The Mystery at Broadmoor Bluffs
Category: Slash, Drama, Romance, Established Relationship
Pairing: Jack/Daniel ... and it's all J/D
Season: Beyond the Series - June 20 - September 9, 2014
Written: August 10-16, 2008 Tweaked: December 26, 2009
Summary: Jack and Daniel find themselves involved in a mystery that comes too close to home for their liking.
Disclaimer: Usual disclaimers -- not mine, wish they were, especially Daniel, and Jack, too, but they aren't. A gal can dream though!
1) Sometimes, Jack and Daniel speak almost telepathically. Their “silent” words to each other are indicated by asterisks instead of quotes, such as **Jack, we can't.**
2) Silent, unspoken thoughts by various characters are indicated with ~ in front and behind them, such as ~Where am I?~
3) This fic stands alone, but it does reference my other fic(s), “The Wicked Witch of Broadmoor Bluffs”
4) Thanks to my betas who always make my fics better: Sara, Carol, Irina, Ali, Mama Bear!
The Mystery at Broadmoor Bluffs
“She's no good for you, Baby,” Miriam spoke, her hands on her son's cheeks.
“I'm not a baby,” Peter spoke, grabbing his mother's hands and pushing them away. “I'm through, done, finished with this. I've tried to be your son, because Jen asked me to, but no more.”
“Think about what you're saying,” Royce advised in warning.
“I am; I have. You've never been here for me. The precious Board and your society friends: they've always been more important. You didn't raise me; Nana did.” Peter stopped, his mind recalling the nanny who had been more of a parent to him than either of his parents; that is, until she quit and just disappeared from his life. “I'm not your son anymore,” he stated emotionally.
“Then you don't care about that nice suit you're wearing or ...”
“No, I don't,” Peter interrupted his father.
“It's that whore's fault,” Royce spat in anger.
“Father, I hit you once. If you disrespect Jennifer one more time, I'll ...”
“You won't do anything, Boy,” Royce stated, glaring over at his son.
“I'll do anything to protect Jen. I love her, and I forbid you from ever going near her again.”
“Forbid?” Royce shouted. “Forbid?”
“You heard me! I'm leaving, and if you ever want to see me again, you won't bother Jennifer or her family again.”
Peter turned and headed for the door.
“Peter, stop!” Miriam exclaimed, running after her son. “It's that girl's fault. You're better than her!”
Suddenly, Peter stopped. He turned, looking at his mother with such disdain that it sent chills up her spine.
“No, Mother, I'm not, and neither are you.”
Peter walked out, leaving his parents alone.
“Royce, do something.”
“What do you have in mind, Miriam?”
“We have to get rid of that girl.”
“I agree. Are you suggesting we ...”
“I'm suggesting we do whatever it takes to free our son of that albatross, once and for all.”
“All the way?” Royce asked.
The two parents stared at each other, totally overtaken by what they were saying. It was unimaginable to be talking about such a thing. It would be unthinkable to act on it.
“We must,” Miriam repeated determinedly.
//End of Prelude//
“Okay, Jen ... no, no, it's okay. Bri can handle the brood ... yeah, she's not a kid any...”
“Daniel!” Jack barked, interrupting his lover's comments, not wanting him to complete the sentence. ~Don't remind me that Bri's older now and has herself a farm boy to boot,~ he thought, referring to the tomboy's long-distance boyfriend.
The lovers were in one of the guest suites that was part of J-O Enterprise's state-of-the-art building in Colorado Springs. Their biggest client, Abayomi Sharif, was coming to town the next day, and he'd requested to stay in the suite until his scheduled departure, which would be in the middle of the following evening. Jack and Daniel just wanted to make sure everything was in perfect condition before going home for the day.
The quick screening had been a little less than quick since Karissa Lewis had called the couple over the intercom to consult on a last minute decision that needed to be made prior to Abayomi's arrival. That discussion, which had also included Bibreanay Appleton at her work station, had gone on for a good sixteen minutes.
Rolling his eyes, Daniel continued speaking into his cell phone, saying, “Uh, the brood will be fine with Bri. We'll see you tonight.”
“What now?” Jack snipped.
“Babe,” Daniel replied, a loving smile on his face as he put the phone back into his shirt pocket. He walked over to his husband and put his hands on Jack's butt cheeks before gently gliding them upwards until his fingers could massage the back of his lover's neck. He leaned in for a quick, tender touching of their lips. “You like Peter. He's very possibly going to be part of our family, soon.” He looked downward for a second and gave a quick shake of his head. “Very soon,” he suggested.
“Not helping,” Jack replied in a sarcastic tone.
“Sorry,” Daniel spoke, smiling again. “As you would say, we've talked about this.”
“I know,” Jack groaned. “Hamilton's okay.”
With a slight nod of his head, Jack admitted, “Okay, he's better than okay. I want to see the marriage license.”
Daniel let out a chuckle, completely amused by the comment, and asked, “You do?”
“Oh, for crying out loud,” Jack whined about his comment, which seemed to be the opposite of what he'd been saying lately.
The younger man kissed his husband again before releasing him, turning around with the intent to put away some papers. The Fax documents had been handed to him by the receptionist as he and Jack had passed by the reception area. When the call from Karissa had come through, Daniel had placed the papers on the edge of the foot bench that was at the end of the king-sized bed.
As Daniel stood standing by the tall post that was part of the bed frame, he leaned forward slightly to pick up the papers, pausing to review one of them, wanting to ensure that nothing required action before the couple left the office.
“Danny, you don't think they'd ...”
“Did you have to say that word?” the older man asked.
Still reviewing the papers in his hands, the archaeologist answered, “What? Did you want me to say, 'have a child before getting married' instead?”
“Daniel!” Jack snapped, letting out a near shriek as he let his head go back and then raised the palms of his hands to his face, covering his eyes as he slid his hands down slowly.
Chuckling, Daniel responded, “Relax, Jack. Jen promised me they wouldn't get married until at least next ...”
Just as the worried general was about to relax, he heard his lover's last word.
“Jack, stop! If you weren't already gray, you'd be turning your hair gray, worrying about nothing. They're going to do whatever they're going to do. We agreed to let it be. Jen's a woman now.”
“You make it sound like some song,” Jack complained unhappily. He heard his lover's prolonged chuckle, but noticed he hadn't moved from the spot where he was standing, still reading the papers. “What's so fascinating?”
“Nothing, really. Ty has a suggestion about procuring a storage warehouse for our machinery and equipment.”
“Didn't he mention that before?”
Glancing backwards for a brief moment, the younger man confirmed, “Yeah, about two or three years ago, I think. We, uh, got sidetracked.”
“Hanging on to Megan.”
“Oh, yeah,” Daniel agreed, recalling their struggle to keep Megan Williams on as an employee, even after her marriage to Abayomi's assistant, Yazid Awad. The resolution had taken quite a bit of the couple's attention at the time. “Jack, we should consider this. He's sending over detailed specs and an analysis tomorrow.”
“We'll give it a good look this time,” Jack agreed, his mind beginning to wander away from his protectiveness of Jennifer. He smiled as he watched his Love from the rear. ~Love that six.~ With a grin, he corrected, ~Love that everything.~
The plotting general glanced behind him, noting they'd closed the door upon entering. Covertly, he reached out, locking it. Then he moved forward until his body was brushing against Daniel's. He placed a kiss on the side of his Heart's neck.
The archaeologist smiled, his eyes blinking from the sensation of the lips against his skin. The action made him wish their schedule wasn't so busy for the next few days. Odds were there would be very little time for hanky panky. Suddenly, he gasped, the result of his lover's hold on his crotch.
“Jack?” Daniel said, his voice cracking slightly.
His hands now sliding up and down his husband's firm body, Jack replied softly, “Danny, love you.”
“I love you, too, but we're, uh ... you know.”
“The door's closed.”
“Jack, we have employees here.”
“They won't come up here,” Jack insisted as he unbuckled his lover's belt and began to work on the zipper.
“You don't know that. Jack ...”
“Danny, when's the last time we took a chance?” Jack questioned seriously as his hands slipped up beneath Daniel's powder blue shirt. “Remember those days in the storage closet at the SGC?”
“Gawd,” Daniel chuckled, loving those memories that made his heart race just thinking about the chances they took.
“It was fun, Danny. The risk, the thrill, what a ...”
“... rush,” both men said together.
“Who cares if someone walks in,” Jack said, feeling his lover's agreement without hearing a word.
Jack lowered his lover's pants and briefs, letting his hands roam the now uncovered area, taking in the soft skin and the hardening shaft. Then he freed himself of his own material bindings, letting his length rub against his lover's rear. He heard another gasp when he inserted a finger inside the younger man, and felt Daniel's head as he leaned back against his shoulder.
Both men were on edge in anticipation, but they weren't going to rush it. Jack was right. It had been too long since they'd pushed the envelope of their togetherness.
“Date nights,” Daniel moaned, his head rubbing against Jack's shoulder, his eyes closed as he got lost in what was happening.
“Not the same,” Jack responded just as he inserted two fingers inside the younger man.
