(Slice of Covidity - May 2020)
Category: Slash, Drama, Romance, Established Relationship
Pairing: Jack/Daniel ... and it's all J/D
Season: Beyond the Series - May 17, 2020
Written: March 18-20,26,29, 2021
Summary: COVID-19 is still an issue, which means nothing when it comes to Murphy's Law.
Disclaimer: Usual disclaimers -- not mine, wish they were, especially Daniel, and Jack, too, but they aren't. A gal can dream though!
1) Silent, unspoken thoughts by various characters are indicated with ~ in front and behind them, such as ~Where am I?~
2) This fic stands alone, but it does reference my other fic(s): "Murphy's Law"
3) Much of the cat scene must be credited to QuinGem who in 2006 sent me a humorous email called "How to Give a Cat a Pill" which was the inspiration for the related scene in this fic.
Slice of Covidity - Calamity
The Coronavirus was continuing to reek havoc with the world, even when it came to how deaths would be reported. As was starting to happen in other states, Colorado's Department of Health changed their counting requirements. Beginning May 15, deaths were counted by people who actually died from the disease as well as those who had another primary cause of death stated on their death certificates.
Today was a cloudy Sunday, and the Jackson-O'Neills didn't have anything special on their calendars. With the virus still the center of deadly rage on the globe, the family was staying close to home with regularity.
As Jack and Daniel prepared breakfast, several of the kids gathered in the recreation room. They lowered the big TV screen, intending to watch some classic cartoons their dad had on DVD.
The children were relaxed, watching Bugs Bunny outwit Elmer Fudd when all of a sudden, the screen went black.
"Is the DVD corrupted?" Jenny asked.
"I don't think so," David replied. With possession of the remote, the young man turned the TV on and off, but nothing happened. "Um, Dad? The TV's broken."
Jack left Daniel to finish off the sausages he was frying in a skillet and took hold of the TV remote. Nothing happened. He switched off the DVD player, thinking as Jenny did that the disk might have been scratched or otherwise damaged, but even live TV was only a dark screen with no sound.
"Oh, for crying out loud."
"Better switch to the TV in the living room," Jack suggested as he returned to the hospitality room to check on breakfast. "Danny ..."
"I heard. Jack, the TV is eleven-years-old now and it's had plenty of use, so I'm not that surprised it ... expired," Daniel stated. "What concerns me is calling a repairman or getting a new one and having them be able to replace the set properly."
The problem was real. The plasma TV in the rec room was a drop down unit so when not in use, the sixty-inch screen was retracted upward so that it was not in the way of other activities taking place.
The lovers looked at each other and in unison said, "Alex."
"I'll call. Don't burn the sausages."
Jack headed for the landline phone and when he reached it in the living room, he called out, "Ash, go help Daddy with breakfast."
Jack took the cordless phone and returned to the rec room, staring at the large entertainment piece as he waited for interior designer Alex Dennison to answer. It was Alex who was the creative genius behind the renovation of the home in 2009. He oversaw every element of the transformation and was known worldwide for his thoroughness.
"Hello, Alex here."
"Hello, Unhappy TV Owner here."
Alex laughed, "Hi, Jack. Is there a problem with the TV?"
"Yeah. The kids lowered it to watch a DVD and the thing just stopped. It won't go on or off. It's just sixty-inches of blackness. Daniel and I weren't sure who to call. We have concerns about a repairman knowing how to handle the unit since it's a drop down."
"I'm glad you called me. Give me an hour to see who's available. I'll get back to you."
Jack returned the phone to its cradle and announced, "Alex is on it."
Cheers went up, causing the father to smile. He immediately headed back to the hospitality room.
"Princess, thanks for subbing for me in a pinch. You're free."
"No worries, Dad," Aislinn said as she removed several of the cooked sausages and put them on a platter. "Breakfast is done, I think. Daddy?"
"One more minute, so why don't you get the rest of the brood and take your seats."
Aislinn acknowledged the comment and went to get her siblings. She was hungry and knew they were, too.
After breakfast, Jack's primary responsibility of the day was to give Mittens her medication, something he'd done everyday for the past week and was scheduled to do for another four or five days. The feline contracted a bacterial infection. The family vet, Pam Lawrence, said it could simply be the natural result of age weakening her immune system. Mittens was, after all, eleven years old now. There was, however, another real possibility.
