Homer Bites the Dust
Category: Slash, Drama, Romance, Established Relationship
Pairing: Jack/Daniel ... and it's all J/D
Season: Beyond the Series - December 2004 to January 2009
Written: September 19-21, December 21, 2004 Revised for consistency: August 11, 2007
Summary: The Jackson-O'Neills deal with a death in the family, and then Jack and Daniel get the shock of their lives.
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 fic(s), “The Twelve Days of Christmas - Day Twelve”
3) Thanks to my betas who always make my fics better: Claudia, Drdjlover, QuinGem, Linda, Sue B.!
Homer Bites the Dust
--A Fishie Comes Home - December 25, 2004
“Merry Christmas, Angel.”
Jack kissed his husband, their hands roaming each other's backs as they embraced. It had been an emotional, but wonderful day for the couple. It had begun with their lovemaking and eventually moved on to a visit to Charlie's grave. They'd returned home, opened their presents, enjoyed a short visit from Sam, and even danced a few times. Shortly, they'd be enjoying their holiday meal. Right now, though, the lovers were snuggled together in front of the fireplace, the two beagles lying peacefully on their beanbag a few feet away.
“It's been perfect ... again. I love you so much,” Daniel responded, kissing Jack once again.
“Who'd ever believe it, Danny? You, me, the girls, and the fish!” Jack exclaimed happily.
“Happy as ... clams,” Daniel chuckled.
“Happier,” Jack sighed contentedly as the lovers kissed one more time.
“Jack, I have another present for you,” the younger man revealed.
“I love presents,” Jack said, a gleam of anticipation in his eye.
“My husband, the child,” Daniel mused. “I, uh, well, I hope you like this one. It's ... different.”
“Danny, you're doing that insecure thing again. Don't you know by now that anything you give me is magic?” the older man expressed forcefully.
“Jack ... my Jack,” Daniel spoke as he ran his palm along Jack's check. “Love you.”
“Love you, too, Danny, so friggin' much. Now where's my present?”
Daniel groaned teasingly, “Sometimes, Babe, you're too romantic for words.”
The two laughed, and then Daniel stood up. Jack assumed he was going to disappear upstairs or to one of the other rooms to get the present, but he walked only a few feet away.
“Um, remember how Sam came by earlier.”
“Hard to forget. She has the worst timing in history,” Jack spoke wryly.
“Jack, it's not her fault that we ... well, that ... never mind.”
Still sitting by the fireplace, Jack laughed, “Okay, so what about Carter?”
“Remember I sent you upstairs to get that one present I'd forgotten to give her the other day?”
“Yes, and I also remember it wasn't where you told me.” Suddenly, the light dawned. “You set me up. You purposefully left that gift behind. I don't know what for, but you did!”
Daniel smiled as he confirmed, “I had to, Jack. I'm sorry, but I needed you to be distracted.”
“Okay, it worked, so what was Carter doing while I was looking for the wayward gift, that, let me congratulate you, was well hidden,” Jack stated.
“Thanks, I think,” Daniel responded. “Uh, well, she was taking care of your present for me.”
“Taking care of?”
Daniel walked back to his husband, extending his hand as he requested, “Come here.” He helped Jack up and, holding his hand, led him back to where he'd been standing a minute earlier. “Jack, I hope you like him.”
“Him,” the archaeologist said as he pointed to the fish tank.
Jack looked into the large, deluxe aquarium, immediately noticing a new three-inch yellow fish, and said, “An angelfish?”
“Actually, it's a lemon peel angelfish.”
“He's bright,” Jack observed, leaning over to get a closer look.
The fish was a bright, metallic yellow with bright blue circles around each eye. The vertical fins were lined with the same blue. He also had a black eyespot, outlined in blue, on each side of his body. These spots would fade as the fish aged.
Suddenly, Jack laughed.
“What? You don't like him?” Daniel asked vulnerably.
Jack heard the insecurity in Daniel's voice and pulled his lover close, saying, “Danny, look at him. He's Homer.”
“Homer Simpson. He's all yellow, and look at that mouth. 'D'oh'. Danny, he's saying, 'D'oh'! See him?” Jack had a big smile on his face as he watched Homer swim up and down the tank. He put his face up against the glass wall and began speaking, “D'oh, d'oh, d'oh, d'oh, d'oh, d'oh, d'oh, d'oh, d'oh, d'oh, d'oh, d'oh, d'oh, d'oh, d'oh, d'oh, d'oh, d'oh, d'oh, d'oh, d'oh.”
“Jack, what are you doing?”
“Twenty-one d'oh's!” the older man exclaimed.
Daniel shook his head, as if to wake himself up. His lover was crazy, and Daniel loved him all the more for being so child-like. As he watched Jack with Homer, he knew his gift was a success.
