Category: Slash, Drama, Angst, Romance, Established Relationship
Pairing: Jack/Daniel ... and it's all J/D
Season: Beyond the Series - February 16 - May 15, 2012
Written: February 6-12,14-16,19-20,25, March 11-12, 2008
Summary: A confrontation proves to be the catalyst in an important change for Jack and Daniel as well as causing the lovers to fear for the safety of their children.
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 other fic(s), “The Disappearance of Daniel Jackson”, “MacBrood,” “Consanquinity,” and “Lil Bear”
4) Thanks to my betas who always make my fics better: Tammy, Lissa, Jo, Tonya, Irina, Melissa, Linda, Keri!
“Megan, where's the aerial survey for the Louisiana project?” Daniel
asked, peeking inside the woman's office.
“Mike wanted to make a few notes, Daniel, and he's waiting to use one of the work stations,” the Director of Operations for J-O Enterprises answered from behind her desk.
“Line,” Megan confirmed pointedly.
“Okay, well, I need it as soon as possible, so if you could put him in front of the ... line, I'd appreciate it.”
“You're the boss,” Megan mused as she picked up her phone to call Karissa Lewis, her assistant and the firm's Cultural Resources Manager.
“Uh, right,” Daniel said with a smile as he disappeared from Megan's sight.
The archaeologist headed downstairs, wanting to check in with one of his staff about her progress on a project. As he headed that way, he heard a noise coming from the reception area of the house-turned-office that was the headquarters for the company he and his husband ran.
“Today isn't a good day, but if you'd care to make an appointment,” the receptionist spoke somewhat nervously.
“I don't care what day it is,” the man responded, his speech slurred. “It's not right, you know. I worked hard. He's the one who should be on my side of the fence.”
“Sir, respectfully, I need to ask you to leave.”
“Just tell him his time is coming, his and that military jock who should be in Leavenworth and not out on the streets. You just tell him!” the inebriated man shouted.
Just as Daniel arrived in the reception area at the front of the 'hoffice', as Jack often referred to the building, the door closed.
“Geri, who was that?” Daniel asked.
“I don't know, Doctor Jackson-O'Neill, but he wanted to see you. I think he was drunk.”
The archaeologist walked to the door and went outside to see if he could see the man, but he couldn't. With a bit of a thoughtful frown on his face, he returned to the office, telling the receptionist to let him know should the man come back.
At the end of the busy workday, Daniel was walking to his car. He smiled at two young children playing next door. Suddenly, he heard the same slurred speech pattern from earlier in the day.
“How do you do it?” the man asked as he stood unsteadily on his feet.
~He's not familiar,~ Daniel thought as he studied the man's features carefully, looking for something that would jog his apparently forgetful memory. “Um, do I ... know you?”
The man sneered with contempt, responding, “Snifflin' little twerp, you don't even remember me.”
“Look ...” Daniel started to say, but was abruptly interrupted by the man introducing himself.
“Wexler. Herman Wexler.”
“Wexler,” Daniel sighed, faintly recalling the name. ~Why do these guys keep coming out of the woodwork like ... termites?~
“Craig told me about you, but I had to see it for myself,” Herman Wexler stated, the scent of liquor all around him.
“Craig? Craig Martin,” Daniel droned in dread, remembering his old anthropology rival. Martin had showed up at J-O Enterprises a few years back, harassing Daniel until the archaeologist had warned that he'd call the police the next time the man showed up at the office. “I didn't know you two were friends.”
“Friends? Nah, but we have a common bond,” Wexler said, stumbling slightly to his right, drawing attention to his shirttail that was hanging out on one side. “We don't like deviants.”
Daniel closed his eyes and bowed his head. When was the world going to become tolerant and understanding? He was so tired of dealing with situations like this, especially from old classmates who, for some reason or another, hadn't succeeded in life and somehow blamed him for their problems.
“Look, Herman, I don't know what your problem is, but it's not my problem, and considering that I haven't seen you since college, I don't think that anything I've done could in any way have affected your life. Now go away,” Daniel ordered.
His eyes darkening with hatred, the man lunged forward, attacking the archaeologist, pushing him back towards his silver sports car. Before Daniel could respond, three J-O Enterprises employees ran over and pulled the man back.
“You can't escape the truth!” Wexler shouted.
“Truth?” Daniel sighed in question as he regained his bearings and his breath.
“He's a cheat!” Wexler yelled, realizing some of the neighbors were watching. “You're a liar, a cheat, and a no good ...”
Not caring that children were around, the man proceeded on a tirade of profanity and slurs against the archaeologist's sexuality. Some of the parents scrambled to get their children inside.
“Daniel, do you want me to call the police?” Karissa asked, pulling out her cell phone.
“You can't get rid of the truth. Call the police. What are they going to do?” Wexler asked arrogantly as he struggled to free himself.
“If you leave now, nothing, but if you stay, or if you go and come back, you'll find out, and you won't be happy about it.”
“Look at you: the hotshot homo trying to make it big in the man's world. You're no man; you're a ...”
“That's enough,” Ty Harper, one of the employees holding the man back, advised as he tightened his grip on the man.
“Karissa, call the police,” Daniel instructed, seeing such anger and scorn in the man's eyes that he feared Wexler wouldn't leave.
“I'm going,” the man spat, breaking free, in part because the co-workers had let him go after hearing his words. Backing away, he threatened, “But you can't escape us. We're the men; you're the pretender, the cheater, the ...”
“I'm dialing, Daniel,” Karissa stated, loud enough for the man to hear.
The man glared at her and then turned and hurried to his car. He started the engine and sped away, cutting the corner sharply and careening against the side of a child's play car that was sitting towards the edge of the grass.
“Gawd!” Daniel exclaimed, sprinting forward upon seeing the hit. He hurried two doors down to make sure the child was okay and also to apologize personally to the parent who was outside and had witnessed the event. He also insisted on buying a replacement car for the youngster. “I'm really sorry,” he said as he walked away.
“Daniel, who was that?” Ty asked when his boss approached.
“He was in one of my classes back in college. I don't know much about him. We never socialized outside of class,” Daniel sighed. ~Not that I socialized with anyone much outside of class.~ Shaking off no longer important lamentations, he looked over at Karissa and requested, “Karissa, would you go inside and make sure Megan knows about him. His name is Herman Wexler. If he comes back and even steps inside the door, call the police.”
“Okay,” the woman agreed, turning and hurrying back inside the office.
“Thanks,” Daniel said to Ty and the two other employees who had helped hold the drunken man back. “Have a good night. I'll see you in the morning.”
“Goodnight,” Ty called out as Daniel walked to the other side of his car.
~Why does this stuff keep happening?~ the archaeologist bemoaned as he unlocked his vehicle.
“What did he mean that you were a cheat?” Jack questioned after dinner when he and his husband were discussing the altercation that had happened that afternoon.
The two were sitting, facing each other, in the gazebo in the backyard. As they talked, they were keeping an eye on several of their children who were playing in the brightly lit yard. It was a little chilly with a slight breeze out, but the kids were all wearing sweaters and warm clothing.
Daniel leaned forward a tad, glancing over at Jonny as he tagged Aislinn as 'it', and then answered, “I have no idea. Jack, I probably said two paragraphs to Herman Wexler the entire time I knew him. Maybe he was friends with Craig. It sounded like they've had some contact.”
“We'll have Carter run a check.”
“Why? What good is that going to do?” Daniel asked, sitting up straight again, his frustration evident. He sighed, smiling briefly as he saw Aislinn chasing down Jonny in retaliation and tagging him 'it' again. “Jack, I don't care about Wexler, but there's something else we need to talk about.”
“I'm all ears.”
“Okay, well, there were children nearby who could hear what Wexler was saying. Jack, he used words that you'd kill someone for saying if our children heard them, and what if Halle had been in that little car?” he asked, referring to the little girl whose toy car had been hit by the man as he sped off.
Jack was about to answer, but his lover had more to say, and he was speaking his thoughts rapidly, not giving his soulmate much of a chance to butt in.
“It would have been a disaster, Jack. Halle might have been killed. I couldn't live with myself if anything happened to her, or any of those children because someone from my past decided they had a score to settle.”
Again, Jack opened his mouth to respond, but one more time, he didn't get a chance to speak as his husband continued on with his thoughts.
“This isn't the first time our office has been subject to this kind of thing, and what worries me is that it won't be the last. Jack, our *neighbors* have been so nice. They've accepted the extra traffic and the loss of their parking spots in front of their homes for a long time. It's time for us to say thank you.”
