Bigger Yet

Author:  Orrymain
Category:  Slash, Drama, Romance, Holiday, Established Relationship
Pairing:  Jack/Daniel ... and it's all J/D
Rating:  PG-13
Season:  Beyond the Series - December 31, 2008 - January 1, 2009
Spoilers:  None
Size:  36kb, short story
Written:  December 28-31, 2010
Summary:  Jack and Daniel make another New Year's Eve special for their brood of eight, plus two.
Disclaimer:  Usual disclaimers -- not mine, wish they were, especially Daniel, and Jack, too, but they aren't.  A gal can dream though!
Notes:  
1) Sometimes, Jack and Daniel speak almost telepathically.  Their “silent” words to each other are indicated by asterisks instead of quotes, such as **Jack, we can't.**
2) Silent, unspoken thoughts by various characters are indicated with ~ in front and behind them, such as ~Where am I?~
3) Thanks to my betas who always make my fics better:  Navi, Tammy, Classic!

Bigger Yet
by Orrymain

Just as one could expect, 2008 had been a year full of unexpected changes for Jack, Daniel, and their brood of eight plus two, dogs, that is.  The entire family had gone to Egypt for a dig, one that was vitally important to getting J-O Enterprises, Jack and Daniel's archaeological firm, off the ground.  That had been quite eventful, in some ways that the parents wish it hadn't been, but overall, the months there were exciting and challenging.

Jack and Daniel had also accepted an offer to return part time to Stargate Command, working as a presidential committee of two.  No games were being played at SGC this time as respects to their relationship.  Everyone knew about their marriage.  It was about as blatant and dramatic of a 'just don't think about it' case the military ever had in respects to 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell'.  In the process, the brigadier general was promoted to a major general.

The entire brood had become somewhat familiar with Cheyenne Mountain.  Jennifer, David, and Chenoa had all been told about the Stargate and had, in fact, gone through it at least once.  For Jennifer, it was evolving into a new project as she had come up with an idea for an exchange program between alien worlds and Earth.  The five youngest children knew nothing of the Stargate Program, however.

On a sad note, earlier in the year the family had suffered a great loss when the surrogate mother of the Munchkins and twins, Kayla Armentrout, had been killed at the insensitive hands of a drunk driver.  It had hit Daniel especially hard and had it not been for Little Danny finally uttering his first words, the archaeologist may not have recovered from the news.

The family had grown by one, a bearded dragon lizard named Bogey that Jonny had befriended while on a special outing with Daniel.

Now the year was winding down with a new one standing by at the ready.  As had been done the last two years, the lights at the front of the home were either dimmed or off, and the phones had been turned off, or so Daniel thought until he heard a voice talking from the stairway in the hallway that went up to Jennifer's bedroom.

“I wish I were there, too, Michelle, but my parents want all of us to stay here ... yeah, I know, but it's not that much of a drag, like it's okay ... the party sounds li...” Jennifer saw Daniel's stare as he approached and saw her sitting on the stairs, talking on the cordless phone.  “Michelle, I have to go.”  Looking at her father, she inquired hesitantly, “How much did you hear?”

“Enough,” the archaeologist responded about the phone call with Jennifer's friend, Michelle Evans.

“Daddy, it wasn't what it sounded like.  I'd rather be here, but ...”

“Image?” Daniel asked pointedly.  He walked up three steps and sat down next to his oldest daughter.  “Jen, there's something you need to know.  We're a family, and our family is not subject to being used, not as an excuse and not as a way for you to fit in or be socially acceptable.  Jack ... Dad and I worked too hard to be together and start our family to ever treat it as a disposable object.  If you can't respect the traditions we're building, then maybe you'd rather stay in your room and be your own family.”

Taking possession of the phone, Daniel stood, returned to the hallway level, and began to walk away.  He stopped for a moment and turned back.

“No matter what you do, we love you.”

With her younger father gone, Jennifer groaned and leaned back all the way on the stairs.  She shook her head at her own stupidity.

