Meet My Folks

Author:  Orrymain
Category:  Slash, Angst, Drama, Romance, Established Relationship
Pairing:  Jack/Daniel ... and it's all J/D
Rating:  PG-13
Season:  Beyond the Series - January 8, 2011
Spoilers:  None
Size:  36kb, short story
Written:  January 4,10, August 3-4, November 12,23-25, 2017
Summary:  A trip to Jeff's old neighborhood isn't quite what Jeff and his new family expected.
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) This fic stands alone, but it does reference my other fic(s):  “A Christmas Miracle”

Meet My Folks
by Orrymain

It was bright and early on a clear and calm Saturday morning.  Normally, Daniel would have the covers up high and Jack would be up, dressed, and out for a walk or jog, or maybe puttering around the yard, or taking time to play with the zoo.  Sometimes, he'd be up watching a favorite video, perhaps one that had vintage cartoons on it.  Yet, as the sun was barely on the horizon, Jack was sound asleep and Daniel was in the kitchen.

The archaeologist was humming as he fixed a special breakfast.  He'd been up for a while, doing the prep, and now he was finishing up his Moussaka, a Greek dish that included eggs sunny side up, pork, onions, potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, and various seasonings and sauces as ingredients.

With the oven casserole finished, Daniel placed the food on a tray and added some applesauce, a glass of orange juice, and a cup of coffee.  Then he headed upstairs, entered the master bedroom, and closed the door.  He put the tray down on the nightstand and gingerly slid back in bed.  His husband was lying on his abdomen, his hands grasping his pillow.  His back was bare, the after effect of lovemaking the night before.

Daniel moved with care.  Even after all these years, he had to be cautious when waking his lover.  Jack's survival skills were too inbred and the memories of having to protect himself in all kinds of iffy situations were always present in the periods of sleep where the subconscious was trained to react.

“Babe,” Daniel whispered.  “Jack,” he called out, his voice a cue for the general's mind to relax and prepare for the touch.  “I love you,” he declared before placing a kiss on Jack's back.  “Jack, fooooood.”

“Huh?  Ah, what?”

Daniel laughed as he scooted off the bed and picked up the tray.

“Up, Babe.  Your breakfast is served.”

“Danny, what the ... did I oversleep?”

“No, I underslept.  It's 'Happy I Love You Saturday',” Daniel declared as he motioned for his husband to sit up and then placed the tray on his lap, pausing to exchange a couple of kisses before he straightened and walked over to his side of the bed.

“Angel, this looks great.”

“I hope it tastes great, too.  I tried something new,” Daniel admitted as he situated himself near the headboard and put his arms through his lover's left arm and leaned against his shoulder.

Jack gave it a taste, letting the dish rest on his tongue and allowing his taste buds to kick in full gear.

“Hey, this is good.  Thank you, Angel.”

The couple chatted about everyday things and nothing terribly important or earth shattering.  It was just the simple dialogue between spouses as they began their day together.  As Jack ate the breakfast, he occasionally spoon-fed bites to his soulmate, who smiled with each delightful taste.

After Jack finished, the couple lied happily in each other's arms for a half-hour and then their snuggles developed into foreplay that erupted into a satiating round of lovemaking.

Showers later, the men dressed and headed downstairs where their brood was enjoying their morning meal that Jennifer prepared.

“Sorry we missed breakfast,” Daniel told the children.

“Sure, you are, Daddy,” Brianna returned with absolutely no sincerity at all.

The archaeologist blushed.  It was a little too obvious why he and Jack weren't at breakfast on time, and the children were giggling and snickering.

“Oooookay,” Jack interjected.  “Eat!”  He looked over at his oldest son and asked, “Are we still a go for today?”

“Sure; I mean, are you sure you both still want to go?”

“Of course, we do,” Jack responded without missing a beat.

“We've been looking forward to it all week,” Daniel added.

