Murphy's Law Redeux

Author: Orrymain
Category:  Slash, Humor, Drama, Romance, Established Relationship
Pairing:  Jack/Daniel ... and it's all J/D
Rating:  PG-13
Season:  Beyond the Series - April 6-8, 2009
Spoilers:  None
Size:  124kb
Written:  October 27,30, November 2-3,5,8, December 2-4,19,25, 2004
Tweaked: January 7, 2005  Revised for consistency: January 14-17, 2008 Tweaked for consistency: January 31, 2018
Summary:  Daniel has another one of those days where anything and everything that can goes wrong, does!  Can Jack kiss and make it better, or will their eight is enough family interfere?
Disclaimer:  Usual disclaimers -- not mine, wish they were, especially Daniel, and Jack, too, but they aren't.  A gal can dream though!
Notes:  
1) Along with the humor, a hanky warning comes with this fic!
2) 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.**
3) Silent, unspoken thoughts by various characters are indicated with ~ in front and behind them, such as ~Where am I?~
4) This fic stands alone, but it does reference my past fics, “Murphy's Law,” “Email Education,” “Egyptian Erotica: Another Ten Months,” “Because You Loved Me,” “Hanging Around”
5) Thanks to my betas who always make my fics better:  Claudia, QuinGem, Drdjlover, Linda, Pepi, Lissa, Irina!

Murphy's Law Redeux
by Orrymain

“Jack, don't forget apples,” Daniel requested.

“They're on the list,” Jack responded.  “Big ones or little ones?”  Seeing his lover's raised eyebrows and smirky expression, the general clarified, “I mean the apples, Babe.”

“Oh,” Daniel chuckled.  “Little ones for the children and a few bigger ones for us.”

Jack and Daniel were preparing their shopping list.  They'd put off shopping a bit too long and were just about out of everything.  Three previously planned trips to the market had been unexpectedly postponed due to illness, last minute school preparations, and once for spontaneous hanky panky, something that just didn't happen that much any more, and the couple just hadn't been able to let the opportunity pass without acting on it.

Now, though, the couple was down to bare bones, and the number one priority for the following morning was restocking the house.  It was 10:45 p.m., and all of their children were asleep.

“Peanut butter, Jack, and, please, this time get Skippy.”

“But I like Jif!”

“You may like Jif, but your offspring prefer Skippy.”  Daniel saw the disapproving look on his husband's face and added, “Would you like to explain to Ash why she can't have Skippy?”

“Jif is for kids,” Jack whined.

“Big kids, maybe, but our ... kids prefer Skippy.”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah.  Okay, Skippy,” Jack moaned with attitude.  ~But I'm getting Jif for me.~

~Bet he gets Jif for himself,~ Daniel laughed.  He was about to say something when the phone rang.  “I wonder who that could be,” he said, closing the refrigerator door.

“Maybe you should pick up the phone and find out,” Jack said with a smile from his seat on the barstool at the counter that separated the dining nook from the living room.

“Oh,” Daniel laughed, picking up the cordless phone he'd carried into the kitchen earlier while chatting with Sam from the nearby countertop and answering.  “Hello.”

“This is Major Frinelli.  I'd like to speak with General O'Neill.”

Daniel rolled his eyes.  There was something in the major's voice that bothered him.  He knew who Frinelli was.  The man worked in the Pentagon in Paul Davis' department, but he'd never really been impressed with him for some reason.  One thing he did know without Frinelli ever saying a word: the major did not approve of Jack and Daniel's relationship.

~My house.  My phone.  My husband.  Deal with it.~  Daniel decided to have a bit of fun.  “Who did you want to speak with?”

Jack leaned back, assuming a straight position instead of leaning forward over the counter.  He recognized the snarkiness in Daniel's tone immediately, thus alerting him that the caller wasn't a friend.

“General O'...”

“*Who*?”

Frinelli groaned and finally said, “General Jackson-O'Neill.”

Daniel smiled in satisfaction as he responded, “I'll see if he's available.”  Making sure the phone could still pick up whatever was said, he whistled loudly.  He took a towel and cleaned a spot on the oven.  When he was done, he sauntered slowly towards his grinning husband and stated, “Jack, Love, I just have to do this,” after which he leaned forward and kissed his husband.  They made sure their kiss was loud, from the smacking of their lips to the happy moans in the aftermath.  “Love you.”

“And I love you.”

“Hmm, there's some ... major on the phone.  Are you ... available?” the archaeologist asked playfully.

“For you, Babe, anytime.”

“Jack, not that, yet.  The phone?”

“Well, if I must,” Jack replied.

Daniel stood up straight and said, “Well, I wouldn't, but ...”

Chuckling, Jack took the phone, speaking, “Jackson-O'Neill.”

“General, this is Major Frinelli.”

“What can I do for you, Major?” Jack asked formally.  ~Besides making sure your next assignment is scrubbing toilets.~

Daniel sighed listening to Jack's side of the conversation.  He could tell his husband was unhappy, but he also heard the 'losing this one' tone in his voice.  When Jack hung up, his fears were validated.

“Okay, what now?”

“The Secretary of Defense has had a change in plans.  He's going out of the country the day after tomorrow,” Jack answered regretfully.

“Don't say it.”

“So, that trip to D.C. that I got roped into for next week is now tomorrow.  They're sending a car at 0400.”

“Four *a.m.*, Jack,” Daniel whined.

“Wish I didn't have to go.”

“You don't.”

“I promised General Souther I'd go,” the general reminded.  “He's a good man, Danny.”

“I know, but ...”  Daniel turned around and went to put away the remaining crackers he had planned to snack on.  With Jack leaving, that meant he'd have to make do with the limited amount of food on hand.  “So much for my crumbling crackers,” he whined.

Jack walked into the kitchen and stood behind his husband.  He wrapped his arms around him, squeezing Daniel to him.

“Say the word, Danny, and I'm on that phone.  D.C. can go hang itself.”

Daniel shook his head and sighed, “No, you promised and I agreed. It's just ... Jack, we've let them con us into working far more than we signed up for when we came back. We said we wouldn't put in more than three days per week, but we're doing four or five days, and sometimes more, and from the beginning, even after all our demanding threats.” The archaeologist crossed his arms over his chest and lamented, “We've done it to ourselves because we're the ones saying 'yes' when we should be saying 'no'.”

“I suddenly feel dead on my feet.”

“I'm disappointed in us, Jack. We've let down our team at J-O and forced Megan, and Karissa, into doing far more than they bargained for. Yes, we went on the Mexico dig, but our staff has handled everything else, before and since Mexico. Sometimes it doesn't feel like we're in control at all.”

“Crap, you're right,” Jack agreed.  “But we should be, and we *are* going to reestablish the ground rules pronto.  We've only been back a few months, and they're trying to reel us in for more than we promised.”  Growing even more firm in his resolve, he continued, “Danny, if you want us out, then we'll retire again.  You say the word, and we're done, as of right now.”

“Gawd, no; I don't know.  I just want us to keep our priorities straight.  We said two days a week, maybe three, and I think we need to make sure that's all it is.  And ... gawd, the truth is I just ... I just want my crackers.”

Jack laughed, “I love you, Angel,” and then kissed the back of Daniel's neck.

“I love you, too.”

“Let's go to bed, Danny.”

“I'm not tired yet.”

“Who said anything about sleep?” Jack whispered alluringly.

Daniel twisted his body to look at his sexy soulmate and immediately saw the gleam in his eye.

“Oh.”

Arms around each other's waist, Jack and Daniel headed upstairs for a round of lovemaking, putting the inconvenience of Jack's upcoming day trip behind them.

====

“I love you,” Jack said as he kissed his husband in the entranceway of their home.

“Love you, too, so much,” Daniel sighed contentedly as he leaned his head to rest on Jack's shoulder as they embraced.

“I should be back by nine at the latest.”

“Long day.  Don't shoot the Brass,” Daniel mused.

“How'd you know I was thinking that?”

Daniel laughed and brought his hand to Jack's chest.  He undid a button and slipped his hand inside.

“Because I know you,” the younger man responded at the same time his fingers began twirling some of Jack's chest hairs.

“Danny, if you don't stop that, the Brass is gonna shoot me because I so am *not* leaving this house.”

Daniel chuckled.  He leaned in and kissed Jack's chest through the small opening.  Then he buttoned up the shirt and looked into Jack's eyes.

“Be glad you aren't wearing your blue uniform, or I wouldn't let you leave.”

“I knew that; which is why I'm not changing until I get there,” the general said with a grin.

“You know me so well.”

“I just remember the last time I put on that uniform.  We were three hours late.”

“Amen!” Daniel exclaimed as he remembered the event.  “Hurry home, Love.”

“Have a good day, Angel.”

After another kiss, Jack picked up the duffel bag he was taking with him.  Late the night before, an old friend had challenged him to a boxing match during their lunch break.  Jack was eager to participate in the match, so he got up earlier and went to the SGC to get his favorite pair of boxing gloves.  He could have timed it to go straight to the airport, but he wanted to spend more time with Daniel instead.

“Geez, I'm getting old.  This bag is heavy.”

Looking down at the bag, Daniel explained, “Well, you have the gloves in there, and I put in a book on archaeology.”

“Must be a big book.”

“I just thought ... I mean ...”

“Thank you, Love.  I still have a lot to learn about our business,” Jack spoke about the couple's company, J-O Enterprises.  “This'll be a good opportunity to do a little reading on the plane.”

“And, um, I added some cookies, too.  I put them on a small plate and covered them in foil.  Oh, and I threw in a few napkins and towelettes, too, in case you get sticky fingers,” Daniel said, a smile on his face.

~I just don't deserve him, but I'm so glad he thinks I do,~ Jack thought with a pleased expression on his face.  “Did you make me cookies just for this trip?”

“Well, I ...”

“I love you, Danny.  Thank you.  I have no idea how you found the time or what you used for ingredients, but thank you.”

Daniel laughed, admitting, “It was the last of just about everything, but I just wanted to surprise you; do something to show you how much I love you.”

“Danny, you do that just by wearing that ring.”

After yet another kiss, Jack finally walked out to the waiting car and headed for Washington, D.C.

Daniel sighed and wrapped his arms around himself, trying to keep the feel of Jack's arms around him.

~Geez, Jackson, he's only going to be gone for what, seventeen hours?  You can handle that.~  The archaeologist groaned in want, thinking about his lover and his most private part.  ~I *want* to 'handle' that.  I want to handle *him*.~  Realizing his body was starting to react to his thoughts, he urged himself to calm down.  ~Geez, think cold shower.  Yeah, cold shower and fast.~

====

Daniel yawned as he rose from his bed less than ninety minutes later.  He just couldn't go back to sleep.  Besides, it was going to be a long day, and he figured he might as well get to it now.  He dressed simply, wearing blue jeans and a white T-shirt.  He walked into the nursery to check on the youngest family members.  Still barefoot, he almost shouted when he stepped on a Lego.  Quietly, he hopped around for a minute and swore silently in Abydonian until the pain subsided.  Then he picked it up and placed it on a table.

Shaking it off, Daniel stretched and walked over to the cribs, staring down at the still-sleeping twins and opining, ~They're so beautiful.  All our children are beautiful.~  He sighed, ~We need a better sleeping arrangement.  The Munchkins are way too old for this.  Where are we going to put them?  Even bunk beds will make things crowded.~

“Daddy?”

“Hey, Princess,” Daniel said as he sat down on the edge of Chenoa's bed that was also in the nursery.  He reached up and caressed his daughter's cheek.  “You can go back to sleep for a little while.  I'm sorry if I woke you up.”

“Sleep,” Chenoa yawned, rolling over.

Chuckling, Daniel leaned over, placed a kiss on the little girl's cheek, and whispered, “I love you, Noa.”

Then Daniel went into the next room and checked on David.  Seeing all was well, he headed downstairs to begin the breakfast ritual.

~Wait a minute.  Where are the girls?~ Daniel asked himself anxiously about Bijou and Katie.  ~I left them in the house.  I'm sure of it.  Let's see.  They were with Jack and I, and then Jack ... oh no.  Please tell me they didn't go out front.~

His heart racing from concern, Daniel rushed towards the front door.  He opened it, but no one was there, either human or canine.  He hurried to the backyard, but again, there was no sign of the beagles.

~Gawd, where are they?~ the panicking archaeologist asked.  He'd already been upstairs, and the girls weren't there.  He would have noticed.  ~Jen!~

Daniel raced up to the room that was over the garage.  Jennifer was still asleep, and she was all alone, with not a canine in sight.

--

“Where could they be?” Daniel asked aloud several minutes later as he stood in the living room, having frantically checked every part of the house, inside and outside.

“This bag is heavy.”

