Graduation Day

Author:  Orrymain
Category:  Slash, Drama, Romance, Established Relationship
Pairing:  Jack/Daniel ... and it's all J/D
Rating:  PG-13
Season:  Beyond the Series - May 20 and June 6, 2015
Spoilers:  None
Size:  30kb, short story
Written:  July 19-20,22,24-25, 2008
Summary:  When the brood asks their parents an unexpected question, Jack and Daniel make another difficult decision.
Disclaimer:  Usual disclaimers -- not mine, wish they were, especially Daniel, and Jack, too, but they aren't.  A gal can dream though!
Notes:  
1) This story is by the request of Hollyflex.  Thanks!
2) 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.**
3) Thanks to my betas who always make my fics better:  Claudia, Tammy, Keri, Linda!

Graduation Day
by Orrymain

“I told Lou we'd let him know,” Jack informed his lover, drying his hands on a towel in the hospitality room as the couple finished cleaning up after lunch.  He walked forward several steps and stared into the recreation room where several members of the brood were assembled.  He shook his head and frowned.  “Daniel, something is definitely going on in there.”

Closing the cabinet door after putting a pan away, the archaeologist walked forward, stopping a step or so behind his lover.  He observed the children for a minute before letting out a tiny groan.

“I'm right, aren't I?” Jack asked, glancing at his Love for a second.

“That, or we're both hallucinating,” Daniel responded with a slight chuckle and shake of the head, turning around and retreating deeper inside the hospitality room.

Twisting around and looking at his husband in surprise, Jack questioned, “Don't you want to know what's going on?”

“No.”

“Daniel!”

With a reluctant sigh, the younger man accepted the fact that their children were up to something, and sooner or later, they were going to have to find out exactly what it was.  He was just hoping his lunch might have a chance to settle first.

Still, Daniel, as well as Jack, knew it was just a matter of time before this particular bombshell was revealed.  Both exchanged looks that said they might as well get it over and done with.  Even though there was a tiny bit of trepidation in their minds, they knew their children.  Whatever it was couldn't be too bad.

After getting some caffeine courage, the parents entered the rec room and sat down on one of the sectionals.

“Ptolemy queen, Jack.”

Jack glared at the large bird that seemed to delight in baiting him.  The majestic creature had just walked up to him, practically daring the retired general to disagree with her.

Holding his cup close to his chest, Jack responded, “Ptolemy mud, if Ptolemy sticks Ptolemy's feathers in my coffee again.”

“Coffee bad.”

“Whoa!” Jack claimed, rearing back a bit.  “Bird, Daniel's gonna pluck your feathers if you say that again.”  He paused and then smirked, “Go ahead.  Say it again.”

“Dad!” Little Danny objected with a scowl.

“Daniel love Ptolemy,” the bird insisted.

“Daniel loves coffee more,” Jack refuted confidently.

“Dad!” a choir of voices rang out.

“Jack!” Daniel exclaimed, his voice mixed in with that of the children.

“Daniel, are you really gonna sit there and tell me you love this ... peasant of a peacock more than that Arabian Mocha blend you're drinking?”

“Well, I ...”  Daniel felt the challenging eyes of several children on him, not to mention his husband's smirk.  He needed a distraction and fast.  Quickly, he turned to his namesake and suggested, “Sproglet, how about giving Ptolemy a treat?”

“Daniel love Ptolemy,” the magnificent hyacinth macaw boasted.

“Right,” Jack groaned, knowing exactly what his lover had just done.

“Okay, Daddy,” the boy acknowledged, getting up and heading toward the bird's large cage near the window of the recreation room.  “Come on, Ptolemy,” he beckoned, smiling as the bird followed him obediently.

Jack expressed his displeasure with his husband via their special silent communication, saying, **Smooth, Danny.  Way to put one over on the brood and leave me hanging.**

**I'll make it up to you later, Love.  Besides, you were the one who started an argument with a bird.**

As the child prodigy continued with his task, Jack and Daniel returned their attention to the task at hand:  finding out the reason for the brood's huddle and behavior.

“Okay, spill,” Jack finally ordered.

“Huh?” Jonny said, an innocent look on his face.

“Don't 'huh' me.  You guys have been over here, huddled together since lunch.  Spill!”

“I'm not a guy, Dad,” Jenny pointed out.

“Me, either,” Chenoa agreed.

“Let's just skip the technicalities,” Jack requested.

“Uh, what Dad is trying to say,” Daniel began.

“They know what I'm saying.”

“Yes, but ...”

