Maturity Blues

Author:  Orrymain
Category:  Slash, Drama, Romance, Established Relationship
Pairing:  Jack/Daniel ... and it's all J/D
Rating:  PG-13
Season:  Beyond the Series - March 31, 2017
Spoilers:  None
Size:  43kb, short story
Written:  April 17-22, 2014
Summary:  Can Jack and Daniel handle the growing pains of their brood?  See what happens in the course of just one day.
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?~

Maturity Blues
by Orrymain

“Okay, uh, park it,” Daniel urged calmly, though his calm only veiled his internal nervousness.  ~I guess if I could teach a Jaffa how to drive a bus in 1969, I can teach David how to drive in 2017.~

“Piece of cake, Daddy,” the fifteen-year-old youth insisted.  “Driving's a breeze.”

“Just make sure you can still say that once you get the SUV in position between that truck and that Honda.”

David rolled his eyes, not unlike Daniel had often done over the decades.

The teen was preparing for his driver's test and Daniel was making sure he knew how to parallel park.  Today's lesson was a spontaneous one, requested of his younger father at breakfast that morning which explained their presence downtown on this pleasant mid-morning.

“See!” the teenager exclaimed with pride at his perfect parking job.

“Yes,” Daniel acknowledged with a big sigh of relief.  “Why don't we take a walk.”

“Okay.”

Locking the car, Daniel looked across at his son and prompted, “Don't forget to pay the meter.”

“Pay?  Me?”

“If you're old enough to drive, you're old enough to feed the meter.”

“Daddy?”

“Hmmm?”

“You've been hanging around Dad too long.”

Daniel chuckled and simply nodded his agreement.  He watched as the middle Mouseketeer took money out of his pocket and deposited it into the meter.  His mind wandered back to years before, when a shaggy haired boy with glasses literally ran into him at the shelter run by Molly O'Hanlon.

~You've come so far, Son.  I'm so proud of you,~ the archaeologist thought to himself, so lost in thought that he didn't realize David was taking to him.

“Daddy, you aren't listening to me!” the boy complained.

“I'm sorry,” Daniel apologized.  “I was thinking.”  Seeing David opening his mouth, the father raised his hand and shook his head, ordering, “Don't say it.”

David laughed, as did his father.

“You thinking is dangerous,” David couldn't help but say.  “I guess that's an old joke now.”

“Old but ... part of our family heritage, I suppose,” Daniel admitted, a timid smile crossing his face as he thought of all the times Jack had made quips about thinking too much or the trouble it led to, at home or across the galaxy.

The father and son walked leisurely along the city streets, not really heading anywhere in particular.  They chatted about the family and David's passion for rocks.  Eventually, they stopped at a diner for a beverage.  They sat at booth near the large front window where they were able to see all the activity going on outside, including people walking by on the sidewalk.

“Ready to tell me?”

“Huh?”

“Son, what's on your mind?” Daniel asked pointedly.

David stared in amazement.  Apparently, Daniel had known all along that the unplanned driving lesson was a cover.

“How'd you know?”

“You're my son,” Daniel answered cryptically, a smug smile on his face.

David drew a breath, looked out the diner window, and then licked his lips.  He had no idea how much he was acting like Daniel often did.

“Well, Daddy, I'm a good driver, right?”

“So far.”

“I've never had an accident.”

“David, you don't even have your license yet,” Daniel reminded.

“But I will, very soon.”

“I'm sure you will.”

“Daddy, the SUV is such a big car.”

“Are you worried about driving it for your exam?” Daniel queried curiously, thinking his son might not be feeling as comfortable behind the wheel as he seemed.

“No, it's just ...” David paused, a frustrating gasp of air released next instead of a word.  He looked across the table, his heart racing and his palms needlessly sweating.  “Daddy, I can't take Zoey to her prom in an SUV!”

“Zoey?  P...prom?” Daniel stuttered, totally surprised by the revelation.

“Zoey.  You know her.  She's Robbie's sister,” David reminded, referring to his long time friend, Robbie Doopser.

“Ah, Zoey,” Daniel replied, his words an affirmation of the young girl's identity.  “I didn't know you were taking her to the prom.”

“Well, I ... I ... I ...”

“Did you ask her?”

“Not yet,” David answered quietly and shyly, his gaze focused on his Pepsi and not his father's eyes.

“But you want to?”

