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The Darkness Within
"More to the left," Casey instructed. Daniel moved to the left. "Too much. Just a tiny bit to the right." Once again Daniel obligingly moved, this time to the right. "That's it. Perfect."
He let go of the tree, then climbed beneath the lower branches and tightened the screws of the stand against the trunk. Nicholas climbed on top of him, giggling loudly. "Hey, who's on me?"
Casey smiled. This was a favorite game. Emily wrapped herself around Daniel's side.
"Okay, now who's that?" Daniel asked. He backed out from under the tree. The children were on his back now, waiting for their 'ride'. He rose up to his hands and knees, 'walked' toward the coffee table. Two little sets of arms locked around his neck, knowing that he was about to sit up. "Okay, babe. Are the lights ready?"
"Yep." Casey insisted that the tree lights be put back on the plastic holders every year when the Christmas tree was taken down. As much as he complained each time, he was always glad she did so. When the lights came out, they plugged them in to see if there were any burned out bulbs, and then they were put on the waiting tree. No hassle, no trouble, no headaches. "Give Daddy a break, you're going to choke him."
Two little heads poked over his shoulders, Emily on one side, Nicholas on the other. She couldn't help but laugh at the sheer delight on their faces. Daniel backed up to the chair and leaned backwards, pinning them between his strong back and the chair. "Gotcha now!"
More giggles and laughter. "Daddy! You squishy me!" Emily protested.
"Daddy! Swishy me!" Nicholas crowed.
Daniel turned around, grabbed Nicholas and held him against his chest. "I'll squish you, turn you into jelly!"
The tot was laughing hysterically, his little hands holding tight to his daddy's shirt, secure in the fact that he would never actually be hurt. "Swishy!"
Emily had crawled to the box that Casey had opened. She reached in and carefully pulled out a glass ornament. "Pretty, Mommy. This is your special Christmas ball," she said.
"Yes it is," Casey smiled.
"Tell the story, Mommy," Emily begged.
Daniel looked over at her and smiled.
"The very first Christmas that Daddy and I spent together, we went shopping. We wanted pretty new ornaments for our tree. We were walking by a store that had these pretty glass balls in the window. The sign said that they could be engraved with whatever you wanted."
"So Daddy take-ded you in," Emily said.
"Yep, he took me in. We looked and looked, and finally found this one," she said, looking at the glass ball, the white iridescent in the light of the lamp.
"Read it Mommy," the little girl said.
"To my beautiful Wife, All my love forever and ever, amen," Casey said, running her fingers over the gold letters.
"Read this one, Mommy," Emily said, holding a red glass ball toward her mother.
Casey took it and smiled. "To my wonderful Husband, all my love forever and ever, amen."
Daniel smiled and winked at her. "Ready for the angel to go on the tree?"
"Yep." Casey reached into the box of decorations and pulled out the ceramic and silk angel.
"That's the special angel that looks like Mommy," Emily told Nicholas as the tot watched with wide eyes. "Daddy bought it 'cause he says it looks like Mommy."
The ceramic face did indeed resemble Casey's delicate features, and even had green eyes. The silky blonde hair was almost the same shade of blonde as hers. Daniel had seen it and insisted on buying it. He opened the step stool, took the angel from her hand, and carefully positioned it on the topmost branch of the tree.
"Perfect," Casey said, looking up.
He smiled. "Perfect," he whispered, looking down at her.
A A A A A A
The tree was decorated, the lights offering the only illumination in the room. Emily and Nicholas were tucked into bed. Casey snuggled against the strong chest beneath her cheek.
"Penny for them," Daniel said softly.
"Just thinking about how happy I am," she replied. "How blessed I am."
He tightened his arm around her. "I'm glad you're happy, Angel. I'm pretty darn blessed, too."
"Have you decided what you want for Christmas?"
"I already have it, Case. You. You're safe, and healthy. I don't want anything else."
"What fun is that? You need a gift to open."
"I dunno, Angel. I kinda like unwrapping you. Over and over again."
She giggled. "Do you ever wonder what it would be like with a different woman?"
"Nope. Why would I want a different woman when I have you?"
"You're not bored with me?"
He couldn't help but laugh. "Angel, I could never be bored with you. I never know what you're going to do next."
She giggled. "Well, I try my best to keep you surprised." She was fairly certain that this year's gift would surprise him. She had managed to locate several of Nicholas Ballard's old journals. They had been in a storage room in a museum in Chicago. The curator had contacted Daniel about them, and she had taken care of the entire thing, getting them sent to Gamma via the Stargate on Earth. Duncan had called in a couple of favors to arrange it for her. She had been fascinated by them, and knew that Daniel would be as well. She often wondered if the team would ever go back to P7X 377, where Nick Ballard was living with the Giant Aliens. She would like to meet him, show him pictures of his great-grandchildren, if taking Emily and Nicholas wasn't feasible.
"You try your best to kill me," he said, grinning into the darkness.
"Oh, and you never try to do that to me!"
