Title: An Anniversary at the Cabin
Sequel to: A Belated Valentine's in Colorado
Category: Fluff, Romance, Family, AU
Season: post SGU
Summary: For their eight-year wedding anniversary Sam and Jack take the kids to the cabin to spend a little family time together, without the hecticness of work.
Disclaimer: see profile
A/N: This is a sequel to A Belated Valentine's in Colorado from the GW Shippy Holiday Series but each story can stand alone. I don't have a beta, so any mistakes are my own. I always appreciate feedback and/or constructive criticism or just a comment to let me know why you (don't) like it.
Lake County, Minnesota
July 28, 2013
This year Sam and Jack had decided to be at the cabin during their anniversary instead of staying at home in Colorado Springs, like they had done last year. All of their close friends were off-world anyway and with the warm weather they'd figured they might as well spend a week of leave up here, fishing, barbecuing, relaxing and swimming. Grace loved it up here as well and Sophie and Tess were now old enough to enjoy the fresh air and lake a bit too. Thor, the latest addition to their family, had certainly seemed happy as he bounded around the grass and took a swim in the water yesterday after they'd arrived. The poor pup had been bothered by the heat in the SUV during the last leg of their drive but he had still been as energetic as ever when he got out of the car.
Sam could hear him yap – the dog was too young to call it barking – happily outside, probably playing fetch with Grace. Jack also loved to play with the pup and certainly seemed to take pleasure in telling Thor to fetch a ball, which still elicited a strange mental image of their late alien friend in Sam's head whenever she heard it. There wasn't really any resemblance between Thor the Asgard and Thor the dog – no big dark eyes or even a grey coat for the Viszla Labrador cross – and Sam had been against the name until Jack had said he felt obliged to name the dog after his buddy since the Asgard had named a ship after him. She really couldn't argue against that…
Hearing her name being yelled made her look up from the laptop to see Jack entering the cabin. "Hey."
He frowned and ran a hand through his wet hair. "What are you doing behind your computer? I thought you were getting Tess ready?"
Sam looked at their youngest who was standing between her legs, holding herself up by the table with her tiny little hands. "She's ready," she said, slipping her left arm around the girl's waist.
"I thought we'd agreed no work at least this weekend?"
"I was just checking the weather forecast online."
Jack watched her as she turned off the laptop and closed it before his eyes slipped to their daughter. "Hey, munchkin. Ready to go swimming?"
"Daddy!" Tess' smile grew wider at Jack's proud grin – it was one of the few things she could say – and she reached out her hands towards him, promptly losing her balance and falling on her behind. Undeterred, she maneuvered around Sam's feet and crawled towards her father.
"Don't forget those inflatable armbands," Sam warned him as he picked up the girl. "I don't want her to somehow fall out of her swim seat when we're not looking and drown."
"Yes, Ma'am," Jack said, swinging a giggling Tess around. "I already slipped them on Sophie's chubby little arms too and Gracie is watching her now. Aren't you coming?"
Getting up from the sofa she looked down at herself pointedly before glancing back at her husband. "Just have to get changed first."
"Gonna wear that little black bikini?"
Sam snorted at his hopeful tone and waggling eyebrows. "Yes, I'll wear the black bikini."
"Now go keep an eye on our children and dog."
Jack watched as Sophie took her first unassisted step in the shallow water at the lake's edge and smiled proudly. Even though they were twins Sophie seemed to be a bit ahead of Tess in development and she had taken her first step a week and a half ago, while Tess was still mostly crawling and sometimes pulling herself up or taking a few steps if someone held her hands. Now, Sam had Tess in the baby swim seat a few feet away, where the lake was about three feet deep while he had stayed here with Sophie who seemed determined to investigate the water and mud. She reminded him of Sam working on an alien doohickey as she took another step, brows furrowed in concentration and a small smile playing around her lips as her foot sank into the mud.
Suddenly her nose scrunched up and she splashed her hands on the foot-deep water. "Bah! Daddy, bah."
Chuckling, Jack moved his butt on the bottom and scooted over to her. "Aw, c'mere, sweetie. I know it feels yucky at first but you'll get used to it."
"Daddy," Sophie whined as his arms closed around her body. "Hug."
Her limbs were slippery from the water and she nearly poked his eye out with one of the inflatable armbands on her upper arms, but still he lifted her and her arms immediately wrapped around his neck. "How about we go a little bit deeper, huh? Go see what your mom and sisters are up to."
Jack smiled and nodded in approval as she pointed at Sam. Holding his daughter tightly he got to his feet in the shallow water and took the few steps needed to join Sam, Sophie and Grace. "This one doesn't like the mud between her toes," he said.
