Irish Spring

Author:  Orrymain
Category:  Slash, Drama, Holiday, Romance, Established Relationship
Pairing:  Jack/Daniel ... and it's all J/D
Rating:  PG-13
Season:  Beyond the Series - March 12-17, 2016
Spoilers:  None
Size:  55kb
Written:  March 14-17, 2018
Summary:  It's time for another St. Patrick's Day celebration and the Jackson-O'Neills are making the most of it.
Disclaimer:  Usual disclaimers -- not mine, wish they were, especially Daniel, and Jack, too, but they aren't.  A gal can dream though!
Notes:  
1) Silent, unspoken thoughts by various characters are indicated with ~ in front and behind them, such as ~Where am I?~
2) This fic stands alone, but it does reference my other fic(s):  “Luck of the Irish” and “Rubber Duckies”

Irish Spring
by Orrymain

====
--March 12
====

In Colorado Springs, thousands of residents were readying for the St. Patrick's Day festivities, including the annual parade downtown.  This was the thirty-second parade and the Jackson-O'Neills were going to be part of the thousands in attendance.  It was early morning as the family gathered to leave for the event.  Per tradition, when St. Patrick's Day did not fall on a Saturday, the parade was held the Saturday prior to it.

“Wait, guys.”  Jennifer surprised her family when she pulled out her phone.  “Jeff needs to see this.”

Each member of the family was festively dressed, wearing green blouses or polo shirts to matching green-and-black plaid kilts.  They wore white knee-hi socks that at the top had four rows of green mixed in with the white.

“Get the hats,” Ricky called out.

“Good idea, Ricky,” Jenny added.

The hats were a variety of styles and had different decorations on them, and they were all green.  There were top hats, derbies, and a few plush hats made of velveteen.  Opting for a more stylish look, Jennifer adorned her head with a green-and-white tam with a decorative shamrock incorporated into the design.  The most unique hat for the girls was worn by Aislinn, whose hat was more of a hair accessory worn on the side of her head.  Jonny wore the most different hat for the boys, a newsboy style topper that was green and white.

“Jeff, look at us!” Jennifer declared when her brother answered the phone from his dorm room at the University of Cincinnati.  She used a selfie stick with her camera so he could see everyone.  “Don't we look sharp?”

An amused Jeff chuckled and chatted with his family for a few minutes before the Jackson-O'Neills headed for their destination in their RV.  The vehicle was necessary because of their large number and the need to transport their bicycles.

This year, the family was doing something different.  Rather than keep their celebration centered at home, Jack and Daniel decided to participate in the family cycling option of the Pedalin' for St. Pat's Ride.  They considered the various running options, but with JD so young, they decided the bike ride was the best option.

The eight-mile ride began near the Pike's Peak Center and headed up the Midland Trail.  A rest stop was available at the halfway point and then the return trek utilized the Pikes Peak Greenway Trail until ending downtown near the starting point for the parade.

Cycling was a frequent family activity and Jack and Daniel had no doubts that the children could easily go the distance.  The exception was JD, so the lovers came up with a solution for that.  No family member would be left behind during any of the various celebrations on this day.
 
“We're all checked in,” Daniel told his lover.  “We should make the first wave of bikers.”

“Let's talk to Jen, Bri, and David.”

Daniel nodded and the lovers walked over to where the brood was standing.  Jack pointed at the three older children and motioned for them to walk with him while Daniel stayed with the younger ones.

“Dad, we already know,” Jennifer stated.  “You want us to keep an eye on the others.”

“We might get spread out,” Jack pointed out.  “Daddy and I figure that between the five of us, we can keep a close eye on your brothers and sisters.”

“What about JD?” David inquired.

“JD's going to ride with me for the first half and with Daddy for the second half.  Did you bring your phones?”  Seeing the affirmative reactions, he concluded, “Have fun.”

It was nearly time to start, so the family lined up and prepared for the 'go' command.  Once given, bikers took off in a staggered line.  It was a good day for a bike ride, with cloudy blue skies and the temperature in the mid-forties as the journey began.

The parents made sure their children remained hydrated, especially at the rest stop where they visited with other families participating in the event.

Finally, the Jackson-O'Neills turned left on Bijou Street, which for obvious reasons was sentimental to them, and then carefully crossed Tejon Street to the end of the line.  By then, the temperature had risen a good ten degrees.

“That was fun!” Jonny exclaimed after getting off his bike.

“Water for everyone,” Daniel reminded.

“Kids, we can relax for a while,” Jack advised.  “We need to put away the bikes and then the party starts.”

The party was hosted near the finish line by one of the sponsors of the event.  It allowed participants to socialize and get some nourishment.

“Watch what you eat,” Daniel told the brood.  “We're having an early but big ...”

“... big, big, *big*,” Jack interjected with bright eyes.

“... dinner,” Daniel completed.

====

As riders in the cycling event, the family was able to actually be in the annual parade, as was everyone who either ran or rode in the event options.  Their parade transportation was promised to be comfortable, allowing them to enjoy the parade in a leisurely fashion.

“Dad, do we have to ride in the parade?  We'll miss everything,” Little Danny lamented.

“Yeah, I want to watch from the street with everyone else,” Jonny added.

“Me, too,” Jenny asserted.

“I'm okay either way,” David remarked, though he opined, “There's something special about watching it with other people.”

