Midwest Adventure

Author:  Orrymain
Category:  Slash, Drama, Romance, Established Relationship
Pairing:  Jack/Daniel ... and it's all J/D
Rating:  PG-13
Season:  Beyond the Series - August 20-21, 2012
Spoilers:  None
Size:  41kb, short story
Written:  January 23-25,27,29, February 4,7, March 2, 2008
Summary:  A test of trust gives Jack and Daniel some insight into one of their children.
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:  Irina, Melissa, Linda, Keri!

Wanderin' in the USA
Chapter: Midwest Adventure
by Orrymain

Earlier today, the Jackson-O'Neills had left Dayton, Ohio.  Their plan now was to make a quick circle around Colorado, visiting a couple of places in Iowa and Nebraska before heading straight for Texas, where Jonny had been promised the family would definitely stop during their road trip.  They'd eaten lunch and were now traveling west along I-74.  After passing through the city of Danville, they were in the middle of nowhere, with nothing but fields on both sides of the interstate.

“Daddy, stop!” Little Danny suddenly called out urgently and then quickly unfastened his seatbelt.

The little boy climbed out of the booth in the kitchen area of the RV where he'd been playing a game with Aislinn, Chenoa, and David.

“Yeah, stop!” David exclaimed, wanting to make sure their younger father, who was driving, had heard his brother's plea.

Daniel pulled the RV over to the side of the road.  As he did, Jack walked out of the bathroom with JD after changing the baby's diaper.

“What's wrong?” Daniel asked, swiveling around in his seat once the vehicle was properly stopped.

“Look at that lady!” the boy requested.

“What lady?”

“Open the door,” Daniel's namesake replied.

“Daddy, there was a lady out there with three cats,” David said informatively.

“I saw them, too,” Jennifer said, having walked forward to the cockpit area.

“So they're stretching,” Jack said, not alarmed by the comments in the slightest.

“There wasn't a car anywhere in sight,” Jennifer pointed out with concern.

Jack felt a tug on his shirt and looked down to see Lulu staring up at him.

“Maybe the cats are hurt, Dad,” the black-haired child suggested, her brilliant brown eyes imploring him to check it out.

“Daniel, open the door,” Jack stated, having just melted like butter on a hot skillet.  “We might as well check it out.”

“Jeff, stay with the kids,” Daniel ordered.

“I'm going, too,” Little Danny argued.  “I saw her, Daddy.”

“Me, too!” David insisted eagerly.

“And me,” Jennifer added.  With a grin, she pointed at her younger siblings and said, “I can watch them.”

When the younger man looked over at his husband, Jack just shrugged, so a moment later, the parents, along with Jennifer, Little Danny, and David, got out of the RV and headed towards the woman and her three cats.

The woman had long reddish-blonde hair and blue eyes.  As they approached, the family could see her face was highlighted by freckles.  She was wearing flats and looked to stand just five-feet, four-inches tall.  Her denim jeans looked a bit old and worn.  She stood in the middle of the field by the highway with her cats on leashes.

The stranger looked cautiously at the approaching group as she called out, “Hi.”

“Hello,” Daniel responded.  “Uh, I'm Daniel.  This is Jack.”

“I'm Little Danny,” the young boy piped up before his daddy could introduce him.  “This is my brother, David, and my sister, Jen.”  He smiled and asked, “What's your name?”

“Sineag.” Seeing the questioning looks, the woman added, “It's a nickname.”

“Who are they?” Little Danny questioned, pointing at the cats, all three of whom were suddenly walking in his direction.  “Hi,” the boy said, kneeling down as the cats ambled up to him and began rubbing against him.

As Little Danny and the cats got to know each other, Sineag answered, “That's Conner, Duncan, and Methos.”


“Nice looking cats,” Daniel commented.  “Uh, listen, we don't mean to ... interfere, but the children saw you and were concerned.  Do you ... need help?”