Many times, the couple skipped over the foreplay. Oftentimes, they even ignored the precautionary methods of ensuring both were safe from their physical efforts. Using a lubricant, gently preparing the other, sometimes gave way to the need and the lack of time. Still, they had plenty of date nights and special times. Their physical connection was a very important part of their relationship. Even so, now they rarely tempted fate, as they had done for years while hiding in plain sight.
“Not same,” Daniel replied, already losing his sense of correct grammar.
“Need you, Danny. Today, now, just like ... like then,” Jack said, grunting afterwards as his length entered his lover.
Daniel let out a small shout, making both men happy that the guest suites they'd built were insulated to keep sound out, and in. They were free to vocalize the responses of their lovemaking as much as they wanted. He leaned over now, wanting to give Jack more access.
Jack's length moved back and forth, still a bit lightly, letting the moment build, like a good opera. He raised his hands, tired of touching the cotton cloth of Daniel's shirt.
Realizing what his lover was doing, Daniel helped to unbutton his shirt and managed to get his right arm out, while trying to get it to fall from his body by rotating his shoulders.
Tired of waiting and not wanting to remove his hands that were busy massaging his lover's hips at the moment, Jack grabbed the shirt with his teeth and threw it off to the left. It was just far enough that Daniel was able to free his left arm.
Jack began to be more forceful with his movements, the grunts and groans of his laborious love sounding in harmony with his lover's gasps and moans from the impact of the shaft striking against his prostate. The feeling was something neither man could ever describe. They were becoming one, physically. The act always made them feel more complete. It was life at its most basic.
Daniel grabbed the bedpost, holding it with both hands as a brace. He was bent over somewhat, looking down as he felt the impact of Jack's length inside him.
“More,” the younger man pleaded.
“*Big* supply,” came the husky reply.
As he worked, Jack wondered how many times over the years that he and Daniel had done this physical deed, this union of their two bodies. He quickly stopped wondering, though, not caring. It could never happen too much, or too often. This feeling that was causing his veins to pump and his blood pressure to rise was about the greatest thing ever, aside from the essential love that was at the heart of it and the children that came as a bountiful extension of it.
“Big'er,” Daniel muttered.
Jack chose that moment to impale his length with the hardest thrust yet, causing Daniel to shout out, louder than usual, his head and back arching back with the shout.
“Big enough?” Jack teased.
“Show off,” Daniel gasped, checking on his grip on the bedpost that had loosened from the sweat his body was releasing.
The pounding within the younger man continued, growing in intensity as words became indistinguishable against the cries of painful delight. Yet, even in their deepest lust for each other, their special brand of humor shone through.
“Not so ... uhhh...much,” Daniel teased, pretending that Jack's contact inside him wasn't as intense and arousing as it actually was. “Lost y'ham'r.”
“Big ham'r's fine,” Jack countered.
“Big ham y'mean.”
“I 'semble tha...”
The general wasn't able to finish his remark, his body taking over his attention. His right hand reached around to work Daniel's bulging shaft, until he felt his hand swatted away.
“Have plans,” Daniel explained.
Daniel knew what Jack meant. They were expected home soon, and every second they remained missing from the few workers left in their office building, the riskier their lovemaking became. Of course, to Daniel, that made it all the more intoxicating. He wanted his turn, and he was going to get it.
~Now's good,~ the archaeologist told himself. Egging his Love on, he spoke with broken words, “Big ham's big talk'r,” even as he grunted from the latest assault on his insides.
Those were fighting words, and Jack strengthened his barrage until he finally landed one last, perfectly placed hit against Daniel's prostate. His release flowed as his body trembled from the aftermath. He leaned his body forward until he was lying against Daniel's sweaty back.
Daniel was heaving, his grasp against the bedpost firm. He feared if he let go, he might just crumble to the floor. What a feeling of uniqueness that was now coursing through his veins. It was like the first time, the way Jack made him feel.
“I wish we could just lie down and ...”
“Down right,” Daniel said, his speech not quite normal as yet, nor did he have any intention of it being just yet. He straightened, causing his silver fox to rise up and back a step. He felt the stickiness of his mid-section and spoke, “Shoulda off pants.”
Jack chuckled, loving how his husband's speech always seemed to fail him at these heightened times.
“Down,” Daniel ordered, pointing to the bed. “Off clothes.”
“We should have done that to begin with,” Jack mused, reaching for his buttons.
It wasn't quick enough for the archaeologist, who slapped his Love's hands away and literally ripped the buttons off.
Jack looked down. Of course, this meant Daniel would be buying him a new shirt. It also meant walking shirtless through the J-O office.
~Fine with me,~ the general thought, proud to boast that he was Daniel's and Daniel was his.
The next thing Jack felt was his shirt being torn as Daniel ripped it off.
~He's on fire,~ Jack thought. ~Oh, yeah. Go, Baby, go~ He grew serious for a second as he chastised, ~Whoa, O'Neill. Don't let him hear you call him ...~
“*Don't* call me Baby,” Daniel ordered, squeezing Jack's somewhat limp shaft.
“Not Baby,” Jack groaned, his eyes widened from the pressure.
“Down, now!” the younger man ordered.
Their bodies untangled from what remained of their clothing after Jack's time in the lead, the couple changed their positions with Jack on his hands and knees atop the covers.
“Wait!” Daniel called out, pulling away the expensive comforter on the guest bed as if he were a magician removing a simple tablecloth from a small table.
~That boy has talents he's not even aware of,~ Jack mused inwardly.
Resuming his position, Daniel's hands pressed against the older man's buttocks, squeezing them before running his palms upwards along Jack's back.
“All play and no hard stuff makes Jack ... oh, yeah,” Jack responded, feeling his lover inside of him.
“I'll give you bigger,” Daniel spoke with clarity.
“That's what I'm hoping for,” Jack snickered, breaking out into a sound that was part gasp and part moan from the force of his lover's length against his prostate.
Not wanting to delay the action any longer, Daniel began to thrust mightily, sweat falling from his brow from his efforts. Jack stopped teasing his Love in favor of concentrating on their lovemaking. He felt so good; everything about what they were doing felt good. Even as his husband drew out their climax, every second was ecstasy. He was so glad they'd made the choice to be spontaneous. He half-wished he'd left the door unlocked, adding an even greater element to the natural rush he was feeling.
“How's th...this f...for bigggg stuff?” the archaeologist asked before impaling himself inside his Heart one last time and then collapsing down atop his lover.
Jack sprawled out on top of the bed, his Danny still on top of him. Heavy breathing mixed in with tender words from their hearts and souls was all that could be heard for a couple of minutes. Then Jack scooted over onto his back, taking the younger man into his arms. They nuzzled together, enjoying the warmth of their bodies.
“Did you lock the door?” Daniel finally thought to ask, not that it mattered, or did it? “Uh, I mean, uh, we're still ... here and ...”
“... in our birthday suits?”
“It's your best suit,” Daniel chuckled happily. “About that bigger thing ...”
“All you, Angel.”
“Do we have any clothes in this suite?”
“Nope,” Jack responded. “We cleared it out when Tanisha stayed here a couple of weeks ago.”
“Yeah,” Daniel sighed, remembering how the spare clothing had been taken out, the couple not wanting to make their female client feel the least bit uncomfortable during her two-day stay at the J-O Enterprises Hotel, as Jack sometimes called it.
Suddenly, the archaeologist stilled, and Jack crooked his head slightly to try and get a better look. Something had just struck the younger man, and Jack immediately felt the hesitation, though he didn't know what had occurred to his soulmate.
“When we were talking to Karissa ...”
“Yeah?” the older man questioned.
Daniel let the unspoken words jump out into the air, until suddenly Jack realized what his lover had thought about. He sprung up and headed over to the desk, staring at the intercom button for several seconds.
~Yep, it's on,~ Jack confirmed.
Everything that had been said, or sounded, in the guest room had been audible to anyone who had been a part of the last discussion, which was just Karissa and Bibreanay, or Bibi as she was known. At least, Jack thought it was just those two women, but he couldn't be sure.
With a confident smile, the cunning silver-haired fox reared back and remarked coyly, “Anyone who wants to stay employed had better act like nothin' happened, nothin' at all.”
“Oh, gawd,” Daniel responded, pulling up one of the sheets and covering his head, knowing his fear had been realized and the intercom button had been left on.
Jack put the intercom back into automatic mode and headed back to the bed, hopping back onto it and beginning to tickle his lover; that is, until a voice came over the intercom; rather, two voices.
“So, Bibi, have you ... *seen* Jack or Daniel since they went to the ... suites?” Karissa asked, unable to stop herself from laughing at the end of her query.
“No, Karissa, I haven't *seen* them,” Bibi answered.
“Oh, well, if you do, *see* them, could you let them know that Abayomi is on hold and has been for, oh, gee, well ...”
“Oh, crap,” Jack moaned, retreating from the haven of the bed and heading back for the intercom.
“You mean long enough for the birds and the bees to do it?” Bibi laughed, unable to hold in her amusement.
“You're fired,” Jack teased over the intercom. “Put him through.” Then, as an afterthought, he pressed the button again and said, “And go in my office and get me some clothes, and the same for Danny. You can leave them at the door.”
“Yes, Jaybird,” Karissa giggled.
