Awareness
(Slice of Covidity - July 2020)

Author: Orrymain
Category: Slash, Angst, Drama, Romance, Established Relationship
Pairing: Jack/Daniel ... and it's all J/D
Rating: PG-13
Season: Beyond the Series - July 6-30, 2020
Spoilers: None
Written: March 18-22,26, April 2-3, 2021
Summary: COVID-19 is still an issue, but it has little to do with the eye-happening times facing the Jackson-O'Neills, who not only become aware of their family dynamics, but whose youngest member finally discovers the origin of his birth.
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?~
2) This fic stands alone, but it does reference my other fic(s): "Transitions," "It's Raining ... Kids?" "Unexpected Miracle," and "Dynamo"

Slice of Covidity - Awareness
by Orrymain

Life in Colorado Springs was often difficult as mid-summer of 2020 rolled around. Infections from the deadly Coronavirus were on the increase, and Colorado's governor issued a mandate requiring masks to be worn in all interior places of the state. For the Jackson-O'Neills, life centered at their home. Outings were limited to essential trips only, such as grocery shopping. Their suburban home was their world.

It was midday and Jonny was headed for his bedroom when he heard a disconcerting noise, one he hadn't heard in a long time. His heart pounded from the angst the sound caused him. Quickly, he entered JD's bedroom where the eight-year-old boy was crying.

"JD, what's wrong? Are you hurt?"

JD tried to stop his sobs, but couldn't. He answered his brother by shaking his head.

"Hey, Bro, why are you crying?"

"Not 'posed ta cry," the younger boy cried. "Dad 'n' Daddy disa...disa..."

"Come here."

Jonny didn't have a clue what was upsetting his brother, but he knew he needed to comfort him. He picked up JD and held him in his arms.

"Crying doesn't disappoint Dad and Daddy. We all cry sometimes."

"We brood; supposed to be ... be strong."

"Well, we help each other, yes, but crying doesn't mean we aren't strong. Tell me what's wrong."

"Wanna play ... outside ... with Kenny and Phil and ..."

"Oh, JD, I know," Jonny spoke softly as the boy cried into his neck. "Let's go talk to Dad and Daddy, okay?"

"They be disa..."

"No, they won't. I promise you they won't be. Besides, Dad and Daddy have a special thing. It's like magic. No matter how bad something seems, they make it feel better. Okay?"

JD nodded against his brother's neck, so the teenager headed out of the room. He remembered his parents saying something about changing out some of the books in the library, so, though he glanced into the den as he walked, his destination was the library, located in the renovated part of the home.

"Dad, Daddy," Jonny called out gently.

Daniel was putting some books into a box, while Jack was going book-by-book on one of the shelves to see what could be removed.

"JD, what's going on?" Daniel asked as he turned and immediately walked the few steps it took to reach his children.

"Daaaadddyyyyyy," JD cried as he reached out for Daniel, who quickly took him into his hold.

"He's lonely," Jonny explained. "He's want to go outside and play."

"I wish you could," Daniel said, sitting down and securing his young son in his lap.

Jack walked over and sat down adjacent to his husband. Automatically, he reached out with his right hand to caress JD's thigh.

"We've talked about COVID and how dangerous it is. We don't want you to get sick."

"Miss my friends; miss being outside," JD sniffled.

"I know. We haven't gone out much in months," Daniel sighed.

"But we play outside in the backyard a lot," Jack reminded. "Don't we have fun?"

"Not same."

Jonny quietly said, "Dad ..." and motioned towards the door, asking permission to leave the discussion.

"Go ahead," Jack replied while he and Daniel attempted to soothe their upset son.

====

Downstairs, Jonny entered the recreation room where a few of his siblings were. He could hear others in the game room.

"Guys," the Munchkin called out to the brood in the rec room, nodding for them to follow him. Once he entered the game room, he spoke, "We have a problem."

The seriousness of Jonny's tone prompted Ricky to immediately stop his arcade game playing, even though it meant losing. David and Jenny ceased their air hockey competition as well. Whatever the activity, it stopped and all eyes focused on the unofficial leader of the brood.

"JD's upset. I just found him crying. I don't think I've heard him cry since he was a baby with dirty diapers."

"Why?" Jenny questioned.

"He's lonely."

"Lonely?" David queried. "With all of us around."

"Wait, David," Aislinn interjected. "Jonny's been lonely, too, remember?"

"I forgot. I'm sorry, Bro," David apologized.

"It's okay."

"Seriously, for Jonny to admit he was lonely to Dad and Daddy took a lot of courage," Aislinn put forth, "and when he told all of us, which he didn't have to do, that took even more courage."

"I believe that," Ricky stated. "But it still sounds funny."

Jonny smiled and said, "It's hard to explain, but it's different, all of us, and the outside world."

"Ricky, don't you miss your friends?" Aislinn asked. "As much as you like playing with us, aren't there times you really want to go to Barry's house or spend time at the park with Carlos?"

Ricky sighed, "Lots of times. We have fun, but Jonny's right. It's different, but I don't know how to explain it, either."

"Actually, that's why I'm glad most of the zoo is in pairs," Little Danny interjected. "I've always believed a dog needs another dog, a cat another cat, a pony another pony, and so on so forth." He sighed, "Animals need human contact and love, but there's something about having a companion of their own species that makes them happy."

"So, you're saying, animals or humans all need people, but they need people outside of their family as much as they need their family," Lulu surmised.

"I think he's right. Look, we all miss our friends. We're all going a little stir crazy not being able to go shopping or to a restaurant. We all want to hang out with others, and that fact doesn't the least bit change that we love one another and enjoy the time we have. We just all need time away, too," Aislinn asserted.

"There's ... something else," Brianna mentioned somewhat hesitantly. "Listen, I don't want anyone to wig out or misunderstand what I'm about to say, but I think it's more important to JD for you guys to hear me."

"What is it, Bri?" Lulu asked.

"See, sometimes when we're together, playing or whatever, we aren't really together."

"Now that's confusing," Jonny admitted.

"Not really. Munchkins and Spitfires, you guys are like magnets. Sooner or later, your groups of two or three find each other. You group together. You don't mean to; I mean, it's not intentional really, but it happens. Then there are the Mouseketeers. A lot of times, David, you, Noa, and Jen end up huddled together during our leisure times. Then we have the Mavericks, my little group. Think about it. Lulu also bonded with Noa."

"The Curly Tops," Little Danny whispered.

"Right, and Jeff, being the oldest male child and just a year from Jen, well, he and Jen developed another type of bond, the being in charge thing. It's all natural. No one intends to exclude anyone."

"Oh my gosh, Bri," Jenny sighed in reflection. "Do you feel left out?"

"Well, sometimes, and when I was younger, especially the first couple of years here, it hurt, but the older I got, the more I understood why it happened and how it had nothing to do with me, but just the ties between twins and triplets, natural siblings, and other ways connections are made. Do you guys understand what I'm saying?"

"I think so," Aislinn answered.

