The Burning

Author:  Orrymain and special guest co-author, Robert!
Category:  Slash, Humor, Drama, Romance, Established Relationship
Pairing:  Jack/Daniel ... and it's all J/D
Rating:  NC-17 (mild)
Season:  Beyond the Series - November 16-23, 2010
Spoilers:  None
Size:  174kb
Written:  August 12-27, September 6,8-10,12,15,21-25,28, 2005  Revised for consistency: September 1-4,14, 2007, January 15, 2008
Summary:  Teal'c learns about a strange Tau'ri ritual.  Will he ever be the same again?
Disclaimer:  Usual disclaimers -- not mine, wish they were, especially Daniel, and Jack, too, but they aren't.  A gal can dream though!
Notes:  
1) Jack and Daniel's designer decided he wanted to dabble in writing, too, so I'm pleased to once again have Robert co-author this fic with me!
2) 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.**
3) Silent, unspoken thoughts by various characters are indicated with ~ in front and behind them, such as ~Where am I?~
4) This fic stands alone, but it does reference my past fics, “Blowout”
5) Thanks to my betas who always make my fics better:  Claudia, QuinGem, Sue, Tove, Linda, Tamara, Melissa, Carol, Linda!

The Burning
by Orrymain and Robert

====
--October 19, 2010:  The Setup!
====

“Mmmm, I love you so much, Jack,” Daniel crooned as he lay atop his lover on the living room sofa.

On this day, the brood was either with members of their extended family, at play camps, or studying with other homeschooling families, so the lovers had taken a rare opportunity to cuddle, and then some, on their sofa.  The beagles were outside, of course, while Mittens was upstairs somewhere.  All the other animals were in their assorted tanks, cages and hutches.

“Love you, too, Angel,” Jack said, rubbing Daniel's back.  “We'd better get up and ...”

“Oh, I'm up ...” Daniel said energetically.

Jack chuckled, “Hey, I'm willing, but the kids will be home in thirty minutes.”

“Oh, yeah,” Daniel said, smiling.  “Love our brood.  Love these moments, too,” he added as he kissed his lover again and planned on taking advantage of every second they could for their impromptu make-out session on the sofa.

“I do, too, Love.”

====

Later, after Daniel had gone upstairs, Jack stood, looking at the sofa.  He realized just how worn it had become.  The fabric was threadbare in nearly a dozen places, the foam inside was breaking down, and the springs now offered little support.

At the time the couple renovated their house, their designer, Alex Dennison, had suggested replacing, or at least recovering and revamping, the well-loved piece of furniture.  Daniel, who had vetoed very little the man had suggested as pertaining to the new addition had become so upset by the suggestion that he did, what Jack called, 'big time grown up pouting' for a few days, burying himself in J-O Enterprises work and his family.

While Daniel had managed to hide his feelings from everyone else, in private, Jack had heard plenty on the subject of touching the beloved sofa.

“In one word,” the archaeologist had stated, over and over again, “No, as in nein, nyet, for-get-it!”

Thus, Jack was reluctant to suggest that they prepare for the inevitable demise of their beloved sofa.  He had thought about it several times, finally concluding that Daniel's attachment to that particular piece of furniture was not rational, that any attempt to deal with his irrationality on this issue would only upset his lover, and that there was no way to prepare for it.

~We'll just take it as it comes.  It's going to happen; yep, one of these days, the ole sofa is going to be a heap of trash.~

Jack dismissed the impending disaster from his mind, deciding that until the furniture collapsed, it was pointless to fret over it.

====
--November 14:  A Light Bulb Moment!
====

Just two days ago, Jack and Daniel had welcomed their three newest children to the fold.  Jeff, Brianna, and Lulu were now loving, and loved, members of the Jackson-O'Neill clan, though it would take a while for the paperwork to be completed and for everything to be official.

The two teens, Jennifer and Jeff, got along fabulously.  As she helped her new brother settle into his room, Jennifer noticed her brother had some expensive camera equipment.

“Wow, this stuff looks fancy,” Jennifer remarked as she held the camera in her hands, examining it.

“Yeah, it's top-of-the-line,” Jeff affirmed.  “Dad, uh, I mean ... my ...”

Jennifer smiled and said reassuringly, “Your father.  He's still your father, Jeff, just like my mom and dad are still my mom and dad.”

Jeff sighed in relief and explained, “My dad gave it to me for my birthday last year.”

“Film?” Jennifer queried.

“Yeah, Dad was old fashioned.  I have a really good digital camera, too, but this one was film.  He said there was nothing like developing your own film.  He was going to teach me how, but ...”

“Hey, you know what we need?” Jennifer asked, wanting to shake her new brother out of the looming sadness.  Seeing Jeff shake his head, she added, “A new family photo.”

“That would be neat,” Jeff answered, a smile on his face once again.

“Dad and Daddy will probably have us take a portrait with them soon; it's a tradition around here.  Mmm,” Jennifer pondered, her eyes looking over at the wall.  “They probably won't do it until after Thanksgiving, though, since everything is kind of crazy right now.  Actually, it's always a little crazy around here.”

“Good crazy, I hope,” Jeff chuckled as he took possession of the camera that Jennifer had just handed back to him.

“Oh, definitely, Jeff, but anyway, it would be so cool if we could surprise them with one just of us, you know, the brood.  Oh, and the girls.”

“Bijou and Katie,” Jeff said with a smile.  “I think they think they run the place.”

“I think they do,” Jennifer laughed.

The teenagers continued chatting for a while about creating a special photo as a memento for their parents.  They liked the idea of doing something on their own as a sign of unity and togetherness.  Excitedly, they discussed various locations for the photo and their relative merits until, suddenly, Jennifer got a big grin on her face.

“Okay, Sis, give it up.  What are you thinking?” Jeff asked, his hands grasping the camera that now hung around his neck.

“Jeff, I've got it!  The perfect place for all of us to sit for a photo!” Jennifer exclaimed.

“Shoot!” Jeff teased.  Smiling, he said, “Sorry, couldn't resist the pun.”

Chuckling, Jennifer answered, “All of us, plus the girls, Mittens and Calico, sitting on the sofa in the living room.  Dad and Daddy, especially Daddy, *love* that thing.”

“I think it probably has to do with what they've done on it over the years,” Jeff snickered.

“Ewww, Jeff, please don't remind me,” Jennifer giggled.  “If that sofa could talk ... ewww.  Never mind.”

“Parents and sofas go together,” Jeff commented shyly.  “That's what I've heard, anyway.”

“Believe me, they do.  Dad and Daddy have their lips glued together all the time.  You'd think they'd get bored,” Jennifer commented.  Seeing Jeff's doubtful look, she acknowledged, “Well, okay, not bored, but ... Jeff, I mean it's alllll the time.”

The two teens blushed and decided not to continue their current train of thought.  They had two very loving parents, and that's about as much as either of them wanted to think about.  Instead, they turned their conversation to how soon they could arrange the picture shooting.

“When do you think we should try and pull this off?” Jeff asked.

Jennifer looked thoughtfully as she walked around the room, trying to work out the ideal time.

“I know!  Dad and Daddy have a meeting at J-O Enterprises on Tuesday, right after we get home from school.  We could do it then,” Jennifer eagerly suggested.

“You know their schedule?” Jeff questioned, not sure if he should be impressed or worried.

The girl chuckled, “Well, when they need to make sure I don't have plans, they tell me.  I have a calendar they print out for me every couple of weeks, so I can make sure I don't have school commitments, or that if I do, we can discuss what needs to change.”

Jeff stared, surprised by the response, and finally inquired, “You don't automatically change *your* schedule.”

With a pleased smile, Jennifer shook her head and answered, “No.  When there's a conflict, I go to them, and we discuss it.  I admit that probably three-fourths of the time, it's my schedule that changes, but they've changed their plans sometimes, too.  They really do try to be fair, especially if it's something I think is really important.  Like a while ago, my friend, Amber, was going through a hard time, and I just really felt like she needed me.  We weren't even going to do anything special, just sit around and chat.  I felt so strongly about it, that Dad and Daddy rescheduled their business meeting.  They even let me stay overnight at Amber's.”

“They really sound like great parents,” Jeff sighed.

“They are,” Jennifer spoke.  She quickly added, “That's why our surprise is going to be so much fun.”

“That's not much time to get the rest of the brood ready, Jen,” Jeff responded.

“We can do it.  The schedule says they'll be home by dinner, so we have a lot of time between the end of school and then.”

“Yeah, but we'll need to get the little ones ready and everything.”

Jennifer chuckled, “Jeff, you're a Jackson-O'Neill, and as a member of our little tribe, you really must learn the family motto.”

“What's that?” the boy asked.

“Together, we're unbeatable, and that means we can do anything, including pulling this off,” the girl maintained confidently.

“I'll remember that,” Jeff said as he took his camera from around his neck and placed it on his desk.

“Believe me, the brood knows how to keep a secret, and this is just for two days.  It'll be a piece of cake,” Jennifer expressed insistently.  “What we will have to do is make sure they shine their shoes and pick out their clothes tomorrow night so that everything will be ready for the portrait on Tuesday.”

“You really think we can pull this off?” Jeff inquired as he checked his film supply.

“Jeff, this brood can do anything.  Dad always says that we are resourceful and capable to do anything we want to do in life.  He and Daddy really believe in the family motto, so we do, too,” the high school girl chuckled.

“Okay, casual or fancy?”

“Well ...”

Together, the teenagers devised their plan of attack for their special surprise.

====
--November 16:  Calamity Strikes!
====

“Daniel, I have the distinct feeling our children are up to something,” Jack opined the next afternoon while Jennifer and Jeff were still in school.

“Why do you say that?” Daniel asked as he paid another bill online.

“Just a feeling,” the older man replied.  “They've been playing inside all day.  I offered to take them to the park earlier, and they said no.  Daniel, our children never refuse a trip to the park.”

Daniel chuckled, “That's because they're usually able to con you into taking them for ice cream afterwards.”

“That's precisely my point.  They said no -- to the park and potential ice cream.  I think they're sick,” Jack said as he continued to pace the width of Daniel's den.

“Maybe they just feel like being inside.”

“Daniel, I'm telling you it's not natural,” Jack stated suspiciously.  Stopping his movement, he noted, “And remember what I said last night?”

“You said a lot of things last night, Babe,” Daniel chuckled.

Jack groaned; then clarified, “About the kids polishing their shoes.  Why?  That's what I want to know -- why?”

“Thanksgiving is coming up; maybe they're just preparing,” Daniel suggested as he typed in the amount of the gas bill into the payment amount box.

“Ricky and Jonny washed behind their ears and flossed their teeth before bed and without me asking.  Now I ask you, Danny, is that natural?” Jack asked with wide eyes.  Not waiting for the younger man's response, he answered the question himself, saying, “It's creepy.”

“I admit it's, uh, not normal, but, well, you know how they all have to do everything together,” Daniel reminded.  “Maybe they decided to see how it feels to go an entire day clean.”  ~Yeah, right, Jackson,~ he chuckled to himself at the absurdity of his supposition.

“The Munchkins?  Clean?  For an *entire* day?” Jack questioned, rolling his eyes at the almost unheard of thought.

“Babe, where's the statement for Noa's dental visit?” Daniel inquired as he reviewed a checklist for the mid-month financial obligations.

“It'ssss ... in the study,” the older man answered as he recalled the bill in question.  “They made an error on the billing.”

“Are they sending a corrected statement?” Daniel queried as he scribbled a note next to his checklist.

“Should have it in a couple of days,” Jack answered.  “Daniel, they're up to something,” he commented as he returned to their original topic.

“Jack,” Daniel began, “We're only going to be at the office for a couple of hours.  The brood will be fine, and since we're so close, it's a good chance to give Jeff a feel for babysitting the younger ones; and Jen will be around if he needs extra help.”

“But they're up to something, Danny,” Jack repeated.  “I feel it in my bones.”

After logging off and powering down the laptop, Daniel stood, looked at his lover, and, with a coy smile, asked, “Babe, when *aren't* they up to something?”

“Daniel, that isn't comforting!” Jack replied, standing up as well.  ~What it is, is downright scary.~

Laughing, the younger man coaxed, “They'll be fine, and we need to get ready.  Jen and Jeff will be home any minute, and we don't want to be late for our appointment.”

====

“They're gone,” Jennifer said after she came down the stairs from her loft bedroom over the garage, where she'd watched her parents pull out of the driveway and head towards their destination.

As soon as the two teenagers had walked in the door, there had been a brief review of the brood's status, after which Jack and Daniel had headed out.  Jennifer had hurried upstairs to put her things away and to covertly watch from her window, making sure her parents had completely driven away before they set their plan in action.

“Okay, Guys!  Let's get dressed in our good duds and get into the living room.  I'll get my camera.” Jeff said, rushing off to his bedroom.

While Jeff dressed, Jennifer helped the youngest girls get ready, grateful when Brianna walked in to assist with Jenny, who demanded that her hair be absolutely perfect for the picture.

Once he was in his desired attire, Jeff checked on the boys, helping them get into their clothes.  Finally, the eleven children gathered downstairs, leaving only Jennifer to dress in her desired outfit.

“Go on, Jen,” Jeff urged.

“We have plenty of time, but I'll hurry,” the girl responded as she headed for her room to put on her dress and makeup.  Turning back, she instructed her younger siblings, “No one start anything!”

====

“C'mon, Jen, you're gorgeous.  Let's go already!” Jeff called out anxiously over the intercom.  “If Dad and Daddy finish early and come home sooner than we expect, we're going to get caught.”

One minute later, all the Jackson-O'Neills present gave a sharp intake of breath as their older sister entered the living room.  She was perfectly lovely.

“Whoa, Sis!  If I weren't your brother, I'd ask you out!” Jeff exclaimed.  He smiled as Jennifer laughed, hiding a blush.  “Places, everybody!” he instructed.

The camera was mounted on a tripod, set in portrait mode and adjusted to the correct indoor exposure.  Jeff had only to press the button on the remote control for pictures to be snapped one at a time, or he could hold it down to take a series of photographs in rapid-fire succession.

====

At J-O Enterprises, Jack and Daniel had concluded a successful negotiation for a new contract and declined an invitation to a celebratory dinner, wanting to return home and check on their children.  The older man just couldn't shake his feeling that something was going on with their brood.

“Jack, I'm sure everything is fine.  We've only been gone for ninety minutes,” Daniel said in an odd reversal of their normal worrying patterns when Daniel was usually the worrywart of the couple.

“I know, Danny, but those hairs on the back of my neck are standing up.”  Jack sighed, “Maybe we should have gone to dinner with our clients.”

“They're going to O'Malley's, Babe.  Why don't we go home, do a quick check on the brood and meet up with them at the restaurant?” the younger man suggested.

“My genius,” Jack quipped.

Daniel teased, “You always said you married me for my brain.”

“Among other things,” Jack seductively retorted.

====

“Why doesn't anything go as planned?” Jennifer complained as she helped Chenoa into position.

“We weren't counting on having to find Mittens hiding in the study,” David answered.

“She wasn't hiding,” Little Danny refuted.  “She likes it in there.”

“'Specially when Dad there,” Ricky added as he giggled, knowing how Jack frequently whined about the cat 'stalking' him.

Much later than anticipated, the children sat in their prearranged places.  David, Chenoa, Lulu, and Brianna were perched across the back of the sofa.  Jeff and Jennifer each sat on one of the sofa arms, with their legs crossed.  The Munchkins and the twins filled the cushions, with the two beagles, Bijou and Katie, sprawled across their laps.  Aislinn had Bagel on her lap, while Jonny positioned Bogey to face the camera from his spot in the boy's shirt pocket. David held Mittens, while Lulu was trying to coax Calico to jump from the floor in front of the sofa into her arms.

--

Jack and Daniel stepped inside their entry hall just in time to hear their oldest son say, “Lulu, she'll be fine.  She'll be in the picture.  Smile, Everybody.”

The two fathers walked quickly to the living room to see what was going on.  Their curiosity was piqued not only by Jeff's comment, but a simultaneous 'woof' by Katie and a few giggles.  Just before they caught sight of the action, the lovers saw a brief flash of light go off.

“Nobody move,” Jeff instructed.  “Relax and smile.  Think ice cream,” he said as another flash went off.

The first flash had startled Calico, and she was walking in circles looking dazed.  As soon as she had a patch of clear sight, she spied Lulu among all the spots floating in front of her eyes.  She tensed and wiggled her rump in preparation to spring onto the sofa.

In the same instant, Daniel beheld all eleven children, two dogs, one rabbit, one lizard, and, what was to be, in just a split-instant hence, two cats on his and Jack's beloved sofa.  Well aware that the sofa had not been built for that kind of weight, Daniel watched events unfold as if they were in slow motion.  He saw Calico leap onto Little Danny's lap, then turn and face the camera, just in time to be blinded by the flash going off again.  Finally, he watched in utter horror as Calico made another leap for Lulu's arms.

“NOooooooooo!” Daniel wailed as Lulu wobbled on the back of the sofa and caught her wayward pet, while Calico turned in her owner's arms to catch another flash.

For a moment, as time stood still, no one said anything.  Having felt a shudder beneath them, the stunned children stared down at the carpeted floor.  The perceptive beagles were motionless as they wondered why humans thought they were superior beings, and Jack and Daniel stood like statues while they helplessly observed the calamity that was about to play out.

The instance of silence was shattered by the stretching groan and a sigh of straining wood, finally erupting in a sickening crack.  Startled, Jeff bore down on the remote with his thumb, causing the flash to fire thirty-two more times in rapid succession as the overloaded sofa frame collapsed, amid startled yells from the children.

Mittens screeched as she jumped clear over to the fireplace and then scampered up the stairs.  Close behind her was a hissing Calico, determined to find a nice, safe bed to hide under for at least a week.

“Callie, it's okay,” Lulu called out, quickly getting up and running after her pet.  “Hi, Dad, Daddy,” she greeted as she flew by her fathers.

Bijou and Katie each barked a few times as they observed the children.  Seeing they were okay, they quickly headed for their dog door and went outside, preferring the chilly air to screaming, screeching, and hissing.

“Wow!” Jennifer exclaimed as she looked back at the mess from her spot on the carpeted floor.

The five littlest members of the brood were giggling, with Jonny asking, “Jeff, we do that again?”

Bagel was staring at Bogey, who was wishing the rabbit was a fly.

“Jonny, get Bogey.  He scare Bagel,” Aislinn ordered.

“Bagel big'r than Bogey, Ash.”  Seeing his sister's intense glare, Jonny secured Bogey in his hands while thinking, ~Sometimes Ash has gen'rl eyes like Dad 'n' Daddy.~

“Is everyone okay?” Jack inquired.

“That fun!” Jenny exclaimed, jumping up and down on the cushion that now sat on the floor.

~I'll bet.  That was like watching a Three Stooges movie.~  Jack walked forward, verifying the children weren't injured or hurt in any way.  “Okay, spill,” he ordered.

“It was going to be a surprise; I guess the surprise was on us,” David answered with a sad and sagging shrug of his shoulders.

“Dad, is Daddy okay?” Brianna asked as she looked over at the younger man.

Jack turned and glanced at his lover, who hadn't moved an inch.  Daniel was staring in total disbelief and despair at the sprawled out sofa.

The back had fallen off completely and was now lying flat on the floor.  The two arms had separated from the frame; one was hanging at an odd angle but swaying ominously, still connected to the rest of the sofa by a single fiber, while the other had snapped off from the rest of the sofa and lay on the floor.  The springs had sprung loose and were bobbing up and down as the Spitfires played with them.

The fabric was torn to shreds, adding to the total disarray of the old sofa.  The only pieces to survive were the three sofa cushions that had slid off, under the children, and landed against and next to the coffee table.

Daniel's mouth was open, his eyes wide, and his expression that of a victim about to be murdered by Freddy Krueger.

