July 28, 2012
Walmart, Colorado Springs
Jack kept an eye on his daughter as she retrieved her favorite drink and mentally checked it and Sam's diet soda off the list. Sam had sent him out for some last minute shopping after hearing the guys were coming over. They hadn’t planned to make something big out of their anniversary, just some nice family time and maybe a backyard barbecue. It wasn’t like they had many options anyway, with Sam's condition and her having to take it easy.
But last night she had received a call from the SGC, informing her they had received a message from Atlantis asking if Daniel – and some other stationed personnel – could spend some leave on Earth. After checking the embarkation schedule she had informed Atlantis when they could dial Earth and this morning Daniel had arrived at the SGC. To make the surprise complete Mitchell had come over from the Alpha Site, with Teal'c accompanying him and the trio would be arriving at the house soon. They were awaiting the results from their infirmary checkup before they could leave the mountain so Sam had sent him on a grocery run.
Not that Jack minded. Now he finally had an excuse to try out their new grill, which was much larger and fancier than the small one he’d had for years. The smaller one was old, but he’d taken it to DC with him and he and Sam had used it every once in a while during their marriage. Almost three months ago Sam had gone back to Colorado to take over command of the SGC from Hank, while Jack and Gracie had stayed in DC so he could show Hank the ropes of Homeworld Command and sell the house and everything before his retirement was finalized. Just a few weeks ago, at the start of the summer vacation, he and Gracie had joined Sam here. First they had stayed in Daniel's old apartment while looking for a new house, which had been complicated with the hours Sam was making at the time but they had succeeded. Two weeks ago they had finally settled in their new place and Jack had decided the new backyard deserved a new deck, sitting area with a family grill and a swing for Gracie.
The guys’ timing couldn’t have been better because they were having great weather – excellent for a backyard barbecue – Sam was feeling better this weekend now that the temperatures had gone down a bit and the house was as good as ready for a housewarming party. And there was cake, for their wedding anniversary.
“Daddy,” Gracie called out as she came stumbling towards him, her arms filled with drinks.
“What’s this?” He asked, eyeing the different bottles her little hands were trying to hold onto.
She scrunched up her nose and giggled. “I couldn’t pick one!”
Jack knew he was in trouble when he thought how adorable she was rather than force her to pick one drink, but he didn’t really care. At least it was just lemonade, both their favorite flavor of Kool-Aid and a bottle of orange juice. Most kids would have probably insisted on soda or something equally bad for their teeth. Grace knew she was only allowed soda on special occasions and even then she would usually share a can with Sam instead of having her own. Besides, he knew Teal'c and Mitchell would drink it too and Daniel was still as much of lightweight as in the beginning of the Program so he would need something other than beer as well. “Fine, but this is your last indulgence, young lady.” He tried to sound strict but could feel the corners of his mouth curl up when she bobbed her head eagerly, making her caramel blond ponytail dance.
After he had taken the drinks from her and placed them in the cart she nodded and snapped off a sloppy salute. “Yessir!”
He chuckled, rolling his eyes at her antics. Mitchell was to blame for that, he thought to himself. The man just hadn’t been able to stop saluting him the first few years since he got command of SG-1 and Gracie had started copying him when she was two after he did it in her presence for the umpteenth time. Fortunately Mitchell had finally gotten over his whiplash-inducing behavior but Gracie not so much… “Okay, last thing on the list is beer! Sweetie, remember what I told you about holding onto the shopping cart?”
“Sorry,” she said, slipping her fingers around the shopping cart as she walked beside it.
“I just don’t want to lose you,” he reminded her. The store was big enough and this was the first time he’d taken her here, although she did have some experience with grocery shopping in DC. That was different though because there usually weren’t that many people around because of the strange hours he and Sam both made and they tended to avoid large shops like these.
Gracie shook her head and looked at him over her shoulder. “I won’t get lost, Daddy; I know where the car is parked!”
“But I don’t want you going out of the store without me, so if you do get lost-”
“I know,” she sighed, “find a mister or lady who works here and tell them I lost my daddy.”
Jack nodded his approval as he steered them through the different departments. “That’s my girl.”
“Oooh, Daddy, look!”
He winced, recognizing that tone before he followed the direction of her hand. “What?”
“We have to buy a present for the baby.”
