Summary: Work finishes on Cassie's new apartment.
Six weeks later, Sam was on the 'phone to Daniel. "The building work's finally finished," she said, unable to keep the delight out of her voice. "And Alex is taking Cassie away for a long weekend. So we've got three days to get the place painted. The furniture is going in on Monday. Alex has promised to keep Cass away until Monday evening."
Daniel smiled on the other end of the 'phone. "You sound real excited Sam," he said.
"I am!" she declared. "Our little girl's gonna have her own apartment."
"But she's still going to be there with you all," Daniel said.
"Yeah," Sam said. "For as long as she wants to be. Her and the baby."
"Well, we'll be there bright and early on Friday," Daniel had persuaded Jack and Teal'c to come along to help with 'the big paint'. "Sarah's gonna look after Kathy. She says she can take Bea too, but my guess is she's going to want to join in with the work party, huh?"
Sam grinned. "You try stopping her," she said. "She's real good with a paintbrush, though, you wouldn't believe it. And we won't give her anything too difficult to do. She just wants to be part of what's happening, she wants her big sister to be happy."
"She's sounding pretty happy to me these days," Daniel said. "And I think I can guess why."
"Alex is the best thing to happen to Cass in a long time," Sam said. "She's made Cassie so happy. When she first found out she was pregnant, she was so scared Daniel. But now she's embraced it, and Alex is being amazing. I swear she's more excited about this baby than anyone."
"Sometimes things just work out for the best, don't they?" Daniel mused.
"They sure do," Sam smiled, as she hung up the 'phone.
= = =
"You can't afford this!" Cassie declared, as Alex pushed her into the hotel room. "It's huge!" she said.
"I'm celebrating," Alex said, smugly.
"Oh yeah?" Cassie asked. "Just what are you celebrating?"
"Well it's like this," Alex took her hand and led her to the large bed. She sat down next to her, and reached over and caressed her cheek. "Somehow I've managed to persuade the most beautiful woman in the world to come away with me for four days." She kissed her tenderly. "So," she said, "I'm celebrating. And I'll be damned if I'm gonna have my celebrations in a crappy motel or motor lodge. Anyway," she ran her hand over Cassie's ever-growing belly. "My girlfriend deserves the best."
"Well, this sure is the best," Cassie said. "I can't believe you organized all this without me knowing."
"Sam let me make all the arrangements from work," Alex said. "It was easy."
"Did she ask who's gonna feed your fish while you're away?" Cassie's eyes twinkled with mischief. She knew as well as Alex did that she didn't have any fish, but had merely manufactured them to have an excuse to go back to her own apartment when Sam invited her to stay at the house.
Alex grinned. "I think Sam knows damn well that those fish were political," she said. "She's been too tactful to mention them. She knows I felt kinda awkward at the thought of staying at my boss's house, in her daughter's bedroom."
Cassie took Alex's hand, and kissed it softly. "I'm so glad you got over your inhibitions," she said, in a sultry voice.
"Yeah," Alex's voice cracked slightly. "The first time was weird, but Sam and Janet were so nice."
"Bea loves it when you stay too," Cassie said. "I swear that girl loves you nearly as much as I do."
"Well that's good," Alex smiled, "'cos I love her too. And Kathy. It's amazing, Cass," she said, reaching over and starting to unbutton Cassie's shirt. "I fell in love with you, and then I get this great family as well. They've all made me feel so welcome," she said, her eyes glistening. "I was afraid I'd never be part of a family again."
"Well you are now," Cassie said firmly, batting away Alex's hand and impatiently dragging the half-unbuttoned shirt over her head. "Everybody loves you. And I," she took Alex's hand and pressed it over her belly, "and this baby love you most of all. I can't imagine life without you now. Isn't it incredible, how things change so much in just a couple of months? I was kinda in a bad place, when we first met. Now I can't ever remember being this happy."
"Not even with Mike?" Alex asked, without meaning to. She saw Cassie wince. "Shit," she said. "I'm sorry, Cass. I shouldn't have said that. It's none of my business."
Cassie looked up at her, tears in her eyes. "You can ask anything you want," she said in a quiet voice. "I have no secrets from you. And no. I thought I loved Mike. He was a nice guy. He still is, I'm sure. And I did love him, in a way. I thought we were totally happy, at least to start with. But it was never really right. If it had been, it wouldn't have fizzled out like it did. When I met you, I realized I had never really known love, or happiness. With you, it's a whole new ballgame. You make me whole. I didn't realize I wasn't whole, until you came along. I always thought 'soulmate' was just an expression. But it's real, isn't it Lex? Whenever I look at you, or hold you, I know that I'm complete at last." She looked over at her lover, and realized that she was crying softly. "Lex?" she asked gently. "I'm sorry. Please don't cry. I didn't mean to upset you."