“I'm sorry, Angel,” Jack said softly, knowing Daniel's angst over the sofa.  He wanted to comfort his lover, but he felt it was more important at the moment to get the children away from the sofa in case there were any sharp objects or splinters that could cause them harm.  “Everyone upstairs.  We'll have dinner soon.”

“Sorry, Dad.  We wanted to surprise you and Daddy by taking our picture,” Jennifer lamented sadly as she headed for her room.  She stopped by Daniel, placing a kiss on his cheek and whispering a soft, “Sorry, Daddy.”

As the children quietly moved away, Daniel whispered, “You all look very handsome and beautiful.”

With little smiles on their faces, the children went to their rooms, Jeff carrying his camera, tripod, and other equipment with him.

Jack sighed as he walked over to his husband.  He turned around so that he was standing to Daniel's right, both of them facing the scrap heap that had once been a couch.  He put his arm around his archaeologist's waist, his left hand rubbing gently.

“Angel, I know you loved it, but it was old, and now we can get a new one,” Jack said as supportively as possible.

Daniel walked two steps out, turning to glare at his husband.  The glare was cold, but heated.  There was definitely trouble in Colorado Springs.

~Oops.  Wrong thing to say, O'Neill.~  Jack had just set off Tropical Storm Daniel, and he hoped he didn't get swept away by the downpour that was about to occur.  ~I have to stop putting my foot in my mouth.~

“So, when something is old, you just toss it out?” Daniel asked angrily, waving his right hand in a tossing motion over his shoulder.  “Does that mean that when I'm old, you'll just throw me away and go get some young hunk or ... or bosomed hunktress somewhere?  Is that all the loyalty you have?”

“Hunktress?”  Jack was dumbstruck by the rage coming from his lover.  ~He's really losing it.~

“You know what I mean!” Daniel retaliated, folding his arms tightly across his chest.

“Danny!”

“You said you liked breasts!” Daniel argued nonsensically.  “In fact, General, you said you missed them!”

“Excuse me?”  Jack shook his head and then put both of his hands to his forehead and pressed firmly, trying to wake up from the nightmare he was currently in.  “Daniel, there isn't a man alive who doesn't miss breasts, but, hey, you more than compensate for bosoms.”  He grinned mischievously as he looked at his lover's midsection, winked, and added, “Trust me!”

“Thank you so much,” Daniel spoke sarcastically.  “How can you throw mmmme, I mean it, out so easily?”

“Danny, it's just a sofa,” Jack responded as calmly as he knew how.

“It's ... it's ... ju...just ... It's just a ... a ...” Daniel stuttered, unable to get out his thought.

“Okay,” Jack said quietly.  “Daniel, I know you're upset, but look at it.”

Daniel turned, his entire posture sagging as he took in their beloved sofa.  He leaned down, picking up one of the springs that had come completely loose.

“Our sofa,” Daniel whispered in despair.

“We can get a new one, a bigger one that ...”  Seeing Daniel's intense glare, Jack shrugged, asking, “What?  Danny, we can't leave this here.”

After dropping the spring back to the floor, Daniel walked, fists clenched at his side, into Jack's personal space and stated sternly, “We can, and we will.”

“Oooookay,” Jack responded.  ~Something tells me there is going to be a bumpy road ahead.  Since when does my husband get all dictatorial about a piece of furniture?~  He stared at the downed couch.  “Can I at least bag ...”

“No!” Daniel uncharacteristically barked as he moved closer to the sofa, kneeling down and running his hand along the edge of the broken frame.  “Our sofa,” he whispered dejectedly.

“Danny ...”

Rising, Daniel announced, “I'm going for a walk; I need to clear my head.  Is that okay with you?” he asked sharply.  Then he sighed and closed his eyes, quietly admitting, “I didn't mean that to sound so abrupt.  I just need a few minutes.  Are you okay with that?”

“Sure, Angel.  I love you,” Jack said, moving to give his lover a tender kiss.

The kiss, however, was much too short in Jack's opinion, especially when his soulmate suddenly backed away from him, said, “I love you, Jack.  I'll be back in a few minutes,” and then briskly headed out the door.

Jack stared at the mound of destruction and questioned, “You are just a sofa, aren't you?”

====

Later that night, the family enjoyed pizza for dinner.  It had been delivered since neither of the parents felt like cooking from scratch.  Jack had told the children that the living room was off-limits for the time being, except to use the stairs.  He had also made another attempt to try and convince Daniel to let him throw the sofa in the trash, or at least pick up and box the pieces, but the young man adamantly refused.

Now, the couple was in the process of putting their brood to bed, something that was usually a very soothing and cherished time of their day.

“Daddy, are you mad at us?” Aislinn asked as Daniel sat down on her bed.

“No, Sweetie.  I love you, all of you, so very much,” the younger father answered as he brushed her growing hair to the side.

“We wanted you to smile,” the little girl said softly as she squeezed Bobette, the stuffed monkey that had once belonged to her birth mother, to her.

“Oh, Ash.  You're our little miracle, and you make me smile every single minute of my life,” Daniel spoke tenderly, his eyes shining with love for the youngest Munchkin.

“Jen said you and Dad would like the picture.”

“We love it, Ash.  I mean, just the fact that you wanted to do it makes me happy. Your hearts were in the right place,” the proud father said softly.

“Here she is,” Jack announced brightly as he carried Jenny in from her nightly bath.

“Hey, Princess,” Daniel called out with a smile.

“She's squeaky clean,” Jack said.

“I no squeak, Dad,” Jenny objected.

“Oh, excuse me,” Jack teased, giving her a big, wet, noisy kiss, causing her to laugh.

As the girls settled, the four talked a little.  This was their special time, and Daniel put aside his disappointment about the sofa to reassure his daughters.

“Time for your prayers,” Daniel told the girls.

The two girls got down on their knees and began their prayers, each saying whatever was in their hearts.  Jack and Daniel had taught them that there were all kinds of prayers, and they'd urged all their children to simply speak with God about whatever was important to them.

“And please help Daddy save our sofa.  He love it lots.  We didn't mean to hurt it. We have new brother and sisters and wanted to have a picture with them, too.  And please bless ...”

Aislinn went on to name all her siblings, her parents, all the Jackson-O'Neill pets, a variety of friends, her Grandpa George, and many others of their extended family.

As Daniel quietly tucked her in, he whispered, “Ash, don't worry about the sofa.  That's my problem, not yours.  Everything is okay.  Okay?”

“Okay, Daddy.  I love you.”

“I love you, too.”

“How much?” Aislinn asked.

Daniel grinned and extended his arms as wide as he could.  He pretended to struggle and then let his arms collapse.

Shaking his head with a frown, Daniel proclaimed lovingly, “Ash, my arms aren't big enough.  I love you so much I can't hold it.”  He saw his little daughter grin and added, “I love you to the moon and the stars and back again.”  Kissing his daughter, he said softly, “Close your eyes, and dream beautiful chocolate dreams.”

As Aislinn giggled, Daniel stood up, almost bumping into Jack.  They stared at each other for a moment before Daniel stepped to his husband's side and crossed the room to say goodnight to Jenny.

====

After taking care of some business, watching a couple of episodes of “The Simpsons” on DVD, and reading an article from one of his aviation magazines, Jack decided it had been a long enough day, and it was time to get some sleep.  He turned the lights off in his study and headed for the living room.

“Coming to bed?” Jack asked as Daniel sat at the edge of the stairs, staring at the downed sofa.

“In a minute,” Daniel answered.

“I'll warm up the bed for you,” Jack said with a tiny smile.

When his husband did nothing but nod, Jack sighed and walked by his lover and up the stairs.

====

Two hours later, Jack unhappily walked down the stairs and groaned quietly.  His lover was sitting in the middle of one of the cushions, holding a sofa arm to his chest.

“I know you think I'm silly,” Daniel said in a whisper, sensing his husband's presence.

“No, I don't, Angel,” Jack replied truthfully.  ~Overreacting a little, maybe, but not silly.~

“Yes, you do,” the younger man insisted.

“Daniel, I don't think that,” Jack maintained as he knelt down, sitting on his haunches in front of Daniel.

“Yes, you do, Jack.  You think I'm practically insane,” Daniel argued with a slightly raised voice.

“Stop telling me what you think I'm thinking because I'm not thinking what you think I'm thinking at all.”

“You are, too,” Daniel refuted.

“I am what?”

“Thinking what I think you're thinking.”

“Daniel, *I* barely know what I'm thinking, so how can *you* think you know what I'm thinking?” Jack inquired, feeling a bit frustrated.

“I don't know, but ... but I know you're thinking it.”

“Thinking *what*, for crying out loud?”

“That I'm silly.”

“I don't think that at all,” the older man assured.

“You are, too, thinking it.  You think just because I ... I care about the sofa that I don't know what you're thinking, but I do know, and you're thinking exactly what I'm thinking you're thinking whether or not you admit that you are thinking it, because I know you, Jack, and you are definitely thinking ... it.”

~I have a headache.~  Jack stared at his husband, having no clue what he'd just said.  Finally, he exclaimed, “Daniel, this is insane!”

“*See!*” Daniel said in a raised voice, tossing the arm at Jack, and knocking the older man backwards.

Landing on his butt, Jack sighed, “Oh, for crying out loud, Danny.  It's a friggin' sofa, not something important.”

Daniel stood, glared at Jack, and, saying nothing, walked upstairs.

Jack grimaced in anticipation, not surprised when the door to their master bedroom slammed shut.

“I guess I'm sleeping on the sofa tonight.  There's just one problem.  There is no sofa.”  Jack reached over and picked up the sofa arm and, while shaking his head, dropped it into his lap.  “All this over a couch.  Of course, we did have lots of fun on the old girl.”

Jack couldn't help but smile as he recalled several of their sofa rendezvous from throughout the years.

~If I could fix you, I would, but let's face it, Sofa, you've been put out to pasture, taken out of the loop, parked for the duration, decommissioned ...~ Taking the sofa arm and tossing it over to the pile of couch fragments, Jack remarked, “Danny's not the insane one, I am for talking to a piece of furniture.”  He sighed and continued, “So, Sofa, mind some company?”

====

Thirty minutes later, Jack had finished communing with the inanimate object that was once their sofa and was pondering his next move.

~This had to happen sooner or later, but why now, just before Thanksgiving?  I have to try to talk some sense into Daniel.~  Jack let out a whoosh and said, “Talk sense into an irrational man?  I don't think so.”  Then, he smiled.  ~Not talk, romance.  I know just the thing.~

Having gathered his desired 'tools', Jack smiled at Bijou and Katie, who were resting on their beanbag.

“Don't worry, Girls.  He'll be back to his old; make that young, adorable self in the morning.  You two be careful of this mess.”

Tiny woofs as the beagles rolled over was Jack's acknowledgement as he set his plan in motion.

Taking a bottle of 1959 St. Julien's and some Godiva chocolates with him, Jack quietly and confidently opened the door to their master bedroom.  With the passage of a half hour, he was sure his soulmate would be calmer and more rational.

“Danny, are you okay?”

“No, Jack, I am definitely NOT OKAY!  I AM NOT OKAY, OKAY?” Daniel shouted from the bed as he quickly jumped out and moved to stand near their walk-in closet.

~Okay, so much for romance.~  Jack walked inside and closed the door by kicking it with his left foot.  “Danny, I have a lot of memories of you and me on that sofa, too, but we can't let those springs lie out in the open like that.  One of our kids or animals will get hurt.  I know you wouldn't want that.”

“Great, Jack.  Go ahead, make me feel guilty for caring!” Daniel said, his hands waving out in front of him wildly.

Jack put the wine and treats down on the nightstand while speaking, “Danny, we ...”

“No, of course I don't want anyone to get hurt, Jack,” Daniel interrupted, waving off his last remark, “but that sofa was one of the few things we *didn't* change. We painted, tiled, put down new carpet, installed new lights, changed the location of the windows in our bedroom.  My den shrunk.  Gawd, Jack, even our bedroom door is in a different place,” he articulated emotionally.  “Your study is just about the only place that didn't change at all, but the living room furniture is all we had in common that didn't change, and now, our sofa is gone.”

“Yes, Daniel, it is, but you told me that you were happy with the house and the changes we made.”

“I was; I mean I am; it's just ... I ... stop twisting my words!” the younger man snapped, though he knew his comment made no sense.

~Okay, he just needs a little reminder.~  Trying to remain calm, Jack spoke with a steady voice.  “Remember what you said?  You said our house hadn't lost the warm country feel you loved so much; you even said that it wasn't so much new as it was a 'better old'.”  He walked forward a few steps as he added gently, “The only thing that has happened, Danny, is that we wore out a wonderful sofa a bit sooner than we had hoped.”  He shrugged casually, saying, “But this was bound to happen sooner or later.  What we need to do is buy another sofa that we can enjoy as much as the old one.  Just think of the fun we'll have breaking it in,” he joked, hoping that the logic of the situation along with his seductive tease would seep in.

Unfortunately for Jack, Daniel's eyes flashed with anger as he lashed out, “How dare you quote me against me at a time like this?  You want to *replace* it? How can you even think about buying a new sofa?  You ... you cold-hearted ... philanderer!” he accused irrationally.

Jack waited calmly, letting three slow beats pass before speaking and pretending he hadn't heard Daniel's outburst.  He looked back at the nightstand as if to gain encouragement from the wine and chocolate.

“Danny, let's have a glass of wine and talk about something else, anything else besides the couch, okay?” Jack asked hopefully.

“Fine.  Whatever,” Daniel sighed, not wanting to fight with his soulmate.  ~I'm upset at the sofa; not my husband.  I love him; I just want to kill him for not loving our sofa as much as I do.  How could he do that, the ... the ... ungrateful ingrate!~

His anger about to take over, Daniel dismissed the apology he knew he should make to Jack for his unfounded accusations.  Still, a part of him was aware that he wasn't acting normally, but for some reason, he was too stubborn to combat it.  At the same time, he was glad Jack hadn't really fought back, even though another part of him wished he had.

More than anything, the archaeologist felt indulged, like a child.  Not knowing how to respond or cease his actions at the moment, he let himself be drawn into a calmer and more peaceful conversation.  Of course, the wine helped a lot, and Jack made sure he had plenty of wine.

The lovers talked about their successful negotiation, the progress of their children's homeschooling, the future of their company, and the future of the Stargate program as they drank the bottle of St. Julien's and nibbled on the chocolates.

Finally, a much more mellow Daniel sighed deeply for the umpteenth time and suggested simply, “Sleep.”

On the downside, Jack's lover had spoken without a trace of his erotic playfulness that preceded their customary romantic romp.  Instead of taking his position as Jack's 'Danny blanket', Daniel spooned up against the older man.

~Still, not bad considering how the night began.  I love you, Angel, and things will get better.  I promise,~ Jack pledged silently.

====
--November 17:  Out of the Mouths of Babes
====

“Don't you *dare* touch that sofa!” Daniel said upon entering the living room the next morning.

The younger man had walked in just in time to see Jack bring in a large box, intending to place small pieces of the demised sofa inside it.

“Danny, please listen to me,” Jack requested.

“I'll listen, like I always listen, but you are *not* going to touch that sofa,” Daniel said pointedly and then walked away in a huff to the kitchen where he planned to prepare breakfast for the brood.

~Geez, he's being ...~

“Jack, if you have something to say to me, than say it to me!” Daniel stated sharply as he appeared in the doorway.

~Eavesdropper.~  Seeing his husband's intensified glare, Jack took a giant breath and said, “Okay, look.  We need a sofa.  Daniel, we're having company for Thanksgiving next week.  Do you expect them to sit on this?”  Realizing his lover had just been hit with a dose of unwanted realism, he said his next line more softly.  “Why don't we drop the brood off at Sara's in a little while and go shopping?”

Staring at his husband, Daniel turned around and headed up the stairs in silence.

~I guess you're saying 'yes',~ Jack thought.

“JACK!”

In an act of total uncertainty, Jack put his hands to the sides of his head and walked upstairs, desperately trying not to think.

====

Later that morning, after Jennifer and Jeff had left for school and the rest of the brood had been dropped off at Sara's, Jack and Daniel began the search for a new sofa.  Jack was hopeful that something would grab his husband's eyes, but he tried not to think about it, since anytime a silent thought filtered through his brain, he received a nasty glare from the object of his affections.

For three hours, in store after store, Daniel nitpicked at any sofa pointed out to him:

“It's too loud.”
“It's too fancy.”
“It's too contemporary.”
“The fabric is too rough.”
“It's too long.”
“It's too short.”
“I don't want a sectional for the living room.”
“It's not comfortable enough.”
“The pattern gives me a headache.”
“The back is too high.”
“It sits too low.”
“The cushions are too soft.”
“The cushions are too hard.”
“I don't want anything ornate.”
“I don't want anything that simple.”

The list of complaints and reasons for not purchasing a sofa was unending, and Jack was as close to strangling his own husband as he'd ever been.

“Daniel, give the sofas of America a break, will ya?” the older man pleaded over lunch.

“They aren't what we need,” Daniel argued.

“What we *need*, Daniel, is a piece of furniture to sit on,” Jack insisted.  He sighed as he looked away, trying to come up with an answer for the pickle they were in.  “How about this?  Over at American, you liked that last piece, right?”

“The shape, yes, and it was the right measurements, but I don't like the fabric at all,” the younger man answered.

“But, the first sofa we looked at there -- you liked that fabric,” Jack probed.

“Yes, but that one was uncomfortable, and the style doesn't fit the decor of the living room.”

“Okay,” Jack said, formulating his plan.  “What if we got the fabric from the first sofa and put it on the second sofa?”  He watched his lover as he considered the possibility.  “Well?”

“Fine,” Daniel said, resigned to the new sofa.

“Great!” Jack exclaimed, thinking this nightmare was about to end.  ~There's light at the end of the tunnel,~ he thought, smiling as he did so.

“Well, you don't have to be so happy about it,” Daniel barked, tossing his fork down onto his plate, hard enough that it clanged which caused a few heads to turn.  “You're acting like our sofa was nothing but ... but furniture.”

“Danny ...”

“I'm done; I'll be in the truck,” Daniel informed with disgust, throwing down his napkin and leaving the restaurant.

Jack motioned for the check as he sat back in his seat while complaining, ~He's worse than Sara when she had PMS.~

**I HEARD THAT!**

“Geez!”

====

“Have you two made a decision?” the store clerk at American Furniture asked.

“Yes,” Jack answered.  “We'd like to buy that sofa, but have the fabric from that sofa over there put on it.”

The clerk looked at the two items and politely responded, “I'm sorry, but we don't carry the fabric separately, but perhaps this other sofa would ...”

“No!” Daniel interrupted.  “We've looked at all of those, and none of them are acceptable,” he stated rigidly.

“Ah, Sir, I'm sure if you give me a chance, I could find something that you'd like,” the clerk urged, trying to lead the couple over to another couch.  “This one is ...”

“It's too long.  We don't have room for it,” Daniel responded.  “Jack, let's go.”

“Wait ...” both the store clerk and Jack said at the same time.

~This is ridiculous.~  Once his lover stopped walking, Jack sighed and faced the clerk.  Pointing appropriately, he said, “We know what we want.  We want *that* sofa with *that* fabric.”

“I'm sorry, but we can't do that,” the frustrated clerk insisted.  “If you'd just let me show you something else.”

“We aren't interested in anything else.  Okay, how about this?  We'll buy both sofas, but we want that fabric on that sofa,” Jack stated, pointing to each of the sofas at the appropriate moment.

“One moment, let me double check on something.”

The clerk walked away from the frustrated shoppers and verified the identifying tags on the sought-after furniture.  She walked to her register, referring to information on the nearby computer for a couple of minutes.  Finally, she checked with a fellow sales clerk, the two clearly discussing the two pieces.

“Jack, we're wasting our time,” Daniel whined.

“Danny, give them a chance.  See, they're trying,” Jack observed, motioning towards the two clerks, who were currently still discussing the issue.

“It doesn't matter; it's not our sofa,” Daniel spoke, looking over at the exit.

