In the Absence of Bliss

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 - June 2-10, 2018
Spoilers:  None
Size:  84kb
Written:  June 28-30, July 1-3,20,24, 2014
Summary:  Love may not be enough for one couple to survive as they battle the heritage of the ages.
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?~

In the Absence of Bliss
by Orrymain

“Another happy ending,” Chely Tillison proclaimed as she leaned against the shoulder of her boyfriend, their hands joined together.

“No matter how many times we watch it, Chel, Gidget and Moondoggie always end up together in the end,” Jeff Jackson-O'Neill replied.

“Funny how that works,” Chely laughed.  “This was fun, Gaffy.  We haven't done this in a long time.”

“I know.”

“You've been quiet tonight.  Tired of me already?”

“Are you kidding?” Jeff responded, proving his point with a gentle kiss of longing. “I loved college, but I'm glad it's over.  I did a lot of lying to myself over the last four years.”

“I don't understand.”

“I kept saying we were just friends, thinking that dating other girls would keep me happy.  The truth is I was miserable most of the time.”

“Just *most* of the time?” the young woman questioned with piercing eyes directed straight at her beau.

“We weren't apart all the time,” Jeff explained.  “You were there, Chel, when Dad was in the wheelchair.  You were always there when I needed you the most.”

“I always want to be there, Jeff, just like you are for me,” Chely declared, her voice sincere and expression tender and sweet.

“I love you, Chely.  You've been so patient,” Jeff stated, a bit of a chuckle rolling off his tongue at the end.  “My dad, he's complicated.”

“Most people are complicated in one way or another.”

“Yeah, I suppose so.  It's all perspective.”

“That's what I've learned the most from your parents, Gaffy: never assume and just how important it is to accept people for who and what they are.”

“Hey, we have time for one more beach classic.  How about 'Gidget Goes Hawaiian'?”

“My favorite of all the 'Gidget' movies,” Chely replied with a pleased look.

Jeff gave his girlfriend a kiss and watched as she stood up and walked over to her special collection of fifties movies.  Chely had shared them with Jeff early on in their relationship.  She loved the 'Gidget' series the most, but had a true affinity for the beach movies of the fifties and sixties.  Over the years, they'd spent hours watching them together.  Before college, Jeff had even arranged for a special party, a hop in true fifties fashion that they could always remember when thinking back on their young love.  Four years at the University of Cincinnati had seemed like an eternity to Jeff, being away from Chely.  Now both were college graduates, Chely having received her degree in Computer Science from Stanford University in May.

“Gaffy, there's something strange about this videotape,” Chely commented as she withdrew the VHS tape from its container.

While Chely's collection was largely on DVD, she had a few duplicates, old VHS tapes she'd picked up for almost nothing at garage sales and such.  To keep the tapes in good condition, she made sure to watch them a few times a year.  In truth, the VHS quality on some was better than the DVD set she owned.  It was frustrating for her that her favorite beach movie had never been put on DVD with premium mastering.

“What do you mean?”

“I don't know, but it's so lightweight and ...” Chely turned the black cassette holder upside down.  “Jeff, I hear something inside the case and ... Jeff, there's no tape.  What?  I don't understand.”

Jeff rose and joined the blonde beauty in studying the situation.

“What's that noise?” Jeff queried.

“That's what I mean?  What could it be?  Gaffy, where's the tape?”

“I don't know, Chel.  Um, maybe you should open the cassette and see.  I mean, maybe the tape broke or something.”

“But hold it,” Chely suggested, handing her boyfriend the rectangular object.  “There's no weight to it.”

With a shrug, Jeff repeated his suggestion, “You can't lose anything now by opening it up.  Where's the screwdriver?”

“This is so strange,” Chely remarked as she retrieved a tool kit that was kept in the corner of the room.  She opened the kit, pulled out one of the smaller screwdrivers, and then sighed dejectedly as she sat down on the sofa and began to work on the black video casing.  “I just don't get it.”

Jeff said nothing as he sat down and watched, his eyes focused on Chely's small hands.  They were perfect, gentle yet strong.  Her nails were suitably long at the moment, but not so much that they interfered with everyday tasks.  They were painted with a luscious pink color on this night, a shade Jeff had long ago mentioned liking on her.

The young man gazed at Chely's brown eyes.  They were thoughtful and caring and always expressive.  He could always tell if Chely was upset at him, just by looking into her eyes.  By the same token, her love for him was always visible by her doe eyes, reminding him of the beauty and innocence of a fawn.

“Got it!” Chely exclaimed.  “Just a second ...” She pulled the top casing off.  “Okay, let's see what ...”

Chely blinked, wondering if her eyes were deceiving her.  Instantly, her marblesque eyes grew misty.  She swallowed hard as she looked over at her boyfriend.

“Jeff?”

With a sappy grin, Jeff reached over and removed the diamond ring from the video casing.  Gently, he raised Chely's left hand, caressing it as he did so.

“Chely, I love you.  We've talked about marriage before.  You've waited through all the Jackson-O'Neill craziness.  Never once did you press me.  I know Jen talked to you about giving Dad and Daddy, mainly Dad really, time to recoup from her wedding and you waited for me to get my degree.  Not once since we've been home have you pressured me about us or questioned my complete and total adoration for you.  No more waiting, Chel.  Life is about happiness and doing whatever we can to make the world a better place.  That's what I want to do, be happy and do good things.  I'm never happier than when you're in my arms and every good thing I've done since the day we met has been with you in mind.  I want to be with you, Chel, every day, every night, and, as old fashioned as it sounds, just like in our beach movies, I want you to be the mother of my children.  No one could be a better mom than you.  My life, Chel, won't ever be complete unless you're at my side, keeping me sane and on the right path.”

At that point, Jeff slid off the sofa and went down on bent knee.  He looked up at the woman he loved.  Tears were running down her cheek and he could feel a slight trembling of her hand.

~Or maybe it's me,~ the young man thought.  He was nervous but determined, frightened but confident.  Jeff was ready for what was about to happen, eager for it, and beyond excited.  ~Don't mess this up,~ he ordered himself, fearful that his own strong emotions would deter his proposal from being perfect.  He wanted Chely to hear words, words of truth that spoke to the powerful feelings he had.  He strongly desired for her to have the memory of a lifetime, a proposal she could tell their children about someday, full of pride and youthful memories of their great love for each other.  “Chely, you're my heart.  When I look inside, I see you; I hear you, only you.  You're my conscience, my guide, my inspiration.  I love you, Chely, and I want our forever to start now.  Please, Chely, will you give me the most incredible life of joy and marry me?”

Her lips trembling, eyes full of tearful water, and her voice barely able to speak, Chely nodded and then burst out with, “Oh, yes, Gaffy, I'll marry you.”

With a tear escaping from the side of his right eye, Jeff smiled and slid the engagement ring on Chely's finger.  He laughed lightly and then Chely giggled just before sliding down onto the carpeted floor.  For a moment, the young lovers just gazed into each other's eyes.  Then they kissed, and kissed, and kissed some more.

For Jeff and Chely, their world of the now was full of bliss.  They were certain that feeling would never end.

====

It was after ten in the evening and Chenoa was up late, working on a project.  Her parents had given her permission to stay up until 10:30 p.m.  Since she still had a few more minutes, the curly top decided to go downstairs to check on Ptolemy, the family's hyacinth macaw, and maybe sneak a cookie or two out of the cookie jar.

Just as she landed her final step onto the carpet of the living room, the tap dancer heard a noise.

~Bet that's Jeff coming home,~ Chenoa thought.  ~I'll go say 'hi' to him and then get my cookies.~  She turned toward the entryway, arriving there just in time to see the backside of her oldest brother as he locked the door.  “Hi, Jeff.  You wanna ...”

Turning, the young man snapped, “No, I don't, and leave me alone.”

“But, Jeff ...”

“Shouldn't you be in bed?  Go to bed, Noa, or don't, but leave me alone.”

Chenoa's brown eyes turned as big as dollars.  She gasped, taking huge breaths of shock and dismay.  As Jeff stormed down the entryway to the stairs that led to his room, the twelve-year-old dashed to the study.  Finding it empty, she ran into the kitchen, though she wasn't looking for cookies now.  Hurrying to the rec room and finding it empty, she bolted back to the living room and ran up the stairs as fast as she could.  She immediately saw the door to her parents' bedroom was ajar.  She looked inside, but it was empty, except for Calico who was sleeping on the large bed.  Quickly, Chenoa ran to her younger father's den where she finally found her parents.

“Dad, Daddy, something's wrong with Jeff,” Chenoa cried out.

“Wrong?  Is he hurt?” Daniel questioned, immediately rising from his office chair.

Standing from the relaxing recliner that was positioned near Daniel's desk, Jack asked, “Was he in an accident?  Noa, what happened?”

The tween sighed, “He yelled at me.”

The two parents exchanged a confused look before focusing on their daughter once again.

“Jeff *never* yells at me, not ever, never!  Something's wrong.”

“Okay, Sweetie, we'll go talk to him,” a somewhat relieved Daniel assured the Mouseketeer.  ~I'm glad he wasn't in a car accident or something.~

“He never yells at me,” the girl repeated, full of worry and some vulnerability.

“Everyone has a bad day, Noa,” Jack spoke while resting his hands on the girl's shoulders.  “I'm sure he didn't intend to yell at you.”

“I know, Dad, but he did, so something has to be really wrong.”

Checking his watch, Daniel reminded, “It's bedtime in fifteen minutes.”

“Daddy!” the girl exclaimed, her brown eyes imploring of him.

