In Search of America
Category: Slash, Drama, Romance, Established Relationship
Pairing: Jack/Daniel ... and it's all J/D
Season: Beyond the Series - May 5 - July 11, 2012
Spoilers: 1969 (minor)
Written: October 1,6-23, 2007 Revised for consistency: January 15, 2008
Summary: The Jackson-O'Neills decide to take a road trip to see the USA. The who, what, when, where, why, and how unfolds and begins here in chapter 1.
Disclaimer: Usual disclaimers -- not mine, wish they were, especially Daniel, and Jack, too, but they aren't. A gal can dream though!
1) This is the road fic in honor of Jack and Daniel's universe readers. Thanks for your support!
2) “On the Road Again” is by Willie Nelson.
3) 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.**
4) Silent, unspoken thoughts by various characters are indicated with ~ in front and behind them, such as ~Where am I?~
5) This fic stands alone, but it does reference my other fic(s), “Consanquinity,” “Blowout,” “The Smiler,” and “Love in Bloom”
6) Thanks to my betas who always make my fics better: Robert, Carol, Pam, Claudia, Linda, Sara, Jo! Also, thanks for the language translations to Monika, Pam, Nathalie, Dorianne, Paula, Melanie, Sivan, Sineag!
Wanderin' in the USA
Chapter 1: In Search of America
Jack walked into his oldest son's room and began, “Jeff, about the
“Just a second, Dad,” Jeff requested, adding a belated, “please.” The boy was focused on a scene playing on his TV. When it was done, he hit 'pause' on the remote control and said, “Thanks. I wanted to study the delivery of that line again.”
“What is that?”
“It's a really old movie,” Jeff answered. Since he couldn't remember the name, he reached for the DVD case to get the information. “Yeah, it's called, 'In Search of America'.”
“Where'd you get it?” Jack asked curiously. Then he made a face as he asked, “*Why* you get it?”
“Don't knock it, Dad. It's kinda interesting,” Jeff opined. He chuckled, “I guess it's a period piece, though that's not how it was intended.”
Jack sat down on the edge of the bed, reached over to get the DVD case from his son, reading its inside cover as he asked again, “Why are you watching this relic?”
“For my drama class. Mister Hanson put the names of twenty performers in a hat, and we all drew names. We have to watch ten of their films from the beginning of their career through to their last, or latest, performance and analyze their acting style.”
“Who'd you get?”
“Jeff Bridges,” Jeff answered. “This is pretty early in his career, though. The box says it was made just for TV.”
“Doesn't look like much of a masterpiece,” Jack quipped about the brief scene he'd seen upon first entering the bedroom. “A period piece?” he questioned skeptically. ~Hmm. Carl Betz is in this. Donna Reed's hubby, and 'Judd for the Defense', searching for America.~ He continued to read the list of performers. ~Sal Mineo? Now there's a tragic story.~
“I don't know any of these other actors, either, except for Jeff Bridges, so must be real period stuff. It is about the sixties; old stuff,” Jeff remarked innocently.
“Right,” Jack responded dryly, glaring at his son. “I lived through the sixties,” he reminded. ~Twice.~ With a smile, he thought, ~1969: Danny looked so hip in that outfit; don't know about those striped pants, though.~
Jeff laughed, “Sorry, Dad, but what I mean is that it's about the generation gap. Is that the right term?”
“Huh?” Jack responded, being brought back into the current discussion. He scowled, “It was so long ago that I don't remember, but I think that might be right.”
Chuckling again, the teenager continued, “I'm not sure it was that accurate about what went on back then, but ya gotta love that bus.”
“You haven't told me what the movie is about.”
“Bridges' character, his name is Mike, decides he wants to drop out of college and travel around. His parents aren't happy about his decision, but then he challenges them to go with him. Eventually, they do; even the grandmother goes. They buy some old bus and start traveling to some concert. I think it's supposed to be one of those big things like that Woodthingy concert.”
“Woodthingy?” Jack echoed, shaking his head and feeling like he was truly ancient. “Woodstock?” he corrected.
“Yeah, that's it,” Jeff affirmed. “That's where they're headed,” he added, motioning at the screen. “From the description, I guess both generations are going to learn something about the other while they're at the concert, or on the trip getting there.”
“Both, maybe,” Jack spoke. Scooting backwards to lean against the headboard of Jeff's bed, he requested a bit playfully, “Hit the play button. Let's see just how with it this masterpiece is.”
“Okay, Megan, thanks. We'll see you at the office Monday ... um, probably ten-ish,” Daniel spoke into the phone while also typing his notes into the computer. “Yeah; now go home. It's the weekend ... bye.” He heard a noise and turned slightly, seeing his husband entering the den. “Hey, Babe.”
“Peace, Baby,” Jack greeted, making the peace sign with his right hand.
“Excuse me?” the archaeologist responded, his glare inescapable. ~He'd better have a good reason for calling me, 'Baby'.~
“You know, Danny, sometimes you're just not with it,” Jack said as he sat down in the recliner and pushed the button to ease the chair backwards. “You need to get out in the world more; get yourself a piece of the action; ya know, swing.”
“Swing?” Daniel chuckled. “Okay, what did you just do: talk with an old buddy from Chicago?”
Jack laughed, “Nah. Jeff was watching some old relic of a TV movie.”
Daniel nodded and returned to his work, except he had the feeling his lover had something on his mind.
“Jack? Did you ... want to talk about something in particular?”
“Danny, it was an okay movie; the acting was decent; the idea was good, though maybe not carried out as well as it could have been ...”
“But ...” the younger man prodded.
“I like it,” Jack said. He moved the recliner back to an upright spot and leaned forward. There was an expression of genuine excitement on his face and in his tone when he spoke next. “Danny, let's go.”
“Where?” Daniel asked in confusion, hoping he hadn't forgotten any pressing appointments.
“In search of America,” the older man spoke.
“What are you talking about?” Daniel questioned, turning his chair to more squarely face his husband.
“Come watch this movie.”
“That's what you want to do?” a surprised Daniel asked after watching the TV movie with his lover. ~That's the last thing I expected; might be fun, but I don't know how realistic it is for us.~
Jack had a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach. He'd gotten excited about the prospect of taking their brood cross-country, acquainting them in a leisurely manner with other locales in the United States. Now, though, as he waited for Daniel's response, certain the younger man was about to point out all the problems with such a trip, he felt like his balloon was about to be popped.
After all, the couple did have responsibilities to their archaeological company, and they'd have to reschedule or forego certain assignments and missions at the SGC. Depending on when they made their trip, their teenagers might have school conflicts, not to mention that they might not want to be dragged off around the countryside on a family adventure. Then there was their menagerie. While Bijou and Katie would be fine to go with them, the other family pets would be better left at home. Still, despite all the potential negatives, Jack's desire to embark on the journey was growing.
“Yes,” the older man answered softly.
“I like it,” Daniel said, letting out a grin.
“Really?” Jack's eyes lit up, and he grinned as well, love for Daniel rising up inside him once more. Not everyone was lucky enough to have a partner so in synch with them. His excitement restored, he jumped up, saying, “Let's go shopping.”
“Danny, we have twelve kids. Much as I'd like to, we can't just take off on the spur of the moment on this trip. We need to get some wheels,” Jack spoke eagerly.
“A camper, a RV: wheels!”
“Oh, of course, wheels,” Daniel said, putting his pen down on his desk and getting up.
“What do you think?” Jack asked, several hours later.
The parents had left the children with a variety of caregivers and then gone to five different dealerships to review possible vehicles. They hadn't said anything about the reason for their shopping excursion, especially since they had more questions than answers at this stage. Nothing had been decided as yet. Now, the lovers were grabbing a bite to eat at the Steakhouse.
“You liked that second Monaco RV we looked at, right?” Jack smiled, adding, “Loved that rear vision camera and those leather power seats. You liked them, right?” Still smiling as he recalled the current premier model of the Monaco fleet, he sighed almost dreamily, “Power footrest for the navigator, fifty-two-inch plasma TV, central vac; now *that* will please Alex. You like it, dontcha', Love? It ...”
Daniel chuckled, “Babe, do you want me to answer, or do you want to keep ... prattling?”
Jack's excitement about this trip was about as high as Daniel had ever seen before, except maybe when the family had recently cruised their yacht, Homer, through the Panama Canal en route to its new home at their Minnesota cabin.
“Prattling?” Jack questioned indignantly, though he realized now he had been doing just that. Taking a breath as he prepared for the worst but hoped for the best, he replied, “Go ahead; answer.”
“Thank you,” the younger man mused. “Yes, I like the RV, but even with the options, I think it needs some work.”
“Which means?” Jack prompted.
“Which means we can't rent one; we'd have to buy it, and, Jack, that's another huge expense.”
Jack waved his fork dismissively, stately firmly, “Can the money talk, Daniel. We've got it; let's use it.”
“You really are excited about this,” Daniel surmised.
Jack placed his knife and fork on his plate and then wiped his mouth with his napkin. He took a sip of his coffee, and then he stared into his husband's eyes.
“Danny, this is one of those moments we have to grab while we can. Jen and Jeff are growing up; we may not have a chance to do this again and have the entire family be a part of it.”
“Jack, has it occurred to you that not all of our children may think living in a confined space for weeks on end is ... fun?”
“They'll love it,” the older man maintained confidently. “We'll call it a family adventure, like going through the Stargate.”
“It's, uh, not quite the same thing, Jack.”
“No, it's not, but they'll get used to it. Danny, I have one word for you,” the older man stated. Knowing he had his lover's full attention, he said, “India.”
Daniel sat back and sighed. Jack had just scored a big bulls-eye. Their kids had the best of everything. They were world travelers, even galaxy travelers, with a big house and a backyard full of gizmos. The Munchkins' and Spitfires' birth mother, Kayla Armentrout, had once journeyed to India, where her experiences had had a profound effect on her view of how lucky the people of America, and other developed countries, were.
Years ago, Jack and Daniel had promised themselves, and Kayla, never to let their children become spoiled, and that if they had, they'd take them to India. Being classed as a third world country, Kayla had known that some areas of India would show the brood real life examples of the harsh reality of what living simply and having absolutely nothing really means.
In truth, Jack and Daniel were definitely going to take the brood to India someday, but they wanted to wait until all of their children were a little older first.
“So, living in a RV for a few weeks, taking the bare minimum, might actually be a good thing,” Daniel put forth.
“That RV isn't exactly a second-hand job, either, Danny. All I'm saying is that it won't be an issue; and if it is an issue ...”
“Then it's time to go to India,” the younger man completed for his husband. “Babe, what about the zoo? I mean, there's no question about the girls, but ...”
“We'll get Carter and Pete to drop by and ...”
“They can live at our house, if they want,” Daniel said, holding his hand up and quickly adding the proviso, “that is, *if* we go.”
“We take the girls; leave the rest at home.”
Daniel let out a sigh, shaking his head as he rebutted, “Lulu needs Calico, Jack. She's fine on shorter trips, and Lulu understands the difference between a business trip and a vacation, but that's the point. This trip, which I might add would be a long one, would be a vacation. She'd expect Calico to go, and I don't think we should force a separation.” He took another sip of coffee before saying, “You watch: that'll be the first thing she asks about.”
“The annoying things have been good on the short trips,” Jack pointed out about a few of the family outings throughout Colorado the two cats had been on. They'd also behaved well on trips to the cabin. “We take them with us, but the rest of the zoo stays home.”
“And Ptolemy?” Daniel quizzed about the family's Hyacinth Macaw. “We have a huge obligation to her.”
Jack realized now that 'dropping by' wasn't going to work, especially if he wanted to get a 'yes' out of his soulmate about this adventure, and he definitely wanted that 'yes'.
“Not a problem. The Shanahans stay at our place, and the Doc gets along great with that big-headed bird, so we'll ask her to drop by if Carter goes ... away or anything, and help Pete out,” Jack spoke, looking around the restaurant and ensuring no one was listening. “We'll call Catherine and Ernest and make sure they're okay with it.”
“Thank you,” Daniel spoke, feeling the need to make sure that the majestic bird's original owners okayed the trip. “They both traveled a lot, so they may have some suggestions about helping Ptolemy through the temporary separation.”
Jack thought about making a snide remark; after all, Daniel was making it sound like they were committing some kind of abuse by leaving the bird at home. He thought better of it, though, knowing that if he didn't secure a happy bird and animal kingdom, his trip across country would fade to black in the next five seconds. Instead, he remained upbeat and positive, suggesting more alternatives to keeping Ptolemy, and their children, happy.
“Polly adores Lou, too, so I'll make sure he makes lots of bird calls,” the general quipped, getting a laugh from his husband. Then he added, “She loves Teal'c, too. He can come over and train her in some Jaffa mumbo jumbo. She'll love it.”
Daniel studied his husband's expression carefully. His lover's eyes were bright and eager. He was leaning forward, his body language encouraging agreement that the trip would be a good idea. He was curious, though, why Jack was so enthusiastic about this idea.
“Why is this so important to you?” the archaeologist probed curiously as he dug into another piece of his steak.
“I don't know,” Jack answered, sitting up a little straighter. “Remember 1969?”
“The year?” Daniel questioned. He laughed, “I was four-and-a-half, remember.”
“Very funny,” Jack replied, thinking back about a joke his lover had made back then about his age. “I'm talking about when we,” Jack looked around once again, observing the other patrons in the restaurant, “visited.”
“I remember,” Daniel stated, rolling his eyes slightly since his last quip had made it obvious that he remembered the mission clearly.
“Wasn't that fun?”
Daniel smiled. He had to admit that as crazy as it was, SG-1's trip on the 'mod bus' from the west to the east coast had been interesting. Of course, being trapped back in the sixties hadn't been that fun at all, but they had met a very nice couple and enjoyed the travel. Actually, the more he thought about it, the more he realized that, considering the circumstances, the trip back in time had been enjoyable after all.
“Yeah, it was,” the archaeologist acknowledged.
“Danny, our oldest son doesn't even know what Woodstock was. He called it 'Woodthingy',” Jack informed. Seeing his lover's arched eyebrows and knowing what he was thinking, he said, “Okay, so I do a lot of the nickname bit, and some of what Jeff is doing is because of that, but he was serious. This is our chance to show our children some of the places that have mattered. Maybe they don't have the same power recognition of Lady Liberty, but that doesn't mean they aren't important.” He picked up his fork and toyed with his steak while speaking, “Michael and Jenny thought it was important. I'd like to remember them by taking our children there.”
“Jack, we can't go to New York,” Daniel reminded, thinking about their daughter, Chenoa, and her fear of the city that, in her mind, was the reason for the death of her birth parents. ~That would be nice, though. Michael and Jenny: I wonder how they are. I wonder what they're doing,~ he pondered as he recalled the two young hippies who had befriended SG-1 when they'd accidentally gone back in time to 1969.
“I realize that, but we can talk about it while we travel and try to get the kids to understand what life was like during that era,” Jack responded. He added, “History books provide facts; they don't give off feelings and inspire passion.”