Jack cocked his head slightly, opening his mouth to speak. Yet again, his lover barely took a breath as he continued talking.
“Babe, I know we've invested a bundle in remodeling J-O, but we've outgrown it. I don't like admitting that, even though it means we're a greater success than we ever thought we'd be. We need to acknowledge that growth and move forward, or we need to scale back, and I don't think we can do that. Honestly, I don't want to do that. J-O began for us, you and me. Now it's for our children, just as much as it's for us. At least, that's how I feel about it.”
The older man thought it might finally be his time to reply, especially since Daniel had paused, looking over as Brianna pushed a giggling Jenny on the swings. Seconds later, he realized he was mistaken.
“Megan and Karissa have both been hinting at this all year. The remodel has made it easier, but they still have to do a lot of workarounds to conduct business. It makes sense, Jack. We have to do it.” Daniel stared into his lover's eyes and asked, “Well? Don't you have an opinion?”
Jack chortled, “Are you sure it's my turn to talk?”
Daniel let out a huge breath and leaned way back on his seat, looking upward at the ceiling of the gazebo as he replied, “I'm sorry, Love. I guess I'm so wound up about this whole thing that I'm on hyperdrive.”
“It's okay, Angel,” the other man assured, reaching over and taking hold of his lover's hands. “Danny, everything you've said is right. We've used the 'hoffice' because it's convenient, but I agree. We're too big for the neighborhood now, and, yes, I agree that I don't want us to cut back.”
The younger man leaned forward to share a kiss of appreciation for his husband and then said, “I have an idea.”
“I figured you did.”
“Denver,” Daniel spoke succinctly. “Jack, a lot of our clients fly in to Denver and then come to J-O.”
“A Denver office?” Jack asked.
“Yes,” Daniel acknowledged. “What I have in mind would be a major revision of our operations. Megan and most of our in-office employees would work in Denver. J-O here stays open with Karissa in charge. We keep it for those who are closer to the Springs and for our use. We have videoconferencing set up at the office, and I think we should talk to Alex about setting that up here at the house, too. We can video-conference most of our meetings and keep our own trips to Denver to a minimum.”
“A lot of our employees live in the Springs,” Jack reminded.
“I know, but they'll have to commute to Denver. The office here should be like it was when we first started, and I believe we should give the option of being housed out of here to our original employees, except ...”
“Megan wouldn't have a choice,” Jack said.
“Jack, we could promote Karissa, if Megan doesn't want to, but the truth is, we still don't know what's going to happen when she marries Yazid.”
“Her wedding is going to be huge,” Jack responded, thinking about the grandness of the event that was still in the planning stages.
“Yazid is international,” Daniel rationalized. “The point is, we need to ask Megan if she's willing to commute. If she's not, we'll have to ask Karissa.”
“And if ...”
“Don't even think it,” Daniel interrupted. “One of them will.”
Jack nodded hopefully and then said, “It's time to get the kids inside. How about we do some big time brainstorming once they're in bed?”
“Danny, about Wexler: we need to try and find out what brought him here, and if that Martin guy is part of it.”
“I know,” Daniel agreed with a reluctant acceptance, standing up and exiting the gazebo to play with the brood for a few minutes before playtime was called to a halt.
~Cheat? Danny a cheater? I think that Wexler idiot is just ... an idiot,~ Jack opined before joining his family.
“Republic Plaza has a lot of space. We could rent a full floor,” Daniel proposed a few days later as the lovers discussed potential locales for their company to relocate to.
“Lots of amenities,” Jack noted mischievously. “Starbuck's is right there.”
“Jack,” Daniel chuckled.
“Okay,” Jack said, growing serious. “It's about a forty-minute drive from the airport. We might want to look a little closer if the goal is to be convenient for the client.”
Daniel nodded as the couple continued to toss out ideas.
“How about something like Harris Gardens?” Jack suggested. “It's surrounded by greenery and isn't the typical office building.”
“It would give us a quainter feeling.”
“The gals would love the atrium,” the older man commented.
“We all would,” Daniel stated with a light amount of chastisement in his voice.
“Danny, let's talk about the security issues.”
“Babe, we can't keep making choices with the Trust or, or, or the Goa'uld or ... whoever in mind. We can't; we just can't.”
“So we trust our security to wherever we end up,” Jack surmised, half as a statement of fact and half as a question.
“Yes,” Daniel replied quickly. “We don't have a choice, Jack. We can add internal alarms and whatever we need, but I'm sure whichever place we end up choosing will have adequate building security.
Jack wasn't thrilled by the thought, but he also realized his lover was right.
~I'll bet Carter can come up something, though.~
“We should at least talk about buying property and constructing our own building,” Daniel put forth. “That would take care of your security concerns.”
“It would also take a huge chunk of change,” Jack replied.
“We could overextend ourselves,” Daniel acknowledged.
“The economy can change quickly, Danny. I'm not sure it's in our best interest to build from scratch.”
Nodding, Daniel thoughtfully considered more options as the couple discussed the situation. There was no real rush, except for the internal urgency that both felt to safeguard the neighbors at the 'hoffice'.
“Jack, we weren't expecting you today,” Megan commented when the general walked in a few days later.
“Daniel's right be...”
“Here,” Daniel smiled, walking in with the twins in tow. “Would you call Dora and ask her to supervise these two in the playroom for a while, please?”
“Something's up,” Megan smirked as she picked up the phone.
“We need to see Karissa, too. My office,” Daniel stated as he walked Ricky and Jenny over to Megan's desk. “You know the rules. Dora will be up in a minute.”
“And no trying to remodel the playroom,” Jack reminded, referring to an event that had occurred the last time the Spitfires had been in the playroom which was located in the basement.
“You two have that look,” Karissa opined as she entered Daniel's office. She was surprised when Jack walked over and shut the door. “Yep. It's that look,” she reiterated, glancing over at Megan, who was already seated.
“We've made a decision about J-O, and we need to know how you two feel about it,” Daniel began.
“But the decision's been made,” Jack interjected firmly.
The two women looked at each other a bit nervously, waiting for the bomb to be dropped. They listened as Daniel recalled some of the past instances where the company had been invaded by the likes of Craig Martin, Herman Wexler, and a couple of others. Then they finally heard the news -- J-O Enterprises was moving their main office to Denver.
“Gee whiz, guys,” Megan said, putting her hand over her chest as relief calmed her anxious body.
Karissa, too, sagged down, shaking her head as she chuckled and looked over at her friend and co-worker while saying, “I thought we were being fired.”
Jack and Daniel both chuckled and apologized to the two women, but then explained why they'd sounded so serious. They were worried that neither of the women would want to commute to Denver on a daily basis.
“I'd be happy to,” Megan responded. “You do know that the future for me is a bit uncertain. I love J-O, and I don't want to quit. Actually, Denver might give me more options with Yazzy,” she spoke, using her nickname for her fiancé.
“This office would become a ... satellite for the main office,” Daniel elaborated. “Mainly Jack and I would use it, along with our original family, unless any of them prefer to work out of the Denver facility. Some of our field employees can use the space here when necessary, but what we want to do is cut out the traffic to this neighborhood and provide our employees with adequate working space.”
Megan smiled sympathetically, replying, “Even when we remodeled, we knew the office still wasn't what we needed, not with our growth rate and continued expansion into other areas of archaeology.”
“We know,” Daniel acknowledged. “Thanks for hanging in there with us.”
“Daniel and I will be looking for space this week, so now's the time if you have suggestions or requests,” Jack spoke.
“Well, since you asked,” Megan chuckled.
“Pluses and minuses to everything,” Daniel sighed as he leaned back into his lover as the two began to enjoy the night sky on the roof deck.
Jack was leaning against the wall with his husband leaning into him. It was a familiar and tender pose for the two. He kissed his lover's neck as he wrapped his arms around the other man.
It was early March, and the lovers hadn't yet reached a decision about their new office location. That may not seem like a long time for some, but Jack and Daniel were used to moving quickly in most aspects of their life and partnership.
“The Plaza is probably the best bet,” Jack opined.
“Or the Tech Center,” Daniel offered.
“I like that two-story building in Aurora. It lets us be on our own more.”
“There's no view, which I suppose is really neither here nor there,” the younger man said with a shrug.
“Danny, maybe we should try and find someplace in the Springs,” Jack suggested.
“That helps us, but our clients would still be traveling from Denver to here, and we'd be picking them up or they'd be doing a layover that is as long as the flight from Denver to COS,” Daniel responded.
“It hasn't exactly hurt us so far.”
“That's true,” Daniel replied. “I guess it wouldn't hurt to look.”
