I don't own Cover Me or any of the characters.
Celeste tiptoed into the house. She was almost two hours late for her curfew and her dad would have a fit if he found out. She was almost up the stairs when a light flipped on.
"Going somewhere, Celeste?" her dad asked.
"Um, just going back to bed," she said. "I had to go to the bathroom."
"The bathroom huh?" he said. "Funny, cause I've been waiting up for you for the past 2 hours!"
"Um...." Was all Celeste could say.
"Where were you? What guy were you with this time?" Danny Arno asked his eldest daughter. He couldn't understand. Ruby was only a year younger than Celeste and she didn't give them any trouble. Chance is only a few years younger and he's well behaved too.
"You were waiting up for me?" Celeste asked, her voice rising. "What, were you spying on me? That's invading my privacy!"
"Not when I'm your father!"
Barbara came up behind her husband. "Danny, why don't you let Celeste get some sleep? We can all discuss this in the morning."
"I think I'll sit outside her door. Just to make sure she doesn't sneak out again," Danny said to Barbara.
"Trust me, Dad," Celeste said. "If I want to sneak out, I'll find another way." She stormed up the stairs, muttering something about not being able to wait another 2 years to be free of controlling parents.
Danny ran his hands through his dark hair. "What did we do wrong with her, Barb? Look at Chance and Ruby. They're so different from Celeste."
"There's your first mistake," Barb said. "You keep comparing her to Ruby or Chance. She's not them, Danny."
"No kidding! Neither of them would even think about doing half the things she does!"
Barbara gave her husband a look. "You are a little hard on her sometimes, Danny."
"I have good reason for that," he said. "Of course I have good reason for that."
"And what's your reason?" she asked him.
"Let's go to bed, Barb," he said. "You said we should."
She put a hand on his arm. "I said Celeste. What's your reason?"
"She's my baby girl," Danny said quietly. "I just don't want to see anything happen to her."
"I understand that, really I do," she said. "I feel the same way. But she's sixteen. We can't control her forever."
Danny sighed. "Why not?"
"If we were normal parents with a normal family, we'd have a better shot," she said. "But we're not normal, Danny. It's taken a long time for Celeste to admit that and even longer for her to accept it. She's had to make a lot of adjustments other kids don't have to make."
"Like what? Celeste is a normal teenager."
"No, she's not. You work for the FBI, Danny. We all do. Without us, you'd never solve half the cases you do. Without me getting dirt on the husbands via the wives, without Celeste charming the sons, without Ruby chatting with the grandparents, or without Chance being your back up. No other teenager in the world has to go through that."
"Barb, this is stuff I already know. None of this explains how Celeste is anything but a rebellious teen."
"OK, she can never have people over to the house. She has a different last name and school almost every month. She's always on a case. When does she have time for a life except at night? I'm not justifying her sneaking out. But I can see why she would be compelled to do it."
"I see where she gets it," Danny said. "From her mother. Look, I'll talk to her tomorrow."
"You'd better," Barb said. "Or she'll resent you more than she already does." She headed upstairs to their room.
"She does not resent me!" Danny yelled up, following his wife.
Barbara went into Chance's room and tucked him in. She did the same to Ruby. She was about to go into Celeste's room when she saw Danny sitting on the bed. Celeste was sleeping peacefully, her honey blonde hair fanned out on the pillow. Danny was sitting on the bed, watching his daughter. He pulled the covers tight around her and shut her door softly behind him. Barbara smiled at him and they went to bed.
"Juice, honey?" Barbara asked Chance at breakfast.
"Sure, Mom," he said, reading over the next case they would back Dad up on. Robert D' Angelo was abducting teenage girls and it seemed he was using his sons, Andy and Patrick, to do it. Undoubtedly, Celeste would play a big part in this case.
"So who's doing what on this case, Dad?" Chance asked his father. His father looked up, distracted.
"What? Oh, the case. Ruby goes after the guys," he said looking at Celeste as she sat down with her granola bar.
"What? That's not fair!" she protested.
"Besides, Dad," Ruby said, backing her sister up. "Celeste is so much better at seducing boys than I am."