“Oh, gawd,” the embarrassed archaeologist bemoaned, though his cry was barely audible under the pillow that was now over his head.
“Excuse me?” Jack snarked, groaning when he realized what the woman was alluding to. ~I am *not* a naked jaybird. I'm naked, but I'm not a jaybird.~
Roughly thirty-five minutes later, Jack and Daniel were dressed again, having cleaned up in the suite's shower. They'd changed the bedding and spruced up the room again. After doing a final check, the two headed for the door.
“Jack, wait,” Daniel called out, stopping his husband from opening the door.
“We miss something?”
“No, but I love you. I'm glad we did this, even if Karissa and Bibi heard us.”
“They didn't,” Jack refuted.
“They're playing us, Love,” Jack put forth, though he didn't really believe it. ~Danny will choose to believe it; I think I'll join him.~
“Maybe you're right.”
“Of course, I'm right,” Jack stated with false certainty. “I flipped the intercom. They just guessed.”
“Right,” Daniel agreed lightly. ~I'll go along with that. It's preferable over the reality.~
“Let's go home, Angel.”
“I love how you lie to me,” Daniel mused as he grinned, his dimples adding to his beauty in Jack's estimation.
“I love how you let me,” Jack responded with a grin of his own before the two kissed and then finally headed for home.
“Peter, it's a beautiful home,” Jennifer opined, her face expressing not only admiration for what her boyfriend had just accomplished, but also her love for him.
“It's not a mansion, but there's a family who's been living on the streets that are going to move in here in a few days. To them, it is a mansion,” Peter replied as he, too, looked over the home early that evening.
“We should make it a point to work with Habitat as much as we can,” Jennifer responded, smiling at the young man.
“I'm glad you decided to help.”
The young lovers shared a kiss and then headed for Jennifer's Mini-Cooper to get some dinner.
“Peter, have you spoken with your parents?”
“Jen, you know how I feel about them. Besides, they've disrespected you for the last time.”
“I know, Peter, but even if they hate me, they're still your parents,” Jennifer stated, her expression now showing the sadness she felt about the entire situation with the Hamiltons.
“You know what?”
“You're incredible. Even after what they said to you, you're still defending them.”
“No, I'm not, Peter, not at all,” Jennifer corrected. “It's just I have the most wonderful parents, and I wish you did, too.”
“Well, in a way, Jen, I do,” Peter said with a grin that was a hint of the two's future.
“Oh, Peter,” Jennifer responded, blushing as she and her young man continued on their way, leaving the topic of Royce and Miriam Hamilton behind.
“Jen, would you mind? I'd like to speak with your father for a moment,” Peter stated two nights later after enjoying dinner with the Jackson-O'Neills.
Jack grinned and turned to his husband, saying, “Peter and I can talk in my study.”
“Um, excuse me, Sir, but I was actually hoping to speak with Doctor Jackson-O'Neill.”
Jack stared in disbelief. Wasn't he the one who had the closer bond with the young man?
Daniel chuckled at the dismayed expression on his lover's face and patted the man on his arm as he walked forward and said, “Babe, I know you won't mind if Peter and I use your study.”
Jennifer watched with amusement as her boyfriend and younger father headed for the study. She looked at her older father and chuckled. How she loved her parents. That's what made the situation with the Hamiltons so difficult. She wished they'd liked her, but they didn't, and she was prepared to live with that. Still, she wanted her boyfriend to have at least part of what she did with his own parents.
Walking forward, Jennifer put her arms around Jack and said, “Come on, Dad. I think you need some ice cream.”
“Two scoops,” Jack agreed, turning around but yet looking back towards the hallway that led to the study. “Traitor,” he mumbled as his daughter continued to chuckle.
“Maybe it's a dumb question,” Peter spoke from his spot on the old sofa in the study, having just made what he was certain had been a stupid query.
Sitting on the edge of the desk with his arms folded together, Daniel replied, “There's no such thing as a dumb question.” Quickly, he raised his right hand, his index finger pointing upward as he closed his eyes for a second. “Don't tell Jack I said that. It's a cliché, and he hates clichés, sort of, when he's not saying them.”
The two men shared a chuckle.
Peter felt at ease talking with Daniel now. Unlike the past, he didn't feel like he was on trial or just being tolerated. He knew now that he'd earned both Jack's and Daniel's respect over the past couple of years.
“Anyway,” Daniel began, prepared to answer the question that had been posed to him. “Don't let her push you around.”
“She's not. She just really wants me to reconcile with my parents, but I'm not interested. Jen is so special. She wants to see good in everyone. I know what she told them, but she thinks it's for my own good. What I'm trying to say is that she has such great parents that she's upset I don't.”
Daniel smiled sympathetically. He thought about Peter's words and then he got up and walked over, sitting down next to the college student. He rubbed the side of his chin briskly as he pondered the situation.
“Peter, Jen will always want the best for you. It's a part of love,” the archaeologist spoke. “You have to be willing to hear her out, but you also have to follow your instincts. Maybe your parents just need some time.”
“They won't change,” Peter spoke matter-of-factly.
“You don't know that,” Daniel refuted. More softly, he added with a tiny smile, “You'd be surprised how much people can change.” After a pause, he continued, “Be honest with her, Son. Tell her how you feel, that you need a break from all the discussion about your parents, but don't lie to her, and don't dismiss the possibility of talking about it ... say next month, maybe.” He put his hand on Peter's shoulder supportively as he concluded, “There are always possibilities, Peter. Never close a door that you don't have to.”
“It's just so new,” Peter explained. “I don't want her to think I'm not listening to her, but there's ... I'll talk to her.”
Daniel stared into the younger man's eyes. He realized now that there was more to Peter's past than just being the heir to a fortune. He wondered what it could be, but he knew it wasn't his place to ask.
With a nod, the archaeologist suggested, “Let's get back to the family.”
Peter smiled and got up, walking a couple of steps before he stopped suddenly.
Sensing he wasn't being followed any longer, Daniel turned and questioned, “What is it?”
“Um, nothing,” Peter responded shyly, dismissing the question.
“No, go ahead,” Daniel urged.
“It's just ... Son.”
“Excuse me?” Daniel asked, uncertain what Peter was trying to say.
“You called me 'Son' and said ... I'm being crazy. Let's go ...”
Daniel smiled and stopped the young man from opening the door. Once again placing his hand on Peter's shoulder, he squeezed it for an instant. He'd learned this sign of support from his husband, years ago, before they were lovers. A simple touch communicated so much.
“Peter, Jack and I may not have said this to you directly, but we do consider you part of our family now.” Playfully, he added, “I'm not sure I'd mention the 'M' word for a while, though.”
Peter chuckled, “He's not going to shoot me, is he?”
“No, but he needs some time.”
“Don't worry, Sir,” Peter responded. “Jen and I both have a lot to learn about each other before we get married, but, just so you know, that's my plan.” He sighed, “I need to decide about a career first.”
“One step at a time,” Daniel agreed, opening the door. As Peter walked out, the archaeologist reiterated, “But I'd still stay away from the 'M' word, just in case.”
“Yes, Sir,” Peter laughed as he continued on down the hallway. Turning the corner, he saw Jack and Little Danny staring at the fish tank. “Hey, Little D! How about a game of catch?”
Little Danny smiled as he turned towards his older father and asked, “Can I, Dad?”
“Scoot,” Jack said, chuckling as the boy and Peter headed out to the backyard. “He's learning to like that nickname.”
“Jack, our children are used to nicknames, and we both know why,” Daniel reminded.
Jack chuckled in agreement and then asked, “Everything okay?”
“Peachy,” Daniel said, his tone jovial as he headed for the stairs. **Of course, I'd better have Sam change the lock on the weapons case as a precaution.**
Jack watched, his mouth opening in surprise and then confusion as the implication of his lover's words sank in.
“Danny?” Jack watched Daniel just hurry up the stairs a bit faster. “Daniel!” he called out, hurrying up the stairs where he was 'attacked' in the doorway.
“Just kidding, Babe,” Daniel laughed before kissing his soulmate again.
“Positive,” Daniel assured. “For now,” he added as he headed deeper inside the bedroom, ready for another round of teasing his gullible husband.
“Jack, be still,” Daniel warned as he and his husband stood in the open doorway of their home.
The couple were waiting for their daughter to finish her 'goodbye' to Peter, who was about to head overseas for J-O Enterprises. It would be the first separation for the young lovers, now that they were a couple.
“We shouldn't have had any girls,” Jack groaned, causing Daniel to laugh.
Just then a police car drove up, stopping in the Jackson-O'Neill driveway. Two officers got out and walked up to the young adults, who were standing by one of the flower beds, their hands joined together.
“What's that about?” Jack asked, not waiting for a response from his lover.
The couple headed outside, heading for their daughter, who was becoming more agitated by the second. Just as they were within a few feet of their destination, an unmarked car drove up, and Detective Pete Shanahan jumped out.
“Hey, back off,” Pete ordered. “I thought I told you not to do anything until I got here,” he scolded the officers.
“They were outside,” one of the patrolmen rationalized.
Pete stared at them angrily and nodded for them to return to their patrol car. Then he turned and sighed.