Jack groaned, rolled his eyes, and then turned to face his lover, saying, “Daniel, I'm doing my best here.  We agreed, if for no other reason than we have friends coming over for dinner next week, that we need to buy a sofa.  Right?”  Seeing Daniel's blank stare, he prodded, “Right?  Or do you want General Hammond sitting on a coil spring in the middle of our living room?”

“Right, Jack,” Daniel said, moving three feet to his right and one foot forward in a quest to get just a bit of distance from his currently aggravating soulmate.

~Hug yourself any tighter, Love, and you'll bruise your arms,~ Jack thought as he closed the gap, happy Daniel didn't make a second attempt to put ground between them.

A minute later, the clerk returned to the couple and informed, “I checked in case there was a chance of a special order, but the two sofas are made by separate manufacturers, and the one selling the sofa with the fabric you've requested does not sell fabric separately.  I even checked to see if the fabric might be available elsewhere, but it's an exclusive to the supplier.”

“Let me talk to the manager,” Jack requested as Daniel stood by silently, arms folded.  ~This can't be that complicated.~

--

“Sir, I'm sorry, but we are only the retailers.  We can't force a manufacturer to sell something they don't want to sell,” the manager reported to a frustrated Jack, who really didn't want to have to resume looking at new sofas.

“Do you have contact information for the manufacturer?” Jack inquired.

“It won't do any good,” the manager maintained sternly.

“Money talks,” Jack replied directly.  “I'm *trying* to give you money here.  All I'm asking is to get that fabric on that sofa.  What's so difficult about that?”

The manager sighed, shaking his head.  He walked over and retrieved the information Jack requested.

“I should warn you that they don't normally allow direct customer contact, but on condition you don't tell them who gave the number ...”

“Won't say a word,” Jack agreed, grabbing the paper with the needed phone number from the manager.

Jack pulled out his cell phone and dialed.  As he waited for someone to answer, he noticed Daniel hadn't moved and was essentially staring out at nothing.

--

“I just need fabric for one little sofa ... Are you really going to tell me that you're going to turn down money ... Look, I'll buy three sofas; just send the fabric for ... Okay, I understand that you don't want to sell fabric separately.  How about we send you a sofa, you put your fabric on it, and we'll pay you full retail price of a sofa for just your fabric?  We'll even pick up all the shipping.  Do we have a deal? ... *No?*  What do you mean, no? ... Okay, name your price ... What do you mean not at any price?  Your tags all say made in the USA.”  ~The land of 'anything you want if the price is right', remember?~  “Hello?  Hello?”

“I told you,” Daniel stated, sounding very much like their youngest son when he whines in the older man's opinion.

Jack put away his cell phone and sighed, “Some crazy policy of theirs.  They don't sell the fabric, and they won't put the fabric on anyone else's sofa; something about quality control and product purity.”

“Fine.  We'd better keep shopping then,” Daniel replied flatly, turning and heading for the exit.

The store manager and clerk both looked at Jack with 'I told you so' expressions, leaving Jack wishing their eyes would glow so he'd have an excuse to terminate them on grounds of national security.

====

The next two hours was a repeat of the first three, Daniel having found fault with each and every sofa they looked at.

“Jack, I've had enough.  We need to get home,” Daniel announced after deeming the sofa they were currently looking at as “too frivily.”

Jack considered telling his linguist husband that there was no such word as 'frivily', but thought better of it since his last reminder that, “Sofas don't get hurt feelings” had resulted in a sharp jab in his abdomen.  His comment had been made after Daniel's accusation that Jack hated their original sofa and somehow the sofa probably knew it, and that's why it had fallen apart.

~My husband, the lunatic,~ Jack thought as Daniel practically ran out of the store.  ~But look at that sweet six.  Mmmm-mmm good, and all mine!~

With a reminder to himself that Daniel's six was currently being held hostage by Daniel's irrational brain, Jack reluctantly headed for the exit.

The couple needed to pick up their brood and return home.  Sofa hunting would have to continue on another day.

====

“Dad,” Little Danny said as Jack was tucking him in.

“Yes, Son.”

“Is Daddy scitzenic?” the child genius asked, having observed Daniel going back and forth all night from almost normal to acting like Ricky did whenever his favorite tan blanket disappeared.

“Scitzenic?” Jack echoed.  ~Oh, schizophrenic.~  “No, he's just sad about the sofa.  He'll be okay once we get a new one,” he assured. ~If he ever agrees on one for us to buy.~

“Okay,” Little Danny said before yawning.  “You fix it,” the child sighed confidently as he settled under the covers.

“Night, Son,” Jack responded with a smile.  “I love you.”

Jack stood up and leaned over to place a kiss on Little Danny's forehead before continuing with his goodnights to the other children.

====

“Hey, there you are,” Jack called out, seeing Jonny downstairs in Daniel's lap.  The boy was facing Daniel.  “Thought I'd lost one.”

“I no lost.  I with Daddy,” Jonny said as he continued their game of patty-cake.

“Looks like you won,” Daniel said softly.  “Bedtime.”

**How do you win at patty-cake, Danny?**

**Shut up, Jack,** Daniel ordered, not in the mood for silliness.

Daniel stood up, intending to take Jonny upstairs and say his own goodnights to the brood.

“I stay minute.  Hafta talk to Dad,” Jonny stated.

“Oh, okay,” Daniel agreed, ruffling the little boy's hair gently and then smiling half-heartedly at his lover as he passed by him and headed up the stairs.

The older man looked down at his namesake and smiled.  He sat down where Daniel had been, thinking Jonny wanted some heart-to-heart discussion.  He was thus completely taken aback when the boy stood, put both hands on his hips, and began to chastise him.

“What you do to Daddy?” Jonny asked a bit sharply.

“Me?  Son, Daddy's fine.  He's just upset about the sofa, that's all,” Jack tried to explain.

“Why you not fix?  You always fix for Daddy.”  Jonny cocked his head in suspicion and questioned, “You mad at Daddy?”

Jack shook his head, responding, “I love Daddy very much, and I'm not mad at him.  Jonny, he loved this couch, and he's having a hard time letting go of it.”

“Get new couch,” Jonny demanded logically.

“I'd like to, but Daddy doesn't want a new one; he wants one just like the old one, and,” Jack sighed as one hand traced over the side of the cushion, “that's impossible.”

“You fix it!” Jonny said again.

“Son, I'm not a miracle worker.  I'm trying, but I don't know how to fix it yet.  I can't just make furniture appear,” the general replied.  ~Maybe Thor can, but not me.~

“Bet Alex know how.”  Jonny took his right hand off his hip and pointed at his father, saying, “Why you not call Alex?”

“Alex?” Jack questioned.

“You 'n' Daddy say Alex fix house.  Sofa part of house.  Why you not get Alex to fix sofa?”

Jack stared at the little boy in front of him.  Slowly, a grin started to develop, and then he broke out into a hearty laugh.

“Son, you're a genius, and you've just earned yourself a double-decker ice cream cone from Thirty-one Flavors tomorrow.”

“This big problem, Dad,” Jonny scowled.

“Triple-decker,” Jack negotiated with his not-so-dumb namesake.

“Deal!” Jonny agreed.  He nodded, hugged his father, and said, “I tired; thinking hard.  I go to bed now.”

Trying not to laugh, Jack replied, “Okay, pleasant dreams, Jonny.  I love you.”

Jack was about to make a call to Alex when Daniel called him upstairs because Lulu had just thrown up.

====

“Jonny, where you been?” Little Danny asked as his brother got into bed.

“Shhh.  Ricky 'sleep,” Jonny whispered as he got into his bed.  Sitting up for a minute, he answered, “I tell Dad how to fix Daddy's problem.”

Pushing down his sheets, Little Danny sat up and asked, “How?”

Jonny smiled and said, “It a secret.”

“Oh,” Little Danny sighed dejectedly.

“But I tell you 'cause we tell each other ev'thing always,” Jonny said with a grin.

“Yeah!” Little Danny exclaimed.

“Shhhh!  Ricky sleeping,” Jonny admonished, after which Little Danny simply chuckled.  “Who fix house for Dad 'n' Daddy?”

Little Danny wet his lips and then smiled brightly as the answer came to him.

In unison, both boys said, “Alex.”

“You smart, Jonny,” Little Danny commented.

“Thinking hard, Little Danny.  How you do it so much?” Jonny asked in earnest.

Little Danny shrugged while wearing a look of innocence.

“Hey, lights out in here,” Daniel admonished, having heard some noise but not being able to make the words.  “Dad and I are taking care of your sister, now please, go to sleep.”

“Night, Daddy,” both boys said as they got into bed and settled in under the covers.

“Tell Lulu we love her,” Little Danny said.

“Lulu be fine,” Jonny said positively.  “She eat too much ice cream.”

“No such thing as too much ice cream,” Little Danny refuted.

“Lights out or I'm going to fill this room with so much ice cream, it'll be a giant ice cream float, and you'll be the bananas.”  Daniel shook his head as he self-chastised, ~Gawd, I'm no good at threats.  That didn't even make sense.~

When Daniel was gone, Little Danny said, “Hope Alex fix soon.  Daddy nutty.”

“Me, too,” Jonny said with a sigh.

“Me, too,” Ricky surprised his brothers by saying.  He hid a giggle as he thought, ~They no know I wake!~

“Rickkkkky!” Jonny exclaimed.

“Hey, Jonny, no ice cream tomorrow if you aren't asleep in two minutes,” Daniel warned, having heard the raised voice.

When Daniel was gone again, Jonny grimaced and said, “Paybacks, Ricky!”

Ricky giggled, “I dare ya!”

Little Danny added, “I double dare you both to go sleep.  I want ice cream 'morrow.”

“Me, too!” Jonny said.

“Me, too,” Ricky agreed.

Finally, all three boys settled back under their covers and let the sandman take them to slumberland.

====

After a precautionary call to their physician, Doctor Sylvia Preston, it was determined that Lulu was fine; she simply had a queasy stomach after eating too much dinner, her parents having discovered that she had covertly taken not just seconds, but thirds.  Combined with their usual nighttime ice cream, plus a candy bar that David had stashed in his room, the little girl's insides had gone into rebellion-mode until she finally vomited.

Lulu was terrified she'd be punished for getting sick, but in some small way, her sick stomach brought the lovers together, at least for a time, as they focused on their daughter.

**Geez, Danny, I get so mad every time I think about what that jerk 'Daddy' Kevin did to her.  She's scared, scared there won't be enough to eat, poor kid.**

**Or scared we'll take it away.  When do you think the last time was that she was allowed to ... well, pig out like that?** Daniel questioned.

**Not for a long time,** Jack acknowledged.

**Jack, it's going to take some time for her to realize that we have plenty to eat. We need to keep her on the nutritional plan they gave us; she's skin and bones.**

**Yeah, but you know something, Danny?  In just a week, she looks a lot healthier to me.  Is it just me?**

**No, she may be skin and bones, but there's more skin now.  One day at a time,** the younger man preached.

“You still love me?” Lulu asked Jack as she looked up into his eyes.

“Very, very much,” Jack answered.

“Daddy?”

“Little Bit, I love you so much that sometimes I can't breathe,” Daniel responded with a dramatic flair.

Lulu grinned as her parents sat with her until she fell asleep.

====

Once Lulu and the other children were asleep, Jack and Daniel attended to some business for J-O Enterprises and then went to bed.  As the lovers settled, Jack's mind was busy working on Jonny's solution, one he was kicking himself for not having thought of sooner.

~Crap!  I wanted to phone Alex, but haven't had a chance.  Okay, well, I'm usually the first up anyway, so I'll call him in the morning.~

Still, Jack's Mr. Fix-it was keeping him from falling asleep soundly.  He was lingering just at the edge of sleep, where the road of drowsy logic gave way to flights of truth, however bizarre.

~Okay, gotta get that sofa out of the living room.~  Jack wrestled with his need for rest and the problem that he couldn't let go of.  ~Just a sooofa.  He's grieving over ... Grief.  Closure.  Got it!  Funeral.  Wait, no ... can't bury a sofa.  Closure -- memorial service ... cremation?  Sweet!~

Jack let out a little sound, not really sure if he was awake or asleep.  He fidgeted slightly as he smacked his lips, his eyes still closed.  He tried moving his arms as he considered getting up, but his body wouldn't move.

~Must be asleep.~

All of a sudden, Mr. Fix-it's mind danced around, seeing chairs, ottomans, and sofas allemande left and promenade out to the highway, where they stood up on two legs and formed their arms in a facsimile of human arms complete with elbows and thumbs.  A wing chair lifted a skirt, revealing a dainty cabriole leg, and a moving van (which had colorful pictures of oranges and dolphins on it) stopped to pick them up.  They all hopped on the van and headed south on the interstate.

Like thunder, Jack heard, “Why you not get Alex to fix sofa?”

Jonny's words from earlier in the evening woke Jack completely.

“Whew!” the general expressed in amazement as he adjusted to a conscious state.  ~Did I just dream about a funeral?  For a sofa?~  He shook it off, but then remembered the dancing furniture headed south.  ~South.  Oranges and dolphins.  South to Florida -- Alex!~

Carefully, Jack ever-so-gently untangled himself from his sleeping lover and went downstairs to his study to make his phone call in privacy.

“Hello, Alex Dennison.”

“Alex, it's Jack -- Jack Jackson-O'Neill.”

“I remember you,” Alex said dryly, not hiding his yawn.

It was only then that Jack realized he had woken the designer at 0430 hours, Florida time.  The sun was nowhere near rising in the east yet.

~Nothing I can do about it now,~ Jack thought, deciding to move onward with his needs.  “Listen, Alex, if you ever pulled a miracle out of your six, make it now.  I really need it.”

“Out of my ... <yawn> ... six?  Is that different than my eight?”

“Uh, I need help,” Jack said, simplifying his request.
 
“I figured that out, Jack.  What's the problem?” Alex asked as he sat up in his bed, pulled out a notepad and pen from his nightstand, and prepared to make some notes.

“It's Daniel.”  Jack paused a moment and then stated, “He's in mourning.”

“Jack, I'm sorry to hear that.  Who died?” Alex asked as he put the notepad and pen down, now thinking there would be nothing for him to notate.

“Not who, what,” Jack answered.

“Excuse me?” a very confused Alex replied.
 
Jack quickly explained the demise of the sofa, and Daniel's refusal to consider a replacement.

“I'm not surprised.  He tried to hide it, but he wasn't happy when I suggested that, at the very least, it was time to have the poor thing rebuilt and recovered.  What do you want me to do?” the designer asked as he once again grabbed the notepad and pen.

Jack outlined his hope that Alex would be able to have a facsimile made, concluding, “I'm not asking for a duplicate, but just something in the ole ballpark.”

“Geez, Jack, you don't want much, do you?” Alex sighed in question.

“But you love a challenge,” Jack smirked.

Alex chuckled groggily, “Yeah, you know I can't resist when you toss down the gauntlet like this.  I have all the measurements of the old sofa from when I thought we were going to have it recovered;  I even have the photographs, but I don't have any samples of the fabric.  Do you have any?”

“The pieces are all downstairs.  How about an arm cover?” Jack offered hopefully.

“That'll work,” Alex responded.  “Can you send it same-day?” Alex inquired.

“Yeah.  I have some errands to run.  I'll drop it by Fed-X after I take Jen and Jeff to school in the morning.”

“Good.  I'll have a frame constructed.  When did you want this?” Alex asked as he wrote down a reminder for himself.

“Yesterday,” Jack answered.

“Yesterday costs money, Jack,” Alex stated.  ~Somehow, though, I'm not surprised.~

“We're having company for Thanksgiving, and I can't let Danny or the brood continue to use the remnants of the sofa as a shrine,” Jack sighed.

Alex turned over a couple of possibilities in his mind and then responded, “No promises, Jack, but I think the shop I use wouldn't mind a healthy Christmas bonus; that is, if they have the time to do the job.”

“Uh, Alex, since you're having it custom made ...” Jack began a bit hesitantly.

“Out with it, Jack,” Alex requested, not trying to stifle his current big yawn anymore than he had the very first yawn.

Jack replied, “It would be nice if it were just a bit deeper.”

“Can't do much, Jack, or the proportions will be off,” Alex explained.

“Anything at all would be a help,” Jack noted.

“Okay, General,” Alex chuckled.  “I'll call you tomorrow afternoon after I've received the fabric and checked with the company.”

“On my cell, Alex,” Jack commanded.  “Daniel doesn't know about this, and he's a bit testy about anything concerning the sofa.”

“Not a problem.  Good morning, Jack,” Alex said a bit snarkily.

“Good...night, Alex,” Jack snickered as he disconnected from the call.  ~Didn't know designers could be snarky.  Way to go, Alex!~
 
Gleefully, Mr. Fix-it tiptoed upstairs to enjoy the remainder of his well-deserved night's sleep.

====
--November 18:  PMS, Daniel-Style!
====

“Daniel, be reasonable.  We have to have a sofa,” Jack whined, following his husband around their home as Daniel moved at a quick pace.

“YOU THREW IT AWAY!” Daniel yelled, referring to the fact that only the three seat cushions remained on the floor in front of the coffee table.

“Danny, you agreed that it was dangerous to leave it all broken down like that in the living room.  It's not like a broken bone that could be reset!”  Seeing his husband's glare, Jack sighed.  “Angel, when I came downstairs this morning, Bijou's collar had gotten stuck in one of the springs.  I didn't want to tell you ...”

“Bij!” Daniel called out in a panicked voice, looking all around.

“She's fine, Danny.”

“*Bijou!*” Daniel shouted nervously.  The younger man didn't relax until the mama beagle ran down from where she had been upstairs.  “Hey, Girl, are you okay?”  He knelt down and received several happy licks in reply.  “I'm sorry, Bij,” he said, picking up the canine and holding her close.

After a few minutes of reassurance, for Daniel, not the beagle, Bijou trotted off happily upstairs, leaving Daniel sitting at the bottom of the steps.

Jack sat down next to his Love and informed calmly, “Danny, the rest of it is in the garage.”

“You did the right thing,” Daniel spoke dejectedly, his head bowed slightly.

Jack was hopeful Daniel was ready to move on, so he bravely asked, “Okay, so, you realize now that we have to get a new sofa, right?”

“I bet Thor could fix it,” Daniel's inner child whined.

“Believe me, I already asked him.  He said he could, except that he didn't have the original molecular pattern stored.”

“Right.”  Daniel looked at Jack and said sarcastically, “I can hear you now. 'Thor, my crazy husband wants our old sofa back.'  That's what you said, isn't it?” he accused.

“Daniel, it's a friggin' sofa,” Jack said before he realized what he was saying.  ~Not the right thing; foot in mouth again.  I'd better go clean my feet; it's beginning to be a habit.~

The younger man sprung up, moving to the center of the room, beyond the sofa cushions, and ordered, “You don't touch these cushions, Jack, or ... or ... or ...”

Jack was at the end of his patience.  He'd tried everything, and he was working on a miracle for his husband, thanks to Alex.  Still, three days of mourning for a sofa and dealing with an irrational husband was beginning to weigh on the older man.  His reaction to Daniel's unspoken threat was quick and sharp.

“Or what, Daniel?  You're going to make me sleep on the sofa?  The sofa that *doesn't* exist!” Jack argued flippantly.

“You never really loved it, did you?” Daniel asked as he began to self-hug.

“Oh, for crying out loud!” Jack exclaimed as he stood up.  He slapped his forehead with his open palm, fingers splayed, dragging it down over his face as if to wipe away the tension.  “Danny, you're a smart guy, and I love you.  You know that.  But, Angel, you're acting a little ...”

“A little what, Jack?”

“Nuts!”  Jack walked over to his lover and put his hands on Daniel's upper arms, rubbing gently.  “It's a sofa, a piece of furniture, some metal springs, a few nuts and bolts, and some material.  Danny, you're mourning a manufactured object,” he pointed out, hoping his soulmate would regain his rationality.

Daniel stared at his lover with cold eyes.  He knew exactly where they were stationed in the living room.

