Living With You

Author:  Orrymain
Category:  Slash, Drama, Romance, Established Relationship
Pairing:  Jack/Daniel ... and it's all J/D
Rating:  PG-13
Season:  Beyond the Series - September 2, 2013
Spoilers:  None
Size:  43kb, short story
Written:  September 1-2, 2012, January 11-12,16-18,22,24, 2013
Summary:  It's been a long day for Jack and Daniel.  How will it end?
Disclaimer:  Usual disclaimers -- not mine, wish they were, especially Daniel, and Jack, too, but they aren't.  A gal can dream though!
Notes:  
1) Sometimes, Jack and Daniel speak almost telepathically.  Their “silent” words to each other are indicated by asterisks instead of quotes, such as **Jack, we can't.**
2) Silent, unspoken thoughts by various characters are indicated with ~ in front and behind them, such as ~Where am I?~
3) Thanks to my betas who always make my fics better:  Mama Bear, Candice!

Living With You
by Orrymain

====
--3:15a.m.
====

A small figure approached the master bedroom, pausing to listen for those noises she had long ago learned to check for before interrupting the privacy of her parents.  Cautiously, she peeked inside the slightly ajar door, her trim frame slowly edging to the right to get a glimpse.

~Whew!  Sleeping,~ the soon-to-be six-year-old told herself.  Feeling free to disturb her protectors, she opened the door fully and walked inside, opting to go to her older father's side of the bed.  Considering that her daddy was sprawled over her dad, it even made more sense to approach from her left.  Reaching out, she pressed firmly on the older man's bare arms.  “Dad!  Dad, wake up!  Daddy!  Daddy, need you, too!”

Deep sounding mumbles were the responses, along with fluttering eyelids and some movement from various body parts.

“Dad, Daddy, I don't feel so ... oh ...”

The young redhead then lost much of what had been churning in her stomach, much to the dismay of her now covered with all-manner-of-internal yuck parents.

====

“Why didn't you wake up faster?” Jack asked his husband a half hour later as they were preparing to wash their soiled bedding, including sheets and comforter.

“Me?  She tugged on *your* arm, not mine.”

“She couldn't reach you.”

“Well, maybe, you were closer.”

“By two inches, Daniel.”

“Inches matter, Babe,” Daniel replied with a smug smile before tossing his Love the worst of the bedding.

“Thank you,” Jack responded insincerely as his nose wrinkled from the stench.

“You're welcome.”

Seeing his Love retreating toward the interior of the house, Jack called out, “Hey, where are you going?”

“To check on Jenny.”

“Daniel, there isn't anything left inside of her to come out.  It's all here,” Jack insisted as he made an indignant “P.U.” sound.

“You're the one who fed her that crap last night.  You should have just given her an MRE instead.”  With an incredulous sigh and tiny shake of his head, the archaeologist reminded, “I told you it wasn't a good idea.”

“An MRE was too easy.”

“Right,” Daniel replied with an unconvincing nod.

“Hey, it was good enough for my team.”

“Yeah, the elite of the military, inching your way through rugged territory on some classified mission.”

“Are you mocking me?”

“Jack, there's a difference in making a meal for your child and making one for some military goons.”  Seeing Jack's unhappy expression.  “Sorry.”

“No, you're not.”

“You're right, I'm not,” Daniel admitted with a smile before leaving the laundry to his husband.

====

Daniel walked into the girls’ bedroom and sat on the side of Jenny’s bed, smiling and gently caressing her forehead as he probed, “How you feeling now?”

“Okay, Daddy,” the little redhead answered.

“Jenny, I need to talk to you about when you get sick.  It's very important to tell me and Dad that you are feeling sick, but if you know that you are going to vomit before you can tell us, you need to run to the nearest bathroom or wastebasket,” Daniel explained.

“I'm sorry, Daddy, but I didn't know I was gonna throw up.  Sorry I made you and Dad wash laundry in the middle of the night,” Jenny apologized.

“That’s okay, Sweetie.  It wasn’t your fault.  Sometimes it sneaks up on you,” Daniel comforted.

Daniel spent a few more minutes with his daughter before tucking her in and going back to the master bedroom to put fresh linens on his bed.

====
--5:15a.m.
====

“But I'm hungry!” Jenny exclaimed as she once again stood outside of her parents' bedroom door.

“Jenny, they're sleeping,” Aislinn argued as she pulled the sash on her lilac robe a bit tighter.

“Ash, I need food.  I'm a growing girl,” the redhead insisted.

“Stop echoing Jonny.  He uses that excuse every time he wants a second helping of food.”

“That's every meal,” Jenny noted with a nod of sarcasm.

“They'll be up an hour,” Aislinn told her sister about their parents.

“I can't wait, Ash.  *I'm hungry!*

“You threw up a couple of hours ago.”

“Exactly!” Jenny responded loudly, a pointed look on her face that emanated an unspoken “Duh!”

“I'll make you a sandwich.”

“I want sausage and bacon and eggs and ...”

“Jenny!”

“Ash, *I'm hungry!*”

“So we heard,” Jack groaned with a rasp as he opened the door, an unhappy expression radiating forward.  “Bed, now!”

