Chapter Three – Kaitlyn's Breakdown

"Kaitlyn, sweetie, dinner's ready!" Elizabeth called.

"Be down in a second!" Kaitlyn answered. She stood in front of the mirror in the upstairs bathroom, staring herself in the face. She traced the scars of the old self-inflicted wounds that plagued her arms. She hated them. She could remember the order in which they were cut, the reasons for every single one of them. It was vividly burned into her memory. There was a knock on the door, and she quickly rolled down her sleeves as far as they would go.

"We're starving, kiddo," Peter said from outside the door. "Are you almost ready?"

Putting on a game face, she opened the door and nodded, following Peter downstairs to the dinner table. Neal and El were deep in discussion over the discovery of some new paintings in Italy. She sat down between Peter and El, and they bowed their heads as Peter prayed over the food.

Peter paid close attention to his daughter of one month. Her attitude had changed lately. She no longer played with Satchmo or went to the park with Neal. She mostly kept to herself, which was very odd. Kaitlyn reminded him so much of Neal, and when Neal was quiet, something was wrong. Peter had a strong notion that it was the same with Kaitlyn. The only time she really acted like she wanted attention was when her nightmares sent her screaming into consciousness, and she found herself being rocked back to sleep in the ever loving arms of Peter Burke.

"Would you like to do something tomorrow?" he asked her. "Neal and I will have the day off, we could all do something as a family."

Kaitlyn smiled and said, "Sure, whatever you guys want to do."

She's way too eager to please us, Peter thought. It's like she's afraid of losing us. We need to prove to her that we're going to be here for her no matter what.

"Nope. Whatever you want to do, sweetie," Elizabeth corrected gently.

"I'm fine with anything," she tried to assure them.

"Come on, sis," Neal nudged, "there's gotta be something you want to do."

Something lit up in her eyes.

"Ah ha! I saw that," Peter laughed.

"Saw what?"

"You thought of something, I know it. Spill."

Kaitlyn sighed, but relented. "I want to go roller skating."

Neal high fived her from across the table, obviously excited over the idea of going roller skating with his family. Peter nodded approvingly and El praised her on such a splendid idea.

Kaitlyn seemed to be a little more open that night.

oOo

The next day, at precisely 1:00, the family of four headed to Skate-Wave. They ordered soft pretzels and pop and enjoyed their outing to the fullest. Kaitlyn and Neal raced around the arena for over an hour, while the smiling Peter and Elizabeth watched from their table. Whenever one of them fell, they couldn't help the sudden tightness that would appear in their stomachs if fear that they might be hurt, but both of them made it out alive and well.

Before they left, Neal and Kaitlyn were successful in convincing Peter and El out onto the skating rink. Elizabeth glided around the arena beautifully – Peter, however, was a little less graceful, as he used the rails to guide himself around the rink while little 6 year olds zipped past him on their own.

"It's not that hard, Peter," Kaitlyn giggled, latching onto his wrist and pulling him off the railing.

"I don't skate," he stated dryly. Kaitlyn laughed harder and pulled him along. However, a young boy almost as bad at skating as Peter, came a little too close to Peter, causing the older man to lose balance and topple over, eliciting a small cry of "Daddy!" from Kaitlyn.

Although he sat on the cold blue floor with a now-sore rump, he felt the same warmth blossom inside of him that he felt whenever Neal called him dad. Kaitlyn, however, looked sick with panic.

"I-I'm so sorry, Peter," she said, helping Peter off of the ground. "I honestly didn't mean to say that, it was completely by accident - "

"Hey, hey," Peter interrupted, stopping her panicked rambling. "I don't mind at all – Neal calls me dad all the time, and I love it."

"But I'm not Neal," Kaitlyn argued. "I'm just…just…Kaitlyn. Why would you ever want me as a daughter?" she asked, honestly confused. Peter's eyes stung with tears at those words, at how little self-worth she thought she had. He was about to answer when Elizabeth rolled up and asked if he wanted to go home now.

He glanced over at Kaitlyn for a second and saw that she was no longer looking at him. She skated off to their table, and began taking off her skates.

"Yeah," Peter sighed. "I think we're done for the day."

oOo

Kaitlyn was quiet at dinner that night. She only spoke when she was spoken to, and she never once made eye contact with Peter. All in all, it was not an enjoyable dinner, even though they were eating El's best dish, tortellini soup with sundried tomatoes.

Finally, Peter had about enough of Kaitlyn's distantness.

"Kaitlyn, I need to see you upstairs for a moment," he said after they had both finished their soup.

"Alright," she answered quietly, getting up from the table and heading upstairs, without another word. Peter was about to follow her, but Elizabeth stopped him.

