A Munchkin Christmas
Author: Orrymain and special guest co-author, Mama Bear!
Category: Slash, Humor, Drama, Romance, Holiday, Established Relationship
Pairing: Jack/Daniel ... and it's all J/D
Season: Beyond the Series - November - December 2006
Written: November 17, 2004, August 8-10,19-23, November 2-3,14, December 23-28, 2006, January 7, February 28, March 23, April 16-17, May 1-2,19-20,28-29, 2007 Revised for correction: May 10, 2016
Summary: It's the holidays, and Jack and Daniel splurge as they celebrate their first Christmas with the Munchkins!
Disclaimer: Usual disclaimers -- not mine, wish they were, especially Daniel, and Jack, too, but they aren't. A gal can dream though!
1) Sometimes, Jack and Daniel speak almost telepathically. Their “silent” words to each other are indicated by asterisks instead of quotes, such as **Jack, we can't.**
2) Silent, unspoken thoughts by various characters are indicated with ~ in front and behind them, such as ~Where am I?~
3) Teal'c's gifts drawn by Lil Bear.
4) This fic stands alone, but it does reference my past fic(s), “A Pumpkin for Daniel” “Odyssey of the Mind,” “Brothers,” and “The First Christmas”
5) Thanks to my betas who always make my fics better: Jodi, Annie, Claudia, Sara, Pam!
A Munchkin Christmas
by Orrymain and Mama Bear
--Friday, November 24, 2006
In the garage, Jack whistled a happy tune as he took down various boxes from the over-stuffed rafters.
~We really need to organize this stuff; mark the boxes so we can find things easier,~ Jack opined as he searched through the square holders, looking for the ones that contained the colorful items he desired.
The general paused and couldn't help but smile, realizing how far both he and Daniel had come. Through years of past traumas, present dangers, and future fears, their happiness was now an everyday thing, not just an occasional, fleeting moment. He resumed his whistling, determined to find all the items he needed.
The couple's dream of a home and a family was a reality now and, as Jack searched through the boxes, he remembered Daniel telling him that keeping old traditions alive while creating new ones was important. In turn, he had added that remembering the past and the loved ones you shared it with was great, but moving forward and living life to the fullest was even better.
Today was the day after Thanksgiving, which, for the Jackson-O'Neills, meant time to start decorating for the holidays. Jack and Daniel were particularly excited this year.
That morning, as the couple relaxed in bed for a few minutes, Jack had squeezed Daniel tighter and whispered, “This is going to be the best season ever.”
Jack and Daniel now had three very precious babies, their triplets, commonly referred to as 'The Munchkins'. Jonny, Michael (or Little Danny as Jack insisted on calling him, despite Daniel's objections), and Aislinn were just two months old, and their enthusiastic parents were determined to make it a Christmas to remember.
The lovers were relishing their new way of life. Having the Munchkins had changed their lives completely, and learning to look after three newborns was a bit of a jolt to their collective system. It was a blissful jolt, though, and they wouldn't trade it for the world. After two months, they were starting to get the hang of it all and felt they made a great team.
On this morning, Jack had fed Jonny, while Daniel had taken care of Michael.
“I'm gonna scoot into the garage and sort through the decorations, Love. Will you be okay?” Jack had asked before heading out of the kitchen.
“Oh, yeah, we'll be just fine, won't we, Ash?” Daniel had replied as he picked up Aislinn for her feeding.
Jack had watched for a couple of minutes, joy flowing within him for his husband and their little miracle.
Suddenly, Daniel had glanced over and asked, “What are you doing?”
“Just looking,” Jack had responded, smiling and then going to the garage.
“Oh,” Daniel had acknowledged, smiling. “I, uh, do a bit of that ... looking myself, Ash. Your dad is one very sexy man.”
About twenty minutes later, with Jack still in the garage, Daniel was about to put their little bundles down in their extra-large crib for a nap.
~Nah, not yet,~ the archaeologist decided, seeing that all three babies were still awake.
Instead, Daniel put their children on the three-quarter-size bed that sat against the nursery wall. He propped the babies up against a large pillow, and then he knelt on the floor and leaned his torso over the bed. His hands played and teased the three babies, who cooed and moved their little arms and legs in response.
The Munchkins were just at the beginning stages of being able to stay awake a little longer, focus their eyes, and track objects: watching fingers, hands and toes, and learning how to control their own movements. It was exciting to see, and the scholar in Daniel loved watching them learn.
Daniel gave a contented sigh, a sound of wonderment. He straightened the little red dress that Aislinn was wearing. Her tiny hand touched his, causing him to grin so wide, it felt as if his face would crack.
“I bet you three think we're crazy. I know you don't have a clue what is going on, why you're all dressed in red and green today, why the house is about to become Santa's Workshop, and ... well, why the outside of the house is going to make the North Pole look pale in comparison. You don't even know who Santa Claus is yet.”
Daniel laughed when Jonny let out a pbst-like noise.
~You are *so* Jack's son,~ Daniel observed, leaning forward to place a kiss on Jonny's forehead. “You're all so beautiful; our precious miracles,” he said, gazing a short while at each baby. “Now, I need you all to remember something for Dad and me; holidays are very important. See, I didn't always know that. When I was a little boy, I lived far, far away, in a hot place called Egypt; and, well, Christmas ... I love Egyptian holidays and festivals, but they just aren't the same as holidays here. My parents did their best, and those were wonderful times, but ... Santa lives in the snow, not the sand.”
Jonny let loose with another sound, his right hand flailing to the right a bit.
The archaeologist smiled and added, “Uh, I should explain that Egypt is like one big, big ... big desert, and that means there's a lot of sand there. It gets into everything. One day, maybe we'll get to show you.” He chuckled, wondering why he was talking like this to babies who had no clue what he was saying, but then he looked at the quietest of the triplets, Michael. The newborn seemed so intense, so focused on what Daniel was saying that the archaeologist could swear he actually understood every word he had spoken. ~Nah, that's crazy. All they know how to do is eat, sleep, and ... oh, gawd, I sound like Jack.~
Daniel laughed as Aislinn played with his thumb, thus distracting him from his thoughts about Michael's concentration on what was being said.
Looking down, the happy father continued, “Anyway, after my parents died, well, times weren't very good, and holidays became just another day for me. Actually, to tell you the truth, because we lived in a faraway place, I never really knew what most holidays were about. I really didn't.” He paused, smiled widely and then looked up again at the triplets. “Then I met your dad. Wow. He wouldn't let me make Thanksgiving or Christmas or my birthday or ... Halloween ... or any special day that came around, be just another day.”
The Munchkins all made grunting sounds at the same time, as if to say, 'yeah, right,' causing Daniel to smile again.
“Your dad, even before I knew how much I loved him, he made me carve a pumpkin; then he made me carve a turkey; and then ... ga...geez, I'm not sure how he convinced me to do this, but your dad made me sit on Santa's lap. Can you imagine how embarrassing that was? I'm a grown man, but I did it; I sat on Santa's lap and gave him my Christmas wish list. Your dad, he just wouldn't take 'no' for an answer.”
Jonny kicked out his legs and raised his arms as he let out a big squeal. He looked at the younger of his fathers with bright, intense eyes. Daniel reached over with his hand, and Jonny wrapped his tiny fingers around his thumb. It was a pretty tight grip, and he never looked away from Daniel, who smiled and thought he could see Jack's protective streak mirrored in the infant.
“You know what else?” Daniel questioned excitedly. “Dad's so wonderful for doing all that, making sure no holiday, no matter how small, was missed. He did it *just* for me, even though it came at a price for him. See, Dad grew up celebrating all the holidays, and when he and Sara got married and had their little boy, they kept it up.” Pausing, Daniel's smile faded. “But Charlie ... well, he died, and Dad didn't want to celebrate anymore.”
Daniel looked away for a second, regretting the tragic loss of the young boy. A noise drew his attention, and he smiled again, seeing Michael wriggling his arms towards him. Since Jonny had released his hold on Daniel's thumb, the father took hold of the little hands and moved them up and down playfully for a few seconds, causing all three children to grin big toothless smiles.
“You know who Charlie is, right? He's your big brother.” Daniel paused and leaned forward again. “You know how it is when sometimes you feel like there's someone watching you? Maybe you glance over your shoulder and expect to see someone standing there, encouraging you, telling you to keep on fighting or ... to get back up after you fall down. Well, that could be Charlie, or maybe, sometimes, it's your grandparents, or your Uncle Billy, too, but, most of the time, I think it's Charlie.”
Aislinn let out a coo and stared at a spot over her father's shoulder. Reflexively, Daniel twisted around, but saw nothing. When he looked back, Aislinn had a sweet smile on her face.
“Yeah, that was probably him,” Daniel acknowledged, having felt a presence himself for the last couple of minutes. “Charlie will always watch over you,” he spoke truthfully. “Anyway, it was hard for your dad to start celebrating those holidays again. There were too many reminders of happy times when Charlie was alive, but Dad did it. He fought his own demons for me, in order to give me happy times and fun memories. I thought he was crazy. Actually, I was just embarrassed that I was so clueless when it came to holidays.
“Then I fell in love with him, and, wow, holidays were never the same after that. Holidays and birthdays are not just any day, and, in our house, we'll always make them special. We promise you that. So, I know you don't understand yet, but someday you will. Someday, you'll know that what makes all those days so very special -- love and family. The importance won't be placed on the presents or the decorations or any of the trappings that go with those special days, and we're ... we're going to fight hard to make sure you all know that. Believe me, it's sharing it all with the people you love that makes those special occasions worthwhile.”
Daniel was blown away by the intensity in Michael's eyes, which were completely transfixed on him. He looked so serious, as if concentrating on Daniel's words with all his might.
~Gawd, you look like you understand.~ It was almost disconcerting for the young father. Daniel glanced over at Jonny and Aislinn and could see their little eyes closing. “Okay, story time is over. It's time for you three to take your naps before it's lunchtime. I'll be downstairs with Dad, and, trust me, you won't believe the house when we're through decorating. I know it's a blur right now, but bear with us. We love you, Munchkins, so very, very much.”
Daniel sat back for a moment, just soaking in the sight of the beautiful babies.
~I still can't believe I'm finally a Daddy -- Wow~. Daniel looked up casually and smiled, seeing a loving pair of brown eyes focusing down on him and the children. “How long have you been there?” he asked his husband.
As he gazed at Daniel, Jack's eyes were full of love.
“Jack, have I ever thanked you for encouraging me to celebrate the holidays and do all those crazy traditions?”
“Yes,” Jack answered succinctly, smiling as he spoke.
“I have?” Daniel asked, surprised, not really remembering having done so.
Standing with his hands in his pockets as he leaned against the door frame, Jack explained tenderly, “You thank me every year when you carve the pumpkin and create some new way to make the jack-o'-lantern different from the year before.” He slowly made his way towards Daniel, adding, “You thank me every Thanksgiving when you carve the turkey and give me the biggest and juiciest pieces. You thank me on Christmas morning when you open your presents and your eyes shine and say how much you love me.” He reached Daniel, knelt down beside him and, taking his hand, concluded, “Oh, yeah, you've thanked me so many times, My Genius, that even you couldn't count that high.”
Through misty eyes, Daniel replied with a barely audible, “You're my poet. Gawd, you keep doing that.”
Jack looked at each of the triplets, now all fast asleep, and smiled, squeezing Daniel's hand a little tighter.
“I love you, Danny,” Jack vowed quietly. “I love every moment of every day that we're together.”
“I do, too,” Daniel replied softly, raising his other hand to caress Jack's cheek.
Jack added, “We'll always make holidays special, not just for our children, but for us, too.”
“For the child inside,” Daniel confirmed, knowing his inner child had been buried for decades until his lover had finally found the key that opened the door and released him. “How many years did it take you to teach me that?”
Shaking his head, the older man answered, “It doesn't matter.”
“I love you, Jack,” Daniel said, leaning forward to engage in a passionate kiss with his husband.
“You know, I'd love to ...”
“Yeah, me, too,” Daniel agreed.
“But ...” Jack began, sighing as he looked down at the Munchkins.
“But,” Daniel agreed, looking at their babies as well.
The change in the freedom and spontaneity of their lovemaking was one of the hardest things for Jack and Daniel to adjust to, but as the two men stood up and placed the triplets in their crib, they both knew that, although their priorities in life had changed forever, they couldn't be happier.
For a couple of minutes, the parents stood with their arms around each other's waists and their heads leaning against the other's as they watched their three miracles sleeping peacefully. Then, Jack and Daniel smiled at each other and shared a sweet kiss.
“Let's go decorate,” Daniel urged excitedly, before preceding Jack out of the nursery, practically bouncing.
Jack chuckled quietly and, making sure the monitors were on, headed downstairs to begin the transformation of their country home into the North Pole of Colorado Springs.
It took the lovers the entire day, and, of course, twice as long as it normally would, since their time was split between decorating and tending to the Munchkins, but, finally, as 9 p.m. approached, their holiday wonderland was in place.
“It's magical,” Daniel observed as he and his husband stood outside watching the lights. They were holding hands as they admired their handiwork.
At that moment, the beautiful sound of a chattering baby could be heard through the monitors, soon joined by two more little voices.
“Jack, let's show the babies.”
“It's cold outside,” Jack reminded, knowing how adamant his spouse was about the health and welfare of the triplets.
It was a crisp twenty-three degrees out, but the skies were clear except for some wispy clouds drifting past the moon.
Daniel smiled, kissed Jack, and then replied, “Normally, I'm the one being overly cautious, but they're obviously awake now. Let's show them. We'll wrap them up, snug as ... as bugs in rugs.”
“Daniel, a cliché?” Jack chuckled.
Grinning, Daniel replied, “I want them to see the magic, even if they haven't got a clue yet what all of this means.”
“You're on,” Jack agreed. ~Geez, I love how far you've come, Angel.~
“Jack, you're kidding?”
“Nope,” Jack answered happily. “We have to get this on tape.”
The lovers had bundled up the Munchkins as warmly as possible and brought them outside in the stroller to take in their first look at the decorated country-style home.
“Silly Dad,” Daniel said to the triplets, making a funny face and eliciting little giggles from all three babies.
Jack set their digital camcorder up on a tripod by the front door and turned it on. It wouldn't catch everything, but they'd have something on record.
Daniel picked up Aislinn and carried her over to get a closer look at the sparkly display. Her eyes grew wide with wonder.
The younger father began, “This is Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer. You'll be hearing a lot about him as you grow up. Over here we have the rest of Santa's reindeer, including Olive. Ah, that's a long story, and we'll be telling it to you soon. Anyway, this is Donder and ... well, most people call him Donner,” he said, pointing to one of the reindeer. “His name is really Donder, though, but that story can wait until story time one night. When you learn to talk, I have a song to teach you,” he stated as he and his lover smiled at each other, both remembering their first Christmas together.
Before they had realized they were in love and were still just best friends, Jack had taken Daniel to his Minnesota cabin for Christmas. While driving there, he had realized the younger man didn't know many classic songs from the holiday, so he had taught Daniel, “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” as well as many other Christmas carols. At first, Daniel had thought it was silly, but by the end of their holiday celebration, his heart had been full of the holiday spirit.
Now, in front of their home, Jack picked up their two sons, their faces alight with curiosity, cradling one in each arm with practiced ease, he spoke, “And this big guy is Santa Claus. He'll be your best friend every December, *if* you play your cards right.”
The protective parents didn't want the triplets outside for too long, so they moved fairly quickly, showing off Santa and his sleigh on the front lawn, Frosty the Snowman over by the fence, and three little elves they had purchased this year that were positioned alongside the plant room. The large, plastic figures were lit with a soft glow, and the babies studied each one intently, the lights reflecting in their eyes.
“These are especially for you,” Jack spoke about the elves, two of which were boy elves and the third a girl elf, the three a symbolic representation of the Munchkins.
Daniel smiled, surprising his husband when he bounced Aislinn in his arms and began to sing, “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.”
Jack stood back and smiled as he watched Daniel sing the first verse alone, with the occasional happy squeal as Aislinn giggled. He wanted to absorb all the happiness he felt at this moment. After a few lines more, he joined in. When they were finished, they went back inside their home to show their precious babies the holiday magic that decorated the interior.
“Okay, ready,” Jack announced, after having once again positioned the digital camcorder where it would catch the best shots of their special night, though like before, both parents knew it couldn't capture everything.
The living room was decorated with paper streamers and holiday chains that hung from the ceiling, accentuated by stars and icicles. The patio door had been painted with a holiday scene of Santa's Workshop, showing plenty of snow and colorful lights. Festive bells, figurines, and candles highlighted the bookshelves and counter that separated the living room from the kitchen.
“Look, Princess,” Jack pointed out to Aislinn as he held her by the mantel. “This is your stocking.” Jack laughed. “It's bigger than you are. Watch.”
Daniel had been making faces at the boys when he turned and was stunned to see what his husband had just done.
The older man laughed gleefully, “Look, Danny.”
“Jack, take her out of there now!” Daniel instructed, totally shocked that his lover would do such a thing.
Loud enough that Daniel could hear, Jack whispered to Aislinn as he took her out of the large red stocking, “I was holding you and your stocking the whole time. I'd never put you in harm's way, Ash, not you or your brothers.” He chuckled, “Sometimes, Daddy's sense of humor isn't so great, but he means well.” He smiled as he saw Daniel's glare. “Oops, I think I'm in trouble.”
“The man is a child,” Daniel snarked, trying to hide the grin threatening to break out.
Jack smirked, “Isn't that what Christmas is all about, Angel -- being a child?”
Daniel sighed and nodded as he held Jonny in his arms. Again his mind wandered back several years to their first Christmas together and how Jack had taught him the true meaning of Christmas. After a moment, he moved forward, looking at the spot near the mantle where one item was yet to be added.
“This is where our Christmas tree will be. We're going to get the tallest one we can, and then we'll decorate it. We did, uh, decorate another tree in the backyard. You can see it tomorrow,” the archaeologist spoke. He put Jonny down in the stroller and picked up Michael, saying, “Hey, I want to show you another type of ... decoration.”
“Let's listen in, Princess,” Jack suggested to Aislinn, walking over to stand near Daniel and Michael and also making sure the stroller was nearby so Jonny could see.
Daniel carried the baby to the buffet where they'd set up a special scene that represented another part of the holiday season.
“This is a stable and that,” Daniel pointed to the small, wooden trough, “is a manger. Yes, that's a little baby in the manger. The stable and manger represent a holy place for a lot of people and that's because of who that baby is, or who He is supposed to be. It's a little complicated, or maybe it's not, but that's neither here nor there right now. What's really important is that as you grow up, I want you all to believe whatever your hearts and minds tell you to believe. Follow your own heart, but know this: the universe is a huge place, and there are many different cultures out there, and more beliefs than you can imagine. Each one is deserving of respect, but your dad and I, well, it took us a while to work through it, and though we don't believe in anything structured, we do believe that Someone is up there, watching over us.”
“Someone has kept us from being blown to bits, that's for sure, especially from those sleazy, creepy, miserable, lying ...”
“Jack!” the other man admonished.
“... snakeheads,” Jack completed. “Sorry, but, Munchkins, I'm not saying for sure, but I'm as sure as I can be without saying it,” he opined, a smile on his face.
“That makes no sense at all, Jack.”
“All I'm saying is ...”
“Nothing. Do you mind?”
“Pardon me,” Jack chuckled. “Listen to Daddy; he's the expert.”
“In archaeology, anthropology, linguistics, mythology, and a lot of other ... sciences, and, well, the thing is, I'm a little ... atypical from most scientists out there. I've seen too much. Maybe ... maybe I just want it to be; I ... I don't know, but we agreed, right, Jack?”
“Yeahsureyabetcha!” Jack chirped, tickling Aislinn's belly, causing her to giggle delightfully. “Agreed on what?”
Daniel sighed, looked up towards the ceiling, then let out a sigh, saying, “Anyway, this is a manger, which is just a stable really for animals to sleep in. Uh, this figure right here, is Baby Jesus. He's pretty controversial, but, uh, the point is that when you get older, you can research all the different points of views and make up your own minds. There are hundreds of different philosophies, from Hindu ...”
“Danny, before they're fifteen!” Jack prodded, sensing his lover was about to begin a huge prattling session.
“Oh, yeah, uh, right,” Daniel chuckled light. “When you get older, you can study and search inside yourself and discover what you believe. Whatever that is, Dad and I will always support you. As a family, we've decided, at least for now, to follow the Christian doctrine, which isn't to say we won't also practice and follow some other ... choices, and I'm not saying we're going to church or anything, because we aren't, I don't think ... I mean ... there's so much out there, and the problem is that in the centuries of human existence, with so many religions, ancient and modern, interpretation of ... scripture, translated repeatedly, with lost segments, misinterpreted ...”
“Daniel, before they're thirty!” Jack exclaimed, his eyes boring into his Heart's.
“Yeah, right, none of what I just said is here nor there right now, considering you haven't a clue what I just said, anyway.” He rolled his eyes, thinking, ~Sometimes, I am such a ... a ... a dork. At least wait until they're five or six; geez, Jackson.~
“Maybe we'll do Chanukah one year,” Jack suggested. “You know, Angel, that's not a bad idea. Chanukah, Kwanzaa ...”
“Yeah. Let's give that some thought when they get older,” Daniel put forth.
“Ash, over here,” Jack said to Aislinn as they walked to the bookshelves. “This is Santa's workshop.”
The parents had removed many of the books and normal fixtures that usually sat on the shelves, replacing them with items that represented the North Pole: Santa's castle and workshop, trees, red and white poles, elves, reindeer, snowmen and snow-women, stacks of presents.
Michael giggled, hearing the beagles making their presence known as they stood at the patio door.
“We forgot to open their dog door,” Daniel commented as he let Bijou and Katie in. “Sorry, Girls,” he apologized.
“They like us to jump when they bark, anyway,” Jack mused, watching as the canines immediately trotted over to the warmth of their beanbag and lay down. It was placed between where the tree would go and the fireplace. “Let us know if you want us to move your beanbag,” he told the girls, not wanting them to get overly warm from the fireplace's heat.