“Danny, is our tank big enough?”
“Yes, but we do need to get a few more hiding places for him. A few more rocks maybe, and we need to make sure there's both protein and algae for him to feed off of.”
“He won't hurt the other fish? Homer's not known for his charity, you know.”
Daniel laughed, “We shouldn't get any more angelfish, but he'll be fine with our other fish. I sent you an email with all kinds of information about the proper care of ... angelfish.”
Jack stood up straight and took Daniel into his arms, saying, “Thank you, Angel, for my angelfish. I think I'd like to take care of my special Angel right now. Any objections?” When Daniel shook his head, he declared, “I love you more than life.”
“Merry Christmas, Jack.”
--Introducing Homer - August 14, 2007
“Fishie,” Noa said, pointing at the fish.
“We have a lot of fishes, Noa,” Jack informed the little girl.
Jack and Daniel's family had unexpectedly doubled. Not only did they have their triplets, but they'd also just brought home the three Morgan children - Jennifer, David, and Chenoa - the day before.
The youngest, Chenoa, called Noa, was fascinated by the fish from the start. She was just a toddler and loved to watch the colorful fish.
“Big!” the curly-haired girl exclaimed as she pointed to the brightly colored angelfish.
“That's Homer,” Jack stated.
“Homer?” David asked. “Like Homer Simpson?”
“I knew I liked you,” Jack teased, putting his hand atop the six year old's shaggy brown hair.
As David laughed, his older sister Jennifer commented, “We always used to watch the Simpsons. Dad thought it was *the* thing on TV.”
“He was,” Jennifer said shyly, looking down and away from Jack.
The Morgans had been orphaned when their parents were killed in a car accident earlier in the year. They'd been staying at Molly O'Hanlon's shelter where Jack and Daniel volunteered. When the time came that Molly was forced to close the shelter, one thing had led to another, and the Jackson-O'Neills suddenly had three more children in their family.
“Big,” Chenoa repeated, pointing at the angelfish again.
Daniel said, “He's the biggest fish we have, and he's very stubborn.”
“He is not. He's just head of the family,” Jack rationalized.
“Oh, and that's why he scares all the little fishes?” Daniel questioned.
“He does not. He's just being the head of the family,” Jack stated authoritatively.
“Right,” Daniel said, acting as if he didn't believe a word of what Jack was saying. “Babe, you're repeating yourself.”
“Oh, well, he's not stubborn,” the older man insisted stubbornly.
“Bad?” Chenoa asked tentatively, her voice tiny.
Daniel picked up the toddler and assured, “No, Noa, I'm just teasing. I tease Jack all the time about Homer. Homer's a good fish. We love him.”
Chenoa smiled and looked down at the fish swimming around the large fish tank. She was already falling in love with the creature.
--Jack and Homer, or Frick and Frack? - April 18, 2008
“D'oh ... D'oh.”
“Dad, you're so funny,” David said with Chenoa standing by his side.
“Me?” Jack asked, turning his head to face the two children as he stood, hunched over, at the fish tank.
“You keep trying to out-'D'oh' Homer,” the boy stated.
“Not possible, huh?”
Shaking his head, David reminded, “Homer's the d'oh-master, Dad. You're the one who told me that.”
“Jack, what are you doing?” Daniel asked as he entered the living room and saw his husband making funny fish faces up against the fish tank.
“Talking to Homer.”
“You're insane, Jack.”
The retired general just smiled and remarked, “Homer's a good fish.” After a minute, Jack looked over at Daniel, who was talking with David and Chenoa. He noticed Little Danny was watching him intently. ~Or is he watching the fish? That son of mine watches everything.~
“What are you looking at, Jack?” Daniel questioned curiously.
“Little Danny. Look how focused he is on the fish.”
Daniel was holding the middle Munchkin in his lap. He tilted his head to try and get a better look at his son's face.
“Wow. Hey, you!” Hearing the greeting, Little Danny turned his head to face his father. “What are you watching? You watching your dad?”
“I think he was watching Homer,” Jack maintained.
Instantly, Little Danny turned to face Jack.
Jack gave the boy a double take and insisted, “See! He knows Homer.”
“It's your imagination, Jack.”
“Okay, if you say so.”
--Dietary Hideaways - August 2, 2008
Watching Homer swim, Chenoa began to giggle.
Hearing the unceasing laugh, came out of the kitchen and asked, “What's so funny, Noa?”
“Donut,” the little girl giggled.
“What?” Jennifer walked over to the fish tank to search for whatever her sister was laughing at. Seeing it at last, she laughed, too, saying, “I never noticed that before.”
“Noticed what, Sis?” David asked, having just entered the room with Daniel behind him.
The father and son had gone on a special outing together, taking in an exhibit in a local museum.