Mittens and Calico were strictly indoor cats. They were never intentionally allowed to go outside without being on a leash, which the family didn't like using because of the potential for harm do be done at the cat's neck, or being carried. Every now and then, though, Mittens would somehow get out and the family would have to track her down. Interestingly, she never went far and she didn't run. She strolled the streets. The brood always felt Mittens just liked to explore sometimes, to wake up her curious self. She only did it once a year at most. It just so happened that once in the last twelve months was two weeks ago when she was on her own for about fifteen minutes before being found sitting on a stranger's lawn, as if waiting for her family to pick her up. That afternoon, Jack walked to her, chastised her as he took her into his arms, and told her he loved her and she shouldn't go wandering around on her own. He told her it wasn't safe.
More than her years on the earth, the family believed that while on that curiosity stroll, Mittens came into contact with another animal that passed the infection onto her, or that she might have imbibed water or something else that wasn't clean. Either way, a fever, runny nose, and reddened eyes resulted in an immediate trip to the vet and Pam's diagnosis. Two weeks of antibiotics was the prescribed treatment.
There had not been any issues in giving the cat her pills. She was never exactly thrilled at having to take them, but neither did she argue or resist taking them.
As he'd been doing, Jack took Mittens into his study. She loved being there, especially when he let her sit on his lap while he worked at his desk. He cradled the cat in his left arm, like a baby, and then pressed the pill slightly against her mouth.
"Oooooopen up," Jack encouraged.
Mittens obeyed, and the pill was quickly popped inside her mouth. She closed her mouth and stared at the general.
"Hey! What was that?" Jack snapped when the pill fell to the floor and Mittens flew out of his arms. He picked up the pill and then pushed aside his comfy desk chair Daniel gifted him with years ago. "Why are you under my desk?"
"Easy for you to say." Jack reached over and literally pulled the cat back to him. "Let's try this again."
The process was repeated and Jack was sure Mittens swallowed her pill; that is, until she jumped out of his arms and leaped up to the top shelf of the bookcase, leaving behind a somewhat dissolved and yucky looking pill on the carpet.
Jack knew the prescription contained a couple of extras in it, so he opened the bottle and took out a new pill.
"This time, you're going to swallow this dang thing. That's an order."
Again, the general cradled the feline in his arms, only this time his left hand more forcibly held her rear paws to prevent her from fleeing. He used his right forefinger to shove the pill into Mitten's mouth.
"One. Two. Three. Four. Five. Six. Seven. Eight. Nine. Ten. That should do it." Jack put Mittens down and was surprised when she scurried out of the room. Something told him to follow. "For crying out loud, get off of there."
Jack hurried to the fish tank and grabbed one of the tiny fish nets.
"Move away from there, Homer," Jack ordered one of the fish, one of the many fish named Homer over the years. At last, he successfully grabbed the soggy pill out of the water. "*Daniel!* *Daniel*"
Running from the urgent sound of the call, the archaeologist entered the living room and asked, "What's wrong?"
"That darn cat tried to antibiotic the fish. I've retrieved the pill, but it's soggy and cracked. Some of it might have been released into the water."
Daniel nodded and called out, "Little Danny! Jenny!"
The two children entered and looked at their daddy.
"Priority chore. We need to clean the fish tank. The water may be contaminated. Get the backup tank and gear." As the children did as instructed, Daniel saw his lover walking away. "Where are you going?"
"To strangle that darn cat."
"Danny, she's fighting me today," Jack said as he began his search, finding the cagey feline under his bed. "Won't work. You're taking that pill if it's the last thing I do."
The determined general dragged the cat out from under the bed and placed her firmly between his knees. He held her front and rear paws securely.
"Growl all you want. You need this pill."
Jack again forced the pill into Mitten's throat and then rubbed her throat vigorously in the hopes she would finally swallow the pill. Unfortunately, Mittens finagled her freedom and ran to the elaborate draping that was part of the king-size bed, but only used for special, ultra-romantic and sexy nights between the soulmates. One of those was last night and the unique trappings of the bed hadn't been fully put away.