“Shanahan, what's going on?” Jack asked.
“Sorry, Jack.” Pete walked over to Peter and asked, “I really don't want to do this.”
“Do what, Mister Shanahan?”
“When's the last time you talked to your folks?” Pete asked, though it was an inquiry he'd asked before.
“I already told you, when you asked me that at dinner the other night. It was when we had that argument, nine days ago.”
**Jack, I remember Pete asked a lot of questions at dinner that night,** Daniel communicated.
**Don't think he was just passing the time,** Jack sighed inwardly as he replied to his lover's non-verbal comment.
“Peter, your parents have disappeared. No one's seen them since that argument,” Pete advised.
“They're probably out of the country. They probably aren't even together. They don't spend a lot of time together,” Peter Hamilton responded, not the least bit concerned. ~They bail out like that all the time.~
“Pete,” Daniel called out, wanting to get to the crux of the matter.
“There's no evidence the Hamiltons left their house, let alone the country, but the butler reported that he overheard an argument and some threats. He said he was ordered to leave for the night, and when he returned the next day, an expensive piece of jewelry and some cash that had been kept downstairs was gone.”
“Wait a minute, Pete,” Jennifer interjected.
“Jen, not a word,” Jack interceded. “Daniel, call Mark,” he ordered, referring to the family attorney.
Daniel walked a foot or two away so he could make the call, but stayed in range to hear what was being talked about.
“Why *exactly* are you here?” Jack asked as he focused in on the police detective.
“I'm sorry,” Pete said. He looked at Peter at the same time he took out a pair of handcuffs and said, “Peter Hamilton, I'm placing you under arrest for suspicion of murder and theft.”
“Pete!” Jennifer cried as she moved in front of her boyfriend.
“Jen, back away,” Pete ordered.
“No, I ...”
“Jennifer, move,” Jack ordered sternly.
“I'm *not* ...”
“Yes, you are,” the general ordered, pulling the young woman away. He whispered, “It's going to happen, Sweetheart. Daddy's on the phone with Mark. We'll take care of it.”
Jennifer stared at her father, but then looked over at her boyfriend just as he was handcuffed. She heard Pete reading her boyfriend the Miranda rights. It was like on television, only this was very real.
“Jen, it's okay. I didn't do anything.”
“I know that, but ...” Full of rage, Jennifer lashed out at Pete Shanahan, screaming words of betrayal for the man who was married to her Aunt Sam. “Let him go!” she shouted as she began to run towards the detective and his prisoner.
“Whoa!” Jack exclaimed, reaching out and grabbing the young woman, having to restrain her.
“Put him in the car,” Pete ordered the patrolmen. He looked at the Jackson-O'Neills and said, “It's out of my hands.”
“Why haven't we heard about this before?” Daniel questioned as he flipped his cell phone shut.
“You know I can't talk about police business,” Pete answered. Quietly, he said, “Somethin's going on. Tell your lawyer to focus on the family help. There's something there. I just don't know what, and the Chief doesn't care.”
“Dad, do something,” Jennifer cried as her older father continued to hold on to her. “Peter!”
As the police began to depart, Daniel spoke, “Mark will meet him at the station.”
“But, Daddy,” Jennifer cried.
“Sweetie, Mark'll get a quick arraignment and get Peter out on bail just as soon as he can.” Daniel sighed and then added, “Criminal law isn't his specialty, so he's going to make a couple of calls for us.”
“Dad, let me go!” Jennifer demanded angrily.
Jack turned his daughter around, continuing to hold her firmly at the shoulders as he spoke, “Jennifer Renee, I may not be able to tell you what to do much longer, but I still can now. Get in that house and take care of your brothers and sisters while Daddy and I go the police station.”
“Move!” Jack ordered as sternly as he ever had, his general eyes as serious and powerful as the young woman had ever seen them before.
“Jen, please,” Daniel pleaded gently, his hand rubbing her arm.
With a heavy heart, Jennifer ran into the house, leaving her parents outside.
“Danny, if I didn't get her mad at me, she'd be in Coop, running after Peter,” Jack explained.
“Psychology 101,” Daniel mused lightly.
“She'll stew about me just long enough for us to try and figure this out.”
“My husband, smarter than the average human bear,” the archaeologist teased before pulling out his keys and heading for his silver fox sports car.
Hours had passed before the parents were able to see Peter. When they did, he told them he could wait out justice and urged them to go home and take care of Jennifer. He also assured them he hadn't seen his parents since the night of the big argument and was confident that Royce and Miriam Hamilton had just gone out of the country on business trips, more than likely, separate trips.
Bodhi Crane had been hired as Peter's attorney.
“No one takes him seriously,” Mark Kingston had explained. “The first name disarms the opposition. They think he's a surfer dude.”
“But he's not,” Daniel had assumed.
“He is, but he's also the best criminal attorney west of the Mississippi,” Mark had chuckled.
Peter was out on bail, though he had to forgo the dig for J-O that he had been so eager to participate in. He was continuing to bunk at a friend's home, which he'd been doing since the argument.
Jennifer's anger at both Jack and Pete dissipated once her boyfriend had been released from jail, though she had drilled the police detective on why he hadn't warned them. As it turned out, Pete had been running interference at the department, trying to dissuade his boss from moving forward. In his mind, there was no real proof that anything at all had happened to the Hamiltons.
The wealthiest couple in Colorado Springs had vanished, but the house was clean as a whistle. The only mystery was the missing pendant and money. The only fact that even led the police towards Peter was the statement of the butler about the argument and the threats that had been made.
However, after inquiries from various Board of Directors that the Hamiltons sat on and their company representatives, the Chief of Detectives felt action had to be taken. Pete had been the major factor in preventing Peter's arrest until the acting Chairman of the Board for Hamilton Industries called and demanded action, though the man had been incensed when he'd discovered that 'action' had meant accusing Peter Hamilton of murder.
At that point, the Chief of Detectives had recommended the case be dismissed, but with the arrest having already been made, the district attorney was moving forward. In fact, he seemed unusually determined to prosecute Peter.
“This isn't exactly a shack,” Jack spoke as he, Daniel, Peter, Jennifer, Pete Shanahan, and Bodhi Crane entered the Hamilton mansion, located in the Broadmoor Bluffs area of Colorado Springs.
“Sometimes I wish that's all it was,” Peter spoke sadly.
“Make it quick,” the detective advised. “I'm breaking a lot of rules here.”
Jack smiled at the affable husband of his second-in-command. He'd been angry at him, until he'd learned the extent of what Pete Shanahan had done to try and protect the murder suspect.
“Jennifer, walk through it, and don't leave anything out,” Bodhi Crane requested.
“Okay, well, I was standing here ...” Jennifer began, reviewing every nasty detail of her last visit to the estate. “I threw the pendant over there, but I don't know where it landed. I was very upset. I...I know I threw it, and the money, too, and I remember tearing up the check, but it's kind of a blur. I yelled and told them what I thought of how they were treating Peter and, well, I'm sorry, I just don't even remember their faces. I ...” she paused, bowing her head, smiling when her boyfriend came up to her, holding her in his arms.
“I have to know everything,” the attorney reminded.
“That's when she admitted she was in love with Peter,” Daniel interjected.
“Bad case of denial, years worth,” Jack added with raised eyebrows.
“It's why I was so emotional. I'd lied to myself for a long time, and then I knew. I was mad at them and mad at myself. I just wanted to get out of here. I turned and ran. I don't even remember seeing Dad and Daddy here.”
“But you were?” the attorney questioned.
“We walked in at the end, when Jen was shouting,” Jack confirmed, continuing with the details. “Danny didn't want me to break their necks, so he suggested we go home to check on Jen.”
“Gawd, Jack,” Daniel sighed, rolling his eyes.
“I didn't hear that,” Pete said at the same time, whistling as he walked further into the large sitting room of the Hamilton home.
“What?” Jack asked innocently. “We're not the ones being accused of murder.”
“Peter, don't leave anything out,” Bodhi instructed, deciding not to pursue Jack's remark.
“Details,” the attorney requested firmly.
Peter nodded and then relayed the entire conversation, including his movements.
“I was glad to be done with them. I want to live my own life,” the young man concluded.
“You're the only heir?”
“They said they were disowning me, and I don't have a problem with that,” Peter stated.
“The D.A. is gonna love that,” Bodhi sneered.
“Uh, excuse me, but what about the butler? If he heard the argument and was concerned, why didn't he call the police that night?” Daniel questioned.
Jack looked at his Love quizzically and asked, “The butler did it?”
“I'm not saying that, but everyone seems to think the pendant is important. Could someone on the staff have taken it?” Seeing his husband staring at him, he spoke, “I'm just saying it's possible that the pendant was stolen.”
“And the money,” Bodhi reminded.
“What about the check? I tore it up, so where is it?” Jennifer queried.
The detective stopped whistling and walked towards the group, saying, “Everything was clean in here.”
“The butler cleaned the place before calling the police?” Daniel asked suspiciously.
“Peter, what do you know about the butler?”
“Not much. He's new. I ... well, the truth is, there isn't really any member of the staff I know well.”
