Hoops

Author: Orrymain
Category:  Slash, Humor, Romance, Established Relationship
Pairing:  Jack/Daniel ... and it's all J/D
Rating:  PG-13
Season:  Beyond the Series - March 15, 2009
Spoilers:  Sacrifices (minor)
Size:  39kb, short story
Written:  November 25, December 2-4,14, 2004  Revised:  August 13, 2007
Summary:  The gang takes time out to shoot some hoops at the Ferretti's.
Disclaimer:  Usual disclaimers -- not mine, wish they were, especially Daniel, and Jack, too, but they aren't.  A gal can dream though!
Notes:  
1) This fic was spawned from an idea by Linda.  Thanks to her and her son for the background and ideas!
2) Sometimes, Jack and Daniel speak almost telepathically.  Their “silent” words to each other are indicated by asterisks instead of quotes, such as **Jack, we can't.**
3) Silent, unspoken thoughts by various characters are indicated with ~ in front and behind them, such as ~Where am I?~
4) Thanks to my betas who always make my fics better:  Claudia, QuinGem, Drdjlover, Kat, Linda, Carol!

Hoops
by Orrymain

“Teal'c, don't be late,” Jack called out as he headed for the exit.

“O'Neill, I do not understand why we are shooting a horse,” the Jaffa stated as he stood, his hands clasped together behind his back as the muscles in his upper arms flexed briefly and visibly, thanks to the sleeveless black uniform shirt he was wearing at the moment.

Jack stopped his forward movement and turned to stare at his friend.  Sam snickered, then looked away when Jack glared at her.

“T, we're shooting hoops, not a horse.”

“Did DanielJackson not say we would be playing with a horse?”

“Not exactly.  It's ... Carter, you explain it to him.  I'll see you two at Ferretti's in two hours,” Jack said, leaving his teammates behind.

Lou and Carolyn Ferretti were hosting a late afternoon lawn party which several SGC personnel were planning on attending.  It was an adults-only get-together, so all of the Jackson-O'Neill children, along with the Ferretti's foster daughter, Trina, would be at Sara and Mark Wilson's home during the party.

Sam saw Teal'c's expectant stare and stated, “It's a game, Teal'c.”

“A horse is a four-legged animal, Samantha, an equine ...”

“Teal'c, 'Horse' is also a basketball game.  There are actually several ways to play it and decide who wins, but today we're playing by the general's rules.  Players stand at various distances from the basket and shoot the ball.  If you make it, everyone else has to make the same shot, or if they miss, they get a letter.” the blonde explained.

“A letter from whom?”

“No, Teal'c, not that kind of letter, but a letter of the alphabet,” Sam said as she walked forward, her hands in front of her trim body, one atop the other.  She saw Teal'c's blank stare and sighed, ~Who knew it would be this complicated to explain how to play a simple game like 'Horse'?~  Giving her friend a brief smile, she said, “Let me try this again.  The idea of the game is not to be the horse, so you want to make the baskets.  Every time you miss, you get a letter, like the 'H' in horse.  Miss again, you get the 'O', and the game goes on.”

“I see.  Strange Tau'ri game.”

“But amazingly fun.  Anyway, if everyone makes the basket, you move on, shooting from another spot, and the process repeats, with everyone having to make that same basket, but if you miss, you get a letter, and the next person gets to pick the spot, and we go around again.”

“So we are not shooting a horse?” Teal'c clarified.

“That's correct,” Sam affirmed.  Waving one hand in front of her, she added enthusiastically, “You'll like it, Teal'c; trust me.”

The Jaffa stared for a moment, then cocked his head slightly and responded, “Indeed.”

====

“Okay, warm-up time,” Jack called out.

Hearing Sam chuckle, Daniel jogged over to her and quietly asked, “What's so funny?”

“Your husband, Daniel.  I've never seen anyone so excited about playing a game of 'Horse',” Sam answered.

Daniel nodded and confided, “He wants to beat Teal'c.”

