Moments of Truth
Category: Slash, Drama, Romance, Established Relationship
Pairing: Jack/Daniel ... and it's all J/D
Season: Beyond the Series - January 9, 2021
Written: January 17-18, 21-23, 31, 2021
Summary: Jack and Daniel take in the first snow of the year and perhaps the first truly emotional thunderstorms for a few 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!
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): "Wanderin' in the USA: Midwest Adventure," "Sticky," "Dolphin's Edge,""Twelve Dates," and "Shadows"
Moments of Truth
"Look at that beautiful white fluff," Jack remarked to his lover as they paused to look out the window at lightly falling snow.
It was a few minutes before ten in the morning. Breakfast just ended, so Aislinn, Jenny, and JD were working on cleanup while their siblings studied their lessons in preparation for a homeschooling session scheduled for that afternoon.
"The brood is pretty eager to get out there and enjoy the snow, even if it's only a small amount," Daniel noted.
"Dang cold out there," Jack replied. He glanced over at the outdoor thermometer and observed, "Twenty-seven degrees."
"That's, uh, the 'high' for the day, too."
Jack nodded in silence and kept watching the flakes touch the grass. It was still just a sprinkle, but it was snow.
"First snow of the year."
"It snowed last year."
"That was last year," Jack stated. "We're in a new year, and this one has to be better than the last one."
"That's what everyone's been saying, but it hasn't started out that way," Daniel sighed.
"I'll tell them."
The lovers shared a grin. Homeschooling was canceled for the day and lessons could wait for tomorrow to be done. Today was a snow day, a play day for all of the Jackson-O'Neills.
"Make sure they gear up," Jack called out to his husband.
"Coats, gloves, scarves,, and snow boots required," Daniel replied before disappearing from Jack's view.
The general's focus returned to the snow and then he raised his right hand to his neck.
The hairs on the back of Jack's neck were standing on edge and beginning to cause him to rethink the fun of the falling snow.
~Something's gonna happen. Every hair on my neck tells me so.~
Jack and Daniel were in the backyard enjoying their children playing in the falling snow. It was now nearly 2 p.m. Lunch was over. At the minute, Jack was being chased by JD. In another part of the huge backyard, Jonny, Chenoa, Lulu, and Ricky were attempting to build a mini-snowman. They just needed a bit more snow than had already landed on the ground. Over by the gazebo, Little Danny, Aislinn, and Jenny were engaged in a snowball fight. With Jennifer and Jeff at their own homes with their families and David living in an apartment while doing remote studying as a Harvard University freshman, that left just one unaccounted for member of the brood.
Concerned about the missing sibling, Daniel quietly went inside and made his way to the home's new addition where most of the bedrooms for the kids were located. He went to the end of the hallway and tapped the door on the left.
The father opened the door, closing it behind him upon entry. He saw twenty-year-old Brianna sitting horizontally across her bed, her back leaning against the wall. Now an adult, but still a tomboy in her heart, Brianna wasn't required to join the brood in either their homeschooling or play sessions. Still, given the opportunity, the young woman loved to spend time with her brothers and sisters. Right now, though, she appeared to be upset. This was more noticeable because of the half-empty Kleenex box to the girl's right. Daniel didn't have to guess the box was now only half-full because scattered atop the bed were an abundance of used, crinkled tissues.
"Making a call?" Daniel asked tenderly as he saw his daughter fidgeting with her smartphone that was in her hands.
"I was thinking about calling Con, but that's not a good idea," Brianna responded, literally throwing her phone to the far right of her bed and releasing a loud sniffle.
Con was Conway Bell, a country boy the family met, along with his parents, while touring America during the summer of 2012. Brianna had no interest in having a boyfriend, especially a long distance one, but she was drawn to the boy and in spite of her rebellious nature, she found herself involved with Conway, finally admitting one day that he was her boyfriend. The relationship, though difficult due to the miles that separated them, was a good one, or so Daniel believed.
"May I?" the father asked, motioning to the bed.
The red eyes and wet face concerned the archaeologist. Brianna wasn't one to cry very often. She kept much of her emotion inside, so Daniel knew that the situation was dire, if not stressful. He settled in next to the young woman, his back against the wall as hers was. They were just a few inches apart.
"Do you have a problem you'd like to talk about?"
"No," Brianna eked out, drying her eyes with another tissue from the box.
"How about something you'd like to get off your chest?" Daniel asked in a simple rewording of his initial query.
"Oh, Daddy, I'm miserable," Brianna confided, crying as she leaned over into her father's strong arms.
Daniel held the tomboy securely yet gently, letting the tears flow and not offering any useless platitudes.
"What's upsetting you, Bri?"
"It's been so long since we've seen each other," Brianna sighed. "This stupid COVID mess."
"That's been hard on the entire world, Sweetie."
"It's not that."
"Okay." Daniel let seconds pass, waiting for a clue to the specific issue. "Bri, I want to help, even if it's just to listen, but I can't do that if you don't talk to me."
"Con and I Skyped last week."
