Future Tide

Author:  Orrymain
Category:  Slash, Drama, Romance, Holiday, Established Relationship
Pairing:  Jack/Daniel ... and it's all J/D
Rating:  PG-13
Season:  Beyond the Series - May 26-30, 2017
Spoilers:  None
Size:  49kb
Written:  February 21-24,26, March 2, 2011
Summary:  Jack, Daniel, their brood, the beagles, and several members of their family of friends adjourn to the Minnesota cabin compound for the Memorial Day weekend, which proves to be more memorable than anticipated, especially for Jack and Jennifer.
Disclaimer:  Usual disclaimers -- not mine, wish they were, especially Daniel, and Jack, too, but they aren't.  A gal can dream though!
Notes:  
1) The heroics which Hammond speaks of in this story are fictional, but mirror events that happened frequently in wartime.  There were many heroes in Vietnam, the wars before it, and those conflicts that have come after.  This author salutes all of the men and women who fight to protect the rights we so strongly live by.  Thank you, one and all.
2) Silent, unspoken thoughts by various characters are indicated with ~ in front and behind them, such as ~Where am I?~
3) Thanks to my betas who always make my fics better:  Classic, Ali!

Future Tide
by Orrymain

====
May 26
====

“Troops, Attention!” Jack bellowed.

“Aw, Dad, you're retired,” the male Spitfire whined.

“But I'm still a dad and I don't want to leave anyone behind.  Do you?”

“No, Sir,” the growing child replied.

In a flash, the Jackson-O'Neill children lined up.  They were all there, all twelve of them, which was getting to be more of a fete nowadays.  Jennifer was a college graduate, and Jeff was about to begin his senior year at the University of Cincinnati.

“Count off,” Jack ordered, surprising everyone when he wasn't as commanding as expected.  In fact, he sounded like he had a frog in his throat.  ~Dang sentimentality.~

Jennifer smiled, well aware of the importance of the occasion.  This could easily be the last big family outing.  She knew her life was in transition, as was Jeff's.

“Jennifer!”

“David!” David chimed eagerly, not really into the emotional part of what was happening.

“Mouseketeer Noa,” Chenoa giggled.

“Munchkin General Jonny,” Jack's namesake boasted happily.

“Middle Munchkin,” Little Danny called out.

“Original Miracle Munchkin,” Aislinn mused, laughing at her occasional nickname, though she had to admit to liking it when her parents sometimes called her their little miracle or they used it to comfort her when she was feeling blue.

“Spitfire Red,” Jenny shouted, laughing when Jack began to clear out his ears in response to her military-like volume.

“Ricky!” the male Spitfire called out happily.

“Maverick One, better known as Jeff,” the young man stated, glancing over at Jennifer and giving her an understanding nod.

“Maverick Two still here,” Brianna announced with a pleased smile.

“Lulu,” the young ballerina added while she stretched.

“Unexpected Miracle,” JD chuckled at the far right hand side of the lineup.

“Woof!” Bijou barked.

“Woof!  Woof!” Katie declared.

“They're getting more creative with their lineup calls,” Jack told his husband.

“You know what they say, Babe, variety ...” Daniel began.

“... is the spice of life,” the entire brood called out, their words overlapping a bit which led to some laughter.

With that, Jack did a final check of the house, while Daniel made sure the brood and dogs were settled into their RV, nicknamed Betsy by the family.

Once everything was secured, the Jackson-O'Neills set off towards their Minnesota cabin, which was now actually a compound that included a bunkhouse, lodge, and three guest cabins in addition to the main cabin, the one that had been passed down to Jack from his grandfather.  They would be joined there by some of their family of friends and together, the group would enjoy a pleasant Memorial Day holiday.

====
May 27
====

“Grandpa!” the children chorused when their grandfather, General George S. Hammond, drove up to the cabin.

It was Saturday morning and the retired Air Force officer was the first guest to arrive.

“General!” Jack exclaimed.  “Betsy's been waiting for you.”

“Can I sleep with you in Betsy, Grandpa?” Ricky asked excitedly, not even giving the man a chance to say hello.

The Spitfire had always enjoyed spending private time with Hammond and had been asking his parents all day if he could sleep in the RV which was where his grandfather was going to stay during his time at the compound.

“Hey, let's wait to see how the day goes,” Jack intervened.

Hammond smiled and looked around, seeking out the rest of the family, since not all of the kids had come to greet him.

Realizing what his former commanding officer was thinking, Jack explained, “Daniel and some of the kids took the yacht out for a spin.”

“I'm looking forward to taking her out myself, if you don't mind.”

“Not at all, Sir.”

====

“Peter!” Jennifer exclaimed, eagerly running forward to greet her boyfriend, Peter Hamilton.

Both young adults were happy to see the other.  Peter had been with his parents on a prolonged trip to try to 'de-snobbize' one of his cousins.  The Hamiltons had once been about as arrogant and snobbish as wealthy society folks could be, but after an intervention from Thor and Peter's own awakenings over the years, they were now the total opposite and doing their best to try and bring their relatives down to earth.  Unfortunately, it didn't work very often.

Since graduating from Oxford, Peter had been running a small, offshoot business of his father's huge corporation.  Actually, much of the family conglomerate had been sold, and only a few specialty divisions retained.  This was totally by choice as Peter's parents opted to enjoy life without the obligations of a corporation and Peter, in joint agreement with Jennifer, had ultimately decided to keep just one part of the company that meant something to him.

“Hey, Jen!” Peter called out, sprinting to meet up with her.

--

“Look at them, Danny,” Jack groaned on the porch of the cabin.

“They're in love, Jack,” Daniel remarked, smiling at the young couple as they kissed.

