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Erin stood in the living room and stared at her, unable to believe her eyes. "Casey?"
"Yeah, Mom, it's me," Casey replied softly. She walked toward her mother, hugged the older version of herself. "I don't know how, or why, but I'm home."
The woman clung to her daughter for a moment, her relief, her joy, knowing no bounds. "I don't care how or why, Casey. I'm just so glad that you're back. Let me call the children. They need you, my darling daughter." She walked to the deck, called for Emily and Nicholas.
Casey looked around. A nearly empty bottle of Southern Comfort was pushed to the back of the kitchen counter. Two blankets were folded neatly on the sofa, a pillow laying on top of them.
Daniel watched her eyes, noticed what she was looking at. "I had trouble sleeping," he said softly. "I haven't slept in our bed since I got back."
She wondered if he had ever drank so much that he wouldn't have heard one of the children if they had cried out for him.
"Only enough to help me sleep, Case. I never passed out, never got so drunk I couldn't take care of the kids…the only time I got drunk was when your Mom had the kids with her," he said, instinctively knowing what she was thinking.
She turned and put her arms around his waist, her cheek against his shoulder. "It's okay, Daniel. You don't have to explain."
"Mommy?" Emily slid to a halt beside the island. She looked up at Daniel. "You did it, Daddy! You bringed Mommy home!" She raced over and wrapped herself around his leg, then threw herself at Casey. "I missed you, Mommy!"
Casey knelt down and pulled Emily into her arms. "I missed you too, Baby."
Nicholas came barreling into the kitchen, nearly bowling his mother and sister over when he launched himself into Casey's waiting arms. "Mommy home! Mommy home!" he crowed with delight.
"I'm home, Little Man," she whispered. She hugged her children tightly, looked up at her husband. His eyes were shining with unshed tears.
"Welcome home, Angel. We missed you," he said softly, his hand moving over her hair.
She kissed her babies again, her heart noting how much they had grown, then stood up. "I'm guessing the freezer is empty by now?"
Daniel grinned. "Yep."
"Well, guess I'll be doing some cooking for the next couple of days."
"All right by me," he replied. She could cook all week. She could sit and do nothing for all he cared! She was home!
Erin had called Aaron; a few minutes later he swept into the house, found his daughter and hugged her tightly against his chest. "Welcome home, my beautiful daughter," he said. He was grinning from ear to ear when he released her. "Come, tell me how this miracle occurred!'
She shook her head. "Dad, I haven't a clue. One minute Teal'c and I were getting pummeled to death with concrete and high pressure water jets, the next thing I know I'm waking up in the infirmary, only to be told I've been dead for six weeks," she said.
Daniel was leaning back against the kitchen counter; he had pulled Casey into his arms, her back against his chest. He needed to hold her, touch her, keep reassuring himself that she was really there. "Somebody had to have dug you and Teal'c out. The entire city collapsed. You were under a lot of rubble, not to mention two miles of ocean."
"Maybe the Oannes?" she asked.
"Had to be," he replied. "We sent a team back through a few days later to offer any assistance…but they never 'appeared'."
"You and Sam and Jack didn't go back?" She had the feeling that going back would have been heart wrenching for them. She understood why they couldn't, even if it did sting a bit that they hadn't.
He shook his head. "Neither Jack or Duncan would let me. They were afraid I'd try to swim out to get to you. They were right, I would have."
She snuggled back against him, smiled when his arms tightened around her.
"I did learn one thing through all of this," Daniel admitted quietly.
"What would that be?" Aaron asked.
"That I have got to remember that I can do…things, before it's too late."
Casey giggled. "Well, I should have remembered sooner as well."
"It's just that I don't think of myself…like that," Daniel said with a shrug.
"I do, so I'll remember for you," she said with a smile. She turned slightly and pressed her lips against his neck.
Erin put her arm around Aaron's waist. "Let us go home. Casey and Daniel and the children are fine, and they need some time alone."
