April Madness

Author:  Orrymain
Category:  Slash, Humor, Drama, Holiday, Romance, Established Relationship
Pairing:  Jack/Daniel ... and it's all J/D
Rating:  PG-13
Season:  Beyond the Series - April 1, 2015
Spoilers:  None
Size:  78kb
Written:  March 31, April 10,22, 2015, May 28, 2016, February 19-20, March 9-10,18,22-26, 2018
Summary:  As March gives way to April, madness takes over the Jackson-O'Neill residence.
Disclaimer:  Usual disclaimers -- not mine, wish they were, especially Daniel, and Jack, too, but they aren't.  A gal can dream though!
Notes:  
1) Silent, unspoken thoughts by various characters are indicated with ~ in front and behind them, such as ~Where am I?~

April Madness
by Orrymain

Jack whistled as he walked inside the family home, kicking the door behind him so that it would close.  He shook off the chill of the early morning cold as he headed for the kitchen.  He laughed as he put down the boxes of Krispy Kreme donuts he'd brought home for the brood.

Carefully, the general opened the boxes of flavorable sugary treats.  He'd been very particular about the variety of donuts purchased.  Looking over the product, he continued to whistle as he walked to refrigerator and removed the special ingredients he needed to enhance the donuts.

So excited was the general to prepare the food that he didn't even take off his brown leather jacket.  Instead, he sat down at the table and focused on the task at hand.

~Go ahead and sleep in, my precious kiddies.  Never fear, your old man is here.~

Cackling in his mind, Jack made sure each donut would deliver the proper punch when eaten.

====

“Jack?” Daniel, dressed in a suit, called out as he hurried down the stairs.

“Delicious,” Jack commented.

“It must have been,” the archaeologist replied as he saw the empty plate on the table beside his lover's favorite chair in the living room.

“Not that,” the general responded.  He stood and walked to his soulmate as he clarified, “You.  You look delicious.”

“Thank you, but I don't advise thinking about that right now, considering that our children will be bounding down those stairs in just a few minutes, not to mention I'm gone for the next forty-eight hours.”

“Don't remind me,” Jack snarled as he released his hold on Daniel and turned around.

The retired general was not a happy camper.  His husband was about to leave for two days, not on business for their company, but as a favor to a curator at the Pacific Science Center in Seattle.  The trip put a kink in their plans to attend a rock concert in Denver that night.  Of course, it wasn't the Fleetwood Mac performance that Jack was upset about.  Rather, it was the suite they'd reserved at the Denver Hyatt and the romantic post-concert event that had the general up in arms.

Jack didn't miss a chance to squawk about Daniel's last minute trip to assist the curator, except when Daniel was actually leaving.  At that moment, the older man gave his Love one very passionate, mind-blowing kiss.

“Think about that while you're talking about artifacts,” Jack retorted as he closed the front door behind Daniel and went about with his day.

~That went well ... not.~  Outside, Daniel shook his head.  ~He's not happy and he's going to be even less happy tonight.~

====

“Do whatever Dad says,” Jonny whispered to Lulu and Chenoa.

“We always do,” Lulu responded.

“Do it more,” the boy suggested.

“Why?” Chenoa asked.

“He's mad that Daddy left to save that museum,” Jonny answered.

The children all looked at one another, afraid to say another word.  They were glad they kept their silence when their father walked into hospitality room.  In his hands were the boxes of Krispy Kreme donuts.

“I didn't want to cook,” Jack explained as he put down the familiar rectangular containers.  “Dig in.”

Eagerly, the children opened the box tops and reached for their favorite donuts.  In fact, most of them took two, since apparently the sugary items were breakfast.

“I can't wait,” Lulu said excitedly just before biting into a raspberry-filled donut.

Jack watched and then broke out into laughter as the kids all let out sounds of disgust, such as “pfffft,” “yuck,” “ick,” “puh,” and “bleh.”

“Dad!” an irritated Jonny exclaimed.

“That wasn't nice, Dad,” David, who would be fourteen toward the end of the month, stated with an unhappy stare.

“Go ahead, Dad, say it before you burst,” Brianna urged, sensing what her dad's actions were all about.

“What do you want him to say, Bri?” Jenny inquired as she pulled out pieces of the distasteful donut from her mouth.

With several sets of eyes on him, Jack blurted out, “April Fools!”

The children groaned.  Their Krispy Kreme donuts were infused with such enhancements as mayonnaise, salt, mustard, and even spinach.  The result were donuts none of them wanted to go near.  That is, all except one.

“Ricky, what are you doing?” Jenny asked her twin as she frowned.

“Eating,” the Spitfire responded happily.

“But Dad put relish in your donut.”

With a shrug, Ricky replied, “I like it.”

With concern, Jack retorted, “I'm calling Doctor Syl.”

Ricky snorted as he took another big bite of the relish-enhanced glazed lemon-filled donut.  He hoped his dad would prank him with these donuts all the time.

====

The kids forgave Jack's joke since it was followed by an actual breakfast featuring Froot Loops cereal.  They also figured their father had gotten his joke out of the way early, freeing them from worry for the rest of the day.  In most years, Jack enjoyed the suspense of keeping his family guessing when he would strike.  Now it was over and done with and the children could focus on dealing only with Jack the Grouch since his displeasure about Daniel's absence was obvious to all.

All of the children were home except for Jennifer, whose first class of the day began at seven, and Jeff, who was away at college.

Jack walked into the hospitality room shortly before 10 a.m. and smiled at the brood as they again sat around the long table that was used both for meals and group study.

“Everyone has a special assignment for today,” Jack announced as he handed out sealed envelopes to each of the children, including three-year-old JD.

Soon, the kids were free to tackle their homework.  They were each given three hours to get it done and then they could play.  Failure to complete the assignment meant extra study time, so all of the children were eager to complete their assignments.

====

“Jenny, honey, I need your help with something,” Jack beckoned to the young girl as she sat on her bed, reading a book she needed in order to complete her school assignment.  “Ash is going to help, too.”

The redhead followed her father downstairs to the projects room where she saw Aislinn was already seated at the long worktable that was against the wall.

“Girls, this is for J-O,” Jack explained as Jenny sat down next to her sister.  “What I need you to do is take one booklet from each of these piles and put them together in a set.”

The sisters looked at the piles.  The booklets were slim, just a few pages each that Jack said were focused on a different aspect of J-O's business services.  Each had a title page, followed by another page that contained a brief preview of what was inside.

Jack walked over to a cabinet and pulled out two tubs and then put them down, one tub in front of each of his helpers.

“Paperclip them together with these,” Jack instructed.  “Karissa thanks you for the assistance.  They're swamped today...” he advised calmly until his voice changed to a sarcastic one “...thanks to your daddy leaving at the last minute.”  He drew a breath and then smiled at his daughters.  “Get to it.”

The general exited the room, leaving the girls to their work.

For almost twenty-three minutes, the two sisters worked diligently on the project.  They loved helping with the family business.

All of a sudden, Jenny gasped as she stared at the written page in front of her.

“No!”

“Jenny, what's wrong?” Aislinn asked with genuine concern.

With a clenched jaw, Jenny raced out of the room and stormed into Jack's study.  Her muscles tensed as she glared at the silver-haired man.  Her eyes seemed to narrow and her body shook as she stood.

“Hey, Red.”

Aislinn reached the site of the confrontation just in time to hear the twin's reply to their dad's greeting.

“Eweeeeeee.  Grrrrrrr.”

“Can you clarify that?”

Jenny's left hand shaped into a fist and with her right hand, she crunched the pages she'd brought in with her.  Finally, she tossed the crumbled pages onto the floor before speaking.

In a shout, the redhead declared, “I love you, Dad, but ...”  Her words were followed by a loud screech, after which she turned and left the study.

Aislinn's head went back and forth.  She was confused and totally stunned.