“But, Dad, I want two Tootsie Rolls,” Ricky insisted, looking at the bowl of various goodies that was on the table in the dining nook part of the kitchen.
“Only one,” Jack said as he sat at the table, working on the family's grocery list for their next shopping excursion.
“Two,” Ricky giggled as he held his ground in his demand for two of the treats.
“One. Daddy would be mad if I let you have two right before dinner,” Jack stated firmly.
“But I want two.”
“One,” Jack repeated, holding up one finger.
Ricky walked over to his father and put up another finger so that Jack now had two fingers up.
“Yay, I can have two. Thanks, Dad,” the boy said as he reached into the goodie bowl.
Jack stared at his hand in amazement, then looked over at Ricky who smiled and walked away with his two Tootsie Rolls.
The silver-haired father chuckled, “I've been outsmarted by a four-year-old.”
“Wouldn't be for the first time,” Daniel teased, having just returned home. “Ricky was giggling as he went upstairs just now.”
“There's something wrong when a two-star general is outsmarted by a kid who isn't even in kindergarten yet.”
Daniel chuckled, “Babe, we're homeschooling, remember?”
“I don't know if that's better or worse,” Jack sighed.
“What exactly did our son do?” Daniel asked as he sat down at the table.
“Two rolls are better than one,” Jack mused and then relayed the story to his husband. “Do you believe it, Danny? Outthunk by a four-year-old.”
“Dad, I'm four-and-a-half,” Ricky corrected as he passed through the kitchen on his way to the recreation room.
“Thank you, Ricky. That half a year makes me feel so much better,” Jack quipped while his husband chuckled.
“Son, did you eat those treats already?” Daniel called out.
Turning around briefly, the little boy grinned and answered, “Na-huh. Saving them for dessert. Gonna have 'nilla toots ice cream.“
“Nilla toots?” Daniel echoed.
“Well, why didn't you say so?” Jack questioned.
Ricky just grinned mischievously and continued on his way.
“Daniel, if I didn't know better, I wasn't just outsmarted by a four-year-old, I was *had* by the little dickens.”
Daniel laughed as he reached for the grocery list to see what his lover had already written down. Times like this were the best times. He hoped they'd never end.
“Our main goal is to get out of the residential area and get more space, right?” Jack asked, glancing over at his lover, who was driving the couple as they ran some errands, their children all in the care of various friends.
“Why make it harder on ourselves than we have to?”
Daniel smiled, nodding as he responded, “My Mr. Fix-it.”
“Not so fast,” Jack advised. “We still don't know if we can find the right place, and Denver still holds a lot of pluses.”
The archaeologist sighed, “Let's not think about it anymore today.”
“We'll figure out a solution, Love,” Jack promised tenderly, smiling supportively at his somewhat weary soulmate.
“I know,” Daniel agreed. “I'm just not sure *when* we'll figure it out.”
“Morning,” Daniel greeted as he walked into the offices of J-O Enterprises a few days later. He saw a few stares and sensed something was wrong. “What's going on?” he asked his staff.
“Daniel,” Karissa said, motioning for him to join her away from the other employees.
“Ty's taking care of it; we couldn't leave it inside,” the woman spoke, leading Daniel outside to the backyard.
“Oh, gawd,” the archaeologist expressed in disgust as he caught sight of the box that had been left on the doorstep of the company that morning. “Who would do this?”
“This note was attached to the outside of that box,” Karissa said, handing an envelope to Daniel while pointing at a box.
The envelope contained a note on white paper that had been made by letters cut out from both newspapers and magazines. The note was simple: “A skunk for a skunk. Next time, it'll be the real skunk who dies.”
“Who saw this?” Daniel asked.
“Six or seven of the employees,” Karissa answered, shaking her head at the dastardly deed that had been done. “Someone killed an innocent animal just to ... what, Daniel?”
“I don't know, but I want everyone out of here now,” Daniel stated.
“We need to make sure he didn't do anything else. Karissa, give everyone the morning off, with pay, of course. They can come back after lunch. I want everyone out, now. No lingering, no going to get something in a drawer -- gone, now.”
“Okay,” Karissa stated, turning to do as instructed.
Daniel sighed and then called out to Ty to join him. Then he made a phone call to the SGC. Within the half-hour, J-O Enterprises was in the process of being swept for any dangerous devices or signs of tampering.
“You got me!” Jack responded, grasping his chest and falling to the floor after Jonny had shot him with his finger gun.
Jonny ran over and sat down on his father's chest, saying, “Now you have to do what I say.”
“Uh-huh,” the oldest Munchkin said, nodding his head.
“What's your first command?”
“Hey,” Daniel called out, surprising his lover by his presence. “Jonny, I need to talk to Dad.”
“He's my ...” Jonny's temporary refusal ended quickly as he gulped. “General eyes. Okay, Daddy.”
Jack chuckled as he sat up, amused by his namesake's observation.
“Finger guns: now that's a safe way to play,” Jack mused as he flexed his index finger. Looking over at his husband, he asked teasingly, “Whazzup, *General* Jackson?”
Daniel accepted the tender kiss, but it was obvious that something was on his mind, especially when his response was a somewhat curt, “Study.”
“Angel, what's wrong?” Jack asked once they were in the study, the two of them standing near his desk.
The younger man took a look out the door and into the hallway, verifying no one was around, and then answered, “This is what's wrong.”
Jack took the note and instantly went into alert mode, something his lover could tell by the change in his eyes and demeanor.
“Status,” the general requested.
“Babe, we're married, and we're partners in a business. This isn't the military.”
“I said 'status' instead of 'report',” Jack tried to tease.
“I know, but ... gawd. This morning, there was a box left at the doorway of the office. That note was attached to the box, and inside the box was a,” he stopped, checking the hallway once more, “dead skunk.”
“Sick,” Jack said, disgust apparent. “We need to ...”
“Jack, I handled it already. I called General Hammond, and J-O has been thoroughly checked out. There's nothing. The note's clean, too.”
Sighing, Jack leaned against the desk.
“It could be Herman Wexler, but it could just as easily be Craig Martin, or I don't know who, but we have to find an office for our company that we can protect the way we want to protect it.”
“So we buy space, not lease it.”
“Every time I think we're finally going to be ... normal, something like this happens. It's not just us we have to be concerned about, but it's the people we employ, who we've brought into our world; and there are the neighbors, people who don't even have a clue about our world. We have to do everything we can to keep them safe.”
Daniel looked down and away, slowly turning as he walked over to the wall. He began to self-hug, which was never a good sign.
Putting down the note, Jack walked to his husband and slid his arms around his waist, pulling him close. He kissed his nape and then just held on, trying to let his Love soak in the reminder that they were together, and that meant they could get through anything, including this.
“We need to evaluate our options in light of this new threat,” Jack spoke. “What do we know?”
Daniel sighed, leaning his head back against his lover's chest while also lowering his hands and placing them atop Jack's.
“Someone from my past isn't happy with me. Craig Martin was just jealous of my relationship with our professor, and he resented my success with J-O. Herman Wexler is someone I barely remember. I'm not sure what his gripe is. He seems to think I'm a ... cheat,” Daniel stated. “And we know someone is sick enough to kill an animal to try and send me a message.”
“I don't even know where to take this,” Jack stated. “We need to talk to Wexler.”
“Sam's installing cameras around J-O. If anyone comes close to the office again, we'll have it recorded,” Daniel reported.
“No one touches any strange packages,” Jack warned.
Nodding, Daniel replied, “I already told Karissa that.”
“Where's Meg...oh, yeah, day off,” the older man acknowledged. “Danny, do you want to consider hiring a security guard?”
“To be honest, I don't think it will be necessary once Sam gets her ...”
“...doohickeys and gizmos installed?”
“Yeah, those,” Daniel chuckled lightly. “Once it's setup, I think everyone will be safe, but I want us to make a decision about getting an office, and soon. I just want to keep the neighbors safe.” Turning around to face his lover, he stated, “I keep trying to figure out why Herman Wexler would think I'm a cheat. I had one class with him ... I think. Jack, I swear, I hardly remember his name.”
“Maybe he's just delusional.”
“Well, that's without question, but we still don't know why he's after me.”
“Carter will get his history,” Jack said, his hands warming his husband's upper arms. He knew Daniel was feeling vulnerable. It was in his blue eyes and the slight tremble of his skin. “We'll find the answer.”
Daniel nodded as he let himself be engulfed into the strength and security of the older man's embrace.
“Nothing?” Jack asked incredulously.
