Red Alert 2 - The Jackson-O'Neills Strike Again

Author: Orrymain
Category:  Slash, Humor, Romance, Established Relationship
Pairing:  Jack/Daniel ... and it's all J/D
Rating:  PG-13
Season:  Beyond the Series - September 2011
Spoilers:  None
Size:  50kb
Written:  December 18-20, 2005, January 16, April 18, May 11,13-14,17-19,21-22, 2006
Summary:  The Jackson-O'Neills, all thirteen of them, take on a new bookstore.  Who will be the victor?
Disclaimer:  Usual disclaimers -- not mine, wish they were, especially Daniel, and Jack, too, but they aren't.  A gal can dream though!
Notes:  
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) Thanks to my betas who always make my fics better:  Linda (and idea help from Tessa), Heather, Jodi, Bernadette, Claudia, QuinGem, Robert!

Red Alert 2 - The Jackson-O'Neills Strike Again
by Orrymain

“Pick your vehicle, and no fighting!” Jack ordered as the children ran eagerly outside.  The entire family was going to the bookstore, and whenever the entire family went anywhere, it meant taking two vehicles, usually the SUV and the truck, like they were today.  “Hey, I said no fighting!” Jack barked as Aislinn and Jenny vied for a spot in the truck.

“Here, Jenny.  I'll go in the SUV,” Little Danny said, climbing out of the truck, relinquishing his spot to his redheaded sister.

The youngster was already a champion negotiator and peacekeeper among his siblings.

~Like father, like son,~ Jack thought as he watched the change of seating.  ~It's only a seat on a ride to the bookstore, but Little Danny shouldn't always be the one to give in.  We'll have to keep an eye on that.~

“Thanks, Little Danny,” the spunky girl responded, climbing into the truck the instant her brother had stepped down.

Daniel locked the door to their house and glanced over at his lover who was standing at the base of the stairs leading up to the porch.  He couldn't help but notice the smirk on Jack's face, and he knew what that meant -- his husband was preparing himself for an adventure, which was Jack's way of saying, 'watch out world, our brood is coming'.

“Jack, this is a brand new bookstore.  Let's make sure they're still in business when we leave,” Daniel warned.

Jack looked back at his husband and grinned, saying, “Danny, we're just going to get some books and magazines.”

“Right,” a disbelieving Daniel replied as he fidgeted with his keys.  After a hectic summer, the younger man knew Jack was ready for some play, and somehow, he was sure Jack had passed that on to their children, maybe not in words, but definitely in spirit.  “Jack, just don't let the children get too out of hand.”

“Daniel, you're going to be right there, and you know our kids,” Jack responded.

“That's the problem,” Daniel responded dryly, walking down the steps and past his lover, giving the older man a quick kiss on the way.  “See you there,” he said, climbing into the truck and making sure all the children had their seatbelts on.

“Hey!  That's my truck!” Jack objected.

“Our truck, Babe,” Daniel smirked, deciding to get in the first 'joke' of the trip.

Grumbling, Jack headed for the SUV, making a face at his husband who was laughing as he backed the truck out of the driveway.

“What are you snickering at?” Jack asked Jeff.

“Daddy got you on that one, Dad,” the teenager mused.

“The day is still young, my boy,” Jack said as he put the key into the ignition. “Very young,” Jack smirked.  “Remember, age and treachery will always overcome youth and skill.”

“And you're older than Daddy,” Brianna snickered.

“Youth,” Jack lamented with a tiny growl.

Before starting the SUV, Jack looked back to make sure everyone was properly seated and all were wearing there seat belts.  That's when he noticed that Chenoa was sitting on her knees, something that she had been doing a lot recently when riding in one of their vehicles.

“Noa, you have to sit on you rear end, not your knees,” Jack told her.

“I can't see when I sit on my bottom,” Chenoa replied grumpily as she repositioned herself so she was sitting properly.

Since she was less than a month away from turning six and met the current height and weight requirements for the state, though the laws were again being reviewed, the little girl no longer sat in a car seat.  However, it meant that she was lower and couldn't see out the front window.

“Then sit in the middle seat so you can look between the two front seats,” Jack requested.

Jack waited as Jeff repositioned Jonny's booster seat so that Jonny and Chenoa could switch places.  Once everyone re-secured their seat belts, he started the SUV and backed out of the driveway to meet his husband and the rest of the brood at the new bookstore.

====

“I want one on dinosaurs,” Little Danny commented as Jack drove towards their destination.

“I'd like a ballet DVD, Dad,” Lulu said quietly, adding, “if it's okay and not any trouble.”

Jack smiled over at his daughter sitting next to him and replied, “Little Bit, you just find the one you want, and bring it to me.  You're worth every penny it'll cost, and it's no trouble at all.”

Seeing Lulu's huge grin, Jack felt like a king.  It took so little to please the curly-haired girl.

~That smile is what it's all about.  Geez, I'm blessed,~ the happy father thought.

====

“Daddy, will the bookstore have computer software?” David inquired en route to the new place of business.

Daniel shrugged, answering, “I'm not sure, but I wouldn't be surprised.”  He looked through the rear view mirror to get a glimpse of his son and asked, “Why?”

“I read about a new program; it makes these holographic images, sort of.  You can morph different kinds of rocks together and then extrapolate on their evolution and how land masses came to be.  It might be expensive, though,” David responded as he adjusted his glasses a bit to be more comfortable on his face.

Daniel smiled at his son's love for geology, especially geographic formations and rocks, something that had grown almost daily.

“If you see it there, show it to me, and we'll discuss it, okay?” Daniel suggested.  ~If it looks like something J-O could use, it would be a good tax write off, and we could allow David to access it.  All the more reason to get that computer network hooked up.~

“I brought my allowance, but I'm not sure it'll be enough,” the boy admitted.