“Danny?”

“It might be tiring for JD,” Daniel responded.  “I'll take him on ...”

“Want to be with brood,” the child demanded, his face stern as he interrupted his daddy.  “Street!”

“The brood has spoken, Daniel.”

“Yes, I know.”  Daniel saw the eyes of the brood on him.  It was clear they wanted to be observers more than comfortable participants.  “We'd better hurry and find a spot.”

The kids were thrilled and anxiously walked away from the staging area and headed forward.  Even with the large crowd, the synergy of the children managed to find a hole which they quickly ascended upon and settled into.  They felt it was a great place to watch the parade go by.  They were surrounded by other families with kids of young ages, too, and they were excited about that.  The brood was very social and always loved to chat with others during happenings like this one.

“The parade is starting,” Daniel observed upon seeing the first riders carrying flags approaching down the center of the street.

“Look at those poop scoopers,” Jack noted.  “Man, that has to be an ugly job.”

“It's just a fact of life, Dad,” Chenoa, the family's main horse lover, stated strongly.

“You're right, Princess.”

Seeing the horses was the highlight of the parade for Chenoa.  There were many other horses for her to see during the parade.

Little Danny honed in on the greyhound dogs who participated in the parade thanks to the Colorado Greyhound Association.  Other dogs were part of the parade, too, and he loved all of them.

“Bij and Katie could walk in the parade,” the child prodigy commented, getting nods of assent from his siblings.  “Look!  There's a llama.”

Daniel turned his head and mused, “He's right.  It's a llama.”

“Yep.  That'a a llama,” Jack agreed in amazement.  Then he noticed JD starting to run.  “Hey, where do you think you're going?”

JD turned around and answered, “To pet the llama.”

“Not today,” Jack returned as he scooped up his son and returned to the sidewalk.

Everyone loved the marching bands from local high schools and military groups.  Jonny centered in on the drummers, loving their rhythm.

Jack focused in on a variety of vintage cars and managed to get an close up view of some of them.  Groups of classic vehicles were scattered all through the parade.  His appreciation of the vehicles was shared by others, especially Jonny and Jenny.  However, towards the end of the parade, the kids were captivated by a collection of love bugs, or Herbies as JD called them.  The Volkswagen Beetles were by far the favorite cars in the parade for the Jackson-O'Neill clan.

Ricky raved about the Marine float, saying, “That Marine has muscles like Popeye.”

Another favorite float featured a huge four-leaf clover and a horseshoe.  That couldn't beat the old red fire engine, though.  The younger kids were totally gone over it.  A more modern fire engine with siren blaring off and on followed, surrounded by members of the Colorado Springs Fire Department.  That was their favorite part of the entire parade, except for the animals.

“If Iweren't going to be a general like Dad and an archaeologist like Daddy, I'd be a fireman when I grow up.”

“Why not do all three?” Aislinn challenged.

Jonny shrugged, thinking it was an interesting idea.  Maybe he would be all three. His parents always told him he could be anything he wanted to, so why not be in the Air Force, go on digs, and put out fires?

~I can do that, if I want to.~

The Munchkin's thoughts on his career options were put on hold when he heard JD reacting to the latest part of the parade.

“Daddy, that's a funny bicycle,” JD observed about the old-fashioned bike that featured a huge front wheel with a small back wheel.

Several riders were on the bikes, going up and down the street in front of the crowd.

“It's called a Penny-Farthing,” Daniel informed his son as Daniel held him in his arms.  “It was actually the first bicycle.”

“It looks funny.”

“It does now, but back in the 1870s and into the 1880s it was really amazing.”

“Isn't a farthing a British coin?” David asked upon hearing the discussion.

“Yes, and the bicycle was named after the penny-farthing.  Remind me tomorrow afternoon and we'll find a picture.  It will make understanding it easier.”

“Better yet.  Why don't you look it up, David, when we get  home and then you can tell JD about it,” Jack suggested.

“Okay, Dad.”  David smiled and asked, “Extra credit?”

Jack's response was a smile, but then he was distracted by the sound of bagpipes and focused on the music.

Getting the most active response was a group of ladies dancing to “Footloose.”

“Come on, Bri!” Jennifer cajoled.

Brianna followed as did several of the siblings who did the same dance steps as the women in the parade were doing.  Everyone sang along, too.  It was bustling and full of chuckles.

Roughly ninety minutes after it began, the parade concluded, leaving the children buzzing about the event.

“I wish the girl scouts brought cookies,” Jonny remarked and the troop that rode in the parade.

“And Ronald McDonald should have given out Big Macs,” Ricky added.

“I wish the 4-H club brought animals.  I didn't see any, did you?” Little Danny asked his siblings, sighing at the shaking heads.

“But the cars were great,” Jonny opined.

“And they gave out treats during the parade,” Ricky mentioned, loving the goodies he'd gathered.

“And there were lots of dogs,” Little Danny put forth as he thought about the positive parts of the parade.

Jack and Daniel laughed as their children turned their regrets into positives.

“Daddy, what do I do with this stuff?” Ricky asked as he held up all the paper ads that he'd been given along with the candies.

“Uh ...”

“I'll handle that,” Jack responded, taking the papers and tossing them into the nearest trash bin.  ~The price of attending public events: junk.~  Returning to his family, he did a quiet head count to make sure no one went astray.  “Time to head home.”

