Chapter 12

Danny entered his room quietly. Actually, it was his room no longer; it was their room, he corrected himself.

The room had been his from the age of 13 until he and Rafe had left for the army when he was 20. It hadn't been made into a guest room or sewing room in his absence- it was the same as he had left it, just waiting for him to come home. He had never felt like a guest in the McCawley house. From the day he moved in after his father had shot himself, Danny had been treated as another member of the family. Another son. And his room had been perserved as such - just like Rafe's old room. It was a shrine to his teenage years. His old books and magazines still lined the shelves, the photo's of his friends, girlfriends and favorite baseball players still adorned the walls, and his old baseball mit still rested just where he had always left it - on the dresser.

The only difference now was that he could detect a decidedly feminine presence. Kate had bee living in the room for the past 7 months and her touches could easily be seen among his old things; a pretty embroidered pillow, some hair bands and brushes on the dresser, a straw hat perched on his baseball bat. The room was definitly theirs now.

Danny smiled. How many nights had he slept in this very bed dreaming about girls and his future? Too many to count, he knew, but now he had the girl of his dreams in his bed waiting for him. That was something his younger self would never have believed.

Pulling back the covers, he slowly slid into bed, spooning up to Kate. She instinctively snuggled back against him, her backside rubbing against him provocatively. This bed was the same size as the bed they had shared in China, but Danny had to wonder how they would manage to sleep in it now. Kate was a lot bigger. He placed a hand on her belly, still awed by the life moving inside her.

"Did they finally fall asleep?" Kate asked sleepily.

"Yeah," Danny replied, kissing her shoulder. "Sorry, I didn't mean to wake you."

Placing a hand over his, Kate yawned. "You didn't. I've been dozing off and on waiting for you to finish up your story."

"And one more. And one more. And just one more..." Danny grinned. "They were insatiable."

"Well, Grace missed you," Kate told him. "She talked about you all the time. I think she piqued Danny's curiousity a bit."

They were quiet for a bit, both thinking over Kate's words.

"He's a wonderful little boy," Danny finally said, a slight catch in his voice.

"Yes he is," Kate agreed, her hand rubbing his arm comfortingly. "He's smart, confident, curious, caring....he's your son," she told him softly. "Rafe and Evelyn have raised him well."

Danny pressed his forehead between Kate's shoulderblades, his breathing becoming labored. Kate's heart ached for the pain she knew he was feeling.

"Did I do the right thing?" he asked imploringly, sounding like a lost little boy.

Kate brought his hand up to her face and kissed it tenderly, craddling it against her cheek. "How do you feel about it?"

Danny sniffed. "It hurts," he admitted. "But I think it would hurt worse to know that I was hurting Rafe - again. I don't want to confuse Danny, either. Rafe's the only father he's ever known and for me to step in and tear apart their family like that....I just can't do it." His voice hitched with a small sob. "I've interferred enough in Rafe's life. I can't take Danny away from him."

"You love him," Kate told him reassuringly. "You love them both."

Danny nodded against her back. "I do, and I don't want to hurt them anymore. I won't. But I don't want Danny to think that I don't care...that I don't love him. I don't want him to think that he was a mistake."

"He won't, Danny," Kate said, the conviction in her voice giving Danny a little comfort. "When he's old enough he'll have questions, but you - you and Rafe and Evelyn - can explain it to him. He is loved. He has always been loved. Maybe he will only know you as Uncle Danny, but that won't change what you feel for him. He'll understand that eventually." Squeezing his hand, she kissed it again, wanting him to feel her love. "You made the right decision."

Saying nothing in response, Danny kept his face pressed against her back, his tears wetting her nightgown. Slowly his tears stopped.

With a shuddering breath Danny pulled away from her, pulling her onto her back and then helping her turn to face him. He simply looked at her for a moment.

"I missed you," he finally said as they lay face to face, her belly pressing between them.
"I really missed you." He reached up to stroke her face, his eyes tracing over her features lovingly. "I didn't realize just how much until I saw you sleeping on the couch. You are my life, Kate," he told her. "My soul." He smiled slightly as he wiped away the tears that were beginning to fall from her eyes. "When you left I felt so empty - like my heart had been taken away." He reached into the bodice of her nightgown, pulling out the chain that she always wore. Attached to it was his pilot's ring; the ring that he had pressed into her hand as a promise all those months ago.

He looked up into her luminous eyes, bright with tears. "I told you that I would marry you and now that you are a free woman I'm asking." He smiled at her, his brown eyes glowing with love. "Will you marry me, Kate?"

A tear ran down her cheek. "Yes," she whispered, lifting her face to his.

They kissed tenderly, holding their passion in check, but letting their love flow freely. Reaching up to caress his bruised cheek, Kate pulled away. "I love you," she whispered.

Kissing her nose, Danny grinned. "I love you too."

He moved to pull her closer, but was unable to. Her belly was in the way. They both laughed softly. Danny reached down to caress their child who replied with a vigorous kick.

"As much as I'd like to marry you before this one is born," he said, patting her belly, "I don't think it's going to be possible. According to just about everyone I was killed in action. Somehow I have to figure out how to resurrect myself and then we can get married." He frowned. "I don't think it's going to be very easy. It might take a long time."

"It's okay," Kate told him. "It doesn't matter to me."

Danny looked at her with soulful eyes. "Well, it kinda matters to me."

