Category: Slash, Drama, Angst, Established Relationship
Pairing: Jack/Daniel ... and it's all J/D
Season: Beyond the Series - October 25, 2014 - April 20, 2015
Written: May 23-25,28-29, 2008 Revised for timing only: October 3, 2009
Summary: Heartache of the young and innocent is sometimes the most painful of all. Just ask Little Danny Jackson-O'Neill.
Disclaimer: Usual disclaimers -- not mine, wish they were, especially Daniel, and Jack, too, but they aren't. A gal can dream though!
1) Sometimes, Jack and Daniel speak almost telepathically. Their “silent” words to each other are indicated by asterisks instead of quotes, such as **Jack, we can't.**
2) Silent, unspoken thoughts by various characters are indicated with ~ in front and behind them, such as ~Where am I?~
3) This fic stands alone, but it does reference my other fic(s), “Noa Grows Up”
4) Thanks to my betas who always make my fics better: Tammy, Ali, Melissa, Linda!
“... it was the holy flower of the ancient Assyrians, and to the
Chinese, it means 'forever in love',” Little Danny concluded, having
spoken for a good four minutes on the subject of lilies, their origin
“I never knew so much about lilies,” Karissa Lewis responded, enjoying the beauty of the lily she held in her left hand.
“It's pretty, just like you are,” Little Danny praised as he walked alongside the woman, his left hand tucked securely in her right hand.
Karissa smiled and leaned down to give the young boy a kiss on the cheek before asking, “Hey. How about a hot fudge sundae?”
“Mmmm,” Little Danny answered with a grin.
“Come on,” the young woman said as she steered the boy towards the closest ice cream shop.
“I think you're prettier than all the lilies in all the world.”
“You're my hero, Little Danny. Thank you.”
“I had a wonderful time, Dar,” Karissa commented as she and her date, Darren St. James, walked up to the door of her condominium.
“You sure you aren't just saying that?” the handsome black-haired man with a charming smile spoke.
Karissa laughed softly and replied, “I would never fib to a company client.”
“That's not why you finally agreed to a date, is it?” the hazel-eyed man asked as he moved closer to the attractive young woman.
Smiling, Karissa raised her hands to rest against her date's arms, just as he extended out his hands to rest on her waist.
“I'd never do that.”
“Good,” Darren spoke, leaning forward in the hopes of getting a first kiss to accompany the first date.
“Oh, sugar!” Karissa sighed, bowing her head slightly just as her lips had touched Darren's.
“Sugar?” Darren asked curiously.
“I'm around a lot of children,” Karissa began. “I needed a word to express my ... you know. I can't swear in front of them. I heard a woman golfer use the term once, and I decided it was a sweet way to swear, if there is such a thing,” she explained with a giggle to complete her words.
“That explains that, but why the saccharin swear?” Darren asked, pulling back to give the woman space.
Karissa took a breath and then looked into the man's eyes. She shook her head and opened her purse to pull out her keys.
“Kari?” the man asked, using the nickname he'd begun calling her when they were in the offices of J-O Enterprises, where they'd met.
“You'd think it's silly, and you wouldn't understand. I don't even understand,” Karissa muttered.
For a moment, the woman considered it, but then she shook her head again and stated, “Darren, I like you; I really do, but as crazy as it sounds, I can't do this. I should probably be committed for being loyal to ... well, it's silly, but it's just ... I'm sorry. I just can't.”
“That's not much of an explanation.”
“I know, but there's really no point. To be honest, I've been here before. I usually end up either being told off or laughed at. I'd rather remember this evening as the almost perfect one it was.” Karissa leaned forward and gave the man a kiss on the cheek before saying, “Thank you. Goodnight, Dar.”
Darren watched his date disappear inside her condo and sighed, ~Women. I don't think I'll ever understand them.~ Walking towards his car, he chuckled, ~But this one is worth a little mystery and effort.~
“Oh, I'd better get back,” Karissa said, reaching for her coat and purse.
“Kari, go out with me tomorrow night,” the man implored with sparkling eyes. It was a few weeks later, and he was determined to convince the intriguing J-O Enterprises employee to go out with him again. ~I won't take a 'no'.~
Karissa sighed and said, “Darren, we've been through this. You're in town for business, and we've had a wonderful lunch, just like we've done before, but I just can't.”
“Tell me why.”
The woman drooped a bit in her chair, clutching her coat to her chest.
“C'mon, Kari. Trust me.”
“Oh, why not. All you can do is laugh at me or tell me I'm a lunatic like other men have,” Karissa sighed.
“I'm listening,” Darren stated expectantly.
