Never Alone 36: Cassie's Crisis
Not even trying to hide his amusement, Chris leaned nonchalantly against the wall eyeing Cassie, who was scattering the contents of her closet around the bedroom cursing. She did not appreciate his nonchalance, or his enjoyment, and Chris knew it. In fact, he realized that his casual and amused manner was probably irritating her in the extreme and raising her blood pressure to abnormally high levels. Chris, however, found the opportunity to make fun of her too good to miss.
Cassie Fraiser was normally a relatively laid back kind of person. Sure, she had her moments, and she could get overly enthusiastic, gushing and animated about certain subjects in the way young people can, or lose her cool about certain others. The contents of her closet, however, were not generally one of those subjects.
Clothes weren't something Cassie tended to worry about too much. This trait was one of the many attributes that had attracted Chris to her in the first place. She wasn't like most of the other women he knew. He had fallen for that difference, liking the way she had her own style without concerning herself with following trends.
It wasn't that she didn't get enthusiastic about clothes, she did, but her primary focus appeared to be on other people's clothing rather than her own. Take Sam's wedding dress, for example. Poor Chris had been heartily sick of hearing her enthuse about it when she returned from her trip to Colorado, along with her vividly detailed descriptions of her and Sam's shopping trips.
Shopping, women's clothing and the like are not normally topics that head a list of subjects men want to talk about. In fact, most men get bored rigid, wishing women would stop droning on about such issues and let them get on with watching baseball, or. whatever.
Now, here she was cursing the air blue while trying to find something suitable to wear for Jack and Sam's wedding reception. Chris didn't get it because he'd just assumed she would wear her bridesmaid's dress, which seemed fine, and darned sexy if you asked him. This was something else she had described to him in glorious, Technicolor detail, despite that he'd seen the photos Sam had sent before Cassie's last trip to Colorado. So, what was the problem?
Cassie, however, had decided she needed something special to wear; something to change into later when the time for wearing her bridesmaid's dress had passed. At first, her seemingly panicked reaction surprised Chris. He couldn't fathom it. Nor did he understand her desire to change clothing partway through the reception.
Naturally, he didn't get it. He was a man. Or that was Cassandra Fraiser's considered and dismissive opinion of his viewpoint. Venus and Mars - same old, same old, ad infinitum.
So, his ire mushroomed right alongside hers. Then, as she rejected and discarded more and more clothing randomly around the room, he began to take some pleasure from riling her further by letting go of his anger and stubbornly refusing to be provoked. He was certain that she found this irksome because who doesn't get irked when they want to pick a fight and no one takes the bait? Hence, his increasing glee.
Chris loved Cassie dearly, but he was as human as the next man and certainly no saint. It's human nature to be provocative, and occasionally to derive some pleasure from that.
"Stop it!" she exclaimed crossly with eyebrows furrowed into a scowl. Her eyes seemed to blaze with resentment.
"Stop what?" he asked with an innocent expression and tone that was inevitably going to annoy her even further.
"Stop-stop." She waved her arms wildly in the air in an aggravated manner. ".IT!"
"Sweetheart, what have I done now?" His eyes widened in mocked puzzlement and Cassie hit him with a deadly glare.
"You know," she said angrily, and he dared to laugh, mainly at the baleful expression on her face. "Chris! You-you. you!" His laughter grew louder. "Stop standing there gawping and help, for crying out loud!"
"Hey, don't expect me to intervene between a woman and her closet. Why the hell don't you just buy something new if you haven't got anything you want to wear?"
"It's not a matter of having nothing I WANT to wear, it's that I haven't got anything to wear!" she cried in frustration. "And what about shoes?"
She stomped back over to the closet and started pulling out pairs of shoes with a vigor that Chris found hilarious. Pair after pair landed alongside the scattered clothing.
"You see," she exclaimed, indicating the shoes with another wild wave of her arm. "Nothing!"
"If you say so, Cass," he replied with a shrug, continuing his theme of studied nonchalance, but thinking that buying shoes was the one weakness Cassie had when it came to her closet. 'Women and shoes,' he thought. 'What's that all about?'