“I'm in a bit of a jam.  I know this is going to sound crazy, but I was visiting a friend, and my junk heap of a car died.  It was ready for burial anyway, so I just sold it for scrap to get something out of it.  Then I was robbed,” Sineag announced.  “It was my cats or my money.  Do you believe it?  They took Conner and ...”

Jack coughed, motioning with his head down at the middle Munchkin.

“I didn't have a choice.  The only good thing is that I don't have a credit card to my name, but he got all my cash.”

“Didn't you call the police?”

“Of course,” Sineag answered.  “They took a report, and that's that.”

“Isn't there someone you could call?” Daniel questioned.

“My aunt.  She lives in Branson, but she hasn't returned my call.  Maybe she's out of town or something, but she's the only family I have,” Sineag answered.

“Where do you live?” Jack asked.

“Montana,” Sineag answered.  “Tiny town that I'm sure you've never heard of.”

“Where's your stuff?” Jennifer asked curiously, walking over to the woman's tote on wheels.  She squinted as she glanced inside the partially open bag.  “It's empty, except for a blanket.”

“I'm a light traveler,” the woman sighed.  “The robber took most of it, and I couldn't carry the rest and the cats.”

“You're *walking* to Montana?” Jack questioned incredulously.

“Branson; it's closer.  Look, I don't have money.  I don't own much, and, like I said, I don't do credit cards.  Who's gonna help me?”

“We will,” Little Danny volunteered eagerly, causing his parents to share concerned glances.

“Sineag, you've walked ... how far with the cats?” Daniel asked curiously.

“I'm not sure.”

“What about Danville?  That's just back a few miles.”

“No money, remember?” the woman reminded sternly.

“They must have a shelter or ...” Daniel began.

“I'm not homeless, and I'm not looking for a handout.  I just want to get home, or to my aunt's house.  You know, I really don't want to think about all of this,” Sineag said as she tugged lightly on the cats' leashes.  “It's been a long couple of days, and I'm tired.  If you'll excuse me,” she said.  She surprised the group by placing the cats inside the luggage, affixing their leashes so that they couldn't jump out.  When the felines were secure and she had made sure they had plenty of air, she looked over at the family and said, “Ta ta,” giving them a little wave as she walked away.

“Dad, Daddy, we have to help her,” Little Danny insisted.

“Son, we don't know anything about her,” Jack responded.

“She didn't sound like she wanted to share very much with us,” Daniel spoke hesitantly.  “Not even her real name.”

“Um, you might not like me for saying this,” Jennifer began with an apologetic expression on her face, “but, you don't tend to do that, either.  Sure, she was secretive and had a little bit of an attitude, but it sounds to me like she's been through a lot recently, and she's on her own.”

“She's scared, and the cats need help,” Little Danny added.

“She doesn't know us, either,” David chimed.

“She'll be okay,” Jack stated.  “Back to Betsy.”

The Air Force general was shocked to see that the troops hadn't budged a step, not even his husband.

“Dad, Daddy, we have to help her,” Little Danny said.

“I know why you're hesitating,” Jennifer stated.

“Me, too,” David said.  “It's because of us.”

“You can't have Aunt Sam do background checks on everyone we meet,” Jennifer stated pointedly, knowing her parents tended to be overprotective.

“We ... don't,” Jack said, letting out a mock cough as he walked over to stand closer to his husband.

“Dad, the Trust didn't plant her out here.  They haven't a clue where we are,” the teenager sighed, shaking her head.

“What do you think?” Jack asked as he looked at his soulmate.

“Pretend we're off-world,” Little Danny said quietly, surprising his parents when he suddenly appeared right between them.  “If you were meeting with new friends, you'd trust them.  Why should we trust aliens and not each other?”

“Jack,” Daniel prodded, the wise young words having just rippled through his body.

“Yeah, I know,” the older man said.  Still, he noted, “She's headed for Branson; we're not going that way.”

“Why can't we?  Isn't that closer to Texas than Iowa?” the child prodigy asked, though he clearly knew the answer to his question.