Sam laughed a little louder, causing Jack to look over at her, obviously eager to know what had made her laugh.

“Shhh, Sam, not so loud,” the archaeologist advised.

“I can't help it.”

“Have you heard about their Ping Pong games?” Daniel questioned.

“Have I ever!” Sam laughed again, shaking her head.  Ignoring Jack's glare and apparent sense of being talked about, she added, “The general hasn't ever scored a point, has he?”

“One, and that was cheating,” Daniel spoke quietly.

“I did *not* cheat,” Jack interrupted as he walked over, giving Daniel a stare for causing his ears to burn.  “It's not my fault Teal'c walked away just as I was making my serve.”

“The game was over, O'Neill.  We had business to attend to.”

Jack considered refuting his friend's statement, but he saw the intensity of Teal'c's look and decided to let it go.

“Yeah, well, let's see how you do at basketball.  Okay, who's up first?” Jack asked, rubbing his hands together.

Daniel smiled, trying not to react.  Jack was wearing a white shirt that had very short sleeves, allowing most of his upper arm muscles to show.  While not as dynamic as the Jaffa, to the archaeologist, his lover was one sexy and strong man.  He also liked that the four buttons at the top the shirt were unbuttoned, showing just a hint of the silver-gray chest hairs that he loved to play with so much.  Of course, now was not the time to get wound up by such bodily features, so Daniel took a deep breath and put his mind on the sporting event about to take place.

“I think we should go by age and gender, youngest first,” Janet said, knowing that she was the youngest female of the assembled players.

“I say we go by rank,” Jack argued, well aware that he held the highest rank of the officers participating in the game.

“We can't do that, Jack.  Some of us aren't military,” Daniel reminded.

“Which is why we should go alphabetically, by last names,” Sam suggested, her last name being first on the scale.

“I say we go by ownership,” Lou put forth before blowing and popping a piece of gum.  He saw the questioning stares and stated, “I own the court.  I own the hoop.  I own the ball.  More importantly, I own the snacks,” he added, smiling and nodding over towards the lawn where his wife Carolyn was spreading out a bunch of snack foods for the troops.

“Or, we could go by the cutest,” Daniel said shyly.

“So not fair, Daniel,” Jack said.

“Yeah, not fair,” Sam agreed, jabbing her cute friend in the arm.

The archaeologist smiled brightly and said, “Well, I considered saying we go by the smartest.”

“Hey!” Sam objected, jabbing Daniel again.

“Carter, hands off my husband, or I might be forced to defend his honor.”

“Oh, yeah, right,” the blonde spoke, letting out a snort as she looked off to the side, shaking her head.

Jack walked over towards Sam and said aggressively, “Is that a challenge, Carter?”

Sam sneered, “Like you could beat me, Sir.”

“Keep touching my husband, and you might just find out,” Jack threatened, giving Sam the most severe intimidation stare he could muster.

The woman stood motionless, almost afraid to move.

“Gawd, he's kidding, Sam,” Daniel said, exasperated.

“Right.  I'm ... kidding ... Samantha,” Jack said, smiling, though there was something about the look that made Sam wary.

Recouping from the short-term 'scare', Sam jested, “Dems fightin' words, General.”

“I think your name is lovely ... Samantha,” Teal'c said, tilting his head towards Jack in what Jack interpreted as some kind of warning.

“Hey, are we going to play, or is everyone going to fight over Daniel?” Janet asked, dribbling the ball a few feet.  Then she stopped, “Of course, if we are going to fight over Daniel, I want a number.  Remember, he was mine for years in the infirmary, and the beauty of it is, he still is.”

“Okay, Doc, take a number,” Jack said.

“Can I fight over the Doc, too?” Lou asked.  “Of course, Carolyn might not like it, but I don't want to be an outsider.”

“Oh, gawd,” Daniel expressed from embarrassment, moving away from the crazy people.

“Daniel?” Jack called out, approaching him nonchalantly.  He wrapped his arm around the younger man's shoulder and said, “You do realize you started this?”

