Giving Back

Author: Orrymain
Category:  Slash, Angst, Drama, Romance, Established Relationship
Pairing:  Jack/Daniel ... and it's all J/D
Rating:  PG-13
Season:  8 - late August/early September 2005
Spoilers:  None
Size:  41kb
Written:  September 5-6,10,15-18,24, 2005
Summary:  In a time of crisis, Jack and Daniel help others to find hope.
Disclaimer:  Usual disclaimers -- not mine, wish they were, especially Daniel, and Jack, too, but they aren't.  A gal can dream though!
Notes:  
1) Potentially sensitive subject matter for those touched by Hurricane Katrina.
2) Potential hanky warning, so I've been told!
3) 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.**
4) Silent, unspoken thoughts by various characters are indicated with ~ in front and behind them, such as ~Where am I?~
5) Thanks to my betas who always make my fics better:  QuinGem, Claudia, Linda!

This story is dedicated to those who have worked so hard to help others survive the natural disaster known as Hurricane Katrina, and it also published in memory of those who didn't survive and now watch the efforts to rebuild from beyond this world.

Giving Back
by Orrymain

“Danny?  Danny, where are you?” Jack called out as he entered the couple's home.  ~Why am I shouting?  His car is gone.~

Still, Jack looked all around the home, unable to find his lover.  He dialed Daniel's cell phone, but there was no answer.

~Okay, where are you?~

For the past thirty-six hours, Jack had been off-world on a mission with SG-13, filling in for Colonel Dave Dixon who had come down with the flu.  He'd left early Sunday evening, and now it was late morning on Tuesday.

At SG-13's final off-world check-in, Daniel had been at the SGC to make sure his husband was safe, but there was something in Daniel's voice that had set off Jack's internal 'Daniel Alarm'.  As soon as he could upon returning to Earth, Jack had sped home.

On the way, he had turned on the radio and heard about the massive hurricane named Katrina that had just devastated the cultural town of New Orleans, not to mention a good part of the rest of Louisiana along with Mississippi and Alabama.  The Category Four natural phenomena had left over eighty-percent of New Orleans under water and over a million people homeless.

Standing in his home, Jack saw the newspapers scattered across the coffee table.  Giant headlines focused on the destruction left in the wake of the hurricane.  He noticed Daniel's mug, uncharacteristically left on the table.  On a hunch, Jack turned on the television, taking in the horror pictured on the screen.  Ten minutes later, he turned it off.

~Okay, where would you go?  The apartment is gone, so ...~  Jack nodded.  “But now you've got that house.”

In an instant, Jack left their home, heading for the house of walls that Daniel had purchased roughly two years ago.  It was great for their cover story of hiding in plain sight, something they were determined to stop doing very soon.

====

Twelve minutes later, Jack inserted his key into the door lock.  As he had expected, upon arriving at the humble home, Jack had immediately seen Daniel's sports car in the driveway.

Walking into the small bedroom, Jack spied his lover sitting in the middle of the bed.  His knees were drawn up, and his head lay against them, his eyes fixed on a small television screen which was showing the Fox News Channel's coverage of the devastation that had been left in Katrina's aftermath.

Jack sat at the side of the bed, facing his lover.  The bed was only three-quarter in size, so the lovers were close.  Jack reached out, lifting Daniel's face from his knees.  His hand caressed the younger man's wet cheeks.

“Aw, Angel.”

“Have you heard?” Daniel asked in a small voice.

Jack hated the pain his lover was in.  Daniel always felt things so deeply, so empathetically, and he was taking this catastrophe extremely hard.  This was evidenced by the younger man's tears and red eyes.

“Yeah, I heard,” Jack answered solemnly.  “They were lucky it wasn't a Category Five.”

“Lucky?  Jack, they've lost their homes; all their possessions.  It's a ... a cesspool there, and there's no help.  Gawd, Jack, where's the government?  People are screaming for assistance.  This is the freakin' United States of America, not one of those third world countries or another planet; it's ... Jack, it's us.  Why is this happening?  It shouldn't be happening.  I'm so ... so ... gawd!”