“Nothing,” Sam repeated as she, Jack, and Daniel stood in her lab at the SGC the next afternoon. “Herman Wexler was a college dropout. He enlisted in the Army, but was discharged for medical reasons after just three months.”
“Discharged?” Daniel questioned curiously.
“There isn't much here in the way of an explanation, Daniel. After that, he just disappears. He hasn't even paid income tax.”
“That's not possible,” Jack refuted harshly.
Sam cocked her head, her eyes widening somewhat as she stared at her computer monitor and affirmed, “But it's the truth, Sir. There's no record of Herman Wexler after his discharge from the Army. He just disappeared until he showed up at J-O.”
“That makes no sense, Sam,” Daniel responded with concern.
“Maybe not, but there's no computer record of him at all.”
“Daniel, what exactly do you remember about this Wexler?” Jack inquired suspiciously.
“I told you. Nothing much. We had one class together that I can remember, but I barely talked to him. The truth was, no one in that class really wanted to talk to me. I did my work. I learned from the professor and by doing the research. You both know the story,” Daniel said, not really wanting to bring up his social loneliness yet again. “Anyway, I wouldn't have even known who he was if he hadn't told me.”
“But you did remember him after he told you his name,” Jack stated, more as a question than as a statement.
“Sure. I mean, I guess so,” Daniel shrugged. “Jack, it was a long time ago, and like I said, I ...”
“... barely knew him,” both men said together.
“Carter, what about his social security number, credit reports -- anything,” the general requested.
Shaking her head, the colonel replied, “Sir, there's no history, no record of expenditures, no police record, no anything. It's a blank slate; almost like he's been wiped out of the records intentionally.”
“Thanks, Sam. Jack, we have to go pick up the children,” Daniel said, turning around and leaving the lab.
“Dig deeper,” Jack requested, looking at Sam before turning and following his lover as they headed for their SUV.
A couple of hours later, while on a convenient errand to get gas in his truck, Jack took the opportunity to make a phone call.
“Jack, I didn't think I'd hear from you again,” Carlton stated in surprise.
“Yeah, well, you know how I feel about reunions,” Jack responded to his old contact from his more active days in Black Ops.
“What do you need this time?”
“Are you keeping a list, Carlton?” the general asked sarcastically.
“Come on, Jack. We both know the score.”
Jack let out a groan and then continued with the purpose of his call, stating, “Herman Wexler.”
“Herman, as in Munster?” Carlton laughed.
“I figured you were more the Gomez type,” Jack quipped about the character from 'The Addams Family'.
“I prefer 'Lily' to 'Morticia',” Carlton replied, referring to the wives from the two TV shows in question. “Who's Herman Wexler?”
“I don't know, and I'm not sure he's who he says,” Jack sighed and then filled the other man in on what he knew.
“That's not a lot to go on.”
“I thought you were good,” Jack retorted tauntingly.
“Even a dog needs a bone.”
“Rawhide or jerky?” Jack asked wryly.
“Not really,” Jack replied. “Let me know what you find out, sooner, not later,” he demanded, flipping his phone shut abruptly. Turning his attention to his fueling vehicle, he sighed, ~I have a bad feeling about this.~
“... so I think we should send Ty to look at the new equip...” Daniel paused his speech, looking around from the passenger seat of the truck. He realized they weren't headed in the direction he thought they were going. “Babe, where are we going?”
It was the following Monday, and the couple were north of Peterson Air Force Base, headed towards the Black Forest area.
“We're almost there.”
“The place where we're going,” Jack answered.
“And where's that?”
“Haven't you ever heard that saying about curiosity killing the cat?” the older man teased.
“Yes, but there's just one thing about that saying.”
“I'm not a cat,” Daniel smirked.
“I take it the saying doesn't work for Space Monkeys?“ Jack quipped, getting a teeny glare from his husband. “Here we are,” he announced, pulling onto a large, dirt road where a two-story building stood.
“I still wish I knew where 'here' was,” Daniel responded, getting out of the truck when he saw his lover exiting the vehicle. There were no signs to indicate what the building was, and it looked pretty barren. There wasn't even any pavement around it. “Jack?”
“Danny, look around. If we do this right, we've got a mountain view on the east and west sides. We keep the trees; maybe even add some. Everyone would have a view of the mountains or at least the trees: like a park.”
“I don't see any 'for sale' signs.”
“This was going to be some kind of medical facility, but the investors bailed. The building needs a lot of work on the inside. I'm thinkin' this would be a great spot for J-O. If we wanted to, we could tear this down and start from scratch.”
“This is a prime area, Babe. It's going to be expensive.”
“Danny, you're the one who said it: J-O is more than just us now.” Looking around, Jack gestured with his arm while saying, “This is what we need. We have lots of room for expansion here.”
“Let's take a look,” the archaeologist said as the couple began to walk around the area.
“Please tell me you don't want this overnight,” Alex Dennison begged while meeting with Jack and Daniel two days later.
“No, of course not,” Daniel answered. Just as Alex was nodding in relief, the archaeologist added, “Day after tomorrow would be just fine.”
Architect Byron Stone, Alex's boss, laughed at his employee's stunned face and soothed, “Alex, they're kidding.”
“How can you tell?” Alex asked warily.
“You are ... kidding?” Byron asked as he stared at Daniel.
“Yes,” Daniel affirmed.
“Byron, we want this done right, and we know we have a lot of plans to make. We'll need your best architectural advice,” Jack stated sincerely.
“We want J-O to be state of the art, archaeology and personnel wise,” Daniel added.
“And we want top security. Alex, you'll have to work with Carter on that,” Jack stated.
“Okay. Let's get started,” the designer stated, opening his laptop.
“Some days they have very long hours. We'd like our employees to have a place to relax or to work out, if they want. It doesn't have to be big,” Daniel stated.
“No, it doesn't,” Alex agreed.
“Punching bag, some weights, an exercise bike or two,” Jack put forth.
“Shower room,” the designer interjected.
“That goes without saying,” Jack affirmed with a slight chuckle. “Byron, we need to work closely on this.”
“Agreed,” the architect acknowledged. “The unused space: do you have a projection of what that might be used for in the future?”
“For some of it,” Jack answered.
“Do you want the break room to be in the same general area as the gym?” Alex questioned.
“No idea,” Daniel answered. “We'll let you tell us what you think works best, but, uh, we also want a small recreation or game room.”
“Ping pong, basketball hoop, a couple of game tables,” Jack listed verbally.
“We could make that part of the gym,” Alex stated.
“No, we'd prefer to keep the gym apart from the recreation room: the intent is a bit different for each room,” the archaeologist attempted to explain.
“You're talking three separate areas then,” Byron stated, looking at the two men for a final clarification.
“Exactly,” Daniel stated. “And the break room needs to have comfortable furniture all the way around. Alex, we also want a full kitchen set up this time, since we have the space.”
“They love that space between the office and the conference room,” Daniel noted about the J-O personnel. “We want to expand on that.”
“I'd like a mini-observatory. The stars can be relaxing,” Jack said.
“A mini-observatory?” Alex questioned. Not much surprised him about the lovers anymore, but he had to admit he hadn't been expecting this. “With a telescope?”
“Nice size one. Folks can talk to the plants while they stargaze. It'll increase productivity. Trust me on this,” Jack asserted confidently.
“You probably want a dome that opens, too,” Alex joked. Then he saw Jack's grin and sighed, “I was kidding.”
“We're not,” Jack stated. “Think of those beautiful, starry nights.”
“Do you have any idea what that is going to cos...t,” Alex questioned. Seeing his clients smiling, he shook his head and said, “Never mind.”
As the meeting progressed, the owners of J-O Enterprises continued to lay out some of their thoughts on the new building.
“We want to be as paperless as possible,” the archaeologist informed the designer.
“We want a couple of offices specifically for our clients. Sometimes our meetings can be extensive. Just like us, they have other things they need to do, so we'd like to have space set up just for that purpose,” Jack advised.
“We're going to be investing in more equipment, so we need an adequate storage area, too,” Daniel stated.
The list of what Jack and Daniel wanted to do with the new space was extensive, and while the expense would be great, they were convinced they were heading in the right direction. Their company was something more than just themselves now. It was for their children, and they were doing everything they could to make sure it was a place their brood would be pride of when they were old enough to truly understand its value.
“This is going to be a major move for us, and not just physically,” Daniel stated as he and his husband spoke with the majority of their staff in the conference room at J-O Enterprises the next Monday.
“It'll be a two-story building with an atrium and observatory on top. Our new headquarters is going to make you *want* to work late,” Jack teased.