Still chatting away, the family headed for the RV.

====

By three o'clock, the family was home and eager for their holiday dinner.  Almost everyone was involved in some part of the Irish meal preparation.  To keep everyone in the right mood, Irish music played over the sound system.  Someone was always singing along to the tunes.

Several dishes were served, resulting in full bellies and yawning youngsters, just as the parents hoped.  When the meal was done, Jack and Daniel relaxed for a bit, but then it was time for an evening out.  Sam came over to help Jennifer with the children, not that she really needed it.  Everyone knew that, but the parents felt better having a second adult present, especially since they would be gone overnight.

“Don't forget to change the clocks,” Jack stated as he put on his jacket in the entryway.

“Spring is close at hand so ...” Daniel began as he fidgeted with his jacket, getting it to rest exactly as he wanted it so that he was comfortable.

“... spring forward,” Jennifer replied.  “Most of our timepieces are linked to the atomic clock.”

“But the ovens, microwaves ...” Jack pointed out.

“I get it, Dad.  We'll spring forward,” Jennifer promised, aware of a handful of devices that still needed to be set manually to reflect daylight savings time.

“Thank you, Princess.”

Secure in the fact Sam and Jennifer had everything under control, Jack and Daniel headed for Denver and some partying at their favorite same-sex bar.  It was one they'd gone to from the beginning of their romantic relationship.  Back in the day when they were forced to keep their love a secret, they felt as safe there as anywhere.

First, though, Jack and Daniel checked in at Hyatt and let the valet park Daniel's Shelby-American silver sports car.  Once settled, they took a cab to the bar where the couple danced, snacked, and enjoyed plenty of Guinness without worry.  With all the time they were putting in at J-O these days, both men were ready to let go and not fret about responsibilities or refrain from imbibing.  They weren't going to get drunk, but they figured they'd have a buzz and would be over the legal limit of alcohol consumption by the time they finished, which was why they took a cab to the bar and planned on taking one back to the hotel.

The bar presented live music via a group of Irish singers as well as dancers tapping away in traditional Irish dance to add to the festive atmosphere.  Irish food was available, as were both thick black beer and the colorful green beer.

“Oh my gawd,” a tipsy Daniel crooned.

“Daniel, save that for later,” Jack responded.  ~The man has orgasms over ice cream.~

Jack couldn't complain.  The chocolate and Guinness ice cream was delicious and really hit the palate like a wave of nirvana.

At one point as the night went on, when Jack visited the restroom, another tipsy customer made a move on Daniel.  As he returned and overheard what was said, Jack's Mr. Jealousy threatened to make an appearance until something stopped him.

“We could start with a drink, over there, in the corner,” the stranger suggested as his hand hit Daniel's thigh.

The archaeologist smiled and asked, “Do you know I have twelve children?”

“Huh?” the man responded while also removing his hand from Daniel's body.

“Twelve: six boys and six girls, and a zoo, too.”

“A zoo?”

“Two dogs, two cats, two guinea pigs, two rabbits, a bunch of fish, a hyacinth macaw, a bearded dragon, two Shetland ponies, a tortoise.  I may have left one or two out.”

“Our donkey,” Jack spoke in a hushed tone as he leaned over his husband's shoulder.

“Oh, yes, a donkey named Jack.”

“And he has me, too.  I'm Jack, his husband.”

“The donkey?”

“No, the donkey is an ass and if you don't move yours, you're going to have an unhappy end to your St. Patrick's Day celebration.”  Jack grinned and then ordered, “Move!”

The man quickly headed to the other side of the bar, wanting to get away from the couple as quickly as possible.

“I'll bet he didn't know he could move that fast,” Jack chuckled as he sat down.  As he observed his Heart, he mused, “Love, you should see that sloppy smile on your face.”

“He hit on me.”

“Yeah, you've still got it,” Jack replied as he shook his head.  “And I want some of it.”

“Oh, me, too.  I mean, in reverse.”

“I know what you mean,” Jack replied.  “Ready to go back to the hotel?”

Daniel's even wider and sloppier grin was all the answer Jack needed.  He gathered up his soulmate and returned to the Hyatt where nirvana reached electrifying and thoroughly satisfying heights for both of them.

====

Over the next few days, the children made decorations and put them all over the house.  They were also charged with researching St. Patrick and why there was a day in his honor.  With Jack and Daniel working full time, Jennifer and Brianna took charge of the homeschooling efforts and reported to their parents on the results.  Mostly, though, the brood was able to play games, listen to music, and take in everything that was good about the Irish.

There was one other project coming up that Jennifer was charge of and that was the annual spring cleaning.  The vernal equinox was on the horizon, signaling the official start of the spring season.  While the Jackson-O'Neill home was kept clean and orderly year-round, the family always did a deep cleaning once a year.  They preferred to do it as close as possible to spring's blossoming, though sometimes they were delayed.  Thus, Jennifer also spent time over these few days refining the master checklist and making a shopping list of any cleaning products that might be needed.

Spring was near and even with the upcoming cleaning, Jennifer felt happy.  She was in a loving home with a loving family, all of whom were having a great time as they enjoyed the festiveness of St. Patrick's Day.

====
--March 17
====

“All set?”

Daniel reviewed the master list and, while nodding, affirmed, “Yes.”  Before his lover began, he asked, “Are you sure you don't want to use the intercom?”