“None of them?” Jennifer asked, surprised.
Peter shook his head, answering, “There was just one that was important to me, when I was growing up, but ... she quit.”
“What was her name?” Bodhi inquired.
“Nana. That's all I knew. She was Nana,” Peter answered quietly, turning around and walking towards the huge hallway, stopping just under the large and decorative all-gold chandelier that hung there.
~That's the sadness I felt before,~ Daniel thought as he watched the young man being comforted by Jennifer. ~I wonder who she is.~
“Peter, how many servants did your parents employ?”
“I don't know,” Peter answered as he turned around to face his attorney. “Look, growing up, I was about as arrogant and spoiled as a kid could be. My parents didn't care about me. They gave me a lot of ... toys. All I had was Nana, and when she left me ...”
~'She left me',~ Daniel echoed in his mind about what the young man had just said.
Unaware of the archaeologist's thoughts, Peter continued, “... I didn't care about anyone ever again. It was all about things, and my things had to be bigger and better than anyone else's. I never looked at the staff. They were beneath my station in life. I was too good for them. Knowing their names, their jobs, anything -- that was unimportant. As long as they did whatever I wanted, when I wanted, and how I wanted, they didn't get fired. That's how it was, until I met Jen.”
“Crane, time's up,” the detective spoke, looking at his watch. “If you need to see anything else, do it now.”
“Where did the butler say he was standing when he overheard the argument?” Bodhi asked Pete.
“Up there,” Pete answered, pointing at the spot.
Jack and Daniel exchanged a look. This house was full of wealthy trinkets. There was no echo to reverberate through the massive interior. The stairs to the second floor were tall and winding. It was quite a ways up.
“How loud were you?” Daniel asked as he faced his daughter's boyfriend.
“We were shouting, but not at the top of our lungs. We were loud,” Peter answered.
“So, someone up in the rafters could have heard you?” Bodhi asked. “Let's check that out.”
With Pete standing where the butler claimed to be, Peter demonstrated the loudness of his voice during the argument with his parents. Jack pretended to be Royce, raising his voice appropriately to match Peter's instructions.
“Well?” Bodhi asked as Pete hurried down the stairs. “I couldn't hear Jack very well, but I heard Peter when he shouted. I couldn't hear anything but mumbling when they talked in the hallway.”
“So, the butler could tell there had been a fight, but he couldn't know the specifics,” Daniel deduced.
Nodding, Bodhi headed for the door, the rest of the group following him outside. As the group headed to their vehicles, Pete let out a groan and then a cough.
“Spit it out, Shanahan,” Jack ordered, sensing the detective was arguing with himself over something.
“A funny thing happened the other day. I went to make a withdrawal at the bank and found out that Gorgeous had made a deposit I didn't know about.”
“What's funny about that?” Jack questioned, confused by the remark.
“Money's a great motive, Jack,” Pete said, getting into his car and heading back for the police station.
Bodhi looked over at Peter and asked, “Have you checked your account lately?”
“There's only about three thousand in it,” Peter responded with a shrug. “My parents have all kinds of bonds and things for me. I have a trust fund that I'm supposed to get when I'm twenty-five. I stopped taking money from them last year, except for my college money.”
“A few thousand?” the attorney asked.
“Petty change, Bodhi,” Peter said, looking down. “It's the leftover from what they sent me for college. That's what I've been living on until working for J-O this summer.” After a pause, he added, “I don't want their money.”
“Maybe, but convincing a jury of that might be another thing.”
“Look, the Hamiltons are probably off buying some new toy for their collection,” Jack stated strongly. “This murder charge is ridiculous.”
“You don't always need the bodies anymore to prove murder,” Bodhi pointed out. “Their case is circumstantial. We ... what?” the attorney asked, seeing Peter's shocked face.
The young adult was staring at his cell phone. He'd just used it to check his bank balance.
“There's two million dollars in my account.”
Jack groaned, and Daniel just stared.
In unison, the couple surmised, “That's not good.”
“I told them I didn't want their money,” Peter sighed. “They do this all the time.”
“They do?” Jack and Daniel asked at the same time.
“Yeah. It's ...”
“Petty change?” Jack asked, eyes wide as he took in the concept that two million dollars could be petty change to anyone.
“Whenever they think I'm gonna leave and not come back, that's what they do. I always make them take it back; well, I mean now. Before, I'd throw a tantrum or something if I wanted money. It was easy to do.”
“Oh, geez, I forgot,” Jennifer sighed, pulling out her own phone. “Alex told me they were going to direct deposit my money for the tapestry I made. There was some mix-up, and he wanted me to confirm when I got it.”
The group waited for the young woman to check her balance when suddenly Jennifer gulped and looked up in shock.
“Jen?” Daniel prompted.
“There's ... over two million dollars in my bank account.”
“That's some mix-up,” Jack responded, concerned. “Call Alex -- now.”
Daniel looked at his lover, knowing both were now sharing the same concern, that somehow Jennifer was about to be implicated in the disappearance of the Hamiltons.
“It's not Alex,” Jennifer advised a few minutes later.
“We can't talk about this here,” Bodhi stated as the group agreed to meet at the lawyer's office to discuss what they'd just learned.
Two days passed before the D.A.'s office made their next move, showing up unannounced at the Jackson-O'Neill home. They'd finally learned about the added funds.
“I don't think so,” Jack said, holding off the two detectives that were at the door.
“Sir, we can do this here, or we can do it downtown,” one detective threatened with superiority.
“And I can make you disappear,” Jack threatened, instantly regretting the comment since that's what had happened to the Hamiltons. Still, he wouldn't show the weakness he suddenly felt inside. “You call, make an appointment, and maybe then my daughter will give you a minute. Maybe.”
“This is a murder investigation ...”
“It's a farce, begun by a couple of corporate pricks who can't move without their hotshot leader there to show them how to take a piss,” Jack said angrily, using words he wouldn't normally say while at home where the brood might hear.
In fact, that's exactly what happened. Before he knew what was happening, the Munchkins and JD were lined up in front of him, all standing with their arms folded and with stern expressions on their faces.
“Kids, move,” Jack ordered, though none of them budged, except for JD, who gave Jonny a glance for guidance and, seeing the eldest Munchkin holding his ground, did the same himself.
“Sir, we need to speak with Jennifer.”
“You have to get through us first,” Jonny threatened.
“You don't have any proof that Jen did anything bad, because she didn't, so there isn't any proof for you to have. You're just doing busy work,” Little Danny argued.
“You should go after the butler. I'll bet he did it,” Aislinn added.
“Yeah. Butler did it,” JD echoed, nodding at the same time.
“We don't have time for this. I'm officially making this a request. If you continue to resist, we'll enter by force and take your daughter downtown. We'll ...” Suddenly, the detective let out a yell and looked down. He'd just been kicked in the shin. “You little ...”
At that moment, the Munchkins shifted to move in front of JD, and Jonny shouted as loud as he could, “Broccoli!”
~Broccoli?~ Jack wondered, completely confused, until he heard the scampering of feet and the additional shout over the intercom of the word by Jenny.
“Protect JD,” Little Danny called out to the oncoming brood, all of whom practically shoved their older, unsuspecting father backwards.
“Mister, whatever your problem is, you're not getting our brother,” David warned as he now stood in front of the brood.
Jack looked down and saw JD, smiling. He picked him up and felt the boy's arms hug him close.
Then JD called out, “You can't get me!”
“Smile,” Jeff requested, snapping a photograph of the two detectives.
“Let's get out of here. We'll let the D.A. handle this,” the second detective spoke, sensing this could turn into a public relations nightmare.
“Na na na na na,” several of the children taunted.
With the detectives safely away, Jonny turned around and praised, “JD, you did good!”
JD grinned as he said, “JD save Jen.”
“You did that on purpose?” Jack half asked and half stated, amazed at the realization.
“Of course, he did, Dad,” Aislinn stated. “He distracted them. They forgot all about Jen.”
“Dad, what's going on?” David asked.
The brood knew many of the details about the Hamiltons and what had happened, and they'd been told about the strange bank deposit into her account, but none of them really understood what it meant.
“Family meeting,” Jack responded, putting the boy down. “Thirty minutes, rec room.”
As the family began to saunter away, Jack called the office.
“Jack, he's meeting with ...”
“Break in, Karissa. Do whatever you can to keep the client happy, but Danny'll be on his way out after I talk to him.”
Jack was right. The family meeting needed to take place now and not later. Both agreed that they'd hold nothing back from their brood.
With Daniel on his way home, Jack called their oldest daughter on her cell phone. The irony about the detectives' demands was that Jennifer wasn't even home. She was with Sam, working on a special project. Getting the call from her father, though, she headed for home.
Waiting a couple of minutes to allow Jennifer to depart, Jack then called Sam.
“Carter, tell that husband of yours to decide what side he's on. Next time, I want a warning.”
“You heard me. They're coming after Jen now, too. Time to choose up.”
Sam just stared at the disconnected call, not having a clue what was going on. Her husband was in a difficult position. She knew he had already bent several rules to try and help Peter Hamilton. She also knew Jack wasn't aware just how costly those broken rules could be to Pete's career, should the Chief of Detectives decide to challenge his actions.