With barely restrained anger, Daniel pushed against his lover and shouted, “Sit on it, Jack!” as the older man fell down onto the sofa cushions.

As Daniel stormed out of the room, Jack sat up on his elbows.  He didn't move as he pondered just how life had gotten so strange.  Suddenly, Mittens jumped up onto his chest and purred.

Jack chuckled, “Great.  The cat loves me, and Daniel thinks he's 'The Fonz'!”

====

The day continued in much the same vein.  Daniel did some business for J-O Enterprises and finished paying the family bills as well since the revised dental statement had been received.  Jack chauffeured Jeff and Jennifer to school and then mailed the arm cover to Alex as promised.  He also worked on their SGC schedule for the rest of the month, deciding what days they would be able to go in.

In between the daily routine which included tending to the younger children, the couple had continued to have their irrational argument over the sofa.  Every time Jack thought he'd made some headway, Daniel would backslide, accusing his husband of not loving the sofa.

Even more frustrating for the older man was that instead of stolen kisses and loving touches, there had been cautious looks and efforts made to steer clear of the other when either one of them became too agitated by the current situation.  They both worked hard to make sure that when the children were around, though, they acted as normal as possible.

It was late afternoon, with all the children home and occupied, when the lovers were engaged in the latest banterous round of 'sofagate'.

Daniel was staring at the three cushions while Jack stood near the counter, having just made the mistake of suggesting that they should at least toss out the springs that were in the garage with the rest of the pieces.

Glaring, Daniel challenged, “If it's that easy for you to throw away our sofa, then I'm sure it won't be hard for you to throw out our ... our wedding photo or our ...”
 
Just then there was a loud bang against the front door as the knocker was pounded against it, thereby interrupting the conversation.  Relieved, Jack headed for the door.

Seeing through the window blinds that it was Teal'c, Jack sighed, ~Great.  I'd forgotten all about Noa's tea party, and I was supposed to get her some angel food cake for the tea.~  Opening the door and stepping aside, he beckoned, “Come on in, Big Guy.”  Silently, he began to groan, ~Noa's going to want to blast me to ... blast ... mourning ... that crazy dream -- funeral ... closure, funeral ... cremation ... yes!  *Burning!*~  He grinned as his idea evolved.  Full of excitement, he announced suddenly, “There's been a change in plans, Teal'c.  You're just in time for 'The Burning'.”

“The Burning?  I do not understand, O'Neill,” Teal'c said flatly as he walked into the entranceway.

Jack smiled and proceeded to expound the biggest amount of bull he'd spread in quite a while.

“It's an ancient Tau'ri ritual for paying homage to furniture that has rendered good and faithful service for so long that it has become imbued with the spirits of its owners.  I am saddened to report the loss of our sofa, and, of course, want to pay it the proper respect.  In Daniel's case, however, the bond between man and couch has become so strong that the complete and total burning of the furniture is the only way to free him.”

“Indeed,” Teal'c responded curiously.  “I have not heard of this 'burning' before. Is it important that this burning be done now?  I have a prior engagement with ChenoaJacksonO'Neill.”

“Teal'c,” Jack said, putting his arm around his friend's broad shoulders.  “The consequences could be disastrous if it is not done right away.”  ~Like I might end up sleeping on the space where we used to have a sofa.~  “We have to do it while there is still time,” he spoke as seriously as he could.  ~Time to get a new sofa, that is, before my marriage collapses into a billion pieces.~

“Time for what, O'Neill?”

“Time to honor the old before its essence is lost,” Jack answered, becoming fully engaged in his fictional ritual.  “We must capture it, and when we do, we can transfer its energy to the new sofa.”

“It is your wish that I witness this burning?” Teal'c asked straightforwardly.

“Absolutely.  Daniel wants it, too,” Jack claimed.  ~He would, if he knew what was happening.~  “He's in the living room, taking comfort in the only lasting remains we have of the sofa.  He needs his friends, T.  Go to him, comfort him, while I round up the kids,” he instructed, patting Teal'c's back.

Teal'c nodded and walked into the living room while Jack headed down the hall and into the rec room where he used the hidden stairwell to reach the second floor where most of the children were.

~Geez, I'm good,~ a smug Jack thought as he hurried upstairs, choosing to use the secret stairway instead of the main stairs, since using them would mean going through the living room.

====

“DanielJackson, I am here to offer you support,” the Jaffa said as he walked to within a few feet of the man.

Without thinking, Daniel sighed gratefully, saying, “Thank you.”  He gave Teal'c a quizzical look and asked, “Uh, support for what?”

“I am confident that its essence will continue,” Teal'c answered.  “As your friend, it is my honor to be at your side.  We will ensure that the sofa will go on.”

“Yes,” Daniel softly agreed, again not realizing that the Jaffa was aware of the family's sofa calamity.  ~I wish the sofa would go on.  I want my sofa,~ he silently whined like a five-year-old.

“You will never forget it.”

“No, I ...”  Suddenly, Daniel fully realized what he was saying to the alien.  He blinked several times and asked, “Teal'c, why are you talking like ... like that a...about ... I mean ... why?”

“O'Neill has told me about your loss.  I offer my condolences and assistance at this time of need,” Teal'c stated affectionately.

--

Meanwhile, Jack was pleading his case to the children upstairs.

“Here me out, Kids.  There's ice cream and a trip to Toys 'R Us in your future if you go along with me on this,” Jack said, unafraid to use bribery in this situation.

“Dad,” Jennifer said, coughing.

“Yeah, Daaaaad!” Brianna agreed, tapping her foot.

“Ice cream, Toys 'R Us or The Gap,” Jack said, rolling his eyes at his altered offer.

“All right!” the two older girls said together, giving each other high-fives at their victory.

“Look, this is to help Daddy; trust me.  Just follow my lead, and be very, very serious.”  When Ricky giggled, Jack knelt down in front of him and added, “And no giggling.”  He tickled his youngest son and then drew him close as he finished talking to the brood.  “Everyone at some point in their life feels close to an object.  It might be a car, a piece of jewelry, or ...”

“Or a telescope,” David offered, thinking about his prized telescope.

“Or a telescope,” Jack agreed, smiling at his son.  “Daddy loved that sofa, so I'm trying to help him move forward, and I need all of you to help me.  Will you do that?”

A chorus of yeses resounded as the children moved to get ready as Jack had asked them.
 
“Remember, follow my lead,” Jack said, leading the kids down the stairs that went into the living room.

--

~Time of need?~ Daniel echoed, outraged by what his husband had apparently told the Jaffa.  ~I'm going to kill him.  What in Netu did that philanderer tell Teal'c about our sofa?~

Daniel opened his eyes wide in both shock and anger, but before he could get more information from his friend, Jack and all eleven children came thundering down the stairs.

“Teeeeeeee!” Chenoa exclaimed, running to the Jaffa and hugging his leg.

Teal'c smiled at her and patted the back of her head for a moment as he spoke, “I am sorry our tea party cannot take place this afternoon.”

Jack looked over at his eldest son and quietly requested, “Jeff, grab that burn barrel out of the shed, and take it to the very back of the yard.  Grab a piece of wood from the sofa, too, and we'll meet you out back.”

“Okay, Dad,” the teen said, heading outside.

“DanielJackson, I am sorry for the loss of your faithful sofa.  It is a sad day,” Teal'c said solemnly.

Calmer now since the children were around, Daniel repeated his thanks, but then sighed, “I'm just overreacting.”

~Now he admits it,~ Jack thought silently.  “Kids, outside.  Teal'c, Daniel, give us a minute, and come on out,” he instructed as he moved towards the patio door.

“Why do you say you are overreacting, DanielJackson?  Has this sofa not been here since before you knew O'Neill?”

“Well, uh, yes.  We did a lot of, um, that is we spent a lot of time, uh, well, a lot of time ... watching hoc...hockey and, uh ... things,” Daniel said, looking even more dejected.

“O'Neill is correct,” the Jaffa informed the mournful man.  “The Burning must be performed right away to free your spirit.”  Seeing Jack's wave from the window, Teal'c stated, “They are ready.  Come, DanielJackson.”

With that, the large Jaffa took hold of Daniel's upper arm and steered him into the backyard.

“Uh, Teal'c, do you have any idea what Jack is up to?” Daniel asked as they stepped down the patio steps.

“All is in readiness,” Teal'c answered.

At the corner of the yard, Daniel observed his family walking single file, each carrying a pile of wood or a wad of cotton batting and fabric.  Even the two beagles had blocks of wood in their mouths.

“Proceed, O'Neill,” Teal'c announced when he and Daniel had reached the area.

~What did Teal'c say about a 'burning' freeing my spirit'?~ Daniel wondered, staring at the tall, dark man.  Then he looked over at his lover and questioned, **Jack, what have you done?**

Not answering his husband, Jack produced a section of newspaper which he crumpled one sheet at a time and tossed into the barrel.  He then held up a large piece of slate gray fabric.  It was the fabric that the cushions had rested on, covering up the springs and frame.  It had a long piece of the sofa fabric sewn along one side that still had the embroidered manufacturer's tag as well as the one that proclaimed, 'Do Not Remove Under Penalty of Law'.

Jack cleared his throat and began, “We are gathered here today to pay homage to our beloved sofa from the honored house of ...” he turned the cloth to read the tag, “Kroehler.”

~What the ...~  Daniel was about to open his mouth to object, but Jack continued his apparent eulogy.

“This beloved piece of upholstery has sustained us in our moments of desperate need, urgent longing, and supreme satisfaction.  It has provided support, comfort, and naps above and beyond the call of duty and well beyond the warranty.  It will be sincerely and eternally missed.”

Reverently, Jack squirted lighter fluid into the barrel and threw in a lighted match as he stepped back.  He then wadded up the large piece of cloth and tossed it into the barrel.  He motioned for his children to come up, one by one, and share a memory involving the sofa.

“I love our sofa because it was where Dad would tell me scary stories,” Jonny stated.

“The sofa will be missed because there wasn't another one like it anywhere.  I always knew I was home when I sat down and could reach back and feel that little hole right inside the left arm,” Jennifer said, working hard not to burst out in laughter.

Jack coughed at Jennifer's barely-suppressed smile and continued the ritual.

After each child had talked about their memory, Jack had taken their portion of the sofa and tossed it in the barrel, followed by another squirt of lighter fluid.

Daniel watched the entire proceedings in utter wide-eyed astonishment, unable to look away, despite the total ludicrousness of it all.  After all, all of their children were participating.  He was equally amazed as their two beagles walked up to Jack, gave him their blocks of wood, and then tipped their heads back and howled.

By this time, Jennifer and Jeff couldn't look at each other for fear of laughing out loud.  Jack, too, was fascinated with the ground, afraid of laughing as well and then suffering the dire consequences of that laughter.

~That would not be good,~ Jack assumed.

Several of the younger children clustered around Daniel, saying, “Sorry we broke your sofa, Daddy.”

Brianna looked at Jack, an expression of, 'I can't believe Daddy is falling for this' on her face.  She then looked at Jennifer, and the two of them quickly looked in other directions since the tomboy was unable to stop a small snort from escaping, even though she quickly put her hands to her mouth.  Fortunately, Daniel was preoccupied with the other children and didn't notice.

Other than reassuring the brood and saying, “It's okay,” Daniel was speechless.

As the ritual concluded, the entire sofa, except for the three cushions that were inside the house and the springs that needed to be disposed of separately, was burning inside the barrel.

Teal'c nodded his head and said, “Thank you, DanielJackson, for allowing me to share in this solemn ritual.”

“Uh ... you're welcome.  Thanks for coming,” Daniel said reflexively.  ~I am nuts! Boy, I bet MacKenzie would be smiling if he could see this.~

“Jen, Jeff, get the kids ice cream,” Jack requested.  “Teal'c, I'm sorry the tea party is out for today, but I know Chenoa would love you to stay for a while and join us for ice cream.”

“Thank you, O'Neill,” Teal'c said, walking off with the little girl in question.

A minute later, only Jack and Daniel were in the backyard, each watching the flames die down.

“You're crazy, O'Neill,” Daniel uttered in a soft and almost whispered voice.

Jack walked to his lover and scooped him into his arms, replying, “That's Jackson-O'Neill, and don't you forget it.”

The lovers kissed gently as their arms wrapped around the other.  Sweet moans escaped from their throats.

“The Burning.  What kind of a silly idea was that anyway?” Daniel asked.

“One that worked, I hope,” Jack admitted, pleased to see a small smile on his soulmate's face.

“Come on, Love; it's time for ice cream.”

“Your answer for everything,” Daniel quipped lightly.

“Not everything,” Jack spoke seductively as he raised his eyebrows.

“Jack!”

Laughing lightly, the lovers made sure the fire was secure and then walked inside for their first relaxing night in the last few days.

====
--November 19:  The Miracle Man Strikes Again!
====

Jack's cell phone vibrated at 0430 hours.

~Crap!~

The general gently removed his lover from his body, pleased the sleeping man only mumbled something about “Not going through 'Gate; sleeping.”

Picking up the phone to stop the ringing, Jack said nothing, though the caller did.

“Paybacks, Buddy,” Alex teased.

“Of course,” Jack groaned as he walked downstairs.  “What's the status?” he asked hopefully.  ~Please tell me you found some fabric.~

“I've got good news and bad news,” Alex reported.  “Which would you like first?”

“What's the good news?” Jack asked, not wanting to even think about the bad yet.

“I found the exact same fabric that was on your old sofa.  In fact, we got lucky -- found an entire roll of it!” Alex declared cheerfully.

~Bet it's in China or somewhere.~  Jack braced himself and replied, “That's great, Alex.  What's the bad news?”

“We have to take the whole roll.  It's stored in the warehouse of a fabric mill that's been closed for years; and, here's the kicker.  You have to get it from Rosemount, Minnesota to Berne, Indiana - *today*!”

“Today?” Jack called out in a raised whisper.  “Why?”

Alex answered, “It's the only way your sofa can be built in time to have it shipped and reach your living room by Thanksgiving.  The roll of fabric is too big to express ship, and no one will be at the warehouse at all next week.  In other words, Jack, we have one day to get that roll of fabric by the deadline.”

“Crap,” Jack stated, rubbing his neck with his right hand.

“Jack, the frame is almost built, and the team that is going to build your sofa will be doing so tonight and tomorrow.  If all goes well, the independent truckers will be headed for Colorado Springs by 6 p.m. on Sunday.  You *have* to fly that fabric to Indiana today, or it'll be a no-go.”

~Time for Mr. Fix-it to put on his cape and tights again~  Jack sighed and nodded, saying, “Okay, Alex, I'll get it there.  How soon can I get the fabric?” ~I suppose I should be thankful it's even doable at this late date,~ he thought as he rolled his eyes heavenward.  ~I *am*grateful, if it will make my Danny happy.~

“Not before seven,” Alex answered, adding, “I have all the information you'll need.  I'll fax it to you as soon as we hang up.”

“Use the study fax, not the den one,” Jack instructed.

“Will do,” the designer agreed, pulling out the correct FAX number.

“Thanks, Alex.”  Having hung up, Jack went to the study to wait for the fax from Alex.  While he waited, he powered up the computer to get airport information. ~Great.  Where is Berne, Indiana, and where is the closest airfield?~

Jack made some notes.  He'd have to fly to Minnesota Lake, a trip that would take just under three hours.  By the time he showered and dressed, got to the airport, did his pre-flight check, and was finally in the air, it would be at least 6:30 a.m.  Driving time from Minnesota Lake to Rosemount where the factory was would be over two hours.

~Negative!  They need to have someone meet me at the airport.  I'll get Alex to arrange that.  So let's say I'm back in the air by ten-hundred hours.  No airport in Berne, either.  Looks like Fort Wayne is the closest.  That's another two hours flight.  Let's get them to meet me at the plane, too.~

As Jack continued his calculations, he realized that if all went well, he'd be home about seven that evening.  He sighed.

~Gonna have to fudge a little.  Forgive me, Love.~  Jack knew it would take too long for Daniel to become coherent enough to explain anything, and he would need that little advantage.  First, though, he had to call Alex back and make sure he would arrange for someone to meet him at the airports.  ~Then, Angel, I'll hope you buy my little act.~

====

Softly, Jack crept up the stairs to his oldest daughter's bedroom and knocked.

“Wha...huh...uh, oh, hi, Dad?  What time is it?” the groggy teen asked.

Jack explained his errand and then added, “I'll tell Jeff, too, so neither of you will think you dreamed it.  Go back to sleep, Honey.”

After speaking with his oldest son, Jack returned to the master bedroom.  He stood for a moment, just admiring the man he loved.

~Beautiful.  A little crazy at the moment, but still the most beautiful creation in the universe.~

After a quick shower and dressing, Jack moved to the bed and placed a kiss on Daniel's bare shoulder.

“Angel.”

“Sleeping,” Daniel mumbled.

“Okay.  Danny, I have an errand I have to run.  I won't be home until tonight, about seven.  I love you.”

“Love, too.  Sleep,” Daniel sighed as he grasped Jack's pillow close to his chest.

Jack chuckled and gave his lover another kiss at the base of his neck.  He wrote a quick note, leaving it next to Daniel's glasses on the nightstand before quietly making his way downstairs and leaving for the airfield.

====

Daniel crumpled up the note into a little ball and tossed it into the wastebasket.  He thought they were back on track, even if they were still sofaless, but now he was angry again.  Not only did Jack know that Daniel hated waking up alone, but worse than that, he hated waking up to notes saying his husband had gone out of town in the family aircraft on some unstated and mysterious business, especially when it was added that Jack's cell phone would be off.

~Your cell may be off, but you sure won't be getting off anytime soon, Jack Jackson-O'Neill!~

An unhappy camper, Daniel set about to take a shower before dressing and tackling the obligations of the day.

====

Jack's schedule went pretty much as planned.  As requested, Alex had arranged for the roll of fabric to be driven to the airport.  Unfortunately, it wasn't cheap.  The warehouse itself didn't have any spare personnel to deliver it, so a courier had to be hired.  Nevertheless, the fabric was loaded on Jo with the courier's well-rewarded assistance.

The roll barely fit inside the Meyers 200A aircraft, and Jack had cursed a few times as he figured out how to make it fit.

“Geez, Danny, the things I do for you,” Jack muttered as he and the courier finally got the roll secure by finagling with Jo's interior.

The fifteen-minute delay due to the loading difficulty was made up for by a nice tailwind that allowed Jack to get to his next destination five minutes early.  As he turned off the engine, he was surprised to see a familiar figure walking towards the plane.

With his piloting duties completed, the general disembarked and called out, “How did you get here?”

Alex chuckled, “Ever hear of airplanes?  You know, the Wright brothers? Kitty Hawk?  That thing you just climbed out of?”

“Very funny.  Didn't know you were coming,” Jack commented as they shook hands.

“I wanted to oversee this, make sure it's done right.  Tight fit,” the designer noted as he began to help Jack remove the roll from the plane.

“You're telling me.  I had to rearrange the back to get this in here.”  Once the roll was removed with the assistance of two workers Alex had brought with him, Jack inquired, “Alex, can you really pull this off?  Daniel is a little wacky over losing that old sofa.  You have no idea what I've gone through, trying to get him to buy a new one.”

“Doesn't want a new one, does he?” Alex chuckled.

“He wants it just the way it was,” Jack sighed.  “I know that's not possible, but ...”

“Jack, just relax, the fabric is here, and I have a few tricks up my sleeve,” the designer assured.  “I wouldn't have made the trip if this were just your basic 'follow the diagram' custom upholstery order.”

“Yeah, well, thank you for taking care of this.  A new, old sofa,” Jack said to himself, shaking his head.  Refocusing on the man in front of him, he stated, “I need to grab something to eat and then get back up in the air.  It's a long flight home.”  ~And then I'll see if I still have a husband.~

“This was the only way it was going to happen, Jack,” Alex said matter-of-factly.

As Jack nodded his understanding, the two walked to the truck that Alex and the workers had come in.