“But, Dad, I'm hungry!” Jenny repeated yet again.

“I said ...”

“Jack, feed her,” Daniel ordered from the bed where he pulled the covers up taut.

“Daniel ...”

“Jack!”

“Daniel ...”

“Jack!”

With a reluctant sigh, Jack looked down at the girls and barked to Aislinn, “You, back to bed,” after which he picked up Jenny and groused, “You, the next time I volunteer to show you what it's like to eat on a mission ...”

“Yes, Dad?” the Spitfire asked with a know-so-innocent smile.

“Don't!”

Jenny giggled delightfully, her arms reaching around the tall man's neck as Jack headed for the stairs.

“I love you, Dad.”

“Love you, too, Red.  How's your stomach?”

“I'm hungry!”

“I heard that.”

“Then why did you ask?”

“Fried brain.”

“Huh?”

“Never mind.  One early breakfast coming up.”

====
--6:15a.m.
====

With Jenny's belly satisfied and the redhead back in her bedroom, confined there until the rest of the family rose for the day, Jack returned to bed.

“Danny, scoot over.”

“Mmmhuwhammm...slee...”

Jack sighed.  His lover had sprawled out over the rather large bed.  His head wasn't even on a pillow, his face buried in the sheets with Jack's pillow slid against his right cheek.

“Sorry, Love,” the general apologized.  “Gotta do it.  This bed is half mine, and I want my half.”  With a wicked smile, he leaned over and softly whispered into Daniel's ear.  “Angel, there's Godiva chocolate and Arabian mocha coffee downstairs.  Mmmm good.”

Better than any alarm clock could have done, Daniel flung himself up and headed for the kitchen, his mind telling him that it must be at least nine in the morning and breakfast was waiting for him.

“All's fair in love and beds,” Jack quipped as he reclaimed his side of the comfortable mattress.

====

“Very funny, Jack,” a yawning Daniel complained as he resumed a prone position on the bed.

“You wouldn't budge.”

“Oh, yeah, sure, right.”

“Daniel?”

“What?”

“Ya wanna fight or sleep?”

A moment later, Jack heard a sigh and a mumble.

“What's that, Love?”

“No love ... slee...”

“That's my Angel.”

====
--7:15a.m.
====

The bell chimed.  No, it wasn't a regular bell.  The school bell maybe.  Was the man late for class?  No, it couldn't be that.  He wasn't in school anymore.

“What is that friggin' sound?” Jack barked, nearly jumping up to a sitting position.  He looked to his left and spied no movement from his lover.  “Of course, you're still sleeping.  Faking it, anyway.”  As he reached for the insistent ringing of the telephone on the nightstand, he could swear he'd heard a chuckle.  ~The day is young, Dannyboy.~  Unhappily, the ringing was stopped by the forced answering of the phone.  “O'Neill, and this had better be good.”

With incredulousness, Jack listened to the caller speak.  His frustration mounted as he heard the spoken words, and his tone reflected his unhappiness at the early morning interruption.

“No, this isn't Angie ... yes, I'm sure ... No, Angie isn't here ... you've got to be kidding.  Trust me, Mac, the person next to me is not named Angie ... you sound like a Mac to me ... I don't know where Angie is; maybe she's with Mick Jagger ... oh, for crying out loud, you have the *wrong* number.”

With a groan, Jack disconnected the call and returned the phone to the nightstand.  Then he heard it: a chuckle.

“Next time, I'll pass the phone to you ... Angie!”

Another chuckle floated through the air until sleep came once again.

====
--8:15a.m.
====

All hopes of sleeping in on this Labor Day had been abandoned, and now Jack and Daniel were in the hospitality room where they hoped to prepare breakfast for their way-too-lively-too-early-in-the-morning brood.

“Bacon!” Jonny demanded.

“I want Froot Loops,” Ricky requested, quietly sitting down at the table.

“Bless you, my boy!” Jack responded as he reached for the cereal box.

“Sausage and hard-boiled eggs,” Chenoa put forth.

“Me, too, and with toast,” Lulu chimed and then exchanged a high-five with her sister.

“I'd like an egg and cheese omelet,” Brianna interjected.

“Not me,” David negated.  “I'll take ... waffles, Belgian, the ones Daddy likes so much.”

“But I want pancakes,” Aislinn asserted emphatically.

“I'm with Bri, except I want a ham, egg, and cheddar crepe, please,” Jennifer requested with a smile as she held JD, who was now 21 months old, in her arms.

“Daddy, I want some apple oat muffins.”  Seeing his other father look at him questioningly, Little Danny explained, “It's healthy food, Dad.”

“Dad's never heard of that,” Daniel told his namesake in a teasing fashion.

“French toast for me,” Jeff said as he raised his hands in the air, a big yawn escaping his throat.  “Morning guys.”

“I'm not a guy!” Aislinn rebuffed sternly before breaking into a smile and then walking over to give her big brother a hug.

“Definitely not a guy,” Jeff agreed as he returned the hug with a smile.