“I did not.”

“Yes, you did.”

“Did not,” the archaeologist denied.  ~I can utilize selective memory just as good as anyone else can.~

“You did, indeed, DanielJackson.  You implied you were the cutest, and O'Neill felt inclined to defend your honor.”

“My honor?  Let's not go that far, Teal'c.”

“That's what happened, Daniel,” Sam concurred.

“Okay, okay, I give up, but if we don't start this little game soon, it'll be time for dinner,” Daniel spoke, trying to shift the focus of the conversation away from himself.

“Good point!” Sam said.  “So, who goes first?”

Before Jack could start another round of craziness, Teal'c, looking his most intimidating, said, “It is my opinion that we should start with the strongest.”

Jack coughed as he agreed, “Okay, the Big Guy goes first.”  Seeing Teal'c walking out into the street, he queried, “Hey, where are you going?”

“To my first position,” Teal'c answered, motioning for Janet to toss him the basketball, which she did.

“Uh, Teal'c, you should really stay on the driveway,” Jack said.

“Are you afraid you cannot make the basket from here, O'Neill?”

“A...fraid,” a surprised Jack questioned.  “No, of course not.”

While Daniel rolled his eyes at his lover's overconfidence, Lou whispered, “He'll never make it, Jack.”

“Doesn't have a prayer; he's never even play...ed before,” Jack stuttered as the ball sailed through the hoop without even touching the rim.

“I wish I'd had a bet on that,” Lou said.

“Okay, so much for 'Horse',” Jack proclaimed.

“You have not yet taken your turn, O'Neill.”

“Teal'c, don't get me wrong, but no one else here is going to make that shot.”

“Maybe we should have called the game, 'Goa'uld',” Janet teased.

“Let's just play a real game,” Sam suggested.

“Three-man teams,” Jack said.

“Three-*person* teams,” both Sam and Janet corrected simultaneously.

“Sounds like a plan.  I'll take Sam and the Doc on my team,” Lou said.

“Which one?” Jack, Daniel, and Janet all asked at the same time, causing a massive round of laughter.

“Daniel,” Lou clarified.

“That leaves me with the Big Guy and ... the Doc,” Jack said with a smile as he looked at Janet.

“We need a ref, Jack,” Lou commented, quickly adding, “a *fair* ref.”

“Who do you suggest?” the general questioned curiously.

“Carolyn's fair,” Lou stated with a hidden smile.

“Right,” Jack responded shyly.  “How about the Munchkins?”

“Jack!” Daniel chastised.

“Oh, yeah; they'd be divided,” Jack stated.

Daniel shook his head at his crazy husband, reminding, “Not to mention that they aren't even here.”

“I could go get them,” Jack volunteered, a huge smile on his face.

“Right,” Daniel sighed, privately amused by his husband's lunacy.  After a moment, he spoke up, “I have the solution.  Be right back.”

Daniel headed for the Ferretti's backyard where other SGC colleagues were gathered.  He returned a minute later with General Hammond in tow.

“Pure genius,” Jack opined when he saw the lieutenant general.

Finally, it was game time.  By a flip of a coin, the tip off was between Daniel and Janet.

“This is so not fair, General Hammond.  I left my high heels at home,” the petite physician whined.

“It could be worse, Doc,” Jack said.

“How's that?”

“You could be tipping off against Teal'c,” the silver-haired man teased.

“Good point,” Janet chuckled.

As was expected, Daniel won the contest, putting the ball into play as the game began.

====

“I'm open,” Jack shouted, and a moment later, Janet passed the ball.  “And he scoooooressssssouchihauhau ... oh, for crying out loud!”

“Jack, are you okay?” Daniel called out as he ran to his husband.

“I'm just peachy,” the older man whined, shaking his hand.

“What do you mean, is he okay?  Look what he did to the net!” Lou exclaimed.  Seeing Jack's incredulous look, he grinned and said, “Just kidding, Jack.”

