Hafta Try

Author:  Orrymain
Category:  Slash, Drama, Romance, Established Relationship
Pairing:  Jack/Daniel ... and it's all J/D
Rating:  PG-13
Season:  Beyond the Series - June 12-20, August 30, 2012
Spoilers:  None
Size:  64kb
Written:  June 28, July 5-7, 2010, March 26-29, April 10,16,23, 2011
Summary:  The brood sees a wrong, and they set out to try to right it.
Disclaimer:  Usual disclaimers -- not mine, wish they were, especially Daniel, and Jack, too, but they aren't.  A gal can dream though!
Notes:  
1) Sometimes, Jack and Daniel speak almost telepathically.  Their “silent” words to each other are indicated by asterisks instead of quotes, such as **Jack, we can't.**
2) Silent, unspoken thoughts by various characters are indicated with ~ in front and behind them, such as ~Where am I?~
3) This fic stands alone, but it does reference my other fic(s): “Bahamas Bound”
4) Thanks to my betas who always make my fics better:  Alverine, Mama Bear, Navi!

Hafta Try
by Orrymain

The morning had begun in grand style for the Jackson-O'Neills.  It was Bijou's birthday, so that meant it was time to party, something this family loved to do.  Receiving presents and treats, the mama beagle was quite the happy canine.  She'd be even happier in the evening when the second part of her birthday was planned, meaning more treats and new toys.  A big plus to being part of this family's zoo was being royally spoiled.
 
Now that it was late afternoon, the family was engaged in a game of soccer with several children at one of the shelters they supported.  They'd brought in special treats for the children in honor of Bijou's big day, and they'd conducted a special story time for the kids featuring dog tales before having gone outside for the game.

“Okay, kids, time to wrap it up,” Jack called out, hearing the groans of sadness from the children.

“Melina, we're very happy for you,” Daniel told a seven-year-old girl who was in the process of being adopted.

“Me, too.  Maybe my new parents will let me come play with your kids sometimes.”

“That would be … good.  We’ll see what we can do.”

Melina smiled and then began to skip away, her black pigtails bouncing in the air with each skip.

Some of the other children from the shelter helped with the cleanup of the area before heading back to the main building.  That’s when Little Danny noticed Mikey Addams quietly sitting Indian-Style over to the side with his head bowed down.

~Wonder what's wrong?~  The child prodigy walked over and kneeled down by the boy.  “Mikey, you okay?”

“What's love?”

The question stunned the young Munchkin, who could only reply with a tiny, “Huh?”

“What's love?”

“Well, love is when you feel safe and … and when someone makes you feel happy,” Little Danny answered.

“Oh.  I wonder what it's like,” Mikey said in a sad low voice.

Little Danny blinked and then leaned forward, tossing his arms around the other child.

“This is love, Mikey.  I love you.”

“You're just saying that.  Melina is so lucky.  No one adopts us older kids.”

“They do, too.  We adopted Jen and David and Jeff and Bri and Lulu.  They weren't babies; only Noa was.”

In a near whisper, Mikey replied, “They're so lucky.  Melina's the only one who's … been adopted since I’ve been here, ‘cept for babies.”  Mikey looked up and added, “I just wanna know what love is.  Ev'body talks about it.”

Just then Jonny ran up and interrupted, “Little Danny, Daddy says we hafta go now.”  He looked at Mikey and saw the boy wipe away a few tears.  “What's goin' on?” he asked as he collapsed down onto his knees.

A shout boomed through the air as Mikey was called to the main building.  Still trying to stop his tears, the boy bolted away from the two brothers without saying another word.

“Is he sick?” Jonny asked his sibling.

“He's sad,” Little Danny sighed, now feeling sad himself.  “We'd better go.”

====

That night, after lights were out and his parents had long since finished their goodnight rounds, Little Danny removed his arm from around Bijou's neck, patting her gently for a moment, and crawled out of bed.  He walked over to Jonny’s bed, reaching over and gently shaking his brother.

“Jonny, wake up,” Little Danny urged in a hushed voice, looking over to make sure Ricky wasn't stirring.  “Jonny!”

“Is it morning?”

“No.”  Little Danny began to climb up onto his brother's bed while motioning with a wave of his hand.  “Move over.”

The brothers ended up sitting across from each other, their legs crossed in front of them, with Jonny backed up against his pillow.  Bijou jumped up onto the bed and put her head atop Little Danny's thigh.  She was wide awake as she listened to the conversation.

“Mikey wants to know what love is, and we hafta help him,” Little Danny announced.

“How?”

“I was thinking, like Daddy thinks,” the middle Munchkin replied.

“Quiet thinking,” Jonny returned with a nod of understanding.

“Jonny, how many older kids have been adopted from that shelter?”

Scrunching his face, Jonny thought for a minute and then answered, “Melina.”

“No one else?”

“Lots of babies ‘n’ Jimmy.  'Member him?”

“He was only two.”

“I forgot,” Jonny returned with a yawn.

“Jonny, we hafta do something.”

“Like what?”

Little Danny shrugged sadly and repeated, “He wants to know love.”

“He needs us.”

There was a pause and then Little Danny smiled.

Jonny shook his head in response while opining, “I don't think Dad and Daddy will adopt another kid.  JD's still a baby.”

“What if we find someone else?”

“Who?”

After a moment's contemplation, the brown-haired boy suggested, “We need ta know more about Mikey.”

“How?” Jonny asked.  “Dad 'n' Daddy 'n' Jeff 'n' Jen are leavin' to Pajamas soon.”

“Bahamas, not pajamas,” came the swift correction.  “We need a meeting, now.”

“They won't like it,” Jonny put forth about his parents.

“Secret meeting,” Little Danny cajoled.

“Guess I'm not tired anymore,” Jonny sighed.  ~Bye, bye sleep.~

“I'll get the girls,” Little Danny stated with a smile.

====

With Bijou and Katie, who had been sleeping with Aislinn, playing lookout, or more accurately hear-out, by the closed bedroom door, the meeting was in full process.  The Munchkins, the Spitfires, Chenoa, and Lulu were all gathered in the boys' room.  They were seated in a circle as they mulled over what to do about Mikey Addams' problem.  Ultimately, they agreed that they needed to find Mikey a family, just as Little Danny had told Jonny earlier.  Within a couple of minutes of agreeing on that, the informal round table also decided that Little Danny was right about something else.  They needed to find out more about Mikey in order to match him up with the right family.

“It would be easier if Dad and Daddy weren't going away,” Lulu asserted.

“Yeah, we're gon' be sep'rated,” Aislinn sighed, her yawn stifling her words a bit.

“Not all of us,” Jonny put forth.

The children debated their situation further and came up a strategy, only for it to work, they were going to have to include two more of their siblings.

====

The pitter patter of fourteen feet and eight paws went silently down the long hallway until they reached the last door on the left.  Chenoa tapped gently before peeking her head inside.

“All clear,” the curly-haired girl told the other children.

The siblings shuffled inside the room, closed the door behind them, and then surrounded Brianna's bed.

“Bri,” Little Danny whispered.

“Bri, we hafta talk,” Jonny advised, shaking the tomboy's bed a tad.

“Sleeeee...” Brianna roused, opening one eyelid at a time.  She moved her line of vision one child at a time until she worked her way all around the bed.  She also noticed the beagles, ears arched as they were in full listening mode, seated by the door.  “Okay, what's going on?”