"It's icky, Daddy," Gracie said as she swam over to them. "Like stepping in poo."
"It is!" She insisted petulantly as Sam corrected her. "That's why I'm swimming and not standing."
Knowing it was too deep here for the babies to feel the bottom of the lake, Jack gently lowered Sophie into the water. "Better?" She certainly seemed to enjoy it, he thought, as her legs started moving smoothly through the water and the armbands kept her afloat. "Hey Gracie, where's Thor?"
"On the dock, he's tired," she said, pointing at where a lump of golden red fur was visible. "He had fun, though. I kept throwing the ball into the water as far as I could and he fetched it! He can swim really well, Daddy and no one even taught him."
"Maybe we should have just thrown you in too, instead of me having to bring you to all your swimming lessons," Jack teased, grabbing her ankle and pulling her towards him.
Gracie shrieked until she got water in her mouth and her head disappeared under water, and when he pulled her up into his arms again she coughed and playfully hit his chest. "Daddy!"
"Carter, she hit me! Did you see that?"
Sam bobbed her head in agreement, all the while smiling. "Maybe you should teach her a lesson."
Jack exchanged glances with his wife and when she nodded to indicate she would keep an eye on the twins, he lifted Gracie higher. "Yes, I'll take her into the deep end and toss her in. Maybe the lake monster will come and get her."
"There's no lake monster!" Gracie said, but her eyes were wide and she was already scanning the water as he moved them deeper into the lake.
"Ha! Of course there is. Or did you think it were fish or water plants you felt slip by your ankles?"
Jack continued walking to the deep end, the water already coming above his waist now and Gracie's legs were underwater as well. "Am I? Why do you think there are hardly any fish in here? Because the lake monster eats them all."
"Mommy says there's no such thing as monsters."
"Well, your mom isn't always right, you know."
Gracie bit her lip and tightened her arms around his neck. Her blue eyes which were so similar to Sam's were wide and she sounded a bit scared when she voiced her question. "Will it eat me too, Daddy?"
"Aw, shucks," Jack sighed, unable to keep teasing her when she was pouting like that. He didn't really want to scare her, just wanted to have some fun and joke around. "Nah, you're too skinny and I've heard he doesn't like blondes."
Her hand went to her hair, long and soaking wet where it lay plastered against her back. "But what if he doesn't see I'm blonde now that my hair is wet?"
She was right; her hair was already a dark, almost caramel blonde when dry although it had lightened up a bit this summer but when it was wet it looked brown. "Good point. Maybe we should head back before he comes and snatches you right out of my arms."
"Yeah, let's go back," Gracie said, suddenly sounding very eager to return to the shallow end. "What about Tess, Daddy? She doesn't have blonde hair like me, Sophie and Mommy."
"Like 'Sophie, Mommy and me'," Jack corrected her. "She'll be fine. There's no monster, sweetie."
She didn't look entirely convinced and as soon as the water was below his waist she slipped from his grasp and started swimming towards Carter and the twins. "Mommy!"
Carter barely had time to release the hold she had on Tess' swim seat before Gracie jumped into her arms and the way she clung to her mother made Jack feel guilty for scaring her in the first place. What had he been thinking? Of course she would think there was a monster if he said so, considering there were still times she asked him to check her closet and under the bed before she would go to sleep. Stupid, stupid, he berated himself silently. With a few last steps he'd reached his family and sent his wife an apologetic look as she tried to calm their eldest down.
Feeling he'd done enough already he let the two be and instead turned to the two eleven-month-old girls splashing in the water. Sophie was still doing her best attempt at swimming but Tess was nearly face down in the water and he suddenly recalled how she liked the feeling of water against her face in the bath or shower too. Fortunately, her swim seat held her somewhat upright and she still had her armbands on too, but Jack still reached out to pull the seat towards him. "How about you two switch places, eh? Your sister's legs must be getting tired now," he said, pulling Tess out of the seat and slowly lowering her into the water.
Tess started kicking her feet and giggling as the water swallowed her legs and reached her little peridot bathing suit. When her body was completely submerged but for her arms due to her inflatable armbands he released her and watched as she started exploring her options, still smiling and babbling happily.
Catching Sophie was like trying to hold onto a slippery eel but Jack eventually managed to get her in the baby swim seat, which would give her legs a rest. Too much excitement for one morning couldn't be good for their youngest daughters and he knew the dangers of young children and water. "Comfy, munchkin?"
