets. I translated a cover stone that had a bit of new information on it," he grinned. Wondered just what Kirsten would think if she knew about the Stargate, and his part in that program. Or the fact that he'd made several incredible finds...on alien planets. Not that he would ever be able to tell her.

Amelia was coming out of her shock. She'd never anticipated that Daniel would actually want to know Kirsten...spend time with her. "I've never been to Colorado, I suppose I wouldn't mind going there," she said weakly, feeling the need to let Daniel know just what she thought of his little 'announcement'.

Daniel looked at her. She was still just as cold, just as controlling now, as she'd been ten years ago. "I don't want to be rude, but the invitation would be for Kirsten. There's no reason for you to be involved in the visits."

Jim couldn't help but smirk at the look on Amelia's face. Whatever she'd been scheming and planning, it had just blown up in her face. Daniel wasn't staying in the neat little cubbyhole where she'd placed him, behaving as she had decided he must.

"I will not allow my child to travel without me," Amelia hissed.

"Mommy, I'm nine and a half years old," Kirsten objected, rolling her eyes. "Kids my age fly alone all the time! My friend Mindy flew all the way back to New Hampshire to visit her grandma and grandpa, and she was only eight!"

"I'd be more than willing to come here to pick her up," Daniel replied easily. Considering that the flight was little more than two hours, with boarding and disembarking included, he could fly to Phoenix, meet Amelia in the airport, and board a return flight, all in one afternoon.

"We'll discuss this later," Amelia said, through tight lips. "First we need to take care of getting that DNA test performed."

Casey ducked her head. She wasn't sure, but she thought Amelia was probably hoping that it would come back negative after Daniel's sudden and very surprising edict. A glance at Amanda had her watching the older woman surreptitiously. Amelia's mother was looking from Daniel to Kirsten, and back. Studying each face. She understood that Kirsten's grandmother was just as certain that Daniel wasn't the father as she was.

None of them paid any heed to the sound of the helicopter that approached and landed on the pad just outside of the hospital. Such an occurrence was hardly rare at a medical center such as this one. Daniel looked at Kirsten again, offered her another smile. "I don't suppose you'll have to have be tested again."

"Maybe I will. They might need a new sample, if they didn't keep the other," the little girl replied.

"I'm certain they kept the record of your results," Daniel said.

"It's no big deal. They run a specially treated cotton swap inside your mouth, and that's it."

"No pain involved then, right?"

Kirsten grinned. "Only if they slip and poke you with it."

"Thanks, that makes me feel so much better," Daniel teased in return. He turned to look at Casey. "Are you going to stand there and make sure that the technician doesn't slip, Angel?"

"I promise," she smiled. "I'll bop the tech on the back of the head if he...or she...manages to slip."

"I'll be sure to warn the tech. You hit hard," he said, winking at Casey.

Kirsten giggled. "I like you, Daniel," she announced.

"I like you, too, Kirsten," he smiled.

Amelia had wanted him to like her daughter...to love Kirsten. But on her terms. She'd wanted him to love her as well, she grudgingly admitted. She stole a glance at the beauty who stood at Daniel's side as he answered Kirsten's questions about being an archaeologist. There was absolutely no way that would ever happen now, she thought bitterly. She'd rejected anything he might have offered her years ago. He would never make that offer again. She didn't miss the fact that his hand hadn't once let go of his wife's. Nor the pet name he had used. He was very much in love. She shuddered imperceptibly. What would it be like to make love to Daniel...not just fuck him? she wondered.

"I suggest we see about that test," Amanda said quietly. She suspected that the test results would be negative. She'd have a little chat with Jim. Convince him to have the surgery...although she didn't believe that would take much. And let him know that no matter what happened between him and Amelia, he would always be her friend, and like a son to her. And Kirsten's Daddy. Amelia hadn't said anything, but she was neither blind, nor stupid. There hadn't been a marriage between them in a very long time. They needed to work it out, or cut their losses and move on. Staying together for Kirsten's sake wasn't doing the child any favors. It would be better to have two loving, doting parents who didn't live together than parents who quarreled night and day. That much tension in a house was never a good thing!