“She's nice, Daddy, and she's been hinting.”

“Oh,” Daniel responded in a near whisper.

Over the years, there had been a few girls David liked, but he'd never verbalized his feelings much.  He'd spent time with peers of the opposite sex now and then, including going to movies or meeting a group of friends that included the girl he was interested in at the mall or a pizzeria, but he'd never actually asked a girl out for a formal, full tilt date as yet.

Daniel smiled as he recalled Cory Smith, who perhaps was David's first female interest.  That had been around the time of the big bet the children made with Jack over having a huge anniversary party.

~He would grin every time he saw her; then he'd turn beet red whenever she looked at him,~ the archaeologist mused.

“Daddy, you're not paying attention!”

“Wha...what?”  Daniel sighed, realizing he'd checked out, having gone back in time reviewing his son's history with girls.  “David, what do you want to ask me?”

“I really like Zoey, Daddy, and I know she wants me to ask her to the prom,” David reiterated.  “Even Jen thinks so.”

“Well, if Jen thinks it, then I'm sure she's right.  What's the problem?”

“I can't take her to the prom in the SUV.”

“Why not?”

“Daddy!  Don't you remember going to proms?” David asked in exasperation, only then he realized his error.  “I'm sorry, Daddy.  I'm just so nervous.”

“I know,” Daniel assured with a confident expression.  “Just take it slow and breathe.”

Totally ignoring the advice he'd just been given, David ranted, “Jen was going to let me use her car, but that's the weekend she's going out of town for that project of Alex's, and she has to have her car for that.”

Daniel nodded.  He also knew that Jeff's truck was another possibility.  With the oldest male Jackson-O'Neill child away at college, Brianna was using it regularly, but for one night, that shouldn't be an issue, so Daniel thought.

“What about Jeff's truck?”  The expression on David's face was one of horror, so much so it threw the archaeologist for a loop.  ~Did an alien just come in, or what?~ he wondered as he tried to determine the odd look on his son's face.  
“What?”

“Daddy, the truck?  For prom?  It's old and ... and ... Daddy, it's a truck!”

“A truck.  Yes, it's a truck,” Daniel lamented in confusion.  “Son, we're not going to buy you a car for prom.”  This time, the father saw a despairing look of incredulity on the boy's face.  “Okay.  David, why don't you just tell me what you have in mind.”

“Can I borrow the Silver Fox?” David asked vulnerably, a big gulp finishing his query.  He closed his eyes for a moment and continued, “I *really really*want to take Zoey in your car,” he confessed with wide, anxious eyes.

“My car?”

Daniel's prized car was a silver 1999 Shelby-American sports car in pristine condition.  Nicknamed the Silver Fox in honor of Jack, who drove it from time to time, the two-seater vehicle had never really been a car the kids had driven.

~Well, Jen and Jeff have both driven it,~ Daniel reflected, although neither had ever taken it out for more than a quick errand.  In fact, he wondered if his husband was even aware of those times when the teens had driven the very fast, sporty car.  ~He knows.  He just doesn't like to think about it.  Neither do I.~

“I'm a good driver, Daddy, and I'll be super careful.  Please!”

“I'll talk to Dad,” Daniel responded, noting the deflated expression on the soon-to-be-sixteen boy's face.  He wondered exactly when it was that David's interest in girls had become equal with that of geology, and it was obvious to him that it had.  Somehow, he just couldn't let the boy down.  “But,” he continued, “I trust you to pay attention to the road.  Pass both the written exam and the road test in the top ten percentile, and you can take Zoey to the prom in the Silver Fox.”

David's eyes widened as much as his grin did.  He let out a happy gasp and nodded at his father. He had no words, but his expression and thankful nods were all Daniel needed to know he'd made the right decision.

~I'll distract Jack with a little ...~  Suddenly, Daniel coughed as he brought himself out of his X-rated thoughts.  ~What am I thinking about in front of my son?  Gawd, Jack's changed me.~

“Daddy, why are you smiling?”

“Just ... thinking about your dad,” Daniel answered.  “Let's go.”

“Thanks, Daddy,” David spoke appreciatively as he stood up.

“Son?”

“Yeah?”

“Pay the check.”

“What?”

Daniel just smiled as he left his son alone in the diner.

“The things a man has to do just to borrow the car,” David bemoaned softly as he pulled out his wallet to pay the tab.