The twins were babbling and splashing happily in the water so Jack turned around to see what Sam and Gracie were up to, only to see the girl was gone. "Where'd Gracie go?"
"Bathroom and to get something to drink," Sam explained as she joined them.
"Was she upset?"
She shook her head as she took hold of Sophie's swim seat. "No, she's fine, Jack."
"I'll talk to her later, I guess," he said, still not completely reassured. "How about lunch?"
"Sure. I'll stay here with the girls until it's ready. Hot dogs?"
Jack grinned and gave her a quick kiss. "Yeah sure, you betcha. I'll get the barbecue started." As he made his way out of the water he cast a look over his shoulder to see Carter playing with the babies in the shallow end and smiled at the picture they made. There had been a time where he thought he would never get a second chance like this, with a woman like Sam and a bunch of wonderful children. They really should try to get up here more often, he thought to himself. It had been too long since they had last been at the cabin and it was such a wonderful place to spend the summer or even winter holidays. He should know, since he'd spent most of his childhood here with his grandparents.
Grabbing one of the towels from the grass he dried his face and ran it through his hair before wrapping it around his swimming trunks. Carter would be pissed if he left a big trail of water in the kitchen and he'd rather not face her wrath later on. Jack looked around until he spotted the dog and patted his thigh. "Thor! Come here, buddy!"
The four-month-old pup immediately bounded his way, tongue hanging out its mouth and yapping once as if to say he was coming. It was a smart little dog and even though they'd only gotten him about two months ago, he had already wormed his way into everyone's hearts, even Sam who had never been much of a dog lover. Gracie especially loved the animal and Jack enjoyed teaching it tricks or just taking it for walks.
"Good boy," he said, patting the dog when it reached his side. "Let's get you some water before you dehydrate out here in the sun."
Thor faithfully followed him inside and immediately started lapping up the fresh water when Jack put the bowl back on the floor.
Jack watched the puppy for a while before he went back out to turn the barbeque on and get started on lunch. The hot dogs were easy to make and were already lying in the fridge, so he got some pickles, onions, sport peppers, tomatoes and relish from the fridge and started chopping. He wasn't sure how Sam and Gracie wanted theirs but he preferred them Chicago style, one of the few things he actually liked from the Windy City but he figured there was time enough to ask them once he was done grilling the sausages.
Sam stepped out on the deck where Grace was sitting, her legs dangling above the water and a fishing pole in hand. "Hey, hon."
"Hi Mommy. Did you see my fish?"
Peering over the bucket at the girl's side Sam got a glimpse of a fish. "Nice catch."
Grace beamed at her. "Thanks! I did it all on my own. Maybe we can eat it for dinner tonight?"
"I'm afraid you're gonna have to catch some more fish for all of us," she said, sitting down on the wooden deck. Doing a onceover of her daughter she realized the girl had exchanged her pink bathing suit for shorts and a shirt while she had been bathing the twins before their nap. "Don't you want to swim anymore?"
Sighing, Grace lowered her head. "Daddy said there's a monster in the lake. I don't want it to eat me because my hair will look dark when I'm swimming."
Sam frowned in confusion at her daughter's reasoning but decided to just go with it. "Oh, hon. You know there's no such thing as monsters. Your dad was just teasing you."
"But how do you know there isn't a monster in there?"
"Because monsters don't exist, Grace."
"Maybe you just haven't seen it yet."
Letting out a deep sigh, Sam tried a different approach. "Well, for one the lake isn't big and deep enough for a monster to live in. And even if there was some unidentified creature living in there then it would leave evidence behind. It would need food to stay alive-"
"It eats fat people! Daddy said I was too skinny and that it doesn't like blondes, but it also eats all the fish!"
"But if it ate people then we wouldn't let you swim in it. And an aquatic animal who eats people would never fit in such a small lake." Seeing her rational arguments weren't working on Grace, Sam pointed at the bucket. "If it eats all the fish then how come you caught one?"
Grace frowned pensively and glanced from the bucket to the lake. "Daddy said you weren't always right and maybe it didn't eat all the fish but almost all of them."
Sam wrapped an arm around her shoulders and pulled the small body into her side. "Hon, your dad didn't even know there were any fish in this lake up until a few years ago, so I doubt he would know about some mysterious lake monster who no one but him has ever heard of. He was just teasing you."
Nodding, Grace finally seemed convinced. "Does this mean Thor and I can go swimming again?"
"Sure, just make sure to put on some sunscreen first and give it some time to be absorbed by your skin."
"Does Thor need sunscreen too?"
