Sunday Afternoon BBQ
(See Chapter One for disclaimer and information. Thank you everyone for your reviews and feedback! ~Kay)
The hollow core of the bedroom door echoed slightly from a knocking on the outside. “Cassie?” Jack called out, knowing full well the girl was awake, “Can I come in?” He cracked open the door hesitantly after hearing a muffled reply. “You descent?” It had been slightly less than a month since the young alien girl had come to live with him. Before his house, Cassie had bounced between a couple other foster homes since her adopted mother was killed. Jack was still a bit unsure about having a young woman living in his guest room, but after a frantic call from her last foster home, he wouldn’t have it any other way.
The puppy, now fully grown, he had given her years ago lifted his head and whined at the open door. “Go away,” Cassie said forcefully.
Jack pushed open the door the rest of the way and glanced inside, “Not gonna happen kido.” He wished there was something he could say or do that would help Cassie out of her depression. Knowing about loss first hand, he knew that sometimes all it took was a little bit of space, but this bout Cassie was going through didn’t seem to be healing. First her entire planet, parents, relatives, friends, all killed by one Goa’uld, then her adopted mother killed in the line of duty by another one. The whole SGC missed their former CMO Janet Fraiser, yet life at the Creek Mountain Base went on, leaving the teenager lost in the mess.
Her first foster home had been with another family from the SGC, being military, they soon transferred and Cassie refused to move with them. The second family had just transferred in and didn’t know about what had happened in Cassie’s life, aside from what they were told. The call came in one night while Jack was finishing up some paperwork. Cassie was in the hospital at Schriever Air Force Base on suicide watch. When Jack finally got things cleared up, he found out Cassie hadn’t done anything but make threats about ‘ending it’.
Carter and the rest of SG-1 were out on a mission when it happened, so Jack offered that Cassie could stay with him. When SG-1 returned he and Sam had discussed the possibility of Cassie going to stay with Sam. However, Carter’s frequent trips through the gate made that choice seem less than optimal. Now, after almost a month, Jack was getting used to having her at his house. “Come on, I need your help getting things ready,” He stated softly.
“Just leave me alone, Jack,” she pleaded, staring blankly out her bedroom window.
He’d tried his usual sarcasm and joking. He’d sit and hold her when she cried or woke up from some nightmare. Hell, he’d even tried threatening to cut off her supply of tissues and chocolate ice cream if she would just try to pull herself out of the funk. One of the base’s shrinks was seeing her once a week, the poor woman had tried to get Cassie to go to some grief support groups, even tried to get her on some anti-depressants. In the end, the shrink’s only advice to Jack was to give Cassie some space, while keeping an eye on her.
Tossing up his hands in surrender, Jack released a heavy sigh before patting his leg, “Come on, Buddy, let’s put you outside.” The dog jumped off the bed and followed Jack out of the room pausing briefly at the door to look back at his master before continuing.
Jack let the dog outside and began to set things up for that afternoon, his former team was coming, so was General Hammond. George was in town visiting his granddaughters for the week and made a promise to stop in to say hello. Carter was bringing Pete with her, but two of the guests coming kept Jack’s mind preoccupied. Those from the SGC had been warned that there would be civilians at this gathering, so conversation about work was off limits. However, that wasn’t what worried O’Neill.
This would only be his second ‘date’ with Ms. Joyce Summers. Last night had gone off wonderfully with conversation mostly kept on the teenage girls living with each of them. They had also discussed the children they each lost. Jack shocked himself by opening up about Charlie. Inviting Joyce had been for two reasons, one- Jack wanted to see her again; two- he hoped that someone like Dawn, who had recently experienced her own grief, might help Cassie to open up.
Taking a breath, Jack looked out the kitchen window over his back yard, and wondered if things in life would ever be easy.
* * *
“Hey Carter, could you grab the door?” O’Neill called from his position at the grill before turning back to his conversation with Pete while checking the underside of some ribs. Taking a sip of ice tea, Pete nodded absently listening to Jack give a play-by-play commentary on the proper way to truly Barbeque, not grill, beef ribs. Other people sat scattered around the back deck of O’Neill’s house watching and laughing. Each of them, including George Hammond, had been subjugated previously to what Daniel Jackson now dubbed ‘Jack’s Barbeque Hazing ceremony.’