“Nah, this is more fun.”

“Right.”

Using Jonny's bodhran, the one given to him by Jared O'Reilly in 2012 when the family visited Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, Jack headed upstairs and began to bang against the drum-like instrument.  He added his playful singing to his drum banging, energetically waking up the brood with the song, “It's a Great Day for the Irish.”

The kids began to rouse and when they did, they discovered something unexpected in their beds.

“Lulu?” Chenoa called out.

“Noa, there's a leprechaun in my bed.”

“Mine, too.”

The girls laughed and began to investigate, something the boys were doing as well in their room.

--

“Where'd this come from?” Jonny questioned.

Little Danny let out a yawned, “Dad 'n' Daddy.”

“Maybe a real leprechaun left it,” Ricky offered.  “There's a note.”

Just like the boys, Aislinn and Jenny noticed the note, too.

--

Sitting up, Aislinn pulled the stuffed item closer and honed in on the dispatch.

“Jenny, we need to get dressed.”

“I'm already getting dressed,” the redhead replied.  “I want coins: lots of coins.”

Just like these two, David was also getting dressed.

--

Buttoning his blue shirt, the nearly fifteen-year-old teenager thought, ~I'm too old for this stuff.  So why did I get up so fast after reading the note?~

David sat on the edge of his bed and put on his socks and shoes, sneakers to be specific.

Tying his laces, the genius wondered, ~For that matter, why do I think that little leprechaun is cute and why did I put him on my desk?~

Completely dressed, David looked around for a few seconds before he opined internally, ~Who cares?  I love chocolate.  Move it, David, or the rest of the brood will steal your stuff.~

David wasn't the only older child of Jack and Daniel to wonder if they should be so excited about the present they woke up to on this morning.  Brianna was doing her own mental tap step in her room.

--

~Okay, leprechaun, stop staring at me like that.  I'll get dressed when I want to, and you aren't going to influence me.~

Brianna was still on the bed, holding the item up straight over her head.

~I read the note.  Dad and Daddy are bribing us to get up this early.  It's not even light out yet.~

The tomboy sat the leprechaun on her chest and laughed, “Well, you are kinda cute.”

Halfway through her fifteenth year, Brianna figured she was too old for hunts like this.  Then she heard it, her father's continued drumming and singing.  He was obviously nearby.  He was singing a line of the song that talked about it being a great day for the shamrock.  She chuckled.

~Well, I'm adopted Irish and it's important to Dad that we celebrate today.~  Brianna grinned.  ~Alright.  I'll be supportive.  I'll do the hunt, just for Dad.~

Having found a rationale to join her family, the girl flung back the sheets and hurried to get dressed so she could be on time for the first event of the day.

On the other side of the house, the oldest Jackson-O'Neill child had no such concerns about participating in the day's opening activity.

--

Jennifer stretched as she rose from her bed.  Just two months shy of turning twenty-one, the young woman sensed how special family occasions were.  She frequently turned down invitations from friends to do this or that because she preferred to be with her family.  For her, these special times were precious and to be valued.  One day, she knew these days would be over as she and her siblings aged.  That's why she often chose family over friends.

Before dressing, Jennifer picked up the leprechaun and smiled while thinking, ~I wish Jeff were here.  He hates missing our family days.  I'll bet Dad and Daddy put one of you on his bed, too.  It'll be there, waiting for him, when he comes home from college for summer break.~

As eager as Jennifer was for the day to begin, one final member of the brood was still clueless about what was happening.

--

In the nursery, JD was still asleep.  The youngest of the brood at age four, he was having a happy dream about being surrounded by mounds of silly putty and making all kinds of shapes with it.  He didn't hear his parents enter the room.

Daniel put the last of the leprechauns close to the boy's face and managed to get it in the cusp of his arms.

Then Jack repeated his song and was on the third line that spoke of New York's sidewalks being full of blarney when JD yawned and wiggled his body.  His eyelids sputtered their way to complete openness and then he gasped, having seen the toy.

“Lep'chaun!”

“Good morning,” Daniel called out.

“Top of the morning to ya, son,” Jack greeted.

JD shifted his body until he was sitting up.  He grinned at the toy which he took a solid hold of with his hands.

“Lep'chaun!” JD repeated.

“Look, JD, the leprechaun has a message for you,” Daniel pointed out.

“Sleepy.  You read?”

“Sure,” Daniel agreed.  “It says, 'It's a great day for the Irish.  As part of the Jackson-O'Neill Irish, you are invited to come downstairs and participate in the Great Irish Chocolate Coin Hunt.  Don't be late or I'll eat your chocolate'.

JD gasped, “Bad lep'chaun.”

“We'd better get you dressed,” Jack mused.

“Help fast, Dad.  Need choc'late coins.”

Jack laughed and then told Daniel, “I'll get JD dressed.  You'd better ...”

“Yeah, get downstairs.  If the brood gets there first ...”

“They'll start without us,” Jack mused.

====

Soon, the brood was gathered in the living room, awaiting closing instructions from their parents.

“The leader of the leprechauns told me to tell you the rules of the hunt are simple. Scattered throughout the downstairs of our cozy little home are lots and lots of yummy chocolate coins, wrapped in emerald green or shimmering gold.  You find 'em, they're ours.”

Sad faces stared at their father.

“Jack.”