When the kiss got a little too hot for him to handle, Jack shouted out, “Daniel, where's my P-90?”

“Oh, gawd,” Daniel expressed, shaking his head as he walked off the wooden porch and over to the young adults.  “Hello, Peter.”

“Doctor Jackson-O'Neill.”

Jack walked over and shook Peter's hand while saying, “Watch the lip lock.”

“Dad!”

“Yes, Sir,” Peter responded.

“How's the company?”

“We're making progress, General.  I really like standing on my own,” Peter answered.

“So you're glad you turned down the offer?” Daniel questioned.

“It was the right thing to do,” Peter replied.  “We're just starting.  I don't want a large corporation.  I want a small to medium business that will grow, but not get so big that we can't control it.”

“We,” Jack echoed.

“Um ... yes, Sir,” Peter answered nervously, glancing over at Jennifer.

Just then, Jonny called out from the pirate ship that was above the bunkhouse, “Peter, come walk the plank with us.”

Peter laughed, excusing himself from Jennifer and her parents.

As soon as the young man was out of range, Jennifer begged, “Daddy, please keep Dad in line.  I'm not a child anymore.”

“Hey, I'm right here.”

Jennifer looked at her older father, smiled, and reminded, “I love you, Dad, but please stop making Peter so nervous. We wouldn't be together without your butting in, remember?  So, I know you approve of him.  In fact, I know you like him.”  She grinned.  “I think you might even love him.  Please, let's enjoy the weekend *without* the weapon references?”

Jack grumbled, but then gave his daughter a nod.  Excitedly, she hugged him and then hurried away to walk the plank with her significant other.

“Daniel?”

“Jack?”

“It hasn't been long enough.”

“I know, but there's nothing we can do about it.  It's like the tide, Babe.  It flows in and out, and every time it does, life changes.”

Jack turned to face his husband and opined, “How philosophical of you.”

“Thank you, Babe.  I've been practicing that line for the past year.”

With a chuckle, the parents headed back inside the cabin.

====

By Saturday evening, the Ferrettis had also arrived to complete the holiday guest list.  Lou and Carolyn brought with them their adopted daughter Trina, now a college student herself.  She and Jennifer were good friends and both were excited to have a chance to chat since they really didn't see each other that often, especially since Trina was attending college out of state.

Everyone gathered in the lodge for a country casual dinner, which Carolyn had taken charge of accomplishing.  Afterward, they played a game of charades, watched “The Great Escape”, and then headed outside to enjoy the nice weather and fresh air.

Under the night sky, Ricky crawled into his grandfather's lap and requested, “Tell us a story, Grandpa.”

“About the military,” Jonny added as he walked over and sat down in front of the lieutenant general.

“Very well,” Hammond agreed.  “This is something that happened in Vietnam when I was a lieutenant in the Air Force.  It was after my assignment at Cheyenne Mountain had ended.”

Jack and Daniel exchanged a look, both recalling the time when SG-1 had gone back in time to 1969 and had actually interacted with Hammond.

“I was part of a squadron protecting an Army base at Long Binh.”

“Where's that?” Jenny asked.

“It was near Bien Hoa, not far from Saigon; that city is now known as Ho Chi Minh City,” Hammond answered.  “They had been undergoing severe ground attacks.  Our troops were trying to get there to defend the base, but it was hard going.  We dropped magnesium flares to help them see and laid down fire at the enemy.  Thousands of rounds over several hours at been released.  It was a dirty business,” he sighed.

“Did you fire the shots, Grandpa?” Ricky questioned.

“Sometimes,” Hammond acknowledged.  “We'd been at it for four, maybe five hours when a Vietcong mortar hit our left wing and exploded.”

The children gasped, some moving closer to hear the story being told.

“We were scrambling,” the bald headed man continued.  “That blast opened up a hole in our craft that was at least two-and-a-half feet in diameter.  I thought we were goners.  The plane was shot up with shrapnel.  I couldn't believe we were still in the air.”

“What happened?” Aislinn asked with baited breath, her question barely audible.

“We were down a man so a zoomie had volunteered to go with us; a zoomie is a ...”

“I know,” Jonny interrupted.  “A new fly boy.”

Jack and Daniel chuckled at the reference, which was basically accurate.

With a nod, Hammond continued, “He was fresh out of the Air Force Academy when we participated in the sortie.  He'd been hit with shrapnel; it riddled his body, but he wasn't down.  The pilot was struggling to keep us flying.  All of us in the cargo hold were injured.  I was hardest hit here,” Hammond tapped on his right thigh, “and couldn't move much.  Our gunner grabbed a flare to toss out of the plane when bullets riddled the plane again.  He was killed.  The flare rolled from him, fully armed.  We were about to die, or so it seemed.

“Our zoomie was moving me clear of the opening in the plane.  I called out about the flare.  We had thousands of rounds of ammo in the hold.  I didn't think we had another second of life.  He reached for the flare, but the plane banked about twenty-five degrees, and it rolled away from him.  We were out of time.  He threw himself on the flare and crawled over to the door, pushing the flare with his body.  He left a trail of his own blood, but he made it.  He reached that opening and somehow managed to eject it from the craft.  Seconds later, the flare exploded, rocking the plane.  We had a great pilot.  He got us to safety.  We lost our gunner, but the rest of us were alive because of Airman Matthew Hunter.”

The brood let out a collective gasp, and even Lou Ferretti leaned back a little from the name.

“Jeff, wasn't that your grandfather?” Jennifer asked, leaning over and reaching out with her hand to touch her brother's hand for a moment.

“Yes,” Jeff affirmed.  “Dad told me the story when I was old enough to understand it.”

“Your grandfather was a hero, Son,” Hammond pronounced.