Before he had a chance to say something she darted off – despite his earlier warning about staying close – to the baby section. Sighing, he followed in her direction, keeping his eye on her the whole time. It wasn’t difficult with her bright pink skirt and purple shirt but she didn’t exactly stick out with head and shoulders among the other people present. Most were adults, women mostly, some with a kid or two and others alone, but it was easy to lose sight of someone so short once she disappeared into the crowd. “Grace? Grace, get back here,” he said in his most commanding tone. It definitely caught the attention of the other customers and just a moment later his daughter slowly walked back in his direction, holding both hands behind her back.
“Look Daddy, these are smaller than my dolly’s!” Grace said, showing the tiny pair of socks in her hand.
“Remember what Mommy said?”
She gnawed her lip and cast her eyes to the floor. “That we can’t buy the baby more stuff.”
“That’s right,” he nodded. Sam had been very strict about it after he and Gracie kept buying cute little outfits and toys for the baby, saying they already had plenty of stuff for the next two years. It was tempting though because they really looked cute.
Pouting, Gracie looked up at him with her big blue eyes. “But I don’t want the baby to have cold feet, Daddy.”
“Fine, but this is the last thing we’re buying!”
“Yay!” She beamed at him, throwing the little socks in the cart.
“And it’s a surprise, so we’re not telling Mommy, okay?”
Good, now Sam wouldn’t have to know about it at all. He would just put them in the baby room, which wasn’t completely finished yet so she probably wouldn’t even notice if it was added to the pile of clothes. With the number of outfits they’d bought the baby she couldn’t possibly keep track of one tiny pair of socks, right? “Good, now let’s get the beer and get back home before everyone starves.”
Gracie silently followed him, her hand hanging onto his shirt as they made their way through the rest of the store until he stopped to get the beer. “Daddy, only mommies can have babies in their tummies, right?”
“Yep,” he replied, lifting a couple of six packs in the cart.
“Then why is that mister fat like Mommy?”
“Grace!” Jack hissed, quickly grabbing the hand that was pointing at the man with the beer belly and throwing the glaring man an apologetic look. “It’s not polite to point at other people or to call them fat. Now, let’s go to the register and go home.” He felt relieved after paying as he was packing up the groceries, with his little girl handing him some of the smaller items. That was until she turned to the woman behind them.
“Ma’am, are you having a baby? My mommy has a baby in her belly too but you’re even bigger!”
Oh, he was going to kill Carter when he got home! This was all her fault for complaining about how big she was getting, Jack thought to himself. “Grace, what did I just tell you? I’m really sorry, Ma’am, she’s just… very excited about the baby,” he lamely apologized to the flushed woman. “Again, I’m sorry.” He turned back to Grace and lifted her into the cart next to the packed groceries.
“Daddy, I’m too big for this,” she whined.
“You,” he looked at her sternly, “will not say another word until we’ve reached the car. Got it?”
She nodded slowly, holding on to both sides of the cart as he wheeled it to the parking lot.
Sam watched as Cassandra went back into the house to open the front door for Jack and Grace and help them unpack the groceries. They had been gone for longer than she had expected but she didn’t mind. Not really. As a matter of fact it had been kind of nice, almost. She had even managed to take a short nap in the hammock, one of the few places where she could rest comfortably with her big baby bump. Lately she hadn’t been sleeping well during the nights with the baby pressing down on her bladder and just being very active throughout at inopportune moments, so she found herself tiring even more easily and resting during the day.
It was probably a good thing that Doctor Lam had told her to slow down and do as much delegating as she could. These days she was mostly working from home with a secure connection to the SGC in their home office and while it allowed her to wear comfortable clothing and just take it easy or nap on occasion, it was also more frustrating at times now that Jack and Grace were around the house all day as well. Their daughter knew better than to disturb either of them when they were in the office and was generally very sweet and not a bother at all, but Jack was constantly fussing over her and the baby and Grace was picking up on it as well. And when they would finally let her work in peace she could often hear them in the living room or playing outside, which distracted her. It was just such a change from being away from home for weeks at the time or even just working at the base all day to come home to them.
She was still adapting and the active baby she was carrying wasn’t helping matters along either. Fortunately Cassie had arrived while Jack and Grace had been out and she’d made her lunch and talked about her personal life and her job, providing a nice distraction from her own overactive mind. It was nice not to have to think or do too much for once and just sit there and enjoy Cassie’s company. The nap had probably helped her relax as well, because she felt much better and wasn’t even frustrated about all the things she wasn’t allowed to do anymore, like heavy lifting – any lifting at all if Jack had his way – or painting the walls of the baby room.
