Category: Slash, Drama, Established Relationship
Pairing: Jack/Daniel ... and it's all J/D
Season: Beyond the Series - December 2-16, 2013
Written: January 7-11, February 11,18, March 19, September 30, October 3-4, 2007 Revision Correction: February 4, 2009
Summary: The Jackson-O'Neills and their family of friends get a big surprise. Is their family about to grow ... again?
Disclaimer: Usual disclaimers -- not mine, wish they were, especially Daniel, and Jack, too, but they aren't. A gal can dream though!
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 past fic(s), “Noa Grows Up” and “The Bet”
4) Thanks to Ali and Karen for the insights into some of the technical parts of this story.
5) Thanks to my betas who always make my fics better: Linda, Claudia, Sara, Carol!
“How goes the baby hunt, Carter?”
Sam's eyes grew wider than they'd ever been as she turned her head to stare at her CO. They were at Cheyenne Mountain, and Sam had just pushed the 'call' button on the elevator after sliding her key card through the security pad.
“Sir, with all due respect, Pete and I are *not* hunting babies. We're researching the possibility of adopting a child from overseas.”
Jack smirked, “Call it what you will, Carter. You're still hunting for the patter of little feet.”
“Yes, Sir,” Sam acknowledged, though she shook her head and stared up towards the ceiling in both disbelief and amusement.
The elevator doors opened, and the two friends and teammates walked inside. Both reached over at the same time to press the button for the eighteenth floor, Daniel's floor, and Sam chuckled a bit nervously when their fingers touched.
“Going my way?” Jack inquired with a smile and a waggle of his eyebrows.
“I need to review some research with Daniel,” Sam responded.
“Technobabble?” Jack asked with a mock grimace.
“A whole lot of it, Sir,” Sam affirmed with a grin.
Suddenly, Jack hit the button for the cafeteria floor, causing Sam to chuckle.
As the doors opened and he began to walk out, Jack retorted, “Tell Daniel I'll save him some blue Jell-O.” He took a step away; then quickly moved back, his hand stopping the doors from closing. “Oh, Carter. Seriously, if there's anything Daniel and I can do to ... help, let us know.”
“I will. Thank you,” Sam responded with a pleased expression.
After spending some extra time with a needy and very upset Chenoa over the past few months, Sam had decided she was finally ready to be a mother. It was something Pete had wanted for a long time, but the blonde just hadn't been sure she had the right stuff for parenthood. Now, the couple had decided to follow the lead of their good friends, the Jackson-O'Neills.
Since Sam was sure she was too old to have a child the natural way, the Shanahans had decided to find a child to adopt in another country, possibly Africa or Vietnam. They were still in the early stages of their search and were working on scheduling a trip overseas next year to get a better feel for what it might be like to adopt a foreign boy or girl into their world.
A few days later, Pete was at the Colorado Springs Police Department, working on a difficult case, when his boss hurried through the door.
“Shanahan, we have a hot one! Let's roll,” Fred Wood called out. “Spinelli, Ryan, you, too.”
As the men raced to their vehicles, Pete inquired, “What's going down?”
“Drug deal in the warehouse district. They're pinned down on the west side,” Wood answered with urgency.
“Cover me!” Pete shouted as he moved in.
Shots rang out as the detectives and police fought to control the dangerous men. Pete struggled to find cover as he moved from behind their police car to one of the old, abandoned warehouses. Inside, three men were threatening to blow up the building and kill everyone in sight if the police didn't back off, which they had no intention of doing.
As things intensified, and the war of words escalated, Pete's eyes grew wide in horror. A little girl had appeared out of nowhere and was walking around aimlessly between him and one of the drug dealers, who was holding a semi-automatic weapon. He tried to attract her attention silently, not wanting to draw the drug dealer's attention, but when that failed, he shouted out to her.
For some reason, though, the little girl didn't respond. Instead, she simply looked up towards the sky, twirling about with her eyes closed, totally oblivious to the nightmare unfolding around her.
“LITTLE GIRL, GET OUT OF THE WAY!” Pete yelled in warning as another shot rang out, miraculously missing her.
Pete could see the bad guys inside. He knew what they were thinking. If they could grab the little girl, she could be their bargaining chip to a safe escape. He couldn't let that happen.
“I love you, Gorgeous,” Pete whispered as he ran out into the open, zigzagging as much as possible to avoid being shot.
“SHANAHAN, WHAT ARE ...” Wood stopped his shouts, realizing exactly what the man was up to. He couldn't blame him. “Cover him!” he ordered the rest of the men.
Pete grabbed the girl, using his own body to shield her as he carried her in one arm, trying to avoid the rapid fire directed his way as he moved. He lunged for a safe spot behind some stacked boxes, trying to make sure the little girl wasn't hurt in the process.
The gunfire escalated, and the little girl began to cry.
“Pete, that was crazy,” Wood spoke as he watched the paramedic apply a bandage to the detective's left arm where one of the gunshots had grazed him. “But you did good.”
“Thanks, Boss,” Pete acknowledged, thankful he wasn't dead or seriously wounded.
“Has she said anything?” Wood asked.
“Not a word,” Pete responded about the little girl, who was holding on to his other arm for dear life. “Thanks,” he said to the paramedic. I'll be with you in a minute,” he said, knowing the ambulance was waiting for him. “Hey, Peaches. What's your name?” He sighed when the little girl said nothing. “I gotta go, but ...”
The girl's hold on the detective grew stronger, leaving the man unsure of what to do. The little girl had long, blonde hair, though it obviously hadn't been combed in days. Her white dress was torn in several spots and was filthy with dirt. Her eyes were blue.
~Almost as blue as Sam's,~ Pete thought. “Boss?”
“Take her with you in the ambulance. She needs to be checked out, anyway. We'll ask around; see if we can find out who she is,” Wood replied.
“Okay,” Pete said with a smile. “Let's go, Peaches.”
Without hesitation, the little girl slipped her small hand into Pete's and went with him into the ambulance.
“You're fine, Detective,” the emergency doctor spoke with a smile. “Desk duty for a week or so as a precaution.”
Released from the hospital, Pete went looking for the little girl, who had been unpleasantly ripped from his arms soon after their arrival at the medical facility. Tears had streamed down her face, though no sound had come from her throat. Turning into a waiting room, he found the girl, surrounded by two social workers. Seeing him, the girl broke loose and ran to his arms.