"Well, I think JD feels that way sometimes, too. I've seen him. We go outside; maybe we play tag or something, and then these groups start huddling together, but JD doesn't have a group. He's just JD, and he's younger than all of us. We love to play with him, but it is *so* not the same as having one of his little friends around."

"We're sorry, Bri," Aislinn said from her heart as she crossed the room to hug her big sister.

"Nothing to be sorry about, and like I said, it's okay. I understand it now, so it doesn't hurt anymore."

"Okay, so we know it's okay to be lonely," Little Danny stated. "We also know that being surrounded by people, like we are with family, doesn't mean you aren't lonely for friends or the freedom to be in the front yard instead of the backyard. Knowing this, we can understand why JD is having a hard time."

"But how do we fix it? We can't let him stay unhappy," Jonny sighed. He looked around and saw a lot of uncertain faces. "Okay, this is something we don't have an answer to instantly, but here's what I want everyone to do. Take ten minutes everyday and try to think of ways we can help JD feel better. We can't break the rules of the pandemic, but there have to things we can do to make him feel a little better for some of the time."

The brood went back to their activities, but all silently were already trying to think outside the box. They agreed with Jonny. JD crying and being that unhappy was something that could not continue.

Jenny was no exception, the words of the impromptu brood meeting resounding deeply within her soul. She actually felt pain as she thought about Brianna's unintentional exclusion, something that was apparently happening to JD as well. Life was difficult and right now, it was slightly on the sorrowful side as well.

====

"Hey, I have an idea," Jack said to his upset son. "It's not perfect, but I think we can have a real good time."

"Doing what?"

"Seeing dinosaurs!"

"Huh?"

"The dinosaurs are coming to town this month. Big, ferocious things. We can go in the car and drive all among them."

"Drive?" JD asked, his head cocked in confusion.

"You're going to love it, being up close and personal with these giant monsters," Jack claimed, his voice luring in the youngster. "You, Daddy, and I will go."

"What about Little Danny and Jenny and David and ..."

"Okay, we'll all go."

JD wasn't crying anymore as he now was thinking about the dinosaurs. He really didn't understand what his dad was talking about, but he was totally hooked by his words.

"Can I email Tommaso and tell him about the dinosaurs?"

"Of course, you can."

Grinning, JD ran out of the room, headed back to his bedroom where his basic computer allowed him to send a message to his best friend, Tommaso Luca, the oldest child of Cassandra and Dominic Luca.

As Jonny promised JD, their parents somehow found a way to make the boy feel a little bit better.

====

A few days later, Aislinn's eyes brightened as an idea hit here. She went to the phone and called Kenny's mother.

"Mrs. Green, hi. This is Aislinn Jackson-O'Neill, JD's sister. Well, one of them anyway. How are you today?"

"I'm fine. Why are you calling, Ash?"

"Mrs. Green, my little brother is miserable. He misses his friends and playing with them."

"Kenny is the same, but we can't risk him getting sick or transmitting this dreaded thing to anyone else."

"Mrs. Green, you know they say kids have a really low chance of getting COVID, and while they say they can transmit the virus, they don't really see it happening much. Mrs. Green, my family's pretty much stayed at home since March. Have you gone out much?"

"I've discovered the fine art of online shopping. No, I've become a homebody."

"So, in that case, the odds of JD or Kenny getting sick or being a carrier is highly remote."

"What's your point?"

"Ten minutes of normalcy for JD and Kenny," Aislinn said. "I was wondering if I could bring JD to your house, or you could bring Kenny here; whichever you want, and you could watch from your porch and me from the sidewalk, and for ten minutes, or maybe fifteen, the boys could play, however they want. Can you imagine what that ten minutes could mean to them?"

"I don't know, Ash," the woman sighed.

"Ten minutes, Mrs. Green. You're probably disinfecting Kenny's toys all the time, right?"

"Of course, I am."

"Well, the scientists don't really think COVID is being transmitted by objects anymore. Now, they know it's all airborne from saliva, I guess. If you're way over on the porch, and I'm way back on the sidewalk, and little kids aren't really at risk much, and if you've cleaned Kenny's toys as a precaution, can't we give them a few minutes together?"

The single mother looked over at her eight-year-old and smiled as her heart went out to his loneliness.

"Alright, Ash. How's eleven tomorrow morning?"

"I'll be there. Thank you, Mrs. Green."

Aislinn hung up the phone and then went to find her parents. She was hopeful they would agree to the play date, but she wasn't certain. Fortunately, they agreed the risk was minimal and simply insisted only the two boys be allowed to play together during the session.

Excited, the Munchkin told her little brother about the opportunity to play with Kenny again. It was all JD talked about that day and the next morning.

In the end, the children played together for twenty minutes as neither Aislinn nor Mrs. Green had the heart to separate them. Oddly, though, they noticed the boys did a bit of their own social distancing, staying about four feet apart from each other except for a hello hug.

The brood was thrilled to see their brother smiling and happy. Individually, they continued to think of ways to keep it that way.

====

A few days later, Jonny was on his smartphone, chatting with his good friend, Jerry Portman. He wandered into the music room and sat down at his drum set. Seeing this, Jerry perked up.

"Let's jam."

"What?"

Jerry picked up his electric guitar and plugged it in. He began playing and Jonny began drumming. The more in sync the two sounds became, the more enjoyable it was.

"This is fun, Jerry."

"Yeah, I do it all the time on Zoom and stuff."

"Wow."

The two kept playing until Jonny ceased playing and said, "Jerry, I have to go. I'll call you back later."

Purposefully, the eldest of the triplets sought out his parents, finding them outside, relaxing on the gazebo.

"Dad, Daddy, I have an idea. It's about JD."

"We're all ears," Jack responded.

"I was just drumming while Jerry was picking on his guitar, over Zoom."

"What did we do before Zoom?" Jack asked rhetorically.

"It was really fun, and that got me thinking about JD."

"And?" Daniel prodded.

"Well, Tommaso is his best friend, and they get to talk a lot, five minutes here, two quickie minutes there, but they've never actually had a Zoom play date, have they?"

"A Zoom ... play date," Daniel repeated slowly. He stared at Jack who was seated across from him. "That's a good idea."

"Yeah. Why can't we arrange a time with Aunt Cassie and let JD be in his room, and Tommaso can be in his room, and they can play or talk or whatever, without an adult hovering over them. I bet they'd love it."

Jack checked his watch and mumbled, "Italy is seven hours ahead. Danny, let's give Cass a call."

"You know what would be even fun for JD?" Jonny began. "For a kid, getting to stay up late or, even better, being able to get up for something special is a real kick. Think how special it would be if JD were able to get up early, just for this?"

"So, we shouldn't arrange a logical time, like ten in the morning here and five in the evening there?" Daniel replied.

"No," Jonny returned promptly. "Make it eleven in Italy, and 4 a.m. here. He'd have to go to bed a little earlier, or maybe not. It would be a really awesome special event for JD."

"Jonny has a good point, Jack."

"Let's see what Cass says," Jack responded as he stood up and followed Daniel away from the gazebo. As he did so, he patted Jonny on the back and praised, "Good thinking, Sport."