“Come here,” Jack said, pulling Daniel over to him and then holding him securely in his arms.  “I wish I knew the answer, Danny, but I don't.  I just got back; I don't know all the ins and outs yet.”

“Then listen, Jack.  Just listen,” Daniel urged as they settled together and watched the horror unfold on the television screen.

====

Hours had passed as the lovers sat glued to the news, switching back and forth among the various cable networks.  No matter which station they listened to, the overwhelming horror was almost unbearable.  People needed help, but there was none in sight, and the hardest hit place of all, New Orleans, was drowning more and more each minute after two levees had been breeched.

“It's gone, Jack,” Daniel whispered as he leaned into Jack.

“No, Danny; it's just hurting.  It's still there,” Jack insisted as his left hand snaked under his lover's white tee-shirt at the waist and rubbed gently.

Daniel shook his head, saying, “It's under water or blown to the ground.  They're going to have to evacuate the entire city.”

“They should have done that before the hurricane,” Jack noted.

The younger man pulled out of his lover's embrace and stood up.  He began pacing, unable to sit still as his heart and soul ached so violently for what was happening in the storm-ravished part of the country.

“How, Jack?  Look at their faces.  Listen to their voices.  Hear what the reporters are saying; okay, news anchors can be prejudiced.  We know to take anything we hear on the news with a grain of salt.  I mean, uh, drama and hardship make for great ratings, right?”

“Danny ...”

“No, I ... I didn't mean to get into all of that, but the point is that these people are poor, and a lot of them couldn't get out without help.  Jack, the truth is that we just don't have an adequate system in place to evacuate an entire city like this.  It could be anywhere, any city, and the sad truth is that people who are poor, who don't have a car, those who ... who live paycheck to paycheck ... Jack, they can't afford to get out.  Where do they go?  You know ... who would help them if they did and ... and nothing happened?”

Jack sighed, “Danny, politics isn't my thing, but ...”

“It shouldn't be political, Jack; it should be humanity talking.  We should take care of our own, but we don't,” Daniel replied, shaking his head as he paced some more.

Jack knew he should say something, but he didn't know what to say.  He couldn't argue with Daniel's words.

~Mandatory evacuation: that's great, if you have the means to get out, and then a way to live once you get out.  Danny's right; we need better alternatives, but a million people.~  Almost without realizing he had said it allowed, Jack spoke, “How do you convince our society to evacuate and care for a million people on an 'if'?”

Daniel turned and stared, but said nothing for a moment.  He hated politics, and right now, he didn't want to think about red tape and city plans.  Instead, he wanted to focus on the people in need of assistance and the culture on the verge of being lost.  Daniel sighed as he assumed a self-hugging stance and mourned what was no longer.

“Jack, the sound of jazz floating through the air, Mardi Gras, the riverboats, shrimp -- geez, my mouth waters just thinking about the stuffed shrimp at Dooky Chases' -- the aquarium, even ... even Six Flags -- all the things that made up New Orleans.  New Orleans, it's ... it's disappeared, just like Mesopotamia, Champa, Harappa, Herakleion, Eliki, Mu ...”

“Moooo?” Jack quizzed.  “The land of the cow?”

Daniel rolled his eyes and corrected, “Mu, the first civilization, probably destroyed by an earthquake in 24,000 B.C.”

“Of course,” Jack said, shrugging and cocking his head to the left slightly.  “Daniel, I haven't heard of half of those places you just mentioned.”

“That's the point, Jack.  Gawd, an entire section of our country has been gutted; we can't let it disappear; we just can't.”

Jack stood up, crossing the floor to stand in front of his husband.  He gazed into the tired blue eyes and smiled.

“Do you know I love you?” Jack asked.

“Yes.  I love you, too, but what does that, I mean us, have to do with this?” Daniel asked softly.

“You're angry, Daniel.”  Jack put his right hand on his lover's cheek and then leaned in for a tender kiss, their first since his return.  “Let it out,” Jack encouraged.

“I'm too busy ... I'm ... I ... Yes, I'm angry.  ARE YOU WATCHING THIS?” Daniel shouted as he backed away and pointed at the TV.  “Do you see those people?  Where the crap is Hayes, Jack?”