A blending of voices all rang out at once.

“Hey, one at a time,” Brianna objected as she sat up.  ~Wow, now I know how Jen feels.  Hey, I'm a big sister, too!~

The tomboy tuned into the words, astounded by the game plan that her younger brothers and sisters had come up with.

“Um, guys, I wish we could do this, but the odds aren't on our side,” Brianna stated.

“We hafta try,” Little Danny refuted urgently.

Brianna felt a bit overwhelmed.  This was really the first time she'd been in this exact position.  Normally, the brood would have taken something like this to Jennifer and Jeff, only they were about to embark on a week-long trip out of the country with their parents.

~This is gonna bomb, and they'll blame me,~ Brianna thought silently.  ~But I remember that kid -- Mikey.  I remember all of them.  I was there, once.~

“Bri, it'll work,” Jonny asserted confidently.

“We just have to get back to the shelter,” Lulu added, her eyes making direct contact with her older sister's.

~Yeah.  Lulu knows, too.  It wasn't even that long ago.  Two years; no, less than that.  If Dad and Daddy hadn't adopted us, no one would have.~

“Bri, will you help us?” Little Danny implored.

Brianna took one more brief moment to consider her options, one of which was to run straight to her parents and spill the beans.

~No, we're the brood, and I'm part of the brood.  Maybe ... maybe we can do this,~ the girl determined silently.  “Okay, I'm in.  Jonny, go get David.  We'll need him.”

“Covert,” Jenny reminded.

“I know,” Jonny whined with rolling eyes.  ~I'm the covert expert, 'cept for Dad and Daddy.~

With Jonny headed for David's bedroom, Brianna reached over for a notebook and pen she kept on her nightstand.

“This is going to take a lot of timing, and a lot of puppy eyes and pretty smiles and ... well, every bit of brood finesse that we have,” Brianna told the others.

“Huh?” Ricky asked.

“She means we have to schmooze our caregivers,” Aislinn chuckled.

“What's schmooze?” the male Spitfire questioned.

“This,” Jenny answered, making a face that explained it all and then adding for emphasis a pleading, “Pretty please.”

“Oh.  That's a piece of cake,” Ricky assured gaily, laughing along with the others.

====

The next morning, Jack stared at himself in the bathroom mirror.  Like his husband, he was naked, save for a big towel wrapped around his waist.  His face was partially lathered, but he wasn't doing anything at the moment except for staring straight ahead.

“Babe?”

“Danny, did you ever have the feeling that you've been run over by a truck, but there's no proof?”

Daniel laughed, “Bad dream?”

“My gut tells me there's a huge steamroller out there, but we just can't see it.”

“Maybe it was that extra helping of moo goo gai pan you had last night,” Daniel mused about the Chinese dish his husband had devoured.

“Danny, I'm tellin' ya, it's in the air.  Something is up.”

“Like what?” the linguist inquired as he walked into the bedroom, drying his hair with a hand towel.

Jack shrugged and then continued to shave while glancing at the crossword puzzle that he had taped to the mirror a bit earlier.

“Daniel, five letter word, precedes 'above', means 'fills the atmosphere' like 'to loom over',” Jack called out.

“Brood.”

“Where?” Jack questioned, looking around.

“Where's what?” Daniel inquired as he peeked back into the bathroom.

“You said the brood was here.”

Amused, Daniel shook his head and clarified, “'Brood' is the answer to the puzzle.”

“I knew that,” Jack lied as he sighed.  He glanced down at Bijou, who was staring up at him from the corner.  Suddenly, he became suspicious.  “You know something.”  He gave the canine a wary stare and ordered, “Speak.”

“Woof!” Bijou obliged.

“Not in beagle, in English.”

Bijou let out a whimper and laid down, letting her neck rest atop her paws and her chin touch the tile floor.

“I know.  It's not your fault.  Just do your best to make sure they don't do anything overly crazy.  Deal?”

“Woof!” the mama beagle agreed brightly, rolling over and then running out of the room.

Jack chuckled.  He loved the beagles to the ends of the earth, and he trusted them more than he trusted most humans, or aliens.  As the seconds ticked on, he grew more serious again.

“Brood above: not a good sign,” the general mumbled as he thought back to the crossword puzzle and its answer.  His gut was continuing to insist that some sort of mischief was brewing.  ~I'd bet money on it.~

More certain than he'd been all morning, Jack definitely suspected that his gut feeling had something to do with twelve youngsters known as the brood.

~'Caution ahead' should be the taped to my back.~

====

The plotting brood had to move fast.  They really wanted to get back to the shelter today, but they knew their parents were busy preparing for their trip and wrapping up some loose ends on the home front.  By this time tomorrow, Jack and Daniel would be en route to the Bahamas, as would Jennifer and Jeff.

The kids had spent the bulk of the morning up in the tree house, which surprised the married couple.

“Aren't they going to miss us?” Jack whined mournfully as he stared out the kitchen window.

“Babe, they're children.  They're just ... playing,” Daniel reasoned.

“All friggin' morning?” Jack challenged, turning around to dare his lover to explain the odd behavior of their children.  “Don't you stand there and tell me you aren't feeling what I'm feeling.  Crap, we have feelings.”

Daniel laughed as he put away the box of cereal and then ambled over to his husband, putting his arms around Jack's neck.  He felt his Love's arms wrap around him instinctively.  How he loved being close like this.

“I have ... lots of ... feelings,” Daniel replied, leaning in for a long, passionate kiss.

“You're trying to distract me.”

“Jack, even if they're up to something, is it going to do any good for us to stand here and wonder about it?”

“The air is full of mischief: brood above,” Jack sighed, once again thinking about the answer to the crossword puzzle he'd been working on.  “But you're right,” he agreed, gently taking advantage of the couple's closeness by squeezing Daniel's six.

“Don't get any ideas, Fly Boy.  We have a full list of things to do this afternoon.”

“Spoil sport,” Jack grumbled playfully, though he'd already turned back around to stare outside at the absence of play.  ~They've got something up their sleeves.  Every broken bone I've ever had is screaming.~

====

Up in the tree house, Aislinn double checked her list of questions and then pondered, “Shouldn't we ask what they like to eat?”

“How come, Ash?” Jenny asked.

“Well, if I hated Chinese food, I wouldn't want to have to eat it every day,” the youngest Munchkin put forth.

“Good idea,” Jonny agreed enthusiastically.  “Put that down.”

“Okay, that's enough,” Little Danny stated.  “We won't have a lot of time.”

“Okay.  Does everyone know their assignments for this afternoon?” Brianna asked.  “We only have one shot at this.”

A round of nodding heads was the tomboy's answer.

“Meeting a'journed,” Jonny pronounced, picking up his notebook and leading the way outside.

“Take it slow,” David warned the excited youngsters.  To Brianna he whispered, “The last thing we need is for one of them to try to ...”

“Ricky!” Brianna shouted, running after the Spitfire.  “No running or you'll never be allowed up here again.  Dad's had his eyes on the tree house all morning.  You have to be smart, Bro.”

“I'm sorry,” the boy professed contritely.

====

“Five?” Jeff asked his brother.

“Yeah,” David confirmed.  “I need twelve, but I only have seven.”

