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In My Daughter’s Eyes
"In my daughter's eyes I am a hero
I am strong and wise and I know no fear
But the truth is plain to see
She was sent to rescue me
I see who I wanna be
In my daughter's eyes..."
Written by James Slater
Performed by Martina McBride
Gary Franklin was doing what he did best. Observing. At that moment, he was observing the frivolity of his daughter’s ‘birthday bash’, as she was calling it. A celebration to mark what to him was probably the most important day in his life, even if he hadn’t been aware of it at the time.
According to Daniel, this was the third birthday Casey had celebrated since the two had found one another. It was the third birthday that had been missed. At least, as far as commemorating the event on the actual day of her birth. Her birthday was March twenty-third. Today, he thought with a grimace, was April seventeenth. Damned near a month had passed since her birthday. At least the Ancient weapon had been dealt with. He’d noted her relief in that fact. The delay in the celebration however, had the archaeologist she was married to grumbling to anyone and everyone who would listen; declaring that he’d not step foot through the Stargate from the fifteenth of February until the thirtieth of March. So, he insisted, that his wedding anniversary and wife’s birthday wouldn’t be missed during some off-world mission.
Off-world missions. As in, not on good old planet Earth. That was something that Gary actually did his best not to think about, lest his heart give out from sheer panic, thinking about his little girl wandering around on a planet in some distance solar system, where danger seemed to lurk around every corner. Once again he pushed his knowledge of the SGC, and the reasons for its existence, from his mind. This was about Casey...her party. It wasn’t the time to sit and contemplate on the peril his daughter was in every time she stepped foot through that Ancient device. He did enough of that when he was alone.
His attention was caught by the silver head of his aunt. She was busy talking to Teal’c and Janet. For a moment he wondered what they were discussing. The fleeting question as to what his feisty aunt would have to say if she knew that Teal’c wasn’t from Mozambique, but from another planet, flickered through his thoughts. Knowing that old battleaxe, she wouldn’t even bat an eye. Probably pepper him with questions about his culture, though. Gary sipped on the drink his daughter had poured for him. That the old bat was even here had been one hell of a surprise. Janelle and Daniel’s grandmother had shown up together just an hour or so ago, surprising Casey, each receiving a warm welcome from both Jacksons.
From what he’d been able to get out of the old battleaxe, it had been Janelle’s idea. Muriel, it seemed, had received a call from his aunt and had immediately arranged for the daughter of her friend, Susan, to drive her from Butler, Missouri to Ackerman, Kansas; a drive he assumed wasn’t very long, as both small towns were near the Kansas/Missouri border.
Janelle had then insisted that Uncle John drive them to the airport in Kansas City. Gary had no idea how much the last minute tickets had cost the two women, but he’d bet a month’s salary that it had been a ‘small sacrifice’ in order to be here for this celebration. He’d certainly like to know if actual invitations had been issued, or if Janelle had caught wind of the get-together and made her own plans. Neither his aunt nor his daughter were saying a word on that score, however. That silence had him suspecting that his aunt had barged her way into the party. Typical of the old bat.
Gary sat back in his chair. Took another sip of his drink...Southern Comfort on ice. He’d actually been a bit surprised that they had the liquor - Daniel’s inability to handle alcohol was well known among his friends. Rather than concern himself with what was or wasn’t in their ‘liquor cabinet’, as Casey referred to the cabinet in the wide kitchen island where the impressive array of bottles were stored, he simply enjoyed the taste of the bourbon as it warmed him.
He watched with amusement as Casey’s friends, and those she called ‘family of the heart’, celebrated in the way that only that group could do: loudly - with as much zeal and teasing and absolute glee as possible. His gaze moved over the group of people. He knew most of them; had at least seen them in passing in the mountain. Once again the monumental changes that had occurred in his life startled him. He wasn’t complaining, mind you. Not at all. But still...a year ago, his life had been on a much different path...
Just one year ago, he hadn’t even been aware of Casey’s existence. He’d had no idea that the one woman he would always consider his first, possibly only, ‘true love’ had borne a child...a daughter. The result of the one night of incredible, mind-blowing passion they’d shared. For the life of him, he couldn’t even recall what he’d been doing a year ago at this time.
A trip to an oddly scheduled class reunion had changed his life dramatically. Turned it upside down. Twisted, flipped, folded, spindled, and mutilated it too...just for good measure.