“Why does Jenny have smoke coming out of her entire body?”

“Princess, what do Daddy and I always tell you about your work?”

“To do it to the best of our ability.”

“That's right and don't we regularly suggest you check your work, make sure you know your task, and that you have the right equipment to make your task a successful one?”

“Yes.  So?”

“Read,” Jack instructed with a nod.

Aislinn stared at her dad as she remained confused, but she also grew skeptical.  She figured this was a test and somehow, she and Jenny failed it.  She picked up Jenny's papers.  There was the title sheet and then the preview page.  Then she began to review the third page.  Her eyes widened and she drew a very heavy breath that developed into a stunned gasp.

The youngest Munchkin read, “Now is the time for all good Munchkins and Spitires to come to the aid of their dad.”  The last part of the sentence was spoken with an uplift in her voice, as if the line were a query. “Dad?”

“April Fools, Ash!”

Aislinn's surprise transitioned to anger.  She huffed and puffed and turned around so fast that her long brown hair snapped in front of her face.

As his daughter fled, Jack called out, “Gotcha!”

“Grrrrrrrrrrrrrr!” was the girl's response.  ~Just you wait, Dad Higgens,~ she sung in her mind, her naming a reference to the movie, “My Fair Lady” that the family viewed recently.

Jack reached into his pocket and pulled out the tickets he secured for a doll show and auction in Pueblo.  He put them into the cards previously selected and sealed the envelopes.  He was having his fun with the kids, but at the same time, he wanted to make sure they received more than the honor of making him laugh.  They'd have a special father and daughters' day at the doll show and all would be forgiven, until next year.

~Two down.~

====

Meanwhile, Aislinn again caught up with Jenny, who was boiling over with steam.

“Jenny ... ”

“Shi-*bat*-wray!”

“Jenny!”

“Well, Daddy says it.”

“It's a swear word.”

“No one knows that.  We don't even know what it means on Earth.”

“But it's a swear word.”

“Shibatwray, shibatwray, *shibatwray*!” Jenny exclaimed.  “Is it time yet?”

“No, not yet.”

====

“This is impossible,” Jonny groaned.  He left the library and went into his room where Little Danny and Ricky were both working on their homework.  “I need more time.”

“Me, too,” Little Danny acknowledged.  “This is too much for a few hours.”

Just then Lulu walked in a sighed.

“You, too?” Jonny questioned.

“Me, too, what?”

“Homework,” all three boys said in unison.

“I'm gonna fail.”

“So am I,” Chenoa lamented when she entered the room.  “Can you help us?”

“I can't finish mine, either,” Little Danny asserted.

The girls gasped in surprise.  For the child prodigy to be in the same boat they were was shocking.

“Let's get Bri,” Ricky suggested.

“Don't bother.  I heard you guys.  Problems?”

“Can you do your homework?” Jonny queried.

“Well, the truth is ... um, I don't even understand the question Dad gave me for my homework.”

“Let's go!”

“Where to?” Chenoa asked Jonny as he headed for the door.

“To demand more time.”

“Jonny,” Little Danny rebuked quietly.

“Okay, ask for more time, but Dad's being a grizzly bear today, so we may have to demand.”

“And lose our ice cream tonight?” Ricky asked.

Jonny gulped and then instructed, “Little Danny, you'd better do the talking.”

The children gathered the rest of their siblings, including JD, and went to the living room where Jack was cleaning the bookshelf.

“Dad, can we talk to you?” Little Danny requested.

“Sure thing.  Go!”

“It's about our assignments,” the genius stated.

Jack turned and cachinnated, “April Fools!”

“Grrrrrr.  He did it again!” Jenny groaned unhappily.

The father cajoled, “It's just a joke, kids, but there is a lesson there, too, for the observant.”

“What lesson?” Jonny asked, his head cocked to the side, his hands on his hips, and his right foot tapping down against the carpet as he spoke.

“General Jonny, what happened to your observation skills?”

Jonny narrowed his eyes and his mouth was turned down.  He took a breath and hurried upstairs to retrieve his assignment.  When he rejoined his family, he stared at the envelope.  His eyes pierced through every inch of the paper holder.  Then he saw it.

“Dad!”

“Never assume and always keep your eyes on the prize,” Jack instructed.

“What is it, Jonny?” Aislinn questioned.

“It's in the seal,” Little Danny revealed vocally as he leaned next to his brother to dissect the envelope.  “Read it.”

Jonny handed the envelope to his sister, who looked at the seal and, turning the envelope to discover the written words, read, “April Fools, kids.  Twice the ice cream tonight!”

“Yeah!” Ricky cheered.

“Your homework assignments are now null and void.  You are not required to complete them *unless* you'd like some extra credit.  You have a week from this moment,” Jack said as he checked his watch.  “Totally optional and you may ask for help.”

“It's stuff we don't know yet,” Chenoa sighed.

“But you can research, ask questions, get assistance ...” Jack reminded.  “Or let it go.  There's nothing wrong with that.”

“Dad, you have a warped sense of humor,” Jonny accused, using the word he'd heard his daddy say more than once over the years.

“Yeah.  Thank you.”  Jack grinned unabashedly, totally satisfied with the day thus far.  “Time for lunch.”

As their father headed for the hospitality room, the kids hung back.  They were thrilled for the extra ice cream treat, but they were eager for something else, too.

“Is it time yet?” Aislinn asked.

“Not yet,” Jonny answered as he slowly trailed after Jack.

====

Lunch was already ready to go, having been prepared before prior to Jack cleaning the living room.  The father kept it simple: sandwiches.

“JD, can you get your juice out of the refrigerator for me, please.”

“JD do that easy,” the youngest child declared with a huge smile.

The father turned and covertly reached for his phone.  He pressed the button in anticipation, wanting to capture on video what he hoped was coming.

The little boy opened the door and began to giggle.  The more he looked inside, the more he laughed.

Jack was grinning.  It was exactly what he'd wanted and made the setup time for the joke worth every second.

The rest of the brood quickly became curious and made their way to their brother and the appliance.

“Look, Jonny.  My juice smiling,” JD reported.

“So's the milk,” Jonny observed.

“Cheese staring at me,” JD chortled.

It wasn't just the juice, milk, and cheese that were made up, but every single item in the refrigerator had googly eyes attached to it and some had velvet pipe shaped like a smile attached to them, too.

The entire brood loved the prank and asked Jack to take a picture of it.  For them, it was the best joke of the day and they hoped it was also the last joke of the day coming from their dad.

“April Fools, JD,” Jack called out.  ~Three down.~

====

As the next few hours ticked by, others in the brood endured personalized gags.  Most of the time, the victim was exasperated, but the rest of the kids ended up laughing, in spite of their best attempts to resist any good feelings about Jack's April Fools' Day merriment.

Jonny was thrilled when he went out front and saw a silver dollar at the edge of the driveway.  As he went to pick it up, he couldn't.  The coin was glued to the ground.  It wasn't until his dad called out and handed him a flathead screwdriver that the Munchkin understood the joke.  He managed to free the coin and add it to his piggy bank.

Lulu actually shrieked at trick Jack played on her.  He served up a glass of juice that turned out to be Jell-O.  David, on the other hand, wasn't amused when he opened the door to his bedroom and physically jumped at the loud shrill of an air horn that was taped to the wall and went off when the door connected with it.

Little Danny wasn't just exasperated, but on the verge of passionate anger when he opened his dictionary and found the pages were stuck together.  He was soothed only when Jack produced the actual dictionary, safe and unharmed.  The damaged one was a duplicate his dad purchased specifically for this day.

~Seven down,~ Jack noted internally after leaving the Munchkin to read the dictionary, something the boy loved to do on a regular basis.

====

Midway through lunch, Jennifer returned home from her morning classes at the University of Colorado where she was majoring in business.