Suddenly, Jack's words as he was departing rang loudly in Daniel's mind.

~No, they couldn't have.  No, that's crazy.  I mean, not both of ... oh, gawd!~

Daniel hurried to the phone and dialed Jack's cell phone.

“O'Neill.”

There was something strange about Jack's voice.

“Jack?”

“Lose something, Danny?” Jack asked pointedly.

“Yell at me later if you want to, but tell me ...” Daniel began.

“Listen for yourself.”  There was a short pause, and then Daniel heard, “Okay, Girls, tell Danny you're okay.”

Happily, the very next sound to come over the phone was two familiar woofs.  Daniel closed his eyes and breathed a sigh of relief.

“Jack, I was so worried about them.  How did they do that?”

“You're asking me?  I don't know.  They weren't in there when I put my boxing gloves in.  Uh, the book?”

“Gawd, I'm sorry.  I ... gawd,” Daniel's guilt began to mount by leaps and bounds.  “Jack, I zipped up the bag with them in it?  How could I do that?”

“You didn't.”

“Then ...”

“Daniel, I put a change of clothes and my gloves in.  You put the book in.  I assume you got distracted.  The girls jumped in; settled on the clothes.  I came along and threw my jacket over the top.  It wasn't sealed, and they just ...”

“Went along for the ride?”

“You know the girls; they love adventure ... and your cookies!” Jack stated with an amused tone of voice.

“They ate them?”

“I guess they were hungry.  That probably explains why they stayed quiet so long too.  The crumbs were great, though.”

“I'm glad I made Snickerdoodles,” the younger sighed.  “I almost made Double Chocolate Chippers.”

“They're fine; loved the Snickerdoodles, the little snickers.”

Daniel wanted to laugh, but he was full of concern.  He just couldn't believe this had happened.

“Jack, where are you?”

“Open the door.”

“Door?  Oh.”  Daniel tossed the phone onto the buffet; then ran to the door and opened it, seeing Jack holding the two escapee beagles.  “Bij, Katie, don't you ever scare me like that again,” he said, taking the girls from his husband.

“Nice to see you, too, Love.”

“Oh,” Daniel said, leaning over to give Jack a quick peck on the lips and then returning his attention to the two dogs.

“I tried to call you, but the phone lines were out, and your cell phone wasn't switched on; either that, or the battery died out again,” Jack explained.

The older man knew Daniel would be worried from the moment he'd discovered his unexpected traveling companions.

“The phone was fine just now when I used it to call you,” Daniel stated.

“It was probably temporary; I saw a crew out when I left this morning.  They must have fixed it by the time you phoned.”

“I guess so.  Gawd ...”

Jack had hoped that his genius lover would figure out what had happened; apparently, he had.

“You scared me something silly, you two,” Daniel said, still holding both girls closely to him.

Jack shook his head as he watched the reunion scene play out.  Once in the living room, and after sorries being said by Daniel and the girls, Bijou and Katie ran to the door.

“Woof!”

“Okay,” Daniel said, moving to let the dogs outside.  Suddenly, he realized Jack was supposed to be on a plane headed for Washington, D.C.  “Jack, the plane?”

“I got on the plane.  We took off.  I opened the bag.  We landed.”

“Oh, gawd.”

“Yeah, they weren't happy about it, but I wasn't about to trust Bij and Katie to someone I didn't know.  Maybe if Carter or Siler had been around, but I didn't know these guys, so I made them turn around.  Danny, I have to go.  At least they can't court-martial me; at least, I don't think they can,” Jack chuckled lightly.

“I'm sorry, Jack,” Daniel said, folding his arms and looking down, guilt and remorse written all over his body.

Jack walked to his lover, forced him out of the self-hug, and kissed him tenderly before asserting, “Nothing to be sorry for.  Our girls are creative.  They knew what they were doing.”

“You mean they wanted to scare me to death?”

Jack laughed, “No, but maybe they thought we were going for a ride in Jo.  You know they love to fly.”

The two had their arms around each other, both of them rubbing gently against the body of the other.

“Sneaky beagles,” Jack mused, a teeny bit of pride in his tone at the dogs' clever stowaway plan.

“Yeah.”  Daniel heard the tone and saw a gleam in his lover's eye.  Giving him a slight nudge of reproach, he said, “I guess we'll have to be more careful from now on.”

Jack chuckled.  He was proud of their girls, but he also didn't want to encourage this particular type of behavior.

“Definitely, but I've ...”

“... got to go,” both men said in unison.

“Yeah.  I love you, Angel.”

“Love you.  You'd better go.”

“You have a good day.  It can only get better,” Jack pointed out.

“I hope so,” Daniel responded, rolling his eyes.

The day had already been crazy, and it had barely begun.  It couldn't possibly get worse, could it?

====

Forty-five minutes later, Jennifer walked downstairs and proclaimed, “Daddy, I don't feel very well.”

“What's wrong?” Daniel asked, putting down the bottles he had been preparing for the twins, Jenny and Ricky.

“Flu, I think.  I took my temp.  It's only ninety-nine point seven, but I just feel awful.  My stomach hurts, and I'm all congested.”

“You'd better stay home today, and ...”

Daniel's words were cut off by a loud sneeze.

“Oh, yuck,” the teenager exclaimed sadly.

Daniel sighed, “Your brothers and sisters are going to be up soon, Jen.  Stay home, but I'd like to avoid ...”

“You want me to stay in my room and do the hermit thing, right?” Jennifer asked, her displeasure already obvious.

“Do you mind?”

“Nah, I'll listen to Britney.”

“Please, just not too loud, Jen.  I have a headache this morning.  You wouldn't believe what happened with the girls.”

“What?”

“Well ...”

As Jennifer fixed herself a cup of chicken broth, Daniel explained what had happened.

“You must have been so worried, Daddy.”

“I couldn't find them anywhere, but they're safe and sound now,” Daniel sighed in relief, still recovering somewhat from the ordeal.

“Oops, I hear the kids stirring upstairs.  I'll go hide,” Jennifer spoke with a smile on her face.

“Thanks,” Daniel said gratefully, though part of him knew his teenage daughter was about to enjoy a day of play.  “Uh, Jen, don't forget to work on your English essay.  It's due tomorrow, and you still have a lot to do on it.  You can call me if you need help.”

“Yadda, yadda ...” the teenager said, heading for her room.

“Yadda, yadda, you'd better make some progress on ...”  Daniel sighed, seeing Jennifer was already out of range.  ~Oh, well.  She's responsible.  She'll get it done.~  As he headed upstairs, he suddenly stopped and said, “Britney?”

Jennifer hadn't listened much to the music of Britney Spears since early 2008. While the one-time teen sensation had once been Jennifer's idol, the singer's personal problems had been difficult for the teenager to ignore.  While she admittedly still liked the music, Jennifer just couldn't condone participating much in the Britney fandom, so she'd quietly removed herself from most of it, focusing instead on other pop favorites.

~Why would she want to listen to Britney today of all days?~

With a bit of a frown, the archaeologist let the question go and went to get the children up.

====

Daniel was standing in the kitchen, cleaning away the remnants of breakfast when the phone rang.

“Jackson-O'Neill residence, Daniel speaking,” the archaeologist spoke.  Smiling, he thought, ~Geez, I love how that sounds.~

“Good morning, Daniel, it's Gloria Payne here,” the woman spoke in a friendly and polite tone.

“Hello, Mrs. Payne.”

“I'm afraid Chloe is sick so Chenoa won't be able to come over today.”

~Figures,~ Daniel sighed.  He passed on get well wishes and then went to break the news to Chenoa that her play date had been canceled.  He had just finished comforting the small girl when he took a look at his watch and raced downstairs where his son was sitting on the sofa, reading a book.  “David, you'd better hurry, or you'll be late for school.  Mrs. Allison should be here soon to pick you up.”

“Daddy, did you forget?”

“Forget what?”

“It's an in-service day at school.  There is no school,” the boy reminded.

“I guess I did,” Daniel lamented as his head dropped down to his chest.

“It's going to be a great day.  I'm going to do some experiments.”

“Experiments?” the father asked, his head immediately popping back up.  Seeing his son's nod, he questioned, “What kinds of experiments?”

“Well, I want to see how different ...”

Just then, loud cries drew Daniel's attention.

“Be right back.  Watch the Munchkins, please.”

“Yes, Daddy.”

David's plans forgotten, Daniel headed upstairs to check on the twins.

====

Sometime later, Daniel was hurriedly trying to get some work done on a project for J-O Enterprises.  They had a deadline coming up and were a bit behind schedule.

“Daddy!”

Daniel groaned upon hearing the call, but then immediately felt guilty about his reaction.

~David's doing you a favor by watching the Munchkins, and remember, Jackson, he's only eight.~

With a sigh, the archaeologist saved his work and went into the living room, stopping dead as he saw what had prompted David's call for help.

“Oh, no.”

The three Munchkins were rolling around, laughing as they played in a sea of white beanbag balls.

“I think Jonny found the zipper on Bij and Katie's beanbag.”  David looked at his father a little worriedly.  “I'm sorry, Daddy.  I didn't realize it until they had emptied most of it out.”

“It's okay, Son; it's not your fault,” Daniel said reassuringly.  ~Jonny, why did you have to get your father's mischief making genes?  And why can't they just come out when Jack's around?~

====

With the indoor snowstorm eventually cleaned up and the beanbag restuffed, Daniel was back at his computer, praying for some uninterrupted time to work on his research.  He'd been running in and out of his den all morning, in between children's needs, desperately trying to fit in a little research.  Finally, he found exactly what he needed.  He made a bevy of notes, cutting and pasting some of the information into a new file.

“Wah,” cried out over the intercom.

Daniel looked around, pleading, “Just two more minutes,” but another cry interrupted him.  He stood up and literally ran into the nursery, picked up Jenny, and carried her with him back into the den.  “I just need a minute, Jenny.”

The hardworking man reviewed his information and was about to hit save when another cry came over the intercom, this time from Ricky.

“Oh, what now?  I'm coming, and not the way I would like to be, either.  Oh, gawd, Jackson, not when you're holding Jenny.”

Another cry, and Daniel glanced over his shoulder as he shouted, “Just a minute, Ricky.”  He turned to hit save and stared at the screen in total shock.  “Jenny, you didn't?”

The toddler giggled as her little hands waved all about in front of her.  Unfortunately, she'd done what her father had feared the most.  While he'd glanced over his shoulder to shout out at Ricky, Jenny had leaned forward and hit several different keys, managing to highlight the entire document, hitting the 'delete' button on the keyboard, and even the 'yes' in the confirmation box that had popped up to verify that the user wanted to delete the document.

“Jenny help Daddy,” the redhead said about the blank screen in front of her.

~Gone; all gone, like the sands of time, just ... gone ... with the wind, and the touch of my Jenny's fingers.~  Daniel's mind was a bit looney for a moment as he reeled from the disaster, but then he took a deep breath and smiled at his daughter as she cooed lovingly at him.  Placing a kiss on her cheek, he agreed, “Yes, you helped Daddy.”  He took one more look at the blank screen and then felt Jenny's gentle hand on his face.  Her sweet touch mattered much more than anything she could have deleted on the computer.  “I love you, Jenny.  We'd better go check on your brother.”

====

“Okay, now remember, use your imaginations.  Paint whatever you want, however you see it.  Later, you can tell me all about your paintings.  When Dad comes home, we'll show them to him, too.”

“Dad go bye-bye,” Aislinn pouted.

“Dad come back,” Jonny said in an effort to reassure his sister.

“Yeah, Dad come back tonight.  Bring present?” Little Danny asked as he looked up at his younger father.

“Let's not assume,” Daniel replied.

“Dad always brings presents,” the boy insisted.

“Presents!” Aislinn exclaimed, beaming in anticipation.

Daniel smiled, but tried to refocus the children on their activity while making a mental note to talk to his lover about the present-getting.

~You're just like Rob Petrie on the old 'Dick Van Dyke' show.  Actually, nothing wrong with that.  Go ahead, Jack; bring the Munchkins home a present,~ Daniel thought.  “Have fun, Munchkins.”

“Munnnnnnnch*kins*,” Jonny mocked playfully, causing Daniel to laugh as he proceeded with his plans.

The father left the triplets, all seated on the floor of the nursery, with a set of fingerpaints and a large supply of paper.

====

“Jenny, how about an early lunch?”

Seeing her daddy approach, the little redhead raised her hands excitedly, happy when he picked her up and bounced her in his arms, giving her a kiss.

Daniel took Jenny downstairs where Chenoa was playing with Ricky and said, “Noa, I'm going to feed the twins lunch early.  Do you want to eat with them or wait for the others?”

“Not 'ungry.”

Daniel nodded and proceeded to feed the twins.