“I want scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, and toast,” Jenny advised her parents.

Both Jack and Daniel stared forcefully at their daughter, neither saying a word in response, though their faces spoke volumes, all of which was negative.

“I'm just kidding.  Geez!” the Spitfire responded, shrugging and sitting down at the table.  “I'll just take a small bowl of Froot Loops, like Ricky ... please.”

“Better,” Jack uttered before turning back around to face the cabinets full of food.

“I want hash browns, too,” Jonny told his older father.  “And don't overcook the bacon, Dad.”

“I never do that.”

“Dad, you cook bacon like you do steaks,” David interjected.

“Careful!” Jack warned the teenager, holding out his hand that held a spatula in it.

“Truth hurts,” the teen mocked out of the side of his mouth just before leaning over to tickle Chenoa, who giggled brightly in response.

“I don't want hashed browns,” Aislinn negated strongly.  “I want pancakes with maple syrup and real butter on top ... and strawberries!”

“I want orange juice,” Lulu asserted.

“No, apple juice,” Brianna elected with a slight grin at her parents.  ~Countdown begins: explosion on the horizon,~ she told herself in a mental verbiage that reflected a newscast.

“I want cranberry juice,” Chenoa put forth.

“Milk for me,” Jonny commanded.

“Chocolate milk for me,” Little Danny added.

“I thought you were going healthy,” Aislinn stated with a slight poke at her fellow triplet.

“Not when there is chocolate, Ash,” the little genius responded, wide eyes and a shocked expression on his face.

“Put blueberries in my cereal,” Jenny demanded, having decided she wanted some fresh fruit, too.

The demands continued with the only two children in agreement on their breakfast food wish list being the Spitfires, and that was only because Jenny had eaten a full meal earlier that morning.

~Here it comes,~ Brianna chuckled internally, glancing over at Jennifer who grinned ever-so-slightly at the tomboy, an acknowledgement that she, too, knew an eruption was imminent.  ~Three ... two ...~

“Whoa!” Jack finally commanded, his hands raised in a visible order for his children to cease and desist.  “We are not making twelve different breakfasts here.  We're a family, not a restaurant.”

“But I want ...” came of chorus of voices, which were met by a familiar glare.

“Gen'ral eyes,” Jonny spoke in a slang quality.

“Yeah,” Chenoa sighed.  “Froot Loops.”

“Froot Loops,” Lulu lamented as she sat down at the table, resignation on her face.

“Hey!” Daniel called out, walking forward several steps.  “Dad didn't say you had to have cereal, but let's keep the order menu to an acceptable level.”

“What does that mean?” Aislinn questioned.

“I *want* Froot Loops,” Ricky contributed, genuinely wanting the cereal for his meal.

“It means ...” Jack began, pausing as he saw the disappointed looks on the faces of his children, “never mind.”  He held up his left hand, palm side up.  Then he took the spatula, reversing it so that it was upside down.  He pretended to prepare to write, like a waiter at a restaurant.  “Orders, please.”

Smiles broke out as the children repeated their breakfast requests, this time in more detail.

Daniel just shook his head while thinking, ~With any luck, we'll finish breakfast just in time to start lunch.~

====
--10:15a.m.
====

Walking into his husband's den, Jack noticed Daniel seemed to be in a quandary.

“What's up?” the silver-haired man inquired, scratching his head for a brief second.

“Not what you want,” Daniel replied, his sarcasm born of his frustration.

“Danny, it's still morning.  I wasn't thinking that way ...” Jack began while silently completing his sentence “... yet.”

“Yeah, right.”

“Okay, Angel, what's the problem?”

Reaching deep into the back of the recliner that his husband usually sat on, Daniel's fingers felt nothing.

“Daniel?” Jack prodded.

“I can't find it.”

“I figured that,” the older man sighed.  “Find what?”

“My tongue depressor.”

~Tongue depressor?~  Jack coughed lightly at his disbelief and then offered, “I'll buy you a new one?”  The glare from his husband matched any stare Jack had ever delivered as a general to an underling.  “It was just a thought.”

After checking the last corner of the den, the only place he hadn't yet looked, Daniel sighed, “I'm sorry, Babe.  I didn't mean to sound like ... like ... like ...”

“Me?” Jack teased, happy when a small smile appeared on his Heart's face.  Walking closer, he embraced the younger man.  “I love you.”  A tender kiss later, he reminded in earnest, “You know we have a few hundred tongue depressors at the office.”

“This is the one Professor Henry gave me after we completed our first job for him, remember?”

Jack chuckled at the memory.  Professor Alexander Henry had originally enlisted the aid of J-O Enterprises for a project a few years ago.  The man and Daniel had hit it off immediately, developing an instant rapport.  The man was quite witty as well, and his ability to tell jokes and be humorous had put him on Jack's good side as well.  At the same time, though, the professor had often joked with Jack about Daniel's ability to talk a mile a minute about the tiniest archaeological detail.  When the project concluded, the man had gifted Daniel with a gold tongue depressor engraved with the words, “To the man with the golden tongue.”