"Do you know what he said to me?"
Sniffling, Brianna stated, "He talked about the aquarium for the dolphins and he said he wouldn't build it."
From the start of their relationship, Conway told his girlfriend that he would one day build a giant aquarium for her dolphins, right there in McBee. It was a silly dream, but it was a dream, their dream, and it helped keep them together.
"It's never been practical, Daddy, but he promised he'd build it for me."
Daniel didn't want to say to much. He wanted his daughter to release her emotions and tell him the issues now facing the couple.
"He said ...<sniffle>... he said that he wouldn't build it because if he did, I'd resent him ...<sniffle>... for it."
Brianna fell again into Daniel's hold as she cried, "Isn't that the sweetest thing ever?" More tears fell. "Con said I'd hate him because my dolphins would be in a big tank and not swimming free in the ocean."
"There is that possibility," Daniel concurred.
Pulling back, the tomboy asked with pleading eyes, "What am I supposed to do, Daddy?"
"Follow your heart."
"My heart says I love him, but I need to be with the dolphins," Brianna sighed. "I love the dolphins, and I promised Rainbow I'd never forget," she said as she gently held the 3D pendant of the dolphin which Daniel gifted her after a tragic event.
Rainbow was a dolphin Brianna became attached to early in her days of researching the mammals. An evil man killed the dolphin right in front of her, causing her to become embittered and angrier than she'd ever been in her life. She actually called Thor who gained vengeance for the distraught girl.
Brianna looked over at the urn in which Rainbow's ashes remained. She smiled as she remembered this beloved creature of the sea.
"I want to be a marine biologist, and I promised Rainbow I would do it and help all the dolphins," the young woman cried. "How can I help them on a farm in South Carolina?"
"I don't know, Sweetheart," Daniel whispered. "But if you love him and want to be with him, you'll have to find a way."
"I don't want a long distance marriage, Daddy," Brianna cried. "What if we have kids? What do we do? A six-month split, like with divorced couples?"
"Bri, I wish had the answer, but I don't, and if there is an answer, you and Conway are going to have to find it together."
"He can't build an aquarium in McBee and we can't put a farm in the ocean, Daddy."
"No, you can't." Daniel sighed, "Maybe you have to decide what's most important and go from there."
"I can't let Rainbow down," Brianna sniffled. "I don't want to let him down. I love working with dolphins. I'm so close."
Indeed, Brianna graduated from her high school home studies a few years ago and was attending the University of Colorado at Denver. She was, in fact, in her senior year, studying marine biology and environmental sciences. She didn't even have to worry about finding employment upon graduation as her mentors in the dolphin community made her a standing offer to work with them after college.
"I know," Daniel acknowledged. He decided to get his daughter thinking about other possibilities. He had no clue what was best for her and only wanted Brianna to be happy. He believed in his heart that she should consider all aspects of her current situation. "Bri, what does Conway want?"
"Us, but he knows it's impossible," the young woman answered despondently.
"There's one thing you should consider as you make a decision about continuing or not continuing your relationship with Conway."
"Well, he told you about not building the aquarium which means he's probably been thinking about this as much as you have. He, uh, probably is as confused as you are, too. Now, in situations like this, if getting together doesn't appear to be the solution, then sometimes, people pull back."
"You're saying he'll find someone else."
"You could, too, Bri." Daniel ran his head across her eyes and cheek to dry the falling tears. "You just need to think about the possibility that if this relationship is as hopeless as you're saying, it seems logical to move on, both you and Conway. You need to be prepared."
"Oh, Daddy," Brianna sighed as she placed her head on Daniel's shoulder yet again, eager to find comfort there.
The conversation continued for several minutes, along with the tears and massive use of Kleenex.
"Okay, I'm going to let you be by yourself for a while, but you know I'm here, all the time."
"I know," Brianna acknowledged.
Daniel stood and headed for the door when a voice caused him to pause and turn.
"What if I make a mistake?"
"A mistake?" the father questioned.
Not looking at her daddy, Brianna pondered in a tiny voice, "What if I make a mistake and end up ... like her."
Daniel walked a few steps closer and inquired, "Like who, Bri?"
Concerned, Daniel closed the gap and kneeled down by the bed. He looked the confused girl in the eyes.
"Sweetie, you aren't like your mother."
"How do you know?"
"I know that she made a lot of mistakes. I'm guessing she didn't have a very good support system."
"What good does that do if you're popping pills?"
"Bri, there is a difference. If you were feeling down and happened to have access to recreational drugs, before you put one of those things in your mouth, you'd think about me, or Dad, or Little Danny, or your other brothers and sisters, maybe Aunt Janet, or ..."
"I get it, Dad. I'd think about one of the millions," Brianna snapped in an exaggeration of the extended Jackson-O'Neill family.
"You would, Sweetie, and you'd call and we'd be there as fast as we could. You know that."
"Yeah, I know."