====

The parents chitchatted with Cassandra Luca via video chat for several minutes before they got down to the intent of the phone call.

"That's a great idea. Tell Jonny he's awesome for thinking about it." The redheaded female laughed, "Gee, I remember a few times when Mom let me stay up late or get up for something happening in the middle of the night. I felt so special when that happened, and it was a real kick."

The three scheduled an appropriate time.

The play date was, naturally, a huge success. The parents left their children alone to visit, each one in their own bedrooms. They pulled out Legos and built things simultaneously. They even played a few rounds of Tic-Tac-Toe using a piece of cardboard and a pencil that Tommaso had in his room. They talked about the things eight-year-old boys love to discuss. All in all, it was the closest either of them felt to being like a friend since COVID, except, of course, for JD's previous play date with Kenny Green.

As a result, the parents arranged another play date and discussed the possibility of making it a weekly thing, only at more appropriate times for JD.

====

It was a typical Saturday evening in July with the temperature still in the eighties and no wind at all. The entire family was outside. Even Jennifer and Jeff were there at the moment, visiting with their parents and siblings. The evening began with a game of hide-and-seek and then switched to kick the can. After that, everyone just talked and messed around a little.

Brianna watched as the inevitable happened. While her parents chatted on the patio decks, the Munchkins were having a conversation by the gazebo, the Spitfires were playing with Katie in her play yard, and the Mouseketeers were talking near the pod. Soon, Jeff approached Jennifer and they began talking. About the same time, Chenoa walked over to Lulu and the Curly Tops began discussing dance routines. That left Brianna, sitting alone on the middle swing. As the young woman looked out, she saw JD was in the same boat. She saw him scanning the others and then looking down. She sensed his sadness.

"JD, come here," Brianna called out. She extended her hands so she could embrace the boy as she talked. She actually turned him around so that he could see the rest of the family. "Feeling lonely? Me, too."

"Huh?"

"They don't mean to exclude you, JD, or me. They love us. We're part of the brood. There's no question about that."

JD turned around and asked, "Then why are they all out there and we're here?"

"Well, it's a little complicated, but I'll try to explain it."

--

"Jack ..." Daniel nodded over towards Brianna and JD. Instinctively, he rose and began a slow walk towards the swings. **I think we need to hear whatever she's telling JD.**

**Agreed,** Jack acknowledged as he, too, headed that way.

--

"See, when Dad and Daddy got married, they wanted children."

"They found Mommy."

"Yes, they did, and instead of giving them one baby, she gave them three, which was a really big surprise, but, JD, triplets have this thing. It's a great big bond. They're drawn to each other, like a magnet to a paperclip."

"Wow."

--

"Guys, something going on," Jonny told his fellow triplets. "Ricky, Jenny."

All five children walked closer to hear the discussion.

--

"Jeff, do you know what's going on?"

"No, but I think we should find out."

--

"Where's everyone going?" Chenoa asked Lulu.

"Over there, to the swing set. Let's go.

--

"It's a very powerful magnet and it's not something they can resist very much. It's in their DNA."

"The stuff that makes us us?" JD asked.

"Yep. See, their DNA is a lot alike because they are triplets. It's the same for the twins. Ricky and Jenny finish each other's sentences. They sense how the other feels. In fact, scientists have conducted tons of studies about twins. Did you know a lot of twins even know when the other one is sick or gets hurt?"

"Like when my heart sinks to my knees?"

"I guess it's like that, but I'm just me, so I can't say for sure. I just know it exists. Okay, so after Dad and Daddy had the triplets and the twins, they decided they wanted more children to love."

"The Mouseketeers."

"You're right, but they weren't the Mouseketeers originally."

"They weren't?" the surprised youngster asked.

"No. See Mister and Mrs. Morgan decided to have a child, Jen, and for a long time, she was an only child. Then David came along and he and Jen were like any brother and sister in the world. Then ..."

"Noooooa!"

Brianna laughed as she held the boy's hands in hers and affirmed, "Exactly. They were a nice, typical, normal, average family in America, but then something really sad happened."

"Their parents died when a big truck broke in New York City and a bunch of cars crashed."

"Yeah, and because they didn't have any other family, they had to go to Mrs. O'Hanlon's children's home. Jen was really scared that the state would separate them."

"But they're family."

"I know, but kids need a home with parents and not all parents want to adopt three children at a time. Noa was really popular. Everyone wanted to adopt her, but Jen was almost a teenager, and most families wants babies. She was facing living in foster care or at children's home until she was eighteen."

"What about David?"

"David," Brianna sighed, so concentrated on what she was communicating that she was oblivious to the fact that her family was now close enough to hear every spoken word. "He was very smart and kinda nerdy. He had attitude, from what I understand. I'm not sure he would be adopted, either. I think maybe he was really scared, probably more than he admitted to." She paused just for a moment and then continued. "The thing is, that's when Jen, David, and Noa became the three Mouseketeers. They were one for all and all for one. Jen was determined to keep them together, so their sibling bond became even tighter. So, just like it's natural for the Munchkins and the Spitfires to join up, it's the same for the Mouseketeers."

"What about you?"

"Well, I was part of the Mavericks, but we're different because we didn't know each until we got here. I had my own attitude. My parents were dead. I never thought I'd have a real home. You know, Jen and I didn't even get along at first."

"You didn't?"

"No, I was pretty antagonistic towards her. Um, that means hostile or angry. I even ran away once."

"Why, Bri?"

"I didn't feel like I fit in. There was this one little problem, though, with running away. You see, Little Danny ran away with me."

JD laughed.

"It wasn't very funny at the time. I wanted out and away from here, but he wouldn't go home. He was just a little guy then, younger than you. I couldn't let him stay out on the streets. I just couldn't, so we went home. Jen and I talked, and, well, here we are. Back to the Mavericks. Jeff, he had a home. You know his mom died when he was a baby."

"Like my mommy."

Brianna nodded and continued, "His dad was a good dad, and our dad knew him; worked with him a little, I think. Jeff's dad died in action, and Grandpa asked Dad and Daddy to adopt him. That was at the same time they were thinking about adopting me. While that was going on, the Munchkins brought Lulu home, and let's face it, Jeff and I didn't have a prayer for the adoption slot against adorable Lulu, except Dad and Daddy aren't like other people and ... <Brianna dried a tear that crept out without warning> ... they loved all three of us, so they adopted all three of us at the same time. Yes, I guess we have a little bond, but it's not like the others. Like I said, it makes perfect sense for Lulu and Noa to connect because of their ages and love of dance, and it made perfect sense for Jen and Jeff to drift together because of their ages and being the leaders, no offense to our little general."

JD actually laughed at the reference to Jonny, but then he stopped and asked, "Do you get lonely like me?"

"Sometimes, and it used to hurt ... a lot, but when I got older, I understood why the groups are what they are." Brianna leaned down closer to her brother. "JD, we all love each other. We are the brood, united and capable of surviving anything because we have one another, but you can't be hurt by something as natural as one twin needing to be with another, and on it goes like I've said."

"I know what," JD offered brightly. "We can be our own group."