“Yeah,” Jack laughed.  “You talked his ear off.”  Jack felt the glare this time.  “Maybe you took it to the office,” he suggested as a way to deflect the hostility being tossed in his direction.

“No, it was on my desk yesterday.”

Then Jack replayed a sound he'd heard minutes earlier when he'd been checking on some of the children.  The words began to take on clarity.

“Got it!” Jack exclaimed, motioning for Daniel to follow him.

The two men made their way to the girls' room, the one shared by Aislinn and Jenny.

“Open wide, Jenny,” Ricky requested, a plastic stethoscope around his neck and a familiar object in his hand.

“Stop!” Daniel called out urgently.  An internal counting of the numbers one through ten immediately calmed the anxiety that had been flowing through the archaeologist.  “Uh, Son, where did you get this?” he asked while gently removing the golden depressor from the Spitfire's hand.

“It was with my birthday card from Aunt Catherine,” the boy explained.

“Birth... ca... what?” Daniel stammered.

Jack tried not to laugh, but he couldn't help it.  He knew what had happened, and the light was beginning to dawn on Daniel as well.  Catherine Littlefield had sent separate birthday cards to the twins.  Daniel had been in a hurry when the cards had arrived and had accidentally started to open Ricky's.  In a bit of absentmindedness, the archaeologist had used the tongue depressor to crack open the envelope before realizing the card was addressed to his son.  By accident, he'd also slipped the depressor into the opening of the card before passing the mail on to the children.

“Ricky, it's ... I mean it's ...”

“Forget it, Angel,” Jack interjected.  “Continue your examination, Doctor Spitfire, but I suggest you stay away from Daddy's tongue depressor.”  With a suppressed laugh, he tugged on Daniel's arm and urged, “Come on, Danny.”

“Bbbbut ...”

Now in the hallway, Jack mused, “It'll never happen again.”

“How do you know that?”

“I have the perfect solution.”

“What's that?”

“We'll frame it, along with that picture of you yapping your flaps with the professor.”

“Oh,” Daniel responded with a blink.  “That'll work.”

====
--1:15p.m.
====

Somehow, Jack and Daniel had survived the luncheon service for their children without too much of a hassle.  The only real disagreement had come over what kind of salad to serve, something Jack had handily dealt with by eliminating the salad from the lunch menu altogether.  At the moment, the hospitality room was quiet, almost eerily silent.  Yet, both men were choosing to ignore what the lack of noise could mean. They were tired and a little grumpy from the slew of unexpected events that had begun in the wee hours of the day.

“Jack, can you get the new bottle out.  This one's empty,” Daniel pointed out, shaking the lightweight bottle of dishwasher detergent.

Opening the appropriate cabinet, the older man remarked, “I thought we still had half a bottle.”

“I did, too, but nothing,” Daniel said, turning the bottle upside down and squeezing to demonstrate that there was no liquid remaining in the tall container.

“Odd,” Jack opined as he pulled out the new full bottle and handed it to his husband.  “Danny ...”

“Why would they take it?” Daniel answered before Jack could even ask the question.

“Because they're our kids.”

“I was afraid you'd say something like that.”

“Jonny!” both men called out at once.

“Where are they?” Daniel wondered as he and Jack entered the living room that was devoid of human beings.  “Mittens, where are the children?” he asked.

“Meow,” Mittens answered calmly before curling back up in Jack's favorite chair.

“No hair balls,” Jack ordered the feline before turning his attention towards the backyard.  “Not a kid in sight.”

“Scared?” Daniel questioned, feeling both amused and leery of what might be discovered.

“Like a crow.”

~Like a crow?~ the linguist replayed in his mind.  ~Oh, scarecrow.  Another Wizard of Oz line.  Will he ever grow up?~  Then Daniel smiled as he told himself, ~Gawd, I hope not.~

The lovers decided to check the garage next.  Though the children weren't there, giggles could be heard.  At least some of the kids were in the front yard.  The men exchanged glances.  One thing was for sure, the older members of the brood had better be out front with the younger ones, or there wouldn't be much laughing going on for the rest of the day.

Fortunately for the brood, both Brianna and David were outside to monitor the activities of their younger siblings.  On the down side, however, they weren't really paying attention to the details.

“Hey!” Jack called out, immediately getting the attention of the Jonny, Little Danny, Ricky, and Chenoa.  “What are you doing?”

“Washing your truck, Dad,” Jonny answered eagerly.

“Brownie points,” Daniel whispered to his husband.  “He's after that football helmet.”

“Gotcha!” Jack acknowledged as he walked closer to his beloved truck.  “I appreciate the cleaning job, but ...”

Daniel could feel the tension even without seeing his Love's face.  Something was amiss.  Moving closer to survey the situation, he realized the problem.  He let out a bit of a laugh, drawing the ire of his husband.

**It's not funny, Daniel.**

**Well, now we know what happened to the detergent.**

**My truck!**

**It won't hurt it, Jack, especially with that brand; it's extra mild.  Just make sure they rinse it really well.**

“We've cleaned it extra good, Dad,” Little Danny pointed out.

Jack turned toward Daniel and surmised, “Dinosaur model kit.”

