Daphne's Decision

Written by Tey

This takes place towards the end of Season 4, after Daphne tells Charlie that she's pregnant.

She didn't know why she told him. It wasn't a big deal really, to be late. It happened to her before for many different reasons. Then again, unlike all the other different reasons, she didn't run out to buy a home testing kit. She didn't plan to see a positive sign. She didn't know how to explain how that instant felt.

She liked Charlie, really she did. However, to listen to him try and reassure her that the two of them could raise this child - if she wished - to hear him tell her that he loved her... Daphne knew why she made it a point to be alone. She knew why she packed up to some unknown place, took a variety of different jobs and made it a point to answer to no one. At least she thought she did.

Daphne waited two days before seeing him again at his house (or their house if she wanted) and told him that she was leaving. She pictured how he'd react and for the first time, he surprised her. He stayed calm. Maybe that's what had drawn her to him after the night of the cancelled celebration. Maybe his futile (or were they desperate?) attempts to control what he couldn't drew her in. After all, she had grown accustomed to taking things as they went. She knew what she could change and what she couldn't. Now, though, she had a chance to decide not only for herself, but also for possibly three people. Three. Already, Daphne considered that which was inside her alive.

"I'll be back in a few days," she said. She didn't tell him why she was going to Texas. All she knew was that there, answers could be found for her fears. It was like Charlie said, no one is ever really ready to be a parent. But, with faith, patience, and guidance, it was possible.

If she decided to go the whole nine months plus, Daphne knew she'd need heavy doses of all three things. Then again, Charlie had also mentioned tradeoffs, what one got in return. Sitting on the plane looking out the window, Daphne realized the wealth she could have. All it would take would be two little words.

Texas was hotter than she remembered, which seemed silly because she thought she'd never forget the feeling of...How could she describe it? Sweltering? Smothering? Sufferable? It didn't matter, she thought, as she took the keys to the rental car and drove, instinctively, to her old neighborhood.

Things had changed of course in some respects. Then again, others.... "Darling? Is that you?" a voice called out from the front garden next door. Daphne smiled. The gentleman's voice was just as she remembered so long ago as a child. A voice to the seldom seen face that always gave her flowers to put in her room. "Hello Mr. Lin."

A short gentleman stepped out from behind the fence, hardly a trace of gray in his predominantly black hair. It was as if time had frozen still. "Ah, somehow I knew it was you. Darling Daphne's home finally. Too long since we've seen you last."

Daphne saw Mrs. Lin walk out with a tray laden with glasses of lemonade. "Too hot," Mr. Lin said. "Shade's much better."

Without giving it a second thought, Daphne followed him to their house, ignoring the one she thought she'd purposely set out for from San Francisco. "Your mother's not home," Mrs. Lin said. "Some new boyfriend. Pain in the neck, he is."

Daphne bit back an apology; something Mrs. Lin had corrected her on when she was little. "I didn't think she'd be there," Daphne said at last.

Mr. Lin smiled a knowing smile. "Sure. You just come here for our lemonade. Forget family like our own kids do," he said jokingly. For a moment, she wanted to tell them her good news, tell them something she was afraid to share with her own mother. For a moment, she almost said....

"You'll be a good mother," Mrs. Lin said giving her a hug. Daphne was taken aback. Without the question being asked, Mrs. Lin continued.

"You glow. You glow like a woman who deserves happiness. I knew you'd emerge, Butterfly."

Mr. Lin nodded. "Yes, Darling Butterfly thrives no matter what. We knew you would." Daphne put a hand to her mouth, trying to stifle a nervous laugh or tears of joy, she didn't know.

"Then why am I so scared?" she asked. "Why do I feel knots in my stomach thinking I'll become *that* side of her...?"

"That isn't true, Butterfly," Mrs. Lin said. "The past helps shape you, but it doesn't say that that is *all* that you are. You know that. Actions define a person. One's heart is more learned than one's mind."

Daphne took her time with the lemonade, each sip bringing back pleasant memories. Mingling in the mist were memories of darkness, ones that refused to show themselves fully. "There are answers that I want. Answers that I need, first."