A tap on the window drew the boy's attention.

“Don't forget the tip,” Daniel reminded with an assuming nod.

“Right,” David acknowledged, having read his father's lips more than having heard his words.  “He's really turning into Dad,” he muttered.

====

Meanwhile, at the Jackson-O'Neill residence, Jack sat patiently on the front steps of the porch. His mind was wandering from thought to thought as he waited for Aislinn to get home.  She was at a morning meeting of her doll club and one of the mothers had agreed to bring her home.  Normally, Jenny would have gone to the club as well, but one of her allergies had kicked in so she stayed home and spent the time reading a book in her room.

~It's been a while since Red's had a bad allergy attack like this one,~ Jack reflected.  ~Maybe we should take her in for a check up.~  He wondered if he was just being overprotective.  As a baby, Jenny had suffered a lot of allergy and asthma-like attacks, but as she'd aged, the attacks had become very infrequent.  Only occasionally did the family doctors prescribe a medication for her.  ~Nah, she's fine,~ the general told himself, even as he pulled out his phone and began to call Sylvia Preston, the family's primary pediatrician.  Just then, though, a car drove up and stopped.  ~Saved by the car, Red,~ he chuckled, knowing Jenny wouldn't want to go to the doctor.

A smile on his face, Jack waited for his ten-year-old daughter to exit the vehicle.  She was always so happy after her doll club meetings.  He was sure she'd be eagerly relaying the blow-by-blow activities of the morning before even reaching his spot on the porch.

~Let's see what doll roulette landed us this month,~ Jack pondered, referring to how the girls would trade dolls for a month.  It was their newest version of exploring different cultures -- “one doll at a time,” the silver-haired man chuckled.

Just then, the back seat passenger door opened and Aislinn bolted out of the car.  She held a doll protectively in her arms.

“I am not shallow!,” Aislinn shouted in anger.  She slammed the door shut, being careful not to endanger the doll she was holding.  Then she looked through the front window of the vehicle that was rolled down and said calmly, “Thank you for the ride, Mrs. Morrell.”

Jack's pleasant feelings did an about face, his face now taut, a frown present where a smile had been just a second before.  He didn't like what he had just witnessed.  Clearly, something was amiss and all was not bliss in the world of dolls.  He waited patiently for Aislinn to make the walk up the driveway and toward the porch steps where he was seated.

“Who's our guest?” the father asked when the fuming but quiet Munchkin was near.

“Mei Ling,” Aislinn answered, sitting down on the step after Jack motioned for her to do so.  “She's from China.”

“Who's she on loan from?”

“Krissie,” Aislinn answered.  “Dad, am I shallow?  I'm not shallow.  Dad, what's shallow mean?  I mean, I know it's not deep, but that's water.  I'm not water.”  The young girl mumbled, “That wasn't nice.  I can't help it boys like me.  I like boys.  I want boys to like me.  I like boys to like me.  I like boys.”

Jack was trying to keep up with the rambling and make sense of it, but his little miracle wasn't making it easy.

“It's not my fault Brian tripped getting me a drink and spilled it all over her doll. He was just being nice,” Aislinn ranted.  “And just because Ryan gave me his drink doesn't mean anything.  He was just being nice, too.  Besides, I was thirsty. I am not shallow.  Dad, am I shallow?”

The general stared at his daughter, waiting to make sure she was through.  Her big brown eyes were now focused on his, an anticipatory expression on her face.

“No, Ash, you're not shallow.”

“I knew it!” Aislinn exclaimed in annoyance and with a bit of a self-righteous arrogance.

“But ...”

“But?” the displeased girl echoed.  “Dad, what's shallow?”

“The way you're using it, Princess, it means superficial.”

“Fake?” Aislinn queried.  Seeing her father's nod, she grew angrier.  “I am *not* fake, Dad.”

“Ash, take a deep breath.”

“You sound like Daddy,” the girl retorted unhappily, her elbows plopping on the ends of the large doll and her head lowering to rest in between the palms of her two hands.

“Good for me!” Jack replied with a smile.  “Sounding like Daddy means I've learned something over the years.  We all need to be more like Daddy.”

Aislinn drew a big, long breath, succumbing to the request without further argument.  She even took a second deep breath, even more audible.

“Am I supposed to feel better?” the girl asked, having moved her face to the side in order to look at her older father.