“But let's get to it.  Hockey's on,” Jack reminded his soulmate, receiving a blue-eyed glare in response.  “Joking.  I'm just joking.”

Closing his eyes for a brief moment and then taking a breath to shake off the other man's remarks, Daniel spoke, “Brood, Dad and I couldn't help but notice your ... meeting.  Is there something you'd like to discuss?”

“We were waiting for the family meeting,” Aislinn stated.

“But then you said we weren't gonna have one tonight,” Lulu added.

“So we were trying to decide what to do,” Little Danny clarified as he sat down again.  “Ptolemy's happy, Daddy.”

“I'm glad,” Jack answered snarkily, picking up his coffee cup, looking at it, and sighing.  He plucked out a tiny feather.  “Daniel, it sheds.”

“Not *it*, Dad!” Little Danny complained in exasperation.

“Whatever.  What's going on?” Jack asked.

The children shared looks back and forth at one another.  Finally, it was Jonny who stood up and faced his parents.

“We wanna know what grades we're in.”

“Yeah!” Aislinn agreed.

“Double yeah,” Ricky added.

Jack and Daniel stared at each other and then looked towards their children.

In unison, the parents asked, “Grade?”

“Those kids we met at the park today kept asking us what grade we're in,” Aislinn explained.

“We didn't know what to tell them,” Little Danny expounded.

“We wanna know,” Jonny stated emphatically.

As if the entire dialogue had been scripted, every child demanded, “What grade am I in?”

“Ah,” Jack began.

“Well,” Daniel spoke.

“The thing is ...” the general orated nervously.

“It's just we never ...” the archaeologist said, his words slightly overstepping his Love's.

Without looking at each other, the couple said at the exact same time, “We'll get back to you,” and then they both stood up, beating a hasty retreat upstairs to confer.

The children looked at one another, dissatisfaction on their faces.

“They'll tell us,” Lulu said confidently.

“Yeah,” Jenny agreed.  “As soon as they figure it out.”

Jonny nodded and then sat back down to continue the discussion with his siblings.

====

Daniel entered the master bedroom and began pacing back and forth from the bed to the closet.  Jack watched for a moment, debating whether or not to tease his lover about wearing out the carpet.  With a less-than-subtle clearing of his voice, the older man took the safer option and simply walked over to the exercise bike that was in the corner and sat down on it.

After two minutes of silence, the younger man snarked, “Are you just gonna sit there?”

“I have another idea for exercise tonight,” Jack replied suggestively, remembering Daniel's earlier promise.

“Jack!” Daniel rebuked.

“Danny, what do you want us to do?”

Daniel sighed and sat down on the bed, his body twisting around so he could face his soulmate.

“Jack, if we tell them their grades ...”

“They'll know how smart they are?” Jack interrupted, a bit of a smirk on his face.  “Danny, those kids of ours have a lot of friends.  You don't think they've figured it out?”

“But ...”

“Angel,” Jack began, leaning forward against the handlebars of the machine.  “Neither one of us want the brood to be treated differently because they've got brains, a lot of brains, all yours.”

“Jack!” Daniel scolded with a look that told his husband not to go there, especially now.

Jack nodded in acceptance and continued, “Danny, the kids -- they seem normal, right?”

“They *are* normal.”

With a nod, the general questioned, “They don't have any socialization problems, right?”

“No, of course not.  They've ...” Daniel paused, staring at his Love.  “Jack, are we making more out of this than we should?”

With a smile, Jack got off the bike and walked over, taking a seat on the bed.  He took Daniel's hand and kissed it.

Holding the hand gently and rubbing it between his two strong ones, Jack spoke, “We're working overtime to make sure they're normal kids; maybe we're working too much at it.”

“We're the ones acting like it's ... funny for them to be smart.”

“The truth is our kids aren't the only smart kids in this world.”

“I know that,” Daniel responded.  “But how are they going to react when we tell them that Little Danny is doing the work of a sixth grader, and Jenny a fourth grader?”

“We won't know until we tell them,” Jack answered.

“I'm not sure we should.”

“Sproglet reads the encyclopedia, Love, and understands it.  He knows. We've talked about that.  The rest of the kids know, too.”

“What about Lulu and Noa?”

“What about them?  They're doing great, both of 'em,” Jack praised proudly.  “Noa's ahead of her game now, and Little Bit is really improving.”

“Don't you think they might feel funny about some of their younger siblings being further ahead than they are?”

