Smiling Back IV
By RogueAngel

Disclaimer: I don't own them, I'm just borrowing them.
Summary: The beginning of Danny and Kate's life together.

Chapter 1

August 14, 1945

Danny stood on the porch watching Grace and little Danny run around the yard with Ramsey yapping at their heels. He looked at his watch - about 15 more minutes and they'd have to get into their party clothes. Kate and Evelyn were right; there was no sense in getting them all fancied up until just before the wedding. They'd only get dirty.

The screen door opened behind him and he heard Rafe's steps.

"How's it going in there?" he asked his friend.

"Fine, fine," Rafe told him, coming to stand next to him, an infant in his arms. "Sammy boy here woke up a bit early, so he's fed and happy. Now Ev and Kate are back to fussing about their hair and lipstick." Both men grinned. "Minister show up yet?"

"Not yet," Danny looked at his watch again. "It's early."

Rafe looked him over carefully. "Then what are you so anxious for? You're not nervous are you?'

Danny looked at him startled. "Nervous? No, I'm not nervous. Not at all." He smiled, reaching to take his son from Rafe's arms. "I've been waiting for this day for a long time. Haven't I Sam?" The baby gurggled a bit, trying to stuff his father's tie into his mouth. Expertly Danny retrieved his tie and handed his son a toy to gnaw on.

"Then what are you waiting for?" Rafe asked, his eyes watching the kids in the yard. "Danny! Don't even think about climbing up there!" he called to his son. Caught, the three year old frowned and climbed down from the tree sheepishly. Both Danny and Rafe smiled at his forlorn look.

"You are going to have your hands full in a few years," Danny told his friend, laughing softly.

"Yeah, well, your hands aren't too empty now," Rafe pointed out, nodding to Grace who was trying to get into the chicken coop. "And if this one,' he nodded toward Sam, "is anything like those two, then you are in for one hell of a ride."

"Grace!" Danny called, rolling his eyes at Rafe. "Get away from the chicken coop."

"But daddy, I want....." she started to argue.

"No Grace," Danny told her firmly. Seeing her frown, he relented slightly. "After the wedding we can get a chick out." Her face lit up. "But only after, you understand?"

"Yes!" she called excitedly, racing after Danny to tell him the good news.

"Softie," Rafe whispered under his breath. "She's got you wrapped around her finger," he joked.

Danny smiled. "She's had me like that for a long time," he admitted. "Just wait until you have a girl." Rafe frowned slightly at this, but didn't respond.

A comfortable silence desended over the two friends as they stood on the porch. "So who are you waiting for?" Rafe asked again.

Sighing, Danny looked over at Rafe. "I invited some guests, only I don't know if they're going to show or not."

Rafe looked surprised. "I thought it was only going to be us and the minister."

"Well, it was," Danny told him, looking slightly uncomfortable. "But when I was in New York the last time I ran into Kate's father. I'm pretty sure it wasn't an accident because he knew who I was seeing and what I was doing there. He apologized for his decision to leave me in China. I think he really wanted to know how Kate was doing. She sends back all his letters unopened and will only communicate with his lawyer," he told his friend. "He asked when we were getting married and I told him and invited him to come," Danny shrugged, still not sure what had possessed him. "I think it would be good for him to talk to Kate. She still loves him, despite everything, and I think he wants a chance to make things up to her."

Rafe thought about it for a minute. "Does Kate know?"

Danny shook his head. "I don't know whether they are coming or not, so I didn't want her to get all worked up."

Rafe nodded in understanding. "I spoke to Jason Freeman," Rafe said, changing the topic.

"Why?" Danny glanced over at his friend curiously.

"I wanted to talk to him about getting your land back to you." Danny started shaking his head, but Rafe continued talking. "I know we talked about this. You want to teach so you don't need the land, but I just don't feel right keeping it in my name. While you're away at college I can work the land like I have been and take a part of the profits. The land should be in your name. It's your land by right, Danny," Rafe told his friend. "I don't want it."

"Neither do I, Rafe," Danny argued. "What am I going to do with a bunch of farm land? I don't mind working on the farm to help you, but I don't want to own one. I don't want the respondsibility. I want to teach. Mr. Johnstone at the high school already said that he'd have a job for me when I finished my degree. That's what I want to do. I don't need the land. And we don't need the money from the sale of the crops."

