Category: Slash, Action/Adventure, Angst, H/C, Drama, Romance, Established Relationship
Pairing: Jack/Daniel ... and it's all J/D
Season: Beyond the Series - August 5-31, 2011
Spoilers: Thor's Chariot (minor)
Written: April 23-25,27,29-30, May 5, June 12-13, July 18-19,30, August 5,18-19, 2005 Revised for consistency: September 7-8,10,13, 2007
Summary: Jack and Daniel get an unwanted reminder that, even after all these years, they still have enemies.
Disclaimer: Usual disclaimers -- not mine, wish they were, especially Daniel, and Jack, too, but they aren't. A gal can dream though!
1) Sometimes, Jack and Daniel speak almost telepathically. Their “silent” words to each other are indicated by asterisks instead of quotes, such as **Jack, we can't.**
2) Silent, unspoken thoughts by various characters are indicated with ~ in front and behind them, such as ~Where am I?~
3) This fic stands alone, but it does reference my other fics, “Transitions: The Next Ten Months,” “Egyptian Erotica: Another Ten Months,” “Blowout,” “The Little Ones”
4) Thanks to my betas who always make my fics better: Claudia, QuinGem, Allexandrya, Tamara, Linda, Ali, Carol!
The sun was shining high in the sky, its warm rays beating down upon
the Garden of the Gods where the Jackson-O'Neills were enjoying their
Jack and Daniel had a lot to be thankful for, especially their eleven children. Life was good, very good, and they were both extremely happy and content, especially since an unexpected miracle was brewing that would make their lives even brighter.
As they watched their children playing in the spot where their second wedding had taken place, the couple held hands, each silently remembering that day and the vows they had shared with each other.
“Catch, Jen,” David said as he tossed the ball in her direction.
“Oh, shoot!” Jennifer exclaimed as the ball sailed over her head.
“Sorry, Sis,” David said, shrugging as she chased after the ball. He looked over at his parents. “I overthrew.”
Jack called out, “Don't sweat it, David. You're much better now than you used to be.”
“Keep practicing,” Daniel encouraged.
David smiled, waiting for Jennifer to return. He really enjoyed sports now. It wasn't about being the best or even one of the best. It was about trying to be 'his' best and having a good time in the process.
The teenager was still running after the ball that had rolled into some bushes.
“Looking for this,” a man said, holding out the ball to her.
“Uh, yes, thank you,” Jennifer replied, taking the ball from the man. She backed away, jogging back to where her family was. When she got to the spot, she tossed the ball to David, but glanced over her shoulder at the place where she had been. There was no sign of the man. ~He must have just been out for a walk or something.~
Later in the afternoon, Aislinn scooted into Daniel's arms and requested, “Tell us about your wedding.”
“You want to hear that again?” Jack chuckled.
“Don't f'get part with Bij 'n' Katie,” Ricky said, settling into Jack's lap.
“Best part,” Little Danny said, grinning as he patted the two beagles.
With their family all around, Jack and Daniel repeated the story of their second wedding for what must have been the twentieth time. Their brood loved hearing the stories about their romance, especially their weddings.
Eleven days later, Jack and Daniel prepared to take their children to the SGC. Lya of the Nox was coming for a brief diplomatic visit as part of the continued alliance between the Tau'ri and the Nox. The children loved her, and it was mutual.
“Jack, Lya loves everybody,” Daniel said as they dressed.
“Yes, but she *really* loves our brood. Come on, Danny, you've seen how she looks at them. Besides, how could anyone look at our brood and not love them?” the proud older father smirked confidently.
“You're prejudiced, Babe.”
“And you're not?” Jack challenged with a confident grin.
Laughing, the two men continued to dress and then gathered their family together for the drive to the Mountain.
After Lya's visit, the parents took their brood to a picnic spot on Pike's Peak, which was only a few minutes from the Mountain. Everyone was in a good mood as they went about their chosen activities or simply sat back and chatted during the beautiful summer day.
At one point, Jonny and Little Danny were playing 'Detective', following the trail of 'Evil Paul', a name Jack had given them to use. The name had earned the older man a glare from his husband as well as a slight jab in the abdomen.
**Can't help it, Love.**
**It's old news, Jack. Besides, you know Paul's happy with ...** Daniel began.
**Reynolds. Who would have thought it?**
The couple's silent discussion about the love affair between Paul Davis and Marc Reynolds was interrupted by Chenoa wanting her hair combed.
“It's all messy, Dad,” the young girl complained as she scooted into position for Jack to comb her hair.
Hearing Daniel's chuckle, Jack asked, “What?” as he proceeded to comb his daughter's curly hair.
“I'm just wondering what Ba'al would think if he saw this?” Daniel whispered, making sure he spoke softly enough that their children wouldn't hear the name.
“You make a great hair-comber, Babe.” After a pause, Daniel hesitantly pointed to a spot. “Uh, missed a ...”
Jack swatted his lover's hand away as he said, “I see it!”
Daniel chuckled again and leaned back to watch his family at play.
Circling his hand in front of his eye as if it were a monocle, Jonny said, “Evil Paul went this way.”
“Look at the leaves,” Little Danny pointed out.
“Right. They pushed back. Dad says that means he went that way,” Jonny stated, pointing in the appropriate direction.
“Look for blood,” Little Danny instructed as they proceeded with their hunt.
“Boys, don't go too far,” Jack yelled. “We need to be able to see you.”
“We're on Evil Paul's trail, Dad,” Jonny shouted.
Jack chuckled at their little detectives and then leaned back, resting his head on his lover's lap.
Daniel ran his fingers through Jack's silver-gray hair. He let himself get lost for a few moments in their love.
Looking up into his husband's cerulean blue eyes, Jack asked, “Do you know how much I love you?”
“Not a clue,” Daniel teased.
“Come here, you smart aleck,” Jack demanded, one hand reaching up to pull Daniel down for a long, lingering kiss.
“Love you so much, Jack.”
The parents heard the familiar snicker, and, knowing what was coming, the two men joined in with Aislinn's sing-song of, “Dad and Daddy kissing on the grass.”
**She's so adorable, Jack.**
**Of course, she is. She takes after her Daddy.**
This earned Jack another kiss from the 'Daddy' in question.
Aislinn giggled at her parents saying the words with her. She was always teasing them about their frequent kissing and had learned the tease of 'Dad and Daddy kissing' wherever they were, from her sister almost from the moment she'd first learned to talk.
“I'll get you, my pretty,” Jack teased, crawling off and pawing his way towards his daughter.
Meanwhile, Jonny and Little Danny's hunt took them further away than their parents realized.
“Evil Paul went this way, and ...” Jonny said, his words unexpectedly interrupted.
“Evil Paul has you two now!” a man called out, frightening the two boys, who both tried unsuccessfully to back away from their captor. “You two are coming with me.”
The boys remained silent, but stared up at the man with rebellious eyes. Jonny grabbed Little Danny's hand and gave the man his most lethal glare.
“Let's go,” the man said, gripping their shoulders, but the boys tried to back away again. “Look, we can do this the hard way or the easy way. The easy way means we go have some ice cream. The hard way means I tie you up.”
Jonny's and Little Danny's hearts were beating faster than normal, but they remained calm. Their experience of being lost a couple of years earlier had done a lot to give them courage; plus, they'd been trained on how to react in situations like this.
The man decided to try a different tactic. He smiled, but it was a plastic smile that even two tiny boys could recognize as being fake.
“Hey, your parents told me to tell you to come with me.”
“What's the password?” Little Danny asked skeptically.
“Password?” The man looked flustered for a moment and saw Jonny smirk. Realizing that the kids weren't buying the new tactic, he snapped angrily, “This isn't a game.” His face tightened, the muscles of his mouth and cheeks constricting. “Okay, we'll do it the hard way.”
Jonny and Little Danny exchanged a look. After letting go of his brother's hand, Jonny nodded at his brother and then did the count.
“One ... two ... three!”
On 'three', both boys jumped, doing a karate-type kick into the man's knees. Their parents and Teal'c had taught them that, although the groin was the best area to attack a man, because of their size, for now it would be easier to attack the knees, which were another weak point of the human anatomy. That lesson and more had been reinforced at a neighborhood Safety Faire earlier in the year, so the boys were as prepared as they could be for someone trying to kidnap them.
The man swore as his knees buckled. The two boys turned and ran as fast as they could towards the clearing where they knew their family was.
A couple minutes earlier, Daniel had gotten up to go in search of the two wayward boys. He was about to call out to them when he heard the noise of bushes being pushed aside, and then he saw his sons running. He also saw their frightened faces.
“Daddy, bad man after us,” Little Danny cried out.
“Not playing,” Jonny clarified.
His children's expressions told Daniel they were indeed serious, but he didn't have a chance to say a word before he heard the noise of somebody coming towards them.
“Go tell Dad, and *don't* stop for anything. Go on -- scoot!” Daniel ordered, patting Jonny on the butt.
The boys ran off as Daniel moved forward in search of the would-be kidnapper.
**Jack, the boys are ...**
The communication failed as if a phone wire had suddenly been cut.
**Daniel?** Jack stood up from where he'd been playing with the twins. “You two stay right here,” he instructed Ricky and Jenny.
Jack began to walk over towards the area where he'd last seen the two male Munchkins. Suddenly, he saw the boys burst from the trees, shouting his name.
The two boys were out of breath, both talking a mile a minute, only they weren't speaking coherently. In fact, Little Danny seemed to be lapsing into Arabic in an attempt to explain things. He'd been speaking the foreign language more and more these days, with Daniel, David, and Yazid Awad, who worked for J-O Enterprises' best client.
“WHOA! Okay, now calm down,” Jack said, kneeling down to be eye-level with his sons. He put his hands on their arms, so that his left hand was on Jonny's arm and his right hand on Little Danny's. “Take a breath,” he advised the two. “And Son,” he began as he looked at Little Danny, “I'm not as good as Daddy is in Arabic, so you have to speak a little slower if you want me to understand.”