Mittens held onto the lightweight curtains with her claws tightly, but Jack was able to pull her away from, the result of which wasn't good for the sheer material.
~I'll have to call Alex and see if these are repairable,~ the general told himself as he looked at the torn elements of the curtains.
"Do you want some help, Dad?" Aislinn asked.
"She's not being cooperative."
"Mittens, come here, please." The feline, who was actually trained to respond to verbal commands, responded obediently. "You know you need your pill. Don't move." Aislinn extended out her hand to her father, who put the pill into the palm of her hand. "Take it. Now, please."
Aislinn smiled as Mittens did as requested, completely swallowing the pill.
"Thank you. Now go play with Calico."
"How'd you do that?" Jack questioned, getting a shrug in response. He sighed as his daughter left the room. ~This is definitely going to be one of those days.~
By midmorning, the TV was replaced with the newest model and the kids were able to finish their cartoon watching in the rec room. Afterwards, they went outside to the backyard to play or simply enjoy the fresh air. It was a good day to spend in the yard with the temperature in the sixties and just a light breeze passing through.
After lunch, the family prepared for a special celebration. Jennifer's birthday was on the eighteenth, but that day Sophie wasn't feeling well. She had a nasty cold. Out of an abundance of caution, the Hamiltons quarantined themselves for several days, preventing Jennifer from participating in the planned party for her at her parents' home. As of yesterday, though, Sophie was fine and her pediatrician was confident she had a normal cold completely unrelated to COVID-19. As such, a short party was scheduled to give Jennifer her birthday presents and for the family to eat some cake.
Brianna and Aislinn went to town on an elaborate birthday cake for their sister. The six-layer cake towered on the tray. Each layer was rich and flavorful, highlighted by plenty of chocolate and strawberries. The layers were in a dome shape. That's because emerging through the top of the dome was a fairy princess, which was actually an Elsa doll. With the torso at the top, the dome cake looked like the fairy princess's gown. The two girls were proud of their creation.
As the family sang "Happy Birthday," Aislinn carefully carried the tray from the cooking area to the large table, only suddenly, her foot snagged on something. She cried out, "Ooooooooh!" and went down to the floor, cake and all.
"Ash, are you okay?" Jennifer questioned with deep concern as she went to the girl's side.
"What the heck happened?" the Munchkin bemoaned as she looked behind her. "What did I trip on?"
"Meeeeowwww," Mittens spoke apologetically.
"Mittens, I told you I'd give you some later," Aislinn groaned. "I'm fine everyone."
"But the cake isn't," Brianna observed.
Indeed, the cake was splattered all over the floor.
"It's good," Jonny praised as he scooped up some cake and ate it.
"Ooooh, a caramel layer," Ricky noted happily as he stuffed his face with cake.
The whole family was laughing as they literally ate the cake off the floor and even helped each other eat, stuffing one another's faces with various layers of the crumbled dessert.
"Happy birthday, Jen," Brianna laughed. "I hope you like your cake."
"Well," Jennifer began, pausing to swallow a mixed bite of chocolate and strawberry, "it's different; tasty, but different."
With lunch over and the dishes cleared from the table, Ptolemy was let out from her cage to fly around freely. The family went about their business. Jenny had a few chores to do, Ricky was determined to beat his prior best score with one of the arcade games in the game room, Jonny played with Bogey, his pet lizard, and Jack pulled out an aviator magazine to read. Everyone was relaxing; well, not Jenny, who had to finish her obligations before she could actually relax, too.
Ninety minutes later, an ominous observation was made.
"Where are Bijou and Katie?" Little Danny asked.
"No idea," Lulu answered. "I haven't seen them for a while. Actually, I haven't seen Calico or Mittens, either."
"Hey, where's Ptolemy?" Aislinn asked.
"Okay, divide up and let's search the house," Jonny, forever the little general, ordered.
Jack and Daniel were advised of the missing animals and joined in the search. They checked outside, the garage, and in the living, recreation, and hospitality rooms. They looked inside cabinets of the kitchen and, remembering a time from the past, Jack even checked the roof deck where he kept his telescope storage box. Mittens once was found inside it.
