Irisa's eyes blinked open slowly, the room swimming into focus. At first all was quiet and peaceful, though she had the strangest feeling she had been frightened just before. But an instant later she sensed another person next to her and her instincts kicked in. She was wide awake in moments, jerking to a sitting position, a knife pressed to the person's throat before he could blink. "Whoah there kiddo! It's just me." Irisa finally recognized her father and dropped her knife arm.

"Nolan! You scared the shit out of me! I could have killed you!" she said, anger quickly overwhelming her surprise.

"I'm not worried, I taught you better control than that," he responded quietly. The reminder of her unconventional upbringing only increased Irisa's ire.

"Yeah, thanks so much for that," she muttered bitterly. The hurt that passed over her father's face almost made her want to take it back. She looked away instead, choosing to ignore the heavy sigh at her back.

"We need to talk, kiddo." he finally said wearily. "I get that you're angry with me, but you have to understand, in my experience what you can do is impossible. How was I supposed to know your visions were real?"

"Yeah, in your human experience," she spat.

"What other kind of experience am I supposed to have?" he replied, getting a little angry himself. "Last I checked, I was human."

"Well, maybe that's the problem! You don't understand me. You can't!"

"I'm doing the best I can. It's not like there's a truckload of human/Irathient parenting books available," he said, struggling to rein in his instinctive angry response.

"Well, why didn't you just give me back then?!" Irisa yelled. Part of her knew that her rage was misplaced, but she really didn't care right now. She was so confused and frightened and this man was all but admitting he couldn't do anything for her. "Didn't you think I'd be better off with my own people?"

"I did think about it at first, but..." Nolan trailed off, rubbing tiredly at his face. Finally he sighed and looked up at her. "You know, you didn't smile for the first two weeks, kiddo. Skittish as a wildcat, wouldn't let me near you most of the time, cried every night. I didn't know what to do, and yeah, I thought your people would understand you better. But then there was that day... do you remember it? By the lake?"

Irisa nodded silently, falling automatically into the calm listening mode that always came out when her father told her stories. "You taught me to catch a fish."

Nolan gave a haggard laugh. "Nah, what I did was convince you you could catch one with your bare hands. There you were, knee deep in the water, grabbing at anything silver that flitted by..." He grinned at her, and as always his enthusiasm was contagious.

"I still remember the look on your face when I actually caught one," she said, a smirk crossing her face.

"I'll never forget yours," he replied seriously. "First time I saw it, big as the sun and twice as bright. You smiled at me and I was lost." And for a moment he looked exactly that, torn in multiple directions. Irisa found herself laying a hand over his on the bed, her previous anger forgotten. He looked up at her, startled, and she offered him a quiet version of the smile he so loved. He stared for a second, then cleared his throat and continued, dropping his gaze to their hands. "It wasn't until 3 months later that we finally came across a group of Irathients in a market. You looked at them, then back at me, and your little hand gripped mine so hard. You hid your face against my leg and started sniffling, and I couldn't do it. I couldn't give you to them." He flipped his hand palm up under hers and squeezed her fingers gently, lips twisting into a melancholy smile.

She remembered, of course she did. She remembered being small and frightened, terrified really, that the man she had come to trust, despite his inherent strangeness, would suddenly leave her like everyone else had. She remembered grabbing for his hand and praying to Irzu that he wouldn't let go, wouldn't abandon her to these strangers. And he hadn't; not before, when she had shied away from every touch, not then, when she clung to him for safety and stability, and not after, when the nightmares began to afflict her. He had always been there for her in his uniquely human way, so how could she blame him for not giving her up to the people who had all the answers, when she had all but begged him not to? She suddenly felt like a selfish brat, whining because life threw a curve ball at her and he hadn't hit it out of the park for her.

"I'm sorry I don't have all the answers, Irisa. I wish I did," her father continued, eerily echoing her thought. "Maybe it was selfish of me not to give you up, maybe you would have been better off with the Irathients, but I just couldn't. You'd been abandoned when I found you and I couldn't take the thought of being just someone else who left you behind. And by then you held my heart in your tiny fist. I tried to picture waking up the next morning without you bouncing around the campfire, asking me what we'd be having for breakfast, and it felt like someone was ripping my heart out. I couldn't leave you." He turned to her with his most earnest expression and was stopped dead by the look of love and acceptance on her face.

"I'm glad you didn't, Dad," she whispered, leaning in and kissing him on the cheek, laughing inside at his startled jump. "I love you."

Nolan was a bit confused by this sudden change in attitude but the years of raising an Irathient child had taught him to roll with the punches. So he only laughed and swept her into a one-armed hug, planting a kiss on the top of her head.

"I love you too, kiddo."


So I was watching the end of The Devil In the Dark, and maybe it was because I'd had a bad day and was sleep deprived, but I teared up a little watching Nolan sitting there in the dark, holding her hand. Watching it again got me wondering about that conversation they could have had in the bar, but I wanted to keep that scene. So this is what came of it. Obviously I made up their backstory whole cloth, so it'll probably be jossed next epi, or maybe already has been and I just forgot. *shrug* I felt like I rushed it, and I'm a bit iffy on characterization, so let me know what you think, please! =) Also I've come to the realization that I can't write anything but schmaltz and I'm not sure if that's a good thing. =/