Peanut Brittle

Author:  Orrymain
Category:  Slash, Drama, Romance, Established Relationship
Pairing:  Jack/Daniel ... and it's all J/D
Rating:  PG-13
Season:  Beyond the Series - August 11 - September 5, 2014
Spoilers:  None
Size:  34kb, short story
Written:  May 11, 2008, April 17, 23, 2011, August 11,14-16, 2016
Summary:  Dogs, cats, fish, a lizard, guinea pigs, bunnies, a bird, ponies, and, oh my, Peanut Brittle?
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), “Let the Sun Shine In” and “Too Many Pets”

Peanut Brittle
by Orrymain

With Jack and Daniel attending to business on this Monday, the brood was divvied up among various members of their extended family.  Brianna, David, and Jenny were with their grandfather, enjoying a relaxing day together.  After lunch, David headed outside to read by the lake while his siblings remained inside the house.

“I'm not sure Dad and Daddy would approve of this,” Brianna put forth as a mild warning to her sometimes stubborn younger sister.

“Why not?”

“Well ...” the teenager began.  “Oh, I don't know, but you know how Dad gets about these things.”

“Dad will love him, or her.”

“I'm not so sure.”
“I'm gonna ask Grandpa,” Jenny said forcefully as she stood up.

“He's in the sunroom, and I think he's taking a nap,” Brianna responded.  ~I don't think it's a good idea to bring Grandpa into this.~

“He'll wake up for me,” the almost-seven-year-old responded confidently.

~I'm officially withdrawing from this debate,~ Brianna determined inwardly. ~Besides, what are the odds here? There's no way.~

Leaving Brianna behind, Jenny walked quickly to the sunroom and stood staring at her grandfather for a minute.  He was in his favorite chair, reclining backwards comfortably.  An open book was lying on his chest, and his mouth was open as a small snore came out.

The redhead approached, pressing her hands against the arm of the chair.  Her timing had to be perfect; after all, it wasn't good to wake up her grandfather for non-emergencies.

When she heard a noise and saw the man's bald head begin to stir, Jenny pounced, asking, “Grandpa, the petting zoo is closing, and they're having a contest to give away some of their animals.  Can I enter the contest and try to win Peanut Brittle?”

“You want peanut brittle?” the still-somewhat asleep man questioned, his eyes only slightly open.

“Yeah.  Just like the one I gave you, only she, or he ... I'm not sure, but it would be real.”

“Real, yes, of course.”

“It could be my birthday present from you, Grandpa; then you wouldn't have to buy me anything, and I'd be the happiest little girl in the whole wide universe!”

“I want you to be happy, Jenny.”

“I can enter the contest then?  All I have to do is write an essay on why I want Peanut Brittle.  I can do that.  I like writing essays.  It's just short, though.  Can I, Grandpa?  Can I, please?”

“Yes, Jenny.  Go enter the contest,” the retired general permitted, letting out a big sigh as he closed his eyes to return to his afternoon nap.

“Thanks, Grandpa. I love you,” Jenny chirped happily as she hurried away to the nearest accessible computer in the house.


Jenny sat at the computer and began to work on her essay.  She was so excited.  If she was chosen, this would be her best birthday present ever.

The excited youngster focused all her energy on writing the perfect essay.  She had to encompass the totality of her feelings in less than five-hundred words.  The Spitfire was a quick writer, though, and never suffered for ways to express herself with the written word.  It was part of her genius.

When the redhead was pleased with her essay, she turned her attention to the entry form.  Having Hammond's permission, Jenny checked the box that acknowledged she was under thirteen years of age, but had the okay of an adult to enter.

~Hmmm.  Should I use Dad or Daddy's name?  It says it only wants one name.  I know!  I'll use Grandpa.  We can surprise Dad and Daddy,~ Jenny thought ingeniously as she filled out the form with her personal information.

“Jenny, how about a game of badminton?”

“I'm almost done, Bri.”

Brianna walked closer and saw what her sister was working on.  She felt uncertain and wondered if she should interfere, despite the fact she was pretty sure there was no chance of Jenny winning the contest.

“Jenny, I don't know about this,” Brianna sighed hesitantly while looking over the girl's shoulder.

“If you like dolphins, why can't I like Peanut Brittle?”

“I guess you have a point.”