“This rock. It looks like a donut,” Daniel laughed, shaking his head.
“Jack made that a few years ago, especially for Homer,” Daniel announced.
“He made it?” Jennifer questioned.
“Yes, he did. He, uh, learned pottery several years ago, and every now and then, he gets creative.”
“I always wondered what Homer liked so much behind those green vines,” David commented.
With a chuckle, Daniel said, “Jack calls it Homer's Hideaway.”
“Dad's funny,” Jennifer remarked..
“Funny,” Chenoa repeated, laughing.
“Daddy, I've meant to ask this forever, but why don't any of the other fish have names?” Jennifer questioned.
“I don't know,” Daniel said, shrugging his shoulders. “I never named my fish, and Jack never did, either ... until Homer.”
“He's special, isn't he?” the teenager asked.
“Um, well, I ...”
“Yes, he is,” Jack answered, walking down the stairs, holding Aislinn in his arms. “Daniel gave him to me for Christmas one year. He's a special angelfish, just like Danny's my special Angel.”
“Gawd, Jack,” Daniel said, turning a bright red.
“Daddy red,” Chenoa observed, making Daniel blush even more.
Jennifer laughed, shaking her head as she pointed out, “You two sure are mushy.”
“Count on it,” Jack promised as he approached and kissed Jennifer on the cheek. Smiling, he added, “Someday, Jen, I hope you find someone that makes you mushy twenty-four/seven; someone who teaches you what love is all about; what it means to be a part of another life, another soul. I hope you find that just as I have,” he looked at Daniel who was smiling a very loving smile, “with my Angel.”
“You know something, Dad? I hope so, too, but it's still embarrassing,” the girl sighed.
Trying to change the tone for fear of devouring his husband in front of the children, Daniel said, “So tell us about the creation of Homer's donut rock.”
Everyone laughed and gathered round while Jack talked about his special creation for a special angelfish.
--Homer's Demise - January 4, 2009
Chenoa opened the door slightly and peeked in. She knew the rules about knocking, but right now, she didn't care. As she looked inside the master bedroom, she saw her parents asleep on their bed. Daniel was in his favorite spot, his head resting on Jack's chest, one leg hooked between Jack's. Jack had his arms around Daniel, and his chin just touched the top of Daniel's head.
As she looked at her parents, the little girl wished she had stayed in bed, but she had woken and decided to go downstairs and watch the fishes. Now, she was breaking a rule, but she felt horrible.
~Want Daddy.~ The three-year-old ran to Daniel's side of the bed and climbed up. Crawling over to the two sleeping men, she sniffled, “Da...daddeeeeee.”
~Huh?~ Jack's eyes opened immediately. He looked over and saw his crying daughter. “Daniel, wake up,” he urged, shaking Daniel a bit to rouse him.
“What? Too early J'ck.”
“Noa's here.” Jack gently loosened himself from his husband's hold, sat up, and turned on a light. “Honey, what's wrong?”
As soon as Daniel sat up, Chenoa leaped into his arms, crying.
“What about Homer?” Daniel questioned.
“No move. Homer dead.”
“Jack ...” Daniel spoke, the one word communicating all it needed to.
“I'll go check,” Jack said. He got out of bed, slipping on his plush burgundy robe and matching slippers, both gifts from Daniel, and headed downstairs. ~She's probably just imagining things.~
“Shhh, Noa,” Daniel comforted. “Everything's okay.”
“Homer dead. See,” Chenoa insisted, tugging on Daniel, trying to get him to move.
“Let's wait for Dad.”
“No,” the child sniffled, slipping out of Daniel's hold.
The archaeologist sighed, but got up and put on his plush blue robe and slippers, both gifts from Jack. When Chenoa extended her arms, her fingers wiggling, Daniel smiled and picked her up.
“Okay, let's go check on Homer.”
“Dead,” Chenoa spoke, sniffling again as she rested her head on her father's shoulder.
Walking downstairs, Daniel could hear Jack mumbling, “He's just a fish. Just a fish.”
“Homer's dead, Danny,” the general confirmed.
“You need to ... you know,” Daniel said.
“Ho...ho...merrrrrr,” Chenoa cried.
“Noa, he's in, uh, Fish Heaven now,” the younger father spoke softly.
Jack looked at Daniel wide-eyed and mouthed, “Fish Heaven?”
The younger man shrugged. This was their first major death with the children being old enough to comprehend what was happening. They'd never lost a beloved pet before, and the youngest children hadn't really understood what it meant when their birth mother had died earlier in the year. Neither Jack nor Daniel was prepared for the situation.
“What's going on?”
Daniel turned and saw not only David, but Little Danny, too, slowly making their way down the stairs.
“David, why is Little Danny up?” Jack asked.
“Why are *you* up?” Daniel asked before the boy could answer.