"Who did your mother have to call?" Daniel let Brianna consider the query for a minute. "Look, I don't know very much about your mother, but she didn't seem to have anyone around to help her, to, uh, point her in the right direction. Sweetie, you are not your mother. Could you make a mistake? Yes. That's part of being human: making mistakes. Whatever you decide with Conway could work, or maybe it won't, but either way, you'll move forward and live your life as a strong, independent woman."
"Are you sure?"
"Yes," came the immediate and confident response.
"Thanks, Daddy. I want to be alone now."
"Okay. I love you."
"I love you, too."
"Where have you been?" Jack asked his lover when Daniel entered the kitchen to get a cup of much-needed coffee.
"We may have a very big problem, Jack," Daniel advised. He told him about Brianna's conflict over the relationship with her boyfriend. "But that's not the real problem."
"Jack, Bri's afraid of making a mistake and ending up like her mother."
"A drug addict?" Jack questioned. "No way."
"That's what she's afraid of, and I think that's why she's afraid to call Conway," Daniel put forth.
"Why would she be afraid of talking to him?"
"Because it means she'd probably have to make a choice, but she's afraid she won't be happy with it, so then she'll ..."
"Take a few hallucinogenics or worse?" Jack completed. "Danny, that's nonsense."
"Not to her." Daniel sighed. "Jack, remember on our trip across the country, that woman analyzed Bri's drawings. Her name ... her name was, uh ... Sineag."
"Yeah, I remember her," Jack acknowledged. She said something about Bri feeling abandoned or separated. Geez, Danny, I don't really remember exactly what she said anymore."
"No, you remember. You just said it. We paid close attention to Bri for a while after that, but she seemed okay, so after a while, we forgot about it and moved on. What if we should have done something?"
"I have no idea," Daniel admitted drolly, adding, "but I do now. What if we asked her to get some counseling."
"Look what's it done for Lulu."
"Yeah, I can't argue that," Jack confessed. "It seemed to help Karissa after that little nightmare she lived through, too."
"It has a place. We could call Lulu's therapist and ask for her opinion."
"So you think our daughter has abandonment issues?"
"Somewhere deep in her mind, yes. I mean, there was a long adjustment period for her after we adopted her."
"She and Jen didn't get along very well at first, either."
"I'm just saying a therapist might be helpful to her, maybe clarify things in her mind. I'm not kidding, Jack, she thinks if she makes a bad decision, she'll end up like Rhia did."
"Rhia Davison: lousy mom."
"We don't know why, Jack, and for Bri's sake, we shouldn't blame her. I thought we decided that a long time ago."
"We did, but I didn't know the effects of her bad choices would come back and haunt us over ten years later." Jack sighed and then agreed, "I'll go along with the counseling idea, but Bri's an adult, Danny. It's going to be up to her."
Daniel nodded and the couple made plans to phone Lulu's therapist the next day. Depending on her opinion, they might bring up the notion with Brianna.
Seventy-five minutes later, most of the family was in the hospitality room, sitting at the large table and enjoying hot chocolate and graham crackers. Brianna wasn't feeling any better, but she joined her loved ones anyway, wanting to be distracted from her personal woes. Outside, the snow was still falling and the temperature wasn't rising at all, not even a single degree.
Finishing his warm beverage, Jack excused himself to find out what happened to Chenoa who had gone to her room thirty minutes ago, but hadn't returned as yet.
Now fifteen and sporting a new hairdo, one which straightened her hair and left only a small wisp of her curls at the bottom, the future nurse was found in her bedroom sitting on the edge of her bed. The door was open, allowing the retired Air Force general to knock on the door and enter without needing permission.
"Hey there, Curly Top."
"Not so curly anymore," Chenoa responded weakly from her spot.
"Looks just like Shirley's when she was a teenager."
"Well, you always said I looked like Shirley Temple, so I might as well try out her teen hairstyle."
"You know you don't have to do that," Jack stated as he walked in between Chenoa's bed and that of Lulu's, the two beds currently separated by only a couple of feet. He sat down on Lulu's bed directly opposite of Chenoa. Leaning forward slightly and putting his hands together, he elaborated, "Noa, you're you, not Shirley. Yeah, we've had a lot of fun with the resemblance over the years, but it's just that, Princess: fun. Be yourself and wear your hair the way you want to wear it."
"I volunteered at the hospital all last week."
"I was supposed to go to Chulak and be with K'hang."
"I remember that, too."
"Dad, why don't you like K'hang? He's always been so nice to me and he taught me not to be afraid of New York City. He helped me realize that the city didn't kill Mommy and Daddy, but a person behind a car did."
"Princess, I like K'hang. He's Teal'c's grandson. He has a great pair of parents. He's going to be an honor to his people."
"Then why don't you like him?"
"I do like him. What I don't like, what I never liked, was this whole Rite of Jemima."
"Rite of Je'ming," a frustrated Chenoa corrected.
"Yeah: it." Letting out a small groan, Jack sighed, "Noa, I like the kid, but I was never convinced that little kids promising themselves to each other was a good thing."
"That's not what we did," Chenoa replied. "We just promised to leave our hearts open and see how we feel when we're grown up."