Chuckling, Brianna nodded and replied, "Sure, we can. We need a name, though. What's a group without a name?"

"We can be The Things. You're Thing One and I'm Thing Two," JD suggested.

The tomboy laughed loudly and responded, "'The Cat in the Hat', right?"

"Yeah."

"Okay, Thing Two, we're The Things, and being The Things, we acknowledge the natural occurrence of triplets to be with triplets, of twins to be with twins, and of children born to the same birth parents to be drawn together; and we affirm the natural transition of Maverick to Curly Top and Maverick to, well, best friend, perhaps. Do you agree?"

"I agree," the boy affirmed emphatically.

"That means as The Things, we don't feel hurt when we *accidentally* are left on the outside by people we know love us, but are just doing what their DNA and/or natural behavior says they should do. Do you understand?"

"I love you, Bri," JD declared as he moved closer for a welcome hug.

"I love you, too." It was then that Brianna came out of her extreme focus on JD and realized her family was gathered around her. "It's the power of two," she said. "People need people, just like the song says. No person, or animal, should be alone."

"We agree," Daniel replied.

"JD, let's play soccer," Jonny called out enthusiastically, smiling when the boy followed. "Can you get the ball? It's on the deck." The Munchkin looked back and saw Brianna still sitting on the swing. "Bri, come on. We need you."

"We want you," Little Danny corrected.

"On my way."

Brianna stood up, smiled at her parents, and then joined her brothers and sisters for a delightful game of soccer.

Jenny lagged behind slightly, though. She looked over at Peanut Brittle, her Galápagos tortoise, and studied her carefully. Then she heard her name so she sprinted away to join in the family fun.

====

The next day, Jenny went online and conducted hours of research, reading article after article and reviewing expert opinions. The result was mixed, but she couldn't resist fighting for what her heart told her was right thing to do.

It took her a couple of hours, but she pieced together various portions of the opinions she'd read, documenting each one. It was an honest review of two opposing sides. Her love and talent for debate assisted her in this thorough and fair presentation.

The redhead wrote just one thing at the bottom of her presentation: "My heart says two are better than one."

Her work finished, Jenny sent her document to her parents at their individual email addresses, after which she headed to the game room to engage whoever was willing in a game of air hockey.

====

Jack was in the middle of replying to a message from Alex Dennison about the renovation of the J-O Enterprises building in Virginia when he noticed he had new mail. Focused, however, on his present task, he finished it before switching over to read his new email. He noted the sender was Jenny and the subject was, "It Takes Two."

Curious, Jack read the entire email and noted the carbon copy sent to his husband.

**Danny, whatcha' doin?**

**I'm teaching guitar to Lulu in the music room. Why?**

**When you get a chance, check your email. You'll find a little surprise there from Red. You'll want to read it sooner rather than later.**

**Are we in trouble?**

**Double trouble,** Jack sighed.

====

"You're doing great. Don't rush it," Daniel advised his daughter in the music room. "What I'd like you to do until our next lesson is practice these chords like we discussed."

"The caged ones?"

"Right: C, A, Am, G, E, Em, and D. Learn those and there are a lot of three- and four-chord songs you'll be able to play."

"Okay, Daddy."

With the music lesson completed, Daniel went to his den and turned on his computer. He immediately went to email and found the communication from Jenny.

~Oops. Jack was right: double trouble.~

====

As Lulu and Chenoa prepared dinner, Jack and Daniel walked outside to the pen that was the home to Peanut Brittle, the now forty-one-year old Galápagos tortoise Jenny won in a contest when a petting zoo closed and had to find homes for its residents.

"A lot of the experts say one is done," Jack stated.

"Yes, that they are solitary creatures, even when they're young," Daniel agreed.

"Peanut Brittle's done just fine on her own."

"We have two of just about everything else, though," Daniel pointed out. "It almost seems unfair to keep her alone."

"But she's happy that way."

"How do you know?"

"Daniel, why on earth would we get another one of these giants, who I remind you, will outlive us both?"

"Because some of the experts say that having a pair is good, and more importantly, our daughter thinks it's the right thing to do."

"Speaking of our daughter, why hasn't she talked to us in person?"

"Because she knows how you'll respond and she did her talking in the email," Daniel replied. "Do you realize how long it must have taken her to piece together that email?"

"It was an excellent presentation," Jack admitted. "We'll give her 'A' for extra credit in her homework."

"That's not why she did it," Daniel groaned. "Jack, she hasn't come to us directly because she knows she doesn't need to. Even with the experts not being a hundred-percent on this, she trusts us to do the right thing."

"It takes two."

"Apparently."

"Danny, you tell me. Where are we going to find another forty-year-old female Galápagos tortoise? They don't just hand those out for free and they aren't exactly in the free domain."

"Well, we know people, who probably know people, who also know people. Someone will know someone with the tortoise we need."

Jack rolled his eyes and turned around. He stared at Jenny as she played with the beagles near the tree house, but said nothing as he walked by.

Daniel, however, gave the Spitfire a loving smile and whispered, "Don't worry. He's just being himself."

====

In the days that followed, JD enjoyed the drive-through dinosaur exhibit that blew his mind and made the entire family happy. In addition, Jack and Daniel reached out to multiple contacts, asking everyone if they knew about any Galápagos tortoises that might be available. It was a phone call to Abayomi Sharif, the best and first client of J-O Enterprises, that turned out to be the key to their efforts. The wealthy Egyptian had contacts all over the world, and he had a special affinity for Jack, Daniel, and their children.

Abayomi called his primary assistant, Yazid Awad, and ordered him to find the appropriate tortoise for the Jackson-O'Neills. It was to be his primary task for as long as it took. Thus, all manner of animal spots, from public zoos, petting zoos, and various animal sanctuaries, inside and outside of the United States, were sent inquiries.

Faster than anticipated, Yazid located a thirty-eight-year old female Galápagos tortoise at a zoo in San Cristobal. In need of an infusion of cash, a deal was made, subject to an examination by an American vet.

"Jack, I have great news," Yazid told the general over the phone.

"I could use some good news. What is it?"

"We've found you a tortoise."

Unaware Yazid even knew about the quest, Jack replied dryly, "Sweet!"

====

Thanks to expedited handling, a benefit of Abayomi's international influence, the Galápagos tortoise was quickly inbound to the United States. A vet recommended by Pam Lawrence was hired to examine the new zoo member upon arrival in America. Assuming that went well, the tortoise would be transported to Colorado Springs. Any and all permits and documents were quickly finalized.

As a result of the speedy find and related activities, the Jackson-O'Neills set out to upgrade the tortoise pen. Midmorning on Saturday, the lovers walked outside and stood near the pen.

"How are we going to do this?" Jack put forth, more to himself than his lover.

"Jack, we don't need the swing set anymore. Except for JD, the only action it sees are one or two of the children swinging while contemplating whatever it is they're contemplating. We can get a much smaller swing, maybe with just two swings, and without the slide and extras."

"What about JD?"

"What about him? I know he's the youngest, but he doesn't use the set any more than the older children."

"What about the garden?"