"Yes, my love, I believe you're right," Aaron replied. He reached out and caressed Casey's cheek, winked at her, hugged and kissed his grandchildren, then followed his wife out to their car.
Daniel stood just holding her, breathing in her sweet scent, feeling the warmth of her skin, the rise and fall of her chest beneath his arms as she breathed.
"I can't fix dinner like this," she said softly.
"Punch five, babe," he replied. "Kids won't be too thrilled, but they'll get Mommy's cooking tomorrow."
She smiled. "Been punching five a lot, huh?"
He pressed his face against her hair, breathed deeply, closed his eyes. "Yep."
She turned around in his arms, wreathed his face with her hands, kissed him gently. "Let me make some grilled cheese sandwiches."
Daniel looked at her. "To be honest, Casey, I have no idea what's in the fridge or the pantry. I…uh…I understand why you hate to go grocery shopping," he mumbled.
She laughed. "Okay, I'll punch five. Tomorrow we hit the grocery store. I'll make casseroles. We'll get our life back on track."
"I like the sound of that, Angel."
Emily and Nicholas had been hovering nearby, playing with toys, but keeping their mother within sight. When Casey disappeared into the half-bath near the kitchen, Emily raced into the room, her blue eyes wide. "Where Mommy is?" she demanded to know.
Daniel picked up his daughter. "She's in the bathroom, Princess."
"Thank you, Daddy," Emily said, wrapping her arms around his neck.
"Bringing Mommy home. I knowed you could do it."
He grinned. How could he explain that he had done nothing more than pick her body up from the ramp where she had fallen? "I didn't do anything, Princess."
"Did so! You bringed Mommy home," the four-year-old insisted.
"She's right you know, technically," Casey said from the doorway.
Emily held her arm out, the other wrapped tightly around her father's neck. Casey walked to where Daniel stood with their daughter in his arms. The little girl pulled until her mother was leaning against her father. She snuggled down into the strong arms that had held her all of her life, toyed with the long blonde hair that had brushed against her, that she had tugged on and played with as long as she could remember.
"Mommy! Up!" Nicholas demanded, holding his arms up.
"Geez, Little Man, you get any bigger and you're going to have to pick me up!" Casey exclaimed as she lifted him into her arms. She put her head back against Daniel's shoulder.
Daniel smiled. She was home. In his arms. Where she belonged. Holding her, holding their children, his heart finally began to beat normally once again, full of peace and happiness. It was a miracle that she was there. He'd be thankful for it for the rest of his days.
"For supper, Mommy?" Emily asked, resting her head against Daniel's shoulder the same as her mother was.
"Daddy says pizza."
"No, Mommy, you cook. Use the stove, Mommy!"
Casey chortled loudly. She glanced up at Daniel. He gave her a sheepish grin. "Oh, Baby, I have to go to the grocery store before I can fix anything. I promise this is the last pizza you'll have to eat for awhile."
Emily studied her mother for a few minutes. "You stay home now, Mommy?"
She reached up and cupped her daughter's cheek. "For a few days, I imagine. But remember what I told you about the very important Beings that made your Daddy Special?"
The little girl nodded.
"Well, because Daddy is Special, The Chosen, he has to go out and help people. I have to help him. It's our job, Baby. We do it to keep you safe, too."
"From the nasty snakes?"
"From the nasty snakes, and other bad things that are out there," Casey replied. "Now, why don't you and Nicholas go pick up all of your toys, and we'll watch a movie while we eat our pizza?"
Emily squirmed to be put down. "Nicholas, 'mon. We pick up our toys now."
The toddler followed his sister, and they began the task of carrying countless toys from the living room to their respective bedrooms and toy boxes.
"She's said more tonight than she has since the day-" he broke off, looked out of the kitchen window. Looked like the Murlows, their neighbors, had forgotten to pen Wilbur again. The Golden Retriever was making a mess out of Katie Murlow's flowerbeds. He smiled when two soft arms went around his waist from behind. "Casey, do you want another baby?"