“You're supposed to calm down,” Jack suggested sternly.  “Princess, who's Brian?  And who's Ryan?”

“They're Kelly's cousins.  They're visiting her family this week,” Aislinn answered.  She sighed and continued, “All I said was that I was thirsty.  Brian got up and got me a drink, but then he tripped.  Ryan got a drink, too, but when Brian dropped mine, he handed me his.  I was thirsty, so I took it.  Dad, they were just being nice.  Boys like to be nice to me.”

~Trouble.  If I survive her dating years, it'll be a miracle,~ Jack sighed inwardly before refocusing on the current situation.  “Ash, has Aunt Sara ever mentioned her friend, Fran?”

“Na-huh.”

“Fran was one of her sorority sisters in college: nice gal, of Mexican descent, pretty, smart; she wanted to be a nurse,” Jack advised the little girl.  “She had 'it', whatever 'it' is,” he recollected.  “All she had to do was say in a tiny voice, 'I'm so cold,' and before you could snap your fingers,” he snapped his fingers in emphasis, “every boy in the room would jump up to get her a blanket.”

Aislinn couldn't help but smile.  The same thing had happened to her many times.

“Sara used to shake her head at the antics.  She liked Fran a lot, but she felt a little sorry for those boys.”

“Why, Dad?”

“Fran needed the attention of boys all the time.  She always had a boyfriend.”

“What's wrong with that?” Aislinn asked, straightening from her previous position.

“It was never real.”  Jack saw his daughter's face scrunch up in confusion.  “Every time one of her beaus had to be away, she'd move on to someone else.  Let's see.  There was one fellow she was supposed to be serious with who changed colleges.  Uh ... yeah, and another one took the summer term off to go to Europe with his folks, and some poor boy had a work project that took him out of state for two months.  Every time, she found someone new within a couple of weeks.  It was never lasting, Ash.  Any boy who did her bidding was *the* boy of the moment.  She even started dating one boy's best friend when he went away on a church retreat.  See, Fran needed the attention, and it really never mattered to her who gave her that attention, as long as it was a male.”  He shook his head and added, “It was all about the attention and she knew how to use that 'it' factor to get it.”

“I don't do that.”

“I know you don't, Princess, but you need to think about what you're doing and how it affects your friends.  Do you like Krissie?”

“Of course, I do.  Well, I did.”  Aislinn sighed submissively upon seeing Jack's somewhat scornful stare.  “Yes, I like her.”

“Did Brian or Ryan offer to get her a drink?”

“No.”

“Did they offer to get drinks for any of your other friends?”

“No.”

“Did you think about how fair that was when you they offered to get you a drink?”

“No,” the girl conceded dejectedly.

“Did it occur to you to suggest that they get drinks for all of the girls?”

The response was a long, sad, drawn out, “Noooo.”

In a gentle yet slightly more forceful tone, Jack asked his princess, “When you were thirsty, did *anything* stop *you* from getting off your butt and getting a drink yourself?”

“No,” was the very mournful response.  With that, Aislinn stood up and climbed up to the porch, Mei Ling still protectively in her hold.  “Dad, I have to go think.”

Jack chuckled lightly to himself and nodded in agreement, but before the youngster reached the door to open it, he called out, “Ash, what about what happened out there?”

Aislinn saw her dad's hand motion toward the street where she'd been dropped off.  She took another breath as she thought over what she was sure he was referring to in his question.

Resigned, Aislinn asked, “Can I use the phone in a little while to call Krissie?  I want to tell her I'm sorry for yelling at her.”

“Good idea.”  Jack glanced back and saw Aislinn reaching up for the doorknob.  “And?”

The slender hand slid off the knob as Aislinn reflected a bit more.  She glanced at the doll and then turned back toward her father somewhat.

“And I need to apologize to Mrs. Morrell for being rude and slamming her door.”

“Another good idea,” Jack praised.  Before the Munchkin could move, he prompted, “And?”

Aislinn's lips parted as she blew out a giant puff of air.  She took two steps towards Jack and stared at him.

“Dad, I think tonight I should go straight to bed after dinner and not watch TV or play with the others.”  Aislinn saw the approving bob of her father's head.  She sensed there was yet more.  ~Shucks,~ she lamented, sounding, internally anyway, like her brother, Jonny.  “And I should skip ice cream tonight.  I don't deserve it.”