"Well, this was Jen's creation, but she has her own garden now at her house. She maintains this because she knows it's only here because of her. Besides, we only need to cut it in half."

Jack was swayed to the only possible decision. The swing set and garden would both be downsized, and the tortoise pen would be extended, going over two-thirds of the grounds where the swing set and garden were. The logic was that two tortoises needed twice the space.

"Let's go shopping," Jack suggested.

The couple agreed upon purchasing a new bigger main enclosure as well as additional hiding places for the tortoises to use which would give the two creatures plenty of choices to be apart or be together.

====

Late in the afternoon, with all of the pen additions and other supplies purchased, the couple began to take down the swing set.

"Sure hate to just toss this," Jack opined.

"It's not new."

"It's children-tested, tried and true," the general insisted.

"We don't have any place to store it, Babe, and you know donation places aren't operating right now."

"Yep. I guess it's doomed."

"I have an idea," Aislinn stated as she watched her parents go about their task. "Darcy Kenyon. I bet she'd love this, and you know her dad can't afford it."

"Give him a call, but he needs to get it now."

Aislinn did as instructed and soon returned, saying, "Mister Kenyon is on his way over. He really wants it for Darcy, but he won't take it for free. I suggested he help you with the pen as payment."

"Ash, that's brilliant," Jack praised. ~She's really learning how to make a plan come together.~

====

Four days before the end of the month, Peanut Brittle and her new friend, Jelly, were best friends. Their personalities seemed to match and they liked spending time together; yet, both often chose to hide out in their alone places. Jenny was thrilled, and that made her parents believe the expense and effort of getting the new tortoise was worth it completely.

Since Jennifer had her own garden for growing fruits, vegetables, and flowers, the smaller garden at her parents' home was now dedicated to a few plants and more flowers.

A much smaller swing set that had just two swings was further down the yard but still by the garden. The kids were fine with the change. It gave one or a pair of them a place to think or chat, which is all they really wanted at their ages.

Everything seemed to be in place; that is, until Jeff's wife, Chely, dropped by one morning.

"I made my first Bourekas today, but I don't think they're very good," the young wife opined about the Jewish pastry that originated in the eastern Mediterranean.

"Now why would you say that?" Jack refuted. "You're a good cook."

"But I'm not very good at cooking Jewish food, Dad, not yet, anyway."

"We'll risk it," Daniel mused as he took the plate from her.

"Chely, wanna see my picture?" JD asked as he ran towards the woman.

"Sure," Chely agreed as she bent over forwards to see the paper being held up for her to view. "Oh, that's your Mommy, isn't it?"

"She's beautiful," JD opined.

"Yes, she is. She was very lucky to have a little boy like you with so much talent."

JD giggled and ran back towards the projects room.

Chely straightened and heard herself say, "There it is again."

"What?" Jack asked innocently.

"That look. Anytime there's a conversation that talks about JD and his mother, you two get that look." Chely bowed her head and shook it. "I'm so sorry. I promised Jeff I'd never mention it to either of you. It's just ..."

"Say what you need to say, Chely," Jack spoke calmly.

"I don't believe Kayla Armentrout is that boy's mother. I think you're keeping something from him." Chely was guilt-ridden at her words, but she couldn't stop herself. "A while back, I was talking to Janet. She started talking about Kayla and silly things from her growing up, but then she said something I haven't been able to get out of my mind."

"What was that?" Daniel asked in a near whisper.

"She told me that Kayla never intended to become a mother. She had no interest in bringing children into this world, but you changed her mind. No, that isn't right," Chely sighed. "Um, in speaking with you, Kayla realized that part of being a woman was giving birth, and she decided she wanted to experience that."

"That's about right," Daniel responded. "She did love her children."

"I don't doubt that at all."

"But?" Jack prodded.

"But ..."

Chely let out a groan and put her hand into her head.

"Chely, let's get whatever this is out into the open," Jack told his daughter-in-law.

"I understand how and why there might be sperm left from both of you, but why would Kayla, who didn't want to have children in the first place, leave her eggs in storage? Even if she did, you two made her family from everything I've seen and been told. Who gave birth to JD? Where is the stranger without a name and face that no one in your circle ever gives any indication even existed? I can't make sense of it, but I don't think Kayla is JD's mom. You're letting him live a lie, and I don't understand why." Chely broke out into tears and exclaimed, "Jeff's going to kill me, and I never wanted to hurt you. I'm sooooo sorry."

The young woman left the home, leaving Jack and Daniel to their own thoughts as the archaeologist simply turned and took the plate of pastries into the kitchen. For hours, the two men remained silent and then Jack approached his lover as he stood in the cold on the roof deck.

"Danny?"

"If Chely's figured it out, maybe someone else has, too."

"It wasn't supposed to be a big secret, not to the family."

"But it is, Jack," Daniel replied sharply. "The brood knows the truth, but JD doesn't, and he needs to know."

"It's not like we weren't ever going to tell him."

"No, but we've fallen into the trap."

"What trap?" Jack asked.

"The 'we'll tell him when it's the right time' trap. When is the right time? Babe, there's never a right time, and we've let ourselves go through the years thinking we'll tell him next year. He'll be older next year."

"Daniel, the kid's only nine."

"We should have told him when he was five or six," Daniel claimed. "Jack, he knows about the Stargate. He's been to other planets. He's flown in Thor's ship. Thor's his freakin' uncle and he's named after him, too. What has stopped us from telling him that alien technology brought him into this world?"

"Chicken, I guess."

"Yes. I'm not sure of what. Maybe it's because we feel like we're taking something from him."

"His mother," Jack sighed in a startled realization.

"Well, the gig is up, Jack, and we have to tell him the truth. He's old enough, and he has right to know the truth of his parentage."

"How do we tell him?"

"I have no idea," Daniel said, suddenly leaning to his husband for support and tenderness that he desperately needed.

"We'll figure it out, Angel," Jack promised as his arms engulfed his lover in his safety. "We always do."

====

The next morning, the brood was scattered with some of them playing outside and the others spread out among the projects room and the game room. Jack and Daniel were seated on the sofa, their bodies facing each other's as they pondered their current dilemma.

Jeff entered the house and walked slowly towards his parents, stopping to stand in front of the coffee table that was between him and the two men.

"How is she?" Daniel asked in earnest.

"She feels horrible, and she's miserable," Jeff admitted. "I've never told her anything except that Kayla is JD's mom. She's always thought something was off about it, and after she had that conversation with Aunt Janet ..." he shrugged. "She really feels bad. She loves you both."

"We love her," Daniel insisted.

"She spoke her mind, Jeff, and there's nothing wrong about that," Jack quickly put forth.

"It's none of my business, but don't you think it's time to tell JD how he was born?"

"We do," Daniel agreed softly.

"We just don't know how," Jack lamented.

Jeff sat on his haunches and stated, "You know, I've been thinking about it. Why don't you take him to that planet, to meet those people who helped him be born? He could see a womis. Somebody must be pregnant there."

The parents looked at each other, both wondering if that was the answer.

"Think about it. He meets the people, he sees the womis and learns how it works, and then you bring home and tell him everything."

