Home at Last

Author:  Orrymain
Category:  Slash, Drama, Romance, Established Relationship
Pairing:  Jack/Daniel ... and it's all J/D
Rating:  PG-13
Season:  7 - July 8 and September 2, 2003 - (Flashback to S2)
Spoilers:  One False Step (minor)
Size:  56kb
Written:  August 5-7, 12, 2003  Revised:  January 26-28, 2005, March 28, August 3, September 10, October 25-28, 2006, February 22,24-25, May 7,20-21, July 9, 2007
Summary:  As Daniel bemoans Jack's absence on his birthday, he recalls their first trip to Disneyland together.  Then, he gets the birthday surprise of his life!
Disclaimer:  Usual disclaimers -- not mine, wish they were, especially Daniel, and Jack, too, but they aren't.  A gal can dream though!
Notes:  
1) Silent, unspoken thoughts by various characters are indicated with ~ in front and behind them, such as ~Where am I?~
2) This fic stands alone, but it does reference my other fic(s), “Never a False Step,” “Goofy and the Boys,” “Anniversary,” and “Stay Awake”
3) Thanks to my betas who always make my fics better:  Linda, QuinGem, Claudia, Sara!

Home at Last
by Orrymain

====
--July 8, 2003
====

D.

My dearest D, so dear to my heart!  It sucks that today of all days I have to be incommunicado; I can't even sneak out a call, and I'm miserable because of it.  Actually, I'm miserable because I'm 'here', somewhere in the beyond, and you're home, having to celebrate your birthday without me.  But I'll be home soon, Love, and when I get there, be ready.  Sleep now while you can, because I have big plans for you.

Oh, and D, I have the best surprise birthday present for you.  You'll never guess, so don't even try, but just wait and see.  You'll fall in love all over again.

Always and Forever,

J.

Daniel sat on the couch reading, for the twentieth time, the note that Jack had left on his pillow.  It had been attached to a long red rose and a balloon that said 'Happy Birthday'.  The Air Force colonel had left at four in the morning, waking Daniel for a lingering kiss goodbye.  The next time Daniel awoke, he was alone with only the remembrances of their farewell to keep him warm.

July the eighth was spent alone and in silence.  The archaeologist was positively miserable.  As hard as he tried, nothing made him feel better.  Spending his birthday without his lover caused his heart to ache deeply.

~We would have done something; I know he had something planned.  He always does.  Instead, I'm sitting here ... alone and ...~

Daniel sighed.  He had no clue what Jack would have surprised him with, but he knew it would have made him happy.

~I should have gone to work.~

Though he didn't know what had been on the day's agenda, the one thing the archaeologist did know for certain was that he was on downtime and had the day off.  Jack's opinion on the celebration of birthdays hadn't varied since the day they had become lovers.  He could hear his soulmate's words resounding in his head.

“Birthdays are special, like a holiday, Daniel.  We are not working on your birthday,” the older man had decreed.

It was one of Jack's special rules, and they hadn't ever worked on Daniel's birthday, not once.  If it wasn't a normal downtime for them, they took the day off, even if it meant playing hooky by calling in sick.  This year, the eighth was on a Tuesday, and they had put in for a day's leave.  It had been granted, at first, but then their plans hit a snag -- Jack had been drafted for “some secret something, somewhere.”

When the call came ordering Jack to 'wherever', Daniel had originally said he'd go to work.  After all, what was the point to staying home if Jack wasn't going to be there?

“No way, Love.  You're not working on your birthday.  I forbid you to go to the Mountain, to bring work home with you, to have anyone bring work to you, or ... or anything else I may have forgotten,” Jack had ordered.

“But ...” Daniel had started to refute.

“I can't hear you,” Jack had mocked, putting his hand to his ear.  Then he had stated firmly, “Doctor Jackson, on your birthday, you are ordered to kick back and relax: eat, drink and be merry.”

~Right.  How am I supposed to do that without you, Jack?  Stinkin' Air Force,~ Daniel bemoaned as he thought about the conversation that had forced him to spend a horrible day in misery.

As ordered, Daniel stayed home and, although he'd initially tried to honor Jack's wishes and enjoy himself, he just hadn't managed it.  Everything seemed dull and boring without Jack around, and so now that night was falling, he'd given up and was sulking, feeling sad, not merry, even though he had just about consumed enough liquid 'cheer' to make part of the day at least a little bit 'merry'.  He took another sip of the red wine Jack had gifted him with last month.  It was a 1959 Chateau Beychevelle from St. Julien, a full-bodied wine that was one of Daniel's favorites.

“To 1965, the year of my birth, a ... a very good year,” Daniel sarcastically toasted aloud, taking another drink and then placing his wine glass on the coffee table.  He leaned back, his head squishing into the cushion as he silently cursed the Air Force and whatever secret mission had taken his lover away from him on this of all days.  “Another birthday alone,” he lamented.

Actually, since meeting Jack, Daniel's birthdays had been full of good things.  He never knew what to expect as, over the years, his lover had surprised him with everything from a full day of pampering that included breakfast in bed to a surprise party at O'Malleys.

Then there were the trips to Cairo, a romantic and emotional excursion that included a cruise down the Nile, and to Hershey, Pennsylvania, a trip Jack had insisted was part of Daniel's destiny.

“If ever a man should visit Hershey, it's you, Danny,” Jack had explained as they walked inside the plant's doors.  “Even if I did have to agree to give General Clark's granddaughter a private tour of Denver to arrange it, it just had to be done.  What I do for love.”

Jack had arranged for a private tour of the chocolate factory, since public tours had been discontinued at the time.

There had been gifts, too, lots and lots of them.  Jack treated Daniel's birthday like Christmas, lavishing his lover with items ranging from dirty artifact gag gifts to serious items such as a deluxe aquarium for Daniel's fish.

The archaeologist's favorite birthday present, though, was the year Jack had taken him to Disneyland.

~What a time we had.  I never thought ... I mean, it was ... We had fun, my crazy colonel and me.~

The melancholy young man sipped his red wine some more as his mind wandered back to that magical trip.

//Flashback//
Jack and Daniel walked through the gates of Disneyland, but before Daniel could even get a clear picture of what Main Street looked like, Jack immediately steered Daniel over to the left where the concession stand was.

“Shopping?” Daniel asked incredulously.  “You brought me all this way to go shopping?”

“Just a few essentials,” Jack spoke in reply as he selected the must-have items.