Daniel's use of the President's last name without the proper salutation told Jack everything he needed to know.  Daniel wasn't just angry; he was seething, but he was also masking it underneath his despair and sympathy for the million-plus displaced people now fighting to survive.

“Danny, I'm sure Hayes is doing his best to ...”

“Well, it's not good enough.  They keep having ... press conferences.  Saying what is going to happen doesn't help the people in need now.  Did you see those babies?  Jack, we're talking about having children one day.  What if that happened here?”  Seeing Jack's doubting eyes, Daniel sighed, “You know what I mean.  FEMA says they're coming; everyone says they're coming to the rescue, but, Jack, no one has.  People are starving; pe...people are dying there.”

Jack nodded and suggested, “We'll make a donation to the Red Cross and ...”

“Yes, we will, and I already have, but that's not enough, Jack.  It's too easy.  We have to do more, or ... at least, I have to do more,” Daniel announced as he realized that simply giving money wasn't enough.

“We,” Jack immediately said as he headed towards the phone.

“I'll call Hammond.  We'll get Lou and ...”

“No,” Daniel said firmly.  “Jack, I don't want you ordering people to follow their hearts.  Look, if the others decide they want to do something, fine, but I don't want them coming with us just because ... I mean, I don't know what I mean.  Jack, I want us to help, just ... help.  You can't rescue a million people.  We can't do that, but ... maybe we can help a few.  May...maybe we can bring in some water or ... or I don't know -- something.”

Daniel's body was sagging, his emotion overtaking him.  In no time, Jack had his husband in his arms again, bracing him up with both love and strength.

“Okay.  We're two people, and we do just what we can,” Jack agreed.  “We can rent a big U-haul, fill it with bottled water, blankets, dog and cat food, um, Danny, I can get MREs.  Let me do that.”  Jack felt the nod against his shoulder.  “We'll take as much as we can in, and when we've distributed it, maybe we can take a few people out of there.”

“Baby food or formula or ... something for the babies, Jack.  Did you see those infants and ... and the toddlers on the Interstate?  We have to help the children, too.”

“Okay.  Let's sit down and decide on the top ten items to bring.  We'll buy as much as we can, and I'll get the MREs; then, we'll take off.”

“I love you, Jack.”

“I love you, too, Angel,” Jack said before kissing his soulmate soundly.  They wished they had time to make love, to show their passion for each other physically, but now was not the time to indulge in selfish pleasures.  “We've got work to do.”

====

“Good luck, General,” Colonel Reynolds said after Jack had notified him that he was in charge for a few days.

Making sure everything pressing at the SGC had been handled, Jack made some arrangements to acquire a large number of the ready-to-eat meals to take to the disaster-struck area.  When that was completed, Jack headed towards the exit.  As he reached the elevator, the general heard a familiar voice calling after him.

“Sir!  General O'Neill!”

Jack smiled as he turned around and responded, “Carter.”

“Sir,” Sam repeated as she caught up with Jack.  She took a moment to catch her breath.  “I want to go with you.”

“Excuse me?” Jack asked.

“You're going, aren't you?” Sam asked anxiously.

“Going where, Carter?” Jack asked as he looked over at the elevator as the doors opened.

“To New Orleans,” Sam answered.

“What makes you think that?” a curious Jack asked as he stepped into the elevator, raising one hand to keep the doors from closing.

“Daniel.  I mean, Daniel ... I know he's upset, and I, uh, well, I ...

“You what?” Jack asked probingly.  ~Come on, Carter; you and I both know you have big ears.~

“I overheard you arranging for the MREs,” Sam said cautiously, since it was obvious she had eavesdropped a bit on Jack's conversation in his office.

~See that didn't hurt ... yet!~  Ignoring the woman's excellent hearing in favor of doing what was necessary at the moment, Jack nodded, saying, “We have some plans.”

“So do Janet and I.  Maybe we should pool our resources, Sir,” Sam suggested.

“You have some plans?” Jack queried challengingly.  “I don't recall approving any downtime for you and Doctor Fraiser,” he said formally.