He took yet another sip of his drink. Felt the liquor burn all the way to his stomach, which was comfortably full of manicotti. Daniel had prepared the ‘family’ dinner that had preceded the party. It had been pretty good, too. It was apparently one of Casey’s favorites. She’d told everyone present...numerous times...that Daniel had fixed dinner for her, making the manicotti she so loved, for her first birthday as his wife. Maybe it was going to become a tradition for them. That would be nice. Casey would love that. She was big on tradition and family. Probably because her life had lacked both for so very long. If only he’d known about her...
Present and future, airman.
The other guests - members of SG teams, the archaeologists and anthropologists whom Casey and Daniel worked with on a regular basis, and a few others from the SGC - had begun arriving about forty minutes ago. The house was filled with people and warmth and laughter.
Another sip of his drink...nothing left now but the ice cubes. He put the glass on the marble hearth beside him. Watching her laughing. Smiling. Chattering with her friends. Telling another joke. She was good at telling jokes. He listened to the boisterous laughter when she’d finished.
She was so damned beautiful. Just like her mother. The most amazing green eyes he’d ever seen. Always expressive, they were windows to her soul. No matter what she felt, good or bad, it was there in her eyes. Just like Brenda’s. Happiness. Joy. Love. Fear. Anger. All right there for the world to see. Right now, those green eyes were shining so brightly with happiness it was tangible.
The stereo was blaring. At least it was decent music. Aerosmith was singing about Janey having a gun. It seemed that Casey preferred rock, and not any of the ‘new’ stuff that record companies were trying to pass off as rock. Nope, she wanted the good old-fashioned rock til’ you drop, guitar-riffed, drum-pounding, eardrum-shattering rock-n-roll. That’s my girl, he thought proudly. My daughter knows the good stuff when she hears it.
Gary felt his breath catch in his throat. He rubbed a hand absently over his chest as his heart thudded against his ribs. He’d never once thought he’d ever be a father. Yet, here he sat, in his daughter’s home, helping her celebrate her twenty-ninth birthday. Twenty nine years. Twenty-eight of which he’d missed.
Present and future, Gary.
He looked up into green eyes. He’d been so lost in thought he hadn’t even noticed her approach. "What?"
"Wanna sit on the deck with me?"
"It’s damned near freezing out there!" Winter, it seemed, was loathe to leave the area. In spite of warm, sunny days that promised that spring was in full bloom, nights were still cold, the past three nights the temperature had dropped to winter levels.
Casey smiled. "Okay, so I’ll sit here in the corner with you."
"I’m not-" Gary started, then glanced around. Had he realized when he’d chosen this chair...one that matched the maple dining table...that it was sitting nearly alone, between the massive bookcases and the fireplace, just behind the dark leather-upholstered chair?
"Is everything okay? You and Charley are all right?"
He smiled. The questions were typical. Casey’s first concern would be his love life. It was, Janet had once told him, because she was so blissfully happy that Casey wanted everyone around her to experience the joys of being deeply in love. "Charley and I are just fine. She was madder than hell to miss the party. But she’s been sick for three days, I didn’t figure a flight was in her best interest."
"No, it’s not. I’m sorry she missed the party, too. But there will be next year. Are you going to spend the night at the apartment, or head back to KC right away?" Casey asked, settling on the floor beside his chair.
"I’ll head back tonight. I know Charley. If I’m not there to force her to stay in bed until she’s fully recovered, she’ll be at the office first thing in the morning," Gary replied.
"She’s dedicated to Franklin Enterprises," Casey smiled.
"She’s dedicated to driving me nuts," Gary grumbled. His smile belied the gruffness of his words.
"So, if Charley is okay, and you and Charley are okay, what’s wrong?"
"Who said anything was wrong?"
Casey heaved a sigh. "Dad, you haven’t said more than half a dozen words since you got here!"
"Excuse me? Is this not me having a conversation with you right now?"
Another sigh, accompanied by the roll of emerald green eyes. "You’re a hoot. Regular laugh riot. You know what I mean."
He looked longingly at the empty glass and the melted ice that was all that remained of his drink. "Twenty-eight years," he murmured.
She reached up, took his hand between both of hers. "Remember what you told me, Daddy. Present and future."
Did she have any idea how much that single word meant to him...what it did to him? Could she possibly know how it made his heart pound in his chest, and his stomach do that weird quivering thing, every time that simple word fell from her lips...aimed at him? "Right. Present and future."