“Okay,” the older brother agreed, reaching into a drawer to pull out his recordable DVDs.  “What are you recording anyway?”

“Just ... things.”

~'Things'?~  Jeff stopped counting and glanced over at the other boy.  He became extremely curious.  “That's telling me,” he joked.

David shrugged as he took possession of the DVDs and then stated nonchalantly, “Have fun in the Bahamas.”

“You have fun here, little brother.”

“I will, I hope.  It's gonna be interesting anyway,” David replied, leaving his brother's bedroom.

~Something's up, but that's okay.  It's gonna be beaches and sunshine for this guy starting tomorrow.~

====

Aislinn entered the library in which there were a couple of computers and a printer available for the brood's use.

“Let me know if anyone comes,” the little girl told Katie, who took up a lookout position in the hallway.

All of the computers in the younger kids' rooms were hooked up to this single printer in the library.  She pulled out the top paper and casually read it over, making sure she hadn't made any mistakes.

Smiling and confident that all of the questions were correct and in the proper order, the Munchkin waited until the twelfth and final page was done.  Then she scooped up the papers and returned to her bedroom, with Katie walking briskly beside her.

====

“They're going to ask us about this,” Brianna whispered nervously to Lulu.

The two children had managed to finagle a trip to the drug store with Jack as he picked up a few necessities for the overseas trip. They'd gone over to the photography area and purchased nine disposable cameras, though they figured they really didn't need that many.  In fact, they could have done it with one, but buying multiples of the item was the most expedient way of making sure they accomplished their goals, especially since time would be of the essence when the cameras would be in use.

As luck would have it, Jack showed up at the photography cashier counter just as the two siblings were completing their purchase.

“Disposable cameras?”

“Yeah,” Brianna confirmed succinctly.

“Gonna take pictures?” Jack questioned.

“Hu-huh,” David acknowledged.

“One wouldn't do it?”  Jack asked.  ~Fishy, definitely fishy.~

“Na-huh,” Brianna answered, smiling at the clerk as he handed over her change.  “Thank you.”

“What are you going to take pictures of?”

“Hey, Dad, look at the time,” David interjected, making a show of looking at his wristwatch.  “Daddy said to make sure we were back by one-thirty.”

Jack watched his children conspiring as they walked closely together towards the exit.

~I think I'm glad I'm going to the Bahamas.  Better warn their caregivers,~ Jack determined as he headed for the door.  Then he smirked, ~Nah.  Why spoil the kids' fun?~

====

Mid-afternoon, Jack and Daniel were rounding up the troops for a trip to the park.  The couple wanted to have some special playtime with their younger children before leaving on their trip with the teenagers.

As he piled into the SUV, Little Danny surprised his parents with a request.

“Dad, Daddy, can we go by the shelter, please?  Mikey wasn't feeling well yesterday, and I just wanna make sure he's okay.”

Jack looked at Daniel, who shrugged his okay, and then responded, “I guess we can do that.”

As Jack pulled out of the driveway, he missed the high five that had been delivered on the down low, that is by their knees instead of up in the air, between Jonny and Little Danny.  He did think he saw a little smile from the young prodigy, but he dismissed it as being happy they were headed for the shelter.

====

“That's very thoughtful of you, Little Danny,” Marjorie Dorn spoke with a smile.  She looked at Jack and Daniel as she noted, “Mikey has been a little down lately. I think he'd like to see your family for a few minutes.”  She looked to her right and instructed, “Gregory, Mikey Addams should be in the playroom or the reading hall.  Would you bring him here please?”

“Yes, Ma'am,” the teenaged assistant responded.

While her parents chatted with Mrs. Dorn, Chenoa looked around the hallway.  There were a couple of shelves and a few benches lining the corridor.  She motioned with her head to Lulu and quietly sat down on one of the benches, with Lulu joining her.  Whistling to cover up her actions, at least in her mind, she let her right hand drop to the spot where the bottom pad met the back cushion.  Trying to look nonchalant, she maneuvered a ring off her finger and let it drop between the pads.  With a nod to Lulu, she stood up and walked away.

Casually, Lulu glanced down, making sure the ring wasn't noticeable to the eye.  Then she stood and rejoined her curly-haired sister.

At the same time, Aislinn loosened her shrug, letting it fall from her shoulders.  She tied it loosely around her waist and let it stay like that for a bit.

Brianna sat down on another one of the benches and began to read a book she'd brought with her.  This wasn't uncommon.  She often read to fill the time.

At that point, Mikey entered, surprised to have been called to Mrs. Dorn's office, though in reality, the Jackson-O'Neills were all outside the office, roaming the aforementioned hallway.  The boy visited with Jonny and Little Danny for a few minutes before the call came that the family had to go.

As Jonny hurried to join the others, Little Danny hugged Mikey and promised, “We're going to find you love, Mikey.”

“You are?”

“We'll be back,” Little Danny affirmed with a nod.  As Mrs. Dorn and Mikey walked away, the Munchkin hurried towards his family.  That's when he saw Aislinn's shrug fall to the white floor.  Smiling, the boy thought, ~Good covert, Ash.~

David was the last one to leave the hallway.  He'd gotten the nod from Chenoa that the ring had been hidden, and he, too, had witnessed Aislinn's shrug falling to the floor.  He glanced over at the bench where Brianna had been sitting, smiling when he saw her book sitting there.

~Where's Jenny hair clip?~ David wondered.  It was the one thing he hadn't seen that he'd expected to.  Reaching the door, he glanced back, looking all the way down the hall where he'd accidentally on purpose let one of his USB flash sticks fall out of his rear jeans pocket.  ~I don't see it.  Jen....~

“David, come on,” Jenny beckoned.  She stood right at the doorway, smiling slyly as she ran her right hand over her hair, removed the clip, and then kneeled down.  “Oops, better tie my shoelaces.”

Moving to block their parents' view of Jenny, David nodded at Jack and Daniel, shouting out, “She's tying her shoelaces.”

“Of course, she is,” Jack mumbled from yards away.

“What does that mean?” Daniel asked, though his eyes were on the children getting into the SUV.

“Daniel, they're up to something.”

“I thought we agreed on that this morning.”

“Oh, yeah,” Jack acknowledged.  ~Wonder what Red's contribution to the 'left behind' game is~  He watched as Jenny suddenly reappeared.  ~Ah, Mister Polar Bear is gone.~

“Jack, what's wrong with you?”

“Nothing.  We're getting out at the right time; I'm sure of it.”

“What are you talking about?” the younger man queried with an exasperated tone.

“Ice cream.”

Those magic words were heard by all, and the cheers rang out.

“Everyone ... have everything?”

The 'yes' answerers weren't missed by the Special Ops general, who took his seat, content to let Daniel drive the next leg of the trip.

~The yeses came from Ricky, Jonny, Little Danny, and Lulu, none of whom suspiciously left something behind.  Do I blow the whistle?  Why?  They obviously have a plan.  Hey, they got us here, the little brood unit.  Obviously, they want to come back and the only way to get here with their caregivers is to leave something behind.~  The general grinned.  ~That's the goal.  Now why?  Why is it so important for them to come back?  Shoulda bugged the tree house.~

====

After Thursday morning good-byes with their parents, Jennifer, and Jeff, the brood hugged one another and prepared to go with their assigned caregivers for the next week.  Quietly, they whispered acknowledgements and affirmations that their plan was a 'go'.