====

Sometime later, Daniel took Jenny and Ricky upstairs for a nap.  He smiled, seeing the Munchkins still happily painting away.  He told the triplets that he was going to do the laundry and then they'd eat their lunch.

Laundry at the Jackson-O'Neill household was not an easy proposition.  With six children under the age of five, plus their other two, and their own dirty clothes, it took Jack and Daniel several loads and a good part of the day to get it all done.

~I used to enjoy doing the laundry,~ Daniel lamented as he proceeded with his chore.  ~Of course, that was before it took so long to do.~

Eventually, after several checks on the children, Daniel put in the last load he had time to do; the rest would have to wait for the following day.  He glanced at the piles of done laundry to be folded and sighed.

~I have such a headache.  I think I'll save it for later.~

Daniel went back inside the house to check on the babies.  He stopped dead in his tracks when he saw the Munchkins.

“Wha...wha...what are you doing?”

“Using 'magination,” Little Danny said.

“On the *paper*, Son, not on your brother and sister!”

The Munchkins all giggled.  All three had moved their fingerpaints to the crib where Jenny and Ricky slept, and they'd painted the babies.  Jenny was mainly green, purple, and black, while Ricky was blue, orange, and red.

“It's all over them!” Daniel exclaimed, his eyes wide from the shock.

Not only that, but the Munchkins had painted the sheets and pillows as well.

“They match,” Jonny giggled.

“I see that, Jonny.”  ~Gawd, I have a headache.~

Then, Daniel realized how easily it would have been for the Munchkins to have injured themselves in their project.  He pieced together what they must have done.  Somehow, they had pushed the rocker over to the twins' crib.  One of them, and he was sure it must have been Jonny, had climbed over the top of the crib.  Amazingly, that same somebody had flipped the latch, lowering the side of the crib.

Jonny was very mechanical, and he'd already proven himself to be a master escape artist.

With the crib wall lowered, it had been easy for Little Danny and Aislinn to climb up and begin their artwork on their human subjects.

As Daniel was about to panic in a big way over what had happened, a loud blast filtered upstairs.  To Daniel, it sounded like a bullhorn, but to Jennifer, it was simply one of her favorite Britney Spears' CDs, and it was loud, very loud.

~Not today, Jennifer.~

Daniel removed the Munchkins from the crib and put the crib back into the place, making sure the twins were secure in place.  He looked at the triplets and sternly ordered, “Stay here.  Do *not* paint the twins anymore.  Sit!  I mean it, do *not* move from here.”

Daniel pointed to their places on the floor where plenty of paper remained.  Allowing himself ten seconds to catch his breath, he closed his eyes and hurried to Jennifer's room.

“Jen, will you please turn that down?”

Jennifer was dancing around, totally unaware that her father had walked in.

“Jen ... Jen ... JENNIFER!”

“Hey, Daddy!  Isn't this song great?” the teenager said, still moving with the beat.

~This is not a holiday,~ Daniel thought about the private party his daughter seemed to be having.  “I have no idea.  I can't hear any words.  Jen, turn it down.”

“What?”

“I said, *turn it off* ... NOW!”

Jennifer danced over to her stereo, turned the volume down, and then asked, “What did you say, Daddy?  I couldn't hear you.”

“I wonder why,” Daniel replied softly, almost to himself as he looked off to the side.

“Maybe you need to talk louder.”

“Maybe I should ...” Daniel stopped, folded his arms across his chest, and took a deep breath.  “Jen, I want you to keep the volume down.”

“It was down.”

“No, it wasn't.  I heard it in the nursery.”

“It has to be played loud,” the supposedly sick girl argued, contradicting her prior statement.

~Stay calm,~ the frustrated man urged.  “No, Jen.  Now, please, just keep it down.”

Daniel frowned.  His headache was getting worse by the minute, which, of course, meant Jennifer picked this moment to rebel.

“NO!  I'm stuck up here in my room, like a prisoner, and I *am* going to listen to Britney.”

“Jennifer ...”  Daniel didn't want to fight.  He tried to calm himself.  “What about your English paper?”

“That's all you care about, isn't it?”

“You know better than that, but it's due tomorrow, and if you're well enough to dance and listen to this ... music, then you can put some time in on that paper.”

“You can't tell me what to do!”

“Oh, yes, I can, and I am,” Daniel replied strongly.  “Now work on that paper, and keep the volume down.”  He walked down to the first floor of the house, stopping in the hallway and banging his head against the wall.  ~It's just a phase, only a phase.  She'll get better ... I hope.~

Suddenly, Daniel remembered the painted babies and hurried upstairs.

“Jonny!”

“Using 'mag ... mag ... Danny?”

“Using 'magination.”

“Imagination,” Daniel corrected automatically.  “Son, don't paint the walls, either.”

Daniel sank down to the floor and found himself surrounded by the Munchkins.

“Paint Daddy?”

“No.  No paint Daddy,” Daniel said with a resigned smile.  “Let's clean up and then I'll fix your lunch.”

====

Finally, Daniel had cleaned up the twins and the Munchkins, put the twins back in their crib to play or sleep, whichever they preferred, had exchanged the painted bedding with clean bedding, had washed the walls, and was now ushering the Munchkins into the kitchen for lunch.  He called David and Chenoa in from the living room, but only David appeared.

“David, where's Noa?”

“In the bathroom.”

Daniel sighed, “Could you go get her for me?”

A few minutes later, David led his sister into the dining area.  He held Chenoa's hand with his right hand and had a bedraggled looking rag in his left hand.

“What is ...”  Daniel saw David hold up the item, and then his own mouth fell open in horror.  “Space Monkey Tres!”

“She was giving him a bath, with shampoo,” David explained, handing the sodden toy over to his father.

Daniel took it and gazed sadly at it.  His husband was always buying him stuffed monkeys, the first being the one Jack had given him after the time when the SGC had been infiltrated by aliens.  After the foothold situation had played out, Daniel had actually attempted to leave the SGC, and Jack, but he hadn't gotten any further than the airport, and it had been in the airport when Jack had found the toy.  This one, though, was one the older man had found in a shop near NASA during a trip a few years earlier, long before he had retired.  Normally the monkey was dressed in a space suit, but, obviously, Chenoa had removed it.

“You've definitely seen better days,” Daniel said to the stuffed animal.

“Noa sorry,” the curly-haired girl said softly.

“It's all right, Noa, but it's best not to wash toys without asking Dad or I first, okay?”  Seeing the nod, Daniel asked, “Where's his space outfit?”

“Oops.  Maybe that's what was clogging up the sink,” David answered.

Not wanting to think about it at the moment, Daniel put the pathetic looking monkey aside and assembled the Munchkins, Chenoa, and David in the dining area for lunch.

“Now, I want you all to sit here quietly while I make lunch, and ...”  The blaring sound of Britney Spears rang through the house yet again.  “Excuse me.  David and Chenoa, watch the Munchkins.  All of you, please behave.”

Daniel nearly sprinted to Jennifer's room again and firmly reminded, “Jen, I asked you to keep the volume down.”

“But I'm bored, Daddy.  The music ...”

“Jennifer, turn it down ... NOW!”

Once again, the girl's normal common sense abandoned her.  She didn't want to do her homework, and nothing else seemed enticing, especially the thought of just lying down in bed.  At least when she was arguing, she felt alive and wasn't bored -- aggravated, but definitely not bored.

“NO!” the teenager yelled defiantly.

“Jennifer, if you don't turn it down, you aren't going anywhere for a week.”

“Yes, I am.  The dance is Friday, and I'm definitely going,” Jennifer insisted.

“Not if you don't turn it down.”

“I'm not a child!”

“And you're not an adult either!”

“Argh!  It's Britney, not heavy metal!”

“I don't care who it is.  Turn it down ... *now*, and I want you working on that English paper.”

“But, Daddy ...”

“I said *now*, Jennifer!”

Daniel walked back downstairs, his head throbbing as his headache worsened.  As he moved, he heard the sound of rain falling.  He swore in Abydonian.  He was hoping for a clear afternoon so the children could go play outside.  Now, though, they'd all be stuck in the house.

The young man headed for the kitchen, pleased to see the rest of the children were right where they were supposed to be.  He began to prepare lunch, but found himself swearing under his breath.  They didn't really have much of anything in terms of food.  In desperation, he pulled out one of the few remaining food items -- a box of Cheerios.

“Cheerios?” David asked, scrunching up his face in disgust.  “Daddy, I want Froot Loops.  I hate Cheerios.”

“David, Cheerios are good, too.”

“Loops!” the Munchkins began to shout, joined by both David and Chenoa.

Within seconds, Daniel found himself staring at five screaming children, all demanding Froot Loops.  They were all talking a mile a minute, and all Daniel could make out was something about Dad saying Loops was the only cereal worth eating.

~And he's going to be one dead Dad for brainwashing all of you against Cheerios.~  “It's an uprising,” Daniel lamented vocally as he looked at his loved but whining children.

“Want Loops!” Little Danny demanded.

“Yeah, Loops!” Aislinn added.

“Looooooooopssssssssssy doopsys,” Jonny said.

“Loopsy doopsys?” Daniel echoed, nodding his head.  “Well, Jonny, there are no Loops.  There are only Cheerios.”

“WANT LOOPS!” the children shouted in unison.

“Right.  Okay, well, these are Loops only I've ... decorated them to look like Cheerios.  It's like, uh, Halloween.  The Loops are in ... costume.”

Quickly, Daniel finished pouring out the contents, just barely having enough to fill all the bowls.  As he poured in milk, he saw David's scowl.

“They are Loops in Cheerios clothing,” Daniel suggested strongly.

David scowled, but tasted a bite and replied, “They sure taste like Cheerios.”

“They're Loops!  Now *eat*,” Daniel ordered.

Another thundering dose of music blaring through the airwaves made Daniel's head throb, and he made a supreme effort to squash his anger.  He ran up to Jennifer's room.

“Jennifer, turn that *off* now.”

“You're just an old fuddy-duddy, Daddy.”

“Old and deaf.  NOW!” Daniel ordered.  ~Fuddy-duddy, right.  I'm not at all old-fashioned, and I'm certainly not fussy, except about my coffee ... and chocolate ... and how artifacts are handled ... and ... oh, shut up, mind.~

The frazzled father turned around and returned to the dining room, but never made it back to the table.  Instead, he sank down in the chair near the sofa and stared at the Munchkins, David, and Chenoa, who were in the midst of a full-scale food fight.  Cheerios were everywhere, and so was the milk.

~I love our children; really, I do.  I love them.  Love them lots.  I do.  Honest, I do.~  Daniel paused, a funny thought suddenly occurring to him.  ~But I may have just discovered the ultimate weapon to use against the Goa'uld -- babysitting!~

Daniel decided to try making the children some soup; it was the only other option.  The problem was that the only soup they had was Cream of Mushroom, and that wasn't a favorite.  Still, being the dutiful father, he ignored the food fight carrying on around him and walked into the kitchen to prepare the soup.  Just as he had emptied the can's contents in a saucepan and started to heat it, the lights went off and the burner sputtered out.

~We did pay the bill.~  Daniel quickly checked the fuse box and then went out front and checked the neighborhood.  ~Great; just great.~  The power appeared to be out on the entire street.  ~At least that shuts Britney up for a while.~  He returned to the children, stopping the food fight, and slowly cleaned each child.  “Lunch is over.”

“But I'm hungry,” David whined.

“Sorry, the ... loopsy doopsys are all gone.”

====

Peace had been restored in the Jackson-O'Neill household, at least temporarily.  The lights were out, and it was still raining, but all the children were finally occupied doing something.  Daniel was seated on the sofa, sewing.  He had a pile of clothing that he needed to either add buttons to or fix tiny holes or rips. By his side, 'helping', was Aislinn.  Of course, her definition of helping meant disorganizing Daniel's previously organized pile.  As Daniel finished his latest repair, he heard a surprising word.

“Mommy?”

Daniel stopped what he was doing and looked over at Aislinn.

~Oh, please, men sew.  I'm not a mommy just because I'm sewing.  I'm a mommy because ... I'm a mommy and a daddy.  Oh, gawd, I'm losing my mind.~  Shaking off his internal confusion, Daniel asked, “What, Ash?”

“Mommy?”

“I, uh ... Ash, I'm not sure what you mean.”

The toddler climbed off the sofa, tugged on her father's arm, and headed for the stairs.  Daniel followed her into the nursery, and fought back a couple of tears when Aislinn went to the rocking chair and picked up Bobette, the stuffed animal that had been Kayla's.

Kayla Armentrout had given birth to all five of Jack and Daniel's biological children, but she had died tragically in a car accident just fourteen months earlier.  In her living will, Kayla had requested that the couple put Bobette in the nursery to see if any of the children gravitated towards the cherished possession.

