One Bad Apple

Author:  Orrymain
Category:  Slash, Humor, Drama, Established Relationship
Pairing:  Jack/Daniel ... and it's all J/D
Rating:  PG-13
Season:  Beyond the Series - June 21, 2012
Spoilers:  None
Size:  13kb, ficlet
Written:  October 11-13, 2009
Summary:  A trip to the market proves to be very revealing for Jack and some of the kids.
Disclaimer:  Usual disclaimers -- not mine, wish they were, especially Daniel, and Jack, too, but they aren't.  A gal can dream though!
1) Silent, unspoken thoughts by various characters are indicated with ~ in front and behind them, such as ~Where am I?~
2) Thanks to my betas who always make my fics better:  Ali, Navi!

One Bad Apple
by Orrymain

Kurt Stenson smiled at a woman as she headed for the exit, a bagger pushing the grocery cart behind her.  It had been a fruitful morning thus far for the neighborhood store, and he was happy that in both difficult and abundant economic times, his customers kept coming back.  He'd been worried about taking over the manager's position a few months back when his predecessor quit to relocate his family to the much warmer climate of Florida, but his fears had proven to be unfounded.  The store was as successful today as it had ever been.

Then Kurt got a glimpse of something out of the corner of his eye.  His heart began to pound as visions of his store turning into a shambles flashed through his mind.

“Potential Red Alert!” the freshman manager called out to his nearby chief clerk while he scurried anxiously to the front window for a better look.  After a few palpable seconds, he breathed a sigh of relief and then turned to his staff manning the checkout counters.  “Cancel that.  It's just the general and a few of the kids.”

“That was close,” one of the checkers chuckled.  She shivered as she clearly remembered other instances that were not so lucky with the infamous Jackson-O'Neill family.  ~They are cute little things, though.~

Kurt wiped his brow as he nodded.  For some reason that he didn't comprehend, whenever the Jackson-O'Neills shopped as an entire family, all sorts of crazy things happened.  Displays would crash to the floor, milk cartons would spring leaks, and bags of chips would be crumbled.  It was always a calamity of errors.  However, if the shopping contingent was reduced to just one parent and a few of the children, or even both parents and just a couple of the kids, nothing unusual occurred.  It was one of those mysteries that Kurt had decided not to question, but to heed.  It saved on aspirin, he figured.

“General,” Kurt greeted with a nod and then smiled down at the children.

As they walked by, the brood members waved and greeted Kurt and then one of them walked up closer to their father and tugged on his pants.

“Question?” Jack asked five-and-a-half-year-old Aislinn.

“Dad, why does Mister Kurt always look so funny when we come here?”

“It's the sun.  He gets too much sun,” Jack answered nonsensically.  “It pales his brain.”

Aislinn blinked a couple of times, reminiscent of how her younger father might respond to such a crazy response.  She said nothing in reply, but looked back at the relieved manager and stared, trying to understand why he was always so nervous around them.

Jonny, however, giggled with a hint of controlled recalcitrance.

“Okay, kids.  You have your assignments.  Let's get it done in under five,” Jack requested, tapping on his watch.  “For reward:  one, two, three -- go!”

Eagerly, the children sought out their designated produce while Jack watched.  From his vantage point at the head of the large, two-aisle area, Jack studied the large bin of watermelons.  He'd select five or six to take home while keeping an eye of the kids as they worked on gathering their assigned fruit and/or vegetable.

As the general put the first watermelon in his cart, the sound of unruly and noisy little ones couldn't be missed.  Fortunately, the rambunctious behavior wasn't coming from any of the Jackson-O'Neill children.

“Barton, stop that!” a woman exclaimed.  “Toni, put that down!” she called out, reaching out to grab her daughter.  With a groan, she ordered, “Shannon, don't hit your sister.”

Jack never looked up.  He didn't have to see in order to know what was happening.  He'd certainly seen enough of children controlling their parents in his lifetime.  This was no different.

~She needs to watch Supernanny,~ Jack thought.  ~That lady was right on,~ he thought about Jo Frost, the British woman whose TV show had exhibited many principles and techniques for adults to use when caring for children.  ~It's all about discipline,~ he opined.  Then he grimaced while thinking, ~Crap!  I hate it when I sound like the man, even if I am the man.~

Jack picked up a second watermelon and gave it a little thump.  He smiled at the slightly hollow sound he heard.  This one was another winner, so he placed it in the cart as well and prepared to look for his third selection.

Meanwhile, the woman, with her mischievous children running all over the place, was making her way down the produce aisle.  She stopped, staring sharply at Aislinn, who was examining a bin full of apples.

Aislinn picked up the latest apple that had caught her eye.  She gently squeezed it and sighed.  Not liking what she'd felt, she carefully tossed the apple towards the back of the bin.  To her, that was doing a courteous thing in that it might save another shopper from picking up that particular apple and buying it by accident or ignorance.

“What do you think you're doing?” the woman questioned harshly.  “Those are apples, not tiddlywinks.”

“I'm not playing.  I'm shopping, and we need apples,” Aislinn responded as politely as she could, considering the lady's stern words and nasty expression.

Picking up three apples, the woman placed them in a bag and went on her way.

The youngest Munchkin watched for a moment; then shrugged and returned to her task, picking out bright red apples that were firm, indicating they would be crisp and fresh, just like her family wanted them to be.