Jack saw an opening and quickly jumped in, asking, "And how do you feel now?"
Chenoa bowed her head and looked away. She became instantly upset, starting to cry. In an explosive move, she leaped up and ran out of the room, shouting that she hated her hair and was going to wash it.
Jack considered calling Jennifer or one of the other female brood members, but opted instead to stay put. He could be patient. He had to be.
Ten minutes later, Chenoa returned, a white towel wrapped around her still-wet hair. She took her same place, sitting down opposite her father. She looked down and drew a deep breath.
"I care about K'hang. We have so much together and we talk about everything. I like Chulak, but it's different. The Chulakians are so serious most of the time. They have this weapon, some bat-like metal thing. The last time I was there, one of the kids broke his and it was like it was the end of the world. I guess it's a cultural thing."
"Merging cultures is difficult at times," Jack affirmed. "We've talked a lot over the years, especially last year, about social diversity. It's easier discussed than it is done."
"Daddy talked about the Coopers," Chenoa recalled, referring to an African-American family that lived in the neighborhood for a couple of years before moving away.
"Yep, I remember that," Jack said. "In fact, I ran into Coop before this virus thing took hold. You know he developed some phone app a few years ago that is one of the rages of kids with smartphones today. That's how he moved from his old neighborhood to our area. You could say he was moving on up, like the Jeffersons," he suggested as a reference to the successful Norman Lear TV program.
"I liked the kids. They were nice, but I didn't understand what they were saying most of the time. They used a lot of slang that I don't know."
"That's part of the cultural merging that can be difficult, not just because of race, Noa, but a family who moves here from Germany and doesn't speak English very well will face the same difficulties." Jack paused and noted, "In fact, Coop said they are still having problems adjusting to life in Silicon Valley. He may have the money to live there, but his family has a world of differences from their neighbors. It shouldn't be that way, but we're not integrated the way a lot of us wish we were."
"I know, but I like it here, Dad."
"Chulak's a nice place to visit, but you don't necessarily want to live there. Is that it?"
"Partially. K'hang can't come here, either. He'd stand out in a bad way because he doesn't understand our ways of life, either. He knows what Teal'c has taught him and what we've talked about, but it would be hard to take him to a party or to hospital to meet my friends there."
"I get that."
"He doesn't want to live on Earth, and I know now that I don't want to live on Chulak. Aunt Janet does, though."
"Yeah, I'm afraid when the Doc turns in her stethoscope, we won't see her much anymore." His comment put another idea in his head. "Noa, what about your nursing goals. Is that part of your thinking?"
"A little," the girl admitted. "I really want to be a nurse, but I want to help people here. They do things differently on Chulak. I mean, they don't always want help. Jaffa are so tough."
"Jaffa can be stubborn, too." Jack paused before asking his next question. "Princess, have you met a boy you like here?"
"Oh, no, Dad. I wouldn't do that, not ever, not to K'hang," Chenoa responded, her tone very strong and impassioned.
"I was just wondering."
"What do I do, Dad?"
"I think you'd better to talk to K'hang about that."
"And say what?"
"White Dove, I can't tell you what to say. Follow your heart and do what you know is the honorable thing to do."
Chenoa sighed as she removed the towel from her head, clearly displaying her blonde curly locks once more.
"That's my girl," Jack spoke lightly.
"Growing up is hard, Dad."
"It's not so easy on your parents, either."
Chenoa let out a little smile. She knew what she had to do, but she wasn't totally sure she wanted to do it, at least not yet. A big part of her heart was tied to the youthful Jaffa and the thought of ending their relationship was too sad for her to contemplate. She stood and quickly sat down on Lulu's bed, next to her dad. She felt his arm around her and she slowly leaned into him for support. She wished he would tell her what to do, but knew he wouldn't. Still, she knew she could always count on his support. She felt it now as she cried against his shoulder.
Dinnertime was approaching so downstairs Little Danny and Lulu were preparing dinner.
In the den, Daniel was trying to sneak in a couple of performance appraisals before enjoying a good meal. These days, though, doing a job review wasn't an easy thing. J-O was operating on a limited basis, meaning most employees were still working from their homes. Production was slower than normal since they were extremely cautious about what projects they considered safe to take on during the pandemic.
"Still snowing and the temp dropped a whopping one degree," Jack reported as he walked inside the den. "What are you doing?"
"I'm trying to finish this appraisal," the archaeologist answered.
The general looked over his Love's shoulder and suggested, "Give him a raise."
"Because this friggin' mess isn't going away very soon and I happen to know Jerome's been taking care of his ninety-year-old aunt for the past two years."
"Not what he needs," Jack sighed. "Give him the raise."
Nodding, Daniel inputted the notations and sent the review to Karissa to process.
Usually, Jack would sit down in the recliner located next to his husband's desk, but for some reason, he actually went to the floor and leaned his body against the beanbag that belonged to Bijou and Katie. The beanbag tended to move around the den, depending on who was present and what space was needed for various equipment and the archaeologist's belongings, but it was always there.