“I thought I heard noises,” David answered, adding, “Little Danny was with me.”
“He was?” Daniel asked.
David shrugged as he explained, “I woke up earlier and went to check on the babies, and he was awake. He said he wanted to sleep with me.”
“He did?” Jack challenged.
“Well,” David squirmed. “He smiled at me, and I knew he wanted to be with me,” the boy admitted. “I like to tell him about the mummies and stuff. He's a great listener.”
“David, in the middle of the night, Little Danny should be sleeping, not listening, and so should you,” Daniel admonished in his best parental voice, even though inside he thought it was sweet and loving, and he was actually enjoying the bond their children shared.
“Yes, Daddy. I'm sorry.”
“It's okay,” Daniel said, exchanging a look with Jack.
**What can we do, Danny? He loves being with the babies, and to be honest, I like that he does,** Jack communicated privately.
Both men knew David was extremely devoted to the babies, and he'd proven long ago that he was careful and responsible with them, so neither had any real objections to Little Danny sleeping with him from time to time.
“So what's going on?” David repeated, letting go of Little Danny's hand.
The Munchkin toddled over to the fish tank and stared at the floating angelfish. Jack watched him closely. He just had a feeling, but he didn't have a clue what the feeling meant.
“Homer dead,” Chenoa said.
“Dead? Is he, Dad?” David asked.
“I'm afraid so, Son.”
“Are you going to flush him down the toilet?” the boy inquired.
“FLUSH HOMER?” the little girl cried in despair.
“No, Sweetie,” Daniel negated reassuringly.
“What?” the archaeologist questioned.
“Homer. Fun'ral?” Chenoa asked.
Nodding, Daniel agreed, “Yes, we'll have a funeral for Homer.”
There was a warning in that word, and the older man knew it.
“Hey, we could turn him into a mummy!” David suggested enthusiastically.
“I think a traditional funeral might be better for Homer,” Daniel said quickly.
There was no way he was going to try and mummify a fish, but he chuckled inwardly that David would come up with the idea.
It was only 5 a.m. so Jack and Daniel convinced David to go back to bed. They returned Little Danny to his crib and watched as he settled to sleep.
“Daddy?” Chenoa called out, still sniffling.
“You want to sleep with us?” Daniel asked. When Chenoa nodded, he smiled and said, “Okay, Sweetie.”
Daniel turned and said, “Jack, why don't you ... you know, while I get Noa settled in our bed.”
“Be back in a few minutes.”
Jack went downstairs to retrieve Homer from the fish tank, placing him in a container with some water for safekeeping.
Later in the morning, the rest of the family had been informed of Homer's passing.
“Fishie dead?” Jonny asked.
“Yep. Down the toilet with ...” Jack began.
“Nooooooooo,” Chenoa said.
Jack hadn't seen her walk in the living room, Daniel on her heels.
“Jack, so help me.”
“Daniel, it's a *fish* for crying out loud.”
“No flushie Homer,” Chenoa begged her older father, tugging on his pants.
Jack melted and picked her up. He settled her onto his lap as he sat on the sofa.
“No, of course not,” Jack assured. “I'm just ... I'm sorry, Honey. We won't do that to Homer.”
“Fun'ral,” the toddler demanded.
“Right,” Daniel said forcefully. “We're having a funeral. Jack, you need to find a place outside where we can bury Homer, and make sure it's not anywhere near Katie's play yard.”
**Danny, this is ridiculous. We're talking about a fish here.**
**Noa wants a funeral.**
**Find a place to bury the fish.**
“We need a headstone, too,” David said.
“A ...” Jack began to object.
Daniel's eyes spoke volumes. Jack needed to get with the program and fast.
“Okay, okay. David, wanna help me pick out a spot?” the general asked.
Chenoa scooted off Jack's lap and sat by herself on the sofa. Jack gave her a smile as he led David outside.
“What, Sweetie?” Daniel asked Chenoa.
“Homer needs box.” Daniel stared at her, not sure what she was trying to say. “Sleep box, like Kayla.”
Daniel sighed, remembering the special young woman who had given birth to the Munchkins and the twins. He was a little surprised Chenoa seemed to recall the memorial for the young woman.
“You're right, Noa. It's called a coffin, and we'll make one, okay?” Checking that the Munchkins were safe in ToddlerTown, Daniel picked up the little girl and walked upstairs where Jennifer was with the babies. “Jen, are you doing okay?”
“Yeah, Daddy. They're both behaving.”
“Noa and I are making a coffin for Homer so we'll be in the garage if you need us, and Jack and David are outside finding a ... plot. The Munchkins are in ToddlerTown in the living room.”
“Okay,” the teenager acknowledged. She watched them walk away, then called out, “Daddy?”
“Yes?” Daniel responded as he turned to face her.