Chuckling, Sam shook her head. "No, animals don't need sunscreen. Thor's fur protects him from sunburn. Now, why don't you go show off your catch? Your dad has never managed to catch a fish here in his entire life."
"Cool!" Grace smiled as she got up and handed over her fishing pole, before grabbing the bucket and dashing towards the cabin.
It couldn't have been more than fifteen minutes when Jack came out to join Sam on the deck. Shielding her eyes from the bright sunlight she looked up at him. "Hey."
"Did Grace show you her catch?"
Jack nodded after sitting down next to her. "Yep. Wants to have it for dinner. I'm not sure that's a good idea, though. Not after my stupid story about the lake monster. Don't want her to get nightmares if she sees one of us gutting that fish of hers."
"Hmm," Sam said noncommittally. No way was she going to gut a fish unless she was on a mission off-world or something. Not when she was on vacation and there was perfectly good food that only needed grilling in the fridge. "Are the twins asleep?"
"Yep. I guess the swimming exhausted them because they were out like a light after I put them in their beds."
"They really seemed to like it and Grace and I had fun too."
He smiled, clearly pleased. "Maybe we should come up here more often in the summer."
"Cassie told me they have infant swim classes these days too. Perhaps we can sign the twins up for that if there are any courses around the Springs," she suggested.
"Nah, I've seen some of those babies when I took Gracie for her lessons and it just looks kinda sad. Like they're pushed into it. And it's not really swimming, they just learn how to roll onto their backs to breathe and wait for help. That would just make me more nervous than having them in their swim seat or with those inflatable armbands."
Sam nodded in understanding, recalling how she'd made sure to keep an eye on the girls today every single moment they were in the water. "Okay, then we don't do it. I guess we can wait until they're older and can actually swim. Just thought it might be something to consider."
Jack grunted something incomprehensible and turned to look her in the eye. "Wait… are you saying I need something else to keep me busy and entertain the twins while Gracie is at school?"
"I thought that was why we got Thor?"
He narrowed his eyes at her as if to gauge whether she was being honest or just teasing. "No, you told me to go to the pound and get a dog if I wanted another male in our family."
"Only because you were hinting at having another baby," she said. "I clearly remember that you asked me – with a trace of dread in your tone, I might add – whether there were any other similarities to last year's Valentine's Day celebrations when we were in bed. You said something about unexpected surprises and sounded relieved when I assured you that I wasn't going to spring another surprise pregnancy on you. Then, when I was just dozing off you woke me up again only to say that maybe it wouldn't have been bad… that maybe having a boy would be nice, since you were the only guy and weren't sure you could handle being surrounded by four girls."
"I can't believe you remember all that," Jack said. "Shouldn't you have been tired and spent after all that, um, celebrating?" When Sam simply glared at him he sighed and relented. "Okay, okay. I know it wasn't the smartest thing I could have said, especially after the difficult pregnancy you had with Sophie and Tess and the emergency C-section-"
"And the fact that I'm already forty-four and you're-"
"Older, yes," he interrupted her. "I was just thinking that it wouldn't be so bad since I already have the twins to take care off and while it was an adjustment in the beginning, it wouldn't be so bad to have another baby added to it."
Sam squeezed his knee and smiled. "I know, and while the idea is nice I just don't think it's doable in our positions. I mean, I don't even know if I could get pregnant at this age, how long it would take to actually succeed, how it would affect my position at the SGC, if it's even a good idea considering the last pregnancy and its complications… And I'm hardly ever home as it is, and missing out on too much with Grace and the twins already. Not to mention there's a fifty percent chance it would be another girl."
"I know." Jack covered her hand with his and intertwined their fingers. "Although, it looks like Sophie and Tess' eyes are turning darker, probably brown and I wouldn't mind another blue-eyed kid. Boy or girl. You already gave me three perfect little girls, what's one more?"
"I know what you're trying to do, Jack O'Neill," she said in her commander's voice. "It's not going to work. I also gave you a lovely little puppy and even let you name it Thor."
"And I love you for it," he said, smiling roguishly. "Now, let's see if we can convince our firstborn to throw her fish back in the lake."
Sam let him help her up and slipped her arm around his waist as they walked towards the cabin. "Afraid she caught the only fish in your lake?"
"Ha, cute. Since she has that Carter stubbornness I think you should tell her-""
"Wait a minute, are you saying her stubbornness comes from my side of the family? Because you can be pretty stubborn, bullheaded even, yourself, mister."
Jack held up his hands in surrender. "Hey, I'm just saying: I've met your brother and I know your dad was stubborn too…"