“What'd I say?”

“That the coins would be ours.”

“Did not.”

“Did so.”

“Not.”

“Did.”

“Did?”

Daniel opened his mouth to respond when a number of the children shouted, “Did!”

“My bad,” Jack acknowledged with a smile.  “You find 'em, they're *yours*.”

“However,” Daniel interrupted, “the leprechaun leader gave us some very serious warnings that, if broken, can result in forfeiture of all coins and severe penalties in the forms of chores and additional homework.”

Jonny gulped, Chenoa's pupils expanded, and Ricky's heart took a couple of extra beats.  Aislinn fidgeted, Lulu bowed her head, and Jenny's pulse rate quickened.  The older kids smiled and JD simply giggled.

Jack warned, “This is our home and it will *not* be destroyed in the hunt.  What you take out, look in, around, over, and under, will be put back in its original place.  Anything you move, shift, or in any imaginable way alter or transport in your quest for the chocolate coin is to be put back where it belongs before you exit the area.  There are *no* exceptions to this rule and no loopholes.  You all know exactly what this rule intends.”

“And do not disturb the zoo or the homes of the zoo.  No coins have been placed in, around, or near their cages or houses.  One more thing, no coins are in the train room.  No admittance is allowed to it or to the pool and the cabana.  Lastly, use the cards we gave you to keep track of your riches.  That's very important.”

“That's it.  The Great Irish Chocolate Coin Hunt begins *now!*” Jack called out enthusiastically.

Full of laughter and desire for chocolate, the brood dispersed, except for David, who paused and then quickly caught up with JD.

“Hey, Bro.  Let's look together, okay?”

“Need lot coins.”

“We'll find a lot.”

Jack and Daniel grinned at the teen.  They were proud of him, as they were all of their children.  At this moment, they knew David's focus would be on making JD's tally a good one.  It wasn't the first time one of the kids sacrificed a prize or win to ensure their littlest brother had a successful time and it wouldn't be the last.  Of this, the parents were positive.

Jack and Daniel split up as they walked throughout the house, monitoring the children's discoveries and actions.

“Chilly,” Jack remarked with a shiver when he saw Jonny investigating his desk.

The sandy-haired boy sighed, his mouth turned down into a frown.  He was certain there would be coins in his dad's study.  He walked away from the desk and then stared at the old, but very comfortable sofa against the front wall.  He grinned.  Quickly, Jonny hurried to the sofa and began to look under it.

“Warming up in here, that's for sure.”

Jonny's confidence skyrocketed and did even more when he decided to focus on the sofa seating area, sticking his fingers along the sides.

“Burning!  I'm melting!  I'm melting!” Jack exclaimed in a voice that sounded like the wicked witch in “The Wizard of Oz.”

The father gave his son a nod when Jonny showed him five separate coins he'd dug up in the sofa.

“Nice job, Jonny.”

--

Meanwhile, the middle Munchkin's brain gave him an idea.  He walked swiftly into the guest room.  His face lit up when he saw four coins placed atop the comforter. As he headed for the door, he saw his daddy standing just outside the room.

“Getting colder, Little Danny.”

The Munchkin scrunched his face.  He'd already found four coins on the bed, but apparently there were more to be discovered.  He turned around and walked to the nightstand.

“Feels like a refrigerator with an open door to me,” Daniel announced.

~Okay, not in this drawer.~  Little Danny looked around and decided to check out the closet.  ~Maybe in here.~

“That's my style, nice and hot,” the archaeologist announced.

Opening the closet door, Little Danny found three more coins on floor and two more in the right pocket of the woman's guest robe that was kept there for visitors who stayed over night.

“Did I do good?” the boy asked.

“You did good!”

--

After twenty minutes, Jack whistled over the intercom that went to all the rooms and ordered the kids back to the start point.

“Count 'em up.”

Once the tally was complete, Daniel whispered, “We're eighteen short.”

“Unusual for our brood,” Jack responded.

“Let it go and let them find them ... whenever?”

“Better not.  If the wrong zoo member comes across chocolate ...”

“You're right, Babe.  Even in small amounts, it's not a good idea.”  Upon thinking about it for a minute and glancing at the clock, Daniel suggested, “How about a three-minute shootout?”

Jack reviewed their notes.  When distributing the candies before the hunt, he and Daniel carefully recorded both the number of coins used and where they were placed throughout the house.  The kids were also given a sheet to record the number of riches found in each room.  As such, the general easily determined that there were five coins remaining in the game room, six in the projects room, three in the living room, and four in the music room.

“I've got an idea,” Jack told his lover before walking over to where the kids were waiting.

“Mouseketeers and JD, you're assignment is the game room; Munchkins, you take the projects room; Spitfires, you have the living room, and Mavericks, you get the music room.  You have less than five minutes to find the remaining coins.  Go!”

As the kids moved out, Jack called out how many chocolate coins they were looking for.  He then followed the first group to the game room where he could help with the hot and cold hints, while Daniel headed for the projects room to assist the Munchkins.  For now, the Spitfires and the Mavericks were on their own.

Two minutes passed when Chenoa sighed, “I've looked everywhere.”

“We just need one more,” David reminded.

“Gotta find!” JD insisted as he looked under one of the pinball machines.

“Cold as ice, son,” Jack said as he picked up the youngster.  He walked over to the large dinosaur and suggested, “Look up.”