“Jack, I think they've had it,” Daniel observed, noticing Aislinn nodding off in Jack's hold and knowing Michael had just fallen asleep in his arms.
“Yeah, they had a big day,” Jack agreed, seeing that Jonny was asleep, too. “That's okay; we have a month to show them everything.”
The two gathered up their babies and put them to bed in the nursery.
“Merry Christmas, Munchkins,” Daniel spoke softly. “Sweet dreams.”
“Yeah, dream of Santa, Rudolph, and the little elves we showed you,” Jack encouraged as he put his arm around Daniel's waist.
For a moment, the loving parents watched their babies sleeping peacefully. They never grew tired of watching their tiny children sleeping. Ensuring the monitors were on, they returned downstairs to enjoy some rare private time together.
--Sunday, November 26, 2006
“Danny, come on, I want to get there early,” Jack yelled up the stairs.
It was almost 9:00 a.m., and Jack and Daniel felt rested. They were very proud of the triplets as they had only woken up once in the night, which meant they had finally gotten some quality sleep, or would have, if they hadn't automatically awakened a few times and checked on their babies, anyway. Still, they'd hadn't gotten this much sleep in a while, so both men felt great and were eager to continue with their holiday plans.
Today, the Jackson-O'Neills were going to get their Christmas tree at the Fern Hill Farm in Greeley. There, they would take a hay ride to the field and then choose and cut down their own tree. Afterwards, they'd ride back to where they'd started, load the tree into the truck, and return home.
“Jack they don't even open until eleven,” Daniel stated as he walked down the stairs, carrying Aislinn, who was already wearing her coat and hat.
“I know, but it takes about two hours to get there, and I want to have lots of time to pick just the right tree,” Jack informed his lover.
“You know, we could have picked a place that is closer,” the archaeologist stated. “Black Forest is just thirty minutes away.”
“Next year, Angel.”
“It's the hay ride, isn't it?” Daniel chuckled.
“Just ... let's get a move on,” Jack replied, trying to hide his anticipatory smile by giving his soulmate a quick kiss, an action that immediately produced a giggle from their daughter.
“She sure does that a lot,” Jack observed.
“Giggles when we kiss. See?” Jack offered, kissing his husband again and eliciting another giggle from the infant.
“Oh, well, hold Ash while I get my coat,” Daniel requested, shrugging off the giggling as coincidence and handing the youngest Munchkin to his soulmate.
“Daddy doesn't believe me, does he, Ash? Well, you'll just have to keep on giggling, Princess,” Jack whispered. “You get the boys, Danny, and I'll take our little princess out to the truck.”
“Yes, Dear,” Daniel teased.
“Cute,” Jack replied wryly.
“Thank you, Babe,” the younger man smirked.
“Frosty the Snowman was a jolly happy soul,” Jack and Daniel sang as they traveled along the highway.
The babies were snoozing rather than listening to the caroling going on in the front seat, but their parents didn't care. It was Christmas, and all was right with their world. Besides, if the triplets slept now, they'd be awake for the great tree hunt.
“With a corncob pipe and a button nose and two eyes made out of coal,” the lovers crooned jovially as they enjoyed their trip to Greeley.
A little over two hours later, Jack pulled the Ford F-350 into the parking lot of the tree farm. Daniel grabbed the stroller from the back and, together, he and Jack put their Munchkins safely inside the carrier.
“We picked a good day for this, Love,” Jack noted, talking about the pleasant temperature.
“We sure did, although I wouldn't have minded the snow,” the younger man opined.
In Colorado Springs, the weather was clear and in the high fifties, while in the more mountainous Greeley, it was roughly forty-four degrees, with a few clouds visible in the otherwise clear skies.
With their children warm and secure in the stroller, the couple walked proudly towards the entrance of the tree farm. The Munchkins were just starting to wake up and were soon chatting together in their own little language.
“Look, Danny, we're just in time for the hay ride to the field,” Jack excitedly stated, grinning at the prospect of riding in the wagon.
~I don't have three kids, I have four.~ Daniel thought.
“I heard that, Daniel,” Jack stated about the silent jab directed his way.
“I love you,” Daniel chuckled.
“Love you, too,” Jack replied.
Normally, Jack and Daniel would have sealed their affirmation with a kiss, but other families were around, and they were always hesitant to display too much physical affection in front of younger children who may not yet know about same-sex relationships. So, they settled on exchanging tender glances and loving expressions.
“Oh, my, how adorable,” a woman spoke, seeing the children. “Triplets!” She smiled warmly at them and asked, “May I?”
“Sure thing, Ma'am,” a beaming Jack chimed, watching as the woman reached in to play for a moment with the Munchkins.
The woman laughed at the happy sounds and smiling faces of the newborns and asked, “How old are they?”
“Two months,” Daniel answered, watching the woman closely. He was proud of their children, but also a little overprotective of them. “This is their first Christmas,” he added, sighing at the ridiculousness of his comment.
Laughing, the woman responded, “Something tells me they're loving it.” Straightening, she asked, “Who's the father?”
“I am,” Jack and Daniel responded in perfect synchronicity, without thinking about their response. “Uh, he is,” both men said again. Seeing the woman's stunned expression, the couple once again said in unison, “We both are.”
“Oh, I see.”
Jack and Daniel waited, unsure of her response. They didn't want the day to turn sour.
“Well, they're beautiful. Good luck with them, and enjoy your holiday,” the woman said, smiling. “Oh, there's my husband. Bye.”
“Goodbye, Ma'am,” Jack spoke, feeling a relief inside of him.
“Yeah, I know, but, Danny, I'm proud of them, and you.”
“Me, too,” the younger man acknowledged as he gazed down at the happy kids.
The lovers then got settled on the hay for their ride to the field, Daniel holding Jonny and Michael, while Jack held Aislinn. They had made sure the stroller was secured against the side of the wagon and wouldn't fall over or be in anyone's way.
“You're going to love this,” Jack told the triplets.
“It's a tradition,” Daniel added, chuckling when he realized the babies probably didn't care about anything right now but the pacifiers they were sucking on. He looked at his husband, thinking, ~Sucking. Hmm. Gawd, Jackson, don't go there; not here and definitely not now.~
The three tiny bundles of joy were definitely an attention-getter, and they did their bit to spread some joy around simply by displaying huge grins and squeals of delight. Plenty of notice was being directed their way, by young and old alike. Thus, the parents were very careful with what they said and how they acted.
When they reached their destination and were alone in their search for a tree, Daniel knelt down to address the babies, who were now in their stroller, saying, “Life isn't always going to be as easy as we'd like it to be for you. Dad and I loving each other isn't something everyone can understand. Some, in their ignorance, won't even tolerate it.”
Jack knelt down beside his husband and added, “It's a fine line we have to walk sometimes, Munchkins, but we're proud of you, and we won't ever deny that fact.”
“Come on, Dad, let's go find us a tree,” Daniel encouraged, wanting to get their happy day back on track.
“No, Danny, it's not full enough,” Jack argued. Minutes later, he complained,
“Daniel, it's crooked,” about another tree. “It's perfect, except for that gap there. It would look funny,” the general claimed a few minutes after that about yet another holiday fir.
“Perfectionist,” Daniel whined.
“It's their first Christmas, Angel. I want it to be perfect. Don't you?” Jack asked, his voice full of love, and his eyes sparkling with sincerity.
“Yes, I guess I do,” Daniel admitted.
The couple had been walking around for over an hour trying to find the right tree to grace their living room, and the Munchkins were starting to get a little grizzly as it was nearing their lunchtime.
“Hey, Munchkins, look -- a bunny,” Jack called out quietly as he bent down next to the stroller and pointed to the small brown rabbit that was hopping around about ten feet away.
While Jack showed the triplets the small animal, Daniel turned around and froze.
“JACK!” Daniel exclaimed as he reached down and tapped his husband's back with his left hand, his eyes still fixed on the sight in front of him.
“What's ...” Jack began, stopping mid-sentence.
“That's the one, Jack,” Daniel stated firmly.
“Yes, it is,” Jack stated with a confident smile. “Stand back, Munchkins! Dad's on the job,” he said boisterously, taking the saw that the farm had provided and heading for the beautiful seven-foot tree.
“Yep, and Daddy's on lunch!” Daniel added, reaching round for the Munchkins' bag. He still couldn't quite believe how much stuff babies needed. ~I swear, you guys need more equipment than we used to take off-world.~
The archaeologist chuckled out loud at the thought of the Munchkins in mini-BDUs.
~That'll be the day,~ Daniel mused as he began the lunch routine.
As he was close to getting the tree to fall, Jack looked over at Daniel, who was watching him intently while crouched next to the stroller with three happy babies just finishing their bottles. There was a look in his Love's blue eyes that made him pause his sawing action.
Smiling, Jack stood up straight, walked over to Daniel, and, holding out the saw, said, “Two or three more strokes should do it.”
Daniel's mouth opened as he gazed into his husband's eyes.
“We're a team, Danny, and these are our children. We do everything together, even cutting down our first real family Christmas tree.” Jack nodded, urging, “Take it.”
Without saying a word verbally, but with his eyes soaring with love and joy, Daniel took the saw and finished cutting down the tree.
“That's your daddy, Kids. Just call him Daniel Bunyon,” Jack joked.
“Very funny, Jack,” Daniel replied, a smile on his face. He walked to his lover and said gratefully, “Thank you.”
This time, with no one around, Jack and Daniel shared a kiss in the middle of the tree farm. It was quick, in case someone suddenly approached, but it was long enough to garner another giggle from Aislinn.
“See, Danny. She giggles whenever we kiss.”
“She giggles all the time, Jack.”
“But especially when we kiss,” Jack insisted, kissing Daniel again and then arching his eyebrows as if to say 'see' when their daughter laughed again.
Daniel shrugged and turned back to look at the fallen tree. He felt a wonderful feeling of accomplishment.
~This is definitely going to be the best Christmas ever,~ the archaeologist thought.
After a quick stop to the baby changing facilities, which was, a little awkwardly, also the woman's room, Jack and Daniel put their babies into the stroller at the checkout area.
“Would you like us to bale the tree for you, Sir,” a teenage boy asked.
Jack glanced at Daniel, who shook his head no, and then answered, “No, thank you, but if you wouldn't mind, could you help me carry it over to that pickup?”
“Be glad to,” the boy answered as he grabbed the stump end of the tree while Jack took hold of the top.
With Daniel pushing the stroller, Jack and the boy carried the tree to the truck and secured it in the bed of the vehicle.
“What's your name?” Jack asked when they were done.
“Marcus,” the boy answered.
“Thank you, Marcus,” Jack spoke, handing the young man a fifty dollar bill.
The boy gulped in shock, then spoke, “Sir, I can't accept this. It's way too much for just ...”
“Marcus, I bet you have a little brother or sister,” Jack stated.
“A little sister; she's eight.”
“Then use it to buy her a Christmas present,” Jack suggested. “Buy her something she won't expect; maybe something you or your folks wouldn't normally get because it's too extravagant.”
“I know exactly what she wants. It's all she's talked about, but I know my folks can't afford it.” Marcus smiled and replied, “Thank you very much, Sir.”
Jack nodded, and Marcus turned and walked back to the entrance to help the next customer. As he walked, he put the fifty dollar bill into his pocket.
“I think you just made his day, Jack,” Daniel commented.
“I remember working at a Christmas tree lot when I was a teen to earn enough money to get my family gifts. Let's just say I know how Marcus feels,” Jack replied.
Daniel glanced at Marcus, who was still smiling as he helped an older couple secure a baled tree to the top of their car.
~Yup, Jack made his day, like he does mine, everyday, and I'm going to make Jack's night when we get home.~
**Is that a promise?** Jack asked via there silent communication.
**Yes, and stop mind dropping.**
**Stop thinking so loud.**
**I was not thinking loud,** the younger man insisted.
**Yes, you were.**
**No, I wasn't.**
**Were, I mean, was not,** Daniel maintained.
**Not,** Daniel countered. “Jack!” he exclaimed, choosing to switch to verbal communication.
“So, are we ready to head home?” Jack asked, laughing as he changed the subject.
Looking around, Daniel noted that their little bundles were asleep now. Doing a quick calculation in his head, he figured that as long as they left in the next half-hour, the Munchkins should stay asleep until they got home. He had time.
“I saw a sign that said the gift shop sells wreaths. I'd like to get a new one for the front door. What do you think?” Daniel inquired as he fixed the blanket that covered the babies.
“Angel, you can have anything you want,” Jack replied, earning a warm smile from his soulmate.
“Watch the Munchkins?”
“My pleasure, Love,” Jack said, moving to be closer to the slumbering triplets.
“Be right back,” Daniel said as he walked away, trying to recall where he saw the sign. ~There it is!~
“I wonder what's taking Daddy so long,” Jack said out loud, after which he checked his watch. While Daniel had been gone, Jack had secured Michael and Aislinn in their car seats, packed the stroller and bag away and was now standing by the truck, soothing a crying Jonny, who was refusing to go back to sleep. “There he ... is.”
Daniel was laden with bags and chatting happily to Marcus, who was pushing a flatbed cart that contained the wreath and two larger items.
Jack looked down at Jonny, who had just begun sucking happily on his pacifier, and commented, “Daddy's always unpredictable.”
“Danny, what are these?”
“Well,” the younger father spoke, setting down two bags and then putting the wreath safely into the mesh holder in the back the truck. “They're little trees.”
The trees were about three-feet tall and were mini versions of the 'perfect' tree that they had chosen for the living room. Both were straight and very full.
“I see that.”
“I was thinking we spend so much time in the study and the den that it might be nice to have little trees in there,” Daniel opined quietly. “These were just outside the shop, already cut.”
Suddenly, Jack broke out into a smile, shaking his head as he marveled, “Danny, Love, you've got the Christmas spirit.”
“You're not mad?”
“Are you kidding me? It's a great idea. Get those little guys secured so we can get home and start decorating,” the older man suggested, smiling even more brightly when he saw how happy his soulmate was.
“Uh, good, because, uh, I bought some new decorations, too,” Daniel replied, picking up the bags and holding them up. “They're all handmade, and a portion of the profits goes to charity.”
“You never cease to amaze me, Danny,” Jack responded lovingly.
“That's the idea,” Daniel mused as he placed the bags on the floor of the cab.
While Jack put Jonny in his car seat. Daniel, with some help from Marcus, secured the two small trees into the back of the truck.
“Thanks for the help, Marcus,” Daniel said when they were through, handing the young man another fifty dollar bill.
“Thank you, Sir,” a stunned Marcus responded as he took the large bill. “My sister is going to be very happy on Christmas morning.”
Jack and Daniel shared a loving glance as they watched Marcus walk away, both realizing that they had just made Christmas a happy day for one little girl.
With their large tree and two smaller ones in tow, the Jackson-O'Neills headed home.
As evening approached, Jack pulled into the driveway.
“I hate wak...” Daniel stopped speaking, hearing the sounds of the triplets waking up. He continued, “...ing them up.”
As the parents chuckled, Jack replied, “Our kids have great timing, Danny.”
Jack and Daniel took their children inside the house and upstairs, where they tended to their first priority -- diaper changes.
“We'd better let the girls in,” Daniel commented as he headed downstairs with Jonny in his arms.
“Be right down,” Jack said as he finished with Aislinn's diaper. “Glad we have that diaper service.” As she made a little noise, he said, “No Pampers for you, yet.”
For the next hour or so, Jack and Daniel played with their triplets and their beloved beagles, all of them gathered on the floor.
“Look, Babe,” Daniel called out, pointing to their giggling Aislinn. “Ash giggles when Katie kisses her.”
Jack laughed, seeing the youngest beagle licking their youngest Munchkin on the face.
“Dinnertime, Love,” Jack noted a few minutes later.
“Yeah, playpen time, Munchkins,” Daniel informed.
With the children safe in their playpen, the parents were free to prepare dinner.
“Babe, you start. I want to check the feeder. I thought it was hanging up a little the other day,” Daniel remarked about the automatic feeder that Bijou and Katie used to eat from.
“Yeah, I was concerned about that, too, but it worked okay yesterday.”
“I want to make sure, though,” Daniel said as he picked up Katie and held her. “They're our precious ones, too, Jack, and I don't want to take chances.
~That's my Danny.~ Jack walked over and kissed his soulmate as he rubbed Katie's ears. Then he kneeled down and patted Bijou as he agreed, “Me, either.”
As Jack was almost done fixing dinner, Daniel returned inside the house, the beagles following him, but then detouring to watch the babies in their playpen.
“Yeah, I took the whole thing apart, and there was a clump of food that somehow got stuck and was impeding the flow of the food,” Daniel answered as he took stock of what his lover was doing to see where he could help out. “Not sure how it got stuck, though.”
“Was it there long?”
“I couldn't tell.”
“Just one of those mysteries of life?” Jack chuckled.
“Apparently,” Daniel replied as he pulled out the deep fryer.
“Daniel, what are you doing?” Jack questioned.
“Making something for dinner,” Daniel answered.
“I have that covered,” the older man noticed.
“Yeah, I know, and I'm sure I'll love the hamburger, Babe, but I'm in the mood for some deep fried dill pickles to go with them.”
“Pickles?” Jack questioned, a bit of a smirk on his face.
“Pregnant?” Jack asked at the same time that his lover had begun his warning.
Daniel shook his head and, as he began to gather the necessary ingredients, and muttered, “I don't have triplets; I have quadruplets.”
“I heard that!” Jack griped.
“Then I guess we don't need to have your hearing checked next month,” Daniel quipped about their upcoming physicals.
With chuckles and barbs being tossed out everywhere, the couple continued to work on their meal.
With full bellies, Jonny and Aislinn soon fell asleep. Michael wouldn't settle, however, so Daniel wrapped him up and walked outside to again show him the colorful decorations that adorned their home. The middle triplet soon succumbed to the bright lights and the soothing sound of his father's voice.
Daniel was amazed at how much he loved being a parent; the unending feeling of happiness and contentment, knowing that he was responsible for this little life, and that he was making a difference just by being there. Gazing down at his sleeping son, he was beginning to truly understand how much love his parents had had for him.
The archaeologist looked towards the front door and saw the candle Jack had lit on the entranceway table.
~My family,~ Daniel sighed happily as he headed back inside.
“O Christmas tree! O Christmas tree!,” Jack and Daniel sang to the music on the CD while adorning the three-foot tree in the den. They'd decided to decorate the two smaller trees first as their major tree ornaments and such were still in the garage. Since it was now evening, and the children were obviously tired, they had decided to postpone decorating the tree in the living room until the next night. “Thy candles shine so brightly!”
“Well, not candles, but lots of little lights,” Jack chuckled. “Candles wouldn't be the safest idea.”
Daniel chuckled and continued singing, “From base to summit, gay and bright,
There's only splendor for the sight.”
“There's splendor everywhere, Danny. All we have to do is look,” Jack spoke reverently as he stepped back to look over their partially decorated tree.
“Especially here,” Daniel replied, looking over at the triplets, now all asleep in their playpen. He walked over and spoke quietly, “We have a lot to teach you about Christmas, when you're awake, that is.”
“And all the time in the world to do it in,” Jack agreed as he joined his lover, the two sharing a smile. After a minute, he suggested, “Better get this tree finished, so we can get the one in the study done tonight, too.” He returned to the tree and attached a red bulb just as he sang the last line of the song, “O Christmas tree! O Christmas tree! How richly God has decked thee!” He paused, asking, “I wonder who wrote that song.”
“No one knows,” Daniel answered as he picked up a green bell to place on the tree. “Decorating the tree began in the nineteenth century, so someone during that time, I suppose.”
“That narrows it down, Angel,” Jack laughed.
“Jack, don't be an ...”
“Daniel, language!” Jack scolded in fun. “The children.”
Daniel broke out into laughter at his near miss, not that the triplets would know the difference, but he was the one who was constantly at his husband about old bad habits that needed to be changed or corrected now that they had children.
Instead, the archaeologist began to sing along with the next song as it played: “Jingle bell, jingle bell, jingle bell rock.”
Jack, too, began to sing, only he also did a jig as he sang, “Jingle bells swing and jingle bells ring.” He swayed his hips. “Snowing and blowing up bushels of fun,” he continued.
“Now the jingle hop has begun,” the parents sang with the song, both taking a hop and laughing as they continued their task.
--Monday, November 27, 2006
“I've never done this in my life,” Daniel commented on Monday morning.
“It's obligatory when you have kids. Everyone wants to see them,” Jack responded as he put on his coat.
“Maybe,” Daniel agreed. “I think we should have asked Kayla to take the picture, though.”
Kayla Armentrout was the Munchkins' young surrogate mother. She was a free spirit, much beloved by Jack and Daniel. She was also Janet Fraiser's niece. Kayla was a freelance author and photographer and had taken the first official Jackson-O'Neill photograph ever -- one of Jack and Daniel with their beloved beagles.
“She doesn't have the backdrop for it, and I did, ask her,” the older man admitted. “I didn't want her to ...”
Daniel smiled as he went to Jack, placing a big kiss on his lips and then surmising, “You didn't want her to feel bad about us going to someone else.”
“She's a wonderful photographer, Danny, but she doesn't have the backdrops. Besides, she's away for a couple of weeks.”
“Off on another adventure?” Daniel asked.
“You know Kayla. She was tied down for months with our Munchkins,” Jack stated. “She's due for some R'n'R.”
“Rock and roll?” Daniel teased.
“Rest and relaxation,” Jack clarified, gingerly slapping his lover's six when he saw the smirk on his face. “Danny, I asked her about spending Christmas with us, but she says she has plans, but she did promise to call. She does want to see the babies in between her trips.”
“She's trying to give us space,” Daniel sighed.
“Yeah,” Jack agreed, adding, “But I think she's surprised herself a little.”
“Caring so much?” the younger man wondered.
Jack nodded as the two continued their preparations for their own little adventure on this day.
Several minutes later, Jack and Daniel had loaded the triplets and the beagles into the truck and were headed for a photographer's studio that had been recommended to them by friends at the SGC.
“They're so cute,” the photographer commented about the three newborns. “Let's put the girl in the middle, surrounded by her brothers, and how about if you two stand right behind them?”