"I called Doctor Richmond the moment that I knew you were coming," Amelia said. "He left instructions for the test to be done as soon as you arrived."

"That won't be necessary," a feminine voice said from the doorway.

Everyone in the room turned to look at the newcomers.

Daniel's eyes went wide. "Janet? Jack? What are you doing here?"

Janet's eyes filled with tears. "Daniel, we need to talk. Now."

"Janet-"

"Now, Daniel." Without waiting to see if he was following, Janet whirled and walked back out into the corridor.

"Go, Daniel," Jack said quietly. He grabbed the younger man's arm when he was close enough, leaned in slightly. "Give her a break, huh?"

With a frown, Daniel glanced at Jack, then went into the corridor, to find Janet furiously pacing a small circle. "Janet? What's up?"

When she looked up, the tears she had been fighting to hold back all day had finally escaped, leaving wet trails down her cheeks. "I'm so sorry," she said softly. "I should have told you as soon as I suspected, but you'd been through so much, and I didn't want to make it worse, and then you brought Cassie to the SGC, and then..." she bit back a sob.

"Hey, it can't be that bad," Daniel said softly, wrapping the doctor in a hug.

Janet pulled away. "Wait until after you've heard what I have to say before you decide that."

He looked around, spotted two empty chairs at the nurse's station. He grabbed both, placed them against the wall just across from the door to Kirsten's room. Sat down on one of them. "Okay, you said we need to talk."

She nodded, wiped the tears from her chin, settled onto the chair beside him. "When I ran the tests on that...tissue...that was left after Hathor was...defeated...I found an anomaly. You were right; your DNA was all I could find. But it was...too close."

"Too close?"

"If..." she closed her eyes, forced herself to calm down, and speak slowly. "If her...larvae...had been conceived using sperm, there would have been traces of her DNA. And there wouldn't have been such a close match with your own. Paternity can be decided with as little as a ninety percent match. There are closer matches, of course...up to ninety-nine point nine-nine. But this...Daniel it was one hundred percent your DNA. That shouldn't have been. I remembered the bite marks on your shoulder. Apparently that was all she needed, just a bit of blood to pull your DNA from."

Daniel stared at her. "But she...I...why did she do that to me?"

Janet wrapped her hand around his. "Control, Daniel. Power. That's always what rape is about. In the heat of the moment you might have been willing. But you were drugged. Not making your own, or rational, decisions. If you had been, you wouldn't have suffered so afterwards. But I do think there might have been another explanation."

"Such as? And what does that have to do with...this?" he asked, motioning toward the door of the room where Kirsten lay waiting.

"I...I...wondered if there was a reason why Hathor bit you...after she had...had...you told me that she had already...and then..." She took a deep breath. "It's possible that somehow she could sense...she knew...I'm so sorry!"

"Sorry about what, Janet?"

"I...when I took that urine test, it wasn't only to make certain that her drug was out of your system. I did...I ran..." Janet closed her eyes. "I ran a sperm count."

Daniel felt as if all of the air had been sucked out of his lungs. "You what?"

"I ran a sperm count. Considering you had just...you had..." She was a doctor for pity's sake! She took a deep breath. Slipped into her medical persona, using it to distance herself from her emotions. "Since you had just ejaculated, and hadn't yet voided your bladder, there should have been a few spermatozoa in your urine. There weren't. I thought maybe there was a correlation between your...sterility...and 'gate travel, or perhaps something you had suffered as a result of 'gate travel. So I...I...I sent to Chicago for all of your medical transcripts. I sent to UCLA as well...I needed to make certain that this...problem...hadn't been noted before...if I was going to make any determinations about possible, negative side effects of 'gate travel." She shook her head, took another deep breath. "All of your records arrived. I still have them in the file."

"And?"

"Do you remember your run-in with Dengue fever?"

