A/N: We did it: I actually finished the longest thing I've ever written and you had the patience to wait for me to do it! Yay Team Us!! Once again, a tremendously huge thank you to everyone who read and reviewed! You're all phenomenal!! : )
Descension Back To Normalcy
Two and a half weeks after the clean up at Sam's house had begun, everything had finally been repaired and replaced. In recent days, all the walls had been painted (only one had been covered in multi-coloured stripes before Sam lost her composure and her teammates had realized she had, in fact, been joking), new carpets and tiling had been laid down throughout, and the new furniture and appliances had been delivered and set up in the proper rooms. In addition, the security system appropriated from storage at Area 51 had been installed, wired to send alerts via General Hammond's office line and Jack's cell phone in the event that security was breached. All in all, it had taken a monumental group effort, but the house was finally inhabitable again and, much to the relief of the male members of SG-1, quite possibly the most secure residential building on the entire planet.
Out in the backyard, everyone who had been involved in the clean up effort was gathered for a joint housewarming/thank you party, many with significant others and children in tow. The tarps that had become a fixture in the yard had been taken down earlier in the day and four barbeques had been set up against the back fence. The adjacent fences were lined with more than two dozen coolers, all filled with a variety of beer, sodas and bottled water, plus enough ice to hopefully keep the drinks cold despite the heat of the late August afternoon.
"Um, everyone?" Sam called loudly, trying and failing to make herself heard over the many conversations being held simultaneously. "Could I have everybody's attention for a second?"
Seeing that most people hadn't heard her favourite aunt's request, Cassandra hopped up on one of the many picnic tables scattered throughout the yard and let out a piercing whistle, just the way Jack had taught her to do years ago. When she had everyone's attention she shouted, "Hey everybody! Sam wants to say something!"
Blushing but trying in vain to hide it, Sam threw a grateful smile at Cassandra before speaking. "I just wanted to thank you for all of your help with the house. I know how long it took everybody working together to get it back to inhabitable… I can't imagine how long it would have taken me to do it all by myself," Sam grimaced at the thought before continuing, "I'm sorry you all have to eat my 'cooking' again," she added mischievously, "But if you thought my delivery pizza and Chinese for two and a half weeks was brutal, my barbequed hamburgers and hot dogs are to die for."
She earned the hoped for laughter and, on that light note, everyone resumed their conversations. With a smile, Sam scanned the crowd, once more overwhelmed by the sheer number of people who had sacrificed their precious off-duty time to help her out in the last few weeks. She'd always considered herself lucky to work with these people every day, but now she realized she was even luckier to be able to call most of them friends.
A tap on her shoulder pulled Sam from her thoughts. Turning, she found Daniel behind her, squinting a bit in the bright sunshine. "Hey," she greeted with a broad grin.
"Hey yourself," he replied, a matching grin lighting his face. "Can you tear yourself away from the grill for a few moments and come inside?"
"Sure," Sam replied, grabbing his hand and leading him to the back door, weaving her way through the various clusters of people scattered through the yard. "What's inside?"
"The sooner you go inside, the sooner you'll find out," Cassandra said, not quite whining, but almost, overhearing the question as the pair approached her position near the back door. Sam smiled fondly as a remnant of the clingy little girl that SG-1 had found on another planet all those years ago peeked out from behind the independent teenager façade.
"Ladies," Daniel reprimanded, the sternness permeating his voice was undermined by the smile still on his face. "Less talk, more walk!"
"Aye aye, sir!" Cassandra mock saluted as she pulled the screen door open. Daniel reached over her head and held the door open, gesturing for her and Sam to precede him inside.
Sam snatched the girl's hand in her free one as she entered the house, pulling her in behind her. "You need to respect your elders, young lady. And not go Navy," she added, teasing good-naturedly. "Colonel O'Neill would disown you."