Jack and Daniel had frequently talked to their children about Kayla, and they'd told them all about Bobette, the stuffed monkey the young woman had had since her own childhood, but as far as Daniel knew, this was the first real connection with it that any of them had made, and it had come out of the blue.

“Mommy?”

Daniel smiled and walked over the rocker.  He knelt down to look at his beautiful princess.

Nodding his head, the father answered, “Yes, this was Mommy's. Mommy loved Bobette.”

“Bobo.”

Daniel chuckled, “Right.  She called her Bobo.”

“Hold?”  Seeing Daniel's nod, Aislinn picked up the stuffed animal and hugged it. “Soft.”

“Very.  Do you want me to tell you how Mommy got Bobo?”  Aislinn nodded, so Daniel picked her up and sat down in the rocker.  He held his daughter, while his daughter held on to Bobette.  “Well, one day when she was a little girl ...”

It was several minutes later when Daniel finished telling her the story about how Kayla had come to acquire Bobette and then he told her how much the young woman wanted the children she had borne to have Bobette to love, too.  Aislinn asked a couple of questions, and then Daniel saw her rub her eyes and yawn.

“Do you want to take a nap, Ash?”  When the little girl nodded, Daniel carried her over to the bed that Chenoa usually slept in.  “Wanna sleep here?”

Another nod from the youngest Munchkin was accompanied by a yawn.  Daniel gave her a kiss and made sure she was settled in the bed.  Then, he started to take the stuffed animal and put it back in the rocker.

“Daddy?”

“What, Ash?”

“Bobo sleep here?”

Smiling, Daniel returned Bobette to Aislinn, who took the stuffed animal into her arms and hugged it.

“Dad home soon?”

“In a little while, Sweetie.”

“Miss Dad.”

“Me, too.”

A minute later, the young girl was asleep.  Daniel walked hurriedly out of the room and into the den.  He needed to get back downstairs.  He could hear noises that he was sure meant trouble, but he needed a moment.  He just hadn't expected that tender interruption to his crazy day.  He looked over at a photo of Kayla and the five babies on the wall.

“They remember,” the emotional father choked out.  “They love you, Kayla; we'll never let them forget; never.”

Daniel's emotional moment was interrupted when his nose detected something odd in the air.  Just as he turned towards the door, he heard a loud pop.  He took a big breath, wiped away the tears, and moved quickly downstairs, where he saw a trail of light smoke coming from the kitchen.  He ran, afraid something had caught on fire.

Just as the concerned parent entered the kitchen, the smoke alarm went off.  Seeing there wasn't a fire and afraid of scaring the younger children, he used a towel to move the smoke away from the detector.  He turned on the vent and opened the window to help air out the room.

Finally, when the smoke wasn't threatening the smoke detector any longer, Daniel finally focused on his son and their current surroundings.

“DAVID!  What's going on?”  Daniel looked at the mess that used to be the kitchen.  “When did the power come back on?”

As David answered, Daniel's nose sifted through the odors filling the kitchen.  It was a sickening combination of chocolate, peanut butter, roasted apples, and smoke.

~Where'd he get the food?  That's what I want to know.~

Daniel also became aware of the various sights and sounds that had returned to the home, from the music in Jennifer's room (currently playing at a reasonable decibel) to the lights that had flickered on in the living room.

“I don't know, but it was on when I began my experiments,” the boy answered.

“Experiments?  David, what did you do?”

Daniel surveyed the disaster.  The microwave was filthy; in fact, it was completely and utterly destroyed.  Remnants of food were everywhere, and so were fragments of various objects.

“Noa, give me that,” Daniel said, taking a warped light bulb from her.  He placed it on the counter and picked up the toddler, making sure there was no metal or glass residue in her hands.  He carried her into the living room and put her on the sofa.  “Stay here.”  As he was about to return to the kitchen, he saw Bijou and Katie by the door.  Quickly, he let them out.  It was still raining, and he hoped they wouldn't get too wet.  Finally, he returned to the kitchen where David was studying a marshmallow peep.  “Oh, gawd.”

“This is so cool, Daddy.  Mrs. Klein will love it.”

“Mrs. Klein?  Your science teacher?”

“Yeah.  I have real proof now for how the microwave affects things.  Aunt Sam had told me some stuff, and ...”

“Sam?  Aunt Sam?” Daniel questioned in utter disbelief.  ~I'll kill her.  Gawd, I sound like Jack.  You know what, Jackson?  Today, I don't care.~

“Yeah, look, Daddy.”

David began to rattle off his experiments, showing Daniel the results of each.  While Daniel had been lost in the sentiment of remembering Kayla with Aislinn, the budding scientist, with Chenoa as his assistant, had been conducting various tests to discover how different items would react if 'nuked' in the microwave.

“Nuked?” Daniel repeated, thinking that it was an odd word for David to use.  ~Probably heard it from Jack.~

“That's what Aunt Sam calls it.  Most of these were her ideas, but I added a couple of my own.”

“Sam's ... ideas,” Daniel sighed.  ~I'll let Jack kill her.~

Daniel listened as David walked him through the experiments, one by one.  It had begun with sliced grapes.

“What a show, Daddy!  You should have seen the plasma rising above them.”

Then the boy had put in a purple marshmallow peep.  Daniel mourned that peep.  It had been one of the few food items left in the house.  It now looked like a dried puddle of purple yuck.

“And then the CD.  I used an old one that only had one song on it, 'Because' ... something.”

Daniel's eyes widened, and his heart skipped a beat as he asked, “Be...Because You Loved Me?”

“That's it.”

Daniel turned away so that David wouldn't see the tears in his eyes.  The CD was the one with Jack singing their song, “Because you Loved Me.”  Given Jack's reluctance to sing, it was, or rather, it had been, one of Daniel's most treasured possessions.

“I love that CD,” Daniel said in a cracked voice, though the children hadn't detected that fact.

“Can't use it anymore, Daddy,” David said happily, oblivious to his father's distress.  “It was so cool.  Look!  It looks like burnt steel.”

Daniel turned around, swallowed hard, and tried his best not to let the sorrow within him make him say something he'd regret.

“I can see that, Son,” the defeated daddy said quietly as he sat down in a chair, not sure he wouldn't collapse if he didn't.

David showed off the bar of soap he had 'nuked' next.  The once flat bar now looked like 'The Blob' from the Steve McQueen movie.  Then, there was the tin foil, wrapped up into a ball.  Daniel wasn't sure he could stand to hear more, but there was definitely more to come.

“So I put in the light bulb, and it really glowed.  I studied it for a minute and then put it in again.  Wow, so cool.  I took it out and put in the can of tomato paste.  I ... guess I should have cleaned it up first, but, Daddy, the explosion was awesome!”

“Awesome,” Daniel echoed softly, his mind still on the loss of the CD he prized greatly.

“I put in the egg next.”

“Oh, is that what that is?” Daniel queried, seeing the layers of yellow on the bottom of the microwave.

“Now that was ... it was ... awesome!  I wondered what would happen if I combined some of the items.”

“Sam's idea?”

“No, my own,” David announced proudly.  “Everything I've read was about single items.  I wanted to see what would happen if I combined different elements.”

~Genius.~  Daniel listened, still in a bit of shock.  “What, uh, did you ... combine?”

“Two potatoes, two eggs, and I put the light bulb in with them.  I guess it was too much 'cause it seemed to overload.  It broke the glass, Daddy.”

“I can see that.  David, where did you get the food?”

Guiltily, David confessed, “I have a little stash in my room for when I get hungry at night.”

“Peanut butter?”

“In a baggie.”

Daniel looked upward, shaking his head.  Silently, he counted to twenty in German, just for variety, then he sighed and stood up.  He was grateful that the glass that had exploded had stayed inside the microwave or else his little genius and princess could have been hurt.  He couldn't ignore this fact, and knew a serious conversation needed to be had with the two, but at the moment, he didn't have the energy.

As Daniel cleaned up the broken glass, David told him about his other experiments, which had lasted only a few seconds each.  He had used apples, a vitamin, a pencil, and a rice krispy treat in addition to the items they'd already discussed.

With the glass disposed of, though the rest of the kitchen still looked like a mess, Daniel started to take David out of the room.  They were next to the counter when he heard another loud noise, this time from the oven.

“Oh, I forgot about the potatoes.  I wanted to do an experiment in the oven.”

Daniel turned off the oven, refusing to look at the inside.  He led David out of the room and put him on the sofa.

“Wait.  Where's Noa?  I told her to stay here.  Didn't I tell her to stay here?” the worried father questioned.

A blast from Jennifer's room made Daniel's head throb like it never had before.  Apparently, the reasonable decibels were not longer reasonable for the teenager.

After glaring at David and instructing him to stay put, Daniel made his way up to their eldest daughter's room and ordered, “Jennifer, put on your headphones if you have to listen to that stuff.”

“But my ears are all clogged up.”

“Let me see your English paper.”

“It's not done yet.”

“Jennifer, you are going to ...”

“DADDY!”

Another noise earned Daniel's attention.  He dreaded discovering what the cause of it could be.

“Oh, gawd, now what?  Jennifer, please.  I could really use some cooperation here,” Daniel begged and then hurried downstairs.  He felt like he'd jogged ten miles so far during the day, and it was far from over.  “David, what ... Noa, what are you doing?”

“Drying doggies,” Chenoa answered.

Two tiny woofs along with pleading eyes looked at Daniel.

“Girls,” Daniel sighed as he looked at the helpless beagles, both covered with toilet tissue.  Their tails were wrapped in a mound of white Charmin fluff, and Chenoa had packaged them to look like angelic Christmas gifts.  “Noa, are you drying Bijou and Katie with toilet tissue?”

“Tissue soft, Daddy.”

“I can't argue with that,” Daniel admitted.  He was about to unwrap the beagles when a loud cry was heard from upstairs, meaning the twins were up.  “David, please keep an eye on Jonny and Little Danny.  Noa, start unwrapping the girls,” Daniel pleaded as he ran up the stairs.  As soon as Daniel walked in, he saw Aislinn point towards the crib where Jenny was sitting quietly, but Ricky was crying loudly and seemingly looking for something.  “Ricky?”

“Blankie,” Aislinn said, having awoken from her nap due to the crying.

“What?”

“Ricky wants blankie.”

“Blankie,” Daniel said, looking all around.  “Where is it?”

Ricky had a favorite tan blanket that had pictures of different animals on it.  He  loved that blanket and always wanted it with him.  Daniel looked everywhere, but couldn't find it.  He picked Ricky up, but the baby kept crying.

“I can't find it.  Here, how about this one?” Daniel asked hopefully, though his son simply continued to cry.  “I know how you feel,” he responded, his voice drifting off into nothingness as he once again mourned the CD of Jack singing to him.

Another cry brought Daniel to the crisis at hand.  Suddenly, he remembered the laundry.  Putting his son back down, he hurried downstairs.  He glanced casually over towards the kitchen as he made his way into the garage, but as soon as he turned on the light, he stopped cold in his tracks.

~Did I see what I think I saw?~  The archaeologist backtracked into the dining area where he stared at Jonny and Little Danny.  Hesitantly, almost afraid of the answer, he asked, “Is that ... dog food?”  As they giggled, he took a closer look.  ~Gawd, it is.~  “Where did you get dog food from?”

“Hungry,” Little Danny explained succinctly.
 
“Yucky,” Jonny piped up, throwing a piece down on the floor.
 
Little Danny glared at Daniel, and spoke with attitude, “You make Bij 'n' Katie eat horr'ble food.”

“You ate dog food,” Daniel muttered to himself, after which he noticed the glares being directed at him.  “It's dog food, Son, and they like it.  We, however, are people, and we don't eat dog food.”  ~Geez, I sound like ... like ... like some dictator superpower.~

As Daniel took a step towards the children, he heard Ricky let out a particularly loud cry.  Quickly, he lifted up the remaining dog food, ignoring the pouts he was receiving from the two Munchkins, and then rushed to the garage to begin rapidly sorting through all the laundry.

~Dog food, gawd; and my namesake has attitude, and he's not even three years old yet, and Jack ... my CD ... gawd, get over it.  It's only a ... but it's not just ... gawd.~

Daniel sank down in front of the dryer, sitting on the cold floor of the garage.  He shook his head; then buried it in one of Jack's shirts.

~It's not replaceable, Jack.  It hurts ...~  Daniel banged his head a couple of times against the dryer and let a couple of tears fall.  He wiped them away with Jack's shirt, sniffled a couple of times, and then forced himself to continue his search.

Several minutes later, Daniel finally found the blanket, still in the washing machine.  It had been in the last load that he'd run.  With all the distractions, not to mention the power outage, he hadn't returned to put the last load in the dryer.