“I want it to be a surprise, Bri, so don't tell, okay?” the little girl requested.

“You probably won't win anyway.”

“I will win because I want Peanut Brittle more than anyone else.  I just know it,” Jenny asserted emphatically as she hit the button that submitted her contest entry.

Brianna smiled nervously, though she ultimately decided to keep Jenny's secret.

~She won't win.  Boy, am I in trouble if she does win,~ Brianna lamented.


“Yes, this is General George Hammond,” the man acknowledged as he answered the phone a few weeks later.  “*What?*”  Suddenly, the conversation with the Spitfire came flooding forward in his mind.  ~What have you gotten yourself into, George?~


“General!” Jack greeted cheerfully, opening the door for his friend and former CO.

“General, I need to speak with you and Doctor Jackson right away,” Hammond announced, walking forward and reminding Jack of the old days when SG-1 was summoned to the man's office or the briefing room.

“Yes, Sir!”

Jack's tone stopped Hammond in his tracks.  He turned around and let out a sigh.

“Jack, I'm sorry, but I'm getting old, and I just put my big Texas foot into my inattentive mouth.”

“Sounds familiar,” Jack returned, quickly becoming aware of how his words sounded.  “Me, Sir.  I was thinking of me: big foot in mouther here.”

Hammond allowed himself a chuckle before he sighed, “Seriously, Jack.  I need to speak with you and Daniel, privately.”

“Let's go in the study.  Daniel's in the den, but we can use the intercom,” Jack suggested.


After making sure the younger children were properly occupied elsewhere, Jack and Daniel sat with the lieutenant general in the study, the door closed at the man's behest.

“A few weeks ago, Jenny made a request,” Hammond began and proceeded to tell the couple about what happened.  “In my mind, she was talking about peanut brittle, the food, but she was talking about Peanut Brittle, the turtle, a living one.”

“It could happen to any of us, and I think it probably has, many times,” Daniel returned with great understanding of Hammond's situation.

“When I received the call this morning that she'd won the contest, I was completely taken aback,” Hammond admitted.

“Daniel, no way!” Jack exclaimed upon hearing the news that his daughter actually won the contest.

“Jack, I promised her,” Hammond pleaded, hoping they could come up with some kind of solution to the problem he felt responsible for.

“She ... won?” Daniel queried hesitantly, needing verification of what was just spoken.

“The representative who called said it was the most heartfelt and enthusiastic entry they received.  Jack, I can't take care of a giant tortoise.  I need your help.”

“I guess we could ...”

“No, Daniel!”

“He promised her, Jack, and she's been wanting a turtle for years,” Daniel reminded.

During the summer of 2011, the Jackson-O'Neills surprised their grandfather with an addition to his home.  It was referred to as the sunroom, a place for Hammond to relax in his favorite recliner and look out over the lake while reading a good book.

In the process of creating that space and a walkway leading to it on the outside, Jenny spearheaded the acquisition of an approximately nine-inch stone turtle that she dubbed Peanut Brittle.  After she convinced Daniel to allow her to buy it, she mentioned that one day they would get a real turtle for their own house.  Somehow, Jack and Daniel had managed to prevent that from happening, until now.

“Get her one of those little ones.  Do you have any idea what we'd have to do to make a home for that ... thing?” Jack groused.

“No, but ...”

“Sir, just tell them it was a mistake.  Jenny won't know,” Jack rationalized.  ~What's that cliché about not knowing what you're missing?~

Suddenly, the three men heard a happy scream from the entranceway of the home. The excited yell was easily recognizable as Jenny's.  Apparently, what Hammond hadn't realized is that while the redhead had given his name and phone number, she'd given her own home address in the contact information of the entry form.

“No, Daniel,” Jack insisted even as his instinct told him that his lover would easily give in to Jenny's desire to own a living turtle.

Happy knocks pounded on the study door and before anyone could deny her, the excited youngster ran in and hugged her grandfather.

“Oh, Grandpa, thank you!  It's the best birthday present ever, and I'll never, ever, *ever* forget you getting me Peanut Brittle.  I love you, Grandpa.”  Jenny threw herself against the senior citizen and was actually crying happy tears.  She pulled away and went to her parents, hugging each of them.  “I'm so excited.  I have it all planned out.  We can use my Miss Piggy money,” she said about her piggy bank stash.  “Dad, Daddy, you have to come and talk to the man.  He says it's important because Peanut Brittle is so rare.  Hurry, Dad, Daddy.”