"Geez, I hope it ends soon."
"Hey, I've retired so many times I've lost count, but I'm not ready to retire from playing in the dirt with you." Jack laughed, "I like it and no one is more surprised at that than I am."
"I know," a smiling Daniel acknowledged.
"Hello there," the relaxing general called out when Katie sauntered inside the room.
The youngest beagle stared at Jack, a demand on her face.
"You have lots of room to settle down in, so don't give me that look," Jack told the canine. "Or you could snuggle with me."
Her tail wagging, Katie got on her human's lap. She lie down so that her body was lying across Jack's torso. Her snout was snug along his neck and cheek.
"Yeah, I love you, too."
In Daniel's view, the scene was precious and he simply watched as Jack gently glided his hand along the beagle's body. He saw Katie slightly adjust her rear end and then re-settle in along the left side of Jack's face.
The serenity of the moment ended without warning when Jonny burst into the den and shouted, "You have to do something! It's not fair. You can't let them take her."
"Whoa, Sport," Jack called out while still patting his beloved dog. "Slow down."
"Who's taking who?" Daniel asked as he slid his chair around to face the teenager.
With a dramatic sigh, the Munchkin explained, "Mrs. Oliver accepted a job in Philadelphia. The Olivers are moving next week. They're taking Tootie with them."
"Son, that's what happens when parents move: they take their children with them," Jack commented.
"It's not fair."
Jonny was pacing back and forth, his hands flailing about as he continued to complain about his life being over and how he and Tootie had rights. He demanded his parents talk to her parents and let Tootie stay in Colorado Springs. Finally, almost due to exhaustion, the boy plopped down to the floor, took on an Indian-style seated position, placing his elbows on his thighs and putting his face in his hands.
"She's my girlfriend," Jonny sighed.
"Nice of you to say that after all these years," Jack teased.
"Jack," Daniel chastised.
"Hey, all I'm saying is that Jonny and Tootie have known each other for a lot of years now and this is the first time I've heard that they're boyfriend and girlfriend."
Just then, two pairs of brown eyes met, and the glare wasn't pretty.
"Okay," Jack groaned. "Katie, excuse me. This is going to take my brain, so would you mind ..."
Katie yawned and slowly disentangled herself from her human and slowly headed for the door, pausing for one big stretch, before she finally exited the den.
With the dog out of the room, Jack spoke, "Jonny, it is not the end of the world. I understand you're upset, but we aren't going to try to keep Rayna from accepting what must be one hot dog of an offer. She loves her job at that lawyer outfit she works at, so whatever Philadelphia holds, it must be terrific."
"Carl had to agree to it," Daniel noted. "He has a very good job here, too, so I imagine this decision wasn't made lightly."
"I'll never see her again," Jonny whined. "It's not fair," he said yet again.
"Son, when I was your age and a friend moved away, that was it. To stay in touch meant writing letters most of the time, and that was a problem. People got busy. Time passed. Letters stopped. There was sometimes a telegram or maybe a phone call or two." Jack noticed his son's head was drooping and he was wondering if he was even paying attention. "Jonny, look at me." Seeing no movement on the boy's part, Jack strongly insisted, "Hey, I said look at me."
Jonny let out a big sigh, but his head rose slightly and his eyes focused on his dad.
"Thank you. Times are different now. You and Tootie have those dang smartphones on your hips. You can zoom, Skype, text, e-mail, and, geez, you can even call each other all the time. Maybe, if her parents agree, you can pay her a visit every now and then; or, if her parents agree, Tootie can come here for a visit. She's always welcome and you may tell her parents we said that."
"Actually, we'll tell them so they know it's a genuine offer," Daniel put forth.
"Jonny, it's okay to be upset. I've been there once or twice in my life, but you'll get over it."
"I won't get over Tootie."
"Jonny," Daniel said, "If you and Tootie truly care about each other, you'll find your way back to each other. I know right now it feels harsh and you already miss her even though she's not even gone yet, but when you're both eighteen, the options are wide open."
The Munchkin sighed as he stood up. He was miserable. He really cared about Tootie. She won his heart the very first time she saw through his little general gruffness. It just wasn't fair that just as they were old enough to really discover the truth of their relationship, she was being taken from him. He walked to the door and held onto it for a moment or two before looking back at his parents.
"I'm going to miss her, and it still feels like the end of the world."
"That's because you're fourteen and four years seems like forever instead of a drop in the bucket like it really is," Jack responded.
Jonny took in his dad's words and then left the den.
For a minute, the lovers didn't say a word. Both simply processed the latest tragedy for one of their children.
"Danny, I can't take anymore of this," Jack sighed. "Crap!" he exclaimed as he bolted into an upright sitting position. "What about Little Danny?"
"Don't worry, Babe," Daniel replied. "He was talking to Carrie on the phone earlier, whispering sweet nothings into her ear." He shrugged as he admitted, "Well, I assume it was into her ear."
"Eavesdropping on our son?"
"Just for a minute," Daniel admitted.