"Shall we talk about that feather?"
He laughed. "Rather use it than talk about it." He gave a satisfied chuckle when he felt her body shiver against him.
"Let's go to bed," she whispered.
"Nope." She sat up, stood to her feet. She turned off the Christmas lights, and caught his hand in the darkness.
A A A A A A
Christmas Day dawned bright and beautiful. The island and the counter near the refrigerator were covered with food. The fridge was full, and there would be more when family started arriving. The table was set, and looked beautiful with two centerpieces of Christmas greenery and white and red candles.
Sam and Jack were first to arrive, Evelyn and Amber excited and bouncing as they came through the doors. Casey sent them to play with Emily in her room, fingers crossed that the three little girls, and Nicholas, wouldn’t find too much trouble to get into. Duncan and Tessa were next, Richie barely allowing Casey a chance to hug him before he was racing to find his best pal Nicholas. Teal'c and Carly arrived, followed in quick succession by Aaron and Erin and Oma and Methos. The Seeneys arrived just minutes later, Amanda carrying two casserole dishes, Liam carrying one. They were greeted with hugs and smiles, and entered into the festivities with enthusiasm.
Her house full of family, the air heavy with the aroma of good food and the sound of laughter, Casey smiled. By now the children were running through the main rooms, stopping only to receive hugs from people they called 'auntie' and 'uncle'. This was what it was all about. Why they continued to fight. Family and friends.
Everyone gathered in the living room, the pile of gifts around the tree taking everyone by surprise. The children opened their gifts first, squeals of delight filled the air. Toys were admired, played with, books opened and pictures looked at. The adults watched with love filled eyes as the kids began to play with their gifts.
Casey watched Daniel, her heart hammering against her ribs when he finally began to open the package she had wrapped with extra special care.
"Case, you went all out on this one," he said, trying to carefully undo the intricate ribbons.
"The gift inside…deserved it," she said softly.
He glanced up at her, noted that her lower lip was between her teeth.
What if he doesn't like it? What if he doesn't want to read Nick's journals? He had told her that they had made peace before he left his grandfather with the giant beings, but what if the journals brought back bitter memories of his childhood, abandoned to Social Services while his grandfather continued his archaeological career? She took a deep breath as he opened the box.
Daniel opened the cardboard box and carefully lifted out several journals. He opened the first one. Nick Ballard. These were his grandfather's journals! He looked over at his wife. "How did you find them?" he asked softly.
"The museum of Natural History in Chicago contacted me...well, you actually...about them. They had been in storage, and the curator thought that you would probably want them. Duncan helped me get them through the 'gate," she replied. Her fingers were shaking. He was upset, she was sure of it.
He flipped through the pages. "It's…they're amazing! Thank you!" He leaned over and kissed her.
She lit up the room with her smile. "I hope you don't mind, I read them. It was so…it was like being there with him!"
"I don’t mind," he replied. "So, anything of interest in them?"
"You mean like the Crystal Skull?"
"Yeah, like that."
"No. Although his theories on the disappearance of the Mayans is interesting. Sort of fits with what we've found so far," she replied.
He put his arm around her shoulders, drew her close, and kissed her again. "It's a perfect gift, Angel. Thank you."
A A A A A A
Emily and Evelyn were seated at a little table brought into the dining room just for them, the three youngest were in their highchairs. Everyone was seated, the table groaning under the weight of the food that covered it.
Casey looked around at the faces of her family, the best friends she'd ever had in her life. She was so happy that it frightened her. To be this happy was to tempt fate.
Daniel caught her eye, raised his wineglass in salute, and winked at her. 'Merry Christmas, Angel.'
'Merry Christmas, Sweetheart.'
'Love you, too.'
"Would you two knock it off!"
Casey smiled at Jack. "Nope. Makes you crazy."
Sam giggled. "You should hear some of his theories of what you two talk about!"
Daniel laughed. "I can imagine."
"So, is it like phone sex?" the blonde colonel asked, her eyes dancing.
Green eyes went wide. "Phone sex? That's what you think we're doing…talking about? Sex?"
Jack grinned at her. "Well, aren't you? Don't forget, your eyes give a lot away."
She blushed furiously. "It's not like phone sex," she murmured.
Daniel was laughing harder now. "Nope. Much better," he declared.
"Daniel! We don't always talk about sex!" The laughter that circled the table made her blush even deeper.
He winked at her. "Not always."
A A A A A A
The house was quiet. The kitchen was clean, all of the wrapping paper and discarded boxes were in the garage. They were stretched out on the sofa, watching the lights flicker and twinkle on the tree.
She sighed contentedly. "Today was wonderful."
He pulled her close. "Yeah, it was."
"I'm so happy it scares me."
"I know what you mean. But it's okay, Angel. We've earned every bit of happiness that we have."
She snuggled deeper into his embrace. "True."
"Love you, Case."
"Love you, Daniel."
"Ready to go to bed?"
"Me, either. Let's go to bed."
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