“Saturday, 1100 hundred hours,” Jonny whispered to Chenoa, Lulu, David, and the twins.

“We have to have all our intel by then,” Little Danny pointed out, choosing to keep the military covertness of Operation Love going.

“We can do it,” Jenny assured her siblings, sounding very much like a cheerleader.

Time had run out for conversation as Mark Wilson called Chenoa and Lulu over.  He was picking them up and would drop them off at his house and then continue on to his office.

“Son, time to go,” General Hammond called out to David.

“Grandpa, am I going to be stuck in a VIP room?” the boy asked the bald-headed man.

“Actually, David, I thought you might like to help me keep my people in line today,” Hammond boasted with a grin.

“Cool!”

At that moment, the latest caregiver arrived, only he came to an abrupt halt on the front porch.

“Sir!” Colonel Lou Ferretti acknowledged, coming to attention and saluting.

“Save it for the base, Colonel.  We're family here,” Hammond put forth, patting the Italian on the arm and then heading for his vehicle with David at his side.

“ColonelFerretti,” Teal'c greeted.

“Hey, Teal'c.  JD, you're getting big,” Lou teased, gently poking the baby in the abdomen, causing JD to giggle.  “Where are my troops?”

“Right here, Uncle Lou,” Jenny called out, pulling her small suitcase behind her.

“I'm here, too,” Ricky stated enthusiastically, standing in line with his fellow Spitfire.

“Are you ready for a rip-roarin' week with Uncle Lou and Aunt Carolyn?” Lou asked eagerly, making a funny face and laughing.

“Yeah!” both kids exclaimed with big smiles, knowing they were in for a fantastic time with their unofficial aunt and uncle.

“Good, 'cause it's just the five of us,” Lou replied, including his daughter Trina in the equation.

“Teal'c, if you need help with the appliances in the hospitality room, please call me.  I'm just next door,” Brianna reminded with an apologetic yet hopeful expression and tone.  ~I still don't think he understands the concept of a garbage disposal.~

“Indeed,” the Jaffa responded, not really that pleased by the comment which questioned his capability to exist in the Jackson-O'Neill home without breaking some electronic gadget or appliance.  ~Earth is still a very strange world.~

“Okay, well ... kids, be good.  I'll see you later,” Brianna told the Munchkins.

After a few more hugs and giving JD a kiss, the tomboy picked up her backpack and went next door where Mrs. Sophia Valissi was waiting.

Teal'c was staying at the Jackson-O'Neill home, tending to the Munchkins and JD. Janet would be dropping by when she could, though she had a heavy duty shift at Stargate Command.  Sam and Pete would be around a bit, but Sam's schedule called for her to be off-world for a couple of days in addition to a long list of obligations she had for the week.  This meant that it would be mostly up to the Jaffa to take care of the four children.

“Do you want me to take JD, Teal'c?” Aislinn inquired.

“Very well,” the Jaffa agreed, relinquishing his hold since JD was reaching out for the little girl.  “Munchkins and JDJacksonO'Neill, you may now play until lunchtime.”

“Thanks, T,” Jonny responded.  “Come on.  We have lots to do.”

Teal'c watched the four kids head up the stairs and thought, ~Strange behavior. Perhaps they are sick.~

The Jaffa went about his business, curious as to why the kids hadn't tried to play some odd game with him, like Pin the Tail on the Jaffa, which had always been one of Jonny's favorite pastimes.

====

About an hour before lunch, Janet dropped by, giving the Munchkins the perfect opportunity to proceed with their plan, especially since she was doting over JD at the moment.

Taking a breath of preparation, Aislinn hurried downstairs and cried, “Teal'c, I lost it, and it's my favorite one.”

“AislinnJacksonO'Neill, do not cry,” Teal'c demanded.  ~Tau'ri women who cry cannot have logical conversations.~

“But I ... I lost it,” the little girl cried.

“Ash, what's wrong?” Little Danny called out, hurrying over to his sibling.

“My shrug, the one Daddy ga...gave me.  I...I...Iiiii ...”

“Ash, I *know* where it is,” Jonny interjected, as he approached his fellow triplets.

“Where?”

“It's at the shelter,” Jonny stated.  “I'll bet that's where it is.”

“Yes!”  Aislinn's eyes grew wide, and she nodded.  She hurried over to Teal'c and pleaded, “Teal'c, we have to get it.  Daddy gave it to me.  Pleeeeease.”

It took a lot to get to Teal'c, and a crying beauty like Aislinn was right there at the top of the list.  Thus, in short order, the Munchkins convinced Janet to stay with JD, while they went to the shelter with the Jaffa.

As the physician watched Teal'c and the triplets leave, she told the baby, “JD, I've known those kids since they were born, and that was one of their best acting jobs ever.”  She laughed, “That big ol' Jaffa is a pushover for Munchkin tears.”

Amused and curious, Janet locked the door and then proceeded to play with her charge.

====

“Thank you, Mrs. Dorn.”

“You're welcome, Aislinn.”

The shrug had been turned into the lost and found at the shelter and was quickly claimed by the littlest triplet.

“There's Mikey,” Jonny pointed out.

“Mrs. Dorn, can we play with the kids for a little while?” Little Danny asked.

“Until lunch, yes, you may,” the woman permitted.

The triplets rang out their happiness and then looked at Teal'c, who just stared at them.  The Munchkins exchanged a look and then gave the Jaffa big smiles before running off to play, or rather, to achieve their objective.

====

A half hour later, Teal'c entered the playroom to get the Munchkins.  He studied their positions.  Like a triangle, each child was seated either next to or across from another child.  He noted that each one had a paper in front of them and appeared to be making notes.

“Munchkins, we must depart,” the Jaffa advised the children.

“Okay,” Jonny acknowledged.  “Oh, Isaac, wait,” he told the child he'd been visiting with.  From his jacket, he pulled out a camera and requested, “Say 'cheese'.”

--

“Ash, I like to build things, too,” Josh told the girl.  “Legos are fun, but building with real wood is even better.”

“I'll write it down.”

--

“Little Danny,” Mikey called out, stopping the middle Munchkin from joining his siblings.  “It doesn't matter what I like.  I'll like anything, if you can find me love.”

Little Danny blinked and then ran back to give the boy a hug.

“We'll find you love, Mikey.”

====

“I'm sorry, Grandpa, but I think it must have fallen out at the shelter.  It has all my notes on it for my homework,” David sighed regretfully.

With that premise given, Hammond stopped by the shelter at the end of his shift at Cheyenne Mountain.

“David, what a surprise,” Mrs. Dorn greeted.

“Hi, Mrs. Dorn.  I think I lost something here.  Do you mind if I look for it?”

“Of course not.  Don't forget to check the lost and found,” the woman advised.

“I won't.  Oh, this is my grandfather, General Hammond.  Grandpa, this is Mrs. Dorn.  She likes square dancing.”

“Well, imagine that.  Hello, Ma'am,” Hammond greeted in a Texan drawl, tipping an imaginary hat in Mrs. Dorn's direction.

David grinned.  He hoped the square dancing commonality would give him enough time to complete his task.

====

After quickly retrieving his flash stick, which had been right where he'd left it, David went into the dorm and found his assigned subject, ten-year-old Lloyd.

“Lloyd, do you have a few minutes?”