All of the bedrooms were checked and then the sewing room, the library, and the quiet room. The guest bedroom was thoroughly searched since that was a personal favorite of Calico. Under the beds, inside boxes, on top of furniture: it was all checked.
"They have to be here somewhere," Chenoa sighed.
"Hey, did anyone look in the music room?" Brianna asked. "The door's closed."
Step by step, the family walked to the room and opened the door. They couldn't believe what they saw.
Bijou and Katie were sound asleep in a small beanbag always kept in the room for them.
Mittens was spread out, lying on probably half of the piano's eighty-eight keys, while Calico was settled atop one of the drums.
Ptolemy was perched atop a music stand, looking outside with great interest. That made sense as her normal point of view was the backyard or whatever was inside the house. While Jack and Daniel did occasionally take her for a walk, the view of the outdoors at the front of the house was refreshing for the Hyacinth Macaw.
"Geez, all that worry for nothing," Jack lamented. "Who closed the door?"
Shrugs were the common response.
"Maybe one of them did it," Little Danny suggested. "Look, one of the maracas is on the floor by the door. Maybe they knocked it over, got scared, and someone shut it by accident."
"Makes as much sense as anything else," Daniel replied. "Well, crisis averted."
"Okay, you bird," Jack called out as he approached the majestic macaw. "Back to your cage."
"Squaaaaaawk," came the objection.
"Move it," Jack ordered. Seeing Ptolemy reluctantly ending her grip on the music stand, he added, "We'll go for a walk tomorrow. I guess a change in scenery is important for you, too."
"Happy Polly," the bird sang as she flew back to her cage in the rec room.
The weather turned from pleasant to definitely not fun. Thunderstorms were booming once the clock hit two in the afternoon. That wasn't unusual for Colorado Springs, but what happened next was definitely not the norm for Jack and Daniel.
With a flicker, the power went out. Normally, the back-up generator kicked in immediately, but this time, nothing happened.
"I'll check it out," Jack offered as he put on a raincoat and one of his trusty baseball caps. He went outside and around the house to the mechanical room. It was the hub of power for the Jackson-O'Neill home, a sophisticated system that controlled and monitored the various energy devices in the home. As a rule, the complicated system kept the family's utility and energy bills ridiculously low. He entered the room and went directly to the generator, which he intended to turn on manually, but when he tried to do so, nothing happened. "What is going on today?"
Jack checked out the systems, looked for loose wires, checked batteries, and did everything he could think of to locate the source of the problem. He couldn't find it, so as he did earlier in the day, he contacted the man responsible for the room.
"You're kidding?" Alex questioned. "Jack, that system has back-ups for the back-ups."
"Maybe, but all I know is that the lights are off, there's no heat inside, and, well, the food is starting to rot."
"Your food is fine. You said this just happened."
"Ten minutes ago."
"I'll make a call."
Sure enough, Alex arranged for one of the electricians regularly used by Archonics Ltd to check out the situation. There was a problem with the communication of the main system to the generator back-up, which he fixed in the course of ninety minutes, pleasing the family since that meant they could both warm up and the food in their refrigerators and freezers weren't at risk from the temporary lack of power.
Dinner was over, and the family marveled at the heavy thunderstorm currently occurring. They were grateful that the issues in the mechanical room happened earlier in the day and not now in the midst of this heavy downpour with frequent strikes of thunder.
By bedtime, the weather lightened up to a calmer rain. The winds were still something to be considered, coming in at twenty-miles per hour from the north.
Jack and Daniel were in their master bedroom, lying down, though neither were in deep sleep as yet.
Not following normal rules for the bedroom of his parents, JD ran inside. He went to his dad's side of the bed and began to shake him.
"Dad! Dad, wake up! Daaaad!"
"Hey, what's wrong? Are you sick?"
"My heart's in my feet," JD stated.
"In your feet?" Jack saw his son nod. Immediately, he turned a bit inward to shake his husband. "Danny! Danny, wake up."
"Wha...what, uh ..."
"JD's heart is in his feet."
"Not his knees?"
"His feet," Jack advised.
"Okay, well, I'm fine."