“Dad, I'm home,” the young woman called out after closing the front door.

“Jen, a package came for you,” Jack responded as he left the hospitality room and caught up with his daughter before she went upstairs to her room.

“A package?”

“Looks like it's from Aunt Catherine.”

“I wonder what she ... sent.  Oh!”

“What?”

“We were talking about dresses.  Oh, I wonder.”  Eagerly, Jennifer picked up the package that looked like it could easily contain a dress.  Unable to wait, she put the box on the sofa and opened it as fast as she could.  “It is.  Dad, look.”

Jennifer took the dress and placed it in front of her.

“It's beautiful.  Bet it would be even more beautiful on you.”

“I'll be right back.”

Grinning, Jack whistled while he waited.  Then he decided he'd wait closer to Jennifer's room.  He made his way to the stairs that led up to her room, which was over the garage.

“How's it coming, Jen?” the father called out to his daughter.

“Come in, Dad.”

Jack opened the door and instantly reacted with a big smile and bright eyes.  His daughter was indeed a gorgeous woman and the dress fit her perfectly.

“Wow!  I have no words,” Jack expressed from his heart.

“Aunt Catherine said she wore it to a ball when she was young.  She wasn't a fan of those society things, but I guess she humored her father sometimes.”

“Not a bad thing to do now and again.”

“I told her I understood how she felt.”

Jack saw the smirk on Jennifer's face and responded, “Of course you do.”

“A few alterations and I can really make it mine.  These sleeves are way too ...”

Jennifer pulled gently on her right sleeve and was stunned when the puffed sleeve parted from the dress.  She was afraid she'd torn it.

“What did I do?”

“Defect?”

“Dad, it's not defective.  It's ...”  Just then, Jennifer's right hand ran across the lower part of the gown.  It pressed against the fabric firmly and when she moved her hand again, the bottom of the gown tore.  “Dad!”

Piece by piece, the gown slit open, tore apart, or simply fell off.

Jennifer didn't know what to think.  She wanted to cry, but she also was confused.  The dress's destruction didn't make sense to her, until she heard her father's next words.

“April Fools, Princess.”

“Ap...Ap... Dad!”  Jennifer gasped and was clearly exasperated.  “How ... how did you ... Dad!”

“Look under your bed.”

“My bed?”  Confused again, Jennifer peeked under her bed and saw another package, also from Catherine Langford Littlefield.  “Is this one real?”

“It is,” Jack answered.  “Aunt Catherine told me she was going to surprise you with the dress.  I had her send me a picture of it and had that dress made; like show biz, tear-apart clothing.”

“Dad, really!” Jennifer lightly scolded as she opened the actual package.  Her contented sigh was noticeable.  “This is so much more beautiful than I ever could have imagined.”

“Put it on.  I'll wait downstairs.”  Jack walked over and gave his daughter a kiss on the cheek while his hands held her by her upper arms.  “I'd never prank you like I did if I didn't know the real thing would put a smile on your face like the one you have now.”

“I know, Dad.  Daddy says you're a little boy at heart, so it's okay.  I love you, and I wouldn't want you any other way ... I think.”

Father and daughter shared a chuckle, after which Jack went downstairs where a few minutes later, Jennifer joined him.  The dress needed only a few size alterations and a bit of updating for the modern era, but then it would be ready to be worn.  Jennifer was thrilled and Jack felt proud of his princess.

“Lunch is on the table, if you're hungry.”

“Thanks, Dad, but I think I'd like to call Aunt Catherine and thank her.”

“Sure thing.  Ah, remember, she didn't know what I was going to do with that picture.”

“I know,” Jennifer acknowledged, not caring about her father's shenanigans in light of the gorgeous gown now in her possession.

~Eight down,~ the father counted with pride as he returned to the eating children.

====

The kids ate lunch with caution, knowing their dad was the preparer.  Fortunately for them, all went well, until at the end of the meal, Jack announced he made a treat for dessert.

“Brownies?” Aislinn questioned.  “I love brownies.”

“Me, too,” Ricky agreed.

“Here you go,” Jack spoke as he put the covered tray on the table.  “Help yourselves.”

Eagerly, Lulu pulled off the cover and Jonny reached over, intending to grab the first brownie.

“Dad!” came the cry from several of children, but the outcry turned into laughter.

“April Fools!” Jack exclaimed yet again on this first day of April.

“Clever,” Brianna commented.

“I can't take credit, Bri.  I read it online.”

Brianna stared at Jack's dessert and remarked, “I think I'll grab an apple and go upstairs.”

Jack's tray contained four designer brownies, each made of cardboard and in the shape of a large letter 'E'.

The children mumbled and grumbled as they left the room.

“Hey, have an apple like your sister!  It's healthier,” Jack called out, shrugging happily as he started to put away the pan.  He took the letters and tossed them into the recycling bin before going on his way.  He walked to a warming drawer and pulled out the actual batch of brownies he'd baked.  ~A happy dinner dessert and surprise.~

Finished with the meal obligations, Jack kept tabs on the kids and their activities.  He had to time the next prank perfectly or the wrong victim might be surprised.  As it was, he had a hunch that multiple victims could be involved.

====

Ninety minutes later, Jack left his study and hung out for a few minutes outside the dance studio where Chenoa and Lulu were practicing.  He eavesdropped until he heard them talk about doing one last routine before ending their session.  Quickly, he verified the location of all his daughters.

Certain the girls were all involved in activities away from where his next act of tomfoolery was to take place, Jack went to the girls' restroom and over to the center compartment where the two sinks were located.  He reached into his pocket and quickly made the desired connection.  After that, he left the restroom and kept watch from behind the door of boys' bedroom that was directly across the hall.

A smiling Chenoa was singing a song as she walked down the hallway to the girls' bath.  Innocently, she walked inside.

Across the hall, Jack grinned and did a mental countdown.  He waited until Chenoa opened the door and began her search.

~There we go~  As he observed his daughter, whose face, hair, and upper torso were drenched by the misdirection of water he'd created with the use of a piece of tape that forced the water to spray out and upward at the user, Jack felt pleased by his mischievous achievement.  He opened the door fully and pronounced a bubbly, “April Fools!”

“Dad, you're incorrigible.”

“Thank you, Noa.”

Chenoa rolled her eyes and requested, “Will you fix the faucet now, please.”

Just then Jack's cell phone rang.  He normally didn't carry it around the house, but with Daniel gone, he thought it might be prudent.

“Be right there, Princess.  Daddy's on the phone.”

“Tell him I love him and you're being incorrigible.”

“I'll do that.”

Chenoa turned around and re-entered the bathroom.  Since she had business to attend to, she entered one of the half-baths and closed the door.

Meanwhile, Jack stood by the boys' room and took the call from his husband.  He was so focused on it that when Jenny walked by and nodded at him, he simply smiled back, not realizing his folly until Jenny was out of sight.

“Oh, crap.”

“What is it?”

The general closed his eyes as he heard the scream.  Actually, it wasn't as much a scream as it was a shout of furry.

Sure enough, the redhead walked purposefully out of the bathroom and went directly to her father.  She stared at the man, her eyes stern and fixed.

“Sorry, Red.  Daddy called and ...”

“Shibatwray!” Jenny cursed without caring who heard and then stormed away, a trail of dripping water left in her wake.

“Jack?  Jack!”

“Hi, Angel.”

“Jack, what did you do?”

“Jenny was an innocent victim of the leprechaun.”

“Wrong holiday, Jack.  Is it out of your system?”

“Almost.”

“Jack!”

“Come home soon, Danny.  I miss you.”

“How can you miss me when you're wreaking havoc with our children?”

“Cause and effect.”

“Don't blame this on me,” Daniel warned.

“I love you.”

“I love you, too.”

“Oh, Noa wanted me to tell you she loves you and, by the way, I'm incorrigible.”