“Exactly,” the younger man agreed, knowing how much his namesake desired the product seen during the last trip to the local toy store.

“I did the headlights,” Chenoa volunteered, her hands still holding the rag she'd been using to clean.

“Tap shoes,” both parents said at once.

“Dad, look!” Aislinn called out, suddenly appearing from inside the truck bed.
“I got all the dirt out.”

“What's her angle?” Jack inquired out of the side of his mouth.

“New dress: that one she saw while shopping with Sara last week,” Daniel reminded.

“Mark and Sara already bought that for her.”

“Right.  You know that, and I know that, but Ash doesn't know that ... yet,” Daniel spoke quietly.

“All that work for nothin',” Jack mused, smiling and nodding at the youngest Munchkin.  He walked over to the other side of the truck and noticed Ricky still working hard on cleaning the wheel rims.  “Why are you helping with this?”

Ricky looked up, shrugging slightly before admitting, “I'm hiding from Jenny.  She wants to play doctor some more, only this time she wants me to be the patient.”

“What's wrong with that?”

“She wants to use scissors as the turmoter.”

~Huh?~  Jack's face crunched as he struggled momentarily to translate the word.  “Son, I think you mean thermometer.”

“That's what I said.”

“No, you said ...  never mind.  Jenny wants to use ...”  Jack trailed off.  “Daniel!”

“Good job,” Daniel praised the hardworking children.  “Uh, for the record, my car doesn't need to be washed.”

“But we were going to do it next,” Jonny whined, eager to impress both parents.

“It...it's fine, really,” Daniel insisted.

“Daniel, go talk to your daughter.”

Daniel couldn't help but laugh since obviously one of the girls had suddenly lost a parent.

“Which one and what about?”

“Jenny.  Check her medical kit.”

Shrugging and a bit confused, the archaeologist decided he'd do as requested, leaving Jack to make sure his truck wasn't harmed by a few coats of dishwasher liquid.

~Wonder what will be next?~ Daniel asked himself as he headed back inside the house.  ~This is just one of those crazy days.~

====
--2:15p.m.
====

The couple had finally wrangled the entire brood together in the backyard for a bit of Frisbee.  Laughter and fun was being had by all while tossing the object all about the yard.  About ten minutes into the recreation there was a bit of a miscue.

"Not so high, Jeff," Jenny called out as the light blue disc flew over head and onto the deck.

"I'll get it, Red," Jack advised as he sprinted up the steps.  "Noooooo!!" he shouted as he altered course, flinging the glass doors open, and rushing inside the house.  Seconds later, there was another shout.  "*Mittens and Calico, front and center now!*" he ordered as if the felines were new recruits.

Daniel, who was now at his husband's side, couldn't hide a chuckle.

"Daniel, it is not funny.  Look what they did!  They broke two frames completely and cracked the glass on this one," Jack informed his laughing lover as he inspected the fallen pictures.  “Pesky cats.”

“Maybe it was the girls,” the younger man joked, referring to the beagles, both of whom seemed to be laughing at Jack's distress as they stood at the patio door.

“The girls are innocent,” Jack declared.

“How do you know?” Daniel asked, turning and giving a wink to Bijou and Katie.

“For your information, Doctor Jackson, I looked in just in time to see Calico jumping off the mantle, a move that resulted in knocking these pictures off.  What's more, Mittens almost knocked off the figurine when she gave chase.”

“Babe, they're just cats having fun.  The frames can be replaced.”

“Yeah, and who's paying for them?  You and me, that's who!”

“Jack, don't have a cow,” Daniel chastised while trying not to laugh.  “Go back outside and play some more with the children.  I'll pick up this glass so no feet or paws get cut.”

“Fine,” Jack growled.  Still upset, he turned and saw the kids looking in.  One face in particular grabbed his attention.  It was Lulu, full of concern and worry, and Jack knew the emotion was directed toward her cat.  ~She probably thinks I'm mad at Calico.  Good job, O'Neill.  Way to frighten your kid.~  Immediately, the general got a grip on priorities.  He chuckled heartily and spoke, “You're so right, Angel.  Cats will be cats, and we love 'em both.”  Smiling as he walked towards them, he suggested, “Okay, brood, let's get back to our game.”

====
--3:15p.m.
====

“Ready!” Aislinn called out as she sprinted into the living room while cautiously carrying two large tote containers.  Seeing the glares of both parents, she quickly added, “I know, no running.  Sorry.”

“You sure you have enough there?” Jack inquired with a slight grin.

“I have my new doll, and my favorite doll, and my most exotic doll, and my ...”

“We get the idea.  You sure they're old enough to be going out?” the tall man teased with a wink.

“Dad!”

“Jennnnnny, get a move on,” Jack shouted as he looked up the stairway.

“Jack, we have an intercom, remember?” Daniel put forth while sticking his right finger into his ear in a motion indicating the loudness of his husband's bellow.

The Spitfire hurried down the stairs, carrying just one small bag.

“What, no luggage like your sister here?”

“David has them,” Jenny retorted smugly, causing Jack to look up.  Sure enough, he saw the teenager with two large tote bags in his hands.  “Smart.”