“There's a little boy, a very sweet, wonderful, loving child. I've known him his entire life, and he ... well, he ...”
“... has a crush on you.”
“I guess that's what you'd call it, but I love that little boy, and I won't do a thing to hurt him, so call me crazy, but I can't kiss you. Every time I start to kiss a man, I see Little Danny's face. There is no one on this planet who is as trusting as that boy. I won't deceive him.”
“He's a child.”
“I know that, and I can see which way you're headed, so if you'll excuse me,” Karissa said, starting to stand up.
Darren reached out, his hand gently gripping the woman's arm as he requested, “Please. Sit down. I want you to explain it to me.”
Contemplating her options for a moment, Karissa decided to sit down again and attempt to explain her position.
“Darren, soon, he's going to figure things out for himself, but I just can't push him. I love that little boy, and he trusts me. There really isn't more to say beyond that.”
“He doesn't recognize the age difference?”
“Sure, he does, but children don't see the logic.”
“So how long do you plan to be loyal to a child?” Darren asked.
“Until he breaks up with me,” Karissa responded with a tiny smile on her face. “It'll happen. One day he won't light up like the sun when I walk in the room. One day he won't throw his arms around me and hold on to me like I'm all he has. One day, he'll meet a pretty girl his age, and I'll just be ... Aunt Rissa.”
“That's what he calls me. It's his special name for me; no one else calls me that.”
“He must be very special,” Darren said softly.
“He is. Look, Darren, I'm not running or hiding from some deep fear or anxiety. I don't have a men fetish or a dating phobia. I want a relationship. Someday, I want to get married and have children, but I'm going to wait until Little Danny is old enough to not want me.” Karissa grimaced, groaning as she admitted, “Oh, that sounds so bad.”
“No, not really,” Darren sighed with a hint of understanding. “It's actually very selfless of you.”
“I ... Dar, I do like you, very much. Maybe one of these days I'll be more willing to move forward, but please don't push me.”
“Dinner tonight?” Darren asked. “No strings. We'll do Italian. I *won't* try to kiss you,” he promised.
Karissa smiled and said, “Okay. Sure.”
After Darren paid their tab and as he and Karissa were heading for the exit, the man asked, “Not that I want to ask anything to stop our dinner plans, but isn't just going out with me, in some way, a betrayal?”
“No,” Karissa answered. “He knows I date, and he's okay with that. That's what 'grown up people' do, he says, but he doesn't understand about kissing and ... physical things. I guess it's just me, but ...”
“I get it,” Darren assured with a smile.
“I hope so.”
“... and Dad said, 'I'm gonna pluck your feathers and pack them for you,' and then Ptolemy said, 'not leaving, not leaving', and then Dad made a funny noise and just walked away,” Little Danny told Karissa as he sat on her lap in her office at J-O Enterprises.
It was mid-December and the office was adorned with holiday decorations. The Christmas season was always a big deal at J-O, and decorations had gone up right after Thanksgiving.
Karissa laughed, “That bird sure does get the best of your dad.”
“She's a queen. She outranks a general,” Little Danny spoke seriously before chuckling at his own joke.
“Little Danny, you're a gem.”
With a grin, the boy threw his arms around the woman and expressed joyfully, “I love you, Rissa.”
With a joyful smile herself, as the boy pulled back, Karissa replied, “I love you, too. You are a beautiful little boy.”
Slowly, the child prodigy's grin faded. In the few seconds that passed, he experienced a lifetime. He recalled his first memory of meeting Karissa and how he thought she was the most beautiful lady he'd ever seen. He recalled their 'dates' and how she always made him feel better when something was wrong.
Then the boy's mind wandered to his sister, Chenoa, and how hurt she'd been when Teal'c had announced his engagement to their Aunt Janet. Chenoa was a little girl, and Teal'c was an adult. Somehow, it all made sense to Little Danny then, and he'd never compared it to his relationship with Karissa -- not once, not ever.
“Little Danny, what's wrong?” Karissa asked, her hand on his cheek. “Danny?”
“I'm a little boy,” the child responded vulnerably.
“I know,” Karissa replied very quietly, sensing that her young beau was finally making the connection.
“You're not a little girl.”
Suddenly, Little Danny began to sniffle. He tossed his arms around the woman again, and she held him close.
“It's ... it's not fair. Rissa, why am I little boy when you're not a little girl?” the upset youngster asked.
“I don't ...”
Just then, Deena Daly, a temporary employee hired from a local employment agency, walked in and interrupted, “Karissa, Mister Barnes is on line two.”
“Please tell him I'll call him back,” Karissa replied quickly and sharply.
