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Shadows of the Heart
Casey shifted Nicholas on her hip. He was really getting heavy! She smiled when Daniel took him from her arms and settled the tot against his side.
"Hurry, Mommy! Hurry up, Daddy," Emily said, running just a few feet in front of them. She reached the door to the classroom, sighed heavily with impatience as she waited for her parents to join her.
Other parents and children were already waiting inside. Emily raced to her desk and sat down. Her parents joined the other adults in the back of the room. Two more families entered the classroom, the little students hurrying to their desks. When all of the desks were occupied, Mrs. Waters stood to her feet.
"Welcome to our Autumn Open House," the teacher said, smiling warmly. "This is the first open house of the year, and each one will give you a peek at what your children are doing, and learning. As you can see, they are all very expressive, and do so with great enthusiasm," she said, motioning to the walls that were covered with artwork done by the children. "It is a joy for me, as their teacher, to be able to offer them an outlet for all of that creativity. Please feel free to move around and look at everything. Your child will be sure to let you know which is his or her work. The one thing I ask you to pay special attention to are the stories attached to several of the drawings. They were written by the children, with very little help. If you have any questions, I'll be more than happy to answer them. After you're finished here, please be sure to stop by the gymnasium for cookies and punch." Mrs. Waters smiled again, and sat down behind her desk. "Children, you are excused."
With those words, the little ones ran excitedly toward waiting parents and siblings.
"Where is your work, Baby?" Casey asked softly.
"Here, Mommy," Emily replied. She grabbed her mother's hand and dragged her to one corner of the room, nearly plowing over several people in front of her.
"Emily Rose, manners," Casey said firmly.
The little girl stopped, looked up at the couple she had cut in front of. "I'm sorry. Excuse me."
"You're excused," the man said, winking at Casey.
Her apology given and accepted, Emily tugged at her mother. "I wrote this all by myself," she declared proudly.
A page from a writing tablet was attached to a large white piece of construction paper. The letters were a bit shaky, and several were backwards, but the lines were readable. The drawing of her family looked familiar, Daniel with his oversized muscles and glasses, Casey with the large green eyes and long blonde hair, Nicholas with bright yellow hair and a red shovel in his hand, Emily with big blue eyes and a huge red smile. Behind them was a large gray house, with several windows, and a row of bright pink flowers.
Casey couldn't help but giggle at the depiction. "That's quite a happy family there," she said, her hand caressing Emily's silky hair.
"Read the story, Mommy," Emily insisted.
She looked over her shoulder. Daniel was standing directly behind her. "My Daddy and Mommy are very happy together. They love each other very much. They love my little brother Nicholas and me very much. Nicholas and I love them very much. There is a lot of love in my house." She felt tears prick her eyes. "Oh, Baby, that's beautiful," she said softly.
Daniel cleared his throat, his own eyes filled with tears. "It's beautiful, Princess," he said, his voice as soft as Casey's.
Somehow, through all of the trials that they faced, all the crap that they had to wade through at times, the love always survived. Always managed to shine through. They had been able to keep the love there for the kids to see, and had succeeded in keeping the bad times, the sad times, the frightening things that happened, hidden well enough that all the little eyes and ears saw and heard was the love.
She leaned back against him when she felt him move closer. "I think we're doing okay," she whispered.
"Yeah, Angel, we're doing okay," he whispered in return. He couldn't help but press his lips to the side of her head for just a minute.
They toured the classroom, looking at all of the artwork displayed, although they agreed that Emily's was the best, having been shown three more of her drawings, two of animals which were surprisingly easy to recognize, especially the horse, and one of buildings, her vision of what Hope might someday look like.
Emily, Nicholas, and several other children were busy playing with the toys left out for the occasion. Mrs. Waters stood to greet them when they drew close to her desk.
"Doctor Jackson, Mrs. Jackson. I'm so glad that you were able to be here," the teacher said, offering her hand, shaking theirs amiably.
"We're thrilled to be here," Casey said honestly.
"I just wanted to tell you that Emily is a delight to have in class," Mrs. Waters said.
"Thanks," Daniel replied.
"She's a very bright child. Very mature for only four years old," the teacher continued.
Casey glanced at Daniel, then back at the woman standing in front of them. "Is there a problem?"
Mrs. Waters laughed, and shook her head. "Heavens no! Although I must admit she keeps me on my toes. The questions she can ask!"
"Such as?" Daniel asked, although a part of him questioned the wisdom of inquiring. Some of the questions that Emily asked at home left him scrambling to find the answers that a four-year-old could understand.
"Well, just today, we were discussing mammals, and of course, we have no animals on Gamma, so we talked about the animals of Earth and Langara. I told the class that mammals were designated as such because they gave birth to live young. Emily wanted to know just exactly what kind of babies 'live young' were."