~Darn it; not the best of ways to end a year.~

====

The family was just beginning to kick into gear for the festivities when Jennifer entered.  She approached her parents, who were in the kitchen seeing to the goodies that would be enjoyed as the evening proceeded.  All of the kids were within hearing distance, though none of them were paying any particular attention to their oldest sister's presence.

“Dad, Daddy, I'd like permission to make one very quick phone call before we start.  It's really important.”

Jack and Daniel exchanged a look, and then Daniel nodded.  He reached into the drawer where he'd placed the headset when he'd first entered the kitchen a few minutes ago.

“Thank you.”  The thirteen-year-old took the phone, dialed, and spoke, “Hi, Michelle.  Listen, I need you to know something ... oh, I'm sure it'll be fun, but, well, the truth is that I don't want to be at your party.  I like being with my family, and New Year's is a special time for us.  Thank you for the invitation, but I don't think I fit in there.  Have fun, though.”

Biting her lip, Jennifer disconnected the call and turned the phone off once again.

“I'm sorry, Daddy.  I guess fitting in isn't so important,” the teenager stated as she handed the phone back.

“Fitting in here is what counts, Jen,” Jack pointed out, having already been told about the incident.

“I know.  I wasn't thinking.  Michelle has a lot of pull at school and ...”  Jennifer shrugged.  “It was dumb.  You know what?  I'm glad I messed up.  Now I have something to write down as my regret.”

“Like you didn't have something until tonight?” Jack prodded teasingly.  He was sure Jennifer, being a normal teenager, had plenty of regrets this past year.  ~It's normal.~

“Well, it's the most recent anyway.”

Daniel chuckled and leaned over to give his daughter a kiss before saying, “Welcome back into the family.”

“Thanks, Daddy.”

====

“Kids, front and center,” Jack called out like the general he was.

Holding baby Jenny, who was fifteen-months-old, Jennifer walked over to counter where her parents were standing.  Seven-year-old David, holding Ricky in his arms stood next to her.  Chenoa, who was now three, followed the toddling Munchkins, age two, to join the others.  Feeling a tug, Daniel smiled and picked up his namesake.

“We're starting a new tradition.”

“Dad loves new traditions,” Daniel joked.

“It was your idea.”

“I'm just saying ...” the younger man replied, shrugging afterward.

“What's the tradition?” David asked curiously.

“A New Year's cake, a cake that will forever be our own.  No one else will *ever* have this cake,” Jack asserted.

“How do you know?” Jennifer asked.

“Because we're going to decide on the ingredients right now,” Jack answered, pointing at a variety of different ingredients that were on the counter.

“Uh, it will have the basics to make sure it's actually a .... a cake,” Daniel added.  “Flour, eggs ...”

“We're going to give it uniqueness,” Jack insisted.  “Jen, you're first.”

“Um, well, I guess I'll say cinnamon.”

“Do it,” Jack instructed.

Giggling from the oddity of it, the teenager added a pinch or two to the batter that her parents had already prepared.

“Son, you're up,” Jack told David.

The boy examined the contents on the counter and, licking his lips, stated, “I choose marshmallow.”

“Do we have to eat this?” Jennifer asked, unsure how this cake could possibly taste good.

Noticing that his parents didn't answer the question, David took the marshmallow filling and put a couple of heaping tablespoons into the mixture.

Lifting Chenoa, Jack inquired what she would like, and on it went until finally, Ricky, as the youngest member of the brood, chose to add coconut sugar and spice blend to the cake.  Actually, his hand just beat down on the counter and that happened to be the closest ingredient to his thumb.  His fellow twin had been more assertive in her selection, saying a definite, “This!”

“Daniel?”

The archaeologist grinned as he reached for the chocolate squares and said, “I think I'll melt a few of these to add in.”

“It was the obvious choice,” Jack snarked to the kids who laughed while Daniel, assisted by Little Danny, proceeded to melt the chocolate and then add it to the very unusual batter.

“And now it's Dad's turn,” Jack stated with vigor, rubbing his hands together.

“That's interesting,” Jennifer noted cautiously about the man's selection.

“Dad has a thing about Big Hunks,” Daniel commented humorously.

“I've never seen them diced before,” the teenager noted.