“In fact, one section is being set up as a mini apartment complex,” Daniel interjected. “We'll have two separate units available for those deadlines when going home isn't practical, or if we have clients who prefer to stay with us, rather than a hotel.”
“Room service?” Megan asked brightly.
“Let's not get carried away,” Jack responded dryly.
“No, let's not. We'll just eat in the observatory,” Megan teased, loving the extravagance that she had just mocked.
“Do we need her?” Jack asked snarkily of his lover.
“Uh, yes,” Daniel affirmed, chuckling.
“Lucky for you,” Jack said sternly before he smiled at the couple's most valuable employee.
Continuing on with the meeting, Daniel said, “The architects are designing with expansion in mind, meaning that we may have a lot of ... storage space for now, but that space will be easily converted into whatever we need it to be in the future.”
“No changes in personnel, but there will be a small change in one area,” Jack continued, looking over at Megan.
The Director of Operations explained, “Most of us will be working out of the new building, but this office will also remain open as a small satellite facility. Karissa will be in charge. We'll be meeting with a few of you to talk about whether your primary location should be here, or at the main office.”
“Videoconferencing will become very important for us,” Daniel spoke. “We'll,” he pointed at Jack, “be using this space a lot. Videoconferencing is going to be part of our daily communication.”
“More makeup breaks,” Dora teased, causing laughter to erupt from the personnel.
“Watch those bad hair days,” Jack quipped in response.
“When's the big move?” Ty asked.
“Probably not for a few months,” Jack stated.
“It depends on how long it takes them to complete the building. There's a lot of changes to be made on the existing structure,” Daniel added. “Any ideas or suggestions you have for the new space are welcome, but we need to know soon, so talk to us, or to Megan or Karissa.”
“One more thing,” Jack began. “Security is going to be high. We anticipate having more business than ever, with more people in the office, so be prepared.”
“How is that going to be incorporated with the apartments you mentioned?” Bibreanay Appleton, a long time and very hardworking employee, questioned.
“We don't have all the details on that yet, but the apartment will be a separate space,” Daniel answered.
“Are we hiring a security firm?” Ty questioned.
“The best firm we know,” Jack answered without elaborating.
“Okay, that's it. Thank you,” Daniel said, dismissing the personnel.
As the group dispersed, Megan asked, “Did you want me to research security firms?”
“No,” Daniel responded. “We're hiring SGC retired and off-duty personnel.”
“You're right,” Megan replied. “That's the best firm out there.”
“Heineken,” Jack requested that evening as he slipped onto the barstool. He clasped his hands in front of him as they rested on the bar and he looked around to check out his surroundings. “What do you have?” he asked the man seated on the barstool to his left.
“Herman Wexler doesn't exist, Jack,” Carlton responded.
“Well, someone is using his name.”
“Carlton,” a disgruntled Jack began just as the bartender handed him his beer. Waiting a moment, he continued, “Wexler does exist.”
“Jack, stop making assumptions,” Carlton admonished scornfully. “I thought you were better than to look at the obvious.”
Nodding, Jack took a drink of his beer.
“The man did exist, once,” Carlton stated. Waiting a beat, he clarified, “He's dead.”
Jack looked over at the man, shaking his head as he replied, “There's no record of that.”
“Jack, do you always believe what you read?” the operative contact questioned.
Still skeptical, Jack let out a groan, took another sip of his drink, and then demanded, “Just tell me.”
“Wexler was ground up into little pieces by men who weren't happy at his threats to take what he knew about them to the Feds,” Carlton stated.
“The Mob?” Jack asked incredulously. “He was an anthropology student,” the general responded in a hushed tone of disbelief.
“Wexler's father got involved in some dirty dealings. He ended up street kill, under the guise of your everyday traffic accident. The kid wanted revenge, but he was way out of his league. I'm tellin' you, Jack. He was shredded, like little bread crumbs and spread all over the ground for the nightlife to digest.”
“Then *who* showed up at my office pretending to be Herman Wexler?”
“That I don't know, but isn't the more intriguing question, *why* he showed up pretending to be someone who no longer exists?”
As the man laughed hauntingly about the mystery, Jack downed a large gulp of his beer, stood up, took out his wallet to pay the tab, and then walked away, saying nothing further to his old nemesis.
“You're telling me that the man who threatened me *wasn't* Herman Wexler?” Daniel asked his lover later that night after the children were in bed. He paced around the den as he added, “That doesn't make sense. I mean, uh, why?”
“Now that's the question, isn't it?” Jack replied.
“Okay, but who would know that Wexler even exist...ed,” Daniel began, his words trailing off into a thoughtful silence, accompanied by a worried brow and a concerned frown. “Craig?”
“I was thinking about that.”
“You think he could have just ... hired someone to ... come after me?”
Jack shrugged, leaning forward in his seat and replying, “Martin thinks you cheated him out of his place back in college.”
“He didn't use those words exactly, but that is what he meant,” Daniel affirmed with a nod.
“Is it possible he and Wexler were pals?”
“Maybe. Why would Craig hire someone to pretend to be Wexler and have Wexler, or whomever he is, mention him, uh, Craig?”
“He wants the attention. Isn't that classic psycho-ness 101?” the older man asked.
“I don't ... know; uh, maybe.” Daniel sighed, pacing some more as he tried to figure out the puzzle. “Jack, I still don't understand why. What's the point?”
“When Martin first showed up, all Carter found out was that he was down on his luck. Maybe his luck died completely, and he blames you the way Raynor did,” Jack suggested, referring to Steven Raynor, who had irrationally blamed Daniel for the failure of his own archaeological company, among other things. “Danny, we didn't pursue it because Martin went away.”
“And maybe now he's back and ... sick.”
“That's not the word I'd use,” Jack said, reaching into his pocket and pulling out his cell phone. “Carter, new project.”
A month passed. Byron and Alex were working steadily on the new office building, which their clients wanted done as soon as possible, as was their norm. There hadn't been any further disturbances from 'Herman Wexler', or anyone else. The days and weeks had progressed normally.
The archaeologist was looking forward to today. He had an important meeting planned with an employee, and he was hoping it would go well.
“Daniel, I'm sorry I didn't get that file together earlier, but ...” Dora began.
“I know. There was a line,” the archaeologist chuckled as he shut his door.
“It was timing. I guess we were all a little behind schedule. That hasn't happened in a long time; well, not since the remodel last year.”
“Once we get in the new office, it'll never happen again,” Daniel said, sitting down and smiling at the young woman.
“Okay, what did I do wrong?”
“Nothing, and that's why I wanted to talk with you. Dora, when we first hired you, it was as a part time gopher, with a little research thrown in. Two years later, we asked you to join us full time as a research assistant. Happily for us, you agreed, and we've worked around your college schedule to keep you on staff in that position. Graduation is coming up.”
Dora smiled as she acknowledged, “I can't wait. No more books.”
“What are your plans?”
“Well, you know I'm a dance major, so the logical thing would be to move to New York or Los Angeles, or some place like that. I really love dancing.”
“So you want that to be your profession,” the archaeologist stated, but with a hint of a question in his voice.
“I love to dance; it's a passion inside of me.” Dora sighed as she confided, “Daniel, if I tell you something, will you promise me *not* to tell my mother?”
Laughing, Daniel nodded and answered, “Promise.”
“I'm not sure I want to be in the rat race. A friend of mine, Dixie Cavanaugh, moved to New York two years ago. She's living in a loft with about seven other people. She goes on auditions all the time, but even if she gets a gig, it's never enough, and she's back to waiting on tables. It's terribly cliché, but it's still ... show biz.” Dora joined her hands together as she continued, “It's the dancing I love, not the scrambling. I've been thinking about teaching dance, but I'm afraid I'd disappoint my parents. Mom's invested so much in my dance classes, ever since I was a little girl. I don't know what to do. Do you have any advice?”
“Follow your heart. Doing something you're passionate about makes all the difference.”
Nodding, Dora smiled, saying, “I never knew I'd think a rock was interesting. It is, though. Working here has been a great experience.”
Daniel sighed as he looked down on the folder on his desk; then he smiled, holding it up as he said, “This is your personnel folder.” Putting it down, he added, “I'm placing in it a copy of this letter.” He picked up two copies of a letter, putting one copy inside and then handing the other copy to his employee. “Basically, it's an offer of employment. It's good now, or at any time in the future.”
“Dora, Jack and I have discussed this, and we'd like to make you an offer, *if* you decide that dancing, full time, isn't what you want.” Daniel paused for a brief moment as the woman glance through the letter. “We'd like to offer you an opportunity to grow with our company. We've noticed that you have some real skill, and it would appear interest, in both geology and ancient civilizations.”