“Smith Brothers is the best in the business, Jack.  I think you'll like their handiwork,” Alex commented.

“Smith Brothers, eh?  When did they branch out from cough drops?”  Seeing his attempt at levity ignored, Jack continued, “Yeah.  Well, it'll be new, but at least having that fabric and a similar design will make Daniel feel better -- I hope.”

====

At the Smith Brother's factory in the small town of Berne, Indiana, Alex shook hands with the production foreman and the company president.

“Thanks for helping me out; I sure appreciate it,” Alex spoke.

The company president responded, “Alex, it's the least we could do.  You've become one of our largest accounts.  You've put our furniture in places all over the country, plus a few overseas.  Besides, with the bonus your client is paying, well, we're pretty much a happy bunch.”

“Great.  Are the trucks ready to roll?” Alex asked anxiously.

“Ready as requested.  Are you sure about this?  After all, it's unusual, to say the least,” the man put forth.

“Absolutely,” Alex affirmed.

====

At 7:40 p.m., Jack carefully entered his home.  He was later than anticipated, but he'd had to put Jo back together before leaving the airport.  At this point, the military man wasn't sure if he would need a weapon to fend off the hostile locals or not.

“Hi, Dad,” Brianna greeted, glancing over her shoulder.  She was now in charge of maintaining the fish tank, checking for leaks, making sure the fish had food, and things of that nature.  “We need more fish food.  I just checked the automatic feeder, and it's low.”

“I'll make a note,” Jack said with a smile, walking over to hug the ten-year-old tomboy.  “Where's Daddy?”

“Upstairs, reading the Munchkins and the twins a story.  Uh, tread carefully, Dad.  When I told Daddy that we were low on fish food, he muttered something about feeding his husband to the fish.”

Jack grimaced, asking, “That bad?”

Brianna chuckled, “He was disavowing any knowledge of your existence most of the day, unless the little ones were around.”

“That bad,” Jack affirmed.

After giving Brianna a closed smile, Jack turned and headed upstairs to face the 'Wrath of Daniel'.

====

“And they lived happily ever after,” Daniel said, closing the book as he sat on Aislinn's bed, the five children all surrounding him on the bed.

“Just like us!” Jack exclaimed from the doorway.

“Daaaaad!” the littlest Jackson-O'Neills spoke excitedly in scattered voices, each climbing down from the bed to run over for hugs and kisses.

“Hey, Ricky,” Jack said, picking up the boy and holding him up high over his head.

“Dad, where you go?” Jenny asked as Jack picked her up, too.

“I had a very important errand to run today, but I missed you all so much,” Jack said, kissing both Ricky and Jenny.  He put down the twins and then knelt down to greet the triplets.  “How was your day?”

“Bogey got loose,” Jonny confessed.

“Jenny found him,” Little Danny said informatively.

“I grounded,” Jonny sighed as he kicked the carpet with his foot.

Jack coughed and asked, “Did you take Bogey out without permission?”

“No, but when I put him back, I forgot to lock the door,” Jonny admitted.

“We've talked to you about that a lot,” Jack gently admonished.

“I know,” the little boy affirmed.  “Daddy grounded me.”

“And Daddy was right to do so,” Jack professed in support of his husband.

“Glad I'm right about something,” Daniel suddenly interjected.  “Remember me? Your husband?”  His arms were folded as he spoke.  “Bed, five minutes,” he ordered the youngsters as he walked by his husband.

“Dad in trouble,” Aislinn whispered.

“Dad's in big trouble, but, shhh!” Jack said, making a shushing motion.  “I have a surprise.  Daddy may be upset with me for a few days, but then he's gonna think I'm a magic worker.”

Little Danny laughed, causing Aislinn to ask him what so funny.

The boy answered, “Dad fixing it, huh, Dad?”

“I'm trying,” Jack said with a smile.  Then he looked at the oldest Munchkin and asked, “Jonny, you know that you deserved to be grounded for not locking the cage, right?”

“I no argue,” Jonny stated truthfully.

“Good boy.  Okay, Daddy said lights out, so move!” Jack ordered.  “I'll be back to say goodnight in a bit.”

Like bees on a mission, the five children scurried off to their appropriate beds.

====

Daniel walked into the boys' bedroom, kissed Little Danny, Jonny, and Ricky goodnight, and tucked the covers around them.

“Daddy, where's Dad?” Little Danny asked.

“He's saying goodnight to Jenny and Aislinn,” Daniel answered quietly.

“Stay here until Dad comes in, Daddy?” Jonny asked.

“Dad and I will trade places so we can say goodnight to everyone,” Daniel responded.

“No!” times three was the instantly-shouted reply from the three boys.

“You stay here until Dad comes in,” Jonny ordered.

“Shhh!” Daniel said, soothing his sons back down and tucking the covers around them once more.

Daniel just sat on the edge of Little Danny's bed, talking with his sons, nervously looking at the doorway, not wanting to deal with his husband at the moment, but not wanting to admit to his children he was feeling cool towards their older father.  Little Danny asked him a question about the Ptolemaic dynasties, and before Daniel had finished answering, he found Jack's hands massaging his neck.

~Sproglet, you little sneak!~ thought Daniel, suppressing all but the merest trace of a grin.  ~You knew I'd get wrapped up in answering your question and forget about Jack until he was here.  Oh, yes, that feels sooo good.  Wait a second; I'm supposed to be mad at him.~

The younger man stiffened momentarily, part of him wanting to hold on to his anger, the rest of him having missed his husband all day and been just a little worried.  They had rarely been secretive about their whereabouts.  For a moment, the self-righteous but lonely archaeologist warred with the man who just wanted to be at ease with his family again.

Daniel's heart won out, and he leaned against Jack, too tired to continue the veiled hostility he had unsuccessfully tried to hide from his children all day. He didn't care where his lover had been.  It didn't matter, he was home now.

“Hey,” Daniel said softly.

“Hey, yourself,” Jack replied, leaning in for a kiss.

A collective sigh of relief washed through three little chests as all three boys closed their eyes and yawned, no longer fighting the sandman.

“I guess we should say goodnight to the rest of the brood together, Angel,” Jack said, having gone through similar 'battles' in the girls' rooms.

“Yes, we should,” Daniel agreed, standing.  He took his husband's hand and kissed it.  “I missed you.”

“Danny, I just need you to trust me for a couple of days, and then I'll tell you all about it,” Jack said earnestly.

“I love you, Jack.”

“Love you, too, Space Monkey.”

Hearing the giggles, Daniel rolled his eyes, but then he leaned into Jack's shoulder.

Looking back at their youngest sons, the two men smiled at the innocent brows, now unlined with worry and kissed with tousled locks.

**They always know,** Daniel communicated.

**Yes, they do, and they know that we love each other.**

**We're their world, Jack.  We have to keep it safe and secure.**  Daniel smiled as he turned out the light.  “Thank you,” he whispered softly to the three sleeping boys.

The lovers exchanged a look and then continued their rounds.

====

Later that night in the quiet of their room, the lovers snuggled together, reaffirming their nation of two.

Finally, 'Danny Blanket' asked his 'Jack Pillow', “So where were you today?”

Jack sighed as he said, “Angel, if I could tell you, I would have already.  You know I don't keep secrets from you lightly.  You'll know soon enough, I promise.”

“Babe, you sneaked out without a word,” Daniel lightly protested.  “I don't like waking up alone.  You know that.”

“I do know, and I wouldn't have done this if there was another way.  Besides, I did wake you,” Jack said a tad defensively.

“Very funny, Jack,” Daniel replied dryly, certain that Jack had probably gotten him to mumble something in his sleep earlier that morning.

“Look, Daniel, there are moments in every relationship when the only thing you can do is trust each other, like I asked you to do in the boys' room.  I am asking you to trust me, for just a few short days.  Can you do that?”

“I trust you, Jack; it's just that ...”

“It's just nothing, Daniel.  If I have to go sleep in the guest room to stop this line of conversation, I will.  Now, you *know* I love you, and I know that you love me.  We can continue this until we end up arguing, or we can just bask in our love and get up tomorrow, enjoying our home, our children, and each other.  Tonight, it's your choice.  What's your pleasure?”

Daniel sighed, “I guess you wouldn't go on an all-day errand without telling me what it was unless you had a very important reason.  My pleasure right now is sleep.”

“Ah, Danny, you're so cute when you see things my way.  Ouch!  Go easy with the elbows, would ya?” Jack spoke teasingly.

“Don't push it, Jack.”

“That's my snarky archaeologist.  Love you, Angel.”

“Love you, too, Babe,” Daniel said, his blanket keeping his pillow plenty warm.  ~I trust him; I'm just freakin' curious, that's all.~

The soulmates relaxed into their usual positions and fell asleep, grateful to be in each other's arms.

====
--November 20:  It's Not Just a Sofa!
====

“Jack,” Daniel said the next morning as the lovers woke.

“What, Angel?”

“I'm sorry.  I got so darn wrapped up in the sofa, but ... I think what bothers me even more is that I ... I actually did feel better after that silly burning ritual of yours,” Daniel confessed.

“You love the sofa,” Jack responded understandingly.  “We had a lot of good times on that old junk heap.”

“Jack, it was *not* a junk heap!” Daniel argued, jumping off his lover and the bed.  Midway to the bathroom, he stopped, wrapped his arms around himself, and turned around.  With a sigh, he said, “Sorry.”

Jack got up off the bed, going around it, and walking to his lover.  He put his arms on his lover's upper arms and then pulled Daniel into a hug.

“Is there anything you're not telling me?” Jack asked.

“You mean some deep down dark long-forgotten reason why I'm treating a piece of furniture like it was a ... a person?”

“Something like that,” Jack said softly as he warmed Daniel's back with his hands.

“It's a piece of furniture,” Daniel sighed.

“Daniel!”

Daniel moved back a tad to look into Jack's eyes as he explained, “No, no dark secret, but, Jack, from the moment my parents died, my whole life was spent in search of something good and happy.  It took me a lot of years to find you and this house.  I just remember the first time you brought me here.  You said it was just some little house, but I thought it was paradise, and the sofa, it just seemed to call to me.  We spent so many hours on it.  I shared things with you while we sat on it that ... well, things I'd rather forget.  We've made love on it.  We've laughed and cried.  Jack, outside of the roof deck, the one place, the one spot that ... that was 'us' was that sofa, and now it's gone and ...”

“Angel, the sofa is gone, but we're forever.”  Jack saw the tears forming in his lover's eyes.  He saw the younger man swallow hard, and he could feel the slight trembling.  “Danny, our love extends beyond this house or anything in it.  We're together, we're strong, and we are forever,” he vowed.

“Hold me, Jack,” Daniel requested.

~So it wasn't just sentimentality, not totally,~ the older man thought as he held his life partner.  ~Just one little piece of you, part of that little boy who was hurt and made fun of every day for years and years; it was him, too, that mourned the sofa.  Daniel knows better, but that little boy thought maybe the sofa's demise meant the end of us.  No way, Danny.  No friggin' way!~

====

A few minutes later, Jack slipped his cell phone into his robe pocket and placed a covert call from the master bathroom.

“Alex, how's it going?”

“Right on schedule, Jack.  Is there a problem?” Alex inquired.  ~With these two, there's always something.~

“No, but, uh ...”

“Jack, no changes!” Alex warned, sensing something in the older man.  ~I've had all the last minute challenges I care to have in a lifetime, thanks to you and Daniel.~

“No, no changes.  It's just that.  Alex, whatever you can do to get that sofa to be as close to the original as possible ... well, I'll quadruple your pay.”

~He sounds, hmm, almost desperate, in a sincere sort of way,~ Alex thought.  ~Don't ask.  Okay, okay, okay -- ASK!~  Calmly, the designer questioned, “Jack, is something wrong?”

“No, but it's more than a piece of furniture, and I guess I wanted you to know that, or maybe I'm getting sappy in my old age.  I'll check in with you tomorrow.”

Jack broke the connection, leaving the designer to ponder the strange call.

--

Alex stared at the phone and nodded as he folded it and slipped it back into his pocket.

Turning to the workers and observing the work, the designer suddenly called out, “Wait a minute, Guys.  That arm is curved too much.  Follow my measurements precisely.”

After getting the workers back on track, Alex smiled while thinking, ~It's just a sofa -- to some folks, but I know it's much more to Jack and Daniel.  Okay, I admit it.  I like a good challenge, and one thing those two continue to do is challenge me.~  

====

Four sharp knocks sounded on the door, followed by a symphony of giggles and someone calling out, “Dad, Daddy, are you, uh, covered up?” which was also followed by more giggles.

Having been in the early stages of a morning romp, Jack and Daniel scrambled into their pajama tops and quickly threw themselves into bed, pulling the covers up to hide their naked lower bodies.

“Yes, uh, we're ... covered,” Daniel hesitantly called out.

The door opened, and all eleven children yelled, “Surprise!”

The first ones in the door were Jennifer and Jeff, each carrying a breakfast tray.  Jennifer placed a tray in front of Jack, while Jeff did the same for Daniel.  Under the lid on each tray was a plate with half of a cheese omelette, two sausage links, and a waffle.

Brianna carried a third tray which was quickly filled with the items carried by the rest of the brood: a carafe of Starbuck's coffee, pitchers of milk and juice, syrup, butter, a box of Fruit Loops, two cereal bowls, and a silk flower in a bud vase.

Bijou and Katie didn't carry anything, but they were part of the cavalcade nonetheless.

The brood all said their good mornings and filed out, closing the door and leaving their parents gaping at the trays in front of them.

“Hey, Angel, look,” Jack urged as picked up the envelope from the middle tray.

“Open it, Babe,” Daniel replied, leaning over to peek at the card.

The note inside read:

Dear Dad and Daddy,

Grandpa George is here, and we're all going to the mall and a movie (a long movie).  We won't be home until around 1600 (that's 4 o'clock to you, Daddy).  Bij and Katie have been out and are inside.  Grandpa will drive the SUV.  The security system will be on when we leave.  Jen will call when we are on the way home.  Have fun.

Love,

the Brood

“Geez, our kids are the best,” Jack stated lovingly.  He shuddered, “But I hate thinking about Hammond being here when we ...”

“Don't even say it, Babe.  Ewwww,” Daniel shivered and then chuckled.  More seriously, he stated, “Jack, I think they knew we were a bit on edge with each other yesterday and are giving us time to, uh,  'you know'.”

“Well, eat up, Angel.  We'll need our strength; wouldn't want to disappoint the brood,” Jack happily snickered.

====

Jack started the water running in the tub in the master bath. Every time they used the tub, the two men silently thanked their designer, Alex Dennison. Daniel still blushed to think that not only Alex, but the people who built the molds for the tub, and those who fabricated it, and the plumbers who installed it, had to know that it was designed for a couple to be intimate in.

The seating area of the tub was just over five-feet long, but one end had an extra eighteen inches.  The two seats were molded in contours so that the occupants were tipped back in a slightly reclining position.  The extra length was all behind one contour seat, meaning that there was room for one person to sit on the other's lap with the two people facing each other and comfortable leg room for the person sitting on the other's lap, facing the end of the tub.

~Oh, yes.  This is going to be nice,~ Jack thought, grinning in anticipation.

====

“Oh, gawd, Jack, no matter how many times we do this, the water is just incredible,” Daniel said as he enjoyed the sensation.

Jack continued to rhythmically thrust his hips upward, lifting Daniel a little with each motion, then relaxing as he settled back down, allowing his lover to impale himself a few seconds later.  The buoyancy of the water made it nearly impossible to move any faster in their positions.  Their agony was delicious.

“Dan...ny, I'm getting close ...” Jack gasped.

“Yeah ... gawd, love you!”

The two lovers slid their joined hands over Daniel's length, each responding to the other's desire and need.

The lovers' gasps and sighs of intense pleasure took each other to greater heights of ecstasy until conscious thought became thundering incandescence.

====

Later that day, General Hammond was sitting down with all but the two oldest of the brood in the mall, enjoying ice cream in the food court.

Jeff and Jennifer, meanwhile, went to the frame shop to pick up the picture they had dropped off earlier.

The total sequence of thirty-six pictures from the children's surprise family photo event with the sofa had been snapped in six seconds.  The best shot was the one in which Calico stood in Little Danny's lap poised to jump to Lulu.  The feline had turned her head around, facing the camera, just in time to have her picture snapped with everyone else.

On their way back to join the others, the two teens were taking in all the wares on display in the various vendors' booths as part of the mall's flea market and antique show.  One of the booths had what looked like upholstered furniture made for dolls.  Several of the pieces had their tops removed, revealing small boxes hidden inside.

“Look, Jeff!  Wow, these are really cute little keepsake boxes; very unusual,” Jennifer commented.

“Yeah, they're cute.  Come on, we need to get back.  It's nine against Grandpa George.  He'll need reinforcements,” Jeff joked.

“Wait a sec, Jeff.  Look at this one,” Jennifer requested, opening one of the boxes that was a miniature tan-colored three-cushion sofa.

“What about it?” the boy quizzed, until suddenly, he caught on.  “Oh, yeah!  Dad needs something to put the sofa ashes in.”

“Right.  He can't just give the ashes to Daddy in a peanut can.  Ewww!” the girl screeched.

Jeff quickly agreed, saying, “This would be perfect.”  Looking at the vendor, he inquired, “How much is it?” Hearing the price, he looked at his sister and said quietly, “Geez, Jen, the photo and frame shops took a chunk of my change.  I don't have enough to pay for half of this.  I'd like to, but ...”

“Ahem.  Don't know how to haggle, young man?” the kindly middle-aged woman vendor interrupted.

“Ah, no, I guess not,” Jeff admitted sheepishly.

“Well, it's time you learned,” the woman chuckled.  “Haggling pre-dates price tags, you know.  I make these myself; it's not like there's some big, bad corporation telling me how much I have to sell my little creations for.”  She smiled enticingly and said, “Let's see if we can do a little business.”

Ten minutes later, the two teens walked quickly to the food court, giggling at their good fortune.  The vendor, a self-confessed romantic, had substantially reduced her price upon finding out what the box was to hold and how the need for the box came about.

====

“Hello,” Jack said, answering the phone a bit later.

“Is it safe?” Jennifer giggled.

“Yer a brat, Jen, and we love you to pieces,” Jack laughed.  “Thank you for masterminding this idea for Daddy and me.”

“It was a team effort; the brood decided you needed some private time together to ... you know,” the teenager chuckled.

“Where are you?” the father asked.

“Just left the mall.  Grandpa says he's game for more if ...”

“Let's not take advantage,” Jack warned lightly.  “Tell him to head on back.”

“Okay.  See you in a few,” Jennifer spoke and then disconnected the call.

“*Daniel!*” Jack shouted.

“What now?” Daniel asked, jogging in from the bathroom.

“How come the brood thinks we need private time together to ... you know?”

Daniel shrugged and smirked, “Because we don't want to do it in *public*?”

“Very funny, Daniel,” Jack said snarkily as he began to chase his lover for a final few moments of play.

====

After the nightly Jackson-O'Neill ritual of ice cream, nine of the children prepared for bed and waited for their parents to tuck them in.  Jennifer and Jeff, however, waited outside Jack's study while he finished a business call.

Jack opened the door to see his two oldest children grinning like a matched pair of Cheshire cats.

“Okay, what's up?” Jack asked, unable to keep from grinning back at the two.

“Shhh!” Jennifer warned, pushing the man back inside the study while Jeff closed the door.

“Secrets?” Jack inquired with only a mild bit of mock alarm.

“Well, I think Daddy's upstairs, but you can never be sure around here,” Jeff stated.

The boy held up a brown paper bag while Jennifer removed an object from it.

Jack stared at the miniature sofa, watching as Jennifer removed the top, revealing the back, arms, and seat cushions to be a lid, concealing a box inside the bottom.

Jennifer and Jeff had huge smiles, their expressions communicating their unspoken idea, one that Jack quickly picked up on.