Still, the boys prattled on as they tried to get their breath. Meanwhile, the other children began to gather round, knowing something was wrong.
~Wait, this isn't working,~ Jack decided. “Jonny!” he exclaimed forcefully. “Attention!”
Immediately, Jonny stood straight up.
Jack's plan worked. Jonny was just like his dad in so many ways. Thus, the military approach had brought the boy to a calm enough place that he could relay the information coherently.
“We were following 'Evil Paul's' trail when a man said he was going to tie us up. He said you wanted us to go with him.”
“But he didn't know the password,” Little Danny interjected.
“We kicked him; ran. Then we saw Daddy. He told us come get you,” Jonny panted in his excited release of information.
“Good job,” Jack praised, standing back up. By now, all the children were standing by their father and brothers. “Jen, Jeff, keep everyone together.” He pulled out his cell phone and handed it to Jennifer. “Call Hammond,” he instructed, his military persona taking over, resulting in his usage of Hammond's name versus calling him the children's grandfather.
As Jennifer dialed the number, Jack hurried off to where the boys had pointed.
**Danny?** There was no response to Jack's call. He ran faster, following the tracks left by his children. He went through the bushes, diligently using the signs of nature to find his husband. Finally, his quest was achieved. “Danny!” he called out as he approached his fallen husband.
Daniel was sprawled out on the ground, lying on his back. He groaned as he began to come to.
Instinctively, the archaeologist called out, “Jack” and reached up with his right hand to where it hurt -- his forehead which had a small cut ground into it. “Ow!”
Jack knelt down, helping his lover into a sitting position that leaned into him somewhat. He immediately brushed back Daniel's moderately-shaggy hair to examine the cut.
~Just a minor cut, I think,~ Jack thought, feeling relieved. “The boys are safe. How about you?”
“I'm okay, Jack,” Daniel groaned. “Help me up.”
Jack did as requested, but when Daniel began to ask for more information about the children, Jack just shook his head and pulled the younger man in for a hug.
“In a minute. I need this,” Jack said, burying his face in Daniel's neck.
Daniel sighed in contentment from the contact. There was nothing that made him feel safer, more peaceful, or happier than being held by his husband.
“I love you, Babe.”
“If you only knew,” Jack whispered, unable to express the deep emotion he felt for the younger man. “Danny, I love you so friggin' much.” They held their embrace for a solid minute, and then, knowing they needed to move forward, he questioned, “What happened?”
“Jack, are you sure they're all right?” a concerned Daniel asked about their boys.
“They're fine,” Jack promised. “Tell me what happened.”
“I, uh, found the boys. They were frightened, saying something about a man trying to get them. I told them to go get you because I heard a noise. I followed the sound to, well, here, I guess. The man saw me and turned around.”
“And you followed him?”
“And you wouldn't have?” Daniel challenged.
“Okay, you got me,” Jack admitted.
“Gawd, I hope so.”
Jack put both of his hands around Daniel's neck, gently caressing his soulmate. He was full of emotion.
The lovers shared a private moment, and then Daniel continued, “I jumped on him, and we struggled for a minute, but then he hit me with something.”
“It doesn't look too bad,” Jack said as he checked out his lover's wound. “But we'd better clean it.”
“I want to see the children,” Daniel stated emotionally.
“Yeah, we'd better get back. I told Jen to call Hammond.”
“Daddy!” Little Danny cried out, seeing his two dads headed towards him.
Daniel pulled away from Jack's hold and ran to the two boys. He knelt down and took both Jonny and Little Danny into his arms.
“Are you two all right?” Daniel asked as he hugged the two children to him tightly.
“We're fine. Are you okay, Daddy?” Jonny asked.
“Right now, I'm wonderful. I love you both so much,” Daniel told the two boys.
“Daddy?” Little Danny said.
“Oh ... gawd, I'm sorry,” Daniel spoke, releasing the two boys from his extra-tight grip, but still keeping one hand on each as he settled himself.
The family spent some time reassuring each other and finally heard the sound of people approaching. Jack turned to see his CO striding towards them, concern apparent on his face.
“Jack, what happened?” General Hammond asked with urgency.
Looking around, Jack observed eight Marines surrounding the area, armed and ready to go.
“Thank you for coming out, Sir,” Jack spoke appreciatively, adding, “I didn't mean for you to come personally.”
“These are my grandchildren, General,” Hammond admonished sharply.
“Yes, Sir,” Jack said, loving both the look in Hammond's eye and the tone of his voice as the words had been spoken. It confirmed for him yet again that his long time friend and CO really did consider their children to be his kin. “What happened was ...”
Immediately after being informed of the situation, Hammond assigned a team to follow the trail and see if they could find anything that would help identify the perpetrator of the attempted kidnapping.
“Daddy, hurt?” Jenny asked.
“Aw, Sweetie, I'm fine.”
“We need to get Janet to check you out and make sure,” Jack said.
“I'm fine,” Daniel insisted. “It's just a scratch.”
Little Danny threw his arms around Daniel again, needing reassurance.
“Hey, I'm fine, Sproglet.” Daniel ran his fingers through his son's hair and saw Jack's determined expression. He sighed in defeat. “Let's go see Aunt Janet, okay?”
Little Danny didn't want to let go, so Daniel picked him up, carrying him all the way to the Mountain, even as they rode the short distance in the car.
“Daddy okay, Aunt Janet?”
Janet smiled as she knelt down to look in Little Danny's eyes and answered, “He's just fine, Little Danny. I promise!”
Little Danny grinned and ran over to Jonny and Aislinn, saying, “Daddy okay!”
~Cute,~ Janet chuckled before turning her attention back to her patient. She cleaned the cut on Daniel's forehead and placed a small bandage over it. Whispering, she stated, “You have a slight concussion, Daniel. You know the routine, right?”
With all the children around, Janet didn't want to go into specifics, but she didn't think she needed to, either. Both Jack and Daniel had had their share of concussions over the years; in fact, they knew the rules and how to care for each other in the aftermath of most injuries by now.
As she had asked her questions, the doctor's eyes had bored sternly into Daniel's.
“I know, Janet.”
“Don't worry, Doc,” Jack butted in quietly. “He'll behave.”
Jack gave his lover a stern look, one that reassured Janet, especially when Daniel sighed in acquiescence. He was about to be pampered for at least twenty-four hours, and, knowing his lover, probably longer.
The Marines following the trail of the attacker found nothing, the tracks ending just a few feet away from where Daniel had been knocked out.
“Thanks for trying,” Jack told Hammond.
While Jack had been with the three-star general, Daniel and the boys had each given a partial description of the man to the military police. Shortly after Jack rejoined his family, the sketch artist presented his drawing based on the descriptions he'd been given.
“I don't know him,” Jack responded.
“Me, either,” Daniel said.
“Um, well ...”
“Jen, you know this man?” a surprised Jack asked when the teenage girl reached over and took the image from Jack's hands.
Studying the sketch closely, Jennifer responded, “No, but I've seen him.”
“Where?” Daniel asked with urgency.
“Garden of the Gods. He was there when we had our picnic. He was ... creepy, but he didn't do anything.”
Jennifer relayed the story of her brief meeting with the man, and that concerned Jack and Daniel even more. It was clear now that this hadn't been a random incident, but, rather, the family was being stalked. They feared it was some latent version of The Trust, the rogue NID group they'd had dealings with, or maybe even some alien who had found his or her way to Earth and wanted revenge for something. There were so many possibilities, and all meant trouble.
Before leaving the Mountain, Hammond also reminded Jack and Daniel that it could just be a 'normal' degenerate, someone fascinated with Jennifer, or the young boys, who had attempted the kidnapping; it didn't necessarily have to be one of their enemies.
Back at home, the security system had been double-checked and enabled and the children given strong warnings to strictly follow all the rules. Bijou and Katie sensed the concern, and both dogs were on alert. Katie was sticking close to the Munchkins, and Bijou was on Daniel's heels whenever he got up for any reason.
At the moment, Daniel was seated on the sofa with his other personal protector, Little Danny, who had been clinging to him since the event.
“Daddy, no hurt much as Eg'pt?” the growing toddler asked in a tiny voice, using more broken English than he had in quite a while.
“What?” Daniel asked, surprised that his namesake had brought up that subject. Seeing the worried blue eyes, he smiled in reassurance and answered quietly, “No, Son. It's not even close. I'm fine; I promise.”
Daniel held the boy securely in his arms, whispering reassurances into Little Danny's ear.
From the kitchen, Jack and Jennifer were watching Daniel and the worried boy. Jennifer had her arms through her father's right arm, and she was leaning her head against his upper arm.
“Dad, you don't think Little Danny really remembers when that man beat Daddy up in Egypt, do you?”
Jack nodded and sighed sadly as he replied, “I wish I didn't, Jen, but he's mentioned it before.”
“But he was just a baby. How is that possible?”
Jack let out an amazed snort and replied, “I don't know, Honey, but there's a waitress at O'Malley's who swears she remembers being born. I can't imagine it, but she's talked about it in great detail.”
“Geez, I think the first thing I remember is riding my tricycle in the driveway. I must have been three, maybe four years old.”
Jack looked sideways at his teenage daughter as he patted her hand and questioned, “How are you doing?”
“I'm okay, Dad. I think I'll start dinner now,” Jennifer answered with a smile before turning around to begin the mammoth task of cooking dinner for thirteen people.
After dinner, the lovers had encouraged their children to follow through with their plans to have a rehearsal for the play they were putting on for family and friends in a few days. It was hard at first, but once the brood started focusing on their production, they managed to put the day's earlier events behind them.
Following a successful rehearsal, one by one, the children had gone to sleep, and, finally, so had Jack and Daniel, both men hopeful that the nasty events of the day were done with.
It was well after midnight, however, when a tiny hand knocked on their door. The little boy didn't hear anything, so he knocked again. Still not hearing anything, he put his ear to the door.