He shuddered. Even after all the ensuing years, he could still remember how badly he'd hurt, wishing he could just die and be done with the illness that had ruined a perfectly exciting dig...at least for him. "Yeah, I do."

"You almost died, Daniel. Your fever was one hundred and four for nearly three hours. When it did go down, you were still suffering from a one hundred and two degree temperature. For four days."

"That's what made me sterile?"

"I believe so. As did Doctor Hashad. I'm sure that you remember him doing a sterility test as well...considering the severity and length of your fever, it was a logical and actually very routine test to do. It was one of the tests he ran to make certain none of your vital organs had been negatively or permanently affected by the illness. He was never able to tell you the results, because you never returned for your final check up with him."

He sat back, let his head rest against the wall. "Sterile?"

"There's no way that you're Kirsten's father, Daniel," Janet said softly. She slowly put a hand on his arm. "I know you're angry-"

"Angry?" He wasn't sure he was angry. To be honest, in that moment, he couldn't actually feel anything!

"I did try to tell you, please believe me," Janet begged. "But first...well, you were avoiding everyone it seemed like, and I didn't want to make things worse, then it was Cassie, and that totally distracted me for weeks, and then you were going off to negotiate with some alien group to get one of the SG teams home safely, and then..." she waved a hand in the air.

"Life at the SGC, " he smiled weakly.

"And it wasn't like I could just walk up and say, 'Hiya, Daniel, how are you today? Oh, by the way, you're sterile', now could I?"

"I don't suppose so." He glanced at the doorway again. "I know Casey doesn't want kids now, but this is going to break her heart."

"Daniel, I really am sorry," Janet said.

Well, the past twenty-four hours had just been one freaking shock after another. First he was a father. Just as suddenly he learned that that was impossible. Not only that, he would never father a child! He glanced at the woman beside him. Janet had wrapped her arms around her waist, she looked so damned...lost. Not for one minute had she done anything to intentionally hurt him. How often had he had information to share with someone, usually one of the other archaeologists, only to be interrupted time and again by missions and meetings, until the information he held was either outdated, or completely useless? He wrapped one arm around her shoulders, hugged her tightly. "No need to be, Janet. I'm just glad you knew about this. I'm not sure that having a DNA test in a civilian hospital is such a good idea."

"I know it's not," she replied. She held up the folder that was still clenched tightly in her fingers. "I have the dated test results."

He sighed. "I'm an ass."

"What makes you say that?"

"Because as much as I wanted Kirsten to be my daughter...I didn't want that even more."

"That doesn't make you an ass, Daniel. It does, however, make you human."

Daniel smiled. "Casey knew all along."

"Information dump?"

He shook his head. "Woman's intuition. She told me that except for her blue eyes and blonde hair, there's nothing about Kirsten that resembles me."

Janet nodded. "I didn't really get a chance to see her. But we need to let them know, so that a suitable donor can be found. From what I understand, Kirsten is already in complete renal failure."

"Let's go."

Daniel went to Casey's side, put his arm around her. Allowed himself a second or two to wish that he could tell her privately, hold her while she cried, as he was certain she would. "Is there somewhere we can talk?"

Jim understood immediately that whatever needed to be said, Daniel didn't want to do it in front of Kirsten. "There's a waiting room just down the hall."

Jack glanced around. "I'll stay here. Maybe Kirsten knows if there's a hockey game on."

"You like hockey?" Kirsten asked.

"It's just my favorite sport in the whole wide world," Jack replied, grinning broadly.

"I like it, too."

"So, any good games on?"

"I dunno. But we could check and see," Kirsten said.

Jack glanced around, gave a scowl. "I know for a fact that Daniel will whine and moan through the entire game. So why don't you all take him somewhere else, so Kirsten and I can watch hockey in peace."

With a smile at his best friend, Daniel led Casey toward the door, Janet on their heels. Jim, Amelia, and Amanda followed more slowly.