~He's already checked this out,~ Daniel thought.  “How much is it?”

David coughed, hating to admit the price, but he really wanted the program, so he admitted, “One-hundred seventy-nine dollars, after the thirty-dollar instant rebate.  I only have fifty, but I'll do extra chores and ...”

“Hold on.  Let me look at it when you find it, and then we'll talk about it,” Daniel stated.  He noted David's pleased expression and added, “It's really that good?”

“The reviews on it are excellent, Daddy.  It uses some new technology.  I don't know so much about that, but the Journal of Structural Geology says it's awesome and a must for anyone serious about speculating on experimental rock deformation,” David rambled.

“That's you?” Daniel lightly teased.

“Who wants a deformed rock?” Jenny asked, not understanding the conversation.

Though Daniel lightly chuckled, David went on to try and explain to his sister why he cared about rocks, normal or deformed.

====

“Wow, now that's what I call a bookstore,” David commented as Daniel brought the truck to a stop.

The new bookstore was the proverbial state-of-the-art store.  Having read about the revolutionary new store and its unique concept in the local newspaper, Jack and Daniel were aware that the two-story building included three different reading corners, a storytelling room where children could make crafts and pictures as they listened to a story, and lots of beanbags and tables for visitors to sit down and sample the store's merchandise.  It also featured a trading room, where an old book could find a new friend once someone was through with it, and that was just the beginning.

“I wonder what is taking your Dad so long,” Daniel wondered, knowing that Jack should have been no more than a minute or two behind them.

“Maybe somebody had to go potty,” Jenny responded.

Daniel chuckled.  Every time they were all going together somewhere, it did seem that someone would have to use the bathroom right after everyone was in the vehicles and ready to leave, delaying their departure.

“Maybe,” Daniel agreed.

Just then, the SUV appeared alongside the truck.  Once stopped, Daniel gave the okay for the children to get out.  Then he walked over to greet his husband, a smirky smile on his face.

“You think you're cute, don't you?” Jack teased.

“You always tell me to trust you, and you always say that I'm ...” Daniel trailed off smugly.

“Right,” Jack said before laughing.  “Okay, brood, you know the rules.  Where are the team leaders?”  Seeing Jeff, Jennifer, and Brianna raise their hands, he had them quickly check their pager alarms.  With the alert check done, he then told the children to get into their assigned groups.  “Onward!”

“And try not to destroy the place,” Daniel remarked a bit softly as he lagged behind with their youngest son.

“Danny, did you say something?” Jack called out over his shoulder, Little Danny in his arms while they crossed the large parking lot.  ~Can't trust anyone named Daniel not to run off, eager for some new adventure designed to get all of us into trouble.~

“No, nothing,” Daniel answered.  ~Why bother trying to prevent the inevitable?~

The assigned teams for the shopping trip had Jeff in charge of Aislinn and Jenny, Jennifer with Chenoa and Lulu, Brianna with David and Jonny, Daniel with Ricky, and Jack with Little Danny.

“Don't worry, Daddy,” Little Danny said loudly.  “I'll make sure Dad behaves.”

“Hey!” Jack responded indignantly.

“Thank you,” Daniel laughed as he held Ricky's hand.

**Jack, what took you so long?**

**Noa was sitting on her knees again.  I had her and Jonny switch places so she could be in the middle and see,** Jack replied via their non-verbal communication.

**Until she grows out of this phase, we better make sure she is always in the middle,** Daniel suggested, to which Jack nodded.

Excitedly, the family entered the store, and they were immediately greeted by one of the new workers.

“Hi, my name is Jo Lynn.  Welcome to our book paradise.  If you have any questions or need any help, just look for these brightly colored green or orange buttons, press it, and you'll have assistance just as soon as we can get there,” the perky female said, pointing to the button and then pressing it, setting off a soft, brief jingle.

“Sweet!” Jack exclaimed.

Jo Lynn laughed and said, “Parents needn't worry about keeping children quiet.  This is their playground while they discover the wonders and magic of words.  Enjoy yourselves.”

“Thank you,” Daniel replied.

“Okay, Brood, have fun!” Jack said, releasing the groups to explore the new store.

====

“Jen, what are you doing here?” Sean Smith, the student body treasurer at their high school called out as he waved.

“Gee, Sean, I never would've expected to see you here,” Jennifer answered as she walked towards the handsome boy.  “My parents heard about this place and decided to check it out.  Sean, these are two of my sisters -- Chenoa and Lulu.”

“Hey, Girls!” Sean said, waving at the two girls.

“Jen, we're going to look at these books, okay?” Chenoa stated in question, referring to some books on horses.

“Okay.  Sean, did you see what happened to Sue Thomas at the rally yesterday?” Jennifer asked.

As the two teens gossiped, Chenoa and Lulu began to look at the books they had seen, enjoying all the photos of various kinds of horses.  After a while, though, Lulu, who was more of a cat lover, walked further down the aisle, eventually seeing some books with cats on them.  Unfortunately, they were too high up on the rotating rack for her to reach.  She looked over at Jennifer, but her sister was laughing and having such a good time with her friend that she didn't want to interrupt.  The little girl sighed.

“Lulu, what's wrong?” Chenoa asked, having finished looking at her book.

“I want to see that one,” Lulu answered, pointing up to the top shelf of a display unit.

Chenoa said, “I'll get it.  See, there's a step stool there.”  She scooted the brown stool over to the rack and climbed up on it, extending her arm.  “I can't reach it.  I know!”  She stepped off the stool and found a thick book on one of the lower shelves.  Putting the book on top of the stool, she again stepped up on it.  “Now I can get it,” she stated confidently.