“Hey, Peaches. I wondered where you were hiding,” Pete said lightheartedly. He picked up the girl, hugging her closely, and then looked over at the two women. “Have you found out anything?”
“Her name is Susie, uh, Susan Howard,” one of the women spoke.
The other added, “She's deaf.”
“Deaf?” Pete questioned, looking at the girl and smiling at her. “She can't hear me?”
Pete was confused when the little girl shook her head.
“Apparently, she reads lips, at least a little bit, and she knows some rudimentary sign language,” the second woman acknowledged. “We've been working on our communication. It's going to take a while to get a good system established between us.”
“Where are her parents?”
“We're still working on that. She doesn't seem to know,” the first woman spoke.
“From what we can determine, she's been on her own for a long time,” the second woman elaborated. “We're going to take her to the children's home, clean her up, and keep looking for her parents.”
“You'll be fine, Peaches,” Pete said, though he immediately found himself practically strangled as the girl held onto him as tightly as she could.
It broke Pete's heart to leave the little girl behind, but, slowly, the women peeled her away from his arms and carried her away. She reached out for him, the tears running wildly down her cheeks. She opened her mouth to speak, a squeal-like “No” being sounded.
As the girl disappeared around the corner, Pete closed his eyes. He turned around and walked to the window, staring out over the car park. A minute later, the crying girl appeared as the women put her in their car. The girl looked through the window of the backseat, her eyes somehow finding Pete's. She banged on the window.
Pete's heart shattered even more.
“Have they found out anything more, Pete?” Sam asked the next week.
“Not much,” Pete sighed. “Susie's six, and her folks abandoned her, dumped her on the streets like she was trash,” the detective spoke with disgust. “She's been there as long as she can remember, just wandering around, digging through garbage for food. No one could talk to her because they didn't realize she was deaf. All she knows is her name and birthday.”
“Can't they check the records?”
“They're working on it,” Pete spoke. “Let's go to the movies.”
Sam nodded, knowing her husband needed a diversion. He was desperately working on not letting the little girl get to him. In his line of work, detachment was crucial to avoid having a nervous breakdown every couple of months.
“Comedy or action?” the blonde queried.
“Comedy,” Pete answered. “I need some laughs.”
“Krazz, I'll be right back,” Pete called out to his partner of the day.
The two had just dropped off a teenage victim of parental abuse at the children's receiving home. While he was there, Pete decided to check on Susie and see if there had been any progress made. As soon as he walked into the long, gray corridor dorm room, he saw the tiny figure, sitting alone on her bed. His heart pounding, he made his way down to the middle of the room, kneeling down at the foot of the bed. He waited, until finally the girl lifted her head.
Instantly, a huge grin formed on the girl's face, and she leaped forward into the detective's arms.
“Missed me, huh? Yeah, I ... I missed you, too,” Pete said, squeezing the girl tightly.
“Detective,” the head of the section called out, motioning for him to come with her.
“I'll be back in ...”
“Nooooooo!” the girl cried out, her voice a bit distorted.
Unable to let her go, Pete carried her to where the woman stood. With Susie hugging him tightly, her face buried in his shoulder, she couldn't read any lips.
“What is it?”
“Susie's going to be transferred to another facility today. I just thought you'd want to know,” the woman spoke.
“No one will ever take her, will they?” Pete asked.
Shaking her head, the woman confirmed, “I'm afraid it's highly unlikely, Detective. I don't like to rule out the possibility of finding her a home, but realistically ... well, she's not a baby, and she has a perceived disability, both of which are factors that dramatically reduce a child's chances of being adopted. Still, we can't say for sure whether or not parents might crawl out from under a rock one day. Chances are, though, that she's going to live her life in orphanages. They'll try to see that she gets treatment and care, but, as you can see,” the woman pointed at the long line of beds, “we're overcrowded. It's overcrowded everywhere.”
Pete stared at the woman's sad face, disappointment in 'the system' evident in her eyes. Then he turned around and went back to Susie's bed. He felt her grip tighten.
“It's okay, Peaches,” Pete assured, rubbing her back. Suddenly, he had an amazing thought, or maybe it was a moment of madness. Whichever it was, he wasn't sure, but he spent all of three seconds thinking it over. He felt a wave of warmth flow through him upon making his decision. He picked up a teddy bear that Susie had been given and handed it to her. He smiled and wiped away her tears, taking her face in his hands so she could read his lips. “We're going home,” he said clearly, without being able to keep the excitement, or was that anxiety, from his voice.
On seeing Susie's look of pure joy, Pete was sure; it was definitely excitement.
Pete hurried out past the woman, who looked stunned for a moment before grinning widely and calling out, “Don't forget to file the paperwork so they don't haul you in for kidnapping!”
Pete raised his arm up in the air as an acknowledgement as he headed outside.
“Shanahan?” Bill Krazz called out, surprised to see his partner emerge from the home with a little girl in tow.
“We're making a stop on the way to the station,” Pete announced happily, shaking his head at the craziness of what this must look like. ~Sheez, I've been hanging around the Jackson-O'Neills too much.~
“Can I get it?” Little Danny asked upon hearing the knock at the front door.
“Follow the rules,” Daniel instructed, his hands deep in bread dough. ~Why did I decide to try this? Like I don't have enough to do?~
Little Danny hurried to the door. He looked out and saw it was Pete and a little girl. He opened the door.
“Hi, Little Danny.”
“Hi, Uncle Pete.” Smiling at the young girl, the boy genius spoke, “Hi, my name is Little Danny. What's yours?”
“Uh,” Pete hesitated, lowering the girl to the floor. “Little Danny, this is Susie, and she's a really good friend of mine. She's deaf. Do you know what that means?”
Little Danny gave Pete an incredulous look and answered, “Of course, I know what that means, Uncle Pete.” He turned to Susie and missed the wry grin that crossed the man's face. He made a motion with his hands in front of his chest and then made some movements with his fingers, ending by pointing to Susie. When he was done, he asked, “You can't hear me?”
The little girl gave him a shy smile and shook her head, confusing the boy.
“She reads lips, a little bit,” Pete explained. “Little Danny, when did you learn sign language?”
“I don't really know it, Uncle Pete. I just know how to say 'happy to meet you'; that's what I signed to her just now; and I can spell my name, too. It's really cool, though; I want to learn more.”