Alex smiled through her tears. "You haven't upset me, Cassandra," she said. "Quite the reverse. You've made me happier than I can ever deserve to be. You complete me too, my sweet. But it makes sense really. You know we've got the same name?"
"Huh?" Cassie asked.
"Cassandra. Otherwise known as Alexandra. Apollo fell in love with her. We're the same person, Cass," Alex explained.
"That's beautiful," Cassie whispered, taken aback by the coincidence.
"Not as beautiful as you," Alex said, standing up and pulling her own shirt over her head. She kicked off her shoes, and shucked her jeans off, leaving them in an untidy pile on the floor.
Cassie gasped at the sight of Alex's strong, athletic body in front of her in just her underwear. Her mouth went dry. "You're so beautiful, Alexandra Burton," she said.
"And you're exquisite," Alex said. All of you," she grinned. In the last couple of weeks, Cassie's pregnancy had seemed to advance at a great rate, and her belly was now unmistakeable even under the baggiest clothes. "You are also just about the hottest thing I have ever seen."
"Oh yeah?" Cassie grinned. "Prove it," she said, her voice low with desire. So Alex did.
= = =
"I spilled some on the floor," Beatrice wailed, distraught at the thought of having caused a problem in her sister's new apartment.
Sam smiled, and hugged her warmly. "That's okay, sweetie," she told her. "It's not the real floor yet. The men are coming to install the flooring tomorrow, so we can spill all we like on the floor today! Here," she grinned as she took her paintbrush and wrote a large 'Hi Bea!' on the screed flooring. "It'll all be covered up tomorrow."
Beatrice grinned. "That's real naughty, Mama," she said.
"I know!" Sam winked. "Don't tell your Mom," she said, with a smile.
"Don't tell Mom what?" Janet demanded, her voice low and dangerous.
Sam jumped, and grinned. "I didn't see you there," she said.
"Clearly," Janet said drily.
Beatrice giggled. "Look what Mama did!" she pointed to the floor.
"Tattletale!" Sam laughed.
Janet looked down, then looked over at Sam, and grinned widely. She turned to Beatrice. "Your Mama is a very naughty lady," she told her, trying not to smile. "I think she should be punished." She advanced on Sam and, very deliberately, took her paintbrush and drew a thick, white line down the middle of Sam's face.
Beatrice shrieked with laughter, her laughter growing as Sam caught Janet by the wrists and pulled her toward her, kissing her soundly. To start with Janet tried to escape her grasp, but was soon overtaken by the passion of the kiss. Eventually Sam pulled back, and looked at Janet. She laughed loudly at the white paint that now adorned Janet's face, having been transferred from Sam.
Beatrice looked at them, and said in a very grown-up voice, "sometimes I think you two are very silly," which just caused Sam and Janet to laugh more.
= = =
"Cass?" Alex asked Cassie later that evening, as they lay in bed, picking over the room service food.
"Yes Lex?" Cassie replied.
"I know it's not really any of my business. But I can't help wondering," Alex said, cautiously.
"What about?" Cassie asked.
"Mike," Alex sounded almost guilty mentioning his name.
Alex reached out and took her hand. "I'm sorry, honey," she said gently. "But don't you think it's something we should think about? Whether you want him to be part of this baby's life," she ran her hand lovingly over Cassie's belly. "You've got, what, two and a half months to go? I'm not saying you have to tell him," she looked deep into Cassie's eyes. "I'm just saying you can't keep ignoring it. You should think about it, and make a decision."
Cassie looked defensive, and opened her mouth to respond sharply. Then she took a deep breath, and looked down at Alex's hand, as it continued to caress her stomach. She nodded. "You're right," she said, her voice barely audible. "I just... I just wanted... I don't know what I wanted," she finished lamely. She looked into Alex's eyes. "Actually, that's not true. I do know what I wanted. What I want. What I want is to raise this baby. With you," she said, her voice cracking.
Alex wrapped her arms round Cassie and rocked her gently. "And we will, Cass, we will," she said softly, again and again. "I'm gonna be with you every step of the way. I want us to be together forever Cass. You, me, and the baby. And maybe another child in the future too, who knows? What I do know is that you are my family now. And when, please God let it happen, we are finally allowed to do it, I want to marry you. We'll be allowed to one day, I'm sure of it. Don't cry, honey," she pleaded. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to make you cry."
"You're right," Cassie sniffed, "that's why I'm crying. I have to call him. He's a good man. He deserves the chance to know his child. He won't be an ass about it, try to get custody or anything. But he'd want to know, I'm sure of it. I'll call him tomorrow Lex."
"Are you sure, Cass?" Alex asked, taking both of her hands in her own and looking her in the eye. "I don't want to put any pressure on you."
Cassie nodded. "Yeah," she said. "I'm sure. It's only fair for the baby too," she said. "What happens when he, or she, asks who their daddy is? Everybody should know where they come from. I'm not quite sure how it's all going to work, but it will."