"Good job," Jack responded as he settled back against the dogs' beanbag. "Wait. What about David?"
Daniel laughed, "No worries there, either. He phoned this morning when you were outside. He's studying like a bookworm."
"Wait for it, Jack," the younger man cajoled. "He has three different girls helping him study."
"Three from three different classes," Daniel clarified. "It's all virtual, of course."
"Sure," Jack groaned. "Do they know each other?"
"He says they don't."
"Good luck to him," Jack remarked with a shake of his head. "If those gals ever get together, virtually or face-to-face, his goose could be cooked."
"I told him to be careful."
"Right," Jack responded, letting out a guttural laugh. He released some air before sighing, "And we don't have any worries with Jen or Jeff."
"Nope," Daniel agreed. "Their marriages seem to be on solid ground."
"JD doesn't care about girls yet," Jack commented.
"Wait until next year."
"I'd rather not," Jack mused. "I'm worried about Li'l Bit."
"Me, too," Daniel admitted. "She's happy that Chenoa is so involved with nursing, but I think she's feeling ... lost."
"As long as she doesn't resurrect that imaginary friend of hers," Jack opined. "What was her name?"
"Uh, hmm, oh, I think it was Cindy."
"That's right: Cindy."
Just then Lulu tapped on the door with a big smile as she asked, "Dad, Daddy, can Cindy come over for dinner tonight?"
"Cindy?" both fathers questioned in perfect unison.
"She's that girl who moved in a couple blocks down," Lulu reminded. "Remember when we drove by and saw the two little kids dancing on the lawn with their dad?"
Jack laughed, "Oh, yeah. I have to meet that guy."
"He reminds you of you," Daniel stated dryly.
"He's a dad, dancing out in front of the entire neighborhood with his little darlings. Of course he reminds me of me."
Daniel laughed, but he actually agreed. Though they had yet to meet the family, the occasion of the outdoor dance was similar to Jack practicing cheers with Jenny and also of the date night the archaeologist had with Lulu.
"Dad? Daddy? Can she come?"
Jack answered, "Ask if we go down and meet her parents in a half-hour or so. If they say okay and it works out, Cindy can come."
"If her parents agree," Daniel added.
"Okay. I'll ask Cindy to talk to her folks."
Lulu shut the door and went to speak with her new friend.
"Geez, I almost had a heart attack," Jack sighed as he began to rub the back of his neck.
"Let me," Daniel offered, getting out of his chair and going to his knees as he began to massage his soulmate's neck and back.
"You are *so* good at this."
"Thank you, Babe."
Jack released plenty of pleasurable sighs and noises while Daniel's hands felt like magic on him. It felt so good, he almost feel asleep. In fact, he did, which caused the archaeologist to chuckle.
Daniel stopped his massage, watched his lover for a minute, and then decided to do one more performance appraisal. As with Jerome, there would be a raise, if only because of COVID-19. He and Jack promised their employees they would be taken care during the crisis. While salaries continued, the cost of living rose. Food prices, the costs of cleaning materials, and even a movie on DVD now cost far more than they did in 2019. The owners just couldn't watch their faithful employees suffer. The truth was, Jack and Daniel had given every employee a raise at some point during the crisis, even the ones they might not have in a normal year. They believed it was the right thing to do and that was more important than some of the losses the firm was dealing with due to the pandemic.
Nodding as if to reaffirm his decision and the understanding with his life partner, Daniel again inputted the salary increase and sent it to Karissa for handling.
The archaeologist leaned back in his comfortable office chair and looked over at his sleeping husband. Life was good, very good, in spite of the pandemic and he was grateful for that.
Jack locked the patio door and smiled at the still-falling snow. There was a nice layer of white flakes across the lawn. He wasn't sure if it would still be there in the morning, but he hoped it would be. He met Daniel at the stairs.
"Front is secured," Daniel assured.
"One more look at the kids?"
Daniel nodded and started up the stairs, followed by Jack. They went through the jog and up the few steps that connected the old part of the house to the new. They separated with Daniel going to the end of the hall to check in on Brianna, while Jack started with the Curly Tops.
"Bri," Daniel called out softly, accompanied by a light tap on the door.
"You can come in, Daddy."
"I just wanted to say goodnight," the father said as he approached the girl, who was in her bed, but writing in a book. "Is that a journal?"
"I don't know," Brianna answered with a shrug. "I don't like diaries. They're so girlie and stupid, but there's something about writing down my thoughts. It helps me to think."
"Writing can be very therapeutic," Daniel agreed. "Are you okay?"
"Daddy, I haven't admitted this to anyone until today, but I really do love that farm boy."
"I know you do."
"I just feel so confused. I *have* to follow my promise to Rainbow. How do I make this work?"
"Why don't you try talking to Conway. Maybe the two of you can come up with something together."
"We have talked."
"Yes, but that was when he was going to build you a dolphin aquarium. Now that you've both realized that was a fantasy, maybe you can talk about what's real."
"What's real is how we feel about each other."
"That's a good place for any discussion to start," Daniel put forth. "I have an idea."