"I wouldn't mind buying it from you," Rafe offered.

"I don't want to sell it to you," Danny told his friend a bit harsher than he meant too.

"Well, why the hell not?!" Rafe asked, taken aback by Danny's tone.

Danny sighed, shifting Sam to his other arm. "That's not what I meant," he tried to explain. "I don't want to sell the land to you - I don't need the money - I want you to have it. Farming is what you do, Rafe, it's in your blood and you enjoy it. I don't mind helping out, but I've never liked it the way you have. I want you to have the land, okay? We've been through a lot together, and I guess, it's my way of saying.....thanks," Danny ended awkwardly.

"It's too much," Rafe began, but Danny interrupted.

"I'm not just giving it to you, Rafe," he said exasperated. "Someday this land will pass down to Danny....and any other children that you and Evelyn have. I want them to have this - from me." He looked over at Rafe, willing his friend to understand that he needed to do this.

Rafe thought about it for a moment, finally seeing Danny's true motivations. This wasn't about charity or thanks, this is was about wanting to give something to his son. "Fine," he agreed reluctantly. "For Danny."

A smile crossed Danny's relieved face. "And any other kids you plan on having," he reminded his friend.

Rafe nodded uncomfortably, looking of into the distance. "Well," he began hesitantly. "It might just be Danny."

Surprised by his words, Danny looked questioningly over at Rafe. Rafe tried to smile, but it didn't work. Danny began to worry. "What's up, Rafe?" he asked.

Rafe shrugged. "Nothing," he told his friend. "Nothing's wrong, it's just....well, we've been trying to have a baby for over a year now and nothing's happened. I know Evelyn's starting to get worried that something might be wrong and well, if something is....." he trailed off. "I don't think that I can be a father," he finally stated.

Danny was confused. "Of course you can. You're a great father."

"That's not what I meant," Rafe explained, his eyes focused straight ahead. "I mean I don't think that I can...*be* a father. Evelyn didn't have any problems getting pregnant with Danny and there were no complications before or after he was born. If there's a problem now, then it's probably mine. I don't think I can father children."

Danny just stared at his friend in shocked silence. He could see the pain in Rafe's face; how difficult it was for him to talk about this. "You can't know that for sure," Danny said, trying to find some way to bolster Rafe's confidence. "These things can take time. You don't....."

"You haven't had a problem," Rafe said bitterly.

Involuntarily Danny took a step back, feeling as if Rafe had sucker punched him in the gut. "Rafe..." he began, not quite knowing what to say.

"Oh, Jesus, I'm sorry Danny," Rafe apologized, his hand running over his face. "I didn't mean that."

Danny looked at his friend closely. "Yes you did," he said softly.

Rafe looked over at his friend, seeing the sadness in his eyes. "Yeah," he agreed, "maybe I did."

They stood silently for awhile. Neither one ready to talk yet. In the months since Danny's return relations between everyone had gone along smoothly. They had talked about many of the issues that could have been stumbling blocks that first night and it was almost like old times. Evelyn and Kate's friendship grew stronger. Rafe and Evelyn's marriage remained as strong as it was before, and Danny and Kate's relationship blossomed as it had promised to in China. It was only between Rafe and Danny that a tension still remained. For the most part things between the two men were as they had always been - best friends and brothers, but there were times when there was an underlying tension - especially when they were dealing with the kids.

Danny had recognized this and tried to compensate for it. When he first arrived he was a novelty to little Danny. Grace wanted to do everything with her dandy, and because little Danny usually followed her lead, so did he. It hurt Rafe, though he understood why the children acted like that. Danny tried to include Rafe, but it didn't always work. Only one person at a time can tell a story.