Pete nodded and supposed he really shouldn't be surprised that Little Danny had picked up at least a little sign language. Maybe he and Susie could learn sign language together.
The detective smiled at the boy and asked, “Is your dad or daddy home?”
Little Danny grinned inexplicably and nodded. Then he turned and sprinted into the kitchen.
“Daddy, Uncle Pete's here, and he's brought us a new sister!” Little Danny exclaimed excitedly.
“That's nice. Tell him to ...” Daniel froze. “He *what*?”
“Hey, Daniel,” Pete interrupted, walking in with the little girl. “Daniel, this is Susie Howard, the little girl I mentioned a while back.”
Daniel removed his hands from the dough and dried them off. He walked over and knelt down, smiling at the girl.
“Hello, Susie. I'm Daniel.”
“Hi,” Susie responded.
Little Danny looked surprised at the odd distortion in Susie's voice and asked, “Daddy, does she ...”
“Little Danny, did you know Susie is deaf?”
“That's what Uncle Pete said,” the boy responded.
“Well, if you couldn't hear yourself talk, how do you think you'd sound?” Daniel quizzed.
Little Danny thought about it, and then he realized he had almost said something that could have been hurtful.
“I understand, Daddy.”
Daniel smiled and patted his namesake's arm in approval.
“Daniel, I need a favor,” Pete announced.
Daniel's heart did a flip flop, and he imagined Jack's reaction. His feeling must have shown through a little because Pete chuckled.
“No, I'm not asking you to adopt her, but I need to talk to my wife, and I can't do that until tonight. I'm working. In fact, my partner's outside. I was hoping ...”
Nodding, Daniel smiled and asked, “Susie, we're making homemade bread. How would you like to help us?”
“It'll be ...” Little Danny stopped, waving his hand in front of the girl to get her attention. “It'll be fun,” he said when she looked at him.
Susie looked up at Pete, who knelt down again and explained, “Peaches, I have to go to work. Daniel is a really good friend of mine. I want you to stay here with him until I get done. Okay?”
Susie nodded, and Pete hugged her goodbye.
“Son, stay here with Susie while I walk Pete outside,” Daniel requested.
As the friends walked, Pete filled Daniel in, saying, “I just couldn't let them take her.”
Standing on the porch, Daniel responded, “I know exactly how you feel. She'll be fine here. Uh, Sam ...”
Pete drew a huge breath and said, “I have no idea what she'll say. Daniel, if she ...”
“Let's ... just take it one step at a time,” the archaeologist requested, having a sinking feeling that if Sam refused to adopt the little girl, that he and Jack were about to become parents to a baker's dozen. Watching Pete drive away, he thought, ~We'd make it work.~
~It's impossible,~ Sam thought as she studied the aisle at a drugstore in a neighborhood that was far away from her home and Cheyenne Mountain. She picked up a box and began to walk away. Suddenly, she turned back. ~Always have a backup,~ she decided, picking out another box. ~This is so ridiculous. There's just no way,~ the blonde mused inwardly, picking up a third box. ~It's my imagination, that's all.~
By the time she was done, Sam had collected six different boxes. She smiled casually at the clerk and paid for her purchases as quickly as possible before heading for home.
“I'll get it,” Jennifer called out. The teen was about to go next door, to visit with Mrs. Valissi, so answering the door was a natural thing for her to do. “Hi, Aunt Sam.”
“Hi, Jen. Jen, would you mind if I used your bathroom?” the skittish woman asked.
“Are you okay?”
“Yeah, I'm fine. I just need to use the bathroom,” Sam replied.
“Oh, well, sure. Dad's not here, but Daddy's in the rec room. The brood is ...” Jennifer chuckled fondly. “They're everywhere. I'm going to Mrs. Valissi's to work on some sewing projects.” She glanced over her shoulder and said, “Daddy, I'm leaving now.”
“Okay, Jen,” Daniel acknowledged, assuming that whoever was at the door was just a neighbor, or perhaps even Mrs. Valissi herself coming to fetch Jennifer, since the teen was running a bit late.
Sam shut the door, locking it behind her, as was the norm at the Jackson-O'Neill residence. A bit nervously, she made her way upstairs, to Jennifer's bedroom. Now that she was aware that the teenager was going to be gone for a while, she knew she could take her time. Though she felt a little bad about invading Jennifer's private space, she didn't think the teenager would mind when she found out the reason for it.
Little Danny glanced at the laptop computer that was on the table, just to make sure he had it right.
“This is the letter 'A',” Little Danny instructed Jonny, Aislinn, Chenoa, and Lulu, all of whom were gathered around Susie. “Susie, it's the letter, 'A'. 'A',” the boy repeated.
The children signed the letter 'A' by closing their right hands and making sure their thumbs were held straight up and that their fingers were flat against the heel of their hands, instead of curled in a fist. They also spoke the letter, as did the deaf youngster.
Daniel watched with pride as he stood in the corner of the kitchen. It had been his namesake's idea for all the Jackson-O'Neill children, and Susie, to start learning sign language right away. Of course, he'd had to squelch the new 'little sister' idea immediately, though he wasn't entirely sure that it wouldn't eventually happen.
~Jack may kill me,~ the archaeologist thought as the children went to the next letter.
“Okay, Sam, old girl,” the blonde spoke as she pulled out the first box from the bag she'd carried with her into Jennifer's bathroom. “Time to verify that this is all just your imagination.”
“Sir, can I help you?” a young store associate asked the handsome older man who was browsing through clothes racks, looking completely out of his depth.
“I'm looking for a dress,” Jack answered.
“What's your size?” the female chuckled.
“I see you have a sense of humor,” the general replied with an approving smile.
“I try. Do you know the size you're looking for?” the platinum blonde asked.
Jack held his hands out at various angles, moving them in accordance with his words, saying, “This high, shaped liked this, and she's my daughter, so don't show me anything that I might have to kill a boyfriend for seeing.”
“I'll try not to, but I do need more help on the sizing,” the clerk requested.
“Not a problem,” Jack said, pulling out his Blackberry. “It'll just be a minute.”
“Is this for Christmas?”
“It's for being the world's best oldest daughter,” Jack replied, adding, “a 'just because we love you and are proud of you' gift.”
“Sounds like a lucky young lady.”
“We're the lucky ones,” Jack spoke as he smiled, thinking once again how lucky he and Daniel were to have such wonderful children.