“Tell her I love her, too, and she's right, absolutely, without a doubt, perfectly, one-hundred percent right.”

“I'll pass that along.”

With the call over, Jack tapped on the door, awaiting the all clear from Chenoa so he could enter and remove his handiwork that redirected the water coming from the faucet.

~And that's nine.  Three more to go.~

====

With the afternoon temperatures in the high sixties, most of the brood spent time outdoors.  A few  swung on the swings, a couple read books either in The Pod or in the gazebo, and some were engaged in an action adventure drama as they tracked down the imaginary thief of Katie's tug toy.

Since the kids were safely occupied, Jack went about setting up his best prank of the day, in his opinion.  It was the one that was the most challenging, since he was alone, but he was determined to get the job done.

~Hopefully, it won't kill me in the process.  My aching knees.~

Eventually, the brood made their way inside the house, beginning with Brianna, who was the chef for dinner.  Jonny and Lulu followed since they were the sous chefs for the night.  David remained outside to watch over the rest of his younger siblings who were still playing.

His stomach growling, Ricky was the next child to leave the backyard.  He knew it would be awhile before dinner was done, so he decided to clean up now.  His parents always insisted on clean faces and hands before sitting down for any meal.  The seven-year-old went upstairs and into the boys' bathroom where he thoroughly washed.  Seeing how dirty his beige shirt was from chasing down the tug toy thief and unearthing the toy itself in the sandbox, he decided to change his shirt.

Inside his room, Ricky's speed slowed down until he was at a dead stop.  He viewed his bed and then his chest of drawers.  His eyes looked at the teddy bear he won at a fair and then he focused on a book he was reading.  Suddenly, he began to howl, jumping up and down with delight.  Hearing footsteps, the ingenious youngster approached the wall and took his position.

Just then, Jack walked in and shouted, “April ... Fools?”

On their father's heels, Jonny and Little Danny both widened their eyes as they took in the sight.  Every piece of furniture belonging to their brother was upside down.  Not only that, but the boy's possessions, including his teddy bear, family pictures, latest Lego creation, and box of crayons, were turned over on their tops. The only things not touched were Ricky's blue blanket and Etch-A-Sketch, both of which were deemed by Jack to be too precious and vital to the boy's soul to mess with.

“I'm upside down, too,” Ricky giggled as he stood on his head.

“Good one, Dad!” Jonny praised.

“Thank you, son,” a smiling Jack responded.  “Give me a hand, boys, and let's get Ricky's area back in place.”

“I like it this way.”

“Yeah.  Come on, Squirt,” Jack told the Spitfire, playfully picking up and his son and turning him right side up.  “That was a good one, too, standing on your head like that.”

“I learn from the best, Dad: you and Daddy,” Ricky proclaimed with amusement.

The boys worked together without complaint and were thrilled when Jack handed each of them a dollar for their efforts.  That was quite a bonus.

“We don't need the dollar for helping, Dad,” Little Danny pointed out.

“That's why you're getting it.  This was my prank and my knees appreciate your assistance in getting things back in place.  Go put your dollars away.”

“Thanks, Dad,” the boys spoke in scattered utterances as they did as told.

~Who's left on the list?~  Jack reviewed his escapes of the day.  Along with the antics played on the children as a unit, ten of them were pranked on an individual basis.  With Jeff in Ohio, that left one more.  ~Ah, yes; Bri.~

====

The family enjoyed a peaceful dinner and the brood was hopeful their dad had concluded his pranks for this year.  After their meal, everyone separated as they went about their business.

Eventually, the general made his to the tomboy's bedroom.  Her door was open, but hearing her father, Brianna sprung up off her bed and blocked the doorway with her body.  Her left arm was outstretched and pushing against the frame of the door.

“No entry tonight, Dad.”

“Huh?”

“I did the math.”

“Your homework?”

“No, Dad.  I'm the only member of the brood you haven't pranked individually yet. I've checked my room and I'm not letting you in to do your handiwork.”

“Would I do that to you?”

“Yes, which is why I'm going to enjoy the documentary on the Great Gretzky, read a book, and go to bed.  No need to chat tonight.  I love you.  Goodnight, Dad.”

Brianna backed away and closed her door.  As she headed to her bed, she picked up the remote control for her TV and hit the power button.  She sighed.  She knew the batteries weren't that old and suspected her dear old dad either changed out her batteries or took them out.  Opening the device, she realized it was the latter her father did.

“Very funny, Dad,” Brianna called out.  ~Fortunately, I have replacement batteries in my desk.~

The next time the power button was pressed, the television came on and Brianna settled in to watch the show about her favorite hockey player.  Focused on the program, Brianna didn't notice that her door was open just a crack, which was all Jack needed.

Using a universal remote that he programmed to work on Brianna's TV earlier in the day, Jack switched the channel.

Brianna frowned, but figured it was a cable glitch.  She turned the channel back.  Seconds later, the volume raised, seemingly on its own.  It blared.  Brianna used her remote to turn it down, only right as she did, the channel changed again.

After two more minutes of the remote craziness, Brianna let out a groan and hollered, “Dad, stop it!”

The father leaned in, grinned fiercely while he showed off his remote, and exclaimed, “April Fools, Bri!”

“Okay, you got me, but now I've missed the first part of the special.”

“Nah, I wouldn't cost you a chance to see Gretzky, one of the greatest of all time!”

Smiling, Brianna surmised, “You set it to record.”

“Yeahsureyabetcha!”

“Thanks, Dad!”

“You're welcome.  Hey, it's time for ice cream, or are skipping it tonight?”

“Jonny would disown me if I skipped ice cream.”

Chuckling, Jack replied, “He just might.”

“As long as it's on record ...”

Jack used the universal remote to show Brianna that the show was recording and began at the top of the hour.  There was nothing for her to worry about.

“Cool.  I'm in.”

~And that's the brood.~

====

“Okay, kids.  Bed by nine for twelve and under,” Jack announced to the brood as they were spread out in the rec room, playing games or watching television.  “That gives you another forty-five minutes before your heads need to touch those pillows.”

“Yes, Dad,” several of the kids responded.

“I'm going to go watch Gretzky,” Brianna announced.

“Well, I have an essay to finish,” Jennifer noted as she stood up and headed for her bedroom.

“I'm going upstairs,” David said, stiffling a yawn.  “I want to study my new rocks for a while.”

With JD already asleep in his bed, that accounted for the entire brood, all of whom figured they would have an enjoyable and prank-less end to their day.

====

Jack walked into the girl's room and walked over to Aislinn's bed, sitting down on the edge.

“How ya doin', Princess?”

“I'm good, Dad.”

Across the room, Jenny was settling into her bed, but she was having a hard time getting comfortable.

~What's wrong with my pillow?~  The redhead sat up and gave her pillow a big swat in the middle and when she did, partially blown-up balloons came out the end.  “Dad!”

Jenny rose, took out all of the balloons, and started bombarding her dad with them.  Just as soon as one hit her father, she leaned over and threw it at him again.

“I thought something was funny,” Aislinn agreed as she giggled at the balloons in her pillow.  She joined her sister in aiming them towards Jack.  “You're so bad, Dad.”

Both girls were laughing, even though neither of them wanted to do so.  They both ended up in Jack's arms as he gave them kisses.

“April Fools, my beautiful princesses.  I love you.  Have sweet dreams.”  He walked outside the door and returned with the girls' pillows.  “Either of you need to talk about anything?”

“Only to my shrink,” Jenny teased with a smile.

“Where'd you learn that phrase?”

“I wasn't born yesterday, Dad.”

“No, you weren't, Red.  Okay, goodnight.”

The father next headed to the boys' room.  He was expecting a similar situation, only the moment he walked in, he was hit with several fully inflated balloons.  It was like an automatic weapon, the balloons ramming his body in rapid fire.

“You found me out!” Jack exclaimed lightheartedly.