Daniel gave his lover a look that said they had no choice, which Jack had already realized on his own.

Looking back, Jack requested, “Jen, get the kids back in the RV and then drive ahead.”

With that, Jack and Daniel sprinted forward until they'd almost reached the woman.

“Sineag, wait up,” the archaeologist called out, pleased when the woman stopped and looked back at the couple.  “Uh, well, we can't let you go on by yourself.”

“I'm not asking for favors, and, if you'll excuse me for saying so, I don't know you.”

“Ma'am, there are twelve kids, including a baby, on that RV, not to mention two beagles.  If you and the cats get by their inspection, you're welcome to come with us, but if you'd rather not, we'll just leave you here walking on the side of the road.”

“What he means is, we're just a family on vacation, and you've already met three of our children.  Besides, you don't have much left to rob,” Daniel pointed out with a small smile.

“Don't you think your wives might object?”

Jack let out a groan and then answered, “No wives.  We're husband and husband, and if you have a problem with that, you're still welcome to hitch a ride to somewhere decent, just as long as you don't badmouth us in front of our children.”

“You're together, and you have a dozen kids?”

“And a menagerie of critters,” Jack quipped, adding, “most of whom are at home, except for the girls.”

“The beagles?” the woman guessed successfully.

“Bingo!” Jack affirmed.

“Where would you drop me off?”

“Branson,” Daniel answered.

“You're going there?” Sineag queried.

“Passing through,” the archaeologist answered.  He reached forward to take the suitcase with the cats and said, “We need to introduce the girls to the cats.”

Sineag released her hold on the suitcase handle, sensing the sincerity in the younger man.  With a nod, the three headed towards the RV that was now near them.

====

The first order of business, after introducing Sineag to all of the children, was to make sure Bijou and Katie would get along with Sineag's three cats.  The animals were slowly introduced to one another, and it was clear within a few minutes that they would be fine.

Finally, Daniel took the pilot's seat and headed the family RV westward towards Branson, Missouri.

====

As the family traveled, Sineag began to open up.  It wasn't hard to do with the warm and engaging Jackson-O'Neill dozen, all of whom were working hard to be their friendliest.

“Actually, I'm Scottish,” the woman revealed.  “My parents were from Glenfinnen.”

“We met some people from Scotland,” Ricky interjected.

“They live in Ireland, though,” Jeff clarified.

“They gave me a bodhran, and I've been practicing.  Wanna hear me?” Jonny asked hopefully.

Sineag laughed and replied, “I'd love to.”

After Jonny had given his impromptu recital and the conversation turned to the family's road trip, Sineag said, “You really should go to Montana.”

“We'd like to go everywhere,” Jack replied.

“We only have another week or so, though,” Jennifer sighed.

“Give it a try sometime,” Sineag spoke.

“Any place in particular?” Jeff asked.

“Two of my favorite places are Gardiner, which is right on the edge of the Yellowstone National Park, and West Glacier.  That's just outside of Glacier National Park, which is also beautiful with lots of lakes and mountain ranges.”

“It sounds beautiful,” Jennifer responded.

“It is; even some of the names of the places sound beautiful, like one of the roads that's called Highway to the Sun.  I highly recommend it.”

“We'll keep it in mind,” Jack replied.

--

“I like to ski, too,” David stated upon learning that Sineag liked to ski as well.

“Do you have a favorite place to ski?”

“We go to Winter Park sometimes,” David answered.

“I've been there before.  I like the Tweedle Dum run,” Sineag replied.

“I'm not that good,” David said, lowering his head.

“Hey, you're doing great,” Jack praised.  “He's up to intermediate.”

“One run at a time, David,” Sineag encouraged.

“It sounds like a silly girl, but I like the Bluebell run,” David stated.  “What kind of skis do you use?”

“He's bucking for new skis for Christmas,” Jennifer teased.

“Aw, Jen,” David whined.

“I use K2 T9 Tru luv.”

“I have Rossignol Viper x1, but I want ...” the boy began excitedly.