Jenny was jumping up and down and pulling on her parents' arms.  The three adults had no choice but to follow Jenny to the entranceway where a representative from the soon-to-be-closed petting zoo was waiting.

“Whoa!” Jack called out.  “Jenny, did you open the door to a stranger?” he asked sternly.

“No.  They would be against the rules.  Jen asked who he was.  He's still outside, Dad.  Hurry!” the Spitfire urged.

Reaching the front door, Daniel opened it and greeted the visitor.

“Good afternoon.  I'm Howard Belmont,” the man said, handing Daniel his business card.  “We spoke on the phone this morning.”

“No, Sir, you spoke with me.  George Hammond,” the man advised, reaching out to shake Belmont's hand.

“Uh, I'm Daniel Jackson-O'Neill.”

“Jack Jackson-O'Neill, Daniel's husband.  We're Jenny's fathers.”

Jack's eyes were glued on Belmont's as he spoke.  He was hoping his words would scare the man off, but Belmont didn't flinch.  Instead, he smiled and uttered polite words of greeting.

“Come in, please,” Daniel invited.

“Did I win?  Did I really win Peanut Brittle?” Jenny asked enthusiastically.

“If your name is Jenny, yes.  Your essay was the cream of the crop,” Belmont responded.  “The selection committee is one-hundred-percent convinced that you are the one to give Fredrica, excuse me, Peanut Brittle a new forever home. However,” he looked at the three men, “we have to make sure that you are able to provide a suitable habitat for the tortoise.”

“We can talk in the living room,” Daniel suggested, pointing the way.

The archaeologist looked at Jennifer and nodded, allowing the college student to go about her own business.

The others, including Jenny, sat down in the living room.  Daniel began by clarifying that General Hammond was Jenny's grandfather.  He opted not to say anything about being unaware of the contest.  He noticed that Hammond was keeping silent as well.  A stare in the direction of his husband confirmed that though Jack wasn't happy, he had no intention of saying anything about Jenny's method of entering the tortoise lottery.

Temporarily ignoring the specifics of what was about to be discussed, Jack couldn't fight off the huge urge to inquire, “Isn't Fredrica a funny name for a tortoise?”

“To be honest, Mister Jackson-O'Neill, Fredrica was originally thought to be a male.  It wasn't until she matured and mating season began that it was discovered she was a female.”

“Exactly how old is Fredrica?” Daniel asked.

“She's thirty-five,” Belmont answered.  “Here, you might like to see this,” he stated, opening his briefcase and taking out a photograph.  “This is Fre...Peanut Brittle,” he announced, handing the photograph to Jenny.

“She's beautiful,” Jenny sighed.  “Look, isn't she perfect, Dad?”

“Yeah, just perfect,” the older father replied, trying to hide his displeasure in front of the Spitfire.

“Look at her dome shell, Daddy.  Isn't it beautiful?”

“It's very beautiful, Jenny,” Daniel agreed as he looked at the photograph.

“I'm going to frame it and put in on my wall,” the little girl announced with great joy and pride.  “I love you, Peanut Brittle,” she declared as she gazed at the photograph and then pulled it close to her chest.

For the next thirty minutes, Belmont advised Jenny's parents about some important points, including that the Galápagos tortoise was an endangered species.  As a result, there were some special requirements that had to be followed in order for Fredrica to be transitioned.  They talked about the habitat that would be required as well.

During the conversation, Belmont gave Jack and Daniel some information on the type of environment that would be required as well as a few basic brochures that had been available for patrons visiting the closing petting zoo.

Belmont smiled whenever Jenny interjected a fact about the tortoise, which was frequent.  Though she was young, he was impressed that she knew so much about the tortoise in question.  It added to his confidence that the Jackson-O'Neills would provide the tortoise with a suitable living environment.

“Building the habitat should be your biggest expense, but the figures I gave you a few minutes ago should also make it clear the annual cost of maintaining a healthy tortoise,” the zoo rep advised.

Finally, the conversation was concluded after Belmont summarized several important points to the Jackson-O'Neills, including habitat requirements, the expense involved, and the legal obligations regarding ownership of the tortoise.