“But he's insisting; he says the deal is off if ...”
“Then the deal is off,” Karissa stated forcibly. “Please give him my apologies, and tell him I'll call as soon as I can; and, Deena, close my door please.”
With a nod, the employee backed out of the office, shutting the door behind her.
“Daddy says sometimes life isn't fair, but it's really not fair.”
“I know exactly what you mean,” Karissa responded, holding the boy's head close to her shoulder and leaning her head against his. “When you grow up, you're gonna be a knockout.”
Little Danny climbed down and turned to stare deep into Karissa's eyes.
As serious as any adult, the child announced, “When I grow up, I want to marry you.”
Karissa smiled, saying, “You're going to make a wonderful husband. You're sweet, caring, intelligent, compassionate; you stand up for yourself and your family, and you're not afraid to say what you think and fight for what's right, like with your turkeys. A girl would be crazy not to want you.”
Little Danny grinned and asked, “Rissa, will you marry me when I grow up?”
Karissa smiled, seeing nothing but sincerity and love in the little boy's eyes.
All the woman could think of to say was to repeat her last words -- “A girl would be crazy not to want you.”
Little Danny's grin grew even bigger, and he jumped into Karissa's arms. He snuggled against Karissa with his little arms wrapped as far around her as he could reach.
“Is Karissa in her office?” Daniel asked Deena.
“Yes, she is, but she didn't want to be disturbed,” Deena answered.
“Busy day,” the archaeologist mused innocently.
“Actually, she's with your son. I'm afraid we've lost the Barnes account because of her decision to play with him instead of taking Mister Barnes' call.”
The groans and turned heads from those nearby were immediate. Deena had just issued her own pink slip.
Daniel nodded and picked up the phone.
“Dora, Deena Daly is headed for reception. I'd like you to make sure she gets out of the building safely. After that, please call the employment agency and tell them we don't require her services anymore.” Hanging up the phone and seeing the woman's shocked expression, Daniel explained, “It's not the comment you made about my son, but I don't appreciate your accusation and conclusion about the Barnes account. Even if it's true, it's not up to you to tell me about it. Thank you for your time. Bibi,” he said expectantly, knowing the longtime employee would make sure the temporary worker exited the building without any mishaps.
“Of course,” Bibi acknowledged, walking over to accompany Deena to her desk to get her things and then to the exit.
Daniel tapped on Karissa's door and walked in, saying, “Excuse me.”
Little Danny scooted down off Karissa's lap and said with a bit of realistic sadness, “It's really not fair.” Then he hurried to Daniel, hugged him, and said, “I'm gonna get Jonny and Ash now.”
“Okay,” Daniel acknowledged, though his namesake was already out the door. He looked over at Karissa and asked, “What happened?”
“Daniel, I'm sorry. I think we lost the Barnes account, but I couldn't talk to him when he called. I had ... other priorities.”
“I don't care about the Barnes account,” Daniel assured, walking around to sit on the corner of the woman's desk.
“He's figuring it out,” Karissa spoke about the young boy as she turned her desk chair to the side to better face her boss. “He's not there yet, but he's close. For the first time, he knew he was a little boy, and I wasn't ... a little girl.”
“Yeah. Jack and I have been meaning to talk to him, but ...”
“I'm surprised it's taken this long. I mean, I'm just me; nothing special here.”
“Little Danny thinks you're everything,” Daniel stated unnecessarily.
“He proposed just now,” Karissa advised, smiling sadly.
“We'll talk to him and ...”
“No,” Karissa interrupted, reaching out and lightly taking her boss's hands in hers. “Daniel, please don't. I couldn't live with myself if I were the one to cause him pain.” She eased her hand back as she sighed in angst over what was happening. “I mean, I know he's going to be hurt when he really realizes what ... I ... it sounds crazy, but I want him to ... to grow into this on his own terms.”
“Karissa, I've heard some talk about ... well, what I'm trying to say is, I don't want you thinking that because we're ... uh ...”
Karissa laughed, shaking her head as she spoke, “Daniel, this has nothing to do with you and Jack, or J-O, or my dating, or not dating. It has to do with a young boy who *is* growing up. I simply want him to do that as painlessly as possible.”
“Absolutely.” Karissa smiled and asked, “So, what do you think about your son marrying a woman twenty years his senior?”
Daniel smiled in response and answered, “I'd be proud.”
Leaning back in her chair and composing herself, the young woman chuckled, “If I had any brains, I'd wait for him, too. They don't make 'em like Little Danny these days. He's gonna be a catch, Daniel.”
“I'll see you tomorrow,” the archaeologist responded, standing up and smiling as he headed for the playroom where the Munchkins were.