“Nope.  They've both acknowledged our little prodigy; geez, Danny, all the kids have.  Besides, they're all good at different things, and they recognize that.  I've never heard any of the brood whine or complain that one of their siblings was better at sports, or dancing, or ... whatever than they are.  They'll handle this too. You're picking at straws.”

“What about Jonny?” Daniel queried, not missing a beat as he moved on with his long list of concerns.

“What about him?”

“Jack, he's ... gawd, he's like you.”

“Which means?” Jack asked.

“He doesn't want anyone to know how smart he is,” Daniel said.

“Why do you say that?”

“Because he's ... like you, my not-dumb-at-all husband.”

“If he's asking the question, he wants to know,” Jack opined.

“But what if ...”

“Daniel!” Jack interrupted, tugging gently on Daniel's hand.  “We're overprotecting them.”

“No, we're ... are we?” the suddenly not-so-secure archaeologist asked.

“If we make a big deal out of this, they will; but if we just answer their question ...”

“It'll go away,” Daniel concluded for his husband, his hand sliding away slightly so he could hold Jack's hand instead of it being nestled with the other man's two hands.  “You're right.  They just want to be able to talk to their friends.”

Speaking about one of the neighbor's kids, Jack said, “Calvin's class just had a little graduation ceremony; end of the school year and passing on to the next grade.  The kids were at the Miller's today, so that's probably where this is coming from.”

“Oh,” Daniel said.  A few seconds later, he repeated more excitedly, “Oh!”  Suddenly, he stood up, walked to the closet, and then back over to the bed.  “Jack, that's what this is about.”  Seeing his lover's unresponsive stare, he elaborated, “Graduation.  They've been in school almost from the day they were born, and we've never had a graduation.  I mean, they've seen Jen and Jeff graduate from high school, but ...”

“But now they're aware that their little friends are having grad parties, too,” Jack surmised with a couple of quick nods.

“This is more about that than what grade they're in,” Daniel said.  “Maybe we could just ...”  Daniel sighed at the sight of his lover's expression, one that said the solution to their problem wasn't quite as easy as just having a party.  “We have to tell them.”

“Danny, I understand why you're hesitant, but they're gonna learn from us, and if we act ... odd about what grade they're in ...”

“Like not answering them in the first place and coming up here to ...”

“... hide,” both men said within a millisecond of each other.

“We're the ones making a big deal out of their intelligence,” Daniel said.  He fell backwards onto the bed and covered his face with his hands.  “I just don't want them to stand out so much that they end up going through what I did.”

Jack smiled and leaned over to his side, partially covering his husband.  He removed Daniel's hands and gently kissed the succulent lips that he loved so much.

“Danny, if your parents had lived, none of that would have happened.”

After a moment, the younger man replied thoughtfully, “That's the difference.  I'm trying to save them from ... me, what I went through, but the situations aren't the same.”

“The only reason you had a hard time is because you were on your own, mostly because that lousy, selfish, no-good ...”

“Jack!”

“Nick abandoned you,” Jack asserted about his Heart's grandfather.  “You would have had a chance, if he hadn't.  Our brood -- they have us.”

“And one another,” Daniel added as an epiphany hit him.

“Bingo!  And if something awful did happen to us, they've got such a huge extended family, that what happened to you will never happen to them.”

“I love you, my definitely-not-dumb husband,” Daniel said, smiling before the two kissed.

====

“They won't tell us,” Lulu whined, having lost her earlier confidence because of all the time that had passed since her parents had left them alone.

“Maybe there's a reason,” Little Danny suggested.

“We already know you're the smartest,” Ricky put forth.

“Yeah,” Aislinn agreed.

“I'm not ...”

“Yes, you are,” all of the children insisted, cutting off their brother's modest rebuttal, causing him to smile shyly.

“We're all good at many things; we're just all a little better at some than others.  I love history,” Jenny said, not realizing how close her comment was to that of her older father just a few minutes earlier.

“And I'm good at languages,” Aislinn added.

“Brood!” Jack called out as he and his husband entered the largest room of their home.  “Have a seat,” he directed at the youngsters who were standing up.

Surprised but hopeful, all of the children sat down on the floor, most of them on the large floor comforters.

At that point, both Bijou and Katie walked in, having awoken from their afternoon naps.  The beagles took positions between as many of the children as possible to maximize the number of pats they would receive.

The parents sat down on the sectional, and Daniel opened a notebook that normally remained locked up in his desk drawer in the den.  Inside was a summary he kept about the children's individual academic achievements, including their test results.  Once per quarter, the brood was tested about everything they'd learned.  These tests were a little longer than normal and more encompassing than their regular examinations that occurred during the homeschooling process.