“We want to help, Sir.  We don't have any missions scheduled this week, the research on the doterin can wait, and, well, please, General,” Sam requested, her eyes begging the commander of the SGC to grant her request.

“That doterin could be a powerful energy source,” Jack momentarily teased the blonde about the new material discovered on P98-R22 two weeks earlier. Growing serious, he said, “They need help, Carter.  Request granted.  Does the Doc have her shifts covered?”

“Yes, Sir,” Sam answered.  “Uh, there's no one who is critical right now, and Doctor Warner has agreed to cover any conflicts in the schedule.”

“Meet us at the house in an hour.  We'll firm up our plans,” Jack said as he removed his hand, allowing the elevator doors to close.

====

“Jack, I got the biggest U-haul they ... oh, hi, Sam,” Daniel greeted.

Daniel had just returned to their home from renting a U-haul.  Actually, when he had answered the owner's casual question about why he was renting such a large vehicle, the woman donated the vehicle, saying, “Heaven help those people.  I've been wanting to do something and didn't know what.  I refuse to take your money, Doctor Jackson.  You help those people with what you bring them.  Maybe I can get some sleep tonight knowing my truck is helping you to help them.”

“Hi, Daniel,” Sam responded with a smile.

More greetings came from the others Daniel was surprised to see seated or standing -- Janet, Sergeant Siler, Lou Ferretti, Grace Satterfield, Jeff Cornell, Teal'c, Casey Hemmings, who was a family friend of Lou's and had been a nurse at the SGC for several years, Megan Williams, who was part of the civilian staff at the Mountain, and Monica Evans, who was one of Janet's nurses and a lieutenant in the Air Force.

**Daniel, I didn't call any of them,** Jack silently communicated.  **Carter stopped me at the SGC, and before I knew it, I was surrounded by folks wanting to help.  Did you want me to say 'no' to them?**

Jack was worried that his lover's desire to have their excursion be a non-military and non-official action would result in his being upset that so many friends had requested to be part of their mission to the catastrophe-struck zone.

**No, Love.  I'm glad they want to help.**

**Good.  I told them you were out renting the truck for us.**

Daniel smiled at their friends, some of whom knew about their relationship, but to others, they were just Jack and Daniel, best friends and teammates.

“Uh, what's going on?” Daniel asked the group, not letting on that Jack had just silently communicated why they were all present.

“We have to do our part, Daniel,” Janet answered.  “Sam and I were already planning on going to the area when she found out you two were going.”

“And ColonelCarter had mentioned it to me,” Teal'c stated.  “This world is my home now.  I must assist when there is need.”  Teal'c bowed his head regretfully and said, “There is need.”

“We all want to help, Doctor Jackson,” Siler explained.

Monica, who had cancelled her Alaskan cruise to help out, said, “There's no way I could go on my vacation now.  I wouldn't feel right about it.”

“So, uh, we go as a caravan?” Daniel asked and then faced Jack.

“Any objections, Daniel?” Jack asked.  “We can help more people if we all go together and pool our resources.”

“No objection,” Daniel responded.  “So, uh, what's the plan?”

“To make life bearable for as many people as possible until FEMA gets their act together,” Jack answered bluntly.

Jack had been worried that their rescue effort might hinder the rescue operation the authorities were already engaged in, but when he had spoken to various governmental authorities, it had become clear that the news was correct -- no one anywhere had any idea what was going on.  Jack figured they couldn't hinder something that was barely happening in the first place.

“Sounds like a good plan, Sir,” Sam concurred.

====

Jack considered all the options that had been placed on the table and then took command of the situation.

“We all want to help, and as Daniel pointed out, it's not just New Orleans that's in trouble.  We'll caravan until we get close, and then we'll separate.”  Jack looked at those assembled and observed, “We have medical help here -- the Doc, Casey, and Monica.  I think we should make sure one of you is in each group.”

“Divide and conquer,” Casey teased.

“I'm afraid the three of us will only be able to do so much good, Casey, but we can take in some basic medical supplies and help alleviate some situations,” Janet offered.