“Please let me know your decision as soon as possible,” the man requested, getting up and starting to shake hands with the adults.

“Let you know what?” the little girl asked.

**Jack, we're not saying 'no'.  If you want to be mad at me, be mad, but we're getting a tortoise,** Daniel communicated strongly.

Jack stared at his lover and then looked over at Hammond, who reeked of guilt. He looked down at Jenny, who was ecstatic and full of pride about her new pet. He saw her look over at her grandfather with a joyful look.  There was no way he could deny her.

**I'd lose the argument anyway,** Jack responded.  “When do we pick her up?”

Jenny cried out happily, hugging her parents again and then jumping into Hammond's arms, giving him a big kiss and telling him again how much she loved him.  None of it was fake or coy; she was more jubilant than she'd ever been.

“We can work with you on that.”

“We do need some time to create an appropriate living area for Fredrica,” Daniel advised.

“Can I change her name?  She's Peanut Brittle,” Jenny queried with big, hopeful eyes.

“If you'd like.  I'm sure Fre... Peanut Brittle wouldn't object, as long as you give her love.”

“Oh, I love her already.  I really do.”

“I believe you,” Belmont replied with a confident expression on his face.  He looked at Daniel and stated, “If you'd like to show me where you think you might build the habitat, I can give you some suggestions, point out any areas of concern about the surroundings, and then we can arrive on an agreeable date.”

“This way,” Daniel said, heading for the patio door.

“I know all about where Peanut Brittle has to live.”

“We know, Red.  You told us,” Jack reminded as he referred to his daughter's comments during the conversation.

“I forgot.  I'm so happy, Dad!”

~Crap,~ Jack whined, standing back for a minute.  It was sinking in even more how deliriously happy the Spitfire was.  He couldn't even gripe about it, not when she looked like that.  ~Okay.  We haven't added anyone to the zoo in, um, a month,~ he sighed about three new fish that were added to the tank a few weeks before.


“Thank you,” Hammond spoke as he prepared to leave the home.

“We've been there, Sir,” Jack replied.  “She's happy, and she's done her homework.”

“Allow me to write you a check ...”

“No, she's our daughter, and it was our decision,” the silver-haired man responded.  After he closed the door, he turned and saw his smiling husband.  “What?”

“I just get all ... mushy when you put our children first, even when it takes you a while to get there,” Daniel answered.


“Mushy,” Daniel confirmed.

“Daniel, not only did I just allow a new creature into our home, but it's another animal that's gonna outlive us!  Do you see the irony in that?”  Jack paused and opined, “I think I deserve more than ... mushy.”

“Tonight, Big Boy.  Tonight.”

Jack was about to come back with a seductive response, but Little Danny ran in excitedly and asked, “Are we really gonna get a Galápagos tortoise?”

“Yes,” Daniel answered.

“Oh, boy!” the Munchkin exclaimed, running off to celebrate with his siblings.

“A blasted turtle,” Jack sighed.

“I love our zoo, Babe.”

“Yeah, me, too,” the older man admitted as he smiled while walking over to share a tender kiss.

“Babe, Jenny's done a lot of research, but we need to know a lot more ourselves about owning a tortoise, and soon.”

“Daniel, you just promised me a very *big* tonight.  We're not researching this headache.”

Daniel watched his soulmate go to the intercom.

“Now hear this.  All brood to the hospitality room *now*.  I want notebooks with pencil or pen with all of you, and that includes the non-homeschoolers.  Bri, please stop by Daddy's den and bring down his tablet.  David, make sure JD gets down okay.  Jen, get Jeff on Skype.  He needs to be part of this.”

“I see where you're going,” Daniel said with a smile.


Daniel approached his soulmate and kissed him soundly as a response.  He said nothing as the lovers listened to the sounds of their children scurrying down the stairs, some walking by them, as they reported to the hospitality room.

“I love you, Jack.”

“And I love you,” Jack returned before the two fathers joined the brood to discuss their impending new arrival.  “Take a seat.”

“Is this about Peanut Brittle?” Jenny asked her parents as she sat down at the large rectangular table.

“Yep,” Jack affirmed.  Addressing the entire brood, he stated, “I assume the Spitfire here has passed the word that our zoo is about to grow by one giant turtle.”

“It's a Galápagos tortoise,” Little Danny corrected.