Seeing the items his lover had just picked up, Daniel's first instinct was to turn and run, but Jack had anticipated that reaction and had a firm hold of his elbow, prohibiting his escape.

“Jack, I'm not wearing those ears,” Daniel argued as Jack handed him one of the items.

“Yes, you are, Danny,” Jack insisted.  He had a giant grin on his face as he put on his own black ear cap.  “We're in Mickey's Park, and you have to be polite.”

“Jack ...”

“Daniel, put on your ears,” Jack lovingly ordered.

Daniel grunted, looked around at the bedlam of sleeping babies, excited kids, dating teenagers, and tired parents and then finally put on his black mouse ears.

“I can't believe I'm going to walk around here wearing this ... this ...”

“Your ears.  It's mandatory!”

~Personally, I think you're crazy,~ Daniel thought as he fiddled with the ears on his cap, wondering if there was a way to make them less conspicuous.

“I heard that!” Jack exclaimed testily.

“No, you didn't.”

“Yes, I did.”

“You're guessing,” Daniel assumed.

“Guessing what?”

“That I thought you were cra...”  Daniel groaned as he saw Jack's smirky laugh.  “Some day, O'Neill.”

“Promises, promises,” Jack quipped as he pulled out his wallet to pay for the souvenirs.

“Tell me why we're here again, Jack,” Daniel requested after the transaction was completed.

“Disneyland is a tradition, Daniel,” Jack explained.  “It's America's playground, and everyone should go at least once in their life.”

“Couldn't we have gone to Disney World?  They have the Epcot Center, cultural ...”

“And that's exactly why we're here and not in Florida, Daniel.  This is a vacation, to celebrate your birth, not a learning expedition.  We're going to have fun, ride the rides, eat popcorn, meet Donald Duck.”
//End of Flashback//

Taking another sip of his wine, Daniel leaned back, still remembering that crazy, wonderful trip.  At the time, he'd been positive his lover had lost his mind, except that during their vacation, he'd had more fun than he ever could have imagined.  With Jack's cajoling, he had left the Doctor of Archaeology and Anthropology at the door.

~How'd he get me to do all of that?~ Daniel pondered, knowing that once he had put on his Mickey Mouse ears, little boy Danny had come out to play for the first time since his parents had died.

Jack had made sure Daniel's inner child stayed out to play, laughing and being as silly as possible.  By the time the couple had met up with Goofy, they were both feeling pretty ridiculous.

~Gawd, Goofy.  How'd I ever let that happen?~ Daniel asked as he shuddered from the memory.  It was one he didn't even want to think about now.  ~Urgo must have been there.  Yeah, that was it.  It was Urgo.  It was his fault that picture was taken.  Oh, gawd -- that picture.~

If anyone ever got a hold of the photo of the three of them -- Jack, Daniel, and Goofy -- Daniel was sure he'd be laughed out of the SGC.  Yet, sitting on the sofa now, years later, he was aware that just the memory of it, while still embarrassing, filled him with a warmth that had nothing to do with the wine he was drinking.

“I'm burning this when we get home, Jack,” Daniel had threatened about the photograph.

“Oh, no, you're not.  We're framing this one,” Jack had insisted, making sure to keep the photo in his protective care until he was convinced his lover wouldn't destroy it.

“Jaaaaack!” Daniel had whined to no avail.

The couple had compromised and locked the photograph in their special keepsake box, a place where private souvenirs from their travels together as Jack and Daniel were safely kept, things the rest of the world couldn't see because the soulmates were hiding in plain sight in Colorado Springs.

Daniel shook his head in mock terror as he thought about the photo.  He finished off his glass of wine and poured another.  After taking a drink from his glass, he continued his reflections.

~It wasn't so bad, Jack.  Actually, I loved that trip.  I think maybe it was the first time I ... I really had fun, just ... being silly.  I'm not sure I knew how to be silly until then.~

//Flashback//
“Having fun?” Jack asked.

Daniel smiled shyly.  It was the third day of their trip.  He nodded his head, almost hating to admit it, but the truth was the truth.

“Yes.”

Jack beamed in response as he led his lover to their next destination.

During their stay, they had visited all the different towns in the Magic Kingdom.  They raced on the Autopia in Tomorrowland, sang along with the Country Bear Jamboree in Critter Country, laughed at the fake alligators as they sailed the Jungle Cruise, and now they were climbing Tarzan's Treehouse in Adventureland, Daniel's one-time fear of heights not even thought about, especially in such a protective environment.

“Me, Tarzan; you, Jane,” Jack mocked as they climbed upward.

“Not in your wackiest dreams, Jack.”

“Okay, Me, Tarzan; you, Cheetah.”

“You've lost your mind, Jack,” Daniel stated as he focused on moving forward.

“Good thing you're here to find it then,” Jack smirked.

“What?”  Daniel paused, staring at his lover.  He shook his head in disbelief as he thought, ~He *has* lost his mind.~

When the lovers reached the top of the tree, overlooking the theme park, Jack seized a moment when no one else was looking and pulled his lover close to him.

“Me Silly Air Force colonel head-over-heels in love with you, Space Monkey.”

“That's one way to stay out of the monkey house, O'Neill,” Daniel replied with a smile.

The couple wanted to kiss, but they heard some boys about to enter the tree house so they pulled away.  Their eyes, though, never stopped speaking.

Cerulean blue eyes said 'I love you' as chocolate brown eyes responded in kind, adding 'Forever, Danny'.

No part of “the happiest place on Earth” escaped the pair as their vacation continued.  They listened to barbershop quartets, ate cotton candy until they were sick, and explored the Main Street shops, buying gifts for Sam, Teal'c, General Hammond, Lou Ferretti, Sergeant Siler, and other friends back at the SGC.

The twosome rode Thunder Mountain Railroad, got drenched on Splash Mountain, survived the Matterhorn and Space Mountain, and cajoled their way through the Pirates of the Caribbean and the Haunted House.
//End of Flashback//

“Yo ho, yo ho, it's the pirate's life for me,” Daniel sang, though a bit less boisterously than the song was intended to be sung.  ~Geez, we walked around New Orleans Square singing that song.  How'd I let him talk me into doing that?~ He drank another sip of wine, then laughed.  “Yo ho!”

Daniel spoke to his absent lover, “Why do I let you talk me into doing anything?”  He chuckled, “It's easy.  I love you, and ... usually, in situations such as this, you're right.  People stared, but I didn't care.  I don't remember the stares, not really, but I do remember you.  I remember your smile and the joy in your voice.  Your eyes, Jack: I remember all the laughter in them, and the love.  Crazy or not, stares or not, yo ho, yo ho ... gawd, that was fun.”