Meanwhile, Jack let himself be proud of the brood. Apparently, they had all kinds of plans and actions for any trouble that might arise. Jonny hated broccoli and had chosen it to be the code word for trouble.
~Gotta love our kids,~ the general thought, smiling at their unity and creativity.
Two days later, Jack stormed by the D.A.'s receptionist, entering the man's office, the door banging loudly against the wall.
“Listen to me, we've had all we're going to take of your twisted attempt to get my daughter and her boyfriend on murder charges for two idiots who haven't even been murdered and are probably living it up on some exotic beach somewhere.”
“I'm talking,” Jack interrupted in full command tone. “I'm only going to say this one time. I know you're doing this because some corporate party bigwigs are pushing your election buttons, but you're messing with the wrong people. Leave my family alone, and go find that rapist that's terrorizing the folks over in Pine Creek or those vandals in Rockrimmon! Stop wasting our time and police time.”
“General ...” the D.A. began again.
“I may be retired, but I still have a lot of connections, and you're going to find yourself prosecuting drunks in night court if you don't drop this insanity now!”
“You have one day to end this. One day.”
“General ...” the government official began again.
Before the D.A. could get out a second word, though, Jack was gone. The general was angry at the accusation and the press it was bringing to his family and his company. It wasn't just Peter's name being dragged through the mud now, but Jennifer's, too. This morning's tabloid journalism had been the last straw.
Twenty minutes later, the receptionist looked up to see Daniel standing by her desk. He asked politely to speak with the district attorney, but was told he was on the phone. Daniel waited an hour, excuse after excuse having been made for the man's failure to see him.
“I really need to see him,” Daniel insisted.
“I'm sorry,” the receptionist said. “I'm sure it won't be long.”
“Right,” Daniel responded dryly. He looked down at the coffee table and saw a copy of today's newspaper, a picture of Jennifer and Peter on the front page. As he picked up the paper, the anger that he'd been keeping under control boiled. The young lovers had been paying for their meal at Subway when a photographer had snapped their picture without asking and then lied about their response when asked about the nature of their relationship. ~That's my daughter being paraded around like a ... a criminal.~
Five minutes later, after the latest excuse, the archaeologist mumbled, “Screw it,” and walked straight into the man's office, resulting in the receptionist again being surprised when she ran into the office after the intruder.
“Now I see why you were so busy,” Daniel smirked as a young blonde woman snapped up from behind the D.A.'s desk. “Sometimes it's so *hard* to get *up* to make your appointments.”
The receptionist quietly slipped back to her desk, not wanting to be involved in whatever was about to happen. A minute later, a look of horror on her face, the mysterious blonde scurried away, disappearing out of a side door.
The D.A. zipped up his pants and stared at the smug-looking archaeologist.
Daniel leaned forward, his hands gripping the edge of the desk as he spoke, “Peter Hamilton and Jennifer Jackson-O'Neill are to be cleared, tonight. I want it on the front pages of every paper in the next twenty-four hours and the lead story on every newscast, starting tonight. I want an apology, and I want it to be loud and clear.”
“And if you don't get it?”
“Do you really want to know? Okay, I'll tell you. The headline of tomorrow's paper? Tomorrow's lead story? Your resignation. I may call your wife first, or not.” Daniel straightened and began to head out, but he stopped at the door and added, “Mary Beth's ... changed. I wonder who paid for that.”
The D.A.'s mouth dropped as he realized Daniel knew the identity of the blonde he'd been having an affair with for the past year.
“Now I'm really glad I didn't vote for you. Mary Beth Cheney's been out to get my daughter since high school. Imagine what the press will do with that information. Mary Beth and District Attorney Hollis. I'll bet she's the one who urged you to check Jen's bank account in the first place.” Laughing, Daniel said, “I'll be watching the six o'clock news.”
Daniel left the office, leaving the perplexed city attorney alone in his office.
“It figures,” Jack said when he'd heard about the D.A. and Mary Beth.
“I couldn't believe it,” Daniel chuckled. He looked around and asked, “Uh, Babe, where's the brood?”
“Jeff said they had something important to do,” Jack answered with a shrug.
“Like what?” Daniel asked, alarm in his voice.
“Danny, I was busy. The kids said they had something to do, and Jeff was willing to take them.”
“Take them *where*?”
“No clue,” Jack answered, suddenly realizing what his lover was so alarmed about. He covered up his fears, saying, “Danny, they're fine.”
“Of course, they are.” Shaking off his suspicions, Daniel suggested, “We need to set up the DVRs to record and make sure this is on every channel.”
The parents set about their task and then met again in the living room, turning on the TV in time for the lead story.
“Jack,” Daniel said, his right arm pointing at the on-location news story.
“Crap,” Jack sighed.
With picket signs in their hands, eleven Jackson-O'Neill children were picketing the front of City Hall.
“Jack, they took Bij and Katie!” Daniel pointed out, seeing the two dogs with signs wrapped around their slender canine bodies.
“I wondered where they'd gone to,” Jack spoke, having assumed they were in their doghouse, hiding out from the rest of the family's animal zoo, which they did occasionally.
The parents turned their attention to the reporter, who began by saying the press had been notified of an important press conference to take place at any moment.
As the press corps waited for the D.A., they became aware of the young picketers.
The next thing Jack and Daniel knew, Jonny had a microphone in his face.
“The D.A. is unfair. He doesn't like our sister. She's good. Uh, I don't talk so good. Little Danny, come here!”
Obediently, the middle Munchkin took his place and spoke with an eloquence that was way beyond his years.
“Mister District Attorney isn't doing his homework. There isn't any hard evidence; it's all circumstantial. His bosses -- Dad says it's the corporations who give Mister District Attorney money -- want someone to pay for the crime, but there hasn't been a crime.”
“Little ears have big ears,” Jack sighed.
The child prodigy continued, “Peter says that Mister and Mrs. Hamilton are on a trip and that they'll be back. Just because our sister loves Peter, Mister District Attorney is blaming her, just like he's blaming Peter, but Peter is innocent. He loves our sister.”
Jonny stuck his head in again and warned, “But he better not hurt her again. She cried a lot that time.”
“Jonny, not now,” Aislinn chastised, pulling the sandy-haired boy back.
Little Danny rolled his eyes and explained, “That was a long time ago. The Hamiltons are rich, but they aren't really.”
“What do you mean?” the reporter asked curiously.
“They have lots of money, but money doesn't mean love. They have a son. He should be their riches, but Peter says that only his Nana loved him.” Little Danny looked down, wiping away a single tear. He looked back up and continued, “Peter hurt Jen because he didn't know about love, but he does now, and *we* forgive him,” the boy declared, twisting around to stare at his grumbling brother. “Don't we, Jonny?”
“Aw, shucks, Little Danny.”
“Don't we?” Aislinn asked aggressively, pinching her brother's forearm.
“Ouch! Yes, we do,” Jonny agreed as he rubbed his arm, his sign dropping to the ground for a minute before he bent over and picked it up. “But he better not do it again.”
Little Danny sighed and spoke into the microphone, “But the important thing now is that Jen knows she loves Peter, and Peter knows he loves Jen, but Peter's parents don't know about love, so Peter told them he wasn't going to talk to them anymore. I don't know where they are, but their house is okay. Dad said it was clean as a whistle, and Daddy said maybe the butler knows something.”
“Oh, gawd,” Daniel groaned, his head dropping to his chest at the comment and probably lawsuit for defamation of character.
“Yeah, if they were murdered or something, where's the blood?” Lulu called out.
“Or signs of struggle?” Chenoa added.
“We watch TV,” Ricky said, as if to explain their questions.
“There's no forensics evidence to support any crime at all,” David noted. When the reporter questioned how he knew that, he said, “I'm not at liberty to say.”
“We have connections,” Jenny explained with a smile.
“So, what you're saying is that your sister and her boyfriend are being railroaded ...”
“Oh, I don't like that word. It upset me once,” Lulu interjected. “Sorry, Alex,” she mumbled, thinking back about a huge misunderstanding that had been disturbing to her during the surprise remodeling of the her grandfather's home.
“Okay, they're being ...”
“Scapegoats!” Brianna chimed. “The D.A. needs to blame this on someone, so he's going after Jen and Peter.”
Just then the D.A. appeared. Shortly thereafter, he made a statement, clearing both Jennifer and Peter of any wrongdoing and apologizing to both of them, as well as the entire Jackson-O'Neill family. He was confident he could steer the blame for their being accused on a couple of the detectives who had been part of the investigation. Unfortunately for the D.A., he hadn't done his homework. The mere mention of wrongdoing by Detective Pete Shanahan set off the Jackson-O'Neill brood, who launched a full out shouting attack at the man.
“Angel, there are some forces in nature that just can't be stopped. Our brood is one of those forces,” Jack replied, resigned to what was playing out in front of them on the television screen.
The reporters were eating up their live coverage of these children taking on the system, and they were getting more pointed with their questions to the attorney.
Reluctantly, the D.A. admitted that the funds added to both Jennifer's and Peter's accounts had been done by transfer. It had taken a while, but they now knew that it was the Hamiltons themselves who had initiated the transactions. In fact, it was their last known activity prior to their disappearance.