“There's a first time for everything,” the general pointed out.

====

The unusual cake in the oven, the family set down to enjoy Rudolph's Shiny New Year, just as they'd done the year before.  This time, the Munchkins were old enough to get a bit more of the plot, though the twins simply applauded whenever Rudolph's red nose lit up brightly.  That was followed by a few rounds of charades, which had apparently also become part of the family's New Year's Eve ritual.

For his mini-lesson this year, Daniel decided to introduce the children to the celebrations held around the world.  With the family relaxing in the living room, he sat down on the carpet in front of the television.

“Daddy's on TV,” Chenoa teased with laughter.

“He figured he had a better shot at getting your attention this way,” Jack retorted with a smile.

Ignoring his husband's quip, true or not, Daniel began, “The world is full of variety.  We're one big global family, but each of our countries has its own uniqueness.  We celebrate the beginning of a new year in different ways, and no way is better than another.  Uh, Scotland.”

“Nessie's home,” Jack interjected.  With his Heart's intense stare, he shrugged and offered an ingenuous, “Sorry.”

“Scotland,” Daniel continued, “celebrates Hogmanay.  They actually set barrels of tar on fire and roll them down the streets.  Can you guess why?”

“Rolling out the old year?” Jennifer guessed.

“That's ... pretty close.  It symbolizes burning out the old year and starting the new,” the archaeologist explained.  “Japan celebrates the New Year pretty quietly.  They concentrate on family, and on New Year's Eve, they cook toshikoshi soba.”

“What's that?” Chenoa questioned.

“Noodles,” Daniel translated.  “The name means something like ending the old year and starting that new.  People eat the toshikoshi soba and then listen for the temple bells to ring a hundred-and-eight times.”

“Why?” Jonny inquired as he rolled over on the floor in between Bijou and Katie.

“There are a few different beliefs on that, but the most prevalent is that it takes that many bells to ring away the evils of the past year.  There is a mathematical way that they chose that number, but that's not for tonight.”

“Bet takes long time,” Jonny replied.

“An hour, maybe a little more,” Daniel returned.  “Now in Spain, they eat twelve grapes at midnight, one grape per chime.  It's a totally manufactured tradition that came about in the 20th century because they had too many grapes and needed to get rid of them.”

“That's funny,” David laughed.

“A Greek custom has children leaving their shoes by the fireplace in the hope that Saint Basil will bring them gifts.”

“Like gifts,” Aislinn opined as she leaned against Chenoa, the two of them swaying back and forth in unison for no special reason.

“So, my point is that a holiday like the New Year can be celebrated everywhere, but still can mean different things.  Our way of viewing the change with Father Time and the Baby New Year is no better than rolling burning barrels or eating noodles.  It's just ... our way.”

“Time to stretch,” Jack announced, smiling at his genius husband.  **Well done, Love.**

**It's still over their heads.**

**They'll grow into it.  They were listening; that's what we want.**

**Jack?**

**Yeah?**

**You have an amazing knack of being right on New Year's Eve.**

**One out of three-hundred-sixty-five,** Jack communicated non-verbally.  **What's the ratio?**

Daniel chuckled as he stood up and prepared to move on to the next part of their tradition.

====

“Are you sure it's safe?” Jennifer questioned about the cake that was on the counter.  She was looking at the creation with apprehension.  ~There's some weird stuff in this cake.~

“As safe as anything else we eat around here,” Jack answered as he took in the finished product, which had just been topped with a creative swirl mixture of milk chocolate, butter cream, and coconut pecan frosting.

“Jen, plates, please,” Daniel requested.

It took a bit to get the kids situated, but eventually it was time to take the big bite.

“Pep-mint!” Jonny exclaimed about his first bite, which made him happy since he'd been the one to choose peppermint extract as an ingredient.

“Wow!” David called out.  “I taste Dad's Big Hunk and,” he took another small bite to decide for sure what it was he was tasting, “Jenny's lemon juice, I think.”

“David, I taste your marshmallow cream,” Jennifer noted.

“What do you taste, Noa?” Daniel asked curiously.

“Choc'late!”