~No noise; it okay.~
Little Danny reached up and opened the door slowly. Carefully, he peeked around the door. After all, there were very important rules about not going in Dad and Daddy's bedroom without permission when the door was closed. Usually, there would be noises from inside, and Little Danny knew if he heard noises, he'd better turn around unless it was an emergency, but, right now, there was silence.
~No noise. Look asleep.~
The small boy walked to Daniel's side of the bed and climbed on it, moving across to Daniel, who was asleep atop his Jack pillow.
“Daddy!” Little Danny said as he tugged on his father's arm.
“Mmm ... uh, who, what?” Daniel groaned, “Jack?”
Normally, at least since becoming parents, Jack and Daniel were light sleepers, but Daniel was extra tired and recovering from the concussion, and Little Danny had been so quiet that Jack simply hadn't heard him.
Slowly, both men awoke, and Daniel rolled over onto his back. Immediately, Little Danny climbed atop him. Neither parent was wearing pajama tops, but both had on their bottoms.
“I knock; no ans'er,” Little Danny explained before saying anything else.
The middle Munchkin was speaking in the same tiny voice he had used earlier, complete with child-like wording. Both parents realized their sensitive son was feeling very vulnerable right now and that accounted for his toddler-like speech.
“It's okay. What's wrong?” Daniel asked, his hands rubbing his son's arms.
“It hurt?” the boy asked pointing to the bandaged cut.
“Just a little bit,” Daniel admitted.
All of a sudden, Little Danny leaned forward and placed a humongous kiss over the bandage. It was so big that the smack was quite loud.
Daniel smiled, though his eyes were moist, and answered, “It's all gone; doesn't hurt at all.”
Little Danny had a huge grin on his face as he settled down atop Daniel.
Warmed by the little boy's love, Daniel secured his arms around his son and snuggled over to rest against Jack's shoulder.
“Did you have a nightmare, Son?” Jack asked.
“Lil' one,” Little Danny acknowledged.
**That means a big one, Jack. He just didn't wake up yelling,** the younger man opined.
**He's scared. He hasn't talked like this all year.**
**I know. The only time the Munchkins do this now is just when they aren't thinking, or sometimes around the twins. He doesn't need to use ... well, toddler-speak since Jonny and Ash have learned pronouns and tenses.**
**Danny, no grammar. It's the middle of the night, for crying out loud,** the older man whined.
**Sorry, the point is that he's scared.**
**We'll have to fix that.** Jack smiled at their son and questioned, “Did you dream about that man at Pike's Peak?” Seeing a tiny nod, he reassured, “He won't take you. We'll protect you.”
“Nightmare 'bout man hurting Daddy.”
Forcefully, Jack replied, “No one hurts Daddy. Don't you worry. We'll take care of him.”
“I protect you, Daddy,” Little Danny said as his arms wrapped around his father.
“I love you, Sproglet.” Daniel's hands ran through Little Danny's light brown shaggy hair. It was just a minute later, but just that quick, the boy had fallen asleep. “Jack, he's asleep.”
“He just needed to know you were still here.”
“Yeah, I know. He's beautiful, Jack,” Daniel said as he also silently thanked the power above that had given him the gift of children.
“Just like his daddy.”
Jack kissed the side of Daniel's head as the two men settled into sleep, their love and warmth protecting each other and their son.
“I'll get it,” Jenny said happily as she ran towards the front door from her spot at the table in the breakfast nook area of the kitchen.
It was mid-morning the next day, and Jenny knew that Sam and Teal'c were coming over. Jack and Daniel were about to call out to her when Jennifer bolted up out of her seat and ran to block the girl's movement, catching up with her by the sofa. The parents followed, watching carefully.
“Jenny, no,” Jennifer warned firmly.
“It Aunt Sam and T!”
“Maybe, but it might not be.”
“I big girl; know if Sam and T,” Jenny insisted, folding her arms in front of her.
“Jenny, listen,” the teenager advised. “We have to always be careful, especially right now. It's very important. Now, you know the rules, so what do we do first?”
Jenny thought, then answered, “Look window.”
“Okay, then what?” the teenager questioned.
“Ask 'mission to open door,” the redheaded girl answered.
“That's right. Okay, let's go see who it is.”
Taking Jenny's hand, Jennifer walked with her to the entranceway. They looked out the window, through the blinds, and saw that it was, indeed, Sam and Teal'c.
“Can I open door now?” Jenny asked a bit indignantly.
Jennifer looked to her parents, who nodded, and then answered, “Yes.”
Happily, Jenny opened the door and greeted Sam and Teal'c.
Sam, Teal'c, and the married couple had finished their check of the exterior of the house and were standing near the patio in the backyard.
“Okay, Sir, what I recommend is adding a couple more cameras to get the few places the ones already in place don't reach. I also recommend we add a console in either your master bedroom or Daniel's den.”
“Carter, why do we need that? I thought the system in place was comprehensive.”
“That's why we're reviewing the grounds. You've got a lot of area here, and the security system does a great job of covering the areas near the house and main areas outside, but it doesn't get the corners of the furthest sections of the yard. I'd like to take care of that now. Sir, Daniel, I also think you should install some indoor cameras as well.”
“No way,” Jack said.
“Sam, we ...”
“Guys, listen to me. No system is full proof. You don't need to keep them on all the time, only if you suspect the system has been breached.”
“I hate to admit it, Jack, but Sam is ...” Daniel began.
“... right,” both men said together.
“Let's put it in the master bedroom, behind a painting. Can you rig a similar painting like that origami thing you did for us in the den to conceal the console?” Jack asked, referring to the highly-sophisticated palm scanner that was part of a Japanese-looking artwork which protected the general's gun and weapon collection. “We could say it's a set.”
“Yes, Sir, I can,” Sam said confidently. “I'd also like to add a few more laser sensors along the fence. You can turn those off and on, but after the renovation you guys did, there's more ground to be covered.”
“O'Neill,” Teal'c spoke, “I wish to increase the intensity of the children's self-defense lessons.”
Daniel had gone inside several minutes earlier to check on the children while Jack approved the laser locations. It was while Sam was explaining some other options that Teal'c had interrupted the discussion.
“Check with Daniel,” Jack responded. ~I'm for it, but not sure how Danny feels.~
Teal'c nodded and moved inside the house.
As soon as he spotted Daniel, the Jaffa stated, “DanielJacksonO'Neill, I wish to increase the intensity of the children's self-defense studies.”
“Yay!” a chorus of voices said.
“Uh, just a second.” Daniel walked with Teal'c into the kitchen, away from the children, and queried, “What do you mean by intensity?”
“The older children must learn more aggressive moves. They must be able to protect themselves and the little ones. The little ones must focus more on evasive maneuvers. LittleDannyJacksonO'Neill and JonnyJacksonO'Neill did well, but they are small. I wish to train them on other vulnerable areas of human anatomy. I also wish to teach them Chuk'ga.”
“Chuk'ga? Wha...what is that?”
“It is much like your karate, but it also focuses the mind. It teaches discipline and concentration,” Teal'c answered.
“Isn't that Lok'n'el?” Daniel responded, recalling the technique Teal'c had used in the past.
“Lok'n'el is an ancient form of martial arts. Chuk'ga is similar.”
“What, uh, is the difference?”
“Endurance, maturity, technique, motivation ...” Teal'c answered, his words cut off by the archaeologist.
“Okay, okay. What did Jack say?” Daniel asked.
“To ask you,” Teal'c answered simply.
Daniel looked at his children, his eyes full of love and concern, and responded, “Teal'c, I want them to be able to protect themselves and each other, but I don't want them learning to ...” He stopped as he turned to stare at his friend. He'd been about to make a silly statement. He knew that Teal'c would never teach the children anything inappropriate and that the Jaffa was well aware of Jack and Daniel's beliefs about violence as far as their children were concerned. He trusted Teal'c not to violate any of those beliefs. “Yes, teach them. Thank you, Teal'c.”
“The Chuk'ga is best suited for children, DanielJackson. It will help them.”
Daniel smiled, and then Teal'c nodded and returned to the living room where he sat down and told the children a little bit about Chuk'ga and what they would be learning in the days and weeks to come.
~I still don't understand the difference between the two, but, I guess I don't have to. You're a good teacher, Teal'c, and a good friend,~ Daniel thought as he watched the Jaffa with the eager children.
Jack bolted to an upright position as if shot out of a cannon. The movement knocked Daniel off of him and to the archaeologist's side of their bed.
“Whoa! Babe, what's wrong?”
It was almost three in the morning when Jack had awakened so abruptly.
“Danny, didn't Jen say the stalker had picked up the ball and handed it to her?” Jack questioned.
“Uh, yeah. Why?” a concerned Daniel asked as he gently rubbed his soulmate's back.
“Jack, that was a couple of weeks ago,” the younger man pointed out. “The children have been playing with it.”
“It's worth a shot; we might get a partial,” Jack maintained hopefully.
“Babe, do you want Sam to fingerprint our children?” Daniel asked, concerned it would upset their brood for nothing.
“Do you want to find this maniac?” Jack asked with just a slight edge to his voice.
“Good point. Besides, I remember at the Safety Faire, they recommended fingerprinting, frequent taking of measurements, and lots of photographs. I guess we should have talked about doing it then,” Daniel replied.
“So we'll do it?” Jack inquired, wanting to be absolutely clear and in synch.
“We'll call her in the morning,” Daniel agreed, realizing they had to try everything they could to find the mystery man.
“Actually, we should have done that a long time ago,” Jack lamented, questioning why he hadn't thought of that sooner.
“You're probably right, but we'll get it done now. While we're at it, maybe we should take photos and all their measurements,” Daniel suggested, stifling a yawn.
Jack looked at Daniel, knowing it was a precautionary measure he was suggesting. Children the ages of the Jackson-O'Neills changed almost daily, so it was logical to keep current photos and statistical information such as height and weight updated regularly.
Daniel added, “I don't know why we haven't done this before.”
