A/N: Yes, way too much time has passed since the last update and this one. I won't bore you with excuses and reasons for the delay. But I haven't forgotten about this story and I'm still working on it. Here is the next update – I was going to make this part and Emma's party all one chapter, but that would make it too long, so I broke it up into two chapters. Hope you guys like this and hope you are still reading! As always reviews are most welcomed….

As usual, don't own Lost or the characters of Lost.

CHAPTER 56 – PRE-PARTY EVENTS

The weekend of Emma's birthday approached quickly and before they knew it, it was the Thursday before and Sam and Carrie were both arriving that day. Since Emma had a doctor's appointment at the time of Sam's arrival Jack offered to pick up the older man at the airport and Kate would go pick up Carrie, who wasn't arriving until the afternoon.

As she stood in the airport, Emma's hand tightly in hers, Kate scanned the crowd for the red head. Carrie spotted her first.

"Kate!"

Turning around Kate saw Carrie, sporting a slightly longer and wavier hairdo, weaving between a couple of people to get to her.

"Carrie! Hi!" Kate happily cried out as her friend pulled her into a big hug.

"Oh my God, it's so good to see you."

"Yeah, you too!"

"Oh my God…Emma, sweetie!" Carrie squealed as she spotted the little girl at Kate's side. "You look so big…and pretty." She dropped down to her knees in front of her god-daughter.

"Hi, Aunt Carrie." Emma greeted her politely. She didn't really remember the woman, but her mother had told her about Carrie, and she knew the woman always seemed to send her presents, which was a good thing. Carrie was also something her mother called her "god mother" but Emma wasn't sure what that meant.

"Are you all excited about your birthday?" Carrie asked her cheerfully. "There's going to be a cake and presents."

Emma smiled at the mention of her favorite topic of the moment. "Ah huh…and a jumpy castle."

"Really? You're getting a jumpy castle too?" Carrie exclaimed. "That is one of my most favorite birthday things to do…jump in a castle." She poked Emma in her side eliciting a giggle. "Maybe you and I will get to do some jumping." She said before standing up and putting her hand out. "Want to walk with me to get my luggage?"

The little girl looked up at her mother who nodded, telling her it was okay. A short time later the three had made their way through baggage claim and were in Kate's car heading towards home. Carrie was busy filling Kate in on her latest boyfriend.

"He's a painter?" Kate asked with a smirk. "You mean, like houses?"

Carrie rolled her eyes. "Very funny, No, like paintings. He's getting some pieces together to try and get a show. If he can do that he thinks his career will take off?"

"So is he any good? Has he made any money at this?"

"Well, he's still trying to get established."

"But he does have a job, right?" Kate asked as she maneuvered through traffic.

"Of course!" Carrie said with a slight hesitation in her voice. "He….paints houses." She added.

Kate glanced over at her friend trying to keep a straight face. "You're kidding, right?"

Carrie pressed her lips together in a mock pout and shook her head. "Nope."

There was a moment of silence before both women broke out in laughter.

"I know, I know," Carrie laughed. "But at least he's good in bed."

"Hey, watch it!" Kate scolded. "Little ears present."

They both glanced to the back seat and saw an oblivious Emma playing with her rag doll. Sensing she was being looked at the little looked up. "Mommy?"

"What Doodle Bug?" Kate asked cautiously as she shot a look at Carrie.

"Is Gwampa going to be there?"

"At the house?" Kate glanced up in the rear view mirror at her daughter again. "He should be. Your daddy went to get him from the airport this morning."

"Can I show him my puppets?"

Jack had recently bought Emma a box of various puppets and she and Aaron had been having puppet shows off and on since.

"I'm sure your grandpa will love to have you show him your puppets."

"And can he go to the park with us again?" Emma asked anxiously.

Kate laughed, enjoying Emma's excitement over her grandfather's visit. Sam doted on her every chance he could and Emma loved it and him. "We'll see baby, maybe tomorrow if we're not too busy with your party plans."

Carrie watched as Kate turned the corner and they were now in a residential are heading to the neighborhood where she lived. "You know, I could just as easily stay in a hotel." She commented.