Sam frowned when she heard another car pull up and loud voices coming from the back of the house. The guys were here already? She slowly got up and entered the house via the sliding doors, not surprised to see everyone chatting happily.
“Sam!” Daniel called out before rushing over to her. “Oh wow, look at you!”
“I’m huge,” she complained, rolling her eyes as she tried to hug him awkwardly. “You’re looking good, though. Enjoying Atlantis?”
“There is so much information, Sam,” he said, squeezing his arms tighter around her before pulling back. “As a matter of fact I was kind of hoping we could discuss some-”
“Ack!” Jack interrupted him, placing a hand on his shoulder. “No talking shop today, kids. Just some r and r, and a nice backyard barbeque!”
Daniel smiled sheepishly and moved aside. “Right, I’m sorry. You’re supposed to be taking it easy or so I’ve heard. Cassie, long time no see!”
Sam watched as the two greeted each other and then smiled when Teal'c stepped forward and enveloped her in a hug. “Great to see you again, Teal'c.”
“Indeed, I have missed your presence greatly, General Carter.” He stepped back and eyed her stomach but before he could say anything he was slightly pushed away.
“Move aside, big guy. Sam, look at you!” Cam said excitedly, moving in for a hug of his own. “Last time we were both Earth side I couldn’t even see a bump! How far along are you now?”
She grabbed the hand he’d put on her bump and squeezed it. “Almost thirty-three weeks, but this is a big one. Very active too,” she added, moving his hand so he could feel the baby move.
“Cool! That’s quite a kick. Boy or a girl?”
“They’re not sharing,” Daniel complained. “But I think it’s a boy.”
“General Carter and O'Neill are formidable warriors, any child of theirs will be strong. Be that male or female.”
Jack nodded and clasped the Jaffa’s shoulder. “That’s right, T. Now, let me all give you a quick tour of our new place.”
The guys followed Jack out but Cam lingered a bit. Suddenly Grace jumped out of the kitchen onto their path. “Shazam!”
“Hey princess! Wow, you’ve gotten so big!”
“Uncle Cam!” Grace immediately jumped into his arms, hugging him tightly. “I made sure Daddy bought you chewing gum for your next trip!”
Sam watched as Cameron and Grace continued to talk as they made their way over to the others, smiling at the adoration her daughter was showing. For some reason the two of them had clicked when Grace was just a few years old and they had remained close ever since. Even now that Cam was stationed off-world, commanding the Alpha Site, and didn’t spend as much time on Earth as he used to.
“Those two are still thick as thieves,” Cassandra mentioned, carrying drinks on a tray.
“I think he reminds her of Jack in a way. They both have a bit of an immature and playful side.”
Sam raised a brow in surprise; she hadn’t thought of it that way before. “That’s a good point. I know Daniel can sometimes be a bit overwhelming when he’s enthusiastic about a subject and Grace simply doesn’t have the attention span to keep up.”
Cassie chuckled as they walked over to the backyard to wait for the guys and Grace to return from their tour. “He can get a bit boring sometimes. It wasn’t until I was older that I had more of an interest in history, cultures and different languages and I appreciated his knowledge more.”
“Not to mention that he’s always been rather present in her life. Cam is like the fun uncle she only sees on occasion, while Daniel is the one who babysits her sometimes and has to discipline her.”
“What about Teal'c?”
“He hasn’t been around much these last few years and I think he’s unsure of how to behave around her.”
Nodding, Cassandra waited for her to open the door further. “He doesn’t have that much experience with young kids, does he?”
“I don’t think he was around much when Rya'c was growing up, even when he was still in the service of Apophis,” Sam replied. “Plus, boys and girls are treated very differently on Chulak. It wasn’t that long ago that Jaffa women weren’t allowed to fight unless to defend the village when the men were gone. I imagine it was difficult for him to get used to me on SG-1 at first and you know he was the same with Ishta in the beginning.”
“That certainly changed fast,” Cassie smirked.
She chuckled at that, recalling how stunned the three of them had been when Teal'c and Ishta were suddenly locking lips in the gate room. “Let’s take a seat; I’m sure they’ll be back soon.” None of the guys had been at their new house yet but Cassandra had already seen it a while ago, first online and then in person. She had even helped them paint and decorate Grace’s room. But Jack really wasn’t the elaborate kind of tour guide so Sam doubted they would take long. She was just telling Cassie about Jack’s new grill and how he was excited to finally use it today when the guys came back out.