“Okay,” Daniel acknowledged as he moved into position.
“You know, someone once said to photograph kids takes patience, to photograph animals takes double the amount of patience, and to photograph both kids and animals takes someone totally out of their mind,” the picture-taker remarked.
“Who, uh, said that?” Daniel inquired.
“My father. He taught me everything I know,” the female laughed.
“So, are we safe?” Jack teased.
“Apparently, being insane doesn't affect one's ability to take good photographs,” the photographer replied with a grin, showing off a wall full of photos she'd taken of kids and animals together. “Judge for yourself. I have an unusual amount of patience, apparently.”
“Apparently,” Daniel agreed with a smile.
Amid a sea of white snow, the two proud parents sat at the base of a carefully constructed snowman. The triplets, dressed in their best green and red holiday attire, were sitting in a sleigh in front of their parents. Michael was on the left in front of Daniel, Jonny on the right in front of Jack, and Aislinn was in the middle of her brothers. Behind them sat a row of plush toy reindeer.
Jack and Daniel had on silk shirts that matched the babies' attire -- red for Daniel and green for Jack. Bijou and Katie were contributing to the festive spirit of the occasion by wearing reindeer antlers and special Christmas harnesses with reins. Pretending to be reindeer, the girls were standing in front of a sleigh that had been positioned so as to not block the view of the Munchkins. The reins that were connected to the girls' harnesses were placed so it looked like Jonny was holding one and Michael the other.
It took a while, and a lot of the aforementioned patience, but, eventually, Jack and Daniel had their first Christmas photo for their holiday cards. Lots of eye blinking and closing, along with too many giggles to count, added to the mayhem; but as it created a fun family memory and provided such a wonderful picture that would be treasured, no one complained.
Their photo a reality, the family returned to their home to drop off the beagles.
“Sorry, Girls, but Hallmark doesn't allow dogs,” Jack remarked as he quickly put them in the backyard.
“Woogruuuuuf,” Bijou snorted.
“Yeah, I agree, but that's human beings for you. They make all the rules. We'll be back soon. Looks like it might rain, or maybe even snow. Your doggie door is open, so if it does, go in the house, and stay dry,” the silver-gray haired man instructed.
“Woof!” both Bijou and Katie responded.
Chuckling, Jack hurried back to the truck.
“What took you so long?” Daniel inquired curiously when his lover opened the driver's door.
“The girls and I were discussing the merits of human rules,” Jack mused as he buckled his seatbelt.
“Oh.” Daniel shook his head. ~Sometimes, he worries me.~
“I heard that, Love.”
“I love you,” the younger man slyly responded.
Jack laughed and leaned over for a kiss, after which he teased, “And that will get you out of trouble every time.”
The Jackson-O'Neills went to a nearby strip mall that had a Hallmark store in it. With pride, they took turns pushing the stroller. Patrons stopped them every couple of minutes to ogle and play with the triplets.
“They are so cute. Triplets?” one woman asked.
“Yes, Ma'am,” Jack replied, beaming from ear to ear.
Just like at the tree farm, there were a few awkward moments when some realized that both Jack and Daniel were the fathers. Many walked away, visibly appalled that the children were being subjected to 'that kind of environment'. However, for the most part, people embraced the children lovingly.
Jack and Daniel, as always, refused to let the ignorance of others affect their happy disposition.
“Danny, how about this one?” Jack asked as he held up a clown ornament.
“Jack, please tell me you're kidding,” the younger man requested.
Jack laughed, nodding as he put the ornament back, and affirmed, “Yeah, I'm kidding. I think these would be good, though.”
“Much better,” Daniel said about Jack's current choice -- gold-plated ornaments in the shape of Christmas bells.
The couple had each of the Munchkins' names and date of birth engraved on them. They also got two for Bijou and Katie, but theirs were in the shape of snowflakes because the two dogs loved to play in the snow.
“Okay, which one do you like, Jonny?” Jack asked.
Daniel laughed, but loved the exchange happening in front of him. Jack pulled down several individual ornaments and put them in front of the triplets.
“You know, Jack, they don't have any idea what those are.”
Jack refuted, “Our kids are smart; don't sell 'em short, Danny. Look at how their eyes are shining. They love them!”
Daniel decided to stick to his original plan and just let Jack act silly, but he had to admit how happy the babies looked. He was filled with such pride and love for their family.
**I love you so much, Jack, and our little bundles of joy.**
**Love you, too, Angel, and so do they! You are our life.**
Daniel blushed and looked down for a moment, then continued to watch the show being played out before him as he thought, ~Gawd, this feels good! How did I get so lucky?~
**I'm the lucky one, Danny.**
With a big, goofy smile on his face, the Air Force general dangled the various ornaments in front of the babies in the stroller, waiting patiently as they each 'selected' one. Of course, the selection process was mostly Jack guiding the infants in their ornament choices.
In the end, the special ornaments purchased were a red fire truck for Jonny, Charlie Brown with Snoopy and his doghouse for Michael, and a caroler for Aislinn.
Jack picked one of Santa parachuting while loaded down with presents for himself, while Daniel chose one of a deer being patted by a snowman.
The lovers also purchased a larger figurine to put in the nursery. It featured Winnie the Pooh and Piglet surrounded by presents and building blocks that also honored the babies' first Christmas. Since the nursery was decorated with Pooh items, this would fit in perfectly.
Their ornament shopping completed, the family headed home.
The triplets were seated in their stroller by the tree, all mesmerized by the enormous fir, the big box of decorations Jack had brought in from the garage, and the excited movement of their father's arms.
Jack paced back and forth in front of them as he began, “Munchkins, this is a compulsory part of Christmas celebrations -- the decorating of the Christmas tree, the, uh, official Christmas tree.”
“You know, in the nineteenth century,” Daniel began, “the Puritans banned Christmas in New England. As late as 1870, schools in Boston stayed open and sometimes expelled students who stayed home ...” Having caught sight of his husband grinning and shaking his head, he laughed, “Well, last night you seemed to want to know more.” Smiling, he changed track, saying, “But, of course, the most important aspect of Christmas is to have fun.”
Jack walked over, gave his husband a passionate kiss, and stated, “I love you, Angel. Don't ever change.”
Aislinn giggled, causing her brothers to let out little sounds of laughter, too.
“Get used to it,” Jack advised the babies. “We kiss a lot.”
The married couple were currently layering their Christmas tree with tinsel. They'd barely begun their decorating when Jack, while standing on a chair putting tinsel around the top of the tree, dropped a small handful of the slick, silver material.
~I’ll pick that up in a minute,~ Jack thought to himself. Finally, he ran out of the thin, slippery item. ~Better get a new box; still lots of tree to cover.~
When he looked down to locate the dropped strands of silver, Jack roared with laughter.
“Ah, what's so funny about my Christmas decorating?” Daniel asked from behind the tree, assuming that's what his husband was chuckling about.
“Look at our daughter, Danny,” the older man urged.
Daniel peered out from behind the tree and laughed as well. As a quirk of fate, the falling tinsel had landed right on top of Aislinn’s head, and, somehow, she had managed to get it all tangled around her fingers.
“Our own tinsel covered star,” Daniel mused gaily.
“We'd better get that off,” Jack said a bit more seriously, worried she could inhale the strands and choke.
After removing the silvery slivers from their daughter's fingers and hair, Jack and Daniel continued to decorate the tree. They were careful to hang the breakable ornaments up high, well out of reach of wagging beagle tails. They had learned that lesson during their first Christmas with the girls.
It was almost midnight. Jack and Daniel had spent the day decorating their house and Christmas tree, finishing up around 7 p.m. Afterwards, they had cuddled up on the floor in front the fireplace while watching a few Disney movies.
Five hours later, Jack pressed the buttons on the remote, turning off the television and the DVD player, then he stood up and stretched.
Daniel got up and started to clean up the soda cans and snack food plates that had been placed on the floor around them, allowing for easy access during the movies.
“Angel, how about a dance?” Jack asked after a minute or so, already headed towards the stereo in anticipation of a 'yes' response.
Daniel started to say he was too tired to dance, but when Jack turned on the radio, their wedding song was playing.
~Can't say 'no' to that,~ the archaeologist thought as he put the empty soda cans he had just picked up onto the coffee table.
“It's fate,” Jack decreed, looking at the stereo as he acknowledged the song currently filling the airwaves.
Daniel then graced his lover with a smile that warmed Jack's heart. Jack took him into his arms, the passion of Celine Dion's “Because You Loved Me” filling them both.
Feeling calm and serene, the lovers danced by the light of the Christmas tree, the fire adding a soft orange glow to the colorful mix of lights. It had been a perfect night, and they were certain nothing could interfere with the harmony of their own romantic music created by their inner warmth and unity of their bodies.
Then, as the song ebbed to its conclusion, the couple heard the sound of glass breaking. Alarmed, they both turned around, spotting a confused looking Katie standing next to the tree and a broken Christmas ornament on the floor, a victim of her very happy tail.
“I'll get the ornament,” Jack volunteered.
Immediately, Daniel picked up Katie and looked her over carefully, checking for cuts.
“Is she okay?” the older man inquired, full of concern.
“Yeah, she looks fine. I don't see any cuts or anything. I think it just frightened her for a minute,” Daniel answered as he sat down on the sofa with the five-month-old puppy.
Bijou jumped up on the couch next to Daniel and quickly let out a stern, “Woof woof,” to her puppy in reprimand for breaking the ornament.
Katie whined and lowered her head.
“Bijou, it's okay. It was just an accident,” Jack stated, smiling at the beagle and then picking up all the remnants of the broken ornament. “Danny, it's pretty much in three separate pieces; there are only a couple of smaller ones. I'll get the mini-vac.”
“Don't worry, Girl. We know you didn't mean it. Actually, uh, it's our fault,” Daniel stated as Jack crossed by him towards the front closet where the mini-vacuum cleaner was.
“It is?” Jack questioned, pausing his movement for a moment.
“Yes, Jack, it is. We shouldn't have put the breakable ornaments so low,” Daniel admonished as he continued to reassure the puppy with gentle and loving pats of his hand.
“Danny's right, Bij,” Jack agreed. “It was just an accident,” he added as he continued towards the closet.
Bijou nuzzled her puppy and woofed an apology to her.
After Jack thoroughly vacuumed the affected area of the carpet, he sat down on the sofa next to Daniel and the girls. He gave Katie a reassuring pat and then coaxed Bijou onto his lap.
“I should have known better,” Jack lamented.
“Why?” Daniel queried as he continued to pat the youngest beagle.
“I've had dogs before; I just wasn't thinking,” the older man admitted. “We need to take care of this before they get hurt.”
Giving their beagles a couple more pats and then telling them to remain on the sofa, Jack and Daniel spent the next half-hour rearranging all the ornaments, putting the breakable ones up high on the tree and the non-breakable ones down low.
“Much better,” Jack declared as he reviewed the re-decorated tree.
“Much,” Daniel concurred.
After an eggnog nightcap, the couple locked up the house, ensured that the girls were contentedly sleeping on their beanbag, and then headed upstairs to bed.
//End of Flashback//
As the lovers continued to adorn their tree with festive attire, Daniel pulled the angel ornament out of its box and smiled.
Jack noticed the sweet expression and quickly took note of what his lover was holding. He smiled, too, knowing that the angel ornament had been the catalyst for Jack calling Daniel, 'Angel'. That had happened during their first holiday season together as lovers.
“Together,” Daniel spoke quietly.
Jack nodded and walked over to his soulmate. Each holding onto the angel, they hung the treasured ornament on the tree. Then Jack grabbed Daniel and kissed him passionately.
“You will always be my Angel,” the older man promised, after which he kissed his husband again, eliciting many giggles from their little tinsel star.
--Thursday, November 30, 2006
“Pay attention, Munchkins; this is a holiday *must*,” Jack stated as he put the DVD in the player.
“Jack, they won't have a clue,” Daniel pointed out.
“Yes, they will,” the older man opined positively. “I told you, Danny, our children are smart.”
Daniel was on the sofa, holding Jonny and Michael, and keeping a close eye on Aislinn, who Jack had propped next to them while he set up their TV viewing for the night.
“Here we go, Darlin',” Jack chimed when he returned to his family and picked up Aislinn, raising her over his head. He laughed and brought her down to eye level. “You're so beautiful, Ash. You're a perfectly beautiful baby.” He gave her a kiss and then settled down next to Daniel. “Ready, Love?”
“As ready as we'll ever be.”
Jack pushed 'play' on the remote, and then their holiday show of the night began.
“Love ole Burl Ives; he's so jolly,” Jack remarked as the snowman did the introduction for 'Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer'.”
By the time the special show finished playing, Jack and the Munchkins were asleep. Jack was slouched down in the sofa, with one arm around Aislinn and the other around the two boys. They were all kind of nestled together; Michael was squished in between his father and Jonny. Jonny was leaning against his brother. Katie was curled up on Jack's lap, and Bijou was slaying down with her front paws and upper body on Daniel's lap and her back end on the couch.
His heart overflowing with joy and love for his family, Daniel looked down at Bijou and whispered, “Shall we take a photo of them Bij?”
The beagle moved off Daniel in response, freeing him so he could get the camera. She then lay down carefully next to Jonny.
A couple minutes later, Daniel snapped the photo. Then, with perfect timing, Aislinn woke up crying, just as he snapped the shutter a second time. Seconds later, her brothers then joined in the chorus, awaking Jack.
“Huh? What?” Jack asked, looking all around at the sound of crying babies. “It wasn't me; it was the sixties.”
Daniel chuckled, shaking his head, saying, “We're out of the sixties, Love, and, uh, it's your turn for diaper duty.”
Jack nodded, still taking in his surroundings as he emerged from slumber. He gently removed his arms, allowing the babies to lay fully on the cushions and him to get up to tend them.
“Man, what a dream,” Jack commented, shaking his head as he continued to rejoin the waking world.
“I don't think I want to know,” the younger man quipped about his husband's dream, not the least bit curious about the sixties comment. “I'm going to put the camera away.”
In his efforts to stop the triplets from crying, Jack enthusiastically said, “Well, Munchkins, tomorrow night we'll watch the Grinch.” Making is hands into mock claws, he ticked the triplets bellies. “He's a little scary at first, but you'll learn to love him,” he advised as he readied himself for changing duty.
--Saturday, December 2, 2006
A couple of nights later, Jack was sitting on the sofa in his study, holding Jonny as he chatted with Sam on the phone. The oldest Munchkin had been fussy all day, but had finally fallen asleep on his older father's left shoulder.
“Thanks, Carter ... Yeah, tomorrow around noon ... Danny has no idea ... See ya then. Bye,” Jack said, disconnecting the call and letting the cordless phone drop onto the couch next to him. “Daddy's gonna be surprised,” Jack said with a smile as he patted his namesake's back.
Jack had just finished his business and was leaving the study to put his now sleeping son to bed when the phone rang. He turned around, carefully picking up the phone off the sofa to answer it.
“Hey, Lou,” Jack greeted after hearing the voice of his good friend, Lou Ferretti.
Lou had called to talk about the MonsterMobile, his truck that was always undergoing some kind of work or another. As they talked, Jack leaned against the doorframe of the study.
After some minutes had gone by, Daniel came downstairs after putting the other two Munchkins to bed. He decided to check in on his lover and walked down the hallway that led to the study. Suddenly, he started to laugh.
“Hold on a minute, Lou. Ah, Danny, what’s so funny?” Jack asked, twisting his body to the right slightly to look over at his spouse.
“Look at our son,” Daniel instructed, walking to Jack and taking the phone from him. “Hi, Lou, it's Daniel. Jack will call you back in a little while,” he chuckled before hanging up.
“Oh, for crying out loud.”
Jack and Daniel had decorated the study doorway with blue garland, holding it in place with transparent tape. Apparently, the phone call had awakened Jonny, and, in the span of five minutes, he had managed to get most of the garland wrapped around his hands.
“How'd he pull that down without me knowing?” Jack inquired dubiously.
Daniel shrugged and answered, “He must take after you.”
“What?” a confused Jack asked.
“Special Ops, Love -- covert!” Daniel jested.
It took a few minutes, but Jack and Daniel finally got Jonny untangled from the colorful decoration.
Daniel took the little one upstairs and rocked him back to sleep while Jack re-hung the garland and then returned Lou's phone call, telling him all about Jonny's garland adventure.
--Sunday, December 3, 2006
The next day, Daniel was just coming down the stairs after putting the Munchkins down for a nap when there was a knock at the door.
“Angel, can you get that?” Jack called out from the kitchen where he was making a couple of sandwiches for the couple.
“Okay,” the archaeologist acknowledged, changing directions. Opening the door, he was surprised to see their teammate and friend. “Sam, what are you doing here? I mean, come in.”
“Thanks,” Sam said, walking inside and going to the living room where she sat down.
“Jack, Sam's here,” Daniel called out as he sat down. “Uh, is everything okay?” he inquired.
“I asked her to come,” Jack informed as he walked into the living room. “Hello, Carter.” Before she could respond, he continued, “She's babysitting,” as he handed his lover a sandwich and then sat down in his favorite chair.
“She is? Ah ... why?”
Jack grinned as he answered, “We're going out.”
“Yes, we are,” Jack spoke definitively. “Now eat, so we can go.”
As he ate his sandwich, Daniel wondered what his husband was up to and finally asked, “Jack, where are we going?”
“You’ll see,” the older man responded cryptically. “Now eat.” He looked at Sam and inquired, “Got your shopping done?”
“Almost,” Sam answered, laughing at how fast Daniel was eating his sandwich.
The archaeologist had decided to just wait and see what his husband had planned, but was curious, so was subconsciously downing his food fairly rapidly.
“Okay, let's go,” Daniel said, gulping down the final piece, causing both Jack and Sam to laugh.
“Like a kid in a candy store,” Jack chuckled.
“What?” Daniel asked.
“What?” Jack questioned in return.
“Never mind, Danny. Thanks again, Carter,” Jack spoke as the parents readied to leave their home for a special outing. “The Munchkins are asleep, their last bottle was about an hour ago, and the monitor is on,” he added, motioning to the monitor that was on the coffee table. “Bij and Katie are upstairs, too. See you in a few hours.”
“Uh, thanks, Sam,” Daniel said, smiling and shrugging since he had no idea what was happening.
Keeping their destination a surprise, Jack drove his lover outside of Colorado Springs and into the mountains. He had to love the Springs. While the area itself was often protected from the worst weather events because of its high elevation, the Rocky Mountains were within a two-hour drive and that meant just about any type of winter activity was a simple drive away.
“Jack, this is crazy,” Daniel remarked with a smile, not believing the silliness of his soulmate.
“But ...” Jack prodded eagerly.
“But ... I love it,” Daniel admitted as he and Jack began to go down the hill on the toboggan Jack had bought for them.
Jack had his arms wrapped around Daniel, holding him close, and Daniel was laughing as they flew down the hill. The younger man's laughter was a sound that always made Jack’s heart sing.
About halfway down, the two men leaned too far to the left.
“Jack, waaaaaaaattttttttch ... ” Daniel screeched as their sled tipped over, abruptly ending their ride. “... out.”
“Were you saying something, Danny?” Jack asked, realizing they were both covered with snow.
Neither man was hurt in the slightest, and both were laughing heartily at the sudden turn of events. Then Jack rolled them over so that Daniel was beneath him, and they kissed.
“I love you, Angel.”
“I love you, too,” Daniel replied, giving Jack another quick kiss.
“You know, I keep expecting to hear a little giggle every time we do that now,” Jack stated. “I miss it already.”
Daniel rolled them over so he was now on top and replied, “Yeah, me, too. I just love knowing that when we go home, the Munchkins will be there. I still can't quite believe it.”
“Believe it, Daddy,” Jack said with a huge grin.
“Yes, Dad.” Daniel then surprised his spouse by jumping up, running up the hill, and, looking over his shoulder at Jack, exclaiming, “I get to be in the back this time!”
Laughing, Jack enthusiastically followed his husband up the hill for more sledding.
“We'll have to get sleds for the Munchkins,” Jack suggested as they headed for home later in the day.
“They're a little young,” Daniel reminded.
“Kids grow up fast, Danny; just wait, tomorrow, they'll be ten,” Jack stated.
“Ash will be dating,” Daniel retorted.
“Where's my shotgun?” Jack spoke in mock terror.
Daniel shook his head and chuckled, adding, “It's a long time away.”
“Yeah. Hey, we'll call all the sleds 'Rosebud',” Jack stated.
Jack glanced at his lover for a moment, then refocused on the road as he commented, “Danny, haven't you seen 'Citizen Kane'?”
“Uh ... no,” Daniel answered, then chuckled, “But I've heard the story, Babe.”
“Good, then Rosebud it is,” Jack decreed.
“I have a better idea,” Daniel replied.
“I'm listening,” the older man responded.
“JAM,” Daniel spoke.
“Jam? As in jam and bread? Why would you put the name of a condiment on a sled?” Jack asked incredulously.
Daniel laughed, “Just for you, Jack.”
“Daniel, if you don't explain ...”
“J.A.M. -- Jonny, Aislinn, and Michael -- JAM,” a very pleased-with-himself Daniel clarified.
Jack groaned, then let out a snort as they continued their trek home.
“More cider?” Jack asked as he got up from the sofa.
“Mmmm, yes, please,” Daniel sighed.
It was late that night, and the Munchkins were asleep. The lovers were snuggling on the sofa as they watched the holiday classic, “White Christmas.”
“I wonder if we'll have a white Christmas this year,” the younger man pondered.
“It'll be white somewhere,” Jack answered, returning with their refills. “The Munchkins haven't seen much snow yet.” He sat back down. “Ready?”
“Ready,” Daniel answered, smiling when his lover resumed the movie. “What happened to the suitcase?” he asked as the movie progressed.
“Bing Crosby put his suitcase down next to their table in the club car, and now it's gone,” Daniel pointed out.
“Daniel, stop watching for bloopers, and just enjoy the film. No one cares that their luggage is suddenly missing.”
A minute later, Daniel observed, “The menu moved.”
“Excuse me?” Jack asked.
“They've been sitting there, during this whole scene, and that menu was lying on its side. Suddenly, they start singing about snow, and the menu is right side up.”