“Because even with our history, we still never thought it would come this close to home.”
“I guess,” Daniel sighed.
“Whose ball was it?” Jack asked.
Daniel almost chuckled because they had so many balls in the house, but then he took a moment to think it out before responding, “We'll take them all in because I'm not sure if it was Jonny's or Little Danny's or Lulu's.”
“We'll take them all,” Jack suggested as he relaxed back onto the mattress, his breathing still a bit labored. “Oh, by the way, sorry.”
“Right,” Daniel chuckled as he moved back into position so that he could fall back to sleep listening to Jack's heartbeat, which was essentially the center of Daniel's universe.
“Ri...Ric...Ricky, stop that,” Daniel said in exasperation.
Daniel's concerns about the children being scared because of being fingerprinted had quickly proven to be unfounded. The truth was that all of the younger children thought it was 'cool' and, in fact, were having a gay-old time during the actual fingerprinting.
“Tag!” Ricky shouted as he stamped his twin sister with his thumbprint on her nose.
Jenny giggled and ran to Sam, asking, “My turn?”
“Sure. Okay, just roll your finger ... good.”
When Sam was done taking Jenny's prints, the little girl quickly smashed her hands against the ink pad and shouted, “Gonna get you, Ricky!”
“Jennifer Samantha, come back here,” Jack shouted.
“Tag, you it!” Jenny said, tagging Ricky with black ink on his cheek.
Jack and Daniel currently had no control over the playful twins, but they weren't really trying that hard. They'd rather let their youngest children think the fingerprinting was just a silly fun thing, rather than the truly serious event it was.
“Where's Jonny?” Sam asked, looking around after finishing Aislinn's prints.
“Covert,” Aislinn whispered.
“Jonny! Little Danny! You two get out here,” Jack called out loudly.
“Oh, geez,” Jeff snickered. “Look Dad, Daddy!”
The teen boy pointed towards the entranceway and the hallway that led to the study. The two boys had put on their sunglasses and raincoats and were slinking along the hallway, having just crossed the entranceway and gone past the living room.
“Shhh, Little Danny. Bad mens up ahead,” Jonny warned.
“Have to get them fast, Jonny.”
Jonny peaked around the doorframe of the study and said, “All clear.”
“We'd better hurry, Jonny,” Little Danny whispered.
“Yeah, we ... whoa, Dad!” Jonny whined, feeling a hand on his shoulder.
“Daddy, why did you pick me up? Jonny and I are on a dangerous mission!” Little Danny whined.
“You can't go on your mission until you have your fingerprints done,” Daniel told the little detective.
“That's why we're on the mission,” Jonny explained.
“I don't get it,” Jack said, looking down at Jonny.
“We have to find the missing fingers that go with the prints.”
Jack paused; then shook his head, saying, “I don't think I want to understand.”
“Covert, Dad,” Jonny said.
“Okay,” Jack responded, having no clue what his two little spies were up to.
Daniel carried his namesake into the living room, while Jack and Jonny followed, Jack's hand firmly on Jonny's shoulder to make sure the boy didn't take any detours.
“Here you go, Sam, two detectives ready to be printed,” Daniel stated.
“Use 'visible ink, Aunt Sam,” Jonny requested.
“Invisible,” Little Danny corrected his brother.
“Whatever,” Jonny replied.
Sam chuckled, “You two sound just like your fathers.”
Jack and Daniel were about to complain about the comment when both noticed the huge smiles on the boys' faces.
“We like that,” Little Danny said gleefully.
**Careful, Love, you just melted.**
**Careful yourself, Dannyboy. You have that goofy look on your face, too.**
Both men took pride that their sons wanted to be like them; it was a wondrously awesome feeling that made their souls sing.
“Thank you, Noa,” Sam said as she finished up the last of the children.” She looked to her friends and smiled. “All done.”
“Na-uh, Aunt Sam,” Jonny said, holding Bijou.
The oldest of the Munchkins was surrounded by other siblings and their pets. Little Danny was holding Katie, Aislinn had Mittens, Lulu was petting Calico, and David was holding Bogey, Jonny's lizard.
“Noa, get Bagel,” Little Danny requested of their pet rabbit.
Sam smiled nervously as she looked at Jack and Daniel.
“Uh, Son,” Jack finally said. “The, uh, pets don't need to be paw-printed.”
“They're family!” Aislinn insisted.
“Yes, but ...”
“Ash, you're absolutely right,” Daniel spoke, interrupting Jack. “Sam, would you mind?”
“No, of course not.”
It took a while, but Sam finally finished all the animal fingerprinting, er, pawprinting, grateful that fish didn't have paws and even more grateful that none of the children had suggested fin-printing.
“What's so funny?” Jack asked Sam as she put away her equipment.
“Uh, your shirt, Sir.”
“What about it?”
Suddenly, Daniel looked at his lover and laughed.
“Okay, I'm only going to ask this one more time. What's so funny?” Jack questioned.
“Look in the mirror, Babe.”
Jack walked over to the mirror and groaned. Hearing his Love's snicker, he turned his head to face him.
“Sorry,” Daniel said, putting up his hands in a mixture of apology and backing off the topic. Then he turned around to sneak a peek at the children playing outside. Hearing Sam and Jack both laughing, he hesitantly turned around. “Uh, what's, uh, funny?”
“Dannyboy, I'd rather have my white shirt handprinted by the kids than my six.”
“You're kidding?” Daniel said, trying to turn around to look at his derriere.
“Here, maybe this will help,” Jack said, realizing Daniel couldn't see his rear end. In one fell swoop, he picked up his lover, tossing him over his shoulder and moved to stand in front of the mirror. “Look!”
Daniel's mouth opened at the two tiny handprints, one on each 'bun', that were on his light tan pants.
“Isn't that sweet?” Sam said; then gulped as Daniel glared at her.
“Good one, Carter,” Jack said with pride.
“Thank you, Sir,” the blonde responded as she ignored Daniel's continued stare. ~Boy, he's learning that intimidation thing pretty good.~
“Game time!” Jack called out, heading for the recreation room.
“Uh, Sam,” Daniel called out as Sam finished putting things away.
“One question,” the archaeologist stated.
“Okay,” Sam acknowledged in a bit of amusement at her friend's expression and tone.
Daniel walked up close, so that no one in the vicinity could hear him, and asked, “Don't they have digital fingerprinting now? I mean, uh ... the ink thing is sort of ... ancient ... isn't it?”
Sam bowed her head, chuckling.
“Sam!” Daniel expressed in surprise.
“I'm sorry, Daniel, but it was just too good of an opportunity to let go. I mean, gee, they had fun, didn't they?” Sam gushed, quite pleased with herself and the events as they'd unfolded.
“Sam, you've been hanging around my husband too much,” Daniel spoke dryly, shaking his head in disbelief.
With the business of the day concluded, a giggling Sam joined the family for a game of Clue, which Jonny won, before heading home to her husband.
Four days later, Sam reported back with a partial print, not matching any of the family members. It wasn't much, but it was something. Unfortunately, the print didn't match any that were on file in any of the crime databanks she had referenced. She had also finished installing the additional cameras, monitors, consoles, and lasers. The taping of the Jackson-O'Neill residence, on the outside, was non-stop for the time-being, and the children had been told in case they had secrets to protect.
Meanwhile, Jack studied the drawing made by the sketch artist. The more he looked at it, the more familiar it seemed. At first, he thought it was his imagination, but every time he had tried to dismiss it, the pit of his stomach would rebel.
~Do I know him?~
Jack frequently stared at the sketch, but no matter how long he looked at the charcoal image, he just couldn't get a handle on it.
The couple had been tempted to keep their children home, safeguarded in the haven of their love, but they knew they couldn't do that. Instead, they had to live their lives normally, making sure they were as protected as possible.
On this day, Chenoa was beginning the first day of a week-long gym camp for young girls. Several of her friends were enrolled, and she'd been looking forward to it for several weeks. Daniel opened the door of his sports car, and she got out. He knelt down and smiled.
“Noa, I want to give you something,” Daniel said as he reached into his jacket pocket.
“I like presents,” Chenoa said, smiling as she leaned against the silver car.
“This is a very special one, and it's very, very important that you realize it's not a toy,” the concerned father spoke seriously.
“What is it, Daddy?”
Daniel pulled out a small black box with two buttons on it. He gave mental thanks to Sam who had come up with the device, and then he showed it to Chenoa.
“This is, uh, kinda like a pager. If anyone bothers you, or does anything that is wrong ... uh, you know what we've talked about.”
“Like the man who tried to get Jonny and Little Danny?” Chenoa questioned intelligently.
“Yes. If anyone approaches you, press that button,” Daniel instructed. “Dad and I will hear it. Now see this red button?” He saw her nod. “It makes a very loud noise. What have we told you to do if a stranger grabs you?”
“Yell and kick.”
“That's right. You never go with anyone unless what?” the archaeologist prodded.
“They have the password,” Chenoa answered without hesitation.
“Do you remember what it is?” Daniel quizzed protectively.
“Whisper it to me,” Daniel requested, turning his head slightly.
Chenoa leaned against Daniel's head and whispered the word into his ear. He smiled.
“Okay, good. Now, if anyone, and I don't care if it's a stranger or even someone you've seen before, comes near you, and they won't leave you alone, you press this button, and Dad and I will come as soon as we can, and you press this one to make a loud noise that will get the attention of others, but remember ...”
“I know; it's not a toy.”
“Noa, do you understand? Don't show it off to anyone, and don't misuse it. This is just for you and those dangerous situations we've talked about before.”
“I understand, Daddy.”
“Okay, give me a hug,” Daniel requested as he took her into his arms. “I love you, Sweetie.”
“Love you, too, Daddy.”
“Have fun today,” Daniel said as he watched her go inside.
Daniel took a look around. A big part of him wanted to stay in the shadows and watch, but they couldn't and wouldn't live their lives that way.