“Get to bed on time.  We'll come see you after we talk to Jeff, okay?” the younger father suggested, sincerity in his eyes and tone.

“Okay.  Don't forget!”

“We won't -- promise,” Daniel assured, smiling at the youngster and then giving her a kiss on the cheek.

Chenoa watched her parents leave the den.  No longer interested in sneaking a couple of cookies, she quietly went to her room, careful not to wake Lulu, and dressed for bed.

====

“Jeff,” Jack called out as he tapped on his son's closed door.

“I'm going to bed,” the young man barked in response.

“Maybe, but you'll open this door and tell us that, face to face,” Jack ordered sternly.

Reluctantly opening the door, Jeff stared ambiguously at his parents and stated, “I'm going to bed.”

“That didn't go so well,” Daniel noted after the door slammed shut in their faces.

“Jeff, open this door,” the general commanded.

“What?” the weary brood member queried as he opened the door a second time.

“Okay, Son, what's going on?” Jack asked.  When the door began to close again, it merely bounced.  “Oldest trick in the book, Jeff: the foot in the door.”

“Why can't you leave me alone?”

“Jeff, if something's bothering you ...” Daniel began.

“My life is over, okay?  Everything I've worked for is ... it's wiped out, all thanks to seven words, seven stinking, lousy words.”

“Okay,” Daniel replied calmly.  “What, uh ... what exactly are those seven words?”

“Nothing.  Forget it.  I'm going to bed,” Jeff repeated in a huff.

“We're just trying to help,” Daniel replied patiently.

“You can help me by leaving me alone,” Jeff shouted, trying to shut the door again, forgetting that his older father's foot was still firmly in place.

“Jeffrey,” Jack began.  “Tone is very important here.  You want your privacy?  I can handle that.  You're a grown man now, but your little sister is on the verge of tears.  You yelled at her, something you've never done.  What do you think you should do about that?”

“Go to bed,” Jeff retorted, his discontent even more obvious now.

“Not until you apologize to Chenoa,” Daniel insisted sternly.  “*Now*!”

With a big sigh of frustration, Jeff growled, “Fine,” and brushed inbetween his parents as he hurried with force out of his room.

“What do you think?” Daniel asked his lover.

“His life is over?  That's trouble in paradise talk,” Jack surmised.

“Seven words?” Daniel put forth.

“No, you can't have any ice cream?” the older man quipped.

“I think this is more than food, Babe.”

“What's your guess?”

“I have no idea.  He's been job hunting.”

“Danny, he graduated with honors.  His co-op employers all raved about him.  He's been accepted to graduate school, if he decides to go that route.”  Jack paused, trying to think of some cause for Jeff's unusual behavior.  “Didn't Alex mumble something about hiring Jeff?  Maybe Archonics backed out of that or never made an offer?”

“That's possible,” Daniel agreed.  “But ...”

“Trouble in paradise?” Jack questioned again.

“Chely?” both men queried in unison.

“They're in love, Jack.”

“Okay, I'm all out of ideas.”

“Maybe she said 'no,' Daniel put forth.

“No to what?”

The archaeologist stared at his husband with pointed eyes.

“Do you know something I don't know?” the general asked.

“No, he hasn't said anything to me, but seven words?  Maybe, 'no, I won't marry you.”

“That's only six words, Angel.”

Rolling his eyes, Daniel elaborated, “Okay, how about, 'No, Jeff, I won't marry you.”

Worried and concerned, Jack and Daniel left all speculation at their son's door and decided to check on Chenoa as promised.  First, though, they waited in the living room for several minutes to ensure Jeff had plenty of time to speak with his sister.

====

“Noa,” Jeff called out as he entered the girl's room.

“Lulu's asleep,” Chenoa sniffled.  “Are you okay, Jeff?”

Sighing, the young man shook his head and sat down on the side of the bed.

“I'm worried about you,” the tweener confessed.

“I'm sorry, Noa.  I didn't mean to snap at you.  I have a problem, and I don't know how to fix it, and it's a really big problem.  I'm just ... crap, Sis, I'm angry, so angry, but I shouldn't have taken it out on you.”  Jeff reached out and took the girl's hand as he continued, “We're the brood, and we always support each other.  I'm really sorry.  Do you forgive me?”

“Always,” Chenoa responded, leaping up and falling into her brother's secure hold.

“I'm sorry, Noa,” the young man said again.

To Chenoa, it sounded like Jeff was crying.  She held on tight, sensing his need to share, if only through a hug.

“I bet Dad and Daddy could help you,” the girl put forth.

“No, they can't help this time,” Jeff negated, releasing his sister from their hug.

“Dad and Daddy can do anything.”

“Not this, Noa.  They can do a lot of things, but they can't change history and they can't alter someone's heritage.  Get to sleep, okay?  I love you, Noa.”

“I love you, too, Jeff.”  As she watched Jeff stand and walk to the door, Chenoa called out, “Jeff, maybe Dad and Daddy can't fix it, but they can listen, can't they?”

“Yeah, they can do that.  Goodnight.”

“Night.”

Sighing again, Jeff walked the long hallway and came to a dead stop at the jog that led to original part of what had been a small, country-type home originally.  He stood there for what seemed like an eternity to him, until voices startled him back to the present.

“Jeff, are you all right?” Daniel asked.

“No, Daddy, but ... can it wait for a day or two?  I ... I have a lot of thinking to do.”

“Sure, Son,” Daniel replied.

“I'm sorry I was a heel.”  Jeff looked at Daniel and then Jack.  “I really am, Dad.  May I be excused now?”

“Yeah,” Jack permitted with a tiny smile.  As Jeff again walked between his parents, Jack put his hand on the young man's shoulder, gripping it firmly, and reminded, “We're your parents, Jeff, not your judge and jury.  You might be too old for us to fix your problems for you with a Band-aid, but we can be a sounding board.  No matter what, remember that?”

With the tiniest of smiles, Jeff replied, “Noa just reminded me of that, too.”

Saying no more, Jeff walked on, leaving the two parents to ensure Chenoa was feeling better.  They assumed she was since when they opened the door to the bedroom, both of their darling dancers were fast asleep.

====

“Give him space,” Daniel advised the children the next morning.  “No, we don't know what's bothering him, but when he's ready, he'll tell us.”

“But we're the brood, Daddy.  We always share when we're upset,” Aislinn asserted.

“Princess, as you grow up, you may want to keep things to yourself, just for a while,” Jack responded.  “It doesn't mean you don't share.”

“It just means you wait a while sometimes,” Daniel pointed out.

“Space,” Jack instructed the brood.

Unhappy but realizing they had no choice, the brood quietly went their separate ways.

“They're not happy, Danny.”

“No, they're not.”  Daniel pursed his lips and added, “But neither are we.”

“Touche!”

“I need to check in with Karissa at the office and ...”

“And I need to ... beat myself at chess again.”

With a chuckle, Daniel said, “Love you,” kissed his husband, and went upstairs to his den, while Jack headed for the chess set to keep his mind occupied on something other than Jeff.

====

Wednesday afternoon the children were spread out at different activities.  Only Aislinn and David were home, along with Jack and Daniel.  The archaeologist was in the middle of a call with their best client, Abayomi Sharif, while the general was working on a lesson plan for a future homeschooling session.

With the rap of the knocker on the front door pounding, Jack left his study to see who was coming for a visit.  Opening the door, his smile quickly turned to a frown.

“Chely.”

The young woman was crying, sobbing, actually.

“Mis...Mister Ja...ck...Jacksss...on-O'...O'...”

“Make it Jack,” the general suggested, thinking the girl would never get out his full surname with all the sobs and sniffles that were coming with every utterance the emotional visitor was making.

“Would ... I ... please ...”

“Chely, come in.”

“No,” the young woman responded, shaking her head vehemently.  “I ... I don't ... don't know what else to .... um, I mean ... what else can I ... I ...”

“Do?” Jack questioned, trying desperately to make some sense out of Chely's near-noncoherent statements.

“Will you give this to Jeff, please,” Chely cried, closing her eyes and then pulling off the diamond engagement ring she'd been wearing from the moment it had been placed on her finger.

Jack was stunned to see the beautiful diamond ring that now rested in the palm of his right hand.

“Chely, please come inside.  We can talk about this.”

“No, Mis...Mis...”

“Jack,” the general reminded.

“I ... It's all I can do.  Tell Jeff I love him, that I will always, always love him.  Please tell him.  I ... Ooooooo ...”

Chely turned and ran off the porch.  Jack followed, but if the girl had driven to the house, there was no sign of her car.

**Daniel, get off the friggin' phone now.  We have an emergency!  Abadaba can wait.**

--

In his den, the communication from his husband came through loud and clear.

“Uh, Abayomi, I'm sorry, but there's a family emergency.  I need to call you back later.”

“What is wrong, Daniel?  Is it one of the children?”

“I have no idea.  Uh, I'll check on the site specs before calling you back.  Goodbye.”  Hanging up the phone, Daniel swiveled around in his chair just in time to see his lover entering the den.  “Jack ...”

“Look at this,” Jack ordered, holding out his hand with the engagement ring in it.  “Chely just handed this me.  Daniel, she was sobbing uncontrollably and from the looks of her red eyes and her flush cheeks, she's been crying for days.  There's trouble in paradise all right, but it's not the kind of trouble I was expecting.”

“He proposed to her, but she didn't say 'no' apparently,” Daniel surmised.

“Then what happened?  Danny, she told me to tell Jeff that she'd always love him.  She said she didn't know what else to do.”