"What's that supposed to mean?" she retorted, her eyes mere slits in her head as if she believed the tightened look would focus her anger better. Maybe she thought she could knock him out with that malevolent glower, he thought. Chris, however, was not so easily daunted.
"I'm sure you're right if you say so, that's all. What do you think it means?" He replied, deliberately challenging.
"I don't know. I'm asking you!" she screeched in an exasperated manner. Her arms flew in the air in an exaggerated gesture and then landed on her hips as if she was about to scold him.
Another chuckle escaped his lips as Chris regarded her demeanor with a mixture of fondness and delight. Then it turned into a laugh and from that into a guffaw. Cassie's narrowed eyes pierced him menacingly for a while and anyone but Chris might have been pinned to the wall and cowering from that gaze. He simply returned the stare with a studious lack of concern. Then he thumbed his nose at her, poking out his tongue and crossing his eyes comically.
Chris noticed the edges of her lips start to turn up into a smile and realized she was beginning to see the funny side. She started to laugh and he looked at her warmly. She could never stay infuriated with him for long, and that seemed to be a mutual reaction.
Cassie caught her reflection in their full length mirror, rolling her eyes as if she was admonishing herself, and hastily removed her hands from her hips. The gesture reminded her of her mother, Janet Fraiser, when she was full flight reprimanding her about something or another, and Cassie tried not to dwell on the thought.
"Glad you see the funny side," he said with a smirk.
"No I don't," she replied in overstated truculence, but the laughter remained on her lips, which she then deliberately proceeded to sculpt into a pout.
"You so do," he replied, his tone that of a young child, but Cassie knew he was kidding around. He moved toward her, pulling her into his arms. "Come on, baby. I doubt Jack and Sam will mind what you wear as long as you're there."
The argument all but forgotten, Cassie gave him a hug and then looked up at him with a worried expression. "But I mind. I know you don't understand why I want another outfit, but I do."
"So buy one," he responded, refraining from voicing his thoughts about the bridesmaid's dress that he thought looked pretty cool - and hot!
The style of the dress was similar to Sam's wedding gown. It had narrow straps and hugged her waist and hips, flaring just below the hips. The skirt was unadorned with no embroidery and no buttons down the back. Its satin fabric was akin to the color of Air Force blue. Apparently, it amused Sam to have her bridesmaids dressed to match her husband to be, who would be wearing his dress blues. It seemed she thought it fitting.
"Maybe I will."
"And shoes," he reminded her with a grin, which she returned, simultaneously nodding agreement.
"And shoes, although I could wear the same pair I suppose."
"Whatever." Chris figured she would be happy to have an excuse to add to her collection, as if she needed one.
"You sound just like Uncle Jack," she replied, craning her neck to peck him on the cheek.
Chris chuckled. Being compared to Jack O'Neill was something he tended to consider as a compliment. "Flattery will get you anywhere, sweetheart."
She giggled and they snuggled closer, with Cassie burying her head into his chest. As he swayed her in his arms, her reference to O'Neill reminded Chris of the latest email missive from her "uncle" and his chuckle turned to a laugh.
"What?" she asked, sounding a little like the man herself and looking up at Chris suspiciously. Not wanting Cassie to think he was laughing at her again, his reply was prompt.
"Jack O'Neill's Handbook," he said and she smiled. "What was his latest? Learn."
".the rules so you know how to break them properly," she chimed in with a titter. Cassie loved how Jack occasionally came up with new 'life rules according to O'Neill' for the 'handbook' that had become something of a longstanding joke between them.
"Jack only breaks the rules selectively," she added, thinking his motivation for doing so erred towards saving Earth and the universe kind of activity rather than his own ass. In fact, much of his rule breaking had come close to killing him, she recalled, whereas he'd never been prepared to break them for personal gain, or so it seemed to her. The Frat Regs were only one such example. Sticking to those for so many years had come close to breaking his heart - Sam's too.
Of course, she couldn't tell Chris about any of this. She wished she could, and maybe one day she would be in a position to, but not yet. Cassie regretted any little white lies she had to concoct to continue keeping secrets from Chris: that there was life "out there"; that she was born on another planet; the Stargate program, and so much more. As Jack would say, if she told him she'd have to kill him and, as Uncle Teal'c might say, that would be most regrettable.