"What is this all about? I want that test done now!" Amelia said, as soon as they were all in the waiting room, crossing her arms over her breasts. "My daughter needs a kidney transplant, and she needs it immediately."

Oh, what a piece of work, Janet thought. "You'll have to find another donor. I believe your husband has already been cleared-"

"Daniel is Kirsten's father! He'll be the one to save my baby's life!" Amelia nearly shrieked.

"No, Mrs. Harmstead, Daniel is not Kirsten's father. He's sterile." Janet watched Amelia as the implications set in. And carefully avoided looking in Casey's direction. She so didn't want to see the look of pain in those expressive green eyes. "He had Dengue Fever when he was a senior at UCLA on a dig in Guatemala. The doctor at UCLA, Doctor Hashad, ran a sperm count as part of a battery of tests to make certain that none of his internal organs had been damaged by the fever he suffered. Daniel was sterile."

"That was four years before I returned to Egypt, and met you," Daniel said quietly. "I'm sorry, Amelia. Janet has dated test results. I'll admit that I would've liked to have been Kirsten's father. But I'm not." And I'm an ass for being so damned relieved about it, he thought, chiding himself for his less than commendable feelings.

Amelia's eyes had gone wide. "You have to be! I hadn't been with anyone but you and Jim."

Amanda looked hard at her daughter. "There was that young man you were seeing while we were here visiting Larue."

"Who?" Amelia stared at her mother. "What are you talking about?"

"He brought you home late. You were supposed to be in by eleven. It was nearly one in the morning when he pulled that clunker of his into the driveway. I kept waiting for you to come in, and when you didn't, I turned on the side porch light. I saw you...what the two of you were doing," Amanda replied.

"Mother, I have no idea what you're talking about!"

"I'm not surprised. When you finally pulled your pants up and got out of the car, you staggered up the steps, fell into the house. I had to help you to bed. You were sick the rest of the night." She would never forget that night...she'd been horrified to realize her daughter was having sex in a car in her sister's driveway, where anyone could have seen her. Then to see Amelia stumble and weave to the house...so intoxicated she didn't even know where she was...so very ill that for a time she'd considered taking her daughter to the hospital. Oh, no, she would never forget that night!

Amelia put both hands to her mouth. "I don't remember that," she whispered hoarsely.

"He had sandy blonde hair, like Daniel's. If I don't miss my guess, he had blue eyes as well," Amanda finished. "I wondered about that for years, after I saw Kirsten for the first time. She doesn't really look like you, she looks nothing like Jim. And when I saw Daniel, I could see that she doesn't look like him, either."

Amelia took an involuntary step backwards, nearly fell against the wall. Jim crossed the room, helped her to a chair, and knelt down beside her. He didn't need to be told that she'd been seeking out someone who looked like Daniel, trying desperately to find what she'd so callously thrown away. "I'll call Doctor Richmond. He can have me in the OR in less than an hour," he said softly.

She could only nod numbly. She looked up at Daniel. "I was so certain...her eyes are the same shade of blue as yours," she mumbled.

Casey cleared her throat. "Not exactly the same shade. Kirsten's are lighter."

"When she was born, and I saw her eyes...She was all I had of you...all I could keep," Amelia went on, as if she hadn't heard Casey's comment. Her admission was yet another surprise to her husband...that she'd suspected that he hadn't been Kirsten's father all along. "I was so wrong...so very wrong."

Daniel shifted from one foot to the other, clearly uncomfortable. "We were young, Amelia. We both had our reasons for what happened between us."

She shook her head, her brown hair brushing against her shoulders. "I was a fool."

You have that right, cupcake, Casey thought irritably. Chided herself silently. The woman was going through enough without someone thinking such hateful things about her. She refused to even let the news of Daniel's sterility settle into her mind. This wasn't the time or place to deal with it.

Amanda turned to face Daniel and his wife. "I'm so sorry you came all this way for nothing. I'm sorry that your lives were turned upside down. I know that hearing about Kirsten, and her illness, the way that you did wasn't an easy thing, for either of you. Thank you, both of you, for being so willing to do the right thing."

