Dangerous Day

Author:  Orrymain
Category:  Slash, Drama, Angst, Romance, Established Relationship
Pairing:  Jack/Daniel ... and it's all J/D
Rating:  PG-13
Season:  Beyond the Series - February 20-22, 2017
Spoilers:  None
Size:  115kb
Written:  September 23, 2010, March 16-23,25-26,29, April 2,23, 2011 Revision to Fix Error: July 21, 2016
Summary:  The Strudel event from Jack's past comes back to haunt the general and Daniel when Jonny and Little Danny are kidnapped.
Disclaimer:  Usual disclaimers -- not mine, wish they were, especially Daniel, and Jack, too, but they aren't.  A gal can dream though!
Notes:  
1) Sometimes, Jack and Daniel speak almost telepathically.  Their “silent” words to each other are indicated by asterisks instead of quotes, such as **Jack, we can't.**
2) Silent, unspoken thoughts by various characters are indicated with ~ in front and behind them, such as ~Where am I?~
3) This fic stands alone, but it does reference my other fic(s): “Frienenemies”
4) Thanks to my betas who always make my fics better:  Mama Bear, Classic, Alverine, Navi!

Dangerous Day
by Orrymain

“Maybe we could build a pyramid in the backyard,” Jonny Jackson-O'Neill put forth thoughtfully to his fellow Munchkin.

“It needs to be to scale, Jonny,” Little Danny noted.

“If we could build a life-size pyramid, Daddy would definitely give us an ‘A’.”

Chuckling, Little Danny added, “So would Dad.”

The brothers were discussing a homework assignment while walking over to the Lancer home where they were going to spend some time with their friend, Frank Lancer, and his family.  The Lancers lived down the block and three houses around the corner.  Thus, the two boys had with them the community cell phone which was shared by the triplets and the twins to keep in touch with their parents when they were playing in the neighborhood.  Once at the Lancers, they would use the phone to call home and announce their safe arrival.

The brothers turned the corner, both aware of the man walking towards them from the opposite direction.  They continued to discuss their building project.

“We could build an airplane,” the dark-haired boy suggested.

“That would be more complicated,” Jonny responded.

All of a sudden, the boys heard the sound of a speeding car, its wheels coming to a screeching halt to their right.  The man in front of them sprang forward as another figure emerged from the back of the vehicle.

“Jonny!”

The two boys tried to fend off the men with their defense training, but they were outdone by the sheer size of the very large man who had gotten out of the vehicle.  Though unafraid and fighting hard, it was difficult for the children to successfully fight two grown men.

“Kidnappers!” Little Danny shouted.

“Help!” Jonny yelled even as he kicked one man in the shin.

Meanwhile, Little Danny shoved his elbow into the smaller man's face.  He had an opening.  He could take off and run, but Jonny would be left alone.  That wasn't an option.

 ~Never leave anyone behind,~ was the mantra that thundered in the mind of the child prodigy.

Just then, a neighbor from across the street emerged in their doorway and called out.

Sensing time was short, the men picked up the boys, threw them into the dark sedan at the curb, and got inside themselves.  With the neighbor looking on, the car sped away.

“Mommy, that was Jonny and Little Danny,” Sabrina Reynolds noted with panic, having also witnessed the scene unfolding right in front of her house.  “I don't think they wanted to go with those men.”

“You're right, Sabrina.”  With a nod and a pat on her daughter's shoulder, the woman reached inside her pocket for her smartphone.  ~Should I call the Jackson-O'Neills or the police?  They're so private.  It's the general's background.  He's been the talk of the neighborhood since I've lived here.  General Mysterious.  I'd better call them and not the police.~

--

Before reaching the corner, the kidnappers did a quick search of the boys.  Their intel had suggested that were they alone, they'd likely be carrying a cell phone.  With GPS capabilities stronger than ever, the men knew they had to rid themselves of the phone quickly.

“Got it!” one of the men exclaimed, holding the phone triumphantly.

“Toss it out the window,” the driver instructed.

Just before rounding the corner that would lead them out of the area, the man opened his window and tossed the cell phone onto the street.

====

“Hey, Danny, did you hear from the boys yet?” Jack asked his husband as he entered the den where Daniel was working, a book open on his desk and another open in his lap.

“No, not yet,” Daniel responded, glancing at the clock on his desk.

Hearing the phone ring, Jack smiled and opined, “That's probably them now,” as he reached for the telephone on the desk.  ~His hands are full.~

“What?” Jack questioned, his bark loud and his face suddenly full of worry.

“Jack, what is it?” Daniel questioned impatiently, his stomach churning from the look on his Love's face.”

“We'll be right there,” Jack responded to the caller before disconnecting the call.  “Daniel, let's go."

“Go ... go where?” Daniel called out to his hurried husband.

“Move it, Daniel,” Jack shouted in reply as he bounded down the stairs.

~Military.  He's sounding like we're on a mission.  Gawd, something's wrong,~ the younger man realized as he followed Jack, believing that the 'something' had to be about Jonny and Little Danny.

Downstairs, Jack hollered at his daughter, who was in the kitchen, “Jen, keep an eye on the kids.  We'll be back soon.”

Jennifer recognized the tone just as much as her daddy had.  Without being told, she began to take inventory of the brood and do a routine check of the household security.

Just as the general opened the door and stepped out onto the front porch, his husband grabbed his arm.

“Jack, talk to me.”

Sighing and taking one quick breath, Jack explained, “It's the boys.  Someone has taken them.”

“*What?*” Daniel questioned, his worst fear coming true.  “When?  How?”

Nodding for Daniel to follow, Jack elaborated, “That was Naomi Reynolds on the phone.  She and Sabrina saw the boys being taken.  That's all I know.”

Increasing their speed, the couple broke out into a sprint as they made their way to the Reynold's home.

====

“I didn't see anything but a blur of kids and men.  I'd only just walked over to the window when it was happening.  I'm sorry,” Naomi Reynolds expressed with regret to Jack and Daniel.  “Sabrina may have seen something more.”

Jack and Daniel shared a look, and it was the archaeologist who prodded his husband onward.  Taking the lead, the general approached the young girl and kneeled down on his haunches to speak with her.

“New doll?”

Nodding, Sabrina affirmed, “Daddy bought it for my birthday last week.”

“She's pretty, just like you,” Jack praised.  “That makes you six now, right?”

“Na-huh.”

“No?” Jack refuted in surprise.

“Six and one week,” the proud girl responded as she swayed slightly while holding on to her new doll.

“Sabrina, can you tell me what you saw earlier, with Jonny and Little Danny?”

Taking a breath, Sabrina answered, “Susie and me were looking out the window.”

“Susie is ... your dolly?”

After nodding, Sabrina continued, “We saw them walking and this car stopped and a *big* man got out of the car and 'nother man came from that way.”

Jack followed Sabrina over to the front window that she had been looking out of while witnessing the abduction.  She then pointed at the direction she'd been talking about.

“Okay, so Jonny and Little Danny were walking on the sidewalk when a car stopped.  A man got out, and another man was walking towards them,” Jack summarized.  “Then what?”

“They got in a fight, but the big man was *really* big.  He threw them in the car.  Walking man got in, too, and they went away.”

“So there were three men: the one driving, the big man that got out of the car, and the man who had been walking down the street.”

“Uh-huh.”

“Do you remember what they looked like?”

Sabrina shook her head, but then she drew her doll to her ear and listened.  With a gasp, she held Susie out to Jack.

~I know this game,~ Jack thought.  With a smile, he held the doll to his ear.  “What do you want to tell me, Susie?”  He listened for almost a minute and then he sighed.  Handing the doll back, he stated, “Sabrina, Susie told me that you know what she saw.  She's afraid, and she wants you to tell me.”

“Susie shouldn't be afraid.”

Jack reached out and gently ran his hand along her cheek.  He smiled as warmly as he could while reminding himself to be calm and speak with a steady voice.

“No, she shouldn't because there is *nothing* for her, or you, or you mommy and daddy to be afraid of, nothing at all.  We're going to catch those bad men, but we need your help and Susie's help.  Sabrina, I need you to be a really big girl and help me to bring my boys home.  I *promise* you that you don't need to be afraid.”  Jack paused and then asked, “What did you see, Sabrina?”

“The man walking down the street had a big knife in his hand.  I saw him point it at Jonny 'cause he kept fighting.”

“Did he use the knife?  Did he hurt Jonny?”

“I don't know,” Sabrina mumbled into Susie's hair.

“Can you tell me anything else about the men?”

“Big man had a mustache.”

“That's good,” Jack praised.  “Was he taller than me?”

“You hafta go out there,” Sabrina stated, pointing outside.

“Okay, first, what about the car?”

“Jack, I do remember about the car.  It was a black four-door.  I'm not sure of the make, but the size was like my car,” Sabrina's mom put forth, watching her little girl with trepidation.

“Naomi, would you mind moving your car and parking it near the sidewalk where the kidnapper's car was?  I'll stand by it, and we can see what Sabrina and Susie remember,” Jack suggested.

“Daniel ...”

“We'll stay here and watch,” Daniel stated, assuring Naomi that he'd stay with her daughter.

It took a couple of minutes, but when Jack and Naomi were in position, Sabrina looked out the window and then up at Daniel.

“Big man taller than the general.”

“Ah, what about the car?  Was it old?  Were there stickers on it?”

Sabrina stared out the window again and then answered, “Wheels shiny.”

“Wheels?” Daniel echoed.  “The hubcaps?  The, uh, silver things in the middle of the wheels?”

“Like those,” Sabrina said, pointing at her mother's car.  “Shiny and ... Mister Daniel, they had a pastry on them.”

“Pastry?”

As the little girl nodded, Daniel became concerned more than he'd been just a few seconds before.  A flash of a reminder popped in his mind.

“Thank you, Sabrina. You did a very good job,” Daniel praised reassuringly.

“Are those men going to hurt Jonny and Little Danny?”

“No,” Daniel answered.  ~Please let me be right.~

====

Down the street from the Reynolds' home, Jeremy Lancer walked outside his home, looked around, and then called out, “Mommy, I don't see them.”

Rachel Lancer, Jeremy's mother, walked out onto the walkway and looked up the street.

“That's odd,” Rachel replied.  “Daniel said they were on their way.  They should ...”

“Mommy, what's that?”

Rachel turned her head to see where her nine-year-old son was pointing.  She walked to the edge of their lawn and was surprised to see that just a few feet from their property was a cell phone.

“Someone must have lost their phone.”

“Jonny and Little Danny have a phone.”

Now alarmed, Rachel kneeled down to pick up the phone when a voice called out.

“Rachel, did you see it?” Marjorie Twain, the neighbor who had called out to the kidnappers, called out urgently.

After witnessing the kidnapping, Marjorie had gone back inside her home to call Jack and Daniel.  Her crying six-month-old baby had distracted her for a minute, but then she'd made the call, reaching Jennifer who told her that her parents were at the Reynolds' residence.  With a baby and three young children of her own, Marjorie was not comfortable in leaving them alone, so she called another neighbor and waited until that woman had been able to come over and watch the kids.

As Marjorie had been crossing the street, she'd caught sight of the phone and diverted her path.

“Don't touch it!” Marjorie shouted in warning.

Rachel jerked her hand back, concerned by the alarm in Marjorie's voice.

“I'll bet that's the boys' phone.”  Marjorie looked around and requested, “Rachel, the Jackson-O'Neill boys were kidnapped a few minutes ago.”

“What?  Oh, no!”  Rachel looked over at her son and ordered, “Jeremy, get in the house, right now.”

“Rachel, watch the phone.  Jack and Daniel are at Naomi's.  She saw it, too.”

====

Having carefully retrieved the cell phone, interviewed Marjorie about what she'd seen, and requested that their neighbors be vigilant but not call the police, Jack and Daniel were about to leave the Reynolds' residence when Brianna ran breathlessly up to the door, knocking hard and rapidly on it.

“Dad, Daddy, there was a phone call.”

“Naomi,” Daniel began.

“If you need anything, call,” the woman spoke, understanding the swiftness with which the couple had to leave.

“Sabrina, great job!” Jack called out as he stepped out of the door.  He looked back and pointed as he added, “And you, too, Susie!”

As soon as the door closed, Brianna began to elaborate on what she'd said.  She talked rapidly, still breathing hard from her run to the Reynolds' home.

“The phone rang, and Noa answered.  They asked for Dad.  She started to get Jennifer, but they told her not to and that they had her brothers were going to kill them unless you did what they wanted; but then they didn't say anything else except ...”

“Except what, Bri?” Jack asked with urgency.

“Strudel.  That's all they said, Dad -- Strudel.”

With a quick glance at each other, Jack and Daniel began to sprint towards their home.  They needed to talk with Chenoa, to make sure of what the men said and what she'd heard.

====

Walking inside their home with Brianna at their side, Jack and Daniel heard the cries and instantly gravitated towards it.  Entering the recreation room, the parents saw their children huddled together.  Chenoa was sobbing while Aislinn was crying fiercely, feeling tremendously lost without her fellow Munchkins at her side.  The other children were trying to be brave as they comforted the two girls.