Mr. Lin frowned. "Why? The past...."

"The past helped shape me, yes," Daphne said. "But, to ignore it completely is to risk repeating those mistakes. I can't afford that. I want to deal with any and all demons *now* before they try to eat away at whatever it is I'm trying to create. This child I'm carrying, the man who helped create it...."

"You love this man?" Mr. Lin asked. "How long you two know...?"

"A little over a few months," she said. Even as she said it, it seemed untrue. It seemed as if she and Charlie had known each other for so much longer. The more she thought about it, the more she warmed to the idea of spending a lifetime with him, with their child.

Mrs. Lin nodded. "You're doing the right thing if it feels good in your heart. Even Kim Li thinks so."

Daphne's eyes lit up at the mention of her former classmate, her former neighbor, her friend. "How is he? Still with the force?"

Mrs. Lin nodded. "He found what he loves just as you have. You two are halves of the same shell. You two will always be friends, that's the way it is."

Daphne reached for a thin chain around her neck, a simple item Kim Li and she exchanged on graduation day. She remembered the joy she felt about his plans to become an officer. They joked about it for weeks. The talks ended the same, with Kim Li saying 'I'd never be able to arrest you, Daph. You're too much a free spirit for me to even try and catch.'

"...That's all there is to it," Mr. Lin said.

"Hmm?" Daphne felt guilty, missing what he said.

"You're staying here. No arguments. Get what you want from the house, and then come back here. I'll move your car into the garage."

That night, Kim Li came home for dinner and the four of them had a night so warm and safe from years before. Later, around midnight, Kim Li and Daphne sat on the porch in the back yard. He handed her a folder.

"What's this?" she asked. "Mom told me you were looking for answers. Let's just say I 'borrowed' those," Kim Li said with a mischievous smile. "I'll need them back when you're done, though, Daph."

Daphne knew the file, or files, existed on her, about the abusive past. She knew without opening it that many grown-ups then knew about her fears, about her being alone. What they didn't know was in what details haunted her at night. "I want to tell her, yet I don't," she said. "I mean, if I tell her, then it's like I'm inviting something bad to happen. Silly, isn't it."

Kim Li didn't say anything.

"It's like, I came 'home' seeking approval, wanting someone to share this joy with me. I got that already, tonight, with your family."

"Our family," he corrected. "Dad doesn't call just any girl 'Darling.'" They both laughed, knowing it was how Mr. Lin referred to his daughters, too.

"How do I know I'll be happy, Kim Li? How do I know I'm not about to ruin this guy's life, now that he's gotten a second chance? How do I know that I'm not ruining mine, or that we're completely wrong for each other?"

"What do you see in his eyes?"

Daphne shrugged her shoulders. "A guy my age who's just learning how to live, I guess. Someone who doesn't want to take things for granted anymore."

Kim Li held her face in his hands. "What do you see in my eyes?"

She stared, unsure of what to say. "Warm memories, friendship," she said at last.

Kim Li bit his lower lip. "When I look in your eyes, I see a friend who knows my soul as well as I do, if not better. I see me as you see me in your eyes as I look at you."

Daphne studied him a bit and realized he was right. Maybe that was why she felt so comfortable around Charlie. After all, it wasn't as if she made it a habit to date guys she stripped for.

They had known each other for only a few months and yet...and yet. Was she really ready to spend a lifetime with him, raising their child? Then again, she knew that she was in charge of her own happiness. She knew her mother couldn't (or rather wouldn't) guilt her into feeling pity for her.

One thing her mother told her repeatedly was 'Be thankful you're not an out of wedlock child. I had the sense to marry your pathetic father long enough to keep shame outta your sorry life.'

Daphne shook her head, clearing away her mother's voice. Sorry life, indeed. As far as she (and thankfully Charlie, too) was concerned, life moved forward, but was only worth treasuring in the present.

Daphne let Kim Li follow her to the rental place that night to return the car, then rode back to the house with him to stay. Unsurprisingly, no activity took place at her mother's house during Daphne's stay.