"You haven't seen Conway in over a year, right?"
"Because of COVID," Brianna noted.
"We still don't like the idea of commercial airports with the virus still rampant out there, but what would you say if either Dad or I flew you to McBee in Jo. You and Conway could spend some time together. We'll pick you up a couple of days later, or whenever you're ready to come home."
"Daddy, that would be awesome," the suddenly excited young woman spoke, her eyes shining for the first time all day. "But that's a long way to go for you or Dad, just to take and pick me up."
"Dad and I would do anything for you and the brood. You know that."
Brianna smiled as she said, "I remember when we went on our dates, you flew to Cincinnati to spend two hours with Jeff."
"I've never regretted it, or flying Little Danny to New York to visit the Museum of Art. It's just time, Bri, and we'd get to spend some time with you, going and coming, so there's nothing wasteful about it. You talk to Conway, clear it with his parents, and let us know when you'd like to go. Dad and I will make it work."
"I love you, Daddy," Brianna declared, sitting up and reaching out for her father, who was standing and leaned over to join in the embrace.
"I love you, too, Bri. Get some rest now."
"Thank you, Daddy."
Daniel nodded and left the room.
Meanwhile, Jack spoke with Lulu and confessed that when she first mentioned Cindy, he and Daniel were concerned it was the return of her one-time imaginary friend. Lulu laughed about it and promised she was doing okay. He and Daniel were pleased upon meeting the real Cindy's family earlier that evening, too. The Paulsons hailed from Minnesota so Jack immediately felt a connection to them, and Cindy was both fun and interesting when she joined the Jackson-O'Neills for dinner, something that was sure to happen again. Their bedtime chat over, Lulu turned onto her side and quickly fell into a peaceful slumber, which amused Jack somewhat.
~No endurance.~ The father walked over to the other side of Chenoa's bed and sat on its edge as he smiled and observed, "I love your curly locks just the way they are."
"I do, too, Dad. I think I'll leave my hair alone, except for girls' nights with Aunt Janet."
"Sounds like a plan to me." Jack sighed and confided, "Daddy and I have been talking."
"About you and K'hang," Jack clarified. "Princess, Daddy made me wonder if you aren't having doubts about K'hang and Chulak because you know I haven't exactly been a fan of your relationship." He paused, waiting for a response. When he didn't get one, his heart sank. Daniel was right. "Noa, I have nothing against that young boy of yours, not one dang thing. I trust him to take care of you. He's a Jaffa and that stands for honor and tradition. Now, whether or not you choose to continue your relationship with him or not, is your business. When you get old enough, you can decide where you want your life to be. You, Noa, you decide: just you."
"But you never liked him."
"That's not true, but I understand why you believe it's true. Hey, why don't we both go to Chulak for a couple of days soon. I'll spend some time with K'hang, find out what makes him tick."
"He's not a clock, Dad," Chenoa laughed. "Would you really do that?"
"I think I owe it to you and K'hang to prove to you that I think he's an okay kid, so as long as you promise not to take this relationship too much further until you are eighteen, we won't have any problems."
"Thank you, Dad."
Father and daughter hugged and Jack returned to the hallway where he met up with his husband.
"You were right about Noa," the silver-haired man conceded.
"Our children pay attention to who and what we like, to how and when we respond to things, to where and why we react to this or that. It didn't make sense to me that all of a sudden Noa was ready to end her commitment to K'hang."
"Not totally, Jack, but your seeming dislike for someone Noa cares about affected her."
"I told her we'd go to Chulak; spend some time with K'hang."
"That's a good idea, Babe. Noa can see you interact with him, but be yourself. If you try to pretend, she'll see right through it."
"I like the kid. I really do."
"I believe you. Now all you have to do is convince our daughter."
The lovers walked forward to the boys' room. They heard noise from inside, so knew the kids weren't yet asleep.
When Jack and Daniel entered, they saw Little Danny throwing a pillow at Jonny, who returned the throw. Both were laughing. The third roommate let out a loud groan and put his pillow over his head.
"Dad, Daddy, tell them I want to sleep. I'm tired," Ricky whined, yawning to support his statement and then rolling onto his side to face the wall and holding the pillow over his head.
"Settle down, guys," Jack requested, though his tone was light and his sons knew he was trying not to laugh.
"Sorry, Ricky," Little Danny apologized as he put his pillow back into its correct spot and pulled up his covers.
"How are things?" Jack asked.
Little Danny's face lit up into a big grin as he returned, "She's terrific."
"Good to know," Jack replied.
"Dad, Daddy, I'm sorry," Jonny interjected, prompting both men to walk over to his bedside. "I acted like a brat this afternoon."
"It happens to the best of us," Jack responded.
"It's okay, Jonny. We all need to let out our frustration at some point," Daniel added.
"Yeah. I guess I needed to vent, but I'm sorry. I shouldn't have acted that way with you."
"Apology accepted," Daniel replied on behalf of himself and his husband. "How do you feel now?"