“I know the difference between balloon pillows and our bamboo pillows,” Little Danny responded.

Jonny picked up the balloons and slammed three of them towards Jack, laughing as he did so.  Ricky did the same and then the child prodigy made two more direct hits.

“Okay, boys, you got me, but April Fools!”

“We're glad it's over,” Jonny stated.  ~For us.~

“Where are our pillows, Dad?” Little Danny questioned.

“Right here,” Jack answered as he pointed to the pillows he'd placed just outside the door.

The nightly round with the boys was quick.  This just wasn't the night for serious talk.  In fact, all three were chuckling when their dad left them to their sleep.

“Anyone feeling guilty?” Little Danny asked as he pulled up his blanket.

“Nope!” Jonny replied.  “Silly balloons were fun, but it's our turn.”

“Ricky?” the middle Munchkin called out.

“Not guilty.  I still remember my mud shower.  I had to take three baths in one day last year.”

“Little Danny, are you feeling guilty?” the oldest boy inquired.

Little Danny thought about it.  Part of him wanted to feel guilty, but a bigger part was looking forward to the future.

“No.  I just thought I'd ask so we were clear.”

“We're clear,” Ricky mused.  “Is it time?”

“No yet,” Jonny answered.

The rest of Jack's rounds were less eventful, but he did manage to get smiles from the Curly Tops and the older children.  He felt this year's April Fools' Day was a true success and even better, the day ended with a fun prank that left the brood in a good mood.  All was well in Jack's world, except for one thing.  He missed his lover.

====

After pretending to go to sleep in his room after the final joke of the day from his dad, David quietly got out of bed and retrieved his tablet.  He turned it on and opened the program that let him plug into the hidden camera that was set up earlier.  Timing was everything and the one thing he didn't know for sure was when his dad would go upstairs.  The camera was secretly recording the stairs in the living room.

The brood knew it was probable the younger children would have naturally fallen asleep between their bedtimes and when their dad would ultimately decide to call it a night, which meant David had to be precise and swift in judging when to go to his sibling's rooms and awaken them.  Fortunately, he and Jennifer were able to communicate via their smartphones.

~Here he comes.~

Immediately, David called Jennifer.  Afterward he kept a close eye out as he assumed Jack would peek inside the nursery to check on JD, and he was right.  Once his dad was gone, he walked through the nursery quietly and waited until Jack was out of sight.  Then he met up with Jennifer at the top of the stairs.  Together, they edged over to the door of their parents' bedroom where David put his ear to the door.

“I wish you were here.”

“I think he's talking to Daddy,” David reported.

Jennifer leaned her ear to the door, too.  She couldn't hear too much, except Jack's groan at the end of the call, indicating his continued frustration with Daniel not being home.

Neither could hear their daddy's words, but Jack clearly heard his husband say, “Careful what you wish for, Babe.”

“Love you, Angel ... yeah, I'm gonna take a quick shower, a *cold* one.”

That was the perfect cue the two eavesdropping siblings needed.  Speedily, they went down the hallway between the master bedroom and their daddy's den, walked up the four steps on the other end, and hurried through the brief jog that ended just before the hallway.  The corridor was the space between the bedrooms on the left on the backyard side of the home and various other rooms on the right which were closer to the street.  All were part of the new addition when the house was renovated in 2009.

Jennifer went to the girls' room and walked in.

“Is it time?” Jenny asked, her eyes wide with anticipation.

“You're awake?”

“I've been waiting for this my entire life,” the Spitfire explained.  “It's time?”

“It's time.  Wake up, Ash.”

Jennifer left the girls' room and walked down to the room shared by Chenoa and Lulu.  They were both asleep and she had to nudge them more than once before they both woke up sufficiently.

Meanwhile, David walked into the boys' room where Jonny was sitting Indian-style on his bed.

“Bro, you're up?”

“A good general reviews his plans over and over to make sure they are perfect.”  Jonny grinned mischievously.  “It's perfect.”

“Get Ricky.  I'll focus on Little Danny.”

“He doesn't like to wake up early.”

“I know,” David chuckled as he set about to get the boy up and on his feet.

At the same time, Brianna heard footsteps in the hallway.  She put down the book she was reading and went to investigate.  She saw Jennifer's nod and prepared for action.

After that, Jennifer walked softly passed the master bedroom and into the nursery.  The next step had to be done rapidly and efficiently.  JD was only three and their parents still monitored his room when he was sleeping.  With the intercom system, they no longer needed to use monitors, but they could easily hear if something was going on.

With precision, Jennifer took hold of the sleeping child and left the nursery.

“I think we did it,” Jennifer whispered, though the little boy was still in slumberland.

Jennifer didn't rouse JD until they were settled in the hallway near the master bedroom.  Once he conscious enough to respond, she reminded him of the question he'd been asked earlier in the day: “If you could make Dad laugh for April Fools' Day, what would you do?”

“Lots of cream ... on feet,” JD had answered.

With her little brother's recall of the conversation confirmed, Jennifer explained, “We're going to do it in just a little bit, but you have to be very, very quiet.”

“JD, this is important brood action.  You have to follow orders, okay?” Jonny put forth.

JD nodded and was eager to participate in the goings-on with his family.

====

His call with Daniel concluded, Jack began his nightly routine.  He undressed and entered the bathroom.  The first thing he did was grab the toothpaste to brush his teeth.  He squeezed the white gel onto his toothbrush and began to brush.

“What the ...”  Jack smacked his lips and ran his tongue along his teeth.  He squeezed more out of the tube, but onto a finger and not the brush.  He studied it for a few seconds and then tasted it.  ~Frosting.~  Shaking his head, he thought, ~Those little rascals switched my toothpaste for icing.  Nicely done.~

Jack opened the medicine cabinet and retrieved an unopened tube and finally brushed his teeth.  He was still amused when he turned on the shower and felt the soothing water pound against his body.  He reached out with his hands and filled them with lots of soap from the dispenser that was attached to the shower wall.  His eyes were closed as he let the water hit against his face.  Then he backed away slightly and began to apply the soap onto his body.

--

“Shhh!” Jonny warned his siblings as he opened the door to the bedroom.  He knew his timing had to be spot on to work.  He could hear the shower running as he approached the bathroom.  ~Can't let the brood down.~  This was going to be a real test of his covert abilities.  As stealthily as possible, he entered the bathroom and switched out the bar of soap.  ~No time.  Gotta move.~

--

Inside the shower, something didn't seem quite right.  Jack opened his eyes and looked down.  He was alarmed for a second, thinking he was dying.  Everything was red.  Was he bleeding?  Then he raised his hand to his nose and sniffed.  His eyes wide open this time, he depressed the button again and, sure enough, something red came spilling out.

~Tomato sauce, or paste.~  Jack took a breath and sighed.  ~That has to be Jenny's contribution.  There had better be some soap around here.~

--

Close to the ground and trying hard not to even breathe, Jonny watched as Jack leaned out of the shower and picked up the bar of soap.  The Munchkin grinned.  He waved over JD and helped the littlest brood member empty out a can of whip cream onto a piece of smooth carpet acquired for the plan.  No one wanted to damage the bedroom rug.  Then the two exited the bedroom.  Of course, if Jack looked down when walking, he might see the whip cream, but the kids could only hope their dad's focus would be eye level so that he would step right into the cool foamy product.

--

Meanwhile, Jack worked on creating a nice lather with the soap, but nothing happened.  He loved a good lather and the soap purchased by the family always offered up a rewarding one.

~I'm calling the manufacturer and demanding a replacement.  This bar is ...~  Jack blinked once before he took a close look at the defective bar.  ~This is odd.~  He remembered back to a joke his father once played on his mother.  Jack's dad put nail polish on the bar and that prevented it from lathering.  ~Mom wasn't happy about that, but Dad had a good laugh,~ Jack recalled.

