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When Two Hearts Collide

Chapter 24

Daniel leaned a hip against the counter, watching as Casey pounded the veal cutlets they'd picked up at the grocery store. Along with a cart full of other stuff. He didn't think he'd ever used a cart in his life to do his grocery shopping. An admission that had brought a roll of those amazing green eyes, and the observation that it explained the absolute dearth of food in the apartment. He couldn't help but smile when he thought about the way those green eyes had widened, then sparkled, and filled with so much love it had nearly bowled him over, when he'd pulled her into his arms and slow danced with her…right in front of the peanut butter. He'd always liked Chicago's 'You're the Inspiration.' Had often thought of Sha're when he heard it. But now it was Casey who filled his heart, his mind, his thoughts. His memories of Sha're were tucked safely away in his heart, there whenever he wanted to hold them, look at them. But all of those dark, empty places, that aching void that Sha're's abduction and death had left was full of sunlight, and long blonde hair, and big green eyes, and more love than he could ever remember receiving from anyone.

Just having him standing nearby gave her such a feeling of safety…of warmth…of joy, that she couldn't hold back the soft sigh of happiness that filled her. She coated the veal in flour, dipped each piece carefully into an egg and water mixture, and then into the carefully seasoned breadcrumbs that she'd created using her new food processor. Having everything she'd ever wanted at her fingertips made her nearly giddy with excitement. She dipped her fingers into the cup of water that sat near the stove, splashed a few droplets onto the heating skillet. They sizzled and jumped, disappearing almost immediately. She slid the cutlets into the heated pan, browned them carefully on both sides, then lowered the temperature and put a lid on top. Checked the sauce that simmered on the back burner. Dumped the spaghetti into the boiling water that waited.

"Anything else I can do to help?"

She smiled at him. He had already helped her make the salad. Had put the water on for the pasta. "You could open the wine while I set the table."

"I think I can manage that," he said, smiling in return.

Working side by side with him in the kitchen had been a dream come true, one that she'd never even realized lurked in her heart. Not until she began to examine just what it was she'd always wanted in a man. Wasn't surprised to find that Daniel fit the bill, perfectly. She sighed again, gathered the plates, salad bowls, placemats, and flatware that they would need. The plates she left on the counter, the rest she took into the dining room.

Daniel followed her with the wine and two wineglasses. He glanced over at the tree. Seven foot tall, probably as big around, blue spruce and heavier than hell. Casey had started to object at the fifty-dollar price tag. Because it was only ten days before Christmas, the salesman had been willing to knock ten dollars off the price. With the tree lashed to the top of the jeep, something he'd never had to do before, because he'd never bothered buying a tree before, they'd gone to the mall.

Watching her had been more fun than he'd had in a long time. She'd asked, very seriously, if there was any particular 'motif' or 'theme' that he preferred. He hadn't had a clue what she was talking about, and had told her so. When she had explained, he'd asked her what she liked. When they both agreed that they preferred the 'hodge-podge' of cheerful, favorite ornaments, her face had lit up, and she'd started on a search for various colorful decorations. She preferred bead garland, he liked the strands of tinsel. They decided to compromise…and use both.

"Sweetheart?"

Her soft voice filtered through to him. "Hmm?"

"Is something wrong?"

"Nope. Just thinking about how much fun I had today," he replied honestly. Felt his heart skip a beat when that amazing smile lit her face.

"Oh, I did too!" she sighed. She glanced at the tree. "I don't know if I'll be able to wait until tomorrow to start decorating."

"Who says you have to?"

"We're having dinner late, and then the kitchen will need to be cleaned up, and it takes awhile to get a tree just right-"

"And we don't have to get up for anything in the morning," he interjected.

"I guess we could sleep in."

"Yep."

"I don't have to finish it tonight if I don't want to."

"Nope."

"Are you going to help me? I mean, if you don't want to, that's okay, it's just so much more fun if-"

He put his finger against her lips. "When I was little, my mom would make hot chocolate, and we'd sip it while we decorated the tree, and sang Christmas carols."

She smiled. "Vicky would put her Christmas albums on, and we'd sing with them while we decorated the tree, and sip spiced cider."

"Okay, so spiced cider or hot chocolate?"

"Are you kidding? Hot chocolate, of course!"

He grinned. "Glad we bought that chocolate powder."

She raised an eyebrow. "That stuff is fine for a quick glass of chocolate milk. Proper hot chocolate takes unsweetened chocolate squares and sugar and just the right amount of vanilla, and then you add the milk, and top it all off with whipped cream and chocolate sprinkles."

"So, do we have that stuff?"

She giggled. "Yes, we have that 'stuff'. Hot chocolate is a necessity for Christmas Eve! After walking around and looking at the Christmas lights-" she stopped, dropped her eyes.