The children were used to the system set up by their parents and never realized which of those tests were considered finals.  Neither were they aware of what information was used by Jack and Daniel to submit their progress to the state as required by law.

“We'll discuss this with Bri tomorrow when she gets back from her trip and with David when he gets home, but if you want to know where your last tests placed you, grade-wise, we've got the information here,” Daniel stated.

“Keep in mind, it's only a number,” Jack added.

“What grade am I in?” Ricky asked.

“Okay, well, you did very well in arithmetic and ...”

“Daddy!” the little boy whined, wanting Daniel to get on with it.

“A number?  That's all you want to know?” Daniel questioned, getting nods from the youngsters.  “Okay, Ricky, by the numbers, you're in the third grade.”

One by one, Daniel gave the children the desired information.

“Cool!” Jonny exclaimed when the information had been passed out.  “Can we have a party?”

“Yeah, next year we'll be a grade higher,” Jenny agreed.

“We might be a grade higher tomorrow,” Chenoa stated.

“So we should have a party now,” Lulu agreed, nodding her head emphatically.

Daniel looked at his grinning husband.  It had all been about the graduation party.  Yes, the kids wanted to know where they stood, but it was really the rite of passage they wanted to acknowledge.  After all, none of the younger children had ever had any kind of ceremony to commemorate the ending of the school year, not that they had a traditional school year in their home.  Education was year round at the Jackson-O'Neill homestead.

Closing the book, Daniel asked, “Pizza party tonight?”

“This has to be a special party, Daddy!” Jonny argued.  “We want a graduation, like Jen and Jeff had!”

“Okay,” Daniel agreed, feeling a bit lighter that his theory had been right about the kids' motivation for asking the question in the first place.  **I have a hunch this is going to end up being a big, big ... big party, Babe.**

**I have a hunch you're right, Danny.**

====

“Feel better?” Jack asked that night as the lovers prepared for bed.

“Yeah, but I still think their friends might give them a hard time about their grades.”

“They can handle it,” Jack asserted confidently.

“Are you sure?”

“Danny, kids are kids.  Sure, there's gonna be some teasing and maybe some taunting, but this is a good neighborhood, and the other homeschoolers are good folks, too.  I think they'll be okay.”

“I'm worrying too much,” Daniel assumed.

“Just a bit, but it's understandable given your past,” Jack agreed, holding Daniel, protecting him, as always.

“I was worried about Lulu and Noa, being older than the Munchkins and the Spitfires,” the younger man admitted.

“Danny, we covered this, a lot.”

“I know.  I just can't help ... worrying.”

A knock on the door interrupted the discussion.  Getting permission to enter, Chenoa walked in, a smile on her face.

“I thought you were asleep,” Daniel said as he smiled back at the curly-haired youngster.

“I couldn't sleep.  I'm too excited!”

“About what?” Jack asked.

“About being in the fifth grade.  I thought I was only in the third grade,” Chenoa revealed.

“You're doing so well, Sweetie,” Daniel responded, kneeling down on his haunches.

“Daddy, Lulu teaches me a lot, too, in our room,” Chenoa replied.  “We like being in the fifth grade together.”

“You're both very smart little girls,” Daniel advised, raising his right hand to caress his daughter's cheek for a moment.

“Next year, we can catch up with Little Danny,” Chenoa giggled.  “Daddy, Dad, Lulu and I want a cake with dancers on it, okay?”

“We can do that,” Jack agreed.

“Thanks!” Chenoa replied, heading for the door, her giggles growing louder.

“Hey, what's so funny?” Jack asked.

“Catching up with Little Danny?  I bet next year he's in high school like David!” Chenoa laughed, leaving the room and shutting the door behind her.

“No problems,” Daniel admitted with a sigh.  “Gawd, I do worry too much.”

“And I love you for it,” Jack replied, walking over to his Heart and taking him in his arms again.  “They love one another.  Our kids are not jealous of what their siblings accomplish.”

“No, they're not,” Daniel agreed with a smile.

“No one asked about JD,” Jack noted.

“Thank goodness,” the relieved archaeologist responded.  JD was still very young, but the early indications were that he would be at least as intelligent as Little Danny.  “I don't even want to think about that.  I'd rather think about ...”

Further discussion halted as Daniel demonstrated exactly what he preferred to 'think' about for the rest of the evening.

====

“I hope we all dance to our own drummers, just like our dad and daddy have taught us,” Aislinn spoke, a grin on her face as she looked over at her fellow graduates.