There was also the fact that Danny had been a father for longer than Rafe. He was a more relaxed parent because he had been through so much with Grace. He had helped raise her for two years, while Rafe had been absent from little Danny's life for the same amount of time. Rafe had only settled into raising a child when Kate had shown up and her shocking news threw the new family, and Rafe specifically, into turmoil. Little Danny loved Rafe, but in some ways there was a bond missing between them and Rafe felt it's absence. That was one of the reason why Danny had chosen the University of Tennessee instead of the small college nearby. If he and Kate and the kids were gone for a few years, that would give little Danny and Rafe a chance to bond again, without any other influences. And yet, they were still close enough to come home for the holidays. It had seemed like a good idea at the time.

But now, if Rafe and Evelyn couldn't have kids....that made things all the more difficult. Rafe had changed slightly since Sam was born. There were times when Danny caught him watching Sam with such a wistful expression and when Danny would play with his son Rafe would sometimes leave the room. Danny had thought it odd, but now he understood. How would Rafe feel if he and Kate and their children lived nearby and he still had none of his own in five years? Danny knew that Rafe thought of little Danny as his own and that he would always love him, but someday little Danny would find out that he wasn't really Rafe's son, that biologically he was Danny's. That would be hard for everyone, but if Rafe had no other children what would that do to him?

Rafe cleared his throat, interrupting Danny's worried thoughts. "I'm, uh, sorry," he said hesitantly.

Danny looked over at him. "You don't have anything to be sorry for, Rafe," he told him.

"I shouldn't have said..what I said," Rafe told him, shaking his head. "It wasn't wasn't right for me to say that."

"If you said it then it must have been bothering you for awhile," Danny replied, wanting his friend to finally open up. "I'd rather hear it straight out then not at all."

"But today is...."

"It doesn't matter, Rafe," Danny told him. "You are my best friend. I love you, and if something is bothering you I want to know. This wedding is just a formality for me and Kate. It's not as important as you; as us. We'll be leaving tomorrow and we won't see you again until Christmas. I don't want something festering between us."

"It's not between us, Danny. It's me. It's all me." Rafe ran his hand through his hair, looking off in the distance.

"But it's affecting us," Danny pointed out. "I know you better than just about anyone, Rafe. And I've known something's been bothering you for awhile now. I was hoping that by leaving and giving you some space...."

"I don't want you to leave because of me, Danny," Rafe interrupted. "This is your home as much as it's mine."

Danny smiled softly, seeing that Rafe really meant it. "I'm glad." He waited for Rafe to continue.

Rafe frowned as he thought about what he wanted to say to his friend. "It's never bothered me that Danny isn't really mine," he began slowly. "He's a part of Evelyn....and you, and I love him. I guess you can understand that, what with Grace and all. It's just...." He shook his head in frustration. "This has nothing to do with Danny. I want you to understand that," he looked over at his friend.

"Okay," Danny replied frowning slightly, not sure where Rafe was going with this.

"When we thought you were dead...I felt like part of me was missing," Rafe began. "It was the most horrible feeling in the world, but I had Evelyn and eventually little Danny make me whole again. Evelyn and I never really talked about what happened while I was in France. I tried not to think about it. I undertood happened between the two of you, and that was enough....." he sighed, "until you came home." Danny looked over at Rafe, surprised by his admission. "I forgave you along time ago - if it was ever my place to do so. You thought I was dead, things happen. No one meant to hurt anyone, I know that, but now, seeing you with Evelyn......I didn't expect to feel so.....jealous," he finally admitted.

Danny's eyes widened in shock. "Rafe, there's nothing going on........"

"I know that, you idiot," Rafe told him. "It's your past together that I'm having problems dealing with. There are things that Evelyn knows about you, or about us as kids that I haven't told her ....things you know about her...I didn't think about it when you were...dead....but now I see it every day. Little things. The way you relate to each other. I know you both so well, yet there is this....chapter...that I'm missing, that only you two know." He ran his hand through his hair, looking over at Danny briefly. "Jesus, you even slept with my wife before I did."

This surprised Danny. "You didn't...." Danny started to ask before he thought better of it.

"No we didn't," Rafe told him. "Not that it matters, really."