"Sad; a little depressed. I don't want her to go, but I know there's nothing I can do about it."
"No, but, uh, you could make sure Tootie knows how you feel before the Olivers move away. Words, warm words, can cut through absences and go a very long way," Daniel opined softly. "Make sure she knows, Jonny."
"You mean tell her how I feel? Now? When she's leaving?"
"What's your goal for when you're eighteen?" Jack probed. "Son, if she goes away and you haven't told her those things you've told us today, she's going on to move on with her life. She might think you don't care."
"But I do care. I should tell her?"
"That's up to you, Jonny, but if I were you, it's what I would do," Daniel stated.
"That goes double for me, Son," Jack noted. "Now's the time. It's no guarantee. You are both going to meet other people after she moves to Philly. You might even meet your soulmate."
"But if Tootie's your soulmate," Daniel began, "then you'll want her to have words to remember, even when she's dating other boys and you're dating other girls."
"And you may want to scoff at that idea this second, but you will date other girls, Son," Jack put forward. "I guarantee it."
Jonny simply nodded, trying to process all he'd heard. He wanted to make the right choice, but he needed to sleep on it.
Ricky was hoping that sleep would start sooner rather than later.
"I'm trying to sleep over here," the Spitfire complained, pressing even harder against his pillow in an attempt to shut out the noise.
"Sorry, Ricky," Daniel called out. "Time to sleep," he directed at all three boys. "Jonny, we can talk more in the morning, if you want."
As Jack and Daniel headed out the door and were shutting it, they heard one more comment from inside the room.
"Jonny, Tootie's nice. Tell her like Daddy said," Ricky yawned.
"Goodnight, Ricky," Jonny sighed. His eyes were wide open as he stared at the ceiling. ~Goodnight, Tootie.~
Back in the master bedroom, the lovers prepared for bed, changing into their pajamas and pulling down the comforter and top sheet.
"This used to take longer," Daniel sighed.
"Our goodnight rounds."
Jack nodded and noted, "Well, we're down three with Jen and Jeff married and David living away from home. By the way, how's Bri?"
"Oh, I need to tell you. I offered to fly her, uh, well, you or me, to McBee so she could actually spend some time with Conway and see if they can't come to a resolution to their situation."
"We can do that," Jack agreed.
"She'll let us know when. That seemed to cheer her up quite a bit," Daniel stated.
"So many moments of truth, too many for one day," the older man remarked.
"Moments of truth?"
"Something my mother used to say. 'Son', she would say, 'there are many moments of truth you'll face in life, times when you have to make decisions that could alter the direction of your life at any time. You must face these moments head on. Don't let them make you afraid and don't let them overwhelm you. Look them in the eye, make your decision, and go forward as best you can'." Jack smiled as he reflected back to his childhood. "Yep, that's what Mom said, and it was good advice."
"It was," Daniel acknowledged. "I, uh, think we did that today with our children."
"That's affirm," Jack responded as he bounced lightly onto the bed, grinning when his lover quickly joined him and settled down in a familiar position that joined the two as one. "Angel?"
"Why is it we go to all the trouble of putting on pajamas when we both know darn well we're going to take them off again?"
Daniel laughed, "I have no idea, but ..."
Jack and Daniel proceeded to engage in their eternal nation of two. Both were fully aware that their togetherness was the result of each of them dealing with their own moments of truth in the past, when each realized their love for the other. Now they had a family with children who were facing their own pivotal moments. It was a natural part of life. The lovers vowed they would always be present in support of their kids and whatever choices they made.
Many questions ran through the minds of the couple once they finally attempted to fall into a sleep state. There were so many possibilities.
Would Brianna and Conway get married? Would they continue their long distance relationship, even if married? How would this affect having children? Would the tomboy give up her dream of working with dolphins, or would Conway find another passion to take him away from the farm he dearly loved?
Would Chenoa opt to honor the Rite of Je'ming with K'hang? Would she grow up to marry the Jaffa, something she'd thought about since being a toddler and falling in love with Teal'c? Would she meet an earthling who might take her mind off her commitment to K'hang? Would she learn that her joy in nursing comes from helping anyone in need, on Earth or on Chulak?
What about Jonny and Tootie? Were their feelings genuine and long lasting, or would both be looking at others to fill the void within months of the Olivers moving? Might the teenagers grow up and find each other again years later? Would they stay in touch and perhaps even create their own long-distance romantic relationship? Are they potential lovers or are they true friends; or are they both?
The lovers had no clue as to the answers for any of the scenarios that ran through their minds. All they hoped for was that one day, each of their children would know what they did, that finding your eternal soulmate was a blessing that made even the worst of times, the best of times.
For the Jackson-O'Neills of Colorado Springs, life was full of choices and eventual moments of truth, but as Elizabeth O'Neill taught her children, Jack and Daniel taught theirs. They would face their moments, look them in the eye, and live life. It would be a lesson learned by twelve from two, who remembered it from the one. As the family slept, the snow stopped, but it would come again on another day. Such was life, coming and going, from one day to the next.
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