The younger man nodded; then changed the subject slightly by inquiring, “Babe, where would we keep a RV? The one we both liked so much was almost forty-five-feet long.”
“Forty-four feet and eleven inches, and stop nit-picking,” Jack requested. “We'll keep her ...”
“Her?” Daniel questioned.
“The RV. If you don't want her in the driveway, we can rent the space next to Jo, or get new space,” Jack suggested. “We'll figure that out.” He paused and with a new exuberance expressed eagerly, “I want to buy that RV, Daniel, grab the kids, and go. No plans, no calendars, no anything.”
“What about J-O?”
“Megan and Karissa can run the show; Ty and Bibi can help to cover some of the gaps. We're going on a trip, Daniel, not disappearing. We'll have our phones and computers, but this is a chance to really see what those two can do on their own, especially with what we've been considering lately.”
The archaeologist smiled, liking the idea, and said, “So, no schedules. We just turn on the engine and see where it takes us?”
“Yes,” Jack acknowledged.
“When? How long?”
“No clue, Love, but one step at a time. We need Carter,” Jack stated.
“Modifications,” the general stated with a nod.
“Oh, of course,” Daniel replied. “So we're about to lay down a fortune for a RV that we're then going to spend a fortune ... modifying. Is that it?”
“Yes,” Jack answered as he chewed a piece of steak.
“I just wanted to be clear,” Daniel said, reaching for his coffee cup.
“Clear about what?”
“Clear that we're both certifiably insane,” the younger man quipped.
Jack laughed, “Danny, I thought you knew that years ago.”
“I did. I just wanted to make sure we both knew it,” Daniel chuckled. He loved this excited, carefree side of his husband and reached across the table to squeeze Jack's hand. **I love you, Jack.**
**Love you, too, Danny.**
That night, after an intense round of lovemaking, Daniel spoke, “I have an idea.”
“Oh?” Jack asked eagerly, placing a kiss on his husband's sweat-soaked chest. “I'm 'up' for more ideas.”
“Not that again ... yet,” Daniel chuckled as he ran his fingers through his Silver Fox's locks of hair.
“Okay, I'll bite ... and I will, again, later,” Jack stated seductively, nibbling on his lover's abdomen.
“Uh, oh, um ... Jack, stop that, or I'll forget,” the younger man chastised.
“Sorry,” Jack said insincerely, until his lover slapped him on the arm. “Alright; sorry, for real.”
“Okay, well, I was just thinking that maybe the RV could be a good ... apartment for one of the children when they get older.” After a pause, Daniel offered, “Jeff, especially, might like it. He could travel, be a freelance photographer, or do whatever he wants to do.”
The older man leaned up and moved forward to kiss his lover.
“What?” Daniel questioned, looking into his husband's eyes.
“Danny, we don't need to justify the expense,” Jack spoke. “The fact that it will be fun for us and our brood and be good for their education and appreciation of, and for, life is more than enough justification. What they'll experience on our trip can't be gained by any other means. They'll never forget, and they'll learn more than we could ever teach them in hours of homeschooling in the rec room.”
Daniel gazed into Jack's brown eyes and replied, “Babe, when you're right, you're right. Now, about that nibbling ...”
“I'll get right to it,” Jack promised. He paused, saying, “But, Angel, that is a good idea.”
“Of course, it's a good ... oh, you mean the RV as an apartment,” Daniel stated.
“Yeah. We'll keep that in mind.”
“Jack, forget the freakin' RV and ...”
“Dictator,” Jack teased before beginning a process that would soon fry his lover's brain cells for the second time that evening.
Two nights later, wearing his pajamas, the top completely unbuttoned, Jack walked out of the bathroom with a towel around his neck. His hair was still damp and was completely rumpled. He took the towel and rubbed against the left side of his head for a few seconds as he approached the bed, where Daniel was seated, holding a book in his hands.
Normally, Jack looking as he was at the moment would cause some kind of reaction in his lover, but not tonight. Jack paused, his hands holding each side of the burgundy towel as he studied the other man, who was clearly distracted by something.
“Okay, Danny, out with it,” Jack commanded as he sat down next to his husband on the bed.
Daniel smiled, glancing over at his husband who knew him so very well. He took the book and placed it on the nightstand and then shifted somewhat so that he could face the older man.
“I've been thinking,” Daniel began.
“That much I know,” Jack laughed.
“Right,” Daniel responded lightly. “Jack, I have an idea about a small modification to the RV.”
“I'm listening,” Jack said, drying the right side of his hair lightly as he listened.
Several minutes later, after Daniel had explained his idea in complete detail, he questioned, “So, what do you think?”
“Angel, I think it's a great idea,” Jack answered with a smile. “Make sure you mention it to our construction crew.”
Daniel laughed, “Jack, Sam will shoot you if she hears you refer to her as your 'crew'.”
“She is good with a P-90,” Jack acknowledged with a playful sneer.
“And if she shot you, I wouldn't be able to do this.”
Daniel leaned over and kissed the man who owned his heart. Ultimately, the tender kiss grew and led to other things that kept the couple occupied for the next several hours before they finally fell asleep in each other's arms.
Over a week later, at Peterson Air Force Base, Jack, Daniel, Sam, Pete, and Lou had just finished a detailed review of the recently purchased RV. Since the plans for the trip were still being formulated, the Jackson-O'Neill children were completely clueless about the RV and the proposed trip across the country. Thus, the couple was keeping their RV at the base for the time being.
~I love being a major general,~ Jack had thought when his lover had driven the RV into an empty hangar the day before. The RV would be housed at the hangar while Sam, Pete, and Lou helped to complete various alterations to the RV. ~I've saved the country, no, make that the world, a few times; the least they can do is give me space for this machine for a few weeks.~
“Carter?” Jack asked expectantly.
“It's doable, Sir. I could rig at least one pull down bunk from the ceiling, if you'd prefer that to the Aerobeds,” Sam stated.
“I really like the beauty of the interior, Sam,” the younger man replied, not sure he wanted the ceiling interfered with if there was a viable alternative.
“Oh, I'm sure we could come up with a suitable facade,” the blonde insisted. She smiled and said, “But it's probably easier if the kids just camped out. Kids like that kind of thing.”
“You're an expert now?” Jack teased.
“No, Sir, but when the brood has stayed with us, they tend to ignore the beds and cots and end up spreading out on the floor,” Sam informed with a shrug. Then she switched gears, saying, “As the brood's aunt, I'd like to recommend some additional safety measures as well.” Gaining her friends' complete attention with that statement, she expounded, “I'd like to add seatbelts to all of the sitting areas. I can make them so that they are fashionable yet easily 'hidden'. I mean, who wants a seatbelt on their sofa as part of their decor?”
“Good idea, Sam,” Daniel acknowledged, giving her a nod.
“And we want to make sure this baby is protected,” Jack stated, his stare telling Sam he wanted a state-of-the-art, out-of-this-world security system to augment the security features that automatically came with the item.
“Understood. Ah, you are going to limit what the kids bring?” the blonde questioned.
“Definitely,” Daniel answered. “We haven't settled on the number of items yet, but we know we have space restrictions. We want to make the best use of the storage areas we have.”
“Jack, Daniel, I think I can do something with that storage space by the jackknife sofa, and maybe add another shelf area, if that will help you out,” Pete offered.
“It will,” Jack responded.
“Pete, we're taking the girls and maybe the cats, too,” Daniel stated. “We'd like a place we could make sure they're safe ...”
“Cats, dogs, or both?” the construction amateur inquired.
“We're not worried about the girls, so ...” Daniel answered.
“Consider it done,” Pete said.
“I'd also like to suggest a few other safety precautions, such as ...”
“Carter, just do it,” Jack interrupted. “Open checkbook. You know what we like. If you have questions, ask!”
“Yes, Sir,” Sam said, smiling and walking back inside the RV. As she embarked, she couldn't resist and muttered loud enough for her friends to hear: “A new motorcycle, new windows for the house, a new ...”
Sam's laughter grew as she disappeared from sight.
“Never give a woman an open checkbook, Pal,” Lou stated.
“Trust her like she's my sister,” Jack replied. Then he looked back towards the RV and smirked, “I think.”
“And why am I at this shindig, Jack?” Lou questioned with a smile.
Putting his arm around his friend, Jack said, “Lou, you and I are gonna have some fun with this lady,” as he walked the mechanics expert over to take a good look at the RV's engine.
At that moment, Sam called out, “Lou, can you grab my laser measure and help me take some measurements?”
“I've got it, Lou,” Daniel spoke up, getting the device and taking it inside the vehicle with him. ~I want to talk to Sam, anyway, about my idea.~
“Alex, thanks for coming,” Daniel greeted, shaking hands with the designer at the hangar two days later. “How's Kiki?” he asked about the other man's long-lost sister, who'd just been reunited with Alex three months earlier.
“Remarkably good,” Alex answered. “She feels like her time in therapy is helping.”
“It's going to take a long time,” the archaeologist remarked.
“We know that, but we're going to get through it,” Alex stated.
“Uh, have you thought about ...” Daniel paused, hesitant to butt in so much.
“Joint therapy?” Alex asked. He sighed, “The therapist has mentioned it.”
“Guilt can haunt you, Alex,” Daniel stated. “A session or two might help you just as much as it would Kiki.”
“We're talking about it,” Alex replied. He looked over at the large object next to them and questioned, “A new toy?”
“A very expensive new toy,” the archaeologist acknowledged.
“I like this,” Alex opined as he took in the RV. “Sharp.”
“I agree, but the inside ...”
“... is why I'm here,” Alex surmised, having already been told that, this time around, he was being hired as an interior designer to help with decor and accessories for the RV adventure.
“Jack's already inside,” Daniel noted with a grin, leading Alex inside the RV, where the three men chatted for a couple of minutes before turning their attention towards the redesign of the interior. “We don't like this ... leopard design in the dinette area.”
“It *has* to go,” the general instructed.
“And this carpet looks like ... like ... tired tread,” Daniel spoke about the brown and black rectangle pattern.
“The bedspread is okay, but this gray is ...” Jack stopped and stated point blank, “Alex, we're going on an exciting trip here. We don't want to be bored by the design.”
“Bored by the design?” Alex laughed, staring at Jack in disbelief. “I can't believe that just came out of your mouth, Jack. Since when have colors and patterns ever meant so much to you?”
Amused by his husband's serious proclamation. too, Daniel patted his soulmate consolingly on the back and joked, “You have no idea, Alex. Since we did the additions to General Hammond's house last year, Jack refuses to eat at Andy's anymore because he says their wallpaper puts a sour taste in his mouth.”
“Hey!” Jack objected, frowning. “You know what I mean. This color,” he stated, pointing at the offending shade, “is icky. It looks like the inside of Cheyenne Mountain. Boorrring,” he whispered, in a perfect imitation of Urgo, causing Daniel to chuckle.
“He has a point Alex, especially with the amount of time we're going to be inside with twelve children and the pets,” Daniel added.
“Pets?” the designer questioned. “You aren't taking the zoo with you? Are you?”
“Only the girls and the cats,” Daniel answered.
“Give me the grand tour,” Alex requested.
The tour began at the back of the RV, in the bedroom, Jack and Daniel taking turns explaining the design. A ceiling fan was overhead. They showed Alex the closet and washer/dryer combination at the rear of the vehicle in what was the one and only bedroom. It was situated right next to the closet.
The couple showed off their bed. They'd decided to go ahead and get the king-size bed, though that meant that JD's crib was a bit cramped.
“First thing I'd suggest is for the crib to be upholstered with foam columns that slip over the legs. It'll pad the crib from motion impacts, and your knees, too, when you squeeze past it,” Alex stated as he stared at the area in question.
“That's a go,” Jack okayed, reflexively bending over to rub his knees.
“Maybe we can add a tie-down of some type just as an extra precaution to make sure the crib stays in place,” the designer supposed.
“Definitely a go,” Daniel agreed.
Opposite the bed, which was sandwiched by twin nightstands, was the dresser, a thirty-two-inch television set, and a DVD player. A Bose wave radio was on the nightstand closest to the rear of the vehicle.
The group walked into the hallway that connected the bedroom to the rest of the RV. On the left was the entrance to the bathroom. Unfortunately, because of the floor plan they'd chosen, Jack and Daniel were making do with a shower only. They'd really wanted a bathtub, but it wasn't an option presented by the company with this floor plan. Just inside the door, on the left, was the linen area.
The three men ambled into the living area.
“The TV's up there,” Jack said, pointing to the ceiling.
Though they'd originally planned on getting the largest screen, by getting the smaller one that could be stored overhead and drop down for viewing, the couple had given themselves an entire wall of much-needed cabinet space. Thus, the twenty-six inch screen was currently resting atop the viewers' heads as they stared upwards. A DVR and DVD player were nearby, as was the Bose stereo surround sound system with its speakers.
“That makes sense, Jack,” Alex opined. “If you want to watch television, you might as well stay home.”
“That was the winning argument,” Daniel said with a smile. It had been exactly the line that he had used and had indeed been the decisive blow in the 'what size TV should we get' debate that had raged on for two days before confirming that part of the order with the dealership.
On the left side of the RV, closest to the 'TV wall', was an end table and a seventy-two-inch J-lounge with a drawer space beneath it. The J-lounge was so named because it looked like a capital 'J' in shape when looked at from above. In front of it was the matching ottoman with storage space available inside of it.
“Here is where we really need your help, Alex,” Daniel spoke. “One of the floor plans included a leather recliner with a computer desk, but we couldn't get that *and* the sofa, but we *need* both, or at least a place to work on the computer.”
“Miracle time,” Jack said with an expectant smile on his face.
Though tempted to not allow a computer on the RV, because of their business Jack and Daniel felt they had to include it. A FAX and scanner would also be included out of necessity.
“Thank goodness for wireless technology,” the general added.
“Working while you play?” Alex teased, a throwback to his old workaholic days.
“Not exactly,” Daniel chuckled. “We're leaving Megan and Karissa in charge of just about everything, but we do have a couple of responsibilities we need to follow through on ourselves, and we want to be available for extreme emergencies.”
“Let's keep going,” Alex said as he began to mull over possibilities.
Opposite the J-lounge, on the right side of the RV, was a larger ninety-inch jackknife sofa. Next to it, on its left, was more storage space.
Alex walked back and forth, looking up and down the area, and then asked, “Guys, are you married to these furniture pieces?”
“Nope, we're married to each other,” Jack quipped, putting his arm round Daniel.
“Jack!” Daniel whined, embarrassed by his husband's very bad joke.
“Funny,” Alex groaned. “Let me rephrase that. Are you attached to this furniture?”
“No, we're attached to each ...”
“Jack, it really wasn't that funny the first time,” Daniel warned.
Grinning broadly, Jack turned back to Alex and questioned, “Why?”
“Because it was a bad joke,” Alex smirked.
Daniel put his hand over his lover's mouth to prevent him from speaking and said, “We're moving on.” Looking at Alex, he said, “The question is, why your question about us wanting, or not wanting, this furniture?”
As Daniel removed his hand, Jack glared at him.
At the same time, Alex answered, “I can probably figure out something, but we may need to replace some of the furniture. Problem?”