“Be careful, Noa,” Lulu advised.

“Here it is,” Chenoa said gleefully, taking hold of the book.  “Take it, Lulu.”

“Thank you, Noa,” Lulu said, holding the book with a smile on her face.

“You're wellllllll ... watch out!”

The screech captured Jennifer's attention, and quickly, she turned around and exclaimed, “Oh, no!”  She sighed as she looked at the other end of the aisle, seeing Chenoa practically covered with books and the rack completely turned over.  “Noa, are you okay?” Jennifer asked as she hurried down the aisle, Sean following her closely.

“I'm fine,” Chenoa said, rubbing her right buttock for a second and then getting up.

“Are you sure?  Did you fall?” Jennifer inquired as she checked her sister for injuries.

“No, I slipped and jumped off, but then I lost my balance and landed on my bottom, and then the rack fell,” Chenoa explained.

“What happened?” one of the clerks called out, having heard the noise the fall created and then seeing the rack and its contents spread all over the floor.

“I'm not sure,” Chenoa said truthfully, only knowing that when she went to get off the step stool, she had slipped.

“We'll help you put the display rack back,” Jennifer said, noticing that Lulu had already begun to pick up some of the fallen books.

“That's all right.  Please, continue your shopping,” the clerk said, taking the books from Lulu.  “Uh, and if you need help, any of you, *please* get one of us.  That's why we're here.”

“Sorry,” Jennifer said.

“Jen, I like this book,” Lulu announced.  “The cat on the cover looks just like Calico.”

“Let's show it to Dad and Daddy when we get ready to check out,” Jennifer said.

As the foursome walked away, Sean commented, “That was exciting.”

“Actually, that was pretty calm,” Jennifer smirked, smiling at her sisters.

====

Near the center of the store, a casual reading station was set up for children and teenagers.  There were several beanbags and beanbag chairs available as well as a couple of tables where those interested could sit down and read for awhile.

Since Aislinn and Jenny were debating over several books, Jeff suggested they sit down and take closer looks so they could come to a decision on which books to buy.

As they headed for the area, Jeff's mouth opened, and he slowed.

“Jeff, what's wrong?” Aislinn asked.

“Huh?” the boy asked, looking down at his sister.  “Oh, nothing,” he added.

Jenny smirked, “It's that girl, Ash!  He can't take his eyes off her!”

“Jenny!” Jeff chastised, hoping the redhead's voice hadn't traveled.  Unfortunately, it had, and the girl in question looked over at the teenager and smiled warmly.  A bit nervously, Jeff nodded in acknowledgement of her presence, then told his siblings, “Find a seat.”

The children settled on sitting in the middle of the cluster of beanbags while Jeff took one of the taller beanbag chairs that was situated on the fringe of the regular beanbags.  A small table was to his left.

“I bet that's Chely,” Jenny opined, having covertly eavesdropped on a few of her brother's telephone conversations in recent weeks.

“Jeff likes her!” Aislinn replied, her voice just as loud as her sister's.

“Hey, read your books,” Jeff ordered in desperation, knowing the object of his affections was hearing every word.  Her giggles proved that.  ~As Dad would say -- oh, crap!~  Then he looked back at the two girls, wondering, ~Just how do they know about Chely?~

What the unsuspecting teenager didn't realize was that Jonny was also in the vicinity, on the other side of the nearest aisle to the book reading area.  The youngster had overheard every word, and he saw a golden opportunity to pull a prank on his older brother.

“Bri, I want to look at these books over here,” Jonny told his team leader.

“In a few minutes, Jonny.  I'm still deciding on my choice,” Brianna answered.

David piped up, saying, “I'll watch him, Bri.”

“Okay, but only one aisle over.  Dad and Daddy will have a cow if they find out that I let you too far out of my sight,” the tomboy replied.  She knew her parents wouldn't have a problem with David doing some of the overseeing of their younger brother, just as long as he didn't wander off too far or for more than a few minutes.  ~At least, I hope they won't mind.~

Having rounded the corner, Jonny pretended to look at some books as David also perused the shelves.  In reality, the youngest boy was spying on his teenage brother, who was very distracted by the presence of Chely Tillison.  As Jeff sat on one of the orange chairs, he was trying not to watch the teenage girl, but he just couldn't help himself.  Tapping his fingers nervously, he was totally oblivious to his sisters' continued giggling.

Suddenly, Jonny surprised David by putting his finger in front of his mouth in a shushing motion.  The older boy was unsure of what his younger brother was doing, so he opted just to watch for a minute.  He was totally taken aback when Jonny got on his knees and crawled undetected by Jeff under the table.  He smiled, though, at Aislinn and Jenny who simply talked louder in an attempt to cover up their brother's activities.  The girls weren't sure what Jonny was doing, however, until the last moment when they dared to take a glance while Jeff was again focused on Chely.

Timing his task perfectly, Jonny reached out with his right hand and gently pulled on the already loosened shoelace.

~Daddy always says to tie our laces tight,~ Jonny inwardly snickered.  ~You should listen to Daddy,~ he thought, his prank made easy since Jeff's shoelaces were half undone.

The boy tensed and pulled back a bit when Jeff suddenly shifted his right foot towards him.

Jeff began to look down when Jenny called out to him as a diversion, asking, “Jeff, do you think I should get a book on chess or flying?”

It was a good thing for Jonny that the teenager didn't realize the books Jenny had chosen to look at weren't on either of those two subjects.

“I don't know, Jenny, whatever you want,” the teen answered, his eyes again meeting Chely's, who smiled and then giggled with her friends.

Waiting just a few seconds to make sure his big brother wasn't going to look down, Jonny moved forward quietly to finish his task.  When he was done, he slowly backed away, not getting up off the floor until he accidentally ran into David, who stared down at him.