JD leaned his head back and gasped.

“Now you're hot.”  Jack raised his son up high and watched as JD reached out and grabbed the gold coin that was in the creature's open mouth.  “There you go!”

“Got it!”

“Gee, Dad, no one thought to look there,” David noted.

“Yeah!” Jack responded with pride.  “Go to the rec room and don't interfere with your brothers and sisters.”

The general decided to go to the living room to see how the twins were doing.  As he passed through the rec room, he saw the happy Munchkins returning from their successful hunt.

Seeing his husband, Jack called out, “I'm heading for the living room.”

“I'll check the music room.”  Daniel entered the room just as Lulu discovered the third missing coin.  “One more to go.”

Brianna sighed, “Daddy, we've looked everywhere.”

“Fifty-five seconds to go,” Daniel advised.  “And, uh, you're making me so cold right now.”

The sisters went in different directions and kept getting cold statements from their father who offered a couple of suggestions that were ignored.

Time was up, so the children 0headed for the rec room as instructed.  Still in the music room, Daniel sighed and went over to the tambourine.  He turned it upside down and removed the green coin that was taped to the interior of the head.  Then he joined Jack at the counter that separated the living room from the kitchen nook.

“How'd it go?” Daniel inquired.

“The Spitfires came up one short,” Jack noted, tossing the coin up into the air and catching it while smiling.  “They were all over it when they checked the corner of the room, but I couldn't get them to look at the blinds where I'd taped this one.”  After a pause, he asked, “Any for Daddy?”

Daniel smiled and displayed his coin, explaining with a single word:  “Tambourine.”

With that, the parents joined the brood, congratulated them for their coin collections, and surprising them by giving them permission to keep their edible coins in their rooms.  They could enjoy them when they wanted.  However, they were advised to snack wisely and not to fight over the coins at any point.

After that, the kids were free to play or do whatever they wanted for a while.

Seeing Daniel with a pensive expression, Jack asked, “Second thoughts?”

“About letting them control their candy intake?”  Daniel sighed, “Someone is going to push it.”

“Just one?”

Daniel laughed, “Well, if they do, I hope they'll learn something.  Jack, about JD ...”

“Yeah.  I think we'd better control that one.”

With smiles of agreement, Jack and Daniel headed upstairs to speak with JD about his new chocolate coin collection.

====

“Curly Tops, you're up,” Jack announced ninety minutes later when the family congregated in the rec room.

Lulu began, “Well, Noa and I wanted to share an Irish dance with all of you.  It looks more complicated than it is.  Watch and then we're going to teach it to you.”

On cue, Chenoa hit the button, starting an Irish tune.  She joined Lulu and the two began to dance.  When they finished, the family applauded.

“Your turn,” Lulu announced.

“But we'll start with just two of you.  Ummmmmm, David and ... Jonny!”  As the boys got up, Chenoa added, “This dance is good for just two people, or four, or eight.”

“And it keeps going.”

“What we're going to teach first is the opening of the Cieli dance.  That's what this is called.  It's typical Irish dancing.”

“In Irish dancing, you usually keep your arms close to your sides and your hands in a fist, but with Cieli dancing, you hold your partner's hand in a V-shape, like this,” Lulu instructed and demonstrated with her sister.  “Then you put let your other arm hang close to your body, but more relaxed.  David,” she called out, motioning for him to join her.

“Jonny, you're with me,” Chenoa advised.  “Let's get into the Cieli position.  You also want to start with your right foot pointed in front of you, like this.”

The dance instruction continued and then grew as the sisters brought in the rest of the family.  There was some stumbling, a couple of accidental bumps, and even a fall, but as the afternoon continued, the family learned the dance.

“Nice job,” Jack praised afterward.

“Thanks, Dad,” both girls replied.

====

“Brood, time to bake!” Brianna called out an hour later.

Brianna was taking the lead position since Jennifer had an exam she needed to take.  The college student left the house shortly after the Cieli dance and hoped to be home in time to assist with the baking.

“What are we making?” Aislinn inquired as she approached her sister in the kitchen.

“Irish soda bread and rainbow cupcakes.”

“Yum,” Ricky returned, licking his lips in anticipation.

“Here,” Little Danny announced when he, David, and JD entered the kitchen.

“Me, too,” Jenny announced.

Jonny and the Curly Tops were the last to join their siblings.

“Dad and Daddy are on a call with J-O, but they said to go ahead without them,” Brianna informed the brood.  “We're going to start with the soda bread.  The first thing you need to do is wash your hands.”

“I already did,” Jenny responded.

“Do it again.  This afternoon, your hands are cooking utensils.  Wash!”

After everyone completed washing, the kids separated into four groups, each choosing one of the four working areas that Brianna set up for them.  Each area included a large mixing bowls, a wood cutting board, a wooden mixing spoon, a sifter, measuring devices, and a large knife.

“The first thing to do is measure your flour.  When that's done, sift the flour into your bowl,” Brianna instructed.  The brood began their task as Brianna watched while also assisting the cooking duo of Little Danny and JD.  “Higher, Ash.  You want to actually hold the sifter at least a foot above the bowl to let the air in.”

“This is fun,” Jonny chuckled as he made a vroom sound as if a plane was jetting across the mixing bowl.

The brood continued doing as Brianna told them.  She was essentially a talking recipe since no instructions were written down.