She sat quietly, watching with amusement as Tony Sabotti and Emma Hanks did the twist in the open area between the breakfast bar and the sofa table. She hadn’t thought that Aerosmith’s ‘Love In an Elevator’ could possibly be conducive to that particular dance. It didn’t seem to be stopping the feisty octogenarian and the upbeat special forces sergeant. "You know, we could make up memories."
"Well, let’s start at the beginning," Casey said softly.
For the life of him, Gary had no clue what she was talking about. Maybe the bourbon had a bit to do with that. But as always, he was willing to indulge her. Which was how it had been since the day he’d found her, and realized that she was his daughter. "Okay."
"I’ve just been born. You’re seeing me for the very first time," Casey said. "What are you thinking?"
Gary closed his eyes. He’d seen newborns, had been with Air Force buddies when their children had been born. Remembered the excitement, the joy. How overwhelming the entire situation could be for a new father. "So damned tiny," he whispered. "So helpless."
"All babies are born that way," Casey replied, a hint of amusement in her voice.
He opened his eyes, looked down at her face. "But there isn’t a baby on this Earth as beautiful as you."
Tears filled her eyes. "Midnight feedings, piles of diapers, colic-"
He shook his head. "Nope, you wouldn’t have had colic. I never did. My dad never did. We’re healthy as horses."
"Okay, so piles of diapers. And all those wonderful midnight feedings. That would get annoying."
"Only if you refused to nap during the day," Gary countered.
Her smile was impish. "Ha ha. So you survive the first few months, with your sanity intact. What happens when I start walking?"
The chuckle that filled his throat drew the attention of those closest to them. "With you? Keeping you out of things and preventing you from nose-diving with every other step would have been a full time job. Because I refuse to believe you’ve ever just ‘walked’ in your life!"
Casey giggled softly "That’s not true! I walk...a lot! Just ask Daniel!"
It was Gary’s turn to roll his eyes. He was well aware of the fact that she did a lot of walking...well, hiking...on the missions that took her across the galaxy to other planets...to places where he was helpless to come to her aid if she needed him.
"I figure you probably would have been talking damned near out of the womb-" Another chuckle as she smacked her hand on his forearm. "Asking questions about everything," he added softly.
"And if you didn’t know the answer, you’d find it for me," she said, smiling up at him. Marveling slightly as she realized that she’d discovered her true self...the gregarious and talkative woman who’d lurked inside her...only after meeting Daniel. His love had freed her from the shadows of her past, had helped her to move beyond the scars on her battered soul.
"Every time," Gary agreed. Knowing in his heart that he’d have done his best to find every answer, to heal every ‘booboo’, to make the world as safe for her as he possibly could. And he knew instinctively that seeing it through the eyes of his child would have shown him wonders he’d missed...had forgotten about. "You’d probably have had a library card before you could actually read."
"I’ve always loved books," she sighed. Another warm thought, that it was one of the traits she shared with her beloved Husband.
"I know," he replied softly. One of the seemingly few facts he did know about her. "Your first Christmas would have been interesting. Keeping you out of the Christmas tree, away from the lights, and the wrapped presents."
"Bows are very intriguing," she teased.
He’d seen the bows she could make. Daniel had told him that they just seemed to form on her slender fingers as she twisted and folded and pulled at the ribbon. The results were always amazing. "You’d have probably yanked Santa’s beard off him." The mental image of Casey...she’d have been around nine months old her very first Christmas...wide-eyed as she stared up at Santa’s face, chubby little baby fingers yanking at the white whiskers, brought a wide grin to his face.
"What about the first day of school?"
"I’d have been proud. And scared to death," Gary admitted.
"Scared?" Casey couldn’t visualize her father being afraid of anything, or anyone. Not with all that he’d endured in his life; all that he had seen, had done. He was one of the bravest men she knew!
"It’s a big, mean world out there. There are monsters lurking in the shadows. I’d have been scared to death that one would find you...would hurt you...before I could stop him." Gary confessed softly.
"Never would have happened. With you as a dad, I’d have probably been as proficient with a pellet pistol at that age as a box of crayons," Casey said drolly.
Gary guffawed. Neither he nor his daughter realized that everyone in the room was watching them now. They were oblivious to the fact that the music had ended, and their conversation was no longer private. "Pellet pistol?"
"I know you, Dad. You take gun safety seriously. I’d have never been allowed near a ‘real’ weapon. But a pellet pistol...maybe like that Red Ryder BB rifle. Like Ralphie wanted in ‘A Christmas Story’," Casey grinned.