Two months shy of being fifteen, Jeff was one of three children, the other two being Brianna and Lulu, adopted in November of the previous year.  As with the Mouseketeers, the parents assured the newest additions that it was okay to remember their birth parents who loved and nurtured them during their time on Earth.  In Jeff's case, his mother died of cancer when he was five, but his father, an Air Force pilot who eventually was assigned to Stargate Command, died in a Goa'uld attack last October.

Initially, Jeff held back from doing or saying things that involved his parents and life before becoming a Jackson-O'Neill, but after a long and difficult December during which Jack was injured and almost became lost to the family, Jeff took the risk and trusted his parents to understand and fulfill at least one of his needs.  

//Flashback//
“Dad, do you have a minute?” Jeff asked Jack who was relaxing on the comfortable sofa in the rec room.

“Have a pillow,” Jack said with a smile as he closed the magazine he was reading.

Jeff continued to stand, however, as he asked, “Uh, do you remember asking me if I wanted to go back to my old neighborhood?”

“Are you ready?” Jack asked as he shifted a bit to get more comfortable.

“Dad, I didn't want to hurt you,” the boy admitted a bit hesitantly.

“Jeff, your life before here doesn't just disappear,” Jack responded.  “You're not hurting me by pretending it doesn't exist; you're hurting yourself.”

“It's just that I feel so lucky to be here and so grateful that you and Daddy took me in.”

Jack sighed, wishing he and his husband had somehow found more time to talk with Jeff when he had first moved in.  They had talked, but adjustments took time.

“Son, we're lucky to have you, and it's Daddy and I who are grateful and blessed that you decided to join our family.”

Jeff smiled and looked down at the wood floor shyly.

“Jennifer and I have talked a lot; I've wanted to believe her, but ...”

“You don't need to explain, just start standing up for yourself and letting us know your needs and wants, not that you're going to get them all,” Jack teased.

Jeff walked to the sofa and sat down on the other end as he chuckled, “I'd like to go back to my old neighborhood.”

~Progress.~  Jack nodded steadily, feeling the boy's uneasiness lessen.  He replied, “Sounds like a plan.  When you're ready, you can go.”

“I've made a lot of new friends, but I would like to see some of the guys I use to pal around with, and, uh, I'd like you and Daddy to meet them.”

“You sure about that?” Jack asked pointedly.

“If they can't handle it, they aren't my friends, and I don't need them.  Jen helped me to understand that while you were gone.”

Jack smiled, sensing the growing bond between the two teenagers.

“We can go anytime,” Jack told Jeff.
//End of Flashback//

“Are you excited to see your old friends, Jeff?” Jennifer inquired.

“Yeah,” came the succinct response.

**He's nervous, Babe,** Daniel communicated privately to his lover.

**Ya think?** was the snappy but humorous retort that was accompanied by a smile aimed at the archaeologist.  “Eat up, kids,” he instructed, eager to get on with the day's adventure.

====

“Brood meeting,” Jonny whispered to Jenny as soon as he put his plate into the dishwasher.  “You tell, but not Jeff.”

“'kay,” Jenny whispered and quickly headed for Lulu, who was closest to her.

The whispers continued until the ten Jackson-O'Neill children who weren't Jeff assembled in boys' room upstairs.

“Jonny, why meeting?” Little Danny asked.

“We brood; s'port each other,” the oldest Munchkin responded.

“Always,” Jennifer responded confidently.  “What are you thinking, Jonny?”

“Big day for Jeff.  We need go with him.”

“That might overwhelm him,” the oldest of the brood noted.

“Yeah, he needs to breathe,” Brianna added.  She saw the questioning looks and explained, “Guys, we're ... new.”  She sighed.  “I don't want you to get upset.”

“I know what Bri means,” Little Danny stated.  He adopted his older persona that seemed to come out at important times like this.  “We've been the brood forever, but Jeff and Bri and Lulu haven't.  Going to an old home might make him sad.”

“There's a lot more to it, guys,” Jennifer interjected.  “We're quite a force, all of us.  Jeff's friends don't know about us.”

“Oooooh,” David sighed.  “They don't know about Dad and Daddy.”

Just then, the brood heard a loud voice over the intercom, asking if the kids wanted to say goodbye.  Jack, Daniel, and Jeff were about to leave.