“You're going to get into trouble,” David quietly advised.

“Only if you tell,” Jonny pointed out as he stood up, his smile about as dashing as Jack's Irish grin.

David just shrugged as the two boys pretended to look at books.

A moment later, Brianna walked over, asking, “Hey, where ...”

“Shush!” David warned, putting his finger to his mouth.

Brianna cocked her head, watching curiously as David motioned over towards Jeff.

“I'm all done, Jeff,” Aislinn said, having made her choice.

“Me, too,” Jenny agreed, barely able to suppress a snicker.

“Okay, let's go,” Jeff said, standing up and motioning behind him, towards the back of the store.

Giggling, the girls began to go towards the front, where Chely was standing with two friends she was shopping with.

“No, Assssssssssssssssh,” Jeff called out.

The teenager had started to go after his sister, lunging forward to reach down and grab her.  However, since Jonny had tied his shoelaces together, Jeff lost his balance and ended up falling onto the grouping of beanbags in front of him.

“Oh, for crying out loud!” Jeff exclaimed, imitating his father.  Noticing his siblings laughing loudly, he suspected collusion amongst them, and when he saw Jonny nearby, he knew he was right.  “You are *so* in trouble!” he threatened while he stood up.

“You have to catch me first!” Jonny teased, running past Jeff towards Chely.

“Oh, I'llllllllll ... shooooooot!” Jeff exclaimed, having forgotten his shoelaces were still tied together.

The teenager fell forward again, only this time, he landed on some of the plants that adorned the area as well as the beanbags.  He groaned when he turned over, seeing dirt covering his white shirt and at least three plants in need of immediate attention, assuming they could be saved.

Jeff sighed, sure he'd lost any chance of gaining Chely's affections.  He actually hadn't even talked to the long-haired, brown-eyed girl, but he'd had a crush on her since the first day of high school, three weeks ago.  As his brothers and sisters laughed heartily, the teen just wanted to find a cave in some remote part of the world and hide.

“Let me help,” Chely said, surprising the boy as she kneeled down and began pushing away one of the plants.  “I'm afraid this one might be a lost cause.”

“I landed right on it,” Jeff noted as he quickly began to untie his shoelaces.

“Are they related?” Chely asked about the laughing children.

“They won't be for long,” Jeff threatened, causing more laughter.

Smiling, the pretty teen greeted, “My name is Chely.  We go to the same high school.”

“Yeah, I know,” Jeff responded.  “Uh, I mean, my name is Jeff.”

The two smiled, not really saying or doing anything; that is, not until Jenny began to giggle, “He likes her.”

“Jenny!” Jeff whined.

Chely smiled shyly, ducking her head as she tried to scoop up some of the dirt.

“That's Jenny; she's in the tattletale stage,” Jeff announced.

“I am *not* a tattletale!” Jenny refuted harshly.  “I'm gonna go find Dad and tell him you killed the plant.”

Jeff rolled his eyes and looked at Chely as he said, “See?”

The two laughed, both still a bit nervous.

Brianna gathered David and Jonny together and then asked, “Jeff, you are okay, right?”

“Yeah, I'm fine.  Chely, this is my sister, Brianna, and that's David, and that's ...” Jeff trailed off, glaring at Jonny.

“I'm Jonny,” the boy stated.  “I like covert ops!”

“Oh,” Chely replied, shrugging.  “Hello!”

“We'd better keep shopping,” Brianna said, spiriting the two boys away.

“What's your name?” Chely asked the youngest Munchkin.

“I'm Aislinn, and I'm not a tattletale, but ...”

“Ash!” Jeff warned.  “You two help pick up the dirt.”

“Is everyone okay here?” a store associate asked.  “What happened?”

“We had a little accident, but everyone's fine.  It was my fault,” Jeff spoke, standing up.  He pulled out his wallet, removing a ten dollar bill and handed it to the store associate, saying, “I think I killed the plants.  This will help you to replace them.”

“Let me get my supervisor,” the associate said.  “I can't accept any money like this without approval.”

“Great.  I mean, sure, yes, thanks,” Jeff stammered.

“So, do you?” Chely asked, smiling warmly at the boy.

“Do I ... what?” Jeff asked.

“Like me?” the female inquired.

“Um ... well ...”

“Yes!” both Aislinn and Jenny answered as they worked to clean up the area.  Seeing Jeff's glare, Jenny added, “Well, you do.”

Jeff sighed, “Yes, I ... do.”

Chely smiled and replied, “I like you, too.  I've seen you playing basketball after school a couple of times with your friends.  I've been hoping you'd introduce yourself.”

Jeff grinned sappily, totally unprepared for the girl's comments.  Before he could say anything more, the store associate returned with her supervisor.  The teen explained what happened, gallantly refraining from blaming his young brother.  He then paid for the plants, which his sisters had finally managed to resurrect as much as possible without more tools.

Then Jeff and Chely exchanged phone numbers, and Jeff and his sisters continued their shopping excursion while Chely returned to her friends.

====

“Son, how about a nice book about flying or being a mime or cooking?” Jack asked, having grown weary of being in the historical section.

Little Danny shook his head, responding, “I want a book about Egypt, Dad.”

“Okay, okay,” the father responded.  “I'm going to sit over here and wait,” he said, pointing at a nearby chair.  ~I love this place; plenty of spots to sit down.~

As he waited, Jack perused some of the magazines that were on the table next to the chair.  He found one on gardening and decided to look through it for a while.  He knew he was going to have a long wait for Little Danny to make up his mind.

Sure enough, twenty minutes had gone by when Jack heard a woman gasp.  He looked up to see her approaching Little Danny, a look of both horror and disbelief on her face.