Jennifer looked up, swallowing hard as she just shook her head at her parents.  She smiled at Brianna when the tomboy ran over to be part of the brood gathering.

“Noa,” Daniel called out.

Now eleven years old, the curly-haired blonde ran to Daniel, who bent over to hug her supportively.

“It's okay, Sweetie.”  Daniel led his daughter over to one of the sofas, sitting down.  Chenoa remained standing, sniffling as her hands were caressed gently by her father.  “Noa, listen to me.  I want you to close your eyes.  That's it.  Keep them closed.  Now ... take a big breath.  That's it.  Now take another one.  Okay, now I need you to tell me exactly what the person said when you answered the phone.”  He felt her hands tense.  “Shhh!  Princess, keep your eyes closed and relax.  Think about Hot and Chocolate.  You're grooming them and just ... having a good time.  Can you feel it?”

“I love them,” Chenoa stated.  “They like their carrots.”

“Yes, they do,” Daniel agreed.  “Okay, Noa.  Tell me what happened.  You picked up the phone ...”

With a nod, Chenoa stated, “I said 'Jackson-O'Neill residence' and a man asked for Dad.  I said he wasn't here, so they asked for you.  I told him he'd have to talk to Jennifer, but he said it didn't matter.”

Feeling the Curly Top tense a bit, Daniel interjected, “You're doing great.  Take another breath and keep your eyes closed.  Think about that time when Hot nudged you in the butt.”

“Daddy,” Chenoa giggled.

“That's my girl.  So, you told the man that he'd have to talk to Jen, and he said no.”

Chenoa nodded and continued, “Then he said ...  Oh, Daddy.”

Daniel found himself with an armful of frightened daughter.  He held her securely and whispered brave assurances until he was sure she was ready to talk some more.  He let her sit in his lap, her head nestled into his shoulder.

“Honey, we need you tell us,” Jack encouraged as he stood a few feet away surrounded by many of his children.

“He saaa...id ... he said they had Jonny and Little Danny and ... and that they would ... they'd kill them unless you did what they wanted you to do, but when I asked what they wanted you to do, the man said, 'Just tell your dad Strudel' and then he hung up.”

Chenoa cried again as she flung her arms around Daniel for comfort.

“It's going to be okay.  Dad and I are going to find your brothers and bring them home,” Daniel soothed, rubbing comforting circles on his daughter's back.

With a nod from his husband, Jack knew it was time to get the show on the road.  He was in full general mode now, and that meant he didn't care about subtleties.

“Jen, run over and tell Carter what's happening,” Jack began.

“Not the phone?”

“*Definitely* not the phone.  Tell her, Jen, and see if she can help out.”  Jack sighed, “She has kids now, too.  Look, if she can't get away, tell her we understand, but ... tell her we need her.  We have the boys' cell phone; we need prints run.”

“Yes, Dad.”

Jennifer headed for the backyard where she could use the gate that connected her family's backyard with that of her aunt's.

“Kids, we're going on lockdown.  You all know what that means.”  Jack looked over at Noa and asked, “Do Hot and Chocolate need tending to?”

“Yes, Dad.”

“Bri, David, I want you two to go with Noa.  Do what is necessary as expediently as possible.  Do not separate.  Bri, put on your bracelet.  You know which one I mean.”

“Right away, Dad,” Brianna acknowledged about the device that contained an Asgard communication chip inside of it.  “I'll be right back,” she told her siblings as she went to the secret doorway to take the fast route upstairs.

“Noa, get your pager and keep it in your pocket.”

“Okay,” the girl acknowledged.  She looked at her younger father and said, “Thank you, Daddy.”

“For what?”

“Letting me be a big baby.”

“Noa, you are *not* a big baby.  We're all upset, and you have a right to cry.”

“Yeah, Noa.  I'm the big baby,” JD teased.

Joined by Lulu in support, Chenoa used the secret stairway to retrieve the special pager she'd been given several years ago that was a direct link to her parents.

“Spitfires, JD, we need you to keep the zoo calm, okay?”

“You're on zoo patrol,” Daniel added as he stood and joined his soulmate.  “Check the house and make sure they're all present and accounted for.  Feed any that need feeding.”

“Bijou, Katie, go with them,” the general ordered.

“Woof!” both dogs acknowledged as they stood at attention, their tails extended in full hunting mode.

“Bawk!  Trouble!” Ptolomy called out from her cage as she ruffled her feathers.

“You can say that again,” Jack responded.

“Trouble!  Trouble!”

“Show off,” Jack groused.  “Danny, I have some calls to make.”

“And then we have some things to talk about,” Daniel responded, seeing his lover's nod.

Less than two weeks prior to the kidnapping of the male Munchkins, Jack and Daniel had barely survived their own abduction.  In fact, had it not been for the surprising arrival of treasonous Robert Makepeace, they may not have lived through the ordeal.  It had been the convicted colonel who had told Jack about a plan to seek revenge.  All he really knew, though, was a single word: strudel.

At the time, all Jack had said to Daniel or anyone involved was that there had been a situation many years ago in the Middle East that could be the reason for their troubles.  Both men had hoped they wouldn't have to worry about it more, but it was clear now that they were once again going to have to deal with their past.

Daniel needed to know everything, and Jack knew he'd have to recall every little detail in order to save the lives of their precious namesakes.

====

“Well?” Daniel inquired of his lover several minutes later.

Jack closed the door to his husband's den and walked towards the desk where Daniel had been making a few phone calls of his own.

“SG-2 is on a mission; Lou's off-world,” Jack sighed regretfully as Daniel spun his office chair around.  “Carter's working on babysitters; she'll be here as soon as she can.  Danny, should we let Jen ...”

“No,” the archaeologist interrupted emphatically.  “Look, it's not a matter of us *letting* Jen do what she wants.  She is an adult, Jack, but we need her here.  Gawd, that's selfish, but our children need their sister, and normally I'd say bring Sam's children here, but I don't know the story yet.”

“Yeah, about that,” Jack began, taking a few steps to the recliner and sitting down, though he did not relax back into the comfortable chair.  He couldn't relax right now.  “It was in the eighties, late eighties, and I was assigned one of those nasty no-win missions, the kind I keep tucked away in that box, the one that keeps me about as sane as I can be, all things considered.”

“Jack, I hate asking you, but if what you know will help us get back our boys, then I have to ask,” Daniel besieged, leaning forward slightly in his chair.  ~Gawd, why can't our past just stay buried?~

With a nod, the general spoke, “The love of oil: it's power, it's money, and everyone wants it.  When is this country going to learn?”

Jack rubbed his neck for a moment, saying nothing as he brought to the forefront of his mind what had happened decades earlier that could be the cause for the current nightmare in his life.

“We'd survived the energy crisis of '79.  As a country, we'd lessened our need for oil from OPEC, which didn't make those hogs very happy.  They tried to manipulate the market by cutting back on production.  Non-OPEC countries gained ground.  It didn't matter what you called it, a temporary surplus or a glut, the point was there was a lot of oil out there.”  Jack let out a nervous chuckle.  “Geez, we'd love to have the price of oil from 1986 back.”

“Jack, what happened?”

“Things got testy, very testy.  Iraq took a shot at a refinery in Iran, and everyone knew retaliation was just a question of time.  The Gulf War was going.  It was a mess.”

“Jack, this is a nice history lesson, but what was your mission?”

The silver-haired man understood his Love's impatience.  Their children were in severe danger.  Time was of the essence.

“One of the Middle East hot shots got his hands on a mid-grade fusion warhead.”

“A bomb?” Daniel asked incredulously.

“*Fusion*,” Jack emphasized.  “That's mass destruction, Daniel.  Those things don't mess around; one of those warheads is capable of releasing far more than any nuclear bomb could.”

Daniel processed the information and queried, “What's ... mid-grade?”

“Twenty megatons of force, far more than anything Uncle Sam had at the time,” Jack answered.  “This guy was a little too power hungry and a whole lot crazy.”

“Sounds normal for ... never mind,” Daniel sighed.  “So, your mission?”

“Eliminate the threat at all costs, and that's what my team did.  It got very messy, Danny.  This guy had about ... six lieutenants around him, and they were crazier than he was.  They'd acquired access to their own oil supply.  They wanted to push the conflict along, fuel the war you might say, and then rule the world through their stockpile.”

“Was that a possibility?”

“Only if they could get more of the warheads and carry out their plans.”

“And someone thought that was a possibility,” Daniel surmised.

“They had quietly managed to gain control of a couple prime refineries, mostly through terrorizing the folks running them.  They killed a few dozen along the way.  The fear was that they might just manage to take out the key refineries in Iraq, Iran, Kuwait, and more, that their stockpile would become dominate.  They were talking big, and when another team verified they had the warhead and delivered confirmation that their source could probably get more, the order was given.”

“Okay, so your team was sent in.  I take it you knew where to find him,” the younger man put forth.

“Five-man team.  We got in, took out three of the lieutenants and Captain Crazy.”

“What about the other three lieutenants?”

“They weren't there, and no one ever heard about them again.  We figured they counted their lucky stars and moved on.”

“Collateral damage?”

“Yeah,” Jack affirmed.  “A lot of it, Daniel.”  He looked away and then he ran the palms of his hands over his face while groaning.  “We got one right away.  There was a party going on.  Intel said no one would be there.  Sometimes, intel sucks.” Again, he paused.  “We had our orders, and this was our only shot.  The word was that they were going to use the warhead within forty-eight hours.”

“What happened?”

“Captain Crazy used everyone at that party as a shield.  We didn't have a choice, Danny.  We had our orders.  He was going to take out a country, maybe two, maybe even three: maybe us.”

“How many?”

“I don't know.  I didn't stop to count.  We tried to avoid them.  They took out two-thirds of their guests themselves trying to get us.  The rest ...”  Jack stood and swore, letting out more expletives as he crossed to the other side of the den. “One second one of the lieutenants said he was giving up.  Firing stopped.  The next thing I know, he grabs some lady, parks her in front of him, and starts firing at Nichols.”  He glanced over at Daniel and explained, “One of my team.”  With a sigh, he continued, “I had to save Nichols.  He saw me; I fired; he ducked and pulled her in to take the bullet.  Her head exploded.”

“Jack ...”

“Three.  I took out three civilians.  Nichols hit two.  The rest of my team killed four more.  Nine.  Nine people who shouldn't have died did by my team's hands. We were suppose to be the good guys.  We were there to save the lives of innocent people, not take them.”

“You said they took out two-thirds.”

“It was a big party,” Jack groaned.  “Captain Crazy didn't care about his guests.  I saw him kill five within thirty seconds.”

“Gawd,” Daniel expressed, turning his head towards the window and trying to understand how anyone could live with the knowledge of that event.  Then he had a thought, although he hated to ask the question.  “So, this was an ... an adult party.”

“I thought so.”

“Thought?”

“I don't know,” Jack responded, finally turning back around and walking back to the recliner.  Sitting down, he confided, “I think one of the women was pregnant, and I thought I heard the sound of crying, but I don't know, Danny.  I didn't kill any kids.  We had to move fast.  We eliminated the threat and secured the warhead.  Two days later I was leading my squadron on another night run.  It was back to the regular war.”

“Was this ... mission referred to as 'Strudel'?”

Hating the answer, Jack nodded while speaking a near silent, “Yeah.”

“So, one of the three who got away must be behind this, but why?  I mean, if they really faded into the background for, what, three decades, why pop up like this?”

Jack just shook his head as he glanced over at the often updated Tree of Life that he'd gifted his lover with for their wedding.  He stood and walked over.  Staring at one of the pictures of the triplets, he raised his right hand and placed it on  the frame.

“Sorry,” was the sad and remorseful utterance from the emotional general.

“Jack.”  Daniel went to his soulmate and wrapped his arms around Jack's waist from behind, placing his forehead on his Love's shoulder blade.  “We're going to find them, Jack, and they *are* going to be okay,” he insisted.

With a cough to clear his mind, Jack turned to face his husband.  He allowed himself one short, nearly chaste kiss on the lips.  It was time for the general to return to duty.

“Daniel, I called some contacts.  They aren't the types you approve of.  They're ... hard core, but ...”

“We need them,” the realistic father completed for his husband.

“I should have gotten more out of Makepeace.”

“Jack, he was a ghost.  Don't blame yourself.”  With a soft tone, Daniel added, “Besides, he told you all he knew.”

“Maybe.”

Daniel observed something in his soulmate's expression that disturbed him.  There was a question mark there, an uncertainty that wouldn't normally be present, even with the dire nature of the current situation.

“What haven't you told me?”

Jack's head snapped to face the man who owned his heart.  He was worried, and he felt he had a right to be.

“Those contacts: half of them are dead now.  We're getting older, Danny.  It's not so easy anymore to get the help we need.  The numbers have dropped.”

“But ... there is help, right?”