Gatherings of the J-O employees were now a regular event on the calendar. After their very first company picnic, Jack and Daniel realized that getting together to have fun and not talk business was great for morale and enhancing the sense of family that they wanted for their business. As a result, the get-togethers were being held more frequently. Sometimes, clients would be invited as well, such as today's barbecue. Today's event was the first of the new year.
“It wasn't the best movie, Dar, but I did love the company,” a happy Karissa said as she talked with Darren about the 'friendship' date they'd had the night before.
“The company was the best part,” the good-looking man replied.
As he walked over to talk to Karissa, Little Danny saw the strange man. He noted the young woman's bright smile and the man's eager expression.
“Dar, you're really too ...” Karissa paused, seeing the boy approach. “Hey.”
Reaching up to take her hand, the middle Munchkin spoke, “Karissa, I want to show you something.”
“Okay, Sweetheart,” Karissa agreed, taking the boy's hand. As they started to walk away, she looked at Darren and said, “I'll talk to you later.”
“I may have to leave soon, but I'll call you, Kari.”
Little Danny's head snapped back upon hearing the nickname. Somewhat out of character for the youngster, he glared at the man for several seconds before putting the stranger behind him.
“Who's that, Rissa?”
“His name is Darren St. James. He's a client.”
“Why'd he call you 'Kari'?” the boy questioned.
“It's just a nickname. When I was a little girl, some of my friends used to call me that, too.”
“I like Karissa better.”
“Me, too,” the woman said, smiling down at her child beau. “You know what?”
“I like Rissa the best of any name I've ever been called,” Karissa confided.
Little Danny's eyes brightened, matching the happy smile on his face.
“That's just for us, right?”
“Just for us,” the woman agreed.
“Munchkins, front and center!” Jack called out a couple of weeks later.
“We're here,” Jonny called out as the trio hurried into the entranceway.
“Ready?” Jack asked his lover.
“Yeah, let's ... oops, be right back.”
“Where are you going?” Jack asked, watching his lover head back towards the stairs.
“I forgot my pin,” Daniel explained, referring to the special pin that he and his lover had exchanged while taking their vows during their second wedding.
“Hey, I worked hard on picking that out,” the older man shouted in a teasing manner.
“That's why I'm running up the stairs to get it,” Daniel laughed.
“What?” Jack asked Little Danny whose expression was both intense and contemplative. “You look so serious.”
“People give people things to show that they belong to each other, huh? Like your initial pins?”
“They sure do. It's just symbolic, but ...”
“Dad, what time are you going to be home?” Jennifer interrupted as she walked down the hallway.
“Four-ish. Any problems?”
“Nope,” Jennifer replied. “I'll be here to meet the troops when they come marching home,” she chuckled.
“Okay, I'm ready,” Daniel announced as he hurried forward, smiling as he pointed to the lapel pin that was easily visible.
“About time,” the older man stated with a smile.
“Let's hit the road, Jack,” Daniel chuckled, getting a groan from his lover. “Bye, Jen.”
Not quite a week later, Little Danny ran into the den, a magazine in his hand. He tugged on his younger father's hand and motioned for him to push his chair back.
“What's the rule about running?” Daniel asked as he picked up the boy and sat him on his lap.
“I'm sorry, Daddy, but I wanted to show you this,” Little Danny stated eagerly about something he'd seen in a catalog.
“That's very pretty.”
“Daddy, do I have enough money in my piggy bank to buy this?”
Daniel looked at his namesake, fully aware that when the boy was operating purely from his heart, his genius seemed to turn off, at least a bit, and usually where money was concerned.
The object pictured was a twenty-four karat gold-plated heart with a sparkling solitaire diamond on the bale and seventeen faceted crystals adorning the front of the pendant. Inside the heart was a genuine four-leaf clover on mother-of-pearl. It hung on a twenty-four karat gold necklace. On the reverse side of the pendant the words 'Love', 'Faith', 'Hope', and 'Luck' were engraved, one special blessing for each clover leaf.
Unfortunately for the child prodigy, he'd spent a great deal of his piggy savings at Christmastime. Fortunately, however, his younger father couldn't deny him.
“We'll loan you the money,” Daniel offered, not sure of his decision, but knowing exactly why the boy wanted it. He was rewarded with a giant smile and hug. “I need some help with some research, and I think you can handle it, okay?”
“Okay, Daddy. I'm ready to go to work, but can you order this for me first? I wanna make sure it's here on time.”
Daniel nodded and proceeded to order the special present.
“Have you seen the picture of her little cousin?” Jack asked later that night when the lovers were discussing the necklace and their son's 'girlfriend'.