“Next, use your hands and make a well in the middle of the mixture.”

“I'm going to like this,” Jonny claimed.

“No you're not because it's my turn,” Jenny decreed.

“You can do it next time.”

“Na-huh.  Now.”

“Shh, Jenny.  I'm gonna make the best well.”

“Jonathan Charles Jackson-O'Neill, if you don't let me in, I'll make my own well and send your Major Matt Mason doll for a swim.”

“Jenny, Major Matt isn't a doll.”

“Yes, he is.”

“No, he's not.”

“Hey, guys, it's not that watching you two do an imitation of Dad and Daddy isn't cute, because it is, in a way, but if they hear you arguing on a celebration day, we're cooked, and not in a good way.”

“Jonny!” Jenny warned.

“Shucks,” the nine-year-old boy lamented.  ~Bri's right, and I believe Jenny.  Major Matt would be doomed.~

After the Munchkin moved aside, Jenny smiled and took her place.  She was happy and eager to get her hands into the mixture.

“Don't put all of the buttermilk in.  Maybe half, a little more or a little less.  Once it's in, start mixing the ingredients together.  Go from the outside in.  You want it to form a ball.  As you go along, if the mixture seems too bread crumby, pour in a little more buttermilk.”

“Bri, why do we have a wooden spoon at our station if we're not using it?” David inquired.

“I put one there in case we had some kitchen wimps who didn't want to get their hands working with the dough.”

“We're not wimps, Bri!” Ricky called out.

“Yeah, not wimps,” JD agreed.

“I know,” Brianna chuckled.  She picked up her brother and automatically Little Danny moved over.  The chef gave the Munchkin a thankful nod and then she held JD so he could get his hands in the dough, too.  “There you go.  Squish.”

“Sticky.”

“Oh, maybe you need more flour.  Reach in and get just a little flour and spread it over this area in the bowl.  Nice job!”

With the mixture rolled into balls, the kids were told to put flour on their wooden board and on their hands.

“Start folding the ball, like this,” Brianna stated as she demonstrated, using David and Chenoa's product.  “Now watch.  After folding it a few times, you start to form a circle and flatten your balls.”

“No rolling pins?” Lulu inquired.

“That's for wimps,” Jonny chimed in response.

The brood laughed until Brianna continued, “You can remember what you're doing like this.  Turn, tuck, pat ... and repeat until your ball is not more than two inches thick.  Some like to keep it even smaller.  You can use your fingers to judge the thickness.  Um, our fingers are a little small.  You want it to be a little bigger than a man finger.”

“Should we chop off David's finger and pass it around?” Jonny jested.

“Gross,” Aislinn remarked with a mock shiver.

“Sorry,” the Munchkin responded.  “It was funny, though.”

“Tell that to my fingers,” David teased.  “And mine aren't even that big yet.”

“We need a man,” Chenoa giggled.

“Big man here,” Jack called out jovially.

The kids were happy to see their parents and Brianna was grateful for the additional eyes.  After filling them in, Jack and Daniel made the rounds and helped the brood appropriately.

“Did I miss everything?” Jennifer called out, tossing her purse and keys onto a chair and then taking off her coat.

“Not everything, Jen.  You're with Little Danny and JD, okay?”

“Cool.”

“When you're satisfied with your shape, one of you take the knife and cut a cross on it.  Go all the way down.  If you want, you can spread more buttermilk across the top, or you can leave it as is.  You do want to add a little flour over the top.”

With the bread in the oven, Brianna explained, “There's another way of cooking the soda bread that is even faster than the oven.  We could have used a pan on the stove.  A lot of cooks prepare soda bread on a griddle.”

The kids cleaned up their cooking areas while the bread baked.  Then they checked on their creations by tapping the bottom of the baked bread.

“If it sounds hollow, your bread is done.  If not, we'll put it back in the oven for another five minutes.  If it's done, put it on the cooling rack and make your final decision.”

“What's that, Bri?” Aislinn inquired.

“If you want a crusty bread, let it cool as is, but if you want it to be softer, wrap a towel around it and keep it there as it cools.”

With Jennifer home, the attention turned to the cupcakes.  The family often made cupcakes, so the young woman had an easy time supervising the preparation and cooking of the treats.  When that was over, several members of the family worked the cleaning detail in the hospitality room before they all set about to their own tasks for a while.

====

Eventually, it was time to start cooking dinner.  Jennifer was the chef with Little Danny and Chenoa working as her sous chefs.  They were making a Vegan Irish Stew with mashed potatoes on the side along with the Irish soda bread and butter.

Smelling the aroma, the family began to wander about near the kitchen.  A knock on the door grabbed their attention.

“It's a florist,” Chenoa called out as she peered through the front window.

Jennifer opened the door, learned who the delivery for, and called out, “Daddy, it's for you.”

In the living room, Daniel glanced at his grinning lover and sighed contentedly, “Jack.”  He went to the entryway, signed for the item, tipped the driver, and then let Jennifer close and lock the door.

“Jack, it's wonderful.  Thank you.”

Jack explained, “I thought about flowers.  They had a beautiful basket, but it was too big.  I was thinking this could go by our picture on your desk in the den.  It's very Zen.”

Daniel chuckled as he looked at the greenery inside a glass cylinder vase that was six inches wide by nineteen inches tall.  Inside were green cymbidium orchids.