“Um, well, Dad is Air Force.”
“Shouldn't Homer get a military funeral?” Jennifer asked.
“Military?” Daniel questioned, not having expected this from the teenager.
“A little flag for the coffin would be appropriate, don't you think?”
“Flag! Daddy, Homer need flag,” the toddler agreed enthusiastically.
Daniel nodded and said, “Okay, we'll find a flag.”
~Jack is going to flip over that one.~ Daniel hid a grin, thinking, ~And he'll do it, too. Anything for our children.~
Chenoa touched the red velvet material Daniel had used to line the small box he had found for Homer. She wanted to help, so Daniel had her squeeze out the glue that would bind the velvet to the wooden container.
“How's that?” the young father asked.
“He lived a good life, Noa.”
“Why die?” Chenoa questioned, looking up at Daniel with trust and innocence.
“Old age, that's all. Angelfishes only live a few years, so it was his time,” Daniel answered.
Daniel put his hand on the side of his daughter's head and brushed back her curly blonde hair as he responded, “No, Sweetie, it didn't hurt. He just ... went to sleep.”
“Where Homer's flag?”
“I think Dad has one in his study. Don't worry, Homer will have a flag. I promise.”
“Dad wear blues?” Chenoa asked.
Daniel smiled. He couldn't help it. Just the mere mention of Jack in his blue uniform made him wild with desire.
“Uh, I don't think ...”
“No blues?” Chenoa sniffled. “Homer 'portant.”
“Okay, we'll all dress up,” Daniel promised with a smile.
“Blue suit,” Chenoa insisted, tapping on Daniel's chest.
“Blue suit,” Daniel repeated, taking his daughter into his arms. “I love you, Noa. Love you so much.”
“Would you like to come upstairs with me and check on the twins?” Daniel asked.
The little girl nodded, so while still holding her, Daniel headed upstairs.
~I can't believe I'm doing this.~
Using a woodburning kit, Jack found a piece of wood and shaped it into a headstone, engraving on it, “R.I.P. Homer Angelfish.”
The general had seen the coffin Daniel and Chenoa had made so he knew there were high expectations for this headstone.
“How's it coming?” Daniel asked, entering the garage.
“Daniel, this is ridiculous. Homer was a fish!” Seeing his lover's determined look, Jack added, “But I'm doing it. It's almost done.”
“The funeral is in two hours, after the babies eat.”
“Swell,” Jack expressed, rolling his eyes.
“Uh, and Noa wants you to wear your blue uniform,” Daniel informed.
“What?” Jack whined.
“This is a big deal to her, Jack. She knows you wear your blue uniform to anything really important. I have to wear my blue suit. Fortunately, I have a few of those,” the younger man stated.
“I am not getting into my dress blues for a fish.”
“Babe, it's your fault. You're the one who has always made a big deal out of Homer. I never ever named a fish.”
Jack stood, walked to Daniel, taking him into his arms, and spoke, “But, Danny, Homer wasn't just any fish. He was my angelfish, given to me by my Angel. How could you ever think I'd just treat him like any old fish?”
“Jack, if you feel like that, why are you arguing so much?”
“Because he's dead, and I ...” Jack released Daniel and returned to his work. “I need to get this done.”
“Gawd. You really loved that fish. You ... miss him. Jack, you're grieving for Homer.”
“You gave him to me,” Jack whispered.
“Gawd,” Daniel walked over to his lover, grabbing his arm and spinning him around to face him. “Jack, he's just a fish.”
“No, he's not, and I miss him, Danny.”
“We can get another fish.”
“There's only one Homer, but we probably should, for the Munchkins. They're too young to notice a difference. They won't even know what's going on out there today, and Noa would probably like it, too. It could be her fish,” the older man suggested.
“Jack, I love you.”
“I love you, too.”
After sharing a kiss with his Love, Daniel commented, “Jack, I've never seen a headstone in the shape of a donut before.”
“Homer loved donuts.”
Daniel couldn't help but smile; then, hesitantly, he said, “One more thing. We need one of those little flags.”
“Flags? For the coffin?”
“Jen's idea, and Noa has her heart set on it.”
Jack rolled his eyes, then he sighed, “Danny, tell me the truth. Was Homer really just another fish to you?”
Daniel shook his head and answered truthfully, “Jack, my life now ... I have so much, but for a long time, all I had were my fish.”
“I know that.”
Daniel kissed Jack's cheek and then snuggled close, Jack's arms pulling him in as tight as possible.
“They've never been just fish to me,” Daniel stated. “I used to talk a lot to my fish, in college or ... just wherever I could manage to have a fish tank. They were, uh ... I mean ...”
“Like you said, they were all you had. They were your friends, your family.”