“Okay, we no have a lot of time,” Jonny spoke urgently.  “We need a rep'sent'tive.”

“I agree.  One of us should go, to be there,” Little Danny put forth.

“And tell us ev'thing that hap'ened,” Jenny giggled.

“I'll go,” both Aislinn and Chenoa offered at the same time.

The children exchanged looks as they wondered who should make the journey and report back.  While there seemed to be a special kinship between Jeff and Chenoa, all of them loved Jeff and would be appropriate.  As the silent brood wondered who they should send, the middle Munchkin suddenly lit up.

Brightly, Little Danny looked at his six-year-old sister and prodded, “We're supposed to work on our homework project this morning, 'member?”

“Oh, yeah, I forgot,” Chenoa gasped, smiling at the reminder and anxious to spend time with the middle Munchkin.

“Ash goes,” Jonny declared, though he looked at the young dove and asked, “That okay, Noa?”

“Yes.  Little Danny and I have lots to do for our assignment.  I forgot,” Chenoa responded.

“Need minute, Jonny; wanna wear good clothes.”

“We'll stall.  Brood, let's go.”  As Jonny hurriedly followed others out of the room, he gently nudged his sister Munchkin forward.  “Dress fast.”

====

Seven minutes and lots of words later in the living room, Jack let out with a whistle that was followed by, “Whoa!  I'm sure Jeff appreciates all this love and support you're giving him, but we've gotta go or we're not going to get there in time.”

“I'm ready!”

The family looked up the stairs and saw four-year-old Aislinn wearing a beautiful blue dress, one she'd worn at the fiftieth wedding anniversary party for Christa and Jacob Svenson, their neighbors who lived across the street.  It was frilly, with lots of lace on the arms, upper chest, and back, and featured a white bow on the front at the waist.  The bow was affixed to a dark blue satin sash that was tied in the back.  An elegant white headband kept her long brown hair from getting into her eyes.

“Now that's our princess,” Jack praised with a big grin.

“Wow, Ash, you look ... beautiful,” Daniel complimented as his expression turned into a proud and approving smile and soft, loving eyes.

“Thank you, Dad and Daddy,” the grinning child responded before turning her attention to her big brother.  “Jeff, can I go with you?”

Somewhat nervously, Jeff responded, “Yeah, sure, but, um, why would you want to, Ash?”

“Because you're my brother.”

Jeff formed a small smile of his own, but he looked around as if he didn't know what to do.  He was still getting used to this big family, all of whom cared so much for one another.

“It's okay if you don't want me to go,” Aislinn spoke with a downtrodden expression and tone, unsuccessful at hiding her disappointment.

~I don't know what to do.~  Jeff looked over at Jennifer, who gave him an assuring smile and nod.  Over the last two-and-a-half months, the two teens bonded as they came to know each other and their history.  Her confident look gave him a feeling that everything would be all right.  A more solid and positive expression appeared on his face.  “Thanks, Ash.  I want you to come.”

Just that quick, the subject was over.

“Let's get the show on the road,” Jack urged as he walked to the entryway and opened the front door.

“Jen, Aunt Sam should be here in a half-hour.  Turn on the security system ...”

“... and don't open the door ... yada-yada-yada.  I know, Daddy.  I'll follow all the rules.”

“Thank you, Sweetie,” Daniel replied, giving the teenager a kiss on the cheek before following the others outside.

The brood watched as their parents followed Jeff and Aislinn to the SUV.  All of them wished they were able to go with them, too, but they understood, as much as they were able at their various ages, that it was best for only one of them to accompany Jeff.

As for the teenager, Jeff knew he was in a safe place with his parents and the brood, and a more upbeat feeling washed over him as he took his place in the family vehicle and prepared himself for seeing his friends again.

====

“It's three more blocks, on the right,” Jeff informed his dad.

“You sound confident they'll be there,” Daniel commented.