“P'nut 'ut'r,” Little Danny mumbled with a mouth full of cake.

“I taste it, too,” Daniel said about the ingredient that had been his namesake's choice.

“This is an insane cake,” the teenager laughed as she took another bite.

“That's what we'll call it,” Jack responded, pointing over enthusiastically at his daughter. “The Jackson-O'Neill Insanity Cake.”

“That's a good word for it,” Daniel agreed.  “I mean, uh, cinnamon, marshmallow cream, apple chunks, peppermint extract, whipped peanut butter, grated carrots, coconut sugar and spice, lemon juice, melted milk chocolate, and Big Hunk bits.  That's ... insanity.”

“It's not bad, though.”

“More?” Jonny asked, holding out his empty plate.

Jack and Daniel exchanged a look and a shrug and figured it was insanity to say 'yes'.  Since that seemed to fit the cake, they gave their son another small sliver, which he eagerly and happily devoured.

====

During the next hour, the kids got into their pajamas.  The twins were nodding off every now and then, but Jack and Daniel decided to keep them downstairs with the family.  The family sang some songs and danced a bit, which was a hoot as far as watching the Munchkins went.

“I'll never forget our first dance, Dad,” Jennifer spoke, a loving twinkle in her eye as she swayed gently.

“You were the belle of the ball, Princess,” Jack replied.  “It was an honor.  It still is.”

Jennifer's face lit up brightly and then she leaned in to finish the dance next in the protective embrace of her father, the general.

The dancing and singing was followed by the family's annual tradition of writing something down, folding up the paper, and then tossing it into the fire.

“I really am sorry,” Jennifer sighed as she tossed her paper into the fire, making it no secret what she had written.  “We're together because of this family,” she looked at David and Chenoa, tears in her eyes, “and I would never take it for granted.”

“It's okay, Sweetie,” Daniel replied as he drew the teen into his arms.  “You just needed a little nudge to remind you what's important, that's all.”

“I love you, Daddy,” Jennifer declared as the hug ended.  “I love all of you so much.”

When the next batch of hugs ended and more notes were being tossed into the fire, Jack reached over to take Jonny's from him.

“Me do it.”

“Ah, that would be a negative, Son,” Jack responded, hand still in midair.  “Fire is dangerous, and you're too young.”

“Not!”

“Me Dad, you kid.  Me old, you young.  Me toss into fire, you watch.”

“Dad no fun,” Jonny whined.

“Babe, pick him up and let him toss it,” Daniel suggested.

“Daddy smart!” the eldest Munchkin asserted with a grin, raising his hands up expectantly towards his older father.

“Yeah,” Jack pretended to grouse as he lifted Jonny up.  “Okay, one toss.  Let her rip.”  After the successful drop, he looked down at the beagles and asked, “You want to do the lift and toss?”

Bijou and Katie looked at each other, dropped their papers at Jack's feet, and then returned to the safety of their beanbag.

“I always said they were smart,” Jack chuckled as he bent over to pick up the girls' papers.

====

The Jackson-O'Neills gathered on the roof deck for what was now Jack's annual ritual of talking about the stars.  It was odd in a way because he and Daniel had never discussed the fact that they were going to have these mini-lessons every New Year's Eve, but it just seemed to turn out that way.  They weren't rehearsed or pre-planned in detail.  Other than a general nod that at some point a conversation would take place, the special moments just happened.

This year, the family could have gone outside into the backyard since the weather was much more appropriate for children.  Whereas it had been under freezing temperatures the past two years, this New Year's Eve, it was practically warm at forty-eight degrees.  However, the tradition was to be on the roof deck, so that's where they went.

“Dad, talk about the stars,” Chenoa stated, raising her arms up and smiling when Jack picked her up.

“Yeahsureyabetcha!” the astronomy buff affirmed as he picked up his daughter and began his spontaneous chat.  He looked up and found his target.  “There it is, kids, the North Star, more precisely known as Polaris.  See it!  It's right there and directly below it is Santa's home.”

“The North Pole,” Aislinn stated as she huddled with her fellow triplets.

“He's sleeping,” Jonny added.