On the third day of Chenoa's session, during a break, Chenoa and two friends were chattering away in the play area located in the back of the building. The area was securely surrounded by a fence and a locked gate. As she laughed at something a friend said, she looked over by the gate and noticed a man staring at her through the fence. She watched him for over two minutes and began to get nervous.
~Dad and Daddy say adults shouldn't stare at little kids for a long time like that.~
Just then, one of the instructors went up to the fence to talk to the stranger and stated, “Excuse me, Sir. Can I help you with something?”
“No,” the man said abruptly, giving Chenoa a final look before turning around and walking away.
The look made Chenoa feel frightened in a way she hadn't until then.
“Be right back,” Chenoa told her friends. She went to where her sweater was, which was inside the building. It's where she had put the pager device. ~Daddy'll be mad I didn't have it with me; but he'll be glad I remembered.~
The little girl pushed the button that sent a signal to her parents, put the pager in her pocket, and walked back outside.
Daniel had just finished a meeting with a prospective client for J-O Enterprises when he heard the pager. He phoned Jack to let him know he was en route to check on Chenoa, and then he called the school to check on his daughter. After being told Chenoa was fine, he thanked the instructor and explained he was coming to check on her personally.
Several minutes later, the archaeologist parked his car and jogged into the building. Looking around, he quickly spotted his daughter.
“Noa,” Daniel whispered, waving at her to come over.
Several students looked, but the instructor regained their attention as Chenoa got up and ran to Daniel. He took her hand and led her away from where the students were assembled. He knelt down and took her other hand so that now he had a firm hold of both as they talked.
“What happened, Sweetie?”
“There was a man at the fence, staring at me during play time. Mrs. Coogan saw him. She asked him what he wanted, and he left. The man looked like the picture Dad showed us. Daddy, he kept staring at me. I didn't like it.”
“It's okay now.”
“Did I do right, Daddy?” Chenoa asked.
“Yes, Sweetie, you did. Which one of your instructors is Mrs. Coogan?”
“I'll show you.” Chenoa led Daniel back to the room and looked around. She pointed to the other side, to a woman in a blue sweatsuit, and said, “That's her!”
“Okay, you go on back and sit down,” Daniel instructed quietly.
Daniel approached the woman and introduced himself. The two walked to a corner of the room, where they could talk more freely. He asked her about the man.
Nodding, Mrs. Coogan stated, “He was staring at your daughter, and it disturbed me. I've seen him before.”
“You have?” Daniel questioned, surprised by the comment.
“Yesterday. He was here when you picked up Noa, standing by a car at the end of the lot.”
“Mrs. Coogan, do you remember anything about the car?”
“It looked to be an older Chevrolet, black, and I noticed a heart decal near the gas tank.”
“That's an unusual place for a decal.”
“That's why I remember it,” Mrs. Coogan stated.
Daniel inquired, “Is there anything more you remember about the car?”
“Well, yes. I watched him leave today. He was in the same car. All I noticed of the license plate was that it was an Alaskan plate. I lived up there for a while so it stood out.”
“You don't happen to remember the numbers?”
“No, I'm sorry. Uh, well, wait, I think that it began with a nine, but I'm really not sure,” the woman said, shaking her head just slightly.
Daniel pulled out a copy of the sketch, showed it to Mrs. Coogan, and asked, “Is this the man?”
Studying the sketch, Mrs. Coogan nodded as she commented, “The eyes should be a little closer together, and, um, he had a scar right here,” she said, pointing to a spot just below her right earlobe.
Daniel walked out of the assembly area and phoned his lover to fill him in.
“She said he's been there before?” Jack asked, not liking what he was hearing.
“Yes, and that worries me. Jack, I think I should bring Noa home.”
“I agree. I don't want to take chances,” Jack stated.
“Jen isn't going to like this, but ...” Daniel began.
“No Friday night at the movies with her friends,” the older man agreed.
“Not unless she lets one of us go with her,” Daniel said.
“She'd rather die first,” Jack remarked with a chuckle that ended unusually abruptly.
“That's what we're trying to prevent,” Daniel said eerily.
Hanging up the phone a couple minutes later, Daniel sought out the teacher. He explained the situation and apologized, but said that they were pulling Chenoa out of the gym session.
“I'm sorry, Noa,” Daniel said after he motioned for her to join him.
“What's wrong?” the little girl asked.
“We need to go home now so Dad and I can make sure you stay safe.”
“Because of that man?”
“Okay.” Chenoa turned back to face her friends, waving as she called out, “Bye.”
“Jack, I think Mrs. Coogan is right, about the eyes I mean,” Daniel told his lover later that day. “I only saw him for a second.”
“Alaska,” Jack stated softly, sitting on the edge of the sofa.
“She said the car had Alaska plates. Isn't that what she said?” Jack asked a bit apprehensively as things began to solidify in his mind.
“Right. So ... what does that mean?”
“I'm not sure,” Jack said, standing. He paced around the living room for a few minutes, glancing outside where the children were. “What was the decal?”
“It was a heart.”
“By the gas tank,” Jack said in a business-like tone.
Frustrated, Daniel stood and closed the gap between him and his lover.
“Jack, would you stop repeating everything we've already talked about, and tell me what's going on?”
“Roof deck. Ask Jen to watch all the kids.”
Without another word, Jack turned and headed upstairs. Daniel knew there was a story to be told that Jack obviously didn't want their children overhearing or walking in on.
“Jen, Jeff, come here please,” Daniel called out.
“Jen, Dad and Daddy are scared, aren't they?” Aislinn asked.
Jennifer sat down on the lawn next to her little sister and confirmed, “Yes, they are because they love us very much, and someone is trying to hurt us.”
“We won't let them!” Jonny exclaimed, kicking the soccer ball and then running to sit down next to his siblings. “We know covert ops!”
Jennifer smiled at her little brother, who just wasn't afraid of much at all.
“Yeah!” Little Danny echoed. “We protect each other. T taught us.”
“Who prodeck Dad 'n' Daddy?” Jenny asked quietly.
The kids began to feel frustrated, each of them fidgeting. Jeff walked over and picked up his redheaded sister. Firmly, he answered her question.
“We do, and you know how?”
“How, Jeff?” David asked.
“By following all the rules and by being observant. Does everyone know what 'observant' means?” Seeing Ricky shake his head, Jeff said, “That means we pay attention to everything that goes on around us.”
“And we take care of each other as much as possible so that Dad and Daddy can deal with that man,” Jennifer added.
“What if man go a'ter them?” Jenny asked.
Jennifer and Jeff exchanged a look, but it was David who responded, saying, “We don't let them. We fight back, just like Dad and Daddy have taught us to do. We kick, hit, yell, scream ... whatever we have to do to get the man away from our parents.”
“We protect each other and Dad and Daddy,” Jonny said emphatically.
“We protect each other,” Little Danny echoed.
“We won't let anyone hurt Dad and Daddy,” Aislinn added.
“Look, we're tough,” Brianna commented. “Teal'c has taught us some great moves, and if anyone dares to hurt us, or the folks, we strike back!”
“We fight back,” Ricky stated firmly.
“We good t'gether,” Jenny said.
Jennifer smiled again, but her smiled faded as she looked at a very downtrodden Lulu.
“Lulu, are you okay?”
“I don't want to lose my family again,” the frightened six-year-old whispered.
In seconds, Lulu was surrounded by an abundance of arms, embracing her.
Jennifer reassured, “You don't have to worry about that, Lulu. It's what Dad and Daddy have always said -- together, our family is unbeatable. We *are* unbeatable, all of us, so we watch out for one another, and we make sure Dad and Daddy are safe, too. Agreed?”
Eleven nods and two barks solidified the meeting, and then, with one exception, the children began to play again. Lulu stayed close to Jennifer, who kept her arm around her securely, trying to provide both strength and confidence.
Meanwhile, after making sure Jennifer and Jeff were watching out for all of their siblings, Daniel went up to the roof deck. Jack, however, had gone up to the Aerie. The Aerie was an addition to their roof deck that was higher up and extended over the hospitality room. On their first night on the new deck, Jack had quipped that they were as high as the eagles, which is how the upper roof deck had become known as the Aerie.
Daniel climbed the stairs and crossed to the middle of the Aerie. Jack was pacing back and forth, looking down at the deck.
Not looking at Daniel, Jack spoke in a rapid monotone, saying, “It was a long time ago, one of those things I've buried, one of those things in the name of country that meant doing things I'd rather forget.”
“Who's the man?” Daniel asked, realizing Jack now knew who he was.
“If he's who I think he is, his name is Burton Taylor. We thought he was a double agent.”
Jack turned to look at his lover, stopping his pacing for only a moment before resuming it again.
“Danny, I didn't do the research, and spying wasn't my business. I followed orders,” Jack said in an angry tone.
“I know,” Daniel replied as calmly as possible, knowing his husband wasn't angry at him, but at a long-ago event.
“Those orders told me to extract another man who was being held incognito by the other side. Don't ask who. We called him 'Big Bertha'.”
“'Big Bertha'?” Daniel questioned, a bit taken aback by the name.
“We had to call him something,” Jack stated dryly. “Anyway, 'Big Bertha' was having a covert meeting with someone in a key position for one of those governments I can't mention. No one was supposed to know.”
“But someone found out,” Daniel deduced.
“Yes. Apparently, a hit had been ordered, and he couldn't leave the same way he got in. My team was ordered to extract him and bring him back in time for some big political pow wow,” Jack explained.
“From where exactly?”
“A quiet little spot along the Alaskan pipeline.” Jack sighed as his pacing slowed. “We were told the place was empty, except for our guy and three others. We didn't have time to verify the intel. If this guy didn't make the meeting on time, there would have been international repercussions. The clock was ticking, Danny.”
Daniel's arms were crossed in front of him. He wished he could hold Jack, but he knew his husband needed room, to pace, to fidget, and most importantly, to breathe.
“I take it, uh, well that there were others, uh, more than the four that you expected?”