"Are you kidding?" Kate shook her head. "No way."

"I know, but you've got some limited space and your dad's here…"

"Don't worry about it. Jack offered up his extra room, so my dad's going to be staying with him." The brunette explained.

"And your dad's okay with that?"

"Sure. He and Jack have always gotten along."

"Well, still that was awfully nice of him to offer up." Carrie observed as they pulled into the driveway, wondering why Phillip hadn't been the one to offer up his home. From what Kate had said he owned a nice sized house.

Her attention was drawn back to Kate getting out of the vehicle and popping the lock on the rear hatch of the SUV. While Kate got Emma out of her car seat, Carrie pulled out her luggage and started lugging it around the vehicle. Just then Jack's jeep pulled up and he and Sam jumped out.

"Here, I've got that." Same quickly offered up as he made his way over to the red head.

"Yeah, I'll grab the other." Jack added as he gave Kate and Emma a quick hello.

"Gwampa!" Emma broke into a smile as she ran over and hugged the older man.

Sam returned her smile and lifted her up into a hug. "Well, there's my birthday girl." Pulling back, he kissed her on the forehead, noting how much she reminded him of Kate as a child. "Are you ready for your party on Saturday?"

The little girl nodded grinning. "Ah huh. All ready."

Slipping the child back on the sidewalk he grabbed the remaining suitcase and followed the rest of the group into the house.

After settling Carrie in the den the two girls disappeared into Kate's room for some more girl talk while Sam joined Jack out in the patio to keep an eye on Emma and Aaron playing in the yard.

"So, son, you haven't told me yet, how are you adjusting to fatherhood?" Sam asked as he twisted the cap off his beer.

Jack nodded as he took a sip of his own beer. "I'm enjoying it so far."

"Nothing like it, huh?"

Jack looked out to see Emma in the middle of the sandbox trying to help Aaron build a sand city. Her expression reflecting a concentration as her little palm patted down a small mound of dirt into a square shape. "Yeah, it's pretty incredible…she's pretty incredible."

Sam chuckled. "That she is and she looks just like her mom did when Kate was that age." He paused to take another drink. "It used to make my day to come home to that little face that would light up when she saw me, anxious to tell me everything she had done that day. I imagine it's the same with you and Emma."

Jack shrugged his shoulders. "Except that I don't get to come home to her." He replied wistfully. "And eventually Phillip is the one she'll be greeting."

Sam felt a wave of empathy for the young man's current situation. He knew it too well after Diane and he divorced. He might not have been Kate's biological father, but he was her dad and for awhile he was full of resentment toward Wayne, knowing full well that man hadn't wanted the little girl in the first place and yet he was around her on a daily basis. "Phillip's not her father." He stated firmly then turned and looked at the other man. "You and Emma have a bond that she's not going to have with anyone else. And that's not a bond easily broken…it may bend a bit." He chuckled as he took another sip of beer. "I know that first hand, but you're the one she's going to come to when she needs something, when something good has happened to her…and bad. You're the one she's going to depend on to be there for her no matter what. You're her hero…at least until she meets the man she'll eventually marry."

Jack's face paled a bit at the comment. "Marry? Give me a break, I've got a few years before I have to worry about boys."

Sam reached over and slapped Jack on the shoulder. "It'll be here sooner than you think. It doesn't feel that long ago that Katie was running around with me out in the fields with braids and skinned knees and then all of a sudden she's making me a grandfather."

"And getting married…." Jack trailed off.

Sam looked over at the young man again for a long moment before he brought the bottle up to his lips to take another drink. "I wouldn't be so quick to declare that war over."

"Excuse me?"

The older man winked. "Katie has always been a fairly decisive girl when she wants to be. She sets her mind on something…that's part of what got her in trouble with the whole Wayne situation, she decided to take matters into her own hands and…well…"

"What are you trying to say, Sam?" Jack asked confused.

"Just that she hasn't set a wedding date yet, so that tells me, even if she won't admit it, Katie isn't all fired up to marry Phillip."