In a split second, the two men jumped out of bed and headed for the rooms of their children. They ran down the hall and jumped up the jog in one move, stopping first at the boys' room. They went inside.
"Jonny. Wake up, Son," Jack urged as he shook his namesake.
"Is something wrong?" the Munchkin asked.
"He's fine," Jack said, removing his hand from the boy's forehead.
"Little Danny!" Daniel exclaimed, tugging on the triplet's upper arm.
Jack and Daniel went to Ricky, who already woke up from the disturbance in the room.
"It's not them," Jack said as he and Daniel raced out of the room.
"JD, what's going on?" Jonny asked.
"My heart's in my feet, really heavy."
Instantly, the three brothers got out of bed and hurried into the hallway. They watched eagerly as their fathers came out of the girls' room and headed for the room shared by Chenoa and Lulu. Next, they ran into Brianna's room, pleased when she, too, was just fine.
"David," Daniel sighed.
The parents were about to run back to the other side of the house when David, who actually hadn't fallen asleep and was up in his room, heard the commotion from his parents and left his room to find out what the problem was. Obviously, David was fine.
"Cell phone: now!"
The Curly Tops' room was the closest to where everyone was standing, so Chenoa ran inside and retrieved her smartphone.
Taking possession of the object, Jack called the home of his eldest daughter. Jennifer's husband, Peter, was the one who answered.
"Are you okay?"
"Um, sure," a very confused Peter responded.
"Wake up, Jen."
"Peter, humor me, please," Jack pleaded. "Wake up Jen. Make sure she's okay and then go check on Sophie. Wake her up, both of them."
The young man didn't have a clue what was behind the strange request, but he awoke his wife and said, "Talk to your parents," and then went to check on his daughter.
"Huh? Wha... <yawn> ... hello?"
"Princess, are you okay?" Jack questioned.
Peter returned and interjected, "Sophie's fine. I woke her up, but she went right back to sleep."
"I'll explain tomorrow." Jack hung up the phone and dialed his son, who lived next door. "Jeff, you sound good."
"Thanks, but ... Dad, is something wrong?"
"Hold one." Jack looked at JD and asked, "Does this heart in your feet thing extend to spouses." He saw the shrug. "Son, where's Chely?"
"She went to bed early."
"Wake her up and check on my grandchild. Wake both of them up. Do it now, Jeff."
Again, Jeff couldn't imagine why his older father was making such a request, but he trusted his parents completely, so he did so.
"Good. I'll explain tomorrow."
The phone calls were over and Jack sighed as he and Daniel exchanged questioning looks.
"Son, are you sure about your heart being in your feet?" Jack asked.
"It's real heavy, Dad, like I can't move," JD answered.
Bending over somewhat to be more on his son's eye level, Daniel questioned, "JD, you're absolutely positive you didn't have a bad dream?"
"No, Daddy. My heart just sank, all of a sudden, and it kept going, all the way down to my feet," JD insisted.
"Thank you," the younger father replied.
Looking at each other with clueless looks, the answer suddenly seemed clear to both men.
At the same time, Jack uttered, "Hammond," while Daniel expressed, "Grandpa."
"Crap!" the retired general exclaimed. Again, he placed the call, but all it did was ring and ring. "No one's answering."
Daniel flew down the hallway to get Brianna, who was still in her room.
"Bri, Dad and I have to leave. You and David are in charge," the archaeologist advised.
"Bri, keep this guy with you," Jack said, motioning at the youngest brood member. "JD, if you sense anything or feel anything else, tell Bri. Bri, if he does, you call us right away. I don't care how insignificant it seems."
Quickly, the parents ran to their bedroom to dress while the children made their way downstairs. Concerned and uncertain about what exactly was happening, none of them even wanted to attempt sleep.
Jack and Daniel were dressed and heading for the front door in under two minutes.
"Where are you going?" Jonny called out.
"Hammond's," Jack answered as he opened the door.
Daniel also answered, his words overlapping Jack's, saying, "Grandpa's house."
As the door closed, Little Danny looked at Jonny and repeated, "Hammond's?"
"It's a military thing," Jonny supposed. "He didn't call Grandpa Grandpa until we came along."
Little Danny nodded and slowly, the kids settled down into various spots in the living room and recreation room to await word from their parents.