"Yeah, we all know about her numerous boyfriends," Danny muttered. Barbara kicked him lightly under the table. "My answer stands. Ruby does the seducing."
"You don't trust me!" Celeste said, standing up.
"Honey, it's not that your father doesn't trust you-," Barbara began.
"Yes, it is," Danny interrupted her. "Your daughter proved last night that she couldn't be trusted. Celeste, you have no part in this case."
Barbara was about to kick her husband again when Celeste stood up. Barbara could see the pain and hurt in her daughter's eyes, as well as the tears that were quickly gathering.
"You don't want me on this case, fine," Celeste said quietly. "But don't ask for my help ever again!" She walked outside, muttering something about finally being able to lead a normal life.
Danny felt his family staring at him. He looked up. "What?" he asked innocently.
Barbara gave him a disapproving look and followed their eldest outside. She was sitting against the side of the house, her knees pulled up to her chest.
"Celeste?" She didn't move. Barbara wasn't sure if she had even heard her or not.
"Why does he do this to me?" she asked her mother quietly. "He doesn't do it to Chance or Ruby. Just me."
"Oh, honey," Barbara said. She sat down and put her arm around Celeste. She held her daughter as she sobbed into her shoulder. Danny stood in the doorway behind them, trying to contain his massive guilt.
"Have a good day at school?" Barbara asked Ruby as she came in that night.
"Yeah, and cheerleading was great too," she replied enthusiastically.
"Where's your sister?" Danny asked. Celeste was supposed to pick her sister up after school.
"She's in the car," Ruby said.
"What's she doing sitting out there?"
"Crying," Ruby answered before running up the stairs.
Barbara sighed and looked at Danny expectantly.
He sighed dramatically. "OK," he said. "I'll go talk to her." Barbara smiled at him and gave him a gentle push.
He knocked gently on the car window. She was hunched over the steering wheel. She didn't look up so he tried the door handle. It was locked. He knocked louder. She looked up, her eyes puffy and red. Danny felt his guilt, that had never fully left him, come back at full force.
She hit the door locks and he climbed into the passenger seat. She wiped her eyes as he searched for the right words to say to her. He recalled his conversation with Barbara earlier that day.
"She thinks you don't love her, Danny," Barbara had told him accusingly.
"Where would she get that idea?" Danny found it preposterous. "She knows I love her."
"No, she doesn't! She told me so. She feels you treat Ruby and Chance different that her. And she's right, you do."
"Of course I do," he said. "They have more common sense than she does. They don't need to be watched constantly."
"Neither does she! And she has just as much common sense as they do."
"That's not what I meant," Danny said, sitting down at the table beside his wife. "Celeste has a good heart. She falls for every guy she gets to know. I'm just scared that one day a guy will take advantage of her and she'll be too blind to see it."
"Than tell her that," Barb said. "You have her convinced you don't want her. She thinks she's a failure to you."
"Because you're always telling Ruby and Chance what a good job they do on cases, but you never tell Celeste. I'm always the one to do that."
"I had no idea she felt that way," Danny said.
"It's not good for her to feel that way," Barb said. "It's not healthy, not to mention we've always loved her so much. Talk to her. Tell her you love her. Tell her everything you've just told me. It will help, I promise."
Danny cleared his throat. "Celeste," he began. "I'm sorry-" he was cut off by her cold tone.
"No, you aren't," she said, her voice having no emotion. "You're only out here because Mom told you to come."
"Yeah, your mom told me to," he said. "But I've been meaning to talk to you anyway. I just couldn't figure out what to say."
She looked at him, curious as to what line of bull he was going to give her this time.
"I know you think I'm harder on you than your brother or sister. You're right. I am. But that's only because I care about you."
He paused to see if she was listening, then continued.
"You come to care about every guy you meet, basically. One day a guy will take advantage of that. And by the time you realize what's happening, it may be too late. I don't want that to happen to you, Celeste. You're my baby girl. My first born. I'll always love you, no matter what you do."
Celeste threw her arms around her father, feeling happy that she was loved. "I love you too, Daddy," she whispered to him.