“Tired from Christmas,” Little Danny noted with a nod.

“You got that right,” Jack replied.  ~This Santa can't wait to catch up on his sleep, like that's gonna happen any time soon.~

“I always thought it would be the brightest star,” David, who loved astronomy as much as Jack did and actually had his own telescope to use, opined as he looked up and saw many more stars in the sky that shone louder than Polaris.

“There's a lesson in that, David,” Jack stated.  ~Let me think about it a minute.~

“What is it, Dad?”

Daniel observed his Love and realized his mind was still thinking about the answer, so he decided to interject with, “The lesson is that standing out more than anything, or anyone, else doesn't mean that you're more important or better.”

“That's right!” Jack concurred, grateful for the assist and ready to run with it.  “Standing out often means you're just a big bag of hot air.  Just because you're blustery doesn't mean you're numero uno.  Look at Polaris.  Since it doesn't really stand out on its own, the way to find it is to first locate the two last stars on the Big Dipper.”

“Merak and Dubhe,” David put forth.

“And there they are,” Jack pointed out.  “Do you see, Princess?” he asked Chenoa, who always seemed to be fascinated with the stars in the sky and her dad's stories about them.

“Up there,” the curly-haired girl responded.

“Now imagine a line from Merak to Dubhe,” Jack instructed his family.  “Take that line roughly five times as far ... keep going ... and going ... and ... there!  That's how you find Polaris.”

“Li'l Dipper,” Aislinn observed about the location of the North Star which was on the handle of the Little Dipper.

“Very good, Princess,” Jack praised.

“I see it, Dad,” Chenoa added.  “Little Bear.  You told me,” she added, remembering when Jack had told her a few stories one night on the roof deck.

“It sure is.”  After a few minutes of stargazing, Jack concluded, “Kids, you don't need to be the biggest and brightest to be a star.  Just be yourselves, like Polaris up there.  When you are true to yourself, you are ...”

“... being true to your true function in life,” Daniel interjected, a pointed smile on his face that referred back to an incident that had occurred many years ago in which Jack and he had had a difference of opinion on just how the archaeologist should proceed with the Encaran race.

“Yes, your true function,” the general acknowledged with attitude.  He cleared his throat and concluded, “When you are true to yourself, people will find you, even when you don't want them to.  All Daddy and I want is for each of you to be who you are.  No games, no 'I'm better than you' stuff; just be yourselves and ...”

“... shine,” both Jack and Daniel stated together.

As the family began to return to the comfort of their home's interior, Aislinn asked, “Do all the stars have names?”

“Well ...”

====

“Cold,” Daniel told Aislinn.

It was the little girl's turn to find her velvet pouch, hidden somewhere in the study.  Finally, she worked her way over toward Jack's desk.

“Getting warmer,” Jack called out.

“C'puter,” Jonny urged, his velvet pouch held in his left hand.

“Chair!” Little Danny suggested as he, too, held his prized pouch in his hand.

“Steaming hot!” Daniel exclaimed when Aislinn kneeled down to look under the chair.

“Mine!” Aislinn shouted as she retrieved her pouch.

After that, Jennifer and David took the lead in helping Jenny and Ricky to find their velvet pouches, hidden quite easily in the entranceway of the home.

“I wonder what it is this year,” David said as the family settled into the living room.

“Open 'em up,” Jack instructed.

“Those are 1967 Canadian centennial silver dimes,” Daniel stated.  “They're this year's lucky coins, but remember ...”

“Luck comes from within,” Jennifer and David both said, each laughing afterward.

“We chose this one because we wanted to show that collecting something from other places can be just as exciting and fun as collecting from what you know best, like America.  Uh, these coins are uncirculated silver minted dimes.  They were only made in 1967 in honor of Canada's centennial.”

“Fish,” Ricky noted about the one side of the coin that had a fish on it.

“Who she?” Jonny asked about the woman on the other side of the coin.

“That's Queen Elizabeth II,” Daniel answered.

For a few minutes, a bit of a history lesson was spontaneously had as the kids asked questions about Canada and its history.