Jack finished his shower quickly since soap was essentially not available to him.  He dried off most of his body and headed out of the shower with a hand towel in his hands.  He was still drying his face and hair as he walked from the tile to the carpet of the bedroom.  He stopped instantly and looked down.

“Payback, kiddies.”  His feet needing a dedicated wash since they were now encumbered by whip cream, the general stepped back onto the tile.  ~Well, at least they protected the carpet.~

--

In the hallway, David and the others were watching his tablet, waiting for their dad to appear back into camera range.

“Guys, hold up,” the young man whispered.  “Girls, back away.”

“Why?” Chenoa asked.

“Because Dad might be naked when he walks out of the shower.”

“Oh.”

“I'll let you know when it's safe.”

“I don't want to see Dad naked,” Aislinn admitted as she turned another direction.

“I wish I hadn't,” Jennifer said.  She saw stares, ten of them, aimed directly at her.  JD was yawning and too tired to think about what was being discussed.  Nervously, Jennifer questioned, “Did I just say that out loud?”

“Yes, you did, Sis, and I want to hear all about it.”

“No, you don't.  Trust me,” Jennifer asserted with a confident smile.

“Come on, Jen,” Brianna prodded.

“I was in the wrong place at the wrong time,” Jennifer explained.  “And that's all I'm going to say.  Focus, guys.  We don't want to blow this chance to out-prank Dad.”

--

Jack considered going after the culprits, but he just couldn't be sure who was responsible and he did not want to wake the innocent.  With clean feet, he bent over and removed the carpet piece that was full of whip cream and moved it inside the bathroom to a safe location.  Then he walked into the bedroom and put on his sweat bottoms.  Operating on automatic, he took out his favorite gray sweatshirt, the one Daniel loved so much, and put it on.

Glancing briefly into the mirror, Jack's head spun back.  There was a loose thread, which didn't make sense to him.  In fact, the piece of clothing didn't feel right on him.  The material rubbed harshly against his skin and seemed tighter.  The gray sweats were almost two decades old.  Maybe they were finally on their last legs.  With regret, Jack pulled on the loose thread, hoping it was just a random stray, but when he did, the thread only became longer, and the more he pulled on it, the more the top unraveled.  Soon, there was a big hole in the front of the clothing item.

Jack was distressed.  He was attached to this gray top because Daniel was attached to it.  It had lots of good memories.  Still, he sensed something was wrong.  As he twisted his body while reviewing the top, reality sank in when he saw the tag.  The care tag on his precious gray sweatshirt fell off years ago.  This was obviously a copy.

~Those stinkers!~  Jack was certain the kids wouldn't ruin his precious top.  The real one had to be in another drawer.  That's what he would do.  Removing the fake top, he tossed it atop the dresser and then opened the other drawers until he found the authentic item  He put it on, sighing with content as he did so.  “Yeah, that's the comfort zone.”  Satisfied, he strolled over to the bed and pulled back the comforter.  He scooted onto the bed, slipping his legs between the sheets.  “Oh for crying out loud!”

--

In the hallway, the brood guffawed, though instantly covering their mouths to prevent their dad from discovering them.  They all feared their boisterousness might have drawn attention their way.  Fortunately, Jack didn't hear them.  It helped that they were around the corner from the master bedroom as they watched.

“That was my idea!” Brianna put forth happily about short-sheeting the bed.

“Way to go, Bri,” Jonny responding, exchanging a high-five with the tomboy.

--

Jack fixed the bedding, mumbling at the same time about kids and their sense of humor.

~That's one of the oldest tricks in the book.  I've done it a dozen or so times in my life.~

The father wasn't angry, but was amused and even a bit proud that his kids were doling out their own version of pranks.  It was helping him to not think about his missing soulmate, too, something he was actually grateful for.

Jack settled into bed and decided to make a dent in the western novel he wanted to read.  The book was a gift from Daniel, given to him just that morning.  Though he didn't really need them, he picked up a pair of glasses that had big black frames and removed them from its case.  He always felt older when Daniel was gone; hence, the use of the unneeded glasses.  He put the glasses on and opened the tome.  He happily read the first page of the first chapter.  He turned the page and read it and the page after it.  Then he turned to the fourth page, which looked very familiar.  In fact, so did the next page and the one after it.

“Daniel!” Jack exclaimed.  “Wisecracker!”

--

“Hey, that was my idea,” David boasted.

“You'll have to set him straight on that later,” Jennifer responded.

“Don't like messing with books,” Little Danny sighed.

“We made this book, remember?” David pointed out.

“Yeah, Little Danny,” Jenny interjected.  “No real books were harmed in our pranks.”

The boy smiled.  He loved books, though, and they were a little sacred to him, which was why he really hadn't enjoyed his dad's dictionary joke from earlier in the day, either.

“I think he's about to discover Jeff's contribution,” David told the others.

Jeff was insistent on participating, once he heard about the operation.  He informed his siblings of his preferred joke as well as a couple of backups, just in case they confronted difficulties with his first choice.  They didn't.

--

Jack tossed the fake book onto Daniel's side of the bed and took off the glasses, placing them back on the nightstand.  He decided he'd just go to sleep.  He yawned and rubbed his hands against his eyes.  As he lowered them, he saw black on the edges of his fingers.

Hastily, the father got out of bed and went to the mirror.

“Shibatwray, whatever that means,” Jack groaned upon seeing the black that was all around his eyes.  Obviously, shoe polish was applied to the rims and now outlined his eyes.  ~Another old joke,~ he groused as he went to the bathroom to wash his face.

--

“Go!” David instructed.

Responding to the command, Brianna ushered Aislinn and Jenny into their bedrooms to begin a switchover.  Jonny and JD went into the boys' room to do their part as well.

Hearing David's order, some of the others moved out in a flash.  Gently, Lulu opened the door to the master bedroom and went inside.  She placed her item in position and finished her task.  Nearby, Ricky literally crawled under the sheets to prepare his prank.  Chenoa was on her knees setting up her joke, and Little Danny waited for all of them to exit the room before he applied his unique spin on the brood payback.

Once the door was closed, the four youths hurried to make the big switch while David walked over with a step-ladder to help Jennifer with the penultimate prank. They worked fast and cautiously.  One misstep and they'd both be sorry, in more ways than one.

The brood hooked up again in the hallway, after which Jennifer and David readied themselves for the final prank of the night.

--

Returning from the bathroom, Jack again got under the sheets, only before his head could even hit the pillow, he felt something strange on his left leg.  It was odd, as if it, whatever the it was, crawled on him.  He whipped back the covers and sighed.

~Kids and rubber snakes.  Where'd they get this anyway?  *Who* got it?~

Jack tossed the snake to the floor, determined to go to sleep and put the kiddie jokes out of his mind until morning.  He settled back, his head making contact with the pillow.  It felt bizarre and his head couldn't relax.

“Oh for crying out loud,” Jack called out for the second time.  “Very funny,” he expressed again.

Jack stood up, removed the pillowy item, and searched for his own pillow, finding it just inside the closet.  It wasn't hidden so he knew whoever put it there wasn't hiding it from him and they hadn't invaded the privacy of the parental closet unit.

--

Staring at the tablet, David made a call with his phone and said just one word, “Now,” before hanging up.

--

At this point, Jack decided the kids were very much awake.  He was certain he'd used his pillow earlier when trying to read, propping it between his back and the headboard.  It was normal then.  Putting together the whip cream prank with the pillow incident made the assumption easy.  The brood was awake and active.

Jack slipped on his slippers and started to walk when he noticed his heel was sticking out.  He stumbled a bit before he removed the foot coverings and discovered mounds of Kleenex stuffed inside.  He growled like a grizzly bear before tossing the Kleenex away and putting his feet into the slippers again, this time without any odd effects.