"When's the last time you did what your father told you to? Or Grandpa George?" Cassandra asked cheekily, checking over her shoulder to make sure Daniel was still following. "And I'd like to remind you that Uncle Teal'c is more than triple your age – how much respect do you give him?" she continued, pulling ahead to drag Sam and, by extension, Daniel into the kitchen.
"Indeed, Cassandra Frasier, I get no respect," Teal'c said lightly from his position near the brand new fridge, a slight smile playing on his lips.
"S'about time," Jack stated from his place leaning against the kitchen counter, his fingers impatiently drumming on the underside of the counter's lip. "I was beginning to think Danny went out to get you, caught a whiff of someone's beer and passed out."
"There's nothing wrong with a cheap date, Colonel," Janet drawled from his side. The pair exchanged knowing smiles and Janet waited for a nod from Jack before stepping away from the counter in sync with him. On the brand new counter behind them sat a large white box with an enormous white bow on it.
"What's this?" Sam asked in surprise, casting glances at everyone in the room in search of a hint.
"Most people would open it in order to find out," Daniel pointed out helpfully, gently pushing her towards the counter.
"Guys, you shouldn't have," Sam admonished, looking around the room. "After everything you've done…"
"Sam, please open it," Cassie begged, bouncing in place with apparently uncontainable excitement.
Shooting wary glances at the beaming archaeologist, smirking Colonel, impassive Jaffa, impatient teenager and bemused doctor, Sam approached the counter. She carefully untied the ribbon holding the bow in place and unwound it from the box. Setting the silky strands of ribbon on the counter, Sam bit back a smile. "I should really wait to open this until after I've fed everyone," she stated, knowing full well that the others wouldn't stand for it.
Her statement was met with cries of 'Sam!' and 'Carter!' spoken with varying degrees of annoyance, impatience and whine. Teal'c simply stepped behind her and stood with his arms out to either side of his body. He didn't say a word, but his stance made his thoughts clear: 'to get outside you must get past me and I have no intention of allowing this to transpire.'
Happy with the reaction she received, Sam finally removed the lid from the box and placed it next to the bow on the counter. Gently peeling back several layers of delicate baby blue tissue paper, she finally caught a glimpse of the box's contents. A wave of recognition washed over her and she gasped in surprise, her fingertips hesitantly dancing over the familiar fabric.
"You found it," Sam whispered, looking around the room through tear-filled eyes. "When I didn't see it in the backyard, I thought someone had just thrown it out right away, not realizing what it was."
"Take it out of the box," Jack instructed gently, sending a warm smile her way.
Doing as she was told, Sam carefully lifted her mother's wedding dress out of the box. As she did so, more and more of the dress was revealed, dry and whole. As the last of the train left the box, Sam draped the material over her right arm and ran her eyes over the family heirloom she'd truly believed she'd never see again.
"I figured they would have trashed it too," she said quietly, lovingly fingering the lace overlay on the bodice of the dress as she blinked back tears.
"They did, but one of my neighbours is a seamstress," Daniel explained, stepping around Teal'c and moving to stand beside Jack so he could better see her face. "She got the general idea of how it was supposed to look from your parents' wedding photos and then sewed it all back together."
Sam carefully folded the layers of white material and placed it back in the box, leaving the lid off so that she could still see the dress. Wiping at her eyes, she turned and surprised Teal'c by mauling him in an enthusiastic bear hug. Despite the unexpectedness of the hug, Teal'c didn't miss a beat, wrapping his huge arms around her and squeezing once before releasing her, a smile on his face.
Moving on, Sam shared a tight hug with Janet, murmuring her gratitude in a voice still thick with tears.
"Mostly Cass and I just wrapped it," Janet whispered back. "Your guys came up with the idea," she added, stepping back with a smile as Cassandra bounded forward to take her place
"Thanks, sweetie," Sam smiled at Cassandra, wrapping her arms around the excited girl and holding her close.
"It's okay?" Cassandra asked, a hint of scepticism in her voice.
"It's perfect," the blonde woman assured, smiling down at her. Sam dropped a kiss on Cassandra's forehead before breaking off the hug.