“I love it, Babe.”

Jack kissed his Heart with the vase the only thing separating one from the other.

“Dad and Daddy kissing with the orchids,” Aislinn sing-songed while giggling, too.

“I love you,” Jack declared.

“I love you, too.”

“Now that we know you love each other, can we eat?” Jonny asked as his stomach grumbled from hunger.

“You're such a romantic, Jonny,” Aislinn sighed sarcastically.

“I'm nine.  What do you expect?” came the boy's shrugged response.

Laughing, Daniel replied with the query, “Jen?”

“Five more minutes, but the table is set, so ...”

“Get ready for dinner,” Daniel stated, earning lots of happy grins and pleased cheers by the brood as they headed for the hospitality room.

====

After dinner, the family assembled in the rec room.  Jack reminded the brood of their Irish heritage and how proud he was of it.  He talked about his ancestors and how they came to America.  He also recalled the story told to the children years before, the true tale of how Angus Duncan O’Neill saved the life of his best friend, John Eric Jackson, who turned out to be one of Daniel's ancestors.

“It was the Fates,” Chenoa remarked as she smiled at her parents.

“It was something, that's for sure,” Jack replied.  “Does everyone remember about the locket and the lark?”

“I have Grandma's locket,” Aislinn returned.

Daniel elaborated, “The original locket was given to Angus by John, who was given the locket from his mother just before they were separated.  John gave to it Angus as a sort of token of their friendship.”

“And Angus gave John a wooden lark.”

“Maybe the Fates were at play because John and Angus died within days of each other and when their sons met for the first time, they returned the gifts to the original families.”

“So, the Jacksons had the locket again,” Brianna interjected.

“And the O'Neills the lark,” Jonny stated.  “It's the one I have now.”

“That's right,” Jack affirmed.  “And all of the boys have copies of the lark.”

“And we girls have copies of the locket,” Jennifer stated as her hand went to her neck and her fingers touched the locket she was wearing.

“That's right,” Daniel confirmed.

“John and Angus' friendship was very strong and the locket and the lark symbolized the strength of it,” Jack noted.  “And now, we have something special for JD.”

“For me?” the boy piped up with joy.

“For you,” Daniel answered.  He stood and disappeared into the living room for a moment before returning with a box.  “This is very special, JD.”

“I bet I know what it is,” Jonny commented.

“And you'd probably be right,” Jack responded, smiling but also with a look that told his namesake not to say anything further.

“It's a bird!”

“It's a copy of the lark, the original one that Jonny has,” Jack explained.  “Daddy and I thought it was time for you to have one, too.”

“It's pretty,” JD opined.

“We'll help you find a safe place for it in your room later.”

“Okay, Daddy.”  JD admired the lark one more time before putting it back in its box.  “Thanks, Dad and Daddy.”

“You're welcome,” both men spoke in unison.

Glancing at his watch and discovering the lateness of the hour, Jack advised, “Ice cream and then bed.  It's been a long day.”

The family enjoyed their nightly ritual of ice cream and some of the kids even used a coin or two to spice up their dessert.  Then they headed for their rooms.  After a while, Jack and Daniel made their rounds, after which they made a point to hang out with Bijou and Katie for a while since the girls didn't get a lot of attention during the day.  They also let Ptolemy out to fly around for a bit before putting her back into her habitant and locking down the house for the night

====

In their master bedroom, the lovers were readying for bed when Daniel went to the door and locked it.

Jack's eyelids raised and his heart began to flip flop when he noticed the lustful leer in his husband's eyes when Daniel turned to face him.

The archaeologist approached his forever partner and put his hands playfully upon Jack's chest as he spoke, “Babe, I really love my Zen.  It looks great by our picture.”

“I'm glad you like it.”

“I, uh, have something for you, too.”

Jack's body was already getting into gear.  He was hyped and rearing to go as soon as Daniel progressed from mental foreplay to the physical.

“Don't ... move,” Daniel ordered, giving his husband a short kiss before he walked over to his nightstand and opened the drawer.  He removed a box wrapped in green and sauntered back to Jack.  “Happy St. Patrick's Day, Love.”

With a grin and full of curiosity, Jack tore off the wrapping paper and opened the box.  He chuckled lightheartedly at what he saw:  a rubber duck painted like a leprechaun.

“Danny, this is great.”

“I thought so.  I figured we could ... have an initiation tonight, find a little pot of gold, unless you're too tired.”

“Angel, I'm *never* too tired.  Rubber duckie solo or with the family?” Jack asked, referring to their collection of other rubber ducks that included Laurel and Hardy ducks and Puck Duck.

“Solo.  I have plans for Paddy McDuck.”

“Paddy McDuck?” Jack echoed.  “I like it,” he complimented about the name.

“Shall we?”

“Paddy, remember, what happens in our tub, stays in our tub,” Jack told the inanimate object.

Jack said nothing further as he felt the pull of his husband towards the bathroom and its large tub where the two engaged in a playful and primal union of their bodies.  Paddy McDuck would never be the same.

St. Patrick's Day was coming to a close for 2016.  The celebration on this day and on the previous Saturday were joyful and pleasing for the entire family.  As they sprung forward into spring, life, as always, for the Jackson-O'Neills in Colorado Springs was loving and exciting, making Jack and Daniel happier than either ever imagined was possible.

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

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