Setting the power to high, Daniel tossed in the blanket by itself and ran back into the house, where Ricky was screaming at the top of his lungs for his much beloved blanket.  Daniel continued to try and comfort him, but nothing worked, not even ice cream, not that they had any.

“It'll just be a few more min...utes.”  Daniel froze.  “Please, no.”  Sure enough, the power had just gone out again.  He hung his head as he tried, to no avail, to calm his son but it wasn't working.  “Come on, Ricky.  Give Daddy a break.”  He paused and looked over towards Aislinn to say something to her, but she was gone.  “Ash?  Aislinn?”

Sighing, Daniel put Ricky down in the crib.  Jenny seemed content enough, so he left the two together, the male twin still crying at the top of his lungs.  By the time, he hit the bottom of the stairs, he thought the power had come back on.  It had to have because Britney's 'music' was again filling the house.  Looking around, however, he could tell the power was still out.  A quick visit to Jennifer's room gave him his answer.

“Batteries!  Dad says always be prepared, so I'm using batteries.”

“Jennifer, you are in so much trouble, you can't believe it.  If you don't turn that off this second ...”

“What?” the teenager challenged.

Daniel's breathing was labored.  He'd just hit his breaking point.  His logic, patience, and 'cool' was gone.  “Just ... just ... *Just wait until your father gets home!*”  He turned and ran down the stairs, wondering when he had turned into such a pathetic picture of a man.  ~Wait until her father gets home?  I *am* her father.  Gawd.~

The young man began his search for the rest of the children, but quickly became distracted by tiny woofs.  “Oh, no.”  He looked over towards the fireplace.  Instead of unwrapping the two beagles, Chenoa had Bijou and Katie so wrapped up in Charmin that all you could see were their noses.  “Noa, stop.”

“Soft, Daddy, and warm.”

Daniel sighed and then turned towards the sound of laughter, after which he justifiably whined, “No, please, no.”

“It's all right, Daddy, I'm watching them,” David said with a grin.

~And you've been such a big help today, David.  Shut up, Jackson.  He's your son, and you love him.  It's ... just a bad day; that's what Jack would say; we're just ... just ... gawd.~

Daniel's mind stopped as he stared transfixed on the triplets.  All three Munchkins were outside, in the rain, in the middle of the lawn, running around, and having a great time.  Snapping out of his trance, he ran outside, trying to round up the children.  He chased them around the yard, each of the three laughing, certain they were playing a game, and then it happened.  As the three headed for the patio, Daniel slipped and fell, right in Katie's play yard.  He was a six-foot mud pie.

Lying on his back, looking up at the rain, Daniel succumbed.  He didn't move.

~It's nice here.  After all, I'm an archaeologist, and I've been in worse ... holes.  All in all, this is just ... peachy!~

====

Outside the house, Jack stepped out of the military car that had picked him up from the airport.  He was eager to be with his husband and children in their nest of domestic bliss.  He'd had a hard day, the only good thing being that the meeting had ended earlier than anticipated, which meant that he'd arrived home a few hours earlier than expected.

The general had called and left a message on Daniel's voice mail, totally unaware that his lover hadn't even touched his cell phone since the beagle scare had happened that morning.

Jack opened the front door and immediately heard a screaming baby upstairs, Britney blaring full blast, and lots of giggling coming from the patio door.

“Hey, Son!  What's so funny?”

“Dad!”  David ran to Jack, who picked him up, and answered, “Daddy's funny.”

“He is?” Jack questioned, looking around for his husband.

“Look!”

David pointed towards the patio door.  After putting the boy down, Jack walked over to it and stared out in utter disbelief.  His lover was outside, just lying in the mud.

“What's he doing out there?  Playing in the rain?” Jack questioned.  ~Without me?  I don't think so!  I've had a hard day; nothing went right; dang Brass had no sense of humor.  Besides, I'm starved ... and he's not allowed to play without me.~

The Air Force officer was about to go outside when he heard the Munchkins, one by one, cry out, “Dad!”

Jack went outside and greeted the wet, grubby triplets, asking, “Hey, you guys playing without me?” as he knelt down for hugs and kisses.

“Rain fun!” Jonny said.

Jack laughed, stood up, and walked over to Daniel, still thinking his lover was goofing off.

“Where's my dinner?  I thought we were going to have my favorite ...” Jack began, teasingly.

The older man's words were cut off by an angry sounding, “*I'm not your freakin' wife!  Fix your *own* dinner!*”

~Oops.  He's not playing,~ Jack thought, having realized his lover was definitely not goofing off.

After noticing the tense lines around his husband's eyes, Jack looked around and finally processed what he'd seen and heard since walking in the door.  He returned to where the triplets were still running around, having a fun time.

“Munchkins, inside,” Jack instructed, herding the triplets inside the house.  He remained on the patio porch, however, as he spoke, “David, keep them in the house, please.”  Then he looked over at the man on the ground and called out, “Danny, fun time excluded, are you okay?”

“I'm just ... PEACHY!”

The older man was about to go talk to his lover some more when he heard yet another one of their children.

“Hi, Dad,” Chenoa called out from her spot near the fireplace.

“Hey, Noooo...a.  Noa, are those ...”  Jack wasn't sure, but the big, white globs of Charmin by the fireplace were moving, and he could swear those were eyes sticking out.  Not only that, but the two globs somewhat resembled their beagles.  ~Nah, couldn't be, could it?~  “Bijou?  Katie?”

“Woof!” came the begging pleas, right on cue.

Chenoa giggled, and leaned over to hug the beagle globs, saying as she did so, “Bij and Katie dirty; clean now.”

“So I see,” Jack said, gulping.

The stunned man shook his head and turned back to walk outside.  He needed to make sure Daniel was okay before doing anything else, and he had become way too aware that things were not the norm in their household.  Of course, the crying baby and loud music should have been a dead giveaway, but Jack had been hungry, and, well, he had to be honest, he'd just finished hours of dealing with politicians, something that always put him in a foul mood.  He had been sure it would be his soulmate comforting him on this night and not the other way around.

Jack walked over to his spouse, who hadn't moved.  The rain was still falling.  Daniel was drenched, and Jack was getting wetter by the second.

“Danny?”

“Why did I listen to Catherine?  Why did I move to Colorado Springs?  Why did I ever unlock the Stargate?  Why'd I come back from Abydos?  Why'd I fall in love with you?  Why did I marry you?  And why, why, oh why, did I agree to have *eight* children?  I'm *out of my freakin' mind*!”

“Ah, Danny, Love, I'm home now.”

Daniel shifted, leaning his torso upwards as he rested on his elbows.  He looked at Jack with an expression of murder that Jack had never seen before in his husband.

“Good,” the archaeologist replied with an eerie calm.  “I'm glad you're home *because I resign*!”

“You what?” Jack asked, trying not to laugh too much at Daniel's melodramatic behavior.

“I resign from fatherhood.  They're all *yours*!”

Daniel lay back down, letting the rain beat down on him.  Suddenly, Bijou and Katie appeared, still wrapped in what was now soggy toilet tissue.  The two ran to the younger man.  Katie climbed atop him, lying down on his chest, while Bijou settled alongside his right arm, her head atop the arm, staring up at Jack.

“No, Bij!  Katie.  Wet,” Chenoa whined from the patio.

Jack turned and shouted, “David, keep everyone in the house, and where's Jennifer?”

Knowing Daniel wasn't happy with Jennifer and not wanting to be any part of his older sister getting into more trouble, David just shrugged, pulled Chenoa inside, and closed the patio door.

Skeptical of the non-answer, Jack nevertheless returned his attention to Daniel, saying, “You can't resign, Danny.”

“*Watch me!*”

“Daniel ...”

“DON'T 'DANIEL' ME, JACK.”  Daniel leaned back up, careful not to disturb the beagles too much.  He thought that at this point, they were probably ready to resign along with him.  “Do you want to know what's gone on around here today?”

Jack opened his mouth, but it was pointless.  Daniel began the catalog of his day.

“In no particular order, Jack, let me tell you what *your* children have done since you've been off ... playing with the Air Force.”

“Playing?  I'd hardly call ...”  Jack gulped.  Those were daggers coming from his husband's eyes.  “Sorry.  Continue.”

Letting his frustration out, Daniel expounded, “David decided to experiment with some secret stash of food of his.  He's destroyed the microwave.  Food and glass went everywhere.  I cleaned up the glass, but food is still all over the kitchen; we needed that food!  As you can see, Chenoa decided the girls need to be wrapped in toilet tissue, and now look at them!  Look at them, Jack!  Our beautiful beagles are ... are ...”

“Grrrrrr,” Bijou said.

“Yeah.  Exactly.  Jennifer refused to work on her homework, and the only thing she listened to was Britney, volume up full blast ... all freakin' day.  Britney, Jack!  She hasn't listened to Little Miss No Panties in over a year, but today, *Oops*, 'Oops' was all I heard -- all freakin' day.  Blondie she could listen to, but me?  All of a sudden I wasn't worth listening to.  Today of all days, she decided to rebel.  Teenagers.  I'm sending letters of condolences to every parent I know.”

“Danny, I'm sure it wasn't that bad, and ...”  Jack coughed, when the daggers got longer and threatened to jab him like a bull.  “Sorry ... again.  Go on.”

“The Munchkins painted the twins and then the wall.  They got paint all over everything.  I'm not even sure if the bedding can be cleaned or not, but it's not like I had a chance to try since the power went out, not that I had time to do more washing.  I'm not even done with the regular loads.  Gawd, I hate the laundry.  You do the laundry.”  The exhausted younger man looked off to the side for a minute as he spoke, practically talking to himself.  “Laundry should be outlawed.  The newly redesigned bedding is still upstairs.  Maybe you can sell as pop art or something.  I've certainly seen worse at some of those museums.  Where was I?  Oh, yeah.  I can hear him from here.

“Ricky is screaming, in case you haven't noticed, and, if you haven't, you need your hearing checked.  He's upset, and I don't blame him, because I washed his favorite blanket, by accident, of course, but it's still wet because I wasn't able to finish drying all the clothes, and you know why?  Because then the power went out, not once, but twice, but not in time to save the microwave.”

Daniel was barely pausing to breathe as his rant continued.

“Ash surprised me because she called me Mommy, only she wasn't really meaning me, she was just thinking about Bobette, and Kayla, and, geez, I wasn't prepared for that and ...” Daniel paused, his outburst temporarily paused from a wave of sentimentality.  “Anyway, we have no food.  What David didn't dissect, they all took care of during the great Loopsy Doopsy rebellion.”

“Loopsy ...”

“Shut up, Jack.  They demanded your friggin' freakin' ...”

“Friggin' and freakin' ... I'll shut up, ” Jack said, seeing another death glare directed at him.

“Jennifer was home sick, but was totally useless.  All I asked her to do was stay in her room and work on her English paper, but that was too much.  She hasn't touched her paper, and it's due tomorrow, Jack, but she's healthy enough to dance around, talk on the phone, and play Britney like it was ... I don't know, but it didn't help my headache.  Teenage rebellion.  Did I mention I'm sending out letters of condolences?”

“You might have mentioned it.”  Seeing the squinty eyes and spear-like daggers, Jack asked innocently, “What?  You asked me a question.”  Upon seeing the 'you're sleeping on the couch' look, he wisely retorted, “Right, I'll shut up.”

“And David, he had an in-service day; I mean the teachers did, so he was home, and Mrs. Payne called.  Her daughter was sick, so Chenoa was home all day, too; and I'm tired, and I have a headache, and, understand this, Jack ... I RESIGN ... R - E - S - I - G - N.  Resign, resign, resign.  *Now leave me alone!*”

Daniel plopped back down, moving so quickly that he said “Ow” from the hard landing, though he still didn't move.  He considered going inside the house, but he was still too upset.  He didn't want to have to talk to the children, or risk saying something he didn't mean.  He loved them, but right now, he didn't want to be near them, at least not until he was in better control of his emotions.

Plus, the archaeologist had always had a special affinity for their backyard.  Oftentimes, he'd found peace while sitting in the middle of the lawn, just staring at the house he loved.  He knew it was extreme to lay there in the rain, but all things considered, that's what he wanted to do, and, for once during this crazy day, he was going to do what he wanted to do, even if he caught a cold as a result.

“Daniel, it's raining.  You know you're being silly.”  Jack saw the look of the death that was once again directed his way.  “I meant silly to stay out here in the rain, not for ... oh, you know what I mean.  Danny, come inside and ...”

“No!  Pay attention, Jack.  You're a friggin' genius, after all.  You're probably a physicist and just haven't told me yet.  *Use your listening ears, Jack, and shut up.  This is all your fault, and I resign.*”

Daniel gently scooted Katie off of him so she was lying against her mother and rolled over onto his right side, his left arm snuggling against Bijou.