Daniel offered a smile to the older woman. "Just following our hearts," he said quietly.

Jim stood to his feet. Offered his hand to the man who had been so willing to come to Kirsten's rescue. "Thank you. If you'll excuse me, I have to contact the doctor."

Casey smiled up at the man, took his hand from Daniel's. She turned it over, examined his palm. Her smile widened. "A very nice life line. Just follow your heart, and remember that the only one who can do what's right for you...is you. And...don't be too hard on Kirsten when she's dating both of those boys at once. She has plenty of time to make up her mind who she wants to settle down with."

Jim frowned.

"Casey is a seer," Daniel explained. "And a very good one. She did a reading for the president."

"Of the United States?" Amanda gasped.

"The very same," Daniel smiled.

"Kirsten is going to be all right?" Amanda asked Casey, a slight tremor in her voice.

"She's going to be just fine," Casey assured the older woman.

Amelia managed to make it to her feet. "I should go tell Kirsten..."

"Let me," Daniel said. "It'll give me a chance to say goodbye."

 

A  A  A  A  A  A

 

Jack looked up from the chair beside the bed when Daniel walked into the room, alone. "No game on," he complained.

"I'm sorry to hear that," Daniel replied. "I need to talk to Kirsten."

"Right." Jack stood up. "It was a pleasure to meet another hockey fan, Kirsten," he said, gently shaking her hand.

"It was nice to meet you too, Jack," Kirsten replied.

"I'd better find Doc and get her back to the base before we're both in trouble."

"Tell her I'll talk to her as soon as Casey and I get home."

"I'll tell her. Bye, Kirsten."

"Bye, Jack."

Daniel shoved his hands into his pants pockets, waited until Jack had left the room. "I have some bad news. Well, bad for me. Maybe not so bad for you."

"You're not my biological daddy," Kirsten said flatly. The disappointment in her eyes cut the man standing beside her to the quick.

"I'm really sorry. Amelia...your mother, shouldn't have built your hopes up the way she did, not before she was certain."

"Daddy is mad at her for that, too."

"I'm not mad at your mother, Kirsten," Daniel said softly. "She just wants so badly for you to be well again."

"So is Daddy going to give me one of his kidneys?"

"He's on the phone with the doctor right now. You know, DNA isn't what makes a father."

"It's not?"

Daniel shook his head. "Nope. Oh, it helps, I suppose. But a father...a daddy, is someone who loves you more than life itself. Someone who's always there for you, someone who makes you laugh, and holds you when you cry, and tries to make you better when you're sick."

"My Daddy does all of those things," Kirsten replied.

"I know he does. He loves you very much."

"When you thought I was your daughter, did you love me? Just a little bit?"

Daniel smiled, reached out and brushed a strand of sandy blonde hair from her face. "I loved you more than just a little bit."

The little girl smiled. "Will you ever come back and visit?"

"I'd like that, very much. And if you're ever near Colorado Springs, I expect a call at the very least."

"I promise," Kirsten vowed solemnly.

Two nurses hurried into the room. "Well young lady, we have to get you prepped for that operation you've been waiting for," the older of the two said brightly.

Daniel caressed the little girl's cheek. "Everything is going to be just fine. I promise."

Kirsten nodded. "Goodbye, Daniel."

"Goodbye, Kirsten." He gave her a smile and a wink, then left the room, the nurses busy doing what was necessary to get the little girl ready for surgery. Amelia raced past him, into the room, never even looking at him as she sped by.

Jim was gone, checking himself into the hospital and signing all of the forms needed to give permission for the surgery. Amanda was still with Jack, Janet, and Casey. "Thank you," she said, grasping his hand in both of hers.

"You're welcome."

With a smile, she hurried away. Her daughter and granddaughter needed her.

Jack bounced on the balls of his feet. "Well, this is rather anticlimactic, isn't it?"