“Some.  They're checking out Strudel,” Jack advised somewhat stoically.  ~We need more help.~

Up until now, Daniel had remained very strong, but seeing this unusual vulnerability and doubt in his husband had caused his inner strength to crumble.  Old insecurities and fears resurfaced as if a match had lit some unearthed fuel.  In a combustible burst of emotional flames, the archaeologist succumbed to the helplessness he'd so far denied himself from feeling.

“They're going to kill them,” Daniel spoke in a trembling voice.  “We're never going to see them again.  It's our fault.  We never should have had children, not with our pasts.  Every year it's something.  They don't have normal lives.”  He started to pace, walking in no set pattern throughout the den.  It was a swift walk, his eyes focused only on his hands that fidgeted with his movement.  “Background checks on anyone who comes into contact with them, not being allowed to go places like their friends, they don't know what a regular school is, lockdowns: it's an endless list.  They don't have anything resembling normalcy.  Oh, we talk a good game.  We delude ourselves into thinking that homeschooling is okay, that they don't need public school.  Kindercamps, gym classes, dancing classes: what's the point when we watch them like the precious gems that they are.  They're living inside a glass bubble that *we've* created for them.  There's no freedom.  The N.I.D.'s been after them.  They live in a fortress; it's not childhood, it's a prison.  We brought them into this world, and now they're going to die because of our past.”

“My past.”

Jack had watched the meltdown in silence until he had to speak up and admit the truth, which was that his Special Ops history was what was responsible for most of the issues the family had gone through over the past decade.

Daniel looked at his soulmate, speechless.

“It's my past, Daniel, not yours.  We both know that.”

“Jack, I ...”

“No, it's the truth.”

The two men stared silently into each other's eyes.  Both were tortured by their feelings and inner darkness.  Finally, Daniel shook his head and smiled.

“We're both wrong, Jack.  We're just both ...”

“Scared, more scared than we've ever been,” the general admitted with a low breath.

“Jack ...”

The plea, the call, the imploring sound of the name was unmistakable.  The lovers embraced, holding on to the other for dear life because that was the truth of the moment.  It was the lives of their namesakes that were on the line.  A full five minutes passed as the soulmates let their fears and anger soak through their bodies until the time came when those feelings had to go.

Neither minded the tears.  With each other, Jack and Daniel were always naked, not in clothing, but in emotions.  Nothing was so sacred that it couldn't be shared between them, especially after two decades together.  The openness of their terror wasn't weakening them; rather, it was turning into strength.  The touch of their bodies, the sharing of their minds, the oneness of their forever all combined to renew the power of their nation of two, only the nation had expanded to go beyond their love.  Indeed, they now had a nation of two plus brood plus zoo.  Cumulatively, that made for an incredible amount of courage and determination.

Still holding his Heart, Jack's focus returned.  He'd retreated to darkness for long enough.  It was time to rally and retake life.

“Danny, we've been through this.  Before we even met Kayla, we battered around the pros and cons.  We made a choice and dang it to Hades, it was the right one.”  The general pulled back, his brown eyes delving deep into his true love's eyes.  “We are not at fault here.  We've done nothing wrong, not you and not me.  We're human beings; we have a right to those kids, and no one is going to convince me that their lives have been a mistake.”

Daniel's mouth opened as his cerulean blue eyes searched his lover's for truth and clarity.  He'd been so overcome by guilt and fear that he'd lost sight of the good.

“You're right,” the archaeologist proclaimed as the axiom of his family regained its hold on his mental wellbeing.  “You and me, our children, the girls and the rest of the zoo: we belong together, and we ... we have a place here on this earth.”

“You're darn tootin' we do,” Jack averred from the very center of his soul.

“Okay, so we've had our moment of ... doubt.  Now what?”

“Now we get our sons back,” the older man answered.  “I'm gonna call Landry; see if he has any personnel to spare.”

“Jack,” Daniel called out to his exiting husband.

“Yeah?”

“Ask him to recall SG-2.  I'd feel better if Lou was around to help.  Maybe they're just on a standard recon or something.”

“Or something,” Jack echoed with a slight smile.  “I'll be in my study.”

Daniel sighed, closing his eyes in the process.  He'd been so consumed with guilt that he'd almost given up, but then the center most truth of his soul grabbed hold of his despair.

**You're my lodestar, Jack, and I love you so very much,** the archaeologist communicated through the couple's very unusual and still not understood ability to 'talk' in their minds.  ~Don't want to dissect the why and how of it; I just love being able to do this.~

On the stairs leading to the living room, Jack smiled and replied, **I love it when you talk astronomy.**

**When our sons are back, we'll talk about the stars all night long.**

**You've got yourself a deal, Angel.  I love you.**

====

“Sir, Daniel, I'm sorry it took so long,” Sam apologized as she entered through the patio door.  “I finally got a hold of Janet.  She's watching my kids.  Teal'c's off-world.”

“Not for much longer,” Jack replied.  “Landry's doing his best to get our team together, but it may take awhile.”  He smiled slightly as he acknowledged Sam's presence.  “Thanks, Carter.”

“I'm glad you're here, Sam,” Daniel stated, accepting a hug from his friend.

“Where's the brood?”

“In the projects room,” Jack answered.

“Pretend distraction,” Daniel explained.  “We suggested they make cards or something to welcome home their brothers and they pretended to agree it was a great idea.”

“In other words, they're giving us room to plan,” Jack clarified.  ~Our brood is way too perceptive.  Dang.  That comes from being in these situations way too often.~

“Are you going to call the police?”

The lovers exchanged a glance that reaffirmed the decision they'd made just five minutes before Sam's appearance at their home.

“We're going to give it twenty-four hours,” Jack responded.  “If we don't have them back by then, we'll call them.”

“Sam, what about Pete?” Daniel asked about the woman's husband.

“He knows I'm here until we bring Jonny and Little Danny home.  He's checking to see if he can get a couple of days off, *if* needed.”

“Good,” Jack acknowledged.

“Where do we start?”

“I need to tell you about Strudel, and then you do what you do,” Jack sighed.  “Have a seat.”  He looked at Daniel and suggested, “Danny, maybe you'd better make sure the kids are secure in the projects room.”

“Yeah.”  Agreeing that it would be best for the children not to hear any of the facts surrounding the Middle East operation that was believed to be behind the abduction of Jonny and Little Danny, Daniel nodded and told Sam, “I'll be back in a couple of minutes.”

====

An hour later, Jack and Daniel were in the general's truck, heading for a townhouse located in a nearby community.

“I'm glad they offered,” Daniel remarked about Colonels Paul Davis and Marc Reynolds, who had extended an invitation to use their townhouse as a command center of sorts upon hearing about the kidnapping.

“The kids don't need a parade passing through the house,” Jack agreed as the vehicle came to a halt at a stop sign.  Waiting for adjacent traffic to pass, he added, “At least Cassie and Dom are out of town right now.”  He looked at his husband and asked, “Did you reach them?”

“Yes.  Cassie hasn't noticed anything strange, but she said they'd be on alert, just in case.”

“Did you get someone?”

“What?” Jack questioned as he engaged the accelerator pedal.

“To watch Cassie and her family?”

Jack let out a tiny snort at the assumption, but then confirmed, “Yeah.  They're covered.  I already had a call confirming that a man is en route; he should be on site in a few hours.”

“Okay,” Daniel replied, hoping the Luca family could enjoy their Italian vacation in peace.  “What about Sara and Mark?”

“One on the house, one on Sara and Maddie, and one on Angie.”

“Oh, crap,” Daniel expressed.  “She's at Mike's this week.”

“I called him,” Jack advised his lover.  With a smirk at the deception, he expounded, “His *old friend*, John, is in town for a day or two.”

“Hard to hide at a ranch,” Daniel returned.  “Did you talk to Sara?”

“No.  I called, but she didn't answer, so I just had the men placed.”  Jack let out an unpleasant groan.  “Lousy time for Mark to be on a business trip.”

“Maybe we should call him.”

“Danny, that man has sacrificed his career for us.  He's meeting with the big wigs of his company.  I don't want to pull him away from that because if I call, he'll leave.”

Daniel nodded, unable to disagree with anything Jack had said.  He could never repay Mark Wilson for all that he'd done for the Jackson-O'Neill family.

“But you did put a man on Mark?” Daniel queried.

“That's affirm,” the general responded quickly.

“Jack, what if Sara spots the men?”

“She probably will, but she won't say anything,” Jack stated confidently. ~Funny Face isn't a tough cookie for nothing.~

“You don't think so?”

With a bit of a covert smile, Jack replied, “I left her a message on her voicemail.”

“You did?”

“I did.”

“Okay, so, uh, what was the message?”

“Me and my shadow left you shadows.  Silence is golden.”

“You think that's enough?” Daniel questioned.

“Until I can get her alone, that's enough.  Sara's smart; she'll understand.”

There was a minute of quiet before a subdued Daniel inquired, “Jack, do you think they're scared?”

The question caught the silver-haired man unprepared.  He was more centered on retrieval than worrying about emotions.

“Probably not.”

“That's what I'm afraid of,” Daniel admitted.

“They're okay, Daniel.”

“I ... I hope so.”

====

In some unknown place, standing with his hands on his hips, Jonny frowned as he stared at the locked door.

“I bet we could break it,” the sandy-haired boy stated encouragingly.

“It's too thick, Jonny,” Little Danny refuted as he leaned against the wall while sitting on the floor.  “I saw when they locked us in.”

~He's right.~  Jonny walked around the room for a minute and then centered in on the window.  A few seconds of thought later, he suggested, “Maybe we could get out that way.”

Little Danny reviewed the situation and with an inner conviction replied, “Okay.  I know what we can do.  You get on my shoulders, knock out the window, and climb through.”

“That'll work, and then ...”  Jonny stopped talking.  He turned and, putting his hands on his hips once again, chastised, “I'm not leaving you here alone.”

“You could run and get help.”

“Not gonna happen.  We stay together.”

Little Danny smiled.  He hadn't really thought his brother would go for his idea, but he had to try.

“We could jump him,” Jonny suggested, talking about the man who had been guarding them since the abduction.

“That man is too big,” Little Danny negated, rubbing his sore shoulder a bit.

“Does it hurt very much?” the slightly older boy inquired with concern.

“Not really, but he's too big, Jonny, even using Chuk'ga,” the child prodigy opined, his reference to an alien defensive technique Teal'c had taught the brood over the years.  “Jonny, let's try.”

“Okay.”

Jonny sat down in front of his brother.  They joined hands, closed their eyes, and began to think as hard as they could.

~Ash.  Ash.  Ash.~

The name was repeated multiple times in the boys' minds, each trying desperately to use the connection of being triplets to reach their sister.  It's not that they had the same power of communication as their parents, but as triplets, there was a bond between the three where they could sometimes feel or sense what was happening with one another.  That's what the boys were hoping for now, to be able to send their sister a message that they were alive and okay.

“I don't feel her,” Jonny griped as he let go of his brother's hands and stood up survey the room further.

“We'll try again later,” Little Danny proposed.

Jonny simply nodded as he searched for a way out of captivity.

====

“General, Daniel, come in,” Paul Davis greeted.  It was Davis and his life partner, Marc Reynolds, who had offered their townhouse as a meeting place for the team that would be searching for the kidnapped youngsters.  “Colonel Ferretti and some others arrived a few minutes ago.”

“Thanks, Paul,” Daniel replied appreciatively as he followed Jack into the living room.

“Jack,” Lou called out.  “What's the story?”

“Let's wait for everyone to arrive,” Jack responded.  “Carter had some preparations to complete.  She should be here in about twenty minutes.”

“Grace,” Daniel acknowledged.  “Thank you for coming.”

“I'm always willing to help you, Daniel.  All you have to do is call, and I'm glad you did,” Lieutenant Colonel Grace Satterfield replied.

Daniel gave the woman a grateful smile.  Satterfield's crush on the archaeologist when proving herself as an SGC recruit had become legendary.  That was years ago, though, and in the time since, she'd proven herself to be a capable officer.  She became team leader of SG-24 in 2009, and in 2013, she was appointed to assist Teal'c and others with the training of new recruits as well.  She'd also become a friend of the Jackson-O'Neills.

A knock on the door pulled Paul away.  It would take another half hour for everyone to arrive, and it was a diverse group that would ultimately devise a plan for finding and returning the boys to safety.  The last one to arrive was perhaps the most surprising.

“General Landry,” Reynolds called out as he and several other SGC personnel snapped to attention.

“At ease,” Landry stated, crossing the threshold of the townhouse.

“Hank, I didn't know you'd be here,” Jack stated while shaking the current commander of Stargate Command's hand.

“It's a funny thing, Jack, but the little general and his number one co-conspirator have grown on me over the years.  I want to help,” the general confessed with a kind smile.  ~No one is going to mess with my ... I mean *our* SGC family.~

“Who's minding the store?”

“Walter.”

“Walter?” Jack, Daniel, and about five others all questioned at the same time.

A moment later, Jack chuckled, “Good choice.”

“Are we all here?” Landry asked, looking around the room and seeing plenty of Cheyenne Mountain personnel along with several others he didn't know.

“Indeed,” Teal'c replied.