Good thing she was hanging on to him. She would have hit the floor otherwise. She remembered her outburst at the mall. Had thought about it several times since then. Wasn't sure exactly what she wanted! Wondered just how much Daniel had been thinking about it. "Honestly, I don't know. I mean, I guess the desire is always there, and with Nicholas growing so fast…"
Daniel turned around and looked down at her. "Go get comfy on the couch. I'll order the pizza. They know me," he grinned.
She smiled, leaned up to kiss him, then went into the living room. She settled onto the sofa, closed her eyes to give herself a few minutes to contemplate what had happened. Six weeks! Her family had grieved for her, Daniel had grieved for her for six weeks! She couldn't help but wonder how all of this would affect the kids long term…it had only been a couple of months since their Daddy had been taken from them for three long weeks. She opened her eyes and smiled again when she felt him stretch out on the sofa. He wiggled his shoulders a bit, moved closer to her, laid his head in her lap.
"Okay, Angel. Let's talk about this baby thing."
She shook her head. "I really don't know where that came from, Daniel. I've never thought about having another baby. At least, not consciously."
"Well, apparently it's been there."
"Let me ask you a question, and please be totally honest with me, okay?"
"Do you want to have another baby?"
His eyes studied her face, then held her gaze. "The truth? If you can do it without getting pregnant and having to go through childbirth, a couple more would be okay with me."
"A couple, huh?"
He grinned. "Another boy, another girl. Case, I can't watch you go through that again. The morning sickness…when you almost lost Nicholas I was scared to death. Worried more about you at that point in time. It was hard enough on you when Emmie was born, Nicholas-" he broke off. "I can't do it, Casey. As wonderful as the rest of it is, I can't do it."
"I could always have the epidural as soon as I start labor, it would make it easier," she said softly.
"Is that what you want?"
She let her fingers move through his dark blonde hair. "Daniel, I honestly don't know. I-" She shook her head. "If I get pregnant again, then it will be the will of the Goddess. Otherwise, I'm not going to worry about it…at least not right now."
"Case, unless you take the shots, there is no way that you'll ever get pregnant," Daniel reminded her.
"Hey, I believe in miracles," she teased.
"So do I, Angel. You're sitting here now, alive and well and home…and considering the circumstances, that's one hell of a miracle," he replied softly. "So, okay, no more babies."
"I did not say that, Daniel. I said I'm not going to worry about it right now."
"Please don’t tell me you're going to wait until Emmie and Nicholas are in college and decide to start another family!"
"And just what would be wrong with that?" she demanded to know.
He grinned up at her. "Not a thing." He put his arm around her shoulders, pulled her down for a kiss just as the doorbell rang.
"Pizza's here," she whispered against his lips.
"Mmmhmm. Just one more kiss," he said, slipping his tongue past her lips. He pulled away when the doorbell rang a second time. Emily was already pulling open the door when he got there, digging his wallet from his hip pocket.
Casey brought plates and napkins into the living room, Daniel grabbed two beers and filled sipper cups with milk, and Emily put a movie into the VCR. The Jacksons were going to be watching 'Ice Age'. Again.
Daniel didn't care what was playing on the TV. When they had finished eating, Casey had snuggled next to him on one side, Emily on the other, Nicholas on his lap. His world was upright and on kilter once more.
A A A A A A
She had all of her cookbooks open on the island. He stood and watched her as she went through the recipes, then walked to the refrigerator or the pantry to check and see what she already had on hand. The list continued to grow. Looked like they were going to be at the store for awhile. They could spend all day there, he didn't care. She was home! She was alive, and she was home and that was all that mattered to him. He leaned against the doorframe. As soon as snuggle time had been over, a much happier time than it had been for six long weeks, the kids tucked in and kissed and wished sweet dreams, they had gone to bed. They had made love almost all night, taking each other higher with each climax that curled their toes. When they had finally fallen asleep, Casey on his chest, his arms around her tightly, the Fire had at last been satisfied. And the pain, the loneliness, the grief that had been his constant companions, had been banished from his heart, his mind, his soul.