Alex kissed her gently. "It sure will, Cass," she said. "We'll make it work. All of us. We may be an unconventional family, but we're still a family. One of the best I've ever seen. And if we have any doubts about how it can work, we can just look at Bea. Have you ever seen a better example of how love really does conquer all? She's wonderful, and she's such a happy girl. And she's got three parents who adore her, just like Kathy."
Cassie looked up at her lover. "You say all the right things," she said, a small smile growing on her face.
"It's all true though, Cass," Alex reminded her. "We have a very exciting future ahead."
"We do," Cassie agreed. "We really do. Hold me, Alex," she pleaded, as she snuggled into her arms.
= = =
"The place looks amazing, Carter," O'Neill said on the Sunday. Against all the odds, they had just completed the painting, and Sam was taking a pack of beers from the refrigerator. For once, Janet had agreed that they could get take-out, so 'the guys' were sitting in their living room, eating slices of pizza. O'Neill had followed Sam to the kitchen, ostensibly to help her carry in the beer.
"Yeah," she agreed happily, "thanks to all of you. Cassie's gonna be thrilled. I'm so excited for her. Finally everything's coming good for her."
"So you think Burton is making her happy?" O'Neill enquired.
"Happier than she's ever been," Sam said. "Seriously, it's just wonderful. Alex is so excited about the baby."
O'Neill smiled. "Yeah," he said wistfully. "It's a very exciting time."
Sam saw the look in his eyes, and reached out to touch his hand. She knew that the pain of losing Charlie would never really go. She was just so pleased that, at long last, he had finally forgiven himself, and given himself permission to live a full life again.
He smiled at her. "About that," he said, hesitantly. "Sarah and I have been talking. A lot. I mean, a lot," he grinned. "And she's 42 now, and I'm the wrong side of 50. But," he swallowed, "we've decided to try for another baby."
Sam grinned widely, and flung her arms round his neck. "Jack!" she squealed. "That's fantastic. I'm so excited for you. Suppose it doesn't happen, though?" a flash of doubt ran through her mind. "Shit," she stammered. "Sorry, I'm not trying to be negative. I'm sure it will be fine. I just..."
"You just want us to be prepared for disappointment if we don't have any luck," Jack supplied, trying to ease her embarrassment. "We're ready for that, Sam," his use of her first name was unusual. "Believe me when I tell you we really have talked. But we decided it was better to try and fail, than not to try at all. And there's still a chance."
"A good chance," Sam said firmly. "A real good chance."
Jack grinned. "That's why Sarah was so keen to look after Kathy today. Get some practice in. In case she needs it."
= = =
"So what's the big surprise?" Cassie asked, as Alex took her hand and led her up the driveway.
"Wait and see," Alex said. Instead of going to the front door, though, she took her to the side of the house.
"Have they made more progress on the building work?" Cassie demanded. "Is that what you want me to see?"
"Hush for a moment, and you'll find out!" Alex laughed. She reached into her pocket and pulled out a key. She handed it to Cassie. "Open the door," she instructed.
Cassie looked at her askance, but did as she was told. She pushed the door open, but it was pitch black and she couldn't see anything. Then she heard Beatrice's unmistakeable giggle. Then the light switch was thrown, by whom she couldn't see, and suddenly the whole place erupted in laughter and shouting. Cassie found herself being hugged by everybody; her mom, Sam, Jack, Daniel, Teal'c, Sarah and finally by Beatrice who flung herself into her arms.
"It's all done!" Beatrice said. "Your apartment's finished! Come and look," and she grasped her hand. "Where's Alex?" she demanded.
"Right here," Alex laughed.
"You've gotta come too," Beatrice instructed, and grabbed her hand too.
"You knew about this, didn't you?" Cassie asked Alex as Beatrice took them on the tour.
Alex just grinned smugly.
Cassie couldn't stop exclaiming with joy as they moved from room to room. It was better than she had ever imagined. When she had finally had 'the tour', they all moved to her living room and settled down, while Jack opened a bottle of champagne, as well as a bottle of non-alcoholic wine, for Cassie and Beatrice.
Cassie looked over at Sam, who was standing in the doorway, her large expressive eyes filled with emotion. She went over to her and pulled her into her arms. "Thank you, Sam," she whispered. "It's perfect. I'm the luckiest girl in the world. I love you all, so much."
Sam held her close and rocked her gently. "Our little girl," she said quietly. "You've made me and your mom so proud. Be happy, Cass."
"I am," Cassie replied, her voice hitching.
"Then ask her," Sam whispered into her ear. "She'll say yes, I know she will."
"Huh?" Cassie asked.
"Alex. Ask her to move in. She loves you Cass, she wants to be with you. Ask her."
"Okay," Cassie's voice was small. "I will."
Next: Ground Rules