“I do,” Dora agreed. “I never knew I did, until I started working here.”
“Our offer is flexible, but it goes something like this. If you'd like to continue going to college and earn a degree in an appropriate field, that we can discuss, J-O will pay two-thirds of your educational expenses. At the same time, we'll put you on a part time schedule, so you can concentrate on your studies. What we ask in return, is that when you graduate, you agree to work for us for four years before pursuing any other interest or position with another company.”
“I can't envision myself working anywhere else.”
“Well, frankly, we'd just as soon that you didn't,” Daniel replied, adding, “But we do have to take that possibility into account. We can discuss the program of study. There are a lot of possibilities.”
“Wow,” Dora repeated. “I don't know what to say.”
“Don't say anything right now. This offer isn't disappearing, Dora. Think about it over the next few months, talk about it with your parents, check into the programs offered at the university: when you've reached a decision, or if you want our help in any way, the door's open,” Daniel said, nodding at the door. “Okay, so it's closed this second,” he chuckled.
“Thank you for the opportunity, Daniel,” Dora replied as she stood, folding the letter she held in her hand. “It's very generous of you and Jack, and it means a great deal that you have this kind of faith in me.”
“We have the same faith in your potential to be a professional dancer, Dora. Please don't turn your back on dancing for J-O or out of any obligation you may think you owe us, because you don't ... owe us,” Daniel stated. “At the same time, if you decide to take another path with your career, please consider our offer.”
Daniel headed for the door to open it for the woman when an alarm sounded.
“What's that?” Dora asked.
“I don't know,” Daniel replied anxiously, sprinting over to the security console that was now part of his office. “Out! Everyone out!” he shouted over the intercom and then pressed the button that would alert both the fire department and Jack, who was at home. Running out, he stopped and grabbed one of the fire extinguishers and then headed for the door. ~I don't believe this.~
“Daniel, what ...” Ty began.
“Fire at the side of the house,” Daniel stated, referring to the office as a house since his thoughts were about the home he had bought years earlier.
Ty and two other employees grabbed some of the other extinguishers and followed Daniel to the location of the fire. Meanwhile, Karissa made sure all of the employees got out safely before grabbing another extinguisher to see if she could help.
“Jeff, watch the brood,” Jack ordered as he ran down the stairs. “No one, and I mean *no one* leaves or comes in until Daddy or I contact you. Understood?”
“Yes, Sir,” Jeff spoke as he watched his older father hurry out of the house. He was about to close the door when Jack paused and instructed, “Everyone stays inside, and turn on the security system.”
Jeff nodded and immediately locked the front door after closing it. Then he set about herding his siblings into the house as instructed.
“Daniel!” Jack shouted as he exited the truck.
“Here!” the younger man called out, emerging from the other side of the fire truck that was in front of the 'hoffice'.
“Are you okay?”
“Everyone accounted for?” Jack asked, looking around and surveying the personnel that were scattered in front of the building.
“Everyone's fine,” Daniel answered. “We were lucky. Jack, if we hadn't put in the security system, we wouldn't have known in time, but ...”
“Doctor Jackson-O'Neill,” the fire captain called out as he approached. After being introduced to Jack, he advised, “You were lucky.”
“Daniel just said that,” Jack interjected.
“He and your employees put it out before we got here,” the man continued as he discussed the fire with the building owners.
“What?” Sam asked that night after returning from an off-world mission.
“It was the same man, the one posing as Herman Wexler,” Daniel stated, showing Sam the surveillance tape that caught the attempted arson as it occurred. “He set it off here and ran. Sam, we owe you,” he spoke emotionally. “The system you installed was so sensitive that it picked this up right away. We were able to extinguish the fire before the fire department arrived. There's just a little bit of property damage to the back corner where he set it off.”
“Do we have that torch he was carrying?” Sam questioned.
“The fire captain wanted to take it, but, fortunately, we know a few people,” the archaeologist said with a small smile.
“Carter, are you briefed?” Jack asked when he entered the study, immediately closing the door behind him.
“The brood?” Daniel asked.
“Jeff and Jen are keeping them in line. After what happened to them earlier this year at Sara's, they understand this is serious. They won't budge,” Jack responded.
“She needs the torch,” Daniel stated, watching as Jack went to his desk and opened the bottom drawer.
The general handed the wrapped-in-plastic item to the colonel and stated, “We need to know anything you can find out.”
“I'll get on it right away.”
“What about Craig Martin?” Jack inquired.
“You might find this interesting,” Sam said, pulling out a copy of the report she'd gotten earlier.
“Jail?” Jack queried in surprise, handing the printout to his husband.
“I think that's probably why you didn't have any further trouble with him a few years ago.”
“After his visit here, he went to work for a company in Texas. Apparently, he began stealing from them almost immediately, but he was caught after a few months.”
“That's quick,” Jack stated.
“He picked the wrong company to steal from. They have a continual audit system in place. It doesn't take long for them to discover if something is amiss. As the newest employee in the department where the problem was, they honed in on him right away. He was sentenced to ten years in jail.”
With a nod, Sam confirmed, “Just a few weeks before 'Wexler' showed up that first time.”
“He's been in jail blaming me for something I have no control over,” Daniel stated. “It's Steven all over again,” he sighed.
“Transference, Daniel. It's not that uncommon. People can't blame themselves, so they pick the next closest target.”
“Me,” the archaeologist acknowledged.
“Where's Craig Martin?” Jack questioned.
“Here,” Sam said, handing over the data sheet that had the man's last known address.
“Let us know what you find out,” Jack requested, gesturing towards the torch.
Sam nodded and exited the study. Jack was about to follow when his lover called out to him.
“Daniel, do you want our employees at risk? Do you want the Stephensons, who live next door to the 'hoffice' to lose their house because the fire spreads?” the general asked sharply.
“No,” Daniel answered, walking forward until he stood in his lover's personal space. He gave him a kiss and said, “Just ... be careful.”
“Always, Love,” Jack acknowledged. “I have to meet someone. I'll be back later.”
Daniel watched his lover leave, not knowing for sure what was going to happen, but sure that it would involve something from Jack's Black Ops days.
**I love you.**
**Love you, too, Angel. Don't worry. This is just a meeting.**
~I hope so,~ Daniel thought to himself as he took a calming breath and went to talk to the children.
“We could handle this another way, Jack,” Carlton stated as he and Jack met at a gas station in Manitou Springs.
“We'll handle it the way I said.”
“You've gone soft.”
“No. I just have other priorities now. I also have my limitations,” the general reminded.
“This is an expensive proposition.”
“I prefer to think of it as insurance -- peace of mind,” Jack replied.
Carlton nodded and then stated, “Kingscape seven.”
Thoughtfully, Jack nodded and agreed, “He's a good man.”
“I'll call with the charity.”
Jack nodded as he wiped the windshield of the truck. He'd seen Carlton more than he wanted to in one lifetime. He didn't trust the man much, but they had a certain bond. Saving each other's life on more than one occasion tended to create a certain relationship that could be counted on. When he looked up to say something else, Carlton was gone.
~This is not what I wanted to be thinking about tonight, or any night.~
Meanwhile, Daniel was on the phone with Lou Ferretti. He'd already talked to Teal'c. Next on his list of six people to call was Jeff Cornell.
“Daniel, you don't have to pay me,” Lou responded.
“Yes, I do. We do. This is a J-O expense. We want security there all the time until the new office is ready, but it needs to be discreet. Lou, there are families there. I don't want them afraid to let their children play. We need you and the others to blend in. I was thinking of a gardening project or something.”
“We'll figure it out. Just let me know who else is part of the plan,” Lou stated.
One hour later, Daniel made the call he hated to make the most, but he had to. If he let his pride or some ridiculous honor keep him from doing it and something happened, he'd never forgive himself.
“General, I need to ask you a favor,” Daniel stated when Lieutenant General George Hammond answered his phone at home.
“Jack,” Daniel called out, springing up from the sofa when he heard the door opening. “Are you okay?” he asked before the two shared a passionate kiss and then moved into a much-needed embrace.
“I told you, Love -- just a meeting,” Jack replied, kissing his soulmate again. “Are the kids asleep?”
“Yes. What happened?”
“Carlton is making contact with an old associate of ours. He'll keep a constant eye on Martin and respond appropriately.”
“Which means?” Daniel prodded.
“Which means everyone will be safe,” Jack answered. “It's going to cost us a bundle, but I figured you'd prefer this to the quick fix.”
“Don't worry, Daniel. I prefer this option, too,” the older man assured, pulling his lover to him. “How about you?”