“We played basketball on that court after school almost every day, and missing a Saturday morning wasn't even considered.  Kids battered their parents to let them play for at least an hour, even if they had family plans,” Jeff explained.  He looked out the window a bit nervously as he confided, “I haven't seen them since Dad died.”

“Your life has changed a lot, Son,” Daniel responded, sensing the teen's anxiety about seeing his friends.  “What you're feeling is natural.”

“I spy boys,” Aislinn observed as she pointed in the direction of the basketball court that was now in full view.

“That's the gang,” Jeff acknowledged as heart beat a little faster at the sight of his friends.  “It's going to be great to see them again.”

“Did you call them, Jeff?” Aislinn inquired.

“No,” came the timid response, accompanied by a shaking head.  “I knew they'd be here and I wanted to surprise them.”

The parents looked at each other, both uncertain how the reunion would go.  These boys were the sons of Air Force personnel and their opinions of same-sex marriage could be counter to Jeff's hopes.

After exiting the vehicle, the Jackson-O'Neills approached the court with Jeff in the lead.  His friends ranged in age from thirteen to seventeen.  It was apparent from viewing the kids that they were having a fun, albeit competitive game.  At least ten boys were playing, but when Jeff called out, only some of them returned the greeting and hurried over to the edge of the court.

The surprise at seeing Jeff was evident from the body language displayed, but the surprise was good.  Along with high fives, there were lots of smiles and excited greetings.

Jack and Daniel stayed back, allowing the reunion to take place without their interference.  They stood just inside the chain fence as they watched the reunion occur in the distance.  In front of the couple, Aislinn stood.  Slowly, though, she inched her way forward, wanting to show off her dress and support for her biggest brother.

“Where have you been, Hunter?” Ryan Colter asked.

“The other side of town.”

“What's over there?” Jesus Martinez questioned.

“We are,” Aislinn piped up after running over to stand by her brother.

Jack and Daniel started forward, but caught each other and stayed back.  They kept a close eye on both of their children, but as long as there wasn't an obvious need, they still wanted to let Jeff call the shots on when they would be introduced to the boys from his past.

“Guys, this is my sister, Ash.”

“You've got a Little Bo Peep now,” Chandler Greene teased.

“I'm not Little Bo Peep,” Ash corrected, causing some laughter.

“You're sure dressed like it,” Ryan mocked.

Jeff's breathing tightened as he looked down at the Munchkin and saw confusion on her face.  He thought she looked exactly like the princess their parents always referred to her, and his other sisters, as.  He felt good inside, knowing she'd cared so much to dress up for his friends, only now, some of those friends were teasing her.  He wasn't quite sure how to respond.

“Jeff, what's it like?” Drew Kendall inquired, the basketball secure between his arm and his torso.

The change of pace in conversation drew Jeff to a more positive state of mind and he responded, “It's good.  There's ... a lot of us actually.”

“Yeah?” Ryan queried.

“Yeah.  I have ten brothers and sisters now,” Jeff answered.

“And lots of animals.  We call them our zoo,” Aislinn informed brightly.

“I thought you were adopted, by that major general,” Drew responded.

“I was ... adopted, but not by Gran...Uncle George,” Jeff returned.  The boys knew that Jeff's dad was friends with Major General George Hammond and that Jeff always referred to him as his uncle.  “Um, I, I call him Grandpa now.”

“Grandpa?” three of the boys echoed.

“I guess it's a long story.”

“So you have new parents,” Brandon Collier stated.

“Did they come?” Elias Joyner questioned.

“Over there,” Jeff advised as he turned and pointed towards his parents.

The boys exchanged looks and then Brandon noted, “I only see two guys.  Where's your new mom?”

“Mommy's dead,” Aislinn answered softly, sniffling a moment as she thought about Kayla Armentrout, who gave birth to the triplets and the twins and who the entire brood thought of as a mother.

“I've seen that guy, the one with the gray hair,” Elias observed.  “It was ... on the base about a year ago.”

“That's my dad,” Jeff explained.  “Ah, his name is Major General Jack Jackson-O'Neill.”

“And that's our daddy,” Aislinn spoke as if it were the most natural thing in the world, to have a dad and daddy, which, of course, it was to her.