Casey was surprised to find that the contents of the pantry didn't look much different than they had before she had left. She had talked to her mother earlier that morning. It seemed that Tessa and Sam kept a steady supply of casseroles in disposable containers coming into the house. Her mother had said that Daniel had merely functioned, that he had stopped living the day he had lost her. She glanced up to find him watching her. "Good morning," she said, smiling at him.
There it was! The smile that lit his world. He couldn't start without it, couldn't see around him to live without the light from it. "Morning, gorgeous." He walked to the counter and poured himself a cup of coffee. Oh, yeah! This was what coffee was supposed to taste like! He leaned over to kiss her.
"I'm almost done here. As soon as Emmie gets back from preschool, we can head to Murphy's."
Daniel glanced at the clock. It was almost ten! He hadn't slept that long, that well since…"Guess I slept in, didn't I?"
She smiled, wrapped her arms around his waist and looked up at him. "You had a good excuse. I wore you out last night," she giggled.
"You think so, huh?" His heart was soaring. She was in his arms. She was teasing him, making him laugh…loving him.
"Yep. I also hear that you haven't been sleeping well. You did plenty of snoring last night!"
"I do not snore," he argued. He was well aware of the fact that sometimes he did, especially when he was overtired. No need to let her know that, though, he thought with a grin.
She burst into laughter. "Tell that to the neighbors!" she teased.
"Couldn't have been too bad. You slept on top of me most of the night," he teased in return.
"I like sleeping on top of you," she replied. She turned back to her grocery list. "Have you been working out with Jack?" she asked casually.
He looked at her. Shook his head. "Didn't do too much of anything, Angel. I just couldn't…nothing mattered…"
"Well, you can start going back to the gym. You need to build yourself back up, Daniel. I'll take care of feeding you. You take care of that magnificent body of yours."
He reddened slightly at her praise, then grinned. "I like it when you take care of it," he said, his eyes full of mischief.
"I'm sure you do," she replied primly. "I cannot, however, workout for you. You can lift weights, or I can sign you up for a couple of my aerobics classes."
"Does he still lift on Tuesdays and Thursdays?" he asked quickly.
Casey giggled. "And Fridays, as you well know."
Daniel wrapped his arms around her, pressed his face against her hair. "I missed you so damned much!" he whispered.
"I know, My Heart. I'm home now, I'm here. Everything is okay," she whispered in reply.
"Yeah, for how long this time?" It was out before he could stop it.
She smiled. "I think we're going to get a…break…from all of the intensity. For awhile. We'll still have some…moments…but nothing like we've gone through during the past year or so."
"Good. I don't think my heart can take much more," he replied.
The honking of the school bus outside sent them both to the front door. Emily raced toward them, a large piece of white construction paper in her hand.
"I draw-ded a picture of my family! See?" she said excitedly, thrusting the paper toward her parents.
Casey looked at the rendering of the Jackson family. There was Daniel, with his blonde hair and glasses, and extremely large muscles. She began to giggle. "You look like 'Ahnald' in this!'
Daniel was laughing as well. Nicholas was drawn crawling, she probably preferred her little brother less mobile. Emily had drawn herself with long blonde hair and blue eyes and a very wide smile. His breath caught in his throat at the childish interpretation of his wife. Her hair was very long, she was very thin, her green eyes took up most of the face, but what struck him was the halo above her head. "Emmie, you gave Mommy a halo," he said softly.
Emily nodded vigorously. "I told Ms. Donovan that you call Mommy 'Angel', and I asked her what real angels look like, and she showed me a book with pictures in it, and Mommy looks just like a real angel does, and real angels have 'lo's, Ms. Donovan told me about them too." She looked up at her mother. "Ms. Donovan says that just 'cause we can't see the 'lo doesn't mean it's not there."