Daniel chuckled, Casey giggled.
"I explained that it meant that the babies were born, rather than hatched from eggs. Then Emily informed me that she knew all about the birthing process. That the baby lived in the mommy's tummy until it was time to come out, and then the daddy caught the baby." Mrs. Waters couldn't hold back the laugh that filled her at the memory.
Daniel started laughing, knowing exactly where she had come up with that conclusion.
Casey's cheeks turned crimson. "We had to have a little talk with her about…well, you know. She had so many questions, and we tried to answer them as honestly as we could. She asked about her birth, and Nicholas', and I told her that her Daddy delivered them. Daniel explained to her that it meant that he caught her and Nicholas as they came out of the birth canal."
Mrs. Waters patted Casey's arm. "You did an admirable job, then. With Emily, only the truth will do. And she's going to want to know about things much sooner than you're going to be ready to talk to her about them. That is the price one pays for having a gifted child."
"Gifted?" Daniel asked. That was the word, the label, that had been applied to him throughout his entire academic career. He remembered hearing the word when his mother and father met with his kindergarten teacher. How often history liked to repeat itself!
"Very. She's like a little sponge, learning anything and everything she can. Her powers of observation are years ahead of her biological age. She can grasp concepts that even second graders sometimes struggle with. And she wants to know the 'why' of everything. In her mind there's a reason for everything, and she wants to know that reason. I will be suggesting to Mrs. Konnicky that Emily be placed in advanced classes as soon as she's ready for them," Mrs. Waters said, referring to the principal of New Horizons Elementary. "I predict that she'll be ready for second grade by the time her classmates are ready for first. I have already arranged for three tutors for her: one for math, one for reading and writing, and another for art. She has quite a talent, and I think with proper guidance, she could become an incredible artist."
Daniel and Casey exchanged stunned looks. "I don't want her pushed, or rushed," Casey said.
"I understand, and I certainly agree. But we must continue to challenge her, and meet her needs," Mrs. Waters replied gently.
"What about emotionally, mentally? Will she be ready for a second grade class at age five?" Daniel asked.
"That's an excellent question. Again I'll point out that she seems quite mature for her age. I think she'll do fine. She's already with a class of five and six year olds, and she's only four," Mrs. Waters pointed out.
He nodded. "Who will her tutors be?"
"Ed Murphy will be working with her in math," Mrs. Waters said.
Casey nodded. "We know Ed. He's a very nice man."
"Yes he is," the teacher agreed. "Gayle Wiesman will tutor her in reading and writing. Before moving to Gamma with her husband, I believe he's an officer in the GMF, she worked for the Sylvan Learning Center."
Both of the Jackson's were familiar with that tutoring business. "So she has experience working one-on-one with a student," Daniel said, nodding his approval.
"Yes, and she absolutely adores Emily. Emily is very comfortable around her, so I think the match will work perfectly."
"And the art teacher?"
"Julie Harwood. She's a wonderful artist in her own right, although she's never been 'discovered'."
Daniel frowned slightly, glanced down at Casey. Her bottom lip was between her teeth, frown on her own face.
Mrs. Waters paused. "Is this a problem?"
Casey looked up at Daniel, then at the teacher. "We'll see how it works out. I've just recently met, Julie. She works for-"
"She works for us at the base," Daniel said, afraid of what Casey was going to say. Needing her to understand how he viewed the…situation. "It might cause…difficulties if she were to work with Emily. Not intentionally I'm sure, but…" he let his sentence fade, allowing the teacher to fill in the blanks any way she wanted to.
"I see," Mrs. Waters said. "I have a list of several other local artists. Perhaps Mrs. MacLeod would be a better choice?"
She heaved a sigh of relief. "Tessa would be perfect. Emily calls her Auntie Tessa, I don't know if that would be a problem."
"No," Mrs. Waters smiled. "I don't see that it would be a problem at all. I'll contact Mrs. MacLeod tomorrow and make the arrangements."
"What about Julie?" Casey asked softly.
Mrs. Waters smiled again. "I hadn't given her a list of students from my class yet. It will be quite easy to remove Emily's name from one list and put it on the other."
"Thank you," Daniel said quietly.
"Of course. It's important that you approve of the tutors and the teachers that work with Emily, and that you're as comfortable with them as she is," the teacher replied. "I'm certainly glad we were able to discuss this."
"So am I," Daniel said. More than the teacher would ever know. Having Julie working with Emily would be asking too much of Casey. She had forgiven him for 'springing' the woman on her, not telling her about his plan to hire a secretary. But he knew that it would be too much of a…threat…to allow the woman to work with her husband and her daughter.
