Red Alert 4: Not Them Again

Author: Orrymain
Category: Slash, Humor, Drama, Established Relationship
Pairing: Jack/Daniel ... and it's all J/D
Rating: PG-13
Season: Beyond the Series - November 26, 2012
Spoilers: None
Written: July 6,25,28-29,31, August 7,9, 2014, January 23-24, February 3,5, 2021
Summary: The Jackson-O'Neills go shopping and that means just one thing: trouble!
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) This fic stands alone, but it does reference my other fic(s): “Red Alert” and “One Bad Apple”

Red Alert 4: Not Them Again
by Orrymain

Scattered clouds filled the chilly skies of Colorado Springs as the Jackson-O'Neill family pulled into the massive parking lot that surrounded a large warehouse store. The Club, as they called it, was fairly new to the area and often made for smart purchases since many products could be purchased in bulk at a sizable discount. Daniel and most of the children were in the SUV with Jack joined by Jeff and Chenoa in his truck. The truck would be needed to haul home the goodies purchased that afternoon.

“Okay, kids, you have your groups. Let's see if we can get out of here in less than ninety minutes,” Jack challenged. “Group leaders, watch your charges.”

“Yes, General,” Jennifer replied, giving her dad a mock salute much like her younger father sometimes did in the past.

“Daniel, you taught her that,” Jack chided.

Wearing a sly grin, Daniel directed the children, “Dad and I have to stay together to make a few key purchase decisions, so mind your older siblings.”

“Yes, Daddy,” Jonny agreed with a bit of smirky smile.

**Jack, does he look funny to you.**

**Sick?**

**No.**

**Then what?**

**I don't know, but he reminds me of you when we were on missions and you blew up things.**

**Blowing up things is my specialty,** Jack responded with a suggestive grin.

**Babe, we're in a parking lot, surrounded by our children.**

**You have a point there, Dannyboy.**

“You two done yet?” Jeff asked his parents.

“Done?” Daniel replied with a look of total innocence.

“Doing that thing you do,” Jeff elaborated. “Can we go inside now?”

“Move out,” Jack ordered, watching as the dozen children walked to the shopping carts and prepared to go inside the huge shopping facility.

Jennifer, with eleven-month-old JD in tow, quickly pulled out a large shopping cart and placed her brother in it as if he were an item to be purchased.

As she affixed a special restraint to ensure her little brother was secure in the cart, Jennifer mused, “Don't worry, JD, you're priceless. Sit back and enjoy the ride.”

JD clapped his approval while Chenoa, who turned seven the month before, kept one hand on her sister's jeans.

Twelve-year-old Brianna pulled out one of the extra long carts that had seating space for children built into the back just in front of the bar used to push the cart. She watched as Jenny and Ricky took their places, smiling like they were about to go on a ride at an amusement park.

Meanwhile the tomboy's younger brother by a year, David, and the Munchkins, now age six, reviewed their shopping list before the older boy finally pulled out a regular cart for their excursion.

“Ready, Lulu?” Jeff asked his black-haired curly-haired sister.

“Ready, Jeff,” the soon-to-be-eight-year-old girl replied.

The two siblings planned to roam between the other brood groups as they picked up a few odd items assigned to them, so they decided not to use any of the available carts.

“Jeff!” Daniel admonished, seeing his oldest son was about to walk into the store.

“Daddy, I'm fine.”

Daniel grinned, well aware that the word 'fine' was often misleading. After all, he'd used it himself for years to cover up both physical and emotional injuries.

“Janet said you'd be fine in a few days as long as you rested your ankle,” Daniel reminded about the doctor's comments that had been made only a couple of hours earlier.

“Daddy,” Jeff whined. Then he heard his older father's cough, one that had nothing to do with mucus in the mouth, but rather everything to do with obedience. “Okay.”

Resigned to his fate, Jeff sat down in one of the mobile battery carts that many disabled and elderly shoppers used to get around the huge complex.

“Lulu, you make sure he stays there unless he needs to get something you can't reach from a shelf,” Daniel instructed with a smile. “You're in charge.”

“Me?” the youth brightened. “I'm in charge of Jeff? Wow!” The ballet dancer was so happy at the responsibility placed on her that she actually did a jete and then went into an a la seconde spin. When she was done, some of the shoppers who were preparing to enter the store and others who were exiting applauded. “Thank you,” she giggled, taking a bow and then blushing in embarrassment.

“Don't let it go to your head, Lulu,” Jeff warned, frustrated by having to use the scooter type cart.