After further discussion, the three teams were formed.  Sam, Siler, Grace, and Casey would head for some of the hardest hit places in Alabama while Lou, Jeff, Teal'c, and Janet went to some of the outlying areas of Mississippi.  Jack, Daniel, Megan, and Monica would venture to New Orleans.

They also decided that each U-haul vehicle would be accompanied by a regular truck or SUV, just in case the large vehicles couldn't get access to certain areas.  Jack and Daniel would drive Jack's truck, Lou would take one of his, and Grace volunteered her truck as well.

“We'll need satellite radios to stay in contact,” Sam said.

“That's a good idea, Sam,” Daniel replied.  “Uh, and I think the woman I rented the U-haul from would probably be willing to let us have two more of these guys,” Daniel added, holding up the paperwork for the rented U-haul truck they already had.

“Let's go!” Jack said.

====

It was nighttime, but in front of the Jackson-O'Neill residence, the group was busy stocking the three U-haul vehicles with a variety of supplies.  Each team had gone to purchase specific supplies, only to have a good part of the items donated by the businesses they had gone to.  Now, they were dividing the items so that all three vehicles would have an equal amount of the provisions which included cases of bottled water, MREs, blankets, diapers, baby formula, dog and cat food, socks, boxes of Froot Loops, and cases of assorted power bars.

Janet had also acquired various medications that Casey and Monica would be able to administer.  She also made sure everyone had a decent supply of aspirin, antiseptic wipes, and bandages.

“General!” Sophia Valissi called out.  She'd been watching the action for quite a while with curiosity.  “General, what's going on?”

“Hey, Mrs. V.,” Jack said with a grin.  “I was about to come see you.  We're headed to Louisiana, and I wanted to ask you to check in on the girls.”

“I knew it, and of course, I will.  Please, come with me!” the woman beckoned excitedly.

Jack followed their senior citizen neighbor into her home.  He was surprised to see piles of clothing on her sofa.

“I cleaned out some old things; of course, this isn't all mine, but some friends in my social group contributed.  I was going to take these things to a church but ...”

“Mrs. V, you're a peach,” Jack said, giving her a kiss on the cheek.

There were six boxes worth of clothing and two of various toiletries.

As Jack stared at the contents of one of the boxes, the woman laughed, “Every trip I've ever gone on, I've kept the soaps and shampoos.  My friends do the same, so we gathered these together, too.”

“We take these for granted,” Jack said soberly as he held one of the tiny bars of soap in his hand.  “Thank you,” he said.

====

With extra fuel on board, the caravans made excellent time, rotating drivers accordingly so they didn't have to stop and therefore, could drive straight through to their destinations.  Of course, the closer they got, the slower they moved as they traversed the hurricane-ravished areas.

Before the three groups split up, Jack stopped and rounded up the troops in a quiet area.  He had a small surprise for them.

“Jack!”

Daniel's dismay at Jack's surprise was immediately evident.

“Daniel, we're going into the unknown.  Some of these areas have absolutely no police on duty.  The only law in force at the moment is the law of the jungle.  No way are we going in without being armed.”

“Yes, Sir,” Sam said as she took the Beretta Jack had secured.

Covertly, the general had obtained weapons for each member of the caravan.

“Daniel, take it, or we aren't going one mile further,” Jack said to his hesitant lover.

With a sigh, Daniel acquiesced, securing the weapon inside his jacket.

“Actually, Sir, this was a good idea, and so is this,” Janet said, pulling out her medical bag.  “I was going to suggest this back in the Springs, but we didn't have time.”

“Doc, what are you doing with that needle?” Jack asked as he eyed 'Little Napoleon' warily.

“I had just enough time to check our histories.  Jack, we're going into areas where we all might end up doing things we aren't anticipating.  I think we need to be prepared.”

With that, Janet proceeded to give tetanus shots to those who hadn't had one in recent times.  As he received his, Jack glared at his lover, who smiled at not having to get a shot since he had already had one two years ago.

Janet also made sure everyone had several pairs of plastic gloves to wear, if necessary.