“We know,” Jack sighed, having been given the hint many times before.

====

“Effingham gets my vote,” Jack spoke from the co-pilot's seat.

Daniel glanced over at his husband, smiling as he said, “You know we could get a bit further.”

“Let's not press it.”

“So, since we have some time, I don't suppose you'd like to go see the corvettes.”

“Well, if we have the time,” Jack responded and then broke out into a grin.

“Jack, look,” Daniel said, pointing to something in the distance.

“Is that a cross?”

“Looks like it,” the amazed archaeologist replied.

====

“Wow, it's big,” Jonny noted as he stared up at the towering white cross.

Jack and Daniel had decided to check out the large object that loomed over the intersection of Interstates 57 and 70.  Once they were closer, they noticed the welcome center and decided to stop and learn about the object.

“What are these?” Ricky asked, running up to a large display and starting to read it.

“That's one of the commandments,” Aislinn answered as she joined her younger brother and began to read it.  “It says to press the button,” she noted, leaning forward to press it.

“Interactive,” Jack remarked.

“This one is, too,” David announced from the next display.

After their close up view of the cross and going through all ten of the displays, the family went inside the building to learn more.

“It's called the Cross at the Crossroads,” a man explained.  “It's intended to serve as a beacon of hope to the over fifty-thousand travelers a day that pass by it.”

“That's a lot of people,” Chenoa commented.

“It looks big even from here,” Jonny said as he stared out the window of the center.


“How tall is it?” Jeff asked curiously.

“One-hundred, ninety-eight feet tall,” the man answered.

“That's taller than Teal'c,” Chenoa stated, causing her family to giggle.

“How long has it been here?” Jeff inquired.

“The cross was erected in 2001.  Then we added the welcome center and the Ten Commandments display that surrounds the cross.”

As the family started to leave, Jack asked the man in the center, “Is there a store nearby where we can get some clothing?”

“Sure, just ...” the man answered, giving Jack the directions.

====

“You really don't have to do this,” Sineag stated as she and Jack stood in the Effingham store.

It was intended to be just a quick stop, so just Jack and Sineag had gone inside.

“You've been wearing those clothes a while.  It's not a problem.”

“I'll pay you back.”

“If you want, but it's not necessary.”

“Thank you,” Sineag spoke appreciatively as she picked out a decent but inexpensive pair of jeans, a blouse, and underwear.  She changed into the clothing and smiled happily as she repeated, “Thank you” while Jack paid for the merchandise.

Jack nodded, knowing it had to feel good to be in clean and fresh clothing.

====

After making one more quick stop to pick up cat food and litter, the family headed to Mid America Motor Works, where Jack felt like a teenager again while touring the large museum and taking in the sporty vehicles that had been extremely popular during his youthful years.

“Dad's more excited than when he was at the Air Force museum,” Jennifer giggled.

“I think it has something to do with high school,” Jeff mused.

“It has to do with girls and testosterone,” Daniel chuckled as he walked by the teenagers.

“Daddy!” Jennifer called out in amusement.

====

On the way out of the museum, Sineag noticed a brochure that intrigued her, so she walked over and picked up a copy of it.

“What are you looking at?” Lulu asked curiously.

“Sculptures.”  The woman looked down at the child and then refocused on the pamphlet, saying, “They have some interesting pieces around here.  I sure wish I could see them.”

“What are sculptures?”

“Works of art.  Look,” Sineag said, leaning over so the girl could get a better look at the brochure.

“I bet those are hard to make.”

“Probably, but it's a great feeling to work with your hands like that.”

“Do you make things like those?” Lulu asked.

“Nothing quite so big or involved, but I do enjoy sculpting.  I usually use clay, though.  I even have a kiln.”

“What's that?”

“It's an oven.  After the clay is shaped into the form I want it to be, I have to bake it, to keep it firm.”

“Oh, Dad does that,” Lulu responded.

“He does?”