“We went in. One of the team tripped an alarm, and a firefight broke out. I knew we had to get our guy. Two of us made our way to where he was being held. We killed two men along the way, so we thought we were clear because the third was still engaged in the gunfight. We found 'Big Bertha', freed him, and headed for the exit. Just as we got there, my partner was hit, and I was shot in the arm. When I turned, a man was there, holding a grenade in his hand. In front of him were ...”
Jack closed his eyes, and Daniel knew.
“It's okay, Babe; tell me.”
“He'd already taken the pin out. He was holding it up in his right hand. His left held the arm of a small boy. A woman, his mother I assumed, was in hysterics, begging me not to fight. They wanted our guy, but my orders were clear. I couldn't let them have him. There weren't any options; it was a do or die mission, Danny; the orders were *that* explicit.”
“Gawd,” Daniel said softly, staring down at the decking for a moment.
“We only had three hours to get to the meet, and it was going to take every minute we had to make it on time. Those were my orders,” Jack droned.
The Special Ops officer sank down to the floor of the deck. He brought his knees up and rested his hands on them. His head was hung low.
~He's hurting. Why do we let the government do this to people? Soldiers are human beings; no one should have to have these memories,~ Daniel thought angrily.
“I was able to open the door. I pushed 'Big Bertha' out and fired one shot in cover. It only grazed the guy with the grenade, but ...”
Daniel moved a little closer. It wasn't time, not yet, but he could sense it wasn't far away.
“He dropped the grenade, and it went off. I ... I saw what he was doing and just made it out the door. I was hurt, and all but one other member of the team was killed. I'm not sure how, but we managed to get to the meet on time. That's when I learned the truth.”
“What truth?” Daniel asked as he knelt down, sitting on his knees in front of Jack, though not yet touching his husband. “And what does Burton Taylor have to do with any of it?”
“They'd been wrong about Taylor. He wasn't a double agent; he'd been a pawn. He'd never betrayed anyone.”
“How? I mean, how'd they use him?”
“As a shill,” Jack answered with disgust. “He had information we needed for that meet. The other side didn't know what was going on, but they got wind that Taylor might have been spying on them. He hadn't a clue what either side was doing, but in the end, they'd taken his family as a bargaining chip. *We*,” he spoke with contempt, “knew they'd been taken.”
“They didn't tell you Taylor's family might be with ... 'Big Bertha'?”
“No,” Jack snorted angrily. “They didn't want us to be *distracted*. They drilled the orders into us.”
“Our government knew they were there, that they would be used to try and keep you from getting to, uh, 'Big Bertha', and that you'd ... you'd have to ...”
“They knew the odds. Danny, even if we hadn't been detected, we couldn't have taken them with us. We didn't have the time or the transportation. They had to know that.”
Daniel shook his head, saying, “Jack, I still don't understand exactly how Taylor himself came into this? Was he there, too?”
“Having been promised that his family was safe, that they'd be returning with a special team, he'd already turned over the last piece of information that he'd discovered in his acquisition of information.”
“He was a spy?”
“Yes, but not for the other side. Danny, I never figured out the whole thing, but I think they maneuvered the situation to keep Taylor in the game. I heard rumblings later that he had been wanting out.”
“They had nothing to lose at this point,” Daniel now realized about the governmental 'they' that had used people like toys.
“They lied to him, Danny. They told him we were going in to extract his family, and he believed them.”
“What?” Daniel asked, horrified by the lie.
A man had given his all for his country and had been told his family would be safe; yet, that wasn't the truth at all.
“When Taylor finally caught on to the game and became aware that his family was in jeopardy, he held back a vital tidbit of information they needed for the meet.”
“I think, uh, anyone in his position would have done the same thing,” Daniel quietly commented.
Jack nodded, continuing, “They needed his information for the meet, but Taylor held his ground and refused to tell them until they could assure him that his wife and son were safe. As soon as we were gone, they started feeding him the lies, that we were going in for 'Big Bertha' *and* his family. They were desperate,” he spoke sarcastically.
“Gawd, sometimes I wonder who the good guys are,” Daniel stated, his tone full of disdain. “He shouldn't have had to worry about his family, Jack.”
“Ya think?” Jack shook his head and continued his story. “They promised him, Danny, and he believed them.” He took a deep breath as he looked up at the sky. He was still looking upward when he spoke again. “Taylor saw us come in and instantly recognized our man. It was obvious that I was part of the team that had extracted 'Big Bertha'. Maybe the dirt on my face, and the blood running down my arm had something to do with it.”
“He stared me straight in the eye and asked where his wife and boy were,” Jack continued. “I told him the truth, and he swore he'd get revenge someday. Geez, I'd forgotten.”
“No, Babe. You just put it away so you could live.” After a moment, Daniel asked, “But why blame you, Jack? You were just following orders.”
“Danny, his family was dead. It's hard to blame a government that hides behind paperwork. But me? I was standing right there in front of him, and regardless of the reasons, I was the one who had left his wife and son behind.”
“What happened to him after that?”
“I don't know. I was in the hospital for a week and then sent overseas on another assignment. It was a month before I even got home.” Jack let out a snort. “Sara wasn't happy about that.” He looked off to the side and said, “Crap, Danny, there wasn't any other way. He had to make that meet. We wouldn't have made it with a woman and child. There wasn't an alternative.”
As Jack's voice cracked, Daniel knew the time had come. He reached out and took his lover's resistant hands in his.
“Yes, My Love. Don't fight me,” Daniel coaxed, his hold on Jack's hands becoming stronger.
“I feel dirty, Danny. I know I had no choice, but that doesn't matter. A woman and child were killed in front of my eyes.”
“You said it yourself, Jack. You didn't have a choice.”
“Maybe I could have ...”
“Could have what?” Daniel kissed the strong hands he was holding and ran his right cheek against them for a moment. Then he looked into his lover's sorrowful eyes. “Jack, the meet, how important was it?”
“It ... it stopped a war, a war that could have led to a different world than we know today.”
“Then you really had no choice. Look,” Daniel said as he gripped his husband's hands tighter. “We can never stop thinking about the individual, nor can we ever stop feeling for any loss of life, no matter how small, but Babe, we both know that sometimes, there is a bigger picture. Gawd, I wish you had had another way. I wish with all my heart there had been an 'or' for you to find, but there wasn't. You can't blame yourself for that.”
“Burton Taylor can,” Jack argued, suddenly leaving that inner place of guilt inside him and emerging as a worried husband and father. “Danny, he blames me, and now he wants to get even.”
“Do you really believe that after all these years, he's tracked you down and ... and ...”
Daniel's eyes began to fill with another kind of fear, and now Jack's hands shifted to hold his lover's.
“Yeah, that's what I think. Daniel, the kids are in danger. He's not after me, or you.”
“An eye for an eye,” Daniel said, looking downward. Looking up again, he said, “We can't let that happen.”
“Don't worry, Angel; there's not a chance in Netu that he's going to succeed, but we need to step it up in the security department.”
“Oh, yeah. Danny, maybe, uh, we can get Lou and Jeff Cornell assigned to watch them. The brood won't be as uncomfortable with them around as they might be with strangers.”
“Okay,” Daniel agreed. “And Teal'c will help, when he's not on Chulak.”
“I hate asking him; the Jaffa need him to keep their butts out of trouble,” Jack commented.
“If it's a rotating schedule ...” Daniel stopped, sensing his lover's need.
Jack had sighed and bowed his head. He was moving back to a dark place, but Daniel was determined not to let him go there.
“Hey, look at me,” Daniel ordered, tugging on Jack's hands forcefully. “Let the demons go, just like you taught me. Our past is just that, Jack, the past. Let's go look at our present, at all the love we have in our home.”
“I love you, Danny.”
“And I love you, Jack, so freakin' much.”
The lovers got up and embraced for a few minutes, gathering strength and resolve from each other. They kissed tenderly and then went to be with their children.
“Great game, Son,” Jack said to David following a Tuesday evening baseball game the next week.
Things had been calm since the last sighting of Burton Taylor at Chenoa's school, and while Lou, Jeff Cornell, and Teal'c were still on a rotating guard duty of sorts with the children, the Jackson-O'Neills had once again returned to a small sense of normalcy. None of the children, however, were ever left alone, and at least one adult accompanied them everywhere they went.
The younger kids didn't mind, but the older ones, especially Jennifer, hated having a chaperone all the time. The worst part for the teenager was that school had just begun.
Fortunately, Jack and Daniel had given both Jennifer and Jeff one out -- go straight from the car they were dropped off in to their first class, call home between each class, and, when the day's classes were over, they were to go straight out to their chaperone's waiting vehicle without delay. Any delay or failure to follow the rules would result in either being pulled out of school or having their chaperone by their side throughout the school day. Neither option was acceptable to the two siblings.
The teenagers knew the chaperones were necessary and went along with the temporary rules for the sake of their little brothers and sisters.
“Dad, will you help me with my bunting? I really messed up during the game,” David requested.
“We'll practice this weekend,” Jack offered.
“Can we practice a little now? I want to try what Coach Stevens told me. Please?”
Jack patted David on the shoulder and nodded. Retrieving a bat from the truck, they returned to the baseball diamond. There were still a few people around, but most of the players and their families had left.
The father and son practiced for fifteen minutes, David paying special attention to his stance and method of holding the bat as he prepared to bunt.
“One more time,” Jack said from the pitcher's mound. He prepared to throw the baseball when he noticed the boy was distracted. “David, pay attention.”
Jack threw the ball, but it went right by David, who dropped the bat at his feet. Suddenly, David pointed off towards first base, behind some bleachers.
“Dad, that's the man in the picture!”
Jack looked over and saw a figure start to run in the opposite direction. Immediately, he ran after him.
~Darn knees. Wait a minute. My knees don't hurt. I *so* don't understand this, but thank you.~
Picking up the baseball for a reason he didn't understand, David followed his father as they chased down the stranger.