“All the young men were heroes,” Jack expressed with a nod.

“To all the young men,” Lou honored, raising his beer bottle to toast the military personnel throughout the ages.

“Grandpa, what happened to the Army base?”

“The Air Force did its job.  We lit the way and just in time, our troops arrived and were able to push back the enemy.”  Hammond paused before he added, “But a lot of lives were lost in that battle; too many lives.”

Hammond was soon surrounded by Munchkin and Spitfire hugs, which led to more from the rest of the brood.

“We love you, Grandpa,” Little Danny declared.

====

It had been a terrific day for everyone at the compound, and Hammond's tale had been a good reminder of why the group was gathered together.

Soon enough, it was time for the younger children to go to bed.  Jennifer still felt responsible for her siblings, so she kissed Peter and hugged her parents goodnight before heading for the bunkhouse to make sure her brothers and sisters were watched over.

After a while, General Hammond retired to the RV, where David and Ricky were already fast asleep, having been given permission to stay in Betsy with their grandfather.  Within ten minutes, the Ferrettis also returned to their guest cabin, though without Trina, who had opted to stay in the bunkhouse with Jennifer and the kids.

This left Jack, Daniel, and Peter to do a quick walk around to ensure the fire was out and the area was secure.  The young man helped the parents carry a few supplies into their cabin when he suddenly made Jack very nervous.

“Ah, Sirs, I'm glad it's just the three of us right now because ...”

Peter's words were cut off by the general.

“Hey, Danny, I think I'm gonna check on JD.  He might be coming down with a cold.”

“JD's fine.”

“It will only take a couple of minutes,” Jack insisted.

“Sirs, I only need a minute or two of your time,” Peter interjected politely.

“I need to check the truck,” Jack responded, forgetting about JD at this point.

“Jack ...”

“I'll be back in a few minutes,” the general replied anxiously, heading for the door.

“Jack.”

“It was acting wonky earlier.”

“Jack.”

“I've been hoping to speak with you both for quite a while now,” Peter requested, his nerves making him more jittery by the second.

“Later,” Jack stated in a dismissive tone.

“Jack!” Daniel exclaimed as he managed to put his left hand on the door, thus preventing his husband from opening it.

“Danny, I have to check the truck.”

“Then you'll be gone a lot longer than a few minutes.”

“Huh?”

“We didn't bring the truck.  It's in Colorado Springs, remember?”

Jack just stared at his husband until finally he groused, “Oh, crap.”

With an understanding yet tiny smile, Daniel implored softly, “The tide is in, Jack.  You can't change it, and neither can I.”

“Why not?” Jack angrily asked his lover.  His eyes bore into Daniel's until he accepted the truth.  With a quick glance at Peter, he suggested, “Let's take a walk.”

The three walked down one of the paths added when the compound was built.  It was well lit and yet not obtrusive.

“Doctor Jackson-O'Neill, General Jackson-O'Neill, you both know that I love your daughter very much.  I wasn't much when she met me, and if it hadn't been for both of you, I wouldn't be here now.”

“Shoulda looked the other way,” Jack groused.

“Ignore him, Peter.  Please, go on,” Daniel invited.

Feeling about as big as a bug at the moment, the young Hamilton forged onward.

“Jen has been my inspiration since I saw her walk out of our house, looking so beautiful and dignified, in spite of what I'd put her through.  She's kept me focused, and she makes me better than I am.  You know that she will never want for anything.  I'd do anything for her and for the family we'll hopefully have.”  Peter took a deep breath and decided to just take the plunge.  “Sirs, I would very much like your permission to ask Jennifer to marry me.”

His hands securely in his pockets, Daniel smiled and looked over at his husband, whose face was devoid of expression.  Jack was simply emanating one of his better stares of intimidation.

Peter swallowed, his gaze going back and forth between the two parents.  His heart was beating loudly.

“Jack,” Daniel urged softly.

“I thought it was already a done deal,” Jack stated a bit flippantly.

“Jack, stop,” Daniel reprimanded slightly.

“You hurt her, ever, and you'll answer to me,” the Special Opertions expert warned.

“I would never hurt her.  I did that once,” Peter admitted, owning up to his past.  “It killed me, and I never thought she would care about me again, but *you* helped Jennifer to work through it.  She did forgive me, and I feel very lucky.  I will *never* hurt her again.  I will do my best to make every day of her life the most beautiful day ever.”

“That's all we can ask,” Daniel replied.  “We're very happy for you both.”  He looked at his lover expectantly.  “Jack.”  There was silence, after which he called out again.  “Jack.”

“For crying out loud, I know my name, Daniel.”

“Then act like it.  Peter has asked a question, and he deserves an answer, the right way, with respect.  Now you know where I stand on this.  It's not like we haven't talked about it.”

Jack sighed and finally extended his hand while saying, “You have our permission.”

“Thank you, Sirs.”  Peter began to walk away, but then he stopped and returned to his elders.  “General, Doctor, I want you to know something.  I am *not* taking Jennifer away from you.  My company is based here; my intent is for it to always be here.  Jen loves her family.  It would kill her to be away from the brood and you.  I don't want to take her from you.  What I want to do, what I hope you'll let me do, is *add* to your family, with me and our kids.”

Jack nodded and replied quietly, “You've been a member of the family for a long time.”

“I just wanted you to know.  I'm not taking her to the other side of the world.  We both love Colorado Springs.  This is where we want our home to be.”

“Thank you, Peter,” Daniel acknowledged.

The young man went on his way, heading for the cabin he was staying in for the weekend, leaving the soulmates alone.

“Daniel?”

“Yes?”

“It's not a tide; it's a friggin' tidal wave,” Jack groaned.  “Make that a tsunami.”