“Sure you are.”

Jack had attempted a slam-dunk into the net, but, somehow, as he released the basketball, his hand got caught in the net.

“At least you scored, Sir,” Sam comforted.

“Carter, I'm thinking Elmendorf is in need of a new lieutenant colonel,” Jack replied.

“Uh, I'm a full colonel, Sir.”

“*Now*,” Jack smirked evilly.

“Yes, Sir,” Sam said, backing off, having no desire to move to Alaska or be demoted in rank.

“It doesn't feel like you've broken anything,” Janet remarked after she finished her on-the-spot examination.

“He better not have, at least nothing ... important,” Daniel smirked, blushing as he did so.

“Danny, it was my hand!” Jack pointed out.

“Yeah, but you landed on your ... uh ... well, never mind.”

As laughter filled the air, the archaeologist helped his general up, after which they kissed.

“You can give me a physical later,” Jack advised.

“Count on it,” Daniel said softly.

“Keep your minds on the game, guys,” Lou chided the lovers.

Minutes later, the net was repaired, and the game resumed.

====

“Teal'c, score three,” Jack shouted out as he passed the basketball to the Jaffa who stood in the clear at the edge of the driveway.

As the ball sailed through the air, Jack was confident of getting these much needed points.  Incredible as it sounded, his team was down by eight points.  He had positioned himself to play defense against his lover when Sam leaped into the air and managed to get her hand on the basketball, tapping it over to Lou, who easily scored another basket.

“Okay, where are the puppet strings?” Jack said, looking all around Sam.

The athletic female smiled and suggestively answered, “Where you'll never find them, General.”

“Let's play,” Hammond admonished the griping man, tossing him the ball to continue the action.

The six players mixed it up around the court.  Sam initiated a cross-court pass to Lou which Jack intercepted.  He dribbled towards the basket, Daniel guarding him, trying to get the ball.  Jack tossed it to Teal'c, who then tried to get to the edge of the driveway for another three-point shot.  Unfortunately for the alien, Sam was now in his way.  He passed the ball back to Jack, who turned, ignoring the fact that Daniel was planted firmly in his spot, and took two steps, knocking his lover to the ground.

After cheering for his successful basket, Jack extended his hand to his husband and said cockily, “Sorry, Love.”

“Sorry my ...” Daniel looked around, “mikta.”

“That's a foul,” Hammond called out.  “Two shots, Daniel,” he directed.

“Foul?  I didn't foul him,” the lesser ranking general whined.

“Yes, you did,” Daniel insisted.

“I did not.”

“Did, too.”

“I *so* did not,” Jack denied with force.

“Jack, I was standing still, and you ran right into me,” Daniel maintained with even more force.

Jack growled as he turned and walked to his position.

“Grumpy,” the younger man mumbled.

“What was that?” Jack called out, turning and walking back a step towards his lover.

“You heard me ... sourpuss.”

“I'll get you for that.”

“I'm counting on it, Babe,” Daniel teased, batting his eyelashes purposefully.

“I can't wait,” Jack said, mocking a loss of control and closing the gap between them.  He quickly scooped Daniel into his arms and kissed him soundly.  “Sorry, just had to do that.”

“Don't be sorry; do it again.”

Jack smiled and honored his husband's request.

“Are we playing basketball or ... footsies,” Lou asked his friends.

The couple laughed, and the game resumed with Daniel landing one of his two free shots.

====

The major general was one-on-one with Sam, feverishly trying to steal the ball away.  She tried to go around him, but his arms seemed to be everywhere.  At last, Jack was able to tap the ball from her, but the round object escaped his grasp when it dribbled off his shoe.  It rolled down the driveway, its momentum carrying it across the street.

“Oh, crap,” Lou sighed unhappily within earshot of Janet as he watched one of his neighbors pick up the wayward basketball.

“What's wrong?” the physician inquired.