“You have to look at this as if you were off-world,” Janet advised.  “Take care of yourselves, so you can take care of them.”

“One more thing.  Reynolds took up a little collection at the SGC,” Jack said, reaching into his jacket and pulling out a thick envelope.

“How little?” Sam inquired.

“Looks like close to six-hundred dollars.  We all should have plenty of gas with the supply we have on the trucks, but just in case, keep some of this in reserve.  Use the rest however is necessary to get our jobs done.”

Jack divided the money among the three groups, and then they went on their way.

====

It was early morning when Jack and Daniel's group approached the city limits of New Orleans.

They knew there was only one way into the city, and carefully, they worked their way in, their hearts crushed by what they saw.  Most of the city was under water, but the areas that weren't flooded were full of desperate people.

“The news keeps talking about the looters and the violence,” Daniel commented.  “What do they expect, Jack?  These people are like caged animals.  They've been isolated from the world; they haven't a clue what's going on or how bad the situation really is.  They're hot, and they're hungry.”

“They're angry,” Jack added.  “They don't understand why help hasn't come.”

“Neither do I,” Daniel responded harshly.  “Why hasn't it?  It's Wednesday, Jack.  Why is it taking so long?”

“I don't know, Danny, but while the cavalry may not have arrived, we have, so let's pick a spot and at least help a few of these people,” Jack suggested.

Daniel nodded, and the lovers made the first stop on their journey.

====

Late that night, the lovers stood in the French Quarter of New Orleans.  Jack knew it wasn't wise, but he put his arms around his lover.  Daniel, too, knew it wasn't smart, but he leaned back into his soulmate's embrace.  After the heavy emotion of their very long day, both needed this moment to reflect on what was.

“We had so much fun here, Jack,” Daniel recalled about their visit to New Orleans.

“And we will again.  This city is not going to die, Danny.  You watch.  Bourbon Street is strong, and the people who live here are rich in will and desire.  You watch, Love.  New Orleans will rebuild, and I'll bet you a dozen Krispy Kremes that it'll start here, right here.”

“I hope so.  Jack ...”

Just then they heard sounds and quickly separated their bodies.

“Let's get back to the others,” Jack protectively suggested.

====

“They need so much, General,” Monica said as the four gathered together by their vehicles.  “The babies need shelter.  I don't understand why this is happening.”

“None of us do, Monica,” Megan sighed.

“Okay, let's get some sleep, and tomorrow we'll head for another spot.  I'll take first watch,” Jack offered.

“First watch?” Daniel asked, surprised.

“Daniel, desperate people do desperate things.  Let's not add to the problem by being caught off guard.  Get some sleep,” Jack lightly ordered.

====

“They keep saying help is coming; it ain't come here,” one woman told Jack as he handed her some supplies.

“I'm sorry, but I hope this helps,” Jack quietly replied.

“Bless you,” the woman said and then led her hungry children away from the U-haul.

--

“They wouldn't let me take my dog.  My dog is my baby.  Would they expect me to leave my baby?” a woman cried.  “She's all I have left now.”

“No, Ma'am,” Daniel replied.  “We have some dog food we can give you.”

Emotionally, the older woman said, “Hear that, Susie?  Sir, may I have some clean water for her, too?”

Daniel smiled as he reached out and petted Susie, a small, gray-colored cairn terrier.

“We have enough for both you.  I'll be right back,” Daniel said, smiling.

“Bless him, Susie.  I could never leave you behind,” the woman said, holding the dog to her cheek.

--

Interactions like these had been repeated for forty-eight hours.  The military had finally moved in, but yet, so many areas were still without the basic necessities of food and water.

Just as the other two groups were doing, Jack and Daniel's group worked tirelessly to distribute their goods until finally, there was nothing left but the few supplies they would use for the evacuees on the way to safety.

--

“Help us!  Please help us!” a little girl cried out through a window of a building.  “The first floor is flooded; we can't get out.”

Unable to abandon so many in need, by group agreement, the four stayed to help with evacuations, and not just of people, but of their pets.