“But, Angel ...”

“NO!  N - O, NO!!  Don't you get it?  You need more?  Fine, how about ...”

Like a lamb about to be slaughtered, Jack listened some more as Daniel filled in even more blanks about the crazy day, including how Jenny had deleted his research notes and how David had destroyed their CD.  There were tears in his eyes as he recalled the lost song, and through glistening eyes, he glared up at Jack.

“*No more.  I'm done.  Over and out.  Get a ... get a freakin' maid and nanny for *your* children.  I ... quit!*”

Again, Daniel shifted and ignored his husband's next couple of calls.

Silently, Jack chuckled, but then he sighed.  Daniel had had a day, that was for sure, and it was far worse than his day of listening to idiots in a warm, safe, and full-of-food boardroom had been.  Now, as he looked down at his distraught husband, he knew it was up to him to fix it, if he could.

~Fixing things is my specialty, Dannyboy.  You'll see!~

====

Once inside the house, Jack decided to tackle things one at a time.  He heard Britney blaring away, and he could hear Ricky, too.  He decided to work in chronological order.

~Eldest first, except I'd better check on the little guy first.~

After a quick attempt at silencing Ricky, Jack gave up and proceeded with his original plan to go from oldest to youngest.

Walking into Jennifer's room, he headed straight for the stereo.  He hit stop, pulled out the stereo cord, and removed the batteries.

“Dad, I didn't know you were home.”

“I didn't think you did.  Of course, how would you know with the music playing so loudly?”

“Not you, too, and what are you doing with those?” the teenager asked in surprise.

“Jennifer, listen to me.  I don't know why you picked today to give Daddy a hard time, but this was the wrong day.  He didn't ask you to do a darn thing but work on your paper for a little while.  You knew I was gone, that Daddy had all your brothers and sisters at home, and that he had a headache.  Where was your consideration?”  Jack sighed, shaking his head as he looked down at the items he held in his hands.  “You know Danny gets those headaches sometimes, and they're murder, but instead of helping, wearing your headphones, or just keeping the volume down, you decided to rebel, and don't stand there and try to tell me this was just a normal day.  Jen, Britney?  I can count on my hand the number of times you've listened to her since she made some bad choices in her life.  You were acting up, and you friggin' well know it.  Well, Miss, that comes at a cost.  No Miley, Alicia, Beyonce, Britney, or whoever it is you listen to these days -- no music, no nothing -- for two weeks.  You're grounded.”

“But, Dad ...”

“But, Dad, nothing.  One more word, Jennifer, and it will be three weeks.  Now, I want you to go finish the laundry.  There's a pile of clothes there that needs to be folded and put away.”  When Jennifer started to whine, Jack raised his finger and cautioned, “Ut.  Ut!  One word, and I'll do it.”

An audible sigh was all Jack heard as Jennifer backed down.

“Good decision.  Ricky's blanket is in the ... well, it's in the laundry.  I don't remember if Daddy said it was in the washer or the dryer.  Whichever it is, I want you to get that washed and dried as soon as possible, and call me when it's ready.  The Munchkins had fun today, too; they fingerpainted the twins' clothes and bedding.  You'll find those items in the nursery.  I want you to wash and dry them, too.  You are to fold and put all the clothes away, and when you're done with that, I want to see your nose in the schoolbooks.  You *will* finish that English paper tonight.  Do you understand me?”

“Yes, Dad.”

“Good answer.  Now move!”  Seeing her hesitation, Jack barked, “Move!”

Jennifer startled, whined “Grizzly bear,” and then headed for the nursery to pick up the painted items.

“Okay, who's next?  Oh, yes, the little genius.”  Jack went to the living room and pulled David into the kitchen.  He looked around, remembering Daniel's description of the mess.  Once he was satisfied that his lover hadn't missed any glass, he gave the overly eager budding scientist his instructions.  “David, I'm glad you want to learn and experiment, but there will be no experiments conducted in this house unless Daddy or I approve them first.  Understood?”

David nodded and added, “It's just I told him about them this morning, and then I talked to Aunt Sam, and she had some cool ideas and ...”

“Whoa, you talked to Carter?” Jack asked in surprise.  Seeing the boy's nod, he questioned, “Did you ask Daddy if you could call her?”

“No,” David answered quietly, shaking his head and knowing he wasn't allowed to make phone calls without permission.  His head was bowed, but he kept raising his eyes to look at Jack as he said, “I'm sorry.”

Ignoring the apology for now, Jack asked, “And did Aunt Sam suggest you try these experiments of yours?”

“Well, yes and no.  I mean, we talked about ideas, and she told me about the neat things you could do in a microwave and ...”

~Note to self: kill Carter,~ Jack groaned inwardly.  “David, did Daddy tell you that you could destroy the microwave?”

“No, not exactly.”

“Not exactly?”

“He got distracted.”

“I'm sure he did.  Son, I'm glad you're sorry, but what you did could have resulted in you or your sister being hurt.  How would you have felt if Noa had ended up with a piece of glass in her eye?”

“No, Dad, that ...”

“Did you see the glass that your daddy cleaned up earlier?  You're lucky the glass exploded inside the microwave and didn't catapult outside.  Anyone in the kitchen could have been seriously hurt, and that means you or your sister.  I want you to think about that.”

“Noa,” David said, almost stunned as the truth of his father's words sunk in.  He followed that up with a quick, but contrite, “Yes, Dad.”

“... while you're cleaning the kitchen,” the silver-haired man concluded.

“What?”

“If you're old enough to mess it up, you're old enough to clean it.”  Jack got out the necessary cleaning products and set things up for the youngster.  He knew it was pointless to clean the now-destroyed microwave, but there was a lesson to be learned.  “Clean this mess up.  I want all of this thrown into this garbage bag. Clean out the microwave, wash the counter, wipe down the floor, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.”

“And the oven?”

“Oven?”

Meekly, David opened the door to reveal the clumps of mashed potatoes that now decorated the walls of the oven.

“And the oven,” Jack stated firmly, shaking his head.  He started to walk out, but as he got to the counter, he turned and lowered the boom on the unsuspecting child.  “David, we'll have to get a new microwave.  *You'll* be paying for that out of your allowance.”

“My allowance?” David questioned in total shock.

Jack raised his eyebrows in warning, willing to come down even harder if the boy complained too much.

“But, Dad, they're expensive.  With my allowance, it'll take me forever to pay for a new one.”

Pointedly, the man responded, “Then maybe next time you'll stop and think about what you're doing before you do it.”

“Do I have to buy a new CD, too?”

David held up the now-baked CD.  Jack sighed, biting his lip as he stood, debating just how much he wanted to say.  He looked deep into the youngster's eyes when he did finally answer the question.

“You can't, David.  It didn't come from a store; it's something I made especially for Danny after we were married.  It's special, and it can't be replaced.”  Jack saw David blink a few times and hoped the boy would think about this for a long time to come.  Forcefully, he continued, “You are *never* to take anything for an experiment without asking first.  You're grounded, Son.  Two weeks.”

“Aw, crap,” David said, kicking his right foot against the kitchen floor.

“David, in the first place, you don't say 'crap', and ...”

“But you do, Dad.”

Jack paused.  He had done a great job of not swearing in front of the children, but he did use 'crap' as a cover-up for something more crass.  

“Okay, I'll work on that, but simply doing something because someone else does it, even if it is your daddy and I, is not a good reason for doing it yourself.”

“I know.”

“Good,” Jack responded.  Then he sighed, “As for the CD, that was Daddy's favorite.  Do you understand that it's something I ... never mind.”

Jack took a deep breath, about to lose his composure, and he didn't want to do that.  He wanted David to learn and to understand.  As he stood staring at the young boy, he decided that he would share a secret with his son, one that not even Daniel knew.

“David, how'd you like to know a little secret?”

“Is it a good secret?”

“That's the best kind to have,” Jack opined, adding, “but you have to promise not to tell Daddy, okay?”

“I promise,” David replied.

Jack leaned down and whispered into David's ear for a minute.  When he stood up, the boy had a huge smile on his face.

“Remember, not a word to anyone,” Jack told his son.

“I promise, Dad,” the boy repeated.

Jack sighed and grew very serious again as he spoke, “Son, you need to remember you really hurt Daddy today.  I know that you didn't mean to, but by fudging the rules and letting your enthusiasm take over your common sense, you did.”

“I’m really sorry, Dad.”

“I know you are.”  Jack tried to drive home his point one more time.  “How would you like it if we took that rock collection of yours to decorate Katie's play yard?”

“I wouldn't.”

“I didn't think so.  Now, clean.”

“Yes, Sir.”

“Sir?”

“General,” David teased lightly.

“David, trust me, you haven't seen me be the general, and you *so* do *not* want to see me as the general.  Understood?”

David saw the look of warning in his older father's eyes and nodded, and then began his cleaning chores while muttering lightly, “It'll take me forever to pay it off.”

“Well, we'll see about some extra chores.  Maybe Carter needs some help with her house ... if I don't shoot her first.”

At that moment, the house whizzed as the power was restored yet again.

It made such a dramatic impact, the loud banging of appliances and other items turning on again, that David asked, “Dad, you wouldn't shoot Aunt Sam, would you?”

“Of course not, she's family.  I only threaten to shoot her,” Jack responded with a smile as he ruffled the boy's shaggy hair.

“Oh, okay.”

With a chuckle, Jack headed for the next child in line -- Chenoa.  He detoured just long enough to go upstairs and grab a couple of towels.  Then he stuck his head out the patio door and called Bijou and Katie into the house.  His lover hadn't moved, apparently content to stay in his bed of mud out in the play yard.

Jack led the beagles, who still had soggy, and now muddied, pieces of toilet tissue stuck to their coats, to the fireplace where Chenoa sat.  She was seated Indian-style, her torso hunched forward with her chin in her hands, which rested on her knees.  She had been sulking, feeling ignored by all the activity going on inside the house that wasn't including her.  Even worse, the two dogs had run outside earlier and ruined her attempt to keep them dry and warm.

“Noa, we need to have a little talk.”

“All dirty again,” Chenoa sighed dejectedly as she looked at Bijou and Katie.

“Noa.”

“Yes, Dad?”

“Toilet tissue is only for the bathroom.  When the girls get wet or dirty, we have special doggie towels just for them.  These are a couple of them.  See how soft they are.”

Chenoa took them and smiled while exclaiming, “Soft!”

“Very.  Now let's get the girls out of the toilet tissue and dry them off, okay?”

“Okay.”

“And where does toilet tissue belong?” the father quizzed.

“Bathroom.”

“That's my girl.”

Jack helped Chenoa remove all the wet and dirty toilet tissue and then he started to dry Bijou.

“Noa dry Bij,” the little girl insisted.

“Okay, I'll take care of Katie.”

“No!  Noa mess.  Noa clean.”

~She must have heard me talking to David.  Good.~  “Okay,” Jack said with a smile.  “Bij, Katie, you stay here with Noa, and let her dry you two off, okay?”

“Woof!” came the response from Bijou.

“What about you?” Jack asked Katie, but then he saw her roll over.  “Oh, sorry, missed a piece.”

“Woof!” Katie said, pleased to have all of the tissue removed.

“Space M'nkey?”

“What?” Jack asked in surprise.  He saw the toddler point to the wet stuffed animal still sitting on the counter where Daniel had placed it earlier.  He shook his head, thinking, ~Wonder what happened to him?  Danny left his little adventure out of the tale.~  Calmly, he answered, “I'll dry him out with a blow dryer or something; he'll be okay.  Just remember, Noa, not to play with Dad and Daddy's things, okay?”

“Play my toys.”

“Right,” Jack concurred happily.  He smiled and leaned forward to give his daughter a kiss.  Then he stood and carried the toilet tissue into the kitchen, tossing it in the garbage bag.  “How's it coming, David?”

“I hate to clean.”

“Me, too.  Looks like you're doing a good job, though.  Keep it up,” the father praised.  He exited the kitchen and stopped by the buffet, where he picked up the phone and made a call.  ~Time to get things in motion.~

“Hello.”

“Carter, you talk too much,” Jack stated.

“Sir?”

“My son blew up our microwave.”

“Holy Hannah!” Sam exclaimed, sitting down onto her sofa in shock.  “But I told him to talk to Daniel before he tried anything.”

“Believe me, he will ... next time.  Anyway, you and Fraiser still having that girls' night thing you mentioned the other day?”

“Um, yes, Sir.  Janet's here.”

“Good, good,” Jack smirked over the phone, causing Sam to gulp.

“Why?”

“I need you to take the kids for the night,” the general stated in a tone that was much more of an order than a request.