The happy parents had decided to surprise Jennifer with a new dress for a holiday party she was going to next weekend. Originally, they were going to bring her along for the shopping excursion, but a last minute change of plans had resulted in Jack doing the shopping himself. He was determined to get her something nice, but still in line with his standards of modesty.
Showing the woman the size information he had stored in his smartphone, as it was called, Jack requested, “I can't believe I'm going to say this word in connection with my daughter, but I want something ... uh ... sexy, but ...”
“... but that won't cause you to kill anyone,” the clerk finished for him in complete understanding. “This way,” she sing-songed, leading the way through the maze of clothing racks.
~I like her.~
Sam was pacing, waiting for the results of her tests when her cell phone rang.
“Carter-Shanahan,” the colonel spoke. Normally, she just used her maiden name, but she felt the Shanahan extension was appropriate at the moment. “Yes, Miranda.” Sam's jaw dropped as she stood in place, her heart beating faster as the significance of what she was being told sank in. “I'm on my way,” she said urgently, before hanging up and running out the door.
Sam flew down the stairs, totally forgetting about the items now gracing Jennifer's bathroom counter and without ever having spoken a word to Daniel and any other member of the brood.
“The accident happened a few weeks ago,” Miranda informed Sam once she arrived at the shelter. “Kevin's mother was walking across the street when a speeding car hit her. She hung on for several days, but she was brain dead. She had a donor card for her organs.”
“I think I'm surprised,” Sam interjected.
Kevin Concorran was a five-year-old autistic child who Sam had met in September of 2012 while doing some volunteer work at the shelter, something the Jackson-O'Neills and most of their family of friends had done with regularity for several years. The amazing thing had been that Kevin had responded to Sam, talking to her and responding to her in several ways. She was the first person he'd ever talked to.
Unfortunately, Kevin's mother had refused to allow any testing to be done to help her son, and she had also refused to relinquish her parental rights to the boy, even though she'd placed the child in the shelter's care. The whole situation had reminded Sam of Nicholas Ballard, which made her even more angry as she knew how much hurt that mentality had caused Daniel. Right now, Sam couldn't believe that someone so selfish in regards to her own son had been so unselfish in relation to carrying a donor card.
“No more than I was,” Miranda admitted. “With no family and no hope for recovery, the doctors finally got a court order to remove the life-sustaining equipment. It was still several more days before she died, but, of course, then came the paperwork and decisions about Kevin.”
Nobody had any idea who Kevin's father was. His mother had refused to speak of the man, and he wasn't even named on the child's birth certificate.
Miranda looked at Sam and allowed some hope to seep into her voice. Not only was Sam the first person to get a reaction from Kevin, she was still the only person he would really interact with. It was from observing the boy's behavior around Sam that they had discovered he had a large vocabulary and decent communication skills. He was definitely high-functioning, much to their surprise and pleasure.
“Sam, here's the situation. One of the court workers has taken a shine to Kevin. She thinks she wants him, but she's not sure, and, frankly, I don't think she knows what she's getting into. Also, Kevin hasn't responded to her at all. He still only reacts to your presence, and when Daniel comes by, I think there's a hint of response. Sam, if you want Kevin, you need to speak up, or, if Jack and Daniel want him, they need to make a decision -- now.”
“Now, as in now?” Sam asked, totally taken back.
Miranda looked at her watch and then walked forward. She sighed, looking around to see who might be nearby.
“Sam, this isn't strictly ethical, but I'm doing what I think is best for Kevin. It's the old 'possession is nine-tenths of the law' thing. I spoke to Judge Winters, unofficially, and he told me that if you take Kevin now for a home visit, that you'll have first priority, but it has to be now, Sam. The court worker is planning to come by after work, and, if she takes him for that home visit, I think she'll get him. I just don't believe that's what's best for Kevin.”
“Then ...” Sam began, pausing when she sensed the other woman wasn't done, yet.
Miranda stepped back. She genuinely wanted what was best for the young boy, and she knew the best was Sam. She would forgive herself the devious methods and went 'in for the kill'.
“Sam, I know he needs extra care, and I'm not trying to push you into anything, really I'm not. I know you've never said a word to me about wanting a child or adopting one, but Kevin needs you.” ~I'll just keep it to myself that a little Jackson-O'Neill birdie better known as 'Dad' told me what you and Pete were considering.~ “I'm sure the Jackson-O'Neills would love Kevin and living with them would work, as at least he'd still be able to see you on a regular basis, but without question, it's in Kevin's best interest to live with you and Pete.”
Sam turned around and walked away a few steps, trying to process what she'd just heard. She did love Kevin and had idly wondered what it would be like to adopt him, but as it hadn't ever been a possibility, she'd never given it much thought. Besides, how would she convince Pete? They'd decided on a less fortunate child from some far off land, but Kevin would require more time and resources than either had planned on. Could they do it? Would he *want* to? It was one thing to support her in visiting the youngster; it would be quite another to become the father of an autistic child. Besides, Sam wasn't even sure she could do it.
~But Jack and Daniel can. They're amazing; they can do anything they want. They'll do it; I know they will ... if Pete ...~
“Sam?” Miranda called out.
“All right,” Sam agreed. “I'll take him ... for a home visit, with Jack and Daniel.”
Miranda nodded and quickly led Sam to Kevin and where his things were already gathered and ready to go.
Sam couldn't help but smile, thinking, ~Holy Hannah, I've been hanging around the Jackson-O'Neills too much.~
“Sir,” Sam called out. She'd arrived at the Jackson-O'Neill household just as Jack was getting out of his car, shopping bag in hand. She took Kevin from the car and reached in for a bag full of items. She hurried to the porch, where Jack was waiting for her, climbing the few steps to the front door. “Can you watch Kevin for me?”
“Hey, Kevin,” Jack greeted, sighing when the boy didn't react to him at all.
“This is important, S...Jack. It's really, really important,” Sam said, handing over the boy. “I have a couple of things I need to do, but then I'll be back. Thank you, Jack.”
Jack barely had a chance to respond. His arms were now full of one young boy, a bag full of who-knows-what, and his surprise for Jennifer.
“Well, Kevin, now that you're here, let's get to know each other better,” Jack spoke, taking the silent boy inside. **Danny, I'm home, and I have a little surprise. Danny?**
**My dough ran over. Jack, I'm never trying this again,** Daniel complained via their special communication, his failure at making bread totally distracting him from his husband's remarks.
