"So," Jack said to his oldest son as the waiter left the table with their orders. "You managed to distract the graduate during finals, huh?"
"No more than necessary," Cassandra chuckled as she looked over at Charlie. "Without him, I think I might have gotten a little too stressed out, and not gotten the grades I'd hoped for."
"Distraction is highly underrated," Sam said with an appreciative smile. "I never would have made it through my doctoral thesis if I hadn't had friends who threw a half a dozen parties each while I was writing it."
Jack raised an eyebrow as he heard his wife's words. "Is this the woman who kept assuring me that her scientific experiments were "fun" to her?"
Sam shared a pointed look with her husband, though it was clear that she was amused. "Is this the man who is surprised by his son's ability to do the very thing that he's been doing for me over the last twenty years?"
"All I did was load the dishwasher and keep the takeout coming," Charlie said, shrugging.
"That was all I needed," Cassandra said, affectionately.
"It's those small and simple things that keep us endeared to these women," Jack said with a chuckle as he wrapped an arm around his wife's shoulders.
"And don't forget the diamonds," Cassandra piped up with a teasing smile.
Sam grinned as Jack pulled a face.
"I don't care about the ring," Grace said, entering the conversation on a whim.
"There's my girl," Jack grinned, wrapping an arm around the young girl beside him.
"I already know I'm going to get diamonds," she said, confidently.
Jack turned a questioning eye to his daughter. "Oh?"
"Yeah, you're going to get them for me when I graduate from college. Like you did for Cassie."
"What?" Cassandra asked, surprised.
Sam and Jack both managed nervous smiles. "Uh…congratulations?" Sam managed as Jack put the small velvet box on the table.
Cassandra's eyes widened as she reached for the box and opened it to find a pair of diamond studs and a gold necklace with a simple diamond pendant. "They're beautiful!" She said, looking at the couple.
"We know you've sacrificed a lot to get where you are today," Sam said, softly. "And we just wanted to remind you that just as coal goes through a lot to become a diamond, your sacrifices will help your future become something even brighter than you could see before."
"Though that's kind of hard to imagine," Jack said with a paternal smile.
Cassandra felt her eyes moisten with tears. "Thank you."
"We just wanted you to know how proud we are of you," Sam said with a tender smile. "And to remind you how proud your mom would be of you."
Cassandra stood up, and walked over to Sam, wrapping her arms around her neck and hugging her tightly. "Thank you, Sam."
"You're welcome," she said, hugging the young woman tightly.
"Daniel wanted to make sure you knew he had a present for you, but since he's stuck in Colorado with Vala and the baby and you're going to be there soon, he wants to give it to you himself."
Cassandra chuckled. "You didn't have to get me anything. It was enough to have you all as my surrogate family."
"Well," Grace said, sagely. "Graduating from medical school isn't exactly a walk in the park."
"No," Cassandra said, shaking her head with the same solemnity as the young girl though her parents tried to stifle their smiles. "It's not."
"That's why I don't want to be a doctor when I grow up." Grace said, matter-of-factly.
"Oh?" Cassandra asked, somewhat surprised. "What do you want to be when you grow up?"
The seven-year-old paused for a moment, her eyebrows knitted together thoughtfully. "I don't know," she finally admitted. "I could do a lot of things."
"Yes," Sam said, nodding. "You could. You're very talented."
"I like animals." Grace said, thoughtfully.
"So, you want to be a veterinarian?" Cassandra asked, curiously.
She shook her head. "Nope. I wouldn't want to see the animals who were hurt."
"That's a good reason not to be a veterinarian," Jack said, nodding.
"I could be a writer. My teacher says I'm very good at writing."
"I've heard that," Jack said, affirmatively. "And good writers do a lot of reading."
"Which wouldn't be very hard for you," Sam said in agreement.
"And you did write that story for your mom," Cassandra said, reminding the little girl.
"What story?" Sam asked, surprised.
"Yeah, what story?" Jack asked, reiterating the question.
"Grace wrote a story while she was in Cheyenne Mountain, waiting for Sam and Jacob to get well." Cassandra said, almost surprised that she had to explain. She turned to the little girl. "Didn't you show it to your mom and dad?"
"Oops…" Grace said, sheepishly. "I forgot."
"She did a really great job on it," Charlie affirmed, proudly.
"Well, then," Sam said, lifting a whimpering Jacob out of his carseat. "I guess we'll have to read it when we get home."
"Yep." Jack said, nodding as the waiter brought their meals out to them.
"Do you guys know where you want to get married yet?" Grace asked slurping a Chinese noodle through her lips as she looked up at the couple.
"Actually," Cassandra said, looking at Charlie somewhat nervously. "We did have an idea…"
"Where?" Sam asked, looking up from the now-content infant in her arms.
"The cabin." Charlie said, looking over at his dad. "Neither of us are particularly religious, so a church wedding doesn't make sense. And given my "resurrection" and the fact that Cassandra only really have you guys and the rest of the team as family, we don't think it would be a big wedding."
"Just close friends and family," Cassandra affirmed. "Like your wedding."
"Are you sure you don't want anything fancier?" Sam asked, looking over at Cassandra almost worriedly.
"Some of my best memories are at the cabin," Cassandra said, shaking her head. "And I think it would be fitting to start this new chapter of my life in a place that is firmly rooted in both of our pasts."