“I won't, Jeff,” the girl promised. “Now you just stay all safe in your seat, and I'll get our list. Mustn't hurt your foot.”

“It's just my ankle,” Jeff corrected. ~Shouldn't have tried to block Ned,~ he sighed, thinking back to the early morning basketball game in which he'd attempted to block a shot and then landed wrong on his left foot, resulting in a slight sprain of his ankle.

“Are you mad at me for being in charge of you, Jeff?” the black-haired girl asked with big, vulnerable eyes.

Jeff smiled and shook his head as he answered, “No, Sis. I'm mad at me for hurting my ankle. I'll be good. Lead the way.”

Lulu grinned and led the way towards the retailer's door. She was followed by the other brood groups.

At this point, Jack sprinted ahead to show the staff manning the entrance his membership card and then, pointing at the line of carts at the control of his various children, voiced, "They're with me."

The wide eyes of the woman at the doorway couldn't be missed, but she smiled and greeted all the groups with their own polite, "Welcome" as well as the usual, "If you need help at any time, just find someone with a green apron like I'm wearing."

With the children heading on their way, Daniel sighed with a hint of uncertainty, “Jack, maybe we should keep JD with us.”

“Danny, we're picking up some heavy items. It's gonna take both us and two of these slab carts to get everything.”

Daniel stared at his lover, curiosity growing within him. They were both so cautious with their brood. This was the first time they were turning them loose without parental protection in such a large store. It was, however, somewhat necessary considering that they were picking up several bigger items on behalf of co-workers at Cheyenne Mountain that would be given as a gift to the daughter of a recently killed-in-action team member.

The SG-9 team member was murdered during what should have been a routine off-world diplomatic mission. His only daughter just finished college, but had yet to find anything but a part-time, minimum wage position. As it turned out, the lieutenant was deeply in debt, leaving his wife and daughter struggling. Wanting to assist, personnel raised funds to pay the widow's mortgage for two months and purchase some items for the daughter's sparse apartment. Because of timing constraints for the Jackson-O'Neills, shopping for the survivors had to be combined with the family's planned outing for their personal goods.

“Jack, what do you know that I don't know?” Daniel questioned. ~He's smirking. What's going on?~

The general turned and nodded just as two men and a woman approached, all in street clothes but all well known to Daniel as SGC staff.

“You brought in a team?” the archaeologist asked in disbelief, his mouth remaining open in shock.

“They weren't doing anything,” Jack responded.

“Jack, why are they here?”

“General,” the first airman called out.

“Williams,” Jack acknowledged, ignoring the salute that had been aimed at him by all three of the military types now standing in front of him. “I want one of you on the north door, another on the south, and the third right here. You know what to look for. If any of my children pop their heads out of the main entrance without Daniel or me with them, notify me immediately and do *not* let them out of this area,” he directed, motioning at the covered enclosure where carts were kept. The space was actually on the outside of the building which prompted his extra stern warning to the team.

“Yes, Sir,” Williams acknowledged.

“Sorry, I'm late,” a fourth airman, Consuelo Alvarez, called out as she joined the group. “Where do you want me stationed, Sir?”

“Walk the perimeter. There are emergency exits a target could utilize ...”

“A target,” Daniel repeated softly, his arms folded across his chest as he tried to process what was happening.

Jack continued, “... for a quick exit. Be alert." He paused for a moment before releasing a regretful sigh. "One more thing. Should any of the kids maybe perhaps cause odd things to happen, do your best to mop up after them without creating a scene. Is that understood?"

"We've heard the stories, Sir," Williams said.

"Right," Daniel heard himself say aloud. He shrugged, "I guess we're famous."

"Take your positions.”

“Sir, yes, Sir!” the four airmen responded in unison, snapping off another round of unanswered salutes and then moving out as ordered.

“Jack, don't you think this is overdoing it?”

“Want me to tell them to go home?”

Daniel looked around, noticing how busy the store was. The large parking lot was already full with all kinds of people walking in multiple directions. Bus stops were nearby and on street corners, people were begging for money. All things considered, he was a little worried about not being able to watch more closely over his children.

“No,” the younger man sighed.

Jack simply grinned and headed inside the store while Daniel's head dropped in submission.

~Gawd, I hate it when it does that, but ... I'm glad he does that,~ Daniel admitted as he walked swiftly to catch up with his lover.