With a slight bob of his head, Daniel opined, “I think Jeff's had enough space.”

“More than enough,” Jack agreed.

The couple had not forced their son to share his torment, hoping he'd talk to them eventually about whatever was troubling him.  Three days had gone by and the truth was that they'd barely seen Jeff.  He left the house early and came home late.  He looked healthy, though, and he'd been cordial with his siblings, and thus the passage of days with the unusually patient parents.

“We just have to find him,” Daniel pointed out as he looked off, trying to figure out where his oldest son was.

Suddenly, both men exclaimed, “Jen!”

With a knowing un-amused chuckle, Jack noted, “She's been conspicuously absent since the weekend.”

“Okay,” Daniel concurred.

The two automatically went downstairs and headed for the backyard, intending to use the gate that connected their large backyard with the tiny one at the back of Jennifer's home that she shared with her new husband, Peter.

“Ah, wait,” Daniel called out, stopping suddenly after stepping off the back patio deck.

“Daniel!” Jack groaned as he'd nearly run into his husband.

“Sorry, Babe.”

“Some things never change,” Jack observed with a brief smile.

Daniel paused for a second, too, remembering how many times during their SGC days he'd stopped on a dime and his colonel-turned-general bumped into him, but he also knew he didn't have time for nostalgia at the moment.

“Jack, he'll see us coming.”

“Military mind there, Jackson.”

“I learned from the best, O'Neill.”

“I'll take the front, you take the rear.”

“How about I'll take the front and you take the rear,” Daniel countered.

“What's your strategy?”

“Just the thought of you and your rear,” the younger man teased, turning and going back inside the house.

~That's my Danny.~

====

“Bro, you can't just sit here all the time.”

“Yes, I can,” Jeff insisted from the petite sofa in the small living room.

The sound of music played through the air, literally.  Jennifer's doorbell played an instrumental segment of the opening song for the film, “The Sound of Music.”

“Jeff, it's Daddy.”

“Great,” the young man sighed.  “I'll go out the back.”  He stood up and walked into the tiny kitchen that led to the backyard.  That's when he saw a familiar face. “Jen?”

“What?” Jennifer called out before hurrying into the kitchen.

“Let Daddy in.”

Jennifer immediately caught sight of her commanding father, a mischievous smile on his face that called out, 'Gotcha!' to the siblings.  With a nod, she turned and headed for the front door.

“Come on in, Daddy.”

“Hello to you, too, Sweetheart,” Daniel greeted.

“I'm sorry,” Jennifer apologized, hugging her father.  “He asked me.  I couldn't say 'no'.”

“You couldn't lie to us, either,” Daniel pointed out, a pleased expression on his face.

“I would never do that.  Jeff knows that.”

“Let's talk,” Jack suggested as he and Jeff joined Daniel and Jennifer in the living room.

“Chely came by,” Daniel advised his son.

“Chely?  Wh...when?  Is she ...”

“She's long gone, Son,” Jack told Jeff.  “She left this,” he added, extending his arm and revealing the engagement ring.

Transfixed on the ring, Jeff could only stand and stare.  He felt empty, like his soul had been ripped apart from body, leaving just a shell of who he was behind.

“Jeff, sit down,” Daniel urged gently, his hand on the young man's back.  “Talk to us.”

“You can't fix it, Daddy, not this,” Jeff finally spoke, his eyes still focused on the ring.  Glancing at Jack momentarily, Jeff took hold of the ring and then plopped down on his sister's sofa.  “I proposed.”

“We got that,” Jack replied, taking a seat to his son's right just as Daniel sat down on the other side of Jeff.

“We were so happy,” Jeff continued, his eyes lost in the memory that was so recent and yet felt so long ago.  “We talked about what we wanted to accomplish, not as individuals, but as a couple: things we wanted to do, where we wanted to live, children.  We sat for hours, dreaming about our lives and what the future would be.”

Silence overtook the room.  Jack and Daniel exchanged a look, neither wanting to force their son to speak and both wanting him to tell his story in his own time.

Several feet away, Jennifer stood, watching and listening intently.  She raised her right hand to wipe away tears that escaped her eyes.  It wasn't the first time she'd shed tears over her brother's unhappiness.  Inside, she felt relieved that their parents had discovered the truth.

~You need them, Bro.  You've never been more wrong than you have the last few days.  It's not impossible, and Dad and Daddy can help.  They have ... ways.  It's not the Stargate; it's not supernatural; it's just ... Dad and Daddy.  It's their synergy.  C'mon, Jeff.  Trust them, like we always have.~

“What happened, Jeff?” Daniel prodded quietly when the silence threatened to become permanent.

“Her parents came home.”

“And ...” Daniel prompted again.  The young man became quiet again.  **Jack, Chely's parents couldn't have said 'no', could they?**

**Nah!  They're good people, Danny.**

**Then why did our son's facial expression go from despair to ... to ... to ...**

**Yeah, he's angry,** Jack observed.  “Jeff, Chely's parents have always been great.”

“They love you,” Daniel added.

“Yes, that's what they said,” Jeff returned.

“Tell them, Jeff,” Jennifer interjected, her voice trembled from emotion.

With a sigh, Jeff revealed the truth of the situation, saying, “They said, 'No, Jeff, you can't marry our daughter.'”

**Seven words,** Daniel communicated.

“Son, that doesn't make any sense,” Jack responded.  “The Tillisons have known about this relationship for years.  They never once objected to you dating Chely.”

“Is it us?” Daniel asked tentatively.

“You?” Jeff questioned curiously.  When the puzzle was solved in his mind, he immediately shook his head, “No, Daddy, it has nothing to do with you and Dad.”

“They came to our anniversary party, Danny,” Jack pointed out.  “If we had anything to do with this, they would have objected years ago.”

“Jeff ...” Daniel again prodded, his one word saying much more.

“It's bad timing,” Jeff whispered.

“Jeff, tell them!” Jennifer called out demandingly.

“Mrs. Tillison has known for a long time that Chely and me wanted to get married one day.”

“Son, that's no surprise to any of us,” Jack interjected.

“Yes, but, she mentioned it for the first time to her sister.  They haven't stayed in touch very much.  Opinion differences from what Chely's told me.  Recently, they've tried to repair their relationship: you know, time has passed, their getting old, all that stuff,” Jeff detailed verbally.

“We get the idea,” Jack returned.

“Dad, the Tillisons are Jewish.”

“Yeah, so?”

“Jeff, that hasn't been a secret, either,” Daniel put forth.  “In our conversations with Chely, she's always indicated that wasn't a problem for her or her parents.”

“It wasn't, until now.”

More silence.  Jeff's despondency was obvious, as was his parents frustration at getting to the meat of the story.

“Oh for crying out loud,” Jennifer whined.  “Jeff, can I tell them?”  Seeing a nod, the woman explained.  “Dad, Daddy, Mrs. Tillison's sister is what we'd call very devout.  That's why they haven't spoken very often, because Mister and Mrs. Tillison have their beliefs, but you know how they've been.  They practice a lot of the Jewish traditions and rituals, but they rarely go to services, and they just haven't interfered at all with whatever their daughters have wanted to do in their lives, as long as, you know, it's good stuff.  They love Jeff, and you two, and, well, us, the brood, but Mrs. Tillison's sister has been harping on Mrs. Tillison for weeks now about the Jewish heritage and how it's wrong for their children to not marry another Jewish person.”

“What?” Jack called out with a scrunched nose.

“Since Jeff told me, I've done a lot of research about it online and, well, there's a lot about it, about the Jewish people being the chosen ones and how the line has to remain pure to honor God.  Most factions don't believe in interfaith marriages at all.  Conversion is really not recommended and even if Jeff and Chely agreed to raise their children in the Jewish faith, the reality is that because Jeff's Christian and not Jewish, their kids won't truly be considered Jewish.  It sounds so silly in ways, but their heritage is super important.  That's why the Tillisons said no to Jeff and Chely.”

“Daniel!” Jack stated expectantly.

“What?” the confused archaeologist replied.

“You're the cultural expert.”

Daniel laughed incredulously and replied, “So?  Jack, this is religion, and the best thing you can ever do with religion is accept it and move on.”

“See!” Jeff exclaimed, bolting up.  “Noa! You!” he snapped at Jennifer.  “You think Dad and Daddy can fix anything.  They *can't* fix this.  I've lost her.  I'm not Jewish.  They don't want me to be Jewish.  They want Chely and Bianca,” he said about Chely's younger sister, “to marry Jewish men and have *proper* Jewish babies.”  He spat the words.  “They can't fix it, Jen.  How could they fix it?”

In a distraught huff, Jeff stormed out of his sister's house.

“Should we follow him?” Jack asked his lover.

“No, he has a lot to sort out right now,” Daniel answered softly.  He looked over at Jennifer.  “Jen, what was that last part about?”

“I guess Noa told him the same thing I did.  She doesn't know about Chely, of course, but that night when he yelled at her, she kept telling him to talk to you.  I've done the same thing.”  Jennifer smiled lovingly and elaborated, “You're not miracle makers, Daddy, but you and Dad make things happen, things no one else can.  You convinced me to give Peter a second chance, and I swore I wouldn't do that.  I know this is more than that, and I know it's a sensitive thing, but if anyone can ... fix this, it's you two.  Please fix it.  Jeff loves her so much, and they've been planning this for a long time ... and ...”

Jennifer turned away, openly crying and prompting both parents to hurry to her side.