“Danny Kaye moved it,” Jack surmised.
“Right,” Daniel agreed hesitantly.
“He must have. The camera was on Bing and what's her name,” Jack stated.
“Rosemary Clooney,” Daniel answered.
“You asked what her name was. It's Rosemary Clooney. It says so in the credits,” Daniel stated.
Jack shook his head and refocused on the film.
“Does anyone care that the blondes went from the nice drawing room to bunks in berths?” Daniel questioned moments later.
“They changed trains,” Jack argued.
“But they didn't say they were going to change trains,” the archaeologist refuted. “They had that long, drawn out scene about how much to Vermont. There was no mention of changing trains.”
“Daniel, they changed trains,” the older man maintained. “They don't have to spell it out for that to be the case.”
“Okay, but did you really look at that train?”
“It was the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe,” Daniel stated.
“So, then it was the Southern Pacific.”
In a near growl, Jack replied, “They changed trains, so when they changed trains, they changed lines.”
“For the same fare? I don't think so, Jack,” Daniel challenged. “Besides, there's another problem.”
“Which is?” Jack prodded, though he really didn't want to know.
“Neither train line ran on the east coast,” Daniel smirked.
“Daniel, watch the movie,” Jack instructed.
The younger man sipped his cider, chuckling off and on as the movie continued.
“So, Babe, does anyone care that the vehicle from the inn in Vermont has a California license plate on it?”
“Do you have something against this movie?” Jack questioned.
“Well, actually, I love this movie. We watch it every year,” Daniel answered.
“Then why are you picking it apart when we could be enjoying all the non-snow in Vermont?”
Licking his lips, Daniel leaned forward, placing his glass of cider on the coffee table. Then he settled back, his blue eyes staring deeply into his Love's brown eyes.
“Because, My Love, I'd rather be doing this,” the younger man answered, leaning forward and placing such a passionate and erotic kiss on his husband that Jack tipped over his glass, cider dripping down onto his pants. “Don't worry about that,” Daniel said about the spilled drink. “I'll take care of it.”
The movie was long forgotten as Jack and Daniel made love on their sofa.
Much later, in the joyful bliss of their aftermath and thankful that the Munchkins hadn't woken up crying at an inopportune moment, the older man glanced over at the blank screen on the television. It reminded him of the movie they hadn't finished watching.
“Danny, did you really notice all of those bloopers, or did you make them up?”
With a chuckle, Daniel answered, “The drawing room and the menu I've noticed every time we've watched it, but the others I got from a website.”
“You looked it up?” a surprised Jack asked.
Shrugging slightly, Daniel affirmed, “In between looking for Goa'ulds.”
Jack laughed and placed a kiss on Daniel's forehead, saying, “Don't ever change, Danny.”
“Okay,” Daniel agreed. “Let's watch the movie now.”
“I love you, Angel.”
“I love you, too,” Daniel sighed contentedly as he reached for the remote and restarted the movie from the beginning.
“Wonderful film,” Jack expressed as the opening credits began.
“Maybe we'll have a white Christmas this year,” Daniel supposed.
“It'll be a white one somewhere,” Jack laughed as the lovers settled in to watch the holiday classic. “Tomorrow night we can watch 'It's a Wonderful Life',” he suggested as the credits ended, and the first scene was about to begin.
“You know something, Babe? It is; it really is.”
“A wonderful life.”
“Amen,” Jack spoke softly. “Amen.”
--Saturday, December 9, 2006
“Jack, this is insane!” Daniel exclaimed as the couple entered a local toy store the following Saturday.
The place was packed, full of moms, dads, and their mostly joyful children. In fact, someone's pride and joy nearly knocked Jack down as she flew past him, chasing a little boy.
“That's *my* toy!” the girl exclaimed angrily.
“Finder's keepers, loser's weepers ... loser!” the boy called out, evading the girl and disappearing down another aisle.
Jack shook his head and turned to look at Daniel, who was holding onto the stroller that contained their own pride and joys -- Jonny, Michael, and Aislinn.
Jack bent down and warned, “Munchkins, you're going to be spoiled rotten, but so help me, you ever forget the true meaning of Christmas, and there will be severe consequences.”
The three babies just stared at their father.
“They don't know what you're talking about,” Daniel pointed out.
“Yes, they do. They can sense it, even if they don't understand it,” Jack insisted, standing up. “Danny, I think we need another tradition.”
“Another one?” Daniel laughed at the notion. It seemed like every single day they were starting some new family tradition; still, it felt great. In fact, it gave him a warm and fuzzy feeling to know they had traditions to add to their celebrations. ~Family -- love it.~
“You'll like this one.”
“I like all of them,” Daniel admitted, earning him a sweet smile from his sexy Silver Fox.
Jack opined, “We need to teach the kids to give, and I think we should start now.”
“Okay,” the younger man agreed, nodding. “What did you have in mind?”
Jack thought for a second, then suggested, “How about every year, we encourage each Munchkin to use their allowance to buy something for one of the children at the shelter? We don't buy it for them; they earn it, and they deliver it. It'll give them a chance to see how lucky they are, and, hopefully, they'll discover ...”
“... how good it feels to give,” Daniel completed for his husband.
“What do you think?”
Daniel nodded, saying, “Well, uh, it's a great idea, but our children don't get allowances yet.”
“They do now,” Jack smirked. He knelt down and instructed, “Munchkins, as of now, you're on the clock. You earn one dollar each time you ... giggle. We love to hear you giggle, so earn those dollars!” As Jack made a funny face, Jonny laughed. “That's my boy. That's a buck for you.” He leaned in and tickled Michael. “Four buckaroos for you.” Aislinn started laughing while just listening to Michael. “And two dollars for you.”
“There's another three dollars for Jonny,” Daniel spoke when Jonny joined in with the giggling chorus.
On and on it went, Jack and Daniel laughing along with their giggling children as they made faces, tickled each other, and spoke in humorous voices. They didn't realize they were being stared at, but, of course, they didn't care, either.
Finally, the older man stated, “Okay, kids, clock's done. You've each earned enough to buy one toy for another boy or girl who isn't as lucky as you. Let's go shopping.”
The family spent thirty minutes going down the aisles, and Jack insisted the children pick the gifts. One by one, he picked up each of the triplets and helped them to examine toys.
Daniel laughed and shook his head as he commented, “They haven't a clue what's happening, Jack.”
“But they're having a fun. This place is very stimulating, and there is so much to see. Look at how bright their eyes are.”
Daniel felt the emotion of the moment, the rightness and happiness he was gifted with, and privately responded, **I know. They're so precious, Jack. Thank you for our family.**
**And thanks to you, too, Angel. Without you and all the love you give, none of this would have happened.**
~I know I must be red-faced.~ Indeed, Daniel blushed and looked down for a moment. Wanting to lighten the mood again, he teased lovingly, “Yeah, watching their father be a big ham is real eye-opener!”
At the moment, Jack was holding Jonny, letting the oldest Munchkin pick his gift to give to someone less fortunate.
Daniel watched as Jack briefly picked up an ant farm and then put it back.
~I may just get you that ant farm, Babe,~ Daniel pondered as he remembered the story Jack had told him during their first Christmas together.
As a young boy, Jack had wanted an ant farm for Christmas. When he hadn't gotten it, he'd thrown a tantrum, even though he had received several nice presents that year.
Unhappy with young Jack's behavior, his grandfather had taken him to a local shelter, forcing the boy to give all his presents to the children there. Jack learned a valuable lesson that day, a lesson Daniel suspected had quite possibly led to his husband's desire to have the Munchkins pick gifts for other children who weren't lucky enough to have parents and a home to call their own.
~I think you've earned that ant farm after all of these years,~ Daniel thought as Jack picked up Michael for his turn at gift selection.
Finally, their toys were chosen, and the couple realized they'd run out of shopping time. They were due at General Hammond's for dinner in less than an hour.
As the family waited in line to pay for their purchases, Daniel knelt down in front of the stroller and spoke, “Munchkins, I know we came here to buy things for you today, but, instead, all we bought were things to give away. Trust me, though, like Dad said, you're going to be so spoiled that people will say we're crazy, but it's important for you to learn, and learn early, that the real fun of Christmas is in the giving. There are so many children out there who don't know what Christmas is. They don't have families; they don't have mothers or fathers; all they have is ... well, not much. So many don't even have homes,” he sighed regretfully.
Kneeling down beside him, Jack continued, “We want you to feel the happiness that comes with giving. Tomorrow, we'll go to the shelter, and you can drop off your gifts.”
“We love you,” Daniel reiterated. “Dad and I just want you to realize that the holiday season isn't about the presents you receive. It's not about being the only one to have something; it's not about having; it's about giving.” He paused, looking briefly at Jack, then added, “It's about love and all the goodness and wonder that love grants us.”
Daniel sighed and stood up, knowing he and Jack would have to repeat those words many times over the coming years to make sure the message was received. Still, he was determined that their children would be givers first and takers second.
Stunned at the words, Daniel turned around to see a woman in her forties, standing in line with the two children who had been running around like banshees earlier.
The woman reiterated, “Thank you for the reminder.”
Daniel didn't know what to say. He looked at Jack, but before they could say anything, the mother turned to her children.
“I hope you listened to what this man just said; if not, I'll repeat it for you,” the mother spoke seriously. “As of now, you two are going to learn that same lesson. Enough of this 'give me, give me' business. I didn't have anything but a doll and a little sewing machine growing up, and your father made do with Lincoln Logs and a G.I. Joe. You two aren't happy having computers, video games, and a stack of toys you play with one time and then toss aside. Well, those days are over. We're going to buy these, and then we're going to give them away, and when we go home, we're going through all of your things, and anything you don't play with regularly, we're giving away, too.”
The woman's two children whined until she turned to them and said, “Enough, or we'll just donate everything you have. It's time for you two to stop this selfish behavior. One more word, and everything goes.”
The two disgruntled children became quiet, though it was obvious from their glares that they were grumbling and whining silently.
The woman looked over at Jack and Daniel, saying, “Pardon me, I, uh, well, I must confess, I've more or less been following you for the last half-hour. I apologize,” she quickly added at seeing Jack's and Daniel's concerned expressions. “I was intrigued. As I say, I'm sorry, but I heard you when you came in, and I didn't mean to overhear, but I saw you making the babies laugh and ...” Feeling quite ashamed and not knowing how to explain her actions, the lady sighed and decided to just come out and say what she was thinking. “I've never met any same-sex couples with children, and it's obvious that these little ones are yours. Uh, to be honest, I really wasn't sure I agreed with it, but I was curious.”
“Ma'am ...” Jack began, starting to guide Daniel and the triplets away.
“Please, I'm really not doing a very good job of this. Please, let me finish. I'll try to be more articulate.” The woman smiled, her eyes pleading with both men to let her continue. “Just a minute longer.”
“Go ahead, Ma'am,” Daniel said.
**Jack, tolerance means listening, and we always have time to listen.**
The woman took a deep breath and said, “With what I've seen and heard here today, I must say, you are wonderful parents. You are teaching your children sound values, even at this early age, and it's evident that you love each other and all of your little ones very much. I just wanted to say, you've really made me think here today about not judging people by a silly stereotype. I apologize again if I've upset you at all.”
“It's okay, Ma'am,” Jack replied. “We're used to ...”
“It's okay,” Daniel interrupted.
Relieved to see the small smiles slowly appearing on both Jack's and Daniel's faces, the woman spoke, “Thank you again for reminding me what Christmas is all about, and, as you heard me say to these two,” she placed a hand on each of her children's shoulders, “we'll be taking a leaf out of your book from now on.”
Jack and Daniel stared at the lady for a few seconds before Jack introduced, “I'm Jack, and, uh, this is my husband, Daniel.”
“It's a real pleasure to meet you both,” the woman replied enthusiastically, offering out her hand as a gesture of greeting to the two handsome men. ~Wow, look at those eyes,~ she thought as she looked up at Jack. Turning her attention to Daniel, she shook his hand and found herself getting lost in his smiling face. ~Wow! All the good ones are taken~ she lamented.
“It's nice to meet you,” Daniel spoke warmly.
“I'm Octavia, and this is Anthony and Alexandra,” Octavia said, introducing her children.
“Beautifully historic names,” Daniel offered.
“Yes, my father is Italian, and I was born in Rome. I was the eighth child, hence 'Octavia'. My husband and I decided to keep up the tradition. So, who are these little treasures?” Octavia asked, kneeling down in front of the Munchkins.
“Uh, Jonny, Michael, and Aislinn,” Daniel stated proudly.
“They're two months old, ” Jack added.
“They're beautiful,” Octavia opined, holding Aislinn's little hand and tickling Michael, while a curious Alexandra made a fuss of Jonny. Standing back up, she stated, “You mentioned a children's shelter. I'm ashamed to admit it, but I don't know where any of them are. Can you suggest one that is nearby?”
“Yes, we can,” Jack answered. “A wonderful woman named Molly O'Hanlon runs a place not far from here. She'd truly appreciate anything you'd care to give.”
“Thank you. Thank you, both.” After Jack gave the woman Molly's address and phone number and she and Daniel had exchanged email addresses, Octavia paid for her purchases, waving as she headed out the doors. “Happy Holidays!”
“The Jackson-O'Neills strike again!” Jack exclaimed jovially, punching the air for good measure. “I hope her kids learn something from visiting with Molly.”
“Yeah,” Daniel agreed. “It's a fine line, Jack, giving your kids everything and yet making sure they give; that they want to give, in return. We'll have to be very careful,” Daniel stated.
“We will, and this is a step towards that,” Jack agreed, holding up the items the Munchkins had 'chosen' for the kids at the shelter.
Three giggles seemed to be an affirmation from the triplets as their parents paid for the gifts and went on with their plans.
“I'm not surprised, Jack,” General Hammond spoke as the three men were enjoying a glass of wine before dinner.
The Munchkins had already had their latest meal and were now napping as the adults chatted. The conversation had turned to the shopping adventure, and Jack had just relayed what had happened with all the children they'd witnessed at the store, fighting over the toys.
Hammond continued, “I turn on the TV and see these reports about parents getting in line at three in the morning for the latest toy or electronic gadget that their child simply must have.” He sighed, “When I was boy, we were lucky to have toys at all, and most of those were handmade.”
“We want them to have everything,” Daniel admitted. “But ... not at the sacrifice of their souls, or ours.”
“It won't be easy, Daniel,” the bald-headed man warned. “When we had our daughter, my wife and I wanted to splurge. We did what we could. It wasn't easy those first years. When we saw our grandchildren growing up in a world of commercialism, we worried about them.”
“Tessa and Kayla have grown up to be fine teenagers, Sir,” Jack pointed out. “And Vanessa is going to be another winner, too,” he added about Hammond's youngest granddaughter, who was still a youngster.
“Thankfully so, Jack, but it hasn't always been without a test of patience sometimes, but then there's always something for parents and children to war about,” Hammond reminded.
“We won't let one of those wars be about material things,” Daniel insisted. “I ... I had nothing. I want them to have everything, but ...”
Jack reached over and took hold of his lover's hand, saying, “The Munchkins will understand. They'll be spoiled good, not spoiled rotten.”
“Interesting choice of a label,” Daniel responded with a smile.
“My daughter once told me about customers who would yell and scream that she'd ruined their child's, or grandchild's, holiday because this or that toy hadn't gotten there in time for Christmas,” Hammond spoke.
“She worked for some major retailer for a while, didn't she?” Jack asked.
“In customer service,” Daniel interjected.
The lieutenant general nodded, adding, “She said things would happen, accidents, labels swapped -- a lot of different reasons for errors in shipments, but while there were those who understood and said that such-and-such would make a nice surprise for after Christmas, or who said they'd put a picture of it in a box and give it to the child, telling them it was coming soon, that others would swear at her, accuse her of ruining the holiday. She couldn't say anything to them, but she always wanted to ask them what was the true meaning of Christmas -- was it about gifts or being with your family. She wanted to ask them if being healthy and together wasn't the best gift of all. She was well aware that even if she had asked, they wouldn't have been able to answer the question. She never got angry at those who accused her of destroying Christmas, but she did feel sorry for them.”
“So do I,” Daniel agreed.
Silence filled the room for a moment as the three considered both the joy of Christmas and the greed and selfishness that often accompanied it. They all agreed that, hopefully, by emphasizing giving, their children would learn the delicate balance of life.
To lighten the mood, Jack and Daniel told General Hammond about Octavia and what she had said to them.
“Well, I'll drink to that!” Hammond responded, pleased to hear that there were people out there willing to break out of their prior ignorance. “Dinner should be about done. Shall we?” he asked.
“I'm starved, General. What are we having?” Jack inquired, standing up as well.
“Bread and water,” Hammond joked.
“But ...” Jack began to grouse. “That's funny, Sir.”
Chuckling, Hammond led his friends to the dining area, where they all enjoyed a wonderful casserole for dinner.
--Monday, December 11, 2006
Jack was home alone with the babies since his husband had left about a half-hour earlier to run some errands. Jonny and Michael, having already devoured their bottles, were asleep in the downstairs' crib. Jack was currently feeding Aislinn her bottle. Midway through, the youngest Munchkin stopped drinking, a sign that she needed to be burped. He set the bottle on the coffee table and accidentally knocked a rattle onto the floor.
“Uh oh,” Jack said as he reached down and picked up the toy.
Aislinn giggled. Smiling, Jack purposely dropped the rattle, repeating the previous phrase. This time Aislinn went beyond giggling and laughed.
“Ho! Ho! Ho!” Jack exclaimed cheerfully as he continued to play the game.
The game went on for a few more minutes, the dropped rattle causing a giggle each and every time it was dropped. Jack laughed, too, taking joy in the simplicity of their game and the sound of the wondrous noise from the tiny infant.
“This is what Christmas is about, Ash. Just this,” he stated, dropping the rattle again. “Actually, this is what is life is all about.”
After a couple more rounds, the happy father burped his daughter and then fed her the rest of her bottle. She fell asleep a few moments later. He set the sleeping girl next to her brothers and took the now empty bottles to the kitchen, where he washed and refilled them, along with several extras, putting them in the refrigerator for future feedings. He also wiped off the rattle, since it had been one-on-one with the floor so many times.
As he was wiping his hands dry. Jack heard the phone ring.
“Yikes!” the general exclaimed, hurrying to the phone. ~Don't wake the babies. I'm commmming!~ Answering by rote with “O'Neill,” he anxiously looked over at the crib, breathing a sigh of relief when the triplets didn't wake.
“Did you get a divorce?” Sara chuckled at Jack having answered the phone with just 'O'Neill'.
“What?” Jack asked, calming and returning to the kitchen to put the hand towel back in its place. ~Oh.~ “Sara? Sorry, I was afraid the Munchkins might wake up. They just went down a few minutes ago, and, no, never in a billion years. I have Danny fooled.”
“A never-ending supply of blinders?”
“They go right over his glasses; perfect fit, so no divorce in this couple's future,” Jack chuckled.
The blonde laughed, “That's good to know. When are you taking the triplets to meet Santa?”
“Uh, later this week,” Jack answered. “Sara?” he called out a bit somberly.
“Ash and I just played a game,” Jack explained, telling his ex-wife all about the rattle and resulting giggles. “It was silly, Sara, but, geez, it was fun.”
Sara chuckled, “Those are the little things you'll never forget.”
“I missed a lot of those with Charlie,” Jack lamented.
“You were there more than you remember, Jack. Those missing times just stand out to you more because Charlie died,” Sara comforted.
“But I still missed a lot. I left so much up to you,” the man sighed regretfully.
“Well, maybe, but you aren't missing them now, and that's the important thing,” Sara reminded.
“Yeah, you're right,” Jack agreed, snapping himself out of his regret. ~Gotta love that woman.~ “So, what's up?”
“Mark and I would like to invite you to dinner,” the blonde invited cordially. “I know Daniel is still a little hesitant about leaving the babies, but we thought we could get Mike or someone to watch all the kids, and the four of us could get away from the madness for just a couple of hours.”
“That sounds great, Sara. Which night?” Jack inquired.
“Next Wednesday or Friday would be good for us,” Sara intoned.
“I'll talk with Danny, and we'll give you a call,” the general replied. “He's getting better, and if we make an early night of it, I think I can talk him into it.”
“Good. I have to go. Give the babies a kiss for me, and tell Daniel 'hello',” Sara requested.
“Will do. Sara?”
“You were then, and you are now, a great mom,” Jack spoke poignantly.
“Thank you, Jack,” the woman replied, holding onto the phone for a moment before letting it slide back down to its base.
Jack hung up the phone and returned to the living room, where he looked down at the sleeping triplets.
“I wasn't as hands-on as I should have been with Charlie, but I won't make that mistake with you three. That's a promise,” Jack pledged before moving away to handle the next thing on his 'to do' list.
“Dinner would be nice,” Daniel agreed as he and his husband put away groceries later that day. “But not a late night, though.” He saw his lover's pointed stare and added, “I know, Jack, but they're still so ... little.”
“They'll grow fast enough,” Jack replied.
“I really do want to go dinner with Sara and Mark,” Daniel stated with a smile.
“Wednesday or Friday?” the older man questioned.
“Not sure. Let's check the calendar after dinner,” the archaeologist suggested.
“Danny, they have this neat new horse for sale at Wal-Mart. It's incredible! The Munchkins would love it,” Jack opined enthusiastically.
“Horse?” Daniel asked, his shock evident by the way he drew out the word.
“Butterscotch!” Jack exclaimed. “You have to see this!” he said, tugging on Daniel's elbow and leading him into the study to watch the video of Butterscotch in motion. He sat down and went straight to the website that had the pony for sale. He started the video of the 'toy' in action. “Isn't that something?”
“Oh, it's something,” the younger man agreed, standing with his arms folded as he stared down at the computer.
“Look, Danny! Butterscotch can move her head up and down and back and forth. Even her eyes open and close. Isn't that cute how she interacts with the little girl? I love this part -- she whinnies when her mane is brushed. This is too much. See that! She even eats a carrot!” Jack exclaimed, sounding more excited than the girl being used in the demonstration of the pony.