====

Moments earlier, seeing a familiar face speaking with four others near the entrance, the store manager broadened his view and noticed the influx of children, causing him to nearly lose the ability to breathe.

~No! It can't be.~ The man took a deep breath to calm himself. ~I need a red alert. Now! No, I can't. Bull crap, it's not possible here. Focus on the solution. You know what this means.~ He looked at his watch, letting out a groan. ~I give it ten minutes before the first calamity happens. Be calm but brace! Brace! Brace!~

====

As Brianna's group reached the produce aisle, Ricky and Jenny immediately noticed several groups of balloons. They were used to call attention to a special promotion being offered in that part of the store.

“C'mon, guys, let's get the fresh fruits,” Brianna urged as she made sure the Spitfires safely exited their seats on the cart.

The tomboy quickly became engrossed in her selections of apples, peaches, and potatoes while her sibling charges focused on lettuce and celery.

“I wish I had some balloons,” Jenny said quietly, her focus on colorful assemblage of balloons rather than the green leaf produce in front of her.

“I'll get you some,” Ricky vowed, not wanting his sister to be unhappy.

The Spitfire walked over to the bunch of balloons and studied it for a moment. Then he carefully began to untie it, only the string ran through his fingers, causing the balloons to jolt up to the tall ceiling.

Jenny joined her brother and teased, “Nice try, Ricky.”

“You want balloons. I'm getting you balloons.”

More determined than he was before, the youngster went to the next group and the next until he reached the sixth and final group. As shoppers in the area chuckled and mused over the wayward balloons, gasps sprung out as some of the balloons hit vents and began to pop, sounding like gunfire.

“Got it!” Ricky exclaimed, successfully holding on to the last balloon batch and handing it to the redhead.

“Thank you, Ricky. I love them,” Jenny praised, a huge grin on her face. “Let's tie them to the cart.”

--

As they were comparing mini-refrigerators, Jack and Daniel startled at the sound of the loud pops.

“Jack?” Daniel called out in curious alarm.

“I'm not sure.” The general looked around and, for a reason he didn't quite understand, he looked up. Grinning, he pointed upward and instructed, “Look.”

Seeing several balloons just reaching the vents and popping, Daniel sighed a nervous sound of relief.

“For a minute there ...”

“Yeah,” Jack agreed, both of them having gone to a worse case scenario in all of a second.

“Okay, so, uh, this one is a cubic foot bigger,” Daniel noted as the couple refocused on their shopping.

--

Meanwhile, at the front of the store, the store manager whose name was Kurt, was squelching the concern of worried shoppers and staff who hadn't yet figured out what was happening with the balloons.

~I just know those kids had something to do with it,~ the manager asserted. He checked his watch. ~Wish being right meant winning the lottery: ten minutes on the button.~

"Kurt, you won't believe it, supervisor Lian reported.

"Sure I will," the manager claimed. "I'm braced."

The remark confused the other store employee, but he ignored it and reported, “Some kid released all the balloons in the promo area.”

“Just being a kid, I guess,” Kurt responded, giving the culprit the benefit of the doubt.

“Toby in produce said the kid wanted to give his sister some balloons. They've attached them to their cart. What me to get the balloons back?”

“Take balloons away from kids? Li, we're packed solid with shoppers. Take away those balloons and the kids cry. Our customers will bolt and they'll be a lot of complaints upstairs. Don't do anything. Uh, correction. Try to get that bunch up there down before they go off and alarm the shoppers even more.” As Lian acknowledged the orders, Kurt let out a sorrowful moan. ~Ten dollars says it's those Jackson-O'Neill kids. Make that fifty dollars.~

Seeing a look of concern on Kurt's face, Lian asked, "Is there something else?"

With a bit of a snort, Kurt replied, "If we weren't so packed, I'd call out a red alert, but that would create panic here. It's what we need, Li. Trust me on this. Red alert."

====

As they shopped, the Munchkins kept noticing shopping carts apparently abandoned by shoppers.

"They should take them back if they decide not to buy stuff," Aislinn complained.

"They're being lazy," Jonny opined.

"Look, lots of the carts still have things in them, too," Little Danny observed. "They don't even put back what they took off the shelves."

This situation disturbed the triplets. It didn't feel right to them to see so many carts not moving when the store was full of shoppers and the number of carts available for use at the entry was minimal.

"Let's put the carts together," Little Danny suggested, only the carts were bigger than the ones at a regular supermarket, and the small triplets found it difficult to get one cart to hook into another one.