“Princess, I know you're worried about your brother, but why all this?” Jack queried, referring to Jennifer's overly emotional state.  **Danny, there's more than just sympathy for Jeff going on here.**

**I agree.  Give her a minute,** Daniel suggested.

“It's just ...”  Jennifer blew out a puff of air as she tried to center herself.  Then she admitted the truth to her parents.  “Dad, Daddy, Jeff and Chely have talked about getting married for a long time.  He never proposed until now, but they were thinking about it, putting it out there a couple of years ago, but ... well ...”

“Come on, Jen,” Jack urged.  “Don't hold back.”

“I kept asking Jeff to wait because, you know ...”

“Us,” Daniel surmised, getting a slight nod from Jennifer.

The truth dawned on Jack as well.

“Not us, Daniel, me,” the general put forth, confirmed by the silence.

“Dad, you wanted me with Peter, but it was still so hard on you to let me go, and I thought it would be easier if a little time passed.  I even talked to Chely when we got home from the honeymoon.  Jeff caught the garter, remember?  She was so nice.  She understood and said she trusted Jeff to know when the best time was for them to start their married life together.  She wasn't going to wait years or anything, but she loves you both, too, and she gets you, so she was okay waiting a little while.  It's just ... while they were waiting, Mrs. Tillison's sister started talking to her again, and ... crap, here we are.  They could have been married already if I hadn't kept asking Jeff to wait.”

“No, Sweetheart, if I hadn't been so stereotypical about holding on to my daughter instead of enjoying my new son, this wouldn't have happened.”

“You're both wrong,” Daniel corrected.  “Jen, you can't second guess your choices like that.  What you did was loving and understanding.  Ultimately, it was Jeff's choice.  Where love is concerned, advice is often solicited, but what we do because of our love, that's our choice and no one else's.  Jeff waited, maybe in part because of what you asked, but he could have a lot of other reasons for not proposing until now, like finishing college and having a job lined up; and, Babe, it's not your fault, either, for the same reasons.  You're ... blustery sometimes, but it was still our son's decision to wait.  He needed to be ready, in his own time, and he needs to make his own decisions.”

“He made it, Daddy, he asked Chely to marry him.”

“He has another choice to make now.”

“What?” Jennifer questioned curiously.

“Is he going to accept it, or is he going to fight for her,” Daniel put forth.

“Daddy, how can he fight the entire Jewish heritage?”

Jack gave out a little laugh of understanding and responded, “With one thing, Princess, and one thing only.”

“Love,” both men said at the same time.

“Jen, Dad and I aren't here, where we are today, because the road to our life was easy.  You know that.  It's the same with you and Peter.”

“Hammond and Mrs. ... Hammond,” Jack laughed genuinely as he continued to have a difficult time not using his longtime shortened name of Mrs. V for Sophia Valissi who was now Mrs. George S. Hammond.

“It's never easy, and I'm not saying this is easy, either, but if Jeff loves Chely enough, he'll stop moping on your sofa and start talking with the Tillisons and more importantly, to Chely.”

Jennifer nodded and then enjoyed a three-way embrace with her parents.  She felt relieved the entire truth was out and while she still felt guilty for her role in Jeff having delayed his marriage proposal to Chely, she also agreed with the words just spoken by her younger father.

“He'll fight,” Jennifer sniffled, “but he needs you to do for him what you did for me.  That's the magic.”

“Love, Jen, it's all about love,” Daniel stated as he held his daughter's hand.

====

Two days later, not much had changed.  Jack and Daniel were giving Jeff time to figure out his emotions.  The recent college graduate had yet to communicate anything other than brief pleasantries with his siblings, except for Jennifer, of course.

As she groomed her Shetland ponies, Hot and Chocolate, in their barn, Chenoa confided her concern.

“He's so unhappy, Hot,” Chenoa told the first pony as she brushed him.  “He won't tell us why, though.  He doesn't say anything.  Why is he so unhappy?”

Chocolate let out with a nay, walking over to Hot and giving her a little nudge.

“What?”  The girl's eyes grew wider in understanding.  “Oh, you think so?  That's a great idea, Chocolate.  I'll do that as soon as I'm done brushing you both.”  As she continued her task, Chenoa laughed, “Why didn't I think of that?”

====

A bit later, Chenoa took the cordless phone in the living room out of its cradle and settled in on the sofa.  Reviewing the list of shortcuts, numbers that were stored into the phone for easy dialing, she found the one she wanted and hit the appropriate buttons.

“Hello.”

Chenoa recognized the voice immediately, but it wasn't as cheery and bright as she remembered  it.

“Chely, this is Chenoa.”

“Oh, Noa, how are you?”

“I'm okay.”

“And Hot and Chocolate?”

“They're okay, too.”

“That's good to know,” the depressed voice replied.

“Chely, what's wrong with Jeff?  He's so unhappy, and he won't tell us why, but ... you sound unhappy, too.  Are you unhappy?”

Chely didn't want to, but she broke out into tears and, not having shared her story even with her closest friends, she found herself telling the tweener everything.

“You love Jeff, right?”

“Oh, yes, I do.”

“He's still Jeff,” Chenoa stated.  “I don't understand, Chely.”

“Neither do I, Noa, but I have to honor my parents.  It's our heritage.  That's what they keep telling me anyway,” Chely responded sadly.

“Dad and Daddy will fix it.”

“I wish they could.”

“They can do anything,” Chenoa stated confidently.  “It'll be okay.  Will you be my sister when you marry Jeff, like Peter is my brother now that he married Jen?”

“I want to be.  A girl needs a few sisters in her life,” Chely answered, sounding the brightest yet.  “Noa, Jeff hasn't even called me.  He must be so mad at me.”

“Dad and Daddy will fix it,” the girl repeated.  “Bye, Chely.”

“Bye, Noa.”

Biting her lip as she disconnected the call, Chenoa determined her next move.

====

“Sweetie, Jeff needs some time,” Daniel told his little dove after she'd gone to him with her discovery.

“Jeff needs Chely,” Chenoa insisted simply.

“You know that, and I know that, but Jeff needs to know that.”

“Huh?”

“Come here,” Daniel encouraged, helping the growing girl to sit on his lap.  “I guess we won't be doing this much longer.”

“Doing what, Daddy?”

“You, sitting on my lap.  You're almost a teenager.”

“I'll never be too old to sit on your lap,” Chenoa proclaimed.  “You're my daddy, and I like sitting on your lap.”

“Wonder what your friends will say about that,” the archaeologist mused, more to himself than to his daughter, though it was audible.

“Daddy, you're silly.”

“I am?”

“You taught me that my real friends won't care what I do.  I mean, that what I do will be okay with them.  I love you, and I want to sit on your lap sometimes, even if I am growing up.”

“You are grown up, Chenoa,” Daniel replied tenderly, running his hand gently through her blonde locks of hair.

“Daddy, focus.”  Chenoa smiled and reminded, “Jeff and Chely.”

“Oh, yeah, right.”  Daniel explained, “Noa, love isn't easy.  You know that.”

“Teal'c,” the young girl stated.

With a nod, the father continued, “Love is complicated, but because of my experiences, I do believe in happy ever after, not smooth necessarily, but, uh, happy.  It can happen, but you have to want it so bad that it changes your life and who are you.”

“What do you mean?  I didn't think we should change to make someone love us.”

“No, we shouldn't, but loving in itself changes us.  It makes us want to be better; it opens our eyes to new possibilities.  Think about K'hang.  You didn't change for him, but hasn't he made your life better, at least a little.”

K'hang was Chenoa's long-time alien boyfriend.  He was Teal'c's grandson, one of Rya'c and Kar'yn's children.  Though he lived on Chulak, the two had pledged to be friends and see where the future took them.  The ultimate goal would be marriage and so far, things seemed to be headed that way, though at twelve, Chenoa was far from ready to take that step.

“He got me to see that New York City is just a place.  It didn't kill my mommy and daddy.”

“No, it didn't.  It took a long time for you to see that.”

“K'hang reminds me still that New York City is just a place like any place.”  Chenoa let out a sad sigh and lamented, “My other mommy died here, and I love it here.”

“I know,” Daniel sighed as he smiled in sweet remembrance of Kayla Armentrout, the surrogate mother of the Munchkins and the Spitfires who had been killed in a car accident.  “It was a drunk driver, and sadly, Noa, drunk drivers are everywhere.”

“I know, Daddy,” Chenoa replied.

“So ...” Daniel said, taking a breath.

“I understand I think.  Jeff needs to remember that he loves Chely more than anything and that she loves him.”

“He needs to want her so bad that he, uh, well, he won't take 'no' for an answer,” Daniel asserted.  “This is tricky, Noa.  The Jewish people have a very strong lineage; they're proud of that heritage.”

“But?” the girl wisely prodded.

“But the Tillisons know and love Jeff.  I guess maybe it comes down to how strongly they believe that God wouldn't approve of an interfaith marriage.”

“He wouldn't disapprove.”

“That's our belief, Noa, but we don't have any right to dispute their's.  That said, Jeff has to be willing to talk to them and to Chely.”

“And Chely has to do what she wants.  Daddy, she loves Jeff.”

“I believe that,” Daniel concurred.  “But, Sweetie, she has to decide for herself, too.  Right now, from the little we know, she's doing what her parents want.  That's not necessarily a bad thing, either.  It's, uh, complicated.”

“You and Dad can fix it.”

“No, only Jeff and Chely can do that.  The rest of us can help by understanding and being supportive of whatever they decide.  Of course, they have to talk first and Jeff's in hiding.”

“Thanks, Daddy,” Chenoa said, getting up.  She headed for the door, but then turned and promised, “I'll always sit on your lap, even when I'm old like Aunt Sam.”