“No,” Jack and Daniel answered in unison.
The carpeted living area ended as the trio stepped forward into the kitchen and dinette portion of the RV. On the right hand side, was the leather booth dinette ensemble. The table sat nestled inside a storage area and could be widened a bit.
“Carter's rigging something so that this will become a pullout table, going across the dining area, and she's going to rig a second table to double the space. Don't ask me how or from where, but somewhere here by the sink is what she was talking about,” Jack spoke as the tour continued.
“I'm an engineer as well as a designer, remember? I can see exactly how she will do it,” the designer remarked. “I can also match the laminate surface so it will all be the same.”
Jack laughed, “You should know by now that I hate paperwork, and I'm lucky to remember what *I* majored in.”
“Touché, Jack,” Alex responded with a smile. “Is she going to improve the sturdiness of the tables?” Seeing Jack's glare, he answered the question himself by saying, “I'm sure she is, but I'll check with her. You'll want to make sure both tables have plenty of support and steadiness.” He laughed, “Just how many meals are you planning on cooking per day?”
“The ones when we're not by a park or fast food restaurant,” Jack responded, getting a definite if not somewhat reluctant nod of agreement from his lover.
“We'll be taking ToddlerTown,” Daniel noted, quickly adding, “Uh, the small one, but it will fit here, and will give JD another area to play in where we know he'll be safe and secure.”
Opposite the dinette booth, was the sink, garbage disposal, dishwasher, microwave, two-burner cooktop, and seventeen-cubic-foot refrigerator. The cabinets lining both sides of the RV from the very front to the hallway by the bathroom, as well as along the front and sides of the cockpit driving area, were natural cherrywood, giving the space a light, airy look, which is what the couple wanted.
“Alex, look,” Jack expressed playfully. “Toe-kick central vac! Succccccck it up!”
“Jack, behave,” Daniel chastised.
“Well, it was an option; we paid more money for it,” the older man rationalized.
“It's nice to know old dogs can learn new tricks,” Alex joked, earning himself a glare from the general.
“Whatever happened to 'Yes, Sir' and 'No, Sir'?” Jack questioned.
“I think that went out when you and Daniel decided to add a pool to your backyard without checking with me,” Alex responded smugly.
“Oh, yeah, right ... Sir,” the general snarked with a smile.
“Parks and fast food aside, do you have a game plan for meal preparation?” the designer asked, knowing the family wouldn't always have 'quick' eating spots available.
“Huh?” the two men chorused.
The designer sighed and asked, “Guys, did I deliver on the house?”
“In spades,” Jack acknowledged.
“Then trust me,” Alex implored.
**What do you think he has in mind, Danny?**
**Dunno, but he hasn't let us down yet, so I say whatever it is, let's just go with it,** the archaeologist replied.
“Okay, Alex,” Jack said.
“Okay what?” the puzzled man questioned.
“Okay whatever you want to do, just go ahead and do it,” Jack answered.
The designer's eyes nearly popped out of his head in surprise, after which he spoke, “You need to have an idea of what I am doing to be able to utilize it effectively.”
“Go ahead, and give us the four-one-one, the short version,” Jack requested.
“Okay, the microwave is *way* too small for your needs, and this cooktop is definitely not a friend to a family of fourteen. I want to remove them and put in a full-size over the range microwave with both convection and halogen light cooking. With the rack, you'll be able to put two nine-by-thirteen casserole dishes in at the same time.”
Both men nodded their consent.
“Next, I want to include a full-size warming drawer under the countertop so you can keep the meat and vegetables warm while the potatoes are baking.”
Again agreement came from the two men in the form of simultaneous nods.
“I want to replace the high-octane two-burner with a two-burner induction cooktop. Daniel, that's electric,” Alex pointed out, remembering the archaeologist's hesitation and ultimate refusal to have a gas range in the kitchen remodel a few years ago.
Excitedly, Daniel looked at his husband and communicated, **Jack, I only said 'yes' to the gas model because I didn't think we had a choice and because they turn off instantly.**
Seeing he'd made his point, the confident professional continued, “The induction cooktop is much safer than a traditional burner because only the pot or pan gets hot. The other plus is that it uses electricity only when it's being used. When the pan is taken away, it stops consuming power.”
**Okay, I definitely feel a lot better now,** the younger man relayed to his lover.
**We probably could have asked the dealer about alternatives,** Jack noted.
**We can't think of everything, Love; that's why we have Alex,** the younger man said with a smile, refocusing on the designer, who was still talking.
“You still need to turn the burners off, but it is safe to touch immediately,” Alex had just spoken. “You need glass for the microwave and magnetic for the induction, so you have to choose very carefully what you take, which brings me to my next point: the cabinets. They're generic and designed around the idea that a maximum of six people will be traveling in this thing.”
“What can you do about it?” Daniel asked curiously.
“That depends on you and how much you are willing to work with the limitations of space,” Alex answered. Seeing the puzzled looks, he expounded, “You're used to preparing each meal right before it's eaten. In these cramped quarters, you need to be thinking further ahead than that.”
“Why?” Jack questioned. “We don't at home, and I thought this was the short version.”
“I'm covering my butt so you can't say I didn't tell you,” Alex answered.
“Oh, I guess. Go on with the ... butt-covering short version.”
“At your house, you have two fully-equipped kitchens with tons of counter space. It's vastly different here.”
“That's, uh, obvious,” Daniel replied. “What's the solution?”
“First off, no food should be stored in its original cardboard or plastic container, with the exception of eggs. Everything will need to be transferred into plastic containers that stack and match in height, so that the smaller containers will be exactly half the height of the larger ones and equal in depth. It maximizes the available space. Meats, fish, and poultry will need to be prepared as if they were ready to be cooked: seasoning added, and so forth, and then vacuumed sealed. This will allow you to keep about three days fresh food on hand. Every fourth day you shop and store. The beauty of the system is you can cook rapidly because the prep work is already done. Basically, the daily 'cooking' amounts to popping the food into the pan or dish, chopping a salad, adding some biscuits and a beverage: you get the idea. Voila, dinner for fourteen.”
“We can handle that,” Daniel opined. ~When we're not at McDonalds.~
Looking deadly serious, Alex added, “I hope you realize there is not storage for more than two gallons of ice cream and that will use half of the freezer space.”
With a bit of a humorous snark, Daniel said, “Jack, that means daily stops for ice cream.”
“Plan B,” Jack responded.
“Which is?” Daniel inquired.
“On non-grocery days, we stop for gas where there is a mini-market, or we just stop for ice cream because we want ice cream,” Jack explained, feeling rather pleased with his answer.
“Uh, I guess that works,” Daniel agreed, smiling a little himself, knowing that nothing could come between the Jackson-O'Neills and their nightly ice cream rituals.
“Carter is building a pull-down bunk bed for here, maybe” Jack stated as he pointed towards the front of the RV. “She's gonna hook it up to the ceiling, and when we bring it down, it'll give us two more beds, maybe.”
“That's creative,” Alex responded. “It's exactly what I would have recommended, too.”
“When you have a dozen kids, Alex, being creative becomes a necessity,” Jack responded with a smile. “We're figuring Bri and David for the bunks, simply because they're older.”
“Less worry,” Daniel interjected, wanting two of the older children in the bunk beds for safety reasons as well as preferring to have two of their oldest closer to the exit door.
“Why the 'maybes'?” Alex questioned curiously.
“Aerobeds,” both Jack and Daniel answered together.
“She thinks the brood will like the adventure of sleeping on the floor better than the bunk beds,” Daniel elaborated. “She might be right.”
“The plan for now is to have JD with us in the bedroom, Jen, Noa, and Lulu can take the lounge, and Jeff, Jonny, Little Danny, and Ricky can use the jackknife bed,” Jack stated.
Daniel sighed, “The rest will have to sleep on Aerobeds that we'll lay out on the floor in the kitchen area.”
“You should make use of your dinette space,” Alex said, walking over to the booth and table. “What we can do is change out the table; make it so that it folds back completely so that it's out of the way. We'll change out the seating, replacing it with seating that will actually pull out and expand. Each side would then make a suitable bed for the smaller children.”
“We can put Ash and Jenny in the dinette seating,” Daniel put forth at that point as he visualized the area.
“We might consider another alternative,” Alex said thoughtfully. ~Yes, this would be better,~ he opined. “We could modify the table to lower so that it is level with the booth seats. Add a fitted cushion over it, and it's a bed for two little girls.”
“Get a soft cushion,” Jack instructed, rubbing his back as he thought about the potential arrangement.
“They're young, Jack,” Alex retorted. “We'll get a cushion that will be firm, but comfortable. I think that's probably the best way to go to give both of them some extra room.”
“The recliner can sleep one,” Alex pointed out, assuming I can make that work for you.
“We'll keep that in reserve for time outs or unanticipated situations,” Jack responded.
“Like what?” the designer asked.
“Situations we haven't anticipated,” Daniel answered with a smile as he slid his hands into his pant pockets. “Or ... for Bij and Katie and Calico and Mittens,” he said, smiling.
“The animals are sleeping on the recliner?”
“You've never had a dog, have you, Alex?” Jack asked.
“No,” Alex answered. “I love dogs, Jack, but they tend to get a lot of hair on everything.”
Seeing Jack smiling, the designer got a funny feeling. He wasn't sure what to make of it, though. Daniel, however, knew exactly what to think.
“Babe, down. He travels the world a lot and doesn't have time for a dog,” Daniel spoke, though he didn't really share the sentiment. He just didn't want his lover springing a dog on an unsuspecting Alex one day. ~We'd end up with another pet, or Alex would finally bulldoze us to death.~
“So?” Jack prodded. “We travel interrrrrrr...” Jack paused, realizing he couldn't say 'intergalactically'. He smiled and completed, “...state-ally.”
“It'll be okay, Babe,” Daniel said, patting his lover supportively on the back for a moment. He knew Jack couldn't abide the idea of anyone having to live without a dog. He looked at Alex and said, “The girls will have a beanbag, and we need a scratching post for the cats. We ... uh, to be honest, we haven't quite thought it all out yet.”
“But you did say that Pete is sprucing up that storage space for you,” Alex stated, seeking verification.
“Yeah, he has a couple of ideas to help us compartmentalize the space better,” Daniel affirmed.
“Good,” Alex stated. “Okay, colors?”
“Blue,” Jack stated.
“Burgundy,” Daniel spoke at the same time. “Jack, no arguments.”
“Burgundy,” Daniel repeated, looking at Alex.
“He gets so pushy sometimes,” Jack spoke with a tiny smile.
“Alex, if you can intersperse a little blue to appease his fetish, feel free, but the interior space of every room is to be primarily burgundy, and there is to be *no* blue in our bedding.”
“Cruel, Daniel,” Jack growled.
“But a hint of blue ...” Alex began.
“If you can get something blue in here, fine, but *not* on, in, over, or under our bed in any way, shape, or form. Understood?”
“Yes, Sir, General,” Alex teased.
“Funny,” the actual general groused at the designer.
“Twelve kids, two months,” Daniel spoke. “Anything to make the living area not seem like a prison. It'll be great at first, but we're afraid the novelty will end after a few weeks. I mean, uh, the house ... you know.”
Alex chuckled again as he affirmed, “Not your typical little grass shack.”
“Not anymore,” Daniel sighed, loving the house, though part of him would always long for that little house he'd first fallen in love with in the mid-to-late nineties.
The original house hadn't really been that little, but it had been smaller and a bit more quaint before the remodel and eventual renovation. The archaeologist adored the home, but the smaller, country-style home he'd first glimpsed would always be at the very center of his heart.
“Okay, what's my deadline?” the designer questioned as he reviewed the cockpit area just to ensure he was acquainted with the entire recreational vehicle.
Jack grinned, “You've actually got time on this one, a good six weeks ...”
“Maybe eight,” Daniel interjected. “We're still determining what date we'll leave, but, uh, probably early to mid-July.”
“And you may need to coordinate with Carter,” the older man pointed out.
Alex was indeed impressed. It was one of the few times he'd ever been given a reasonable amount of time to do a reasonable job for his normally picky and fussy, but favorite clients.
~Wait a minute,~ the designer thought, frowning as he headed to his Jaguar. ~This is the *only* time they've been reasonable. Wait! Maybe they're just teasing me. That's it. Tonight, they'll call and start making demands. Yup, that's how it'll be.~
On the way home, the lovers were chatting about their trip and RV. They were, by their own admissions, excited, but both knew they had a lot of things to discuss before their trip could become a reality.
“Jack, with the induction cooktop, we can't cook while traveling or being at an RV park.”
“We need the electrical hookup,” Jack responded with a nod. “It's the only disadvantage to the new unit Alex is putting in.”
“Well, in case it's slipped your mind, we have a baby, and he may want to be fed when we're not by an electrical hookup or near a restaurant,” the younger pointed out.
“A generator would work, but the cost would be ridiculous,” Jack responded thoughtfully. After a moment, he added, “We need to go shopping.”
Daniel glanced over at his lover for a moment, and saw the other man's confident smile. He immediately knew what Jack was thinking.
Nodding, the archaeologist agreed, “Definitely. They must have something practical that we could use.”
Jack glanced at his watch, noting, “We have a little time still.”
Daniel smiled and pointed the Silver Fox towards one of the local shops that sold camping and outdoor recreational equipment.
“We have more options than I thought,” Jack stated as the couple walked to their vehicle. They hadn't purchased anything, but had spent twenty minutes checking out cooking equipment and supplies for their trip. They'd also been given a website that specialized in the type of equipment they needed that would give them even more options. “I like that one that can warm bottles and food in jars, too.”
“I hate to say it, Jack, but we really need to get one or two of those portable burners,” Daniel put forth. “But if we *do*, we're going to be the only ones using it.”
“Jen is going to give you, I mean, us, 'the look',” Jack advised as the two reached the car and he walked over to the passenger side.
“I just don't want to take a chance, so she can ... look all she wants,” Daniel replied in an uncharacteristic disregard of the teenager's desires. “It's too easy to get distracted by the one of the children.”
Both men were still standing, facing each other across the roof of the sports car.
The younger man looked down at his hands, fidgeting with his keys as he did so.
Daniel looked up and said, “I trust all of our children; I just don't trust ... gas, no matter how safe they say it is. Look, we probably won't be using the portable burners that much.”
“True,” Jack said, following his lover's lead and getting into the car. Buckling his seatbelt, he added, “This is gonna be a great trip, Angel.”
“Any trip we take together is a great trip, Love,” Daniel replied with a sweet smile. He leaned over and kissed his Love. “I love you, Jack.”
“Love you, too.”
The lovers were in bed that night, staring upwards at their ceiling. They were cuddling, and both feeling very happy. Suddenly, the older man laughed.
Daniel shifted, turning his head to face his Love as he asked, “What?”
“Danny, did you see Alex's face when we told him he had almost two months to work his magic?”
The younger man chuckled, “He was ... surprised.”
“He's expecting trouble,” Jack said.
Daniel was chuckling, when he noticed his husband's expression change from simple amusement to mischievous underhandedness.