"Well, that does make a lot of the arrangements much easier," Sam admitted. "We don't have to book a location for the wedding, and probably not a reception hall if we're just holding the wedding at the cabin like we did. We'd still need a caterer if we could find one that would come all the way out there, and, of course, you'd need a dress. Flowers would be a must, and…"
"When do you want to get married?" Jack asked, interrupting his wife's train of thought.
Cassandra grimaced. "After I start my residency, I won't get any time off. Not for a while, anyway."
"So?" Sam prodded, confused.
"We'd like to get married before I start the program. In the next month or two while I make the transition to Colorado Springs."
Sam's eyes widened. "You want to move across the country and get married all at the same time?"
"It wouldn't be that big of a deal," Cassandra said, shaking her head. "We'd move into Charlie's house. It's only a few minutes away from the Academy, so it's ideally located from that perspective. We'd move a few things from my apartment here, and sell the rest. I've already had some offers on some of it."
"I guess you have everything well planned," Sam said after a moment of consideration. "And, to be honest, Jack and I did put together our wedding in a week, so I guess it can be done."
"Double check with your mom to see what weekend would work best for her and Tim," Jack said, turning to his son.
"We will." Charlie said, honestly.
"I guess we'll get to do that wedding dress shopping after all," Cassandra said with a twinkle in her eye as she turned to Sam.
Sam laughed softly. "Yes, I suppose we will."
The next morning:
"Grace! Grace, you need to wake up!" Sam called, nudging her daughter somewhat insistently. "Don't you want to see Cassandra's graduation?"
The seven-year-old groaned, looking much like her sixty-year-old father as she attempted to bury her face under her pillow. "I don't wanna get up."
Sam shook her head affectionately as she turned to her husband. "She gets more like you every day."
"Why, thank you, m'lady," he bowed, graciously, before he whipped his daughter's pillow out of her hands. "Up and at 'em, sunshine."
"Fine," she sighed. "I'm up, I'm up."
"Good choice," Jack said with a grin as he and Sam made the bed that their daughter had just vacated.
"Your clothes are on the chair. Get dressed, and we'll get breakfast on the way out to the car. We want to get there in time to get a good seat, don't we?"
She nodded, somewhat reluctantly, as she pulled her outfit off of the chair and dragged it behind her into the bathroom.
"She will never be mistaken for a morning person," Jack said, dead-pan.
Sam tried to hide a small giggle as she finished dressing the baby.
"Now, I know why the O'Keefes had such a hard time getting to mass on time," he said, shaking his head. "They had twelve children!"
Sam shook her head. "I don't know how anyone could do it," she said, in awe.
"Fortunately, we'll never have to find out," her husband smiled before kissed her forehead. "I'm too old for the ones we have."
"Never too old," she said, affectionately. "A little…slow, maybe. But never too old."
"Keep saying that when we're mistaken for this kid's grandparents at the elementary school events," Jack laughed. "And high school…whoo-ey! We'll REALLY be old then!"
Baby Jacob giggled as Sam picked him up and faced him toward his father. "Come on, bubby," she cooed. "Tell your dad he isn't too old."
The baby grinned as Jack took the infant from her. As if on cue, he curled up in the crook of his father's neck, contentedly.
"That's right, little guy," Jack said with a tender smile. "You and me…we'll be the ones in the La-Z-Boy, taking a nap together."
Sam put a hand on her son's back before raising up to kiss her husband. "I love you, Jack."
"I love you too, Sam."
"Are you ready?" Sam whispered to her husband. "She's coming up soon."
"I've got it, I've got it," he insisted as he raised the digital camera into position.
"Cassandra Fraiser, M.D."
The applause swelled for a moment as Jack captured her walk across the outdoor stage on camera. With a wide smile, she accepted her diploma, and turned face the audience.
Sam could feel tears moisten her eyes and she had a feeling that Janet was watching from wherever she was. This is thanks to you, Janet, she thought inwardly for a moment. She always wanted to be like you, and now, she'll be helping people just like you did.
Sam's heart swelled with the memory of her best friend. I wish you could see what she's become, Janet. I know you'd be so proud of her. Just like Jack and I are.
Jack wrapped an arm around her shoulder, pulling her close. "I know you're probably wishing that Janet could see this, and how great a mother Janet was for Cassandra." He whispered into her ear. "But I have a feeling that Janet would just turn back to you and say that she's here because you sacrificed your job so that you could stay with her during that accident."
"That time in Nevada helped me a lot more than it helped her," Sam said with teary eyes as she looked at her husband. "After all," she whispered. "It gave me you."
He kissed her lips, tenderly. "Next time it's going to be Grace…graduating from high school."
She nodded, getting emotional.
"And after that, it'll be her graduation from college."
Sam nodded again as tears slipped down her cheeks.
"And then, Jacob will graduate from high school."
The thought that the sleeping infant in her arms would be an adult before she could even bat an eye was the final straw for her, and she turned and buried her face in her husband's chest as she tried to compose herself.
"No matter what happens between now and then," her husband assured, gently. "I'll be here, and I will love you more every day that I wake up beside you. I can promise that."
"How did I get so lucky to find you?" Sam whispered, softly.
"How did I ever manage to convince you to be my wife?" He returned, gently, as he wiped the tears from her face. "I love you, Samantha Carter."
"Happy graduation, Jack," she said, softly.
"Happy graduation," he returned with a smile as they turned back to face the rest of the ceremony.