~Ouch!~ the father mused about his daughter's concept of age.  ~Sorry, Sam.~

====

“Dad, we're going up in the treehouse, okay?” Jonny asked his father.

“Okay,” Jack acknowledged.  “Uh, wait.  Who's we?”

“The brood.”

“All of you.”

“We're having a meeting,” Jonny advised.

The children often got together on their own to discuss what was happening in their lives.  It was nothing new, so to Jack, there was nothing to be concerned about.

“You know the rules.  Make sure you watch out for JD,” Jack advised.

“Geez, Dad, do you think we're kids or something?”

“Something like that,” Jack responded with a stern look.

Jonny rolled his eyes and turned around to go outside.

Jack sighed at how fast the kids were growing up.  There was a time they wouldn't be allowed in the treehouse on their own, not without one of their fathers nearby.  With the exception of JD, though, they were all old enough to enjoy the treehouse at their leisure.  The brood had never disobeyed or abused the treehouse playing privilege, so much trust was built between the adults and the kids.

With a shake of his head, Jack returned to his work.

--

Outside, the children settled into the treehouse.  They were all there, except for Jennifer and Jeff.

“Okay, Noa, we're here.  What's up?” Jonny asked as he informally called the meeting to order.

“Jeff needs our help.”

“Why is he so unhappy?” Aislinn asked.

“Listen, I've tried to talk to him,” Brianna told her siblings.  “He barely answers me.”

“He fixed my software yesterday, but he didn't say anything to me, either,” Ricky stated as he referred to a temporary glitch in an archaeological program he sometimes used in his learning process.

“We'll go covert,” Jonny suggested excitedly.

“Wait!” Chenoa called out.  “I know what's wrong, and Jeff needs our help.”

For the next few minutes, the Curly Top brought her siblings up to speed with everything she knew from her chat with Chely to her conversation with Daniel.

“It doesn't make sense to me,” Lulu commented.  “They're in love.”

“The Tillisons are wrong,” Jenny opined.

“No, they're not, Jenny,” Little Danny refuted.  “They aren't wrong.”

“But they won't let Jeff and Chely get married,” the redhead returned.  “That's not right, Little Danny.”

“It depends, Jenny.  It's what they believe, the Jewish people.  We can't tell them they're wrong,” the child prodigy insisted.

“Sure, we can,” Jonny argued.

“Jonny, no group has a right to tell another group how to live or what to believe,” Little Danny maintained firmly.

“But Jeff and Chely want to get married,” Aislinn interjected.  “What's wrong with that?”

“I like Chely,” JD chimed, not really understanding anything that was being discussed.

“Me, too,” Ricky sighed.  “Little Danny, why don't the Tillisons want Jeff and Chely to get married?”

“Well, Jewish people believe that they are the light to the world, the chosen people.”

“Chosen to do what?” Lulu asked.

“It's from the Bible, sort of,” Little Danny answered.  “Beginning with Abraham, all of his descendants are supposed to share God and His words with others.  They just believe that they need to be extra faithful, to be examples.  They quote Deuteronomy that tells them not to marry the gentiles.  That's us.”

“Cause we're not Jewish,” Chenoa surmised.

“Right,” Little Danny confirmed.  “Remember what we learned in our religious studies.”

“They don't believe Christ was the Son of God,” Jenny recalled.

“Christians say that Jesus will fulfill all the requirements of the Messiah from the Bible in the Second Coming,” Little Danny reminded.

“But the Jewish people say it should have happened when Jesus lived, if He were really the Messiah,” Brianna noted.

“And they say that Jesus lived too late to be a prophet in that most Jewish people weren't in Israel at the time,” the middle Munchkin added.

“I remember that,” Jonny spoke up.  “They said when the last prophet died, that ended all prophecy.  All the Jewish people would have to go back to Israel.  Would they fit there?”

“Don't worry about it, Jonny,” Little Danny urged.

“But I don't think a majority of the world's Jewish people could fit in Israel, could they?” the oldest Munchkin asked innocently.

“I don't know,” Little Danny answered with a shrug.

“Topic,” Aislinn interjected, using a word the children had often used whenever the subject got too far south of the intent.

“Anyway, they have a list of reasons why they don't think Jesus was the Messiah,” Little Danny continued.  “What they do say is that God chose them to enter into a covenant ...”

“A what?” JD inquired, still not really following the conversation but trying his best to pretend, if nothing else.

“It means an agreement,” Jenny defined for the boy.

Little Danny elaborated his original thought, saying, “Jewish people think that God put them on Earth to fulfill a purpose.  Genesis 17 and Deuteronomy 14 both back up what they say.”

“Give me a book of anything and I'll find something to support just about anything,” Brianna countered.  “Hey, I'm not discounting anything.  It's just I've heard a lot of Bible slinging, one group quotes this verse and another group quotes that one.  It's open to interpretation.  I guess that's the point, isn't it?”

“Yeah,” David affirmed.  “And that's why we can't tell the Tillisons, or anyone, that what they believe is wrong.  We have our faith and we know for ourselves whatever it is that we believe, but people around the world have an abundance of spiritual beliefs.  No one but God or whatever higher power is out there can truly say what the real story is.”

“Why can't Jeff marry Chely?” a frustrated Aislinn questioned her siblings.

“One of those Bible quotes tells the Jewish people not to marry the gentiles,” Brianna answered.

“Why?” Ricky asked.

“Don't ask me,” Brianna answered.  With a shrug, she admitted, “That's about as far as my knowledge goes on the subject.  Little Danny?”

“See, God never said why the Jewish people were chosen, but if you think about it, it makes sense.”

“How?” Jonny questioned.

“Well, if God chose a group that was really big and powerful, then people could say that the only reason anyone started believing in Him was because they were forced to, but by choosing a small group, then if the word spread, it was more proof.”

“Like the meek shall inherit the earth thing,” David put forth.

“But why can't Jeff marry Chely?” a frustrated Ricky queried.

“Because Jeff isn't Jewish,” Little Danny answered.  “Mister and Mrs. Tillison want Chely to marry another Jewish person.  There's a line in the Bible that says if they don't do that their children, well, their sons would be led astray.”

“Chely's a girl,” Jenny pointed out.

“It would be Chely's sons then,” Little Danny explained.

“What if she only has baby girls?” Ricky asked.

Little Danny sighed and continued, “It's just that the Jewish people say that it would corrupt their line.  They wouldn't be the chosen ones anymore.”

“I don't get it,” Ricky groaned, putting his head in his hands as he sat cross-legged.  “Jeff loves Chely.  Chely loves Jeff.  Period.”

“What can we do?” Jenny asked.

“We have to get Jeff to talk to Chely,” Chenoa told the other kids.  “She didn't give the ring back for three whole days.”

“Haven't they talked at all?” Brianna asked.

“I don't think so, Bri,” David answered.

“Daddy says it's all about love, and I think they should get married, so we need to get Jeff to talk to Chely,” Chenoa opined strongly.

“Let's do it!” Jonny ordered, standing up.  “Come on!”

One by one, the children left the treehouse until they were all on the grass below. With Jonny in the lead, they walked single file inside the house.  Focused with intense stares, the children passed both of their parents without saying a word.

“Daniel, what's going on?”

“I have no idea,” Daniel responded.  “Do you think we should follow them and find out?”

“Oh yeah,” Jack agreed, leading the parental charge, though he remained far enough back so that he could do a bit of observing rather than overtaking the kids.  **Danny, my money's on Jeff's room.**

**I wouldn't bet against it,** Daniel communicated as he caught up to his husband.  **Jack, why don't we let them do whatever they need to do.**

**You're hoping they get through to him,** Jack opined.

**We haven't.**

“Let's go,” Jack whispered, waiting for Daniel to turn around and then following his Love back to the living room where they decided to wait to see what transpired with the children.

====

Jonny banged on Jeff's door, ignoring the young man's pleas to leave him alone.  Realizing the little general had no intention of going away, Jeff finally opened the door.  At that point, he had no choice but to watch as his siblings pushed him back into the room, closed the door, and then surrounded him.

Arms folded, Jonny advised, “Jeff, this is a vention.”

“A what?”

“He means it's an intervention,” Little Danny translated for his brother.

“It's like this, Jeff, we don't mean to get into your business,” Brianna began.

“Yes, we do,” Jonny corrected.

“Jeff, we know about Chely,” David advised his older brother.  “We're sorry, really sorry.”

“Thanks,” the dejected young man responded.

“Jeff, you're a Jackson-O'Neill,” Chenoa reminded strongly.

“You have to fight for her,” Aislinn ordered.

“Tell her you love her more than anything,” Brianna suggested.

“Don't take 'no' for an answer,” Jonny advised.

Jeff stared in confusion at his younger siblings.

“Tell her, Jeff,” Little Danny stated.  “Girls like to hear mushy stuff.”

“It's romantic,” Aislinn explained.

“Chely wants to marry you,” Chenoa stated.

“So marry her,” Jonny instructed with firmness.

“You don't understand,” Jeff squeaked out.

“Yes, we do,” Little Danny insisted.

“Jeff, Chely has a mind of her own,” Brianna claimed.  “Look, we may not understand the whole Jewish thing, but you've been a couple for years.  She took the ring.  Just because her mother is going through a thing with her sister doesn't mean Chely doesn't want to marry you.  Think romance.”

“Girls like boys to fuss over them,” Aislinn put forth.  “Maybe she just wants to make sure you really want to marry her.”

“Maybe she's a little scared, Jeff,” Brianna remarked.  “The thing is, if you don't talk to her, how do you really know how she feels?”