“She's cute,” Daniel spoke. “Actually, she looks a lot like Karissa.”
“Yeah. Karissa told me that her parents insist the kid is a chip off of the Karissa block,” the older man mused.
“Do you know why Karissa's never introduced Little Danny to her cousin?”
“She's afraid Little Danny will think she's trying to push him away by setting him up with her cousin,” Daniel explained.
“Different, but I know what she means,” Daniel said. “Jack, I know I could cancel the order that Little Danny and I placed earlier, but I'm not going to. I'm ... I'm going to give him that loan so he can give the necklace to Karissa like he wants to.”
“I don't know, Danny.”
“We have to let this play out. I don't want to go through what we did with Noa again,” Daniel said.
“Isn't buying the necklace ensuring that it will, or at least increasing the odds?”
“No, I don't think so,” the younger man responded. “Karissa wants Little Danny to mature at his own rate. She's making a lot of sacrifices for him. Look, Chenoa never saw it coming. She was totally and completely blindsided. Little Danny is different. He knows there's an age difference; he's just not quite ready to deal with it yet. Let's let him have his moment.”
“That's why you're doing this? A last hurrah?” Jack questioned.
“Would it hurt, Jack, to let him have one more Valentine's Day with his first love?”
“No, Angel, it wouldn't,” Jack said, taking his Love into his arms.
The two held on to each other, aching for what was almost a certain, heartbroken future for the child genius. Knowing what had to happen soon, they resolved to make his present joyful for as long as possible.
“Darren, you shouldn't have,” Karissa said, smiling at the roses that the man had just hand-delivered to the condominium.
“You know how I feel.”
“And you know my feelings about this,” Karissa spoke. “You promised me you wouldn't push.”
“I'm not, Kari. I just want to make sure you know I'm still here.”
“So, since I'm here ...”
“Rissa?” Little Danny called out, a concerned frown on his face.
Behind the boy, standing several yards away, was Daniel.
“Wow! So handsome,” Karissa praised. She looked at Darren and said, “I have plans; I can't, and I won't change them.” Handing the flowers back to the man, she smiled. Then she reached inside the door for her wrap and handbag. Locking the door, she looked down at the young boy and said, “I'm ready, if you are.”
Little Danny stared at Darren and then reached out for Karissa's hand, leading her towards his father.
Daniel moved aside, letting Karissa and his son pass. A moment later, Darren walked over and stood by him.
“She's a hard cookie to crumble,” Darren spoke.
“I'm afraid my son has a, uh, a really, really ... *really* big ... crush on Karissa.”
“That's what she says,” Darren acknowledged. “I don't think he likes me very much.”
“You're his rival,” the archaeologist pointed out. “He may be young, but he's pretty perceptive.”
“Rival?” Darren chuckled. “Daniel, I can't even get in the door.”
“Daddy, come on!” Little Danny beckoned anxiously.
“Bye,” Daniel said, a tiny smile on his face as he walked away.
“It's for you,” Little Danny announced from his seat at the table.
Daniel was playing chauffeur at his son's insistence. Karissa could have driven, of course, but this was a special occasion, and he didn't want her to have to 'work' at all. Thus, the archaeologist had made arrangements at the Mexican restaurant, which was one of Karissa's favorite places in Colorado Springs, in advance for two tables, close to each other, but not so close that he could eavesdrop on the conversation.
Dinner and dessert had been served, and now it was gift time.
Karissa's mouth was agape as she stared at the beautiful piece of jewelry.
“It's radiant,” the woman said. “Little Danny, this must have cost you a fortune.”
“I'm working for it. Daddy gave me a loan,” the Munchkin admitted with pride.
“I don't know what to say,” Karissa responded as she held the jewelry box in her hand, admiring the necklace.
Little Danny smiled sweetly and asked, “Rissa, will you be my Valentine?”
“This year and every year that you want me to be,” Karissa answered, leaning over to give the boy a kiss on the cheek.
“Daddy!” When Daniel approached, the boy asked, “Will you put it on Rissa for me?”
“Sure,” Daniel agreed as Karissa pulled back her hair.
“Thank you, Daddy,” the boy said expectantly, ready for his daddy to return to his own table.
With a nod, Daniel returned to his table. He was determined not to interfere in any way, but he was worried that he'd made a mistake with the gift. Maybe he was being indulgent; maybe he was just setting up his namesake for an abundance of hurt, just like Chenoa had gone through with Teal'c. Yet, Karissa was insistent that the youngster be allowed to progress and learn at his own rate, and he had agreed to adhere to her wishes.