“… totally blame Carter, of course,” Jack said as he stepped backwards through the opened sliding doors. “Oh, hi. We were wondering where you two had gone.”
“Blame me for what?” Sam asked sweetly, enjoying the way her husband suddenly started squirming.
“Um, Gracie, why don’t you show the guys your cool swing?”
“Okay!” She cheered, grabbing Daniel and Cam’s hands and pulling them along. Teal'c followed more sedately.
Cassie awkwardly looked between them and hastily got up. “I’ll just, eh, go get some drinks and snacks for you guys.”
He sighed and plopped down on the chair next to her. “Gracie was acting out a bit in Walmart and-”
Sam frowned, completely confused now. “How is that my fault?”
“No, it’s not like that,” he grimaced. “She asked me if only women could get pregnant and when I said yes she pointed at this, eh, overweight man standing next to us and asked why the guy was fat then. It’s not funny, Sam,” Jack groused when she smothered a smile. “Then when we were packing up the groceries she asked a woman if she was having a baby too because she was even bigger than you were. Her words, not mine!”
“I take it the woman wasn’t-”
“Oh. Well, I’m sure if we explain the difference that she’ll understand,” she said.
Jack rubbed the back of his neck and took her hand with his free one. He absentmindedly rubbed his thumb over her wedding ring, a small smile playing on his lips. “I don’t know. I tried to tell after she called the man fat to his face and then five minutes later she basically does the same to that woman!”
“I still don’t see how this is my fault…”
“Oh, well, you are the one who is talking about how big you’re getting,” he said cautiously, knowing it was sore subject.
She huffed and pulled her hand back. “Not fifteen minutes ago the guys said the same thing!”
“That’s different, they haven’t seen you in a while and they mean it as a compliment…”
Sam was about to reply when she realized that he might have a point. It was true that she had been more or less complaining about her size but only because she was much bigger now than when she’d been carrying Grace and couldn’t even maneuver around a room smoothly. The ordered rest from the base doctor wasn’t the only reason she was working from home; she was becoming a liability on the base, because she couldn’t move quickly or run if it was necessary. That all contributed to her moods simply because she had never been considered a liability before. Normally people looked at her for a solution, not wondering whether she was still capable of doing her job. If there was a foothold situation or some other kind of emergency she was a danger rather than an asset.
It had been very different with Grace since she’d been stationed at Area 51 in the beginning and was then temporarily reassigned to the SGC. In the end the reass became final and while she had been restricted from 'gate travel, she had still been working in her lab or was sent to help out in DC or even over at Area 51 again. She had still been an asset but now as pregnant base commander she was a risk – she didn’t like it one bit. How could she do her job well if she wasn’t allowed to be on base most of the time? Fortunately so far everything had gone well and no major disasters had occurred.
That only furthered Jack and Doctor Lam’s belief that she was better off at home, to avoid stress and such considering her age and the difficulty of the pregnancy so far. But at least the baby was healthy, she told herself. That was what mattered in the end, wasn’t it? And although the baby hadn’t been planned at all, they were all looking forward to its arrival and it was already difficult to think of their lives without it.
“Okay,” she relented, “I’ll talk to her. But you know, now that I think about it it isn’t all that strange. I mean, she’s always been surrounded by fit people. Most of our friends are military and in good shape, the kids at school are mostly military brats with fit parents–”
“Speak of the devil,” Jack muttered, turning to watch their daughter run towards them. “What is it, munckin?”
She bounded up the steps, grinning from ear to ear. “Can we have jello? We made red for Uncle Cam and Daddy this morning and green for Uncle Teal'c.”
“And purple for you and Cassie,” Sam added. “But that’s for dessert. Cassie is already getting some snacks for now.”
“Go play catch with Uncle Cam, Gracie.” He waited until she’d scurried off again and turned back to Sam. “Why don’t you talk to Daniel, something’s up with him. Teal'c and I’ll get the new grill from the shed and set it up.”
Sam watched as he went over to the guys and sat back in her chair when Daniel came her way. She hadn’t noticed something had been up with him per se, but she could guess; Vala. Those two had been heading somewhere but neither of them had been lucky in love and were downright scarred by some of the things life had thrown at them so the moment it got intense they both bolted. Daniel had finally gone to Atlantis and Vala had taken Ba’al’s host under her wing after the extraction ceremony, since none of them wanted to have anything to do with the man. Daniel had been offended that Vala would do such a thing to someone who had not only treated his friends – and planet – badly but her as well, back when she’d been a host to Qetesh. Vala, of course, was hurt by Daniel's lack of trust and sympathized with the former host, knowing what he had gone through. It was no wonder the relationship between her two friends had cooled off…
“Daniel, come, sit.” She patted the chair Jack had just vacated.