“I forgot that's what they called it,” the little girl giggled.  “I had my silly hat on,” she laughed some more.  Turning back around and seeing her older father approaching with the last of the family, she called out, “Dad, Sineag has a kiln, too.”

“Yeah?” Jack asked.  Seeing the woman's affirmation, he playfully questioned, “You kiln, Sineag?”

Chuckling lightly, Sineag answered, “Whenever I can.”

Suddenly, the conversation turned to an excited one about pottery, sculpture, and what types of clay to use for what.  In the process, it had been decided that the family would go on a quick walking tour where several of the town's sculptures were located since they were just a few miles away.

Though it was dinnertime, the travelers walked by the City Hall and took in the Flame of Hope.

“What do you think it is?” Brianna asked, cocking her head to the side.

“A bunch of metal,” David answered with a shrug.

“It looks like a water slide that's not finished,” Jeff said, cocking his head to the side.

--

“This says the angles represent the common bonding of the carbon atoms, the building blocks of DNA in all lifeforms,” Jennifer said, trying to hide an amused smile.

“Building blocks?” Jack questioned, smiling at his lover, who was ignoring him.

“I don't see any atoms,” Ricky said.  “What's an atom?”

“We'll talk about that one of these days during homeschooling,” Daniel answered.


--

“I like this one,” Jenny opined about the colorful artwork that was on the courthouse lawn.

“It's called Celebrating America,” Jennifer stated, staring at the brochure she'd been using as a reference for the walking tour.

“Dad, Daddy, it's broken!” Jenny called out, seeing the structure move slightly.

“No, Jenny, it's not,” Jennifer assured.  She looked at her parents and explained, “It's flexible.  The brochure says it moves with even the slightest breeze.”

“It's dancing,” Chenoa laughed as she began to dance with the slightly moving sculpture that was flexing its limbs from the summer breeze.

Though the group didn't have time to see that many of the displays, they had managed to see several.  The younger kids didn't quite know what to make of the free spirited artwork, but they'd had fun.  Jack did, too, having talked with Sineag the entire time about their individual handiwork and styles.

When JD began acting fussy, it was clearly time to settle in at their selected campsite and enjoy the evening.

====

After checking in and parking the RV in their assigned space, Jack and Daniel began working on dinner, while Jeff, Jennifer, Brianna, and Sineag accompanied the triplets and the twins to the play area.  David, Chenoa, and Lulu stayed at the RV with their parents, playing with the dogs and cats.

In the play area, Brianna was pushing Jenny on the swings.  Jenny always loved playing on the swings and being pushed as high as she could go.

“Higher, Bri!”

“Daredevil,” Brianna chuckled.

“Sineag, wanna help us build a castle in the sand?” Little Danny asked.

“It could be a Scottish castle,” Jonny said.

“I can do that,” the woman responded as she sat down by the two boys.

“Jeff, we'll play jungle,” Aislinn called out.  “You can be Cheetah.”

“I'll be Tarzan,” Ricky said.

An all-too-quick twenty minutes later, Jennifer's cell phone rang.  It was Jack, telling her it was time for dinner.

“Time for dinner, gang,” the teenager called out.

“Finally,” Brianna said.  “I thought if I sent you any higher, you'd go clear up to the clouds.”

Jenny laughed as she got off the swing that she'd been cheerfully on the entire time the children had been at the play area, and ran to join her twin brother.

Brianna began to head towards them when something drew her attention.  It was off in the distance, where an old, rusting camper was parked.  With a frown on her face, she walked a bit closer.

“Bri, let's go!” Jennifer called out.

“I'm coming,” the tomboy answered, though her movements were in the opposite direction.

“Just shut up, you good for nothing dweeb,” a rather frazzled looking woman sneered at a young girl who looked to be about ten years old.

“Mama, please don't,” the girl pleaded.

Looking a bit unsteady on her feet, the woman replied, “Linda, go to your room.”

The girl cried, “I'm not Linda, Mama.  I'm Hailey, remember?”

