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Leap of Faith
The road to the turn off for the lake was paved now, and led to two new manufacturing sites. New housing developments and a new shopping center lined either side of the wide, soon to be tree-lined thoroughfare. Daniel commented on the three new stores that had just opened, one of them a bookstore.
Casey pointed out that construction on the new spaceport was nearly complete. In the almost four years that they had lived in Hope, the town had doubled in size and population, and showed no signs of slowing down. It made her sad to see the sleepy little village that Hope had been become such a bustling center of commerce, but as her mother pointed out, it was a good sign, it meant that Gamma was becoming more and more independent. Several large companies from Earth were moving to the colony lock, stock, and barrel. From corporate headquarters to the manufacturing sites to the transportation departments to get the goods back to the home world, three major and well known corporations were relocating to Gamma. And they were bringing with them a total of nearly five thousand people. It was going to be the largest single immigration wave that had ever happened on the planet.
General's Hammond and Monroe, and those living on the Alpha and Beta sites, had voted to keep those two colonies strictly military complexes. Gamma, and Hope, would be the 'capital city' of the newly formed, and duly voted upon, Stargate Command Colonies. Duncan was still considered the President of Gamma, and President Pro Tem of the SCC, but his duties were focused on the military complex on the edge of town in Hope. Robert deValicort, as the mayor of Hope, found his job more demanding, more complex as the town continued to grow. All of his friends knew that he loved every minute of the job.
Casey's fear that Hope would lose its small town 'feel' was echoed by many of the original residents. With the core of the city's citizens and business owners being Immortal, and all but two of the new city council's members being Immortal, there was the likelihood that what made Hope special would be retained. Robert already had an ad campaign in progress, reminding newcomers of Hope's special 'friendliness', and that it was the wish of all the residents that this never changed. His vision of Hope was that of the other "original settlers", and the people who continued to vote him into office, for that very reason. The people of the town had faith in his ability to keep the heart of Hope the same. So far, all of those who moved to the quaint town seemed intent on keeping things the way they found them. Only time would tell if Hope could retain its personality.
The Jacksons weren't the only family seeking relief from the heat by driving to the lake. Daniel found a place to park, and opened all of the windows and the sunroof. "Okay, ready to play in the water?" he asked the two smiling little faces in the back seat.
"Let's play, Daddy!" Emily said eagerly.
"Pway!" Nicholas laughed excitedly.
He helped Emily from the vehicle while Casey brought Nicholas to the back. "Let Mommy get sun block on you, Princess," he said. He sat about blowing up the floating ring that Nicholas sat on, and the two 'arm bands' that helped Emily stay afloat, while Casey smeared the sun block on each of the kids. They put the cream on themselves, doing one another's backs, giggling as they reached under and over the clothes they had on. He grabbed the basket of toys that she had packed, picked Nicholas up, and led the way; Casey grabbed the blanket and the stack of towels, and followed, Emily's hand in her own.
They made their way among other families and people who were lounging near the water. Greetings were exchanged with everyone they met, and when it looked as if they weren't going to be able to find a place to sit near the edge of the water, a family with several teenagers offered their spot, the father telling Daniel that his kids were old enough to make their way back to the blanket alone, whereas Daniel's children were young and needed to be close by. With thanks, Daniel accepted the offer.
Casey pulled off the sundress she had put on over her bikini. Daniel was wearing his swimming trunks and a wife beater…the tee-shirt landed on top of her dress. He glanced around. Several men were watching his Wife as she led Nicholas into the cool water. He couldn't help but grin. A group of young men who appeared to be SF's from the base were watching her intently, whispering among themselves. No doubt they were thrilled to be seeing Casey Jackson in her white and blue bikini in the flesh, he thought, grinning at her. God what a beautiful woman she was! And how damned lucky was he that she loved him!
Nicholas was jumping and squealing with delight as Casey led him just a bit farther into the water.
"Daddy, come swim with me!" Emily said, grabbing his hand.
His soul soaring at the name his daughter used for him, he wrapped his fingers around her tiny hand and let her pull him into the water. The water was cool, and felt great in the heat of the afternoon. He let Emily hang on to his neck, her little body stretched out against his back, and he swam toward the middle of the lake.