"Well, I see that there are other parents waiting to speak with me," Mrs. Waters said. "I shouldn't say this, and if you mention it, I'll deny it, but Emily is my favorite."
Casey lit up the room with her smile. "Yeah, the kid does sort of grow on you, doesn't she?"
Mrs. Waters laughed. "Yes, she does! Have a pleasant evening. It was nice speaking with you." She patted them both on the arm, and moved toward another couple.
"Wow," Casey said softly.
"Yeah. Gifted," Daniel said.
"That, too," she admitted.
He looked at her. "Are you okay?"
The smile she gave him erased any further doubts. "Do we dare take Nicholas near the gym and cookies?"
Daniel chuckled. "Yeah, let's dare. If trouble starts, you take Emmie and head for the Blazer, get it started, and pick us up at the door. We'll make a clean get-away."
She burst into giggles. "Bonnie and Clyde."
"Yeah, and we're their gang," Daniel grinned.
She giggled again, took his hand and let him lead her to where their children were playing. "Hey, Baby, shall we have a cookie before we go home?"
Emily bounced to her feet. "Yes, Mommy!"
Nicholas stood up, held up his arms to be picked up. "Cookie!"
"C'mere, Little man, " Daniel said, pulling the tot into his arms. "One cookie, and then we're going home for baths and snuggle time."
"Cookie!" Nicholas said again, clapping his little hands together.
"Give it up," Casey said. "The 'c' word was mentioned. He didn't hear a thing after that."
With a chuckle, Daniel led his family toward the gymnasium. Today had been a good day. They had returned earlier in the day from a mission where they had actually accomplished something positive; had really helped a group of people in dire need. He had just found out that his daughter was indeed following in the footsteps of her father, and grandfather. And they had managed to avert a situation that could have caused more problems between them. Their marriage, their relationship was back on even footing, but the path was still rocky. It would be some time before Casey was completely comfortable with him being near dark-haired, dark-eyed women, in spite of what they had managed to accomplish with Gretchen Blackstone's help. But as long as she loved him, as long as she was by his side, he could do, would do, whatever it took to keep them on the right track.
A A A A A A
Casey was sitting on the deck, looking at the stars. After getting home from the Open House, where nothing disastrous had occurred, the kids had been bathed, and snuggle time had been enjoyed. She had taken a quick shower while Daniel did whatever it was he'd been doing in the den. She'd been drying her hair when he'd entered the bathroom and taken his own shower. Then he'd made love to her until she couldn't think… couldn't breathe…couldn't move, whispering his love to her, declaring it with every caress.
He'd fallen asleep as soon as he had rolled them over the final time. She smiled; the man had come four times, he needed to sleep. He'd sent her sailing among the stars so many times she had lost count. But as often happened, sleep brought dreams. And the dream that had awakened her this time was one that she didn't want to think about. Not now. Not when things were going so well. They were happy, they were together…she shook her head.
She turned around at the sound of his voice. "I'm sorry, did I wake you?"
"Being cold without you woke me," he said, settling his body down behind her, pulling her close. Her skin was chilled; she had been sitting here for awhile. "What's wrong?"
She shook her head. "It's nothing."
The tone of his voice let her know that he would not accept her attempts to side-step the issue. "I really don't want to talk about it," she said slowly.
"You never do, when it's bad," he said. He pulled her closer. "Whatever it is, we'll face it together. You and me. Side by side."
"Together always," she sighed, leaning back against him, cuddling closer to the warmth his body offered.
"Together always," he whispered in her ear. "Tell me, Angel."
"It's…it's about Steven…I mean Dagon."
He felt his heart stop. "What about him?"
"I think he's on his way here."
"Here? As in a ship?"
She nodded. "Daniel, he wants us. You and me. He knows you're The Chosen. He's seen what you can do. Dagon suspects what you're capable of. He wants to control you, use you."
"And you're the way to get to me, the way to get that control," he finished flatly. Goddamn it! When would they ever catch a break?
"We need to let Duncan know."
"Yeah, we do. I think we'd better do it now, if he's on his way."
She nodded her agreement. "Daniel, I love you."
"I love you, too, Casey."
"Sometimes I wish you weren't The Chosen."
"Probably not any more often than I wish the same thing, babe." He stood to his feet, helped her to hers. Glanced at the clock when he led her into the bedroom. Hell, they'd have to get up in a couple of hours anyway. He sighed. "Let's take a quick shower. I'll call Troy, tell him to assemble the team, and call Duncan. You can call your Mom."
She nodded. "We'll be okay."
He looked at her. "Okay?"
She smiled. "We'll be fine. It's going to be…difficult, for awhile. But we'll be fine."
With a smile and a nod, he led her back into the house. So that they could get ready to go to work, and do what it was that they did. Fight the bad guys.
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