Inside her condominium and kneeling down to be eye level with her 'date' for the evening, Karissa said, “You are an amazing little boy, Danny. I'm very lucky to know you.”
“Big people give each other presents. Dad says it's symbolic. I wanted you to have something symbolic, too.”
“I'll always wear this,” Karissa promised, her hand gently caressing her gift. “Do you like your gift?”
The boy grinned at the big box of chocolates that Karissa had given him.
“It's the best. I'm gonna share with the brood. Is that okay?”
“Perfectly okay,” Karissa agreed as they hugged.
“Karissa, can I use the ...”
“You know where it is,” the woman spoke, watching as Little Danny headed for the restroom. She walked over to the archaeologist and said, “Daniel, this is so expensive for him to be giving me.”
“He wanted to, and he's working hard to pay for it,” Daniel replied.
“Daniel, am I making a mistake? Am I handling this wrong?”
“If there's a rule book out there, I haven't seen it,” Daniel replied. “If you're uncomfortable ...”
“No, I just ... it's a beautiful necklace, and it's perfect. I was just so surprised.”
“You should have seen Jack when I told him about it,” Daniel mused. “Uh, Darren ...”
“Darren is a good friend, and he knows where I stand. Until Little Danny ... dumps me, I just can't,” Karissa stated. Then she sighed, “Daniel, do I need a psychiatrist? I'm dating your eight-year-old son.”
“If you need one, so do I,” Daniel replied. “I'm letting you.”
As the adults chuckled, Little Danny walked out. The three chatted a bit and then the father and son headed home.
At the next J-O Enterprises employee event in early April, Little Danny stood quietly. He had refused to play with his siblings. Instead, he was observing all of the adults, specifically the couples. Darren was in town again, and he was, as expected, standing beside Karissa at the moment.
The middle Munchkin thought back over some of the movies he'd watched with Jennifer lately. They were classic love stories, all about a man and a woman falling in love, facing some obstacle, and then ending up together, forever. That's how love was supposed to be.
The boy sighed. He was all too aware that he was a little boy, and Karissa was an adult. He'd also spent some time using his covert listening skills. He knew it was bad to eavesdrop, but he needed intel. Sadly, he got it. No one was gossiping, but there was plenty of light conversation about Darren being deeply in like with the woman, and most suspected she returned the feelings.
“Little Danny, are you okay?” Chenoa asked, sensing the boy's inner turmoil.
“You don't hate Teal'c anymore, do you?”
“No. I still love him. I always will,” the little girl confided. “But he loves Aunt Janet, and maybe I'll love K'hang someday, or someone else. He didn't mean to hurt me.”
“But he's a grownup, and you're a little girl,” Little Danny stated, getting a nod from his sister, who had suffered enormous heartache when she'd learned about the relationship between her Jaffa and her aunt.
Chenoa hugged her brother and said, “I'll take care of you, okay?”
“Okay,” Little Danny responded as the hug ended. “I have to do what's best for Karissa, huh?”
“Dad and Daddy said it's what's best for us, too. We just don't know it, yet.”
“Okay,” the boy sighed. He looked over at his love, who was now speaking with some co-workers, and then slowly walked over to her. It felt like he was about to die. His little heart was breaking, but he was determined not to show it. Reaching the woman, he asked, “Karissa, will you come with me?”
“Of course,” Karissa responded, sensing something was very wrong.
Little Danny walked over to where Darren was talking with some other J-O employees. The two still had never been officially introduced, but it was obvious that they were about to have a conversation. Releasing Karissa's hand, he walked forward a few steps and stopped.
Seeing the boy standing a few feet away, staring at him, Darren excused himself and walked over to the youngster.
“You're Little Danny, right?” Darren asked, looking down at the Munchkin. He extended his hand and introduced, “I'm Darren, and it's a pleasure to meet you.”
The little boy had no time for small talk, and he couldn't afford to be distracted. This was far too important. He was also afraid he might burst out into tears at any moment, and he didn't want Karissa to feel bad just because his young life was now doomed to a sad, dismal fate, or so it seemed to the child.
“Karissa is the best woman in the whole universe, aside from Mommy, maybe,” Little Danny spoke. “Same as Mommy. It's close. I can't decide.”
“I understand what you're saying,” Darren responded.
“I love her,” the boy declared.
Standing just a foot behind the youngster, Karissa's eyes began to mist. It was happening, and she wasn't sure she was going to survive it.
Kneeling down, Darren nodded, replying, “I know that.”
“When I grow up, I want to marry her,” the boy stated without reservation.
“Dad, something's going on over there,” Jennifer pointed out, seeing the conversation that was happening between the man and her young brother.