~Hmm, I wonder if we can have apple pie with our ice cream tonight,~ the little girl contemplated, not letting her encounter with the nasty lady affect her.

A few seconds later, the woman saw another sight that she disapproved of, a child lifting up bunches of bananas and looking beneath them.  She let out an annoyed grunt, nearly shoving Jonny to the right and into a display.

“This is food, boy.  You shouldn't be playing with the bananas,” the woman snapped.

Jonny held his tongue, waiting for the woman to get her bunch of bananas and go on her way.  As she walked off, he just shook his head.

~Those were bad bananas,~ the sandy-haired youngster noted.  ~Three of them had bruises on their bottoms.~

The female shopper's next stop was at the asparagus bin.  Once again, she was put off by a child who in her mind was just playing with the food.

“I should report you children to the store manager,” the woman told Lulu intolerantly.

Undaunted, seven-year-old Lulu continued to study the stalk in her hand.  She noted that it was straight and firm and that its tips were stiff and compact.  When she saw the woman pick up a stalk she'd just looked at, the curly-haired girl shook her head and decided to try and help the shopper, even if she was being mean.

“Lady, that's not a good stalk.  See how white it is, and the tips ...”

“Little girl, I've been eating asparagus longer than you've been alive.  Please don't ...”  A noise distracted the complaining female.  “Barton, stop climbing up on that bin.”

Lulu said nothing as the woman walked over to the other big aisle that made up the produce area.  Inwardly, though, the young shopper knew she wouldn't have chosen that stalk of asparagus to eat.

On the other aisle of the produce department, the woman was simply disgusted to see Ricky, who was now just four-and-a-half, tap two cucumbers together.

“What are you doing?”

“Checking the cucs; gotta be firm,” Ricky answered.  He held up two cucumbers and asked, “Are too fat?”

Misinterpreting the Spitfire's words as an insult against her slightly robust figure, the woman ignored the boy and the cucumbers all together, choosing instead to head over to the fresh peas.  Once again, she ran into one of the brood.

“What is it with you children?” the woman asked, not expecting an answer.

“Are you talking to me?” Chenoa returned.

“All you're doing is being disruptive,” the shopper accused as she indiscriminately picked up several pea pods and tossed them into a plastic bag.

“I'm just trying to make sure that the pods we buy aren't bulging,” Chenoa replied.  With a slight hesitation, she pointed out, “You might want to put those back.  I think they're too dry.”  Motioning towards a bunch of pods near the back, she added, “These look better.  Sometimes they put the old ones in front, to try and sell them before throwing them away.”

The woman rolled her eyes, not having time for such silliness from a child.  In fact, she'd had enough of their interference.  She stomped her way up towards the front, where Jack was just putting his sixth and final watermelon into the cart.  She was certain he was the parent of the children annoying her, and she was eager to give him a piece of her mind.

The angered mother of three had noticed the silver-haired man staring at her, and she didn't like that, either.  Of course, she didn't equate Jack's focus to being a responsible dad keeping an eye on his children.  After all, if it weren't for the screaming and the sound of kids hitting one another, she'd have no clue where her own children were.

“Ma'am,” the general greeted politely.

“Are those your children?”

“Yes, Ma'am.”

“You should teach them not to play with the produce,” the lady stated harshly.  “I don't want their germs on my food.”

~This lady is fruity, bananas even.  What does she want them to do, use gloves?  She probably doesn't wash her produce, or her kids,~ Jack surmised silently, having noted the dirty hands and faces of the youngsters in question.  Though put out by her words and demeanor, he remained calm and responded, “With all due respect, or not, my kids are shopping.  You see, they don't want to pick out unripe or overripe fruit and vegetables because what they pick out, I buy, and what I buy, they eat.  They have a vested interest in making sure that what we bring home has been properly grown and harvested.”  Jack paused, seeing the woman's eyes were on fire with anger, but at this point, he didn't really care.  “Lady, maybe you should stop worrying about my kids and start worrying about your own.”

The woman turned in the direction Jack was pointing towards, her eyes widening as two of her kids were running amok, tossing strawberries at each other.  As she hurried to intervene, the brood approached their father, each happy with their bags full of produce.

As she put her bags into the cart, Aislinn stated, “There was just one bad apple in front today, Dad.”

“I'll say,” Jack replied, looking at the woman as she chased after her kids, yelling and barking orders at them.  ~Supernanny, she needs you, desperately.  Either that, or kid boot camp.  That works, too.~

“Did we make it under five minutes?” Jonny asked eagerly.

Jack checked his watch to verify and then affirmed, “Right on the money.”

“Yah!” the children exclaimed eagerly, knowing that since they'd met their dad's challenge they'd get the promised reward.

“Swimming instead of school when we get home,” Jack announced, pleasing the children.

As Jack and the brood headed for the checkout, the woman was still screaming at her out-of-control kids.  In fact, the family noticed Kurt heading for the produce aisle to try and get control of the situation.

“And he thinks we're bad,” Jack mused with a chuckle.

The children laughed, almost snickering at their father's retort as they got into line.

“We're bad, we're bad,” Aislinn sing-songed as she began dancing around.

Soon the kids were all doing a silly song and dance while Jack grinned and watched.  Shopping was never dull when all or part of the brood was along.

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