Sam was torn between laughing at her fiancé’s misfortune and wanting to save him from what must be pure torture. When the doorbell rang, she was more than happy to follow orders and answer it. Although Jack informed everyone of the woman he started seeing and her daughter, it wasn’t until Sam opened the door and saw the two of them that she really believed he was serious. The brunette teenager was thin and tall, and looking very suspiciously at Sam. Her mother, stood slightly behind her with a nervous look.
“Hi, you must be Dawn and Joyce, I’m Sam. Come on in, we’re all out back.”
Joyce held out her hand to Sam and smiled, obviously relieved that she had the right house, “Nice to meet you. I know Jack told me not to bring anything, but…”
“She brought some potato salad anyway,” Dawn quickly commented, bouncing on the balls of her feet before following the two women through the house. Silently, Dawn ‘oohed’ at the spaciousness of the house. Her mother told her that Jack was an officer in the Air Force, but didn’t say he was rich too.
Dawn stifled a snicker when she saw the man at the grill. The t-shirt and jeans we’re all right, the sunglasses on a string and the backwards baseball cap made her wonder, but the apron he wore seemed to say it all. ‘No one gets out of K. P. when the General’s cooking!’ For the first time, the teenage girl wondered if giving him their phone number was actually a good move.
“Hey, ladies! Glad you could make it, welcome to Casa de O’Neill,” Jack grinned, proudly brandishing a set of tongs.
A younger dark haired man sat down his drinking glass and took a couple quick strides towards Joyce. “Hi, I’m Pete, Sam’s other half. Ooh, is that salad? It probably should be refrigerated. Here, let me help you with that,” Pete said in what seemed to be a near panic. Handing over the bowl, Joyce watched slightly confused as he bolted into the house.
“Pete, buddy, where ya going? Why I oughta…” O’Neill grumbled sarcastically and shook his tongs at Pete’s fleeing form. The rest of the gathering laughed and shook their heads, obviously used to such displays.
* * *
After introductions were made through the gathered party, Jack took a moment to step away from the grill leaving it in Teal’c’s steady hands. “Dawn, would you follow me for a minute? There’s someone inside I want you to meet,” he asked with a glance at Joyce. Last night, O’Neill had explained to Joyce a little about Cassie and she agreed that maybe Dawn could try and help. When her mother had explained it, Dawn jumped at the chance for a possible new friend.
“Sure!” Dawn agreed readily and bounced after Jack into the house. “So, my mom told me about your foster-daughter.”
“Well, from what your mother told me, you’ve both lost someone recently, and I hate to bring up fresh wounds, but…” He took a deep breath before continuing. Not seeming to find the right words, Jack ended with a shrug and led Dawn upstairs. “That’s Cassie’s room there,” He pointed to a closed door. O’Neill gave Dawn a salute, “Good luck, solider.”
Dawn surprised him by properly saluting in return, not breaking it until he did. She was happy to actually use the skill Riley had taught her when he was dating Buffy. “I’ll do my best, sir,” She beamed, trying to keep a straight face. Dawn waited until Jack had started back down the stairs before she approached the door he had indicated. Tapping lightly on the frame, she waited, hearing movement from the other side.
Just as Dawn got ready to knock again the door swung open. “God, won’t you guys just leave me alone!” Cassie cried out before realizing the person on the other side was someone she had never seen before.
“Well, you’ve never asked me to leave you alone before, so how was I supposed to know?” Dawn snapped back catching Cassie off guard.
Scrunching her face in confusion Cassie glared slightly at the strange girl at her door, “Who are you?”
“Well, I’m technically the parental unit’s last try, but most people call me Dawn.” Cassie stared blankly at Dawn, “Listen, Jack’s really worried about you and all that, and I just moved here from California and so totally don’t know anyone. So, just give me a break will ya?”
“Be careful, people around me tend to die,” Cassie turned back into her room leaving the door open as an invitation.
“Me too,” Dawn said sadly and followed the other teenager in. Sitting on the edge of the bed Dawn tried to give Cassie some time to start the conversation. It soon became apparent that if Dawn wanted to converse, she would have to start it. Looking around she spied a picture on the bedside table, “Is that you’re mom?”
“Yeah,” Cassie confirmed, “She was killed.”
“My sister died recently too. She got killed to save me,” Dawn told Cassie softly. “I thought about locking myself away, but a friend of Buffy’s reminded me that my sister would kick my ass if she found out I was being so depressed and everything.”
Glancing over at Cassie, Dawn thought she saw a little less of a frown then had been there earlier, “Yeah, I guess my mom would be upset too.”