Storming to the door, Jack placed his right hand on the knob and forcibly turned it, only he fell forward as his hand slid down involuntarily.

“Now what?”

Jack tried to open the door, but his hand kept slipping off the knob.  Finally, he used a finger to rub against the object and brought it to his nose.  He sniffed.  Then he took a brief, exploratory lick.  He followed that with another lick and then stuck his finger in his mouth and licked away the substance completely.

“Honey.”  Jack grinned as he made an internal vow.  ~April Fools me, will you, my pretties.  Just wait until next year!~

--

“Finale time,” David informed the brood.  “Covertly.”

David followed his siblings to their positions for the big ending to the brood's payback.  Taking what he knew from movies and TV shows that took place in the 1950s, the teen assisted his siblings in having the perfect stances.

“Looks good!”

Now it was a waiting game and everyone knew it wouldn't be long.  David went to a special file on the tablet.  It was a section of music from a biker-themed episode of “The Twilight Zone.”  The music was set to automatically loop until stopped.

--

Jack dried off the doorknob and opened it.  Within seconds, he was doused with a plastic pan full of water.

“You think I'm a fish?” the general asked, his eyes closed to shield them from the falling water.

Jack opened his eyes and looked like he'd just seen a ghost while at the same time, David played the music.  It was the perfect background as the kids strutted around in an aloof fashion.

“April Fools, Babe,” Daniel called out with a wink, raised eyebrows, and a sly smile.

Jack was speechless and totally bewildered at what he saw: Daniel and his twelve children all wearing leather biker outfits.  David even pretended to comb his hair in fifties' fashion.  He wondered if it was all a dream.  It couldn't possibly be happening.

As Daniel stood staring at his stunned lover, whose mouth was literally open at the surprise he was feeling, he thought back on the planning for the brood's April Fools' payback and how it came about weeks earlier.

//Flashback//
“He's gone,” Brianna reported as she peered out the rectangular window pane at the front of the house.  “Truck off and away.”

~What's that about?~ Daniel wondered from his perch on the sofa in the living room.

The archaeologist didn't have to wonder long as the brood swooped in on him in mere seconds.  Aislinn climbed on the sofa with her hands on her daddy's left forearm.  Her body was facing him.  Brianna leaned over the back of the sofa, her head looking to her left to see Daniel.

Ricky and the Curly Tops took places on the sofa, their bodies also facing Daniel and Aislinn, who was still the closest to their father.

Pushing the coffee table slightly, Jonny and Little Danny paved the way for them to stand directly in front of the archaeologist.  They also helped JD to make his way onto Daniel's lap.  Jenny stood in front of and in the middle of the Munchkin boys.

David was on the far end of the sofa, sitting lightly on the top of the sofa back, while Jennifer stood behind the moved coffee table and directly in front of Daniel.

Daniel looked around, his eyes moving from child to child.  He smiled in that way he did when he was cornered, yet optimistic.

“So, what's up?”

“Wait!” Jonny called out.  He took the headphones he had in his hands and placed over JD's ears snugly.  He listened to the volume of the music and said, “I think it's good.  Daddy, is the volume okay for JD?”

Daniel listened and said, “Yes, it should be fine.  You don't want him to hear what you're about to say?”

“Na-huh,” a group of the younger kids said.

“It's just what we're talking about is sensitive and he might be ... tempted and reveal things without meaning to because he's faced with ... um ...”

“Okay, I get it,” Daniel interrupted.  “Go on.”

“Daddy, April is just a month away,” Aislinn reminded sweetly.

“Uh, that's what the calendar says,” Daniel returned.

“We need your help,” Brianna advised.

“And more than that, Daddy, we need your support,” David added.

“Sounds serious.”

With a stern scowl, Jenny returned, “Mustard in my orange juice, an exploding cake that got speckles in my hair, and he pasted my poms together!”

“Oh, I see.”  Suddenly, Daniel realized the topic.  It was Jack and upcoming first day of April which meant pranks and more pranks, most all courtesy of his husband.  “What do you have in mind?”

There was a shared grin from the children as they could see their daddy was in favor of their plan without even hearing it.

“We call it Operation Fools On You!” Jonny stated.

Daniel chuckled and continued to listen.

“Each of us has or is in the process of thinking of a prank to do on Dad for April Fools' Day,” Jennifer began.  “We could use your brain.”

“And we need your permission, too,” Brianna informed.

“That's because we need to go into your bedroom to set things up,” Little Danny spoke.

“Okay, well, I have an idea,” Daniel offered with a thoughtful expression.  “Dad's going to prank all of us as much as he can.  That's who he is and we love him for that, right?  He keeps life interesting.”

“Speckles in my hair,” Jenny refuted, recalling that it took her three shampoos to get all the speckles out of her glaring red hair.  “But I love him.”

Daniel leaned forward, one arm around JD, and caressed Jenny's cheek while saying, “You have no idea how much Dad and I love you, Jenny, all of you.  It can't be bottled.”

“I know,” the Spitfire sighed, releasing some of her pent up ire at Jack's pranks, jokes she recalled going back to when she was two and he stuffed the straw in her sippy cup and she couldn't get her juice.  ~I was so thirsty.~

“Listen, Dad gets a little ... grumpy when I leave town.”

“That's an understatement,” Brianna chuckled.

“Megan calls him a grizzly bear sometimes,” Jennifer noted.  “It's on the office door,” she snickered.

Daniel bobbed his head up and down in understanding before continuing, “Well, let's say I went out of town with Dad thinking I was going to be gone for a day or two.”

“He'd prank us like crazy,” David suggested.

“Probably, but he will anyway, so he'll be a bear, but that's what makes this possible.  Outside, he'll be a grizzly prankster with all of you and inside, he'll be ... missing me like a grizzly bear.”

“You mean Dad will be distracted,” Little Danny interjected.

“Yes, and he'll fall back into old, predictable patterns and that's your opportunity.”

“I don't understand,” Ricky admitted, never afraid to say when he doesn't comprehend what is being said or done.

“Well, we all have habits and things we do because we've done them for so long.  They're ... comfortable.  Dad will fall back into old habits if I'm gone and he's not happy about it.  He'll become predictable and I can share with you some of the things he'll probably do as a result.”  Daniel paused at the uncertain children.  “Brood, trust me.  I know Jack O'Neill.”

“Jackson-O'Neill!” a chorus of voices rang out.

Daniel laughed and rationalized, “Sorry.  I'm utilizing brain cells from before we were married.”

“Mischevious ones?” Jonny asked with a cackle afterwards.

“Something like that,” Daniel affirmed with a grin.  “Brood, Operation Fools on You! is a go.  Let's start with the ideas you already have.”

The kids knew they had a good hour before their dad returned from his errands, so they began a thorough discussion about their ideas.  A third of the way through, they paused as Daniel felt JD had the headphones on long enough.  It was Little Danny who came up with the idea for him to go to Cassandra's house and play with her son, Tommaso, who was JD's best friend.  With JD out of the house, the plans continued.

“Daddy, will you really go out of town?” Chenoa queried.

“Well, we'll have to work on that and come up with a believable but not totally true little white lie,” Daniel answered.  “Actually, uh, that's the night of the Fleetwood Mac concert Dad and I are going to and we're planning on spending the night in Denver.”

“Caregivers?” Jennifer asked.

“Aunt Sam and Uncle Pete,” Daniel affirmed.

“So, you won't really leave town during the day?” David surmised.  Before his father could respond, he added, “And, hey, are we doing our pranks in the morning or ...”

“End of the day,” Jonny suggested.  “Or he'll have all day to get us back.  Right, Daddy?”

“I think a nighttime scenario will work the best.”

“Not if you're gone,” Brianna pointed out.

“Okay, we have time to work on it,” Daniel returned.  “Maybe we can have April Fools' Day early, or later?”