The drive to the Hammond lakeside residence was normally about an hour from the suburban residence of the Jackson-O'Neills, but on this rainy night, Jack drove as if Apophis was on his tail. Daniel held on and never objected, not even when the truck came to partial stops at red lights and then bolted across the intersections when no traffic from the other direction was seen.
Finally, the couple arrived at the home and ran to the door, banging on it loudly and ringing the bell repeatedly.
"Their cars are on the driveway. I don't see any lights on," Daniel noted.
"Dang it! We don't know the code," Jack groaned about the alarm system, one he and Daniel had Sam install, more to protect their children than the man who went from commanding officer to grandfather once the Munchkins were born.
The lovers ran to the side of the house, checking for an open door or window, but found none. They ended up around the back and to the side where a door that opened to the kitchen was located.
"Screw it!" Jack exclaimed as he kicked open the door, causing the alarm system to blare.
Jack and Daniel ran through the lower level of the house, turning on the lights and calling out, their words a mixture of "General Hammond?" "Grandpa!" and "Mrs. V, where are you?"
The last place to check downstairs was the ice cream parlor. Jack urgently went to the backside of the bar and found nothing.
"Jack, shhhh!" Daniel called out, raising his right hand. "Listen."
The sound was faint and weak.
"Upstairs!" the archaeologist shouted as he ran up the stairs, taking three steps at one time. Followed by his husband, Daniel ran through the open door of the master bedroom and immediately saw Mrs. Sophia Valissi Hammond lying on the floor, reaching out with her left arm for help. The lovers ran to her and kneeled down.
"George," the senior citizen gasped. "He's on the other side of ... of the bed," she struggled to inform. "I saw him fall. I think he's had a heart attack."
Jack stood and sprinted to the other side of the bed.
"He's here," Jack stated as he kneeled down. First, he put his ear against Hammond's nose and mouth. "He's breathing." He took the man's pulse. "Pulse is faint, but it's steady."
"Can you stand?" Daniel asked Sophia.
"No. When I saw George fall, I started to run. I don't know I fell, but I can't move, Daniel."
"It'll be okay." Daniel looked to his right and saw Jack had his smartphone out. "Jack, she can't move."
"I think I've broken my hip," Sophia lamented as she grimaced in pain.
"This is Lieutenant General Jack Jackson-O'Neill, US Air Force, retired. I'm at the home of Lieutenant General George S. Hammond." Jack provided the address and the phone number of the residence. "The general appears to have suffered a heart attack. His wife has fallen. She's in pain, says she can't move; possible hip injury. Get an ambulance here now!"
Jack didn't wait for a response. He next called Janet, who immediately set out for the Academy Hospital to await the arrival of the ambulance.
Just then, two policeman called out, "Put your hands up into the air! This is the police!"
"Whoa!" Jack replied. "I'm with the Air Force. This man's had a probable heart attack. That woman's fallen. Their our grandparents. We came to check on them when they didn't answer their phone. I had to kick open the back door when they didn't respond."
"We have ID," Daniel added, not having moved an inch with a gun pointed at his head.
"Show me," the officer in charge stated. "Slowly, one finger only."
"The ambulance is coming. That sounds like them," Jack pointed out about the siren in the distance that was growing louder.
"Looks legit," the officer stated, returning Daniel's ID and then lowering his weapon and putting the gun back in the holster.
The officers checked on Hammond, wondering if he needed CPR, but he was breathing on his own and showing no signs of heart distress at the moment.
A couple of minutes later, the paramedics arrived on scene, checked out the couple, and began transporting them to the hospital.
Satisfied as to the identity of Jack and Daniel, the police finished getting the information they needed for their report and left the home. The lovers were about to follow when Daniel reached out to stop Jack by grabbing his arm.
"What about the door?"
"We'll fix it later."
"Jack, odds are there won't be anything we can do at the hospital for a while. Their lives are in this house. Let's do the best job we can to close it up; then we can do a complete job later."
Reluctantly, Jack agreed. He fumbled through Hammond's garage, looking for a hammer, some nails, and anything he could use to replace the wood that he'd displaced from the door with his kick to get it open. All in all, it only took about fifteen minutes to get the door secured to his satisfaction.