Daniel nodded and pulled back a bit, stating, “Jack, it's not like I get depressed when they die. I mean, fish die all the time, and, the truth is, I guess I've always protected myself a little because I ... I never let myself get really close to them; but at the same time, I never take them for granted. I never treat them with disrespect, and I'll always love my fish for being there when no one else was.”
“I love you.”
“I know, and I'm so thankful for that. I love you so much, Jack.”
The Jackson-O'Neills were assembled in the backyard. Bijou and Katie were sitting in their doghouse, watching the strange action. Jack was indeed in his blue uniform, and Daniel had his best blue suit on. Jennifer was dressed in a black lace top and skirt. David had his suit on, and Chenoa was wearing her best navy blue dress.
The Munchkins were dressed in their finest, as were the twins. Both Aislinn and Jenny had little ribbons in their hair.
**You know something, Jack.**
**I wish Kayla was here to take a picture. They all look so beautiful,** Daniel opined.
Chenoa placed Homer's coffin into the ground where Jack had previously dug a hole. Jennifer draped the flag over the coffin, and David placed a photograph of Homer with his vital statistics in front of the box.
Chenoa sniffled as she watched. Daniel held her hand as they stood next to the other family members. Then, it was time for the eulogy.
“Here lays Homer Angelfish,” Jack said seriously. “He was a jolly good fish.”
“Woof!” both Bijou and Katie interrupted, heading for the gate.
“General,” Jack called out, seeing it was General Hammond.
Jack opened the gate and let in their friend. At first, Hammond was concerned. Seeing the family dressed up, but looking so solemn, he was afraid some tragedy had befallen them. Either that, or he'd forgotten about something important.
“Did I miss a memo?” Hammond asked, stealing one of Jack's old lines.
“No, Sir, we're, uh ...”
“Grandpa,” Chenoa cried, running up to the General, who immediately picked her up. “Homer dead.”
Hammond looked at Jack, who mouthed, “Fish.”
“Oh,” Hammond said out loud. “I'm sorry, Noa, but I'm sure he's in Fish Heaven now.”
Daniel smiled. He couldn't help it. George Hammond was definitely the best grandfather on the planet.
“Fun'ral. Grandpa stay?” Chenoa asked with bright, hopeful eyes.
“I'd be honored to, Noa.”
With Hammond holding the toddler, Jack's eulogy continued with, “As I was saying, Homer was a good fish. He could 'd'oh' like no other fish. He loved donuts ... and algae, but definitely loved donuts the best. Glazed, chocolate, old fashioned: there wasn't a donut that old fish didn't like.”
Daniel's eyes widened as he stared at his lover in disbelief and stated mentally, **Jack, tell me you didn't really feed him donuts.**
**Okay, I won't tell you.**
**Danny, I'm busy here.**
“Homer had a fun life,” Jack stated. “He swam and he swam and he swam all over this land.”
Jennifer looked at Daniel, who shook his head in a 'don't say it' demeanor.
“Now that he's gone to Fish Heaven, he'll keep on swimming; maybe meet Flipper and Moby Dick.”
**Jack, get on with it.**
“Swim on, Homer,” Jack concluded.
David carefully folded the flag just how Jack had taught him, and, doing his best military walk, slowly went to Hammond, who was still holding Chenoa. He extended his hands with the flag. The little girl wasn't sure what to do.
“Noa, take the flag. It's yours forever to remember Homer with,” Hammond explained.
Chenoa took the flag and held on carefully, though she said, “No need flag. Love Homer. 'Member forever.”
“It's just a symbol, but you're right. Homer lives on in your heart and always will,” Hammond agreed.
**Daniel, let's adopt Hammond officially.**
Daniel laughed softly, trying to cover it up as he responded, **I'll let you tell him.**
After burying Homer, the family went inside to visit, but first, the three-star general took Chenoa upstairs to put her flag safely away. Jack and Daniel smiled as they watched. They just loved Hammond's grandfatherly role with their children.
When he returned, Jack asked, “General, was there something you needed?”
“No, Jack. To tell you the truth, I just felt like seeing my grandkids.”
“Love Grandpa,” Chenoa said, seated in Hammond's lap, throwing her arms around his neck.
Chenoa gave the man a kiss on the cheek that made her surrogate grandfather smile bigger than Jack and Daniel had ever seen him smile before.
“And I love you,” Hammond expressed.
“Long day,” Jack said as they put the Munchkins to bed.
“Very,” Daniel replied, yawning as he tucked the blanket over Aislinn. “Love you, Ash, to the moon and back, and beyond.”
The little Munchkin smiled and closed her eyes just as Daniel leaned over for a goodnight kiss.
“Night Son,” Jack said to Jonny, placing a kiss on his forehead.
“Homer h'ven?” Jonny asked.