“There has to be an 'or' like Dad always says, and Daddy always says to never give up.”

Jeff smiled at the young girl and, kneeling down so that he was looking up at her, he said, “You really believe Dad and Daddy can fix anything.”

“They fixed us, all of us, Jeff,” Chenoa answered with such simplicity that it sounded like one of the most elegant things Jeff had ever heard.

“It's all about love,” Little Danny interjected.  “Chely's already family.”

“Don't just let her go, Jeff,” Brianna urged.  “I don't know what Chely really wants.  Maybe she doesn't, either.”

“You'll never know for sure if you don't try to get her back,” David challenged.

“What do you have to lose?” Brianna questioned pointedly.

“Nothing,” Jeff answered quietly.

“Tell Chely she's our sister, even if she doesn't marry you,” Chenoa instructed her older brother.

“I will.  Thanks, guys,” Jeff told his siblings.  “You're all very special.”

“We know,” Jonny responded, letting out a smile after a couple of seconds.

“Go, Jeff!” Aislinn encouraged as her outstretched arm pointed towards the door.

“Okay,” Jeff agreed, grabbing his wallet and hurrying out of the room.

“Do you think Chely will disobey her parents?” Jenny asked her brothers and sisters.

“That's what we want, isn't it?” Aislinn sighed.

“No, it's not what we want,” Brianna disputed.  “What we want is for our brother to be happy, and that means marrying Chely.  Chely's an adult.  She has to make up her own mind.  I'm not sure she has.”

“Why not?” Chenoa questioned.

“Because never once since she and Jeff have been a couple has religion been a factor in their relationship.  I can't say whether or not they ever discussed it, but based on Jeff's reaction, I'm guessing they haven't.  Besides, she accepted his marriage proposal.”

“I'd better go do my homework,” Ricky told the others as he left Jeff's bedroom.

When the younger children had all exited, David looked at Brianna and said, “I hope we did the right thing.”

“All we really did was convince Jeff to talk to Chely.  Since when is communicating a bad thing?”

David nodded and left the room.

~Good luck, Jeff,~ Brianna wished internally.

====

 Jeff took an anxious breath and rang the doorbell.  He looked all around the block as he waited for someone to respond.  Finally, he heard the inside latch being pulled back and then the familiar creak of the heavy door moving.

“Mrs. Tillison, I'd like to speak with Chely, please.”

Sympathetically but film, Naomi Tillison responded, “I do not believe that to be wise, Jeff.”

“With all due respect, I would really like to talk with Chely.  Please.”

Taking a reluctant sigh, the woman gave the young man a nod and invited him inside the home.  She pointed toward the family room, a familiar place to Jeff.  Just days ago, it had been the place of his proposal.

Quietly, Jeff walked to the family room and stood just inside the doorway, his mind wandering back to the last time he'd been there.  He and Chely had planned their forever that day.  He recalled part of their conversation about where they might live and potentially move around.  He was an architect on the rise.  For her part, Chely was an accomplished Computer Science graduate.  She hadn't begun with that intention, but after taking the introductory courses, she was swayed.  She already had three confirmed job offers, none of which was in Colorado Springs.

//Flashback//
“You were waiting to see if I'd propose,” the smiling Jeff surmised when told about the job offers.

Her grin wide as she gazed at the diamond ring on her finger, Chely confirmed, “Yes, Gaffy.  I didn't want to pressure you or anything, especially with your parents and Jen having just married.”

“I guess we need to figure out where we're going to live.”

“Jeff, whatever we do, it has to be what is best for both of us, not just for one of us.  We have to start our lives together right.”

“I agree,” Jeff responded while caressing his fiancee's hand.  “I have a lot of resumes out there, a few interviews lined up, but there's nothing firm for me right now.”

“Why don't we review our options and make a list of the pros and cons for each,” Chely suggested.  “Then let's listen to our hearts and see where we are.”

“I like that,” the young man opined as he leaned over for a few kisses.
//End of Flashback//

~It doesn't matter where we live, Chel, as long as we're together,~ Jeff determined.  Then he smelled a familiar scent.  It was the perfume he'd had made for his love the year before.  ~I spent just about all of my discretionary income on that aroma, and then some.~  He turned around and smiled.  “Hello, Chely.”

Chely started to return the greeting, but emotion got the better of her.  She began to cry and ran straight into Jeff's arms.  Her tears dampened his shirt, not that he cared.

“I've missed you, Chel.”

“Me, too, Gaffy,” the young woman responded, not wanting to move from Jeff's embrace.

“Chel, my dad says there is always an 'or' to any situation.  He's fought some amazing battles when it looked super impossible to survive, but he always did; he always found an 'or.'”

Chely backed away, walking over to cabinet that housed her prized beach movie collection.  She'd always dreamed of finding her Moondoggie, her Frankie, her forever love who was both intelligent and fun.  Jeff fit the bill.  Her fingers ran across the edge of the cabinet while her already broken heart shattered into even more pieces.

“How can there be an 'or' to this?”  Chely turned, not even trying to hide her tears.  “The Jewish faith doesn't make exceptions, Jeff.  If you marry out, your children aren't chosen; the heritage is lost.”

Jeff bridged the gap that had been between he and the woman of his heart.  He put his hands on her arms and stared deeply into her brown eyes.

“I love you.  I can't change my Christianity, and I wouldn't even if I could, and I don't want you to change your faith.”

“So there is no 'or' for us.”

“Yes, there is.  We just need to find it.”

“How, Gaffy?  How?” the woman's voice pleaded.

“I have no idea ... yet.”  

Jeff kissed Chely, the two falling into the other as naturally as they ever had.  Minutes passed as they enjoyed their physical connection, each longing for even more.  They were interrupted by the arrival of Chely's parents, her father having just arrived home from work.

“Jeff, have respect for my daughter,” Micah Tillison spoke tersely, sufficiently stopping the interaction of the young adults.

“Mister Tillison, I have enormous respect for Chely, and for you and Mrs. Tillison, but I love your daughter, and I am not going to give up on her.”

“We cannot and will not give our blessing to a union outside our faith,” Chely's mother declared resolutely.

“Will you ...”  Jeff paused, his mind desperately trying to come up with the right thing to say, anything that could convince the Tillisons to agree to the marriage.  When his father came to mind, Jeff went to the only option available to him at the moment.  “Will you meet with my parents?”

“Why?” Micah inquired, his one word query sounding as stern as his request for respect had been.

“Because I believe that communicating is important and they're my parents.  They love Chely like a daughter; my brothers and sisters already consider her their sister.  She's ... family.”

“We feel the same about you Jeff,” Naomi expressed quietly, her face softening as did her voice as she spoke.

“Thank you.  I ... please, will you come for dinner tomorrow night.  I know it's short notice, but ... please.”

“We owe him this, Naomi,” Micah opined.

“We will come.”

“Thank you,” Jeff repeated.  He reached out for Chely's hand, taking it in his.  “I'll see you tomorrow, Chely.  I love you.”

“I love you, too, Jeff.”

It was one of the hardest things the young man had ever done, but slowly, Jeff released Chely's hand and made his way outside the home.  He walked to his truck and stood in front of it, his mind reeling.

Softly, Jeff spoke, “Okay, Noa.  You believe in this magic of Dad's and Daddy's.  I guess I believe, too, but if ...”  He looked upward at the sky and closed his eyes.  “Please let the magic be real.”

Jeff looked back at the house and smiled as he saw his bride-to-be, so he hoped, staring out at him.  He saw her raise her right hand and wave gently.  He returned the wave and then got into his truck and left the Tillison home.

====

“Are you busy?” Jeff asked upon returning home and finding his parents standing near the patio door in the living room.

“We were just about to get the kids for dinner,” Jack replied.

“Can it wait a minute?”

“What do you need, Son?” Daniel asked.

“Chely,” Jeff answered succinctly.  He took a sad breath and continued, “I invited the Tillisons to dinner tomorrow night.  They said they'd come.”

Jack and Daniel glanced at each other and both nodded their permission.

“I ... I need you to work your magic,” the young man admitted with a great deal of vulnerability.  “I need Chely.  I love her.  Daddy, you have to find one of Dad's 'or's.  You *have* to!”

“Jeff ...” Daniel began.

“Noa.  Jen.  Everyone.  You work magic.  You have to help me.  Please.”

“We'll do our best,” Jack promised, his left hand clenching his son's shoulder.

Jeff nodded, whispered, “If you don't mind, I'm not very hungry,” and then headed to his room, his eyes already wet from the anxiety he was feeling.

“Jack?”

“Yeah, Danny?”

“Where can we buy an 'or'?”

“What we need is an oar, a couple of 'em, and let Jeff use them to row he and Chely out of here.”

“Daddy, when's dinner gonna be done?” a hungry Jonny shouted from outside.

Jack and Daniel both shrugged, turning their attention to mealtime.  Both knew the next twenty-four hours were going to be extremely difficult.

====

“Any luck?” Jack asked as he entered Daniel's den.

It was late, a quarter past eleven, and the brood had long ago gone to sleep.  Even the animals were bedded down, except for Calico who seemed to be clinging to the silver-haired man on this evening.

“No, not that I expected to find anything,” Daniel replied as he swiveled his chair to the left so he could see his husband.  “Jack, we're talking a very long history here.  There's not a lot of flexibility.  You're either one of the chosen or you're not.”  The cultural expert blinked and questioned, “Babe, you do realize Calico's on your head?”

“Yep,” Jack acknowledged, sitting down in the recliner that was near Daniel's desk.  “She attached herself to my hair about twenty minutes ago.  I think she's nesting.”