“I should have thought of that,” Aislinn mumbled.

“Get in the truck; gotta scoot,” the father ordered, handing his keys to Jenny.  “Now don't drive off and leave your brother behind.”

“You're funny, Dad.”

“That's what they say.”

“Wait!  I'm not going to their doll club,” David corrected.  “I'm just hitching a ride to Mike's house.”

“Aren't you tempted?” Jack prodded.  “Think about all those fascinating dolls you could learn about.”

“Daaaaaddy!  Dad's making fun of us,” Aislinn complained.

“Jack, behave!” Daniel ordered.

“Ice cream on the way home,” Jack announced as an appeasement.

“Yippee!” both girls cheered.

**Before dinner?  Jack!**

**Hey, it got them back on my side.**

**And in the doghouse on *my* side.**

Jack smiled hesitantly and then let out a sigh.  Somehow, things were not going his way today.  He shrugged and walked towards the front door, following the three children.

“Daddy, it's an emergency!” Brianna called out excitedly as she appeared from the backyard, her cell phone seemingly glued to her left ear.  “I need a ride to Mitch's house.”

“Whoa!” Jack exclaimed, turning around and returning to the center of the living room.  “*Mitch?*” he questioned probingly with eyes full of accusation.  ~Who the heck is Mitch?~

“Get a grip, Dad,” Brianna sighed, shaking her head.  ~Geez.  Who does he think I am?  Ash, with a boy on every block?  Who cares about boys?  Sorry, Con,~ she internalized about her buddy, Conway Bell in McBee, South Carolina, who was really the only boy she'd ever cared about as a friend.

“I am gripped.  Who's Mitch?”

“Jack, don't you have some place to be?” Daniel prodded in hopes of foregoing any potential conflict.  ~Bri barely knows what a boy is unless she's playing hockey and skating them into the ground.~

“Going out?” Brianna inquired hopefully of her older father.  “I really need a ride.”

“Who's Mitch?” the military man asked one more time.

With a sigh and the phone to her ear, the tomboy answered, “Michina Marie Dodson.  She's part of my diving group.  Dad, there's a crisis with our dolphins and ...”

“Go on.  You can tell me about it on the way.”

“Thanks, Dad!” Brianna spoke gratefully.  “Mitch, I'm on my way.  See if you can get Mike to come, too.”

“Mike!” Jack exclaimed incredulously.

“Oh, for crying out loud, Dad,” Brianna groaned.  “Mike: Michelle Rowland, remember?”

“Yeah, right.”  Glancing over at his husband, Jack moaned, “Why don't girls use girls' names anymore?”

“It's a conspiracy, Babe,” Daniel joked.

“Of course, it is.”

With Jack out the door, Daniel was hoping to make a couple of phone calls, only just then Chenoa and Lulu appeared on the stairs, each holding their dancing backpacks.

“We're ready to go, Daddy.”

“Go?  Uh, where?”

“To the special dance class at Mary Lou's,” Chenoa answered.  “Did you forget?”

“Apparently,” Daniel responded, searching his brain and vaguely remembering something having been said about a dance practice a few days ago.

“Daddy, there's a soccer game at the park.  Can I go?” Little Danny beseeched with blue eyes of yearning.

Following the young genius was Ricky who inquired, “Daddy, Alex said I could watch him design a house, but he doesn't have time to pick me up.  Pleeeease, can you take me to Archonics?  Please, please, please!”

Ricky's phraseology was a bit off, but he was referring to Alex Dennison, the interior designer who had handled the renovation of the Jackson-O'Neill home.  Alex was now a family friend and a bit of a mentor for both Jeff and the young Spitfire.

“And since you're going out,” Jonny began, coming in from Daniel's flank having been in the kitchen, “can you take me ...”  He paused, looking around the room.  Quietly, he motioned for his father to lean over and when Daniel did, the Munchkin completed his request by saying, “... shopping? I need to buy Ricky his birthday present.”

“How's your piggy bank?” Daniel whispered.

“Fractured.  Can I borrow some money?”

Daniel chuckled as he straightened.  His phone calls would have to wait.  Silently, he calculated the itinerary.  He'd start with Little Danny, taking time to ensure there was proper supervision at the park for the soccer game.  Then he'd drop the dancers off for their special class, after which he'd take Ricky to Archonics, taking time to connect with Alex and making certain he actually had time to have Ricky with him.  Finally, he and Jonny would go shopping; that is, after he made a stop at the ATM to withdraw some cash since he was a bit short at the moment.  By the time the shopping was done, the dance class would be over.  After picking up the girls, it would be just about time to retrieve Little Danny from the park.  He wasn't sure yet where Ricky's ride home figured in.  Perhaps Alex was planning on driving the boy home.  If not, that would most likely be the last pickup.

“*Jen!*” the archaeologist shouted, wanting to fill her in on the plans and have her watch JD while he was gone.  ~Crap!  I don't even use the freakin' intercom.~

For a moment as he sighed internally, Daniel longed for the simpler days when all he had to worry about was touching alien objects and convincing Jack not to blow up the bad guys just because the Pentagon told him to do so.