“That's Mick Eglund, one Grade-A jerk, Doc.  He's been watching us, and I don't need to be close to him to know what he's saying.  Come on.”

Daniel had been the one to cross the street to reclaim the basketball.  Jack, Sam, and Teal'c were at the edge of the driveway, watching and waiting, while General Hammond took the opportunity to grab a finger sandwich from the items Carolyn had put out earlier.

“Sorry about the ball,” Daniel said as he approached the neighbor.  “I'm afraid it got it away from us.”

“So I see ... homo.”

Daniel tensed at the angry tone of the man, who was twirling the ball in his hands while staring intently at Daniel.

“I, uh, I'll leave you alone, if you'd just give me our ball,” Daniel spoke, trying to keep the peace.

“Ball.  What do you know about balls?  Obviously, yours are ...” Eglund began, his tone as vicious as his facial expression.

“Daniel, what's going on?” Jack asked, coming to a stop just behind his lover.  His internal Daniel alarm had beeped as soon as his lover had tensed.  He looked at the man and questioned, “Is there a problem?”

“Yeah, the problem is you two creeps being on my block.”

“Mick,” Lou called out as he ran over, interrupting the conversation.  “Hey, the ball got loose.  Thanks for picking it up.  Can we, ah, have it back?”

“What are you doing, Ferretti, letting these two weirdos make-out on our block?” Eglund asked, his hatred emanating in the scowl on his face.

“Look,” Jack said.  “We just want the ball.”

“Come get it, you degenerate.”

Jack started to lunge forward, but Daniel stuck his right hand out to block his movement.  He turned to face his lover, his hand touching Jack's chest.

“Jack, we don't need to fight.  He means nothing.  You know that,” the younger man said calmly.

“General,” Sam stated, having sensed a problem and walked across the street, as had Teal'c, Janet, and General Hammond.  “We still have time to finish the game.”

“If this moron will give the ball back,” Jack said harshly.

Lou nodded at his neighbor, urging, “Give me the ball, Mick.  Don't start trouble.”

“Keep them away from me,” the man said, throwing the ball across the street.

“Jack, let's go,” Daniel encouraged as he started to walk away, passing to Jack's right.  He saw his lover's eyes locked onto the neighbor's.  The situation was still a time bomb.  “Jack, please.  It's been a good day, and I don't want to have to explain to our children why their father has a black eye.  Do you?”

“CHILDREN?” the neighbor spat.

“Mick,” Lou said, standing in front of the angry neighbor.  “They're my guests; my friends.  Back off.”

“Keep them away from me.”

“Fine.  Back off,” Lou ordered again, his tone the most forceful yet.

The neighbor gave Jack one more nasty look, then turned and fled inside his house, prompting Daniel to breathe a sigh of relief and say, “Let's go finish the game, Jack.”

“Ignorant son of a ...”

“Jack, let's go.  It's been a good day,” Daniel repeated, wanting the good day to continue.

Jack took a deep breath, then smiled as he agreed, “Yeah, it has.  Nice dribbling, Carter.”

“Thank you, Sir.”

“Jack, Daniel, I'm sorry about that guy.  He's new and a real redneck.  All the neighbors are upset about him.”

“What happened to the Delgados?” Jack questioned as they returned to Lou's home.

Lou answered, “They moved last month.  Carlos got a better job in Arizona.”

“You're going to have trouble with that idiot,” Jack maintained.

“I know, but, hey, let's play.  I'm gonna cream your butt with my new move,” Lou challenged.

“Your team is toast, Pal,” Jack threatened playfully.

The game was back on.

====

Lou's team was ahead by six points at the half-time break.  Of course, half-time in this friendly game meant a five-minute gloat and challenge.

Lou boasted, “We are the champions, Jack, old buddy, old pal.”

Jack retorted, “Gloat while you can, Lou; you're gonna be eating those words when this game is through.”

“Okay, gentlemen ... and ladies,” Hammond called out, having finished his latest finger sandwich.  “Time for the start of the second half.”