The little girl returned to her chair and shared a giggle with Jenny, while Lulu headed for the podium.

Jack and Daniel had, as they always did, gone all out with this special graduation ceremony.  The backyard was decorated with red, white, and blue balloons, streamers, and a giant Sam the Eagle, wearing a graduation cap that Jack had found in a vintage costume shop in Denver.

The children were all draped in green graduation gowns and caps that Jennifer and Chenoa had made over the past couple of weeks.

Along with several neighbors, special friends had flown in for the occasion, including the Littlefields, Suzanna Simpson, and even Abayomi Sharif, something that really made the brood grin.

J-O Enterprises' best client had been on the phone with Jack from his private jet, en route to Mexico when Jack's casual mention of the event occurring that night had caused the Arab to change his plans and drop by.  Of course, he figured he'd also squeeze in some business with the couple before continuing on with his plans.

In addition, the couple had discussed the graduation with some of the homeschooling families they often worked with, offering to include their children in the ceremony.  Thus, sitting in the next couple of rows behind the brood, dressed in special outfits prepared by their own parents, were other excited homeschoolers, all eager to graduate and celebrate the day.  Three of them had already spoken as part of the program before Aislinn had taken her turn.

Lulu grinned at the assemblage and then began, “My family is a very lucky family because we have all of you.  Graduation is a special day, but it's special because all of you are here.  Graduating isn't about smarts.  Well, maybe some people think it is; but I think it's about being your best.  Sometimes, we don't do very well, and sometimes we do.  Today is because we did more than we didn't.”

Jack and Daniel shared a quiet chuckle about the girl's comments.  She was just ten years old, and while it may not have been the smoothest presentation, they loved what she was saying.

“Sometimes, I see things backwards.  I felt ashamed about that for a long time.  I thought I was stupid.”

“You're not stupid,” Jonny shouted, standing up.  “You're smart, Lulu!”

The young girl smiled unabashedly as the audience clapped, her siblings cheered, and Jack and Daniel both gave out huge, deafening whistles.

“Dad told me once that being smart is knowing what you're dumb at, and Daddy told me that there's a Chinese proverb that says that he, or she, who asks is a fool for five minutes, but he, or she, who does not ask remains a fool forever,” Lulu stated confidently.  “I know I'll never know everything that Little Danny does, but I know what I need to learn about, and I know it's okay to ask questions.”  The girl paused thoughtfully and then suggested, “Maybe that's what graduating is really about -- being okay with not knowing everything and not being afraid to ask about things we need or want to know.  I learned that from my parents.”  Looking at her siblings, she concluded, “And that's what I hope we never forget.”

“Not smart?” Jack questioned his lover.

“Smarter than I was at that age,” Daniel conceded proudly as he, Jack, and the entire crowd stood up and applauded.

As Jeff continued to watch over the filming of the special occasion, Jennifer and Brianna began the actual ceremony, calling up each child and handing them their handwritten diplomas.  All of the younger children, including David, took part.  Even JD, who had spent most of the day in his grandfather's lap, was given a little diploma to acknowledge his educational progress at the tender age of three.

Jack and Daniel then took the platform that had been raised and addressed their children and their guests.

“We couldn't be prouder,” Daniel began.

“Thanks, folks, for coming,” Jack acknowledged.

Jack and Daniel shared a look and a smile, after which they faced their brood and exclaimed jovially, “Brood, and friends, you've graduated!”

The children jumped up, threw off their caps, and cheered, just as if they'd just finished high school.  They hugged one another to the chorus of more applause and laughs from the crowd.

“I'm glad we did this,” Daniel spoke quietly as he clapped.  “It really was the right thing to do.”

“Yes it was,” Jack agreed as he looked around at the smiles on his children's faces.

====

“Perfect!” Jeff praised, finishing off another photo, this one of Lulu and Chenoa hugging each other, giant smiles on their faces.

“Thanks, Jeff,” both girls said enthusiastically and then hurried over to visit with their friend, Chloe Payne, who had graduated as well.

“Cake time!” Jack called out.

“That's a lot of cake, General,” Colonel Marc Reynolds stated from his position next to his lover, Colonel Paul Davis.

“Maybe one day, Reynolds, you'll understand why one cake will never do,” Jack responded, patting the man on the arm, smiling at Paul, and then walking over to stand by his lover.  “Dig in!”

“Yeah!”

Several of the children had made special requests for their cakes, and each request had been granted, including Chenoa and Lulu, who giggled with delight as they cut into their dancers cake.  The party had only begun.  This was one graduation day that would never be forgotten.

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