Cassie imagined Teal'c's deep voice speaking those words, and the serious but unperturbed expression on his face, and laughed aloud. Chris captured her eyes, smiling inanely. No doubt, he thought she was laughing about the handbook, and that suited her just fine.
"I kind of like his 'if the enemy is in range, so are you' rule," he said about another relatively recent addition to the handbook.
"I think about it almost every time we have a fight," he replied with a smirk. "I'll have to remember it next time you decide to throw a hissy fit about the contents of your closet."
Chris winked to ensure she knew he was kidding around, although during her panicked hunt for something to wear, a few items of clothing had hit him full on. Good thing she hadn't been in a bad mood about crockery, he thought, making an amused mental note to duck and run if that situation ever arose.
"So I'm the enemy now?" she queried lightheartedly.
"Sure. when we fight. I guess I should be grateful I'm not dodging bullets, like in a real war."
Jack had noted his sage advice came from an Infantry Journal, and Chris could see how it might be useful to bear it in mind in that context, but also got O'Neill's point about the notion being a life lesson.
"I'm not that bad," she claimed defensively and Chris reacted with a skeptical look.
"If you say so, honey," he agreed for the sake of the peace.
Cassie knew he was humoring her. If she was in a bad mood then everyone suffered, poor Chris most of all. She didn't get into one often, but when she did. boy, oh boy. Sometimes Chris had the patience of a saint, she thought, and he seemed to love her anyway, so she wasn't complaining.
She decided not to press the point, discretion being the better part of valor and all that - particularly now they were making up and canoodling.
"My personal favorite is probably 'never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake'. Wise words and very useful advice."
"Oh?" Chris regarded her curiously.
"Wise words of advice that brought us together," she explained, knowing that didn't explain it at all. Chris' puzzled expression confirmed her thought. "Remember Buttercup?"
Chris rolled his eyes at the mention of the woman Cassie had seemed to believe was a rival. "I'd rather not. She never stood a chance, Cass, not once I met you." He considered for a moment, remembering some of the conversations they'd had back then. It seemed a long time ago, but he thought he got her point. "I get it. You mean you let her dig her own grave, right?"
"That's exactly what I mean."
Cassie recalled telling Jack about Chris and Buttercup when she'd visited a while back, before she and Chris had got together. Buttercup never had been the most intelligent person she'd met, and Cassie had used that against her, letting her prattle on to Chris in her own dumb way and show her true colors.
Chris remembered it too, but he'd had no idea that Cassie had done it deliberately, hoping to win him over with brains rather than beauty. Buttercup certainly had been more beautiful than Cassie, Chris couldn't deny it, but that was all on the surface. In his eyes, Cassie was the most beautiful woman he had ever met. Inner beauty counted for a lot, and Buttercup had lacked that almost entirely.
"You sneaky little minx," he said with a chuckle. "In that case, Jack's to blame for us getting together - or I have to thank him. Which one, I wonder." he added with feigned deliberation. Cassie simply grinned, kissing his neck and nestling into it.
"I'm sorry I got so grumpy," she mumbled.
He figured her mood had been way more than merely grumpy, and once again didn't voice his comment. Now they had made up, Chris had no desire to rekindle the fight.
"Making up is kinda. nice, don't ya think?" he asked.
"Mmmm." she agreed, lifting her head. He took full advantage by pressing his lips against hers, and then deepening the kiss for a while. She responded by caressing his back with one hand. The other squeezed his ass, and Chris snickered.
Without conscious effort, his mind summoned a picture of the pair of them as an elderly couple - 30 years hence, maybe 40 - having a similar argument and making up in comparable fashion. Such images came to mind frequently. He knew it should bother him, but it didn't. The notion of still being with Cassie for all those years didn't perturb him in the least. Actually, he secretly liked the idea, and had admitted as much to Jack shortly after they'd first met, when her surrogate father had been trying to figure him out with his mental tally of pros and cons.