The archaeologist's mind drifted as he recalled more of their trip, their visits to Mickey's Toon Town and Fantasyland where they rode on Dumbo's Flying Elephant Ride.

~I love being crazy with you, Jack.~

//Flashback//
“Jack, there is *no* way we're going on these kiddie rides.  We're grown men.  What will people think?”

“That we're two guys who know how to have fun, and we like Dumbo.  You do like Dumbo, dontcha'?”  Daniel looked down and off towards a popcorn cart, his arms folding in his classic self-hug pose.  Jack had a sad feeling he knew what this meant.  “Danny?”

“I ... I don't know,” the shaggy-haired man answered softly, still not looking at Jack.

“Ah, you will.  We'll make a list of movies we need to rent to complete your Disney education!  Now scoot, and let's get a place in line before those toddlers from the school tour beat us to it.”

“Jack, are you sure we can fit in ...”

“Daniel, stop arguing.  Dumbo awaits.”
//End of Flashback//

It had been a magical and wondrous birthday celebration, and it was the first time in Daniel's life he had let himself be a kid in public.  It had taken a while, but having a partner who was still a kid at heart, had made it easier for him to let go and allow his inner child to be reborn.  No one at Disneyland knew them, so they were free to just relax and play, and that's exactly what they had done.

Daniel smiled, remembering their adventures in Fantasyland and then what had happened when they returned to Colorado Springs.  True to his word, for the next several downtimes, and then periodically after that, Jack had rented a stack of Disney movies from 'Fantasia' to 'Alice in Wonderland', '101 Dalmatians' to 'Lady and the Tramp', 'Bambi' to 'Pete's Dragon', and, yes, 'Dumbo', too.

Daniel chuckled silently, ~I'm now fluent in one more language:  animated Disney!~

//Flashback//
As they finished watching Dumbo together for the first time, Daniel asked his lover, “How is it you always seem to know what I need when I haven't a clue?  I mean, Disneyland, Jack ... Dumbo?  I've never even thought about going there, at least not since ...”

Jack placed a kiss on Daniel's nose, interrupting the young man, not wanting him to go to that orphaned boy place he sometimes became imprisoned in.

“It's simple,” Jack stated.

“It is?” Daniel questioned, his hand rubbing gently against the older man's chest.

“Basic even,” Jack replied confidently.

“Then how?  How do you know?” Daniel asked curiously.

Jack answered, “The same way you knew that I needed that seventeen-hundred dollar chair in the study; the same way you knew I needed to talk when I thought Teal'c was dead during that Jaffa revenge thing; and the same way you know when to do this,” he said as he entwined his fingers with Daniel's.  “And this,” he added, kissing his lover soundly on the mouth, licking his luscious lips and adding a little nibble.  “Or this,” he suggested, pulling his Love into a tender embrace.

“It's how you know those things when I think I want to be alone, or that what I've done is too dirty or sordid for you to know.  That's how I know that inside you there is that little boy who should have had the family, dogs, birthday parties, trips to the zoo, and, yes, Disneyland.

“He's there, and I love him, so brace yourself, Dannyboy, there are Disneys all over the world, and amusement parks in most every state; we've only just begun to play!”

The lovers kissed and snuggled together for a few minutes, just enjoying each other's company.

Finally, Daniel broke their vocal silence when he commented, “I feel sorry for Dumbo.”

“Yeah, I know.  I probably shouldn't admit this, but I have a hard time watching 'Bambi',” Jack confided.

“I, uh, noticed the sniffles,” Daniel said softly.

“They were only slightly muffled by yours,” Jack pointed out with a smile.

The couple shared a tender look.  They were so free with each other.  Neither had to be concerned about tough guy images and predefined roles.  It was one of the many things they cherished about each other -- that they could cry over a cartoon creature without worry of being judged or having to defend their sentimentality.

“I think once is enough for that one.”

“No arguments from me, Love,” Jack agreed.

“How about that 'Little Mermaid' movie that Cassie mentioned?” Daniel suggested.

~Cool!~  Jack smiled, bigger than before, overjoyed that Daniel was now making requests.  “We'll get it next week,” he responded, moving to turn off the VCR and television.

“Oh, okay.”

Jack slowed his motion.  He pulled the videocassette out of the recorder and stared at it, then looked back over at his lover.  After a moment, he glanced at his watch, more out of habit than anything else.

“'The Little Mermaid' and 'The Fox and the Hound',” Jack said, adding, “and whatever else grabs us.”

~That will probably be the entire shelf.~  Daniel smiled as he hurried over to kiss his lover.  “You know, you started this.”

“And I'll finish it,” Jack promised.

“Just ... don't tell anyone that after fighting the Goa'uld all day, we're coming home and watching ... Mickey Mouse,” Daniel requested, trying not to laugh.

“Soon, Love, you're going to know Disney as well as the average kid,” the older man promised.

“I'll be ... fluent in Disney.”

“Yet another language to go along with the language of love.”

“Oh, yeah, love.  I like that language ... a lot,” the younger man remarked, following it up with another kiss.  “Jack ...”

As their passion flared, Jack suggested, “Daniel, how about we forget all about mermaids and hounds until later?  I think we have more important things to discuss.”

Nodding his head in short, frequent motions, Daniel willingly agreed, saying, “Discuss?  Oh, uh, yeah, definitely.”

More Disney topics would have to wait until daylight as Jack and Daniel fused their bodies together into a joyful union.
//End of Flashback//

Daniel sighed contently, remembering that night, the visit to Disneyland, and all the other special things his soulmate had done to commemorate his birthday over the past several years.  He really shouldn't be feeling so low just because this year he was spending his birthday alone, but Jack had taught him the meaning of the word 'happy' in 'Happy Birthday', and he'd gotten used to celebrating.

~Gawd, I'm ... I'm spoiled now,~ the despondent man mused.  They'd always been together on Daniel's birthday.  Once or twice, the big celebration had to come after the archaeologist's actual birthday due to unavoidable circumstances, but always, ~always,~ Daniel recalled, the lovers had been together on the special day.

Somehow, when Daniel had least expected it, his life partner had managed to convince him that the eighth day in the seventh month of July was more than a mere date on the calendar, that it was a date to be cherished because Daniel Jackson was born on that day.  Now, for the first time since his return from Abydos, Daniel was alone on this supposed-to-be-cherished date, and all the old feelings of inadequacies resurfaced as if a dam had burst, flooding his mind with insecurities and sadness.