“Whatever you say,” Jack replied, his head motioning toward the door.  He watched Aislinn step inside.  “Ash?”

“Yes, Dad?”

“You're not dating until you're thirty!”

Aislinn giggled, “Oh, Dad.”  No longer in the doldrums, she opined, “You're so funny,” before finally disappearing from Jack's sight.

Now Jack let out a sigh of his own and then lowly scoffed, “Shallow.  My baby shallow?  Never!”

====

“Two ships passing in the night,” Jack laughed before kissing his husband goodbye, an acknowledgement of their somewhat hectic schedule that had both shuttling their children to various places throughout the day.

“Let's hope we can dock before morning,” Daniel replied with a sly grin.

“I'll be your anchor,” the older man assured.

“You always are, Babe,” came the sincere, soft-spoken response.  “I love you.”

“Love you, too, Angel.  Catch ya later.”  Jack glanced outside and saw Little Danny was waiting patiently by the truck.  He looked at his watch and shouted, “Jonny, move it!”

“I'm coming,” the oldest Munchkin called out as he hurried towards the entranceway.  Seeing the stares of his parents, the sandy-haired boy insisted, “I was hurrying, but I wasn't running.”

“That wasn't running?” Daniel challenged.

“Jog walking,” Jonny claimed.

“Never heard of it,” Jack contended with a skeptical eye on his namesake.

“You have now,” the boy declared, smiling as he walked out the door and ran to join his brother.

Jack and Daniel shared a look and then both shrugged, neither wanting to make an issue out of jog walking in the house, at least now right now.  Smiles on their faces, the two men shared another kiss before Jack caught up with their son outside and Daniel returned his focus to duties inside the house.

====

Upon finishing up a bit of business for J-O Enterprises and conducting some homeschooling activities for the younger children who were at home, Daniel decided to check in on Brianna, who had been uncharacteristically quiet that day. As he approached her room, the archaeologist noticed the door was ajar.  It was quiet inside.  He peeked in.  Seeing the tomboy on her bed looking totally engrossed in a magazine, Daniel tapped on the open door and headed inside.

“Hey.”

“Oh,” Brianna reacted in a startled tone.  She quickly closed the publication and tried to hide it beneath a notepad that was also on the bed.  “Hi, Daddy.”

The movement did not go unnoticed by the blue-eyed scientist.  He walked forward, calmly glancing in the direction of the magazine and notebook.

“Everything okay?”

“Sure,” Brianna responded, her mock smile a bit forced.

Daniel sat down on the bed, one leg crooked beneath him, and suggested, “How about telling me what's really going on.”

“Nothing,” Brianna lied.  Unable to maintain a confident look at her father, she focused on her hands and sighed.  “It's dumb nonsense.”

“What is?”

“All that junk in there,” the fifteen-year-old teenager purported while pointing at the magazine.

Daniel reached for the item and turned it over.

“Vogue?”

“It's Jen's,” the blonde explained.  “I thought I'd look at it for kicks.”

“For kicks, huh?”

“Yeah.  I mean it's just silly foo foo stuff.  It's Jen's style, not mine,” Brianna said, dismissing any reason for her looking at the magazine.

Daniel looked down, processing the information he was hearing.

“You aren't interested in that stuff?” the father inquired as he leafed through the magazine, stopping on the page that had a corner bent back.  ~Fancy look,~ he thought about the up-do that was on the model in the picture.

“Who me?  Daddy, don't be silly.  I'm a tomboy.”

~A tomboy with a boyfriend in South Carolina,~ Daniel retorted in his mind.  “Sweetie, what's wrong with dressing up and, well, wearing your hair differently, if you want to?”

“Daddy, this isn't just combing it differently or something.  It wouldn't be me,” the teenager tossed out, standing up and walking away from the bed, her face hidden from Daniel's view.  “I'd never be fake like that.”

“Oh, I see,” Daniel replied.  “Bri, come here,” he beckoned.  “Sit down.”

Brianna returned to the bed and resumed her seated position.  She looked as disinterested as she could in the magazine and picked up her notebook that was full of information on dolphin communication.

“Bri, where did we go last Sunday?”

“Sunday?”  Confused at the question, Brianna answered, “Garden of the Gods.  We played football with the McDaniels.”

“Jen, too?”