“He's a good man, Jack.  He'll be a good husband and father.”

“Geez, one step at a time.”

“How about a lot of steps?” Daniel queried.  “I'm tired.”

“Yeah, me, too.”  As the couple ambled their way back to their cabin, Jack wondered, “Do you think she knew he was asking us tonight?”

“I'm not sure.  I think they've been talking about this for a long time, though.”

“Not long enough.”

Daniel stopped, turning his Love to face him as he refuted, “Babe, Jennifer has given us a lot of time to prepare for this.  We both know it.  They could have gotten married anytime after that his parents were ....”

“Thor-napped,” Jack completed for his husband.

“Thor-napped,” Daniel affirmed.  “Young people today don't normally wait so long.  Jen ... she wanted to see JD grow up a little.  Gawd, Jack, he's five now.  She wanted to make sure Chenoa was secure and that David was, too.  She wanted to watch the Munchkins and the Spitfires really come into their own.  She wanted to help Bri overcome the hurdles in becoming more than a tomboy, but a young woman.  She's done all that.  Along the way, she guided Peter into all kinds of what I believe are right choices.  He graduated from Oxford and he's started his business here.  And ... well, she graduated Magna Cum Laude with a 3.90 GPA and a BS in Business with emphasis in Management and Marketing while still working for Alex *and* J-O part time.  She's paid off her car and ... Jack, she's right.  She's not a little girl anymore.”

“Time to let go, huh?”

“Past time, but this time, we have to.”

“Can't hold back the tide?”

“Not the future tide.  The future is here, Jack.  She's been patient.  We can't let her down, not now.”

“Yeah.”

“One day soon, she'll walk in wearing a diamond, and we have to be ready for that.  Jack, we have to be happy for her.”

“Darn it, Daniel, I am happy for her.  I'm just ...”

“I know.”

The parents hugged, holding each other tight.  They were about to lose their first child to marriage, and they just weren't sure how to go about it correctly.

“I'd rather fight the Goa'uld.”

“Even the Replicators,” Daniel chuckled.

Again, the two headed leisurely towards their cabin.

“I'll ... talk to Peter again tomorrow.”

“That would probably be good,” Daniel replied.

“Grandkids,” Jack sighed.

“Let's ... just get through their wedding first.”

“Good idea,” Jack agreed.

====
May 28
====

“Here you go, JD,” Jack stated, handing the youngest family member his fishing pole with bait attached.

“That's a funny squiggly,” JD observed.

“Yeah, well, it's better than worms.”

“Dad!” Little Danny exclaimed.

“Your brother here used to free the worms,” Jack told JD.

“Worms have a right to be free, Dad.”

“That's why we use squiggles now,” Jack mused with a smile.

“Hey, there's another car,” Aislinn observed while pointing with her hand.

“Wonder who that could be,” Jack vocalized, seeing a strange vehicle driving up.  Immediately, he stood up.  “JD.”

“Big boy.”

“Yeah, but not big enough that you still don't need supervision.  Put the pole down.  We'll be back.”

“Okay.”

With his children around him, Jack walked forward, curiosity filling him about who could be in the car.  He knew that Cassandra's family was spending the holiday with Dominic's parents, and the Wilsons had gone to Yellowstone.  The Shanahans were home in the Springs, a result of Pete having to work the weekend.  He just couldn't imagine who else it could be.  Then he saw the white hair.

“Billy?” Jack nearly whispered.

“Uncle Billy!” the children screamed in delight and immediately began running.

Sure enough, it was Jack's older brother and his wife, Jilly, who had flown in from Australia.

“Bro!” Jack shouted.  “*Daniel, Billy and Jilly are here.*”

The hugs were big and strong and as she watched from the upper floor of the bunkhouse, Jennifer grinned.  Just as Daniel glanced over, the young woman pulled back and began to make her way down and greet her relatives.

====

Later that day, Daniel took the opportunity to help Jennifer carry some dishes into the kitchen of the lodge.

“Jen, I'm guessing you invited Billy and Jilly to join us this weekend.”

“Me?”

“I'm also thinking it was a smart move,” Daniel responded.

“I didn't do anything, Daddy.”

“I love you, Jen.  You've grown into the most beautiful and ... intelligent woman,” Daniel praised.

“Thank you, Daddy,” Jennifer replied with an unassuming and yet coy expression.

For Daniel, the question was answered.  Peter may or may not have popped the question yet, but one thing was for certain.  Jennifer knew the topic of marriage would come up and she knew her older father would need some special handling and understanding.

====

“Don't sugar coat it, Jack,” Billy stated forcefully early that evening when the brothers took a private walk.

“Blast it, Billy, she's too young to get married.”

Billy laughed, “Jackie Boy, she's twenty-two years old.  What were you doing at that age?”

“That's beside the point.”

“Come on, Jack.  What's really stuck in your craw?”

Jack sighed and walked over to a tree.  He began to pick on it a bit.

“If I have to imitate ole Rip, we're not leaving this spot until you tell me,” Billy advised as only a big brother could do with a manner that was both supportive and a warning.

“It makes me feel ... old,” Jack confided.  “Do you know how old I am?  Geez, Billy, I have twelve kids, the youngest one is five.  What are the odds I see him get married?  Crap, I'm beat up.  You don't know the half of what my body has been through, not to mention my brain.  My mind has been played with so often that sometimes I wonder if I'm really all here.”

“You never were, Bro.”

“Funny.”

“What you're feeling is natural, Jack,” Billy assured.  “I've been there.”

“Nothing about this feels natural,” Jack refuted.  With a sigh, he confessed, “Daniel didn't know how old I was until we remodeled the house.  We'd been married for six years by then and had eight kids.  I was scared to death when he found out.”