“Fill us in, Jack,” Landry ordered.

====

“Leave ... him ... alone!” Little Danny grunted as he tried to pull his brother away from the abductor who had entered the room a minute ago and begun to pull the boy away.

“Back off, kid,” the man replied, pushing Little Danny so hard that the boy flew through the air several feet and landed with a hard thud.

“Hey!” Jonny objected, biting the man's arm and thus gaining his freedom.  Immediately, he ran over to check on his brother.  “You okay?”

“My butt hurts,” Little Danny whined as he sat up and bent back to rub his rear end.

“You're coming with me, kid,” the big man told Jonny, looking menacingly at the older Munchkin.

“No, he's not, not alone anyway,” Little Danny argued, getting up and standing in front of his brother.

“Okay, I'll take you.”

“Not without me,” Jonny insisted, his hand pulling his brother back behind him.

“Fine.  I wanted you anyway.”

“Can't have him,” Little Danny responded as he once again stood out front.

“Case, what's taking so long?” a voice from outside the room shouted.

“Kid's being uncooperative.”

“Leave him for now; we're behind schedule.”

Grunting and sneering at the boys, the big man named Case turned and left the room, locking the door behind him.

“That was close,” Jonny stated as he automatically headed for the door to ensure that it was locked or perhaps not.

“Jonny, we *have* to get out of here.”

“I wish they hadn't found our cell phone.”

“There's one on the table.”

“Huh?”

“When the door was open, I saw a cell phone on the table,” Little Danny advised his fellow Munchkin.  “We could use their phone to call home.”

Commotion from outside the room drew the boys to the door.  They put their ears to the thick wood and tried to hear what was happening.

Whispering, Jonny spoke, “They're leaving.”

“Big man is,” Little Danny corrected from what he'd just heard.

Shaking his head, Jonny returned, “Na-huh.  I think they're both going.”

“They're coming again!”

The boys ran to the far side of the room and waited for what would happen next.

====

Forty-five minutes later, SGC personnel had divided up into teams of two.  Armed with a flyer that contained photos of Jonny and Little Danny, they were scouring Colorado Springs looking for any sign of the missing children.  Meanwhile, Sam had a team working on the computers.  They were searching for information on the three assumed survivors from Operation Strudel.

Jack's operatives had their own methods.  While a couple of them had attended the meeting at the townhouse, most were keeping in touch strictly with Jack over the phone.

“Carlton, those are my kids out there.  I don't friggin' care about your roadblocks.  Do whatever it takes and find my kids.”

Jack disconnected the call, frustrated at the lack of progress the group was having.  So far, the only ones to have seen the men involved in the abduction were Marjorie, Naomi, and young Sabrina.

“Crap!”  Jack picked up the phone and called Walter Davis, ordering him to send personnel to the two homes.  “Make sure they stay there until relieved.  Look, these people know nothing about the Stargate, but they're my neighbors.  I don't want them alarmed.  Tell the team to make like the grass.”

“Sir?” came the confused response from the sergeant.

“They can't be seen.”

Making sure the Twain and Reynolds families were protected, something he lamented at not having done earlier in the day, Jack walked back inside the townhouse.

“Any luck, Carter?”

“Nothing yet, General,” Sam sighed.  “We're being blocked.  There's no reference to the operation anywhere that I can find.”

“Why would they wipe it off the books?” Daniel questioned.

“It's there; it's just buried.”

“Try ... pastry,” the linguist suggested.  Seeing the doubtful looks coming from all directions, he explained, “Well, strudel is pastry, and they had those hubcaps with pastry on them, so maybe they buried it with a synonym.  I mean, who would need the information except for someone involved in the operation, right?”

“Check it,” Jack ordered.  ~He may not be Special Ops, but he can think like one when he wants to.~

With an amused chuckle, Sam advised the group, “We've got it.  Operation Strudel.  The plan was devised by ... a General Marquez.”

“Marquez?” Jack questioned.  “Donaldson was in charge of Strudel.  Todd Donaldson.  He's the one who recruited me for the mission.”  Walking over to stare at the monitor his 2IC was reading from, he maintained, “Who the heck is Marquez?”

Seeing Jack's unspoken inquiry, Landry advised, “Never heard of him, Jack.”

“Hank, do me a favor and call Hammond.  See if he's heard of this guy.”

“He's at our house,” Daniel pointed out.  With a smile, he told Landry, “He's babysitting the brood.”

Momentarily amused, Landry quipped, “I'd love to see George playing grandpa one of these days.”

“Deal,” Jack responded.  “We'll do dinner one night ...” he paused as reality bounced back into his mind, “... once the boys are home.”

Sobered, Landry drew out his cell phone and walked to a quieter part of the townhouse to make the call.

From a computer on the other side of the table, SGC technical sergeant Laura Bates revealed, “General Juan Marquez.  Born in New Mexico 1936.  Graduated from Duke University and joined the Army right after that.”

“Army?” Paul Davis queried.

“That's what it says,” Bates confirmed.

“Something's not right here.  The Army reference shouldn't be there.  He couldn't be Army,” Davis negated.

“The file's been tampered with,” Sam reported.

“Who would do that?” Daniel inquired.

“The men who kidnapped our sons,” Jack answered.

“Sam, I have the names of General O'Neill's team,” Grace reported, her fingers still typing out information.

“I could have told you that,” Jack responded.

“Yes, Sir, but we need to check them out,” Sam stated somewhat reluctantly as she called up the information Grace had found.

“Check them out?”

“Jack, she's doing her job,” Daniel interjected.

“That's my team,” Jack argued defensively.

“It was your team, but did you know them before the mission?” the archaeologist questioned.

“Go ahead,” Jack permitted, rubbing his neck with his right hand and walking away.  ~If it's one of them, I'll kill them with my bare hands.~

Daniel watched his lover carefully.  He could feel the anger raging within him, but he also knew that right now they needed to remain calm.  This was the most success they'd had yet.  They had to check out every possibility, even the ones that were the most distasteful.

====

Case picked up Jonny as if he were a flea to be flicked away.  The Munchkin, who was tall for his age, fought back.

Little Danny charged forward, but a second man blocked his path.  This man was smaller in height, weight, and girth.  The middle triplet was charged full of adrenaline and determined not to be separated from his brother.  Invoking every bit of information he'd learned about defensive skills over the years, he pulled himself back from the man.  Then when the upset villain approached, Little Danny reached out, took hold of his hand, and tossed him over his shoulder.

Looking back, Case snickered, “You're a wimp, Mack.”

Case's distraction allowed Jonny to swing his leg up and actually smack the man in the face.  This caused the Munchkin to be tossed violently away from his attacker.

“Ow!” Jonny whined when he landed on the floor.  ~No pain; not now: this is a battle.~

The Munchkin called out to Little Danny, and the two made a break for it.  They ran into the other room, grabbed the cell phone, and looked for the exit.  Just as they reached for the knob, Case grabbed Little Danny and swatted him hard, sending him sailing down onto the bare floor.  He reached for Jonny, hitting him in the face and knocking him down.  The sound of a thud could be heard as the boy fell onto the floor, landing next to a chair.

“You kids are dead.  I only need to keep you alive for a few more hours, and then you're toast.”

“This one's mine,” Mack stated as he kicked Little Danny in the abdomen.

Suddenly, Mack's phone rang, distracting the two men.

In pain and wanting to cry but yet refusing to do so, the middle Munchkin curled up into a ball.  Jonny knew they were on borrowed time now.  He flipped open the phone, took a quick moment to acquaint himself with the strange interface, and dialed his home phone number.  He couldn't risk saying anything, so he made sure the volume was as low as possible.  Seeing the big man start to turn around, he quickly pushed the cell phone beneath the chair.

Quickly, Jonny stood up and shouted as loudly as he could, “*You're a bad man, Case, and you, too, Mack.  You're gonna be sorry for hurting us.  We won't be dead in a few hours, but I bet you will be.*”

“Whatever you say, kid,” Case replied as he stared down at Jonny, who moved casually away from the chair.

“Little Danny, are you hurt?” Jonny asked, his voice louder than normal.

“What does it matter?” Case sneered.  He looked at Mack and asked, “What did he say?”

“He wants that one.”

====

A few minutes ago at the Jackson-O'Neill residence, Jennifer and Jeff were doing their best to keep their siblings' spirits hopeful.  Surrounded by several members of their zoo, the brood was in the rec room, some seated on the floor pillows, others on the sofa, while a few were just wandering around the large room.

Aislinn, sandwiched by Chenoa and Ricky on one of the pillows, was staring down at a book, though she hadn't read a word.

Standing by the doorway that separated the room from the kitchen, Jennifer stood with her grandfather, the two chatting about how to keep the children occupied.

“No!”  Standing up as if yanked up by a crane, Aislinn screamed again.  “No!”

“Ash, what's wrong?” Ricky asked, reaching out to hold her hand.

“I ...”

“Aislinn,” Hammond called out as he approached.

“Grandpa, they're hurt.  I feel it.  Those men are hurting my brothers,” Aislinn cried as she leaned into the firm support of the bald-headed man.

“Your fathers will find them,” Hammond comforted, rubbing his granddaughter's back in an effort to calm her down.

Her arms still around this man she loved, Aislinn leaned her head back as she looked up and asked, “Are you afraid, Grandpa?  I am.  I'm so afraid.  Are you?”

A little too old to kneel down, Hammond went over to the sofa and sat down.  He patted the spot next to him, which Aislinn immediately took occupancy of.  Chenoa and Lulu stood directly in front of the lieutenant general with the others in a semi-circle behind them.  Jennifer and Jeff stood behind the sofa, keeping a close eye on the younger ones.  They'd been through family traumas before, and it was up to them to look for signs of need or more emotional upset by any of their brothers and sisters.

“Ash, of course, I'm scared, as are your fathers.  Being scared is healthy.  It's smart.”

“Dad says that sometimes,” Ricky reminded everyone.

“He knows,” Hammond asserted.

“Knows what?” Jenny questioned.

“That being afraid makes you notice more.  It arms our senses.  When you're in combat, you have to notice every sound and every movement.  Fear enhances those senses.”

“I know they're hurt,” Aislinn sniffled.  “We feel things about the others lots.”

“Like Jenny and me,” Ricky pointed out.

“'Cause we're Spitfires, just us, together,” Jenny stated proudly, smiling at her brother.

“There are studies that talk about that,” David interjected.  “Ash could be ...”

“David,” Jennifer warned, her look suggesting it was best for him not to continue.

“It's okay, Jen,” Lulu responded on behalf of the younger children.  “We all know already.”

“I guess you're right,” Jennifer sighed.  “It's just ... come on, brood.  We've been through a lot already.  We know never to assume and that there are always possibilities.  Jonny and Little Danny are fighters, and they're resourceful.  Okay, maybe they fell or were ... slapped, or something.  That's what Ash is feeling, nothing more than that.”

“I can't tell you children how many times I thought I'd lost SG-1 in battle.  Certain death: so many times, but your fathers always found a way home, and I am equally confident that Jonny and Little Danny, even at their young tender ages, have the ability to do the same thing,” Hammond claimed.  ~Now don't make me out to be a liar to my grandchildren,~ he requested of his personal deity.

“Woof!” Bijou requested, needing to make a trip outside.

With the house on lockdown, the beagles' dog door had been secured.

“I'll do it, Jen,” Jeff volunteered.

When Jeff and the beagles reached the living room, Aislinn sprung up again.  She breathed heavily as her mind tried to process what she was feeling.

“Ash, what now?” Jenny asked, her heart beating extra fast with worry.

“I think ... they're hurt, but they're ... um ... fast ... something fast.”  Aislinn turned to her grandfather and said, “I think they're trying to escape.  I feel ... like ... Grandpa, they're scared, but they're moving.  I don't know how I know that, but I do.”

Hammond stood, looked at the brood, and ordered, “I want you all to stay right here.”  He walked to the kitchen with Jennifer at his side.  Quietly, he told the young woman, “I'm going to call your dad.  Keep them in here.”

“Okay, Grandpa.”

The Air Force retiree glanced over at Jeff as the college student kept a watchful eye on the beloved canines while also glancing around the backyard to ensure that nothing was out of place.  Just as Hammond was going to pick up the phone, it rang.

In spite of Hammond's orders to Jennifer, the entire brood ran into the living room, all looking hopefully to their grandfather for good news.

~Like fathers, like children: don't know how to follow orders,~ Hammond thought warily.  He picked up the phone and started to say 'hello' when he heard a boy yelling.  “Jonny?”

The children gasped.

“Please be him,” Aislinn whispered in prayer.

The brood joined hands.  It was an automatic move, one that Jeff joined in on a second later after returning inside with the beagles and turning the alarm system back on.

Hammond glanced down at the monitor, wanting visual confirmation that the conversation was being recorded.  Sam had set it up earlier before going to the townhouse.

Hearing the men in the room, Hammond motioned for the brood to shush.  He had no way of knowing whether the men on the other end could hear him or not.  The urgency in his eyes spoke loudly.  He waved towards the kitchen, his hand making a sweeping motion for them to leave the room.