“He's Doctor Daniel Jackson-O'Neill.”

“Jackson-O'Neill?  Hyphenated?” a shocked Ryan inquired.

“Yeah,” Elias noted.  “I remember that.  Dad said he was some real big wig, but he never knew why.  He does covert stuff, or something.”

Jeff simply shrugged, not confirming or denying anything about his adoptive dad.

“Wait one minute,” Brandon called out.  “Your new parents are gay?”

“It's complicated,” Jeff replied, knowing that neither of his parents used that label to describe themselves.  “They're married and they adopted me.”

“That's freaky, Hunter,” Ryan opined, his eyes narrowing and lips turned down into a frown.  “What happened to you?  Your dad must be shivering in his grave.”

“Don't talk about my dad, Colter,” Jeff stated forcefully.  He took a deep breath to avoid becoming upset.  “Listen, guys, it's been a while and I wanted to see you and show my parents where I spent my time here.  I'd like you to meet my folks.  They're interested, in all of you.  They'd, um, like to take everyone for donuts or a drink, if you want.  We could go to the coffee shop, like old times.”

“Don't think my parents would approve, Hunter,” Ryan returned, shaking his head and walking backwards to put distance between the two.

“Now I get it,” Evan Folger interjected.  He was one of the few boys who didn't acknowledge Jeff's presence at first.  He approached just in time to hear about Jack and Daniel.  “You're swinging that way, right?”

“Gotta be,” Ryan accused.  “That's why you didn't do it with Emily Parker.”

“Guys, my little sister is right here,” Jeff reminded, not liking what his old friends were saying in front of the little girl.

“You're one of them,” Ryan assumed with disdain.  “I don't get how that creep is a general,” he referenced about Jack.

“Get out of here, bender,” Evan ordered with a nasty sneer.

Jeff's ire increased.  Though the remark made no sense to his sister, he knew what an insult it was.  He didn't care about himself, but the comment indicated his friends weren't who he thought they were.  He remembered what he'd told his dad recently, that if the neighborhood boys couldn't accept who his new parents were, then they weren't really his friends.  He believed that, but it made him sad, too.

“Yeah, man.  You and Bo Peep should go back to your sheep,” Drew sneered derisively.

“Not Bo Peep,” Aislinn argued, getting upset at the name and sensing the hostility.

“Little girl, go home!” Brandon exclaimed as he moved towards the Munchkin.  “You belong with your parents, your fa...”

--

Jack and Daniel began to race towards their children, but then Daniel reached out and took hold of his husband's arm, stopping their run.

“What are you doing?” the general asked with upset.

“Jack, we have to wait.”

“Daniel, I don't have to hear them to know what they're saying.”

“We need to wait.”

“Look at Ash!” the older man demanded, his left arm pointing in the direction of the youngster.  “She's crying.”

“Yes,” the archaeologist acknowledged with a pointed tone.  “We know that, and so does Jeff.”

“So?” the angry general challenged.

“So ... we have to give him a chance.”

“A chance?”

“To be her brother, her big brother.”

Not happy, but with reluctant agreement, Jack sighed and turned his attention to the children and the mocking teens who were now just yards away.

--

“Shut up, Collier!” Jeff spat, picking up Aislinn, who instantly slung her arms around him.  He looked at the boys and sighed.  “I was so eager to show my parents where I used to live, to have them meet my friends.  Ash dressed up for you guys.  She wanted you to see how much my new family loved me.  She said she wanted to look her best for my friends.”  He bounced her slightly in his arms as he held his sister protectively.  “I'm proud of her for what she tried to do, but putting on one of her best and prettiest dresses wasn't necessary, not for you guys.  You're not my friends.”  He shook his head and emotionally declared, “My dad was my only friend here.”

As Jeff stared down the teens, Aislinn comforted, “You have us now, Jeff.”

“That's all I need, Ash.  Let's go home.”

--

As they watched, Jack and Daniel felt even more uncertainty about the visit.  Were they wrong to have encouraged the visit to Jeff's old stomping grounds?  At the moment, they were fearful they'd made a bad call.