This time, the tip off would be Jack versus Daniel.  They squared off, their eyes intense.  Daniel, wearing an oversized but sleeveless black shirt, flexed his muscles a little as he moved his shoulders.  It was an intentional move, knowing that Hammond was about to toss the ball.  Then, just as the referee started his movement, the archaeologist smiled and winked while letting out a tiny, suggestive moan.

It was no contest.  Daniel easily won the tip off, putting the ball into play.  He looked back at Jack, who was still standing in the same position, and chuckled.

“That was so not fair, Danny.”

“All's fair in love and ... sports, Jack,” Daniel quipped proudly.

“O'Neill, why did you not attempt to get the ball?” an unhappy Teal'c asked from across the driveway court.

“Because my darling husband was flaunting his ... assets at me.”

“And you just love my assets, don't ya, Babe?” Daniel said as he passed the ball to Sam.

“I love your sweet ... ah, yes,” Jack admitted, adding, “but you cheated!”

The lighthearted bickering continued as the game played on.

Jack mumbled, “It's not fair.”

“What isn't fair?” Sam asked while guarding her commanding officer, who currently had the ball.

“He's just too sexy.  How am I suppose to concentrate on the ball when I'm thinking about his ...”

“Sir, we get the idea,” the blonde interrupted.

“Yeah, but ...” Jack began, rationalizing.

“Excuse me, Sir ...” Sam stated happily.

“Hey!  You're going to Elmendorf, *Lieutenant* Colonel,” Jack shouted after Sam had stolen the ball right out from under him.  “Oh, for crying out loud.  Daniel, the use of sex-appeal is forbidden from now on!”

“My rank is being threatened a lot today,” Sam chuckled.  “I worked hard for that rank.”

“Replacing Weir for a few months in Atlantis,” Jack mused.  “That's working hard for your money, Carter.”

“Hey!” Sam objected.  “You don't think working with McKay is worth a little step up in rank?”

Jack paused thoughtfully, and then nodded, saying, “Good point.  Your rank is safe.”

Everyone laughed, including Jack's team which was now down by eight points again.

====

“Way to go, Big Guy,” Jack cheered as Teal'c tied the game with another three-point shot.

Daniel shook his head and ran his hand along his mouth.  He was sweating, as they all were.  It had been a good, intense game for the six friends.

“Nice shot, Teal'c,” the archaeologist praised as he moved to start the action again, tossing the basketball to Sam, who immediately twirled around and passed it to Lou.

The clock was ticking -- sixty seconds and counting.

Lou attempted a shot, but it rebounded off the backboard.  Daniel gained control. He managed to get around Janet fairly easily, but Teal'c was in his path.  He mapped out a course in his mind.  He'd turn and run around Janet.  He figured Jack would try and cut in front of him, so then he'd do a one-eighty, go back two steps, twirl around, and shoot.

That was Daniel's plan, and it went beautifully.  As anticipated, Jack tried to steal the ball.

**Not a chance, Fly boy,** the younger man communicated via their special silent non-verbal communication.

**That's what you think, Rock Boy.**

Daniel stayed on course, only when he twirled around, Jack was closer than he thought, so he repeated the process.

“Eight seconds, Daniel,” Lou called out.

“Shoot, Daniel,” Sam urged eagerly.

With one last twist of his body, with his back to the hoop, Daniel twirled around and released the ball into the air.  There was just one little problem.  With all the spinning, he had gotten disoriented.  The ball made a direct hit, only it wasn't with the hoop, but with Carolyn Ferretti.

“Oh my!” a stunned Carolyn exclaimed, dropping the tray she was carrying.

A pitcher of lemonade, seven glasses, and a canister of ice thumped against the concrete.  Fortunately, they were all made of plastic.

“Oh, gawd!” Daniel responded, hurrying to Carolyn's side, getting there just after Lou.

Daniel was sure Lou's wife would collapse and die; instead, she started laughing, musing, “Lou, Honey, remember when you hit me with the football.”