"Hey, I know," Jonny spoke excitedly. He reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out a roll of duct tape and small scissors intended for arts and crafts. "Let's put the carts together with this."

"A duct tape cart train," Aislinn giggled.

"We'll ride them back to the front."

Just then, David, who was desperately trying to figure out what size box of oatmeal he should put in his cart, called out, "You guys stay close."

"Um, sure," Jonny said while simultaneously crossing his fingers. ~Not a lie when fingers are crossed.~

"Little Danny?" Aislinn asked, sensing her brother was uncertain.

"Okay, we'll make a cart train and put back the items before we take it to the front, okay?"

"Okay," both Jonny and Aislinn agreed.

A few shoppers glanced over as the children wrapped duct tape around the carts, linking them together, but most simply went on their way, not saying a word to anyone about the odd activity.

David could hear his charges talking about shopping and something about returning items, so he knew they were still nearby. Having chosen the oatmeal, he now focused on cereal, which was in the same aisle.

"Whoo Whoo!" came the jubilant shout of three.

Instantly, David turned and saw the Munchkins rounding the corner at the other end of the long aisle. He ran after them, leaving his cart behind. When he caught up to them, he was exasperated.

"What are you doing?"

"Putting back this bag of flour someone left in their cart," Jonny answered.

"Jonny, put it down and let's get back to our cart," David instructed.

"But ..."

Jonny's rebuttal was interrupted when he lost his footing, causing the bag of flour to escape from his hands and hit the edge of an umbrella from a passing shopper.

"Yikes!" exclaimed the female shopper as she observed the bag make contact with the sharp end of her umbrella and send flour all over the floor.

"I'm sorry, Ma'am. I slipped," Jonny apologized.

"No harm done to me, little boy, but the floor looks like it's been snowing inside," the woman mused as she continued on her way.

"What do we do?"Aislinn asked.

David used his feet to push as much of the white substance to the side, close to the shelves, but there was so much that it was a near impossible task without a broom and pan to pick up the flour. He also now had black shoes highlighted by lots of white specks.

"Come on, guys. We'll finish our shopping and tell Dad and Daddy at the checkout," David sighed. ~I'm going to get into big trouble.~

"I'll tell them," Jonny promised.

"We were just trying to be responsible," Little Danny put forth.

"I know. Let's go."

====

As the Spitfires sat in their lower cart seats while Brianna maneuvered to the next area of the store where needed food was located, Ricky and Jenny kept noticing sample stands where workers gave out free food to shoppers. When Brianna stopped and let the twins out to walk around while she selected various refrigerated and frozen foods on her list, the brother and sister started talking.

"This is a great store to give away food," Jenny remarked.

"Shopping makes me hungry," Ricky said in agreement.

"No free food here, though."

"Jenny, let's help them give away food."

The redhead grinned and quietly, she and Ricky began to pull items off the shelf opposite from the refrigerated bins that actually ran the full width of the store with merchandise on both sides. By the time they were done, they had a collection of bread slices, potato chips, crackers, and even ready-to-eat popcorn opened. The two children put their samples into the plastic bags they'd retrieved from rolls placed throughout the refrigerated food section. That's why Brianna didn't realize what was happening as she could see her siblings off and on near the bins.

"We need stands like those other people who give food away have," Jenny put forward.

Ricky explored the area visually and grinned. He tugged on his twin's forearm and led her over to where a bunch of empty boxes were located below the section full of clearance items. The Spitfires retrieved several of the boxes and stacked them one atop the other until they'd created two sample food stands. They began to greet customers and distribute the bags of food.

"The store says thank you for shopping here," Ricky told one amused shopper, who knew what they were doing was wrong, but who took a handful of potato chips anyway.

"Have some pretzels," Jenny offered a girl her age, who readily took them with an appreciative smile of thanks.

"That's it for the froz... what did you two do?" Brianna gasped when she turned and saw dozens of open food products surrounding her siblings. She witnessed the free food distribution and groaned. "I am so dead."

Quickly, the tomboy did her best to stack the boxes and discarded food packaging, but it felt hopeless to her. As David decided earlier, she made the choice to continue shopping and to inform her parents of the situation when they met up at the checkout stands. She briefly considered telling a store employee as the group passed by him, but she opted not to do so, figuring that Jack and Daniel might want to have the mess cleaned up by the children instead of store workers.

====

Lian was still making sure all the flour was off the floor, when a shopper commented, "Having children doing your food samples today?"

"Ma'am?"