The younger man chuckled lightly and then stared back at the monitor that had the latest website on Jewish history, beliefs, and culture that he'd visited that evening.

“There's gotta be something, Danny.”

“Well, there's some inconsistency in the Bible itself.  Deuteronomy has a section of verses that instruct the Jewish people not to marry outside the faith or their children will be lost to God, but then there are several noted interfaith marriages in the Bible:  Moses and Tziporra,  for example.  Then there's one offshoot of Judaism that doesn't follow the chosen people concept at all, but I doubt that has much affect on the Tillisons.”

“Danny, they're not hypocrites,” Jack put forward seriously.

“What do you mean?  I mean, of course, they're not, but what's the connection?“ Daniel inquired.

“I can't say that I've ever heard them talk about their faith.  Chely's celebrated holiday seasons with us.  Micah and Naomi have never uttered a word of objection.”

“The problem is in spite of how close Jeff and Chely are, we don't know the Tillisons that well.  We get along, we love our children, but we've never really socialized with them.”

“We've had dinner.”

“A few times a year maybe, oftentimes as part of a family function that didn't facilitate a lot of getting to know one another better.”

“What's your point?”

“I'm just saying we've never asked them about religion.  Babe, that's never been high on our discussion list.”

“That leaves us nowhere, doesn't it?”

“Maybe, or maybe not.”

“More words, Angel.”

“Actually, just ... just one word, Jack -- love.”

Jack nodded and then the couple continued to discuss the sensitive situation and how best to handle the important dinner with their potential in-laws.

====

Saturday dinner had gone well, albeit with a slight aura of uncertainty in the air.  Now the children were in the game room, where they understood they were to stay until called.  Chely's sister, Bianca, was with the brood while Jeff, Chely, and their respective parents were in the living room.  The younger twosome were on the left side of the sofa with the Tillisons on the right side.  Jack and Daniel were currently standing, the older man a couple of steps behind his husband.  The group had talked for an hour already about the Jewish faith and Naomi Tillison's return to the core of the religion's practices after several discussions with her very devout sister.  Actually, Daniel and Naomi had done most of the talking.  Jack was biting his tongue, while Jeff and Chely were holding hands, braced and hopeful for the outcome.

“I understand,” Daniel responded to the most recent explanation of the importance of keeping the lineage pure.  “The chosen people are ... chosen, and there's no way around that.”

“Okay, let's get down to business,” Jack interjected, ending his silence.

“Jack!”

“Daniel, we've been having polite discussion for over an hour now, and while I appreciate the lesson on religion, we haven't made an progress,” Jack opined forcefully.

“What progress is it you want to make, Jack?” Micah Tillison inquired.

Jack started to answer, but his military senses were acting up.  He made a few stuttering sounds as he crossed the room toward the kitchen.  Then he sprang into the nook and stared down at a few young faces.

“Hi, Dad,” Jonny greeted.  “We're taking Bianca on a covert mission.”

“Your mission has been scuttled,” Jack advised curtly.  “Grounded for twenty-four.”

“Dad!”

“Twenty-four can become forty-eight in a second,” Jack threatened.

Jonny gulped, tugged on Bianca's arm, and then led the way back toward the game room, with Jenny and Brianna in tow.

“Aren't you supposed to know better?” Jack called out to the tomboy.

“Sorry, Dad, but I was curious.  My friend Janice is Jewish and she's dating a protestant.  I was curious.”

“You said that.  Go,” Jack ordered.

“Yes, Sir,” Brianna sighed.

As Jack returned to his previous position, he could hear Bianca ask, “How did he know we were there?”

“We're Special Ops,” Jonny claimed.  Then he added, “I think he has a remote control camera in his head.”

For a moment, Jack wanted to laugh, but the situation was too serious to be distracted in that manner.  He stuck to his guns as he returned to the discussion and spoke to Micah and Naomi.

“What do I want to make happen?  Happiness, that's all.  The kids want to get married.  Up until Jeff proposed, you were all for it.  We all knew it was coming.  It was just a matter of timing, and now you're slamming the door on them, or trying to.”

“We have a right to follow our religious path,” Naomi argued.

“Yes, Ma'am, you do,” Jack agreed politely.  “You do, for yourself, but not for your daughter, a grown adult who you've raised to be an intelligent, resourceful, caring young lady, one I consider to be my daughter.  Maybe that steps on your toes a little, but Danny's the negotiator in the family and I'm ... not.”

“Micah, Naomi,” Daniel interceded, his left hand on his lover's chest in a signal for him to be silent, “we aren't asking you to go against your faith.”

“It sounds like you are,” Naomi responded with a force of her own.

“I'm sorry, we don't mean to,” Daniel replied sincerely as he walked forward, cleared a space on the coffee table that he pulled back slightly, and then sat down on to sit across from Chely's mother.  “Look, you're right.”

“Daniel!” Jack exclaimed in shock.

Ignoring his husband, Daniel continued, “There is no argument.  There's nothing to counter the Jewish view on heritage and honoring that belief.  There's not a thing we can say to that.”

“Daddy,” Jeff spoke in sad disbelief.

“But sometimes,” Daniel stated without missing a beat, “you have to follow your heart.  The concept of God is different to many people so to try to, to fight that is, well, crazy, so I'm not going to do that, but I am going to argue for love.  See, Jack and I have our own religious beliefs.  It may not be traditional, but we've experienced enough miracles in our time to know something, or someone, is out there.  We've chosen to let our children learn about spirituality, religion, faith in a variety of ways.  Admittedly, we ultimately taught them how to pray: to kneel, hold their hands, bow their heads, speak reverently, but where they take that and what they do with it will be their choice.”

“Chely is making her own choice,” Naomi insisted.

“Is she?” Daniel questioned.  “Naomi, she's been dating outside the faith from the beginning.  You've never objected to that.  You allowed her feelings for Jeff to grow and encouraged her as she began to dream about a future with him, just like we did in our way when we saw how serious his feelings were and are for your daughter.  When Jeff asked to marry her, Chely agreed.”

“Then you dropped the hammer,” Jack put forth.

“Jack, be quiet,” Daniel ordered, though he never even looked back at his Silver Fox.  “All I'm saying is that Jeff and Chely are in love and they should have the right to decide on their own what their future is to be, or not.”

“Chely has done that.”

“No, she hasn't,” Daniel denied.  “Naomi, Chely loves you very much.  She respects and cares about you as a daughter should.  My understanding is that when they told you they were engaged, you began to cry and talk about how you were letting down God.  In the conversation that followed, she was made to feel like the entire weight of the Jewish people were on her shoulders, and if she didn't do the right thing, that is, the right thing in your eyes, she wouldn't have your blessing or support in her marriage to Jeff.  What did you expect Chely to do when you placed your burdens on her?”

“My burdens?”

“Naomi, you and Micah have lived your lives honoring your faith in your own ways.  You made choices about what rituals you followed, what holidays, Jewish or otherwise, you practiced, and the rules for your children to obey.  In all those years, Chely was never made to feel like she had to date and marry someone in the faith.  Jack's right.  When the time came, you hit them with a giant hammer.  You're asking her to choose between your love and Jeff's.”

“No,” Naomi negated.  “I'm asking her to choose God.”

“Why now?  Why all of a sudden?” Daniel questioned.

“It is our way,” the woman maintained.

“Since when?” Jack challenged.  “It's that know-it-all sister of yours that started this.”  Hearing the sigh, he added, “Daniel, if Jeff had proposed when he initially wanted to, they'd be married already.”

“Maybe,” Daniel responded, his eyes still focused on Chely's mother.  It was such dangerous territory, the subject of religion.  ~I don't know if I'm right; I only want Jeff's happiness,~ he sighed inwardly as he sought out what else he might say to the Tillisons.  “Let me ask you this.  What happens if Chely marries Jeff?”

“What do you mean?”

“Will you still love her?” Daniel asked in earnest.

“What kind of a question is that?” Micah returned, insulted by the query.

“What happens if Chely marries Jeff and they have children, children they decide to raise as Christians?  or Muslims?  or Jewish?  What happens if your daughter marries our son?  Will you still be a part of her life?  Will you love your grandchildren?  Celebrate holidays with them?  Let them know you?”

“Of course,” Naomi.  “Our love is not the issue, Daniel, it is God's order for us to not marry outside our faith that must be obeyed.”

“And if Chely decides that she believes something else?” the diplomat asked quietly.  He smiled with a soft, gentle upturn of his lips.  “Have you asked Chely what she believes?”

“She is our daughter,” Micah answered, as if nothing more was required.

“A daughter you raised to be independent, to think for herself, and to make her own judgments.  Have you asked her what she believes, how she perceives God?”

“No,” Naomi admitted.

“Maybe you should,” Jack suggested, his hands in his pockets as he continued to stand a few feet behind his lover.  “Her choices may not be yours.”

“She wants your love,” Daniel put forth.  “If Chely shares your beliefs, that's one thing, but isn't the very fact that she not only agreed to marry Jeff, but is here, hoping you'll give her your blessing, an indication that maybe her feelings are a little different from yours, spiritually speaking.”

“I don't know what you want me to say,” Naomi returned, turmoil growing within her even as she argued for her beliefs.

“Neither do I,” Daniel admitted.

“Well, I do,” Jack asserted as he walked forward.  “Listen, folks, it's like this.  I don't like to talk politics, religion, or booze with people.  It never gets us anywhere but into a good, old fashioned word tussle, but I'm putting in my two cents worth.”

“Jack ...”