“Thank you, Son,” Jack sighed.

“Hey, someone want to tell me what's going on?” Jeff called out from his location in Cincinnati where he was beginning his university studies.

“Jenny won a big huge honkin' tur...tortoise in a contest,” Jack informed his son as he walked over and leaned his face right into the phone.

“Her name is Peanut Brittle,” Jenny told her brother while Jack returned to his original spot.

“Like the turtle at Grandpa's?” Jeff asked the Spitfire.

“But this is a real tortoise,” Jenny replied.

“Oh, wow,” Jeff responded, not really sure how to react.  “Do we have room for a tortoise?”

“We're going to lose a chunk of the backyard, but it shouldn't be a hardship,” Daniel answered.  “Jen may have to shift the boundaries of her garden, but we aren't sure yet.”

“Okay, I'm in.  What's happening?” Jeff asked as he relaxed on his bed.

“Great!  Everyone has homework, detailed homework.  We have a lot to learn about this tortoise and how to survive with it.”

“Not to interrupt,” Daniel began as he walked forward a couple of paces to stand beside his husband.

“Interrupt away,” Jack replied lightly.

“Listen, I know a lot of you are very excited about the addition of Peanut Brittle to our family, but you also need to take this very seriously.  This is a rare and valuable tortoise.  We actually have steps we have to take to make this move legal.  More than that, we have a responsibility to the tortoise and to the world to protect it and make sure she's comfortable.  We are being entrusted with a prized gift.”  Daniel paused for a moment before finishing his remarks with, “We're about to hand out assignments that we are all going to learn from.  No shortcuts.”

Daniel nodded to his husband, who began a run down on who was expected to do what.  As he made the assignments, Daniel made a note of them on his tablet.

“Here are the assignments.  David, I want to know everything there is to know about what the habitat needs to contain.  Make sure to think about how big the habitat needs to be.  Use the Internet and make some phone calls, if necessary. Little Danny, get us the history.  Daddy mentioned this is one rare turtle ...”

“Tortoise,” the child prodigy corrected with a sweet smile.

“The thing is rare,” Jack continued.  “The more we understand why that is, the more we'll understand our duty in keeping the tortoise healthy and happy.  Noa, find out about food.  What do we need?  Is there anything we absolutely need to have and are there foods we need to avoid?  Is anything harmful to the tortoise's health? Jonny, focus on interaction, human and animal.  I want you to find out how the tortoise gets along, or not, with cats, dogs, horses, guinea pigs, rabbits, and, well, you get the idea.  Do we have any problems with how Peanut Brittle and Bogey are going to get along?  If we have an animal, I want to know how it should get along with its new zoo mate.  Think about the non-obvious, too: bees, fleas, insects, butterflies, etc.”

“I hope tortoises like lizards,” Jonny sighed as he wrote down his assignment.

“If they don't, then you know where not to take Bogey once the habitat is built, right?” Daniel returned pointedly.

“Yes, Daddy,” the Munchkin agreed.

“Ricky, you're on the design team, along with Jeff.  I want the both of you to create the design of the habitat.  You'll have to work with David and you are allowed to contact Alex, if you deem it necessary,” Jack spoke about family friend and design guru, Alex Dennison.  “We, Daddy and me, had a long talk with the petting zoo representative, so you might want to question us.  You can also contact Mister Belmont if you have questions.  Jenny was in on the discussion and she has a lot of information from research she's already done.  You might want to tap her brain.”

David reached over to the redhead who was sitting next to him and gently patted her head while chuckling, “Tap, tap, tap,” causing most everyone to let out with chuckles of their own.

“Jeff, I know you have a lot on your plate with your first semester at UC, but we could use on this as much as possible.”

“But please don't let it interfere with your course work,” Daniel chimed in.

“No worries,” Jeff replied.  “That's what computers and smartphones are for,” he asserted.

“Right,” Jack replied, having some appreciation for technology but still missing the good old days before technology addiction became such a reality in today's world. “Lulu, I want to know how a tortoise entertains itself. Does it like just sitting? Does it play with anything?  When we look at it, how do we know if it's having fun or if it's bored to pieces?  Ash, you're to focus on the health of a tortoise.  How do we know if it's healthy or in pain?  Does it need medical checkups?”

“Can I call Pam?” Aislinn asked about the family vet.