He tucked a finger under her chin, lifted her face. "After walking around and looking at Christmas lights…then what?"

"Then you come home, have hot chocolate and play Scrabble. At least, that's what Vicky always did."

"I haven't played Scrabble in ages," he murmured.

"We don't have to do that, any of it," she added quickly.

"Angel, this is our first Christmas together. I want to establish so many traditions that our kids are going to groan every time they hear Christmas bells."

She giggled again. "They'll groan, but try to skip any, and they'll complain."

"Loudly," he grinned.

"I think this is going to be the best Christmas I've ever had," she said softly, before turning and hurrying back into the kitchen. She flipped the cutlets over, and turned off the heat beneath the sauce. "If you could put the salad on the table, we can start eating. This will be done in about ten minutes." She poured the spaghetti into the colander, rinsed it well, then let it finish draining in the sink.

 

 

 

He looked at the plate, the cutlet nestled on a bed of spaghetti, covered with thick, rich marinara sauce, mozzarella cheese melting in a gooey white layer over the top. Took a bite and closed his eyes as his taste buds jumped for joy. "Oh, god, this is delicious!"

She smiled happily. "I'm glad you like it," she replied.

"Like it? My mouth thinks I died and went to heaven!"

Casey giggled. "That's what happens when you eat out all of the time. One simple home cooked meal and you don't know what hit you."

"If this is just a sample of what you can do in the kitchen, I'm going to have to talk to Teal'c about working out more often."

She studied him for a minute. "Daniel, can I ask you a question?"

"Anything, Angel," he replied, shoveling more of the veal and spaghetti into his mouth.

"Are you…um…well…are you happy?"

He chewed, swallowed, wiped his mouth with the napkin - cloth, thank you very much. "The phrase, 'does a bear shit in the woods' comes to mind." He took her hand. "Casey, I can't remember being this happy…ever. Yes, Angel. I'm happy." He didn't have to ask if she was. The smile on her face, the light in her eyes said it all.

She nodded, went back to eating. Her heart dancing in her chest until she thought it would burst through her ribs and jitterbug on the table.

 

 

 

The kitchen was cleaned up, the hot chocolate sat in cups on the coffee table, and the tree stood in the middle of the floor near the bookcases. It would be pushed closer to the window and the French door once it was properly decorated.

Daniel watched from his place on the stepladder as she sorted through the ornaments. His job, she had informed him, was to get the lights onto the tree. If he was remembering correctly, and he was certain that he was, his father had always been 'in charge' of the Christmas lights. Christmas carols were playing softly on the stereo, in deference for their neighbors above and below them. She was singing softly as well. In that moment, that instant, life was perfect. Absolutely perfect.

 

A   A   A   A   A   A

 

Decorating the tree had been fun…and entertaining. Casey had meticulously put one strand of tinsel at a time on the tree, and when he had taken handfuls of the stuff and tossed it at the tree, the look on her face had been one of horror…and absolutely priceless. He'd laughed for over an hour. While she took his 'wads of tinsel' and made them 'acceptable'. Then they had sat in the dark, snuggled together on the couch, watching the twinkling of the lights. When gentle touches and soft kisses had led to the intense need that seemed to simmer just beneath the surface in both of them, they had made love on the floor in front of the tree.

The weekend had passed too quickly. When was the last time he had felt that way, willing to stay at home and do nothing? Which is exactly what he and Casey had done on Sunday. He'd walked to the corner to get a newspaper. They'd lain in bed reading it, sometimes reading a section together, other times reading separate sections. They'd worked the crossword puzzle together. Fixed dinner together, what Casey considered a 'throw together' casserole that had been warm and rich and tasty. Then he had spent the evening teaching her the basics of chess.

"So, Danny, ready to get back to work?" Jack asked, pulling a black tee shirt over his head.

Daniel buttoned the green fatigue pants. "I guess so."

The older man's head came up. "Come again? Is this Doctor Daniel Jackson, Space Monkey and workaholic who won't leave the SGC unless physically removed when he's in the middle of one of his projects?"

The young archaeologist grinned. "I didn't have a reason to leave. Why go to an empty apartment?"

Jack grinned as well. "Found something besides your rocks to focus your attention on, eh?"

He closed his locker door. "Yep. Are we taking a jeep to the shooting range?"

"Yep. I talked to Teal'c yesterday, he's going to come up with a schedule to train Casey on some hand-to-hand techniques."

Daniel nodded his approval.

"…so in walks Doc Jackson with this…goddess…I swear to god I popped the Mother of all hard-ons just looking at her…she has the sexiest ass I have ever seen, and man, would I love to play on that swing! That walk of hers is enough to leave you on the floor begging-" the man's voice stopped when the two men turned the corner from the showers into the locker bay. The speaker cleared his throat. "Doctor Jackson," he said in acknowledgement.