**Patience, Love,** Jack responded, then headed to the study where he knew the mail would be. “You can help me pay the bills, Kevin.”
The winds were converging on the Jackson-O'Neill household later that afternoon when Sam and Pete arrived in the driveway at the same time.
The married couple stared at each other, looking like two school kids having just been caught doing something wrong. Finally, they spoke at the same time, asking the same question -- “What are you doing here?”
“I came to see Daniel ... about something,” Pete answered.
“Oh, well, I came to see Jack ... about something,” Sam explained.
“Jack?” Pete asked with wide eyes.
“I mean, Sir ... the general ... Mister Jackson-O'Neill. Oh, for crying out loud!” Sam expressed, putting her head down and plowing ahead to the front door. ~I have to get to Kevin first.~
“Sam?” Pete called out as he chased after her. ~I have to get to Susie first.~
The couple knocked on the door, tapping their respective feet, waiting anxiously for it to open.
“Hi, Aunt Sam! Hi, Uncle Pete,” Brianna greeted. The tomboy had been occupied in the library all day, doing research for a dolphin essay she was writing. She knew her younger father had a cooking project he was working on, but the location of the rest of her family was a bit of guesswork. She'd only just come down for a break. ~They look funny.~
“Where's your dad?” Sam asked.
“Where's your daddy?” Pete inquired at the same time.
“Um, well, “Daddy's still in the kitchen, and I think Dad is upstairs, but ...” she pursed her lips as two eager people flew by her. “Okay, that's weird.”
Surprisingly, the Shanahans both stopped in the middle of the living room, looking at each other nervously and saying simultaneously, “I need to talk to you ... it's important ... you first.”
“Um, want me to flip a coin?” Brianna asked.
“Tell your daddy I'm here, and to the keep the surprise ... hidden,” Pete requested.
As he was speaking, Sam also stated, “Tell your dad to keep the, uh, package secure.”
Sam and Pete both stared at each other, stunned at their very similar requests.
“You brought me a surprise, Gorgeous?” Pete asked.
“I guess you could say that,” Sam said. “And you have one for me?”
“I guess you could say that,” Pete acknowledged.
“I guess I'll go pass on the messages, starting with Daddy,” Brianna said as she headed for the kitchen. ~They are definitely taking some weird pills today.~
“Maybe Brianna had the right idea,” Pete chuckled, though he was obviously on edge about something. “Wanna toss a coin?”
“Daddy, Uncle Pete's here and ...” Brianna spoke.
“Thanks, Bri,” Daniel interrupted, still consumed by his task, though he now had a helper in Susie as the rest of the brood were studying until dinnertime. “Okay, so I'm supposed to knead it and ...”
Brianna shrugged, waved at Susie, thinking, ~I wonder who that is,~ and went the long way around the interior of the house as she searched for her older father, not sure exactly where he was. She finally ended up going to Jeff's room. “Hey, Jeff, Aunt Sam is looking for Dad and ... who's that?” Brianna asked, having not yet met Kevin.
“This is Kevin,” Jeff introduced, pointing at the boy, who was rocking back and forth as he sat in the middle of the teenager's bed. “Dad's in Jen's room, I think. He'll be back here in a minute.”
“Dad's in Jen's room?”
Jeff grinned, saying, “He muttered something about surprises and being crazy. I didn't want to ask.”
“Okay,” Brianna replied, waving at the unresponsive Kevin and then walking towards her older sister's room. ~I wonder if we're sprouting kids again. Kevin's gonna have to learn to speak up if he wants to survive in this house.~
“Pete, I have something really important to discuss with you, and I wish I could have done it earlier,” Sam began.
“Me, too, Sam. Uh ... there's something we need to talk about, right away,” Pete added.
Both were worried at how their spouse would react to their news, and both stood hesitantly in the center of the living room. Sam caught a glimpse of Brianna walking across the front hallway towards the study, where she assumed her CO and friend was. Just then, Jennifer entered the house.
“Hey!” the teenager greeted.
“Hey,” Sam and Pete both responded weakly.
“You two okay?”
Suddenly, Brianna ran into the room and exclaimed, “Dad's on a rampage. Jennifer, what did you do?”
“JENNIFER RENEE MORGAN JACKSON-O'NEILL ...” Jack shouted louder than he'd ever shouted anything in his life, and, considering how he'd addressed recruits in the past, that was quite an accomplishment.
~Ut oh!~ Daniel thought, hearing the uproar. “Susie, there's a grizzly bear on the loose. We'd better go see what's happening.”
Wiping his hands, Daniel picked up the deaf girl and headed for the living room.
“Kevin, did you hear that? Dad's bellowing, and that's never a good sign,” Jeff remarked lightly, so as not to startle the young boy any more than Jack's yelling had. “But I'm curious, so let's go find out what my big sis did to get in trouble. I'm just glad it's not me,” he said with a wink and a smile, picking up the boy and heading downstairs.
“We're supposed to be studying,” Lulu reminded the group of homeschoolers in the recreation room.
“Not when there's a grizzly bear in the house,” a curious David refuted. “Let's go!” he said, leading the rest of the brood into the living room, including a toddling JD, who wasn't phased at all by the grizzly bear act.
“What did I do?” a totally confused Jennifer asked her surrogate aunt and uncle.
“JENNIFER, WHO IS IT? I'LL KILL HIM!” Jack barked as he strode into the room, a slightly insane look in his eye.
“Dad, what are you ... oh, my!” Jennifer exclaimed, seeing the various home pregnancy kits her older father held in his hands.
“Jen's pregnant?” Brianna asked, wide-eyed.
“I am not!” Jennifer refuted indignantly.
“Of course, she's not ... are you?” Daniel asked nervously. Seeing the teenage girl's glare, he corrected, “I mean, of course, you aren't.” Anxiously, he looked to his husband and called out, “Jack?”
“WHAT WERE THESE DOING IN *YOUR* BATHROOM?” Jack shouted, the veins showing in his neck. “THEY ALL SAY YOU'RE PREGNANT.”
“Holy Hannah!” Sam exclaimed, sitting down on the couch and looking like a lost lamb.
“JENNIFER, I WANT TO ... I WANT ...” Jack suddenly quieted, a funny feeling coming over him after his friend's reaction sank in. He walked over in front of the sofa and stared at his good friend. “Samantha? Is there something you'd like to share with the class?”