The archaeologist reached down for the wine and took another sip, relishing the smooth taste as it glided down his throat.

“I wish you were here, Jack, and not ... wherever you are,” Daniel spoke softly to his goblet.  He stared at the glass, gently swaying the red liquid around.  It swished back and forth until it almost hypnotized the young man.  He sighed, letting the red symbolize the tragedy of the day.  Suddenly, he blinked, realizing just how lost in himself he was.  “Oh, for crying out loud, Jackson, stop your pity party,” he barked loudly, trying to stir himself out of his depression.

Daniel continued chastising himself, speaking into the air, “Listen to yourself.  You go years without anyone even knowing when your birthday was, let alone caring, and now you're whining because ...”  He took another drink, closed his eyes, and finished his thought, saying, “Because after years of being alone and convincing yourself you liked it, even preferred it, the truth ... the truth, Doctor Jackson, is that you're a Grade-A sap ...”

Again, silence took over the residence.  After a while, Daniel stood and went to the patio doors, looking out into the night.  He glanced out at the full moon that lit up the sky.  If Jack were home, they'd probably be on the roof deck stargazing and making out like teenagers.

“I miss you, O'Neill.”

Daniel finished his current glass of red wine, locked the doors, and turned out the lights.

~It's dark, and that's exactly how I feel -- empty with nothing ahead of me but ... darkness.~

Giving up the vigil for the night, Daniel headed upstairs to the lonely bedroom he shared with his lover.  He changed into his emerald green flannel pajamas, the ones with mummies on them, that Jack had given him a couple of years before.  As he fastened the last button, he sank to the bed and began speaking to the floor.

“You're positively pitiful for a PhD.  It's the middle of summer, and you're wearing flannel.  Why?  Because, Mister Grade-A sap, after thirty-eight years, you're cold unless your lover is here to wrap his arms around you.”  Daniel snorted, “Good thing Apophis never figured this out.”  ~And it's not working.  I'm still cold inside, and now I'm hot, too.~

Daniel stood and turned up the air conditioner before climbing into bed and pulling the covers to his neck.

“Pardon the excessive A/C bill, Jack, but you see, I was wearing flannel with the covers over my head because it was my birthday, and I was feeling sorry for myself that you weren't here, and ... crap, Jackson, get a grip.  You're talking to a pillow now.”

Daniel groaned, buried his head in Jack's pillow, and held onto it for dear life.  He couldn't wait for the clock to reach 12:01.

“I hate birthdays,” Daniel droned, silently counting mummies in his head until he finally fell asleep.

====

“Mmmm,” Daniel moaned late the next morning.  ~Good.  Yes.  Lips.  Mine!~  Suddenly, Daniel shot upward, practically knocking his soulmate off the bed.

“Morning, Angel,” Jack laughed as he steadied himself on the bed.

“You ... you're back!”

“Yeah.  Happy belated birthday,” a completely naked Jack spoke as he leaned forward and kissed his Love again.

“I love my present,” Daniel sighed as the two began to make love.

====
--September 2, 2003
====

It was only 6 a.m., but it was already warm in the Springs.  The forecast for the day called for a high of seventy-eight degrees, and Jack planned to make the most of it.  Daniel was still recovering from severe injuries received on a recent mission.

During a thunderstorm, the archaeologist had rescued an alien cat-like animal caught high up in a tree, only to be hurt when the tree limb broke, causing him to fall to the ground.  Jack, too, had been hurt, but his injuries weren't as extensive. Both men had spent time in the infirmary, and Daniel had only been released the week before, having been given very strict orders to rest and limit his physical activities.

At home, though, under the loving and tender care of his lover, Daniel thrived.  He was feeling good and hoped Janet Fraiser, the SGC's Chief of Medicine, would clear him for light duty after his next checkup this week.

Dressed in his favorite casual attire, a gray tee shirt and blue jeans, Jack was finishing a conversation with a fellow Air Force colonel, Jeff Cornell.  They'd gone to the Academy together and had renewed their friendship when Jeff was assigned to the SGC in March.

“Thanks, Jeff.  I really appreciate your going out of your way like this,” Jack stated gratefully as he stood in the driveway.

“No problem, Jack.  Always happy to do an old buddy a favor.  Besides, my Mrs. will finally stop nagging me now.”

“Yeah, but I'll bet she finds something else to kick your butt about,” Jack teased his friend.

“Probably,” Jeff chuckled.  “Later, Jack.”

Jeff turned on the ignition to his yellow mustang and pulled out of the driveway.  He had made the special trip as a favor for Jack, but now had to head to the Mountain.  His team would be going off-world on a standard recon in three hours.

Cautiously, Jack walked up the porch steps and went back inside the house.

~Been waiting for this for a long time, Danny.  I know you'll be surprised, and it's a bit of a gamble,~ Jack admitted to himself.  He was smiling, though, in anticipation of his soulmate's reaction.  Quietly, he walked up the stairs with his precious cargo when the package began to squirm a bit.  “Shhh.  This mission requires stealth-like quiet, or you'll ruin the surprise,” he softly reprimanded as he continued his climb.

The bedroom was still dark, courtesy of room-darkening blinds, ~extra-strength,~ Jack laughed inwardly, to prohibit light from waking up one Daniel Jackson.  Laughing, he explained to his cargo, “My Danny is not a morning person, so don't take it personally if he's a bit grouchy.  He'll love you, once I get some caffeine in him.  Trust me; I'm your mission leader, and I don't lie to my team.”

Daniel was fast asleep, lying on his abdomen, sprawled out over two-thirds of their bed.  He had kicked off the comforter, exposing his bare back.

Jack smirked down at his surprise, “If I didn't have you to worry about ...” but he stopped his train of thought, shook his head to clear his mind of what he wanted to do with Daniel at the moment, and refocused his attention on his cargo and its delivery.

The Special Ops-trained colonel knew he had to do this just right.  Waking up his lover at this time of day required great care, especially when he wasn't using intimate body tactics.  He removed his shoes and tip-toed to Daniel's side of the bed.  He carefully placed his cargo on the floor, doing a shushing motion with his fingers.

“Remember, he's really a nice guy once he gets his morning coffee,” Jack whispered.

The box moved slightly on the floor, causing Jack to put his finger to his mouth and go, “Shhh.  Stealth means quiet.”

Amazingly, the cargo settled, watching Jack intently.