--

Jeff, still carrying Ash, turned and headed for his parents.  His pace was slow at first, but quickened, not in a hurry-to-get-away pace, but with a forward momentum full of confidence for who he was and how much his new family meant to him.

“Are you okay?” Daniel asked when Jeff approached.

“Yeah, I am.”  Jeff looked at the Munchkin and asked, “Are you okay, Ash?  I'm sorry my friends,” he paused for a moment and corrected, “I'm sorry they weren't who I remembered.  They were mean.”

“Not your fault.”

“We can go home now,” Jeff commented.

Just as the family turned around, a voice called out, “Jeff, wait.”

Turning back, Jeff observed Elias running towards the family, taking a big breath when he stopped.  The youth, who was of Portuguese and Greek descent, looked back and forth between Jeff, the adults, and the little girl.  Finally, he took a big gulp of air.

“I'm sorry.  I'm not sure why the guys are acting that way.”  Elias sighed, “I'm not sure why *I* went along with them.  I'm sorry.  I'm really sorry.”  He looked over at Jack and said, “I saw you once, on the base.  Dad said he didn't know what you did, but he said you were a heavyweight.”  With a little snort, “I think it's the mystery of ... who you are, I guess.”  As he watched the general glance over at the man who was Jeff's other parent, Elias sighed.  “Sir, I'm Elias Joyner, a ... well, I hope I'm still a friend of Jeff's.”

“Joyner?” Jack repeated.  He placed the name.  He didn't know the officer personally, but did know his record in the service.  In fact, he was being considered for Stargate Command, though the man had no clue about its existence as yet.  “Scott Joyner's kid?”

“Yes, Sir, and please don't tell him I acted like a moron today.  He'll skin me alive if he finds out I sounded off.”

“Why did you?” Jack challenged.

The teen hated to admit it, but at fourteen, he was one of the youngest members of the group.  It was hard for him to be independent.

“Peer pressure.  Colter's sort of our ... leader, I guess.  It's hard to stand up to him.  I don't know that any of us have.  It's no excuse, Sir, but it is the truth.”

Jack and Daniel looked at each other, appreciative of the admission and wisdom Elias showed in his answer.  Daniel extended his hand as he introduced himself.

“I'm Daniel, one of Jeff's parents.”

“Jack,” the general added as he also shook the boy's hand.

“Uh ... Ash, is that your name?” Elias asked the young girl.

“It's Aislinn, but you can call me Ash, like ev'one else does.”

“I'm sorry we teased you.  We were wrong,” Elias told the Munchkin.  With a bit of swagger, he pronounced, “And you know what, that dress is rockin'!”

Aislinn's grin was huge, even if she didn't know what a rockin' dress was.

“You have sisters?” Jack questioned.

“Two, six and ten,” Elias responded.  “Jeff, if that offer is still open ...”

“Sure,” Jeff responded, relieved that at least one of the people from his past was true to his memory.  ~We did let Colter run the show.  Did I ever act like that?~

“I'd like to go, too,” a voice requested.  It belonged to Drew Kendall, one of the boys who was so nasty to Aislinn.  Quietly, he'd cautiously ambled closer to Jeff and his family.  “Elias is right.  We've been jerks.”

“Not Bo Peep,” Aislinn responded with a frown.

“I have a little sister and we always call her Bo Peep because that's her favorite fairytale character.  I know I didn't say it that way to you, but I didn't mean it.  I was trying to sound big with the guys.  I apologize.”

Aislinn stared at the teenager and then she broke out into a small giggle as she admitted, “I like Little Bo Peep, too, and her sheep.”  Looking at her parents, she asked, “Maybe we get sheep?”

Jack groaned, Daniel laughed, and Jeff nodded at his friends, happy to know he did have friends still from his old neighborhood.

The ice broken, Jack and Daniel were willing to give the boys a chance.  Peer pressure was the cause of many negative actions.  It was easy for them to believe the youths, so after the boys each phoned their parents to get permission, the group headed for the coffee shop the teens frequented when hanging out.