“Absolutely,” Daniel answered.  “If she doesn't treat tortoises, see if she has a recommendation, but no contact with those other sources without checking with Dad or me first.”

“Okay,” Aislinn acknowledged while writing down her homework.

“Oh, Ash, make sure to find out about the weather.  We want to know everything possible about how Peanut Brittle will respond to our weather, including our hottest days and days when it snows.”

“She's been living here at the petting zoo, so can't we assume she'll be okay?”
Ricky asked curiously.

“No, Son, we can't,” Daniel responded.  “We can't make any assumptions about anything,” he told the children.  “This is new to us.  *We* need to understand all we can about maintaining a good life for Peanut Brittle.”

“Any questions on that issue?” Jack asked the brood.  Seeing none, he continued, “Next, ah,” he looked at the brood, “Bri.”

Brianna saw the smirk and knew she was in trouble.  There was no doubt in her mind that Jenny had told her parents all, including that she was there at the time the Spitfire submitted the contest entry.

“Tell us about tortoise anatomy, in detail, and I want you to coordinate your work with Little Danny.  Between the two of you, I want a full and complete picture on the evolution of this species of tortoise: where it came from, how it began, why it's endangered, why might it be valuable to poachers, how does its health affect its longevity, and how do we know what is okay to touch or not.  In fact, just how much can we touch this thing, or can't we?  Detail, Brianna,” Jack ordered.  “I want precision detail on this.”

Brianna cringed, but felt somewhat relieved when she observed her younger father shaking his head slightly.  She'd have to be thorough, but she knew Daniel would intervene if Jack was overly harsh with her.  Then she chuckled inwardly, realizing that her dad wouldn't really be that difficult.  He was simply making a point and it was one she knew anyway.  She should have alerted her parents to Jenny's desires and as the older sibling, she should have prevented her younger sister from entering the contest while at their grandfather's home.

“Jen, you're on the shopping detail.  This is going to be a costly proposition,  You'll need to coordinate with the rest of the brood and at the end of the day, I want you to have a comprehensive list of every material, food, or whatever that we need.  I want you to source it and price it.  When it's time for us to make the purchases, I want to know the best place to go by referring to your list.  Make a note of sales and deadlines, if appropriate.  You're the shopping expert of this family.  Remind us why.”

“Jen, get us Peanut Brittle tee shirts,” Jenny suggested.

Jennifer looked at her parents, both of whom simply shrugged.

“Sure, Jenny,” the oldest member of the brood stated.  “Maybe Ricky can design a personalized shirt for us.  Do we have a picture of this tortoise?”

“Here she is,” Jenny responded, gently pushing the photograph to the other side of the table where Jennifer was seated.

“Hey, Bro, take a look,” Jennifer mused as she held up the photo for Jeff to see.

“Yep, that's a big tortoise,” the young man agreed, chuckling a moment afterward.

The silver-haired man smiled as he walked over to JD's seat and asked, “Do you want to help Jen make her shopping list or help Ricky and Jeff design the habitat?”


“Are you sure?” the surprised general question.

“Shopping is fun!”

“Ooookay.  You're with Jen,” Jack agreed.

“What about me?” Jenny called out, aware that she was now the only member of the brood without an assignment.

“Red, you already did a ton of research on the tortoise.  How long is Peanut Brittle going to live?”

“Her species lives a super long time, Dad.”

“How long?”

“About one-hundred-fifty to one-hundred-seventy years,” Jenny answered.

“Princess, that's a very long time.  When you're grown up, Daddy and me may be ...”

**Jack, be careful,** Daniel communicated sternly.

“... living someplace else.  When all of you are grown, we might want to live at the cabin.  We'll be older.  We won't be able to take Peanut Brittle with us, so what I want you to do is spend some serious time talking with your brothers and sisters about what will happen in twenty years.  Who's going to take care of Peanut Brittle, and how?”  Jack took a moment to look into the eyes of each of his children.  “When you're in college, when you get married, when you have a career that matters to you and requires your time: who will be responsible for Peanut Brittle?  What happens to her when all of you are living your lives?  Jenny, I want you to interview your siblings and I want serious, thoughtful responses on how the brood plans to handle Peanut Brittle's future.  Is that understood?”

“Yes, Dad, but I'll always take care of Peanut Brittle.  I love her; I wanted her for a long, long time, and I won't ever abandon her.”