~Okay, I'm risking my life here, but the surprise is worth it.  He'll forgive me ... eventually,~ the older man told himself.  “Danny?” he called out softly.  He carefully took his left hand and carded it through Daniel's silky brown hair, and then he glided his palm down to lightly caress his lover's left cheek. “Danny, Love, time to wake up.”

Daniel moaned, shifting his body slightly, swatting away Jack's hand as if it were an insect.

Jack chuckled to his cargo, “At least he hasn't tried to punch me ... yet!”

The off-duty colonel leaned in and kissed Daniel's nape before spreading a line of kisses up his partner's cheek.  The younger man rolled over onto his back and yawned, his eyes never opening.  Jack chuckled and resumed his efforts, gently kissing each eye and Daniel's nose, then sliding down to brush against his lips.

The archaeologist was still half asleep, but seemed to automatically be moving, responding to Jack's touch, his body arching upwards in arousal.

“Danny, I have a surprise for you,” Jack whispered to his lover.

“Go 'way, J'ck.  S'prise me later.  Sleeping,” Daniel said, stating the obvious.

“You're not sleeping any more, and this is special; won't keep.”

“Time?” Daniel questioned amid a yawn.

~Whoops!~  Jack looked at the clock: 0610 hours.  He was dead if he told Daniel that.  With a gulp, he fibbed, “Ten after nine, and it's time to get up.”

“No, day off; leave me 'lone,” Daniel muttered in response, turning slightly to snuggle into his pillow.

~You're not making this easy.~  Determined not to lose the battle, Jack picked up part of his cargo.  He placed the surprise on the bed and motioned towards his lover, saying, “There he is.  Cute, isn't he?”

“Not cute, J'ck; go 'way.  Sleep,” Daniel murmured, licking his lips.  A small tickle on his hand and then on his neck suddenly drew his attention.  The movements intensified, and their frequency tripled.  “Huh?” he groaned.  Suddenly, what he felt sank in.  “Licking?” he asked in surprise.  It was a strange sensation, but it wouldn't be the first time that he and his lover participated in that kind of foreplay.  Still, he wanted to go back to sleep.  “J'ck, stop it.”

Jack roared, trying to talk through his laughter, saying, “I'm not doing anything, Daniel.”

Daniel's eyes were still closed, but his mind was beginning to wake up despite his desire to keep sleeping.  Suddenly, he realized that he was being licked while Jack was talking.  Come to think of it, Jack's tongue didn't feel like that, either.

“I swear, Danny, I'm just sitting here, minding my own business,” the older man spoke with great amusement in his voice.

Startled, Daniel's eyes shot open as he asked, “Wha...what?”

The licks escalated, and Jack couldn't stop himself from laughing as he watched his Love's reaction to his present.

“Jack, what's going on?” Daniel asked as he found himself nose-to-nose with a dog, who was licking, ~No, make that kissing,~ him silly all over his face.

Daniel sat up, his back leaning against the headboard, and the dog moved to sit on his lap, its tail wagging wildly, eyes alight with love.

~Yeah!~  Jack beamed at the sight.  ~This is going to work out just right.  Danny won't be able to resist her.~

“Jack, she's beautiful,” Daniel laughed as he was licked like a lollipop, turning his head as the kisses continued to be scattered wherever the small dog could reach.

“I wasn't sure what breed we should get, but you can't go wrong with a beagle, so when the opportunity came up, I seized the moment!” the older man exclaimed happily.

The dog sitting on Daniel's lap was purebred, her head mostly brown, while black dominated her back.  She had floppy brown ears and piercing black eyes.  Her face was one great big smile.

“Happy Birthday, Angel,” Jack expressed with great love and a broad smile.

“What?  But ... but it's not my birthday,” Daniel responded, feeling totally confused by the celebratory wishes.

“It's a belated present.  Remember, Love?” Jack questioned.  “I told you in my note that I had a special surprise for you, and that you'd fall in love all over again.  Remember?”

“Well, yes, of course, but I assumed that was the St. Julien's; I mean, it was rare and expensive, and ...”  The younger man frowned briefly, trying to figure out what he had missed.  “Jack?”

“The wine?” Jack laughed.  “I gave that to you for our anniversary, Danny.”

“Oh, that's right,” Daniel conceded.  “I just ... I'm sorry, Jack, I forgot.  When you were gone, I sort of ... commiserated with the ... well, I drank quite a bit of it because I ...”

Daniel lowered his head.  He was still petting the dog, but he had a distant look in his eyes.

“Danny, I hated having to leave you.  I argued until I was blue, but I couldn't get out it.”

“I know,” Daniel said as he smiled shyly.  “I guess I got a little confused about the wine.  You said I'd love it, and I did.  When you came home the next day ...”

Daniel became quiet, a slight blush permeating his face.

“What, Angel?” Jack prodded.

“You, Jack.  You were all the present I needed.  You're ... you're all I'll ever need.  I never even thought about a ...”

“Present?”

“Yeah.  I mean, you came home and we ... you know ... a lot,” Daniel spoke about their extended and erotic lovemaking that had occurred upon Jack's return the day after his birthday.

“You're amazing,” Jack spoke.  He leaned over, looming over the contented dog, and kissed the man who was his heart.  “I love you, Danny, more than life itself.”

“I love you, too, Jack, so much,” Daniel replied as he leaned forward, cautious of his wiggling present, and kissed his lover.  “She's quite a birthday present.  I have to admit I'm ... surprised.”

“Every kid should have a dog, Daniel,” Jack told his soulmate.

Jack's tone was quiet, his eyes reflecting the vast love in his heart for the younger man.  He reached out and petted the dog, as Daniel was still doing.  Brown eyes met blue as they silently recalled a discussion from earlier in the year, when Daniel had written in his computer diary about their experiences with the aliens who were linked to the sounds of plants.

While Daniel had been working on the diary, Jack had discovered that his lover had never had a dog as a child, which made sad sense to the colonel.  His orphaned lover had been shuffled through the foster care system, only one of whom had ever really cared about him.  He'd never had a dog, or a home, or a family, not really; at least, not after his parents were killed.

Jack had silently vowed to correct this cruel oversight as soon as possible.  Shortly after his old buddy, Jeff and his wife Margaret had moved to Colorado Springs, an opportunity to honor his vow occurred.  The timing seemed perfect.

The Cornells had brought with them their two dogs.  Jeff was a dog lover, but his wife merely tolerated the canines.  When they discovered the youngest was pregnant, Margaret insisted the dogs, all of them, had to go.  After the youngest had given birth to her puppies, Jeff managed to find homes for both adult dogs and the puppies, except for one tiny one, the runt of the litter.