“Gran...”

Hammond reached down, putting his hand over Ricky's mouth.  Sternly, he shook his head.  Then he mouthed for Jennifer and Jeff to get the children out of the room.  As the children nervously and anxiously returned to the rec room, the general continued to listen.  He could hear movement.

Seconds later, Jennifer returned to the living room.  She stared intently at her grandfather and mouthed, “Call Dad?”

Hearing scuffling noises, Hammond nodded, his ear pressed to the phone.  There was another shout.

--

“*You're going to lock us up in this room again, aren't you?*” Jonny accused harshly.

A man's voice replied, “Kid, you're asking for it.  Stop shouting in my ear.”

“*I like to shout.  Dad said shouting's good.*”

“Get in there!” the man ordered.

“Hey, where's the third guy who drove the car?  How come he's not here?” Jonny asked, though not shouting at this point.

“Kid, if you don't get in there, I'm gonna throw you in,” the man threatened, taking a step towards Jonny to make his point.

“I liked that car.  Black's my favorite color, and we like Chevy's.  Was it a rental?”

Suddenly, Jonny cried out, the result of him being shoved back into a table.

Hammond heard a door slam and then more voices.

--

“Why was he shouting?”

“How the heck do I know?”

There was silence for a second and then Case asked, “Where's my phone?”

“I'm not your keeper, Case.”

“I left it right there,” Case stated, a little panicked as he patted his pockets.  Then the light of reality dawned.  “That kid took it.”

--

Jennifer retrieved her cell phone from her purse upstairs.  By the time she made it back to the living room, things had taken a dramatic turn for the worse.

--

“It's not on them or in the room.  Maybe you lost it,” Mack challenged.

“It's gotta be in here.  Help me look.”

Suddenly, Case saw his phone.  Angered and feeling wicked, he picked up the phone, holding it out towards Mack.  The phone was open, and he could tell a call was in process.

With a sneer, Case threatened, “The kid just sealed his fate.  He's dead.”

--

The retired general heard a noise and then a loud smash.  Nothing but static followed.

“Never mind,” Hammond sighed.

“What happened, Grandpa?”

“My best guess is that they destroyed the phone.”  With the call disconnected, Hammond placed a call of his own.  “Jack, it's Hammond.”

--

“Why'd you do that?” Mack questioned.

“Hey, I'm no dummy,” Case responded.  “They can track my phone.”

“Dummy!”

“Stop saying that, Mack!”

“Why'd you bring your own phone on a job?  You're a dummy, dummy!  You should have brought a throwaway one, like this,” Mack chastised as he held out his temporary phone.

Case just shrugged and mumbled, “I'm hungry.”

====

“Jack?” Daniel questioned when his lover disconnected the call.

“Chips off the ole blocks, Danny,” Jack boasted.

“Are they okay?”

Jack's smiled faded.  He hadn't meant to mislead his husband.  It was just that he felt proud at the boys' refusal to give in and their ability to do something that allowed them to get a call out.

“Sorry,” the general sighed.  “One of the boys managed to get a cell phone.  No, they didn't call, exactly.”

Jack explained the situation to his lover.

“Jack, you keep saying ... Jonny said this and Jonny said that.  Where was Little Danny?  I mean, Jonny said something about him being hurt.  Didn't General Hammond hear him at all?”

Reluctantly, Jack shook his head, indicating a negative response.

His arms in a self-hug, Daniel turned around and walked away from the group.  His heart ached in despair and concern about the middle Munchkin.

Jack looked over at Sam and her team and asked, “What about the fingerprints?”

“Pete's running them.  We should have the results anytime now.”  Seeing the intensity of her CO's glare, Sam stated, “I'll give him a call.”

“Good idea.”

====

“Colonel, what's the next grid?” Major Bruce Pittman inquired as he started the car after the two had completed searching their last assigned area of Stratmoor Hills.

“We need to make our way to the Cameron Hills area,” Reynolds answered, checking his tablet computer to ensure they were still to head in the direction of southeast Colorado Springs.  “Let's check out the vicinity around Apollo Park first.”

Apollo Park was within walking distance of the World Arena, a prime entertainment and sports complex.

Reynolds heard a brief laugh coming from the major and inquired, “What's funny?”

“Tracey committed herself to work at one of those fan conventions today.  That's why she's not helping yet.  She's obligated to be there for a couple of hours.  After that, she's going to meet up with us to help with the search.”

“Fan convention?”

Thinking about his wife, the former Tracey O'Connor, Pittman laughed, “Wormhole X-Treme: she loves that show.”

“You're kidding?” Reynolds reputed in disbelief.  ~I hated that show.~

“She thinks Colonel Danning and Doctor Levant are hot.”

“Do General O'Neill and Doctor Jackson know that?”

“Sir, there's a whole contingency of Wormhole X-Treme lovers on the base; they just don't admit it while on duty.”  Pittman paused for a second before adding, “And I don't think this is the right time to tell the general and Doctor Jackson about it.”

Reynolds nodded and went back to reviewing a map of the area on the tablet.

====

The fingerprints on the boys' cell phone had gotten the investigators nowhere since there were only a few smudges and no usable prints on the phone.

“Thanks.”  Jack sighed, “Marquez doesn't exit.”  He saw the questioning stares and elaborated, “I trust my source.  It's a phony name.  We need to find Donaldson.”

“He's dead,” Sam called out, her eyes reviewing the data she'd just found on her computer.

“Can we trust it?” Daniel questioned.  “Can we trust *anything* we find on the computer?”

“That's why we double, even triple check everything,” Sam responded.  Suddenly, she sat up straighter and exclaimed, “I've got something.  They had this locked away, but ... yes, I have the names of Strudel's targets.”

Jack leaned over the blonde's shoulder and nodded while affirming, “Yeah, I think that's them.  Find them, Carter.  Three of them are alive.”

====

“Jonny, sit down,” Little Danny requested, a slight hitch to his voice as he sat on the floor with his back against the wall.

“Supposed to protect,” the oldest Munchkin groused to himself.

“Jonny!”

“Ooookay,” the boy relented, rejoining his injured brother.  “Danny, we hafta get out of here.  They're gonna kill us.”

“I know.”

“Where does it hurt?”

“My shoulder, but I'm okay.  Any ideas?”

“The window.”

“I'm not leaving you here alone.”

“We already decided that,” Jonny chastised.  “What can we stack up?”

Little Danny grinned at his brother and then the two began to look around the room to see what could help them reach their objective.  They needed objects to stack on stop of one another to help them climb up to the rather highly placed window and they needed something to break it, if necessary.

Two very young but sharp minds went to work.

====

“I don't understand this, Sam,” Grace stated.  “We've traced all three of the lieutenants.  They're all accounted for and there's no sign of any questionable activity after Strudel occurred.”

“It has to be phony,” Jack asserted.

“No, Sir,” Sam refuted.  “I've triple checked everything.  The Pentagon's original assessment was correct.  The lieutenants went underground for a while, but ever since they've resurfaced, they've stayed away from deviant activities.”

“We're missing something,” Daniel called out quietly.  He looked over at Jack and then paced the width of the room a couple of times.  “Sam, what about the others?”

“Daniel, they're dead,” Jack claimed, his voice brusque.

“What if they're not?” Daniel put forth with a shrug.  “Jack, you said yourself you didn't have time to check everyone.”

“I put a clip through Captain Crazy myself.  They're dead.”

“Daniel, if the rebel leader had survived, we'd know it,” Sam interjected, supporting Jack's assertion.

“Nothing,” Laura reported after checking on the dead.

“I'm not getting anything, either,” Grace confirmed.  “I've got death records on all three and ... Captain Crazy.”

“The records have to be fixed,” Jack insisted.  “They're just covering it up.”

“No,” Daniel argued, his mind working fast.  “Jack, they were having a party.  What if ... what if the person responsible for all of this *isn't* one of the rebels, but someone associated with the rebels?”

Jack stared at his husband, his heart tumbling as he thought about the possibilities.

“Daniel, I don't know who the guests were.  They weren't supposed to be there,” Jack stated, his voice a bit desperate knowing that this theory could be right and yet lead them nowhere.

“Hold on,” Sam interjected.  “Grace, Laura, look for any stories about the incident in local papers.  Maybe we can get some names.”

“I'll make a few phone calls,” Jack added, walking away to call Carlton.  ~If anyone can find out, it'll be him.~

====

“That's going to cost you, Jack,” Carlton responded after hearing the request.

“How much?”

“Add a couple of zeroes to my usual fee.”

“You don't get a dime until we get the person behind this.”

“I trust you, Jack.  I'll let you know where to send it.”

“We'll worry about that *after* I have the person who kidnapped my sons in my hands.”

“Whatever you say, Jack.”

“Jack?”

The general turned at the sound of his name and then put away his phone.

“This is going to cost us.  Any objections?”

“All I need are you, the brood, and the zoo.  You know that.  Nothing else matters,” Daniel replied.

“We're not going to be destitute, but we're going to have to put some serious cash together.”

“As long as Jonny and Little Danny get home, I don't care.”

“Danny, we have to get the person responsible, or they'll do it again.  We have to go all the way on this one.  Now, are you in, or do you want me to handle it on my own?”

“I want you ... to do what you always do.”

“I protect my family, all the way.”

“Exactly.”

Daniel turned around and returned to the living room to see what Sam and her team had uncovered, if anything.  Meanwhile, Jack made one more call.

====

Reynolds and Pittman had combed the area and were taking a last sweep around Apollo Park as they headed for the car to move on to the next destination.  In their hands was the flyer they were using to ask people about Jonny and Little Danny.  Each flyer had a recent photo taken of the boys on it.  It wasn't being distributed, but if anyone was interested, they were given a business card with Jack's and Daniel's names on it along with a phone number that belonged to a disposable phone, which would be discarded once the crisis was over.

“Ma'am, have you seen either of these boys?”

“Who are they?” the elderly woman asked, squinting at the photograph.

“Their names are Jonny and Little Danny.  Do they look familiar?” Reynolds questioned.

“I don't think so.”

Observing some hesitation in the woman, Pittman encouraged, “Ma'am, these boys were kidnapped this morning.  If you even think you might have seen them, please tell us.”

“Oh my word, how awful,” the woman lamented, a hand flying to her mouth as she reacted with surprise.  “We were headed out for a late breakfast, and there was a car stopped next to us at a stoplight.  There were two boys inside, and I thought they looked like they were fighting the man they were with.  I just dismissed it.”

“Where did this happen?”

“Let me think,” the woman requested as she backtracked her route that day.  While she thought, she stated casually, “Their parents must be beside themselves.”

“Any parent would be,” Reynolds responded.

After the woman told the team what she could remember, Pittman handed her one of the business cards.

“General Jack O'Neill and Doctor Daniel Jackson,” the woman sighed  “Two worried fathers, I'm sure.  I feel so bad for their wives.”

“Yes, Ma'am,” Reynolds responded, sharing a look with Pittman.  “I'll make the call,” he added, pulling out his cell phone to relay the information about the sighting to the team occupying his townhouse.

“Did you say Colonel O'Neill and Doctor Jackson?” a man asked as he approached Pittman.

Behind the inquiring man were three other men.  As he observed the four, Pittman thought they made an odd group.  The man who had spoken to him was somewhat meek and nerdy looking while the other three were more confident in their demeanor.  One actually cast off an air of superiority, a sort of quiet dominance.

“Actually, General O'Neill.”

“Oh, right.  I forgot he was promoted,” the man replied dismissively.  “Are they here?”

“No, but they're looking for their sons,” Pittman stated, holding out the flyer.

“I've been out of touch.  I didn't know they'd gotten married and had kids,” the man stated as he stared at the flyer, as did the three men, each getting a thorough look at the images.

“The boys have been kidnapped, Mister ...”

“Oh, Lloyd, Martin Lloyd.”

“I *knew* you looked familiar.”

“Yes, my head shots don't do me justice,” Lloyd responded.

“My wife, Tracey, she's working the con today.”

“There's a lot of people there,” Lloyd replied with a smile, referring to the location of the convention.

“Well, she loves your show and the movies,” Pittman praised.  “Mister Lloyd, have you seen the boys?  It's urgent we find them.”

“You said they've been kidnapped?”

“This morning, and their lives have been threatened.”  Pittman pulled out another of the business cards that had been printed at the townhouse prior to the teams' departures earlier in the day.  “If you do see them, please call this number.”

Pittman walked over to Reynolds, who had just ended his call, and the two headed swiftly for the car.  As they did so, Lloyd and the three men he was with finished their discussion.  Lloyd then returned to the convention site, while the other men returned from where they'd come.

====

Jonny and Little Danny were getting frustrated.  So far, every time they'd tried to escape, they'd failed.  The room they were in didn't have much in it, not even a bed.

“I don't think stacking the blankets is going to help, Jonny,” Little Danny sighed at his brother's latest attempt to build a ladder of some sort.

“I guess we need a new idea.”

“I'm thinking,”  Little Danny responded in exasperation.