It was a silent communication that said a thousand things, the biggest being not to mess around, but it wasn't needed.
“Yes, Jonny. Homer is in Fish Heaven now,” Jack assured.
“What is Fish Heaven?” Jack said aloud, trying to think of an answer. “Uh, well, it's ... it's a ...” Jack looked at Daniel for a moment, gazing into his eyes, then back to the oldest of the triplets. “It's a magical place, Jonny. In Fish Heaven, there are no tanks, no boundaries, and no walls. Fish swim wherever they want to, all the time. They have a great time.”
“Yes, it is. Now you go to sleep. Love you forever,” Jack spoke, giving the toddler a big smile.
Then Jack looked at Little Danny. The middle Munchkin wasn't really doing anything special, just lying in his place watching, but it was how he was watching.
~I've got that feeling again. Wish I knew what it meant.~ The couple finished their goodnights, made sure the monitors were on, turned off the lights, and headed into the hallway. “Danny, Little Danny sure does watch everything.”
“There's a lot to see in the world,” the younger man replied.
“Right now, I just want to see you,” Jack said, scooping Daniel into his arms. “Love you, Danny, forever and always.”
“Forever and always,” Daniel echoed, and then the two went downstairs to relax for a little while.
--Not Homer - January 8, 2009
A few days later, convinced the five youngest children would never remember that Homer had actually died, Jack purchased a new lemon peel angelfish.
~You can be Homer II, but one thing, and this is important,~ Jack silently told the new fish. ~You may share his name, but you can't ever really replace Homer.~
The new angelfish looked as much like Homer as possible. He also thought a new fish might cheer up Chenoa, who was taking Homer's death the hardest of all the children.
At the moment, Jack was in the living room, keeping watch over Little Danny, while Daniel was upstairs, helping David with some homework. The twins were asleep, and Jennifer was outside with Jonny and Aislinn, playing with the beagles.
Little Danny ambled over to the fish tank. He put both hands carefully on the glass and stared at the new angelfish.
Jack had that feeling yet again. Little Danny was such an observer, always watching people and things, but lately, there was something else. Jack just couldn't get a handle on it, but it was almost unnerving.
Sitting in his favorite chair, Jack watched Little Danny wobble around the room some more, examining various objects. He noticed that the toddler was grasping the objects he picked up very well; using his thumb, something that was advanced for a child his age, at least according to all the reading the couple had done about milestones in the life of a baby.
Little Danny returned to the fish tank and stared some more. In fact, he stared for two minutes without moving. This was something else that had always amazed Jack. The toddler had a longer attention span than was normal. Again, Little Danny reached up and put his hands on the tank. The new angelfish swam by.
“Fish name?” the toddler asked, looking at Jack.
“That's Homer, Son.”
Little Danny looked again at the fish, shaking his head as he refuted, “Not Homer. Look dif'rent. Spots not same. Homer dead. Had fun'ral.”
Jack stood up in total shock. None of the Munchkins had put together eleven words in a row like that. Aislinn had come the closest, using six or seven words in a sentence a couple of times, but otherwise, the triplets were still on just one or two word phrases. Even Chenoa was just starting to get a real grasp on small sentences. He stared at his son, wanting to speak, but frozen and unable to.
Once again, Little Danny questioned, “What new fish name?”
Finally, Jack regained his speech and answered, “That's Homer, Danny.”
The toddler looked at the fish again. Like before, he shook his head vehemently.
“Not Homer; not same. New Homer. Want old Homer.” The toddler sighed, “Homer Fish Heaven. Swim?”
“Uh, yes.” Jack gulped and turned towards the stairs, shouting, “DANIEL!”
Daniel came flying down the stairs, afraid something had happened to the children. He had told David to continue his homework assignment.
“*My* son?” Daniel questioned.
“Oh, yeah, definitely your son,” the older man affirmed.
“Jack, what are you talking about?”
Suddenly, Jack smiled, a big, bright, brilliant, proud smile. He walked over to Little Danny and knelt down.
“That's not Homer?” Jack asked.
Little Danny shook his head dramatically and said, “Old Homer dead; new Homer there.”
“How do you know?” Jack inquired.
Pointing to the fish tank, the middle Munchkin answered, “Spots dif'rent; not swim same. Had fun'ral.”
“Oh, gawd,” Daniel expressed, flabbergasted, having made the same realization as his husband.
“You're right, Danny. That's a new fish,” Jack confirmed.
“New fish pretty; not Homer.”
“Oh, gawd,” Daniel repeated, sinking down into the nearest chair.
Just then the phone rang. The lovers didn't move for a minute, but finally Daniel picked up the phone.
Little Danny watched his father closely as he talked over the phone, “Hello ... Yazid, is that you?”
Little Danny turned his gaze from Daniel to the new fish and said, “Marhaba.”