“Are you okay, Daddy?” the teen asked, feeling befuddled by the inquiries.

Undaunted, the scientist queried, “Was Jen there?”

“Of course, she was.”

“What was the final score of the game?”

“I don't remember, but we won by three points.”

“Why?”

“Why?”

“Why?” Daniel repeated as he looked his daughter straight in the eye.

“We scored a touchdown in the final seconds of the game,” Brianna recalled.

“How?”

Brianna frowned, still not understanding her father's line of questioning.  She recognized the determination on his face, though, and figured she'd go along.

“David was the quarterback and he rifled the football to Jen.  She caught it and ran thirty yards to make the touchdown.”

“Was it an easy run?”

“No, she had to evade Carl and Mister McDaniel.”

“... which she did.”

“Yes,” Brianna affirmed.

“And how was she dressed?”

“Daddy!” Brianna exclaimed in exasperation.  She saw the widened eyes that were firm and steady in their aim.  “She had on one of Dad's old gray sweatshirts, a pair of jeans, and tennis shoes.”

Daniel nodded and inquired, “What about her hair?”

“She had it in a ponytail.”

“Neat?”

“Messy,” Brianna corrected.  “Lots of straggles.  We were playing football, Daddy,” she added in an annoyed tone.

Ignoring the girl's obvious frustration, Daniel continued on by asking, “And is that normal for your sister?”

“Heck, no!  She's always so well put together, even just relaxing in her room.”  Brianna smiled, her mind centered on Jennifer.  “She's so pretty, Daddy.  She knows how to put a look together, and she makes it work, no matter what.  You know how she is.”

“Yes, I do,” Daniel agreed.  “Bri, the day Dad and I met the Mouseketeers at Molly's shelter, Jennifer had an attitude a mile wide, not unlike another young girl we met a few years later.”

Brianna looked down and away, knowing full well her father was referring to her.

“Jack was coaching the boys in a baseball game, and Jen challenged him.  He thought she was just spouting off, so he ... dared her to back up her words.  Well, she took him up on it and backed up what she'd said.  Jack was dumbfounded, but impressed.  He suggested Jen play with them, but she refused.  Basically, she told him that she didn't like sports, but that didn't mean she couldn't play and play well if she wanted to play.”

“So, what are saying?”

“Most of the time, Jen looks sharp, but sometimes, she does like to ... get down and dirty.  She loves her gardening; she loves playing with the rest of the brood; and in spite of those protestations years ago, she does enjoy the family sporting events, like football, and when she chooses to participate, she never worries about how she looks.  Dad's old sweatshirt is way too big for her; she doesn't care.  She likes it.”  Daniel paused and reached out, taking the notebook out of the girl's hand, and then taking hold of her hands.  “Sweetie, you can be whoever you want to be, and that includes dressing up sometimes.  For Jen, she ... okay, dresses down sometimes, when she plays sports, works outside, or just feels like she wants a day off.  For you, you can dress up, wear your hair differently ... yes, put on a pretty dress, eat out somewhere fancy, or just pamper yourself, and the only reason you need to do it is because today, you feel like it.”

“But it's not me.”

“Sure, it is.  Honey, we're not black and white.  We all have different sides of ourselves.  Look at Dad and me.  He never thought in his wildest imagination, he'd be digging for artifacts and enjoying it.  I never thought I'd be a pilot or satisfied to work for the military.  Granted, there are reservations and issues with that.”  Daniel realized he was about to go off on a tangent, so he shook it off mentally.  “Uh, that's neither here nor there at the moment.  Anyway, Bri, some days, Dad is a no non-sense general making decisions that are life and death, and on other days, he's a dad doing cheers with Jenny in front of the entire neighborhood, oblivious to the odd stares he sometimes get for passersby.  We're complex beings, Bri.  Getting your hair fixed for a day or two isn't a betrayal of the dolphins or your inner tomboy, it's just letting another part of you out for a while.  It's not fake.  It's being authentic and real because there's more to you than being a tomboy, just like there's more to ... to ... well, to me.  How many adversaries of mine thought I was nothing but a meek nerd?”

“You sure proved them wrong, Daddy,” Brianna responded quietly and with a proud smile on her face.  Her smiled broadened as she admitted, “I just wonder how I'd look with my hair like that lady's.  I still think it's crazy.”

“I don't.”  Daniel looked at his watch and advised, “Dad should home with the boys in about a half hour.  Get ready.”