“I have to make a phone call,” the general said, reaching over for the cordless phone.
“The man has a sense of humor now, Daniel. He'll laugh,” Jack asserted as he pressed the appropriate speed-dial button. “Alex, glad you're up,” he greeted, inwardly chuckling since it was after one in the morning.
~Here it comes,~ the designer thought, resigning himself to the inevitable. ~I knew this would happen.~
“Alex, about the RV. We were thinking ...” Jack began, spending the next four minutes coming up with an outlandish list of totally impossible demands. He concluded, “So, that's all doable, right? Oh, and we've had a change in plans. We need it done by next Friday. No problem, right?”
“Jack, you're out of your mind. In the first place, there's not enough room to add a Jacuzzi, and, no, the dogs can't have a dog run around the interior, and, no, we can't ...” the designer continued. He ended with, “... and, no, it can't be done by Friday.”
“Yes, I'm sure,” Alex snarled while Daniel tried not to laugh, though he knew he shouldn't.
“Okay, then we'll just stick with the original plans as discussed this morning with the same schedule. Looking forward to seeing it,” Jack spoke, sounding very chipper while working very hard not to laugh.
“Tha...that's it? That's all you have to say?”
Jack thought for a moment and then said, “No. I do have one more thing to say.”
“What's that?” Alex inquired.
“Goodnight!” Jack said, hanging up the phone and then breaking out into hilarious laughter, as did his husband.
“Gawd, Jack!” the guilty-feeling archaeologist exclaimed as he hid his face in his lover's hairy chest.
“At least he can't bulldoze us; no dozers on this job,” Jack laughed.
Meanwhile, in his condo, Alex stared at his cell phone and responded, “Good...night?” Putting his phone down, the designer stared up at the ceiling, replaying the call in his mind. He began to frown, realizing that not even Jack would ask for a dog run inside the RV. ~I've been had,~ the man sighed as he realized he'd just bore the brunt of a Jackson-O'Neill joke. Speaking aloud, he stated determinedly, “I've learned one thing from you, General -- paybacks! I don't know when or how, but one of these days, this designer will have his day!”
A few days later, Jack and Daniel were at a J-O Enterprises company picnic. The park was beautiful and perfect for the families attending. They'd been visiting with various employees, but were now standing a few yards from the others.
“Jack, I think we made the right choice,” Daniel stated.
“Ah, you mean the decision to get married. Of course, it was the right decision,” a grinning Jack stated, feeling particularly mischievous, and grabbing Daniel for an impromptu embrace.
“No, Jack,” Daniel countered, trying to fend off his husband's mild groping in front of their employees. “Well, yes, of course it was, but that's still not what I meant.”
“Oh, you mean the decision to have twelve kids,” Jack guessed, burying his face in Daniel's neck and placing his hands firmly on his husband's behind.
“Get a room, Guys!” Megan called out, laughing along with everyone else as Jack grinned, and Daniel's face turned a very interesting shade of red.
“Jack, get off me!” Daniel ordered. “And, yes, twelve kids was an insane but excellent decision. That's still not what I meant.”
“Then what decision would that be, Doctor Jackson-O'Neill?” Jack asked playfully, taking Daniel's hand and leading him even further away from the others. “We're just going for a short walk,” he called out over his shoulder to Megan.
“A walk, huh?” Karissa shouted back. “Is that what they call it nowadays?” she giggled.
“Karissa! Daniel chastised, while being dragged away behind a couple of trees that were close together.
When the lovers were out of sight of the employees, Jack spun his soulmate around so that his back was against one of the trees, pinning him there with his body, and kissing him surprisingly softly on the lips.
“What decision, Angel?” Jack questioned gently as he pulled back and looked into his husband's eyes.
“Um ...” Daniel stuttered, a little zoned out by that kiss. “Uh, not to have Sam build the, uh, bunk bed. I ... I think she's right about the children.”
Jack smiled, nodding as he agreed, “I do, too. Danny, it's going to be one great, big, long bed at night anyway. The J-lounge and the jackknife will practically be touching, and that dinette 'bed' Alex is having done is gonna stick out. The kids are going to end up moving all around; it'll be a game.”
“They've all slept on Aerobeds; they're used to it,” Daniel stated for no other reason than to reassure himself that they had indeed made the correct choice.
“Many times,” Jack affirmed, thinking about their trips to the family's Minnesota cabin and the one in Colorado, as well, where almost all of the children slept on Aerobeds with regularity.
“I still want David and Bri, or Jeff and Jen up front, since they're the oldest,” Daniel asserted.
“No argument from me, Danny. The teens should probably get the sofas, but we'll work it all out when the time comes,” Jack agreed, leaning in to kiss Daniel again.
“You're right,” Daniel replied. “The Aerobeds will work out just fine.”
After Jack kissed his lover three more times, the younger man realized he was about to get lost in the sensations he was feeling, none of which were appropriate for an employees' family picnic.
“Uh, we should get back to the picnic, Jack,” Daniel muttered, although his heart really wasn't in the statement.
“In a minute,” Jack stated as he once again moved in to devour his husband's mouth.
“Time to see the finished product,” Alex stated, pointing toward the waiting RV. It was more than a month later, and all the modifications had been completed on the vehicle. ~Although Daniel may just bulldoze me when he sees what I've done.~
“Burgundy decor, right? And only hints of blue, if anything, right?” the archaeologist questioned as he walked by the designer. He paused when the man didn't answer. “Right, Alex?”
“Only a hint of blue, Daniel,” Alex confirmed. ~But you still may bulldoze me.~
“Hmm,” Jack responded noncommittally as he led the way into the RV.
The carpet was a gray and burgundy tweed with thin pinstripes of red, orange, yellow, green, purple, and blue. The stripes, which were very narrow, were roughly six inches apart.
“That'll make everyone happy,” Daniel spoke. “It's just a hint of color, enough to give a little variety without being overwhelming.”
“Let's start here,” Alex stated, pointing to an ottoman that was located behind the co-pilot's chair. “This actually affixes to the wall like so,” he said, demonstrating how the piece of furniture was secured to the wall via industrial strength Velcro. “When you want a seat, you can just disconnect this and put it where it's needed, but, if you want to do some of that work you were talking about, then just flip up the ottoman top.”
Alex opened the top of the ottoman and began to set up his creation.
“Now that's good,” Jack expressed, actually surprised by the creativity involved and leaning forward studying it more closely.
The ottoman, when opened, had a pop-up support on scissors-like crossbars with pivot points, similar to a car jack. He lifted out a new twenty-inch flat screen monitor and a wireless keyboard and mouse. There was a pullout platform for the keyboard and the mouse.
“Wait, there's more,” Alex stated. “With a press of this button,” he showed them the button at the bottom of the ottoman, “you can adjust the length of the legs on the ottoman so that it's the appropriate height for the user.” Pleased with his solution, he looked at the couple and said, “Now, the co-pilot can be the master of the wireless computer age and still work and confer easily with the pilot, just by placing the coaster here.”
“How'd you think of this?” an amazed Daniel asked.
“I noticed on my tour of the RV that the cockpit chairs were made to turn a-hundred-and-eighty degrees,” Alex answered.
“Nice observation,” the archaeologist praised.
“Thank you, but there's more. As you saw, the monitor can be detached, as can the keyboard and mouse, so you really can work anywhere that you want. I recommend using this cabinet here for your CPU router. You can put a FAX here and a scanner, if you really need it, in this next cabinet. This is completely wireless; the latest technology. Just slide in this cartridge, and you're ready to go.”
“Nice leather,” Jack spoke about the putty-colored material on the sofas, having left behind the techno-creation of the designer.
“Short attention span,” Daniel mouthed.
“I heard that!”
“How can you hear what you didn't see, since I didn't say anything out loud?” the archaeologist asked. Getting a pointed look and raised eyebrows in response, he smiled and said, “Never mind.” Whispering to Alex, he added, “But it's true,” and then walked over to join his soulmate.
“Alex, we weren't sure you'd be able to get the recliner,” Daniel spoke as he inspected the new chair.
“As you can see, it's not particularly roomy, but it's comfortable and does recline, so you can place it anywhere you want and sit back and relax with the family,” the designer spoke. “You will have to move it around a bit, depending on what you're doing at the moment, and I couldn't find a way to link it up permanently with the communication equipment in the ottoman, but you have your recliner.”
“That's great,” a pleased Daniel responded. “And it's burgundy,” he noted with a happy smile.
“Have to keep my clients happy,” Alex spoke. ~Until they see the bedroom, anyway.~
“So far, so good,” Jack remarked.
“I had Fabrications design the sofa quilts,” Alex informed as he made his way over to the living area between the two sofas, where the couple was now standing.
~That name sounds familiar,~ Jack thought. “Is that the same outfit that did the floor quilts in the rec room?”
“The same,” Alex confirmed. “As you can see, each quilt is covered with a burgundy-gray paisley on one side and a putty background, with gray and burgundy stripes on the other. The covers are removable and washable, and there are spare covers. I added two pillows in each color of the stripes in the carpet to add a hint of everyone's favorite color without being overwhelming.”
“I like it,” the archaeologist complimented.
“Before we talk about the kitchen, let's look at your bedroom,” the designer suggested. ~Prayer to the design gods: please let him see the light.~
“Just as long as there's no ... blue,” Daniel stated, entering the room. “Where's the burgundy?”
“Daniel, hear me out,” the designer pleaded, purposely standing behind Jack for safety reasons, something the general sensed.
Daniel stared at the decor curiously. The room was understated. The platform bed was covered with a plain taupe fitted comforter. Since it was pulled back, he could see that the sheets were a blend of lime, orange, and yellow.
“Where's my burgundy?” Daniel questioned.
“You'll see that everything matches,” Alex spoke, ignoring the question.
Sure enough, the specially-made crib that was next to the bed had the identical bedding. Jack tested the foam columns and gave it a passing mark.
“Look up,” Alex advised.
Their heads leaned back to look up, the lovers saw that even the ceiling was now upholstered in the bed fabric with tufted buttons. There were also matching Roman shades with magnetic seals, and even the drawer fronts were upholstered.
“The concept I had in mind was what I refer to as a quiet and loving cocoon,” Alex spoke. “You two are going to have a lot going on, keeping this rolling mansion moving. You need a place to unwind, rest, and recharge in comfort.”
“But where's my burgundy?”
~In the living area on the recliner,~ Alex sighed inwardly. Outwardly, though, he simply walked to the closet and opened the doors, while saying, “If you have to have burgundy, Daniel, here's your burgundy bedding, but my advice to you is to put it in one of the storage bays and forget about it.”
“Well, at least I know where my burgundy is,” the archaeologist responded with a smile. **You're bringing your burgundy pajamas, Jack; don't even try to argue with me.**
**Dictator,** Jack teased.
**Only if you wear burgundy,** Daniel replied.
“So, I still get paid?” Alex teased.
“I'll think about it,” Daniel stated seriously as he turned and headed for the kitchen area.
The kitchen, as promised, had the full-size halogen microwave oven overhead, an upgraded two-burner induction cooktop, and, below it, the full-size warming drawer. The appropriate glass baking dishes and bowls, as well as various cookware were stored in a custom-fitted rack or slot so that there was no possibility of anything flying out of a door that opened accidentally. There was even a vacuum food sealer, similar to one Jack and Daniel had given to the Ferretti's the year before.
“Maybe we should get one of those for the house,” Daniel commented.
With a bit of a laugh, Jack responded, “What for? We *never* have leftovers unless it's something no one will eat, anyway.” He paused, seeing something on the counter. “Alex, what's this?” He picked up the book and asked incredulously, “A cookbook?”
“It seemed appropriate,” Alex remarked about the volume entitled, 'Fast Healthy Meals on Big Wheels: Cooking for a Crowd in your RV'.
“A crowd?” Jack questioned with raised eyebrows.
“What else do you call your family, Jack?”
Jack thought for a moment and then replied, “Good point.”
“I'm sure it will come in handy,” Daniel noted diplomatically, taking the book and putting it back down on the countertop. “Thank you, Alex.”
“Yeah, thanks, but one question,” Jack spoke up. “Aren't those sheets on the bed in the bedroom a little ... loud?”
Alex smiled, patted Jack on the shoulder, and walked by him, disembarking from the RV.
“What does that mean?” Jack inquired.
With a chuckle, Daniel answered, “That Alex has a sense of humor,” before following the designer outside.
**No author; he probably wrote it,** Jack commented, glancing again at the cookbook.
**It wouldn't surprise me, Babe; just trying to give us a hand,** Daniel replied.
~Of course: Alex, the helping hand,~ the general opined in an amused manner. Then, referring back to the sheets and their hidden meaning, he remarked, “We're not ... loud.” After a pause, he said, “Okay, so we're loud ... sometimes,” to the RV before joining his husband and their designer outside.
“Kids, Daddy and I have an announcement,” Jack informed as the children settled in for an unexpected family meeting on the following Monday.
With the RV ready to go and having made several decisions about their trek across America, the lovers had decided that it was time to share the news with their brood.
“What is it, Dad?” Chenoa asked.
“We're going in search of America,” Jack answered cryptically.
Jeff's eyes widened, and he leaned forward, wondering if he was connecting the right dots. It was an intriguing idea, if he was making the correct assumption.
“All of us are taking an extended family vacation,” Daniel informed. “We're going to see the sights, to meet new people, and to explore new places we've never been to before.”
“That's really cool,” Jeff responded, giving his older father a 'thumbs up'. ~Wait a minute: extended? What does that mean?~
“Wow!” Brianna exclaimed at the same time.
“What does 'extended' mean, and what about our camping trip, Dad?” Jeff questioned.
“That's still a go,” the silver-haired man answered.
“We'll use that as a test drive,” Daniel added.
“Here's the game plan,” Jack stated. “We're leaving sometime in mid-July for about six weeks.”
“Six weeks?” Jennifer interjected, glancing over at Jeff. “What about school?”
“Jen, this is very unique opportunity for our family,” Daniel began. “We know you and Jeff would be missing out on the first couple of weeks of the new semester, but we're confident you'll both be able to catch up quickly. If one or both of you have very strong objections to this trip, we can talk about alternatives later, but we're hoping you'll want to be a part of the entire trip with the rest of us.”
“No problem for me,” Jeff stated. “The first week is just settling in, anyway.” He was all smiles, until he began to think about his girlfriend, Chely. ~I'd hate to be away from her that long.~
“Okay,” Jennifer added, not saying anything more.
When the conversation seemed to die out to silence, Jack continued, “We aren't going to have an itinerary. We're going to follow the wind.”
“How do you follow the wind?” Jenny asked. “I can't see the wind.”
“He means we're going to wing it,” Jennifer clarified.
“Oh,” Jenny responded, shrugging and remaining confused.
“Kids, we're going to be in tight quarters, so everyone is limited to three outfits: two casual and one more dressy. We *will* have a strict laundry schedule that you, Jen and Jeff, will be responsible for, making sure we are in clean clothing.” Looking at the younger children, Jack continued, “You can only take two toys each, and then you can take one other item you'd like to have ...”