Jack had snatched up the mom as soon as Jeff had told him about Margaret's insistence that the dogs had to go.  She wasn't an unkind person, but hadn't been raised with animals and simply wasn't used to having them around.  She had also made sure all the puppies were of age before having weaned them and sending them to their new homes.

A “woof” snapped Jack and Daniel out of their stares of remembrance, and they smiled down at the beagle, who was wagging its tail and grinning now that it had their attention again.

The older man repeated, “Every kid should have a dog.  Besides, she needed a home; someone to look after her.”

“A home,” Daniel quietly echoed, his eyes watering.

“A home, Danny, and a family.  She needs us,” Jack spoke confidently.

Again, the two men made eye contact, Jack's eyes were misty now, their unspoken conversation speaking louder than any words could express.

“She's precious, Jack.  How old is she?” the younger man queried.

Looking at the happy beagle, Jack answered, “Jeff said she's two-years-old.  He actually has the papers on her, but forgot to bring them; he'll drop them by my office next week.”

“Jeff?” Daniel asked.  “Oh, Colonel Cornell,” he said, having put the pieces together.

“Yeah, she was his dog ...” Jack began, telling his lover all about Jeff and Margaret and the dogs, everything except the part about the one puppy no one wanted.

“I'm glad you took her, Jack.  She's beautiful.  I ... thank you.”  Holding his new charge carefully, Daniel leaned forward and kissed his lover in reward.  Then, he heard a whine.  Looking at their new dog, Daniel realized the whine wasn't coming from her.  “Jack?”

The silver-haired gift-giver smiled, reaching down for the rest of his surprise.  Daniel had been so wrapped up in the mom, that he hadn't noticed the small puppy still in the box beside the bed.

“No one wanted the little runt, Danny.  Look at her, so tiny.  Jeff's wife wouldn't let him keep her, and since no one wanted her, he was worried that if he took her to the pound no one would adopt her, and then ...”

Interrupting his Heart, Daniel reached out and patted the wriggling little puppy saying, “I love you, Jack O'Neill.  It's the best present ever.  Thank you.”  He had a tear rolling down his cheek, but was grinning with happiness.  “The best,” he whispered emotionally.

Though Jack managed not to let his emotions get the best of him, inside, he was pure mush.  Both men were rubbing and petting their new pets as they fought back their tender sides, trying to stay macho because that's what society said men were supposed to be.

~Right.  Not with us.  We can just ... be,~ Daniel silently thought.

Jack smiled as he thought, ~We're silly putty.  These mutts are gonna have Danny and I eating out of their paws within a week, or maybe just a day.~

Another smile of mutual understanding passed between the lovers.

“Danny, the runt, she was born on your birthday,” Jack stated informatively.

“July eighth?”

“Last I heard, that was your birthday, Love,” Jack quipped.

Daniel chuckled as he looked at the littlest dog and remarked, “We have something in common; actually, we have a lot in common.”

“Danny ...”

“No, this is good.  I mean, Little One,” Daniel addressed the puppy, “we may have had a rough start, but we've found a lot of love, and that's a good thing.”

As Jack smiled, the lovers again shared an intensely emotional moment, one in which they didn't need words, their eyes and hearts speaking loudly.

“Hey, Girl, what's your name?” Daniel finally asked the mama beagle he was still holding in his arms.  He looked up at Jack for the answer.  “Jack?”

“Well, they called her Bijou,” the older man answered, “but we can change that if we want.  Dogs adapt easily.”  Still holding the runt, Jack stood and went to his side of the bed where he lay down next to Daniel, who was still sitting up holding Bijou.  “We have to name this little one, too.”

The puppy lay down on Jack's warm abdomen, curled up into a ball, and was well on her way to a morning nap as he gently rubbed her ears.

Daniel's sudden laughter prompted Jack to inquire, “What's so funny?”

“It's why I have fish, Jack.”  With a smirk, the younger man elaborated, “I never had to worry about naming a fish.”

“We could call her Runt; that's what she is,” Jack suggested.

“Jack!”

“Wrong sex,” the older man smirked.

~He's impossible sometimes,~ Daniel silently grumbled before forging ahead and ignoring his partner's sarcasm.  After mulling over possibilities, he decided, “She needs a strong name.”

“She needs love, Daniel, that's all.”

Daniel looked down at his lover, leaned over to kiss his forehead, and replied, “She already has that, Babe.”

“Molly?”

“Jack, I know ten people with dogs named Molly,” the younger man responded.

“Precious?” the playful colonel offered.

“Too sappy.”

After a moment, Jack put forth, “Okay, you want a strong name.  Who's the strongest woman you know, and don't say Carter because she'll kill us both if we name this pup Samantha.”

Daniel laughed, “No, she'd kill you, but she'd forgive me.”

“It's your sad puppy eyes and the pouting lip; she can't resist the combination,” Jack noted.

“I do *not* pout.”

“Do, too,” Jack said with a grin.

“Do not.”

“Do.”

“Not.”

“Daniel, we shouldn't argue in front of the children,” Jack teased.

Daniel burst out with laughter, saying, “You're right, Jack.  We need to be more careful now.  No arguing ... and no 'you know' in front of the ... children.”

“No s...you know?  Daniel!”  When Daniel let loose with another big laugh, Jack threatened, “Your butt is so mine, Jackson.”

“Never said it wasn't, O'Neill.”

Daniel reluctantly left Bijou in Jack's and the still unnamed puppy's care while he went to the bathroom and then dressed, putting on his sky blue tee shirt and blue jeans that matched his lover's.  He headed towards the bed, taking a seat at the foot of the bed, one leg under him as he signaled to Bijou to come.  As she did, he saw the clock for the first time.

“JACK!” the archaeologist grumbled, a frown instantly present on his face.  “You lied to me.”

Jack's eyes widened, and he sat up as he asked innocently, “Lied?”

“The clock, Jack.  It's only 6:45; that means you woke me up at ... JACK O'NEILL, YOU ARE SOOOO DEAD.”

“Danny ... the children ... remember the children.”

Jack's words were spoken in a panicked desperation.  Again, laughter burst out from both men.

“You're going to pay, Jack, and you can start with coffee ... *now*!”

“But the runt ...” Jack began as he looked pointedly down at the sleeping little puppy in his lap

“You can sleep with her tonight, Jack ... on the couch, if you like,” Daniel retorted.  ~Besides, it's my turn to snuggle with her now.~

Brown eyes met smiling blue eyes, and those baby blues were way too self-assured.