“Young man, what do you think you're doing?” the woman asked.

“Fixing it,” Little Danny answered as he looked up at the woman, dismayed when she plucked the book out of his hands, causing his pencil to fall to the floor.

“It's ruined!” the woman exclaimed.

“Excuse me,” Jack interrupted, having stood and walked over to them.  “Son, what's going on?”

“It's Budge, Dad, and it's wrong.  It talks about the gods in Egypt, but ...” Little Danny began as he stood up.

“Don't say anymore,” Jack sighed, glancing over at the volume to see the reams of pencil marks Little Danny had made, correcting various errors in the author's work.  He smiled, saying, “How much?”

“You'll have to buy it, Sir,” the female stated.

“Yeah, of course,” Jack agreed, taking the book from her and examining the price.

“Why do you sell books if you know they're wrong?” Little Danny asked the tall lady.

“Wallis Budge is an expert.  There are no errors in his works,” the woman claimed.

Little Danny shook his head firmly, saying, “Don't you know he used outdated methods and ...”

“Okay, Son, let's give the woman a break,” Jack urged.  “Apologize for writing in the book.”

“But, Dad ...”

“Little Danny, this book wasn't yours.  I understand what you were trying to do, but it wasn't the correct thing.  This book belongs to the store, and now we have to buy it because you wrote in it,” Jack explained.

“I'm sorry, Dad.  Maybe we can make paper airplanes out of it at home or bury it in Katie's play yard,” the young boy suggested.

“I ... he's kidding ... isn't he?” the woman asked.

“No, Ma'am, he's not,” Jack said.  He tugged on the boy's arm and said, “Let's go.”

“Dad, we should buy all the books.  It's not right to sell books that aren't true,” Little Danny said as they rounded the corner, leaving the woman staring after them in disbelief and shock.

====

“Daniel?  Daniel Jackson?” a voice called out in surprise.

Daniel turned towards the sound and focused in on the caller.  She was definitely familiar, but had to be someone he'd known a long time ago as she wasn't instantly recognizable to him.

“You don't remember me, do you?” the blonde said as she approached, her red lips full and drawing attention to her perfectly shaped mouth.

“Melinda!” Daniel exclaimed, giving the woman a tentative hug.

Laughing, Melinda commented, “It's been ages, but I could never forget you. How are you?”

“Great, just great,” Daniel replied, looking down at his young son who was looking through the comic books, oblivious to his father's reunion with some old friend.  “That's my son, Ricky.”

“He's adorable,” Melinda responded.  “Is your wife here?  I'd love to meet her.  Oh, it's not Sarah, is it?” she asked, referring to Sarah Gardner.

“Uh, no, not, uh, Sarah,” Daniel replied.

“I never really thought she was your type anyway,” Melinda responded.  “She and Steven were more of a pair.  Wow, I haven't thought about them in a long time.  I wonder what happened to them.”

Daniel shrugged, not really wanting to even think about Steven Rayner or Sarah.  Of course, Steven was dead now, but he didn't want to bring that up, either.

“What's, uh, new with you?” Daniel asked, deflecting the conversation.

“After graduation, I got a job with a museum in St. Louis.  Then, I got married.  Didn't work out,” Melinda said, seeing Daniel about to ask more.  “So, now I'm playing the field,” she pointed out, her smile communicating much more than Daniel wanted to think about.  “You're ... married?”

Quickly and definitively, Daniel answered, “Yes, and we're expecting our twelfth child soon.”

“Tw...twel...twelfth?” the woman stuttered.

Smiling proudly, Daniel nodded and said, “Life is good.”

“It must be,” Melinda responded.  “Well, Daniel, it's been a pleasure, but I really must go.  I'm so sorry I didn't get to meet your wife, but, please, give her my sympathies, uh, regards ... give her my regards.  Bye!”

Daniel chuckled, watching the flustered woman walk quickly away, and thought, ~Now I remember you better.  You were part of Sarah's sorority club.  You didn't even know I existed back then.  I can't believe you even remembered my name.~  With a sigh of contentment at the way his life had improved since then, he returned his focus to his son, but when he did, his eyes widened and his mouth opened like a guppy.  “Ricky, stop that!”

Looking up, Ricky asked, “Why, Daddy?  I'm just coloring.  See?”

“Yes, I *can* see that, but, Son, we don't color in books we don't own,” Daniel lamented, seeing that his son had drawn in at least five different books that Ricky had left open to show him.  ~Jack is going to kill me.~

“Ricky, where did you get the crayon?” Daniel asked.

“Right here,” Ricky answered pulling out another crayon from the top pocket of the red overalls he was wearing.

~Note to self:  Check Ricky's pockets for crayons and other writing implements before going to the bookstore,~ Daniel inwardly sighed.

====

In another part of the store, Jennifer was helping Lulu choose her primary purchase, reviewing various ballet books and DVDs.  Chenoa was nearby, examining books on tap dancing and then moving down the aisle to where there were books on other forms of the arts.

When a sales clerk came by to make sure the shelves were straight and in order, Chenoa pulled out a book and asked, “What's this book about?”

The clerk smiled at the young girl, then took the book and answered her question, saying the book was about decorative art.

“What does that mean?” Chenoa inquired.  Finding out the book was about decorating a home with paintings and sculptures, she pulled out another book and inquired, “What is this book?”  The clerk took the book and responded that it was about painting.  Chenoa liked that at first and asked, “Will it teach me how to draw a better horse?  I like horses.”

Still smiling, the clerk informed Chenoa that the book was about artistic styles and eras and not a 'how-to' book.  Disappointed, the young girl replaced the book on the shelf, moved a few sections down, and removed another book.  Again, she walked up to the store associate.

“Yes?” the young woman asked.