====

The visit at the coffee shop was going well.  Jeff was enjoying talking about times past with Elias and Drew, who both were very mindful of Aislinn's presence.  Gone was all of the negativity from the basketball court, replaced by light teasing and remarks about how pretty she looked and how festive her dress was.

“Jeff, sorry for that crack Colter said about Emily Parker.  Colter was way out of line with that one.  You know her dad was transferred last month?  I mean, Colter knew he could get away with what he said with Colonel Parker not being here anymore.  Otherwise ...”

Elias didn't complete his sentence as he knew both Jeff and Drew were aware of the situation.  There would be harsh repercussions if anyone went near Parker's daughter in any unacceptable manner.  They'd seen it happen to one of their friends, whose parents both paid the price for their son's advances on the girl.

“Yeah.  I mean, I didn't know about the transfer, but he was tough on anyone who hung around Emily.”  Jeff looked at his parents and explained, “Emily was in a couple of my classes.  We talked a lot, but her father was pretty territorial.  He kept her close and let all of us know not to touch her, not that I would.  I mean I, um, well I ...”

Laughter broke out and the conversation continued.  Jeff never had a romantic interest in Emily.  His main commonality with her was that her mother died when she was only four.  Like Jeff's mom, her death came from cancer.  That was the bond between the two youths.

“Sir, can I ask you a question?” Elias spoke to the general.

“Go ahead,” Jack permitted.

“Please don't misunderstand, but how can you be married to Daniel and still be active?”

“Uh, you do know 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' is essentially over?” Daniel inquired.

“Yes, Sir,” Elias responded.  “But you've been active, before that.  I guess it doesn't matter, but ... I am curious why the Air Force allowed it.”

“If I told you why, I'd have to shoot you,” the general quipped with a stone cold expression.  Then he laughed and probed, “What do you think?”

Taking a sip of his drink first, Elias answered, “I think my dad is right and you do covert stuff, and more than that, I think it's none of my business and I should shut up.”

“Way to go, Joyner,” Drew laughed, slapping his friend on the upper arm.

====

Forty-five minutes later, Jeff was saying goodbye to Elias and Drew, who lived right next to other in a housing development for families of personnel assigned to Peterson Air Force Base.  The boys weren't sure if they'd see each other again or not.  Drew's mom, a colonel, was being transferred in six weeks to Joint Base Langley–Eustis in Virginia, and with Elias's family on the other side of town, it would take effort for he and Jeff to get together.

As the teenagers walked away, they turned and waved at Jack and Daniel.  Both smiled at Aislinn, but it was Elias who called out and told the little girl that he'd never forget such a pretty Little Bo Peep.

“They nice,” Aislinn told her parents.

Smiing, Jeff returned to the SUV.  Jack restarted the engine and began to drive around, following his son's directions.

“That's it,” Jeff spoke as his father brought the car to a stop.

“It looks like a nice house,” Daniel commented.

Jeff chuckled, “Daddy, all the houses are alike.  We had a barrel on the porch, with flowers in it.  Dad said Mom liked that, flowers in a barrel.  There was a story about it, but I don't really remember.  I think everyone has something unique out front so they don't forget which house is theirs.”

“You could knock on the door; maybe take a look around,” Jack suggested.

The teen nodded, but responded, “It was just a house.  We weren't there that long, not really.”  Jeff wet his lips for a few seconds and said, “There is a place I'd to see.”

“Tell me where,” Jack suggested as he once again turned over the engine.

====

Several minutes later, the family was in an open area that overlooked the military community.  With Daniel carrying Aislinn, they stopped just behind Jeff, who stared out, saying nothing for a few minutes.

“Sometimes, Dad and I would walk up here.  It was a long hike from the house, but we didn't care.  Sometimes, he drove us here.  We'd sit and just ... watch and listen.”  There was a long pause before Jeff spoke again.  “Dad was stationed in a lot of places when I was a kid, and then we came here.  He was happy to be near Grandpa.  I think he wished I had more relatives.  I don't know.  Now that I think about it, maybe he knew something was going to happen.  They say people know that sometimes.”