“We'll add these lucky coins to the ones you got last year,” Daniel informed the children.

“It's double the luck, for fun.”

“It's double the wishes,” Daniel put forth.  “What do you wish for 2009?” he inquired.

“My own phone!” Jennifer called out.  “Oh, maybe that's bad timing,” she chuckled.

“Wanna dig,” Little Danny stated.

“Go on mission,” Jonny added.

“I want a horsey,” Chenoa advised her parents.

“Repeat wish?” Jack asked.

“Always want horsey,” the little girl explained.

~That is *so* not gonna happen, not while I'm the general around here,~ Jack promised himself.

The family had a good time dreaming about their wishes, not all of which had something to do with toys and possessions.

“Want Mommy know I miss her,” Aislinn sniffled, immediately getting hugs from her Munchkin siblings.

Bijou and Katie also circled around, offering their love and support.

“She knows, Princess,” Jack whispered, hugging Daniel close.  “She knows.”

====

Party hats on, noisemakers at the ready, and the TV turned on, the Jackson-O'Neills prepared for the big countdown.

“Dad, Bij 'n' K'tie no want wear hats,” Little Danny whined.

“It's tradition.”

Bijou and Katie were about to agree with their defender when Aislinn kneeled down in front of them and giggled.

“Love Bij 'n' K'tie; cute in hats,” the youngest Munchkin maintained as she hugged them.

The two beagles couldn't help it.  They were suckers for happy Munchkins, so once again, they decided to live with the crazy tradition of the last few years and wear the hats.

“Countdown!” Jonny exclaimed, hearing it on TV.

“... Two ... One!  Happy New Year!”

The family cheered, hugged, kissed, and blew their noisemakers, and then it was time for the children to leap into the new year.  The play steps from outside had been brought inside again.  One of the advantages to using them was that there were three levels, meaning that each child could leap from an appropriate height.

“Go Jen!”

“I'm ready.  2009, here I come!” Jennifer called out as she jumped up and then down onto the carpet.  “Made it!”

“Okay, 2009.  David Jackson-O'Neill is coming!”

“Hi, 2009!” Chenoa greeted as she jumped off the middle step.  She grinned, having completed the jump all on her own.  “Yippee!”

“Me do it!” Jonny demanded, refusing his parents' hands.

**What do you ... think?**

Jack's query turned out to be pointless as before he'd finished, his namesake had already leaped off the chair.  In fact, he was sleuthing around, pretending to be covertly looking for Baby New Year.

Daniel smiled when his namesake held out his hand for an assist.

“Do you really want my help?” Daniel asked the middle triplet.

“No want you feel bad.”

Daniel smiled as his head dropped and he thought, ~The middle Munchkin with the heart of gold.~  With a nod, he spoke, “It's okay, Son.  Be yourself.  If you can do it and want to, go for it.”

Little Danny grinned and called out, “Me leap into 2009.  Here I come!”

Aislinn followed, also jumping alone, leaving the parents to feeling a tad melancholy at not being needed.

**There's still the twins,** Jack reminded.

**This year anyway,** Daniel agreed as the couple helped Jenny and Ricky make their leaps.

“Woof!” Bijou barked as she jumped off the highest step.

“Show off!” Jack teased.

“Woooof!  Woof!” the spry youngest beagle exclaimed as she made her own leap off the tallest step.

“Good leap!” Little Danny praised as he hugged Katie.  “Hat off now.”

After singing Auld Lang Syne, which signaled the end of the festivities, it was time for the children to go to bed.

====

“Have fun?” Daniel asked Jennifer when he and Jack began their nightly rounds.

“I had so much fun.  Maybe next year we can have ... milkshake toasts; it could be another new tradition.”

“You mean a new tradition for a new year?” Daniel inquired.

“New for new, every new year,” Jack mused.

“That's ... new.”

====

Jack and Daniel stood overlooking the cribs in which the Munchkins and twins still slept.

“They're getting too big for these.”

“Getting?  Daniel, they're beyond.  We have to do something soon,” the older man asserted.

“Look at their faces, Babe,” Daniel directed as he felt his husband's arm begin to warm his back.