It was hard not to grin. It really was. Because she was a goddess. She did have the sexiest ass he had ever seen. And the sway of those slender hips left him hard and wanting, too. Then there were her beautiful boobs, and those sweet lips, and that enticing little twat…"Murphy," Daniel replied. He'd worked with SG-6 a time or two.

"Uh…no disrespect meant, sir," the man said uncomfortably. "No offense meant, either."

"None taken," Daniel responded.

Jack grinned. "Gotta admit, Danny, she's hot."

"I never said she wasn't," Daniel retorted. "She's the most beautiful woman I've ever seen."

"That's for damned sure," Murphy muttered.

"C'mon, Danny. We're gonna see if Casey is as good with a gun as she is pretty."

"If she is, watch out," Murphy grinned.

The grin he had been trying to hide escaped. "That's for damned sure," Daniel said, grinning at the Special Forces sergeant.

 

A   A   A   A   A   A

 

She had donned the BDU that Sam had brought into the locker room for her. A nameplate bearing her name was already on the locker beside the blonde major's. She was trembling; nerves, she knew. Daniel had explained that they would be going to the firing range so that Colonel O'Neill could get an idea of how proficient she was with a firearm. He'd also told her that she would most likely be assigned to SG-1. When she'd protested that she had absolutely nothing to offer the premier team of the SGC, he'd smiled, and touched his finger to her temple.

 

"You give us an edge, Casey. One that we've never had before. One that could turn the tide in the war we're fighting."

 

"Casey?"

She shook herself mentally. "What?"

Sam smiled. "Ready?"

"Yeah, I guess so." She took the heavy coat that the major had been holding for her.

"Nervous?"

"Scared to death."

"Don't be," Sam grinned. "From what I've heard, you and your friend were a force to be reckoned with."

She couldn't help but grin in return, thinking of the Saturdays, sometimes entire weekends, spent wandering through the wilderness in the Cascade Mountains, playing laser tag. Besting the other teams. Even those made up of military personnel. "Yes, we were," she said proudly. "Ricky was a Navy Seal. He taught me everything I know."

"Well, let's go see how much he taught you."

Jack, Teal'c, and Daniel were waiting near the elevator for the women. "Ready to impress me?" Jack asked with a grin.

"I don't know. How easy are you to impress?" she asked in return.

The man chuckled. "Not very."

"Then I doubt very much that I'll impress you," she replied with a shrug.

Something told him that she was wrong. "Let's go, campers. General Hammond wants to meet with Casey at eleven hundred."

 

 

 

The firing range was the first of three sublevels in one of the 'warehouses' that stood in the middle of nearly one hundred and fifty acres of forestland owned by the U.S. government. The warehouses were used for training exercises, as well as providing emergency headquarters in the event that the SGC was overrun or taken over by hostiles, be they domestic, foreign, or alien.

Jack checked out four weapons…a 9mm Beretta, a P90, a sniper rifle, and a Staff weapon. She'd never seen the alien weapon before, and was curious to its abilities. "Which type of weapon have you had the most experience with?" he asked.

"Rifle and 9 mil," she replied.

With a nod, he handed her the rifle, and the box of rounds. Watched as she familiarized herself with that particular weapon. Smiled approvingly when she loaded it carefully, precisely. He pulled up a large target, in the shape of a man. "Impress me."

Ricky had taught her how to handle real weapons before taking her to play laser tag, an advantage that the other teams lacked, especially when playing against groups from nearby McChord Air Force Base, or the Fort Lewis Army Base. It had been awhile, but the weapon felt familiar. With a curt nod of her head, she brought the weapon up, settled it against her shoulder, brought the target into focus using the sight-scope. And fired the five chambered rounds, ejecting the empty shells with calculated ease.

"Holy Hannah!" Sam exclaimed.

Daniel stared at the slender blonde. She'd placed all five rounds within three inches of one another near the 'heart' of the target.

Jack whistled softly. "Dead as a doornail."

"Most impressive," Teal'c acknowledged.

Casey smiled. "I had a Navy Seal for a teacher," she said softly.

"So we were told," Jack replied. He took the rifle, handed her the 9mm. When she had emptied the chamber, he pushed the button that brought both her first and second targets to the booth where they stood. "Nice placement," he admitted, examining the cardboard targets.

"Thanks."

She'd never handled an automatic weapon before, and listened carefully as Jack described it, explained how to use it. Her first experience with the weapon left her hands and shoulder tingling from the rapid, repeated recoil. But she'd managed to destroy the target.

"Teal'c, if you would, please," Jack said, stepping out of the way.

The giant man stepped next to Casey. "This is a Staff weapon. It is what all Jaffa carry. It is a most formidable weapon." Without turning his head, he swung the weapon around as it charged, then blew the wooden target at the end of the lane to smithereens.