It had been a relief to Chris that Jack's pros list had been way longer than the cons, but he wasn't sure O'Neill had believed him when he declared plans to marry Cassie one day. Chris, on the other hand, had been deadly serious. Deep down, he'd known that early on in this relationship. Wasn't sure how he'd known, but he had.
He wasn't telling her though, or at least not yet. Cassie was young and needed to spread her wings before he clipped them. Chris didn't want her to feel tied down by him. She had brains and beauty, a glorious career and life ahead of her, and he did not intend to stifle any of it. Chris just hoped he didn't have to let her go to do it, but he would if that's what he had to do.
If he had but known it, this tendency toward self-sacrifice was a trait he had in common with her "Uncle" Jack, and Cassie would adore him even more for that. In Chris' case, however, this tendency was not something he'd been born with, as it seemed to be with Jack. Chris had been a selfish and vain creature before Cassie had walked into his life and turned it upside down. She brought out the best in him and he loved her very dearly for that.
"Feel like making up a bit more?" he asked and when she glanced at him, he wiggled his eyebrows suggestively. The mannerism reminded her of Jack and Cassie wondered if she subconsciously fell for Chris because of the similarities that she saw between them.
They say women fall in love with men that are like their fathers and, although Jack was not her dad, he was closer than anyone else. Daniel and Teal'c were more like favorite uncles and General Hammond like a grandpa. Cassie might call him Uncle Jack but he was the man she had adopted as a father. Jack, in return, had adopted her into the role of a daughter and both seemed content to play the parts.
She figured it had probably started from the day Jack had bought her a dog and told her it was an Earth rule that all human children had dogs. Cassie had believed that for a long time, just as she had believed other myths and stories he had created, like fathers have an inclination to do with their daughters.
The Colonel, as she lovingly dubbed the dog, much to Jack's amusement and delight, had been the best present ever. It seemed as if Jack had known that she needed a best friend and so gave her one and, no doubt, he had known.
She loved that dog dearly, and he was her friend when times were hard. Cassie's transition into life on Earth hadn't been an easy one and she had found the adjustment painful. Making friends had been difficult at first, as if other youngsters recognized her alien differences. The Toronto line her friends had taught her to use didn't always cut it. Toronto might have been different, but it wasn't an alien world that had little in common with Colorado Springs, USA.
Cassie made silly mistakes because she was unused to Earth culture, or nuances of language, and this made her stand out. Standing out wasn't something a gawky early teen normally wants to do. They want to fit in, be like everyone else.
So, The Colonel had made her feel happy when she might have been sad. She played with him for endless hours, taking him for walks and talking to him like a real person.
In the end, her uniqueness was what brought her friends and popularity, and what had ultimately attracted Chris to her. But before all of that, The Colonel had been her rock, although by taking her under their wings Janet, Jack and the rest had helped too.
She was devastated when, a few years later, they had to have The Colonel put down because he had cancer and was suffering. Another loss - more pain to deal with.
Jack had done his best to see her through it, supporting her mother's sympathetic consolations over the loss. Now, Cassie sometimes wondered who would have looked after The Colonel with her at college and her mother gone. She still missed him sometimes but probably couldn't have brought him with her to California, which would have been way too impractical. She could never have looked after him in the way a dog deserved.
There was a time when Cassie had wished Jack loved Janet so they would be together as her parents. It was a fond wish, but one she knew lacked any realistic prospect of fulfillment. She'd realized from early on that Jack and Sam had something special going on. It took her a long time to understand why they didn't do anything about it and, even then, their reticence never truly made much sense to her.
She had been expectant of something happening between them for years and couldn't believe it when Sam agreed to marry Pete, couldn't understand why she was even seeing Pete in the first place. Better to be lonely and alone than with the wrong man, right? A romantic notion, perhaps, but no less true for all that.
The engagement broke Cassie's heart and she was certain it had broken Uncle's Jack's too, although she knew him well enough to understand why he did nothing to stop it. He could have, easily she thought, but Jack believed he was doing what was right for Sam, what would make her happy. She hadn't expected him to grasp the reality. Jack had always been too self-deprecating to believe he was the right man for Sam, a trait Cassie thought cute, but that he had taken too far.