“Butterscotch sometimes gets scared, Danny. When it gets dark, she might need a hug; and she responds to noises. Ah, look at that,” Jack sighed, watching the youngster get atop the toy. “We *have* to get one. There's an assembly video on here somewhere; even I can put this puppy, er, horse together.”
“Our children are infants, Jack, newborns. Don't you think that maybe, just maybe, they're a little too young for ... Butterscotch?” the archaeologist questioned.
“Danny, she even sniffs! She'll twist her head looking for you and ...”
“Jack?” Daniel interrupted.
“The Munchkins can't even walk yet. This ... horse is for a four or five year old,” the archaeologist pointed out.
“That's the beauty of it, Angel. They'll grow into it!” Jack replied smartly, a pleased expression on his face as he looked up at his Love.
“Babe, you're out of control,” Daniel accused lovingly, raising his hands, palms out, just slightly as he backed slowly away and out of the study. ~Cute, yes, but we have *babies*, not toddlers.~
~But she's so cute,~ Jack thought about the amazing horse. ~Maybe Danny has a point, but, Butterscotch, one of these days, you're ours.~ As he turned off the computer, he mused, ~Winnie the Pooh would look adorable sitting atop Butterscotch in the nursery. I can talk him into it.~
In the kitchen, Daniel sighed and asked the new box of Froot Loops that he was putting away, “Why do I get the feeling we're about to buy a very expensive, technologically advanced stuffed animal for three babies whose primary achievement in life thus far is being able to eat, drink, and ... and ...” Shaking his head, he decided not to finish his question. Instead, he placed the cereal on the shelf and lamented, “Gawd, I sound more like Jack every day.”
“That's a bad thing?” the older man queried smugly as he rejoined his lover.
“We are not buying a three-hundred dollar horse that our children won't be able to use for four years,” Daniel insisted sternly, ignoring the question completely.
“Yes, Danny,” Jack agreed, his Irish smile causing Daniel to sigh and roll his eyes. “Jack, I'm going to check on our *newborn* babies. Why don't you ... oh, I don't know, but do something constructive.”
As Daniel left the kitchen, Jack chuckled, “Yes, Dear. I'll just do that.”
**I heard that.**
Jack just laughed as he turned around and considered his options for the rest of the day.
--Sunday, December 17, 2006
“Danny, I'll be back in about an hour,” Jack announced while preparing to leave. ~Burrrrrr! It's nice and cold out. Perfect conditions.~
“Jack, where are you going?” Daniel asked, walking up to his husband with Aislinn in his arms.
“I told you earlier, Angel, it's a surprise,” Jack replied, giving his husband a loving kiss.
Aislinn giggled, causing her fathers to smile. Jack then gave the youngest Munchkin a kiss on the forehead and headed out to run his errand as Daniel's brow furled with curiosity.
“Ash, whatever Dad has planned, you can bet it is going to be a great surprise,” the archaeologist informed their daughter.
Father and daughter returned to the living room where Jonny and Michael were in their crib. Daniel put Aislinn down next to her brothers and went to the kitchen to get their bottles.
Hearing the call from the patio door, the archaeologist detoured to let in the two beagles.
“Hey, Girls. Would you like a treat?”
Two excited beagles ran to the kitchen and sat eagerly by the countertop where they knew their treats were kept. Their tails were wagging furiously, causing Daniel to smile.
“Here you go,” Daniel said, handing each canine a biscuit. “Now, time to feed the triplets,” he said as the dogs headed into the living room and their beanbag to enjoy their treats.
**Danny, I'm home,** Jack announced about an hour and fifteen minutes later.
The older man was in the backyard, having carried his surprise there. His husband, meanwhile, was in the den, but upon hearing Jack's message, was now standing and about to head downstairs.
**About time,** the younger man communicated. **I'll fix lunch.**
**That's an understatement. I almost dug into my Twinkie stash in the den,** the archaeologist joked.
Jack laughed as he replied, **Good thing I'm home then.**
**Always,** Daniel replied, conveying a softer tone.
**How are the Munchkins?**
**Asleep. Jonny and Ash went to sleep right away, but Michael was a little fussy. I rocked him for a while, and he finally went to sleep. Sandwiches okay?**
**Yep. Whatever you want, Love,** Jack answered as he went about his task outside.
About halfway down the stairs, Daniel heard a strange noise that seemed to be coming from the backyard.
**Jack, are you in the backyard?**
~I wonder what he's up to now,~ the archaeologist pondered. Grabbing the portable monitor off the coffee table as he passed by, Daniel walked outside and saw his lover's surprise. “Jack?” he asked with a higher-pitched voice than usual.
“Hey, Angel,” the older man greeted, walking over and giving Daniel a quick kiss.
“A ... a snow machine?”
“Excellent observation, Love,” Jack commented.
“Uh, why?” Daniel inquired, totally surprised at seeing the equipment in their backyard.
Even though the mountainous areas of Colorado got quite a bit of snow, Colorado Springs was always unpredictable. Though there were times when there was plenty of snow to play in, oftentimes, the snow dissipated quickly, turning into a watery mess.
“Can't count on Mother Nature to give us snow, Danny, and we have family traditions to carry on,” Jack stated as he returned to the snow machine and began putting it together. “Remember, Angel, snowmen and snow angels.”
Daniel's mind flashed back to the first time he had made a snowman and a snow angel. It wasn't all that long ago really, just a few years earlier during a trip to Boston.
After realizing that it had been his lover's first time to frolic in the snow, Jack had made both snow creations family traditions. Every year since then, at least once during the holiday season, he and Daniel frolicked in the snow. A couple of times, they'd had to travel to get to a place with a sufficient amount of snow, and, one time, they'd even sneaked to their secret place at Cheyenne Mountain to make the snow designs.
~He's right,~ Daniel thought, admitting that the snow machine was a logical move. “How long did you rent it for?” he asked, excitement growing within him at the fun they would soon be having.
The snow machine was a smaller version of the ones that the ski slopes used, especially made for use in backyards and smaller locales. While the conditions had to be right for it to function, it was ideal for Colorado Springs and would be able to provide homemade snow on many occasions throughout the year.
“I didn't rent it, Danny, I bought it,” Jack revealed as he worked on a bit of assembly he needed to complete in order to use the item. He'd had to buy an air compressor, too, but with the right weather conditions, their yard could be covered in snow in just three or four hours. “And before you say anything, just think of the times we had to travel to make a snowman, and now with the kids ...”
“I didn't say a word,” Daniel interrupted, smirking.
“But you were going to.”
“No, I wasn't,” Daniel replied.
“Not,” the younger man said, smiling slyly.
“Not?” Jack questioned. ~I was sure he'd argue.~ “Uh, Danny, it wasn't cheap.”
“I didn't think it was,” Daniel replied as he watched his husband with the small unit. “But ... don't tell me how much until after Christmas.”
Jack chuckled, standing up to attach the proper hoses to the unit, and said, “That's a deal. Just don't check the bank statement.”
“I didn't think they sold these in the stores,” the archaeologist wondered.
The older man made a face, cocking his head slightly as he confessed, “I ordered it a while ago; had it sent to Lou's.”
Amused, the younger man interjected, “That's why you did the bills the last couple of months.”
Jack coughed and smiled innocently, causing Daniel to let out a laugh at his guilty husband.
“Lou did most of the main assembly for me, so I'd just have to do the final bits here,” Jack explained.
“*That* expensive, huh?”
“But you'll love it!” Jack insisted. “I wasn't going to bring it home until Christmas, but we're in for some ideal snow days.”
Daniel chuckled, “You mean it'll be freezing.”
“Something like that,” Jack laughed. “I checked the thermostat; it's just twenty-eight degrees, so we can start now.”
“I noticed,” Daniel replied dryly as he rubbed his upper arms, having come outside without putting on his jacket. He smiled, though, as he took a closer look at their new 'toy'. Then, walking to his Love and kissing him, he opined, “I think it's a smart purchase, Love. The kids will love it when they get older, and we'll love it forever. Snow on demand,” he laughed.
Jack smiled, pleasantly surprised. He hadn't anticipated his husband agreeing so easily about the purchase of the somewhat expensive machine.
~He just keeps surprising me,~ the older man thought as he rotated the machine to cover the next section of the yard.
“I'd rather have the real thing, Jack, but ...”
“This'll do,” Jack spoke with his soulmate, both chuckling afterwards.
“Daniel!” Jack shouted eagerly. “Danny, get down here!” he called out again.
Jack had been about to make dinner, but had decided to check on his snow machine. The temperature had dropped to just over twenty degrees, and the snow being produced was nice and dry. Of course, he'd moved the unit a couple of times throughout the afternoon to get a proper spread over the yard, but this was the finished product. The Jackson-O'Neill backyard had been turned into a winter wonderland.
“Jack, you'll wake ... the babies. Wow!” Daniel observed as he stood next to his husband at the sliding patio door. “It snowed!” he mused.
“Let's check it out,” Jack said, opening the door and leading his husband outside.
The couple laughed as they slid over the icy flakes, realizing they didn't have on the right shoes for the snow. They both slipped, breaking out into even more laughter when they landed on the bed of snow that now graced their entire backyard.
A few moments later, Bijou and Katie came out of the house via the doggie door and began to play in the freshly made snow. The girls rolled around and made doggie snow angels, causing both men to chuckle at their antics.
“They're just like us, Danny,” Jack teased.
“Chips off the ole doggie block?” Daniel joked.
Jack groaned, and Daniel grimaced.
~I'm definitely hanging around Jack too much, not that I mind. In fact, I plan to do even more of it,~ the archaeologist silently mused.
“Danny, look at Bij!”
Daniel looked over at the mama beagle, chuckling as she jumped up into the air to try and catch the snow as it was being spewed out of the snow machine.
“Grrrrr,” Bijou growled from her latest attempt as she shook the snow off of her and tried again, only to be blasted with more snow that caused her ears to blow back. “Woooooof!” she argued with the machine.
“You tell it, Bij!” Jack encouraged as he and his lover laughed. After a couple of minutes of watching the beagle take on the new family toy, he began, “Come on, Danny, let's ...”
“Let's!” Daniel agreed. “Where's the snow gear?”
“Garage,” Jack answered.
“I'll get the snow gear,” Daniel stated. “You check on the babies and grab the monitor, and I'll meet you back out here in a few minutes.”
Before fifteen minutes had passed, Daniel had retrieved the necessary items from the garage. On the patio steps, he placed a few accessories to add to the snowmen once they were done building them: two hats, two scarves, materials to make the faces, and more. Meanwhile, Jack had made sure the kids were secure, answered an unexpected phone call, and had just walked outside with the portable baby monitor.
“Ready?” Daniel asked.
“Ready!” Jack replied, smiling.
Just as the older man bent down to start making the base of the first snowman, Jonny woke up crying, his powerful whine belting through the monitor. Seconds later, the two younger Munchkins joined in the chorus.
“Oops!” the archaeologist expressed as he glanced at the monitor that was sitting on the wooden patio. He shrugged, stating, “The snowman will have to wait.” Chuckling, he added, “The snow babies need to be fed and changed.”
“That's a good one, Angel,” Jack responded, following his lover and sporting a grin. His soulmate's comment had given him an idea, though it would have to wait until the little ones went back to sleep. ~I've done it again!~
After dinner, the couple was spending some playtime with the Munchkins in the living room. They were on the floor, the babies on a blanket.
“Jack, they'll probably be ready for a nap in a few more minutes,” Daniel supposed.
“Then it's snow time!” the older man exclaimed jovially.
Just as the twosome was about to finish up their play session, there was a knock at the door.
“I'll get it, Jack.” Opening the front door, Daniel was surprised to see General Hammond looking back at him. “Hi, General. Ah, come on in,” he invited.
“I hope you don't mind me coming by unannounced, but I was doing some shopping and decided to stop by to see the babies,” the bald-headed man spoke as he walked into the entranceway. He laughed upon entering the living room, seeing Jack playing peek-a-boo with the three infants, who were giggling at their father's antics. ~The Goa'ulds would never believe this.~
“General,” Jack said, starting to get up.
“As you were,” Hammond ordered, dismissing the move. “This is an unofficial visit,” he clarified as he walked towards Jack's favorite chair, anticipating sitting down in the comfortable piece of furniture.
“The general came by to see the Munchkins,” Daniel explained. When Aislinn's arms waved eagerly towards the newcomer to the home, her younger father picked her up and carried her over to the general, saying, “She'd like to say 'hello'.”
“Hello, Aislinn,” Hammond greeted with a grin, taking possession of the happy newborn. After a minute, he said, “Jack, Daniel, I can't help but notice you have a backyard full of snow.”
“Yes, Sir, we do,” Jack acknowledged.
~Strange.~ Hammond shifted his position to get a closer look, finally catching sight of the apparatus that was currently sitting in the far corner of the yard. ~Ah, now I feel better,~ he thought. “Is that a snow machine?”
“Yes, Sir,” Jack responded with pride, getting up and carrying Michael with him as he approached his CO and friend.
“Not happy with the weather in the Springs?” Hammond questioned.
“Actually, General, the weather is too unreliable. We love the snow and have family traditions to uphold,” Jack explained seriously.
“I assume the snowfall we had last month didn't convince you we'd have enough for the holidays?” Hammond inquired.
Holding Jonny, Daniel chuckled, “We just want to make sure the Munchkins have a white Christmas and that we, uh ...” He paused, looking over at his husband, the two sharing a tender look. Finally, he continued, “We don't know if we'll have a chance to get to the snow, so, we want to make sure we can carry out our traditions.”
Jack remarked, “Traditions are more important than ever, General, and I intend to do everything I can to make sure nothing interferes with ours.”
Hammond observed yet another tender look between his two friends and was curious as to how the snow machine fit in. Still, he kept quiet.
After a moment, Daniel smiled shyly, bowing his head slightly as he explained, “It's ... because of me.”
Sensing the young man's embarrassment, Hammond replied, “No need to share your secrets with me, Son.”
“I don't mind, General,” Daniel explained. “It's just, well, I'd never really played in the snow or made a snowman until a few years ago.”
“We played hooky in Boston,” Jack confessed, a tiny gleam in his eye. ~I wonder if he remembers.~
As he glanced down at Aislinn, Hammond nodded, recalling the trip when the two men called in 'sick', thereby extending their trip to Boston. He'd known they weren't sick, but hadn't pressed the issue because they'd just gone through a trying ordeal.
~Yes, he remembers,~ Jack surmised upon seeing his commander's knowing expression. ~Somehow, I don't think much has ever gotten by the old man. Old? Crap, O'Neill, he's not that much older than you, so watch the terminology before you stick your foot in your mouth.~ Smiling, he revealed, “We were just about to start on the first snowman when this little scamp woke up,” he spoke, reaching over and tweaking Jonny's toes as his lover held him.
“And that meant the other two woke up when they heard his crying,” Daniel expounded. “Jonny can be a little loud, like someone else we know.”
“Daniel, I resemble that remark.”
“As I always say, Babe, you certainly do,” Daniel chuckled.
Smiling at his friends and wanting them to be able to continue their tradition sooner rather than later, Hammond suggested, “How about letting me spend some quality time with the Munchkins while you two build your snowmen?”
“Um, are you ... sure?” Daniel asked.
“They can be a handful, General,” the other general noted.
“I've run the SGC for years, dealt with Goa'uld, and gotten through many other precarious situations,” Hammond responded. As straight-faced as he could, he smirked, “And I've handled Jack for a decade.”
Daniel laughed, while Jack growled.
“Sir, we were about to take them upstairs for a nap. Maybe you'd like to help us do that and then ... well, read them a story, or weave one of your own,” the archaeologist suggested.
“I always knew you were the brains behind this outfit,” Hammond teased. “We'll follow you,” he spoke about himself and Aislinn, whom he still held in his arms.
Once the babies were settled in their crib, Hammond assured, “We'll be fine. Go have your fun.”
“Thank you, Sir,” both Jack and Daniel spoke, smiling.
Jack offered a sloppy salute before running from the room with his lover, both contently leaving their children in the care of their surrogate grandfather.
~What a pair!~ Hammond chuckled at the couple's antics as they went into the backyard to let their inner children come out and play. Reminded of a very happy time a couple of years earlier, when he had been grandfather to a down-sized Jack and Daniel, he turned back to his three grandchildren and began, “Once upon a time, there were two little brothers; one was nine, the other was eight. Boy howdy, did they have some adventures ...”
“Hey, Girls,” Jack greeted Bijou and Katie.
“We're making snowmen,” Daniel explained as he kneeled down to play with the canines for a moment on the wood patio. “Stay,” he ordered as he got up and walked over to join his husband in their own, specially made snow.
“Last one finished is a rotten egg,” Jack teased jovially.
“Rotten eggs smell,” Daniel responded.
“Danny, get with the program. Beat ya!” Jack threatened as he began to roll up a big ball of snow.
“Speed does not make the perfect snowman,” Daniel argued, taking his time as he began rounding up snow.
“Gawd, you're easy,” Daniel laughed, taking a ball of snow and throwing it at his lover, aiming perfectly at his chest.
Jack laughed, too, impressed at the direct hit, and then both proceeded to create their special snowmen.
“Great timing!” Jack chuckled as he and his lover both finished their snow creations at the same time.
“We always have great timing when we're together,” the younger man replied, walking over to kiss his soulmate. “I love our traditions.”
“Me, too,” Jack said.
For a minute, the two stood and admired their snowmen. One looked like Jack and was even wearing a baseball cap, while the other resembled Daniel and had on glasses made out of licorice.
Jack gave his lover another kiss and then surprised the younger man by starting to create yet another snowman.
“Jack, we don't need another snowman; we already have snow copies of us,” Daniel stated, confused by the action.
“I'm not making another snowman, Danny. I'm making a snow baby.”
~That's my Love,~ the younger man thought silently as a smile spread right across his face. The fact that Jack was now adding their babies to their snow fun tradition warmed Daniel's soul. “Good idea, Babe,” he replied, giving his soulmate a passion-filled kissed and then deciding to help out.
Together, the couple made three snow babies, placing them right in front of the two full-size snowmen.
“They look a little ... plain,” Daniel noted.
Jack grinned and went to the doghouse, where he retrieved a small bag. Returning to the snow babies, he started to empty the bag.
“When did you bring those out here?” Daniel asked, not having seen his husband bring out the bag of snow baby accessories.
“Earlier, before Hammond got here, when you ran upstairs to change your shirt after Jonny threw up on you,” Jack admitted.
“Jack, if I didn't know better, I would swear that the two of you planned it,” Daniel stated.
Jack raised his eyebrows twice and smirked, but didn't answer his Love. Working as a team, the two put the finishing touches on the snow babies, adorning them with scarves, baby caps, and pacifiers.
“Our family,” Jack said as the two stood back to review their snow family.
“Ah, not quite,” Daniel reminded.
“Yeah, not quite,” the older man agreed. Soon, two snow beagles stood in front of the snow babies. “They need something.”
“Be right back,” Daniel advised, heading inside the house, returning a minute later with two more scarves and two dog bones.
“Good idea,” Jack agreed. Once the items were in place, he called out, “Bij, Katie, come!”
Obediently, the two beagles, who had been sprawled out on the wood patio, trotted over and were introduced to their snowy white counterparts.
“Woof!” Katie barked, assuming the point position as she barked at her alter ego.
Bijou cocked her head, looking at her snow design. She sat down, her tail wagging.
“Woof!” Katie said again, still uncertain.
Jack and Daniel chuckled as they stood with their arms around each other's waists.
“Whoa!” Jack interjected.
Katie had just gone nose-to-nose with her snow self, her snow nose and bone falling to the ground as a result.
“A beagle without a snout! Can't have that,” Jack teased the youngest beagle as he knelt down to fix the snow creation.
“Woof!” Katie said more softly, licking Jack's cheek as he worked.
“Maybe she wants a treat,” Daniel commented, laughing when both dogs suddenly moved to him and assumed a begging position. “Yep, I think she, uh, they, want a treat.”
“When we go back inside,” Jack told the dogs. “First, though, we have another tradition to complete.”
Inside the house, with the triplets sound asleep, Hammond made sure the monitor was on and went downstairs. He stood at the patio door, watching his two adult grandchildren play. He chuckled as he saw them lie down and make snow angels, and he laughed when that led to a snowball fight.
Still smiling, the lieutenant general ambled back upstairs, returning to the nursery. He looked down at the adorable babies as they slept.
“You have two fine parents, Munchkins. Let's give them another half-hour to play, shall we?”
--Monday, December 18, 2006
“Danny, are you ready yet?” Jack yelled up the stairs.
This evening, Jack and Daniel were taking the Munchkins out to see all the houses that were decorated in the area. Jack had already gotten Jonny and Aislinn ready and was downstairs, not so patiently waiting for Daniel and Michael.
“Coming, Jack,” Daniel called out as he walked down the stairs holding Michael. “Last minute diaper change.”
“You ready to go see all the pretty lights, Little Dan...”
“Jack!” Daniel chastised.
“Ready to go see the lights, Mickey?” Jack asked, beeping Michael’s nose and grinning at the glare Daniel directed his way for using the nickname . ~Don’t worry, Son. I'll change Daddy’s mind very soon. You'll be Little Danny; trust me!~
As Jack drove, the couple talked to the Munchkins about the things they were seeing. Anytime they saw a house with an especially delightful display, they'd stop and take a closer look.
“Jack, let’s stop at this one,” Daniel requested, pointing to the right.
“Okay, Angel,” Jack agreed, smiling at the display in front of the home his lover had pointed at.
Jack and Daniel carried their Munchkins to the yard. Standing side by side, they began by showing their children one of the wonders of the season -- Santa in his sleigh, being pulled by nine reindeer. It was perched on the roof of the home, spreading across almost the entire house.
“Look,” Daniel said, pointing to the roof. He was holding Aislinn, while Jack held the boys. “It's Santa and his reindeer.”
Jack and Daniel looked at each other and smiled, both remembering their first Christmas together. Then they broke out into song, singing “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” to their babies.
“Don't worry. As you get older, we'll make sure you know all the reindeer,” Daniel told the infants as he looked at his husband and couldn't resist giving him a kiss, to which Aislinn giggled.