“Sweet!” Jack exclaimed as he reached out and drew the teens into a hug. “You kids are the best.  It's perfect, just perfect.  I have the ashes in the projects room.  Come on,” he coaxed.

“Just a moment, Dad,” Jeff said as he picked another bag up off the floor.  He pulled out a framed picture of all eleven children along with the family pets.  “We wanted to do this right away, Dad.  We felt it was important for Lulu and Brianna to feel included, and to know they are full-fledged Jackson-O'Neills.”

“And, you, too, Bro,” Jennifer asserted, nudging her brother lightly.

~We have great kids!~  Jack looked at the picture and found his eyes misting.  “Beautiful, just beautiful.  Thank you.  Okay, we have to hurry.  I'm missing story time with Daniel and the little ones.”

====

In the projects room, Jack pulled a quart canning jar full of the sofa ashes from a cupboard and carefully scooped most of the ash into the small sofa box.  He had previously poured the cooled ashes from the burn barrel into a bucket, picked out all the slivers of charred wood and beads of melted foam and sifted the remains, leaving just the finely powdered ash, which he then transferred to the canning jar.  However, he hadn't wanted to give them to Daniel in such a plain container.

“I'll give this to him at just the right moment,” Jack told the teenagers.

“And when you think Daddy's ready, give him this, too,” Jeff requested as he handed Jack a stack of photos bound with a plastic spine.  “Riff them, like a flip book,” he encouraged.

As the puzzled father thumbed through the photos, they recreated the sofa collapse in slow motion, from the moment of the first flash to the shocked looks of eleven children and four pets sitting on the remains of the sofa.  Jack laughed as he thumbed through the photos twice more.

“This is great.  Daddy may need some time before he's ready for this, though.”  Hugging his daughter and son once more, Jack ruffled their hair and whispered, “I love you both.”

====

Meanwhile, in the sleepy little town of Berne, Indiana, a small group of craftsmen were working like they were Santa's elves on Christmas Eve.

====

“Danny, two pairs of pajama bottoms could not have just disappeared.  I know Thor doesn't want them - too big for his little gray bum,” Jack whined as he continued looking for the missing apparel.

“Jack, we ducked under the covers half-naked this morning.  We were wearing the tops, and we had been about to ...”

“Found them!” Jack exclaimed, springing up from the floor, still on his knees, holding a pair of pajama bottoms in each hand.

“Jack, we tossed those on the floor.  Jen was on that side this morning, so if they were under the bed ... oh, gawd!”

“She kicked them under the bed so the younger kids wouldn't see them,” the older man deduced.

“But she must know what we were about to ... oh, gawd!”

“I think she has a pretty good idea of why we enjoy our privacy so much, Angel,” Jack snickered.

“I know, but still ...”  Daniel stood up with alarm.

Jack chuckled, “Actually, I prefer your butt moving.  Come here.”  After a few kisses, he dropped the pajama bottoms on the floor.  “No sense putting these on now, is there?”

The lovers fell onto their bed laughing.

As Daniel gazed down into his husband's eyes, his left hand caressed Jack's cheek while he softly spoke, “Jack, I said a lot of horrible things over the last few days, and I'm truly sorry.”

Jack's hands slid up and ran gently against Daniel's buttocks as he responded, “I knew you didn't mean any of them.”

“I ... Jack, the thing is, I know you'll never leave me, and I know I can say ... well, most anything and ... I mean, that sounds horrible, to ... to love and ... it's more than that,” Daniel rambled.  “Jack, I trust you so darn much, and I ... I got scared for just a minute, and then I lost my entire perspective on things.  I let a sofa symbolize everything we are.”

“And now?” Jack questioned as he continued to rub gently against his lover's bare skin.

“And now I know that while it was very, very special to me, and while I'll miss it, it was still a piece of furniture, and more importantly, I know that the only symbol I need to remember about you and me are our children.  They're our miracles, and they say to the world that we are ... well, who we are.”

“We're forever, Angel.”

“Forever,” Daniel crooned in agreement as the lovers kissed and then made love.

====
--November 21:  Sam's Dilemma!
====

“I'll go start breakfast,” Daniel said after dressing the next morning.

“Wait a second, Danny,” Jack requested, moving to get the items he'd hidden away the night before.  “Sit down,” he requested of his lover.  A moment later, both were seated on Daniel's side of the bed, the archaeologist to the general's right since Jack had placed a bag on the nightstand.  “Danny, I know how you loved the sofa.  Part of The Burning ritual ...”

“Gawd, Jack,” Daniel whispered, feeling embarrassed just thinking about the ritual.  ~I *was* insane.~

Jack chuckled lightly and then continued, “Part of the ritual is dealing with the remains.  I figure we can put this on the corner of the mantel.”

Daniel looked at his lover quizzically as he took hold of the small sofa.

“What's this?” the younger man asked as he turned the object around in his hands, examining it.

“It's a sofa,” Jack chuckled.

“Jack!” Daniel responded, chuckling as well.

“The kids found it.  It's a storage box shaped like a sofa; in this case, it stores something we love.  Open it, carefully,” Jack instructed.

“You're kidding?” Daniel asked as he carefully and slowly opened the keepsake box.  “Wow, this is ... our sofa,” he sighed sadly as he stared at the ashes.  He smiled as he put the cover back on.  “This is, uh, really unique.”

“And look at this,” Jack said, taking out the framed photograph.

“Oh, Jack.  They wanted to surprise us with this picture so badly,” Daniel said, smiling at the children and animals.

Daniel ran his hand over the picture, his finger stopping briefly atop each child.  All the children had been dressed in their finest for the special photograph, the boys in suits, complete with jackets, pants, dress shirts, and ties; the girls in frilly and/or lacy dresses with their best shoes, adorned with just the right accessories to accent their outfits.

David wore a tan suit and shirt, and next to him was Chenoa in a rose pink dress and wearing a tiny pearl necklace.  Lulu sat next to her, wearing a yellow dress, accented by white roses embroidered at the top.

Unable to contain himself, Daniel chuckled, “Look, Babe.  I was so upset I didn't even realize Bri was wearing a dress.”

Jack smiled, explaining, “Jen told me later that Brianna said it was a special occasion and for us not to get used to it.”

“Until she discovers boys,” Daniel remarked.

“Daniel, don't start,” Jack warned, his protective father persona beginning to come out.  He sighed, “She only had that black dress because of that shopping spree Jen took her on.”

“She'll get more,” Daniel promised as he returned his focus to the family portrait.

The younger man smiled at how handsome Jeff looked in his dark gray suit and light gray shirt.  Jennifer looked lovely, too, in her lilac dress with spaghetti straps.  She wore a gold heart necklace that Kayla Armentrout, the surrogate birth mother to the Munchkins and the twins, had given her for Christmas.

Jack whispered, “Jen said by wearing the necklace, she felt like Kayla was there, helping the photos to turn out right.”

“Kayla was an awesome photographer,” Daniel replied softly as he remembered the young woman who would always be a part of their family.  Looking at their younger children seated on the sofa, he chuckled, “I didn't notice.”

“Didn't notice what, Angel?” Jack asked curiously.

“Their ties.  Look, Jeff's tie has tropical fish on it, David's has gray rocks, Jonny has Homer Simpson ...”

“That's my boy,” Jack interrupted with pride.

Daniel continued, “Little Danny has hieroglyphs on his tie, and Ricky has camels.”

“They really wanted this photo to be a treasure, Love,” Jack commented at how much the children worked on coordinating their outfits.

Daniel's finger traced Jonny in his dark blue suit with light blue shirt and then crossed over Little Danny in his light blue outfit.  Then came Aislinn in her pale blue dress that had a pink lace trim at the bust.  In her hair was a pink ribbon.  He smiled at Ricky, who had worn a dark brown suit with tan shirt.  Finally, there was Jenny with emerald green ribbons on her pigtails which coordinated beautifully with her emerald green dress.

“They even got the girls and the rest of the zoo in this picture, Jack,” Daniel commented in admiration of their children's efforts.

“Yeah, they didn't miss a thing,” Jack observed.  “Jeff and Jen wanted Bri and Lulu to feel like they were included; you know, Love, we have so many photos around the house, and they wanted one with all of them in it.”

“We have great children,” Daniel announced with pride.  “Let's put this by the keepsake box on the mantel.”

“Sounds like a plan,” Jack agreed.  “Danny, Jeff put together one more thing. I'm not really sure if I should give it to you now or later.”

“Jack, I'm okay now; I promise,” Daniel assured his husband, leaning over to give him a quick kiss.

Seeing his lover's shining eyes, eyes that reflected Daniel's soul, Jack smiled and nodded.  His lover's eyes were peaceful, full of hope and happiness.  Jack's Daniel was whole again.  Happily, he handed his lover a book of photos, thirty-six to be precise.  Slowly, and without Jack having to tell him, the younger man fanned through the photos, showing the moment-by-moment demise of the beloved sofa.

“Long may she wave,” Daniel quipped in a quiet jest.  “I, uh, think I'll keep this in the den.”

“You okay?” Jack asked, his hand caressing his lover's back.

“It's a miracle, our family.  Jack, I have you, eleven wonderful children, the girls, the cats, the fish ...”

“A lizard,” Jack interrupted, laughing.

Daniel chuckled and continued, “... A bunny, and, most importantly, a house full of love.  I'm much more than okay.”  He leaned over and shared a tender and lingering kiss.  “I love you.”

“I love you, too, Angel.”

====

Though it was a weekend, Megan was at the offices of J-O Enterprises.  There were surveys to be reviewed, bills to be paid, and scheduling decisions to be made.  Knowing their dedicated Director of Operations would be there and having an ulterior motive, Jack covertly dropped by the offices while out on a errand to the grocery store.

To set up his scheme, prior to leaving the house, Jack had set the timer to fax some papers, duplicates of ones already received from a new client, to the office. His goal was to get Daniel out of the house for part of the evening that night and also Monday afternoon when the sofa would be delivered.

Jack needed to talk with their neighbor, Mrs. Valissi, but she was gone all day.  As a result, he was aware that he wouldn't be able to see her until after dinnertime.  What he was trying to avoid, though, were curious questions from his husband about why he was going to visit the woman, knowing she would be tired from her long day out.

J-O was an employee's dream to work for.  Since it was Thanksgiving week, most of the workers were working limited or even no days at all but with full pay.  Neither Jack nor Daniel were even scheduled to go into their business office except for one meeting the archaeologist had in the afternoon.  Jack wasn't sure the meeting would take up enough time; he needed Daniel to be there longer, just in case.  Thus, he needed a small, unknowing assist from their D.O.

~Showtime!~ Jack thought as he got out of his truck.  He rushed in the door of J-O Enterprises, saying, “Hey, Megan.  Just dropping by to pick up a fax I was expecting from ...”  He heard the fax click on.  “That must be them,” he said, smiling, as he walked over to the machine.

“Jack, you should have just called.  I could have dropped those off for you on my way home,” Megan stated dutifully.

~She doesn't know that I know Yazid will be in town, and that's just the way I like it.~  Jack grinned evilly to Megan's back.  “Megan, you really work too hard, and I don't think we show you often enough what an outstanding job you are doing and how much we appreciate it.”

“Thank you,” the woman said as she smiled bashfully.

“Sometimes, you remind me of how Daniel used to be,” Jack said, watching the pages come through.  ~Careful, O'Neill.  Ease into this.~

“What do you mean?” Megan asked.  ~I know; I'm a workaholic, but Yazid is here so seldom, and, well, what's a girl to do?~

“All work and no play,” Jack answered bluntly.

“Well, you and Daniel are actually quite generous, and J-O does pay me quite well.”

~Steady ... steady,~ Jack urged as he paced himself.  “Of course, we do.  We couldn't function nearly as well as we do without you, Megan, but no amount of money can give you back your life.  It took Daniel a long time to realize that there is more to life than work.”  He glanced over his shoulder at the woman, noticing that her head was down, and she was clearly deep in thought.  “You know, I see your car here early every day, even on weekends, like today.  You put in a lot of O.T., too, during the regular workweek.  We don't require that of you.”

“There's so much to be done,” Megan said softly.  ~I take my position seriously; you and Daniel count on me.~

Jack picked up the papers and walked over to the woman.  He realized now that there was more to this conversation than just his selfish deception.

“Megan, I used to tell my 2IC something all the time.  For years, she ignored me,” Jack spoke seriously.

“Sam,” Megan stated.

With a nod, the general said, “Get a life, Megan.  We need you.  I won't lie about that, but you go way beyond the call with J-O.  We appreciate it, but how many nights do you work past dinner?”

“Well ...”

“And how many Saturdays and Sundays do you come in?” Jack asked pointedly.

“So much of what we do is time sensitive,” Megan responded.

~We need to review our priorities and staffing.~  Jack shook his head and repeated, “Megan, get a life.  I don't want you working past dinnertime anymore unless there's a priority deadline.  Understood?”

Megan nodded gratefully and answered, “Yes, General.”

“And if you work a weekend, you need to take some time during a weekday -- come in late, for example,” Jack said.  ~Like tomorrow.~

Megan smiled and nodded, saying, “Okay.”

~Crap.  Watch her marry Yazid now.  You just did yourself in, O'Neill,~ Jack silently lamented.

“Ah, actually, Jack, I could use a little break ... a favor, actually.”  Megan hesitated.  ~Yazid will be arriving tonight, and we don't get much time together.~  She sighed, ~And he'll only be here for a day.~

“Such as?” Jack asked.  ~Careful.  Let her get a life, but don't forget your plan.~

“General, we have a couple of projects to finalize, and I know you weren't scheduled to come in, but if you or Daniel could spend a little time here today and maybe a couple of hours tomorrow afternoon to help with the decisions and scheduling, then do you suppose it would be all right if I came in late tom...”
 
~Perfect~  Checking his watch as Megan spoke, and with precision timing, Jack said hurriedly, “Crap, Megan, I've gotta run.  Whatever it is, I'm sure it's doable.  Just ask Daniel.  He's home right now.”  Opening the door, he looked back and said, “In fact, you don't even need to mention me at all; just ask the man.  After all, he's the brains of this outfit.  Later!”

Jack swept out the door as suddenly as he had rushed in, leaving Megan staring.  She quickly walked over to the entrance and looked out the window.

~Don't mention you, eh?~  Megan smiled as she spoke aloud, “Okay, General.  I know you were sincere, but you're planning something for Daniel, and for whatever reason, you need my help.  You got it, and thank you!”

====

Dressed handsomely, Teal'c knocked on Sam's door.

“Teal'c!” the blonde smiled after opening the door.  “Come on in,” Sam invited, moving back to allow the Jaffa to enter.

“I hope I am not intruding, Samantha,” Teal'c said as he walked into the living area.

“No, of course not.  It's good to see you,” Sam responded, leaning forward for a hug.  “Can I get you something?”

“I have been indulging in the Tau'ri beverage white tea.”

Sam smiled as she replied, “That's very exotic.  Janet likes that a lot.”

“Indeed,” Teal'c responded.

Sam cocked her head slightly as she asked, “You know that, don't you?”

“I know many things, SamanthaCarter.”

Sam chuckled as she responded, “Well, I don't have any white tea, but I do have some Chamomile; it's an herbal tea.”

Teal'c nodded his agreement and waited while Sam moved to the kitchen to prepare it.

“Where is PeteShanahan today?” Teal'c inquired.

Sam called out, “Working, darn it.  I've been off-world for five days, and we had all of two hours before he had to go to work, but ...”

Teal'c looked over and saw the pink blush of his friends' face.  He smiled in happiness for her.  Then he noted her coat and purse nearby.

“Were you going out, Samantha?”

“Uh, yes, but nothing urgent,” Sam answered as she walked over and handed Teal'c a cup of tea.  She sat down on the sofa and took a sip from her own cup.  As Teal'c sat down in a chair, she continued, “Actually, I was going shopping.”  With her left hand, she gently slapped the sofa, stating, “This old thing needs some help.  I thought I'd buy a new one and put this one out of its misery.”

For a split second, the Jaffa's face held a bemused expression, as if he were about to burst into spontaneous laughter, but just as quickly, he grew serious.

“Do you require assistance with the ritual?” the strong alien asked her intently.

“Ritual?” Sam asked, her head jutting out just slightly.

“Do you not love your sofa?” Teal'c inquired, his tone challenging, as if asking Sam if she loved children.

“Well, yes, but I've had it a long time, Teal'c, and I'd like a new one now,” Sam answered, a bit confused by the question.

“Then I will assist you in The Burning.”

“Burning?  Teal'c, what are you talking about?” a confused colonel asked.

“Has this sofa not served you well?” Teal'c questioned.

“Yes, of ... of course, it, uh, has,” Sam stuttered, feeling like a little girl being scolded by her father.  “But ...”

“Then does it not deserve to be honored with The Burning?”

“Bur...burning?”

Teal'c put down his cup of tea as he explained, “O'Neill has told me of this important Tau'ri tradition.  It is a sad time, saying farewell to a beloved sofa.  It is important to have its essence continue.”

~It's essence?  Of a sofa?~ Sam silently asked as she listened, stunned, by Teal'c's comments.

“I shall acquire O'Neill's burn barrel,” the Jaffa stated informatively.  “I am sure he and DanielJackson will also wish to offer their support during the rite.  I have obligations on Chulak tomorrow, but we will conduct the ritual on Tuesday.  It will be my honor to assist you, Samantha.  Please excuse me,” he said, standing. “I must go and meditate to prepare.”

“Wwwwell ...”  Before Sam could utter a coherent word, Teal'c had fled.  “Maybe I'm dreaming.  He can't be serious.  Can he?”  Sam stared out the window, watching as Teal'c drove off.  Turning around, facing a photograph of SG-1 that sat on her mantel, she asked suspiciously, “General, what have you told Teal'c now?  I know it's you; Teal'c gets most of his crazy ideas from you.”

Not knowing what to think, Sam decided to continue with her day.  She planned on going shopping and then was going to drop by and see the brood before returning home for a romantic evening with her fiancé, Pete.

====

Later that day, Daniel stared at the living room with the three sofa cushions.  He was finally ready to deal with the truth.

Sighing, the archaeologist stated verbally, “Okay, it's time to be realistic.  I've ... said goodbye.  Gawd, I have its ashes.”

Daniel walked to the mantel and looked at the little upholstered sofa-shaped keepsake box that contained the ashes of the 'deceased' sofa.  Behind it was the sofa's last 'breathing' moment, captured on quality paper, as it braced up eleven children, two dogs, two cats, one bunny, and one lizard.

“Okay, Jackson, time to move on.  We're having company for Thanksgiving, and you can't expect your guests to sit on the floor on three cushions.”

Taking a deep breath, Daniel turned, grabbed his jacket, and headed out to run an important errand.

====

Across town, Jack had part of the brood at the skating rink.  Jeff, Brianna, David, Chenoa, and Little Danny were all ice skating.  Elsewhere, Jennifer, Lulu, and Aislinn were shopping with Janet, while Jonny, Ricky, and Jenny were at Sara's.  All were having a great time.

With her shopping done, Sam dropped by the Jackson-O'Neill home, disappointed when no one was home.  She left a note, saying she had plans for the evening, but hoped to see everyone the following day.  Her note ended with the words, “General, do you know anything about a burning ritual?”

Not all that far away, Daniel walked into one of the furniture stores that he and Jack had visited during the day of the sofa hunt.  He went over to one of the sofas that he knew Jack liked.  It wasn't exactly the color of the original sofa, which was a light beige, but being light tan, it was close.  It was raised just a half-an-inch higher off the floor than the old one.

Daniel stopped his observation.  He was about to nitpick again.  No, he knew Jack liked this sofa, and he was comfortable with it, too.  It would fit in with their decor and serve its purpose nicely.

“May I help ... oh, it's you, Sir,” the sales clerk said hesitantly.  ~Not again.~

~Oops!~  Daniel smiled, recognizing the clerk.  He'd acted like a silly, hair-brained idiot in front of this woman days earlier.  “I'd like to buy this sofa,” he said confidently, hoping the clerk wouldn't turn and run.