“Well, just ... go to your room, whoever you are, and stop giving me a hard time.  You never do what I say.”  Suddenly, the woman became aware of Brianna's stare.  She pushed her daughter towards the RV, the girl almost falling down from the severity of the shove, and then she yelled, “What are you looking at?”

Brianna said nothing as the woman retreated to the camper.

“Brianna, are you okay?” Sineag called out.

The tween turned around and nodded before running back to the family RV.  Sineag watch the girl dart by her.  She looked back over in the direction of the beat up camper for a few seconds before joining the family that had temporarily taken her in.

====

“Montana has a lot ghost towns,” Sineag said as the Jackson-O'Neills enjoyed a summer walk along Lake Pauline, which was adjacent to the campground.

“With ghosts?” Ricky asked as he reached up and grabbed Jeff's hand.

“There are stories,” Sineag responded, glancing back at the little boy who was behind her.  While doing so, she caught sight of Brianna, who hadn't said much since being in the play area.  “Virginia City is one of the ghost towns.”

“I thought that was in Nevada,” Jennifer said.

“There's one in Montana, too,” Sineag replied and then continued to tell the family a bit about some of the ghostly tales of the abandoned towns.

**Jack, does Bri seem a little distracted to you?** Daniel asked.

**Quiet,** Jack replied, glancing over at the somewhat subdued tomboy.  **She got up a little early this morning, and we've had a long day.  She's probably just tired.**

**Maybe,** the younger man sighed.

**You don't think so?**

**I don't know.  I'm probably just overreacting.**

**If something's wrong, she'll come to us,** Jack responded confidently, getting a nod of agreement from his lover before the couple tuned back into the ghostly conversation.

====

“Get it, Conner,” Sineag called out, laughing as the cat chased the bottle cap she'd just tossed.

“I've heard of cats chasing mice, but bottle caps?” Jack mused.

“He's always liked it, and ...”

“Katie!” Little Danny called out.  “Give Conner back his cap.”

“Woof,” the youngest beagle groused before backing away.

“Is that your way of asking to play ball?” Jack asked the canine.

“Woof!  Woof!” the beagle responded with a rapidly wagging tail.

“I get the message,” Jack said, heading to the back of the RV where the dog toys were.  “She's so demanding,” he mused, ignoring the glare the beagle shot his way.

====

Later that night, some of the children had asked to sleep in tents outside the RV.  Sineag slept in a tent, while her three cats were safely secured in the specially built cat area in the RV.  Some of the children -- Jonny, Little Danny, Jenny, and David were in another one.  Jack actually slept under the stars as did Brianna and David.  The rest of the family was inside the motor home.

“No.  Mama, I'm Bri, remember?”  Brianna mumbled in her sleep as she tossed and turned.  “Mama, what are you doing?  Mama...”

Suddenly, the teen sat up, sweating.  She looked around, getting her bearings.  She swallowed as she tried to calm herself and stop her heaving breaths.  She was glad that no one had heard her nightmare.  Standing, the girl headed over towards the campfire ring and sat down, dropping her head to her knees.

“Stop it, Bri,” the girl ordered herself as some tears escaped, wetting her clothing.

Looking down, the tomboy picked up a tablet that the younger children had used to color on before going to bed.  Leaning over, she picked up the package of crayons and began to color.  The action was almost by rote, an act she was compelled to do simply because the paper and crayons were there.  She wasn't even sure what she was drawing, but the distraction was good.  She didn't want to think about her nightmare.  Desperately, she sought to lose herself in her artwork.

“Bri, whatcha' doin'?” Jack called out quietly, not wanting to wake anyone up.

The words startled the girl, and the tablet and crayon she'd been using fell to the ground.  She jumped up, saying, “Nothing.  Just couldn't sleep, but I'm tired now. Night, Dad.”

In a flash, Brianna was back under the covers of her blanket, her back to her father.  Her artwork wasn't even in her mind, instantly forgotten when her older father had called out to her.

Jack contemplated the response and his daughter's move, but didn't worry too much about it.  He settled back down and went to sleep.