“Within reason,” Daniel interjected.
“Tight quarters?” David questioned all of a sudden. “In what?”
Jack and Daniel exchanged a smile, and then Jack pulled out his cell phone and pressed a button. A few seconds later, the phone call was answered.
The brood was anxious to see what their older father was talking about. They asked several questions, receiving only smiles in response. Then, a loud, sustained honk was heard.
“Tight quarters, outside!” Jack exclaimed, nodding for the kids to go check it out.
Hurriedly, the brood headed outside, gasping at the sight of the huge black and white RV.
Sam opened the doors and popped her head out, saying, “Hey, come see your new home on wheels.”
Now that they were outside, the children ran to the RV, ooing and awing at the sight.
“Watch this,” Jack stated, keeping the kids on the driveway.
“Stand back,” Daniel instructed, making sure the children did as told.
“Wow!” Lulu expressed excitedly as the RV 'grew' right in front of her eyes.
“I've never seen a car grow before,” Ricky giggled as four different areas of the RV expanded.
“They call those spots 'slide-outs',” Jack explained when the process was completed and he'd rejoined his family. “It makes the place more livable when parked.”
“Come on, Kids,” Pete encouraged from inside the RV.
“Calico will love this,” Lulu said as she climbed aboard the vehicle.
Daniel looked over at his lover.
Jack grimaced and walked by his soulmate, remarking, “Don't say it, Daniel.”
“Wouldn't dream of telling you, 'I told you so'.”
“Okay,” Daniel stated with a humorous nod.
“Okay,” Jack scowled as he followed the children inside the RV. ~I guess the cats are coming.~
The police detective walked them through the interior, showing off the storage space he'd helped to add and modify.
The luxurious vehicle had all the extras, but it was easy to see how it could become cramped if the children brought too much stuff with them.
“Are you coming with us, Aunt Sam, Uncle Pete?” Little Danny questioned as he looked around.
“No,” Pete answered. “Sorry, I can't get any time off.”
“Bijou and Katie have a new beanbag, Jonny,” Little Danny pointed out, seeing the bright red item that was situated at the edge of the living and kitchen area.
“Dad, where will Calico and Mittens sleep?” Lulu asked anxiously.
“Voila!” Pete answered for the father.
The detective walked over to the entertainment area, where the TV was overhead. He'd modified the lower part of the storage area for the felines, first by combining the two bottom rows and making it just one space. He opened the new cabinet door, sliding it up and over itself, revealing a fairly roomy play space for the cats; at least, it was roomy in his mind, considering what he'd been given to work with.
“Watch,” Pete instructed, reaching through a small area and pulling down a screen that latched to snaps at the bottom. “If you need to confine them, but don't want to use the carriers, just fasten the screen. They can see out and get lots of air.” He smiled and added wryly, “And you'll notice they have a super duper covered litter box on the far end that I've secured so it won't move around and spill its contents.” He leaned forward and spoke to the youngest children, “That means you won't have to clean up unpleasant surprises.”
“Where are their carriers?” Jonny questioned.
“One is in this shelf,” Pete answered, opening the shelf above the play space. “The other is over here,” he said, pointing at the end table that was next to the J-lounge. “I found a carrier that will slip right into this space beneath the end table. If you keep the door open, it's just enough room, if they want to hide for a while.”
“That's not a lot of room, Uncle Pete,” the red-headed Jenny observed with concern.
“Well, Red, sometimes you have to go with what works. From what your folks have said, sometimes the cats can be free to run around the RV, but at other times, they'll need to be here, too,” Pete said, pointing at the space he'd created. “Just in case, though, we built a cat play area that's plenty large for them; it's expandable and, if you need to leave them in the RV, they can still have everything they need: litter box, food, water, a mini-cat scratching post. You can set it up anywhere in the living or kitchen area, and the top is removable, so it's your choice, based on the situation, as to whether or not you want the play area to be fully enclosed or not. Okay?”
“Like TT?” the little girl asked, comparing the cat play area to the portable play area known as ToddlerTown that Jack had built for the little ones years ago.
“Right, CT,” Pete quipped with a pleased expression on his face.
Jenny thought for a moment, pondering the 'CatTown' idea, and then smiled and nodded her approval.
“Ptolemy!” Little Danny gasped. He turned and faced his fathers in horror. “We can't leave her alone.”
“We aren't,” Daniel reassured.
“We're going to spend a lot of time at the house,” Sam reported. “We promise to give Ptolemy ...”
“... and Bogey,” Jonny added, knowing his parents wouldn't let him take the lizard.
“... and ...” Aislinn began.
“And *all* the pets that stay home all the love and attention we can,” Sam promised. “We'll probably be at your house more than our own. I promise.”
“And I promise, too!” Pete declared.
“Dad, people can watch us sleep,” Chenoa commented, pointing to the big, panoramic window at the front of the vehicle.
“Nope,” Jack refuted, walking to the front of the RV. “Learn, Lassie,” the father chimed, pressing a couple of buttons. To the awes and delight of the brood, every inch of window was covered. The bedroom blinds even had darkeners in them to help keep out the light, something Daniel had been thrilled to learn. “Groovy, don't ya think?”
“Groovy?” Brianna asked with huge eyes and a questioning look.
Hitting the power buttons to raise the blinds back up, Jack smiled and replied, “It means cool, good ...”
“I know what it means, Dad, but ... gee,” the tomboy teased.
The younger father interjected, “We'll talk more about the sleeping arrangements, but we'll be using the jackknife, the ...”
“Jackknife? You have a knife, dad?” Ricky questioned.
“That's what this sofa is called, Son,” Jack said, walking over and sitting down on it. “That one over there is called a J-lounge.”
“And this is the dinette table and bed,” Daniel noted, sitting down at the booth.
“Bed?” several of the children called out in surprise.
Smiling, Daniel answered, “Yes. Watch.” Daniel stood, lowered the table, pressed a button that saw the bench seats suddenly expand out another eighteen inches. Then he pressed another button beneath the table that released a safety and allowed him to pull out the table. He opened one of the storage cabinets directly above the 'table' and pulled out the fitted cushion, slipping it onto the table. “Voila! Now it's a bed.”
“I'll sleep here!” Jonny volunteered, lying down on it, thinking of it as being one big adventure.
“Uh, we're thinking Ash and Jenny, Jonny,” Daniel stated.
“Ah, shucks, Daddy. I wanna sleep on the table. That's adventure sleeping,” the boy stated.
**He got that from an episode of 'Andy Griffith', Love, except Opie was sleeping on an ironing board and not a table,** Jack chuckled in his mind. **He's a real chip off the ole block.**
**I guess we can't have everything,** the younger man teased, smiling at the pout that had suddenly hit his lover's face.
“What's that noise?” David questioned, hearing a motor-like sound and approaching the front of the RV.
“That's the generator, David,” Sam answered as she and most of the others made their way towards the cockpit area.
“It has a generator?” the boy questioned.
“No, Son,” Daniel answered. “Uh, to use some of the special features of the RV, we have to be ... plugged in. Most of the time, we'll be staying at RV parks that have electrical hookups. It's extremely expensive and a huge use of gas to use the generator, but if we have an emergency or ... something unanticipated happens,” he continued, shrugging, “then we'll have a backup.”
“We invested in two very powerful generators, but with any luck, this is the only time we'll be using them,” Jack elaborated.
“What are we gonna name her, Dad?” Jonny asked, having recovered from his disappointment quickly.
“We'll have to talk about that,” Jack responded. “Penelope?”
“Ewwwww,” several of the children complained.
Daniel rolled his eyes as the discussion continued. He just knew the family would end up with some nonsensical name for the new RV. He just hoped it would be one that wouldn't embarrass him in public.
“Jeff, I'd like to talk with you for a minute,” Daniel requested a few minutes later as the great name debate raged on.
“Sure, Daddy,” Jeff answered as he glanced at Chenoa, who had just suggested they call the RV 'Teal'c'.
Daniel led the teenager to the small space between the jackknife sofa and the wall. One of the Shanahans, Daniel wasn't sure which, had modified the storage space for the area.
“Dad and I are bending the item limit rules here, but we wanted you to have a safe place,” Daniel said, opening the door that revealed several specially designed compartments and drawers.
“For what?” Jeff asked as the door was opening.
Seeing the interior cabinet design, the boy already knew the answer. His smile was huge as he reached in with his hand to feel the velvet lining that had been added to help the items stored there to remain safe.
“For your camera equipment,” the archaeologist explained.
“Wow, thanks Daddy,” Jeff exclaimed as he examined his specialized space.
“We tried to think of everything, but I'm sure we missed something,” Daniel mused. With a smile, he said, “We made sure there was space for your tripod, your cameras, film ... well, just everything.”
“It's great, Daddy.”
“We're bringing one of the camcorders, but we thought it would be a great idea to have our own personal photographer along to capture all those Kodak moments that we are sure to have,” the father said.
“There's a spot for everything,” Jeff spoke excitedly as he closed one of the drawers.
“This is yours,” Daniel stated, handing his oldest son a key with a key chain that had a picture of a F-18 Hornet on it. “There's a lock on the door to keep it secure.”
“Thanks. Daddy. Now I don't have to debate on which camera to take,” Jeff responded gratefully.
“Thank Aunt Sam and Uncle Pete: they're the ones who made it work.”
“I will,” Jeff said, still smiling.
When the boy's smile faded, Daniel questioned, “Is something wrong?”
“I was just thinking about Chely,” Jeff sighed, looking down.
“Bad timing, Jeff,” Daniel acknowledged, well aware that Jeff had just asked the girl to 'go steady' less than a week ago. “I'm sorry about that, but this trip is going to be very special for all of us. You can call her every day, if you like.”
The teen looked over at his younger father and asked, “Can I?”
Daniel smiled, stating, “We'll figure out the most economical way of doing that, but, yes. I'll talk to Dad.”
“It's just ... we just started going steady,” Jeff spoke a bit bashfully.
“She'll be here when we get back. It's only six weeks, Jeff, not an eternity,” Daniel reminded, patting the boy supportively on his back. “Let's get back to the others before we end up with an RV named Teal'c,” he chuckled.
Since another ten minutes of nickname jabbering hadn't resulted in a winner, Daniel interjected, “We need to review the security and emergency systems.” Ignoring his lover's stare, he continued, “We have a special window just for egress ...”
“E-what?” Ricky questioned.
“He means to escape,” Jonny answered, surprising just about everyone.
“Uh, right, if there's an emergency,” Daniel affirmed, looking down at the oldest Munchkin.
“Aunt Sam has assigned special codes for entering and exiting; we'll talk about those later,” Jack stated. “Now about a nick...”
“Yes, about the safety measures. We have fire, smoke, and carbon monoxide detectors. We have ...”
Jack snarled at having been interrupted, but he knew it wouldn't be long before the nickname topic rose again.
“So, we have plenty of room in these storage compartments for some outdoor equipment, including the tents, ToddlerTown, CatTown, a tub to bath JD in, and whatever else we need to take,” Jack pointed out as the family looked at one of the slide-out storage trays.
“Back inside the house,” Daniel instructed. “We have more to talk about.”
“Yeah, a name for our new RV,” Ricky spoke enthusiastically.
“Right,” Daniel sighed, shaking his head and still hoping for a half-decent name but having little confidence that would be the case.
With the brood seated and Sam and Pete there as well, Daniel continued, “Jen, Jeff, we're sending you to school.”
“Huh?” both teenagers questioned.
“RV school,” the younger father explained with a smile. “Dad and I have already taken a two-day course, and we decided we'd like you two to learn how to drive the RV, too. It's not as easy as you think, but we both believe that each of you are up to the challenge.”
“We can handle it, Daddy,” Jeff spoke on behalf of he and his sister.
“If you'd rather just learn the basics, you can,” Jack interjected. “But we'd like to feel like both of you could drive the RV if there were an emergency.”
“I think it'll be interesting,” Jennifer spoke.
“We've made arrangements for you to take a one-day course on Thursday. Any plans that would interfere?” the older father questioned.
“Just the one day?” Jeff questioned.
“There's a lot of mechanical things that you two probably don't ne...” Daniel began.
“Daddy, could we take the full course? I'd really like to understand as much as I can about the RV and its mechanics,” Jennifer stated.
“Me, too,” Jeff added. “You never know.”
“I'll call in the morning,” Daniel stated, making himself a note.
“Just remember, this isn't a game,” Jack spoke up. “Driving that monster isn't as easy as folks might think.”
“That's why we want the full course, Dad,” both teenagers acknowledged at the same time.
“Good thinking,” Jack spoke, feeling like he'd just gotten caught with a bit of foot-in-mouth disease, smiling weakly. “Daniel.”
Trying not to laugh, the archaeologist went to the next item on the list, stating, “We'll be taking two sets of walkie-talkies with us, and there will probably be times when we'll need help to park. Dad and I would like you both knowledgeable enough that you can help guide us into a safe and proper parking area.”
“Okay,” the teens acknowledged again, looking at each other and smiling.
“This is gonna be fun,” Jeff expressed with a happy tone and smile.
“I love it when we go places together,” Jennifer added. Then she leaned over towards her brother and whispered, “I'll have to miss Sheila's end-of-summer party, though.”
Jack heard the comment and was about to interject when Jeff spoke, “Yeah, and there's that basketball tourney I wanted to play in with the guys. They'll be disappointed.”
At that moment, Daniel, having also heard the quiet exchange, was going to say something, his concern about the trip resurfacing, but before he could speak, Jennifer said with enthusiasm, “But you know what, Jeff? This a chance to see the country with our family. I'll be going to college in a year, and you're right behind me. I don't know about you, Bro, but I want these memories. A party is ... just a party.”
“But family is forever,” Jeff spoke back. ~And I get to talk to Chel on the phone.~ “Yeah, you're right. They have tournaments all year long. The guys will understand.”
Just then, the teenagers realized their parents were watching them.
With a smile, Jennifer spoke, “We were just having a teen meeting.”
“What did you decide?” Jack asked cautiously, having not heard the final verdict.
“That we can't wait to go on this crazy trip with our crazy family,” Jennifer answered, much to her older father's relief.
“You sure?” Daniel questioned.
Jonny sighed and frowned as he interjected, “Of course, she's sure, Daddy. Why wouldn't she want to go with us? We're family! Family goes together.”
A chorus of 'yeas' were heard, along with several shocked faces aimed at the two parents.
“Pardon us,” Jack requested. “What's next on the list?” the pleased man asked as the meeting continued.
“As for your clothing outfits, except for your dressy outfit that will be worn sparingly, everybody is getting all new casual attire for the trip,” Daniel announced as he pointed to a stack of catalogs on the table.
The girls all squealed with delight, except for Brianna, who simply shook her head at her female siblings.
“Hold on,” Jack warned the overly excited females in the family.
“Dad's right,” Daniel continued. “The clothes in those catalogs are very simple and plain, but they're designed to repel insects, protect you from the sun, and to wick moisture away from your skin. They also wash easily, dry quickly, and remain wrinkle free, so the laundry will not be a huge burden.”