"Don't you think losing Kayla as his mother could be harmful?" Daniel inquired.

"Daddy, are you looking for an excuse not to tell him because it doesn't matter if he's nine or ninety, he's going to mourn that loss. There's nothing you can do about that now, unless you want to keep going on with ... the story."

"Gawd, he's right, Jack." The older man stood up and said, "Son, tell your wife the truth."

"What?"

"Tell her about JD, the womis, the Stargate: tell he whatever you think she's need to know."

"She's not cleared."

"She is with us," Daniel avouched.

"I have to make a phone call," the retired general announced.

--

"Carter, I have no right to ask, but I need a favor, one of those now type things."

"I'm listening, Sir."

====

The next day, a stunned and somewhat disbelieving Chely walked alongside her husband to the Jackson-O'Neill SUV where the parents and their youngest son were already strapped in and ready to go. Their baby was taken to Chely's parents' home earlier under the guise of Jeff and Chely spending a romantic evening together before the birth of their second child.

"This is a joke, right?" Chely asked as she fastened her seat belt.

"Chely, you're about to go on a big ride inside a big Ferris wheel," Jack stated as he backed out of the driveway.

"What about my baby?" the concerned woman asked about the child she was carrying.

"Oh, lots of pregnant woman have gone through the Gate. It's a piece of cake," Jack answered.

"Chel, I'd never put you in danger. It's safe," Jeff assured as he reached out and took his wife's hand.

"Okay. JD, aren't you scared?"

"Na-huh. It's fun. It looks like water and you just go swimming in it," the youth explained, which didn't assure Chely at all.

====

From the backseat of the modified 2007 Escalade, Chely watched as Jack simply nodded at the guard standing by the security gate. She looked all around when the vehicle entered the long tunnel entrance to the parking area. As if by rote, she held on to her husband and followed his lead. She was surprised at the checkpoints where eye scans and palm prints were used to fully identify Jack, Daniel, Jeff, and even JD. Chely was scared to death as let the security personnel add her retina detail and palm prints into the extensive database.

"Has she been fully cleared, General?" the lieutenant asked he added notations to the new entry.

"No, but she's my daughter-in-law," Jack advised as if that was the clearance Chely needed.

Chely felt like a child being forced to go the dentist. She'd agreed to the excursion, but she was sure her husband was pulling her leg. Now deep within Cheyenne Mountain, she was admittedly frightened and uncertain. When she entered the gate room and saw the Stargate, she stopped dead in her tracks.

"Is that the Stargate?"

"Yep," Jack called out. "Carter," he greeted warmly.

Sam was outfitted in the usual green BDUs and armed with the assault weapon of the day.

"I haven't see you like this in years," Daniel said with a smile.

"I'll admit it feels a little strange," Sam agreed. "Sir, the Phelpians are excited to have you return for a visit. Filip and Harad are especially eager to meet JD."

"They want to meet me?" JD asked eagerly. "Jeff, I must be famous."

"No doubt about it, Bro," the big brother responded.

"I explained about Chely being pregnant and that a long walk or horse ride wouldn't be advisable for her, so Filip promised to have an airbus waiting."

"Good to know," Jack responded. He looked up into the control room and ordered, "Walter, hit it!" He looked at Chely with a smile and advised, "Stand back another foot and enjoy the show."

"If you say so, Dad."

"Chevron one engaged," Walter announced over the tannoy, more for Chely's benefit than anyone else's. He called out the other chevrons until finally, he said, "Chevron seven locked."

"Oh my ... bejesus!" Chely's exclaimed at the thunderous expansion of the event horizon. "What was that?"

"Short answer, Carter," Jack requested.

"We call it a wormhole. Think of it like a tunnel, connecting this room with another planet."

"Easy for you to say," Chely responded. "We're really going to walk through that?"

"Dad, Daddy, and Aunt Sam have done it hundreds or maybe even thousands of times, Chely. So has Grandpa and Aunt Janet."

With widened eyes, the young wife asked, "They're part of this, too?"

"The Doc kept us alive more than once," Jack put forward, "and Hammond ran this show from its start until 2013, when we all retired."

"Sam?" Chely questioned.

"After the general and Daniel retired, I hung around. So did Teal'c, but then I married Pete and we have our four nutkins and I've cut back. I haven't been through the Gate in a long time, until yesterday when the general asked me to contact the Phelpians in anticipation of this visit. Usually, I just consult, help with IT issues, and, um, well, just try to make the programs better."

"Wow."

"Let's move out," Jack said, picking up JD for the ride beyond the event horizon.

"Come on, Chely. You'll love it," JD urged enthusiastically.

"I'm coming," the mother-to-be sighed. "You're sure this is safe," she said to her husband.

"I'm sure, but if you don't want to go ..."

"No, I want to go. This sure explains a lot about your family and some of the things you've talked about growing up."

Jeff nodded and put his arm around Chely, slowly leading her up the ramp and through the Stargate.

====

"Oh, wow."

Jack told the young wife, "You should have been here the first few times we used this thing: Frosty City, very chilling."

"It was something I was able to correct," Sam added.

"You're not just the typical computer geek like I thought, are you?" Chely inquired.

"I'm a theoretical astrophysicist," Sam answered. "Computers are like my hands; second nature to me."

"Most of what makes this baby run, Carter set up," Jack praised.

"Do you remember me?" a youth asked, a broad smile on his face.

"Uh, yes, Kyal. You're one of Filip and Harad's children," Daniel recalled.

"Yes, that is me. My parents are most happy that you have returned. Is this JD?"

"Hi," the little boy piped up.

"Hello, welcome to Pierola. I have an airbus to make our journey gentler and faster. Please ..." Kyal invited, motioning to one of only three airbuses used to provide transportation from the Stargate to Phelpa, which was the planet's most technically advanced of its three nations.

====

The Jackson-O'Neill group arrived in Phelpa and were guided by Kyal to the home of his parents, where all were welcomed warmly.

"A womis," Daniel whispered almost as soon as he entered the abode.

"Yes, we are having another child," Filip announced joyfully. "Spoutis, come here." When the boy who was one year older than JD came over to the man, Filip said. "This is Spoutis, the one in the womis when you were here last."

Both Jack and Daniel grinned as they shook the boy's hand. It was still miraculous to them.

"Filip, Harad, thank you for your hospitality and allowing us to visit today with our sons and daughter," Daniel spoke. "We wanted to teach JD about the womis, and we hoped that you'd help us."

"Of course," Harad agreed. "JD, this is our womis."

"It sure looks funny," JD observed. "What's a womis? What do you use it for?"

Harad looked at Jack and Daniel and noticed the general shaking his head.

"A womis is like the womb of a woman."

"Huh?"

"Here on Phelpa, two people of the same sex can marry and have a child," Harad explained.

"There are twelve of us," JD announced, making it pretty clear to the Phelpians that he had no clue about his origin.

"Let us explain," Filip began. "Two men, as a rule, cannot have a biological child, one created only out of their love and bodies. Neither can two women make a child of their love and bodies. As a rule, there must be a man to assist with the women, and men require a woman."