“You lied to him?”

Shaking his head, Jack answered, “Not intentionally.  I pushed age out of my mind.  He made an assumption, and I went with it.”

“My guess is all he cared about was that you lied to him, by omission,” Billy opined.

“Yep.”

“But?”

“But Jen's getting married and it just makes me feel ... old.”

“Jack, do you know what the next best thing isto having your own little kids hanging all over you?”  Billy waited, knowing his brother knew the answer.  “Having grandchildren hanging all over you.  You're not old, Jack.  If you are, what does that make me?”

“A pain in the mikta,” Jack answered.

“A what?”

“Butt,” Jack clarified.

Billy laughed and put his arm around his brother's shoulders as he spoke, “Jack, you're not old.  You're just well lived.”

“Half baked,” Jack jested.

“And that means you still have another half to go then, doesn't it?”

“Why are you here?”

“I was invited,” Billy answered truthfully.  “Your little girl loves you, and she's worried about you.  She also wants to make sure that her future husband doesn't have to duck a shotgun for the rest of his life.”

Jack laughed, “I gave him my blessing last night and this afternoon.”

“For real?”

“He's a good man.  Jen loves him.”  Jack noticed his brother's probing expression and finally added, “Okay.  I love him, too.  He's been around a few years now, like a tick you can't get rid of.”

Billy laughed, “Don't change, Jack, just ... keep the guns locked away.”

====

Jack rubbed the smooth skin of his lover's back and smiled.  It never got old.  Daniel was his special blanket, and that kept him feeling young and alive.

“Are you going to tell me?” Daniel finally asked as he leaned his head against his Jack pillow that always provided him with strength and security.

“I approve of the marriage.”

“I know that.”

“I like, love Peter.”

“I know that, too,” Daniel replied.

“Jen asked Billy to come here this weekend.  She knew Peter was going to pop the question ... to us.”

“Yeah, I know that, too.”

“What is it you *don't* know?” Jack queried lightly.

“Why you've been so tense thinking about them getting married when we've known they were going to get married for the last few years?”

“I felt ... old, Angel.  Our daughter will be on her own.  I don't know.  Danny, I don't know what I was thinking.”

Lifting up to get a good look at his lover, Daniel asked, “Do you know what you're thinking now?”

“Yeah.  I was an idiot.”  Jack smiled and added, “I want to be here to see all of our kids get married, but I was a little afraid of seeing that train get started.”

“Well, even if we're the caboose, it'll be a great ride, Babe.”

The couple settled into a contented silence, the Danny Blanket and Jack Pillow making a perfect compliment for each other.

“Danny, you asleep?”

“Not yet.”

“Do you suppose that someday, when the brood is all grown and out on their own, and you and I are back to being alone all day that we'll still be able to ... to ...”

“To ... you know?”

“Yeah?”

“Babe, we're never going to be too old to you know, and just to show you how serious I am about that ...”

Proving Daniel's point, for the next two hours, the couple's nation of two lit up the cabin in their own very special way.  They might be tired in the morning, but neither cared about that.

====
May 29
====

Wearing his Air Force Class A uniform, Jack stood at attention, saluting as the American flag was run up the flag pole at the center campfire.  Jonny stood proudly at his father's side, saluting as well.  On the other side of the boy, General Hammond, also in his Class A's, stood erect and at attention, his hand in the salute position.

The sun was rising on this Memorial Day Monday, and before the recreational activity for the day commenced, it was time to remember those who had fallen in the line of duty.

“There was a time when I thought my brother here was dead.  A miracle happened, and here he is.  I wish there were miracles for all of the families who have lost their sons, daughters, wives, husbands.  I wish there were miracles,” Jack repeated.  “Charles Kawalsky.”

Lou Ferretti added a couple of names, as did General Hammond.

“To those who serve,” Jack continued.

“To those who will serve,” Lou added, smiling at the sandy-haired Munchkin.

“That's me!”

Aislinn then began singing the national anthem and was quickly joined by the rest of those present.

====

“She's all yours, General,” Jack announced, sitting down in the co-pilot's chair and allowing Hammond to sit in the pilot's seat and have the controls of the family yacht.

“The one thing I've never figured out, Jack, is why I live on a lake, but don't have a boat.”

“It's the upkeep, Sir,” Jack teased.

With that, Hammond headed Homer, the name of the yacht, away from its dock and out towards the ocean for an afternoon on the water.  Aside from Jack and Hammond, on board were the Ferrettis, Brianna, the Curly Tops, and the Spitfires.

====

Meanwhile, while Daniel and the beagles were supervising the rest of the children, Jennifer and Peter were enjoying a quiet walk in the woods.  The young lovers were holding hands, enjoying the beauty of the area.  All was right with their world.  They chatted about everything and nothing, and they laughed over all kinds of things.  They'd been gone for two hours when Jennifer suggested that they needed to get back.

“You know my parents.  Well, Dad mainly, and I know he's on Homer, but Daddy worries, too.  He's just more ... subtle about it,” Jennifer mused.

“Okay, Jen, but there's just one thing,” Peter began.  His eyes focused on his lady fair, he kneeled down on one knee.  Still holding Jennifer's hand with one of his, Peter used the other to reach inside his pocket.  “I've been practicing this,” he joked as he opened the box with one hand.  “Jennifer Morgan Jackson-O'Neill, you're my light, my candle, and my inspiration.  You've seen me at my worst, and now I'm hoping you'll see me at my best, and everything in between.  I love you, and while I don't deserve you, I want you to share all my days for the rest of my days.  Will you marry me?”

Jennifer squealed her delight, blushing and feeling like she was about to burst as she felt the ring slide onto her finger.