“How about this one?” Chenoa asked, handing her the book.

“It's about architecture,” the clerk answered.

“What's that?” Chenoa inquired.

“How to design a building, like your house,” the clerk answered.

“Oh, my brother likes that stuff, but I don't,” Chenoa responded and then returned the book to the shelf.  Quickly, she picked up another one and made her way back to the woman.  “What's this book about?”

Sighing, but trying to be patient, the clerk answered, “Theater.”

“Like the movies?” the curly haired blonde asked.

“Well, no, not really.  It's more like a stage play,” the female stated.

“Oh, we did that.  We like putting on plays,” Chenoa told the girl.  “Does it tell us how to put on a good play?”

The clerk chuckled, “No, it just talks about some of the better plays that have been done.”

“I don't want that one then,” Chenoa responded, taking the book back.  “Is there one that ...”

“Where's your mother?” the clerk asked.

Chenoa blinked, then answered, “My Dad and Daddy are with my brothers and sisters.”

“Dad and ... Daddy?” the clerk asked.

“Yes, and I get to buy a book,” Chenoa replied.  She pulled out another book, took it to the woman and asked, “Does this book tell us how to do good plays?”

The clerk took the book and examined it before shaking her head and saying, “No. Actually, this is an analysis of some of the best playwrights.”

“What's a playwright?” Chenoa asked.

“A playwright is someone who writes for the theater,” the clerk answered.

“For the stage?” Chenoa questioned.

“Yes.”

“Then my brothers are playwrights because they wrote our play,” Chenoa said proudly.

“Well, it takes a bit more than that,” the clerk replied.

“That's not what you said,” Chenoa refuted.

“Yes, but ... never mind,” the woman stated, returning to her work.

Chenoa replaced the book on the shelf, pulled out another one, and asked, “What's this book about?”

“Listen, Honey, you're very sweet, but I really need to get this done,” the clerk said.

“Noa, what's going on?” Jennifer asked, Lulu by her side with her intended selection.

“I'm looking at the books,” Chenoa answered.

“She's very inquisitive,” the clerk responded.

“Yes, she is.  I'm sorry if she bothered you,” Jennifer intoned, moving forward to take Chenoa's hand.  “Let's go check out some other aisles.”

“Jen, she said a playwright is someone who writes a play, but when I told her about David and Little Danny writing our play, she ...” Chenoa rambled as the three Jackson-O'Neills turned the corner.

~Cute, but I need to get this done,~ the clerk thought as she returned to her work.

====

At one point during their time at the store, three of the family groups ended up in the same area.  Jack smiled at Jeff and Brianna and asked for an update.  As the three huddled together, their charges also got together and looked around for an opportunity to have some fun.

“Let's build a book house,” Jonny suggested as he led the young kids to a low-lying table that was full of children's books.

The table was intentionally low to allow the children to rifle through books of all kinds that were on clearance.  Even though it was a new store, the shop had purchased a collection of used and out-of-date books to start their clearance tables with.  The items included comic books, posters, coloring books, and regular storybooks.  There were even small trinkets, bookmarks, pencils, and other specialty items included.

“Jonny, a pyramid would be easier,” Little Danny opined.

“Okay, we'll build a pyramid.  Jenny, get some pencils and things.  Ash, we need bigger books to make the sides,” Jonny instructed as he formulated a plan in his mind.

“Uh, Dad,” Brianna said a couple of minutes later when she glanced over at her siblings.

“What?” Jack asked, turning around to see what his daughter was staring at.

“What are they doing?” Jack asked.

“Looks like a pyramid,” Jeff said.  “I think.”

“Of course, it is,” Jack sighed, noting that some of the items had been modified to make the pyramid.  ~This one could be costly,~ he thought as he walked towards the creative youngsters, about to destroy their inventive pyramid.

====

A half-hour later, Brianna, David, and Jonny were upstairs, seeing what goodies were there.  While Brianna and David checked out some of the more rare and unusual books, Jonny slipped away, going into the trading room.

“Hi, I'm Keith.  If you find something you want to trade for, please let me know,” the college student and part-time employee said to the boy.

Keith was behind a small two-part swinging door.  The top part was open and affixed to the wall.  The bottom half, which had a shelf piece atop it, was used as the counter.  People would find their items and bring them to the counter where Keith could process the exchange.  The width of the counter was only six to eight inches.

“I'm Jonny, and I'll take this one,” the youngster replied, having found a book about flying that looked good to him.

“Okay, what do you have to trade for it?” Keith asked.

Jonny thought for a moment, then reached into his pocket and said, “Here.  It's my best marble.”

Keith chuckled, but replied, “I'm sorry, but to get a new book, you have to trade in an old book.”

Jonny grimaced and replied, “But it's not a new book. This is an old book.  It says so right there.”

As Jonny pointed to the sign that read 'Old Books for Trade', Keith chuckled again and explained, “Yes, and those books are all available.  You just need to trade another book for it.”

Thinking hard, Jonny put away his marble, then ran to the shelf, pulled out a book, and said, “I'll trade this book for that one.”

Laughing heartily, Keith responded, “That's not your book, Jonny; it belongs to the store.”

Jonny sighed in frustration and asked, “How can I trade a book for a book if I haven't been here before?  I don't have a book to trade.  That's not fair!” he added as he put his hands on his hips.

“It's the system,” Keith spoke.

“It's a bad system,” Jonny said.  “I want that book!  I'll buy it!”

“You can't.  It's a book for trade,” Keith said.

“I already told you I don't have a book to trade.  You can have my marble, or I'll buy it,” Jonny stated sternly.

Keith sighed, asking, “Where are your parents?”