A few minutes later, Sineag crossed undetected to the campfire and picked up the tablet, staring at the drawing for a couple of minutes before tearing it out of the pad and returning to her tent.

====

The next morning, the family was bustling about as they prepared to continue their trek to Branson.  They'd already had breakfast, and most of the children were playing by the lake, waiting for the call to go.  Only Daniel, David, Aislinn, and JD were at the actual campsite.  The beagles were with Jack and the kids, and Sineag had been walking her cats.  When she returned, she noticed that only a few members of the Jackson-O'Neill family were present.

“Ah, Daniel, can I speak with you for a minute ... privately,” Sineag requested.

“Uh, okay.  I need to put JD down.  Why don't you come with me?”  Daniel saw her nod, so he looked over at David and said, “Son, you and Ash stay here, please.”

Leaving the two children in the kitchen area of the RV, Sineag followed Daniel back to the bedroom, waiting for him to get JD down and settled.  Once the baby was drifting off to sleep, Daniel looked up at the woman expectantly.

“Last evening, when your kids were playing, I noticed that something had Brianna's attention,” Sineag began, telling Daniel what she'd seen and heard.  “And then, last night, I heard her talking in her sleep.  I'm a light sleeper myself, and she was just outside my tent.  I heard her get up and then return.  Look, I have a sort ... sense about things sometimes, and something told me to get up, so I did.”

Sineag told Daniel about her quick walk to the camping circle and about the drawing she'd found.

“I think Brianna drew this,” Sineag said, handing the paper to Daniel.  “I hope you don't think I'm snooping or butting in, but what you don't know is that I'm a licensed art therapist.  I've worked with a lot of emotionally, physically, and sexually abused children.  This concerns me.”

Daniel's eyes were still on the drawing.  He couldn't take his eyes off of it.

Knowing she had the man's attention, Sineag explained, “Art therapy can be used to draw some general conclusions about any child's drawings.  Children aren't as obvious as adults are about their feelings.  Sometimes, they'll draw what they won't say.”  Pointing at the drawing, she observed, “There's no male figure here, so I'd say the problem was with a woman, probably her mother.”

“Brianna's adopted,” Daniel stated, though he and Jack had already shared that with the woman the day before.
 
“This drawing is very rudimentary for a girl Brianna's age,” Sineag spoke.  “Notice how this house doesn't have any doors or windows.  That oftentimes means a child feels abandoned or alone; and see how the adult figure is over here, on this side, while the child, Brianna, is over here.  That usually means the child doesn't feel wanted by the adult.”

“I've never seen her draw anything like this before.  Normally, when she draws, she uses a lot of color and, uh, there's no ... no separation like this,” Daniel said, looking up at Sineag and pointing at the space between the adult and child figures.

“Maybe what she saw last night affected her for some reason.”

Daniel sighed and then confided, “Bri's mother was a drug addict.  She used Bri to get money for her habit, and,” he paused, shaking his head and closing his eyes for a brief moment, “there were times when her mother didn't even know who Bri was, or what her name was.”

Sineag nodded sympathetically while responding, “It's possible she has issues to be dealt with.  I'm not saying she isn't happy.  I'm sure she is.  It's highly probable that seeing that ... mother with her child just conjured up a lot of bad memories.”

“Is there something we should do?”

“Just do what you've been doing and watch for any signs that she's troubled inside.”  Sineag smiled as she looked at the drawing, saying, “Don't panic about this.  Now that you've shared with me what you have, I wouldn't worry too much. I think it probably was witnessing that scene last night.  Just watch her, and, if you do see something that concerns you, ask for help.  It'll be better for her now, rather than later.”

“Thanks.”

“I really didn't mean to butt in.”

“You didn't.  Thank you,” Daniel said, looking up when he heard the cockpit door opening and realizing the rest of the family was back.  He folded up the drawing and put it in his pocket and then followed Sineag to the front of the RV.  “All energized and ready to go?”