That particular movie was one of her favorites, and wasn’t resigned to being viewed only during the holiday season. It was, in fact, the movie that he’d watched with her and Daniel just a few nights ago, when he’d finally been told about the latest tortures that SG-1 had endured thanks to Ba’al. One day, I’m going to find that bastard and kill him, Gary thought. "There is no way in hell I’d let a five year old handle a gun of any type."
"Not even one of those little guns with the rubber ends that stick to the wall?"
"You’re five years old. You’ll get over it. Would have gotten over it," he corrected himself.
The grin on her face, the light in her eyes, told him that she’d caught what he’d said before he had. "Okay, what about...um...the first parent-teacher conference?" she asked.
Gary grinned from ear to ear. "Three weeks into your kindergarten year. Because you just can’t stop talking and asking questions, even at nap time."
She glared at him, although the smile tugging at her lips belied any true anger. "That’s so not true! As I recall, I never uttered a sound during class! I was too afraid to!"
For just a moment the reason for that fear washed over him. For another fleeting moment, the urge to pick up the phone...call an old friend in the Seattle area, make a simple request...was almost more than he could fight. "Nope. You’d be used to chattering at home. Wouldn’t matter to you if it was school or not," he insisted. Hoping his voice didn’t sound as strained to her as it did to his own ears. The warmth of her smile was enough to make him forget the bitter, angry feelings that always accompanied thoughts of her childhood, and his hatred of the woman who’d raised her...damned near destroying her in the process.
"The last day of school, a lot of parents would join their kids on the playground...we’d run races and play games..." her voice faded as she thought back, remembered sitting alone, as far from the others as she could get, because she didn’t ‘fit in’. Didn’t belong. She’d never belonged. So, she’d watched her classmates and their parents; aching to be as loved as she instinctively knew they were.
"We’d have excelled at the three-legged race," Gary said quietly. Those expressive eyes had filled with sadness. He wasn’t sure what painful memories she was examining, although he had an idea whatever she was remembering had to do with school...and parents. Of the loving, caring variety.
"Yep. I was the three-legged race champ in Ackerman, I’ll have you know," he gloated.
"What about the hoop-toss? I always liked watching that game," she sighed.
"We’d have won that, too."
"We can’t win every game, Dad," she insisted.
"Why not? We can’t help that we’re good," he argued.
She giggled softly. "During the summer, we’d go to the zoo."
"In Kansas City," Gary nodded. "I’d let you ride on my shoulders-" His voice caught in his throat.
"So I could see all of the animals. Especially the elephants and zebras," Casey finished for him.
"The circus," he mumbled. Then looked at her. "Every year, around Labor Day, Ackerman would celebrate the Harvest Festival. They always brought in a small circus. I’d take you to see the clowns. The horseback riders. The acrobats. Although," he grinned at her, "it would probably take me months to get you to stop swinging from anything high enough to let you pretend you were one of the performers."
Another giggle as she imagined doing just that...finding rope, and attempting to make a trapeze.
"I’d take you to a Kansas City Royal’s baseball game, too," Gary continued. "We’d eat popcorn and hotdogs and nachos."
"You’d get me a cap, even if it was too big."
"You’ll grow into it," he smiled, this time completely missing exactly what he’d said.
"Summers would be a lot of fun," Casey sighed.
"Yes, they would be," Gary agreed.
"Then, before you knew it, I’d be ready for middle school," Casey said.
"I think watching you go from elementary school to middle school would have been difficult," Gary mused. "It would have meant admitting that you were growing up."
"That happens. Nothing can stop it," Casey pointed out.
"And every parent wishes they could at least slow down that inevitable evolution," Gary replied.
"I’m guessing that dating would have been a real jolt for your system," she teased.
"Dating? Jolt? First of all, there wouldn’t have been dating...not until you were at least sixteen."
"Sixteen? Half the girls in my class were dating at thirteen!" Casey protested.
"I don’t care what the other girls are doing...wouldn’t have cared what they were doing," barely catching his 'mistake', giving her a sheepish grin. "No way would I have let you walk into a situation that you weren’t prepared for, and at thirteen, you’d have been nowhere near prepared!"
"Okay, so my first date-"
"After I’d investigated him and his family. You wouldn’t have left the house until I knew I could trust the little shit as far as sixteen-year old boys can be trusted," Gary growled.