Then, after the engagement fell through and Jack moved to DC, he still didn't do anything about it. Cassie believed the longstanding dreams she had on behalf of her two favorite people in the whole universe would never amount to anything. However, Daniel managed to push them together at last, forcing Jack to make a move he knew his friend really wanted but lacked the courage to make. Cassie would forever be grateful to Daniel for that.
She loved Jack O'Neill very much and wanted him to be happy. Sam, too, of course, because Sam was her surrogate mother, now adopted sister, and Cassie loved her too, but Jack most of all. Cassie had observed him over the years and knew he carried burdens of pain that were beyond what any man should have to endure. He deserved happiness more than anyone else she knew, and she had high hopes that Sam would help him out on that score.
Any thoughts she had about the similarity between Jack and Chris were only fleeting as she considered Chris' question and nodded agreement. "Make up a bit more? And exactly what did you have in mind as a way of doing that?" she asked with a lascivious grin. "As if I didn't know."
"You got any objections?" he asked cheerily, nodding towards their bed. The sight of his eyes widening in horror made her look and then they turned to face each other with similar expressions of dismay on their faces before turning back to eye the devastation Cassie had wreaked on the room.
"Crap!" they exclaimed simultaneously, then both burst out laughing. It looked like a tornado had torn a path through their apartment, picking up everything in its wake and then casting it back down wherever it saw fit. The name of the tornado was Cassandra Fraiser.
"Awww!" she cried out in consternation. "Know anywhere I can buy a sack?"
Chris wrinkled his eyebrows in bewilderment at her question. "To throw the clothes in?" he asked.
"No, silly, to wear to Jack and Sam's reception," she whined. The pair exchanged looks at that and then broke out into laughter again.
"Screw the mess," he said. "Let's just find a pile of clothes to make love on, huh? We can clear it up later."
She grinned captivatingly. "You've got yourself a deal, mister."
In fact, they tossed the clothes off the bed to join their old companions on the floor. The devastation looked even worse, but at least they had a clear spot for making love unhindered by the uncomfortable prods and pokings of zippers or buttons. If anything was going to poke or prod either of them in sensitive places, at least they could ensure it would be one of them.
Cassie had never been entirely sure about the sex thing until she met Chris and he made love to her. She recalled Sam reluctantly revealing that Jack was hot in bed. Well, Chris was too. Scorching hot. So, he'd taught her how incredible sex could be, and had been patient with her inexperience.
Chris was very experienced; possibly too much so for a man of his tender years. He'd started young and never stopped, almost literally - apparently, he got himself laid as much and as often as he could get away with, which was often.
Women, both older and younger, found him attractive and sexy and almost fell over themselves to get into bed with him. Cassie imagined he'd be throwing one woman out as the next one arrived for their fill, and she wasn't too far off the mark. Sometimes he'd wouldn't have thrown the first woman out first, either, but charmed them both into bedding him at the same time.
Cassie figured he would have burned out young if he'd continued going on like that. But he had met her, and fallen in love. Lucky, lucky her!
So, that had been then and this was now; now being pretty darned fantastic as far as both of them were concerned. Cassie reaped the benefits of his experience and ability to teach, and Chris reaped the benefits of her inexperience and eagerness to learn. What he'd learned from her was how to love. That was a true gift, and something he'd never believed possible. No matter what happened to the two of them in the future, Chris would always love Cassie for teaching him that.
Sighing with satisfaction after their lovemaking, Cassie curled up close to Chris as his fingers teased her hair.
"Love you, Cass," he whispered in her ear and she drew her head away to look him in the eye and smile.
"Me too," she agreed and he grinned and pecked her on the forehead.
"Feel better now?" he asked
He squeezed her gently, a contented smile on his face, but the next words that sprang to his lips indicated an irrepressible and irresistible impulse to be impish in nature.
"So, honey, what are you going to wear to the bachelorette party?" he asked with a smirk and wink and Cassie glared at him threateningly.
"Oh! You-you. incorrigible. you-you son of a." she stammered, and Chris unsuccessfully pulled away in an attempt to avoid Cassie swatting him with the flat of her hand, chuckling to himself mischievously.