"Do you know why she's acting so distant?" she asked, worry evident in her voice. Peter nodded, "She called me 'daddy' at the skating rink by accident, and it really upset her for some reason. I told it was perfectly alright, but she couldn't seem to grasp that."

"Make sure she knows that we love her unconditionally," Elizabeth said firmly. "I know she loved her own father, but I think there was more to their relationship then she lets on."

Peter was about to agree with her when they heard Satchmo barking from the backyard. Peter grabbed his gun and immediately went into Protective-Agent-Father mode. He cracked open the door and peeked outside. He suddenly stormed outside, gun back in its holster. Seconds later he was dragging a very familiar, struggling teenage girl into the house.

oOo

Kaitlyn closed her bedroom door and quickly grabbed her satchel. Stuffing a pair of jeans and a tee shirt inside, threw it out of her window and grabbed her makeshift rope made of three extra sheets that she'd taken from the laundry room. She carefully but quickly made her way down the rope, and landed with a thud. She didn't, however, realize that Satchmo was tethered out back, and started barking up a storm the second he knew she was in his presence.

"Shhhh! You'll give me away, Satch!" she said, trying desperately to calm the large dog, but he wasn't having any of it. The next thing she knew, she was being ushered back into the house by one very angry Peter Burke.

"What in the world do you think you're doing?" he asked, grabbing onto her shoulders and forcing her to look at him.

"I-I…" she started to answer but didn't want to finish. She felt as if she was crumbling under his gaze. He looked at her with a combination of anger and fright – like he'd been scared about what might have happened had he not caught her before she'd left the house.

"Do you have any idea what kind of people could be out there right now? Who would kill at the chance to their hands on a pretty young blonde? Kaitlyn, you could have been seriously hurt," Elizabeth said, her voice thick with emotion as she wrapped her arms around the girl. Kaitlyn's breath caught in her throat. Peter wrapped both of them in a tight hug, and that seemed to be the shattering point for Kaitlyn.

"I'm so sorry," Kaitlyn said, finally finding her voice. "I just…I didn't want to be a bother to you guys, and when I accidentally called Peter 'daddy' I thought he would be upset and - "

"Stop right there," Peter interrupted. "You shouldn't have assumed that – I was going to tell you when I went upstairs to talk to you that I would love it if you would call me dad."

"That…that's ridiculous, Peter," Kaitlyn said, stepping away from them. "Don't lie to me, Peter, I can't - "

"I'm not lying, sweetheart," Peter tried to assure her, but she suddenly flew into a fit of fury that rivaled Neal's.

"Yes you are!" she screamed. "You just want to earn my trust so that I'll be a good little girl for you! You don't love me, STOP LYING!"

Peter tried to get close to her but she slapped his hands away and stayed farther back. A few stray tears were spilling down her cheeks, and Peter had never seen so emotions on one face: fear, anger, desperation, anguish. She wasn't trying to hide anything at this point.

"Kaitlyn, sweetheart, you need to calm down," Peter soothed. He noticed Neal watching from foot of the stairs, eyes wide with nervousness. Neal nodded towards him as a way of saying he was there to help if Peter needed it. Kaitlyn saw Peter's eyes look past her, and she whipped around to see what he was looking at. Realizing she was cornered, she had a literal mental breakdown: she pressed herself against the wall and covered her head with her arms, sliding down onto the floor and becoming a sobbing mess on the floor.

Elizabeth felt so helpless, watching this terrifying and heartbreaking scene take place before her eyes. All she could do was watch while Kaitlyn suffered through the breakdown, and that made her cry. Neal went to his mother and wrapped his arm around her shoulder, pulling her into his comforting embrace.

Peter very slowly approached Kaitlyn, careful not to do anything to further this breakdown.

"It's OK, baby girl," he said softly. "It's OK. I won't hurt you, I won't leave you. I'll never betray you're trust. I want your trust because I want to make you happy, I want you to feel as much a part of this family as we consider you to be. You're so precious to us, so special."

Her sobbing quieted, but she kept herself in her feeble position.

He reached over and rested his large hand on the side of her head, encouraged when she leaned into his touch instead of recoiling. Taking a chance, he gathered her practically weightless frame up into his arms. She held onto him so tight that Peter swore he felt his ribs crack, but he ignored it. The important thing here was comforting his daughter, his little girl.

And rest assured, there would be a lot of comforting.

oOo

TBC

Enjoy it? I hope so :D This was a crazy emotional thing her me to write so I hope it is satisfactory to you all.

THE NEXT CHAPTER WILL CONTAIN SPANKING. Just a warning. So heed it lol.

Love you guys
REVIEW!

~Rebecca