The three ran across a road that led to one of several entrances to the park where the baseball game had been held. When the man had to slow down because of a work shack, Jack leaped forward, tackling him to the ground. Turning the man over as they struggled, Jack recognized the hateful face that spit up at him.
“TAYLOR, WHAT THE CRAP DO YOU THINK YOU'RE DOING?” Jack yelled.
“YOU KILLED THEM, AND NOW I'M GOING TO KILL YOURS!” Taylor responded, desperation in his words.
Jack was trained in special skills, but, as a special agent, so was Taylor, and their struggle was fierce as a result.
Closeby, David watched in horror. He kept looking around for someone to help, but by now, there was no one, and since he was in his baseball uniform, he didn't have a cell phone or a pager on him. He shouted a few times, but no one responded.
The two men wrestled, throwing punch after punch until Taylor got in a good wallop to the side of Jack's head. Jack lagged as he shook his head to regain his senses. As he did so, Taylor began to run, but then he stopped, leering at David. Taylor took two steps forward.
The youngster knew Taylor was about to come for him. The man's eyes were cold, and David was afraid. His senses told him that the man would hurt him and his father, if given the chance. He clutched the baseball tightly in his hand as he sent up a silent prayer.
~Please. Please, oh, please, let me aim right, just this once.~
Saying his prayer over and over again, David threw the ball, his strike hitting the attacker in the head, causing the stalker to fall. The man groaned, rolling over on the ground. At this point, Jack was back on his feet and saw David backing towards him. He looked over at Taylor who was just getting to his feet.
“I'M GOING TO HAVE MY REVENGE,” Taylor yelled, pulling out a pistol.
Jack yelled, “NOOOOO!” as he pushed David to the ground.
The general was surprised, but happy, that no shot rang out. When he looked up, he saw Taylor had turned and was running back towards the baseball field.
“Stay here,” Jack ordered David as he again began to chase Taylor. ~I have to get this guy; he's not going to go away.~
Being a true Jackson-O'Neill, and remembering the pact the children had made to protect one another and their parents, David immediately got up and chased after his father.
Taylor got into his car and sped off.
Just as Jack got into the truck, he saw David was right behind him.
“I'm coming with you,” the boy responded, jumping into the truck.
Jack let out a groan, but quickly got in and began to follow Taylor. He reached for his cell phone, hurriedly putting on his headset just before taking a sharp turn to the left.
As soon as his husband answered, Jack began to talk, stating urgently, “Daniel, listen. I'm in pursuit of Taylor. He's driving a black four-door Chevrolet, probably a two-thousand-three or two-thousand-four model. License plate number is Niner-Lincoln-Ocean-Victor-Eight-Four. We're headed east down Centennial. Get Carter to engage the GPS tracking, and call ...”
“Jack, I know what to do. Where's David?”
“Next to me,” Jack answered, not knowing whether to be angry with his son or proud of his determination. “Daniel, he's headed for the freeway.”
“Be careful, Jack,” Daniel pleaded.
“Trust me. Hey, I love you.”
“I love you, too.”
Jack hung up as he continued the chase.
Ninety-minutes later, Jack had chased Taylor to a lonely patch of road on the edge of town. Taylor had made the mistake of turning up a dirt road, a road that led to nowhere. Jack stopped the truck and waited for reinforcements, something he might not have done had David not been in the truck with him.
“Are you mad at me?” David asked as they sat and waited for help to arrive.
“No, Son. I'm very proud of you,” Jack said, keeping his eyes on the car in front of him. He could see Taylor looking around, considering his options. It was a quiet standoff, and neither moved for quite a while. He worried that desperation would lead Taylor to try and make a getaway. ~If David weren't here, we'd be settling this right now.~
Finally, Jack was very relieved to see the vehicles with flashing lights approaching. It was Daniel, arriving with a load of SGC backup.
“Stay here, AND I MEAN THAT!” Jack said to David in a raised voice that was accompanied by a stern look. He exited his truck which was now surrounded by several military vehicles. “Jeff,” Jack called out to Jeff Cornell. “I want you to take David back to the house and stay with the brood.”
“There's an entire SGC team there, Jack,” Jeff informed his friend.
“Good,” Jack acknowledged, “but I want them to have someone there they know. Please.”
“Jack!” Daniel called out, running up to his husband.
The soulmates didn't have time for more than a deep gaze that said all they needed to.
“I asked Jeff to take David home and stay with the kids,” Jack advised.
“I'd appreciate that, too,” Daniel agreed, nodding at Jack and looking over at Jeff.
Jeff Cornell nodded and waited for the parents to tell David of their decision. Their son argued, but both parents remained firm. After getting hugs from both of his fathers, the boy reluctantly walked away with Jeff and headed home.
“Jack, did he see much?” Daniel asked, watching as David and Jeff drove away.
“Enough to throw a strike when he knew his life depended upon it,” Jack answered dryly as he stared at the car in the distance. ~What's he waiting for anyway? Why hasn't he tried to get away?~
“General,” Colonel Marc Reynolds called out, interrupting the discussion. “What's the plan, Sir?”
Still looking up the hill where Taylor's car was still silent, Jack answered, “He has nowhere to go. Let's wait him out. Set up the vehicles in a blockade. Maybe we'll get lucky.” ~But I'm not counting on that.~
Reynolds nodded and began to organize the SGC vehicles and team.
Taylor had only two options -- to go forward, over a cliff, or come back down the way he came.
~That's what he wants -- to come down that hill and right through me,~ Jack thought as he continued to observe the situation.
Thirty minutes later, with the SGC teams in place, the general took hold of a bullhorn. Futile or not, he was obligated to try for a peaceful ending to the showdown.
“Taylor, give it up. There's no reason for this.”
“General, if we wait much longer, we're going to lose the light. We won't be able to see his movements,” Reynolds advised.
Jack and Daniel exchanged another look. Time was running out.
**Jack, I hate to say this, but he's after our children. They come first.**
Jack nodded, but didn't respond verbally or silently. He just stared up at the hill for another five minutes. The darkness was coming, and it wasn't their friend.
“Taylor,” Jack shouted through the bullhorn. “Get out of the car. This is your last chance.” He looked over at Reynolds and questioned, “Do you have a team ready to go?”
“Yes, Sir. Just waiting for your orders,” Reynolds responded quickly.
“Taylor, there's no point to this. You have to ...”
A shot rang out, hitting one of the military vehicles and interrupting Jack's words. The shot had come from Taylor, who had fired out his car window.
“He's not going to give up, Jack,” Daniel said.
“Reynolds, I want to talk to the team.”
Jack had spoken with the team who would be charging up the hill, making sure their plan was solid. Just as he was about to speak briefly with the rest of the personnel who were guarding the blockade of vehicles, he heard Reynold's shout of warning.
“Heads up! He's coming!”
Jack and Daniel both turned, staring in total disbelief.
“He's insane!” Jack exclaimed.
Burton Taylor was hunched over the wheel of his car as he headed full-throttle down the road toward the roadblock set up by SGC personnel.
“He's not going to stop!” an airman said as he and three others leaped out of the way, barely missing being hit and injured as Taylor crashed through the blockade, denting his vehicle but not causing it to stop.
Jack and Daniel jumped into their truck, while the military troops also went to their vehicles. They were grateful the road Taylor was driving wasn't highly traveled, thereby decreasing the chance of innocent civilians being harmed.
“He's driving like an idiot,” Daniel commented.
“He has nothing to lose,” Jack stated.
The chase continued for another ten minutes, the terrain becoming rougher and more rural as they traveled. Suddenly, Taylor veered off into a field, doubling back. The move caught Jack off guard as he passed the black Chevrolet.
“Crap!” Jack swung the truck around, stating, “That was a stupid move. Why did he do that?”
Other SGC vehicles were now ahead of him as they chased the man along the hillside. Just before reaching one of the military vehicles, Taylor headed up another dirt road. It was night now, the darkness complete, making it difficult to see. All were driving way too fast for the conditions.
Jack looked at the speedometer and shook his head.
“What?” Daniel asked.
“I know this area, Danny. We did a lot of training here,” Jack explained.
“And?” the younger man prompted.
“And there's a nasty turn up ahead. He's not going to make it.”
“Make sure we do,” Daniel warned, focusing on the dirt road ahead of them.
“Yeah, we have laundry to do tomorrow,” Jack quipped.
“Can't miss that,” Daniel said. “The brood won't have any underwear.”
“And I need socks,” Jack stated.
“You need to buy some new pairs,” Daniel chastised.
“I like the old ones,” the older man insisted.
Daniel turned to look at his husband, who was driving with great care and efficiency, even as they had an insane conversation about laundry.
“Jack, I'm not sure this is the time for this discussion,” Daniel said, his voice fluctuating with the ups and downs of the bumpy road they were on.
“At least you didn't quote some Cherokee mumbo-jumbo about it being a good day to croak.”
“Gawd, will you let that go? It was years ago, Jack, and, in the first place, it's not croak, it's die. It's a good day to die; and, in the second place, it was the Sioux, not the Cherokee.”
“Whatever. Danny, that turn is ... oh crap!”
Before Jack could say the turn was less than an eighth-of-a-mile, a fireball burst into the air. Taylor had lost control right before the turn. His car went over the embankment, flipped over a few times as it hit the ground, and exploded a few seconds later.
The SGC vehicles all came to a screeching halt, the personnel running to the edge of the hillside turn.
Jack and Daniel watched. Each felt different emotions. While Jack felt sorry for Taylor, he was glad he was out of the way. The man had wanted to hurt his children, and he couldn't regret knowledge that such a threat was gone. Daniel, meanwhile, was saddened at the loss of life, but had to admit that it was also a relief to have this particular threat gone.
“Lou,” Jack called out. When their friend came over, Jack said, “Taylor was Special Ops. Tell Reynolds I want a one-hundred percent verification of the body. No assumptions. I want Fraiser to do the autopsy. No slip-ups.”
“Sure thing, General,” Lou said as he turned around.
“Stay with the body; make sure,” Jack requested.