“Which ones?”

“Jen.”

“Oh, that would be ...”

“And David and Noa.”

“Oh, the Mouseketeers.  Are the babies ...” Sam began.

“And the Munchkins ...” Jack continued.

“Sir?” Sam asked, her eyes widening as she sank back against her sofa and looked at Janet in mock fear.

“And the twins.”

“ALL OF THEM?”  Sam hadn't meant to scream; it was a natural reaction to being asked to baby-sit eight children on no notice.

“It's worth chocolate,” Jack said, alluringly, switching from his command tone to one of bribery.

“How much?” Sam asked, her love for chocolate being almost as strong as Daniel's.

“Two pounds.”

“Two pounds a month for a year,” Sam countered.

“I thought you loved the brood.”

“I do, but ...”

Sam stopped talking and started humming the theme song to the television series, 'Eight is Enough'.

“Deal.  When can you be here?” Jack asked.

“An hour?”

“Bring both cars,” Jack stated.  “You'll need them.”

“Yes, Sir.”

“And, Carter?  Don't take any guff from them tonight.  I mean it.  They are to be on their best behavior, or I want to hear about it.”

“Yes, Sir.”  Sam hung up the phone and looked at Janet while speaking, “I don't know what the brood did, Janet, but I can't wait to hear about it!”

Laughing, the two friends prepared to become babysitters for the night.

====

“Hey, you're not supposed to squirt the old man,” Jack teased as he gave the three Munchkins a quick bath.

Jack dressed the toddlers and sat them on the bed in the nursery while he tended to the twins.  Then he put them all downstairs in ToddlerTown, the large playpen-like structure that he had built to help keep the children safe.

By now, Jennifer had finished the washing and returned Ricky's blanket to him.  She was almost done putting away the laundry when Jack joined her in the garage a few minutes later.

“Jen, everyone is spending the night with Sam and Janet.”

“But, Dad, I still have my English paper to work on.”

“You can work on it at Carter's.  Jennifer, I expect you to make sure that all the kids behave.”

“Dad ...”

“Jen, I've about had it.  I'm not sure what's gotten into you today, and if you want to discuss it in a day or two, I'll be perfectly happy to listen, but tonight I have to fix the mess you all made.”

“Mess?  All I did was ...”

“Jennifer, be quiet,” Jack said sternly.  “Listen to me, Daddy doesn't ask a lot of you.  He doesn't ask a lot of anyone, and do you know why?”

“Foster homes, I think.”

“You think?  One day, Jen, you ask him about it.  Now I realize you've had some hard times, but you know what?  You, David, and Chenoa are darn lucky.  You spent a few lousy months in a shelter, and it wasn't a bad shelter.  It was Molly's, and she had the best.  Daniel was eight years old when he watched his parents die; right in front of him.  It was the last moment of family he knew for decades.  He went from being loved and cherished to being nothing.  Do you know that after the accident everyone ignored him?”

“Ignored him?  What do you mean?”

“The museum curators, the police, the people working on the coverstone -- all of them ignored him.  He sat for hours up against a wall, watching his parents lying in front him, dead and bloodied; and then finally someone realized who he was, and he was taken away.  He never saw his parents again.  He didn't even get to go to the funeral.  Geez, Jen, for years he didn't even know where his parents had been buried.

“His own grandfather didn't want him, but wouldn't give up his legal rights.  So, the result was that as a young child, and then as a teenager, Daddy was shuffled around from foster home to foster home.

“And let's talk about abuse.  Daniel could be the poster boy.  All he had were his books.  Childhood ended for him the moment that coverstone crushed the life out of his parents.  He learned to go along and not argue, to do what he was told and not cause any trouble, and still they ...”

Jack looked away, emotion about to consume him.  Jennifer was reeling from his words.

“Jen, Daddy's past is a nightmare.  It took years for me to convince him that he had a right to ask for anything, and all he asked of you today was to turn the volume down.  Why, Jen?  Why was that so difficult for you to do?”  Shaking his head, Jack stood and walked to the door.  He looked back at his daughter and stated, “I love you, Jen, but I have to admit, today, I'm disappointed.  I know we ask a lot of you, but when we adopted you, Daddy and I decided that as much as possible, we wanted you to be a normal teenager.  You are, and that's good.  I just thought ... Never mind.  Take what you need so you can do your homework at Carter's.  Remember, no music, no nothing for two weeks.”

Jack walked out, leaving a shocked and saddened Jennifer behind.  She felt like a heel.  She'd known her younger father hadn't had the best childhood, but she'd never imagined it had been as bad as that.

====

Jack took a deep breath.  It had been almost forty minutes, and Daniel still hadn't moved.  He walked outside, again getting wet.

“Danny, come inside; you're going to get sick.”

“I don't freakin' care!” Daniel exclaimed, though it was softer and more vulnerable in tone than his earlier comments.

~Meltdown.  It's okay, Danny.  I'm here now; I understand,~ Jack thought.  “I'll be right back.”

“Do whatever you want,” Daniel said, another airing of his vulnerability with the tininess of his voice.

Reluctantly, Jack went back into the house and packed bags for all the children.

====

Not quite an hour later, Jack was glad when Sam and Janet finally arrived. He lined all the children up and gave them their orders.

“Listen up.  You are to be on your *best* behavior tonight.  Any bad reports will be dealt with *severely*.”

“The general addresses the troops,” David whined, but then he saw the scowl on Jack's face.  “Sorry, just trying to ease the tension.”

“Tonight, tension is good,” Jack replied.  With a sigh, he continued, “Listen, you rascals.  I love you all, and Daddy loves you to pieces, too, but all of you took advantage of him today, and you know it, too.  He's had a hard day, and I plan on doing a bit of pampering tonight.  Then ...”

“It's my fault,” Jennifer said.

“No, it's mine,” David admitted.

“Me.  No tissue on doggies,” Chenoa sighed sadly, a frown on her face.

“Daddy sad?” Aislinn sniffled, wiping her eyes.

“Aw, Sweetheart,” Jack said, picking up Aislinn.  “You made Daddy happy today.”

“Happy?”

“Yeah, you talked about Bobo.”

“Bobo and Mommy,” Aislinn corrected.

“Right, and that made Daddy happy.”

When Aislinn smiled, Jack gave her a kiss and put her down, while looking at Sam and stating, “Okay, Carter, they're all yours, but just for the night.  We want them back tomorrow.”

Jack saw the smiles on the children's faces, and returned the smile; then, he walked over to the patio door for a second to check on Daniel.  He hated to send their brood off without Daniel saying good-bye to them, but his lover was still 'being one' with the play yard.

“Did Daniel have a bad day, Sir?” Sam asked.

“Apparently.”

“Dad, sorry Daddy?” Little Danny asked.

~Think, O'Neill.~  It took the man a minute to interpret his son's emotional plea, but then Jack smiled, knowing that Little Danny was asking if he could go and tell Daniel that he was sorry.  He knelt down in front of his children and answered, “Tomorrow, but right now, I want you to go with Carter and ...”

“Dad, why don't you call Aunt Sam, 'Sam'?” Jennifer asked.

Jack shook his head and said, “Old habits, Jen.  Ca...Sam is on my team. I'm the leader; that's how things are done ... there.”

“But Aunt Sam is family,” David said.

When Janet giggled from her spot beside Sam, Jack gave her a funny look; then looked back at his children.

Nodding, Jack agreed, “Yes, she is.  So's that crazy dynamo over there.  You all remember what I said -- best behavior, or there'll be a price to pay.  Tomorrow, we'll talk about today some more.”

“Yes, Dad,” rang out from several of the young voices.

“Good.”  Jack stood and moved towards the overnight bags.  He whispered to Sam, “Carter, make sure they know we love them; it's just, it was one of those days.  If you can cover for us tonight, we'll take it from there.”

“Don't worry, Sir.  We'll take care of the brood tonight; you take care of Daniel.”

“Thanks ... Sam.”

“What about the girls?” the blonde asked, glancing over at the two beagles.

Jack smiled.  He walked over to Bijou and Katie and knelt down, unsure whether to have them stay or go.

“Hey, you two.  I think Danny needs a little retreat.  You know him; what do you think.  Should you go with the brood, or stick around?”

Bijou ran to the patio door and looked out.  She barked at Katie, who joined her.  Jack and Sam exchanged a look and a shrug, and then the two dogs ran to their beanbag and lay down.

“You think you should stay?”

“Woof, wooooooof, woooof, woof!” was the answer.

“I think that's a 'yes', Sir.”

“Me, too.  Okay, they stay.”

Jack hugged all the children and helped them into Janet's and Sam's vehicles.

“Dad, call later?” Chenoa asked.

Jack smiled sweetly as he picked Chenoa up, responding, “Yes.  If we forget, you remind Aunt Sam.”  He settled her into the car seat and walked over to the blonde.  “Sam, I'm not exactly sure of the schedule tonight, but if I get sidetracked, make sure you call before Noa goes to sleep.”

“Okay,” Sam agreed, a curiosity in her tone.

Jack sighed and explained, “It has to do with her birth parents, the Morgans.  She needs to hear Danny's voice tonight; it's important.”

“I understand.  If I don't hear from you before she goes to bed, I'll call.”

“Thanks.”

====

Jack spent the next twenty minutes making things as perfect as he could.  He worried about Daniel out in the falling rain, but the younger man had ignored his pleas to come inside the house.  When everything was set, he again walked outside only this time he reached down and took his lover's hands.

“It's time, Angel,” Jack said a she pulled his lover up to a standing position.  “I love you.”

“I had a bad day,” the vulnerable archaeologist stated.

“I know,” Jack acknowledged, leaning forward for a tiny kiss.  “Let's go inside.”

“No, just ...”

Jack brought Daniel into a warm embrace, holding him securely.  For a couple of minutes, they stood, the rain beating down on their bodies.

“You're going to get sick, Danny.  It's time to go inside.”

Jack led his lover inside.  He wondered if Daniel even noticed the house was clean now, or at least, less of a disaster area than earlier.  They walked upstairs to their master bedroom and then into the bathroom.

“Oh, Jack.  It's beautiful,” Daniel sighed almost peacefully when he saw the lit candles and the mound of bubbles that topped their bathtub.

“Time to clean up, and then we snuggle.”

“I like snuggling,” Daniel responded.

“Me, too.”

====

A bit later, the soulmates were contentedly in their positions inside their large tub.  Daniel leaned back against his husband, who had his arms around his lover, gently caressing.  Daniel's eyes were closed.  He was serenely lost in their nation of two, and all he wanted to feel were Jack's hands roaming his body.

“Feels so good.”

“Yes, you do.”

Daniel chuckled, “I mean you.”

“It's mutual then.”

“Mutual,” Daniel agreed.

Time passed as the lovers enjoyed their time in the tub.  It was something they loved to do and was some of their more intimate time together nowadays.  Jack had outdone himself on short notice, too.  Not only were the candles lit, but he had brought in the mood music machine from the den.  He'd also had two Godiva chocolates waiting for his lover.  He always kept a couple of the sweets hidden away for emergencies such as this.

“I love them, so much,” Daniel said suddenly.

“I know, and so do they.”

“It's just ...”

“You did good, Angel; it only took three years for you to go crazy with eight kids.  That has to be a record,” Jack boasted.

“We haven't had all eight for three years.”

“Technicality,” Jack said softly, kissing his lover's shoulder.

“Maybe I just lost my mind; maybe I shouldn't be a father; maybe ...”

“Daniel, you had a bad day.  Every parent has one sooner or later.”

“You haven't.”

“You know why?” the older man challenged.

“Why?”

“You, because you keep me grounded, and because you make sure I don't go crazy.”

“I don't know what you mean,” Daniel replied, confused by the comment.

“Yes, you do.  Remember a few weeks ago when I was a little short in temper with Jennifer about her friends?  It was the same day that Jenny wouldn't stop crying, and the Munchkins were clinging to me like there was no tomorrow.”

“I remember, but I didn't do anything.”

“You sent me flying.  Remember, Love?  You told me to go flying for an hour or two, and I did.  When I came home, I was ready to face the craziness.  I'll tell you another time, a couple of months ago.  I was angry with myself because I couldn't figure out how to work that survey equipment, and I kept getting the terminology wrong.  David walked into the study needing help, and I just about snapped his head off.  Then Chenoa wanted to have a tea party, and I just thought I might throw the teapot against the wall.  Remember?”

“Yes.”

“Good,” Jack acknowledged.  “Then you remember that on that day you had me take the girls for a walk, a long walk, and I did.  We went to the park and played. By the time I got back, I was sane again.  You saved me, Angel.  You see the signs, and before I can dig myself into some hole I can't get out of, you figure out some way to keep me safe.”