Returning to the airport, she half expected Charlie to meet her, remembering how he jokingly tied a ribbon around his finger, repeating the arrival time to himself. Instead, she found Bailey leaning against the wall by her gate.

"Hi," she said, giving him a slight smile. She didn't know how he really felt about her. Now with the baby and all, she wasn't sure she wanted to know.

He smiled back. "Hey." Before she could ask, Bailey continued, "Charlie had to take Owen to the doctor's. It's nothing serious, really, just his checkup."

"That's good," she said. "So..." she said as she let him take her bag, "has he said anything?"

Bailey gave her a puzzled look. "About what?"

"Nothing," she said, embarrassed now.

They rode back to the house in silence. Part of her hoped that Julia or Claudia would be there. Then again, time alone would help her sort things out. She left the door open to the bedroom as she unpacked. It wasn't until she finally sat down in the green chair in the corner, where she and Charlie sometimes snuggled that she saw something on the desk.

Bailey knocked on the door. He handed her a flower from the backyard. "I'm probably spoiling it, but welcome to the family."

"When did he-?" Daphne felt herself about to cry.

"Officially, we're still in the dark. But, just to fill you in on a little secret, he bought a ring for you weeks ago." He sat down on the edge of the bed. "I haven't seen him this happy since..."

Daphne couldn't allow the silence to continue. "Since Kirsten?" she said. Bailey shook his head. "No. I mean, yeah they had something, but not like what you two have. I mean... First of all, can I say I'm sorry?"

"For what, Bailey?"

"For being so cold to you at first. See, my brother supposedly had this habit of 'falling in love,' when none of us believed it. It's as if we all had decided that Charlie would never know love, you know? As if all he ever dealt out and received, was hurt."

Daphne grabbed a pillow close to her as she leaned forward. "That isn't...."

"...true," Bailey finished. "I know that. I'm not saying that to make it seem like he's heartless or lifeless or anything." He paused. "Daphne, you've brought out a side of him none of us knew existed. I thought Kirsten brought out the best in him, but when she left, I found out that wasn't so. He's taken chances, that we'd never have guessed him to, before. He's laughed, Daphne, honestly laughed. I don't think I've heard him laugh like that since we were kids. Well, maybe with Owen, he laughs like that, but openly? And he smiles again, Daphne. I'd like to catch that on film sometime to see if having that one happy moment could be captured for a rainy day, you know?" Daphne smiled. To hear that from him meant a lot to her. It made her decision that much more comfortable to make. Maybe Bailey wasn't as bad or as angry as Charlie had made him out to be. Maybe... "You don't know how much that means to me," she said.

Bailey's dimples flashed for a second. "Mind if we just sorta...?"

"...keep it between ourselves?" she said smiling. "Sure."

Later that night, Daphne read to Owen in the living room. As he snuggled up against her, his sleepy head resting on her shoulder, she couldn't help but wonder if their child would feel as secure. Would she and Charlie do right by Owen, by the others by bringing in a new member of the family? Even as the question went unanswered in her mind, she felt at home, had for the first time in a while, felt happy. It was as if stumbling into the Salingers lives was the best thing that could have happened to her. To let that go now....

She noticed things became strangely quiet.

Daphne watched as the Salinger sisters sat down on either side of her; Bailey took Owen from her. Charlie knelt down in front of her.

Daphne struggled to keep from crying, silently, jokingly cursing Charlie for going back on his promise of keeping it 'simple.'

"Daphne," he said, his voice so soft she almost forgot the others were there.

"I know what I said to you earlier, about us, about what we could do and what your wishes were. I kinda invited the others because...because in a way, I sorta want witnesses to assure me later that I wasn't dreaming, that what I feel and...for you to be a part of this family. It's like, you're the best thing that's happened to me and I don't want to lose that. I don't want to...."

Daphne smiled. "I understand, Charlie."

"You do?" he asked, tension melting away under Daphne's hand that she rested on his face.

"I do."