“Are you ... sure ... Sir?” the clerk asked, not wanting to waste her time.

“Yes, I'm sure.  Oh, and I'd like it delivered tomorrow afternoon.  Is that possible?” the archaeologist requested, still smiling.

“We have next day service available ... for a price,” the clerk answered stiffly, still not certain of her commission if she wrote up the sale.

~I can't blame her.  I was every salespersons' worst nightmare.~

Daniel nodded and followed the salesclerk to make the arrangements.  He also decided not to tell his husband about the purchase, wanting to surprise him.

====

In Berne, Indiana, as the clock struck six in the evening, a trucker announced, “We're ready to roll, Mister Dennison.”

“Okay, remember.  We've hired you three as a team for a reason.  This sofa *has* to be delivered on time tomorrow afternoon.  Don't break any laws, and *please* don't break the sofa, or you will see a grown man break down and cry.  You have my number?”

“Yes,” the second trucker said, verifying that he had it on the work order.

“Great.  Move it on out!” Alex ordered.

====

“Jen, would you come with me, please?” Daniel asked.

“Sure, Daddy,” the teenager said, closing her magazine and quickly getting up from her chair.

Jennifer followed Daniel from her bedroom all the way to Jeff's bedroom.  Tapping on the door, he requested permission to enter.

“What's up?” Jeff asked as he paused his cleaning of his camera equipment.

“Well, uh, I just wanted to thank both of you for what you did,” Daniel stated.

“What did we do?” Jennifer asked seriously.

Standing with his hands in his pockets, Daniel answered, “Well, uh, a lot of things.  I, uh ... the idea for the new photo was a good one.  I love that you both tried to surprise Dad and me.”

“And we did, too!” Jennifer quipped, feeling that Daniel was able to handle sofa jokes now.

“Yes, you did,” Daniel chuckled.  “You worked so hard, getting the little ones ready the night before.  All of you were so handsome and beautiful; but what I really wanted to thank you for was the keepsake box and the photos.  I know that had to set you back a little.”  He pulled out his wallet, asking, “Jen, Jeff, how much did you pay for the photos and the sofa box?”

“No way, Daddy,” Jeff said, shaking his head.  “Um, I'm cash-poor right now, but one thing my ...” the boy paused, looking a little uncomfortable.

“Your father,” Daniel surmised.  “Jeff, it's okay.  I know it will take you time to trust this, but your father will always be your father.  We're not taking his place; we're helping him to do what he can't any longer.  So, go ahead.”

Jeff smiled, feeling more comfortable now, and continued, “Dad taught me that if you want to do something, do it.  I remember this one time when Dad stopped to help a woman on the road change a tire.  She wanted to pay him something, especially since there had been a problem, and Dad ended up dirtying his suit.  Dad wouldn't take a penny.  When I asked him why, he said that a gift should be given because of the joy of giving, or helping.  If we expect to get something in return, or if we give expecting to get paid back, then it negates the gift.”

Jennifer added, “We both wanted to get the photo and frame, Daddy, and the woman gave us a good deal on the keepsake box.  Jeff's right.  It's our present.  Look at us; we're not exactly destitute.”

“But you wanted to buy that new CD this month,” Daniel replied.

“It'll be there next month, and Sheila already has it, so it's not like I can't listen to it,” Jennifer acknowledged.

“I love you both, very much.  Thank you,” Daniel said, bringing the two teens in for a three-way hug.

====

“Babe,” Daniel said as the lovers prepared a late dinner for their family.

“Hmmm?” Jack asked as he stirred the stew.

“Did you see Sam's note?” the younger man asked as he tossed the salad.

“Yeah,” Jack sighed.

“You don't think ...”

“Teal'c,” both men said at the same time.

Jack added, “We'll ask her about it tomorrow.”

“How's the stew?” Daniel inquired, walking over and opening his mouth.

Jack smiled as he pulled out a spoon, scooped up a bit, and spoon-fed it to his husband.  He waited expectantly.

“Mmm.  You do know how to stew,” Daniel sighed contently and then leaned in for a kiss.

“I'll gather up the troops,” Jack stated.  “You ready?”

“Ready,” Daniel answered.

====

After dinner was over and the dishes loaded in the dishwashers, Daniel said, “Babe, I need to run down to J-O Enterprises for a little while.  Megan's been working all day.  Apparently, we need to make a few scheduling decisions, and she asked if she could come in late tomorrow if she brought me up to speed tonight.”

“Sure thing, Angel,” Jack responded.

“Oh, and I know I was only supposed to go in to meet with Mister Collyier tomorrow afternoon, but Megan thinks we'll probably need to review some projects for an hour or so after that.  I know that puts the pressure on you to pick up the children, but if you can get ...”

“Danny, don't worry about it,” Jack assured.  “Megan puts in way too much too time.  You know, Love, I think we need to consider more staffing and maybe a number two assistant.”

The archaeologist nodded his agreement, saying, “Megan and Karissa both are very conscientious.  Let's look at reviewing things the first of the year.”

“Don't worry about the brood, Danny.  I'll pick them all up tomorrow,” Jack offered.

“Okay, so I'll be gone about an hour tonight and probably three hours tomorrow afternoon,” the younger man confirmed.

~Yes!~  To avoid thinking and giving away his glee, Jack mentally played the theme from 'Rocky' as loud as he could.

“Jack, are you thinking about 'Rocky'?” Daniel asked in surprise.

“Gonna fly now,” Jack sang in jest and then answered, “Yeah, I'd like to watch it again, really soon.”

~Geez, he must really want to watch it.  That music is *loud*!~ Daniel opined.  “Uh, later.”

“Later, Love.”

====

~Thanks, Megan, for taking my 'Get a life' hint yesterday; of course, it helps that Yazid is in town.~  Jack groaned, his fears of losing Megan to Yazid growing with each of Megan's blushes whenever Yazid's name was mentioned.  ~One crisis at a time, O'Neill.~

As soon as his husband left, Jack ran next door to Mrs. Valissi's house.  He'd seen her driving down the street earlier, and he didn't want to waste time and risk her having gone to bed already.

“Jack, Dear, come on in,” the senior citizen invited warmly.

“I'd love to, Mrs. V, but I need you to help me surprise Daniel.  I'm having a sofa delivered tomorrow sometime after 3 p.m.  If they come before I get home, would you let yourself in?  The security code is the same.”

Their next-door neighbor had often tended to the home and pets over the years when Jack and Daniel had been off-world or on vacation.  Thus, she was one of their 'trusted few' and as such knew the security code to the Jackson-O'Neill residence.

“I'd be happy to, General,” Mrs. Valissi responded.

~How does she do that?  She calls me 'General', but it sounds like 'Sonny' coming from her.~

====

“Thanks, Megan.  You deserve a break,” the archaeologist smiled.  “You and Yazid have a good evening, and don't worry about being here tomorrow until two at the earliest.”

“Thanks, Daniel.  See you later,” Megan said as she began to gather up her things.

Daniel nodded and walked back to his office, thinking, ~Now, I need to circle the long way around so I can stop at Mrs. Valissi's and ask her to be at the house tomorrow to accept delivery of the sofa.  I hope I don't wake her.~  He smiled, thinking, ~Jack will be so surprised!  My poor Silver Fox.~ He chuckled lightly, ~He did so well by not killing me on that nightmare shopping trip.~

====

Stopping at Mrs. Valissi's, Daniel parked his car and went to the door.

“Daniel, so good to see you,” the woman smiled.  “Come on in.”

“Oh, I, uh, can't, Mrs. Valissi,” Daniel responded.  “I'm sorry to drop by so late, but I was wondering if I could ask you a big favor.”

“Anything, Dear.  What is it?” the woman asked graciously.

“I'm having a sofa delivered tomorrow, about three in the afternoon, but I won't be able to be home.  Would you mind letting in the delivery guys?”

“Uh, of course,” a somewhat confused Mrs. Valissi agreed.

Daniel smiled and nodded to what he assumed she was thinking, adding, “I know it's a surprise.  I've been giving Jack a hard time about getting a new sofa so I want to make sure they're able to set it in the living room okay.”

“Oh, now I understand.  I'll be happy to.”

After a couple more minutes, Daniel left, leaving Mrs. Valissi smiling.  She had been momentarily confused by the two separate requests, but now she assumed that Daniel had found out about the surprise and was just double-checking to make sure that she'd be able to accept the furniture upon delivery.

~They're such wonderful boys,~ the woman thought warmly as she returned to her sewing room.

====
--November 22:  Surprise, Surprise, Surprise!
====

It had been a long day for the lovers, beginning with the usual morning routine of feeding their children and then chauffeuring them to their various places for the day -- Jennifer and Jeff to their school; David to a fellow homeschooler's house to learn about Indian tribes and their history; Chenoa and Lulu to their dance class; Jonny and Little Danny to their friend Jerry's house to play; and the rest of the brood to Sara's to be baby-sat.

Jack had made sure he had the chauffeur job to Sara's, wanting to make certain they were in synch on the day's schedule.  He had already arranged with his ex-wife to watch all the children that afternoon.  After dropping off the children, he headed for the SGC, where he had a couple of meetings to attend.

After that, the general went by Sam's house, since she was on downtime.  Seeing the blonde colonel wasn't home, he left her a note, writing simply, “Burning?  What burning?” as he tried to hide his culpability in Teal'c's tale.

In the afternoon, Jack followed through with the pickups while Daniel took care of business at the J-O Enterprises office, including a meeting with a new client.

The clock was approaching four when a tired Daniel walked into his home.  As he opened the door, he sighed.  From habit, he walked into the living room and plopped down on the sofa.  He put his head back, resting it against the top of the sofa back.

Jack had pulled into the driveway just as Daniel had unlocked the front door.  Not wanting to miss anything, he jogged to the front door and entered the house just in time to see his lover plop down on the sofa.  He stood quietly, watching the younger man on the new piece of furniture.

Daniel sighed; then blinked.  He moved his head back and looked to his right and then to his left.  His hands reached out and touched the fabric of the sofa.

“Okay, something's, uh, not right here.  This is a sofa.  It's ... a new sofa, but it ... it doesn't feel ... it ... the color ... the ... gawd, it's our sofa, but it can't be.  It ...”

“Hey, there,” Jack greeted, grinning upon deciding to reveal his presence.

“Jack?  It's ... it's our new ... I mean it's our ... Jack?”

Jack walked over to Daniel, sitting down next to him and putting his hand on Daniel's cheek as he questioned, “Like it?”

“Jack, it's ... it looks like our sofa, but it can't be.”  Daniel looked at his soulmate's grin, trying to decipher the expression.  “Thor maybe?  Jack?”

“Not quite,” Jack responded.  “It's not the exact sofa, Danny, but I called Alex, and he pulled off a little miracle for us.  It's the same fabric, and the same dimensions except ...”

Jack's words were cut off by his lover's lips which pressed against his.  They leaned down, Jack on his back, and Daniel atop him as they began their foreplay and began undressing each other.  They were about to become lost in their passion when the doorbell rang.

Suddenly, Daniel looked up and said, “Oops.”

“Oops?” Jack echoed.

Daniel smiled, “Uh, Jack, there's something you should know.”

“Yes, Love?”

“I, uh, well, I ... I gave you such a hard time when you were being sensible, and The Burning helped me say goodbye, and so I ...”

The doorbell chimed again, causing Jack to turn his head and look towards the door.

“Danny, what is it?  If we're going to answer the door, we'd better tuck in and zip up.”

“Yeah, right,” Daniel said a bit hesitantly as he scooted off his lover.

Jack ran to the intercom and informed whomever was there that they'd be there in a minute.  He tucked in and smoothed his shirt and then zipped up his fly.

Smoothing his hair, the older man was about to open the door when Daniel hollered, “JackI'msorrybutIwentoutandboughtasofayesterday.”

It took a minute for the words to sink in, but when they did, Jack began to laugh.  He opened the door to see two delivery men standing with a clipboard.  The store's truck was backed in the driveway.

“Just put it in the garage,” Jack told the men, pointing towards the garage.  “I'll open the door from the inside.  Just give me a minute.”
 
Closing the door, Jack went to Daniel and hugged him as he expressed tenderly, “I love you, Space Monkey.”

Though he smiled, the younger man pointed out weakly, “Jack, we don't need two couches.”

Jack cocked his head and then suggested, “How about we take the one you bought to the cabin?”

Daniel's smile brightened.  He knew their sofa at the Minnesota cabin was shot.  Jack had purchased it while still married to Sara; it was definitely on its last, sagging legs.

“I love you,” Daniel answered.

After a kiss, Jack took the opportunity to finish smoothing his hair over his head and straighten his clothes.

~As if it will fool them.  A guy can't hide it when he's been interrupted.  Oh, well, the sooner they're gone, the sooner we can finish what we started.~

--

“Thanks, Guys,” Jack said as he pushed the button to lower the door behind the delivery men.  ~Now, back to my Danny!~

====

Having christened their new old sofa three times in quick succession, the two lovers laid on top of each other.

“I never considered furniture an aphrodisiac before, but *WOW*!” Jack exclaimed.  “You were something, Danny.”

“You, uh, weren't bad yourself,” Daniel said as he kissed Jack's chest.

“My Energizer Bunny,” Jack sighed happily.  “Oh, man, that was good.”

Daniel's soul smiled.  How he loved loving Jack and making him happy, especially since Jack made Daniel happier than he could ever have imagined.

After a while of post-coital fondling and kissing, Daniel observed, “Jack, it doesn't seem quite as crowded as our old sofa.”

“I asked Alex if he could squeeze a couple inches of depth in the new sofa,” the older man explained.

Sitting up, Daniel ran his hands across the fabric, saying, “It doesn't feel new at all.  It feels like it's ... like it's, I don't know, just broken in, without being broken down.”  Looking at it closely, Daniel noted, “Jack, it has worn places in all the right places.  It looks and feels like 'your' sofa when I first sat on it, before it was ours, only maybe even a little newer than that even.”

Examining the newly christened piece of furniture, Jack had to agree.  The fabric was comfortable, and the cording had been ever so slightly worn.  It wasn't beat up or broken down at all, but it wasn't new, either.

“Alex said he had a few tricks up his sleeve, Danny.”

“The next thing you know, Jack, he'll pull a rabbit out of his hat,” Daniel chuckled.

“That's nothing compared to pulling a sofa out of his six, now, is it?” Jack countered humorously.

“Ouch, Babe.  I could have done without that visual, thank you very much!” Daniel complained in mock dismay.

The lovers gazed into each other's eyes and slowly moved together for more kisses.

====

Not long thereafter, after the lovers cuddled a bit longer and cleaned their new, old sofa, they prepared to go after their children.

“I'm glad you, uh, thought ahead, Babe,” Daniel said gratefully.

“I knew we wouldn't be able to resist,” Jack smirked.  He pulled his soulmate close and added, “I'm proud of you, Love.”

“For what?”

“Buying the sofa,” Jack answered and then kissed his husband's neck.

Embarrassed, Daniel nuzzled into his lover and softly spoke, “All this fuss over a sofa.”

“It wasn't over the sofa, Angel; we both know that,” Jack clarified as his hands rubbed Daniel's back up and down.

“I thought that frightened little boy was gone,” Daniel finally admitted.

“He's part of you, Danny; he just wanted some reassurance that life was more than tossing out used furniture.”

Daniel smiled as he pulled back slightly and gazed into his soulmate's eyes, asking, “Do you know how happy I am, Jack?”

“Yeah,” Jack spoke in a near whisper as he put his left hand under Daniel's chin and with his thumb, caressing gently.  “I love you, Angel.”

“I love you, too.”

“Let's go get the brood,” Jack suggested.

After two more kisses, Jack and Daniel headed for Sara's.

====

Daniel sat in the middle of the sofa, Lulu on his lap, and Ricky and Aislinn surrounding him.  The other children were all admiring the sofa.

“Just remember, don't all sit on it at once,” Jack admonished.  Hearing a knock at the door, he was surprised to open it and see Alex standing there. “Alex, come on in!”

Alex walked in and stood next to Jack in the entranceway.  Both could see Daniel and the children.

Standing with his arms folded as he watched his family, Jack commented, “Alex, I can't thank you enough.  We appreciate what you've done; it's perfect.”

“I'm glad you like it, Jack.”

Just then, Jennifer leaned over and gave Daniel a kiss on the cheek.  A moment after that, Little Danny climbed onto the sofa and began tickling his father.  Soon, all the children were laughing, and Daniel's happy and carefree expression was like gold to the older man.

Jack sighed, “I wish this sofa would last forever.”

Alex grinned confidently, saying, “Jack, I've got you covered.”

~Covered?~  Surprised by the remark, Jack stared at Alex intensely.  Borrowing his soulmate's earlier comment, he inquired, “Are you going to pull a rabbit out of your hat?”  With a smirk, he noted, “Bagel could use a playmate.”  ~What the heck am I saying?  One fluff ball is enough for anyone.~

The designer laughed, “No rabbits, Jack, but you've got two more sofas just like this one at the Archonics Ltd. warehouse.”

Jack looked at the man standing next to him, not sure how to react. The thought of two spare sofas just like this one was too good to be true, but was it true, or was Alex putting one over on Jack?

“Yeahsureyoubetcha,” Jack said, refusing to be taken in.

“Do you think I want to go through this again?” Alex teased, sensing Jack's doubts.

“You?  What about me?”  Jack grinned as he good-naturedly whined, “You didn't have to live with him while he grieved over a couch!”

“Here, Jack,” Alex said, handing the delivery receipt to his client.

Sure enough, the receipt showed two complete sofas delivered to the Archonics warehouse along with three complete spare sets of seat cushions and arm covers, plus several yards of fabric.

“Son-of-a gun, Alex, you're good; but I'm curious, how the heck did you make it look old?” a curious Jack asked.

Alex chuckled, “For what you paid, I guess you have a right to know.  First, we unrolled the fabric in the delivery yard and drove the trucks over it.”

“Trucks?” Jack asked with wide eyes.

“There's nothing like a couple of big trucks to take the new sheen off of fabric,” Alex replied.

“Yeah, right,” Jack said, shaking his head at the absurdity of the concept, and yet, happy it worked.

Alex continued, “After the trucks did their jobs, we dry cleaned the fabric and put it through an acid wash.  From there, it was pretty much the usual -- cut, fit, and stitch until the sofas were completed.  The coup de gras was roughing the cording a little with some sandpaper, and voila -- instant old, beloved sofa.”

“What gave you the idea to do three sofas?”

With a slight shrug, the designer explained, “It was obvious we had enough fabric, so I had two extra frames built.  It wasn't much more effort to do three than one.”

Shaking his head in disbelief at his good luck, Jack offered his hand and said, “Alex, we'd be delighted to have you join us for Thanksgiving., and, I believe I promised you a bonus when we spoke on the phone.”

“Jack, I didn't do anything extra that I hadn't already planned to do, so, no, you are paid in full when you pay the invoice to Archonics,” the young designer said, blushing.  “And, thank you, I would be delighted to have Thanksgiving dinner with you.”

“Great.  One thing, though,” Jack stated.  “No talking shop all day, for anyone, and that includes you, too.  Deal?”

“Sure, Jack, no problem,” Alex agreed.

====
--November 23:  The Jokes On Who?
====

“Teal'c!  Good to see ya, Big Guy,” Jack said when he opened the front door and saw the Jaffa standing there.  “Chenoa's not home, but ...”

“O'Neill, it is a sad day,” the Jaffa spoke somberly.

“It is?” Jack questioned in surprise.

“Indeed.  I require your burn barrel.  We must take it to SamanthaCarter's immediately,” Teal'c informed.

“Carter's house?  Why?” Jack inquired.

“We must perform The Burning,” Teal'c answered, his eyes locked onto Jack's with a strong intensity.

“The Burning,” Jack repeated, his voice a bit weakened.  **Daniel, get down here!**  He nodded with his head for Teal'c to enter.  As the tall alien did so, Jack placed his arm around the Jaffa's shoulder, guiding him into the living room.  “Look, Teal'c, about this ritual.  You see there's something you should know.”