“I've set up a rotation of security guards for J-O. We're going to be doing a lot of unneeded landscaping until the new building is ready for us. Jack, I called General Hammond and asked for a huge favor.”
“He said 'yes',” Daniel answered.
“I asked for our security detail to be 'assigned' to off-base ... something, so they could help us for a while. We need to meet with him tomorrow to work out the specifics.”
“Anything new from Carter?” Jack inquired, proud of his husband for making what he knew hadn't been an easy phone call.
“Not yet. Jack ...”
“Danny, let's sit down and snuggle for a while. It's been a heck of a day, and I'd just like to ...”
“Me, too,” Daniel agreed as the two settled down to try and let their emotional day slip away and enjoy their love instead.
Since the attempted arson just over a week ago, Sam hadn't had any luck with the torch, so the mysterious 'Herman Wexler' was still unknown. As the last week of April played out, the rotation of security at J-O had been a success, with the neighbors enjoying their occasional chats with the very friendly 'Got Your Six Landscape' workers. Unfortunately, no one could stop what was coming through the mail.
“Here's your mail, Daniel,” Megan spoke. “The one on top is marked 'personal'.”
“Thanks, Megan,” Daniel responded as he finished an email to one of the firm's clients. He turned his attention to the mail. He recognized the name of the leading archaeology company in New Mexico as the sender and proceeded to open it. Suddenly, his breathing hitched, and he stood up, the letter causing his heart to stop beating. Hurriedly, he left his office, calling out to Megan, “Cancel my appointments. I'll call you later.”
Once in his silver sports car, Daniel called home.
“Jackson-O'Neill residence,” Brianna answered.
“Bri, where's Dad?” Daniel questioned.
“He went to pick up the Munchkins from the Lapierres.”
~Great,~ the younger father sighed inwardly. “Where are Jen and Jeff?”
“In school,” Brianna answered, wondering why her father was asking such a silly question, considering the time of day it was. “Daddy, are you okay?”
“Bri, are there any adults with you?”
“No. Dad's just gone for an hour,” Brianna answered. “The security system is on, if that's what you're worried about.”
“Bri, keep it on, and do not answer the door unless it's Dad or me.”
“Something is wrong,” the astute tomboy surmised.
“Are the girls inside?”
“Good,” Daniel answered. “I'm on my way home. I'll be there in five minutes.” Dialing Jack's cell, the archaeologist waited for his husband to answer. “Jack, listen to me.”
“Hello to you, too.”
“He's threatened the Munchkins. I'm on my way home. Are you at the Lapierre's yet?”
“Seven minutes.” After increasing his speed, Jack corrected, “Make that four.”
“Call me, but be natural.”
“Au natural is my specialty. I'll ...”
“No, please stay on the phone. Pretend we're just ... talking ...”
“... naturally,” Jack completed for his anxious husband.
“Right. I just want to hear their voices,” Daniel spoke, waiting for his husband to arrive at the Lapierres.
“We go on lockdown tonight, Angel. Tomorrow, we take action. Agreed?”
“Agreed,” Daniel responded.
“Daddy, where's Dad?” Jennifer asked the next evening.
“He's on an errand,” Daniel answered. “He'll be back later tonight.”
“Are you going to tell us what's going on?” the teenager questioned. She walked closer to her younger father and said, “Daddy, please tell me.”
~We can't hide this from them,” Daniel sighed as he looked at his oldest daughter. He walked over to the intercom, pushing the appropriate button and speaking, “Jeff, would you join Jennifer and me in the kitchen, please.”
As soon as Jeff made his way downstairs, Daniel told both teenagers what was going on, adding that neither of them were to share it with any of it with their siblings.
“Do you think it's The Trust?” Jennifer asked.
“No, Jen. It's just a crazy man bent on revenge for a nonexistent act,” Daniel answered. “Keep your brothers and sisters close, okay?”
“We're about to be on a leash for a while, aren't we?” Jeff queried.
“No, you're not,” Daniel answered. “We're going to take care of it.”
“That's what Dad is doing tonight, right?” Jennifer surmised.
Daniel smiled and responded, “Dad's running an errand. He'll be back later.”
Jennifer acknowledged the comment, understanding that her question was not going to be answered. She also realized that from Daniel's answer to her query, something drastic was about to happen, and her younger father wasn't very comfortable with whatever that was. She was also smart enough to know that she would probably never be certain what that drastic something was. Glancing at her brother, she shared a look of concern. It was also a look of determined unity. They were Jackson-O'Neills, and that made them winners.
Late that night, in Abilene, Texas, Craig Martin walked into his small, dingy apartment. He closed the door, and then he felt a gun to his neck.
“What the ...”
“Shut up,” Jack ordered, pushing the man up against the door and then patting him down, both happy and surprised the man had no weapons on him. He'd already done a complete check of the apartment, finding a gun under the bed and a few phone numbers scratched onto a notepad on the nightstand. He'd already confiscated them for Sam to check out later. “Craig Martin, I presume.”
“What's it to you?”
“I have a message for you,” Jack said, the darkness of the room intensifying his words. “It's quick, and it's easy.”
“Who are you?”
“The message is this,” the covert specialist began. “If you want to live another day, you call off your goon and get lost in the Amazon somewhere. I'm giving you a chance, one chance. There's just enough cash on that table over there to buy you a one-way ticket to South America somewhere. What country is your choice, but you're to be gone by the end of the week. I'll know, one way or the other.”
“Why would I want to go to South America?”
Jack put the gun away and began to slug away at the man, until Martin slumped to the floor. He'd barely fought back.
“All mouth, no brawn,” Jack gasped from his actions. “You threatened my kids. If I didn't have a husband who cared about human life, you'd be dead. Believe me, I'm thinking seriously about lying to him and just telling him you got on that plane. He'd never know.”
Martin wiped the blood from his lip as he sat up on the floor, Jack's angry figure looming over him.
“You're the queer Daniel is ... married to.”
“I'm the queer who's gonna kill you if you aren't on that plane,” Jack corrected. He walked over and knelt down, taking the gun out and pointing it at the man's fearful eyes. “One ... two ... three ... bang, and you're dead. *My* kids. You don't threaten my kids.”
“I don't know anything.”
“What's his name?” Jack questioned, tapping the gun against the man's nose.
“I don't ...”
“I'm going to kill you if you don't give me his name, right now,” Jack promised, his eyes dark and showing that he was willing to do whatever was necessary to protect his family. “I'm not even going to count. Say goodbye.”
“Levinson. Keith Levinson,” a panicked voice revealed.
“And where can I find this Keith Levinson?” Jack queried.
“Super 8 in Canon City.”
“Good boy,” Jack praised sarcastically, knowing the motel that was about an hour's drive from the Springs. “You're being watched. If you aren't on a plane to South America within three days, you'll be dead. That's a promise. If you *ever* return to the United States, you won't live to see old age.”
As Jack stood and began to back away, Martin called out, “Jackson doesn't deserve what he's got.”
“He's not responsible for your bad luck,” Jack responded. “Three days, Martin. No, make that twenty-four hours. I don't think you have any good-byes to say.”
With that, Jack slipped away from the motel and returned to Colorado Springs. En route, he made a phone call.
“Carlton, the name is Keith Levinson. He's staying at the Super 8 in the Canon City. I don't want to know what happens. I just want your assurance that he'll never bother my family again.”
“I'll check it out.”
“And tell Kingscape that Martin is to be on a one-way trip to South America by this time tomorrow night. Plans need to be in place to monitor him.”
“And if he's not?”
“I want his assurance that Martin will never bother my family again.”
“I'll be in touch,” Carlton said, ending the call.
Jack flipped the phone shut, pondering just how soft he'd become. A decade earlier, Martin would be dead. Two decades earlier, he would have taken care of Levinson himself. Just a few years earlier, he'd want to know the details.
~Kids. I've got kids. I don't want to know,~ the general acknowledged. ~Does that make me soft? Crap. I don't care. I just want my family safe.~
About a week-and-a-half later, Jennifer met her parents at J-O Enterprises after school. The three were going out for a late lunch. There wasn't any special reason for the outing; it was just a chance to spend time together, something the parents liked to do with each of their children.
As she waited, the teenager noted the hustle and bustle of the busy office as the employees went about their business. Seeing Karissa walking down the hallway, she joined her, the two talking for a bit as they went into the woman's small office.
Finally, Jack and Daniel were ready, and the three headed for O'Malley's.
“Dad, Daddy, I'd like a job,” Jennifer surprised her parents by asking as the family ate their lunch.
“A job?” Daniel asked.