“You're just trying to make me feel better.”

“Of course, I am, but it's also the truth.”  Jack kissed the side of Daniel's head and said, “You protect me, and I just wish I had been here to do the same for you today.”

“I was a horrible parent today.”

“Danny ...” Jack sighed before continuing.  “You know what?  Okay, today wasn't your best day, but you've had a horrible headache all day, right?”

“That's no excuse.”

“Give yourself a break, Angel.  No parent is perfect, not even us.”

Daniel chuckled, “Imagine that; we're not perfect.”

“Maybe next year,” Jack teased.  “Angel, look, Jen is going through something.  I'm not sure what, but she's been a little testy the last month or two.”

“She's just growing up; testing the waters a little.”  Daniel sighed, “That's why she played Britney.  It was her 'bad girl' music.”

“Sounds about right,” Jack agreed.  “She thinks she knows everything, but I think there's something else.  In time, she'll tell us, but until she does, we need to keep a tight rein.”

“She wouldn't listen, and, gawd, Jack, my head hurt, and I just couldn't deal with her today, not with everything else going on.”

“How's your headache now?”

“A dull presence.  I'm better now; you're here.”

“I'll always be here.  I love you.”

“I love you, too, but I'm their father, too, Jack.  They need me to be strong, to protect them, and ...”

“It's only one day, Danny; just one.”

“You wouldn't believe what I told Jen,” the younger man said.

Jack laughed, “She told me.  'Wait until your father gets home.'  Good line, Love.”

“At the time, it seemed the thing to say.”

Jack gently squeezed Daniel to him while placing another kiss on his right shoulder at the same time; then he informed, “I grounded her, two weeks, and no music or TV privileges.”

“Ouch.”

“You disagree?” the older man asked.

“No, she was ... no, I don't disagree.  What about David?  Jack, he destroyed the microwave, but I don't care about that.  Noa was right there.  Both of them could have been hurt.  I'd die if something happened to them.”

“I tried explaining that to him, and we'll talk to him some more tomorrow.  I grounded him, too, and I told him he's paying for the microwave.”

“Jack, we can't do that.  It'll take him a year to save enough.”

“Chores.  We'll let him work it off, and maybe help Carter or the Doc out some, too.  He can earn it that way, but, Danny, if we don't, he won't learn.  Look, I want to encourage him to be curious and use that brain of his, but he needs to think first, and he didn't do that today.”

“The CD.”

Jack reached over and hit 'play' on the CD player that he had also brought in with him.

Daniel blinked as he processed the sound in his mind.  In total shock, he turned around and looked at his husband.

“It's you.  It's ... our song ... it's ... it's ... it can't be.”  With tears running down his face, Daniel had to ask.  “Jack … how?  David destroyed it.”

“A few months ago I walked into the living room just in time to stop Noa from writing on a CD with a crayon.  I realized that it would be a good idea to have backups of our favorite CDs, just in case.  Love …”

The rest of Jack’s sentence was cut off as Daniel deeply kissed his husband.  Their kisses continued for several minutes, long after the song had ended.  Eventually, Jack continued with what he was saying.

“Angel, I know how much you love this CD.  You know me and computers -- I don't know how to do this stuff, so I gave it to Carter and asked her to make a few copies.  There are four more copies in the gun cabinet in the den.”  Jack saw the question in Daniel’s eyes and answered before he could ask.  “I wanted to make sure that the kids wouldn't be able to get to them, and that is absolutely the safest place for anything in this house.”

The older man wiped away the tears that were again leaking out of Daniel's eyes.

“I love you, Jack, so much.”

“Love you, too, Danny, forever and always.”

“Forever and always,” Daniel echoed.

The couple shared a few more kisses and then settled back to snuggle some more in the warm bubble bath.

“I don't think we have to worry about the TP princess,” Jack mused.

“Poor Bij and Katie,” Daniel chuckled lightly.

“She meant well.”

“I know.  She wanted them to be dry and warm.”

“And soft,” Jack said.

“And soft,” Daniel repeated.  “I love them.  I really do, and I don't resign.”

“We're going to turn into prunes soon.  Wanna snuggle by the fire?  It's a good night for it.”

“I'd like that,” the younger man replied.

“Let's dry off; oh, and we need to call the Mouseketeers.”

“Mouseke...”  Suddenly, Daniel remembered.  Alarmed, he said, “I didn't say goodnight to them.”

“That's why we're going to call.”

“That's my genius.”

“Hey, you're stealing my lines again,” Jack chuckled.

====

“Babe, we just don't get to do this very much anymore.”

The fire raged in the fireplace, and Jack looked down at his beautiful lover and kissed him.  His hand caressed his cheek.

“I love you, Danny.”

“I love you, too.”

“You know what this day reminds me of?” Daniel asked.

~Sure do.~  Jack smiled.  It was a day he knew neither of them would forget, and he imagined this one would be hard to forget as well.  “A few years back when everything in the world that could go wrong, did.”

“Yeah,” Daniel said with a smile.

Jack laughed, “Do you want me to buy you a new car again?”

“No,” the younger man chuckled.  “Nothing could ever replace my Silver Fox, but how about a second washing machine and dryer?  Do you know how long it takes to do the laundry these days?”

“Hours.”

“Hours,” Daniel repeated softly and then kissed his Heart again.

“Angel, how are you feeling?”

Daniel knew what Jack was asking, and he wanted it, too, desperately.

“Much better; definitely better.”

Jack kissed his husband tenderly, while Daniel's hands caressing the older man's back at the same time.  It was a long kiss that began with a nibbling of Daniel's lower lip and continued with their tongues dancing in each other's mouth. Their heads turned as their kiss deepened, and they reached to explore the other further.

Daniel's hands slid down Jack's back, pushing down the sweatpants Jack wore.  He rubbed his lover's buttocks, pushing Jack to him gently.

There was a pause as Jack's hand moved downward along Daniel's torso.  Jack took hold of one of Daniel's hands and brought it to his mouth.  His eyes locked onto Daniel's, he kissed the center of palm.  It was a slow touching of his lips to Daniel's skin.  His eyes closed as he took in the wonder of his lover's being.  For a moment, the older man was overwhelmed with the essence of the younger.

“Hey,” Daniel said softly, moving both hands to hold Jack's face.  “I love you.”

“And I'm so thankful for you, Angel.  This, being here with you, it's everything.  I need you, Angel; need you so friggin' much.”

With Bijou and Katie asleep on their bed upstairs, Jack and Daniel made love in front of the fireplace, reuniting their bodies in a fusion that both cherished.

====

The next day, the Jackson-O'Neill children returned home, and the family spent some quality time together, hanging out in the backyard, playing games, and just talking.  Though it was chilly out, Jack put on the barbecue and began to grill a variety of hamburgers and hot dogs for the children and steaks for the parents.

Finally, Jennifer bit the bullet.  Jack had told them earlier that they'd be having a family meeting, and she knew part of that discussion would be about the prior day's events.  She didn't want to wait, though.

“Daddy,” the teenager said as she sat down next to him on the redwood bench by the picnic table.  “I just wanted to say I'm sorry.”

Jack watched as he stood by the barbecue.  He kept one eye on the food and the other on the teenager.

“Apology accepted,” Daniel said graciously.

Jennifer looked over at Jack.  It was too easy, and she knew her father was thinking that, too.

“No, I mean, thank you, Daddy, but I was really out of line.  I'm not sure why I acted so badly.  I was just ... bored, and ... I don't know.  I guess I wasn't thinking.”

“No, you weren't,” Jack answered for his husband.

“Jen, I know we put a lot of responsibility on you.  We try to balance it, but sometimes, we need you to see that we're human, too,” Daniel stated.

“That's the thing, Daddy; I'm not used to seeing you so ... frazzled.  Normally, even on crazy days in this madhouse, you've got it together.  I guess on the one day you needed me most, I just took advantage of the fact that ... well, you can have really, really, really bad days, too.”

“Daddy, I'm sorry, too,” David said, kneeling down in front of his father on the lawn.  “I was so excited about my experiments that I didn't think, and I ... I knew you didn't really hear me when I asked permission to use the microwave.”

Daniel sighed and then responded, “You could have been hurt; Chenoa could have been hurt; Son, you could have set the house on fire.”

“I know that ... now.  Aunt Sam was really mad at me last night.”

“Aunt Sam,” Jack said a bit harshly, “is mad at herself.  She gave you ideas without making sure you understood the risks first.”

Daniel looked over his shoulder at his husband and questioned, “Jack, what did you do?”

“Nothing.”

“Jack!”

“I just had a little discussion with Carter this morning.  Daniel, she knows.  She's not used to being a ...”

Daniel smiled, and Jack shuddered at the thought he had to vocalize.

“Not used to being what?” David asked his parents.

**A mother.**

**Danny, she's career military; we've given her ... children.**

**Jack, what is it?**

**I was gonna yell at her, Danny, but she was really upset.  She loves our brood.**

**Like a mother.**

**Yeah.  I don't think anything like that will ever happen again.**

**We're lucky, Jack.**

“Hey!  Geez, there they go again,” Jennifer sighed, shaking her head, and walking over to help Jenny retie her shoelaces that had just come undone.

Jack and Daniel smiled.

“Noa sorry, too.”

Daniel went over to where the youngster was petting Bijou and Katie.  He smiled at her warmly and reached out with his hand to caress her cheek.

“You were just trying to keep Bij and Katie safe and warm.”  She nodded.  “I love you, Noa.”

Daniel appreciated all the apologies and regrets, but then reminded the older children that they were still grounded.

“Parents!” Jennifer exclaimed.

“Children!” Daniel exclaimed, raising his hands over his head, then laughing.

“I love you, Daddy.”

“I love you, too, Jen.”

This unique family was still making adjustments, but then again, all families make adjustments as their children grow up, and sometimes, that causes friction.  All in all, Daniel's bad day was just a drop in the bucket to what many families experience, so when all was said and done, he realized he was actually very lucky to have such a wonderful family.

“I'm the lucky one, Angel.  I have you.”

“I guess we're just mutually lucky then, because I have you,” Daniel replied.

With another kiss, Jack and Daniel returned their focus to their children and their happy home.

====

That night, as the lovers relaxed in bed, Jack called out, “Angel ...”

“Mmm?”

“Now that we've got a handle on eight children, isn't it time we adopted another one?”

“You're out of your ever-lovin' mind, O'Neill,” Daniel replied incredulously.  “After the day I had yesterday, what in Netu makes you think I would want to add to this menagerie of a family?  Another child?”

“Or two!”

“YOU'RE INSANE!”

“So are you,” Jack said with a smile.

“We don't have room now.  Jack, we have to do something.  The Munchkins are too old to be in that modified ... crib.”

“Bunk bed time, and we'll move Noa in with Jen ...”

“Oh, she'll love that,” Daniel replied a bit sarcastically, knowing that wouldn't go over very well with the teenager.

“She'll learn to live with it.  That's a nice big room up there; she can share.  One of the boys can share with David ...”

“I don't think so, Jack.”

“What do you mean?” the older man queried.

“We can't split up Jonny and Little Danny; you know how they get.”

“Yeah, you're right.  What was I thinking?” Jack said with a chuckle, and a warm glow radiating inside him.

“I'm not sure; I think your Froot Loops have made you ... loopy,” the archaeologist teased.

“Okay, we keep the Munchkins together.  Jonny and Little Danny can share and ... that won't work, will it?”

“Jen is going to have to share with Noa and Ash,” Daniel sighed.

“I think so, Love,” Jack agreed.  “We'll get more bunks for David's room for the new kids.”

“Gawd, Jack.  You're out of your mind -- new kids; you're freakin' out of your mind.”

“And?”

Daniel sighed, then smiled, and said, “And so am I, so far out that even Thor might not be able to find me.”

“I love you, Danny.”

“I love you, too, and our menagerie.”  The lovers kissed, and then Daniel called out, “Jack?”

“Yes, Love?”

“You were kidding, weren't you?” Daniel asked.

“About the new kids?” Jack responded.

“Yeah.”

“Of course, I was.  You, too?” the older man queried.

“Of course, I was,” Daniel answered.

Daniel placed his head atop Jack's hairy chest and smiled.  He didn't have to see his husband to know that Jack, too, was smiling broadly.  It was insane; it was crazy; it was lunacy, but as they fell asleep that night, Jack and Daniel knew one thing was for certain: they were a family full of love, and no matter how difficult, there was always room for one more, or maybe even two.

“Insane,” Daniel said as he yawned.

“Totally ridiculous.  Just a,” Jack yawned, “joke.”

“Joke.  Just ... jok...ing.”

“Love you,” Jack said softly, unable to fend off the sandman any longer.

“You, too,” Daniel said as sleep overtook him.

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