Janet grinned wryly. "Let's go, Colonel. We have to have the Pave Hawk home by midnight."

"Darn, I never get to have any fun," he pouted. "What about you kids?"

He glanced at Casey. She hadn't said anything. But he knew that she was probably as stunned as he'd been to learn about his sterility. He also knew that they needed to talk. About the family that they'd wanted...someday. The family that they would never have. "We have a room for the night. We'll be back in town sometime tomorrow," Daniel replied.

"Works for me. I'll let the general know." With a wave, Jack followed Janet to the elevator.

Casey looked around. "We certainly know how to clear out a room, don't we?"

"Looks that way. Casey-"

"I'm really hungry, why don't we find somewhere for an early dinner. Neither of us ate much for breakfast or lunch." She couldn't talk about it. Not now. Just because she didn't want children now didn't mean that she hadn't wanted them someday. She had Daniel. She would ask for no more. Even if it did sting a bit. Or a lot.

He nodded. They were silent all the way to the rental car. "It's not quite four. Any preferences for dinner?"

"We're in Phoenix. I'm betting we could find a good Mexican restaurant."

"Probably."

They were waiting at the first stoplight when she finally spoke again. "I guess I don't have to worry about taking the Depo shots now."

"I'm so sorry, Angel," he said softly.

"It's not your fault, Daniel," she replied, her voice just as soft. "I'm just relieved that you didn't die from that fever, and that-" she broke off, turned to look out the window.

"Me, too, Casey. I know it makes me an ass. Part of me really did want to be Kirsten's father. But the larger part didn't." He would never admit that what she'd told him on the plane had only added to those feelings; understanding her desires, and finding that he, too, wanted his first child to be with her. Not that that was going to happen now, he thought bitterly. In that moment he realized that Kirsten might have been his only chance at fatherhood. Maybe he should have just skipped asking for the DNA test. Then, he'd have a child. He quickly pushed that thought away. Kirsten wasn't his child. Never had been. And never would be.

"It's very selfish of me," she said.

"How?"

"Because Kirsten might have been the only child you'll ever have."

Once again their thoughts had been moving in the same direction. "Let's not decide that we'll never be parents," he said gently. "With what we do, and where we work, miracles happen quite often."

She turned the thought over in her head. It was possible that maybe one day there would be a 'cure' for sterility. Besides, she scolded herself, when she felt tears beginning to form, you've already decided you don't want children any time soon! "Let's find that Mexican restaurant."

"Any particular reason it has to be a Mexican restaurant?" he asked.

"Because I'm going to have a margarita."

"Ah. I see." He wouldn't say out loud that trying to drown her pain in booze wouldn't work. When the hangover was gone, the problem would still be there. He'd still be sterile, and they'd still have to deal with it.

There was only one thing that would ease the ache in her heart. Being in the arms of her Husband could make any problem solvable. Unable to hurt her. "Yep, I'm going to let you ply me with liquor, then take me to a hotel room and have your wicked way with me."

"I don't suppose we could skip the first step, and go straight to the hotel?" he asked hopefully. He'd hold her, make love to her, and they'd deal with this disappointment.

"I don't suppose so. But if you're very, very nice to me, I'll be very, very nice to you," she whispered softly.

He shivered from the unspoken promise in her words. "You've got a deal, babe."

"So, honestly, are you at all disappointed? About Kirsten, I mean."

He shook his head. "Actually, I'm more relieved than anything. Kirsten is a sweet little girl. As long as Amanda and Jim are in her life, she'll do okay. Amelia..." He shook his head again. "She'd have made our lives miserable."

"Yeah, I picked that up," Casey replied. "She loves you. I think she has for a very long time."

"She sure as hell didn't love me then!"

"Don't be so certain, Daniel."

"She had a strange way of showing it, if she did," he retorted.

"Maybe she was afraid of loving you."

"Maybe," he allowed, giving a shrug of his shoulders.