“It's beautiful, Peter.”

“You haven't answered my question,” the young man pointed out nervously.

“Oh, yes, Peter.  Yes, I'll marry you.”

Peter stood and kissed his fiancée passionately.  He continued to hold her as they gazed into each other's eyes.

“I thought this day would never come,” Peter admitted.

“We've been talking about it for years, silly.”

“Talk.  It's all been talk, but now it's real.  Jen, I promise you that I'll never take you away from your family.  I know how important they are to you, and ...”

Jennifer put her hand against her fiancé's lips and corrected, “You're my family.  Thank you for wanting us to stay here, and I do hope we do, but I'll go anywhere with you, Peter.”  After another kiss, she studied the ring more closely.  “It's exquisite.”

“If you don't like it ...”

“Peter, it's stunning.  It's perfect.”

“I'd hoped you like it.  I wanted to surprise you and when I went to the jewelers, this one reminded me of you.”

“You know me so well.”

“I love you with my life, Jen.”

“Oh, Peter, I love you, too.”

====

Arriving back at the main campsite for the compound, Jennifer saw Daniel playing with her siblings.  She smiled and watched with a bit of wonder.  Then she felt an arm go around her waist.

“I'll never take you from them, Jen, not ever.”

Jennifer nestled into to her husband-to-be, feeling warm and full of love.  She would go with Peter anywhere, but if she were being truly honest with herself, her heart was here, not in Minnesota, but with her parents, the brood, and their zoo.

“Thank you, Peter.”

“Have a nice walk?” Daniel asked as he approached the couple.

“Daddy,” Jennifer whispered.  She took a breath, her face radiating with goodness.  “Daddy.”

“Let's see it,” Daniel requested with bright, happy eyes.

“Look, Daddy.”

Daniel took his daughter's hand to admire the diamond ring.

“Daddy?”

“I'm so happy for you, Jen,” Daniel stated, taking his weepy daughter into his arms.

“I love him”

“I know.  It's good, Jen.  It's all good,” Daniel assured, holding on as tight to the young woman as she was holding on to him.  When Jennifer pulled back, though still remaining in her father's hold, Daniel extended out his hand.  “Congratulations, Peter.”

“Thank you, Doctor Jackson-O'Neill.”

“Ah, let's make that Daniel.”

“Daniel,” Peter acknowledged a bit hesitantly.

“Peter,” Jennifer prodded, her smile about as big as it could ever be.

With a nod, Peter looked at his soon-to-be father-in-law and confided, “Sir, the truth is, we're going to be family, and I ... I'd like to call you something more ... um ...“

“Something less formal, Daddy; you know, something that says family,” Jennifer clarified.

“Okay, I'm game,” the linguist agreed willingly.  “What did you have in mind?

“It would be an honor, Sir, to address you as 'Daddy', but I was thinking about ...”

“Peter,” Jennifer encouraged with a nudge.  “He's so nervous,” she told her younger father.

“I understand,” Daniel acknowledged.

“Sir, my family is Scottish, and when I was a kid, I remember some relatives talking about their boban.” Peter saw Daniel's comprehending smile, and it made him feel at ease.  “It was less formal, what they called their faithers, or fathers, when they were playing.  If you have no objections, I'd like to call you 'Boban'.”

“That would be nice,” Daniel replied sincerely.

“And Dad ...”

“... might take a minute, but just a minute,” Daniel assured.  “Ah, listen, it's not the two of you that has Dad a bit on edge.”

“He feels old, doesn't he?” Jennifer questioned in earnest.  “I'm the first, and it's making him feel old.”

“It did, for a second, but he's doing better now.  It's an ... adjustment process,” Daniel mused.

“Can I tell them?” Jennifer asked, motioning back at her siblings.

“Of course, you can.”

“Hey, Brood, guess what?” Jennifer called out.  “Peter, come on.”

Daniel watched the young lovers sprint over to where the kids were.  He blinked as he thought about his husband's reaction would be.

~Maybe they should hit him with the ring and then move right into 'Dad'.  It'll soften the blow.~

====

When Homer was safely anchored and placed in the boathouse until the family's next trip to Minnesota, Jack and Hammond were the last two off the yacht.

“She's a great boat, Jack.”

“Next time we fish,” Jack responded.

Hammond smiled his pleasure at the idea.

“Hi, Grandpa,” Jennifer greeted, hugging him eagerly.

The young woman had a plan.  Daniel, the brood, the girls, and their guests who hadn't been out on the yacht were in the lodge and would stay there until Jennifer gave them the all clear.  She wanted a few minutes with her father to have a real heart-to-heart talk.  There was just one thing she forgot about.  When she hugged her grandfather, Jack caught a glimpse of the ring.

“Sweet,” Jack remarked sarcastically as he walked by the hugging relatives.

“Oh, crap,” Jennifer groaned, realizing Jack had seen her engagement ring.  “Sorry, Grandpa,” she spoke as she quickly turned and ran after her father.  “Dad!  *Dad, please stop.*”

Jack let out a sigh as he ceased his motion and stared downward and away from his daughter.

“Dad, I love you so much,” Jennifer stated.  “Dance with me.”

~I don't envy her.~  As Hammond walked past, he patted his former second-in-command supportively.  “You can't stop them from growing up, Jack.  It's part of life.”

“Yes, Sir.”

Taking her dad's right hand with both of hers, Jennifer pulled him gently towards her while pleading tenderly, “Dad, dance with me.”

Jack and Jennifer had always had a closeness where dance was concerned.  It had been at a dance at Molly O'Hanlon's shelter where they'd first danced together.  A bond, unique and powerful, had been forged that night.