“Hopefully, all worn out and ready to go,” Jack laughed.

“Okay.  You drive,” Daniel instructed as he started to help the children get settled with their seatbelts on.

**Danny, is everything okay?** the older man asked, sensing something indistinct that he couldn't ignore.

**It's okay, and we'll talk later,** the younger man responded before he started to tickle Ricky for a moment.

====

“Branson!” Jack called out as if he were announcing a train stop.

“Bye, Conner; bye, Duncan; bye, Methos,” Lulu said, giving the three cats a hug.  She looked up at Sineag and said, “Duncan is like my cat, Calico.”

“Really?”

Nodding, Lulu said, “Callie likes to lay on my head, and that's what Duncan was doing when I took a nap earlier.”

Sineag chuckled, “He does that all the time.”

“No one answered,” Daniel said, having returned from the door of the home they were parked in front of.

“She must be out of town.”

“Then ...” Daniel began.

“I have a key,” Sineag announced.

Sineag waved good-bye to JD, who was in his crib in the bedroom and then headed outside with the family.  Once on the lawn, the hugs began, and then Jack escorted Sineag to the door to make sure she got inside okay.

“Thank you again, Jack,” Sineag spoke after she'd unlocked and opened the door.

“It was our pleasure,” Jack spoke.  He reached inside his wallet and pulled out a card, handing it to the woman and saying, “If you ever need anything, get in touch.”

“Thank you.”  Sineag went inside and then turned around, watching as the man began to walk away.  She knew he was curious about her, and she still hadn't told him that much about herself.  “Jack?”

“Yeah?”

“I go by Sineag, but my name is Celia Long.  I'm not hard to find in Clancy, if you ever do get that way.”

Jack smiled as he nodded and then returned to the RV.

====

When the family stopped at the end of the day and the children were all asleep, including JD, who had fallen asleep on the J-lounge with Jennifer, Daniel finally took the opportunity to tell his husband about Brianna, showing him the drawing. The two were still dressed and were sitting next to each other on Daniel's side of the bed.

“Lulu drew pictures kinda like this when she first started counseling,” Jack noted as he stared at the drawing.  “I don't have to have a degree to know this isn't good.”

“We don't have to go overboard, Babe.  It sounds like that lady at the RV park has a lot of similarities to Bri's mother,” Daniel spoke.

“Okay, so no overreacting.  We just observe and if anything is out of whack, we act.”

“Right.”

“Danny, the lady at the campground ...”

“I already called Sam,” Daniel admitted.  “If anyone can find out who they are, it's Sam.  If she gets an ID and we can find out where they live, we can call Social Services.”

“It boils my blood to think some kid is out there with some ... woman posing as a mother,” Jack growled.

“Yeah,” Daniel agreed.

“Hey, I missed you last night,” Jack said, leaning over to kiss his lover.

“Mmmm,” was the delighted moan that escaped from the younger man's throat.  “Gawd, I missed you, too.”

“Building blocks,” the older man teased.

“Jack, just because it's a term I've used ...”

“I can't help it,” Jack claimed.  “Even Jen laughed.”

“She laughed because of the lifeforms,” Daniel refuted.  “We learned a lot in the last two days.”

“I thought we were gonna make out,” Jack stated, leering slightly at his husband.

“We are, but we still learned a lot.  I was impressed with Little Danny, David, and Jen when we first found Sineag.  They reminded us again that we can't live in a bubble.  Sometimes, Babe, we try so hard to protect them that I think we're smothering them.”

“We're not even close to doing that, Angel,” the older man replied.  “But they were right in this instance.”

“And so were you.”

“What?” the confused man said.

“We should be making out,” Daniel said.

“Move it, Smart Boy.”

“Anything you say,” Daniel said, undressing in just a few seconds and moving in all ways pleasing to his husband.

“Now that's what I'm talking about,” Jack said as the now-naked lovers kissed under the sheets, the two taking advantage of JD's temporary absence from their bedroom.

“Love you.”

“Love you, too, Angel.”

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