“I always have a few minutes,” the youngster groaned.

“Good,” David stated, putting down his backpack.  “First, I need to take your picture.”

“Huh?”

“It's for a project.  You don't mind, do you?”

One of the most important aspects of Operation Love the brood had agreed upon was that they didn't want to mislead or falsely encourage any of the children at the shelter.  With that in mind, none of the participating brood told the orphans what the project was really about.  That way, the kids wouldn't be hurt if they weren't adopted.  Only the despairing Mikey had a clue that love was being sought on his behalf, but he didn't really know how it was being done, nor did he believe it would work.

“Help yourself,” the boy responded, not really caring.  He was tired of caring.  ~It beats lying here staring at the ceiling.~

====

The next day, Friday, a similar plea to Aislinn's took place.  Chenoa's upset at losing a ring given to her by Jennifer easily convinced Sara Wilson to make a trip to the children's home.  Like David and the Munchkins, Chenoa and Lulu managed to stick around long enough to complete their assignments.  They laughed when on their way out, the Ferrettis showed up with the twins.  It seemed Jenny had lost her polar bear hair clip, her favorite, so naturally the Ferrettis were willing to help her find it.

By the end of the day when Mrs. Valissi and Brianna showed up to claim the mammal book she'd been reading during her last visit to the shelter, Operation Love had been carried out with tremendous success.

====

On Saturday afternoon, there was a pizza party at the Wilson's.  Teal'c was there, having brought with him the Munckins, JD, and Brianna.  General Hammond was also present.  He had David with him as well as the Spitfires, having picked them up at the Ferretti's for the afternoon.  This provided a great opportunity for the brood to check in with one another about their plan, and since they all knew about the pizza party even before their parents had left on vacation, it had figured prominently in their plan.

Amid their playtime, the children compared notes.

“Item one -- check,” Jonny announced.  “Where's the love list?”

“I have it,” Lulu announced, pulling out a paper.

“Who's first?” Chenoa asked, leaning over to sneak a peek at the paper.

“Mister Stevens and Ms. McClain,” Lulu answered, referring to Bob Stevens and Shelley McClain.  The couple was not married, but they'd been together for years and had children.  “They like museums and stuff.”

“Kid matches?” Jonny inquired.

“Kylie loves science and mentioned going to museums,” Brianna noted as she reviewed her notes.

It went on like this for a half hour before the adults started to get curious, necessitating an end to the session.  However, the brood had made significant progress.

“Check email,” David advised.

“Okay, hand me the reports.  I'll get them summarized,” Brianna stated as the kids began to hand her their discoveries.  “David, I need your flash drive.”

“Oh, the pictures!” Little Danny exclaimed, pulling out his disposable camera.

Having turned over his flash drive to his sister, David beamed and stated, “I have some good ideas for the pictures.  Give me the cameras.”  He took the cameras and put them into his backpack.  Then just before the brood broke up their pow wow, he added, “Maybe I can arrange a meeting at Grandpa's.”

“Good job, brood,” Jonny praised as he stood up and ran over to his Aunt Sara.  “Is it pizza time yet?  I'm hungry!”

“What have you been up to?” Sara probed curiously.

“Playing.”

“Let me tell you a secret, Jonny,” Sara responded.  “You look and act a lot like your dad, and I know your dad like a book.  I know that look.”

“What look?” the boy asked with a bright innocence.

“That one!”

Jonny grinned and requested, “I'll take a slice of each pizza, please.”

“Naturally,” an amused Sara chuckled.  ~He is just like Jack, which means he has a secret.  Come to think of it, I think they all do.~

====

“Did your parents leave you too much homework to do?” Mrs. Valissi asked early that evening.

Smiling nervously, Brianna closed her laptop.  Actually, the laptop was one of Daniel's old ones.  He'd recently wiped the hard drive so that the kids could use it at times like this.  The mobile computer had some games on it as well as a good word processing program.

“Actually, they didn't give us any homework.  We convinced them that it wasn't fair for us to sweat away with school work while they were playing on the beach.”

“Sounds reasonable to me,” Mrs. Valissi replied, smiling as she glanced at the laptop and the papers that were next to it.

“I was just working on a little project.  It's a surprise,” Brianna expounded about her activities.  ~I'm a horrible liar, so please don't ask me anything else.~

“I'm making Penne and sausage for dinner.  How does that sound?”

“Great!  Do you need me to help?”

“You finish your project.”

“Thanks,” Brianna replied, grateful for the lack of interrogation from the affable woman.  ~Hurry and get this done,~ she urged herself.  ~We only have a few days to pull this off.  Dad and Daddy are really gonna kill me.  My only hope is for this plan to work.~

====

“Mrs. Valissi?” Brianna called out.

“Dinner's just about done.”

“Great.  Um, I need to get something from home.  I'll just be a minute.”

“You know the rules, Dear, and I have my hands full with this sausage,” Mrs. Valissi stated.  “Call the house and let them know you're coming.”

“Okay.  I'll be right back.”

Brianna made the call, telling Teal'c she was on her way.  Carrying David's flash drive, she hurried to the house, handed the small object to Little Danny, grabbed a book from her room, and then returned to Mrs. Valissi's house to eat dinner and have a relaxing evening.

====

That night after being tucked in, Little Danny got up and tapped his brother's shoulder.  Jonny nodded and slid out from beneath the warm covers to join his sibling.

“Katie, listen for Teal'c.  He can't see us,” the middle Munchkin told the loyal canine.

The beagle went to door, which had been left slightly ajar.  She stuck her nose out first and then her head.  Her ears were up as she sat and stood guard.

Keeping the lights off, Little Danny powered up the computer and inserted the flash drive.

“Hurry,” Jonny urged in a strained whisper, looking over at the door.

Little Danny checked the document that Brianna had made.  He then attached it to a quick email that went out to David and the other young members of the brood.  His message was simple, that Operation Love was on a deadline and they had to meet again to discuss the match-ups as soon as possible.

“Grrrr!” Katie warned, running over to the boys and then back to the door, her body language signaling that trouble was coming.

“Send it!” Jonny ordered.

“Come on!  Come on!” Little Danny encouraged the computer.  “Done!”

“Just turn off the monitor,” Jonny suggested, grabbing the flash drive and carrying it with him to his bed.

Not having time to power down the computer properly, Little Danny followed his brother's advice, turning off the monitor.  He just hoped that Teal'c and/or Janet didn't notice the power button was on.  He ran to his bed and jumped inside.

“Katie, come!”

The beagle jumped onto the bed and took her place at the boy's side.  Seeing a shadow approach the door, she closed her eyes.

The door opened fully and both Janet and Teal'c entered the room for what felt like an eternity to the boys and the beagle.  Finally, the adults left and the boys slowly raised their heads, as did Katie.

“Gotta turn it off,” Little Danny told Katie.

As the Munchkin passed by his brother's bed, Jonny reached out and handed him the flash drive to put away.

Less than two minutes later, both boys breathed a sigh of relief as they allowed themselves to fall asleep.  Katie took her own calming breath and rolled over on her side, happy her humans had successfully achieved their goal.

====

“Sara, all the kids were just here yesterday,” Mark pointed out to his wife, who had just hung up the phone.

“General Hammond said David misses his siblings,” Sara explained.

“He misses them?  Sweetheart, he never has before.”  Mark winced.  “I didn't mean it the way it sounded, but this is a little out of character.”