While his soulmate did the handy work, Daniel notified Brianna of the news. She was told to keep everyone at home and once there was more news, he would call.
"Let's go," Jack stated, tossing the hammer and nails onto the kitchen counter before locking the door and leaving the residence.
En route to the hospital, Daniel sighed, "Jack, why didn't we use our keys?"
"We have keys to Grandpa's house."
"I forgot," Jack admitted. "It doesn't matter; the keys are at home in the study."
"Well, actually, mine are, too, but in my den. I don't take the keys with me all the time."
"Me, either, now that you mention it. Crap, Danny, my heart is racing."
"We're out of practice on the racing to save the world thing," Daniel put forward.
The two settled down more as they approached Academy Hospital.
"Maybe we need a better system," Jack stated out of the blue.
"For the keys," Jack responded. "Look, we all have the keys to our houses: our keys, Jen's keys, Jeff's keys, Hammond's key, Carter's keys, and even the Doc's keys. We don't carry those around because we've never actually needed to use them, unless we're house-sitting, right?"
"Right," Daniel sighed.
"Too many keys in addition to our own keys: house keys, car keys, storage locker key's, lock box keys, blah, blah, blah."
"So ..." the younger man prompted.
"So, Carter has a new project."
"A shared code, just among the adults. All kids would still be on their own, but the grownups have a code that works for every house and is the same. No one uses it unless it's an emergency, like tonight."
"That could work, but ..."
"You aren't going to bring up the trust issue."
"Jack, I trust our family, our extended family."
"I do, too, so ... what do you think? Will the others go along with it?"
"Well, that would be up to them, but Sam could do it for sure, and I don't think anyone wants to see anyone hurt because of what we faced tonight with the general."
"We'll put it out there and see what the consensus is. Agreed?"
"Agreed," Daniel responded.
Ninety minutes later, as Jack and Daniel continued to sit in the waiting room, Janet finally walked in to give them an update.
"The general had a mild heart attack. We're going to monitor him closely for a few days."
"Mrs. Hammond?" Daniel prompted.
"She didn't break her hip, but I understand why she thought that," the physician responded.
"What did she do?" Jack inquired.
"Hurt it," Janet replied. "She has a bruised hip, but it should heal on its own. She can apply ice packs for twenty minutes every four hours to help speed up her recovery. Elevating her hip above the heart level will also help with the pain and any swelling."
"She said she couldn't move."
"Well, the pain was immense for her, but I also think the trauma of thinking her husband was dying or dead caused temporary paralysis. She's moving fine now."
"That's a relief," Jack responded. "How long are you keeping her here?"
"Overnight as a precaution."
"We'll take care of her at our house until Hammond's ready to go home."
"I think that would be a wonderful idea," Janet replied. "I tried talking her into getting one of the life alert devices, but she's uncertain."
"Mrs. V has always been independent," Jack remarked.
"Maybe, but she and the general are not young any longer. I'm not being harsh, but especially with COVID, they are alone in their home. Look what happened tonight. If she'd had on a watch or something used to contact help, they could have been in a hospital hours ago."
"We didn't ask," Daniel said. "How long were they like that?"
"Three hours," Janet answered. "If the general's heart attack had been more severe ... well, we'd be discussing funeral plans right now." She paused, "What made you go their house?"
"JD's heart was in his feet," Daniel answered.
"Uncanny," Janet sighed. "Go home. There's nothing more you can do here tonight, and I won't allow either one of them visitors until morning."
"Hammond is awake?" the silver-haired man asked anxiously.
"Yes. Tomorrow, Jack."
On the way home, Jack was taken aback when his lover started sniffing the air.
"Is there a skunk around here somewhere?" Jack asked.
"I ..." Daniel continued to use his nose and finally was drawn to his lover's face and neck. "Yes, and it's you. What are you wearing?"
"It's that new aftershave I bought."
"Don't buy it again, Babe. Sorry, but it stinks."
Jack sneered, but then he asked, "Danny, do you think that's why Mittens acted so crazy this morning when I tried to give her the pill?"
"It would make sense. She didn't like the smell and didn't want to be around it."