Jack glanced over and instantly felt the intensity. Jennifer was right.
**Daniel, Little Danny,** Jack communicated with such force that his husband immediately reacted to it.
“I'm not surprised. Like you said, she's a special lady,” Darren agreed.
“I loved her the very first time I saw her. She said she'd be my valentine forever,” Little Danny advised, his eyes totally focused on the man he was talking to.
“I heard about that.”
“Do you love her?”
Karissa closed her eyes, wanting to interrupt, but discovering she didn't have a voice to speak with.
Darren looked up at the woman, who was now crying and trying to brush away her tears.
“You deserve the truth, and so does she. I like Karissa, very much. I think in time, we might find that special love. I don't know for sure, but she's a super woman, and I'd sure like to find out.”
“But you don't love her?”
“I'm in like. I think I could fall in love with her. Danny, she's not in love with me, either. She likes me. I know that. You want honest right?” Seeing the nod, Darren continued, “That's the truth then.”
“You won't hurt her, not ever?”
Daniel had made his way to Karissa's side. Hearing her soft cry, he put his arm around her waist for support. Having heard the boy's question, she turned and openly began to cry on his shoulder. Daniel placed his other arm around her shoulders, holding her in a consoling embrace.
“Danny, have you ever had a fight with your brothers and sisters?”
“Does it hurt when you fight with them? What I'm asking is, have they ever said anything that hurts you while you're fighting?” Darren questioned.
“Sometimes,” the Munchkin acknowledged.
“Do you believe they meant to hurt you?”
“No,” the boy answered truthfully.
“Any relationship worth having has risk to it. I would never intentionally hurt Karissa, but it might happen. Maybe she'll hurt me. That's part of love -- the risk of being hurt. I can promise you that I don't want to hurt her, and I'll do my best not to, but I won't lie to you and say it won't happen.”
“It's not fair,” the forlorn child sighed, trying his best not to lose his composure.
“That I'm a little boy, and she's a grownup,” Little Danny answered earnestly.
“You're right. It's not, and I'm very sorry about that.”
“Are you a good man?” Little Danny asked, the question surprising the J-O client.
“I try to be.”
“If you aren't and you do something bad to Rissa, Dad and Daddy will find you, and you wouldn't like that.”
Jack and Daniel exchanged a look, both wondering if they should say something about the last comment, even though it was true.
“I'm sorry,” Little Danny added with a sigh. “I don't usually say things like that, but I love her, and it's my job to protect her.”
“I understand,” Darren responded sincerely, still looking straight into the boy's eyes.
Little Danny turned around and walked the couple of steps back to where Karissa was crying into Daniel's neck. He pulled on her skirt to get her attention.
“Oh, Danny,” Karissa responded to the tug, gulping as she kneeled down.
“I love you forever and always, like Dad and Daddy love each other. Don't forget me,” the youngster requested, beginning to sniffle just a tad.
“You'll always be my valentine, Danny, and I will always wear this,” Karissa promised about her necklace, while reaching up with her right hand and lightly caressing the pendant with her fingertips. “And we can still go out and do things together. I want that very much, and I hope you do, too.”
Little Danny nodded and threw his arms around the woman, saying, “It's not fair for me to hold you to your promise to marry me. It'll be a long, long time before I'm grown up. I love you, Rissa. Oh.” The boy suddenly pulled back. He turned and looked at Darren, saying, “Her name is Karissa. She doesn't like being called Kari, but you never call her Rissa. That's my name for her; but don't call her Kari. It reminds her of school, but ... she's a grownup.”
The boy was beginning to ramble, to lose his control, his words sounding younger than even his tender age.
“He's right, Darren. I really like my name,” Karissa stated with a cracking voice.
“Okay ... Karissa,” Darren agreed.
Little Danny looked back at the woman and repeated, “I love you, Rissa.”
“I love you, too,” Karissa responded, hugging the boy tightly. “Forever and always,” she said, feeling every word and emotion of the young love in her arms.
“You can kiss him now, if you want.”
“Maybe soon, but not today,” Karissa stated definitively, tears still running down her cheeks.
Feeling the wetness against his skin, Little Danny spoke, “I didn't want you to cry.”
“Love's hard, Danny. We'll both be okay, though,” the young woman assured the boy as they pulled apart. She caressed his cheek and smiled, wishing she had words to make both of them feel better. “Someday, some girl is going to be so darn lucky to have you love her.”
The comment provided little comfort, but there really wasn't anything else to say, either.
Little Danny began to walk away, passing by Karissa and his fathers, pausing briefly to turn back and say, “Bye.”