“I was talking to Karissa while waiting for you, and she mentioned that she really could use a part time assistant,” Jennifer explained.
“Have you heard about that?” Jack questioned his lover.
“No, but there's no reason for us to really. That would be Megan's call,” Daniel stated.
“She hasn't asked for one,” Jennifer interjected. “She said it's not a regular enough need, so she's just making do.”
“Jack, I think I know what Karissa's talking about,” Daniel remarked. “She has to process the incoming reports and surveys.”
“Which she does a couple of times a week,” Jennifer noted. “She needs some data entry assistance and help with follow-ups. Um, she mentioned phone calls, status checks, and things like that. I could help her,” she said eagerly. “It would only be for a few hours a couple of days per week, and it could be flexible.”
“What do you think?” Jack asked, looking at his husband.
“I think it's up to Megan and Karissa,” Daniel answered, taking out his cell phone and placing a call. “Megan, has Karissa mentioned needing an assistant?”
“Yes, but it's not regular enough for us to be able to hire anyone,” Megan reported. “It's hard to find someone who wants to work under ten hours a week, and that's what she needs.”
“Have you considered high school students?” Daniel asked, seeing the grin on his daughter's face.
“Honestly, no,” Megan responded, a bit surprised by the inquiry. “Where are we going to find a high school student who wants to do this kind of thing?”
Daniel smiled as he handed his phone over to Jennifer, who grinned even bigger as she took the phone and greeted, “Hi, Megan. It's Jennifer.”
“Jen? Job hunting?” Megan laughed as she realized what was happening.
“Well, I wasn't, but I saw how busy Karissa was when I was there earlier, and I thought it was something I could do. She said it could be flexible, and ...”
“Jen, you're hired!” Megan interrupted. “Give Karissa a call, and you two can work out the details. I will need you to do all the usual pre-job requirements -- filling out the application and whatnot.”
A couple of minutes later, Jennifer returned the cell phone to Daniel and said, “Thank you. I'm really looking forward to this.”
“Just remember, Jen, that we have a standard we expect our employees to live up to,” Jack began sternly. “J-O is for our family, and we'll get you in the door ...”
“Obviously,” Daniel confirmed with a smile.
“But staying there is based solely on your job performance, including attendance. Flexible is fine, if that's what Karissa needs, but you'll have job reviews and performance appraisals, just like everyone else.”
Jennifer smiled as she continued to listen to the brief lecture. She knew she could do the job, and she'd never let her parents down. The income she would make would come in handy, too.
The note was sparse and to the point: “Don't watch this with the kiddies around.”
“What do you think it is?” Daniel asked , looking at the videotape that had been delivered to Jack late that afternoon via special courier.
“Only one way to find out,” Jack said, putting the tape that was marked only with the date “May 12” on it, into the VCR.
In Spanish, a news report from Bolivia played. Two Americans, Craig Martin and Keith Levinson were shot dead during a drug sting in the city of Cochabamba. The drug raid was carried out jointly by both governments. The men were armed with M-16 weapons. No one else was injured, but four others were arrested and a large amount of narcotics were confiscated.
“Jack, I can't see Craig with an M-16.”
“He wouldn't know how to hold an M-16,” Jack agreed. “He was placed there; so was Levinson.”
“I don't know, Daniel, and I don't want to know. Do you?” Jack asked, looking over at his husband.
Shaking his head, Daniel answered, “No.”
The couple listened as the report concluded, leaving Daniel looking like a guppy and Jack just shaking his head. Apparently, Martin and Levinson were lovers.
“He who casts the first stone,” Jack spoke dryly.
“It doesn't make sense.”
“Danny, you know that sometimes the people who squawk the most are the ones covering up the most.”
“Apparently,” the younger man sighed, still surprised by what he'd just heard.
Jack rewound the tape, immediately recording over it. Then he took the tape and destroyed it while his lover watched.
“It's been a crazy year, Babe, and we're not even halfway through 2012,” Daniel mused as he watched his soulmate walking the living room floor with their youngest child in his arms.
It was two-in-the-morning, and both men had woken when JD's cries thundered through the intercom. The fussy child was unusually loud, so the couple had decided to bring him downstairs for a while, not wanting to wake Chenoa and Lulu, who were both sleeping in their part of the nursery/bedroom.
“JD was born, and Tommy,” Jack spoke, thinking about Cassandra's infant son.
“The Trust tried to kidnap the brood.”
Jack chuckled, “That's when we found out the brood was really ...”
“... MacBrood,” both men said together.
It was an ongoing joke now in the Jackson-O'Neill family, about how the children had banded together using all kinds of MacGyver-like tricks and gizmos to thwart a kidnapping attempt by The Trust while they were being baby-sat at Sara's in February.
“Alex's supper party was different,” Daniel chuckled.
“A fancy dinner and his missing sister as dessert,” Jack joked. “How's she doing?”
“Good, I think. She and Alex are working hard on reestablishing their relationship,” Daniel answered. “It'll take time, and they're both eager to find their brothers.”
“Yeah,” Jack said, bouncing JD slightly after the baby began to fuss a bit. “You're making your old man exercise,” he chuckled as he looked at the baby.
“Can't hurt,” Daniel teased.
“Careful,” Jack warned, causing his husband to laugh out loud. With a grunt, he looked at JD and said, “I get no respect.”
“We've been on the go a lot this year, too,” Daniel spoke.
“Canada, the Panama Canal,” Jack said in review.
“Canada was nice,” Daniel replied, thinking about the short trip.
“It was about time,” Jack responded in reference to the reason for the trip.
“Yeah, it was,” Daniel agreed. “If they're just an eighth as happy as we are, they'll be blissfully happy forever.”
Jack smiled, sharing a loving and tender look with his spouse before saying, “And we're not done yet.”
“I'm excited, Babe. I'm so glad you convinced me to buy the RV and tour the country with the children. I have a feeling it'll be a vacation we'll never forget.”
“You know, Angel, in spite of the Craig Martins out there, our world is pretty dang good.”
“Yeah, it is,” the younger man sighed in agreement. ~No more trauma,~ he determined, turning his thoughts to some of the more humorous things that had happened throughout the year. “I still can't believe you hid all those bears from me for all these years,” he mused about a secret stuffed bear collection his lover had kept hidden from him until he'd recently discovered it.
Jack just laughed, and his laughter reminded him of something else he was happy about -- laughter.
“Danny, our kids laugh a lot.”
“They don't let the danger get them down. Jack, did I tell you Jen knows, about your trip to Abilene. I mean, she doesn't know the specifics, but my guess is she's probably figured it out,” Daniel said a bit solemnly.
“I'm sure Jeff knows, too. After the MacBrood incident, they're both pretty aware of what's going on around here.”
“We're right, though, aren't we, Babe? We can't ... worry about The Trust being out there all the time; and we can't wonder how many deranged Craig Martins may pop up, either.”
“Not unless you want our kids living in a bubble. We're doing good, Angel,” Jack said. “I was proud of Jeff, Jen, and Bri with how they handled those emergencies recently. They didn't need us to tell them it was serious, and they didn't ask a lot of questions, either.”
“No,” Daniel acknowledged. Smiling, he said, “But we got big hugs when we both got home.”
“That's our brood.” After a moment, Jack spoke, “I think he's asleep for the duration now.”
The lovers walked upstairs to the nursery and settled JD into his crib. For a moment, they just watched their new miracle as he slept. Then, arms around each other's waist, the two returned to their bedroom. Without saying a word, they walked outside onto their roof deck and looked up at the stars. Both leaned their heads over so that they were touching.
“When the office is done, it'll be a great place for our employees,” Daniel opined.
“We're pulling out all the stops,” Jack agreed. “That dome is costing us a pretty penny.”
“That's for you,” Daniel laughed lightly.
“I talked to Byron about finishing the first floor so we could move in early,” Jack stated. “They can finish up the second floor after we move in, if necessary.”
“I like that idea, but we need to make sure Sam is able to get the security system in place first.”
“She and Alex will get it done.”
“I know,” the younger man agreed.
The lovers grew silent as they stood under the night sky. They had so much happiness in their lives now. Not even the evil of Craig Martin could interfere with that for long.
“I'm ... cold.”
Jack grinned as he responded, “I ... may have a way to fix that.”
Turning to face his lover, Daniel replied, “You always do.”
With smiles of anticipation, Jack and Daniel kissed, their tender joining just the start of the passion that would make this early morning unlike any other, for every time the couple shared their physical love, their nation of two grew. It was never old, never stale, and never obligatory. For this twosome, love was always a unique reminder of just how special their nation was. This morning would be no exception.
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