“Over here are your buddies,” Jack remarked, walking to the left with Daniel following. “Winnie the Pooh, Tigger, and Eeyore.”
Jack was referring to a lighted blow-up of Winnie the Pooh and Tigger on a sled, being pulled by Eeyore. Also in the yard was a giant snowman.
“Jack, look across the street,” Daniel urged.
Carefully, the family went to the opposite house.
“Train lovers,” Jack commented. “These are my kind of people.”
The highlight of the yard was a lit-up train with an engine, one car, and a caboose. Blinking lights gave the appearance of smoke coming from the train, and alternating lights on the wheels made it look like the wheels were spinning.
There was also a tall pine tree covered with lights, and the house itself was outlined in colored lights with icicles hanging on the porch.
The babies looked around in awe, the colors reflecting in their eyes, and gave their seal of approval with big grins and happy coos.
“Hey, I thought that was you!” came a jolly greeting from the front door.
“Octavia? Uh, hello,” Daniel answered.
“Small world,” the woman laughed.
“We were just showing the triplets all the decorations,” the archaeologist explained.
“Knock yourself out. Actually, we're just off to see Molly,” the woman stated, her two children in front of her, as she walked out to her car.
“Have a great time!” Jack called out, adding, “Merry Christmas!”
“Merry Christmas,” Octavia answered jovially, before jumping in the car.
“They look like they're surviving,” the older man commented about the children.
“She emailed me that they aren't exactly happy about the changes that she and her husband have made, but they're dealing with it,” Daniel replied. He chuckled, “She said she's thrilled, though.”
“I'll bet,” Jack responded.
“No stress, and they're saving a lot of money,” Daniel elaborated. Waving as the family drove off and pondering the chances of bumping into Octavia again, he added, “It really is a small world sometimes.”
“It's a small world after all, it's a small world after all ...” Jack sang, grinning.
“Hey, Jack, let's go next door,” Daniel suggested, cutting off his husband's rendition of the popular Disney tune.
The family headed for the next house, which had a giant North Pole scene set up that covered almost the entire front yard. It included a toy workshop, elves, polar bears, and penguins.
“Wow, a display window,” the younger man remarked when they moved to the next house on the block. The home actually had a department store-like display window. Inside, a life-size Santa was seated, moving his right hand forward slightly as he let out sounds of 'Ho Ho Ho'. In the center of the window was a small tree, surrounded by presents and a train that was circling it over and over. “If we had a window, we could do this,” he chuckled.
“We need to get the trains out. I don't know why I didn't think of that,” Jack commented quietly.
“I think I know,” Daniel replied, equally quietly.
“And that is?” the older man prodded.
“Because it's something special, for us.”
Jack nodded, unable to deny it. Their trains had been their first real purchase where Daniel's inner child had been totally in charge. It had been the first truly big moment when the archaeologist accepted and chose to be a child and ignore the practicalities of adulthood for a while. Though he knew they'd eventually share the trains with the kids, and, most likely, would buy more trains for the children, these two trains, Ole Lucky 97 - the Flying Irishman and the Egyptian Express, as they were called, would always be special and just for them.
The Munchkins weren't sure of what they were seeing, but they loved the colored lights and giggled a lot as their parents enthusiastically went from display to display, occasionally singing lines from Christmas carols. In fact, they had gone two blocks, looking at the delightful outdoor displays before they realized how far they'd gone from the truck.
“We need to do this every year,” Daniel opined as they reached the truck and settled the babies back into their baby seats.
“That's a deal,” Jack agreed.
“Jack, they're still awake; let's keep going,” Daniel suggested.
Smiling, Jack replied, “You're on!”
Jack and Daniel drove around for another seventy minutes, showing the babies the decorations. The truth was, they were totally into the holiday spirit and were loving the displays, both big and small.
“Look, Munchkins, it's a giant puppy,” Jack excitedly pointed out.
“Ah, Love, looks like they're all finally sleeping,” Daniel lamented; that is, until an idea formed in his head. Reaching over to take Jack's hand, he smiled and then kissed his lover's palm. “Let's go home, put them to bed, and you know.”
Daniel's offer was one Jack couldn't refuse. Happily, he turned the truck in the direction of their home. Once there, after putting the babies to bed, the lovers spent most of the night in each other's arms.
--Tuesday, December 19, 2006
“Okay, Kids, time to meet Santa,” Jack announced the following afternoon as he and Daniel stood in line with their little bundles of joy, waiting for their turn to sit on Santa's lap.
Aislinn was wearing a green dress with a row of little elves across the bottom; Jonny a red outfit with a snowman that covered most of the front of the shirt; and Michael a blue outfit with a penguin emblem on it.
The couple had received a few funny looks and heard the odd mutter as other couples in line realized that Jack and Daniel were together. One couple had even walked away, dragging their crying children behind them, all the while disapproving of 'that type of thing'. Daniel couldn't help but feel sorry for the disappointed children, but he had felt a renewed sense of hope after meeting Octavia; there were some people willing to combat their ignorance, and he was determined to hold on to that feeling.
“Our turn,” Jack said as he picked up their daughter and sat her on Santa's lap.
Daniel picked up Michael and put him on Aislinn's left, while Jack put Jonny on her right. The parents stood out of the way as the elf snapped the picture. It was perfect. All three kids were looking straight ahead at their fathers and smiling.
Right after the picture was taken, Michael looked up. He saw Santa and began to cry. His wails caused his siblings to start crying, too. Anxiously, Jack and Daniel rushed to their children, though the Santa didn't seem to be unnerved by the crying children. Quickly, Daniel took the boys, and Jack took Aislinn.
“Hey, what's wrong?” Daniel asked the male infants.
Once in their parents' arms, the triplets calmed, however.
“Maybe they don't like beards,” Jack theorized.
“It's real, too!” the Santa remarked. “Ho! Ho! Ho! Merrrrry Christmas! Merry Christmas!”
“Merry Christmas,” Daniel acknowledged with a smile. ~He looks oddly familiar.~
After getting the triplets settled back into their stroller, Jack paid for the picture and led Daniel to the Godiva store, so he could spoil his husband with some of his favorite chocolate delights.
~If I'm lucky, maybe he'll share one with me!~ Jack thought eagerly, more interested in the romantic and erotic ways they could share the chocolate, rather than the chocolate itself.
“Daniel, I'm waiting,” Jack yelled later that afternoon.
Having put their babies down for a nap, the lovers were now going to make popcorn strings to put on the trees outside for the birds to eat.
“I'm coming, Jack,” Daniel responded with a smile.
Picking up the bowls of popcorn, the archaeologist headed into the living room where Jack was waiting impatiently with several strings of thread on needles. He placed the bowls on the coffee table and sat down next to his husband.
“Looks good,” Jack said, taking a handful of the popcorn and eating it. Then he groused, “Danny, there's no butter on this popcorn.”
“Love, the popcorn is for the birds, and butter isn't good for the them,” Daniel reminded.
Jack grumbled and started to string the popcorn.
“Jack, I've never heard of doing this before. We've never done it,” Daniel pointed out.
Nodding, the general explained, “We used to do it when I was a kid. I'm not sure why I thought of it this year, except ...” He shrugged, adding, “I don't know why.”
“Could be that it reminds you of your childhood traditions, and you want to carry them on now, with our family ...” the archaeologist suggested, trailing off mid-sentence.
“Maybe,” Jack agreed, though he really wasn't sure what the impetus was for the popcorn strings for the birds.
As they continued making the treats, Daniel couldn't help but notice that his mate was eating more of the popcorn then he was stringing. Apparently, even butterless popcorn was okay in Jack's book.
After a while, the older man whined, “Daniel, you didn't make enough popcorn. The bowls are empty, and we still have several strings left.”
“We would have had enough if you hadn't eaten so much of it,” Daniel corrected as he got up and headed to the kitchen, returning a few moments later with two more big bowls of popcorn. With a smirk, he said, “Always be prepared.”
“You know me too well, Angel,” Jack happily stated, smiling as Daniel returned to his position.
The merry parents finished stringing the popcorn, after which they took them outside and wrapped them around some of the trees in the backyard.
A few minutes later, they watched as the birds enjoyed their popped treat, courtesy of the Jackson-O'Neills.
“Happy holidays, Birds,” Daniel called out.
“I knew you talked to dogs and plants, but birds?” Jack mused.
“I talk to anything living. It's my job,” the younger man chuckled as he turned to go back inside.
“You got me there,” Jack admitted about his peaceful explorer/negotiator husband.
--Wednesday, December 20, 2006
The younger father let out a big yawn as he wobbled his way down the stairs. It was six-thirty in the morning, and he wished he were back in his nice warm bed. Instead, he was up getting a new bottle for Jonny, who had been up most of the night. He didn't appear to be sick, though, and a 3 a.m. call to their pediatrician didn't result in any extra insights.
The doctor proposed that Jonny's crankiness was just a result of some very long days recently, what with all the holiday festivities going on. Jack and Daniel were told just to keep watching him, and should he develop any symptoms or not stop crying to contact her again.
Fortunately, while Jonny had cried off and on, it had never been for long. Though Daniel was slightly concerned, Jack was confident everything would be fine by morning.
“It's morning, and I can barely see straight,” Daniel sighed as he waited for the bottle to warm. Scratching his head, he walked to the patio and decided to check on the progress of the latest manmade snowfall that they were creating. Opening the blinds, he blinked. ~Ah ... oh!~
Nodding, the weary father turned back around and, once the bottle was done, went upstairs to tend to the fidgeting Jonny.
“Better?” Daniel whispered, hoping not to wake up Michael and Aislinn. He yawned as he rocked Jonny in his arms, suddenly jutting forward as he realized he was falling asleep. “Sorry,” he spoke.
At last, Jonny succumbed to a peaceful sleep. Daniel forced himself to stay awake, though it was difficult. Finally, he got up and placed the oldest Munchkin in the crib with his siblings. Everything seemed fine. To be sure, he sat back down in the rocker and immediately, if unintentionally, fell asleep, until a small noise woke him.
Concerned it was Jonny, Daniel rose in a flash, smiling and breathing a sigh of relief when it turned out to be Aislinn shifting her position slightly. All three babies were still asleep.
~Which is what I'm going to do right now.~ Yawning, Daniel returned to the master bedroom. Remembering what he'd seen earlier, he glanced out the window, looking at the ground below, highlighted by the outdoor lights. “Uh huh.” He sighed and walked over to the bed. He sat down and began to poke his husband. “Jack. Jack, wake up.”
“Your turn,” the older man asserted.
~This calls for drastic measures,~ the younger man determined. “The Froot Loops have been kidnapped.”
“NO LOOPS? WHAT?” Jack asked loudly as he sat up. “Daniel, are you out of your mind?”
Chuckling, Daniel replied, “No, but you are. You don't wake up when I try to roust you, but mention no Loops, and you can't get up fast enough.”
“Not funny, Daniel,” Jack whined as he lay back down.
“Babe, you turned on the snow machine during your watch with Jonny, right?” Daniel questioned.
“That's what I said.”
“Well, it's snowing.”
“That's the idea, Daniel,” Jack reminded as he pulled up the warm blanket to his neck.
“Babe, I'm guessing you didn't check the weather forecast.”
“Didn't need to. I could feel the chill in the air,” the older man claimed. “I knew it would be cold enough to make snow.”
“That's true,” Daniel responded nodding. “Jack.” There was no response. “Jack!”
“What?” Jack barked, sitting up on his elbows.
“It's snowing ... for real,” Daniel stated, cocking his neck towards the window.
Frowning, Jack got out of bed and walked to the window, peeking through the blinds and seeing the light snow that was falling to the ground.
“Oh, for crying out loud!” Jack exclaimed, putting on his robe and slipping on his shoes, intending to go outside and turn off the snow machine.
“Snow is good, Babe, but I don't think we need a mountain of it,” Daniel called out to his lover's fleeing back. Laughing, he looked longingly at the warm bed. “Oh, I'm coming. I'm definitely coming,” he said as he climbed into bed and snuggled against the warm blanket and quilt.
**You will be when I get back,** Jack silently teased his lover, knowing that Daniel would be sound asleep before he returned to their bed.
**Too tired. Love you. Goodnight,** Daniel responded.
**I love you, too, Angel. Goodnight.**
“Perhaps they should not be outside,” Teal'c observed as he stood over the triplets, who were in their infant seats on the patio, with Bijou and Katie flanking them.
“They're fine, Teal'c,” Janet observed from her seat on the patio railing, where she had a great view of the babies and her hosts, who were playing in the snow.
“Low blow, Danny,” Jack accused, his hands covering his sensitive area from more snowballs.
“Sorry,” Daniel spoke.
“No, you're not,” Jack corrected.
“You're right, I'm not,” the younger man laughed. “I win again. Ten snowballs to six,” he said, walking up to his lover and giving him a kiss. “They say practice makes perfect, so you can have a rematch tomorrow.”
Just then, Jonny let out a cry.
“I do not think he should be outside,” the Jaffa insisted protectively.
Sharing a smile over their friend's concern, Jack and Daniel walked over to check on the Munchkins.
“He's asleep, Teal'c,” Daniel pointed out.
“He cried,” Teal'c stated matter-of-factly.
“Yes, Teal'c, he did, but he's okay,” Daniel responded, not wanting to get paranoid. ~Gawd, don't get me started,~ the overly sensitive father begged silently.
“He's probably just playing with you, Big Guy,” Jack supposed, not really convinced his namesake was asleep.
Teal'c gave Jack a look of disbelief. This was a baby. Surely, he would not be able to pull a fast one on him at this age.
“O'Neill, are you suggesting your son is fiddling me?” Teal'c inquired.
“Fiddling,” Jack whispered. He looked at Daniel, who shrugged, then at Janet, who shook her head, not having any idea what the Jaffa meant. ~Fiddling?~
“Oh!” Daniel exclaimed. “Play me like a fiddle,” he explained, earning him a stare from Teal'c.
“Why would you wish me to play you?” the tall, dark man asked.
“I don't,” Daniel replied.
“Your son wishes to play me?” Teal'c questioned.
“Not ... exactly. It's just ... babies ... they ... test their boundaries a lot,” Daniel clarified as best he could.
At that point, Jonny cried again, a short, brief whine, his eyes opening and staring at Teal'c. Then he cried more.
“Very well,” Teal'c stated. He looked down at the infant and ordered, “JonnyJacksonO'Neill, you will not cry to play me. It is not honorable or warrior-like, and you are a great warrior, like your fathers.”
Instantly, Jonny ceased crying and instead let out a soft, cooing sound.
“Indeed,” the Jaffa responded as the adults laughed.
“It is cold out here, Jack,” Daniel opined about the high-twenties temperature.
“Yeah, now's a good time to go back inside,” Jack agreed.
“And we need to be going,” Janet stated. “I'm taking Teal'c Christmas shopping.”
“That should be fun,” Jack quipped.
“We'll let ourselves out,” Janet stated, following Teal'c inside. “I'll be back sometime before Christmas,” she chuckled.
“As will I,” Teal'c said from inside the house, bowing his head.
“We look forward to it,” Jack replied, waving at their friends and then turning his attention to the Munchkins.
--Friday, December 22, 2006
Jack and Daniel were snuggling on the couch, watching “Youngblood” on DVD. They'd planned to watch the tape of the previous night's hockey game between the Colorado Avalanche and the Calgary Flames, only the game had been postponed due to the excessive snowstorm that had recently hit Denver and much of Colorado. Thus, Jack had proclaimed the night to be 'hockey movie night', for at least as long as he and his lover stayed awake, anyway.
The Munchkins were in their crib, next to the sofa, and the girls were asleep on their beanbag. Suddenly, Bijou and Katie went into alert mode. Katie immediately went to the crib, while Bijou ran to the window next to the front door and looked out.
“Friend or foe, Bij?” Daniel asked, not having moved from the sofa.
A gentle “Wooooof,” was the mama beagle's response as she began wagging her tail and relaxing her stance.
“Friend,” both men said at the same time.
Bijou calmly went back to the beanbag, and Katie followed.
“I'll get it, Love,” Daniel offered, getting up and going to the front door. When he opened the door, he found Kayla standing there. “Kayla! What a nice surprise,” he greeted, immediately enveloping the young woman in a big hug. “Come in,” he invited after releasing her.
“My turn,” Jack said as he, too, gave Kayla a big hug.
“I come bearing gifts. Can you help me bring them in?” the young woman asked.
“Sure. Lead the way,” Jack instructed, tagging after the Munchkins' birth mother as she walked to her car.
Daniel went back to the living room and said, “Munchkins, your mommy is here, and she brought presents.”
All three babies reacted to the announcement. Jonny waved his little hands, Michael smiled and kicked his legs, and Aislinn giggled. Daniel gazed down at them, smiling himself.
“Woof,” Katie barked from her spot on the beanbag.
“I'm sure Kayla brought presents for you, too,” Daniel chuckled, glancing over at the young woman.
Both beagles happily wagged their tails.
A few moments later, Jack entered the living room carrying three boxes. Kayla was behind him, carrying four smaller gifts. Both of them set the gifts on the floor by the Christmas tree.
“Hi, Girls!” Kayla greeted the beagles, whose tails were wagging happily. After taking off her coat, scarf, and gloves, she turned her attention to the triplets. “They're getting so big,” she stated cheerfully as she reached into the crib and said 'hello' to all three babies. After a moment, she picked up Aislinn. “And heavy,” she added as she sat down on the couch. “I'm leaving in the morning and won't be back until after New Year's, but I didn't want to miss seeing the Munchkins *open* some presents.”
“We wish you were going to be here on Christmas, even if it was just for a quick 'hello',” Daniel spoke truthfully.
“There's a world to see out there, Daniel, and, as much as I love you wanting to include me, I want to see it,” the adventurer spoke honestly. “Besides, this is your bonding time and first Christmas with them. It will be special, and I'll be here in spirit. And I'll be thinking of you, wherever I am.”
Daniel nodded his understanding, though he still felt some regret at her decision. He wanted her to be a part of their lives, and he worried that her hesitancy was more about not wanting to butt in, than truly not wanting to be a more active part of the children's world.
“Since you're holding Ash, let's start with her present first,” Jack suggested, glancing at the nametag's on the gifts. He placed the one with Aislinn's name on it in front of Kayla on the coffee table. “Here you go.”
Kayla smiled engagingly, her facial features warm and loving. She knew what Jack was trying to do. How she loved these two men and their precious Munchkins.
“I really think you two should help *your* daughter open it,” Kayla offered, trying to hand Aislinn to Daniel, who had sat down next to her on the couch.
Daniel refused to take the youngest Munchkin, saying, “Kayla, the Munchkins are a part of you, too, and we think that you should help them open their Mommy gifts. This is your special time with them, now.”
“I agree, and before you argue, I have to warn you that my insatiable stubbornness is still nothing compared to Daniel's, so you might as well just help the Munchkins open their gifts. We're not going to change our minds,” Jack stated firmly, standing by the table with his hands in his pockets. To emphasize his point, he bent over slightly and pushed Aislinn's gift closer to Kayla. “Open it, Mom.”
“Jack, Daniel I ...”
“Kayla, Ash is waiting,” Jack reminded, cutting off the teary eyed young woman's next words.
“You two ...” Kayla began, wiping away a tear as she looked at Aislinn with a proud expression. “You and your brothers are so lucky to have such a wonderful dad and daddy.”
Kayla helped each baby open their gift, after which Jack put the presents together. They laid a blanket on the floor and then put each baby under their new activity gym.
“They love it,” Daniel commented pleasantly.
The parents watched the babies play for several minutes, then Kayla stated, “The two smaller gifts are for the girls. Let them open them now.” Chuckling, she added, “I don't think they'll need help.”
The three adults laughed as they watched the beagles *open * their presents. Holding their new chew toys, Bijou and Katie both went up to Kayla, who patted them for a few moments, and then they pranced back to their beanbag.
“Those two are for you,” Kayla informed the lovers pointing to the two remaining gifts she had brought.
“Let's open them together,” Jack suggested, handing Daniel his present.
Jack took his box and shook it lightly, earning him a slight jab in the elbow from his spouse.
“Just trying to guess what it is.”
“Open it, Jack, and you won't have to guess,” Daniel remarked dryly, rolling his eyes.
With a grin, Jack proceeded to open his gift, as did Daniel.
“They're perfect,” the younger man raved, seeing the color of their new shirts. ~I love Jack in burgundy and silver, and, gawd, he still has that blue thing going.~
“I agree,” Jack added. ~Love my Danny in blue.~
Jack's gift was a burgundy sweatshirt with the words 'World's Best Dad' printed on it in silver. Daniel's gift was a royal blue sweatshirt with the words 'World's Best Daddy' printed on it in midnight blue.
“I hope you like them,” Kayla spoke bashfully.
“Like them?” Jack challenged. “We love them!” He grinned, then stood up and said, “In fact ...”
“Jack!” Daniel exclaimed when his lover began to remove his shirt.
“Danny, she's the mother of our children.”
“Yes, but it's not ... I mean ... oh, gawd,” Daniel stammered.
Kayla giggled at her friend's modesty and said, “It's okay, Daniel.”
“Perfect fit, Kayla,” Jack expressed happily about the sweatshirt he was now wearing. “What do you think, Love?” he asked as he spun around to model it.
“Sexy, very sexy,” Daniel answered.
“Put yours on,” Jack instructed.
“Daniel, I'll close my eyes,” Kayla giggled again.
**Danny, am I imagining that or ...**
**That's where Ash gets her giggle from, Jack. They sound just alike,** Daniel communicated privately. Modestly, he stood up and changed shirts while the young mother kept giggling as she kept her eyes closed. “It even feels great,” he commented once he had on the shirt.
“Is it safe?” Kayla laughed.
“Open 'em,” Jack ordered.
The woman grinned seeing the lovers side-by-side in their new 'Dad' and 'Daddy' sweatshirts.
“Oh, I have to do this,” Kayla spoke, reaching into her bag and pulling out a small camera. Seeing Jack's raised eyebrows, she explained, “Jack, you know me and photography. I always have a camera of some kind on me. Smile, you two!”