“Well, to be honest, I think the rascals are up to something.”

“I wouldn't doubt it, but why do you think so?”

“Jonny's face yesterday.  He was trying to use evasive tactics, like Jack used to.  I knew then they had something going on.  To be honest, I think that trip to the shelter was a ruse, too.”

“But you're still taking the Curly Tops to the general's house anyway?” Mark pointed out in a question of statement.

“It's a mystery, Mark.  I thought you liked mysteries.”

Mark laughed and gave his wife a kiss before heading downstairs to watch some TV.

====

After enduring a sniffling Aislinn and a Little Danny pout, Teal'c once again gave in.  Leaving JD with Mrs. Valissi, he drove the Munchkins and Brianna to the Ferretti home, where he picked up the Spitfires.  By the time the group arrived at Hammond's, Sara was already there with Chenoa and Lulu.

With Teal'c watching from the edge of the lake at the back of Hammond's home, the children were full of hugs and happy giggles.

“It's like they'd been separated for a month,” Sara commented to Hammond as he stood beside her by the backdoor in his kitchen.  Not getting a response, she took a moment to assess the other caregiver.  “You don't believe what David said anymore than I do.”

“I know their fathers,” the general responded.

Sara laughed as Hammond walked inside.

“Coffee?”

“Do you have tea?” the woman asked with a smile as she joined the man in the kitchen.

====

Upstairs in the boys' room, the Munchkins were reviewing the summary that Brianna had brought to them the night before.  This was the information that Little Danny had emailed to his siblings while supposedly asleep.

“I think they'd love Mikey,” Aislinn asserted about Michael and Donna Wright, a couple who lived two blocks down and to the right.

“No brothers or sisters, though,” Jonny replied.  ~Having siblings is important, too.~

“He just needs love; they have lots of love.”

“And maybe they'll love Mikey so much that they'll adopt more kids, or have their own,” Little Danny put forth, looking at his fellow Munchkins with hope.

“How do we tell them?” Jonny questioned, deciding the choice of the Wrights was a good one.  ~It's right to go with the Wrights,~ he mused inwardly.

“We'll figure it out,” Little Danny assured calmly.  “We agree?”

Jonny and Aislinn shared a look and then both nodded.

====

“Patty cake, patty cake ... phone,” Sam chuckled as she clapped, getting an enthusiastic JD to clap with her.  “We'd better find out who's calling,” she told the six-month-old baby whose respond was a small gurgle.  Picking up the baby, she walked over to the phone and answered, “Carter.  Geez, Jackson-O'Neill residence.”

“Forget where you are, Carter?” Jack mused.

“Sir, the last few days have been insane.  I'm lucky to know I have a brain.”

“We're all cheering that you have your brain.”

“Thank you, Sir ... I think,” the woman replied.

“Where's the big guy?”

“Teal'c was needed at the Mountain; Landry let us do a trade off.”

“How'd you convince him to go for the switch?”

“I pointed out that if he didn't give me the time off Teal'c would have to bring JD to the Mountain *and* to General Landry's office.”  Sam chuckled, “I don't think he was interested in diaper duty.  How's the trip?”

“Great.  It was one of Daniel's better ideas,” Jack chuckled.  “Where are the Munchkins?”

“Hold on.  I'll get them for you.”

“They didn't run to the phone?” Jack asked in suspicion.

“Frankly, it's been interesting.  The brood seems to be quite involved with something, but we haven't a clue what it is.”

“Watch them like a hawk, Carter.  Something's up.”

“Yes, Sir.  Hold on a minute.”

--

While Sam went to the intercom to call the kids downstairs, Jack filled Daniel in on the conversation thus far.

“Jack, there's nothing we can do about it.  They're fine,” Daniel assured.  ~It's not like we can do anything about it now anyway.~

“How come you're so calm about this?”

“Because we're here, and they're there ... with their caregivers.”

Jack laughed out loud and was about to let out with another remark when he heard a familiar voice.

“Hey, Dad.  How's the Bajahamas?”

Jack couldn't help but laugh.  He was confident that his namesake knew how to say the name of 'Bahamas'; the lad was just following his father's lead.

“Nice and hot.  We're having a great time,” Jack answered.  “Miss us?”

“We're too busy,” Jonny answered.  Then he felt a punch in his abdomen and reacted with a firm, “Ouch.”

There were some indistinct whispers in the background, which Jack surmised were the other two triplets.

“I mean, yeah, a lot,” Jonny clarified in a slightly pained voice.  “Dad, did all the neighbors pass the background checks?”

“What?” Jack responded.  ~Background checks?  Now why does he want to know that?~  He heard another 'Ouch' coming from the oldest Munchkin.  “Jonny?”

“I was just wondering,” Jonny sighed.  “Here's Little Danny.”

“Hi, Dad,” Little Danny greeted brightly.  “We miss you and Daddy *so* much, and Jen and Jeff, too!”

“We miss you more,” Jack declared.  “Daddy wants to say 'hi'.”

“Sproglet, is everything okay at home?” Daniel asked after taking possession of his husband's cell phone.

“Teal'c almost fried the toaster, but Ash stopped him in time.”

“Fried the toaster?” Daniel echoed, each word spoken slowly and deliberately.  ~Please let the house still be standing when we get home.~

“Long story, but a good one, Daddy.”

Daniel chuckled and then asked, “How about the rest of the brood?  We haven't been able to reach all of them today.”

“We're just busy, Daddy.  We're working.”

“At what?”

Little Danny gulped and then evaded, “Daddy, Ash wants ta say 'hi'.”

Daniel noted the slip back to the word 'ta' and recognized his namesake was giving him the dodge.

“Daddy, love you this much,” Aislinn stated as soon as she got on the phone.

“I hope those arms are extended as big as mine are,” the archaeologist responded lightly.

“Daddy, what's love?”

“Excuse me?” Daniel responded, totally unprepared for such a question.  “Ash ...”

“If someone doesn't know what love is, what do you tell them?”

“Well, love is ... love is what is in your heart.  It's a very strong, almost overpowering feeling of joy.  It makes you smile for no reason, except that love is there.”

“We have lots of love.  Everyone should have lots of love, huh?”

“Absolutely,” a very confused Daniel confirmed for his daughter.

Just then muffled voices interrupted the conversation.  When the mutters stopped, there was another question.

“Hi, Daddy.  I'm fine.  We're all good.  We miss you and love you,” Jonny rattled off in an obligatory tone.  “Daddy, what I need to know is how do you convince people they need more love?”

~Convince people that they ... what is going on?~ Daniel wondered.  “Um, well, you show them what they're missing, I guess.”  He began to speculate that the children were working on a play or something along those lines.  “What I would do is make it like a project.  List all the pros and cons.  Be descriptive.  Show them the benefits of love and why more love is desirable.”

“Little Danny, you understand?” Jonny asked his brother.  Getting a nod and a smile, the sandy-haired boy replied, “Affirm.  Thanks, Daddy.  Bye!”

“B...bbb...” Daniel sighed into the dead dial tone, “Bye,” and then stood in silence, blinking.

“He hung up on you?” Jack inquired incredulously.

“Yes.”  Daniel held out the phone and whined, “Our baby hung up on me.”

Jack laughed, “Relax, Angel.  It probably won't be the only time.”