"Like my Mommy did with Dad and Daddy."

Daniel was becoming increasingly uncomfortable. His own refusal to see that JD needed to learn the truth years earlier was staring him in the face. He felt like a coward for not revealing to JD how he was born, and now he felt like a fool in front of the very people who made the gift of JD possible by sharing their technology with he and Jack.

"I do not know what you will understand," Filip began, "but I will do my best to make it clear. The womis is an empty pouch similar to skin that is filled with amniotic fluid. Parents provide their blood. For men, an artificial egg is injected. The empty egg contains identis. It is a joining agent. Male parents add their sperm. Their DNA are joined through identis. If the pregnancy takes, a child is born to the two male parents. It is a miracle, JD, that two men or two women can have their biological child."

"A miracle?" JD questioned curiously. "I'm Dad and Daddy's miracle."

"We are aware."

"Can I touch it?"

"Yes, it is encouraged," Harad answered.

JD used his fingers to gently feel the womis. He listened to the hosts as they talked more about their family and the immense goodness of having their own biological children.

There was some chitchat between Filip and Harad and the three SG-1 members during which time Chely approached the womis and touched it, tentatively at first, and then more steadily. She knew now that she wasn't dreaming and her assertion about Kayla was not wrong. Her husband wasn't pranking her, but told her the absolute truth. Indeed, JD was born from a womis.

====

It was nighttime when the family arrived back at their homes after the visit to the planet Pierola. Chely, who was a bit shell shocked, was in need of relaxation, so Jeff took her home.

"Carter," Jack called out as Sam was about to go to her house. "Thank you."

"You're welcome, Sir. I was glad to do it."

Jack, Daniel, and JD entered the home and greeted their waiting family. Ice cream was enjoyed as JD rattled on about his visit to the new world and the strange looking womis.

"JD," Daniel beckoned, his arms open wide. When the boy came to him, Daniel smiled sweetly and rubbed his son's upper arms and then held his hands. "Dad and I need to tell you something. It's very important."

"What is it, Daddy?"

"You remember the womis?"

"It's neat; weird, but neat."

"Son, ten years ago, Uncle Lou's SG team went to Pierola. Something happened, and Uncle Lou saved Kyal's life."

"Filip and Harad wanted to give him something to say thank you," Jack explained. "He learned about the womis, and Uncle Lou thought about Daddy and me and how wonderful it could be if we had a child that was just ours, without a woman being involved."

JD cocked his slightly, a bit of confusion on his face, but he kept listening as his eyes remained focused on his parents.

The brood, meanwhile, barely breathed. They knew what was about to be said and none of them had a clue how JD would respond.

"Son, we went to the planet, met Filip and Harad, and ..." Jack trailed off, unable to finish his sentence.

"We, uh, talked with Aunt Janet about the womis. She was able to tell us more about the process and everything we'd have to do. Blood and sperm had to be injected every few weeks. It wasn't a sure thing, but Dad and I decided the risk was worth it. We brought home a womis, did what we needed to do, and waited to see if a baby would be conceived. It was, and we were so happy. The brood was, too."

"JD," Jack said quietly. "We had the miracle. In this house, our biological child was born."

Again, JD cocked his head. He was the youngest. He was nine. It didn't make any sense.

"JD, you are our biological child, Dad's and mine, born out of the womis on New Year's Day nine-and-a-half years ago."

"I was born in a womis?"

"Yes," Daniel affirmed.

"What about Mommy? I have Mommy," the anxious child returned.

"Mommy died several years before you were born. She gave birth to the Munchkins and the Spitfires," Daniel eked out. "She, um, she was a loving, caring person who loved her children very much."

"Son, when you were born, we had to figure out how to explain your arrival. No one else on Earth knows about womis'," Jack elaborated. "We knew that if we said Kayla Armentrout left eggs behind for us to use that people wouldn't question that. We had her name put on your birth certificate and that satisfied the world."

"Oh, so, I don't have a mommy," the boy sighed. "I'm tired. I'm going to bed."

JD pulled away from Daniel and walked away like a killer walking to the gallows.

"JD, Mommy loves you," Aislinn asserted.

"She's still your Mommy," Little Danny added confidently.

"She is, JD. She's Mommy for all of us," Jonny pointed out, something he truly believed. "A woman doesn't have to give birth to be a mother."

The boy paused, but only for a second before leaving the room and going upstairs.

"He'll be okay," Brianna told her parents.

"I'm getting a beer," Jack announced, something highly unusual for him to do in front of the children. "Daniel?"

"Get two," the archaeologist responded, despair and sadness looming over him. In a whisper, he ordered, "Go to bed, all of you. Please."

Obediently, the children stood and left their parents to deal with JD's gloom on their own.

====

Young JD cried himself to sleep. It wasn't being born from a womis that upset him. He actually thought that was cool and very special. As best his age allowed, he understood the concept of two men or two women being able to conceive their own child. He was always called a miracle, and he comprehended why as he cried in his bed. What hurt, though, was the loss of his mother. He never knew her, but he watched the videos of her, tapes she left behind for her children. He loved her every bit as much as the triplets and twins did. Now, she was gone to him. It was a lie. Kayla wasn't his mother. She didn't love him. She wasn't watching over him. He was alone. That's how he felt.

====

"JD, wake up. I need to speak with you. I know you're tired," the voice full of kindness and sympathy spoke.

The youngster awoke and wiped his eyes with little fists.

"Mommy?"

"Yes, JD, Mommy's here."

"But you aren't my mommy. I was born in a womis."

"JD, are the Mouseketeers your brother and sisters?"

"Yes."

"Are they the children of Jack and Daniel?"

"Uh huh."

"What about the Mavericks?"

"They're part of the brood and they belong to Dad and Daddy, too."

"That's right. JD, you don't have to give birth to someone to love them. You don't even need to provide the biological fluids to create a child to love them. You believe that your Dad and Daddy love Jen, Jeff, Bri, David, Lulu, and Noa, just as much as they love you, their miracle and the one who is truly one-hundred percent a part of them both? Don't they love Jonny, Little Danny, Ash, Ricky, and Jenny every single bit as much as they love you?"

"Sure they do."

"But the Mouseketeers and the Mavericks were adopted, and only one of them gave the sperm that brought the Munchkins and the Spitfires to life."

"It doesn't matter," the little boy stated almost angrily. "Dad and Daddy love all of us."

Kayla smiled, "Of course, they do, and I love you, just as much as if I had given birth to you. You are my littlest boy, so smart and brave. I watch over you, just as I do the others."

"No, you don't," JD denied.

"How's your finger?"

"Huh?"

"Yesterday, you were running in the backyard. You fell down. You didn't tell anyone, but you hurt your finger."

"Not really. It just got a little scrunched up."

"I know. I saw," Kayla told the boy. "Have you told anyone about your wish?"

"My wish?"

"You asked for it in your prayers last week."

JD gasped, "You heard?"

"I told you. I'm your Mommy, and I love you, and I'm always watching you."

"Really?"