“I want an eight-by-ten,” Jack requested as Kayla returned the camera to her large handbag. Giving Daniel a quick kiss, he then walked over to the Christmas tree and retrieved two gifts, which he then handed to Kayla. “Merry Christmas, Kayla, from the two of us.”
With a smile, Kayla examined the gift wrapped in green paper with Santa Claus printed on it.
“And that one is from the Munchkins,” Daniel added, motioning to the present wrapped in blue paper adorned with snowmen.
“I wonder what it could be,” Kayla pondered as she opened the first gift. She grinned, seeing a top-of-the-line digital camera with the largest memory available, a camera case, and just about every accessory available for the item. “This is too much; I can't accept this,” she commented with emotion.
“Kayla, nothing we could ever give you could possibly come close to what you have given us,” Daniel emotionally stated, looking lovingly at the three playing babies.
“Danny's right,” Jack added.
“I've been wanting one for so long,” Kayla commented as she stared at the features written on the camera box.
“We know. This will be better to carry with you than that thing you just whipped out to take our picture. It has all the bells and whistles, Kayla, including the computer software,” Jack stated.
“Remember what Jack told you earlier,” Daniel urged.
“Daniel, I knew you two were stubborn a long time ago,” Kayla chuckled. More seriously, but still with a slight chuckle, she said, “I might as well just accept it. I wish I had gotten you something more than just sweatshirts.”
“Kayla, I meant what I said. You gave us the three most precious gifts in the world. Nothing we could ever give you could compare to the gift of those three little ones,” Daniel reiterated.
With a grateful nod, Kayla examined her new camera and accessories for several minutes. Jack pulled out some new regular batteries, since the rechargeable ones needed to be charged before use, and the freelance photographer took quite a few shots of the Jackson-O'Neill family.
“It's a beauty, Jack, Daniel. Thank you,” Kayla acknowledged when she put the camera away.
“Check out what the kids got you,” Jack said with a grin.
The young woman took the gift and opened it, revealing a framed picture of the three Munchkins. The photograph had been taken at the same time Jack and Daniel's Christmas card had been snapped. It showed the Munchkins propped up in a red wagon, Jonny on the right, Michael on the left, and Aislinn in the middle. All three were smiling. A banner ran across the bottom of the photograph that said, 'We love you, Mommy.'
“Thank you so, so, sooo much,” a tearful Kayla gushed emotionally. ~When did I get so emotional, anyway?~
“Want some cake and ice cream?” Daniel asked.
“Or hot chocolate?” the older man offered.
“That would be wonderful,” Kayla agreed, still gazing at the photo.
Jack and Daniel exchanged a smile before heading to the kitchen to get their treats. The banner had been a last minute touch, something to personalize the photograph. They knew now they'd made a good choice in adding it.
A couple of hours later, Kayla glanced at her watch and gasped lightly, “It's getting late. I really need to get going. Believe it or not, I still have some packing to do.” She got up and walked to the triplets, all of whom were now sleeping in their crib. “I'm going to miss you guys. Keep growing. I ...”
“It's okay to say it,” Daniel encouraged, smiling.
“I love you,” Kayla sighed, reaching down to adjust their blankets a tad. “They're so beautiful.” Taking a breath, she turned and picked up her things. “It's going to be good to travel again, but ... well ...”
“We know, Kayla,” Daniel assured, hugging her and then handing her the gifts and her handbag.
“Don't forget to send us some pictures. I'll be watching my email,” Jack reminded as he gave Kayla a goodbye hug at the door.
When Daniel and Kayla both laughed, Jack questioned, “What?”
“I'll send the pictures to Daniel. We all know that you don't check your email, Jack,” Kayla chuckled.
Jack grunted evasively as the others chuckled yet again.
“Bye. See you next year,” Kayla expressed eagerly as she headed for her car in the driveway.
“Hey, I check my email,” Jack called out. “Sometimes.”
The response to Jack's comment was another laugh from Kayla as she got into her car and a giggle from his husband.
As soon as Kayla had driven away, Jack shut the door and turned to Daniel, wiggling his fingers.
“I'll get you, my pretty,” Jack threatened as he lunged forward, just grabbing hold of Daniel at the edge of the living room carpet.
A tickle attack began, Jack pulling Daniel down to the floor. Suddenly, though, without warning, the assault stopped, replaced by a passionate kiss. It wasn't just any kiss, either, but it was the O'Neill special. Had they been standing, Daniel's knees would have turned to Jell-O and he would have collapsed to the carpet. As it was, he was all gooey inside.
When Daniel could speak clearly again, he asked, “Not that I am complaining, but what was that for?”
“I love you.”
“Good reason,” Daniel replied, his hands caressing his soulmate's neck. Then he gifted his husband with one of Danny's Dynamos, a kissing whopper that made Jack forget his name. ~One good turn deserves another.~
“What was that for, not that I'm complaining?” Jack eventually asked when his brain could function again.
“I love you.”
“Good reason,” Jack echoed.
Happier than ever, the couple locked up the house, carried their babies to the nursery, and then went to bed, spending the rest of the night giving themselves to each other.
--Sunday, December 24, 2006 ... Christmas Eve
It was Christmas Eve, and it was going to be a white Christmas in at least one part of Colorado Springs. Very little of the snow from what Jack called 'the big snow dump' from earlier in the week remained, but flakes of snow were already dancing their way to the ground to create the desired look, thanks to the snow machine Jack had purchased.
Daniel stoked the freshly made fire, the flames of orange bursting and crackling inside the fireplace. Jack turned on the lights to the Christmas tree and then went to the kitchen to get the supplies of goodies: graham crackers, marshmallows, and Hershey candy bars.
The older man headed back towards the living room when a beautiful sight stopped him -- his husband, sitting on a large pillow on the floor in front of the baby rockers, each holding one of the triplets. He was laughing and cooing right along with their precious infants, the roar of the fire and the shining of the twinkling tree providing a tender backdrop.
~This is a Kodak moment,~ Jack thought, setting the food items on the counter and retrieving the camera.
Seeing the unexpected flash, Daniel looked up questioningly after the picture had been taken.
“I couldn't resist,” Jack admitted with an unrepentant shrug.
“A Kodak moment,” Daniel teased.
Jack chuckled, “I was just thinking the same thing.”
“Well, you know what they say?” Daniel queried.
“What's that, Babe?” Jack inquired.
“Great minds think alike,” Daniel quipped.
Smiles on their faces, Daniel watched as Jack went to the bookshelf, pulling out a special holiday book. The older father moved to sit next to his husband, kissing Daniel and each of the three babies before settling into place.
“Another tradition, Love, and this one is a must,” Jack opined.
Daniel looked at the book and nodded.
“Listen up, Munchkins. This is very important,” Jack stated, stopping for a minute, just watching their children.
“We're in Heaven, Jack,” Daniel spoke, treasuring every second of this wondrous season. “This time last year, would you really have guessed that just one year later, we'd have three little babies?”
“I thought, if we were very lucky, we'd have one perfect baby, but, no, I never imagined we'd get the blessing of three. Yeah,” Jack agreed. “Who knew?”
Daniel smiled in response, then addressed their children, saying, “Okay, you three. Listen to Dad. He's going to tell you about this very special night.”
Jack opened the book and began to read:
“Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a Munchkin was stirring, not even a mouse.”
Daniel chuckled, “Don't mind Dad; he likes to be creative.” Jonny's little fingers touched Daniel's hand. “En garde,” he teased.
“Hey, I'm reading a story here. You two can fence later,” Jack retorted.
“Sorry,” Daniel apologized, only half sincerely.
“The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there.”
“See, Ash, there's your stocking,” Daniel said as he pointed to the red stocking in the middle of the group that hung from the mantle. “The one Dad put you in,” he reminded, tickling the little baby. “And that's yours on the right, Michael.” He sighed at the stocking and then noted, “I know it should be red, but Dad has a thing about the color blue. I have *no* idea where he found a blue one.” After a chuckle, he concluded, “Jonny, yours is the one on the left. Santa is going to fill them with special surprises when he comes.”
The children giggled, their tiny arms and legs moving all about.
“The children were nestled all snug in their beds ...”
“Well, you three are getting to stay up a little late because, well, Dad and I just don't want tonight to end,” Daniel confided with a smile.
“While visions of sugarplums danced in their heads ...” Jack paused. “Better make that Froot Loops, Munchkins, or Godiva chocolate. We're not big on sugarplums in this household.”
“Oh, I don't know about that ... My Little Sugarplum,” Daniel teased affectionately, his eyes shining as he leaned over to kiss his husband.
“Read the story, Sugarplum, um, Jack,” Daniel gently commanded.
Jack gave Daniel a funny look before continuing.
“And mamma ... Let's make that Daddy ... And Daddy in his ... bandana, and I in my Chicago Cubs cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter's nap ...
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.”
“Dad's Special Ops,” Daniel interrupted. “He's the logical choice for all those dangerous missions, like finding Santa Claus on Christmas Eve.”
“Danny, you're giving away the story,” Jack groused with a frown.
“Oops! Sorry,” the young father chuckled in apology. “Do continue because we just *have* to find out what caused such a clatter.”
Jack glared, but then grinned at his lover's holiday snarkiness. It was wonderful to hear and to be a part of.
“Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.
The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the luster of mid-day to objects below,
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer ...”
“There's another reindeer,” Daniel explained, “and his name is Rudolph. He has a shiny red nose. You saw him on TV, and he's in our front yard. Do you remember his story? He beat the odds. Everyone laughed at him, but in the end, the very thing they laughed at is the thing that saved them. Believe in yourselves, Munchkins. I do, and so does Dad.”
“There's Olive, too,” Jack added. “Olive, the other reindeer, and she has her own story we'll tell you soon.”
“Right now, though, Dad needs to tell you about that clatter, and, uh, by the way, before he flew out of bed and threw up the sash, he got dressed first, because, uh, well ... never mind,” Daniel sighed. ~Gawd. Too young; way too young.~
Suppressing his giggles at his husband's stuttering, Jack continued the story.
“With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name:
'Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! on Cupid! on, Donder and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!'”
“Lesson time, Munchkins,” Daniel interjected. “The reindeer's name *is* Donder. The man who wrote the poem, well, now that's not for sure, either. It was always believed to be Clement Clarke Moore, but now they think it might be Major Henry Livingston, Jr., but that's neither here nor there at the moment. The point is, whoever wrote it, named the reindeer Donder, but a lot of people think it's Donner; but it's not, it's ... Donder. Never mind. Go ahead, Jack,” Daniel said, feeling like he was rambling to the triplets who couldn't possibly have a clue what he was saying. ~I keep doing that tonight.~
“He means well,” Jack chuckled.
“As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky,
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of toys, and St. Nicholas, too.
And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.”
~Can't resist.~ Jack put the book down and hunched forward to take a pretend bite out of each babies' feet. “Hoofs ... feet,” he laughed, as did each of the triplets as he did the same thing to each child.
Dryly, Daniel intoned, “Sometimes, Munchkins, you'll have to forgive your Dad because it won't be long before you'll be older than he is.”
Jack growled lovingly, then moved to take a bite out of Daniel's bare feet.
“Jack!” the archaeologist laughed.
“What?” the older man responded, moving in to steal a kiss.
“I love you.”
“I love you, too,” Jack expressed happily, grinning all the while.
Aislinn giggled brightly, her arms reaching out towards her fathers.
“Hey, Princess,” Jack chuckled as he kissed his daughter before moving back in place to continue the story.
“As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.
He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot.
A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.
His eyes -- how they twinkled -- his dimples how merry!”
“Dimples,” Daniel repeated, his thumbs etching out the smile on Jonny's face.
“His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow.”
“Just like the Santa Claus we saw at the mall,” Daniel reminded, though clearly the three little babies were too young to comprehend that fact. “Jack, his nose was pretty red.”
“The Santa at the mall,” Daniel answered.
“Makeup, probably,” Jack surmised.
“Oh, yeah, probably,” the younger man agreed, then nodded for his lover to continue the tale.
“The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.
He had a broad face and a little round belly
That shook, when he laughed, like a bowl full of jelly.
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself.”
“Michael, I know you were frightened when you met him, but Santa is your friend. He loves you, and all the children of the world. Some people wonder if he really exists.” Daniel paused, a thoughtful expression on his face. “Well, I suppose for a scientist this might be a funny thing to say, but Santa does exist. He's a part of all of us. He's love and cheerfulness; he's goodness and charity; he's hope and ... well, he's forever. Call him Santa Claus or Kris Kringle or Father Christmas, or any of a thousand other names, but, whatever you do, call him friend, and keep him close to your heart. All three of you should do that.”
“A wink of his eye and a twist of his head
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose.
He sprang to his sleigh, to his teams gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,
'Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!'”
“That was wonderful, Babe,” Daniel praised, reaching over to take Jack's hand. “Thank you for reading it.”
“You're welcome, Love,” Jack responded.
Just then Michael yawned, and Daniel sighed, “I really don't want it to end.”
“It's not the end, Danny; we're just beginning.” Jack got up and stretched for a moment, not really wanting the evening to end, either. “Okay, Munchkins, let's put out the cookies for Santa.”
“It's another tradition,” Daniel added. “Even I did that ... in Egypt.”
“Yeah?” Jack questioned.
“It may have been hot and sandy, but Santa came anyway. Mommy and Daddy made sure of that,” Daniel sighed. “I just ... I only remember scattered fragments, but I ... I do remember leaving out cookies and milk, and the next morning they were gone.”
“Presents?” Jack asked.
“A stocking and box full,” the younger man admitted. “Jack, I know after my parents died, life ... sucked, but until then, it was a good life, even though holidays weren't quite the same there, and I didn't get to celebrate most of them.”
“I know, Angel.”
After putting out the treats for the holiday icon and then settling the babies in their crib for a peaceful night's sleep, Jack and Daniel added more presents under the tree that were “from Santa.” They also filled the stockings with baby rattles, new bottles, and other small items. Then, Jack set up the tripod for the digital camcorder near the patio window, while Daniel set up their older video camcorder between the fireplace and the tree, the goal being to get the most complete coverage of Christmas Day as possible.
Then, with a roaring fire blazing, the lovers cuddled in front of the fireplace, enjoying the treats Jack had set on the counter before snapping the photograph of Daniel and the babies earlier that evening.
Bijou and Katie stayed with the triplets for a while, but, eventually, both returned to their beanbag in the living room, their eyes open, as if waiting for Santa Claus to come.
“I'm sure he won't forget you,” Jack teased the beagles, both of whom simply rolled over one time and then resumed their original positions.
“So many presents,” Daniel sighed as the lovers relaxed. “Look at that tree, Jack. It's bulging.”
“And that's just ours,” Jack laughed.
“We really need to get a better system, Babe. This one isn't going to work very well,” Daniel opined.
Jack and Daniel had put their presents for each other under the tree, as well as those from them to their children. In the study were more presents, received from various family and friends for the children and themselves.
“Yeah, we do,” Jack agreed.
At this point, they really didn't have much of a plan. In the morning, the Munchkins would open their Santa gifts. Then the parents would open theirs at some point. Finally, they'd bring out the gifts from their family and friends; they just weren't sure when they'd do it.
“Well, General, next year I expect you to have this figured out,” the archaeologist instructed.
“Yes, Sir!” Jack snapped lovingly.
A couple of hours after putting their children to bed, the sleepy parents decided it was time to go to bed themselves.
“Come on, Girls,” Daniel called out, smiling as Bijou and Katie followed them upstairs.
“Looks like Katie is spending the night with the kids,” Jack commented as Katie veered off and entered the nursery.
“Are you sticking with us, Bij?” Daniel asked.
Bijou answered by running past them and jumping up on their large bed.
“That would be a 'yes', Danny,” Jack chuckled.
“Looks like it,” Daniel chuckled as he began to undress.
--Monday, December 25, 2006 ... Christmas Day
Daniel awoke on Christmas morning without his Jack pillow. At his side, however, was Bijou, fully stretched out.
“Morning, Bij; you're so comfy and warm,” Daniel noted, feeling the cold when Bijou got up, stretched, and then jumped off the bed. His mind returned to his absent soulmate. ~I hate it when he does this,~ the archaeologist silently bemoaned as he sat up.
Then, though, Daniel heard his lover’s voice on the monitor, talking to the triplets. It was a sweet sound, one that made him quickly forget his lamentation. With warmth in his heart, he got up, made a quick visit to the bathroom, and then went to the nursery to greet his family.
“Good morning, Angel,” Jack greeted cheerfully as he finished changing Aislinn’s diaper.
“Good morning, Love,” Daniel replied as he walked over and gave Jack a proper good morning kiss.
Aislinn giggled at the kiss, causing both men to smile.
“Jack, have you noticed that Ash laughs a lot when we kiss?” Daniel inquired jokingly, knowing his husband had asked the same question about twenty times since the triplets were born.
“Does she?” Jack asked in return, grinning as if he'd never before considered the notion. He leaned over to steal a quick kiss from his husband. Sure enough, the little girl laughed, her face bright and jolly. “By George, she does,” he added mockingly.
Daniel laughed and decided to play along and have some early morning fun, saying, “I don't know, Babe. Scientific principles say you have to do hundreds, even thousands of experiments to make solid conclusions,” Daniel pointed out.
“Gotta love scientific principles,” Jack responded, kissing his husband again.
As Aislinn laughed, so did her parents.
“I think it's another tradition,” Daniel mused as he also suppressed a yawn.
“Why don't you let the girls out and dress, Angel?” Jack suggested. “I'll finish dressing the Munchkins.”
Nodding, Daniel turned around, about to leave the room, when he spied a large object in the corner and exclaimed, “Jack, you didn't!”
“What?” the older man asked innocently. He followed his Love's reprimanding gaze over to the corner of the room. “Well, where did that come from?”
“From an overgrown child with no sense,” Daniel answered as he walked over to the area where Butterscotch the pony sat with a big blue ribbon around her neck that said, 'To the Delightful Munchkins, From your friend, Santa Claus.' Daniel turned to face his husband, holding out the tag. “Well?”
“Santa did it,” Jack stated. “It says so on the gift tag.”
“Jack, they're three months old,” Daniel reminded. “They won't be able to use this for three or four years from now.”
“Wanna bet?” Jack smirked, raising his eyebrows a couple of times. As Daniel sighed, he added, “I can't help it if Santa agrees with me. He brought it.”
“Of course, he did,” Daniel replied, shaking his head. “Then why is it in the nursery and not under the tree?”
“Because he wanted to show you how at home Butterscotch looks over there, watching over the Munchkins. She fits nicely,” Jack opined.
“Bij, Katie, let's go,” Daniel called out to the beagles, taking them downstairs and letting them outside. **You're insane, Jack.**
**But you love me.**
**That I do, Santa Jack.**
After letting the beagles out, Daniel returned to their bedroom to shower and dress, while Jack focused on dressing their three little angels.
“Wow!” Jack exclaimed, bouncing Michael in his arms.
“What do you think, Ash?” Daniel asked, looking at the little girl he held in his right arm. He looked over at Jonny, who was in his left arm and asked, “Ready for presents?”
Jonny clapped his hands, causing his parents to laugh.
Carefully, Jack and Daniel sat their children down in their infant seats on the floor. Immediately, Bijou and Katie took positions in front of them, watching them protectively.
“Thanks,” Daniel spoke as he headed for the video camcorder. “Okay, the tape is in, and recording is ... on,” he said, turning on the video.
Jack flipped a switch on the digital recorder and responded, “Action!”
With the taping started, Christmas began. As Jack and Daniel sat down on the carpeted floor, the beagles moved aside, lying down with the Munchkins in between them. They were 'off-duty', but still on alert, their ears up and eyes wide open.
“Jack, you don't think we went a little ... overboard, do you?” the archaeologist asked as he took in the layers upon layers of presents that were all around the tree.
The older man studied the situation carefully and then answered simply, “No.”
“Me, neither,” Daniel laughed.
“Angel, open this one first,” Jack requested, handing Daniel a present that said, 'To My Two Dannys’.
“I know -- 'Michael',” Jack responded to the admonishment. “Just open it.”
Daniel scooted Michael towards him, saying, “This is for both of us, so you have to help me.” Together, the father and son opened the gift. Seeing the contents of the package, Daniel chuckled. Inside the box were two pairs of pajamas, one for Daniel and a matching pair for Michael. They were gold with little silver Thor-like aliens on them. “We love them, don't we, Michael?” he asked, leaning over to give his soulmate a kiss.
With help from their fathers, the Munchkins opened their gifts from Santa. Though the video recorders were going, Jack also had their digital camera and took frequent pictures of his husband and their children.
After the Munchkins had 'opened' all their presents. Jack and Daniel gave Bijou and Katie their gifts.
“Okay, Girls, go at it!” Jack prodded, laughing as Bijou began to paw the wrapping off one of the presents.
“Look at Katie!” Daniel directed.
“That's my girl!” the older man chuckled. “A bone is a bone, even if it is still wrapped,” he said about the youngest beagle who was running around the house carrying her foot-long bone that was still wrapped in red and green Christmas paper.
“Katie, there's more!” Daniel called out, chuckling as the beagle's ears raised, and she ran back over to the archaeologist.
A few minutes later, the dogs' presents had all been opened, and Jack and Daniel laughed as the girls pranced around happily with their new toys.
With all the presents open, Jack suggested, “Love, put the Munchkins in, and I'll take some pictures.”
Cheerfully, Daniel placed the babies securely inside their new red wagons, using pillows and arranging them so that the boys were on the ends with Aislinn in the middle. Of course, he had to stay with them to keep them propped up and safe. Inside, he chuckled that the triplets were too young for this gift, too.
~Red wagons: every child should have a little red wagon,~ Daniel thought, catching himself in a bit of sentimentality. As a little boy, having a wagon, a red one specifically, had been something he'd always wanted, but never had. ~Jack insisted on these; he remembers everything,~ he thought, smiling lovingly at his spouse, who was occupied taking the photos.
“Danny, let's just let them play with their toys for a while,” Jack suggested, sitting down and watching the Munchkins.
“Jack, Ash can't hold on to anything for very long yet, so how are they going to play with this ... stuff without us?” Daniel queried curiously.