“Don't need my parents.  I'm a big boy.  Sign says it's an old book, and it's for trade.  Make me an offer!” Jonny firmly said, now tapping his right foot on the cold floor as he waited for a response.

“Jonny, here you are,” Brianna said, entering the room.  She turned, calling out, “David, he's in here.”  Turning back to her brother, she chastised, “You know better than to wander off like that.”

“I didn't wander off, Bri.  I came in here to look for a book, and I found one, but *he*,” Jonny paused, pointing at the man, “won't give it to me.”

Keith explained the situation to Brianna and David, grateful they seemed to understand the situation.  They attempted to soothe Jonny's ruffled feathers, but nothing worked, the youngster insisting he wanted that book because of the unique airplanes pictured in it.

“David, why don't you go find Dad,” Brianna suggested.

“Now you're gonna get into trouble,” Jonny smirked, confident Jack would have Keith in shape fast.

--

A few minutes later, David reappeared, Jack and Little Danny in tow.  Keith brought Jack up to speed, certain the adult would see the logic of the situation.

“Sure, I understand,” Jack replied.  “Is this book available for sale elsewhere in the store?”

“No, Sir, it's not.  This one is out of print, but the kids still enjoy it, so that's why it's in the Trading Room,” Keith stated.

“Look, my son wants this book, but your store just opened.  We didn't bring anything to trade,” Jack said.

“I'm aware of that, Sir,” Keith responded.

“So, let's make a deal,” Jack intoned.

“There's nothing I can do,” the man replied.

“Boy, is he gonna get it,” Little Danny whispered to Jonny as they watched.

“I'm crying for him,” Jonny jested, pretending to wipe tears from his eyes that weren't falling.

“Fine,” Jack said curtly.  He pulled out his wallet, took out a five dollar bill, and called out, “Bri, go buy a book, and bring it back here so we can *trade* it in.”

“Sir, I'm sorry, but we don't allow that,” Keith interjected just as Brianna had reached the doorway.  Seeing Jack's glare, he added, “It's the principle of the thing; uh, as well as ... accounting.  They said we couldn't ... do that.”

Keith gulped, seeing the intenseness of Jack's look.  He actually stepped back when Jack approached the tiny booth that stood between them.

Jack leaned forward, placing both elbows on the small, white countertop.  He smiled at Keith as he stared at him ... and stared ... and stared.

“Uh, Sir?”

“Keith?  It is Keith?” Jack asked, knowing it was indeed the man's name.  “At least, that's what it says on the shiny black nametag,” he added, reaching out and flicking the tag.

“Keith.  Yes, Sir,” the man responded.

“My son wants that book.  Now, I'm willing to do what it takes to do this calmly and by-the-book, but I gotta tell ya,” Jack said, his voice going up just slightly as he tilted his head, “I'm not too fond of rules, especially when they're stupid.  How can I get *that* book for my son *today*?”

“I wish there was a way, but ...” Keith began.

Jack shook his head, picking that moment to bang down on the counter, swatting away something.

“Fly.  He's dead now.  Darn flies just keep getting in my way, and when they get in my way, I just have to ... well, they have to go bye bye.  You understand?” Jack asked menacingly.

Keith gulped again, saying, “You don't like rules.”

“Only when they don't make sense.”  Jack paused, then continued more lightly, “Listen, Keith, we're not flies; we're people.  We're a higher order with supposedly bigger and more intelligent brains.  Let me buy the book,” Jack requested.

“Accounting says ...”

“Accounting are a bunch of blue coats who don't know the daylight from the night.  Let's look at it this way.  This 'trade room' is a more laid-back concept than a straight sale.  It's less structured, so I propose a compromise.  You've heard of that, right, Keith?” Jack questioned.

“Of course, I have.  It's just ...”

“I'm big on compromise, right, Kids?” Jack interrupted.

Little Danny coughed while the other children all either laughed or snickered.

“Well, compromise is a good thing,” the general added, ignoring the response of the children.  “Now, Keith, you don't want to disappoint my boy, do ya?” Jack asked.

“No, Sir,” Keith nervously responded.

“Hand me the book,” Jack requested, smiling as Brianna quickly handed him the book which she'd previously taken from Jonny.  Jack put the book on the counter and instructed in a low, almost snarly voice, “I'm sure you have some paperwork you need to do.  Paperwork is a plague, but it's necessary, isn't it?”

“Necessary.  Yes, Sir, very necessary,” Keith agreed, taking the book and beginning to make the appropriate notations.

“How much?”

“No charge, Sir,” Keith said.

“No,” Jack said, shaking his head.  “My son doesn't steal or take what isn't his.”

“Dad, I offered him my best marble,” Jonny interrupted, taking the marble out and showing it to Jack.

“It's worth that much to you?” Jack asked.

“Yes, Dad.  I want that book real bad,” Jonny answered.

Jack took the marble and handed it to Keith, telling him, “One trade.  Next week, I'll come back with a book that meets your rules.  I'll expect to pick up the marble when I do.”

“Yes, Sir,” Keith said, pushing the book back in Jack's direction.  Then he put the marble in his pocket.  ~No way am I leaving this marble here to get lost. It will be in my pocket every day until he returns to get it,~ Keith resolved silently.

“Thank you,” Jack said, smiling.  “Okay, Campers, back to shopping.  Here's your book, Son.”

“Thanks, Dad,” Jonny stated.  The boy was the last one to leave the Trading Room, but before he did, he looked back and said, “That's my Dad.  No one messes with him!”

“I can see that,” Keith responded, deciding this job may not be as cushy as he had thought it was going to be.

====

“Aren't we overdoing the comic books, and since when do we buy 'Xena'?” Jack asked, seeing a group of at least eight comic books in his lover's hand when they met up near the checkout counter at the front of the bookstore.