“Never leave anyone behind,” Jack told the grateful golden retriever as he handed her some food.  ~There's no one to kill.  Geez, we need to remember that we're here by the grace of nature.  We're responsible for this; we should have made sure we were protecting our own.~

--

“We're very grateful for your kindness,” the crying man said before he walked into the shelter with his wife and two children.

Variations of those words were repeated continually by those that all three groups had taken to safety.  Each U-haul took as many as they could, human and animal, and now they were back together, all exhausted and weary from their few days in the disaster zone.

Their faces communicated more than their words, so much so, that when the twelve gathered together again, they immediately went into a group hug.

For a while, as they regrouped, they shared their stories, of sadness and valor.  All had gone beyond the call of duty, tending to the sick, rescuing the newly homeless, and feeding those who now owned nothing but what was on their backs.  They'd given their hearts; they only wished they had brought more.

Finally, they fed the animals they'd gathered up, dogs and cats lost in the waters and fallen homes, and headed back for Colorado Springs.  The cats were in one U-haul.  In another were the smaller dogs, and then larger ones were in the third vehicle.  Taking advantage of all the available space, some of the animals even rode in the trucks.

Jack phoned Pam, their veterinarian for Bijou and Katie, and she eagerly agreed to round up several members of her staff as well as other local veterinarians and be waiting for their arrival, ready to check the animals over.

“Don't worry; nothing bad is going to happen to any of you,” Jack promised the animals in the U-haul Megan had been driving.

--

Back in Colorado Springs, Pam contacted the local Humane Association, and plans were underway to find foster homes for the animals until they could hopefully be reunited with their owners.  With the help of the public, she was confident they could care for a large number of animals for as long as was necessary.

====

“Maybe we should have done more; we could have gone back,” Daniel lamented the next day as they watched the news while sitting on the sofa.

“Angel, we did all we could.  We offered the assistance we had available to us; the military is there now,” Jack responded.

“But look.  How long is it going to take?  I just don't understand, Jack.  I thought we learned something from 9/11,” Daniel said sadly.

“Maybe we'll learn more from Katrina,” Jack said hopefully.  A few barks erupted from the backyard.  Jack smiled and said, “Come on, Love.  Let's go play.”

“I don't feel like ... playing,” Daniel stated melancholically.

“Danny, those dogs we adopted for a while need love, and we have love to give,” Jack said.  He paused a moment and then continued, “We've written a couple of very large checks; we're helping Tessa to gather up teddy bears and storybooks for the children; tomorrow, we're going to the Red Cross to donate blood.  We're doing everything in our control, but life has to go on, not just for us, but so those people know there's a future.”

“Jack, I ...”  More barks drew Daniel's attention toward the backyard.  He got up and walked to the patio doors.  He looked at the six dogs that were outside, and that didn't include Bijou and Katie.  “We're breaking the law, you know.”

“I'll pay the fines if someone complains,” Jack said, knowing that they had more dogs than was legal for the area.

“I want to go back, Jack; I mean, when they rebuild.  I want to hear rhythm and blues or jazz fill the streets.  I want to go back,” Daniel said, his heart speaking loudly.

“We will, Danny,” Jack promised as he reached over to caress his lover's cheek.

“I love you,” Daniel spoke softly.

“And I love you,” Jack replied tenderly.

“I'd, uh, like to do something about that, but I think we'd better quiet them down first,” Daniel said, motioning towards the backyard.

“I'll get the treats,” Jack said as he opened the door and led Daniel outside.

====

Daniel stood silently in a self-hug as he stared at the cold fireplace a week later, his mind reviewing the tragedy that had ravaged the gulf coast.  Then he felt the warm hands of his lover as they undid the hug, pulling Daniel's body into Jack's.

“It's getting better, Danny,” Jack spoke, his voice low from having just awakened to an empty bed.

“I know.  The light at the end of the tunnel and all of that, but there's so much to do there, and so many people have been displaced.  People are having to start over with practically nothing,” Daniel sighed.

“They'll have help,” Jack said soothingly.

Daniel was trying to snap out of his melancholy state, but his heart still ached.  Progress had been made in draining the flood waters in New Orleans; law and order had been restored; there was talk about rebuilding even better than before; and the lovers had found foster homes for all the dogs they had brought back, much to Bijou's and Katie's delight since not all the foster dogs were as well mannered as they were.