Casey watched the businesses and houses that they drove past. Thought about Bernie Watson. And Sarah Gardner. She gave a soft sigh. Somewhere out there was Carrie Weaver. So when was she going to show up in their lives, still in love with Daniel?

"What's wrong?" Daniel asked, hearing her sigh.

"Just wondering when your last girlfriend is going to show up."

"Huh?"

"Sarah Gardner was still in love with you. Which caused Osiris to be obsessed with you. Then there was Bernie Watson...she never even went to bed with you and she carried a torch for what, eleven years or so?"

"Something like that, I guess," he murmured.

"Obviously Amelia Harmstead is still in love with you. Face it, Doctor Jackson, when you love a woman, she falls in love with you and stays that way!"

He could feel the heat in his cheeks. "Yeah? So why did I always feel like a bumbling geek around women?"

"Because you listened way too damned much to gossip," she replied unhesitatingly.

He couldn't help but grin. "I'll try to remember that. Hey, that looks promising!"

"Well, Juan claims it's authentic," Casey said with a smile. "Shall we trust him?"

Daniel grinned. Pulled into the parking lot beneath the sign that proclaimed it to belong to Juan's Authentic Mexican Restaurant. As soon as the engine was off, he turned slightly in his seat, took both of her hands in his. "I'm sorry, Casey."

"Whatever for?"

"I know you wanted a family-" He held up one finger to stop the protest that was forming on her lips. "I promise, we'll find a way."

She reached out, caressed his cheek; smiled softly when he closed his eyes and pressed against her palm, his hand covering hers. "I have you, Daniel. You're all I ever want, or need. I won't say I'm not a bit disappointed, but the idea of having a family is one I'd intended to put off for some time. I'm just not ready. Someday, when we are ready, we'll figure it out."

He opened his eyes. Dove into to the mesmerizing depths of her amazing green eyes, lost himself in the love he found there. Let that gentle warmth surround him...soothe him...protect him. "Love you," he whispered.

"Love you, too." She leaned forward, pressed her lips against his. Waited patiently as his tongue caressed her, then gasped slightly as those incredible sensations began to move through her, over her. She felt him move gently, tasting her...touching her. Taking the comfort he needed. As if on its on accord her hand slid up from his cheek and into his hair. Held onto him as he coaxed a soft moan from her.

Slowly, not exactly willingly, he pulled away; knowing that to kiss her any more the way that he was, he'd have her in the backseat, making love to her. "Maybe we should go have dinner."

She giggled. "Maybe. It might be embarrassing for you to get caught out here with your pants down around your ankles."

"More so for you to be caught with the bottom of your skirt up around your waist," he chuckled.

"Nah. You'd be on top, keeping me covered. Although, my legs around your waist would be sort of a give away, wouldn't it?"

"Just slightly," he agreed, chuckling harder. "You're amazing, Casey Jackson," he said softly.

"Not as amazing as you, Daniel Jackson," she replied.

He gave her lips another quick kiss, then opened the car door. He couldn't help but notice the group of young men who were standing near the corner of the restaurant...it looked as if they were taking a smoke break. And watching the white rental car intently. He bit back his grin as he opened her door, took her hand as she stepped out. Fought back the surge of pure lust as he watched those incredible legs, caught just a hint of the lacy tops of her stockings, just a flash of the tantalizing, creamy white flesh above them. He cast another glance at the young men out of the corner of his eye. Yep. That had their attention! Beautiful, isn't she? he thought proudly, tucking his arm around her waist.

Oblivious to the young men, other than to note their presence, Casey slid her arm around him. "You know, I really am hungry."

"Me, too."

"I'm thinking we'll be able to eat this time."

"I think you're right."

For the first time in over twenty-four hours there was no tension hanging in the air between them, or around them. The shock of Daniel's sterility would be dealt with later. After they'd recovered from his almost fatherhood.

Completely relaxed, they enjoyed their dinner, and one another's company, both making private plans to do their best to send the other sailing into the stars on wings of pure, sweet love.


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