“Cool,” Jennifer expressed happily since she was pretty sure that the laundry would be her responsibility.
“The good news is that even though they're a little on the plain side, they are comfy,” Jack informed.
“Maybe I can spruce them up a little,” Jennifer offered, willing to use her sewing expertise to give the new outfits a bit a pizzazz.
“I'll help, Jen,” Chenoa added with a smile, happy when her sister nodded her approval.
“So, over the next couple of days, you can look through the catalogs, and make your selections. Dad and I will approve your choices, though. Oh, and we'll be wearing disposable underwear and socks.”
“Love the convenience,” Jack said with a smile. “Just wear and toss.”
“Ewww,” Jonny whined. “Sounds yucky.”
“Yucky?” Daniel echoed at the expressive word. “Uh, well, actually, no. They're pretty comfortable, made of cotton, and they do a job. You'll see them in the catalog.”
“They aren't talking about Depends,” Jennifer teased.
“Or Pampers,” Jeff chuckled.
“Huh?” the sandy-haired Munchkin asked as he looked over at his oldest sister and then at his oldest brother.
Jack interjected, “Kids, remember, we'll be doing enough laundry as it is, and we'll be picking up things ...”
“Mementos, souvenirs ...” Daniel offered as examples.
“... that will need space,” the older father continued. “We can vacuum pack these to reduce the space they need and then toss them, creating space for ...”
“... *for* ...” Daniel interrupted, his word overstepping his lover's. He just had a sense that Jack was going to start talking about trinkets, gizmos, and gadgets. Sure enough, his lover tried to hide a smirk as the archaeologist retook control of the conversation. “So, back to the point, we'll make sure we have plenty of undergarments on hand. They can be laundered a couple of times, so a package of five should last everyone a week.”
“Are you sure we'll have them in time for the trip?” Jennifer questioned. “Mail order isn't very fast.”
“We'll have our order shipped express; the clothes will be here in plenty of time,” Jack answered.
“What about shoes?” the shoe-loving Chenoa asked with a coy smile.
“Two pairs, one sneaker and one dressy, to be approved by Daddy and me,” Jack responded with a serious expression, not giving in to the tiny pout on the little girl's face.
“Pajamas?” Aislinn asked.
“Yes, Ash,” Jack chuckled. “One set of pajamas for each of you; no nightgowns.”
“We'll also help you select a jacket and a sweater,” Daniel informed, adding, “but now that you've seen the RV, you can see why we're going to limit how much you can take, right?” The archaeologist looked at the children, studying their faces carefully. “Right?” he asked again.
“Right, Daddy,” David finally responded for the reluctant brood.
“Right,” Daniel sighed dryly.
“And no arguments about JD having more than two toys,” Jack quickly added. “He's a baby, and he needs more, including clothing.”
“Everyone will still have a job or chore to do. The RV is going to be our home away from home, and we need to keep her clean,” the archaeologist pointed out. “Jonny, you're going to be the trash monitor. If you see something left out or on the floor, it's your responsibility to pick it up and dispose of it.”
“And I'd better not see anyone pulling a prank on Jonny. He's not your garbage man; he's a monitor for when something *accidentally* falls down, or whatever,” Jack said sternly.
Daniel continued, “Jenny, you're responsible for Katie and Bijou, making sure they're fed and have water. If we get low on food, you'll need to tell us. We'll keep some in one of the storage cabinets and some in the storage bays under the RV. The girls are used to having their feeders, so this is going to be an adjustment for them, and you'll have to be cognizant of that.”
“Cogniwhat?” the long-haired girl asked.
The linguist smiled and said, “You'll need to be aware. They don't tend to eat at one time during the day, so you may have to help them learn to eat that way on the trip, and you'll need to make sure you tell Dad and me if they don't eat or drink. Okay?”
“Okay,” Jenny confirmed.
“David, you'll be in charge of inventory,” the younger father informed.
“Yes,” Daniel affirmed. “We'll be keeping a checklist of non-grocery supplies: cleaners, toiletries, et cetera. You'll be in charge of making sure Dad and I know when we're running low. We'll talk more about that as we develop our list.”
“Okay, Daddy,” David spoke with a large smile, loving that he'd been given what he felt was a very responsible job for their trek across the country.
“Ash, you're going to be our music coordinator,” Daniel announced.
The little girl grinned and asked, “What does that mean?”
“There's a lot of preliminary work you'll have to do before the trip, but we'd like you to study up on state songs and make sure we always have something to sing no matter where we are,” the archaeologist spoke.
Still grinning, the music lover responded, “Daddy, I'll need to make notes. Does my notebook count as one of my three things?”
“No, Princess, that wouldn't be fair, and we'll talk about the best way for you to do your job, okay?”
“Okay,” Aislinn agreed.
“Ricky ...” the younger father began, continuing the chore assignments.
“What about me?” Brianna asked when everyone had been given at least one chore or responsibility.
“Bri, this is a very important job, and we hope you'll take it very seriously,” Daniel responded.
“Kid-counter,” Jack stated. “No matter where we are, whenever we stop, start, or pause, count heads. Make sure we are always two adults, twelve kids, two dogs, and two cats. We want a backup; things can happen quickly out there.”
Brianna's first response was an inner sigh of boredom and the thought of 'geez, we all do that anyway,' but then she saw a seriousness and sincerity on her parents' faces. They were serious about the responsibility part.
“Bri, we're going to be in places most of you have never been before. Things happen. We want a reliable backup to our normal checks. I want to be able to be driving and call out, 'Bri, head count,' and have you respond back, 'all checked as of a half-hour ago', or whatever,” Daniel stated.
“Okay, I get it,” Brianna spoke, feeling like she did understand the trust she was being given and appreciating the job fully now.
“I've made a lot of ... enhancements to the RV's security system, so please listen to your parents if they tell you not to touch something,” Sam requested with big, begging crystal blue eyes.
“We know how to use the house's security system,” Jonny spoke up, wanting to know the details.
“Yes, I know,” Sam acknowledged. With a coy smile, she explained, “But, uh, some of these are ... well, they're ... out of this world, so to speak.”
“Ooooh,” Jonny acknowledged with a nod, though he still wanted to know the details.
“Oh, I got the latest booster seats for ...”
“Ah, Aunt Sam,” Jonny whined.
“We're too old for booster seats now,” Lulu insisted. “I'm seven-and-a-half.”
“And I'm tall enough,” Jonny said.
“Whoa!” Jack interrupted, waving his hands out in front of him. “Laws are very important rules, and we can't be breaking rules.”
Jack's eyes darted to the right towards his lover and then downward. Danny's head dropped suddenly as he closed his eyes for a moment. Sam just looked away, while Pete stood by, shaking his head. He'd heard enough stories to know that what Jack had just spoken was a bit odd for him to have said, considering his colorful past.
The general clapped his hands together and prodded, “So ...”
“So,” Daniel echoed. “The point is that while the laws still vary from state to state, we have to make sure we're following them, and we don't want to take chances.”
“So, I have new booster seats for the Munchkins, the Spitfires, Noa, and Lulu. JD has a new infant seat, too,” Sam informed and still getting sour faces in response. “Sorry, Brood, but these are really comfortable and very adjustable.”
“I didn't see them when we were in the RV,” Jenny said.
“They're stacked in one of the storage cabinets we didn't open,” Jack explained.
“Okay, next ...” he began as one of the longer Jackson-O'Neill family meetings continued.
After the Shanahans had left and the other children had filtered out of the living room, Ricky hung back and tugged on Daniel's pant leg.
“Does my blanket count as one of my items?” the boy asked earnestly.
Ricky had had the precious tan blanket almost from his birth. He was very attached to it, loving the pictures of animals that decorated the warm item. For years, he carried it around with him, but now he only slept with it.
Daniel knelt down and caressed the boy's cheek, answering softly, “No, it doesn't count.”
Giving his father a big smile, Ricky hugged Daniel and said, “Thanks, Daddy.”
“Hey, what about me?” Jack asked.
“Thanks, Dad,” the youngster said, hugging his older father before heading upstairs.
“So, Angel ...” Jack began as he moved to stand beside his lover.
“Yes, Babe?” Daniel questioned.
“How many exceptions to the three-item limit do you anticipate us making?”
Daniel's eyes widened as he drew an audible breath, nodding slightly, though he hadn't said a word.
“Five things each?” Jack surmised.
“Probably,” Daniel acknowledged. “But it's better than what they would have brought without a limit, and we'll try to keep it to three, but ...”
“But for every rule ...”
“... there is an exception,” Daniel chuckled.
The lovers shared a quick kiss and continued on with their day.
“Danny, we're running out of time,” Jack spoke as the lovers dressed the next morning.
The younger man sighed as he walked into the closet to choose a shirt for the day.
“Angel, we're going to have to hit her with the hard, cold facts,” Jack stated when his husband hadn't responded.
Walking out of the closet, buttoning his white and blue check shirt, Daniel sighed again.
“Look, Jack, I don't want to scare her,” Daniel spoke.
“We should have thought about it more from the beginning,” Jack stated, sitting down on the bed to put on his shoes and socks.
“Color,” Daniel spoke, sitting down next to him.
“Color,” Daniel repeated, pointing down at his lovers mismatched socks.
“Oh, for crying out loud,” Jack whined, getting up and replacing the incorrect gray sock with a white one. Returning to his spot on the bed, he said, “We've taken the cats with us before, and they are leashed-trained.”
“But not for six weeks, and not when we can't give them one-hundred percent of our attention. Do we want them living in their carriers for most of the trip? Do we want to take the chance?” Daniel spoke.
Putting on his last shoe, Jack answered, “They've always been in their carriers on the trips to the cabin.”
“All it would take is one open window at the wrong time. Jack, even with GPS tracking, I'd be concerned.”
“We could find them,” Jack agreed. “That's not the issue.”
“No, it's not. It's what could happen to them from the moment they got out to the moment we found them,” Daniel sighed. He leaned back onto the bed, staring up at the ceiling. “I love those cats, Jack, and I want them to go with us, but I'm scared for them, because as much as I'd like to think we could keep them safe, I'm not sure we can.”
Jack leaned back, lying on his left arm next to his worried lover. He ran his right hand along Daniel's neck, and then slipped his hand inside the top of his shirt, that the younger man had never finished buttoning. He caressed his lover's chest with gentle motions of his fingers.
“We can't protect them, can we?” Daniel asked emotionally.
“Danny, the girls are self-sufficient. They understand somehow. They stay on their leads, and they protect our brood. The cats? They're nurturing, and they're smart, but cats are friggin' independent. I don't want to see them become roadkill.”
“Gawd, Jack,” Daniel complained, pushing his husband's hand off of him and then standing up and walking over to the dresser. He put his hands on his hips and shook his head. “She wants Callie to go so bad.”
“Danny, she'll understand, but we have to give her time to process it. We have to stop hoping that our sudden interest in Disney cat-themed movies and overly emotionally lost animal flicks does the job for us,” Jack put forth.
“I know,” Daniel said, picking up his watch and sliding it on. “I guess I'm being a ... parental coward.”
“No,” Jack refuted, getting up and walking over to his lover. He slid his arms around Daniel's waist and kissed the base of his neck. “You just want to do what's best. So do I, and I love the cats, too.”
Daniel smiled as he turned around and shared a kiss with his husband, who was always denying that he loved the family felines.
“We'll talk to Lulu after breakfast,” Daniel suggested.
“It's the right thing,” Jack opined. “Hey, we'll take that blasted webcam thing with us.”
“Jack, that's a great idea,” a smiling Daniel replied. “I love you,” he said just before kissing his lover again and then heading downstairs.
Jack smiled. Seeing Daniel smile was what he lived for. Having a bit more technology with them on their quest to find America was a small price to pay to see that smile. Then there was Lulu. Keeping her happy was just as important.
~I wonder if need an upgraded webcam? Maybe we should get one of those new digi-phone-cam things,~ the pondering general thought about some new gadget he'd read about. ~I'll check it out.~
Lulu, holding Calico, settled back into Jack's favorite armchair while her parents stood a few feet away. Daniel's arms were folded across his chest, while Jack was fidgeting with David's Rubik's cube that had been left downstairs.
“Callie, I think they want to talk about something important,” Lulu told her trusted cat.
“Sweetie, we do,” Daniel sighed, walking over and kneeling down on one knee as he patted the cat. “We love you, Calico.”
“And that's why we need to talk,” Jack said, moving forward and sitting on the arm of the sofa.
Lulu looked at her parents and sighed, “Calico can't go on our trip, huh?”
Jack and Daniel exchanged a quick look, and then the younger man spoke, “She can, if you want. Lulu, we won't make her stay, if you really want her to go, but we have some concerns.”
“You don't want Callie to get lost,” Lulu spoke perceptively.
“Or Mittens,” Jack interjected. “Princess, they're house cats, and they like it that way. The RV isn't that big; they'd have to be in CatTown or in that special play area in the cabinet most of the time. For a day or two, that's not a big deal, but for six weeks? Besides, neither one of them really likes to be outside that much.”
“Sweetie, we're afraid that when we're on the road trip that Mittens or Calico might get afraid or nervous about something. They could jump out one of the windows or run out of the RV, and it might takes us a while to find them,” Daniel mentioned.
“Lulu, we would find them, but ...” Jack stated.
“Jack,” Daniel interrupted, knowing his husband was about to bring up the worst case scenario. While Lulu might be able to handle it, he wasn't sure he could. “Lulu ...”
“It's okay, Daddy,” Lulu said with a smile. “That's why we've been watching all those movies lately, huh?”
Daniel looked over at his husband, who smiled.
“Callie, it's okay. Aunt Sam and Uncle Pete will play with you every day,” Lulu stated, hugging the gentle creature.
“And you can talk to Callie whenever you want,” Daniel added.
“We're going to take the webcam so you can see her, Lil' Bit,” Jack stated, loving the bright smile on her face.
“I don't want to go without Callie, but she doesn't like the outside. I think it was because she was left alone when she was a kitten. She's safe now, and this is her home. She likes it here,” Lulu stated, her comment mirroring her own sad past to some extent. “I can talk to you every night, Callie.”
When Lulu looked up for confirmation, it was Jack who answered, “And every morning, Princess.”
Just then, Calico heard a noise and jumped off the little girl and scurried away. In a way, it seemed to be an affirmation that their just-made decision was a right one.
“I want her to be safe,” Lulu said as she hugged Daniel and then Jack. As she headed for the stairs, she turned back and said, “Thank you for loving Calico enough to keep her home.”
“We do love her, Little Bit, and we love you, so much,” Daniel said emotionally.
“Very, very much,” Jack added with a reassuring smile.
Daniel walked over to his lover and commented, “She's really growing up.”
“She got the message,” Jack pointed out, referring to the movies.
“What about all that work Pete did in the RV for the cats?” Daniel asked.
“Danny, it may not be the right thing to take the pesky things on a six-week jaunt across the country, but taking them with us on shorter trips ...”
“Jack, I love you,” Daniel said, giving his lover a kiss. “You thought of this a long time ago, didn't you?”