As her father stood up and headed for the door, Brianna called out, “Why?”

“We're going out ...” Daniel grinned, “to let your foo foo side out, just for today.”

Brianna laughed and picked up the magazine.  She stared at the image that had captivated her all day.

“I still think it's silly,” the tomboy mused, even as she continued to grin in anticipation.

====

Not far away, Jack and the boys were involved in an informal game of basketball with other boys from the area.  The game had gone smoothly, the lead transferring back and forth several times, even though the number of players fluctuated as kids came and went for one reason or the other.  A time out had just been called by Jonny's team.  They were currently on the low end of the scoring totem.

“Can I play?”

Jack looked over and saw a young girl, eight or nine years old in his estimation.  She had long brown hair with big bangs.

“Are you kidding?” one of the boys on the other team answered sarcastically.

“Get lost!” a second boy ordered.

“Yeah, go play with your *dollies*,” yet another boy spoke, his tone intentionally feminine and rude.

“But you need another player, and I'm good at basketball,” the girl claimed.

“You're just a girl; go home,” a member of Jonny's team spoke.

Jack was about to intercede, not liking what was happening, when he heard a familiar voice speak up.

“Are you really good?” Jonny inquired, walking over to the girl, the basketball stuffed under his right arm.

“Yeah.  I have five brothers and I can outshoot all of them.”

“Bet they're babies,” one boy spouted.

“They are not!” the girl huffed.  “Two are older, and I *am* better than them!”

“Don't care,” the first boy interjected.  “You can't play with us.”

“Yes, she can,” Jonny asserted, looking back admonishingly at his friends.

“Jonny!” the second boy cried in astonishment.

“Girls can't play like us,” the third boy opined rudely.

“Ash is a girl, and she's better than you, Rich,” Jonny pointed out with authority.

The boy in question glared at his current nemesis.

“What's your name?” Jonny asked the girl.

“Margaret.”

“Hi, I'm Jonny, and this is my brother, Little Danny, and that's Rich and ... they're our friends, and we'd like you to play with us.”  The little general turned and faced his fellow players commandingly.  “Say 'hi' to Margaret.  She's on my team now.”

Jonny's stare was insistent and intense, as is expected of the general aura he so often assumed.  It worked, too, as the other boys, albeit reluctantly, all greeted Margaret properly and welcomed her to the game.

Jack looked over and saw a grin on Little Danny's face, so he walked over and asked, “Why the big grin?”

“Jonny did good, Dad, didn't he?”

“Yeah, he did good,” Jack confirmed.

With a little laugh, the boy added, “Ash is going to love this.”

“How's she going to find out?”

“I'm going to tell her,” the boy replied honestly.  More seriously, he said, “We don't have secrets, Dad.  Besides, she'll tease him, but she'll be proud of him, too.”

“Yeah.”

“Dad, the time out is over!  Little Danny, let's go!” Jonny beckoned hurriedly.

Jack and the child prodigy shared another smile and then shifted their attention back to the game.

====

The stars were out, shining brightly.  Jack watched them with intrigue as he determined what constellations were present and which were there but hidden by the darkness and the earth's current position.

“Snake,” the general sneered.

“Snake?” Daniel echoed as he joined his lover on the Aerie, their extended roof deck that was actually over the hospitality room and gave them a better view of the night sky.

“Hydra,” Jack explained, pointing upward.  “It's the largest constellation in the sky.”

Daniel looked up and opined, “We don't see it very often.”

“It's one of April's babies.”

“Earth's revolution,” Daniel surmised, seeing the nod from his husband.  “Well, better a water snake above us than ...”

“... a Goa'uld among us,” Jack completed with a grateful smile while putting his arm around his Love's waist.  A minute of silence passed before the general spoke again.  “Bri looked like a real princess at dinner, Danny.  I may have to ground her.”

Daniel laughed in response and then spoke, “She's not just a tomboy, even if that's all she claims to be.”

In reference to the girl's South Carolina boyfriend, Jack mused, “Con couldn't call her fast enough after Jen sent him that picture.”

“That's no surprise,” the younger man replied.

“How'd you know where to take her for that fancy hair job?”

“Who else?” Daniel quipped with a smile.

The archaeologist's continued response of “Janet,” came at the exact same time that his lover answered, “Doc.”