The familiar curiosity was back in his eyes as he sat down. “So… what’s going on? Jack said you wanted to talk to me? Is it about the baby, is everything okay?”
“The baby is fine.”
“And you two… I mean, I couldn’t help but overhear your argument-”
She gave him a reassuring smile and shook her head. “We’re fine too, Daniel. It was about Grace, apparently she’s asking every overweight person if they’re having a baby like her mommy is. Looks like we’re going to have to discuss a special version of the birds and the bees with her and get her to stop offending people with her innocent questions.”
“Ah! Well then, if it’s not about you then-”
“It’s about you,” she confirmed. “And Vala.”
“Sam,” he sighed and pulled off his glasses. Rubbing his eyes he seemed distraught for a moment. “Look, if she wants to play the freelancing space pirate with Ba'al then that’s her choice.”
“He’s not Ba’al, Daniel.”
He snorted, shaking his head in denial. “Try telling Jack that. Hell, I don’t think even you can get past it. Not after everything that has happened.”
Jack took a slow sip of his beer, enjoying the heavy weight of a resting Sam against his chest as they sat around the campfire Teal'c had built earlier. The Jaffa and Mitchell were still busy eating, T probably because he was still hungry but the flyboy looked rather stuffed and was probably just trying to compete, much to Jack’s amusement. Gracie was fast asleep on Cassie’s lap and the young alien woman was dozing against a log herself. Daniel had already draped a blanket around their sleeping forms earlier when he’d gone to retrieve some drinks.
Even though the archeologist hadn’t spoken to him about his issues Jack knew that the talk his friend had had with Sam had helped, just like he had expected. Vala Mal Doran was definitely not his type but for some reason Daniel had a soft spot for her – and it was mutual. Bizarrely they might actually be a good match, he thought to himself. Even Teal'c seemed to approve and Jack couldn’t help but wonder if that had anything to do with those fifty years aboard Odyssey the man never spoke about.
Well, as long as Daniel was happy, that was all that mattered. Even if it would be with someone like Vala. Hell, for all they knew she might be the one able to handle the archeologist. Jack didn’t really know anything about Mitchell’s love life and he really didn’t want to know either, but he hoped the guy would find someone as well. It might be difficult though, considering he was posted on another planet as base commander. Still, Mitchell had been the one to request the position after SG-1 had finally disbanded for real so he wasn’t going to interfere there. Teal'c was happy with Ishta, his son and daughter-in-law and the Jaffa Nation. As for Cassie… well, she still had plenty of time to find someone to love and right now he preferred to think of her as innocent.
Shifting in his lounge chair he got a big more comfortable and noticed Sam was starting to doze off as well. He placed his free hand on her stomach and smiled when he could feel the baby kick in response. The baby was very active, all the time unlike when Sam had been pregnant with Gracie and there were certain hours a day that he could feel the baby kick. But this one would always react and he sympathized with Sam, knowing it couldn’t be comfortable for her but at the same time he enjoyed the only connection he had right now with their unborn child.
It was funny how he’d thought he couldn’t be happier a few years ago, finally being with Sam and then discovering she was pregnant with Gracie and they quickly got married… Only a few months ago, during their Valentine’s dinner they had discussed how badly timed this new baby was. They hadn’t planned on having any kids, let alone two at his age. But now, sitting here with his family around the fire celebrating his seventh wedding anniversary, his wife asleep in his arms, their unborn child moving under his palm… God, he was getting sappy in his old age but he couldn’t recall ever being this fulfilled and happy. Now he could hardly wait until mid-September, when the baby was due to meet their newest family member. Gracie was excited about it as well and he was pretty sure that Sam would love nothing more than finally having the baby in her arms.
Life was good.
Well, it might have been even better if they were at the cabin, near the pond and the one fish. And maybe get a dog. He was retired now, they could get a dog! Hm, he should probably discuss that with Sam first and wait until the baby was here. It wasn’t a good idea to introduce a pet into a family right before a baby was supposed to arrive, after all.
Still, life was definitely good.