Jack shrugged, his heart singing at his lover's continuing smile, and replied, “Not at the beginning, but soon enough.”
“Earlier enough to stop Pete from making those changes, and I'll bet early enough to still give us the big screen TV that you wanted so much in the beginning,” Daniel deduced.
“Cats need vacations, too,” Jack said, walking away before his sentimentality could be further uncovered.
**And you're going to miss them, right?** Daniel challenged.
**Let's not go overboard, Danny,** Jack responded as he disappeared around the corner.
“Right,” Daniel said with a smile still on his face. “Gawd, I love him.”
“Hey, Jen,” Jeff greeted, entering the kitchen early that evening. “Are you on dinner duty?”
“Nope,” the teenager responded. “I've had this weird craving all day, though, for a chocolate covered banana, so ...” she chuckled as she sat pulled out some chocolate syrup and then retrieved a banana from the bin.
“Oooooh, a *craaaaving*,” Jeff joked, gently bumping into the girl. “Do you think it'll be a boy or a girl?”
“Jeffrey!” Jennifer admonished, kicking the boy with her knee since her hands were full.
“Ouch!” Laughing, the boy replied, “Sorry, Sis; I couldn't resist.”
Sitting down at the counter to enjoy her treat, Jennifer replied, “Yeah, but jokes like that in this house can be dangerous. Dad has *big* ears when it comes to stuff like that.”
A jar of peanut butter in his hand, Jeff took a spoon and sat down next to his sister and replied, “You're safe. He and Daddy are still outside with the brood and the neighbors.”
“They'll give us grief if they come inside and catch us eating like this before dinner,” Jennifer commented.
“Obviously, we're scared to death,” the boy chuckled, waving his peanut butter-laden spoon about slightly in reference to the two of them sitting out in the open as they had their pre-dinner snack. After he'd eaten a bite, he asked with a slight hint of hesitation, “Jen, how do you really feel about this trip we're going on?”
Jennifer looked up at her brother and then down at the banana as she carefully dipped it into the syrup while responding, “You mean about missing school?”
“And just leaving our friends.”
“You're thinking about Chely,” Jennifer surmised.
“Well ... yeah, except Daddy said I could call her every night, but ... you know how it is,” the boy said, shrugging.
“Isn't Chely going to be gone part of August anyway?”
Jeff smiled as if he'd forgotten that fact; then he nodded and said, “Yeah, so I guess it's not so bad.”
“Don't worry, Bro, she's hooked.”
“Me, too,” Jeff spoke. Then he caught himself on the verge of getting too sentimental with his sister and said evasively, “What I really mean is that we both had things planned that we have to cancel now because of this trip, and you know how it is at school when you aren't there to ...”
“... establish territory?” Jennifer chuckled and then bit into her banana. “Mmm, that's good.” She smiled and then responded, “Jeff, to tell you the truth, lately I've been thinking a lot about family. Some of my friends think I'm out of my mind, but ...” She paused and then looked her brother straight in the eye as she said, “Bro, I love this crazy, insane family of ours, and I know that I'm about to go to college. When I do, I'll never be able to get this time back. I *want* to go on this trip.”
“I hadn't thought about it like that,” Jeff replied as he ran the spoon over the top of the creamy item he was eating. He nodded as he processed the sentiment expressed by his sibling. “It's not that I don't want to go.”
“I know,” Jennifer acknowledged with a bit of a smug expression.
“Okay, so some of the guys think I'm crazy.” Jeff laughed, “On the other hand, they always think I'm crazy.”
“Maybe that's because you are,” the girl teased.
“No crazier than you, Sis.”
“Oh, yeah?” Jennifer challenged, leaning into her brother. As she did, and Jeff leaned over towards her, too, the banana dived into the peanut butter. “Oops.” She giggled, “Oh, well,” and then bit into the unexpected food combination.
“I've never had a peanut butter chocolate banana before,” Jeff stated. “How does it taste?”
“Interesting,” Jennifer giggled as she dipped the banana, first into the chocolate and then into the peanut butter, and then forced her brother to eat a bite.
“Geeeeez,” Jeff said, half-laughing as he chewed on the food.
The siblings laughed loudly as they settled back into place.
“I like crazy,” Jeff opined.
“Me, too, Bro,” Jennifer agreed. “Me, too.”
“So much for the Pony Express,” Daniel stated to the Munchkins as they sat around the table at the front of the recreation room. He turned around in his chair to face the hospitality room where Jack was working with the twins. “Babe, how goes the spelling?”
Jack raised his hand up in the direction of his husband, but was looking at the Spitfires when he gave the next word: “Travel. Very soon now, we're going to take a long trip and tra-vel.” When the twins finished writing down the word, their father smiled and collected their papers. “All done, Danny,” he called out.
“How's it going?” Brianna asked as she, David, Chenoa, and Lulu entered the rec room.
“We're done. Looks like you're through, too,” the older man spoke.
“I'd rather be talking about Ancient Egypt than nutrition,” David whined slightly.
Daniel stood and, as he walked towards the other end of the room, announced, “Take a ten minute break, and then we'll have conversation time.”
“What language, Daddy?” Little Danny asked.
The linguist shrugged and answered, “Well, you can each choose what language you want to speak in. Just remember, you need to make sure you're understood, and not all of you are at the same level in the languages you speak, so you may have to work harder to be understood.”
“I like it when we do that,” David said with a smile.
“Makes up for all that health crap, right, Son,” Jack quipped while he scored the twins' spelling tests.
“What?” the other man questioned as he looked up. Suddenly, he realized what he had said. He smirked, shrugged, and stated, “Would a-hundred pennies to the Munchkins' Penny Fund be appropriate.” Seeing nods from all the children, he nodded, too, and said, “I'll get some pennies at the store later.”
“Ik kijk uit naar onze reis,” Chenoa said, expressing in Dutch that she was looking forward to the upcoming trip. Worried she'd spoken a wrong word, she quickly checked one of her dictionaries and smiled. ~That was right.~
“Me, too,” Lulu said. “Oops,” she giggled, realizing she'd responded excitedly in English. Stopping her laughter, she agreed, “Ik ook.” Then she questioned, “Kunnen we in de camper dansen?”
The family had intensified their study of Scandanavian languages in recent times. Most of the brood now had a decent handle on Spanish, French, and Italian, but they were more scattered with the Nordic languages, such as Swedish, Danish, and Norweigan. They were combining that with their continued study of German, Dutch, and a few other languages, depending upon the child's age and level of understanding.
Deciding to switch languages on his young sisters to see how well they could process the change, Jeff answered in German, saying, “Die Küche ist gefliest, ich würde nicht wissen warum nicht.” Ricky had a little problem understanding that his brother had just said the floor at the front of the RV was tiled, so he didn't see why the girls couldn't dance on it. Once the boy understood, Jeff continued, pointing out that the space was small by speaking, “Es ist aber trotzdem nur wenig Platz.”
“Macht nichts. Wir brauchen nur ein bißchen Platz,” Lulu responded in German, smiling brightly when Jeff gave her a nod of approval for how well she'd done with his language shift.
“Yeah, we just need a small space,” Chenoa agreed. “Oops,” she giggled. “I forgot,” she mused about having spoken in English instead of in another language.
“Vamos mirar lugares mucho diferentes,” Brianna sighed happily about all the various places the family would be traveling to. “Espero que vayamos ver el Cañón del Colorado,” she opined. ~That sounds so poetic: the Grand Canyon being called el Cañón del Colorado in Spanish. I really like that.~
Switching to French, Little Danny pointed out, “Maman serait contente,” about Kayla Armentrout. ~She'd smile at us; she'd want to come with us,~ he thought, certain that their birth mother would be happy about their upcoming trip.
“Absolument,” Jennifer agreed with a sweet expression. “Mais elle sera là par l'esprit,” she added, telling her siblings that Kayla would be with them in spirit.
“Et Charlie aussi,” Jonny stated definitively, keeping the French language going as he brought up the deceased older brother that was always a part of the family's life. “Han ser till att vi inte kommer bort.”
~Oh, look at him being so nonchalant. The little rascal just switched over to Swedish when he said that Charlie would make sure that we don't get lost. Look at that grin he's trying to hide. You're a smart one, Jonny Jackson-O'Neill, even if you do try and hide behind Little Danny in the smarts department. I wonder who he learned that from ... Dad!~ Jennifer opined amusedly. ~Okay, well, I've been working on my Swedish, too, so let's see how you do with this.~ Sternly, she instructed, “Se bara till att ni inte försvinner i väg
Jonny looked down, a frown on his face. As covertly as possible, Aislinn whispered something in his ear, and then the boy had a bright 'Oh!' expression on his face.
~Hey, Sis, no fair helping on the language translation. Well, at least I know you both got that message that you shouldn't go wandering around anywhere,~ Jennifer thought as she watched the two triplets together.
“Jag är så lycklig,” Brianna said softly. ~Gee, I hope I said that right, because I really do feel lucky. I'm not that good at Swedish, though.~ When everyone looked at her, she shrugged and elaborated in English, “Sometimes, late at night, I pinch myself to make sure I'm really here.”
“Aw, Bri,” David said, leaning over to give his sister a hug.
“Gee, sometimes I get so emotional. I just hate it,” the tomboy tried to complain, shaking her head rapidly as if to snap out of her sappy state of mind.
“Awwwww -- oooooh,” Little Danny gasped as an idea came to him. “Das ist es!” he exclaimed, saying 'that's it!' in German.
“What's it?” Aislinn questioned curiously.
“Me tarvitaan liikanimi matkailuautolle; isä sanoi sen,” Little Danny reminded.
“Little Danny, I don't know that language,” Jenny said with a pout while putting her hands on her hips in frustration.
“It's Finnish, Jenny, and I just said that we need to have a nickname for the RV; Dad says so,” the middle Munchkin translated.
“Oh, yeah, Finnish,” Jenny sighed. ~Where is Finnish?~ she asked herself. ~I'll ask Dad later.~
“Daddy refuses to call the RV 'Marge'. He says having 'Homer' for the yacht is enough,” Jeff chuckled, deciding to use English.
“Mommy is going to be with us, like always,” Little Danny said. “And Charlie and Grandma Claire and ...”
“Danielito, seremos un tiempo largo si listar todos,” Jennifer interjected, urging her little brother to stop naming all their deceased loved ones or they'd be here a very long time. Looking at her siblings, she said, “Recuerde, hablemos en otro idioma.”
~Oops, caught; better make up for it.~ Jeff decided he'd test out his own Swedish-speaking skills to tell his little brother that the brood knew who he meant. “Vi vet vad du menar, Squirt,” he spoke gently.
“Ja, alla människor som älskar oss,” Aislinn stated, clarifying that they were talking about all the people who loved them.
“Och vi älskar dem också,” Ricky added, the boy having an affinity for the Swedish language.
Jonny stared at his younger brother, who had stumbled a little, but had successfully spoken his reply of 'And we love them, too,' in Swedish. The oldest Munchkin was having to think about what the words meant, when Aislinn once again leaned over and whispered in his ear. She also enjoyed the language, but Jonny was struggling with it somewhat.
~Gotta work on my Swedish. I'm the oldest; supposed to know more,~ Jonny determined, thinking of himself as the leader of the Munchkins, Spitfires, and JD, of course, and feeling a strong desire to be at least 'as smart' as all of them, except for Little Danny, though he'd never admit it out loud.
“Possiamo ricordare loro sul nostro viaggio col RV,” Little Danny stated excitedly in Italian.
“Come?” Jenny questioned, wanting to know how they could remember their deceased loved ones on their trip.
At the same time, Jonny inquired, “Wie?” in German, Jennifer asked, “Hvordan?” in Norweigan, and David queried, “Miten?” in Finnish, all of them wanting to know Little Danny's idea for how to remember their family members who had passed on.
David saw the redheaded Spitfire glaring at him and clarified, “That's Finnish.” When her glare intensified, he thought, ~Better talk to Daddy about giving Jenny some Finnish lesson reminders.~
“In meum librum Latinum bella sententia legebam. Dicebat: Beatus Erratio,” the child prodigy informed.
“I don't know what that means,” Chenoa stated in English, her Latin not being equal to the little boy's.
In English, Little Danny explained, “Beatus Erratio. I read it in my Latin book. It means that our trip will be good because the people we love, who aren't here anymore, will be with us.”
“They'll be our blessing,” Jennifer stated.
“Or they'll bless our trip,” Jeff said.
“I like that: 'a blessed wandering',” Aislinn said. “Det hoeres romantisk ut,” she giggled in Norwegian.
“Ash!” Jenny chastised, punching her older sister in the arm very slightly. ~Romantic? Ick!~
“So, you want to call the RV 'a blessed wandering'?” David asked. “That's a long name.”
“Nishtamesh bemilim latiniot: Beatus Erratio,” Little Danny suggested, speaking Hebrew for the first time. Unfortunately, the boy and David were the only two Jackson-O'Neill children who knew any Hebrew. Seeing all the blank stares, he smiled shyly and restated his comment in Italian, saying, “Useremo le parole latine: Beatus Erratio.”
Now that they understood Little Danny was suggesting they use the Latin phrase 'Beatus Erratio' as the nickname, the kids high-fived each other, loving their choice of nickname. At that moment, Jack entered and asked how they were doing, only to be greeted with excited babble. Laughing at their father's confused look, the kids calmed down and began to speak one at a time, in various languages, gradually filling him in on their decision about the nickname for the RV.
“Buona scelta, Kids. Sono sicuro che il daddy accosentirebbe,” Jack spoke happily, continuing the Italian language. “Danny, parte anteriore e centro!” he shouted.
“Joaquin, quién es yo?” Daniel quizzed as he held JD in his arms as he stopped at the doorway of the kitchen. ~Sometimes, he really does need a reminder of who I am, or maybe he just needs to remember where he is.~
“Lo siento, Amor,” the older man stated apologetically, after which he informed his husband that the children had an announcement to make. “Los niños tienen un anuncio.”
“Oh?” Daniel responded, looking over at the brood.
Excitedly, the kids again relayed their story, all still talking in various languages.
“I like that,” the archaeologist stated. “Oops, I mean, Jeg liker det,” he chuckled in Norweigan. “It's a very good choice,” he added with a proud and endearing smile.
“Lo es que dije,” Jack replied. ~In fact, it's exactly what I said: a good choice, indeed.~ He added, “So, it's a go!”
“Debemos hacer un signo que dice, 'Beatus Erratio',” Brianna suggested, believing that a sign with the Latin name on it would be a good idea.
“Lo podríamos tener pintó en la espalda del RV,” Lulu put forth, smiling at her suggestion that they paint the name on the rear of the vehicle.
“Yah, could we, Dad, Daddy?” requested several of the children in various languages.
“We'll talk about that,” Daniel replied. Quickly, he translated his words into Spanish: “Hablaremos acerca de eso.”
“Bueno, bueno,” Jack spoke. “Okay, Kids, deux minutes supplémentaires, et vous peuvent s'excuser des études de homeschool pour le jour. Danny, je vais dehors,” he announced, instructing the brood to continue their language conversation for another two minutes and then they'd be done with school for the day and then telling his lover that he was going outside..