“Think harder,” Jonny encouraged his brother.  ~What would Dad and Daddy do now?~

====

“Yes, I understand.  That's what you want for the blond one,” Mack replied over the phone.  “What about the other one?”  After the response, he smirked, “It'll be my pleasure.”

“Can we kill them now?” Case asked Mack, eager to finish the job for which he had been hired.

“Not yet.  We have one more thing to do first.”

====

Jack entered the abandoned building he'd been called to several minutes earlier.  Cautiously, he looked around.  The place had been a dry cleaners and some of the old equipment was still inside.

“Carlton?”

“I have a present for you, Jack,” the mysterious operative stated from the shadows.

When Jack turned around, a man was tossed in his direction.  The man dropped down to his knees.  It was obvious he'd already been beaten.  His lips were swollen, and his face bruised.

“Tell him,” Carlton ordered as he stepped up behind the man.  When the man said nothing, the operative whipped out his Glock 19 pistol and threatened, “Two seconds, or you're dead.  I'm tired.”

“Okay, okay,” the whimpering man agreed before spilling his guts with all he knew.

When Jack had the information, he took the gun from Carlton and kneeled down in front of the man.  His eyes were cold, and his heart stilled.

“If one hair is out of place on my sons' heads, I *personally* will rip your body apart, muscle by muscle.  Of course, I don't know how to do that without causing you a lot of pain.  Is there *anything* else I should know?”

“Baby,” the man mumbled.

“What about a baby?”

“I heard them say something about firstborns, but I don't know what it means.”

“Right,” Jack responded.  He stood and returned the Glock to Carlton.  “Thanks.”

As the general was walking away, Carlton called out, “Jack, what do you want me to do with him?”

Not saying a word or turning around, Jack just shrugged, raising his hands slightly in a 'whatever' response.

With a smile, Carlton bent over the man and said, “Bang, you're dead.”

“But ... but I told you everything,” the man stammered in disbelief.

“Anyone ever tell you that you picked the wrong business to be in?”

====

“Carter, got anything?” Jack questioned as he walked briskly into the townhouse.

“As a matter of fact, yes, Sir.”

Before Sam could say anything further, Jack flopped down a piece of paper and advised, “This is the description of the car: year, make, model, and color.  No license plate.”

“Grace,” Sam stated with a nod, sliding the paper to her to start to work on.

“What did you find out?” Jack queried again.

“This just came up,” Sam stated as she nodded towards her computer screen.

Daniel walked over to his husband's side, curious as to what had gone on during the secret meeting, but willing to wait a minute to find out what Sam had found out.

“There are mentions of members of the dead men's families.  We're trying to track down more, but it is something.”

“I still think we're missing something more,” Daniel opined.

“Look for children, anything connected to children,” Jack instructed and then nodded for his lover to walk with him away from the group.  “Danny, Carlton found the driver.”

“And?”

“And he didn't know much.  He and two others were hired for the kidnapping.  They've been on retainer for over two months.”

“Two months?”

“Waiting for the right time.”

“They've been watching us?” Daniel asked incredulously.  “Jack, I don't believe that's possible.  We're too careful, and so are the children.  We would have noticed something.”

“You're right, but that's what he said.  His part of the job was just to drive.  He doesn't know the other two; said he'd never seen them until yesterday when the order came down for the kidnapping to take place.”

“So, who's responsible and where did they take Jonny and Little Danny?”

“That's where it gets murky,” Jack replied.  “All he ever heard was a mechanical sounding voice.  His money always arrived at night.  He never saw who brought it.”

“Jack, *where* did he take them?” Daniel asked, his voice raised a tad.

Jack looked over his Love's shoulder to make sure no one was listening.  He wasn't ready as yet to make what he'd learned public.

“Bad news there.  He drove them to an auto shop and got out.”

“Got out?”

“I guess he was just along for part of the ride, long enough to allow the other two to abduct the kids and settle them down.  This guy drove to the auto shop, got out, and walked away without looking back.”

“So ... he ... he doesn't even know what direction they went.”

“Not a clue,” Jack confirmed.

“Jack, you said something about ... firstborns.  What does that mean?”

“The driver overheard a conversation.  That's all he remembered,” Jack sighed.

“Firstborn,” Daniel contemplated out loud.  He turned and began to pace, something he often did while working out a puzzle in his mind.  “First... bo...rn.  Gawd!  Jack!”

“What?”

“The woman.”

“What woman?”

“Firstborn: you said.  She's not dead,” Daniel explained, pacing furiously as his mind connected dots in rapid succession.

“Daniel, you're not making any ... Daniel!”

The archaeologist had sprinted into the living room again and was clearly excited about something.

“Sam, one of the party guests,” Daniel began.  He paused, swallowing hard as his mind tried to put together a sentence to explain his thought.  “Jack, you said there was a woman, a pregnant woman.”

“Yeah, best we could tell, she was Captain Crazy's ...” Jack stopped, grimacing from what his own mind was piecing together.

“His wife?”

“Wife, mistress, harlot,” Jack affirmed with a shrug.  ~Come on, Danny, I need more than a twig.~

“How pregnant was she?” Daniel examined, determined to get his idea considered.

“I ... seven, eight months,” Jack surmised as best he could from a thirty-plus-year-old memory.

“Don't you see?” Daniel asked the entire group.  “We've been looking for a man, but it's not a man, it's a woman, *that* woman.  Jack, she survived.  She saw you, maybe even heard your name.  That's the connection.”

“How?” Grace inquired, shaking her head from not making the connection.

“In the Middle East, there's a strong emphasis put on the firstborn child.”

“But they took both Jonny and Little Danny,” Laura interjected.

“And why not Ash?” Sam questioned.

“Ash is a girl.  Girls don't have status in those countries, but boys do, and we have triplets,” Daniel elucidated in a pained and exasperated voice, trying not to let his disagreement of this Middle East point of view affect his thought process.

“She doesn't know who was the firstborn,” Jack surmised.

“No, she doesn't, so she took both.”

There was silence for a moment.  It sounded almost too farfetched to be true, but then again, as employees of Cheyenne Mountain, this group knew that anything was possible.

“Jack, we need a name.”

“I don't know it, Danny,” Jack responded sadly.  “Gunfire and shouts.”

“It's in the shouts,” Daniel insisted.  Believing he was right, he had to take this to the next level.  “Sam, see what you can find out.”  Then he looked at their host and asked, “Paul, we need somewhere quiet.  Can we use one of the bedrooms?”

“Of course.”

Tapping his husband's arm, Daniel said, “Jack,” and headed for the stairs leading to the bedrooms.

Choosing the first bedroom on the left, the couple went inside and closed the door.

====

“Grrrrr!”

Bijou and Katie, both on high alert since the crisis had begun, both growled and ran to the front door.  At that precise moment, Jennifer happened to be walking down the hallway, returning to the living area from her bedroom where she'd been talking with her Aunt Sara for a few minutes.  Seeing the beagles' actions, she glanced out the window.

In a split second, Jennifer ran to the entranceway table and picked up the walkie talkie.

“This is Jennifer Jackson-O'Neill.  Get the man at our front door.  He just dropped something on the front porch.”  Releasing the button, she called out, “Grandpa!” as she ran to the security panel that was in the kitchen.  The panel, normally covered by a chalkboard used for messages and such, was already open due to the lockdown situation.  She pressed one button and then turned around when she heard Hammond enter.  “A man just dropped something on the porch.”

The walkie talkie sounded, “It's clear.  We have him and the package.  Open up the front door.”

“Kids, get back,” Hammond instructed.  “Bri, take them to the game room.”

“But ...”

“Brood, that's an order.  Move!”

It was rare for their grandfather to be so stern with them, so the children knew he was serious.  Reluctantly, Brianna and David ushered the younger ones out, while Jennifer and Jeff remained with the general.

Hammond opened the door, his stance demanding an instant report.

“General Hammond, Sir, we've detained the man,” Lieutenant Neil Adams announced, his head motioning towards the black SUV with tinted windows so that no one could see in.

“Take him to the Mountain.”

At that moment, the phone rang.

“That'll be Dad or Daddy,” Jennifer announced, knowing her fathers would respond promptly to the page she'd sent through the security panel.

“What about the package?”

“Heinker!” Adams called out.

“Here, Lieutenant,” Sergeant Heinker responded, a package in his hands.

“Grandpa, it's Dad,” Jennifer announced, handing Hammond the cordless phone.

“Jack, here's the situation.”

====

“Daniel, we have to go.”

“Both of us?”

“I think so,” Jack stated.  “Carter, her name was Sabirah.  That's what Captain Crazy called her just before she went down.  That's all I've got, so it has to be enough.”

“I'm on it,” Sam assured.

“It worked,” Jack told his lover as they grabbed their jackets.

“What did?”

“Taking me on that vision quest thing again.”

“It's just a matter of clearing your mind.  Jack, you're trained to notice everything.  Just because you can't call it up on a dime doesn't mean it's not there.  You just needed to clear your mind.”

“Not easy to do, not with my jumbled brain.”

As they walked to the truck, Jack and Daniel were overwhelmed with thoughts.  What was in the box, and what would it mean for their sons?

====

Case checked his watch.  Mack was overdue, and he was getting antsy.  He tapped his fingers on the table, nervously wondering what was happening.  Hungry, he reached for another slice of the pizza he'd had delivered a while ago.

Meanwhile, inside their room, Jonny and Little Danny were huddled together.

“Use all your thought power,” Jonny urged his brother.

“It *has* to work this time, Jonny.  We don't have a way out,” Little Danny stated sadly about their situation.  “We have to tell her where we are.”

“Think real hard,” Jonny encouraged as he closed his eyes.

Their hands tied together once again, the brothers began their silent mantra of, “Ash!  Ash!  Ash!”

====

“Open it,” Jack ordered.

A makeshift bomb tent had been rigged in front of the Jackson-O'Neill home.  Hearing the order, the detonation experts slowly began the process of opening the box.  It took an excruciating amount of time to the parents and Hammond, not to mention for Jennifer and Jeff who were watching from the front window.

“Hair,” the bomb expert stated.  “It's locks of hair.”

“Here's a note,” another of the bomb team advised, as he cautiously opened it.

Taking hold of the hair, Daniel nearly collapsed into the arms of his soulmate.  He was positive the hair belonged to the two boys  To think that the children had been violated by the involuntary hair cutting scared him, while also bringing back terrifying memories of Hathor and how his longer shag had been cut off by the Goa'uld, somewhat traumatizing him for a time.

Bracing Daniel up as they stood, Jack asked, “What does the note say?”

--

Inside the house, Jack's cell phone rang.  Due to the bomb, the phones had been placed on the table near the door.  Normally, Jennifer and Jeff wouldn't have answered it, but today, no call could go unanswered.

“General O'Neill's phone,” Jennifer answered, intentionally using just her older father's name because of the current situation and not knowing who the caller was.

“This is Bell at SGC.  I have urgent information for the general.”

“I'll get him,” Jeff told his sister as he hurried out the door.

“Please hold.”

--

“Jeff, I told you ...”

“Dad someone named Bell from SGC is on the phone,” Jeff interrupted.

“He took in the man who delivered the box, along with Heinker,” Adams advised.

Jack hurried towards the house and was met by Jennifer on the front porch.

Grabbing the phone, Jack spoke, “O'Neill.”

Jennifer listened, curious about all that was going on.  She watched as Jeff rejoined her, the two waiting.  Daniel was with Hammond, both still by the bomb tent.  The archaeologist had just placed the locks of hair into plastic bags which would be taken for DNA testing momentarily.

“*What?*  You ...”

Jennifer's and Jeff's faces both changed in the light of what they were hearing, a barrage of expletives such as they'd never heard before coming from their dad.

Daniel ran to  the porch to find out what was going on, with Hammond following close behind.

“Pack your bags; you're going to a hellhole somewhere,” Jack growled when he hung up to the phone.

“Jack, what happened?” Daniel asked with wide eyes.

“The man tried to escape, and Bell shot him.  He's dead.”

“He was our only lead,” Daniel responded.  “He could have told us where Jonny and Little Danny are.”

“No kidding?” Jack snapped angrily.  He looked at Jennifer and Jeff and snapped, “Get inside the house -- now!”

“We're not children, Dad,” Jennifer reminded.  ~He's just high-strung like the rest of us, but darn my ears are still ringing.~

“No, but your brothers and sisters are.  They need you.  Go, please,” Jack requested in a calmer voice.

Frustrated, the two young adults headed inside the house.

“Jen, Jeff,” Jack sighed, turning around just before they closed the door.  “I know you're not children.  The kids need you to set the example; and I'm ... at the edge of my rope.  I'm sorry.”

“It's okay, Dad.  We understand,” Jennifer replied with a smile.

When the door closed, Daniel stated, “Good save.”

“Barely,” Jack agreed.  “We need to get confirmation on the hair.”

“I don't understand all the threats,” Hammond interjected, thinking about this last note which again threatened the lives of the two boys and the previous phone call.  “What do they want?”