“Danny, would you like some coffee?” Jack asked compliantly, ready to be his lover's servant as long as was required to prevent a solo evening on the sofa.

“Yes, Love, thank you.”

~He's healthy,~ Jack thought as he placed the puppy in Daniel's arms and headed downstairs, knowing it was just a matter of time before his lover was one-hundred percent again in every way.

====

One hour later, Jack, Daniel, and their 'children' were seated on the grass in the backyard.  They'd eaten a quick breakfast (Froot Loops for Jack, Shredded Wheat and his morning caffeine fix for Daniel) and now were back to deciding on names for their beagles.

“So, Daniel, besides Carter, the strongest woman you know is ...?” Jack prodded.

“Catherine, but she'd kill us, too,” Daniel answered, thinking about Catherine Langford, who was like a mother to him in many ways.

“Kate?” Jack offered.  “Like Kate Hepburn -- really strong and a great nickname for Catherine.”

“Katie,” Daniel suggested with a smile.  He looked at the puppy and asked, “Hey, Katie, what do you think?  Would you like to be called Katie?”

The eight-week-old puppy rolled against him and wagged her tail.

Jack chuckled, “That's the closest thing to a 'yes' we're going to get.”

“Katie it is,” Daniel stated, smiling as he gazed at the little puppy reaching out to pat her.

“And Bijou, or should we change her name?” Jack asked.

“Changing her name would be like changing who she is, Jack.  I like Bijou.  It means 'jewel' in French, and ... she is a jewel.”

“A real gem,” Jack agreed, smiling.  “Okay, that's settled.”

“Jack?”

Jack looked up, hearing a hesitation in Daniel's voice and seeing a hint of sadness in his eyes, and asked, “What, Love?”

“We're gone so much.  They ... how do we make sure they have food and water?  Maybe we don't ...” Daniel sighed.  Suddenly, he wondered if they had a right to have pets.  Maybe it wasn't met to be.  “I mean, I ... gawd, I don't know what I mean.”

“Daniel, I've thought it all out and have an answer for every question you're going to ask, beginning with yes, we do have a right to have a dog or two.  We're entitled.  Part of the reason I'm glad Katie was left is because Bijou and Katie will be company for each other.  Dogs bond easily, and they're mother and daughter.  That's a bonus.  They'll play and keep us on our toes constantly.  So, stop your worrying about that.  Neither Bijou nor Katie will be lonely.  Okay?”

Daniel gave a small smile, then said, “Okay, Jack.  So about all those answers you have ...”

The two men spent the next couple of hours discussing dog-rearing.  Jack had a list of things they'd need, and he talked over everything with Daniel, from the color of their collars to the type of food to get.  They needed to buy some dog toys and health items such as shampoo and pet clippers, and they had to decide on what kind of flea treatment to use.

The couple discussed the fact that they would be gone a lot and decided to get both dogs spayed.  This would prevent male dogs from trying to get into the yard while they were gone, and it would also prevent them ending up with unexpected litters of puppies, not that Jack and Daniel would mind puppies, but they believed that there were already too many unwanted dogs in the world and didn't want to add to the overpopulation.

Jack continued, “Daniel, we can attach a Lix-it to the faucet so the dogs have a constant water supply.”

“What's a Lix-it?”

“Metal thing that we attach to a faucet.  The girls can go right up to it, lean their snouts into it, and water flows.  It's great,” Jack answered.  “We can buy a couple of those dog feeder things, too.”

“Dog feeder things?”

“Yeah, they're great, too; almost like a computer.  We can store several pounds of dog food in the feeder and set it to release the food at certain times of the day.”

“Katie needs to eat more, doesn't she?” Daniel inquired, not really knowing that much about dogs and their needs.

“Yeah, growing pup and all of that, and she'll have puppy food at first.  I checked out the feeders, Danny.  They'll work just fine.”

For shelter, Jack decided to build Bijou and Katie a deluxe home, complete with doggie door, so they could go in and out at their leisure.  This would be especially important if Jack and Daniel were off-world and the weather was bad.  It would take a while to work out the floor plan, but there would be nothing but the best for their 'children'.

“You could make it a log cabin, Jack, like your cabin,” Daniel suggested enthusiastically.

“Our cabin, Daniel,” Jack reminded.

“Sorry, I forgot,” Daniel said, blushing.

“Community property, Love.  What's mine is yours ... and the kids,” Jack said with a scoff.  “I like the log idea, though.  We can use a water sealant to keep it dryer, too.”

The lovers continued to think about what else they needed to do to provide for the beagles.

“What about the cold, Jack?” Daniel asked, concerned about the snow and cooler temperatures, primarily when they might be off-world.

Jack immediately responded, “We'll insulate it, build it off the ground a little, too.”

Jack's quick and definitive reply prompted Daniel to ask, “You've really been thinking about this, haven't you?”

“I told ya, Daniel.  I'm a dog lover from way back, and I wouldn't have brought Bijou and Katie here and let you fall in love with them, only to have to let them go because we couldn't take care of them.  You'd be proud of me.  I researched, and you know how I feel about research,” Jack said with a groan.

“You did all of this for me,” Daniel said softly.  “I'm not sure what to say.”

“You don't have to say anything.  All you have to do is do what you're doing right now.”

“What's that?” the younger man asked.

“Being alive and beautiful,” Jack answered, quickly adding, “And here, with me.”

Daniel blushed again.  He seemed to be doing that a lot lately around Jack.

“I wonder if we could convince Hammond the SGC needs a vet?” Jack pondered as he looked at the two dogs.

Daniel chuckled, “I think that might be a bit of a stretch, Jack.”

“We'll need to find a vet, though.  Jeff said Bijou's vaccinations and everything were all up to date, but it would be a good idea to have her examined just as a precaution, and Katie needs all the puppy stuff.”

“And speaking of puppy stuff,” Daniel began as he tilted his head towards Bijou indoctrinating the lawn of her new home.

“Oh, yeah, we'll need some pooper scooper equipment,” Jack noted.

“I think that should be your department, Jack,” Daniel commented.

“Sure, I'll buy it, you scoop it,” Jack replied.

Daniel laughed, “Oh, no, Love.  This is an equal partnership.  You do half the scooping or else.”

“Threats now, Dannyboy.  Or else what?”

“Or else,” Daniel laughed wickedly, “or else the kids and I are going home to Grandpa.”