“Hey, Teal'c,” Daniel greeted as he stepped down into the living room.

“DanielJackson,” Teal'c acknowledged.  Looking over at the sofa, he stated, “You have replaced your beloved sofa.”

“Uh, yes, but it's a good new ... old sofa,” Daniel said with a smile.  **Jack, what's going on?**

“Teal'c, as I was saying, about the ritual we had here the other day.  It's not exactly ...”

Teal'c cocked his head at Jack with an expression that to Jack was practically a dare.  The problem was, he wasn't sure what Teal'c was daring him to do or say.

Jack stared at Daniel, finally saying, “*You* tell him.”

“Me?” Daniel questioned in disbelief.  **I don't think so, Babe.**

**But I did it for you, Angel.**

**I didn't tell you to lie to Teal'c,** the younger man pointed out.

**I didn't lie; I used creative problem solving.  It worked, remember?**

Daniel coughed, smiling nervously at their friend.  He felt so embarrassed about the whole situation.

“O'Neill, we do not have time to delay.  Please come with me,” Teal'c insisted as he headed outside.

Daniel remained behind, his arms folded and his face slightly rosy from his embarrassment.  Before he could regain control, the phone rang.

“Daniel, what's going on with Teal'c?” Sam questioned nervously.  “You'll never believe this, but he wants to *burn* my sofa ... today ... in an hour.  All I did was tell him I was going shopping for a new sofa.  Daniel, I haven't even bought a new one yet, and when I do, I certainly don't want to burn this one.  Daniel?”

“Uh, I'm, uh ... just a minute.”  Daniel took the cordless phone outside where Jack and Teal'c were getting the burn barrel out of the shed.  Not allowing his lover any chance to get away, he handed him the phone and said, “It's for you!”

The archaeologist turned and walked back into the house, his satisfied grin leaving Jack smiling a bit nervously himself.

“Hello?” Jack said into the phone.

“General, Teal'c is going to burn my sofa.”

“Hello to you, too, Carter,” Jack said, hoping to distract the woman.

Sam glared, and even though Jack couldn't see the stare, he felt it.

“Sir, he wants to burn it -- today, and I don't know why.  All he said was that you had explained the ritual to him.  He's determined, and you've got to stop him,” Sam ordered her CO.

“Oh, uh, well, Carter, I wouldn't worry about that if I were you ...” Jack said as he continued to walk, holding his side of the burn barrel as Teal'c carried the other.

Suddenly dropping his side of the barrel and ignoring Jack's “Hey!” Teal'c took the phone from Jack and stated, “O'Neill, I must speak with SamanthaCarter.”  Now speaking into the phone, he assured, “SamanthaCarter, do not worry.  I know you are in distress. We shall be there soon to perform The Burning.  Trust me.”

“But, Teal'c, I don't have a new sofa yet,” the colonel whined.

“As it should be, SamanthaCarter.  The essence of the old sofa is released so it can be transferred into the new one.  I fear your bond with the sofa has become so deep that we must perform The Burning right away.”
 
~She's going to kill me,~ Jack thought as he listened to the conversation.

Tossing the phone back to Jack, the large Jaffa said, “O'Neill, reassure SamanthaCarter that she will be fine as soon as The Burning is completed.  I will place the burn barrel in your truck and await you and DanielJackson.  We must hurry.”

With that, Teal'c flipped the barrel into the air and caught it on his fingertips, walking away like a waiter balancing a tray.

“Show off,” Jack said softly.  Putting the phone to his face, he said, “Look, Carter, we'll think of something.  Teal'c is waiting for us at the truck.”

“Think of something fast, Sir,” Sam said, her voice firm.  “I don't want to burn my sofa.”

“You've said that, Carter,” Jack barked.  “The kids are all out.  I'll round up Daniel, and we'll see you in about a half-hour.”

====

“Jack, you have to tell him,” Daniel insisted as they drove towards Sam's house in their truck.  They were following Teal'c, who was in his own vehicle. “You can't let Teal'c destroy Sam's sofa.”

“I'll think of something,” Jack promised.

“You've been saying that for fifteen minutes, Babe; time is running out.  You know, you could, uh, try the truth.”

“Daniel, do you want to see your husband all black and blue?” Jack asked, glancing at his lover.

“Hmmm.  Well, it might be interesting.  I mean for variety's sake,” Daniel joked.

“Daniel!”

Daniel chuckled as they continued on.

====

Several minutes later, Daniel's silent thoughts were interrupted.

“Crap!” Jack exclaimed.

“What?” the younger man asked.

“We're here, and I haven't a clue how to get out of this mess,” Jack said with a frustrated groan.

Daniel laughed unmercifully as he got out of the truck, although he knew his laughter was about to fade once they had to admit the truth to Teal'c and explain everything to Sam.  He knew that they'd end up doing both.

====

“We are here to perform the ritual,” Teal'c told Sam as he carried the burn barrel into her backyard.

“Shanahan,” Jack said, greeting Sam's fiancé who was at the house.

“Jack,” Pete acknowledged.

“Hi, Pete,” Daniel greeted.

“Daniel, how's it going?” Pete asked in reply.

“Good.  Hi, Sam,” Daniel said with a smile.

“Hello, Daniel,” Sam said warmly.

“Carter,” Jack said.

“O'Neill,” Sam said a bit flippantly, earning her a glare.  “Now that we all know who each other is, will you please stop Teal'c from burning my sofa?”

“Carter, don't worry so much,” Jack said.

“Don't worry?”  Sam looked back towards the side of her house and said, “Sir, at this precise moment, Teal'c is putting a burn barrel in my backyard.  In another minute, he's going to be back here, wanting to go inside and take my sofa and *burn* it.  I *don't* want my sofa burned,” Sam said, her glare stronger than ever now.

“Ah, Sam, you're wrong,” Daniel commented.

“What?” both Sam and Jack said together.

“Teal'c's already back,” Daniel whispered, nodding his head toward the Jaffa who was now within a few feet of them.

Smiling nervously, Jack approached their friend and said, “Teal'c, about this burning, it's not really a ...”

“I understand, O'Neill,” Teal'c interrupted as he led them all inside Sam's house.  He walked by her sofa and bowed his head in reference at it.  “It is a private ritual, not spoken of outside of one's close circle of family and friends.  I am honored to be included.  I shall not speak of this to anyone else, on my honor as a warrior.”

Sam was looking more and more upset.  She looked at Jack pleadingly, hoping he'd do something to stop the insanity.

“O'Neill, DanielJackson, it is time.  Let us get the sofa,” Teal'c urged.

**Danny, help me think of something!**

**Jack, I didn't tell you to lie to Teal'c.**

**I did it for you!** the older man rationalized, desperate for a solution to the problem.  **I needed him to keep you occupied while I got the kids together.  Would you really have let me burn the sofa?**

**Jack, I wasn't exactly acting rationally, and, yes, I do think you could have convinced me.  Gawd, the things you've talked me into doing over the years.**

**Yeah, right.  Even Little Danny asked me if Daddy was 'scitzenic',** Jack stated mentally.

**He did not.**  Daniel blinked; then sighed, ~At least I hope he didn't.~

**Did, too,** Jack stated, giving his lover a nod.

**Did not.**  The younger man's stomach began to churn slightly as he begged silently, ~Please be making that up.~

**Did, too.**

**Not,** Daniel argued weakly, though his body sagged just slightly.  ~I think he's telling the truth.~

**Too.**

**Not.**  Daniel winced, realizing, ~Gawd, my children think I'm a nutcase.~

**Danny, if you don't help me think of something, this big Jaffa is going to beat the crap out of your husband.**

“O'Neill, why do you delay?  Can you not see that SamanthaCarter is upset? Her old sofa has possessed her.  She requires our assistance to do what must be done.”

“Ah, Teal'c, look, I haven't been entirely, um, honest with you,” Jack admitted.

“May I remind you, O'Neill, that we are truly brothers, that we owe each other our lives many times over?” the large alien said, pulling himself up to his full imposing height.  “Are you saying you have lied to me?”

“No, Teal'c, I didn't lie ... exactly,” Jack said as he squirmed.  “I just needed someone to stay with Daniel for a few minutes while I got things ready, for the, you know, The Burning.”

“So, O'Neill, are you saying you did not lie to me, but merely used me to deceive your mate, DanielJackson?” Teal'c challenged.

“No, no, Teal'c.”  Jack sighed, “Teal'c, there is no burning.  I made it up.  I couldn't sleep because Daniel was so upset over the loss of our sofa, and I got this crazy idea that having a funeral for it would, well, help him realize it was really dead, uh, I mean gone and move on.  Please, Big Guy, it was just a, well, not a joke exactly.  I got a little carried away, that's all.”  He paused, thinking, ~He's not buying it.  One more try.~  “It did help, Teal'c.  Tell him, Danny.~

Daniel simply shrugged and shook his head.

“Daniel!” a frowning Jack exclaimed.  “Teal'c, it did help him, I swear.  After the ritual, he went out and bought a new sofa.”  ~Okay, plan C.~  Seeing Teal'c's unwavering stare, he added, “Remember, I'm Noa's father.”

“As is DanielJackson,” the Jaffa reminded.

~That didn't go well.  Geez, he is a big guy; if he tears into me, I'm a goner.~  Jack cleared his throat and began, “Look, Teal'c ...”

Teal'c interrupted Jack, stating, “On Chulak, O'Neill, I would be well within my rights to tear you into pieces.”

“I'm not Harry Maybourne,” Jack replied.  “He's shorter and fatter.”  He turned to his profile and put his hands on his abdomen, saying, “See!  All muscle -- slim and trim.”

“You have dishonored our friendship,” Teal'c said, turning around.

“Uh, Teal'c,” Daniel finally interjected, walking by Jack to the side of their friend. “He really was doing it for me.”

Teal'c stared at Daniel; then turned back and glared at Jack.

“O'Neill, have I ever told you about the Rite of Fulminaut?” Teal'c asked.

Daniel winced, his mouth repeating the word, 'Fulminaut', as he searched for its translation.

“The Rite of Fulminaut?  No, I can't say that you have,” Jack answered.  ~But go ahead, and tell me all the stories you want to right now.  Anything to delay you from killing me,~ he thought.

Teal'c began to speak, saying, “As you are aware, the Jaffa hold the values of honor, integrity, and faithfulness in the highest regard.  To do less than one's utmost in any endeavor is to bring shame upon oneself and one's house.  The supreme rite of passage is 'The Fulminaut'.  The Jaffa abhor lies and deception.  The Fulminaut honors absolute obedience to one's superiors, and at the same time, shows the futility of obeying and honoring those who lead through dishonor and deception, even if one is honor bound to do so.  Do you understand, O'Neill?”

~I get the idea I shouldn't lie,~ Jack thought.  He nodded and answered, “Yeah, Teal'c, I think I'm with you so far.”  ~This is only delaying the inevitable.  I'm glad my will is in order.~

The alien continued, “During the Rite of Fulminaut, each Jaffa must fabricate a lie and tell it so convincingly that he is believed.  To call another Jaffa a liar is to be worthy of death on the spot.  Therefore, each lie is evaluated for its consistency, its implausibility, and the number of others ensnared by the storyteller's duplicity.  Liars are eliminated as the flaws in their stories are uncovered.”

Teal'c cocked his head slightly, looking briefly at Daniel, Sam, and Pete before returning his stare to Jack.

“I'm not going to like this, am I?” Jack heard himself saying.

Ignoring Jack, Teal'c explained, “Under interrogation, the liars break down like sniveling children.  As the rite progresses, only five participants remain as supreme liars, and their carefully crafted lies are voted on by the council. Remember, to do less than one's best in this endeavor is to humiliate oneself, one's house, and one's tribe.  In this way, the Jaffa, who value honor and truth above all, are forced to do the very thing they despise, and do it sincerely.  Do you understand O'Neill?”

“I'm still listening, Teal'c,” Jack answered as he considered what his last words to Daniel would be.  ~I have no idea where this is going, except that I'm dead.~

Daniel and Sam exchanged worried and curious looks as they listened, neither having heard anything about this before.  Daniel had something nagging at him as well, but he just couldn't put his finger on the thought trying to form in his brain.

“Very well, O'Neill.  The five who remain must tell their lies before the whole village.  The council makes their final decision based on their previous choices and how well the villagers are convinced.  The winner is declared the utmost supreme Fulminaut.  Do you understand, O'Neill?”

“Teal'c, stop asking me if I understand.  Of course, I understand.  Well, at least ... uh, no, not really, Teal'c.  What does the utmost supreme Fulminaut win?”

“The only thing he could wish for, O'Neill.  The only possible means of redemption from such self-debasement,” the Jaffa answered flatly.

“Which is?” Jack prodded.

“Purification through death,” Teal'c answered dryly.

~Crap!~  Jack swallowed, asking, “But how does that apply here, Teal'c? There is no council, no competition, and no other contestants.”  ~I hope I'm not making him more angry, and why isn't my loyal husband coming to my aid?~

“No, but you have invoked The Hai'embritso Fulminaut by attempting to deceive me, a fellow warrior.  No formal proceedings are necessary.  You have admitted your duplicity; hence my statement earlier that I am within my rights to tear you apart,” Teal'c informed him.

~Crap!~

As Jack looked around, hoping for an opportunity to make a break for it, Daniel worked on the strange Chulakian words Teal'c had been speaking.

~Oh, gawd,~ Daniel silently exclaimed as he realized the meaning of Teal'c's words.

“O'Neill, I am speaking to you,” Teal'c stated strongly.

Jack's attention snapped back, and the Jaffa moved straight into Jack's personal space.

With his hands behind his back, Teal'c asked, “Are you ready to be purified?”

“Teal'c, you aren't serious?” Jack inquired as he backed up a step.

“I am deathly serious, O'Neill,” Teal'c responded.  “We are brothers, warriors of strength.  We have served together for many years.  I am prepared to sacrifice our friendship and your life so that your honor may remain.”

“Daniel?”

“Teal'c,” the archaeologist began.  “Will there be much blood?”

Both Jack and Sam looked at Daniel oddly, surprised at the question.

“I mean, uh, Sam's carpet and everything.”

“DANIEL!”

“I'm just trying to be considerate, Love,” Daniel explained.

“There will be no blood,” Teal'c said as he placed his hands on Jack's neck.

“Okay, this is the part where I wake up, right?” Jack asked as his hands automatically raised up to grab Teal'c's arms.  “Come on, Big Guy.  You aren't really going to kill me.  Are you?”

“Do you think I am a fool, O'Neill?” Teal'c challenged.

“What?  Huh?  No, of course not.”

Feeling Teal'c closer to him than he ever wanted to, Jack began to wonder if he was already dead when the Jaffa spoke, “Fulminaut, O'Neill.”

“Holy Hannah!” Sam exclaimed, turning towards Pete and trying to hide her emotions.

“Teal'c, forget the blasted rite and ...” Jack began.

“O'Neill, hear me.  Fulminaut.  Not even the T'auri could have a ritual so utterly foolish and devoid of meaning as honoring a dead sofa,” Teal'c confessed.

Jack blinked as the Jaffa's words sank in.  Then, he saw Teal'c smile.  The smile evolved until suddenly Teal'c was laughing loudly.  From a few feet away, he heard Sam's snickers and Daniel's laughter.

“Teal'c, you weren't fooled for one minute, were you?” Daniel managed to squeak out before being swallowed up by gales of side-splitting laughter.

“No, DanielJackson, I was not.  I knew O'Neill had devised a way of making you feel better.  I chose to ignore his deception and await my chance to get even,” Teal'c admitted.

“*Get even*?” Jack shouted, finally understanding the entire charade had been a joke.  “You were going to blasted kill me,” he accused, putting his hands around his neck and rubbing gently, milking it for anything it was worth, which turned out to be not much.

“That was great, Teal'c,” Sam acknowledged.  “I was really afraid for my sofa,” she said, sitting down and sighing contently.

Teal'c nodded towards her, explaining, “I apologize for not including you, ColonelCarter, but your responses had to be genuine.”

“Daniel, when did you figure it out?” the blonde asked.

“I kept saying the name of the ritual over and over  -- Fulminaut.  Finally, I realized it was 'fool me not'.  I almost lost it as soon as I realized what you were doing, Teal'c, especially when I figured out the other part -- Hai'embritso Fulminaut.”

Sam worked the puzzle and suddenly doubled over in laughter.  She whispered into Pete's ear, and then he laughed, too.

“Okay, what's so funny?” a clueless Jack asked.

Daniel laughed as he explained, “Hai'embritso Fulminaut.  It's 'I am bright, so fool me not.”  He faced the Jaffa and added, “That was, uh, great, Teal'c.”

Jack groaned and glared, but said nothing.

Daniel walked over to his pouting husband and placed a small kiss on his lips before saying, “It's okay, Jack.  Paybacks can be such a ...”

“*Don't* say it, Daniel.  I'm going home,” Jack whined as he left the house.

Daniel chuckled and shrugged, then said, “I'll see you guys later.  Thanks, Teal'c. Uh, not just for the entertainment, but going along with Jack's craziness.  He meant well.”

“If I did not believe that O'Neill had your best interests at heart, DanielJackson, I would not have consented to help with The Burning.”

“See you on Thursday for turkey,” Daniel said and then walked out.

“SamanthaCarter, if I have offended you in any way ...” Teal'c began apologetically.

“Oh, no, Teal'c.  That was great.  Thank you,” Sam said, smiling as she hugged her friend goodbye.

As Sam and Pete watched their friends leave, Pete looked at his beautiful fiancée and quipped, “Sam, I love your friends.  They're nice people, but they're also certifiably nuts.”

Sam chuckled as the two returned to snuggle on her old but still functional sofa.

====

Later that night, the lovers sat quietly on the roof deck.  Jack was leaning against the house with Daniel in front of him.  Jack's hands snaked under his lover's blue shirt, and for a moment, he tickled that spot right by Daniel's belly button that always made him laugh.

“Hey,” Daniel laughed.  “Stop that.”

“Sorry, Love, couldn't resist,” Jack said and then gave Daniel a kiss.  “How about that Teal'c?  Man, he had me going,” he admitted.

Daniel chuckled, “I've been telling you for years that he knows more than he lets on.  Sometimes, Babe, I think he just likes to see us get flustered trying to teach or explain something to him.  This time, he decided to have some fun.”

“At least it was better than one of those Jaffa jokes,” Jack stated.

“Well, you really didn't need him to pull off that burning, Babe, but, uh, thanks for doing that.  I do know it was crazy; well, that I was, uh, well ...”

“A little nuts?” Jack chuckled while his hands caressed Daniel's abdomen.  After a minute, he remarked, “Danny, how about we put the sofa cushions from the original sofa in your tree house?”

Daniel smiled as he rested against his soulmate, replying, “I'd like that, and they are still in decent condition.”  He chuckled, knowing the cushions weren't really that great, but he admitted, “Well, they will be more comfortable than the wood floor to sit on.”

“I'll take care of that in the morning,” Jack chuckled in agreement, after which he kissed the side of Daniel's neck, causing the younger man to release a soft noise of contentment.

“You were right,” Daniel admitted softly a few moments later.

“Angel, we *are* forever -- you, me, our brood.  I promise, Danny; you are *not* going to wake up one day and be back in that nightmare.  I love you, and I will do everything I can to keep you happy and make sure you remember that our love is like that unending circle.”

“It never ends,” both men said together.

Daniel whispered, “I love so much, Jack.”

“I love you, too, Angel.”

The lovers kissed tenderly and continued to enjoy the quiet of the chilly night together.  The last seven days had been one long and crazy week, but tomorrow was Thanksgiving, a day of thanks, and they both had plenty to be grateful for.  They also had a lot to do, since they were hosting a feast for many of their family of friends, and they were certain it would be nothing if not entertaining.

As always, life was good in Colorado Springs for the Jackson-O'Neills.

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