The older man shrugged and beckoned for his husband.
“Okay,” Daniel agreed, getting up off the large blanket the triplets were lying on and scooting over to sit next to his lover.
The couple were still seated on the floor, but were just a couple of feet away. The babies were lying on their tummies, surrounded by toys they couldn't even conceptualize, let alone use at their age.
“This is ... fascinating,” the younger man commented a minute later.
Suddenly, Jonny flipped himself over and cooed, his right hand reaching out and swatting a fuzzy nerf ball against the nearby sofa.
“I knew he could do it,” Jack smirked with pride. “Watch,” he urged.
Sure enough, Aislinn flipped herself over, too, followed by Michael a minute later. Their tiny hands weren't swatting toys, though, but each other's hands. Then Michael grabbed hold of one of Aislinn's fingers. She giggled and took hold of one of Jonny's fingers.
“That's so not supposed to happen,” Daniel noted.
“But it did,” Jack said, snapping several photos with the digital still camera. “I keep tellin' ya, Angel, our kids are smart.”
“Yeah,” Daniel sighed contently. “Jack, let's put them in their infant rockers. Maybe then they can really play with some of this; at least, some of the smaller toys.”
“Okay, Love,” Jack agreed.
With the Munchkins secured, the proud parents let the babies 'play' with their new toys for a little while as they watched.
~Play?~ the younger man questioned. ~More like hit and miss, and what are you?~ He laughed. ~Gawd, how much money did we spend on things they can't possibly enjoy until their older? I don't want to think about it.~
“Then don't,” Jack suggested, leaning over and placing a kiss on Daniel's cheek.
“Mind dropper,” Daniel teased quietly.
“It's Christmas, and these are our babies. We're going to spoil them good, remember? I don't care if they can barely hold on to it. Danny, Jonny's already advanced in motor skills, and the other two are following him. We're not pushing; we're just giving them motivation.”
Daniel looked out at the abundance of presents and laughed, “Oh, is that what this is called?”
“Would you prefer I say we had no self-control?” Jack asked.
“Uh ...” Daniel rolled his eyes as he pondered the question. Then he smiled and observed, “Motivation. Yes, it's motivation. Just because they don't know those are toys, doesn't mean they don't want them. Motivation. Yep, all this is motivating them.”
“No doubt about it,” Jack agreed cheerfully.
The two laughed, then fed the babies before putting them down for a nap, after which, it was time for the happy parents to open their own holiday surprises.
As the lovers sat on the floor and opened their gifts to each other, they shared many thank you kisses. They were like kids, ripping the gifts open and making a huge pile of wrapping paper. Jack smiled, thinking how far his Danny had come over the years. Years ago, Daniel would never rip open gifts and leave the paper everywhere, but things were different these days. Now, the younger man loved being a kid, and it made Jack's heart and soul sing that his husband was so happy, allowing his inner child, the little boy Danny, who had been so alone and sad for so long, to come out and play almost every single day.
Jack reached for the last gift that was under the tree and handed it to his lover, who was now buried waist deep in wrapping paper. When the younger man opened it, he found a framed picture of himself from his and Jack's first Christmas together, one he didn't know Jack had.
The picture was of Daniel sitting on Santa's lap, telling him everything he wanted for Christmas. Jack had managed to get a picture without Daniel noticing and had kept it until now.
“Jack, this is from our first Christmas at your cabin. I still can't believe you got me to sit on Santa's lap and give him my wish list,” Daniel commented.
“I had to do it,” Jack replied.
“No, you didn't. You took a huge risk, Babe,” Daniel commented. He sighed, staring at the photograph. “You always took risks with me. I could have walked away from you.”
“I knew you wouldn't,” Jack responded.
“How could you know that?” Daniel asked, looking up at his lover.
“That little child inside you wanted to come out, Danny. He was fighting for life every second. All he needed was an excuse -- a reason -- someone to blame, to make it safe,” Jack stated.
“You?” the archaeologist questioned.
Daniel nodded, having never considered that point of view before. He knew his lover was right, though. Jack made everything possible just because he was Jack.
“I never knew you had a picture of this, though,” Daniel admitted.
“The elf snapped the picture, and you were so preoccupied with giving Santa your list that you never noticed,” Jack revealed with a smile.
“Why didn't you ever show me this before?” Daniel asked.
“I'm not sure. I put it away and didn't think about it much until the Munchkins were born,” Jack answered. “For a while, I was afraid you'd throw it away.”
“But ... now?”
“Now, Angel, I *know* you won't throw it away,” a pleased Jack responded.
Daniel stood up, opining, “I think that it should go here, at least during the holidays,” as he placed the picture on the mantle next to their wedding picture.
“Great idea, Love! It'll be another tradition!” the older man exclaimed.
“What will be?”
“Every year, we'll pull out photos from the year before and use them as part of our decorations. It'll be a tribute to our past,” Jack suggested. “What do you think?”
“I think you've done it again,” Daniel chuckled.
Jack stood up and joined his soulmate, the lovers then sharing a passionate kiss.
“We'd better clean this up,” Daniel suggested.
“If we don't, the babies could get lost in here,” Jack laughed about the mountain of gift wrap that filled their living room.
Together, the two men began cleaning up the area, putting the torn gift paper, cut ribbons, and bows in a bag.
Jack jumped when he went to pick up a stack of paper, and the pile moved.
“A mouse?” Daniel guessed until the surprised fully emerged.
Then both men erupted into laughter when Katie jumped out of the pile.
“How'd she get there?” the younger man asked.
“Beats me,” Jack responded, shaking his head.
Neither man had noticed when the youngest beagle had decided to roll around on the paper earlier and had fallen asleep. Clueless, they had tossed more gift wrap on top of her until she had been completely hidden by the cheerfully designed paper.
“My mistake,” Jack apologized to the beagle, who shook her body fiercely, then stretched, before walking over to where her mother was staring at her.
“Danny, I just found another present way back here under the tree,” Jack announced as he reached out and grabbed the gift. ~Must be for me; I don't recognize this candy cane striped paper.~
“Mmmm. Who's it for? I don't remember anything being missing from the Munchkins' gifts,” Daniel wondered. ~Must be for me. Jack opened all the gifts I got him, and ... oh, yeah, has to be for me because I didn't get any holiday wrap that looked like that,~ he thought upon seeing the present.
“The card says, ‘For the General, from Santa and his helper, Danny'. Cute Danny,” Jack stated, again flashing back to their first Christmas together and a similar card that was attached to a slinky Jack hadn't bought for Daniel. ~He just remembers that card and is trying to be funny,~ he thought.
“What?” Daniel asked, confused by the card. ~It's not for me? I don't understand.~
Putting the card down on the coffee table, Jack opened the gift, discovering the ant farm of his childhood dreams.
Grinning, Jack answered, “It seems I'm not the only one who remembered our first Christmas together. Thank you, Love.”
“Jack, I didn't ...”
“Don't worry, Danny. I won't really get any ants, but I love that you remembered,” Jack spoke and then kissed his soulmate. “I'm going to put it on a shelf in my study.”
“But ...” Daniel trailed off as his lover disappeared around the corner. He picked up the card, read it, and thought, ~This reminds me of the card that was on the slinky. Maybe ... Nah ... but who did get the ant farm? It wasn't me.~
That afternoon, the Jackson-O'Neill house was busy with activity as their family of friends had stopped by to give the Munchkins even more presents. While the proud parents anticipated some Christmas visits, they'd been surprised by how many people were now in their home.
“Jack, we need a new house for all the presents,” Daniel had chuckled quietly as the house began to fill up with visitors and gifts.
“Our children are popular,” Jack had mused. “I'll get the ones in the study and add them to the tree.”
“Okay, Babe. I'll get some more Martinelli's,” the younger man had stated in reply, referring to the non-alcoholic bubbly beverage. ~Good thing we decided to stock up, just in case.~
Now, as the spontaneous party was in progress, General Hammond was seated in Jack's chair near the patio door holding Aislinn, the little girl captivated by the tale he was spinning at the moment, though she was too young to understand his words.
Sam and Carolyn Ferretti were standing near the counter that separated the kitchen and living room, discussing a movie both had recently seen. Teal'c and Janet were talking as they stood near the patio doors, the SGC doctor trying to explain why eggnog was considered a holiday tradition.
Lou Ferretti was holding Jonny while discussing the MonsterMobile with Jack and Pete Shanahan. He was having troubles with the transmission and was seeking their advice on how best to handle it. Jack suggested he call Sara, as she had extensive knowledge of mechanics.
Daniel and Cassandra, who was holding Michael, were talking about her boyfriend, Dom, who was spending the holiday with his family. The redhead was trying to deal with unexpected emotions. It seemed she was having a hard time being separated from her long-time beau this year, and she didn't understand why. Her surrogate uncle had his suspicions that their young love was transforming into something that would be forever since both were now adults and no longer children.
The Christmas tree was once again hovering over a horde of gifts, giving the festive tree life.
“I think it's present time,” Jack announced after a while, adding, “assuming you want the Munchkins to be awake to see their gifts.”
As the group chuckled, Jack and Daniel sat down on the couch. After General Hammond handed Aislinn to Daniel, and Lou and Cassandra handed Jonny and Michael to Jack, the gift opening began.
“These are from me,” Pete stated, putting three boxes on the coffee table in front of the lovers.
Jack's eyes lit up when he helped Jonny open his gift. Pete had given each baby a mini hockey Jersey from the Colorado Avalanche hockey team. Each baby had a number and name on the back of the jersey that represented a current team member.
Jonny's was a miniature version of Andrew Brunette's number '15' jersey; Michael's featured Kurt Sauer's number '34'; and Aislinn's jersey was number '44', representing Jordan Leopold.
“I know they're a little big for the Munchkins now, but it was the smallest size I could get,” Pete informed.
“These are great. How'd you get them?” Jack asked curiously as he admired the mini jerseys.
“One of the players lives in Denver during the season. We met him at a party for the mayor and became friends,” Pete explained.
“I think I'm gonna remember that when I need tickets,” Jack mused.
“Don't go there, Jack. This guy has a long list of family and friends. I was lucky to get the jerseys, but I took a chance he could help. I called, told him about the triplets, and the next thing I knew, I had them.”
“Carter, this one is a keeper,” Jack informed his 2IC about her on again, off again boyfriend/fiancé.
“Yes, Sir,” was Sam's response as she gave Pete a kiss on the cheek.
“I don't suppose you could order her to marry me, Jack, could ya?” Pete asked.
“Pete!” Sam exclaimed, jabbing him in the arm.
“Shanahan, I have been ordering Carter to get a life practically since the day we met; she doesn't listen to me,” Jack teased.
“Sir!” a nonplussed Sam exclaimed.
“I know what you mean,” Pete lamented with a little sigh.
“Will you two stop?” an exasperated Sam requested.
“Hey, a guy has to have some fun, Carter,” Jack spoke.
“Jack,” Daniel warned simply.
“Be glad you're alive,” Jack joked to Pete in a near whisper.
“Jack!” the archaeologist scolded.
“General!” Sam exclaimed.
Jack simply smiled and called out, “Next?” as the room erupted in laughter.
After a half-hour had passed, the fathers were down to the last few presents. They'd opened so many, including those received earlier from others not in attendance.
Suzanna Simpson, Daniel's foster sister, had sent savings bonds for the babies. She was spending the holidays with her boyfriend's family. She had called earlier in the morning, delighted when the Munchkins cooed over the phone.
Jack and Daniel's much-beloved neighbor, Mrs. Sophia Valissi, was in Italy with her son Evan and his partner, Robert, but she had brought her gifts over before leaving. The parents loved the handmade sweaters she had made.
The Wilsons were spending Christmas with Sara's dad, Mike, but they had stopped by that morning and dropped off their gifts, all of which were much more age appropriate than anything Jack and Daniel had bought their children.
Other friends, including the Littlefields, had also sent gifts, since they had plans with their own families for Christmas. Those had already been opened. Right now, the parents were opening Lou and Carolyn's gift to their babies.
“This is great!” Jack exclaimed after opening the large box and finding a collection of large stuffed Winnie the Pooh characters inside.
Pooh and Tigger were about three-feet tall, and Eeyore was about three-feet long and a foot-and-a-half tall. Piglet and Roo were smaller, standing only two feet high. All five would fit in great with the decor of the nursery, which was decorated with a Winnie the Pooh motif.
“Thank you, Lou and Carolyn,” Daniel spoke, chuckling when his husband tried to set the large animals back in the box and came into difficulty doing so, since he was still holding two babies.
Teal'c stepped forward and assisted his friend, then stated, “O'Neill, I believe that my gifts are next.”
The Jaffa's presents were last under the tree, and everyone wondered what he had given to the triplets.
“Graffitti?” Jack questioned when he saw the three framed pictures.
“These are important symbols to all Jaffa,” Teal'c explained.
“I haven't seen anything like these before, Teal'c,” Daniel stated as he took a closer look at the symbols.
“They are highly revered among the family.”
“Why haven't I seen these? I mean, uh, they haven't been ... on anything I've seen,” the linguist questioned. ~And I've seen a lot.~
“Because they are revered among the family,” Teal'c repeated stoicly.
“You said that, Big Guy,” Jack spoke. “I think Danny wants to know why he's never come across them before. How come they aren't on some wall somewhere or in some ancient writing?”
Daniel stared at his lover, who just shrugged.
“Just trying to help, Love,” Jack said with a smile.
Looking at the archaeologist, the Jaffa explained, “You have not seen that much of Chulak, DanielJackson. These are representations of the strengths within us, created by our children. They are not commonly shared outside our world.”
“Rya'c?” Jack questioned about Teal'c's son.
“I cannot say more,” Teal'c intoned.
“Oh,” Daniel expressed, still very curious about the unusually colorful items and certain there was more to the history of the gifts. “What do they mean?”
Teal'c answered, “JonnyJacksonO'Neill's represents a protector, always to be counted and relied on for physical and mental strength.”
~Sounds right,~ Jack thought.
“MichaelJacksonO'Neill's symbolizes sensitivity, a strength of another kind, one of support, loyalty, and caring,” Teal'c continued.
~Definitely right on,~ Jack opined.
“AislinnJacksonO'Neill's represents beauty, kindness, and purity, which are the ultimate strengths.”
~That's our little miracle,~ the silver-haired man acknowledged with a tiny smile.
“All three symbolize love and family, as represented by the heart within each of the symbols,” Teal'c concluded.
“Sensitivity and beauty,” Sam repeated. “For a long time, Teal'c, I wasn't sure the Jaffa had either of those.”
“I think Teal'c's right,” Janet interjected. “Simply because we haven't seen that much of it, doesn't mean it doesn't exist.”
“Why, Doc, how very Danielish of you,” Jack teased.
“Very funny, Jack,” Daniel responded dryly.
“Doctor Fraiser is correct,” Hammond opined. “We know Teal'c, and I think he's shown a lot of caring and passion over the years.”
“We're still getting to know the Jaffa,” Daniel commented. ~I need to research this.~
“As we still are getting to know ourselves as a free people,” Teal'c revealed.
“Time,” Daniel noted. “It takes time to build a country, or a civilization.” As the group paused to consider their past, present, and future, he smiled, adding, “These are great gifts, Teal'c. Thank you very much.”
“Thanks, T. We'll hang these on the wall in the nursery,” Jack promised.
Teal'c bowed his head gratefully and even smiled at his friends.
“Looks like the tree is empty, Fellas,” Pete announced, taking a final look all around the tree.
“Which is probably good because it looks like the Munchkins have had enough for the day,” Daniel concluded, motioning to Aislinn, who was now asleep in his arms.
Jack looked down at Jonny and Michael and saw they were starting to fall asleep, too.
“I guess we'd better put them to bed. Everyone, we'll be right back. Help yourself to more of everything!” Jack chirped as he gently stood up and followed his soulmate upstairs.
“Wow, they're loving it, aren't they?” Janet stated, to no one in particular as she watched Jack and Daniel disappear up the stairs.
“Yeah,” Carolyn agreed dreamily. “They're doing a great job.”
“They'd better!” General Hammond piped in with an amused tone. “They're *my* grandchildren.”
“Well, they're my niece and nephews,” Janet countered, smiling.
“Yeah, mine, too,” Sam agreed, heartily.
“Ours, too!” Lou and Carolyn called out together.
“Indeed,” Teal'c added, a hint of satisfaction in his voice.
“Well, they're my cousins,” Cassandra stated proudly, a huge grin on her face.
The extended Jackson-O'Neill family all sat quietly for a moment, feeling a warm buzz, just knowing they were all such an important part of the Munchkins' lives.
“I think I've taken about two-hundred photos,” Cassandra noted as she flicked through the images on her digital camera.
“I want copies!” Lou exclaimed.
“Me, too,” Sam agreed.
“I'd like copies too, please,” General Hammond added.
“As do I,” Teal'c added, his eye brow raised.
The group laughed at Teal'c's ability to perfectly purvey his thoughts using a minimum of words.
Just then, the group heard something to make all their hearts melt. Jack and Daniel had left the downstairs monitor on by mistake, so all present could hear them up in the nursery.
“We'll always be here, Munchkins,” Jack stated lovingly, feeling a little choked with all the strong emotions.
“Yeah, Dad and I want to be there for everything. We don't want to miss a thing,” Daniel added, putting his arm around his husband's waist.
“You know,” Jack continued enthusiastically. “You also have the greatest Grandpa ever, and, believe me, we know.” He looked over at Daniel, remembering their time as brothers. “He loves all of you.”
“You have so many aunts and uncles, too. They're so special, and they'll always be there for you. We ... we love them all so much, and we know they'll help us, if we need it,” Daniel stated, getting a little choked up, his voice cracking towards the end of his comment.
“Our little Cassie loves you so much, and Mommy called to say Merry Christmas and that she misses you,” Jack added.
“Family. They're all family,” Daniel said confidently. “We're so lucky.”
“Yeah, and we know you love them all as much as we do,” Jack added. “Uh, don't tell them I said that. “I have an image to protect.”
“Gawd, Jack,” Daniel chastised lightly as the two chuckled.
“Merry Christmas, Munchkins,” both Jack and Daniel said before giving each of their little babies a kiss.
As they reached the top of the stairs, Daniel pulled Jack close and kissed him soundly, silently reiterating his love and happiness on this special day.
With a sappy smile pasted on his face, Jack led the way into the living room. Daniel's attention was solely on his husband's face, but then he saw the smile falter and fade. Turning his attention to their guests, Daniel's mouth fell open as he surveyed their family of friends; not a dry eye among them.
“What happened?” Daniel asked worriedly.
Simultaneously, Jack had asked, “What's wrong?”
Before either man could react further, Jack and Daniel were faced with a ten person hug fest, nearly knocking them both over. It took quite a while before Sam finally confessed about what they had overheard. Love was definitely the theme for the remainder of the night between the family of friends.
Late that night, after their tearful guests had departed and they'd done some basic cleanup in the living room and kitchen, the lovers were sitting on the roof deck in their usual position, with Jack against the wall, and Daniel sitting in front of him. Jack's hands were under Daniel's shirt, warming the soft skin there. A monitor was sitting off to the side so they could hear if one of the babies woke up. It was cold, so they were wearing their sweats and had a blanket over them.
“We're crazy, you know that,” Jack stated.
“Yes, I do, but why are we crazy this time?” Daniel asked.
“It's below freezing, and we're sitting on the roof deck,” the older man laughed.
“Well, not for long, Babe, because it *is* coooold,” Daniel replied, purposefully drawing out the word and adding a mock shiver to go along with the real ones.
Still, their time on the roof deck was always special, and they didn't always get that much of it anymore, now that they were parents. Besides, though cold, the skies were clear, and Jack and Daniel could stargaze to their hearts' content.
“Jack,” the archaeologist said, breaking a silence of a couple of minutes.
Quietly, Daniel confided, “I admit I thought about it; in fact, I was planning on it, as a surprise for sometime in the future, but, uh, the truth is, I didn't buy you the ant farm.”
“Funny, Daniel,” Jack replied as he gave Daniel's abdomen a little tickle.
“Jack, I am *not* kidding. I didn't buy it,” the younger man insisted.
“Really?” Jack asked, turning his head to look at his husband.
“Really,” Daniel affirmed firmly, returning the look. “I was going to. I saw you looking at that ant farm when you were helping Jonny pick out his gift. I went back to the store a couple of days later to get you one, but they'd sold out, so I decided I'd surprise you with one later.”
“That's definitely weird.”
“Very,” Daniel agreed.
Then Jack smiled and revealed, “I have a confession to make, too, Love. Remember the slinky?”
“Of course, I do,” Daniel replied. “I still have it.”
“I didn't get it. I forgot to tell Franklin to get one when I had him get all the other stuff,” the older man stated, referring to a friend in Minnesota who had often helped to maintain the cabin or run supplies in for Jack.
“Really?” Daniel queried.
“Really,” Jack responded.
“Oh, well ... uh ... do you think it was Santa?” Daniel asked, remembering that the slinky did say from Santa on it like the ant farm.
“Who else could it be from?” Jack asked, shrugging slightly.
Daniel turned back around and let his head rest against his soulmate’s shoulder. Neither man knew for sure who had given them the special presents, but both had learned long ago not to question miracles.
“Jack? The Santa in the picture, the one whose lap I sat on,” Daniel began.
“What about him?”
“Doesn't he resemble the Santa the Munchkins visited?”
Jack cocked his head and considered the question, finally answering, “Daniel, he looked like all the Santas -- red suit, big belly, and white beard.”
“But there was something about him,” Daniel insisted.
“Yeah,” Jack agreed, adding with a laugh, “He was jolly!”
“Gawd, you're incorrigible.”
“But you love me.”
“Heaven help me, I do, so much,” Daniel happily sighed.
“That's my Angel,” Jack chimed happily.
“Merry Christmas, Babe,” Daniel expressed tenderly.
“Merry Christmas, Love,” Jack replied softly.
The lovers spent another hour on the roof deck, then went inside where they checked on their babies and went to bed.
Life was good for the Jackson-O’Neills, and it was going to get better and better with each Christmas to come. Their spirit for the season knew no bounds, nor did their love for each other.
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