“We believe you, Sweetie,” Daniel replied softly.  “Do the assignment as Dad asked.”

“I will, Daddy,” the Spitfire promised.

“When are our reports due?” Little Danny questioned.

“This is a lot of work.  As Daddy said earlier, no shortcuts, so we'll give a due that of next Thursday and all other previously assigned work is postponed for now. Homeschooling sessions are also postponed for a week.  This is your priority.”

“And if anyone needs more time, tell us, and not at the last minute.  We'd rather have thorough feedback than a haphazard attempt because you needed more time to research or accumulate the required information.  Okay?”

Lots of heads nodded and some verbal affirmations were heard.

“One more thing,” Daniel spoke.  “Some of your reports, as already noted by Dad when giving out your assignments, overlap.  If you think it's beneficial, feel free to discuss your research with others.  The anatomy topic, for example, could be helpful to discussing the health of a tortoise.  The point is that these assignments are not always contained.  We're more concerned about learning and doing the right thing than we are who is doing what.”

“Questions?” Jack inquired, pausing to allow any responses, of which there were none.  “Dismissed,” he commanded, causing Daniel to cringe and lower his head. “Habits, Angel.”

Before Jennifer disappeared with her phone, the parents spoke with Jeff to make doubly sure the home assignment wouldn't interfere with his studies.  Then they bade him goodnight and said they missed him.

After the rest of the children hurried away, Brianna approached her parents and sighed, “I'm sorry I didn't tell you about the contest, but Jenny was so determined, and who knew she'd win?  I mean, what were the odds?”

“It's okay, Princess,” Jack responded, using his hand to rub gently on his daughter's arm for a moment.  “Something like this was going to happen sooner or later.

“Thanks, Dad.”

As Brianna moved away, Jack called out, “About the assignment ...”

“I know, Dad.  You don't really want the encyclopedia.  You were just making a point.  I got it.”

Jack nodded and then realized he was left with no one in the room except for his husband.

“What do you think?”

“I think you did well.  By next week, the brood will realize the enormity of the responsibility for adding this particular species to our zoo, and I approve of your assignment to think about the future.  Jack, I don't believe our children will abandon any member of the zoo, do you?”

“No, but the sooner they realize that obligation is part of their future, the more inbred it will be.  Danny, it's long overdue.  For crying out loud, we have ponies and a bird and who knows what else that one day are going to need an adult that is not us to take care of them.  The kids need to start thinking about that.”

All of a sudden, Daniel chuckled, causing his lover to become very curious.

“What's so funny?” Jack queried.

“I wonder if that crazy dream I had a couple of nights ago was a warning.”

“A warning or a premonition?”

“Maybe both,” Daniel mused.  “All I know is the animals were on the attack.”

“The revenge of the beagles,” Jack laughed as he recalled the end of his lover's dream.

Putting the odd dream aside, Daniel opined, “Actually, having a tortoise opens up a lot of potential lessons for the brood.”

“Just as long as they don't want to take a field trip to the Galápagos Islands,” Jack teased.  His smile ceased, however, when he noticed his Love's eyebrows rise. “Daniel, what are you thinking?”

“That could be an interesting field trip.”

“Enough of tortoise travels,” Jack asserted,  not ready to think about a vacation to the Islands as yet.

“Okay.”  Daniel nodded, though the thought was filed away for future reference, and turned his attention to more current affairs.  “So, about our big night?”

Jack grinned, happy to leave all thoughts of tortoises behind in favor of some verbal foreplay.  The consummation of their banter couldn't come for hours, but when it did, it would be invigorating and exhilarating.  For now, the lovers settled for some quiet, cozy time on the old, comfy sofa in Jack's study.

Soon, the Jackson-O'Neills would be knee deep in tortoise activities.  Plans were to contact their landscaper to assist in some alteration of the backyard, but that would come after the design report was in and reviewed.  Some climate controls would also have to be part of the habitat, and the lovers figured Alex Dennison might ultimately end up assisting with the new backyard area.  Within a couple of months, the family pet count would increase by one.

Not long ago, Jack said there was no more room at the inn.  Truth be told, there was always room for one more at the Jackson-O'Neill home, just as long as there was love, and love was something that would never run out for Jack, Daniel, and their brood plus zoo.

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