Navigating around the other's standing in the kitchen, Sam made her way over to hug the two people most likely responsible for masterminding the salvaging of her mother's wedding dress.
"Those are happy tears, right, Carter?" Jack inquired as her arms snaked around his waist, his own arms wrapping around her back.
"Yes, sir," Sam smiled, squeezing him tightly.
"Just checking," he replied. He tightened his arms around her for a few seconds before letting her go, a smile on his face once more.
Slipping out of Jack's embrace, Sam turned to Daniel and stepped into his wide open arms. Wrapping her arms around his neck, she hugged him as tightly as she could, her smile growing when his arms folded around her.
"Thank you," Sam whispered, her mouth next to his ear. "You don't know how much the dress means to me since she died."
"I have a pretty good idea," he argued with a smile. Unwrapping one arm from around her, he turned her 90 degrees so she faced the others and leaned her side against his chest before wrapping his arm around her waist to hold her body in place. His other arm went back to rest on the counter behind him, bracing himself as Sam leaned further into him. He pretended not to notice when she reached up and quickly wiped at her eyes, nor when she sniffled quietly.
"So kids," Jack began, sharing a smile with the only actual kid in the room as the adults rolled their eyes.
"What on earth are we going to do with every waking moment now that this place is inhabitable again?"
"We've got that mission to P3X 471 the day after tomorrow," Daniel reminded, tilting his head back for a moment so Sam could tuck her head under his chin. "That'll keep us busy."
"And I'm sure I'll be kept busy when you come back needing me to piece all of you back together from photos and then sew you back up," Janet stated wryly. The mission was supposed to be a simple mineral survey, but nothing was ever 'simple' when SG-1 was involved. More often than not, it was the milk runs that got the team into the most trouble.
"Meanwhile I'll be getting ready to go back to school," Cassie grumbled unhappily. "And yes, I will be taking AP English, Spanish, history, bio, chem, physics and math," she added before anyone could inquire about her courses. As she rhymed them off, she shot pointed looks at the people she was appeasing with her choices, namely Daniel, Janet and Sam.
"Think fast," Sam said with a sadistic grin, looping her arms loosely around Daniel's waist. "Cosine law?"
"Choice of hungry marines plus choice of evil aunt equals poor little Cassandra going outside to face a starving mob," Cassandra quipped, making a break for the door before the quizzing could start in earnest.
"What about…" Jack called after her retreating back.
"Baseball, hockey and track teams, Uncle Jack," she called in exasperation, knowing what the question would be before he could even finish asking it. "Just like every other year."
"That's my girl!" he replied proudly, beaming at the others. "What?" he shrugged when three-quarters of the people left in the room rolled their eyes. "She knows school comes first, I just want to make sure she has some time to play too."
Around her, Sam's friends began reminiscing about their own high school experiences, much to Teal'c's amusement. She didn't contribute, merely allowing their familiar voices to wash over her and giggling occasionally at the antics the others had gotten up to as teenagers. As she listened to the silly stories and easy banter, she realized that as long as she had the unwavering love and support of her friends, she really could survive anything. At that, she had to smile.
Oh yes, she thought humorously, as long as they're with me, I can survive glowing aliens that make themselves invisible to everyone but me, everyone thinking I've completely lost it, the government spying on me, a team of ten male strangers rifling through my underwear drawer, impending Armageddon and irate members of the Pentagon and NID baying for my blood.
"Carter, everything okay?" Jack asked suddenly, interrupting her thoughts, his concern clear. "You spaced out on us for a minute there."
"Yes sir," Sam replied, gracing him with a full-blown grin. "I'm perfectly fine."
And for the first time in over a month, she really was.
A/N 2: Quite a few people have asked, so I've decided that I will be writing a sequel to this story, involving NID evilness and bad things. Before I can start writing though, I need to finish off my thesis, so I probably won't start posting the sequel until mid- to late-April. Keep your eyes pealed for it! : )