Hearing the word, Daniel literally dropped the phone, the receiver bouncing a couple of times on the carpet.
The linguist stared at his namesake and exclaimed, “Oh, gawd!” once again.
Jack sat down on the floor, shifting from his previous kneeling position, staring at his young son.
Jack slowly turned his head towards Daniel, and the two exchanged a look of surprise and confusion.
“Danny, marhaba means ...”
“Hello ... in ...”
“Arabic,” they both said at the same time.
“Daniel, the phone,” Jack reminded.
“Oh.” Daniel picked up the phone and hung it up. Hearing his husband's laughter, he lamented, “Oh, gawd. I'm sorry.”
“They'll call back if it's important.”
“I think it was Yazid, but it was a bad connection anyway,” Daniel responded.
Hearing the name Yazid, Little Danny said again, “Marhaba.”
Jack let out a small laugh, then opened his arms, and Little Danny jumped in.
“Marhaba, my little genius,” the older father laughed, placing a kiss on his son's forehead. It was obvious to him that their little observer had connected the name Yazid with the greeting of marhaba. “Amazing.”
“Jack, we don't know that. I mean ... I don't know what I mean.”
Daniel got up and moved to sit on the floor next to Jack. He looked at their son and smiled.
“Hey, there,” Daniel spoke.
“Daaaaddy,” the toddler said with a smile of his own. “Marhaba.”
“Marhaba. I love you.”
“Love Daddy,” Little Danny replied.
“What about me? I love you, too,” Jack stated with a smile.
“Daniel, we need to talk to Syl; find out what we need to do. This little guy is ... ”
“Jack,” Daniel interrupted. **We can't use labels. No labels. Gawd, please no labels, at least not in front of him.** He reached out, and Little Danny took his hand. They had a mock finger fight. “We love him.”
“That's a given. Love you, Little Danny,” Jack said, placing another kiss on the toddler's head.
“Love Dad. Love Daddy.”
**Daniel, that isn't normal, anymore than how he talked about the new Homer. He recognized the fish as new, and he remembered the funeral.**
**I know, but let's not jump to conclusions, either.** “Love's all we need,” Daniel said.
“You're right. Hey, Little Danny. How about we go outside and see what your brothers and sisters are doing?” Jack suggested.
“Play with Jonny.”
“Sounds like a plan.”
The couple stood, Jack holding their son. He and Daniel smiled. They really weren't over the shock of their son's sudden vocabulary spurt. He had been so quiet for the first year of his life, and now, out of the blue, he was talking way ahead of the game. Maybe it was a fluke, or maybe they had a child genius on their hands. It didn't matter, because in the end, love was always the center of the Jackson-O'Neill home.
“I miss you, Homer, but I'll never forget you.”
Jack knelt down by Homer Angelfish's grave. His hand traced the donut headstone that he had created. He felt the presence of his husband behind him, so wasn't surprised to hear Daniel's voice a moment later.
“Jack, it's 3 a.m. What are you doing out here? It's cold.”
“Talking to Homer. I ... miss him. Little Danny's right; that new guy doesn't look anything like Homer Simpson. The real Homer did though. He looked just like him.”
“Come back to bed, Jack,” Daniel requested softly.
“I had to bring him this,” Jack said as he held up the donut rock he had made for the fish tank. He had retrieved it from the tank before coming outside. “I thought it would be a nice landmark, along with the headstone. We can get a new rock for the tank.” He looked up at Daniel. “Okay, Danny?”
~Old Softie.~ Daniel nodded, whispering, “Okay.”
Jack placed the rock atop Homer's grave, perpendicular to the headstone, and said emotionally, “Goodbye, Homer. You really were a jolly good fish.”
Hand in hand, Jack and Daniel went inside and returned to their master bedroom. Jack figured he'd probably always have an angelfish in the family from now on, but he wouldn't name another one.
~There was only one Homer, just like there's only one Angel, my Angel, my Danny.~
A little while later, back in the warmth of their bed, the older man rested his head on Daniel's chest. It wasn't their normal position, but tonight, Jack wanted to be held, and he was, by very loving, strong arms that were wrapped all around him.
“Do you think there really is a fish heaven, Danny?” Jack asked.
Daniel didn't hesitate. Years earlier he might have, but not now. Now, because of Jack, he knew the answer.
“I think Homer's up there somewhere with Charlie, my parents, Kayla, and the Mouseketeers' parents. I think he's happy and at peace. He can see he was loved, had a good life here with us, and will always be remembered for the special fish that he was.”
“Love you, Danny.”
“Love you, too, my precious Silver Fox, so very, very much.”
In the comfort of his soulmate's arms, Jack closed his eyes at last, knowing that Homer was a part of their family, and not even death could change that.
~See you in the afterlife, Homer.~
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