“No, Sir, just my husband,” Sam responded.
“Wha...what?” Pete stammered, sounding very much like Daniel often did.
“Aunt Sam, are you ...”
“We're having a baby, Pete,” Sam spoke quietly with a sappy but hesitant expression on her face.
“Aw, Gorgeous,” Pete said softly, sitting on the sofa next to his wife and taking her hand. “Really?”
“Well, the general says so,” Sam replied, pointing up at all the kits.
“Oh,” Jack said, fumbling with the kits as he hurriedly placed them on the table. “All winners, from what I saw.”
“Don't you have something to say to me, Dad?” Jennifer chastised.
“I apologize, Jen, but there were six of these things, in *your* bathroom. What was I supposed to think?” Jack questioned, trying to recover from the near heart attack the thought of Jennifer being pregnant had given him.
“Oh, well, I guess you have a ... Hey!” Jennifer exclaimed. “Why you were even in my room.”
“Daddy and I got you a surprise,” Jack revealed, getting a smile from their daughter.
“Surprise?” Sam and Pete both called out at the same time, each reminded of their respective news.
“Sam, I really need ...”
“Pete, we really need ...”
“Now that we know Aunt Sam is preggers,” Brianna spoke brightly, “Who are these kids?” Pointing at Susie and Kevin, both kids on opposite sides of the room as they were held by Daniel and Jeff, respectively, she asked, “Are we sprouting?”
Jeff walked over to Daniel and Susie, smiling. He hadn't realized they had another house guest. For that matter, he really wasn't sure what Kevin's story was, either. Jack had just handed him the child, told him to watch him for a couple of minutes, and mentioned that he was autistic.
Sam stared at the little girl, while Pete stared at the little boy. Neither had met the other, but they recognized who they were from their partner's previous descriptions.
All of sudden, Susie reached out and took Kevin's hand. She smiled at him, and he smiled back, looking right at her. For only the second time in Kevin's life, he had truly responded to another person.
“Pete, did you see that?” Sam asked, getting up and walking over to the children. “Kevin, this is Susie. Um, this ... is Susie, right?” she questioned, looking at her husband, who nodded. “Susie's deaf; that means she can't hear.”
Sam gasped as Kevin smiled again and waved at the little girl with his free hand. She looked over at Pete, not sure what to do next.
“What's ... going on?” Brianna asked again, sensing she'd missed something important.
“Pete, Kevin's ...”
“Uh, excuse me,” Daniel interjected. “Maybe you and Pete might want to talk in the study?”
“Thanks, Daniel,” Sam acknowledged, grateful she'd been prevented from saying something that perhaps wasn't best discussed in front of the two children.
As the Shanahans disappeared from view, Brianna repeated, a touch of frustration entering her voice, “Will someone please tell me what's going on?”
“We're getting a sister,” Little Danny said.
“We are? I was right? I *knew* it,” Brianna said with a grin.
“Whoa!” Jack exclaimed.
“Let's stop the rumors now,” Daniel interjected, his words stepping over his husband's. Seeing all of the children in the living room, he explained, “This is Susie. Uncle Pete met her last week, and he's become very fond of her. Uncle Pete asked me to look after Susie for a little while this afternoon while he finished working, and she's been a great help as I tried to bake bread from scratch. Jack?” he prodded, nodding at Kevin, since he'd had no clue Kevin was there.
“All I know is I was coming home from getting Jen a little surprise when Carter, uh, Aunt Sam ran me over and loaded this guy into my arms. This is Kevin. They've given him one of those silly labels.”
“We don't like labels,” Little Danny said with a frown.
“No, we don't,” Aislinn agreed, shaking her head.
“Which ... label?” Jennifer questioned curiously.
“Autistic,” Jack answered. He continued, “Aunt Sam's been visiting Kevin at the shelter for the last few months. We played a while, and then I decided I wanted to hide Jen's surprise, so I asked Jeff to watch him for a few minutes.”
“What are these?” Ricky asked, picking up one of the kits.
“Oh, geez,” Jennifer said, rushing over to separate Ricky and the kit he'd picked up. “The only thing I know about these is that a couple of hours ago, Aunt Sam showed up wanting to use the bathroom. I was heading over to Mrs. Valissi's.”
“I guess she wanted some privacy,” Daniel deduced with a shrug.
“But what are these?” Ricky asked again, pointing at the objects on the table.
“Daniel?” Jack called out, looking at his lover. **You can explain this one, 'Baby'.**
“Jack?” Daniel called out in response. **Oh, no, 'Sweetheart'. This one's all yours. And don't call me 'Baby'.**
“Danny,” Jack said pleadingly. **You're the expert at ...**
**At what?** Daniel responded. **You have more experience with this kind of thing, so go to it, Twinkle Toes.**
**Twinkle Toes? Are you implying that I'm light in my loafers?** Jack questioned, giving his husband an incredulous look. **And what do you mean I've had more experience?**
**No, I'm saying you're chicken,** Daniel clarified. **You're Air Force. You know what they say about fly boys.**
“Daniel,” Jack said verbally. **Careful how you answer this, but what do they say about fly boys?**
“Jack,” Daniel spoke back. **They get around,** he smirked.
“Oh, for crying out loud,” Jennifer exclaimed, fully aware that her parents were engaged in some sort of silent warfare. “Ricky, if a woman thinks she might be pregnant, she can use one of these things to find out if she is. It's a ... baby detector.”
“Oh, okay,” Ricky spoke.
**Never make things more complicated than they are,** the archaeologist mused.
Jack laughed his acknowledgement and agreement and commented, “Looks like Carter's about to become a mama.”
“Maybe in more ways than one,” Jeff pointed out, nodding at Susie and Kevin, who were still holding hands.
“Deja vu,” Jack smirked, recalling his and Daniel's adoption of multiple children at one time.
“Sweetheart?” Pete asked when he and Sam walked into the study, closing the door behind them. “Are we ...”
“Yes,” Sam answered with a blush. “Who knew, Pete? I didn't. Are you ... okay with it?”
“Okay?” Pete questioned, then let out a humongous cheer, picking Sam up and spinning her around. “We're having a baby!”
Sam giggled, and then the two lovers kissed.
“Pete, we need to be careful,” Sam spoke suddenly, her hands playing with the neck of his shirt.
“What do you mean?”