“I guess.”  Daniel paused, adding, “Jack, what would you think if I offered to let a family use the house for a couple of months?  You know, the house of walls?  I mean, there's nothing sensitive there, and, uh, well, I could ... move in here, so to speak.  It would be just long enough for the family to at least make a plan for their future.  Would you mind?” Daniel asked, his eyes shining with hope that Jack would agree.

~He's amazing.~  Jack smiled as he held the man whose soul filled him with goodness.  “Mind?  Danny, you continue to amaze me with your kindness and gentleness.  I think there are a few things we should remove, but other than that, it's a great idea.  We could have it ready in two days, and we won't have to worry about what people say about you being here all the time.”  ~Not that I care anyway.~

“Frankly, Jack, I don't freakin' care about Air Force regulations right now,” Daniel admitted honestly.  “Maybe ... maybe that's selfish of me that ...”

“Selfish?  Daniel, you've got to be kidding.  You've got the most giving heart I know,” Jack spoke softly.  He squeezed Daniel gently.  “Selfish.  Crap, Danny, you don't know the meaning of the word.”

For a moment, the two just stood quietly, Jack's hands holding Daniel safely to him, and Daniel enjoying the safe haven that Jack was, and always had been, to him.

“I'll contact the appropriate people tomorrow,” Daniel commented gratefully. “We'll be, uh, roommates again, uh, officially, for a while.”

Jack kissed Daniel's left shoulder and then walked over to the stereo.  He put in a CD that Casey Hemmings had compiled and given to all the members of their caravan.  Having pressed 'play', Jack walked over to his lover and extended out his hand.

“Dance with me, Danny.”

“Jack, I don't feel like dancing,” Daniel answered softly.

“Life begins anew.  There are people in New Orleans right now that are planning Mardi Gras for next year.  Okay, so it won't be the big hoopla it's been in the past, but they're going to have it.  They're going to party because that's part of life, and the people of New Orleans, and those others whose lives have been forever altered by this nightmare, want to live.  Let's dance; let's dance to life; let's dance to progress; most importantly, let's dance to New Orleans.  Come on ... dance with me.”

With a tiny smile on his face, Daniel took his husband's hand.  They began a slow dance to Fats Domino's “Walking to New Orleans”.  Their hands warmed the other's back as Fats sang out, “I've got my suitcase in my hand ...”

Jack spun them around slowly, the lovers gazing into each other's eyes.  They picked up a bit of speed with “I've got no time for talkin',” and then they both smiled as the song played on to its conclusion.

They kept dancing as Aaron Neville sang “Louisiana 1927” and Louis Armstrong played his heart out in a few different melodies, Jack pausing from time to time to do Louis imitations, which always cracked up his lover.

Song after song played on the CD as the two lovers danced the wee hours of the morning away.  They moved to the music with Harry Connick's rendering of “Bourbon Street Parade” and then ended their night with the Preservation Hall Band's presentation of “When the Saints Go Marching In,” the soulmates dancing and singing along jovially as they remembered taking in the renowned group at the Preservation Hall during their first visit to New Orleans.

As the last notes ended, Jack pulled Daniel to him.  They were both tired and yet exhilarated by their dance marathon.

“Life goes on, Angel, because it has to.  It's time for us to move forward.  We keep doing what we can, but mourning isn't going to help now,” Jack said tenderly.

“You're right, Jack,” Daniel said.  He leaned in and kissed his lover.  “Let's dance some more.  Jack, I want to dance the morning away, just you and me, and ... and the jazz on the stereo.”

As the sun rose, the lovers were laughing and dancing to the smooth and sometimes exotic sounds of jazz over the airwaves.  They'd given what they could to help those in need, and they'd continue to do more to help the evacuees rebuild their lives, but right now, in this moment, Jack and Daniel were celebrating a city that would never die in their hearts.  They were two men, totally in love, and in their souls, they were in the French Quarter, dancing in celebration of both their love for each other and of New Orleans.

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