“Bye,” Karissa replied softly before her tears escalated once again.
“I'll go ...” Jack began.
“No, Dad. I will. He needs me,” Chenoa stated strongly, looking over at Jonny and Aislinn and wanting to make sure they understood her words.
Everyone knew she was right. Only Chenoa really knew what the middle Munchkin was feeling. She hurried after her brother, taking his hand once she caught up to him. The two walked over towards the lake, stopping where they knew they should. They sat down, and Little Danny leaned into his older sister, who wrapped her arms around him and began to comfort him.
“I feel like such a heel,” Karissa stated as Daniel drew her in for a hug.
“It had to happen sooner or later,” Daniel responded.
Jonny walked up to Darren. He'd never actually talked to the man before, but he'd seen him, and he knew who he was.
With a fierce scowl and his hands on his hips, Jonny stated, “Little Danny is right. You better be a good man, or we'll get you.” He looked over at Aislinn and said, “Let's go.”
As their parents watched, the two Munchkins took a position several yards behind Chenoa and Little Danny. They were soon joined by every other member of the brood. There, they'd wait, until Little Danny was ready to receive their support.
“A really big heel,” Karissa cried, excusing herself and running for her car.
“Go!” Jack said, knowing that Daniel would be driving Karissa home. “Well, nice party. Anyone for some chips?”
The guests could see the general's attempt at humor was for the sake of the party, especially since his eyes were on his children. This was one J-O employee event that few would ever forget.
“I'm looking forward to it, Dar,” Karissa said over the phone. It was just over a week later. “See you then.”
“Darren?” Daniel asked, entering the woman's office.
“He's in town for a couple of days. He ... kissed me last night,” Karissa confided.
“Good, but I still feel guilty. How crazy is that?” Karissa asked.
“You know, uh, Jack and I appreciate ...”
“Stop right there, Daniel,” Karissa interrupted. “I've never done one thing because of you and Jack. I told you that before.”
“That's why we appreciate it,” the archaeologist said with a smile.
“Are you sure about the science fair?” Karissa asked. “I don't want to hurt him. Maybe he needs some time to himself, away from me.”
“He smiled all night after you called and asked him if he wanted to go this weekend. It might be hard, but Noa's promised him that it'll get easier, and he's relying on that.”
“Kids: they have such young and innocent hearts,” Karissa sighed.
“Karissa ... oh, hi, Daddy,” Jennifer greeted.
“I'll let you get back to work, but I wanted to make sure we're on schedule with the EQL project.”
“Right on with no room to spare,” Karissa responded.
“Okay. Keep me posted,” Daniel stated, leaving the office.
“Karissa, did you want the survey on the Robbins job processed first, or did you want me to do the filing?” Jennifer asked.
“The Robbins job.” Just as Jennifer reached the door, Karissa called out, “Jen, wait. Um, get Mister Barnes on the phone for me. I heard he wasn't happy with our replacement, and the man *has* to have a heart. If he doesn't, I'll find a way. I want to see if we can get that account back.”
“Sure. Right away,” Jennifer acknowledged with a smile.
“Oh, and one more thing. Would you call the florist, the one in the main directory. They have these adorable 'just for you' teddy bears. Ask them to make the bouquet of nothing but lilies -- Easter lilies.”
“What do you want on the card?”
“Nothing. He'll know.”
“Okay. Where do you want them delivered?” Jennifer inquired, prepared to write down the information.
“Ask them to have it ready at 5:30. I'll pick it up and deliver it personally. Um, see if they can find a pair of chopsticks to put in with it as well.”
“It's silly, but it's a Chinese thing.”
“I don't understand,” Jennifer admitted.
“I know, but Little Danny will,” Karissa replied with a grin.
As Jennifer smiled and left the office to attend to her assigned tasks, Karissa began to daydream about her future while she waited for the call to Mister Barnes to come through. With a chuckle, she wrote down, 'Karissa St. James'. It looked good. She liked the sound of it, too. Then she reached over and picked up a photo she had of Little Danny on her desk. He'd given it to her for her last birthday.
Giggling, Karissa wrote down, 'Karissa Jackson-O'Neill'.
“No; that's not right.”
The young woman crossed out her words and wrote, 'Rissa Jackson-O'Neill'.
“Has a ring to it.”
Karissa put the photo down and stared at it for a few seconds before saying, “You'll always be my favorite valentine, Danny Jackson-O'Neill; forever and always.”
Just then, the woman's phone rang, and she returned to work, determined to regain the account the company had once lost. More than that, she vowed to keep her promise. Little Danny Jackson-O'Neill would always be her favorite valentine.
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