“I'm a little old for this. I've been reading up on it, and there are some risks. I want this baby; I want it so bad, but we need to be prepared to ...”
“Gorgeous, it's Fate, I tell ya. We're having this baby. Ah, should you go through the Stargate?” Pete questioned.
“I don't know. I ... I need to talk to Janet, or maybe the brood's pediatrician, Doctor Preston. She doesn't know about the Stargate, but my understanding is that she's involved with a lot of the latest research. I could ... figure out a way to talk about things with her.”
“Sam, ooooooh,” Pete expressed as he remembered the discussion he'd been about to have with his wife before Grizzly Bear Jack arrived with the news of Sam's pregnancy. He turned around and walked a few steps before turning back to face Sam. ~Say it, Shanahan.~
The movement reminded Sam of the children in the Jackson-O'Neill living room.
“One of us needs to start,” Pete suggested.
“You go first,” Sam requested, the fingertips of her hands doing battle with one another as she stood, facing her husband.
“We had to roll by the county home this afternoon. One of the ladies gave me a head's up that Susie was being transferred. Sam, she held on to me so hard. She's scared. I can't let her wilt away in some kid reject factory. That sounds cruel, but that's how she'd grow up thinking about it.” Pete walked closer, taking hold of his wife's hands. “I want her, Sweetheart. I want her as bad as I want that little life we're bringing into this world.”
Sam bowed her head, swallowing as she closed her eyes for a second. Life was taking a big, big turn, and she wasn't sure she could handle it. Still, she held on to her emotions and informed Pete of her own tale.
“Kevin's mother was in an accident. She's dead, Pete. Miranda said someone else is interested in Kevin, but that he doesn't react to her.”
After Sam bowed her head again, Pete used his hand to raise it. He smiled, kissing her gently.
“Sam, we have to talk about the Stargate. I know my hours change, but yours are crazy. It's okay when it's just us, but, Honey, we're talking about three little kids,” Pete said.
“All my life, Pete, all I wanted was to prove myself, to show the military, and the world, that I was as good as anyone else, man or woman. I gave everything I had to the Air Force. I never thought I'd give it up, not at all, but then I met you, and you opened me up to a whole new world, even if I was a slow study,” Sam quipped quietly.
“Very slow,” Pete teased.
“When Noa was going through that little nightmare of hers, it broke my heart. I didn't think I could help her, but I did, and when she called me 'Mommy' a few times, it was the most amazing feeling. Pete, I'm not ready to give it all up, but if Daniel and the general can do it, why can't I?”
“A cut back schedule?” Pete questioned, getting a nod from the blonde.
Sam looked a little hesitantly at her husband, asking, “Will you let me? Will you *help* me?”
“Gorgeous, we'll help each other,” Pete asserted with a grin, just before the couple kissed again.
“We don't have any experience with autism, or deafness,” Sam pointed out nervously as their discussion continued.
“We'll learn,” Pete replied, shrugging off the concern. “There's support out there, and in the next room.”
“I can start researching on the internet and ...”
“Sam, we'll be fine. Those two waifs out there haven't known love at all; we're about to shower them with the stuff. We can handle it,” Pete opined. “I may have to pick up some extra shifts, especially with you cutting back. We probably should get a bigger house, but I'm not sure we could swing it, and ...”
“Pete?” Sam interrupted. With a smile, she declared, “We can handle it, and we'll be just fine in our house. I don't want to move.”
“Why doesn't he talk?” Lulu asked innocently about the little boy who hadn't reacted to a single attempt by the children to talk to him.
“He does, Lulu,” Daniel responded. “But he has lots of secrets,” he said, grinning at the boy. “And, right now, he just wants to share those secrets with Aunt Sam.”
“Oh,” Lulu responded, accepting the answer, even if it didn't totally make sense to her.
“Susie, how about sitting down on the sofa for a while?” the archaeologist asked.
Susie pointed at Kevin, and Daniel nodded in response, motioning for Jeff to bring Kevin to the sofa as well.
“We're all set?”
“We're all set,” Sam affirmed, adding, “except I need to say one more thing.”
“What is it?”
“I love you, Pete.”
“I love you, too, Sam,” Pete replied, kissing his wife one more time.
“What is it, Gorgeous?” the detective asked.
“Merry Christmas,” Sam greeted, her heart full of holiday joy at their newfound family.
“Merry Christmas, Sam,” Pete replied, smiling as they headed back to the living room.
The Shanahans entered the living room, feeling a bit like a spotlight was centered on them since the entire Jackson-O'Neill clan was looking at them. They immediately sought out Susie and Kevin, smiling when they saw that Susie was still holding the boy's hand. Kevin was rocking against the sofa cushion, something he'd done from the moment Jeff had put him down.
The Shanahans slid in between the coffee table and the children. Immediately, Jack and Daniel covertly pushed the coffee table back to give the couple more room.
Kevin smiled at Sam, but was oblivious to everyone else, except for Susie.
“Kevin, this is Pete, and he's my husband,” Sam began. “Susie, I know we don't know each other, but Pete's talked about you a lot, so much that I feel like I know you.”
“Peaches, how'd you like to live with us, all the time?” Pete asked.
Susie grinned, throwing herself forward into a hug with her favorite detective.
“How about a hug for Sam?” Pete asked, tilting his head to his right, towards his wife.
“I'd like a hug,” Sam requested when the girl turned to look at her uncertainly.
Susie hugged Sam, and Sam pressed the girl to her tightly, trying to communicate that she was safe and wanted. When they broke apart, Susie turned and pointed to Kevin.
“Kevin's going to be part of our family, too,” Sam stated. “Kevin, would you like to live with us?”
There was a pause of a few seconds, and Sam waved off Jennifer who started to say something.
“Live with us?” Kevin repeated, still rocking back and forth.
“Yes, Kevin. You and me, and Pete,” Sam affirmed, pointing to her husband. “And Susie, too,” she said, motioning towards the little girl.
“Susie, too?” Kevin echoed.
“Yes, Susie, too. Would you like that, Kevin?” Sam asked.
“Kevin like that,” the boy said. “We go Air Force?”
Jack's head shot up, and he asked, “He likes the Air Force?”
“He knows I'm in the Air Force,” Sam explained. Smiling at the youngster, she answered, “We'll see.”
“Kevin make pyramids,” the boy added.
This time, Daniel's head shot up as he smiled at his soulmate and said, “Great combination -- the Air Force and pyramids.”