Jack mused, “That woman has had more different hair styles than any other woman on the planet; maybe any planet.”

“She likes to reinvent herself,” Daniel contributed.

After another moment of quiet, Jack sighed, “Thought I could count on Bri to stay a tomboy. I may not live to deal with Ash now.”

“Jack, be serious.”

“I *am* serious.  Remember, I have a few years on you.  If Bri starts dressing up like that I'll ...”

“You'll what?” Daniel challenged as he cut off his spouse's sharply begun tirade.

“I'll ... be proud as punch.  Tomboy or beauty, she's our daughter.”  Squeezing his Love gently, Jack asked, “Did Ash call Mrs. Morrell and apologize?”

“Yes, she did, right after she finished her lessons this afternoon.  She talked to Krissie, too.”

“How'd that go?”

“She said she was sorry and she didn't intend to hog all the boys, but that she couldn't help it.”

“Oy!”

“She tried, Babe,” Daniel opined.  “When I checked on her after she went upstairs, she said she was meditating and trying to find her inner self.”

“What?” Jack called out, withdrawing his arm and turning to face his husband.  “What's that supposed to mean?”

Daniel shifted position to face Jack and answered, “It was something in Kayla's book, about learning who you really are inside by being quiet and listening to your heart.”

Jack nodded, his thoughts now with the surrogate mother of their children who had been so tragically killed years before.

“Drunk drivers should be executed,” the military man growled harshly.

“She's here, watching over them.”

“But they can't go to her and feel her arms around them, can they, Danny?” the upset man questioned.

“She embraces their heart; that's what she's doing with Ash tonight,” Daniel asserted, his right hand running up and down his lover's arm in a soothing motion.  Eventually, he took hold of Jack's hands protectively.  “Ash feels Kayla; all the children do.  When she was alone, she turned to her and she's learning from her.  Kayla would be proud of our daughter.”

“I'm proud of our daughter,” Jack interjected.  Then he muttered, “She's still not dating until she's thirty.”

Laughter filled the air as Jack drew Daniel into his arms.  The men began to sway under the moonlight, just enjoying the sensation of holding the other.

“You know, Little Danny was beaming over what Jonny did at the game, too.”

“He, Jonny, surprised me, Angel.  He didn't hesitate.  He stood up to his friends, took that little girl onto his team, and dang, they won.  She was good, too.  Those other boys were darn sorry they hadn't jumped on the chance to have her play with them.”

“He learned an important lesson.  Of course, Ash gloated about a bit longer than she should.”

“Jonny got even.  He reminded her of her self-imposed punishment.”

“Yeah, he timed it well, too,” Daniel noted, shaking his head.  “Right before ice cream.”

More laughter, though subtle, could be heard as the couple remained close and danced to the music of their hearts.

“Oh, Jack, I was thinking,” Daniel began, temporarily stopping the couple's movement and pulling back, though not losing contact.  “Don't say it,” he inserted before his husband could get in a sparring verbal jab.  “David said Robbie is sad that he and his boyfriend can't go to prom.”

“Dang schools still don't allow that,” Jack lamented.

“Not Robbie's school, anyway,” Daniel corrected.  “I was thinking, maybe we could have a party, a mini-prom, here, for Robbie and some of the others who won't be able to take dates to the prom.  What do you think?”

“I think ...” Jack paused, looking grim at first, but then smiling, “that I love how you think.  Let's do it.”

“We can get some names, check with the parents, and put something together for them.  It may not be a big formal prom, but ...”

“... but it's something for them, and they can make a memory, like we are, together, right now.”

The men embraced again and began to rotate slowly, their hands freely roaming the body of the other.

“David's finally going out on a real date,” Jack sighed.  “He's sure grown up.”

“Mmm-mmm,” the archaeologist agreed, his head resting happily on Jack's shoulder.

Minutes passed before Jack broke the silence with “Ever think we sound like a broken record, Danny?”

“How so?”

“They're growing up.  Seems like every few days we find ourselves amazed at how much the brood has matured.  Wasn't it just yesterday the Munchkins were in diapers?”

“Hours ago,” Daniel corrected with a melancholic air.

“I love you.”

“I love you.”

Facing the maturity blues more and more as the days passed, Jack and Daniel now focused on their nation of two, a union of their hearts and souls that was greater than anything else known to man; at least, that's how they saw it.

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

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