“Payback,” Jack sighed, looking at his husband.

====

“Sam, I found something,” Grace called out.  “Sending it over to you now.”

Seconds later, Sam opened the immigration file of Sabirah Masri, age fifty-five.  The file indicated she was a widow without children.  She'd gained admission to the United States five years ago.  Two years after that, she married a Texas millionaire.  Less than six months later, the millionaire died of natural causes.

“We need to find her.”

====

Inside the Jackson-O'Neill home, Aislinn sat beneath Muffin, the giant dinosaur that stood in one corner of the game room.  All of a sudden, she gasped, her eyes fluttering from what her heart was saying.

“Ash, wha...” Brianna began to ask.

“Quiet!” Aislinn exclaimed, raising up her hand to stop the query.  She closed her eyes and rocked back and forth a bit.  ~Jonny?  Little Danny?  Is that you?~  She waited, but there was nothing.  As hard as she could, she concentrated.  ~Where are you?  Where are you?  Where are you?  Where are you?~

====

Case was tired of waiting.  He had no way of contacting the person who had hired him.  Mack was the contact, and Mack had been gone for too long.

“I'm going to kill those brats and get out of here.”

--

Inside the room, Little Danny startled.

“Jonny,  I heard her ask where we are.”

“Me, too.  Think the street.”

When Case had ordered his pizza, the boys had been at the door listening.  They had overheard their location.

~87 Drenner Street.  87 Drenner Street.  87 Drenner Street.  87 Drenner Street.  87 Drenner Street.  87 Drenner Street.  87 Drenner Street.~

====

“Ash,” Jenny began.

“Jenny, be quiet.  Everyone be quiet,” Aislinn ordered harshly.

“Kids,” Brianna instructed, pulling the children back.  “Give her room.”

“The twins thing,” Jenny whispered, now understanding what was happening.

Suddenly, Aislinn stood and ran out of the room, shouting, “Dad!  Daddy!  Dad!  Daddy!”  Not finding them in the living room, she ran for the front door and opened it.  Before her parents could say anything, she shouted, “87 Drenner Street: that's where they are.”

“Ash, how do you know that?” Daniel asked as he suddenly had an arm full of Munchkin.

“They told me.  You have to hurry!”

“Okay, let's go,” Jack ordered, not doubting his daughter's instincts for a second.  “Sir ...”

“I'll get out the word.  Go!” Hammond commanded urgently.  ~Bring back our boys, Son.~

“Hurry!” Aislinn cried out.

“We will.  Please get back in the house,” Daniel ordered the youngest triplet, giving her a reassuring hug and then pushing her gently towards the house.

“Danny?”

“My car's faster.”  Seeing just a slight hesitation, Daniel reminded, “Jack, do you know how fast this car can go?”

“You're right.”

====

“There!” a man referred to as Bob exclaimed.

“Finally,” the leader of the three men called out.

“Okay, now what?” the third man asked.

“There's only one man inside,” the leader noted as he reviewed the sensors.  “Time to repay an old debt.”

====

Jonny and Little Danny bolted up when Case opened the door.  The look in his eye frightened the youngsters.  Holding hands again, they back up to the furthest wall.

A knife in his hand, Case walked deliberately forward as he asked, “Who wants to go first?”

“Stay away from us,” Jonny warned.

Little Danny tapped the palm of his brother's hand to get his attention.  He made a slight motion towards the open door.

“I'm going to enjoy this, you miserable brats.”

“Go!” Jonny shouted.

Little Danny charged for the door, as did Jonny.  With both boys running, Case could only catch one.

“I've got blondie here.  Open that door, and I'll slit his throat.”

“Go!” Jonny ordered.  “He's gonna kill us anyway!  Goooo!”

Little Danny couldn't leave his brother, no matter what the end result would mean.

“Little Danny, you should have gone,” Jonny groused.  ~Hafta keep you safe.~

“But we can't leave anyone behind, Jonny.  Isn't that the first rule?” the middle Munchkin asked emotionally.

“Get over here,” Case instructed harshly.  “You can watch.”

Little Danny's eyes filled with tears, while Jonny remained brave.  He would not shed a single tear in front of this monster.

“Brothers forever,” was all Jonny said.

“Forever in death,” Case sneered, raising his knife.

An odd sound was heard and then a swoosh through the air.  After that, there was a loud thud, the sound of Case landing on the floor.  Jonny rolled away and scrambled over to his brother.

“Who are you?” Little Danny asked the three men who had surprisingly entered the building.

“Friends of your fathers.”

Just then, the front door was kicked open.  Jack and Daniel, armed with pistols, led a team of SGC's elite that included Sam, Ferretti, Teal'c, and Reynolds inside.

“Jonny!  Little Danny!” Daniel shouted.

“They're in here,” the leader shouted.

“Dad!  Daddy!” the two boys exclaimed, running over for hugs and kisses.

Sam stared at the three men, saying, “We know you.”  She focused in and chortled, “Sir, this is Tanner.”

“Marty's ... friends,” Jack recollected, standing up with one hand on Jonny's shoulder.

Tanner walked forward and stated, “I told you that we wouldn't forget what you did for us when you let us go.  I hope this makes us even.”

Jack's mind replayed the last time he'd seen Tanner and his men.  It was on the set of Wormhole X-Treme.  The N.I.D. were hot on Tanner's trail.  Though Lloyd had decided to stay on Earth, content to live with the success, or not, of a science fiction TV and film career, Tanner and his two colleagues had only wanted to leave in peace.  At the last second, Jack had turned over the remote control device that controlled the alien spaceship belonging to Tanner's group.

“You officially owe me one,” Jack had told Tanner that day.

Tanner's response had been, “Thank you, Colonel.  We won't forget this,” and apparently, he'd meant it.

“Yeah, it does,” Jack agreed.  “Officially even.”

“How'd you know to come here?” Sam asked curiously.

“We have a device on our ship that allows us to search for people,” Tanner answered simply.

“How?” Jack asked.  “And how'd you know to look?”

“We saw him in the park,” Reynolds revealed.

“Yes, with Martin Lloyd,” Tanner confirmed.  “Don't worry ... General?”

“Little promotion,” Jack responded humbly.

“We were just here to check on Marty, make sure he was happy.  It was just a short visit.”

“Nice of you.  How'd you find our sons?”

With questioning eyes, the alien looked at Jonny and Little Danny.

“You can talk in front of them,” Daniel stated, still kneeling and holding on to both children.

Tanner explained that they had a device whereby they could put a headset on, recall something they'd seen, and then get a printout of the object.  After learning about the kidnapping in the park, he and his men had returned to the ship.  Bob had adorned the device, resulting in a photo printout that was within three percent accuracy.

After that, the photo was inputted in their sensors.  It was a slow process, the sensors searching all of Colorado Springs for human life signs that matched the images that had been fed into it.

“Once we located the boys, we beamed down and took him out.”

“About that ...”

“Tranquilizers.”

“That stuff you gave us?” Sam asked, motioning back at Daniel and then receiving a nod of affirmation.

“Now that we're even, we'll be on our way.”

“Uh, actually, Sir, I think we could use their help,” Sam interjected.  “Tanner, can we use that device?  Is it safe for us?”

“It's basic technology.  It should be.  Why, Major Carter?”

“Actually, I'm a colonel now.”  Sam's eyes widened, after which she muttered to herself, “Why do I keep doing that?”

“Because it's a proud achievement, any valid promotion is,” Jack opined, giving his 2IC a nod of encouragement.

“Thank you, Sir.”  Refocusing, Sam reported, “General, we found an immigration file on Sabirah.  She's in the United States.  There's no picture, but you've seen her.”

“Sam ...” Daniel objected.

“Oh, come on, Daniel.  I've connected my head to all kinds of alien mishmosh.  What's one more?”

“Teal'c, stay with them,” Daniel requested.

“Can't we go on the ship, Daddy?” Little Danny asked hopefully.

“Yeah,” an exited Jonny seconded.

“Pleeeeeease,” Little Danny pleaded, giving his younger father a bit of the pout.

“Jack?” Daniel asked, seeking out his lover's opinion.

“Do you mind?” Jack inquired of Tanner.

“Not at all, Col...General.”

====

Tanner had finished showing the imaging device to Sam, who examined it and declared, “It looks safe to me, Sir, but without testing ...”

“Let's get it done,” Jack interrupted.

“Just put it on,” Tanner instructed, handing the headset to Jack.

“Now what?”

“Think about the person you're trying to find.”

“Focus, Jack, but just on her, before ... you know.”

“Crap!”

Jack hadn't thought about the possibility of other memories spewing out on the paper or perhaps even the sight of the woman lying apparently dead on the floor.  He hadn't considered either situation, and the only reason he was worried now was that his two sons were present.

“Carter.”

“Understood,” Sam acknowledged.  “Jonny, Little Danny, I want you to stand over here with me.”

“But we want to see the picture come out,” Jonny whined.

“No arguments,” Daniel interjected.  “I want you to stay with Aunt Sam until I say otherwise.”

“Yes, Daddy,” Jonny stated, kicking his shoe against the alien ship.  “Hey, my foot bounced.”

“The ship is lined with a protective material,” Tanner stated.  He looked at Sam and advised, “The closest I can say is that it's like your rubber compound.”

“Focus, Jack.  Focus on Sabirah the first time you saw her, just in that moment.  She's standing, and you see her; you see her face.”

A minute later, a photograph printed.

“Well done, General,” Tanner complimented of the face shot that showed the clear image of a woman.

“Is that enough to find her?” Sam asked, having returned and noting the woman had a veil across her mouth and nose as was often the custom.

“Daddy?” Jonny called out anxiously, having been left on the other side of the ship.

The archaeologist nodded his permission, and the two boys ran over to stand next to him.

“It may take longer.  Do we start in Colorado Springs?” Tanner queried, getting the go ahead.

“Um, can I contact the team?” Sam asked.  “They might have come up with something to help us narrow the search.”

While Sam worked on that, Daniel took the opportunity to check the children over a little more closely.  He began to examine them and received a few grimaces from his namesake.

“It doesn't hurt that much,” Little Danny said bravely.

“Danny?”

“Jack, I think Janet or Sylvia needs to check them out right away,” Daniel advised.  “They've both got bruises and Little Danny is reacting to touch.”

“I'm fine, Dad,” Little Danny claimed.

“Oh, I've heard that before, from your daddy.  Carter, contact Fraiser.”

====

Late that night, Jack adjusted his P-90.  He nodded to Tanner, who pressed a button.  Within seconds, a special team that included the temporarily un-retired SG-1 as well as SG teams 2 and 3 beamed into a well guarded compound in rural Texas.

Sabirah had acquired loyal followers, something her inherited millions helped to achieve.  While some were from her homeland, most were hired American help.

Moving as silently and covertly as possible, the SG units searched the huge hacienda.  Beaming straight inside avoided setting off any alarms that might go off from movements on the grounds.  As Jack began the move upstairs, a shot rang out.

“Eleven o'clock,” Jack shouted about the direction of the shot.

As the hired help realized the hacienda had been invaded, a gun battle broke out.  It was bloody, the gunfighters being paid so much from Sabirah that they were willing to fight to the death, which most of them did.

Jack motioned for SG-2 and SG-3 to stay on the first level and for his team to go upstairs with him.  Just as he began, a stately woman appeared at the top of stairs.  She stared down at Jack, one hand holding on to the banister.  Her black eyes were cold, hardened by decades of hate.

The woman's dress was traditional for her birth country.  She wore a long red gown that was covered by a sheer lace, making the attire look dressy and sheik.  She also had on the typical Middle Eastern head dress which covered half her face.  On her hands were golden jewelry, bracelets that wrapped around her wrists and flowed down to form rings around three fingers.

Acting as if nothing unusual had happened, the woman descended the staircase until she reached Jack's position.

With a heavy accent, Sabirah spoke, “So, you have won again, General O'Neill.”

“Ansari was crazy,” Jack opined about the man referred to as Captain Crazy.

“He wanted what was due us,” the woman snapped, going down three steps further.  She stared at Daniel, an unseen sneer on her face as she spat, “You are perverted.  I should have killed you.”

Daniel didn't respond and just watched Sabirah step down to the lower level.  She walked among the dead, unfeeling about the loss of life.  She spun around, seeing Jack moving down to stand next to his husband.

“You weren't supposed to be there,” Jack told the woman.

“But we were.”

“Couldn't be helped,” came Jack's quick response.

“An eye for an eye,” Sabirah intoned in a calm, dry, monotone voice.

“Firstborn,” Daniel put forth evenly, drawing the woman's stare.

“He killed my unborn child,” the woman spat out with venom.

“I'm not the one who shot you,” Jack advised.  “In fact, it was one Ansari's people.  They fired at anything that moved.”

“But you were the leader, General.  If you had not been there, it would not have mattered.  *You* invaded our home then, just as you have entered my hacienda without invitation.”

“Lady, you tried to kill my sons.  You're lucky you're still standing there.”

“I did what it is my right to do.  It is written,” Sabirah proclaimed.  “You took all that mattered to me.  My Ansari, our child, my brother: all died because of you, General.”