"You wished for the pandemic to end so your family can take a trip to Disneyland. It will happen, JD. I'm not sure when, but your parents will take you to the Magic Kingdom when the world is better."

"That was my wish," JD admitted. "Mommy, I love you."

JD's arms wrapped around the woman's neck as she embraced him with love and devotion.

"I love you, too. You're never alone, JD. I promise you that. I have to go now."

"Stay, Mommy."

"I can't. I had to get special permission from Peter to visit you tonight, and I've already stayed longer than I should." Kayla smiled as only a mother could smile at her child. "You are my son, JD. I love you, as I love all of the brood, including my precious Munchkins and Spitfires. You are all my children, not all from birth, but all from the goodness of humanity, family, and love. I am with you always. I love you. I love you, JD. I am your Mommy. I love you."

JD watched with eagle-like eyes as mother faded from his view. He climbed out of bed and ran downstairs, shouting all the way.

"She loves me! Mommy loves me!"

Hearing his brother's shouts, David used to intercom to reach out to his siblings in their bedrooms, saying, "JD's all excited about something. I'm going downstairs to check it out."

As anticipated, all of the kids left their bedrooms and dared the trek to the recreation room where they saw JD rambling to his parents, both stunned and a teeny bit tipsy from having four beers each in a short period of time.

"JD, slow down and st...st...start all over," Daniel requested, as best he could.

"Mommy came to talk to me. She told me she loved me and that she is my mommy. She said she loves me like she loves all the brood, and she watches me."

"Son, you probably just had a dream," Jack put forward.

"Na huh, it was Mommy. She hugged me and she knew my wish and she knew I hurt my finger yesterday."

"You did?" Daniel asked. "Why didn't you tell us?"

"I'm a big boy. It just got squished. It's okay, see?" JD asked as he held up the finger. "But Mommy wouldn't know about it unless she was watching. I do have a Mommy and she loves me."

"I believe him," Aislinn interjected. She took several steps towards her parents and revealed, "Mommy came to me one night when I was having a hard time with the real world last year. She told me I was strong and I'd find a way through. I did."

"I saw Mommy once, too," Jenny claimed. "It was just a glimpse, though. Remember when that boy was doing inappropriate things and he tried to do it with me? Well, Mommy appeared just for a second and she told me to fight the boy because what he was doing was wrong and I had a right not to do what he wanted. It was just a second, but it was Mommy."

"Well, I guess I should admit that I saw her once, too," Little Danny confessed as he walked over to Aislinn. He drew a deep breath. "It was when she died."

"What?" Aislinn questioned. "We weren't even toddlers yet."

"She came to me. I don't know why you and Jonny didn't see her, but she was right in front of me. She kissed me. I remember she said she had to go away. It wasn't her choice, but she had to go and couldn't come back. She told me Daddy was really upset and that he needed me to do something to make life okay again."

"You spoke for the first time," Daniel said quietly.

"It was the only thing I could think of," Little Danny affirmed. "I guess I finally had something to say because Mommy said it was important."

"See! Mommy does love us and she is watching," JD asserted. "I have a mommy."

"You sure do," Jonny agreed, picking up his brother. "Maybe one day I'll get to see her, but I'm sure glad she set you straight about being our mother."

"Me, too."

The family chatted for a long time, so long that the beers wore off and any words spoken by the parents were now well pronounced and easily comprehended. When the yawns became more frequent, most of the brood returned to their beds, all much happier and with more peace within them.

Daniel, too, headed upstairs. Jack remained to do a bit of cleanup, specifically to toss out the empty beer cans.

Headed for the stairs in the living room, the general paused when he noticed David staring at a picture of Kayla on the mantel.

David glanced at his father when he felt his presence at his side and said, "She really was beautiful."

"Inside and out," Jack agreed.

"Dad, it was her. I know it for sure now."

"What are you talking about?"

"When we were living at the shelter, I used to get beat up a lot. Remember?"

"Yes."

"This one time, a couple of guys made my lip breed and they broke my glasses. I was tired of fighting. I didn't think we were ever going to be adopted. Noa would, but not me or Jen. I just wanted to die."

Jack sighed, wishing his son had confided with him at the time. He would have found those boys and taken some kind of action.

"I was hiding in one of the rooms. I wanted to sink into a corner and shrivel away. I was crying; more like sobbing. Then she was there. This beautiful woman in a pure snow-like white dress. She smiled at me. She took the handkerchief out of my pocket and dried my lip. Then she said not to worry. She said all three of us would have a home soon. We just needed to be patient." David turned to face his father. "Dad, it doesn't make sense. Kayla was alive then, but I swear, it was her. She said something kinda cryptic. She said, 'We will meet soon and you will see I am right'. I don't get it. Do spirits go back in time?"

"That's more your daddy's realm than mine."

"I don't mean to but in, but I came down to see what's keeping you. What realm are we talking about?" the archaeologist asked. He listened as David recounted his experienced and asked again if spirits could go back in time. "I, uh, don't know, but what I do know is that we've witnessed a lot of unusual things in our lives, and Kayla was a powerful spirit when alive, so, I guess I believe it's possible that somehow, she knew you needed assurance and, don't ask me how, she found a way to give it to you."

"I swear it was her."

"I believe you," Daniel responded.

"Hey, Goa'ulds, going back in time ourselves once, menacing Legos, devils: we've seen it all," Jack stated. "Who am I to not believe you? No one."

"I'm going to get some sleep," David said, hugging his parents. He looked at the photo and without worry that his parents were listening, said, "Kayla, thanks. You did get me through."

"Danny, if we ever go back in time and have to relive stuff, let's make sure we avoid July 2020."

"I'll do my best."

The lovers kissed and went upstairs, foregoing a round of lovemaking for gentle cuddling. They were too tired mentally to want anything other than their closeness.

July was almost over and though it was emotionally taxing, the Jackson-O'Neills grew in awareness. They discovered how powerful loneliness was. Seeing JD suffering brought about a new world for the family, thanks in part to Brianna's perceptive description of the family dynamics, something none of them had ever considered before, not even Jack and Daniel. Then they were reminded of the power of truth and how even temporary deceptions can lead to pain. Ultimately, there was the awareness of another realm, one in which Kayla Armentrout returned to Earth to reassure her youngest child of her love and presence. That was the power of motherhood. Did it explain David's memory was well? No one questioned it, not ever. It simply became part of the family lore.

As for Chely, the young woman remained in awe of her experience going through the Stargate and especially seeing the womis. Though she'd been frightened at first, she embraced the Stargate as part of Jeff's life and that of the rest of his family's. She was especially grateful for the alien technology that helped to bring JD into the world.

JD had no issues with his origin now that his mother was still in his life. He loved being the miracle and the older he got, the more he understood how lucky he was to have been born.

Even Brianna was freer, having released the revelation of her own aloneness and feelings of exclusion. Now that her siblings understood, the course was forever altered. The brood was united in their genuine love for one another.

For the Jackson-O'Neills of Colorado Springs, the air was clear and fresh, and life was full of happy faces and loving laughter. The pandemic raged on, but even so, this family remained united and could survive anything, just as long as they were together.

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

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