Lou nodded; then hurried over to where Reynolds was standing to relay the orders.
“Let's go home, Danny.” Jack and Daniel turned and walked back towards the truck. “What did you tell the kids?”
Jack sighed. He hated that his past had come back to haunt him and was now affecting their children.
“I'm beginning to think keeping them in a bubble isn't such a bad idea,” Jack said with a heavy heart.
“We can't do that, and you know it,” Daniel replied.
“There's still that off-world paradise,” Jack suggested. “Thor could beam us up, house and all.”
“I know. We've talked about that before, Jack. If it were just us, I'd say let's go. We don't need anything but each other, but that's not a life for our children. We have to be fair to them.”
“I know, Danny, but I ...” Suddenly, a shot rang out, and Daniel fell to the grass. “DANIEL!”
SGC personnel turned around in shock. Others, who were already climbing down the hill to get to Taylor's car, shouted out 'What's happening?' to their colleagues still topside.
“Bye, bye, murderer,” Taylor said, emerging from the shadows. He was staggering as he aimed his pistol at Jack. Although covered in burns, his hand was steady. ~I waited a long time for this. I may not have gotten any of the kids, but I got the sicko lover, and now I'm gonna get that murderin' O'Neill.~
In a flash, Jack pulled his weapon. Both men fired simultaneously. Taylor collapsed instantly, and Jack dropped down to the ground, his abdomen against the meadowy patch.
“General?” several personnel shouted as they scrambled over to the area.
**Angel?** Breathing hard, Jack rolled over on the field. He looked over at his husband. “Danny? Gawd, Danny, wake up.”
“Wha...what? Jack, what happened?” Slowly, Daniel sat up so that he was sitting on his knees in the grass. His head hurt. He looked over and saw Jack lying on the ground. “Jack!”
Jack sat up on his elbows and smiled, saying, “He missed, but not by much.”
Daniel looked over at Burton Taylor. Jack didn't miss, his shot having gone right through their attacker's heart. Taylor had died instantly.
“It's over,” Daniel said softly.
As the military personnel attended to Taylor, Jack and Daniel huddled together.
“I thought he'd killed you, Space Monkey.”
“Not here, Jack.”
“Danny, I called you Space Monkey in the middle of the dang gate room. If I could do it then, I can dommmmpf ...”
Daniel silenced his lover with a long kiss. Most of the personnel just smiled at their happiness, though a few shook their heads and looked away.
“I got lucky, Jeff,” Daniel explained to Jeff Cornell as he and Jack arrived back at their home. Daniel had a fresh bandage on his head. “The bullet just grazed me, but I knocked myself out when I fell.”
“Dad! Daddy!” David shouted excitedly as he ran to them for a hug.
In the living room, Jennifer woke the triplets and the twins, all of whom had fallen asleep on the furniture. It was way past their bedtime, but Jennifer had convinced Jeff Cornell and their caregivers that the brood needed to stay together. Consequently, all eleven of them, not to mention Bijou and Katie, were crowded into the room.
“Dad and Daddy are home.”
Within sixty seconds, the two parents were surrounded by all the love in the world, and they soaked it all up as they hugged and kissed their brood, along with the two beagles. In fact, even Mittens and Calico purred their way into the family circle for a minute of loving reunion before slipping away as if to say, 'Yawn -- see, I care that you're back'.
~Cats!~ Jack laughed silently.
Later that night, while their brood slept peacefully under the watchful eyes of Bijou and Katie, Jack and Daniel relaxed on their roof deck in their favorite position. Jack's back was against the house with Daniel in front of him, leaning back against his shoulder. Jack's hands warmed his husband's abdomen, and Daniel's caressed his lover's arms.
“Danny, maybe we should get each one of the brood those little pagers like we had Carter rig up for Noa.”
Jack let out a snort and then sighed, “You want them to stay as normal as possible.”
“Of course, but with our history, they need to be safe, too,” Jack professed.
“The pagers are probably a good idea,” Daniel agreed.
“We could ...”
“Jack,” Daniel twisted around a bit sideways and raised his left hand to Jack's cheek. “I'm tired of talking. We can't change our past, and we've already had this discussion. Our children are not going to live in a shell; it's not fair to them.”
“Danny, tell me something. Our pact ...”
“I couldn't live without you, not even now. Jack, please don't ever test that. It wouldn't be good for our children. You're my heart and my lungs and ... just don't test it.”
“You, either, Space Monkey,” Jack said softly.
“Jack,” Daniel said as his hand began to unbutton Jack's shirt, “make love to me.”
“Let's go inside.”
“No, here,” the younger man insisted.
“One of the brood might ...”
“Then they might. I want us ... now, here, under the stars. If they walk in, they won't fall apart. I want you, My Silver Fox ... now,” Daniel lightly gasped as he nibbled on Jack's upper lip.
Jack didn't need convincing. No one could see their private roof deck unless they were in Jack and Daniel's bedroom, and they had closed the bedroom door. They'd never been caught in the throes, before and after, yes, but not during, and they'd promised themselves that they never would be. Tonight, they hoped the children would sleep peacefully because the two men were in need, of each other, in totality, and they wouldn't, and couldn't, hold back.
As their bodies joined, as their passion took them to the very center of their love and joy, their only concern was in the fulfillment of the other's pleasure. Jack and Daniel were one in this moment, as they were in life.
Over and over, the lovers rejoiced in their flaming splendor. Their sweat-soaked bodies hungered for each other in a way and with a need they hadn't felt in a while. Maybe it was the close call with death. It had been a reminder of the treasure that was their unity.
Tonight, Jack and Daniel shared a heaven that most could only dream of, and it was one that lasted well into the coming of daylight.
“We should take a shower,” Daniel yawned as the sun began to rise.
“We should,” Jack agreed, kissing Daniel again. “Or we could ...”
Daniel smiled and made another suggestion, saying, “We could ... in the shower.”
“After you, Doctor Jackson-O'Neill.”
The soulmates were tired. They hadn't slept at all, but with each little glimpse of the other during breakfast with their family, they knew they didn't regret a moment of it. Somehow, they'd catch a few catnaps during the day.
One thing they did notice was Jennifer's almost constant giggle, along with her inability to look them in the eye. It went on all morning. Every time they tried to talk to her, she'd turn red and laugh.
“Jack,” Daniel said after several hours of Jennifer's shy and giggly behavior, “she's, uh, acting a little ... funny.”
“I've noticed.” ~It's almost like she ... nah, no way.~ Jack pondered the possibilities. “Danny, you don't suppose she ...”
“Gawd, I hope not. We would have heard her, right?” ~Please agree with me.~
“Right,” Jack agreed. “Besides, Jen, of all of the brood, knows not to come into our room without permission.”
“That's right. She ... knows that,” Daniel tried to convince himself.
Just then Jennifer walked by her parents to get a book she'd left on a side table by the patio door.
“Jen ...” Jack said.
“Ga...ga... oh, gawd,” the teenage girl uttered as she broke out into hysterical laughter, grabbing her book and running upstairs as fast as she could.
“Oh, gawd, Jack,” Daniel said, leaning his head into Jack's shoulder. “She saw. I know she saw.”
“Well ... then ... she saw.”
“Daniel, stop saying that. You sound like a broken record. Wasn't it you who said, and I quote, 'If they walk in, they won't fall apart',” Jack reminded, his question a statement.
“Yes, Angel?” Jack smirked.
“What do you want me to say?” Daniel asked again, deciding to avoid discussing the fact that Jack was throwing his words, words spoken the night before back at him when the only thought he had was to join Jack in their private nation of two, back at him.
Jack sighed, answering, “Nothing. Look, if she saw, there's nothing we can do about it.” ~Besides, I don't want to think about it, either.~
“She's *laughing*, Jack.”
“Angel, would you rather she be upset, or grossed out ... or confused?” the older man asked seriously.
“No, of course not,” Daniel answered.
“Okay than,” Jack said. “She's acting like a normal teenager, and teenagers don't want to think about their parents having sex. We want her to be normal, right?”
“We're not flaunting anything,” Jack stated.
“I guess ... I guess it's okay. I just ... Jack, you know ... I mean ... gawd!”
“Dad, Daddy, stop worrying so much. Love's a good thing,” Jennifer interrupted, surprising them when she appeared in the living room again. “There's nothing wrong with that, but, geez, allllll the time! Parents!” Laughing as she rolled her eyes, she turned around and headed for the hallway. “Oh!” She stopped, twisting around to face her parents again. “Gee, forgot why I came back in here. Thought you should know that Little Danny had a nightmare last night. I woke up and decided to check on him. Intuition, I guess. He's fine now. We talked a long time. I, uh, was going to tell you last night, but, uh, wellllll ...” She began chuckling again as she looked at her parents and then again evaded looking at them. “All the time, and with a concussion?”
Still laughing, Jennifer turned again and walked out.
“Jack, she did see us,” Daniel lamented, wishing he could sink into the carpet and disappear.
“Danny, listen to our daughter. Stop worrying so much.”
“Jack,” Daniel said with a soft smile. “If I listen to our daughter, we won't 'you know' so much.”
Jack considered Daniel's words, and retracted his prior statement, saying, “Did I say listen to our daughter? I meant listen to me. Put it here,” he said, motioning to his lips with his finger.
Chuckling, the lovers gazed into each other's eyes and then shared a loving kiss.
“Forever and always, Angel.”
“Forever and always, Jack, and even beyond that.”
All of a sudden, the older man smiled and said, “I'll be back in a little while, Danny.”
“Jack, where are you going?” a surprised Daniel questioned.
“To get a lock for the outside of the roof deck door so we won't have surprise visitors,” Jack answered, giving Daniel another kiss and heading out.
**I love you, my Silver Fox.**
**Love you, too, Space Monkey**
Having survived another crisis, that of an enemy hidden in their past who had threatened their family, Jack and Daniel returned to their norm, that of their children and their life together, a blessing both men could never live without.
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