Lou laughed, “Yeah, Peaches.  You okay?”

“I'm fine.  It takes more than some ole basketball to get the best of me.”

“Carolyn, I am so, so, so sorry,” Daniel bewailed urgently.  His voice was full of sorrow.  “I'm so bad at sports.  I'm sorry.  I'm really ...”

“Daniel, you just stop that,” Carolyn insisted, gently swatting Daniel on the chest.  “Janet, tell this worry wart that I'm okay.”

“Daniel, I'm sure she's fine,” Janet said, earning her pay for the day once again.  As she ran her hands along Carolyn's head, she noted, “No bumps or contusions.  Any dizziness or ...?” she began.

“Not a thing,” Carolyn answered.  “I was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.  I'm afraid you're refreshments aren't as lucky.”

“Well, come over here.  I want to take a closer look,” Janet said as Lou helped his wife to her feet.

Daniel immediately went into a self-hug, but before he had a chance to get too lost in it, Jack had his arms around his waist.

“I have no business playing sports,” Daniel lamented softly.

“Danny, it was an accident, and Carolyn's fine.  As for sports, that's bull,” Jack insisted.  Seeing his Love's look of surprise, he spoke, “Geez, Danny, you were great.  You did more than keep up, you charged.  This was a good game.  Heck, we tied.  Think about it.  You know we were all playing full out.  Daniel, me, Teal'c, and Janet could only tie you, Lou, and Carter.  It was a good, legitimate game.  I'm proud of you.”

“I hit Carolyn.”

“You got spun around.  It's happened to the best of us,” Jack spoke as he comforted his husband.

“Oh, who did you hit?” Daniel challenged as he stared into his husband's eyes.

“Well, okay, so I haven't hit anyone on the head with a basketball, but I have hit them in their, uh, privates.”

“Oh, gawd.  Who?  When?”

“Well,” Jack moved his left arm upwards to Daniel's shoulder and began to guide him inside where the others now were, “the first time I was about ten or eleven.  We were playing football at the park, and ...”

By the time Jack was done with his tales of misdirected hits, Daniel was laughing.  He felt even better once Janet confirmed again that Carolyn was fine.  He was finally able to put it out of his mind after Carolyn hugged him and issued a stern warning.

“Daniel, if you feel guilty even the tiniest bit, I'll never again bake my special Spaghetti Cheese Pasta for you.”

“Never?” Daniel asked, visibly shaken.

“Never,” Carolyn promised, grinning.

“You drive a hard bargain, Carolyn, but, uh ... okay,” Daniel chuckled, pleased to let go of a guilt trip before it took root within him.

====

Ninety minutes later, Jack and Daniel decided it was time to save the Wilsons from whatever terror their brood was inflicting upon them.

“Thanks, Lou; this was a great party,” Jack said.

“Carolyn ...”

“Daniel, don't start!” Carolyn spoke, thwarting off Daniel's lament.  “I'll never step into my kitchen again if ...”

“I wouldn't dare, Carolyn,” Daniel interrupted.  “I ... just wanted to make sure you and Lou invite us over to dinner soon so we can have some of that Spaghetti Cheese Pasta.  I mean, uh, I'm hungry for it after talking about it so much.”

Full of smiles, Daniel and Carolyn hugged, after which he spoke, “We'll drop Trina home after breakfast in the morning, probably ten-ish, if that's okay.”

“That'll be fine.  I know the girls will have a wonderful time talking about boys tonight.  Thanks for letting her spend the night,” Carolyn expressed appreciatively.

“She's a wonderful girl.”

“Yes, she is,” the woman agreed.

Lou interjected, “She still has some issues, but she's come so far.  You know, Jack, that's the best suggestion you've ever given me.”

“It shows what love can do,” Jack responded, giving a nod to his good friend.

“And patience,” Daniel added.  “Thanks again for inviting us.  Goodnight.”

====

Halfway to Sara's, Jack noticed Daniel still had a smile on his face.  It had been there ever since they'd left Lou's.