Jack grinned and opined, "She still loves me then."
Daniel chuckled, "Yes, Jack, she still loves you; she just doesn't want to be around you when you wear that ... stuff; and neither do I."
"It's in the trash tonight."
The rain was gone, replaced by clouds in the night sky, as the lovers arrived home around 11:30 p.m. It was not the least bit surprising to either man that their children were wide awake, waiting to learn what happened. The parents told the brood what they knew.
"So, for a little while, we're going to take care of Grandma. We'll use the guest room."
"We'll make a schedule so everyone gets to spend time with her while helping her recover," Jack advised.
"What about when Grandpa is released?" Lulu asked.
"We'll see how Grandma's doing at that point. We may bring Grandpa here, too, but if she's well enough, I suspect Grandma will want to take care of Grandpa herself at home," Daniel answered.
"One day at a time, kids," Jack sighed.
"This one day was a crazy one," Jeff said, having left his home to be with his siblings as they waited for news about the Hammonds. He'd seen his father's truck speeding off earlier and became worried. One phone call to Brianna later, and the young man kissed Chely goodnight and went next door. "You should have seen the day I had."
"No, thanks," Jonny responded. "Our day was bad enough."
"It's just Murphy's Law," Daniel sighed.
"What's that?" Chenoa questioned.
"You know, when everything that can goes wrong does go wrong," Lulu responded. "That's Murphy Law."
"Well, whatever it is, once was enough," Chenoa opined.
"Don't assume you won't have another one," Daniel put forth. "I've had a lot of bad days in my life, but this is my third Murphy's Law day."
Jack laughed, "You should have been there for the first one. Daddy was run ragged."
"But I got a car out if," Daniel teased laughingly.
"A car?" Aislinn questioned.
"The Silver Fox?" Jenny asked.
"That would be the one," Daniel confirmed.
"Daddy had this old clunker car at the time; it broke down every five minutes, including that day. I didn't want it to happen again, so I bought him car."
"Which I paid you back for in full," Daniel pointed out.
"He did. He paid me back every last minute, with interest."
"Interest?" Brianna repeated. "You charged Daddy interest."
"No, I chose to, uh, well, to ..."
"Ut oh," Aislinn giggled. "It wasn't a financial interest payment, was it, Daddy?"
Embarrassed, Daniel was turning bright red as the entire family realized the payback of the interest was more romantic, perhaps even sexual, in nature. They laughed wildly.
"Hey, let's end the day right," Jonny suggested. "Ice cream!"
"Scoop it up," Jack permitted with a smile.
"I'll help," Jenny spoke as she stood up.
At ten minutes before midnight, ice cream was served to the family as they relaxed in the rec room, on the sofa and on the ottomans scattered throughout the large area.
"Here's to surviving Murphy's Law," Jack said, raising up his bowl.
Everyone did the same.
"You know, if you think about it, this wasn't really a bad day," Daniel suggested. "Seriously. We have a new TV, a better connection to the generator, and think about the fun we had eating cake off the floor. I don't know about you, but that was one of the best times I think we've had this year."
"You're right, Daddy," David agreed. "It was ridiculous, but we just went with it. That cake was good, too."
"And, best yet," Daniel continued, "Grandpa and Grandma are going to be okay." He reached out, motioning for JD to come close. "JD, do you know that *you* saved Grandpa's life tonight?"
"You. You could have ignored your heart being in your feet, but you didn't. You never backed down. If you had kept that to yourself, we wouldn't have checked on Grandpa and Grandma. You saved them, JD!"
The children fussed over their younger brother for a while, until they realized their ice cream was melting.
"One more thing," Daniel said, holding a spoonful of chocolate ice cream outward in his right hand. "Here's to us. There may be a pandemic inconveniencing us, but look what we have. We're together, and we are full of love for each other and our family who isn't here right now. We're very lucky. Appreciate that luck and how our love gets us through the good and the bad and Murphy's Law days. I love you all. To us!"
"To us!" a chorus of voices rang out.
As the midnight hour hit, the family enjoyed their ice cream. They laughed and genuinely had a good time, even as they still showed their concern for their grandparents. A day of calamity could never keep down the family Jackson-O'Neill!
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