“Okay, uh, warum?” Daniel questioned curiously, deciding to switch over to German.
“I want to check ole Beatus ...” Jack paused. The nickname was way to long for him. The nickname needed a nickname. He made a pensive face, scrunching up his face from side to side as the thought. ~Hmmm.~
Raising his left hand with one finger pointed, Jack responded, “Ich will Betsy's Spiegel prüfen,” telling everyone that he wanted to check on the RV's mirrors.
“BETSY?” a roomful of voices cried out, followed by an immediate, “Daaaaaddy!”
“Jack, sie haben 'Beatus Erratio' und nicht ... Betsy gesagt,” the younger man reminded, correcting his husband on the correct name for the RV.
“Of course, they did, and Betsy, it is,” Jack proclaimed with a grin. “Lulu, I think your idea to paint 'Beatus Erratio' on the back of Betsy is a great one. I'll talk Daddy into it,” he said, smiling his approval at the young girl. “Due nuovi minuti,” he reminded the children in his favorite foreign language, Italian, before walking by his lover, stopping briefly to give JD a kiss on the cheek and then brushing his lips over Daniel's as well for good measure. “Ti amo,” he spoke before disappearing from sight.
“Oh, Daddy,” Jennifer sighed.
“Er wird sich nie ändern, Brut; dass wisst ihr,” Daniel said, reminding the brood of what they already knew, that their older father would never change. “Do you want me to try and ...”
“No, Padre no sería Padre si no desordenó palabras,” Little Danny sighed, knowing their older father wouldn't be himself if he didn't mess up the words he was saying sometimes. He smiled, though, and said, “Pero, si tener ‘Beatus Erratio’ pintó en ella, todos siempre sabrán su nombre verdadero, y así que nos hacer.”
The children considered Little Danny's comment, that with the name, 'Beatus Erratio' painted on the back, then anyone who saw the RV will know that's the name; not only that, but the brood will know it, too. One by one, the brood nodded their agreement.
“Siete sicuri?” Daniel asked, trying out Italian for a minute as he sought to make sure the kids were sure they were okay with Jack's nickname for the nickname. “I will fight for you on this one. I'm very, very proud of you for thinking of our family who isn't here.”
“Sono qui, Daddy,” Aislinn corrected emphatically. ~I know they're here,~ she thought, placing her hand over her heart.
“Ecco perchè desideriamo il nome sul RV,” Chenoa spoke, pointing out that knowing their loved ones are here, with them, is why they want to put the name on the vehicle.
“Okay,” Daniel agreed. “Two minutes is up,” he said, fudging the time. “I love you all, so darn much.”
“Papá, puedo ayudar Padre con ...” Jenny sighed, “Betsy?”
Everyone laughed as Daniel nodded his permission for Jenny to go and help Jack with the RV. He motioned for Jeff to make sure the little girl connected with Jack outside. The younger father watched as the children filed out. He really was proud of them for how they dealt with their older father's inner child. He was even more proud of their continued desire to include in their everyday lives those that had passed from mortal existence.
“Betsy,” Daniel chuckled. “Well, JD, leave it to your Dad to give a nickname a nickname.” As the boy giggled, the father added, “I just know we'll be in for a summer of Betsy jokes and songs. Mark my words.”
STREAMLINE ENGLISH-ONLY TRANSLATION OF THE ABOVE SCENE:
“I'm looking forward to our trip,” Chenoa said.
“Me, too,” Lulu said. She added, “Can we dance in the RV?”
“The kitchen is tile, so I don't see why not,” Jeff said. “It's a small space, though.”
“That's okay. We just need a small space,” Lulu responded with a smile.
“We're going to see so many different places,” Brianna sighed happily. “I hope we go to see the Grand Canyon.”
“Mommy would be happy,” Little Danny pointed out about Kayla Armentrout.
“She sure would,” Jennifer agreed with a sweet expression. “But she'll be with us in spirit.”
“And Charlie, too,” Jonny stated definitively. “He'll make sure we don't get lost.”
“Just don't go off wandering around anywhere,” Jennifer instructed sternly.
“I feel so lucky,” Brianna said softly. When everyone looked at her, she shrugged and said, “Sometimes, late at night, I pinch myself to make sure I'm really here.”
“Aw, Bri,” David said, leaning over to give his sister a hug.
“Gee, sometimes I get so emotional. I just hate it,” the tomboy tried to complain, shaking her head rapidly as if to snap out of her sappy state of mind.
“Awwwww -- oooooh,” Little Danny gasped as an idea came to him. “That's it!”
“What's it?” Aislinn questioned curiously.
“We need a nickname for the RV; Dad says so,” Little Danny reminded.
“Daddy refuses to call the RV 'Marge'. He says having 'Homer' for the yacht is enough,” Jeff chuckled.
“Mommy is going to be with us, like always,” Little Danny said. “And Charlie and Grandma Claire and ...”
“Little Danny, we'll be here a long time if you list everyone,” Jennifer interjected.
“We know who you mean, Squirt,” Jeff said gently.
“Yeah, the people who love us,” Aislinn stated.
“And we love them, too,” Ricky added.
“We can remember them on our trip with the RV,” Little Danny stated excitedly.
“How?” Jenny questioned.
“I read a pretty phrase in my Latin book. It said, 'a blessed wandering',” the child prodigy informed.
“I don't know what that means,” Chenoa stated.
Little Danny explained, “It means that our trip will be good because the people we love who aren't here anymore will be with us.”
“They'll be our blessing,” Jennifer stated.
“Or they'll bless our trip,” Jeff said.
“I like that: 'a blessed wandering',” Aislinn said. “It sounds romantic,” she giggled.
“Ash!” Jenny chastised, punching her older sister in the arm very slightly.
“So, you want to call the RV 'a blessed wandering'?” David asked. “That's a long name.”
“We'll use the Latin words: Beatus Erratio,” Little Danny said.
The kids high-fived each other, loving their choice of nickname. At that moment, Jack entered and asked how they were doing. He heard their story and decision about the nickname for the RV.
“Good choice, Kids. I'm sure Daddy would agree,” Jack spoke. “Danny, front and center!” he shouted.
“Jack, who am I?” Daniel quizzed as he held JD in his arms as he stopped at the doorway of the kitchen.
“Sorry, Love,” the older man stated apologetically. “The kids have an announcement.”
“Oh?” Daniel responded, looking over at the brood.
Excitedly, the kids again relayed their story, all still talking in various languages.
“I like that,” the archaeologist stated. “It's a very good choice,” he added with a proud and endearing smile.
“That's what I said. So, it's a go!”
“We should make a sign that says, 'Beatus Erratio',” Brianna suggested.
“We could have it painted on the back of the RV,” Lulu put forth.
“Yah, could we, Dad, Daddy?” requested several of the children.
“We'll talk about that,” Daniel replied.
“Okay, Kids, two more minutes, and you can excuse yourselves from homeschool studies for the day. Danny, I'm going outside,” Jack announced.
“Okay, uh, why?” Daniel questioned curiously.
“I want to check ole Beatus ...” Jack paused. The nickname was way to long for him. The nickname needed a nickname. He made a pensive face, twisting his face from side to side as the thought. ~Hmmm.~
Raising his left hand with one finger pointed, Jack responded, “I want to check on Betsy's mirrors.”
“BETSY?” a roomful of voices cried out, followed by an immediate, “Daaaaaddy!”
“Jack, they said 'Beatus Erratio', not ... Betsy.”
“Of course, they did, and Betsy, it is,” Jack proclaimed. “Lulu, I think your idea to paint 'Beatus Erratio' on the back of Betsy is a great one. I'll talk Daddy into it. Two more minutes,” he reminded before walking by his lover, stopping briefly to give JD a kiss on the cheek.
“Oh, Daddy,” Jennifer sighed.
“He'll never change, Brood; you know that,” Daniel said. “Do you want me to try and ...”
“No, Dad wouldn't be Dad if he didn't mess words up,” Little Danny sighed. He smiled, though, and said, “But if we have 'Beatus Erratio' painted on her, then everyone will always know her real name, and so will we.”
“Are you sure?” Daniel answered. “I will fight for you on this one. I'm very, very proud of you for thinking of our family who isn't here.”
“They *are* here, Daddy,” Aislinn corrected.
“That's why we want the name on the RV,” Chenoa spoke.
“Okay,” Daniel agreed. “Two minutes is up,” he said, fudging the time. “I love you all, so darn much.”
“Daddy, can I go help Dad with ...” Jenny sighed, “Betsy?”
Everyone laughed as Daniel nodded his permission and motioned for Jeff to make sure the little girl connected with Jack outside. The younger father watched as the children filed out. He really was proud of them for how they dealt with their older father's inner child. He was even more proud of their continued desire to include those that have passed from mortal existence in their everyday lives.
“Betsy,” Daniel chuckled. “Well, JD, leave it to your Dad to give a nickname a nickname.” As the boy giggled, the father added, “I just know we'll be in for a summer of Betsy jokes and songs. Mark my words.”
“Hey, fudging?” Jack challenged Brianna, who was carrying a photo of Wayne Gretzky.
“Ah, c'mon, Dad. It's a picture!”
“Okay, go on,” Jack said, allowing the girl to take the picture of her hockey hero onto the RV. “Lulu, come here,” he requested, motioning for the curly-haired brunette to follow him to a quiet spot. “I have something for you,” he said, sitting down on his haunches for the duration of their conversation.
“Dad, I already have my three things,” Lulu spoke.
“I know, but rules have exceptions, Princess, and this is one Daddy and I are making for you,” Jack said as he reached into his pocket.
Lulu gasped in surprise as she saw the orange-colored phone being brought closer to her.
“This has a very important number on speed dial. Watch,” Jack said, pressing the number. A few seconds later, Sam appeared upstairs with Calico in her arms. “Got your ears on, Carter?”
“Sure do, Sir. Lulu, Calico likes to sleep here a lot at night, right?”
Jack laughed, “She's nodding, Carter.”
“Well, if you want to dial in and see her, just press the button your dad showed you, and you can see her. You can talk to her, too. If she's not here, we have four other cameras set up that you can try, all in Calico's favorite places.”
“Thank you, Aunt Sam. I love you, Calico!”
“Meeeeow!” the cat responded.
“Okay, so this ends the connection. Here are the other four numbers you can dial,” Jack said, showing his daughter and allowing her to call each one.
“Oh, thank you, Dad!” the happy girl exclaimed. “I'm going to put this in my special place in the RV so it stays safe.”
“Okay, Princess, but wait a minute,” Jack responded, reaching into his other pocket and pulling out a charger. He handed to Lulu saying, “You'll need this, too.”
Jack smiled as he stood up straight and watched his happy daughter skip away with the special phone and charger.
“You're a softie, O'Neill,” Daniel said as he approached his husband and gave him a sweet kiss.
“I want her to feel safe,” Jack claimed.
“Jack, she does. What you did in setting up those webcams was just to make her happy, and that makes me happy,” Daniel spoke.
“You would have done it.”
“Babe, thank you, but I never would have thought of putting a webcam in front of a litter box, or on the sofa in the study.”
“She likes to sit there because ...”
“To bug you,” Daniel teased. “And giving Pete a 'webcam check' on his daily list of things to check in the house was ...”
“Nuts,” Jack completed. “But she might change her behavior. I'm betting on the one under Lulu's bed.”
“Thank you, Babe,” Daniel said, kissing Jack again. For a moment, he just stared into his soulmate's chocolate brown eyes. He felt so much love. “It's the little things, you know.”
“Yeah, I know,” Jack acknowledged. Just before he felt himself about to get way too emotional, he said, “Hey, we have a trip to take.”
“Time to fly the coop,” Daniel said.
“And spread our wings,” Jack quipped.
Daniel let out a tiny groan and headed back inside the house to make sure they hadn't forgotten anything.
Meanwhile, Jack looked over and saw Jeff standing by himself, talking on his cell phone.
“Jeff!” Jack called out, holding his hand out and tapping on his wrist.
Jeff nodded and turned away as he said, “Chel, I have to go, but I miss you already.”
“You'll call me, though, right?” Chely responded over the phone.
“Every day; I promise,” the boy spoke quietly.
“Have fun, Sir, Daniel,” Sam said, hugging her friends as they were about to head out on their big adventure.
“In search of America,” Pete said. “I bet you find it.”
“There's a lot to see,” Daniel added.
“And we're going to see as much of it as we can in the next six weeks,” Jack put forth. “You know how to reach us.”
“Oh, Sir, one more thing,” Sam said, running to her car and retrieving a bag. “Thor would have killed me.”
“Thor?” Jack questioned.
“The kids all have their patches, and even though the girls have the GPS collars, but Thor thought they should have patches, too,” Sam said, holding up two tiny patches. “He said to put these inside the girls' collars as a backup. They're just like the patches for the kids. You can sew them on, or use Velcro. There's some in the bag.”
“Will do,” Daniel spoke gratefully, willing to take any and all precautions to safeguard his family.
“Okay, Kids, positions!” Jack called out.
Two minutes later, Jack, Daniel, and their brood, along with two dogs, were ready to get out on the road, in search of America. There was a lot to see in a short time, but they were determined to make every minute of their journey count.
“America: the greatest frontier,” Jack said in an airy voice. “Our six-week mission, to seek out new friends and new places; to boldly go, where no Jackson-O'Neill brood has gone before.”
“Corny, Babe,” Daniel commented from his position in the driver's seat.
“You just drive, Love. I'll narrate,” Jack teased.
“Any particular direction you'd like to go?” Daniel asked as he began to back out of the driveway, being especially careful since the family's SUV was being towed behind the vehicle.
“Out there,” Jack said, waving his hand out in front of him as he sat in the passenger seat of the cockpit. “Thataway, second star to the right, and straight on till morning.”
“No more 'Star Trek' for you,” Daniel mused.
“Who says I was quoting Trek?” Jack asked.
“Jack, are you going to sit there and try to convince me that you were quoting dialogue from 'Peter Pan'?”
There was a pause, during which Daniel raised his eyebrows in a silent challenge of his lover. Finally, Jack let out a snicker.
“Engage,” the general responded in command tone just before he broke out into laughter.
“Course laid in, and away we go!” Daniel exclaimed contentedly as he, too, began to laugh.
“On the road again,” Aislinn began to sing, loving her job as music coordinator. “Just can't wait to get on the road again,” she continued.
Jeff and David joined in, singing, “The life I love is makin' music with my friends, and I can't wait to get on the road again.”
Jennifer chuckled, but along with Chenoa, Lulu, and Little Danny, began to chorus, “On the road again, goin' places that I've never been.”
As Daniel honked the RV horn in a good-bye greeting to Sam and Pete and headed on down the road, to where, he had no idea, he and the rest of the family chimed, “Seein' things that I may never see again, and I can't wait to get on the road again.”
“This is gonna be awesome,” Jack opined as he clapped in unison with the children, who were still singing.
“Very awesome, Babe,” Daniel agreed, sharing a loving smile with his husband.
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