The city official also pointed out that the missing money and pendant were most likely stolen from the estate after the Hamilton's departure. He added that they were still investigating this and he couldn't comment any further, other than to say that at this time, neither Jennifer or Peter were suspects. It was being considered a separate incident from that of the missing socialites.
Suddenly, JD took center stage and asked simply, “Mister D.A., who's that lady?”
A mass of reporters turned their attention to the blonde, who had been hanging back amid other members of the district attorney's staff. Her look of shock was all they needed to feed the feeling that she was a story herself.
“I don't know that woman! She's never been in my office! I'm happily married. I have a wife, three children, two dogs, and a guinea pig.”
“A guinea pig?” Daniel laughed.
“Angel, isn't that ...”
“Yeah, that's her -- older and more, uh ...”
“Enhanced,” Jack chuckled. Then he grew serious and questioned, “Danny, why did JD point Mary Beth out?”
“No idea. He doesn't know who she is.”
Jack started to say something, but he stopped. JD had an acute sense of the world around him. Sometimes it felt like he could read minds, though he'd never really said anything to make him believe that. Still, their miracle, who was the only one of their children who was one hundred percent theirs biologically, was aware of more than what either parent ever anticipated.
“That's Mary Beth Cheney!” Jeff called out about one of his and Jennifer's old high school classmates, a girl who had always hated Jennifer, even as her younger brother had always had it out for David when they'd attended private school together several years earlier. “Hey, Mary Beth, what's new?” he called out as the blonde disappeared from his sight.
“What, Jeff?” David asked.
“She didn't use to be so ... uh, you know,” the oldest male member of the brood said, indicating her breast to his brother.
“She's had a boob job?” David questioned a bit louder than he realized.
“Yeah,” Jeff confirmed, suddenly realizing that one of the reporters was still filming the children and had gotten that on tape. He just smiled and said, “I can send you a copy of the high school yearbook, if you like.” With a smirk, he added, “She always liked being in the paper.”
“That's our boy!” an extremely pleased Jack exclaimed.
“Danny, it's over.”
“I guess I shouldn't be surprised they did what they did,” Daniel acknowledged.
“I threatened the guy, you threatened the guy, so why shouldn't the brood threaten him, in their own way?” Jack challenged.
“Our children,” Jack clarified.
“Oh, so that gives them some special dispensation to ... to ... to do this?”
“They're our children,” the older man repeated, his eyes backing up what he was trying to get across.
“Good point,” Daniel conceded.
A few days later, Bodhi Crane had wrapped up all of the follow-up paperwork. Peter had paid the bill, discounted as a favor from Mark Kingston. Peter was cleared of all charges, as was Jennifer. Still, the mystery of what had become of Royce and Miriam Hamilton had yet to be solved. No one had heard from them, nor had they contacted any of their friends or business associates.
Though they couldn't comment publicly, the police now suspected the butler had stolen the pendant and the money. Unfortunately, they didn't have any proof and weren't planning on proceeding with any indictments as a result.
Although he considered staying by Jennifer's side for the summer since she'd just gone through a traumatic experience, Peter had said his good-byes. He was on his way to the dig site where he'd spend the next several weeks working for J-O Enterprises, tagging and logging artifacts, among other things.
The four million dollars that had appeared in the young couple's bank accounts was placed in yet another account, created by Mark Kingston, where it would remain until a decision was made on what to do with the funds. The common belief was that the Hamiltons had placed the money in both accounts in the hopes that Jennifer and Peter would choose the money over their love.
While the police had confirmed the transfers were initiated by Miriam Hamilton, they were still curious about the motivation. There was always the possibility she'd been forced into it by a kidnapper or other unknown persons.
While the D.A. still privately suspected Peter, he didn't have any evidence to back up his belief, and the young man's actions, as well as Jennifer's, had been well documented from the moment he'd left the estate to the present. Searches had been made, turning up nothing. He simply had no reason to continue the investigation in that direction.
Now, of course, he had other things occupying his time, such as his wife's petition for divorce and half of the community demanding his resignation.
The days of summer passed slowly for Jennifer, who missed her boyfriend terribly. Not soon enough, Peter returned, though his welcome wasn't as peaceful and romantic as he'd hope. Instead, he was besieged with phone calls and emails from the individual corporate heads of the various entities that made up Hamilton Industries. After several days of soul searching, the young man had made a difficult decision.
“Peter, are you sure you want to do this?” Jennifer questioned.
“Jen, maybe something did happen to my parents. It's close to three months now, and that's a long time for them not to have contacted anyone. I have to do this. I owe it to them.”
“You don't owe them anything.”
Peter picked up a pile of letters, telegrams, and emails he'd printed out and held them up, saying, “I owe it to them, though. Father ruled Hamilton Industries. They've been using contingency plans all summer, but now they need direction, and I'm ... I'm the one who has to give it to them.”
“Just for a while, though,” Jennifer agreed, not wanting her boyfriend to end up sacrificing his own dreams for the rest of his life.
“We'll figure it out, but I have to do this now. Oxford will be there next semester, after they get back.”
Jennifer heard the unspoken 'if' that Peter had omitted. She also saw the fear in his eyes. He might be estranged from his parents, but they were his parents. He was scared. He loved them, no matter what.
“Next semester,” Jennifer agreed supportively, giving her Love a kiss.
“Who's next?” Jack asked a couple of weeks later as he fastened his seatbelt.
Daniel looked at the list on his clipboard and answered, “Leticia Cromwell.”
“Leticia?” Jack chuckled as he engaged the engine of his Ford truck. “I'd go by Nana, too, if that were my name.”
“Jack, it's a nice name. It means joy.”
“Carter should have narrowed this list down,” Jack whined as he headed for the address on the paper.
“*Sam* is a little busy right now.”
Jack laughed, his eyes shining as he spoke, “Carter's a mom. Never thought the day would come.”
“I can't believe you ordered her not to shout in the delivery room,” Daniel spoke, shaking his head.
“Until she told you to get the 'F' out of there.”
“Carter cussed,” Jack mused with pride. “Repeatedly.”
“I don't blame her, Babe. You were doing cadence.”
“Just trying to establish a rhythm,” Jack rationalized.
Daniel sighed amusingly at his lover's antics in the delivery room of the hospital. Still, it had been a special treat to be there. Of course, it hadn't been planned, but Jack figured it was his duty as Sam's CO to make sure the newest arrival in Colorado Springs was brought in right.
The truth was that Sam had been scared, nervous, and extremely worried about her delivery, something Pete and the doctors were all concerned about, and Jack knew it. His supposed bark was a distraction; one Sam later admitted she needed.
Daniel smiled, remembering how grateful Sam had been afterwards. Instead of fretting over her age and the endless possibilities of what might go wrong, Sam had been angry at Jack. The distraction had been a complete success, and all had gone well.
“Okay, so she had an excuse for not narrowing the field. How do we know any of these folks are the real thing?”
“She did the best she could, utilizing ... whatever she utilized.”
Jack snickered, “Carter could hack her way into anywhere.”
“I'd rather not think about that,” Daniel replied.
Sam had provided the lovers with a list of twenty past employees who she'd confirmed had worked for the Hamiltons when Peter was a young boy. The problem was that the Hamiltons had a wealth of servants, and Leticia could have been a cook, maid, personal secretary, or any of several other positions at the Hamilton estate.
The lovers got out of the truck and headed for the address. Leticia Cromwell lived in a condominium in Denver.
“What do we know about this woman?” Jack questioned as the two walked.
Reviewing the notes, the archaeologist answered, “She was born in Stoke-on-Trent in Staffordshire, England on February 20th, 1962. She worked for the Hamiltons from 1994 to 2009.”
Jack frowned as he asked, “Peter was born in '94, right?”
“He said this Nana person quit when he was a teenager.”
“Right,” Daniel confirmed. “He said he came home one day, and she was gone. The Hamiltons told him he was grown up and no longer required a nanny.”
“I hate to say it.”
“Then don't,” Daniel urged. “She wasn't a nanny by then, Jack. She was a friend. The question is why did she leave without saying goodbye?”
“Let's find out,” Jack said, hoping that Leticia Cromwell was Nana.
Daniel knocked on the door, smiling politely as a very prim and proper looking woman in her fifties answered the door.
“Hello, I'm ...” Daniel began.
“Oh, my! It's you! Oh, thank you, thank you,” the woman said, inexplicably hugging both men at her doorway, much to their surprise. “Come in, please!” As the couple entered, she asked, “I was just about to have a spot of tea. Would you care to join me?”
“Tea?” Jack questioned with raised eyebrows.
“Yes, thank you,” Daniel replied politely, slapping his lover's arm. “Uh, Ma'am ...”
“Leticia,” the woman spoke as she prepared the tea. “Leticia Cromwell, and you're the Jackson-O'Neills.”
“Yes,” Daniel confirmed, sharing another look of surprise with his lover.
A bark and wagging tail interrupted the conversation.
Jack chuckled, leaning over to pet the eager dog as he asked, “Spaniel?”
“Cromwell is a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel,” Leticia clarified. “Sometimes, I think he really thinks he's a king.”