“What are you thinking about?”

“That labels are nothing but garbage.  Jack, that neighbor of Lou's, I feel sorry for him.  All he knows is a name that society has placed on a group of people who love, not differently, but ... I don't know, I guess unexpectedly.  He hasn't a clue what love and life are really about.  Then, you look at Trina.  She needed such help.  So many people had given up on her; now, she's shining.  Sure, she still goes to counseling, and she's still working things out, but that's not a bad thing, discovering herself after all that abuse.”

“And?  Danny, you were smiling.  I'm trying to match up the smile with what you just said.”

“I'm a nerd, a nerd who can't play sports,” Daniel responded quickly.  Seeing his lover about to object, he raised his hand and added, “But, Jack, I did okay.  I was tempted to write off what you had said, but I can't.  I can play the game, too.  Okay, I'm not Michael Jordan, but I don't have to be.”

Jack was grinning inside, hearing the confidence in his lover's voice,

“I held my own,” the younger man continued.  “I helped my team; I did my job; and you know what is even more important?”

“What?”

“I had fun.  I really had fun.  I mean, it's not that I'm some sports addict or anything, but sometimes, it's nice to venture outside what we know and be successful, especially when it's something we've grown up believing wasn't us.  Does that make sense?” Daniel questioned.

“Sure does, Angel,” Jack answered.  “You just said that labels are garbage, whether they're labels that give us a name because we love each other, or those attaching attributes based on nothing.”

“I had a dream last night,” Daniel spoke.

~Dreams, labels, and sports.  Okay, I'll bite,~ Jack thought curiously.  “What about?”

“Daddy and me were playing catch in front of a pyramid near our dig site.  I was four or five.  I ... I think it was real, Jack.  I never remembered playing catch with him, though, until that dream last night.”

Cocking his head just slightly, Jack reminded, “He said you were going to see the Yankees.  I think he was a fan,” he added, recalling previous discussions about Melburn Jackson and what he had told his son they would be doing in New York City.

“I never knew,” Daniel sighed.  “I almost let the label 'nerd' or 'geek' or whatever the brain label of the day was, and the words 'he's bad at sports' become the truth.  But they aren't the truth; they aren't even close.”  Leaning forward just a tad and with force, he stated, “Jack, we're going to protect David and Little Danny, and the rest of our children, from that.  No matter what, we have to make sure they discover themselves.”

“It's not just that,” Jack spoke.  “It's experimenting, taking a chance, be willing to fall down and ...”

“Get right back up, and try it again,” Daniel said, completing the sentence.

“We'll do it, Danny.  Our brood will be who they want to be, not what anyone else tells them they are or have to be.”

“I love you, Jack.”

“I love you, too, Danny,” the older man replied softly.

A moment later, Daniel suggested, “Jack, maybe we should put up a basketball hoop at home.”

“It's something to think about, Love,” Jack agreed.  ~Geez, I love him; listen to him -- yes!~
 
“Yeah, something to think about,” Daniel said, his smile as bright as Jack's.  “We'd be able to shoot some hoops anytime we wanted to, and we could also teach the children that you don't have to be good at sports to have fun playing sports.”

“Next time, it won't be a tie,” Jack said, a big smile still on his face.

“You're right, Babe.  Next time,” Daniel said firmly.  “I'm gonna kick your six right off the court!”

Jack was elated at the last part of their exchange.  Daniel had come a long way; he never would have said anything like that a few short years ago.

“By the way, Danny, do I need to make an appointment?” Jack asked.

“For what?” Daniel replied, confused by the question.

“For the physical that you promised me,” the silver-haired fox clarified with a seductive grin.

“No appointment necessary.  For you I'll make a ... bed call,” Daniel replied with a sexy smile.

The lovers laughed and continued on their way to the Wilsons.  All in all, it had been a wonderful day, one fostered by love and good friendships, like that of Lou and Carolyn Ferretti.

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