“Jack?”

“Hmmm?”

“You're right.  They are definitely up to something.  He used military lingo just now.”

“I told you so,” the older man smirked.  Seeing a bit of a glare in his direction, he let his smirk fade away and queried, “Any clue as to what?”

“I have no idea,” a baffled Daniel replied.

“Hey, we need to go,” Jack reminded.  “The kids are fine.  We're overreacting.”

“You're making that up.”

“Naturally, but we're in the Bahamas: more beach and sunshine are awaiting our return to the outside, Angel!”

“Yeahsureyabetcha,” Daniel mimicked, sharing a kiss with his lover before they continued on with their vacation.

====

The children were reunited at their home early in the next morning.  Their parents and oldest siblings would be home on this Tuesday, which excited all of them.  Still, they had a lot to do, so the youngsters continued to work hard on Operation Love while Teal'c explained to JD that smelly diapers were not something a young warrior should be giggling at.

With Bijou and Katie again on lookout duty, the children gathered in Brianna's room.

“I hope they're okay,” David stated somewhat nervously as he handed the first DVD to his older sister.

Brianna inserted the DVD into the player and backed up to sit down and watch the disk play.  When it finished, half of the children were in tears.

“That should work,” Brianna remarked, realizing she was a little teary-eyed herself.  “Let's see the others.”

====

“Smile for love; feel love's joy; and let Mikey know love, too,” Little Danny put forth in a summation of what the group had determined to be the title of the DVD.

“We just need to change the name on each one,” David reminded.

“Maybe it should be, 'know family love' and not just 'love',” Brianna pondered.  “What do you guys think?”

“I think it should be, 'know the love of family',” Jenny put forth.  She repeated the entire concept, saying “'Smile for love; feel love's joy; and let Mikey know the love of family, too'.”

“That's good, Jenny,” Jonny agreed, giving his sister a hug of approval.

“Guys, we have about thirty minutes to get the covers printed and put on,” Brianna told the brood.

“How are we gonna get these to the parents?” David queried.

“We go for walks,” Jonny piped up with a smile.

====

On the following day, Jack and Daniel had a lot of catching up to do.  Along with Jennifer and Jeff, they'd enjoyed lots of playtime with their children, both yesterday and today, but the parents also needed to check in with J-O Enterprises and attend to other business.  With Jeff focused on his girlfriend, Chely, and Jennifer spending plenty of time on the phone with her girlfriends, that gave the rest of the brood a chance to continue their plan.

It took some fast talk and maneuvering, but the brood was able to convince their pre-occupied parents to let them take a walk with Mrs. Valissi, who exercised via her walks every morning and evening.  This was an extra walk, done mid-morning.

Jonny had coordinated the route with Brianna's help.  As the brood waited for the senior citizen to join them, they huddled together.

“Remember, at least three of us have to keep Mrs. Valissi distracted so she doesn't notice the delivery,” Brianna reminded strongly.

“Put the DVDs by the front doors; we're not supposed to put anything inside a mailbox,” Little Danny told his siblings.

“Kids, I have to keep an eye on all of you.  David, I need your help with that, too.  Please go exactly to your home and then back again; don't stop for anything,” the tomboy warned sternly, knowing that ultimately, she was responsible for the safety of the brood.  “Everyone have their DVDs?”

The children nodded, each patting their pockets where the DVDs were hidden.  Each disk had the picture of a specific child and the agreed upon title on the front. Inside was the name of the shelter and their phone number.  The kids could only hope that the disks would be watched and that the people receiving them would feel the love and act on it.

“I'm the fastest runner,” Jonny reminded.

“And the best at covert,” Aislinn added with a smile.

“Jonny should be our runner,” Lulu stated.  “Noa and I can talk lots with Mrs. Valissi.”

“We need to alternate,” Brianna negated.  “Guys, if she doesn't hear us, she'll look.  We have to rotate, at least a couple of times.”

“Bri's right,” Jonny agreed.  “Me, Little Danny, and Jenny: we'll go first.”

With a nod, Brianna stated, “Okay.  This is our one shot at this.  Let's make it work.”  Smiling, she put her hand in the center of the huddle.  “On three.”

“Go brood!” chorused the nine children.

--

“It's happening, isn't it?” Daniel asked his husband as the pair stood by the window, watching over their children until Mrs. Valissi showed up.

“Oh, yeah!” Jack exclaimed.  ~Darn little rascals.~

“Do you think we should intervene?”

“And say what?” the older man challenged.  “Danny, we haven't a clue what they're doing.”

“That's true, but they are up to something.”

“No question about it,” Jack agreed, shaking his head.  “There's Mrs. V.”

“Back to work?”

“Back to work,” Jack agreed, turning and leaving the children's mysterious activity behind.

====

The next couple of weeks were busy ones for the Jackson-O'Neills as they prepared to leave town on a road trip across America that would last throughout the summer.  The most the plotters could do on these days was play a lot in the front yard and show off the fun and joy of being siblings, something they did their best to portray whenever they happened across any of the families they'd secretly given the DVDs to.

In addition, the family had gone on a multi-day camping trip to celebrate Independence Day.  This was followed at home by a celebration of Daniel's and Katie's birthdays, which were always major events in the household.

The brood had no idea if Operation Love had achieved any success at all.  There had been no time to get to the shelter run by Marjorie Dorn, though the parents had taken them by another shelter for lunch and playtime one day.  It had been a spontaneous action, and the children were caught off guard and couldn't think of a way to divert their parents to the desired shelter.

It was difficult for the brood, but as the days passed and their summer journey began, the results of Operation Love became buried in their minds, replaced by the wonderful sights and sounds of their RV trip to points away from Colorado Springs.

Today was Thursday, August 30th, and the kids were still buzzing from their adventure in Betsy the RV.  They'd met so many terrific people and loved sharing what they'd learned with their extended family.

At the moment, several of the children were outside playing.  It was late afternoon and many people were out and about in the neighborhood, including a couple taking a leisurely stroll.

As he caught the football thrown to him by David, Little Danny noticed the couple.  It was the Wrights.  In a flash, the memories of Operation Love returned, along with the passion of its mission.

The middle Munchkin almost cried because he saw that the Wrights were alone and that meant Mikey hadn't been adopted.  He bowed his head dejectedly.

The brood involved in the special project saw their brother turn sad and ran over to him.

“We failed,” Little Danny sniffled.

Brianna looked around, saw the Wrights, and laughed, “No, we didn't.  Look!  Everyone, look!”

--

“Now you have it!” Michael Wright exclaimed, clapping his hands.

“Hey, that's Jonny and Ricky and ...”  The boy looked back and asked, “Can we go see them?  Please.”

--

After crossing the street, Mikey rode his new bike with vigor to the Jackson-O'Neill front yard.  He got off, carefully securing the kickstand, and ran towards the children.

“Little Danny, I found it!  I found love,” Mikey stated jovially, bouncing in his spot.

Little Danny hadn't seen the former Mikey Addams riding his bike behind his parents.  Now he hugged the boy and felt such joy.

“These are my parents.  I have parents!” the now Mikey Wright exclaimed, running over to his new mom for a hug.

“It worked,” Aislinn gasped in amazement.

“We did it,” Ricky added, jumping up and down and hugging Jenny.

Michael and Donna looked at each other in surprise.  It was as if the Jackson-O'Neill children knew something they didn't.