Kate caressed his face again, a small smile on her face. "In my heart I was married to you a long time ago. That's enough for me."

Danny kissed her again, amazed at the depth of the love he felt for her.

Pulling away, a frown creased his brow again. "Are you sure you want to marry a guy like me?" he asked. "I know your family has a lot of money. Right now I don't have a penny to my name. Everything that was mine - the farm and my father's house - belongs to Rafe now, since technically I'm dead. And honestly, I don't know if I want it back." He paused thoughtfully. "Well, maybe the house, but I don't think I want to be a farmer. I've kind of been thinking that I want to go to college, maybe become a teacher and do some writing. I don't know how I'm going to go to college and support you and Grace and this one," he rubbed her stomach. "I know Rafe would help us out - let me work on the farm with him, but I don't want to live off Rafe. It won't be easy for us - at least for a couple of years, not as bad as China, but not as good as I had hoped......"

Kate listened as he rambled on about his plans and insecurities about their future. She could hear his boyish enthusiasm warring with the more adult worry of providing for his family as he thought they deserved. Obviously he had lots of time to think about this. Finally, though, she took pity on him and stopped his monologue by placing a finger against his lips.

"Money is not a problem," she told him. "I don't care if we live like we did in China, as long as we're together."

"Well, yeah," Danny agreed, looking down at her, "But I want better than that. I want to be able to support our family and that's going to be difficult until I'm officially alive again, and even then it'll be a few years....."

Kate placed her finger against his lips again. "Money is not a problem," she repeated.

"But..." Danny tried to protest, but Kate wouldn't let him.

"You were right," she told him. "My family has money. A lot of money. So does Micheal's family." Danny frowned. "As his widow I'm entitled to his assets. His mother is trying to fight it, but my father is seeing that most of it comes to me."

Danny's frown deepened. "I don't......"

"I don't want his money, either," Kate said, knowing what Danny was going to say. "But I won't turn it away - for Grace's sake. I've told my father to put it into a trust fund for Grace and any other children we have. Micheal's money will be theirs. As for you not being able to support us...." Kate paused. She didn't know how Danny was going to respond to her bit of news. She new some men didn't like the idea of their wife being able to provide for the family better than he could. "When I turn 25 in May I will gain access to my trust fund. It's my money - set aside a long time ago by my grandparents and my father. When we marry it will be our money."

Danny swallowed nervously. "How much?" he asked softly. When she told him his eyes bulged. Kate had to bite her lip to keep herself from laughing at his obvious distress. "Kate, I...I can't... it's..." he was at a loss for words.

"It's my money," she told him. "It will be ours. We don't have to have the kind of lifestyle that that kind of money can provide. But we can live comfortably." Danny laughed uncomfortably at her understatement. "We can do whatever we want," she emphasized. "You can go to college and then you can get a job teaching. We can fix up your old house and live there, near Rafe and Evelyn. You can teach or write or both, it doesn't matter to me - as long as we're together."

Still partially in shock, Danny looked down at her, seeing her earnestness. "So what are you going to do? Eat chocolates all day?"

Kate smiled. "I am going to be a wife and a mother and I'm going to raise our half dozen kids. I don't need extravagance. I just need you." She looked up at him expectantly, hoping he realized what a gift this money could be.

Letting out a puff of air, he offered her a wobbly smile. "Okay, sounds good to me," he finally said. "We'll have to talk about it some more, but I'm not stupid enough to say no." Leaning down he kissed her once again.

Kate woke up slowly, the morning light just beginning to filter in through the window. The pressure on her bladder was getting pretty painful, but she didn't want to get up just yet.

At some point in the night she had moved from their original spooning position so that she was now facing Danny. He looked so peaceful and handsome as he slept, her heart tightened as her eyes began to well up. He was actually home, she reminded herself. She hadn't dreamed it all.

Looking at him laying there she could see some of the changes their time apart had wrought. He had filled out across the chest and shoulders, as if he had been doing heavy lifting and the scars on his chest had faded to an even lighter shade of pink. But his face was still the same; incredibly handsome and yet boyish at the same time. Her own Adonis.

Grace's small snore drew Kate's attention. She smiled as she saw her daughter once again craddled lovingly in Danny's arms. 'My two angels,' she thought. 'My heart and soul.' Kate closed her eyes, feeling her emotions welling up uncontrollably. Since Danny's arrival yesterday she had focused on everyone's feelings but her own. Danny, Rafe, and Evelyn had settled their long standing issues. And Danny had decided on his roll in little Danny's life. Kate was glad these worries had been put to rest so soon, because now she and Danny could move on with their life together.

A wave of love and relief coursed through her body as she watched Danny and Grace sleeping peacefully. A small sob escaped her lips. She couldn't stop her tears from silently falling. Her dream had finally come true, she realized. The man she loved had held her tenderly in his arms all night long, and now, in the early hours of the morning their children lay in bed between them - one cradled in his arms, the other cradled in her womb.

Danny's eyes opened slowly. He smiled softly, seeing her tear streaked face, his love for her evident in the depths of his warm brown eyes. He reached a hand out to carress her cheek, wiping away her tears. Kate nuzzled his hand, feeling so profoundly happy that she thought her heart might burst.

"I love you," he said softly, so as not to wake Grace.

"I love you too," she whispered. And she meant it with her whole heart.

End Smiling Back III

SBIV is a work in progress at the moment. I will post when I have more.