“I'll always be your princess, Dad, always; I promise,” Jennifer vowed, her voice cracking as she swayed in her father's arms.  “Please be happy for us,” she begged.

“I am, Princess,” Jack replied, pulling her closer.  “I love Peter.  I know he'll make you happy.”

“He'll be my husband, but you'll always my dad.  I've learned so much from you,” Jennifer pointed out.  “You got me through Britney.”

“Oops,” Jack teased, or tried to anyway.

Jennifer looked deep into her dad's eyes and smiled as she spoke, “You gave us a home.  You and Daddy, you kept us together.  Do you know ... do you really know how grateful I am for that?”

“Jen ...”

Tears rolling down her cheeks, “After Mom and Dad died, I never thought I'd know that love again, and I was so scared that David and Noa would forget them.  Geez, Dad, it's like you adopted Mom and Dad, too, you know?  We're still Morgans, and that's so special.”

“Your folks would be so proud of you,” Jack choked out.

“They love you, Dad.  I know they do.  On our balloon days, I've felt them on my shoulder.”  Jennifer gasped, almost losing her breath.  “Dad, you taught me to trust myself, to weigh all my options, to strategize, and most of all, to love, to never, ever be afraid of love, even when you've been hurt.  I've talked to Aunt Sara.  I know how much you two loved, no, love ... each other, with all your hearts, and yet after Charlie died and you lost each other, you found a way to honor that love and Charlie.  Dad, that's ... that's so incredible.  Divorced people don't act like that, but you do.  Gosh, she and Daddy adore each other, and Uncle Mark thinks your terrific, and you love him.”

“Well, he's ...”

“You love him, as family, and you trust him.  There is no way you would have allowed him anywhere near the Munchkins back then if you didn't.  Don't you see what I'm trying to say?  Dad, you've taught me that love is more powerful than anything else on earth, that even when it almost destroys you, there's a way back.  I had a huge crush on Peter in high school, and then I fell in love with him, and then he ... he broke me.  Oh, Dad, you believed in him, and even though I kept saying he wasn't worth it, you helped me to see.  You opened my heart, and slowly, all that anger and bitterness just ... spewed out.”

“Just left the love, I suppose.”

“So much love, Dad.”  Jennifer smiled, “But even so, it doesn't interfere with all that love in my heart for you and Daddy.  You're my parents.  I respect you so much, and I love you.  I know I wasn't a little girl for you, but I feel like I was.”

“Jen, you *are* our little girl,” Jack corrected, taking her back into his arms, his wet cheek leaning against her dampened face.  “Our little girl, our princess -- always.”

“Dad, are you happy for me?”

The tone was vulnerable and unsteady.  This was probably the most important question Jack would ever answer for his eldest daughter.

“You betcha!” Jack exclaimed.  “If I didn't think he'd protect you and love you every day of your life, I'd have run him off years ago.”

Jennifer giggled, her laughter mixed with all kinds of emotion.  Jack put his hands on her face and kissed her forehead.

“Hey, I'm not losing a daughter, I'm gaining a son.”  Hearing more laughter mixed with garbled emotional cries, he admitted, “I know.  It's a cliché.”

“Oh, Dad,” Jennifer laughed.

“Let me see this rock,” Jack requested.

As Jack stared at the ring, Jennifer revealed, “He wants to call you 'Dad'.  What do you think about that?”

“'Dad', huh?” Jack questioned, still focused on the ring.  “Think he'll take out the trash when I ask him to?”

“Oh, Dad,” the young woman laughed again.

“You keep saying that.”

“I can't help it.  It's ... my heart talking.”

“I love you, Jen, and I love that young man of yours.  He's not the reason I got my head out of whack.  I'm not a spring chicken, you know.”

“Dad, you are not old.  You and Daddy are going to see all of us married, and you're gonna have so many grandkids.”  Jennifer saw her father's expression change and quickly chastised, “Dad!”

“I know.  Old habits.  But just for the record ...”

Part of Jennifer wanted to be angry, but she just couldn't.  All she wanted right now was for her family to be in harmony.  That's why she decided to tell her father the honest truth, even if it was more than he wanted to know.

“Dad, I'm a virgin, and I intend to remain a virgin until my wedding night.  Believe me, we were tempted sometimes, but he was a gentlemen, and I wanted to wait.  He did, too, Dad.  It's just sometimes our bodies were a little slow to listen to our minds, but ... we never went too far.  That was by choice, Dad.  Peter and I are getting married because we want to be together and have our own family, and we have a lot to live up to with you and Daddy as examples.”

“Ug,” Jack groaned, trying to put out of his mind the need to know what his daughter had meant by 'too far'.  “I don't know about being examples.  Daddy and I have had some rocky times.”

“But you've always been in love, and no matter what, you got through the pain.  The love won, just like you've both taught us.  If it's love, if it's really love, it's forever, and you can get through anything.”

“You *are* all grown up,” Jack whispered.  He smiled and whispered something else.  “I *am* proud of you, and I couldn't be happier for you and Peter.”  He smiled some more.  “I'd also be proud for him to call me 'Dad'.”

“I love you,” Jennifer cried out again, her arms going around her father's neck.

“I love you, Princess.”

“I'll tell you a secret,” Jennifer offered with a smile.  “Peter told me that he's thought of you as a father for years.  You know how his parents were.  Until Thor, they'd checked out of his life.  He was afraid that you might be offended that he wanted to call you 'Dad'.”

“Offended?  No way,” Jack refuted.  “So what are you going to call the Hamiltons?”

“I haven't decided yet.  To be honest, I've grown to love them since that mess, but ... I don't really want to call them 'Mom' and 'Dad'.  What do I do?”

“How about talking to them about it and see what you can work out?”