“You gave it a shot, Daniel.  Now it's my turn,” Jack insisted.  “I like you folks.  As people go, you're all right.  From my point of view, though, the only ones who should be arguing about religion right now are Jeff and Chely.  They need to have a little pow wow and decide for themselves if their love is all they need or not.  You see, yeah, I believe in the Man upstairs.  Like Danny said, I've seen and experienced too much not to, but the only difference I see between my Man and yours is that mine loves everyone equally.  There's no this one or that one just because that one's Catholic or that one is a Zen Buddhist.  It's how you live your life that counts.”  He looked over at the would-be-engaged couple and spoke, “I've seen things I can't talk about and the Man knows I've done more than I care to remember, nasty things ...”

“Jack,” Daniel called out softly, not really wanting his husband to let the dark things of the past out of the box that was buried deep within his brain.

“I'm okay,” Jack promised.  “If God punishes, I wouldn't have this life I have now, with a husband I don't deserve, and kids that any man would be *proud* to call his.  My son loves your daughter.  He'll devote his life to her and do whatever it takes to protect and keep her safe.  He's a good man, a hardworking one with good values.  If God turns His back on my son because of my sins or because my son wasn't born into the Jewish faith, then it's all a crock.  That's what I believe.  God is supposed to be loving and forgiving.  My vote is to let the kids decide if they have what it takes to get through this life together.  They have some talking to do about kids and how to raise them, but it's their choice.  If I know Chely, and I think I do, there's going to be a wedding.  The only question is, are you two going to be there?”

“Jack may be a bit ...”

“To the point?” Jack asked his lover.

“rude,” Daniel completed, “but his heart is in the right place.”  Standing up, the archaeologist addressed the young couple.  “Jeff, I know you wanted Dad and I to have magic words to fix this situation, but in religion, there are never magic words.  In the end, it doesn't matter what any of us think,” he used his right hand to make a circle that pointed to the four parents, “it only matters what you and Chely think.  Chely, you're in a hard place, but look, if you believe what your parents believe, then you can't marry our son, no matter how much you love him.  If you did, the time would come when you'd resent that you married out and that the children you brought into the world were not considered to be Jewish.  If you don't believe like your parents do, then you could up resenting them.  Maybe you'll find someone else to love, but you might not, or you might hold on to this relationship in such a way that it harms any future relationship you have.  We can't tell you what to do.  All we can tell you is that to us, you're our daughter, and you'll have our support and our love, whether or not you marry Jeff.”

“Thank you, Doctor Jackson-O'Neill,” Chely replied as tears rolled down her cheeks.

“Sometimes growing up means making hard choices.  No matter what you decide, you're making a hard choice.”  Daniel smiled, though, and added, “But I believe that no matter what, your parents will love you and your children.  I believe that even if you decide to go against their wishes, they'll be at your wedding.  Whatever you decide, you have to decide it.  We can't do it for you.  We can't tell you what's right for you or what your God believes.”  He looked at his son and shook his head.  “I'm sorry, Son, but you and Chely are the only ones who can decide your future.  Dad and I have told you what we believe, and the Tillisons have made it clear what their beliefs are.  Now it's your turn, both of you,” Daniel put forward as he looked at Chely as well as Jeff.

“Ice cream?” Jack asked brightly.  Seeing the lack of response, he proposed, “Whiskey?”

Daniel just lowered his head in response.

Jeff stood up, took Chely's hand, and helped her to stand as well.  Letting his girl's hand go, he hugged each of his parents before walking over to Micah and Naomi Tillison.

“Mister and Mrs. Tillison, I love your daughter and if I have my way, she's going to marry me.  I hope when she does, that you're there and that you're as much a part of our lives as I know my parents will be.  If you'll excuse us, though, we have a decision to make.  Goodnight.”

Chely said nothing as she wiped away a tear and then snuggled her head against Jeff's shoulder as she felt his protective arm go around her.  Quietly, the couple left the house.

 “Now we wait,” Daniel said passively.

“Never been great at waiting,” Jack replied.

“Those in our faith have waited a long time for what is still to come,” Micah claimed as he stood up.

As she stood, Naomi asserted, “You think Chely will marry your son.”

“I hope so,” Daniel replied truthfully.

“If she does, we will honor her marriage.  The blame will be ours, and we will take that with us to our graves,” Naomi stated pointedly.  “We failed to raise our girls to understand the importance of their heritage.”

“Perhaps there is still time with Bianca,” Micah told his wife.

“Perhaps.”

“But the kids will have your blessing?” Jack asked directly.

Micah and Naomi looked at each other, their eyes communicating an agreement.

“If Chely wishes to turn her back on our faith, that will be her choice,” Micah responded.  “Whatever her decision, we will not turn our backs on her.  She is our daughter.”

Micah and Naomi called out for their youngest daughter and then started to leave the Jackson-O'Neill home.  As Jack opened the door for them, Naomi suddenly turned to face Jack and Daniel.

“We love Jeff.  We know in our hearts that he will always take care of our daughter.  I hope she does the right thing, but if she marries your son, we will be happy as she is happy.  He is, as you said, a good man.”

“Thank you,” Daniel responded with gratitude.

Jack closed the door and stared at his lover for a few seconds before saying, “You sure Chely's gonna do the right thing?”

“Babe, to you, the right thing is marrying Jeff.  I'm not sure if that's the right thing or not, but I guess I hope it is.”

The sound of scurrying feet drew the parents attention.

“What happened?” Lulu asked.

“Are Jeff and Chely getting married?” Aislinn questioned.

“The verdict's still out,” Jack answered.  Taking a breath, he looked at the brood, grateful for each one of them.  “Jonny, Jenny, Bri, you're not grounded.”

Jonny grinned, but then put forth, “We didn't do covert very well.  Where'd we mess up?”

Daniel chuckled as he looked over at his smiling husband.

“Tell us,” Jenny requested urgently.

“Bri, Con's latest present,” Jack informed the tomboy whose long distance boyfriend had just sent her a new gift.

“Geez, done in by something girlie,” Brianna sighed.

“Perfume!” Jonny groaned as he sniffed his sister.

“Jonny, cut that out,” Brianna ordered.

“Why'd you wear perfume on a covert mission?” the little general queried.

“Why didn't you noticed?” Brianna challenged, smiling at her comeback.

“Gotcha!” Jack interjected as he ran his hand through his namesake's sandy brown hair.  “I don't know about you guys, but I need ice cream, triple scoops.”

The cheer was loud as the kids turned to head for the kitchen even as Jack put his arm around Daniel.

“We tried, Danny.  We did our best.”

“Now it's up to Jeff and Chely.”

“Quadruple scoops,” Jack called out, laughing at the thunderous response that brought about.

“Overdoing it?” Daniel asked succinctly.

“Ice cream or booze, what's your pleasure?”

“Quadruple ice cream,” the archaeologist answered as he put his arm around his spouse.  “Jack?”

“Yeah?”

“I love you.”

“Love you, too, Angel.”

====

“What do you think?” Daniel asked his husband as the two sat on the sofa in the living room.

“Thinking's your game,” Jack replied as his fingers tapped against the magazine he'd been pretending to read during the last two hours.

“Stay here I guess.”

“He may not want us lying in wait,” the older man spoke about the couple's son who had yet to return home, even as the clock ticked two in the morning.

“Bed?”

“Who'd sleep?”

“Who'd you know,” Daniel retorted.

“We could,” Jack suggested.

“We could,” Daniel agreed.

Taking a collective sigh, the couple didn't move from their spots until they heard the sound of the door move at last.  They sprung up, unable to fight the urge not to approach the entryway.

His keys dangling in his hand, Jeff walked a few steps and stopped right in front of his parents.  He was tired and looked it.

“I want to thank you for trying.  I know it was hard and that magic only goes so far,” Jeff stated.  He turned around and headed down the hallway while Jack and Daniel both shook their heads in sad realization of what the words meant.  Then the recent college graduate turned around and said, “There's just one thing I need you to know.”

“What's that?” Jack asked quietly.

“The Tillisons want the rehearsal dinner party to be kosher.”

Jeff broke out into a big grin and hurried back to his parents, the three engaging in a huge, excited hug.

“Thank you so much.  Noa and Jen were right,” Jeff opined emotionally.  “You can work magic.  I love you both.”

“We love you, Jeff,” Jack responded, his hand patting his son's back.

“I know it's late, but the short version is that Chely said 'yes', again.  We have a lot of decisions to make, though, about kids and her religion, but we agreed we'd make those decisions together.  We talked to her parents and they accepted it.  We're going to wait a bit to set a date, too, but she's wearing my ring.”

“I'm happy for you, Jeff,” Daniel replied, relieved at the outcome.

“Goodnight,” Jeff told his parents, grinning as he walked down the hallway.

“Whew!” Jack exclaimed.  “That was close.”

“Too close,” Daniel agreed.  “Babe?”

“Yeah?”

“You know what we were talking about before Jeff walked in?”

Jack's grin was huge.  Tired and somewhat drained from a very long and emotional evening, one thing was for sure.  Neither he nor Daniel were ever too weary to celebrate their nation of two, and that's exactly what they decided to do.

As they walked up the stairs, Jack called out to his Love, “Danny?”

“Yeah?”

“A kosher rehearsal dinner?”

“We'll make it work.”

“We always do,” Jack agreed.

Love was blossoming all around as life for the Jackson-O'Neills continued to thrive, especially as one by one, the brood was adding to their extended family.  They'd added a brother in Peter Hamilton and a sister in Chely Tillison.  The only question remaining now was who would be next.

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