Casey was walking in, waist deep now, Nicholas on the inner tube, splashing his feet and hands, squealing and laughing. "Does that feel good, sweetie?" she asked softly.
The tot looked up at her, held his hand out. She grabbed the fingers and kissed them gently.
"He's a beautiful baby," a voice just behind her said.
She turned to see an older woman watching them. Her red hair was streaked with silver, her face lined from exposure to the elements. "Thank you. He's a carbon copy of his father."
The woman smiled. "I'm sure that pleases his father."
She giggled. "Yes, it does. He's just as in love with his daughter."
"Oh, how lovely, a boy and a girl!" the woman exclaimed. "I have three sons myself. I always wanted a little girl. Now I'm waiting for grandchildren, hoping for a granddaughter. Although not one of those boys seem to be in any hurry to give me any."
"You're young, you have plenty of time," Casey replied.
The woman laughed. "Thank you, my dear. I would like to have them while I'm still able to enjoy them."
Casey giggled. "I can certainly understand that."
"I'm Hilda Vanderbant," the woman said, offering her hand.
"I'm Casey Jackson," she replied, shaking the hand firmly.
"The Casey Jackson?"
"Uh…I guess," Casey replied, blushing.
"You're quite a legend in this town, my dear," Hilda smiled. "My youngest son has posters of you in his apartment and his locker on the base. I understand that most of the men have photos of you in their lockers. Marty told me that one locker has a poster of you on the outside. He thought that that particular locker belonged to Doctor Jackson. …Oh, that would be your husband, wouldn’t it?" the woman said, her own cheeks flushing slightly.
Casey's eyes were wide. "You must be joking!"
"No, my dear, I'm not. Seeing you, I can understand why you're so popular. You're a beautiful young woman."
Casey's cheeks were red now, and the sun above them had nothing to do with it. "Thank you," she murmured, not knowing what else to say. She looked around for Daniel. He and Emily were swimming towards them. She thought about his reaction to the posters that the pilots had on the Persephone. He hadn't been upset about them…in fact, he had acted as if he was amused by the entire thing. Now he had posters of her in…and outside, of his locker?
"I won't intrude on your family time, my dear. It was a pleasure to meet you," Hilda said, watching Daniel coming closer. "Have a nice afternoon."
"You too," Casey said softly.
"Who was that?" Daniel asked, when he was close enough.
"A very nice lady. Hilda Vanderbant. Her son works on the base. Marty, I think she said his name was. She said that he has posters of me in his locker there. And that one locker has a poster of me on the outside. He thought that particular locker belonged to Doctor Jackson." She raised an eyebrow.
He grinned. "Hey, I didn't have room for all three posters inside. Besides, how better to let those guys know that the prettiest pin-up girl on Gamma belongs to me?"
She looked at his eyes. They were twinkling with love and humor. She couldn't help but giggle. "So is it true that most of the lockers there have my pictures in them?"
"And you're okay with that?"
She shook her head. "Guess it's no different than the pictures I've seen of you in a couple of lockers in the women's locker room."
His eyes went wide. "Say what?"
"I guess I wasn't the only one being photographed on Langara. There are some pretty good pictures of you floating around. I like the one of you in just your blue jeans, standing on the balcony." She liked it so much that it was on the inside of her locker door.
He could feel the heat rise in his cheeks. "You're kidding, right?"
"Nope." She turned her attention back to Nicholas. She would never admit that she had found the pictures online, and ordered them for her locker. She knew that three of the single SF's had his pictures in their lockers, and one of them even asked her about him, whether he looked as good in real life. She had to smile at the memory of the young SF's sigh when she had said the pictures didn't do the man justice. Then she had told the young woman the best time to 'run into' him in the corridors in the mountain. "I don't get it, Daniel, why me? I can understand the pictures of you, you're the most beautiful man I've ever seen. But why me?"
He smiled. "Because you're a beautiful woman, Case. You're gorgeous, babe. And I'm not the only one who sees that." His smile widened at the slight frown on his wife's face. Sooner or later she was going to have to admit that she was beautiful. He glanced over his shoulder, shaking it slightly. "Hey, are you still awake back there? You were supposed to be paddling your feet to help me swim. I had to do all the work myself!"
Emily's head popped over his shoulder, she giggled. "Go, Daddy! Let's go again!"