“You adopted Mikey?” an excited Brianna questioned.

“We sure did.”

At that moment, Daniel walked over to greet the couple.  He had been on the front porch, watching them play while working on his laptop.

“Daniel, see my parents.  I have parents.”

The excitement and joy in the young boy's face was unmistakable, filling Daniel's heart with happiness just from seeing it.

“I sure do.”

As the children played and caught up with one another's summer activities, the Wrights and Daniel chatted for a bit.

“I came home from work one day, and there was a DVD by the front door,” Michael explained.  “Donna didn't know anything about it.  We put it on and fell in love with this charming little boy who just wanted to know what love was.  His face was so sad, even though he was smiling.  It wasn't a real smile, and I wanted to know why.”

“Was he the only one on the DVD?”

“Yes.  There was his picture and all kinds of facts about him.”

“It was strange,” Donna elaborated.  “We have no clue who put the DVD on our doorstep, and the shelter knew nothing about it, but we're grateful to him, or her.  It was like Mikey was born to be a part of our lives.”

“He's talked about your family a lot,” Michael noted.

“We do a lot of volunteering at shelters around town.”

“Thank you,” Donna stated, reaching out to touch the archaeologist's arm.  “Mikey has told us that life at the shelter was very lonely for him, except when his special friends came.  He was referring to your family.”

“Mikey's welcome to play here anytime, and if you'd like to come to dinner one night ...” Daniel offered, his words cut off by an enthusiastic new mom, one eager for advice and friendship.

“We would love to,” Donna replied.

====

When the Wrights left, Daniel observed the brood in a huddle.  He couldn't make out all that they were saying, but he heard happy voices and something about an operation having been a success.

~I wonder,~ Daniel pondered as he returned to his perch on the front porch.

--

Still in their huddle, the kids reveled in their success.

“Mikey said the Clintons were visiting Josh a lot,” Aislinn pointed out.

“He told me Melie was adopted by the Portmans the week before he came home with the Wrights,” David added happily.

“Isaac's still there,” Little Danny sighed with sadness.

“But Mikey has love, and that's terrific,” Brianna pointed out, reaching out to tap the middle Munchkin's shoulder lovingly.

Based on what Mikey had told the brood, four of the twelve children who had been matched with neighborhood families by the brood had been or were in the process of being adopted when the Wrights had been allowed to take him home earlier in the month.  Three others were receiving visits from the DVD recipients, though there wasn't any sign whether or not an adoption would take place with those people.  That left five with no response that they knew of at this time.

All in all, Operation Love had been a success.

--

“Danny, guess what?” Jack asked as he walked outside.  “Kids, what's up?”

The huddle ended and the happy-for-the-most-part brood sprinted over to their parents.

“Mister and Mrs. Wright adopted Mikey, Dad,” David revealed.

“Yeah, well, I just had a call from Shelley McClain,” Jack began.  “She and Bob have decided to adopt Joanie Marsh from the shelter.  They're putting through the ...”

The children began cheering while jumping up and down again. They were just too happy to contain the emotion within themselves.  Mikey hadn't mentioned Joanie.  She had been one of the five unknowns.  This meant five success stories with three maybes and only four potential failures.  The kids were ecstatic.

“... paperwork this week.”  Jack sat down next to his husband on the step.  “Daniel, something's not right here.”

“Actually, Babe, I think something's very right here.”

“Okay,” Jack responded guardedly.  “Danny, you don't think they ...”  His words trailed into silent contemplation.  ~Couldn't be.  What could they have done?~

The confused and reflective parents continued to watch their brood celebrate, ultimately deciding to simply accept the joy for what it was without examining it too closely.

====

That night after their parents had already made their goodnight rounds, Jonny heard the sniffling, as did Ricky.  The two boys went over to their brother's bed and hugged Little Danny supportively.

“Mikey has a home,” Jonny reminded.

“But Sally doesn't.”

“Not yet, but maybe she will,” Ricky offered with hope.

All of a sudden, Aislinn and Jenny opened the door slowly.  Seeing their brothers were up, they hurried inside, closing the door behind them.  The two girls joined the boys on the middle Munchkin's bed.

“I knew you'd be sad,” Aislinn put forth as she hugged her fellow Munchkin.  “But don't be sad.  We found love for Mikey and others.  Hafta be happy 'bout that, Danny.”

“Daddy says never give up,” Jonny put forth.

Little Danny nodded, trying to be brave, but then something occurred to him.  His daddy had said that about not giving up, and he'd said it often.

“And Dad says if Plan A doesn't work, go to Plan B,” Aislinn added confidently.

The child prodigy smiled as he began to feel better.

“I know,” Jonny stated.  “Munchkin and Spitfire pledge.  We never forget Sally and Isaac and the others.  We keep looking.”

“Not just for them,” Little Danny chimed, perking up with possibilities.  “All the time we should watch.  Always remember the kids in the shelter.”

“Look for parents,” Jenny surmised.

“Always!”

“It'll be our secret,” Jonny put forth.

“I wish we could find homes for all the kids,” Little Danny lamented.

“We can't.  We're just kids,” Jenny pointed out realistically.

“But we can try to find parents for the kids.  What would we do without Jeff, Bri, and Lulu?” Aislinn questioned.

“And the Mouseketeers,” Jonny interjected.

“Not complete,” Ricky responded, shaking his head and unable to imagine not having all of his siblings around him.

“We do what we can,” Aislinn declared.

“Never forget,” Jonny stated commandingly.

“Hey, what's going on?” Jack asked, having entered the room with Daniel right behind him.

“Dad, Daddy, there's always a Plan B, huh?” Aislinn questioned.

“You betcha',” Jack confirmed.  “What's going on?”

“And we should never give up on something we believe in, huh?” Jenny queried, seeking reassurance in her parents' confirmation.

“Never,” Daniel affirmed for the redhead.

“What's going on?” Jack asked yet again.

“We're glad you adopted the Mouseketeers and the Mavericks,” Little Danny responded.

“I'm so glad,” Jack returned in disbelief of the comment.  “Kids, for the last time, *what* is going on?”

“We're just happy Mikey knows love now, like we know love,” Little Danny answered with a big smile.

“Yeah, we're happy,” Aislinn agreed, getting off the bed.  “Night, Boys!” she said with a wave.

There was a chorus of 'goodnights' as the girls left the room and the three brothers settled back into their beds.

Jack looked at Daniel and asked, “Did you notice that none of them answered my question?”

“So whatcha' gonna do?” the archaeologist quizzed, raising his shoulders in a shrug and then turning around.

“Bed.  I think I'll go to bed.”

With that, Jack shut the door and caught up with his husband, tickling him and causing Daniel to break out into laughter.  The parents didn't know if their children had somehow been involved in the various adoptions that were happening in their neighborhood, but they suspected there was some incredible connection between their children and Mikey finding love with the Wrights.

As for the Munchkins and the Spitfires, their secret would stay a part of them forever.  They had a strong belief in their abilities.  After all, their parents made them feel like they could do anything they put their minds to, and finding loving homes for children in need would from this day forward be a part of their existence, even if no one else but their other siblings and the beagles knew about it.

After all, seeing the joy in Mikey Wright's eyes had put love and brightness into their own lives.  They were children, but they were children with possibilities and a lot of love of their own to be shared.

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