"It seems that it matters to you," Danny said softly. He cleared his throat uncomfortably, feeling the need to explain some things to Rafe. "We were together only five or six weeks before you came back," he began awkwardly. "We spent a lot of time together, but mostly with the group - Red, Billie, Joe, Tony, Betty, Sandra, Gooz. We talked a lot about you; about our childhood. We just plain talked a lot. It was a relief to be with someone who shared the same grief. Both of us had lost you when you were shot down, Rafe. We were both carrying around the same pain." He glanced over at his friend, trying to decide how much more he wanted to say. "If it makes any difference, we only...slept together... once. It was totally unplanned never happened again."

"Once?" Rafe asked.

"Yeah," Danny nodded solemnly.

Rafe closed his eyes, chuckling softly.

Of all the reactions, this was not the one Danny expected. "What's so funny?" he asked, at a loss to explain Rafe's reaction.

"You sure do have a way with women," Rafe said, shaking his head ruefully.

"What's that supposed to mean?" Danny asked defensively.

"It means," Rafe said, a frown now on his face, "that I've been trying to get Evelyn pregnant for over a year, and you managed it in one - unplanned - night. How long did it take for Kate to get pregnant? I got the feeling from listening to you guys that you didn't ....get together...or whatever, until just before she left."

Danny looked away from his friend, his cheeks flushing hotly. "What's your point, Rafe?" Danny asked, a note of hostility in his voice; his eyes hard.

"It means," Rafe began, his voice suddenly thick, his eyes locked onto Danny's profile, "that you gave Evelyn something I haven't been able to - a child." He looked away, blinking rapidly. "It means that I look at Sam, and I look at Evelyn and I see the longing in her face. I look at Danny and know that he's not just my son - he's ours, yours and mine. I see you with Sam, watching him grow and change, being his father...and I realize all that I've lost because of the damn war! I missed out on Danny's infancy. I missed all of his firsts because I was in a goddamn plane and now I'm realizing that all those things might be forever lost to me. I will probably never hold a baby of mine and watch it grow up. And I'm so damn grateful that I at least have Danny, but I'm as jealous as hell of what you have. I want that for me and Evelyn. I want Danny to have brothers and sisters," Rafe's voice cracked.

Whatever hostility Danny had been beginning to feel suddenly drained away. He could see how much this pained Rafe. He could hear the tears in his voice.

"I'm sorry," Danny said softly.

Rafe sighed, wiping a tear from his cheek. "For what? For living your life? For loving your wife? For wanting a family?" Rafe shook his head. "Don't get me wrong, Danny. I am happy for you. Kate is a great girl and I see how much you love each other. I wish you all the happiness in the world. You have two wonderful kids and I hope you have more." He looked over at Danny briefly, smiling fondly when he noticed that Sam had fallen asleep in his father's arms. "The the past. I'm going to have to learn to deal with it. And as for the future, well, I'm going to have to learn to deal with that too."

"You don't know for sure..." Danny began.

"No, I don't," Rafe admitted. "But I'm pretty sure."

Danny sighed. "Maybe," he began, his heart starting to beat loudly in his chest. "Maybe Kate and I should move somewhere else after I graduate. I..."

"Don't you do that Danny," Rafe told him vehemently. "Don't you stay away. This is your home and you belong here. I love you. And I love Kate and Grace and Sam. You are my family and you belong here. I just need time. These past months have been difficult and I'm dealing with things I had never....expected to. It really has nothing to do with you. Like I said. It's me. It's all me."

"Are you sure?" Danny asked hesitantly. He didn't like the idea that he was causing Rafe pain yet again, but he knew there was nothing he could do about it. He guessed that if Evelyn had been pregnant then none of this would have ever come up.

"Of course I'm sure," Rafe smiled. It didn't quite reach his eyes, but it was warmer than it had been. "We're family. Land of the free..."

"Home of the brave," Danny answered, smiling back at his friend.

Rafe looked away from his Danny. "Minister's here," he nodded toward the old truck puttering it's way up the drive. "Time to get the kids dressed. Danny! Grace!" he called. "Time to come in!" he started walking down the porch steps in search of the kids. "I'll take care of these guys. You entertain the reverend."

"Thanks a lot," Danny called after him.

Rafe laughed, seeing Danny's discomfort. "There's only so much I'll do for family and entertaining that old windbag isn't one of them!"

Danny laughed softly as he followed his friend down the stairs, moving to intercept the incoming truck.