Now it was Jack's turn to study Sam for a moment. Realization dawned on him as he did. "You don't like the guy, do you?" He finally asked with a slight smirk on his face.

Sam shrugged his shoulders. "Nothing personal against him, I just don't think he's the right guy for her."

Friday evening came and the adults were ready for dinner out. Claire has insisted that Jack come along telling him that Sawyer needed a buffer between him and Phillip. Louise had offered to babysit, but was pleasantly surprised when both Kate and Claire insisted she join them having already arranged for a babysitter.

Meeting the group at the restaurant, with Sam, Jack was surprised when Carrie walked over to him and slipped her arm under his and hooked it. "Looks like you're my date tonight, Jack." She announced cheerfully.

Jack looked down at her and raised an eyebrow. "Oh, really?"

"Ah-huh. It's either you or Mr. Austen and…" She leaned in a little closer and madder her voice an almost whisper. "…Louise already laid claim, seeing as how they're from the same generation and all."

He shook his head and put a mock look of hurt on his face. "So, I'm last choice then?"

She swatted his forearm lightly and laughed. "Oh please, Dr. Shepard, I doubt if you've ever been 'last choice' in anything."

Kate watched the two as they exchanged a laugh and found herself not liking it. Carrie was acting way too flirty in Kate's opinion. She had a boyfriend back in Los Angeles, didn't she remember that? Her eyes narrowed a bit as she watched them share another joke and Carrie giggle. 'What is wrong with her?' Kate thought to herself.

At this point the hostess walked up and announced that their table was ready and the group was led through the restaurant to their seating. Claire lingered a moment letting everyone else walk ahead.

"You coming, Blondie?" Sawyer turned back towards her and as he did he saw the mischievous grin on her face. "What?"

"Kate's jealous." She told him, her tone almost giddily.

Sawyer glanced back behind him where the group had been standing and then looked back at his girlfriend. "Jealous of what?"

"Of Carrie flirting with Jack!" She clapped her hands.

He let out a small sigh. Even though he and Carrie had managed to end things on a civil note, he still felt a little awkward being around her now that he was with Claire. They didn't go out of their way to spend time with one another, but at the same time were pleasant enough to one another when they were face to face.

"Don't you think you should be mad?" He asked. "I mean, isn't that breaking some girl code?"

Claire rolled her eyes. "Please…that's only if Carrie was really after Jack."

Sawyer shot his girlfriend a sideways squint. "What are you up to, Blondie?"

"Who me? I'm not up to anything." She tapped him on the chest and pointed towards the entrance to the main part of the restaurant. "We'd better get in there before they wonder what happened to us."

Sawyer watched his girlfriend walk away, her hips holding a slight sway and he slowly shook his head. Whatever she had planned, Sawyer thought, neither Kate nor Jack would know what hit them.

Dinner went pleasantly enough, though Phillip left the table on three occasions to take phone calls in addition to a few text messages he received as they ate. Sam found the behavior to be on the rude side and mumbled as much to Louise the third time Phillip excused himself with his blackberry to his ear.

"You'd think he would have shut that thing off tonight."

Kate, who was sitting next to him, overheard. "He's in the middle of a business venture in Germany, Dad." She explained, slightly embarrassed at having to make the explanation.

"And that can't take a break for a couple of hours while he sits down to a meal?" Sam shot back. "It's rude, Katie. It gives the impression that he'd rather be somewhere else than here with us."

Kate wasn't sure what to say in response so she remained quiet. Feeling like she needed a quick rescue Jack spoke up. "You know, Sam, I'm sure Phillip doesn't mean to give that impression. I've had more than a couple of dinners out interrupted by a call from the hospital."

"But you're a doctor and those emergencies can be life threatening."

Jack nodded slowly realizing his comment didn't help much. "I guess. I'm just saying you can get focused on a situation and not realize what you're doing."

Kate gave him a small smile silently thanking him for his attempt to help and willingness to stick up for Phillip. Jack returned her smile. At that moment the waitress appeared with a tray of desserts to serve so Sam decided to let the topic drop, but not before one last comment.