“He had a warhead.”

“To get what was due us.”

“Lady, you're as crazy as he was.”

“Perhaps,” Sabirah responded as she casually walked over to the huge fireplace, its hearth as tall as she.  “I assume by your presence and what you have said that I have failed.”

The woman's back was still turned to Jack when he replied, “If you mean that Jonny and Little Danny are safe, you're right about that.”

Sabirah turned around and stated, “Then I suppose I will have to be satisfied with your death.”

It was a slow reaction as all members of the SG teams focused in on Sabirah more closely.

“Grenade!” Reynolds shouted.

“Take cover!” Jack yelled in full command tone.  In a flash, he fired, killing Sabirah.  ~You made me do that.~

The teams dove for safety, except for three men who sought to catch the grenade and somehow prevent more killings.  A fourth, Lieutenant Allgeier, a member of SG-3, was the only one not moving.

~Crap!~  Recognizing the man was paralyzed from fear, Jack altered his trajectory, pushing the young Marine off to the side.  “I've got it!”

Daniel looked over and shouted out, “Jack!  Jaaaaack!”

====

“Hi,” Daniel whispered softly as he stood by the hospital bed in which his lover rested.

Eyelids fluttered as the piercing hospital light stabbed into the general's brown eyes, making Jack groan in agony.

“Daniel, my head feels like a sledgehammer pounded it.”

“Close.  Grenade,” the archaeologist reminded, squeezing his soulmate's hand as they talked.  “I love you so much.  You scared me.”

“I'm a little fuzzy.”

“Sabirah had a grenade.”

Jack thought and recalled, “I shot her.”

“She would have been blown to bits in another few seconds.”

The event played back in fast forward motion for the general.  As it did so, his alarm grew.

“Danny, Carter?”

“She wasn't hurt.  There were some cuts and scrapes, but there was only one serious injury,” Daniel stated.

“You're not talking about me, are you?”

“You?  Babe, I'm so glad you have a hard head.  You have a concussion and a slight sprain of your right arm,” Daniel listed, grateful that was the extent of his husband's injuries.  ~It could have been so much worse.~

“I thought something else hurt,” Jack replied, wincing as he moved his right arm slightly.  Serious again, he asked, “Who was hurt?”

“Marc.  A piece of that fireplace fell on him along with a piece of shrapnel from the grenade: internal injuries.”

“Is he going to be okay?”

“I think so.  He's in surgery right now.”

“Davis?”

“He's on a plane now; he should be here before Marc's out of surgery.”

“I know what he's feeling right now,” Jack sighed in empathy.

“Me, too,” Daniel replied, gazing lovingly into his husband's eyes.

The couple were in a trance. So many times one or both of them had been injured and on death's bed, but somehow, they'd survived.  No matter what foe they'd faced and what health issue had arisen, life and their love had always won out.

“That dang attack by Apophis: Space Monkey,” Jack recalled, partially amused because of the significance of the event.

“Getting your head full of Ancient knowledge, not once, but twice,” Daniel returned.

“Swamp guy letting us think you were dead.”

With a bit of a smirk, Daniel backed away slightly and swayed his hips back and forth in a quick dance as he retaliated with, “Miss 'Eat My Marriage Cake'.”

“Ouch!”

The pair's brief stroll down memory pain lane was over, replaced by a sweet kiss that spoke more than words ever could.

“I love you, Angel.”

“So much, Jack,” Daniel whispered, leaning in for a softer and somewhat shorter kiss.

Finally taking a moment to look around, Jack realized that he didn't recognize his surroundings.

“Where are we?”

“San Antonio Military Medical Center, for another couple of hours anyway.  Then we're going home.”

“The kids still with Hammond?”

“Yeah.  Grandpa is telling them lots of stories and letting them eat lots of ice cream.”

“Bribery always works,” Jack teased until his chuckling caused his head to hurt.  “Ouch,” the general groaned.

With a smile, Daniel bent over and kissed his Love's forehead, as if that would alleviate the pain.

“They need the laughter, and they're laughing now that Jonny and Little Danny are home, safe and sound, and before you ask, the boys are fine.  Janet gave them the full treatment: a few bruises, some soreness from being tossed around, but that's all.  We were lucky ... again.”

Jack closed his eyes and sighed in gratitude.

“Hey, what about our ... friends from ...”

Jack opened his eyes a little wide, not feeling that the place was secure enough to be talking about aliens from another world.

“They said now you owe them one ... officially,” Daniel mused.  “Ah, actually, they were very helpful.  They took the boys, Sam, Lou, and some of the others home, and they got us here in a matter of minutes.”

“No one worried about their old man?”

“I told them you had a big headache.  You do, don't you?”

“Oh, yeah.”

“We'll have a big reunion this afternoon, and we can tell them everything then,” Daniel said with a smile.  “Jack, what do you think about the Munchkins?  I mean, that thing with Ash.”

“Danny, we communicate without talking all the time.  Maybe it's in the genes,” Jack joked.

“Maybe, or maybe it's nothing.  Maybe it's just what normal sets of twins and triplets feel.  I've read about that.”

“Could be it,” Jack agreed.

“Or not,” Daniel laughed, yawning afterward.

“We owe Makepeace,” Jack stated a bit begrudgingly.  “Geez, I hate that.”

“But if he hadn't told you about Strudel, we wouldn't have known where to look,” Daniel noted.

“I still want to hate him.”

“He wanted the same thing we did; he just didn't want to do it our way.”

“The *right* way,” Jack put forth with an empathic nod.

“Yeah.”

A moment later, Jack observed, “That was one friggin' long day.”

“Long and dangerous,” the younger man agreed.  “Have I said that I love you?”

“I never tire of hearing it, and I love you, too, Angel.”

====

In his den the next afternoon, Jack was going through a debrief with Hammond, Landry, Ferretti, Teal'c, and, of course, Sam and Daniel.  The meeting was being recorded and would be transcribed for the official records later, at least as much could be considering that Operation Strudel was still classified.

“Sabirah probably hatched her plan years ago,” Sam stated.  “She waited until she could put her plan into action.”

“Patience,” Daniel spoke quietly.

“What?” Jack questioned.

“The name 'Sabirah; means patient,” the linguist explained.

“Indeed, she was very patient,” Teal'c agreed.

“We've contacted the coroner's office in Texas and given them appropriate information.  Duke Hollis, the man Sabirah married, had relatives.  If they can prove he was murdered and didn't die of natural causes, the relatives could stake a claim to his estate,” Sam put forth.

“So, Sabirah married Duke Hollis to get his money?” Daniel queried.

“Sounds logical,” Jack responded.

“From what was found in her records, she began searching for you as soon as she had control of the money, Sir,” Sam stated, looking at Jack.  “She finally tracked you down late last summer.”

“I don't get it.  If she knew where Jack was then, why didn't she try something sooner?” Lou asked.

“Firstborn,” Daniel stated.  “She didn't want Jack, she wanted his firstborn.  It took her a while to figure out who that was.”

“Daniel's right,” Sam reported.  “Killing General O'Neill didn't mean anything to her.  She'd lost her baby, her firstborn, and the only revenge she could live with was to take the firstborn of the man she held responsible for the death or her child.”

“He's already dead,” Jack surprised everyone by saying.  “Our son, Charlie.  I already know the hell she wanted me to feel.  I guess she didn't do her homework well enough.”

“Colonel Carter, what about Colonel Donaldson?” Landry asked.

“We figure Sabirah either coerced him into changing the records or he just went bad.”

“Aren't we going to find out?” Hammond inquired.

Sam bowed her head for a second before explaining, “Early this morning we got word that as Donaldson's home was being searched, he pulled out a handgun and killed himself.  Unless there's something there, we probably won't ever know for sure.”

“Okay, but how did she know about the play date at the Lancer's?” Daniel questioned with a confused look.

“Bugs,” Sam answered.

“Bugs?” Jack and Daniel echoed in unison.

“Mister Case has become quite cooperative,” Sam advised, glancing over at the Jaffa.

“I advised him that it was to his advantage to tell us everything he knew.” A bit smugly, Teal'c elaborated, “He prattled.”

“Way to go, T!” Jack exclaimed.

“So ... bugs?” Daniel prodded, getting them back on track.

“Daniel, they placed bugs in just about every home within four blocks of yours,” Sam revealed.  “We're having to go in with a cover story to remove them.”

“Pest control?” Jack guessed.  “I've seen a bunch of pest control trucks out my window since I've been home.”

Sam nodded and continued, “Sabirah had the bugs hidden inside the homes over a period of time.  Then it was just a matter of time.”

“Which is why those guys were on a two-month retainer,” Jack stated.

“Case didn't have communication with her, but the other man, Mack, told him that their employer was confident the abduction would be occurring soon,” Sam explained.  “She told them about the phone, ordering them to get rid of it as soon as they had possession of Jonny and Little Danny.”

“That's how she knew,” Jack began.  “The kids are out more, on their own.”

“Are we bugged?”

“Daniel, this house is more secure than the White House,” Sam retorted.  “That's why Sabirah put the bugs in the homes of your neighbors.  She had the calls monitored.  She heard the Lancers talking about the boys coming over.  She knew what day and what time it would happen.  That's how she had Mack on the sidewalk and Case and the driver right there.”

“She was definitely patient,” Daniel sighed.

“What's the scoop on Reynolds?” Ferretti queried.

“He's doing fine,” Landry answered.  “He's being transferred to the Academy hospital today.”

“Rumor has it, he'll be ready to lead his team again in a week or two at the latest,” Jack added, pleased that the colonel's injuries turned out to be less invasive than originally feared.

“We got off lucky, Jack, with just your bump and Reynolds' injuries,” Landry pronounced.

“I want to thank you, Hank, and all of you for jumping in,” Jack spoke with sincerity.

“You put yourselves on the line for us,” Daniel added.  “Thank you.”

“Okay, well, if we're done ...” Lou began, eager to get home in time for an Italian lunch.

“Not so fast, gentlemen,” Landry called out.  “Excuse me one second, George,” he said as he opened the door and stood center in the hallway.  With his loudest voice, he shouted, “*Little General Jonny, front and center!*”  He paused and added, “*Co-conspirator Little Danny, front and center!*”

The two boys ran through the house until they practically bumped into the major general.  Jonny stood at attention and saluted Landry, while Little Danny, though excited by the call, just rolled his eyes.

“We need your reports,” Landry informed the brothers, motioning to the door.

Jack and Daniel tried to conceal their grins.  Jonny was positively beaming at getting to be part of the official debriefing.  Even though he'd already had to tell everything, this was the one that counted to him.

====

That afternoon it was if though nothing unusual had ever happened over the past few days.  Jonny and Little Danny were playing normally, though the Munchkins as a group were staying pretty close together.

“They are amazing,” Jennifer remarked, surprising her parents when she walked up from behind.

“Yeah, all of you are,” Jack praised.  He leaned over and kissed his daughter.  “Jen, when I yelled ...”

“Dad, you already apologized.  Besides, you were worried about them.  I know that.”  Jennifer sighed as she stepped down one notch from the wooden patio deck on which her parents were standing.  “You've done a good job.”

“What do you mean?” Daniel queried.

“They didn't fall apart.  I know you're feeling guilty, but we are who we are, Daddy, and who we are ... well, we're the brood, the children of General Jack and Doctor Daniel Jackson-O'Neill.  Sometimes, life gets dangerous, but that means that we value every single day more than ever.  It means that we know the value of love and family much more than most.”  Jennifer smiled and looked over at her siblings.  “I hope we don't have to go through this again, but if we do,” she turned to look at her parents again, “we'll handle it, together.  We're your children; we're just like both of you.”

Jack and Daniel were speechless as they watched their oldest daughter run over to JD and pick him up.  They smiled as their youngest child giggled with delight.

“She's quite a woman, Jack.”

“She did everything right.  Did you know she talked to Sara?”

“No.”

“They had a coded conversation right in the middle of the mess.”  Jack sighed, “She is right, Angel.  You do know that?”

“Okay, I had a meltdown, but I don't regret any of them.  I wouldn't know what to do without them.”

“Me, either,” Jack replied, putting his arm around Daniel and pulling him close.

“Oh, Babe, Paul called earlier.  Marc's in the Springs.  We should get over there tomorrow.”

“Yeah, we owe them one.”

“A big one,” Daniel clarified.  Looking out at the joy filling the backyard, he sighed happily.  “Life is good, Babe; it's real good.”

“You got that right, Angel.  This is it.”

“Brood, pyramid!” Jonny instructed.

“Dad, Daddy, pyramid!” Chenoa called out encouragingly.

“No more leisure time for us,” the older man mused.

“All work and no play,” Daniel chimed, chuckling as he followed his husband off the patio and to the grass to watch the children form another pyramid, an event that was a tradition in the family.

Laughter was in abundance and happiness in the air as the Jackson-O'Neills enjoyed an afternoon of pure love and playfulness.  In spite of the dangerous day from earlier that week, life was definitely good in Colorado Springs.

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