“Since our son decided to turn the comic books into coloring books,” Daniel answered.

Just then, Jeff arrived up front with Aislinn and Jenny, who immediately migrated over to where Ricky was standing.  Aislinn, likewise, met up with Little Danny, the two beginning a discussion about their adventures in the bookstore.  Jeff, meanwhile, caught another glimpse of Chely and her friends and was totally distracted by her presence.

“Makes sense,” Jack laughed.  “I'll keep Xena,” he added, attempting to pull it off the top of the pile.

“I don't think so,” Daniel mused, swatting his lover's hand.

“Jealous?” Jack quipped.

“Hey, if you knew who I'd seen, you'd be ...” Daniel paused, realizing he had just opened up a can of worms.  ~Dumb, dumb, dumb for a supposed genius,~ he chastised himself.

“I'd *what*?” Jack asked.

“Nothing, Jack,” Daniel said.  ~Gawd, he knows.~

“Daniel, you're hedging,” the general accused, cocking his head slightly as he stared down his lover.  “Name!”

“Excuse me?” Daniel questioned.  ~Maybe I can distract him.  Act ... innocent.  No, won't work.  Attack!  Deflect!  Oh, gawd.~

“What's his or her name?” Jack asked.  ~He is *so* guilty!~

“Jack ...”

“Daniel!” Jack quickly responded.

“Melinda, but ...” Daniel began.

“Who is she?”

“Jack, this is ridiculous,” Daniel pointed out.

“NO, CHILDREN!  DON'T!” a man spoke with a raised voice.

The loud voice startled Ricky and Jenny, who had congregated together while their parents bickered.  The twins were simply trying to open up a map inside a book, but the man thought they were about to tear it out. Unfortunately, when they heard the shout, Ricky went one way and Jenny another, resulting in the map being ripped in two.  Since Ricky had the bulk of the large volume, when the map tore, Jenny flew backwards, landing against a display of bookmarks.

The display fell back, sending hundreds of bookmarks flying through the air.

“Oops!” Jenny lamented as she landed on her butt, three bookmarks floating down to land on her lap.

“Kids!” Jack called out as he and Daniel hurried to check on the two kids.

After figuring out what had happened, Jack and Daniel added the expensive book the Spitfires had been looking at to their cart.  Then the children began to pick up all of the bookmarks, something that took quite a while.  As the minutes passed, the rest of the family joined the others and helped out as well.

When things settled again, the parents were again at the front of the store, preparing to get in line after a quick review of their would-be purchases.

“Budge?” Daniel questioned skeptically.

“Budge as altered by Daniel Michael Jackson-O'Neill,” Jack corrected, flipping through the book to show off the young boy's handiwork.

“Oh,” Daniel chuckled, inwardly proud of his son.  ~That's my boy.~  Still, he shook his head and said, “Never thought I'd be buying a book by that quack at this point in my life.”

Hearing the comment, Ricky began to quack like a duck.  All the children thought that was funny, so Jenny, the Munchkins, Chenoa, Lulu, and David all began making quacking sounds.  Some began making motions with their arms in unison with the duck noises.

“Quack, quack,” Ricky said, flapping his arm 'wings'.  “I'm a duck, Dad.”

“Quack!  I'm just quackers for ducks,” Jack responded as he teased the youngster.

Jennifer, Jeff, and Brianna stood together off to the side, wondering how they could avoid being connected to the human duck family.  They couldn't believe how their siblings and older father were suddenly making spectacles of themselves, quacking loudly and moving about like ducks.

“Oh, well,” Brianna sighed.  “If you've got a family of quackers, you might as well quack!”

Jeff and Jennifer grimaced as Brianna gave in and joined their crazy family.

“Jack, stop,” Daniel urged, getting no response except for a motion to join them.

“They are quackers,” Jennifer stated.

Jeff nodded, saying, “Definitely.”  He looked over at Chely and sighed.  He knew the truth was out.  He was part of a crazy, silly, ridiculous family.  ~And, I love them.~

Without saying a word to his sister, Jeff joined the family and actually joined David and Brianna in doing a creative version of 'The Bump'.

“It's 'The Duck Bump',” Jeff quipped as everyone laughed.

~Oh, my!~  Jennifer chuckled and looked over at Daniel, who was still trying to get Jack to stop.  She walked up to him and said, “Daddy, why fight it?”

Daniel looked at her in surprise, and then he laughed, saying, “Yeah, why?”

Within seconds, the entire family was doing their version of 'The Duck Bump', a silly dance that earned the attention of anyone near the vicinity.

“That was fun,” Jack observed when they finally settled down.

“Yes, it was,” Daniel agreed, ignoring the one couple that was looking at the group with abject disgust on their faces.  He focused instead on his family, and their faces were all happy and smiling.  “It was a lot of fun.”

“Did you find everything you needed?” Jo Lynn asked when the group left.

“We had a marvelous time,” Daniel answered.

“Keith needs to go to the bathroom, I think,” Jonny responded, to which Jack laughed loudly.

“What'd I miss?” Daniel asked.

“I'll tell ya later,” Jack said.  “Home, Brood!”  He looked over at his lover and chimed, “Danny, *I* get the truck.”

Jo Lynn watched the large family leave, plenty of bags full of their purchases in hand, and wondered, “They are interesting.  I hope they come back.  They certainly are big spenders.”

“They had to be,” another nearby employee, who had either witnessed or heard about some of the family's in-store experiences, spoke.

“Yeah?” Jo Lynn asked curiously.

“Let me tell you what happened in the clearance area, and that's just the start of it.  Well ...”

The 'adventure' had turned out great, the Jackson-O'Neills reaffirming that celebrating life together as a family would never be boring.  They may not always be perfect, but they always had fun!

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