“Happy faces, Love.”

“Three years; it seems like yesterday that we were rushing to the hospital and ... felt the bomb.”

As Daniel chuckled lightly, Jack did, too.

“Expect one, get three.”

“Expect one more, get two.”

The lovers shared a silent joy as they watched their babies, which is still how they thought of the toddlers.

“Thank you, Kayla,” Daniel whispered.  Making sure the monitor was on, Daniel then took hold of the portable monitor and headed back over to the three-quarter bed where Chenoa was sleeping peacefully.  “She's beautiful.”

“The perfect dove,” Jack noted, referring to the meaning of the name 'Chenoa'.

With a smile on their faces, the parents headed out the door.

====

Turning around after locking the patio door, Daniel wasn't the least bit surprised to see Jack already on the carpet, playing with Bijou and Katie, who had just returned from outside.  Quickly, he joined his Love.

“How about a game of 'Who's got the tug toy?'” Jack questioned, putting one end of the toy in his mouth and daring Katie to take hold of the other end, which she did.

“It's a good thing that's a long tug toy, Jack.”

“Grrrrr,” Jack responded, unable to speak with the toy in his mouth.

“I'm taking bets, Bij.  Who's your kibble on?” Daniel inquired of the mama beagle as he held her in his lap.

“Woof!”

“Yeah, I'm betting on Katie, too.”

“Hey!” Jack snapped.  “Where's your loyalty?”

“Considering that you just let go of the toy to ... bark,” Daniel began, “with Katie.”

The youngest beagle ran proudly around the room before tossing the toy up into the air.  When no one caught it, she did it again.

“Daniel, I think she's playing fetch, and we're the fetchees.”

There was a time not so long ago, when no one, not even Jack, could have envisioned what happened next.  With Bijou gently prodded off of his lap, Daniel crawled closer to Katie.  She retrieved her tug toy and tossed it into the air.  To Jack's delight and amazement, his husband jumped up on all fours and caught the toy in his mouth.  He then mimicked Katie's earlier actions, prancing around the room with the toy in his mouth.  Then he went nose to nose with her in a 'grrrr' fest before finally rolling over and welcoming the beagle onto his chest for hugs and kisses.

~Perfection,~ Jack opined about his happy family.

====

Bijou and Katie had adjourned to the nursery to spend the night with the younger members of the family.  It was something they often chose to do, feeling responsible in a sense for their safety, and just enjoying being with the kids.  Besides, they knew on special nights like this one that their humans, Jack and Daniel, liked to be alone.

Sure enough, the couple were in front of a cozy fire.  They were lying on their sides, facing each other.  Between them was a bottle of St. Julien's, some Godiva truffles, and a couple of pieces of the family's Insanity Cake from earlier, though they'd been topped with a dollop of whip cream and a few fresh strawberries.

“I think we have this tradition thing down pat,” Jack opined.

“As long as we keep changing it up a little,” Daniel replied.

“Don't want the kids to get bored?”

“I just think keeping some of the unexpected keeps it exciting and new.”

“Danny, everything we do is unexpected.”

Daniel chuckled, “Better yet.”

“And bigger,” Jack chuckled.  “Yeah, it's good.”

“It's ... very, very good.”

Jack reached over to take hold of his husband's hand.  Their fingers intertwined, rubbing against one another.  Then he leaned forward as he raised the hands to him. Gently, he kissed the knuckles, one at a time.

“Little Danny wants to go on a dig,” Daniel responded.

“Daniel, the kid's asleep, probably dreaming about a dig.  I say we concentrate on us for a while.”

“Oh, well, I ... I guess we could do that.”

Daniel's smile grew as the couple kissed, though a bit of panic set in when the bottle of wine began to fall over.

“Not the St. Julien's!” the younger man called out.

“Got it!  It's safe.”

“My hero,” Daniel mused brightly.  “Now that you've saved the wine, how about saving me?”

“Your wish is my command,” Jack replied.

The lovers let their souls mingle as they enjoyed the first wee hours of yet another year.  They were happy, totally in love, and feeling the splendor of their unique and most wondrous nation of two.

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