With a grin and a wink at Casey, Daniel started swimming again. He could feel Emily splashing her feet against his back.
"Dunk me, Daddy!" she said, bouncing against him.
"Hang on!" Her little arms tightened around his neck. He rolled to his back then to his stomach once again. She was sputtering and laughing. "Come here," he said. He helped her move from his back to his chest. "Just relax, Princess, I have you." He held her around the waist, and let her make swimming motions. "That's good," he said encouragingly. "You're doing great, Princess."
Casey had managed to swim to where they were, Nicholas and his ring secure in her hand. "Wow, Baby, look at you!" she said when she was close enough.
"Let go, Daddy, I swim alone!"
Daniel glanced at Casey, his blue eyes asking her opinion.
"Let her try," she said softly.
His heart hammering against his ribs, he pulled his hands away from his daughter's body, ready to grab her if need be. She floundered for a few seconds, but managed to keep her head above water. She turned to face him, treading water just in front of him. She was staying afloat on her own! His heart was beating faster, pride flooding his entire being. "You're doing it, Princess! All by yourself!"
Casey was nearly as excited as Emily was. "Oh, Emmie! I'm so proud of you!"
"Okay, Princess, try to lay on your tummy, and we'll swim," Daniel said. Emily obeyed, and she managed to swim a few feet.
"Tired, Daddy," she said, starting to flounder in the water once again. Large, strong hands - the hands that had kept her safe all of her life, hands that had comforted her - wrapped around her. She wrapped her arms around the strong neck that she had hugged all of her life. Not for one second was there any fear in her heart or mind. She need never be afraid. Not as long as her Daddy was at her side.
"That was great, Princess, I'm proud of you," he said quietly. He began to swim toward the shore. He put one hand on the ring his son was sitting in, Nicholas was kicking and splashing and singing at the top of his little lungs. He glanced over at Casey. Her eyes were shining with pride and love. This was what it was all about. This was the reason he continued to gear up and walk through the Stargate again and again, willing to fight the monsters that hid in the dark, monsters that would willingly destroy this very precious thing, his family.
He stretched out on the blanket, the sun warming his back, his chin on his hands, watching his children playing in the mud at the edge of the water. Casey had brought along plastic pails and shovels, and the two were busy re-sculpting a small section of the lake's shoreline.
Casey dropped down beside him, sitting cross-legged, watching her babies play a few feet in front of her. She ran her hand over his bare back. "Thank you."
"Bringing us out here."
"She really did it! Emmie actually swam on her own!" Casey said, her voice full of pride and awe.
"Yep. That's our baby girl."
"She's not a baby any longer," she said, regret in her voice.
"No, she's not, is she?" he said quietly. That thought made his chest hurt. His baby girl was growing so quickly! She was nearly four! He watched his son for a minute. Nicholas was growing just as fast. He turned his head and looked at his wife, watched her as she watched their children. Her eyes were soft and full of love and pride and awe. How had a man like him ever manage to wind up with a woman like her? So beautiful, so sensual, so…amazing. That she loved him was a miracle for which he thanked every god he could think of every day. That she loved him enough to give him two beautiful, incredible children was more than he could wrap his mind around. Once again the thought that he would do whatever he had to, in order to protect them, flittered across his mind.
Casey watched her children playing. How incredible was it that she had children? Two of the most beautiful children ever born. She glanced at Daniel. He was watching them, too. She loved him so much. She could still remember lonely days, empty nights; feeling…believing…that she would never find the man who could reach her heart, speak to her soul. She ran her hand over his back again, unable to resist touching him. She had no idea why this brilliant, handsome, absolutely amazing man loved her. She was just grateful that he did.
The sun was sinking on the horizon when Casey took the kids into the water to clean the mud off of them and their toys. She dried the now shivering little bodies carefully, and they all trekked back to the jeep.
Daniel suggested Dairy Queen for dinner, to a chorus of hoorays from the back seat. He took Casey's hand and lifted it to his lips as he drove toward the restaurant. "Love you, Angel," he said softly.
"Love you, too."
The day hadn't started well, but it certainly ended that way. They had dinner on the deck, bought at the drive-through window at Dairy Queen. Daniel sat contentedly, his wife at his side, her hand in his, watching his children play. Life didn't get any better than this
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