“Wouldn't be the same,” Jenny sighed dejectedly.

“Everyone keep thinking,” Jonny ordered.  “Let's review our pranks.”

Daniel was amazed at some of the ideas the children had.  He wasn't sure what he'd gotten himself into, but whatever it was, it was going to be fun, for him and the kids.

====

As the days and weeks of March passed, Daniel and the kids prepared for the big day.  Some of the pranks required preparation in advance and an infusion of cash, which was shared between Daniel and the kids' piggy banks.  There were moments when Daniel pulled aside some of the older children to make sure they understood the constraints and even the risks of one or more pranks.

Since the payback for the silver-haired man was set for the evening of April Fools' Day and would be occurring primarily in the master bedroom and bathroom, Daniel's first conversation occurred with his oldest son and was held in the privacy of the den when Jack was working at J-O Enterprises.  The topic was pranks in the bathroom and the shift from the bathroom to the bedroom.

“David, it's not that Dad is self-conscious.  He took a few showers or baths with the boys when they were learning about their bodies, but ...”

“The girls.”

“Exactly.  I know everyone is going to want to see, but the girls might get a shock they aren't prepared for yet.  I need you to make sure the boys don't egg on the girls to peek when they shouldn't.  Can I count on you to handle this?”

“Not a problem, Dad.  Um, is it okay for me to enlist Jen and Bri?”

“Absolutely.”  Daniel sighed.  “Jenny's already skittish about reproduction ...”

David's chuckle interrupted his father from continuing.

“Sorry, Daddy.  I've always wondered what Aunt Sam said to get such a reaction.”

“She swears she only went through the basics of the birds and the bees, and the other girls are fine.  Jenny just ... reacted differently.  Protect her.”

“I will, Daddy.  I promise.”

====

Later on, the archaeologist decided to speak with both Jennifer and David.  This was due to the decision to allow the children to watch some of the antics and their dad's reactions via a hidden camera.  It was basically a nanny cam, so Sam wasn't needed.  Daniel only needed to ensure it was in a well hidden spot and then the activity could be viewed over a tablet.

“Jen, David, I don't want this abused.”

“We'll keep the brood in line,” Jennifer vowed.

“If at any point, you're invading Dad's privacy, the tablet needs to be turned off immediately.  No exceptions.  No listening to phone calls or ... well ...”

“We know, Daddy.  I wouldn't want anyone watching me sometimes,” David admitted.

“This is serious,” Daniel stated as strongly as he'd ever advised the children before.  “Please do not make me regret going along with this.  I'm doing it because Dad can get over-the-top with his pranks and we've all endured them for years with limited payback.  You do know it's all in good fun, right?”

“Right,” both of the older children replied at the same time.

“Dad has reasons for enjoying himself, with the pranks and other things he can go overboard with.  He loves all of you very much.”

“Daddy, we know,” Jennifer assured softly.  “We just want a little of that payback.”

“Just remember to respect Dad's privacy like you would your own and make sure your brothers and sisters do the same.”

“We promise, Daddy,” Jennifer assured.

====

At one point, Daniel created his big addition to the operation, leather biker suits for everyone.  Jack had a fetish for his lover in motorcycle attire in leather.  He harped on it quite a bit.  Occasionally, Daniel enjoyed playing out his husband's fantasy.  Beyond the sensual fun, though, Jack loved biking.  They owned motorcycles and sometimes went for rides.  Sam joined them now and again, too.

Since his lover sometimes talked about teaching their kids to ride when they were older, Daniel figured a leather-clad brood was a good prank, especially when done with a “Twilight Zone” slant.

The week before the big day, the archaeologist actually had a great time taking the kids shopping for their unique apparel.  They created a bit of a sensation when seen by other shoppers, who thought they were all adorable in leather jackets and caps.  JD loved all the attention the kids were given, but Jonny swore him to secrecy and told him the shopping trip was a special brood secret and he couldn't say anything to anyone about it, especially their dad.  Daniel was a bit worried JD might slip up because it turned out to be such a fun outing, but JD took brood secrets seriously and he always did whatever Jonny told him to.

====

As March was coming to a close, Daniel still wasn't sure how the special day was going to go.  Jack wanted to leave in the morning for the concert and not get stuck in traffic.  Worse, the brood was upset that their April Fools' activities were apparently going to be done on a day other than April 1st.

This meant that when Daniel received the phone call from the curator, he was actually relieved.  He would accept the request to help out in Seattle and that would allow the brood to get their payback when they wanted.  Everything was set.  The only downside was there was a good chance he wouldn't be home to witness it and his own contribution to the cause.
//End of Flashback//

Still smiling, Daniel was pleased with the expression of his shell-shocked husband.

“We're the Biker Brood,” Daniel teased.  Then he broke out into laughter, walked up to his lover, and kissed him.  He motioned to the children and led them all as they shouted with glee, “April Fools, Dad!”

At that point, David turned off the music.

Jack just stared for a moment, but then he mused, “For a minute, Angel, I thought I'd slipped back to the sixties.”  The undercurrent related to drugs, but he didn't want to be that blunt with the kids present.  “Good job,” he praised, genuinely thrilled his husband and the kids did so well at pranking him.  “You didn't go out of town?”

“Sure, I did.  I wouldn't lie to you, Babe.  Look, I wasn't sure I'd be back tonight, but I was able to finish without staying overnight.  I arrived back in the Springs about eight.”

“Where have you been?”

“I had a great meal at O'Malley's and then I sneaked in and hid out in the Bird's Nest, with the girls' permission, of course,” Daniel answered about the small but cozy room dedicated to the females in the family.

“Where's your car?”

“Inside Sam's garage.”

Facing the brood, Jack asked, “Did you know Daddy was home?”

The smirks on the kids' faces was the answer.

“Did I say good job?  I meant *great* job,” Jack complimented as his arm wrapped around Daniel's waist while they stood opposite the children.  With a tiny bit of alarm, he asked, “How'd you pull off the bathroom stuff?”

“Daddy helped,” Jonny admitted.  “And I'm good at covert.”

“Yes, you are.”

“Hey, we need pictures.  I *love* your outfits!”

Smartphones came out and a variety of pictures and video were shot for the next several minutes.

“Can we have ice cream now?” Aislinn asked when the impromptu shoot was concluded.

“It's your bedtime,” Jack reminded.  “Actually, it's way after your bedtime.”

“But we always have ice cream after a celebration,” Chenoa put forth.

“Celebration?” the general queried.

“We got you, Dad!” Jenny explained adamantly.  “We pranked the prankster!”

“You're never going to forgive me for the pom poms, are you?”

“Never!” Jenny exclaimed.  “Or the speckles in my hair.”

“Sorry, Red.”

“No, you're not.”

“You're right, I'm not.”

The face-off between the general and the Spitfire was stern and intense, until Jenny roared with hilarity and leaped into her dad's arms.  They hugged tightly.

“Love you, Dad.”

“I love you, too, Jenny.  Ah, I'm still going to get you next year.”

“I know, but I'll get you, too.”

“Sweet!”

Amused and not tired at all, the Jackson-O'Neills headed downstairs for another ice cream treat.  It was a long, fun-filled day, full of jokes, laughter, and some annoyance, but it was ultimately about the family and how life remained adventurous and joyful.

Jack felt better about everything, too, when Daniel revealed he'd given their Fleetwood Mac tickets to Sam and Pete so they could get away for a rare weekend and he was able, at a price, to get concert tickets for the next week when the group was performing in Oakland, California.  The lovers could fly there in their plane, see the concert, and spend the night at a top-rated hotel before returning home the next afternoon.

With Jack now on notice that his children could and would be striking back, future April Fools' Days promised to add to the craziness that was their norm.  For the parents and their brood, every day was a day of the unexpected and that's just the way they liked it.

~~Finis - Finished - Done - The End - But is it ever Really?~~

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