====
--7:15p.m.
====

“Sorry, Daddy,” Ricky spoke as he exited the SUV.

“It's not your fault, Son,” Daniel replied while putting his keys in his pocket.  He smiled at the little boy, unwilling to blame him for anything.  ~My fault.  I should have checked with Alex before we left.~  Making sure all of the items were taken from the vehicle, he mused wearily to himself, ~He's not the first one to misinterpret a conversation.  So Alex wasn't at Archonics and we had to drive an hour to where he was working on his designs.  At least the drive was scenic.~

With their hands full, Daniel and the children headed inside the house.

--

“Looks like Daddy beat us home,” Jack commented as he pulled into the driveway with the kids he'd been transporting that afternoon.  He'd called home once and had learned from Jennifer that Daniel was doing his own chauffeur service that day.  ~Not hard to do considering the day I've had.  He's probably been back for over an hour.~

With their hands full, Jack and his part of the brood eagerly headed for the interior of the home.

--

“Wow, Daddy, Chinese,” Jennifer observed at the multiple bags full of all sorts of Chinese food items were being placed on the table.

“He didn't want to cook,” Little Danny chuckled.

“We were delayed, so I figured I'd make it easy on us,” the archaeologist explained.

“That's ... wonderful,” the young woman replied with a slight gulp.

“Make way for dinner!” Jack boasted cheerfully as he entered the kitchen.

“Uh, what's that?” Daniel inquired, motioning toward the familiar-looking bags.

“It's called dinner,” Jack responded, leaning in for a quick kiss with his lover.  “Everything we need: chicken, corn, potatoes -- the whole enchilada.”

“That's ... great, Dad,” Jennifer sighed.

“I thought we'd give ourselves a break, considering how late we were getting home.”

“Yeah,” Daniel spoke as he looked at the food he'd just brought home as well.

“Danny, what's all that?”

“Chinese.  Apparently, I had the same idea you did.”

At that precise moment, there was a loud clanging at the front door.

“Who could that be?”

“Probably Kenny,” Jennifer answered.

“Kenny?” both parents echoed at the same time.

“Guess what he's bringing?”

“You're kidding?” Jack questioned, not waiting for an answer but making quick time to the door.

Following, Daniel paused only to smile and give his daughter a quick pat on the arm.

Opening the door, Jack simply stared at the delivery man, one he'd seen many times before.

Kenny was a mainstay at one of the family's favorite restaurants.  He loved delivering to the Jackson-O'Neill residence since the tip was always a good one.

“All those for us?” Jack asked, certain of the answer even before Kenny spoke.

“Yes, Sir.  Jennifer ordered the works.”

With a slight groan, the general took out his wallet and paid the man, after which he placed all eight boxes in his lover's hands.

“Gee, thanks, Babe,” Daniel stated sarcastically.

“You're welcome, Love.”

“I'm sorry, Dad and Daddy, but you both were going to be so late, and I thought it would be fun to have pizza.”

“Eight large pizzas?” Jack returned with a smile.

“I was hungry.”

Laughing, the parents returned to the kitchen where the rest of the children were assembled.

“What's the verdict?” a hungry Jonny questioned his parents, ready to dig into whatever the flavor of the dinner meal would be.

Jack and Daniel exchanged looks and shrugs.

“Help yourself,” the younger father finally responded.  “You have a choice of Chinese, chicken, pizza, or any combination thereof.”

“Remember!” Jack called out.  “The leftovers are tomorrow's breakfast.”

“And lunch,” Daniel added jovially.

====
--10:15p.m.
====

“It must be midnight,” Daniel assumed with a yawn.

“Nope,” Jack responded.

“Later?”

“Only 1015 hours.”

“Jack!”

“Fifteen after ten,” Jack reiterated using the common vernacular instead of military speak.  He smiled as he looked at his lover, who was seated on the sofa, his head leaning back against the top of the cushions.  “Been a long day.”

“That's the understatement of the year,” Daniel retorted.

For a moment, Jack just looked at his Love and smiled.  He glanced upstairs, his mind going to their brood, all of whom were now in bed and most fast asleep, including Jennifer.  It had been a hectic day, one full of twists and turns, not to mention kids who were at times sick, rebellious, and busy with their own lives.  There had been moments when he wondered how he'd ever gone from Special Ops to Brood Ops, but like all crazy days for the Jackson-O'Neills, there always came this moment of time.  It was the calm and the serenity of the day.  Sometimes it only lasted a minute and at other times, it lasted for hours.  He just never knew when it would come.  Today it was now while he stood, admiring the love of his life who this minute had his eyes closed as he himself searched for just a bit of quiet sanity.

Quietly, Jack retrieved a prized bottle of St. Julien's wine and two glasses.  He also dug into his stash of chocolate surprises, selecting two very choice and rich truffles to delight his husband.  As he returned to the living room, his eyes lit up with an inner joy that came simply from hearing a contented sigh from Daniel, who was just repositioning himself slightly as he relaxed on the comfortable sofa. Finally, Jack put on some soft music, the sounds of an English tenor he particularly enjoyed singing beautiful Neapolitan tunes.  Then he sat down next to Daniel and kissed him gently on the lips.