He smiled and kissed Casey's cheek. "Ms. Donovan is right. Just because you can't see the halo doesn't mean it's not there."
"Let's hang this on the refrigerator, where I can see it every day," Casey said softly. Emily led the way. Casey took several magnets and anchored the drawing on the metal door. "It's beautiful, Baby."
Emily handed her backpack to Daniel. "Ms. Donovan said I should bring my first picture home for you to see."
His heart clenched, he opened the pack and pulled out a carefully folded paper. He almost cried out at the depiction. Emily had drawn him with his glasses and those oversized muscles… but his mouth was turned down, and there were blue tears on his face. She had done the same thing for herself and Nicholas, large turned down mouths, lots of tears. The most amazing thing was that in the upper right-hand corner was Casey, looking down on them, her mouth turned down and tears on her face as well. "Oh, Princess," he said softly. He picked her up and held her tightly.
Casey felt a tear slide down her cheek as she looked at the drawing, could feel the sadness, the loss that her family had suffered. "Oh, Baby, I'm so sorry you had to go through that, so sorry you all had to go through that!"
"You're home now, Angel, that's all that matters," Daniel said softly. He looked at his smiling daughter. "Right, Princess?"
With a smile, Casey kissed both of them. "Okay, let's get Nicholas cleaned up, and we'll go to the grocery store."
A A A A A A
Diane Murphy left her cash register to hug Casey when they walked through the door. "He's been lost without you," the older woman said softly. "It's nice to see all of them smiling again. Welcome home, Casey."
"Thanks, Diane. It's great to be home." The produce clerk and two baggers welcomed her home as well.
Daniel smiled. Wasn't a bit surprised at the display of affection. It was that warmth, that sunshine that drew people to her like a magnet. He pushed the cart Emily and Nicholas were sitting in, taking the opportunity to enjoy watching her from behind. The sway of her hips made his mouth go dry, and images of what he had done to that sweet ass the night before danced in his head.
She turned around to find him watching her. One look at his incredible blue eyes was enough to tell her what was going on behind them. "Like the view?" she asked coyly.
"Oh, yeah," he grinned, not even bothering to try to disguise the Fire he knew was burning in his eyes.
With a wicked smile, she bent over in front of him to grab a can of something from the bottom shelf.
Sweet Jesus! What those jeans did for that sexy ass! He was fighting the erection that struggled to push against his zipper. He looked at her eyes. She was laughing at him. She had done that on purpose, and now she was laughing at him! 'Keep laughing. You get to take care of this when we get home!'
She giggled. 'Promise?'
He nearly moaned out loud. It was becoming nearly impossible to keep his body under control. 'If you're not careful, little girl, I'll haul you into the restroom and make you take care of it right here and now!'
'Now that could be interesting.' Her green eyes continued to tease him.
'Damn it, Casey Renee, knock it off!'
She pulled her lip between her teeth, walked toward him, pressed her body against his. "Want some chocolate syrup?"
He did moan out loud this time, remembering what she had done with chocolate syrup, and whipped cream. "Please, babe, I can't take it," he whispered.
Concern settled over her delicate features. "Oh, Daniel, I'm sorry! I just…I guess I forgot that it's been…I'm sorry," she said, lowering her eyes, blushing slightly.
He pulled her into his arms. "It's okay, Angel. Give me a few more days. Then it won't be so hard to maintain control."
She looked up at him through her lashes. "Guess I'll just have to try harder then, huh?"
Daniel laughed out loud. "You are a pain-in-the-ass."
"Not lately," she retorted. "Although I always try to be gentle."
He laughed harder. "Love you, Angel."
"Love you, too, Stud Muffin. Now, let's get the rest of the shopping done. I'm going to be cooking all day tomorrow."
"Any plans for dinner tonight?"
"Sounds good." He smiled when she hugged him one last time, before moving away and consulting her list again. His Angel was back. His kids were smiling again. His heart was whole and beating in his chest again. Yep, life was good.
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