“All the pyramids you want,” Sam agreed.
“And we'll help!” Lulu chimed in.
All the children waited patiently, but Kevin didn't look at them or respond to Lulu's comment.
“Maybe he doesn't like us,” Jenny whispered to Aislinn.
“No, Jenny, that's not it at all,” Sam spoke gently.
“We'll have a family meeting later and talk about it in detail,” Daniel stated.
“And, um,” Sam began. “You're going to have another baby brother or sister, too.”
Susie reached out and pointed at Sam's abdomen.
Sam nodded, chuckling, “Yes, I'm having a baby.” As an afterthought, she shook her head and mumbled, “I never thought I'd hear myself saying those words.”
“Ice cream party!” Jonny exclaimed in a minor cheer.
“Yeah, I was close,” Little Danny stated.
“Close to what?” Aislinn asked her sibling.
“I said we were getting a new sister, but we're getting new cousins; that's just as good,” Little Danny opined happily.
Little Danny walked over to Susie after their ice cream party was done and signed, “I'm glad we're cousins now.”
“Does she know sign language?” Sam asked, not recalling Pete mentioning that.
“A little, I think,” Pete responded.
“We're teaching her, and us,” Little Danny informed.
“Sam, let us know if you need us ...” Daniel began.
“Daniel, we need you *now*. We have shopping to do, a house to rearrange and ...”
“Jack?” Daniel called out with a firm nod of his head.
Taking charge, Jack moved to the center of the room and called out, “Brood, listen up. Whatever plans you have for tonight and tomorrow are hereby cancelled. We're on a mission -- Operation Family Shanahan.”
“I like missions,” Jonny expressed cheerfully.
“I'll call Karissa in a few minutes and have her clear our schedules at J-O for tomorrow,” Daniel stated.
One by one, or sometimes two by two, most of the family broke away to cancel plans with friends for that night or the next day, leaving a much smaller group in the entranceway. Sam held Kevin's hand, while Pete held Susie in his arms.
Jack smiled at new family and repeated, “Deja vu.”
“Carter, you remind me of us,” Jack smirked, putting an arm round Daniel proudly.
“Thank you, Sir ... I think,” Sam replied, returning Daniel's grin.
Leaning forward slightly, Jack smirked, “Welcome to parenthood.”
“Oh, gawd,” Sam bemoaned as if the word itself was crushing down on her.
“You'll be a great mom, Sam,” Pete insisted.
“The brood is on the job, Carter. We'll be over in a half-hour with reinforcements. Start thinking children's bedrooms,” Jack teased.
“Do you want us to call Janet?” Daniel inquired.
“Please,” Sam agreed with a hint of desperation. “I don't even know where to start. We need so much.”
“It's handled,” Jack assured. “We're experts,” he chuckled.
“Thanks, Jack,” Pete spoke, unafraid to accept the help being offered.
Just then, Jonny and Little Danny returned to the entranceway, stopping in front of Kevin.
“Kevin, I'm Jonny, and we're going to be good friends,” Jonny spoke.
“It's okay that you don't talk to us now. When you want to talk to us, we'll listen,” Little Danny promised the boy, who stared at them vacantly. He looked up at the blonde and asked, “What's that word, Aunt Sam?”
Looking at Kevin, Little Danny said, “It's just a word; words are only words, and they can't hurt you. We're family now.” He looked over at the blonde woman and promised, “We'll study it, and we'll help Kevin, like we're helping Susie.”
“We're counting on it,” Sam responded emotionally.
“You two, I mean, you four, get out of here. Take some time to yourselves, because you're about to be overrun by a Jackson-O'Neill whirlwind that you'll never recover from.” Jack grinned, adding, “And you won't want to, either.”
Sam nodded, turning around and opening the door. She was too overcome with emotion to speak. Pete looked at the two Munchkins and then at Susie, who was waving to the boys. He looked at Jack and nodded. No words were necessary.
Sam and Pete had been there for Jack and Daniel more times than the Jackson-O'Neills could count; now, they'd be there for the Shanahans.
“Good thing we put that gate in,” Jack quipped, referring to the gate in the backyard that allowed for easy coming and going between his family and Pete's, since the Shanahans lived behind their friends.
“Yeah,” Pete affirmed, nodding and then backing out the door.
“Dad, Aunt Sam looked like she was gonna cry,” Jonny observed.
“So did Uncle Pete,” Little Danny pointed out.
Jack closed the door and kneeled down to be eye level with his sons.
“You should have seen Daddy and me when we found out your mommy was pregnant with you,” Jack responded, looking at his namesake. Then he looked at Little Danny and spoke, “And you should have seen us at the hospital when you popped out unexpectedly. We cried ... happy tears, but we cried.”
“Come on, Jonny,” Little Danny urged. “Let's read about autism before we go to Aunt Sam's.”
“Okay,” Jonny agreed, following his fellow triplet willingly.
~Carter -- mother of three,~ Jack mused as he watched his kids walk away. ~Or four, or five.~
Overhearing his husband's thoughts, Daniel verbalized, “I wouldn't say that to Sam, Babe.”
“Could be fun to see her response,” Jack joked.
Daniel chuckled, started to make his way to the den to call Karissa, and then stated, “I wonder how the lady at the shelter knew that Sam and Pete would even be interested in adopting Kevin.”
“No idea, don't know, nope, no clue,” Jack responded, bouncing once on the balls of his feet and looking downward.
“Jack?” Daniel questioned. **What did you say to her?**
Jack grimaced as he answered, “I may have inadvertently, purely by accident, mentioned that Sam and Pete were considering adopting a child from overseas, that's all.”
“That's all,” Daniel echoed with a smile. “I love you, Jack.”
“Love you, Space Monkey.”
A few minutes later, Daniel returned to the living room and informed, “Jack, our schedules are clear. We need to ...”
“Danny, did you ever think Carter would be a mom?”
Daniel thought about it and then grinned as he answered, “The first time she held the Munchkins.” After a shared smile, he continued, “Okay, we need to figure out the best arrangement for their house. They've got two special needs children and a baby on the way, so I was thinking ...”
The couple was ripe with anticipation for the future of the Shanahan family. They knew their good friends were in for an exciting time filled with things they'd never even imagined. Life was good. No, life was fantastic, and it was about to get even better for the Jackson-O'Neills and their family of friends.
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