"Still say that it's rude." He told his daughter who nodded.

"I know." She agreed softly, as a plate of chocolate mousse was placed in front of her, wishing at that moment that Phillip had been a doctor because then at least he could claim 'life threatening' as a reason to take the calls instead of 'important to the deal…'

A short time later as the group stood in the lobby of the restaurant getting ready to leave Kate walked up to where Jack, Carrie and her father were standing. "Ahum…Jack, were you planning on stopping by to say goodnight to Emma?" She asked quietly.

Jack glanced at his watch to make sure it wasn't too late.

"I'm sure she'd really like it." Kate added quickly.

Making eye contact with the pretty brunette, he nodded and gave her a small smile. "Sure, I'd like to say good night to her too." He turned to Sam. "You don't mind swinging by the house, do you?"

Sam shook his head. "And miss a chance to see my grand daughter?"

Kate broke into a smile. "Okay, if I catch a ride with you guys? It'll save Phillip a trip since the house isn't really on his way to his place from here."

Claire, who had been standing nearby and over heard, spoke up quickly. "Well, Carrie and Aunt Louise are coming with us so that should work out perfect."

Jack, secretly happy that Kate wasn't going home with Phillip, gave her an agreeing nod. "Yeah, no problem."

Satisfied, Kate walked over to Phillip and tapped him gently on the arm. "I'm going to catch a ride with my dad and Jack back to the house." She told him.

Phillip frowned. "What? I thought you'd be coming back to my place."

"Can't, I have to get up early tomorrow and get everything set up for the party." She reminded him gently.

Glancing over at Jack for a moment, his eyes narrowing in suspicion, he ducked his head down closer to Kate's. "Well, I can give you a ride."

But Kate shook her head firmly. "Don't be silly. It's out of your way from here and they're going that way." Her tone indicating it made practical sense.

"I don't mind." Phillip replied stubbornly, not in the mood to have his fiancée spend any additional time tonight around Jack Shepard. It was bad enough that he had been invited to join them all for dinner with Phillip finding out about it at the last minute. And it jarred Phillip's nerves to see Sam Austen getting along well with Jack while he struggled to try and make a connection with the older man. But he was determined to make headway this weekend knowing that he needed Sam in his corner to help Kate commit to a wedding date in the near future.

"Phillip, really, it's okay." Kate told him as the group walked out to the parking lot. "You go home, get some work done and then come over tomorrow for the party."

He gave a brief frown. "You're still insisting on me attending that? I mean, it's for a bunch of little kids."

Kate raised an eyebrow and looked at him directly in the eyes. "They'll be other adults there. And besides, I would think you'd want to be there seeing as how you're going to be her step-father."

Phillip caught the tone of disappointment in her voice and quickly tried to recover, giving her his best smile. "Of course, babe, I'm going to be there. I was just kidding. And I've got a great gift for Emma. She's going to love it."

Kate returned his smile and nodded. "I'm sure she will. She loves getting gifts." Glancing back at her father and Jack waiting, she reached up and gave her fiancé a quick kiss goodnight. "I'll see you tomorrow, then."

Turning quickly she walked over to the Jeep and joined Jack in the front seat as Sam took the backseat for the ride home. A short time later they pulled into up to the curb just behind Claire's four runner. Stepping inside the house they found both kids still up watching a movie with the sitter.

Announcing it was time for bed Kate scooped up Emma and proceeded to the bedroom. She stopped at the hallway and looked over her shoulder. "Coming Jack?" She asked in a low voice.

Glancing at Sam who gave him a knowing smile, Jack dipped his head before following the brunette to bedroom to put their daughter to bed. Excited about her party the next day it took both Jack reading a story and Kate singing a lullaby before the little girl finally closed her eyes for the night.

"Thanks for letting me help get her sleep." Jack said as they walked to the living room.

"You're welcome." Kate smiled, "She really likes it when you read to her."

"Yeah?" Jack asked as he nodded. "I do too."

TBC

Coming up: Emma's party of course! And hopefully some Jate time too.