“Cromwell,” Jack repeated with a tiny shake of his head. ~British aristocracy and humor, I suppose.~
Leticia's next words drew Jack from his thoughts as she spoke, “I don't know how you two have all those children, but I'm glad you do. They're adorable, by the way. I saw them on the news.”
“Didn't everyone,” Jack sighed out of the side of his mouth as he stood back up.
“Please, enjoy,” Leticia invited as she returned with a silver tray, full of tea, scones, and homemade strawberry jam. “Cromwell,” she stated expectantly, praising the dog when he went over to a fluffy blanket and laid down.
“Very ... traditional,” Daniel observed as he picked up his cup to drink, smiling at Cromwell as he rolled over and settled in for a nap.
“Yes,” Leticia confirmed. “Please, tell me. How is Petey?”
“Petey?” Jack questioned.
“My Petey. How is he?”
“He's fine,” Daniel answered softly. “He's in love with our daughter.”
“Jennifer? I saw a picture of them together. They make a lovely couple,” Leticia spoke with a sweet smile on her face. “I didn't believe any of that trash they wrote, though.”
“Rubbish,” Jack agreed about the gossip.
“Ma'am,” Daniel began.
“Leticia,” the woman corrected.
“Leticia, we're looking for some information. Well, actually we're looking for ...”
“Are you Nana?” Jack asked bluntly.
“Nana?” Leticia echoed, taking a happy breath as she thought back to the last time she'd heard that term. “Petey called me that, yes.”
“Leticia, why didn't you say goodbye to Peter when you quit?” Daniel asked gently.
“Quit? *Quit?* I didn't quit. It was those stuffy nosed twits that called themselves parents that fired me.”
“Fired?” both men repeated simultaneously.
“One day when Petey was out with Lyndon, the butler, Master Hamilton came to my room. He had an envelope of severance pay and told me my services would no longer be required. He reminded me of the confidentiality agreement that I'd signed when I was hired, and he told me that I was never to contact Petey or return to Romir again.”
“Romir?” Jack asked.
“Their estate. That's what they called it,” Leticia explained.
“They forced you out,” Daniel stated.
“Why?” Jack asked.
Leticia sighed, “Petey wasn't a child anymore. He was turning into a young man.”
“You supported him,” Daniel deduced.
Somewhat bitterly, Leticia spoke, “Royce and Miriam Hamilton are not proper parents. They never spent more than five minutes with that child. Petey, he just needed love so much. When he started to think for himself, to wonder about his future, it wasn't what Master Royce wanted. Yes, I supported his independence. I guess they knew that.”
“Why didn't you go see him?” Jack questioned. “A confidentiality agreement has nothing to do with who you see.”
“I wanted to, many times, but I couldn't,” Leticia answered, her head bowed as she held her teacup tightly in her hands. Finally, she looked up and explained, “I know Petey needed me, but he needed a chance to know his parents, too, not that they were ever parents.”
“I'm sorry, but I don't understand,” Daniel stated.
“I ignored what Master Hamilton said about seeing Petey and did try to visit with him, but the second time I tried to see Petey, Mrs. Hamilton told me that if I tried again, they'd send Petey to military school.” Leticia sneered, “Can you see Petey in some academy somewhere? He'd be miserable, and there would be no chance for him to ever have a relationship with those two people.”
“Leticia, come see Peter,” Jack beckoned. “He's a man now.”
“He needs you,” Daniel added.
Leticia smiled thoughtfully as she observed the two men. She'd read about them during the coverage of the murder investigation.
“He's finally found parents,” Leticia responded as she smiled at the two men.
“Let's not go that far,” Jack stated.
“He's paranoid Peter and our daughter are going to elope,” Daniel explained with a dimply smile.
“And would that be a bad thing?” Leticia asked Jack pointedly.
“No, Ma'am,” Jack answered truthfully and without hesitation. “They'd be fine; I'm just not ready for it,” he admitted. After a moment, he repeated, “Come with us.”
“I'm sure he doesn't need me.”
“Yes, he does,” Daniel corrected. “We may be providing a parental point of view for Peter now, but he loves the parent who raised him, and that's you. He needs to see you. Please.”
“Thanks, Little D,” Peter spoke when Little Danny handed him a chocolate milkshake that he'd made. “Mmm, good.”
“Chocolate ice cream cures everything,” Little Danny opined.
“It sure does,” Peter said with a slight chuckle, watching the youngster run off to play with his siblings.
Jennifer and Peter gazed into each other's eyes and then kissed.
“Want part of my shake?”
“No, that's okay. How's it going?”
“I hate it,” Peter admitted. “But I have to see this through. If I can get things going, get good people in place, then maybe next year I can resume my own life.”
“Next year? Not next semester?”
“Jen, it's a mess. Father ruled with an iron fist. They're like zombies trying to function when their heads have all been chopped off.”
“Gory,” Jack interjected as he walked into the recreation room where the young lovebirds were seated. “Danny and I have a surprise for you, Peter.”
“A surprise?” Peter asked, putting down his drink.
“We think you'll like it.”
Jack stood back and waited as the woman appeared from behind him, with Daniel following her.
Jennifer watched with curiosity as recognition set in on her beau's face. She felt his emotion, and she saw the tears.
“Yes, Petey,” Leticia confirmed, opening up her arms for a long-sought embrace.
Jennifer stood and covered her mouth with her hands. Since learning about the woman's existence, Peter had shared many stories with her. She now knew just how special Nana had been to her boyfriend. Tearfully, she looked over at her parents as they stood side-by-side.
“Thank you,” Jennifer spoke emotionally, getting smiles from both parents in reply.
“Nana, why'd you leave me?”
“I never left you, Petey.”
“Hey,” Jack interjected. “Why don't you folks sit down. There's no rush here.”
“What happened, Nana?” Peter asked eagerly. “Oh, wait. I want you to meet someone.” He reached out for Jennifer, who took his hand as she walked forward. “Nana, this is Jen. She's my girlfriend. We're going to get married someday.”
Daniel reached out to keep Jack from moving forward and reminded quietly, **He said 'someday', Babe.**
**It had better be a long time before it's someday,** Jack replied as the conversation and reunion continued.
“Come in,” Jack and Daniel both invited at the same time, the two men leaning up against the headboard of their comfortable bed.
“I wanted to talk with you for a minute,” Jennifer spoke, walking in and sitting down on the edge of the bed, closest to Jack.
“Everything okay?” Daniel asked.
“Everything's wonderful; well, almost wonderful. Peter hates what he's doing, but he believes it's his obligation. I have to support him in that.”
“Don't let him get lost,” Jack advised.
Jennifer grinned widely, almost laughing.
“Dad, I love you so much. You, too, Daddy, but, Dad, I know it's just part of you, this worry about your little girl growing up and leaving the roost. It is going to happen; I just don't know when. Peter and I have talked about it, but we both believe we need to ... to be in this relationship for a while before taking that big step, but it will happen, Dad.”
“Yeah, I know,” Jack groused, looking confused when his daughter had that smirky big grin again. “What?” he repeated.
“You love Peter, and you've both already accepted him as a member of the family. More than that, you fight for him, just like he was one of us.”
Jack and Daniel exchanged a look, the younger man giving his Love a look that said he might as well fess up.
“He is, Jen,” Jack admitted.
“What you did, tracking down Nana for him, I'll never forget that. Thank you so much,” Jennifer said, breaking into happy, grateful tears.
Some joyful crying and hugs later, Jennifer rose and repeated, “I love you both so much. I'm so thankful you adopted us and that you didn't let Peter give up on me; and, Dad, it's all because of you. Thank you for loving me so much that even though it means your little girl isn't so little anymore, you still did what is best for her. You know what I mean.”
“I had to do it,” Jack admitted.
“Because you love me, and Peter.”
“Yep,” Jack admitted, trying not to lose control of his emotions.
Suddenly, Jennifer giggled and hurried over to Daniel's side of the bed. She whispered something to him that made him let out a snort.
“No problem, Sweetie.”
“I love you, Daddy.”
“Hey, what's the big secret.”
Reaching the doorway, Jennifer said, “Jonathan O'Neill Hamilton.” Grinning, she said, “Has a ring to it, don't you think, Grandpa?”
Jack's eyes widened just as much as they could before his daughter spoke a quick 'goodnight' and disappeared.
“She's talking about the future. She is *not* pregnant.”
“Yes, Babe, I'm sure,” Daniel replied. “She just wants you to know that she knows.”
“That letting go is harder for the parents than it is for the life being freed. It's, uh, something we talked about a while back.”
“Daniel, I'm holding on until she's at least ninety.”
Jack stared forward for several seconds before saying thoughtfully, “Jonathan O'Neill Hamilton. What if it's a girl?”
“She'll think of something ... Gramps.”
“Gramps?” Jack responded. “I'll show you who is a grandpa.”
As the lovers disappeared under the sheets, the mystery of Broadmoor Bluffs still hadn't been solved. Jack and Daniel feared it might never be, but they were just happy that Jennifer was happy, and it was no mystery the reason behind her happiness. That came in the form of one Peter Hamilton, the newest member of their extended family.
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