Jack reached across and ruffled Danny's hair, saying, “Couldn't live without you,  not anymore.”

“Then you do half the scooping.”

“Deal,” the older man agreed.  When Daniel leaned over and kissed him tenderly, he asked, “What was that for?”

“Just sealing the deal,” Daniel answered with a gleam in his eye.

“I like the way you think, Jackson.”  After a moment, Jack remarked, “I talked to Cassie about dog-sitting for us sometimes.”

“Us?  Dog sitting?  You ... Cassie knows about our ... Bijou and Katie?”

“She knows I was seriously thinking about getting a dog.  The odds are that Janet knows about us now,” Jack spoke.

“We've never told her,” Daniel reminded.

“No, but she's not dumb, Danny.  After all these years, I'd be surprised if she didn't know,” the colonel responded.  “Anyway, I asked her how she'd feel if Cassie stayed over sometimes and dog-sat.  After all, she's a senior in high school now; hardly a little girl anymore.  Janet was fine with it, so I broached the subject with Cass at Hammond's Fourth of July barbecue,” Jack explained.

“She never said anything to me,” the younger man spoke, a bit surprised at not knowing about the secret conversation.

“I told her it was going to be a surprise.”

“Oh.  Jack?  Surprise?  Does ... does Cassie know about us now, too?” Daniel inquired anxiously.

“No, or I don't think so.  I told her I wanted to give you a dog, and why.”  Jack turned and looked away for a second before looking back at his lover.  “You know, Danny, about your never having a dog and how a dog means family and home.  She understood that.  I told her your apartment wouldn't allow pets, which they don't, so that's not a lie, and I told her that I would keep them here, but they'd be yours.”

“Do you think they'll get along with Jack?” Daniel asked.

“They already love me,” Jack smirked.  Breaking out into laughter, he answered, “Sure, they'll love him.  We'll introduce them soon.  When Cass spends the night, she can even bring Jack with her,” the colonel said, referring to the dog he'd given Cassandra shortly after her arrival on Earth.

The lovers laughed as they watched Katie chase a squirrel, who quickly ran up a tree and then teased the pup by running along the top of the fence and stopping every few feet to chatter at the little beagle.

“Are you sure they'll be okay when we're off ...  gone?”

“They have each other, and Cassie will be here a lot when we're not.  We don't stay away as much as we used to.  Besides, retirement time isn't that far off.”  Jack saw the intense glare from his lover and warned, “Don't give me that look.  We've talked about this.  I don't want to hide forever, Danny.  Every day, it gets harder to pretend.”

Daniel watched as Bijou and Katie explored their new home, sniffing by the fence, staking their claim to pieces of land, and rolling around in the freshly-mowed grass.  He thought back to his lonely birthday and couldn't help but look forward to the day they retired, especially if it meant that Jack couldn't suddenly be called away.

“This is the perfect time to get the dogs,” Jack mentioned as he watched the beagles at play.  “You're still restricted from setting foot on the base, except for checkups, and I'm only doing half days making model airplanes from Pentagon memos.”

Daniel chuckled, knowing it was most likely the truth.  He could easily envision his lover's office filled with official letterheads from any of a number of government agencies, all now in the shape of airplanes, or who knows what else.

Jack concluded, “So, we have lots of time to make sure they adapt and really know that this is home.”  He turned around so that he was sitting next to his lover, wrapping his left arm around the younger man and pulling him against him.  He kissed his Love's forehead gently and then leaned his head against his soulmate's.  “It's an ideal situation.”

“You know best,” Daniel agreed with a smile, watching as Katie began digging a hole in one of the flower beds.  He figured they should probably chastise her, but couldn't help laughing when she looked up at them her little nose covered in dirt. ~She's just a puppy, anyway.~

More seriously, Jack spoke, “Danny, I love you, and I know we agreed to keep on doing this for a while longer, at least until we find that lost city, but I'm tired of excuses, of having to explain to Cass that these are your dogs that I'm letting stay here, tired of still having to play that stupid game with Carter when those NID guys are looming or that presidential wannabe Kinsey snoops around.  I'm tired for all those reasons we've talked about before,” he sighed, frustration and sadness enveloping the light sound.  “Someday soon, we're cutting the ties and living for us, unless you've got an objection to us living happily ever after?”

“No, no objection,” Daniel quickly opined.  “It seems so far away though.  Sometimes I wonder if it's just a dream.”

Jack raised his right hand to Daniel's face, turning his lover to face him, reassuring, “No dream, Danny.  This is all real.  You, me, Bijou, and Katie -- we're one big crazy family.”

As he felt the caress of his lover's hand on his cheek, Daniel closed his eyes and sighed contently, “Forever, Jack.  We're ...”

“A family, Daniel.  Maybe we're not conventional, but I dare you to show me any two people who love each other more than we do.”

“I can't,” the contented young man answered, grinning as Katie continued to explore the flower bed.

“Me, either.  So, Doctor Jackson, you, me,” Jack paused, nodding out towards the two dogs, and added with a chuckle, “and the kids.”

“Home,” Daniel declared softly, as he placed his hands atop Jack's.  “Thank you, Jack.”

“For what, Angel?”

“For all of this,” Daniel answered, looking all around the backyard and over to the house.  “For a place that is more than four walls, where I belong; a house with a backyard.  For ... Bijou and Katie, for loving me, for making this home be like us, together always.  You've been my home for years, but now it's even more.  It's ... it's home.”

Daniel's emotions were jumbled.  He wasn't sure what he was trying to say; he only knew that he was happier than he'd ever been in his life, and the reason for that was holding him in his arms.  He took a deep breath.

“You were right, Jack, with what you said in the note on my birthday.  I have fallen in love all over again.”

“I knew you'd love them, Danny,” Jack stated happily as he looked over at the beagles.

With a little nod, the archaeologist affirmed, “I do, but that's not what I meant.”

Jack turned to look at Daniel, who returned the tender stare.  Watering blue eyes gazed lovingly into welcoming brown ones.

“I have fallen in love again, Jack, head-over-heels in love, more than I ever thought was possible, with you.”

“Danny ...”  Jack gulped from the emotions flowing through him.  His voice a bit cracked, he replied, “I love you, too.”

Within seconds, both men had watery eyes.  Jack held on tightly to his lover, kissing his nape and reveling in his scent.  Life couldn't get much better than this; and, for the first time since Charlie was born, Jack felt like he had done something important.  He'd given Daniel love, a family, and a true home, at last.

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