“Wow,” Jennifer expressed in amazement.

“What?”

“You sound just like Daddy.”

“I've always said he was the brains of the outfit,” Jack teased, putting his arm around Jennifer's shoulders and guiding her as the two finally headed for the lodge.  “Just make sure it's a full nine months before ...”

“Daaaaaad!”

====

Daniel was seated on the bed, giving Katie a rubdown while casually conversing with his husband.  In a few minutes, they'd be joining some of the others at the campfire.

“Bob-an?” Jack questioned while changing his shirt in the bedroom.

“No, Boban,” Daniel corrected, slowly enunciating the word as bow-ban.

“Arrows and ...”

“Jack, stop being an ...”

“Ears!” Jack interrupted, nodding towards the living area of the main cabin where Chenoa, Lulu, and JD were playing a game.

“Did you ever think about it, Babe?  I mean, what we'd be called, or what our children would call their in-laws?”

“Not until today,” Jack admitted.  He stopped buttoning his shirt and sat down on the bed, facing his husband.  “You okay with him calling me 'Dad' and you ... Boban?

“Of course, I am.  Let's face it, Jack, not a lot of grown men even want to call their actual fathers 'Daddy'.  I thought his solution was appropriate.  I mean, ah, Boban means 'Papa' or 'Daddy'.”

“He's calling you 'Daddy', just in another language.”

“Something like that,” Daniel acknowledged, his hands now soothing the beagle's floppy ears.

“That boy is smart.  He made it out to be family heritage and he's saving face with his buddies at the same time,” Jack mused, reaching over to scratch Katie's rear end.  A bit more seriously, he inquired, “What you think about ... 'Da'?”

“'Da',” Daniel echoed thoughtfully.  “Irish casual.”

“Yeah.  Maybe for the future ...”  Stopping, the general stood up and shrugged.  “What am I saying?”

Daniel laughed, “Well, we do have eleven more to go.”

“Wash your mouth out with soap,” Jack groaned while he finished buttoning up his shirt.

“I suppose it's possible we could end up being called something different by each in-law,” Daniel stated.

“What's wrong with 'Jack' and 'Daniel'?”

“Jen says our given names aren't family enough.”

“She does?”

“She does,” Daniel affirmed.

Pushing down his cowlick a couple of times, Jack contemplated another issue.  He remained silent until he finally gave up on getting his hair to be flat.

“Danny, do you care if our kids call other people ... ”

Jack didn't finish his query, but he didn't have to, either.

“No, I don't because I know I'm their daddy and you're their dad.  When they call us that, it's more than a word or a title; it's an emotion, a down deep feeling that transcends the nomenclature.  I don't know that I can explain it, Jack, but I don't feel threatened by a word.”

“Me, either,” Jack agreed.  As he headed for the living room, he added, “I don't think.”

Daniel let out a chuckle and then followed his husband to where the children were.

====
May 30
====

Early in the morning, the Ferrettis and General Hammond had left the Minnesota compound for home.  At eleven, Billy and Jilly bade a reluctant farewell to their family and headed for the airport, hoping for another visit sometime soon.  That left just Peter with the Jackson-O'Neills to enjoy lunch and then secure the cabin until the next visit.

“Peter, are you my brother now?” JD asked when all of the cleanup was done.

“Well, soon, I hope.”

“He's been an honorary member of the brood for years,” Jeff stated.

“Piggy back!” JD demanded of his new brother.

“Okay,” Peter agreed.  “It'll be good practice.”

“For what?”

“For when Jen and I have kids.”

JD's eyes brightened as he said, “More littler kids than me.”

“You'll be a big cousin,” Peter advised.

“Are you gonna have a baby soon?”

Peter looked over at Jack's intensive stare and replied, “Not too soon.”

“Good answer ... Son,” Jack complimented.

“Thanks ... Dad.”

“Okay, kids, time to go.”  Jack looked over at Daniel, who shrugged a silent agreement to an unasked question.  “Uh, Jen.  Maybe you'd like to drive home with Peter.”

Jennifer smiled and kissed her fiancé.

“I'll see you there,” Peter responded, waving at the kids and then heading for his car.

Walking towards the RV, Jennifer paused to kiss her older father.

“Thank you, Dad, but I'm still a member of the brood, and I want to spend time with them.”

“Jen, will you brush my hair?” Jenny called out from an open window of the RV.

“Of course, I will, Jenny.  I'll be right there.”  Jennifer looked at her parents and sighed.  “I know once I marry Peter, it'll never be the same, but today, it's still like it's been for years.  Drive slow, okay?”

“We will,” Daniel agreed, watching Jennifer walk over and get inside the vehicle.

“When did she grow up, Danny?  Wasn't it just yesterday that she was twelve and her most important concern was what to do with her CD collection?”

“Yeah, Babe, it was just yesterday; just yesterday.”

“Stay close, Angel.  I'm not sure I'm going to survive the next twenty years.”

“We'll get used to it,” Daniel assured.  “Jeff and Chely ...”

“Geez, Danny, not yet.”

Daniel chuckled and kissed his soulmate.

“Let's go home,” Jack suggested softly.

“Home is ... right here, Love,” Daniel replied, his hand over Jack's heart.  “I love you so much.”

“Forever and always, Danny,” Jack declared as he took Daniel into his arms for a rousing kiss.

“Dad and Daddy kissing at the cabin,” Aislinn sing-songed, giggling afterwards.

“See, Love, some things never change.”

Emotional, but happy and thrilled with their lives, Jack and Daniel boarded the RV and began the leisurely drive home to Colorado Springs having received much more than expected during the Memorial Weekend -- a son and the promise of grandchildren just around the corner.

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