"Holy shit!" she breathed. Her cheeks turned pink when she realized she had spoken out loud. Her companions chuckled. "This is what those men in the infirmary were hit with?"

Sam nodded.

"Ouch."

"To say the least," Daniel grimaced, rubbing his shoulder absently.

Teal'c demonstrated the proper way to hold the weapon, and how to fire it. Nodded approvingly when Casey destroyed the second target.

The young blonde turned to face Jack. "What else have you got?"

He stared at her for a few seconds. Then began to laugh. "We have grenade launchers."

"Do I get to fire one of those?"

Jack shook his head. "Not today, Gung Ho. Suffice it to say I'm confident that in a firefight, you'll be able to hold your own."

He'd hoped that she would be good enough that Jack would recommend to General Hammond that Casey be assigned to the team. He hadn't expected frickin' Annie Oakley! It took a hell of a lot to impress Jack. He was impressed. Those brown eyes had widened as he watched the slender young seer tear through targets like a hot knife through butter. Daniel snorted. "Take 'em all on herself," he muttered. He missed the worried glance she tossed in his direction.

She pulled her lip between her teeth. Daniel was upset. Because she was good with weapons? He'd already told her that he carried a 9mil on all missions, often carried a P90 as well. But she'd sensed that he wasn't comfortable with the fact that he had to carry the weapons, or that he was able to use them with ease.

Sam glanced from the young woman to the archaeologist and back again. Could see the worry in Casey's eyes. And something she didn't recognize in Daniel's. She entertained the thought of slugging Daniel, just on principal, but managed to keep her hands in her pockets.

Jack, who liked to play dumb, but was a far cry from being such, had caught the look that Carter had given the two, studied them himself. And, unlike Carter, had no problem reaching out and slapping Daniel on the back of the head.

"Ow! What the hell was that for?" Daniel demanded angrily.

"Pay attention to your surroundings," Jack replied, shoving his hands into his pockets and leading the way to the elevator. Sam and Teal'c followed.

Daniel glanced around the room. What the hell was Jack talking about? His eyes stopped on green ones. Oh, shit! Her fear, her worry was there for all to see. Except him. "I'm an idiot," he muttered under his breath.

Casey had turned to followed the rest of the team, only to find familiar fingers wrapped around her arm. She looked up into blue eyes that were full of love.

"So, think you can cover my ass when I’m busy trying to translate an artifact to get us out of trouble?" he asked, opting for levity. Hoping to see her smile.

"As long as I'm not distracted by said ass," she replied dryly.

He snickered. "You're damned good, Case."

"And that bothers you," she returned.

"No-" he stopped short at the look in her eyes. Damn, this whole seer thing could be a pain! "Maybe a little bit."

She shook her head. "Maybe a lot."

Okay, honesty time, he thought. Why does it bother me that she's so damned good with those weapons? Because, his brain informed him, it means she doesn't need you to protect her. And you want her dependant on you. As dependant as you can make her. He frowned slightly. "Only because you're a better shot than I am," he said slowly.

"You're not jealous, Daniel. It's something else," she said softly.

"Yeah, it is. If you're that good, what do you need me for?"

Like a light bulb above her head, she suddenly understood his fears. She glanced at the trio waiting by the elevator. Slipped her hand into his, laced her fingers with those long, strong warm ones. "I can fire at targets, Daniel. I have no idea if I'll actually be able to shoot another living being." She rolled her eyes. "I can't even shoot a rabbit for dinner, for heaven's sake."

"There's a story there, I think," Daniel smiled.

The rest of the team listened with interest as Casey told about being in the middle of a laser tag competition. They had only what they could carry in. Which meant that there wasn't room in the small rucksacks for a lot of prepared foods. Ricky had told her that they would 'catch dinner on the run'. He'd set a trap, told Casey to watch it, and when a rabbit, or something equally edible wandered into it, she was to shoot it…one clean shot between the eyes, using his 9mil. He'd set out to secure the perimeter of what was to be their camp, and to start a fire. To cook their meal. And a rabbit had indeed wandered into the trap.

"I took one look at that little face, and that wiggly little nose, and those eyes that looked right into my soul, and I just couldn't do it. So, I sprang the trap and let it go. Ricky was pissed, but he didn't say anything. There was a stream not too far from where we camped, and we managed to catch a couple of small trout," she said.

Jack chuckled. "Okay, that means Case stays in camp when we're looking for dinner."

She giggled. "Just be sure to clean it and butcher it elsewhere, or I won't be able to eat."

The ride back to the mountain was full of chatter, each of the team telling Casey about the missions they'd been on; the terrifying moments, the funny moments, the moments of wonder that had taken their breath away. Preparing her, in that unique SG-1 way, for being on the team.


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