"Sixteen? Dad, I liked older men....eighteen, nineteen," she glanced at Daniel, a smile on her face. Her Husband was five years older than she. "Maybe even twenty-one."
"Not even if hell froze over," he replied easily. He glanced at Daniel. "Any guy that old pounding on the door to see you would have met my best friends Smith&Wesson!"
Soft snickers moved across the room. Casey looked around, realized that everyone was listening. Her gaze moved back to her father; she could see in his eyes that not only was he enjoying their conversation...their ‘memories’...he didn’t mind if others heard what was said. "I repeat, you’re mean. What if I snuck out?"
Gary frowned slightly. "Wouldn’t have been easy. I’d have had an alarm system on the house. For just such emergencies."
Casey laughed. "You know, it’s beginning to sound as if it was a good thing Daniel flew to Tacoma for me. I’d have never have had a chance to get out of the house to meet him otherwise!"
A smile tugged at his lips. "Maybe. It’s just not easy to let go," Gary said softly.
"It’s all part of life, and growing up."
"Kids grow too fast," he mused.
"Yep," Jack interjected, a cocky grin on his face. "Just look at Casey. Twenty-nine years old. She’s almost over the hill!"
"I am not!" Casey retorted.
"Big 3-0 looming in your future, Radar," Jack teased. Retaliated in kind when the seer stuck her tongue out at him, bringing another round of laughter from those watching and listening.
"So, where would you have gone to college?" Daniel asked, making himself comfortable on the floor beside his Wife.
Casey shrugged. "I dunno." She looked up at her father.
"Kansas State," Gary said immediately.
"Anthropology," Casey said wistfully. "That’s what I’d declared as my major just before I had to quit," she explained in response to the question in her father's eyes.
"I don’t think it’s possible for any parent to be as proud of their child as I am of you," Gary said quietly. He reached out, not even aware of the movement until he was running his fingers over her silky hair. "You’re an incredible woman, Casey Renee."
"Thanks," she murmured, ducking her head, but not before everyone in the room caught sight of the blush that colored her cheeks. She’d had the thought before, frowned slightly when it poked annoyingly. Gave a mental shrug, and decided to follow her heart. "This might sound a bit weird, but...could we have the father-daughter dance we didn’t get to have at the wedding reception? There’s a song, I-" She ducked her head again.
"What song?" Gary asked gently.
"Most people think that because the performer is a woman, it has to be about mothers and daughters. But I read that it’s the most popular wedding dance for fathers and daughters now," Casey said softly.
"Baby, I’d be honored...I’d be thrilled...to have that dance with you." Gary stood to his feet, ignoring the fluttering of his heart, and the weird thing his stomach was doing. It's just the bourbon.
Casey jumped up, hugged him tightly, then raced to the stereo. She searched through her CD collection, found the one she was looking for. Met Gary in that open space between the kitchen, dining room and the living room, grateful that she’d never seen fit to ‘fill in’ the area with unnecessary furniture.
Taking her into his arms, Gary closed his eyes as the music began. Could almost believe that he was dancing with her at the reception that had followed her wedding. That he’d been a part of the most important day of her life.
The words of the song echoed in the Great Room as Casey’s family and friends watched. The emotion that filled the dancers seemed to wash over the observers, leaving very few dry eyes among the group.
Gary listened...each word reverberated in his head, mixing with his whirling emotions. Each word the truth for him...
"In my daughter's eyes I am a hero
I am strong and wise and I know no fear
But the truth is plain to see
She was sent to rescue me
I see who I wanna be
In my daughter's eyes
In my daughter's eyes everyone is equal
Darkness turns to light and the
world is at peace
This miracle God gave to me
gives me strength when I am weak
I find reason to believe
In my daughter's eyes..."
He looked down at his daughter, into her always expressive eyes. Could see her love, and her happiness there. And...most amazing of all, he could see that she believed the words of the song as much as he did. He placed a kiss on her forehead, then pulled her closer as Martina McBride continued to sing...
"...And when she wraps her hand
around my finger
Oh it puts a smile in my heart
Everything becomes a little clearer
I realize what life is all about
It's hangin' on when your heart
has had enough
It's giving more when you feel like giving up
I've seen the light
It's in my daughter's eyes
In my daughter's eyes I can see the future
A reflection of who I am and what will be
Though she'll grow and someday leave
Maybe raise a family
When I'm gone I hope you see
how happy she made me
For I'll be there
In my daughter's eyes."
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