“You can't predict the future,” Jack countered.

“I know.  I'm not sure when he knew about the ... you know,” the teen said, referring to the Stargate without saying its name, “but I remember the last time we were here.  He talked about the world being a big place, bigger than we could imagine.  He told me we were little fish in a giant pond and that it was important that we always stick together.  Then he reminded me that my mom loved us both and he was certain she was with us every day.  He didn't want me to forget that.”

After a few minutes, Jeff faced his parents as he spoke, “Thanks for bringing me back to the neighborhood.  I'm glad we came.  I learned something important today”

“What was that?” Daniel asked.

“That memories are just that.  They're important, but living in the past isn't a good idea.  The gang ... they're from another part of my life, and now I'm living this part, the one where I have a very big and unusual family, with lots of animals and beautiful sisters, and inquisitive brothers.  In my heart, I have my dad and my mom.  Dad's here,” Jeff patted his chest over his heart, “but that house is just a bunch of walls.  It wasn't ours really.  It was one like dozens of others.  I think I'd rather live in today, if that's okay.”

“I think we can handle that,” Jack returned.

“Jeff, what you say?” Aislinn asked, having no idea what her big brother just said.

Laughing, Jeff took hold of the girl and explained, “It means I love you, Ash, and I want to go home and see the brood.  It means I want to tell all of you about the time Dad challenged me to a clean up game, which I know sounds silly, and it was, but it sure was fun.  I want you to know my dad and what a swell guy he was.  It means we need to build our pyramid and hang out for the rest of the day.”

“I have to change first.  No want my dress get dirty.”

Everyone chuckled and then they headed for home and the love of their entire family.

====

At home, Aislinn eagerly reported what happened to the brood.  She admitted she didn't understand a lot of the words, but what was important was that Jeff had fun with a couple of his friends and that he took care of her when the boys made her cry.

The afternoon was spent largely in the backyard with the entire family laughing and playing together.  Jeff told a few stories about his dad and the things they did together.  It was easier for the teen to share now that he truly understood that talking about his dad and old life was healthy and acceptable with his new family.  For the first time, Jeff realized he wasn't replacing his dad and mom, but he was adding to his family, just as his new parents added to their existing family when they adopted him, Brianna, and Lulu.

After building the family pyramid, the Jackson-O'Neills went inside to prepare for dinner.

When evening came, Jack and Daniel took a moment to themselves out on their roof deck.

“Interesting day,” Jack remarked as he stood with his arms around Daniel, who was in front of him as they looked out into the darkness of their backyard.

Daniel's hands pressed gently against Jack's as he responded, “Interesting ... and vital.  Jeff needed to go to his old neighborhood more than he, or us, realized.”

“I'm glad you stopped me.”

“From rescuing Ash?  Gawd, I barely stopped myself.”

“But you were right, Danny.  He had to know he'd take care of Ash.”

“He did, and now he knows, and not just that, but that there's a balance between where he once was and where he is now.  That's not easy, Jack.”

“Yeah, tell me about it.  When I think back ...”

“It applies to all of us.  Understanding the past is the key, but like Jeff said today, we have to live in the present.  I think he can do that now ... and without feeling ... guilty?”

“Yeah.  Hey, have I told you today that I love you?”

“Actually, uh, no.”

“Danny, I love you, forever and always.”

With a heavenly smile, Daniel leaned his head back against his soulmate's shoulder and replied, “I love you, too, Babe, always and forever.”

Adopting three more children mere months before meant adjustments for the Jackson-O'Neills, but the wonderful aspect of it all was getting to know one another.  For Jack and Daniel, it was also watching their children blossom and come into their own.  One day wouldn't change their world, but this day was certain to go a long way toward helping Jeff feel settled and more comfortable in blending the old and the new.  People change, friends change, and even families change.  Even so, the constant center of this family was love, and on this night in Colorado Springs, love was in abundance for Jack, Daniel, and their brood plus zoo.

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

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