“Mmmm ... nice.”

“Glad you liked it,” Jack returned softly.  “I brought you some wine.”

Daniel sighed happily, sitting up straighter and taking hold of a goblet as he watched his handsome Silver Fox pour the red wine into the glass.  He brought the drink closer, sniffing the aroma he enjoyed so much.  Slowly, he took a sip.  It felt like perfection as the liquid flowed ever so tenderly down his throat.

“Thanks, Babe.”

Jack sipped a bit of the wine himself before pointing out the fine truffles he had sitting on a plate.

“Just what the doctor ordered,” Daniel glistened verbally.  He sank his teeth into the truffle and succulently enjoyed the first half of his treat.  He could feel tranquility flowing through him.  “Perfection.”

“I buy that,” Jack agreed, although his smile and brilliant brown eyes suggested he was referring to Daniel and not the truffle.

For a time, the lovers were quiet, sipping their wine and slowly partaking in the truffle treats.  The music continued to play, classical tunes from a romantic era sung in Italian filling the air.  Time marched on until the midnight hour approached.

“What are you doing?” Daniel asked, breaking the verbal silence when he spied his Love staring at him.

“Just looking,” Jack answered softly.  He reached over and took Daniel's hand, interlocking it with his.  As he gazed into beautiful blue eyes, he thought about the wonderful calm of the minute.  It felt so eternally right to simply be sitting by this man he loved so much.  “Living with you makes my life complete.”

“I love you,” Daniel declared before kissing his romantic husband.  “It was a crazy day, wasn't it?”

“Totally and ridiculously crazy ... perfect.”

The two men chuckled and stood up, neither having to say a word.  It had a been a long day and they'd had little sleep the night before.  It was time for bed.  With the house secured and the pets settled along with the brood, the couple walked leisurely up the stairs.

His hand holding Daniel's, Jack began, “How long since I told you ...”

“About five minutes,” the archaeologist interrupted, used to his husband's somewhat frequent query about how long it had been since he'd last declared his love.

“Wrong, Dannyboy,” Jack negated, adding a “tsk tsk” to his remark.

“Wrong?”

“I was going to ask how long it had been since I told you how good it feels just to be near you, like this, holding your hand?”

“Oh,” a somewhat stunned younger man expressed.  “Uh, well, I, uh ... I don't remember.”

“Consider yourself told,” Jack advised before stealing a quick kiss.  “There's more where that came from.”

“Good to know.”

At the top of the stairs, Jack stopped suddenly.  He took hold of Daniel's upper arms, gently turning his Love to face him.  He kissed his husband one more time, this union as tender as any of their kisses had ever been.  Bringing the other man in close, Jack moved his right hand to caress his Love's cheek.  His eyes gazed endearingly at Daniel's.

“Danny, we've gone through a lot, good and bad, but sometimes it is the simple things that I love the most.  Just sitting with you, being by your side, enjoying a cup of coffee or glass of wine, whining about the kids or that crazy bird: all the insanity is worth it because at the end of the day, there's you.  I love you, Angel.”

“Jack ...”

More tender kisses continued as the two men made their way inside their bedroom, closing the door behind them.  Though tired, their passion was growing. Still, it wasn't yet clear how far it would go on this evening.  Glances of want and need were detected as they changed into pajamas, along with questioning smiles of whether the attire would ultimately be shed.

Silently, Jack and Daniel slipped into their large king bed and nestled together, Daniel instantly making the use of his husband's strong shoulder and Jack's arms protectively encircling lover's body, the right hand stroking the younger man's arm.  They were happy just to be together and to have these sweet seconds of serenity alone.

Daniel shifted a bit to one of his most treasured positions, one where he could hear the soothing heartbeat that made him feel so secure in the universe.

“Listening to your heart is the most wonderful music I could ever hear,” Daniel spoke softly.  “Just lying here is what brings me happiness.  The sounds of life -- your heart, even the rhythm of your pulse, beating steadily -- that's a gift I'll always prize above all others.  I love you, Jack, and I still don't have the words to really say how much.”

Heads moved position until the couple's eyes met.  It was only a few seconds that they gazed into each other's, but it felt like a blissful eternity.  Knowing smiles followed.  Passion took over, the pajamas tossed to various parts of the room, and a more non-verbal way of expressing their feelings commenced.  It was full and complete, leaving both satiated as much as their lovemaking ever had.

Lying on their sides, facing each other, each was touching the other with loving caresses.

His thumb running across his lover's lips, Jack whispered, “Living with you is my heaven.”

“Loving you, in every way I know, is the biggest joy imaginable.”

For both men, weariness took hold.  With hands intertwined, their eyelids began to flutter until all four eyes were shuttered by the fleshly lenses.  They didn't often fall asleep in these positions, but tonight they did so, each so happy at the routine knowledge that living with the other was all they ever needed in life.  For Jack and Daniel, life and love in Colorado Springs was complete and everlasting.

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

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