"You might want to send a cleanup crew to the frozen food aisle at the back of the store," the customer said before laughing and walking away.

The supervisor quickly walked to the area and groaned at the mess while thinking, ~Kurt isn't going to like this. I wonder if it was those same kids?~

====

At one point, Jennifer, Chenoa, and JD met up with Jeff and Lulu. They all started talking, but the Curly Tops became distracted when they saw another girl their age skipping down the aisle. It looked like fun, so the two joined hands and skipped up and down the long food corridor. Their siblings laughed, but at least the girls weren't getting into trouble; that is, not until the two dancers started laughing and not paying attention to where they were skipping. Their eyes diverted, the girls skipped right into a display of Hostess pastries at the front of the aisle, resulting in packages of Twinkies, Cupcakes, Ding Dongs, and Strawberry Cones spilling all over the floor and into the main walkway at the front of the aisles.

"Oops," Chenoa laughed.

"Geez, guys," Jennifer whined. "Pick it up. Go on."

"We'll be here an hour," Lulu stated.

"We'll handle it," a store employee said. "Um, if you're done, the checkout aisles are right there."

"We're sorry for the problem," Jennifer replied, sternly adding, "but we're not done with our shopping. Noa."

Jennifer and her charges went to the left, while Jeff and Lulu turned to the right, both trying not to laugh and both failing at it.

====

Twenty minutes later, Kurt saw Lian approaching and he recognized the look.

"What did they do now?"

"That blonde-haired kid with the other boy and little girl ..."

"What did he or they do?"

"First, they closed off all the outer aisles with the yellow caution tape. Ten aisles were shut down. Apparently, they thought it was funny."

"Naturally," Kurt sighed. "Anything else?"

"Those kids must be strong."

"Why?"

Lian answered, "Four different shoppers told me the three of them pulled out the mattresses to look at them. One of them asked the kids what they were doing, and the little girl said they needed a new mattress. Kurt, they ended up pulling out every second or third mattress, all the way down the aisle." He saw the manager's head drop and questioned, "Why aren't we kicking them out of the store?"

"Because what they pay for their purchases today will probably pay for our being open."

"Huh?"

"They buy a lot. I know them from the supermarket where I used to work. It's really odd, Li, but when this family shops apart, in small groups, nothing funny happens, but when their parents walk in with the entire kit and caboodle of kids, it's like hell has opened up. There'll be more. Just deal with it and keep smiling."

"Whatever you say," the still confused supervisor responded. "I'll get someone to open up the aisles again and get the mattresses back in place."

Kurt nodded and walked away.

Lian let out a groan while thinking, ~Anyone else would have been eighty-sixed from here thirty minutes ago.~ He found two employees and instructed them to follow him. When they reached the mattresses, Lian was stunned. "Who put them back?" Confused, Lian dismissed the two workers and stood, noticing that all of the mattresses were perfectly back in their places while the caution tape was also retracted. ~Weird; very weird.~

====

The shopping continued, the brood and their parents having been in the store for a solid forty minutes or so at this point.

"Jonny, Little Danny, can you get the salt? It's down on the other end of this aisle."

"Sure, David," Jonny agreed, tugging on his Munchkin brother's arm to lead the way.

"Ash, you're good with spices so you stay with me and make sure I get the right thing."

"Okay."

Aislinn's assistance came into use right away when David pulled a large container of paprika from the shelf.

The youngest triplet shook her head and opined, 'It's flat. Find McCormick. They're awesome."

Searching the shelves, David found what they needed, but noted, "We'll have to get two or three of these to equal that other big container."

"You won't regret it when you eat my chicken paprikash next week."

"What's that?"

"You'll know when you eat it."

David chuckled, "Okay. We need some herb and onion spice, too." Silently, he thought, ~How'd she get to be such a good cook already? I can barely heat up soup.~

--

Meanwhile, at the far end of the aisle, the two boys located the salt. Both stood on their tippytoes and even tried to stand on the metal rim of the shelves to get the box of salt.

"We need David," Little Danny finally concluded.

"No, we don't." Jonny leaned over. "I'll boost you up."

Understanding, Little Danny eagerly climbed onto his brother's back.

"Ready?" Jonny asked.

"Ready."

Slowly, Jonny began to straighten and as he did, Little Danny shifted his body weight and position until finally, the middle Munchkin was standing on his brother's shoulders.

"Got it," Little Danny announced.

"Boys, what are you doing?" a worried Lian called out, running to the children.

Without doing anything else, the supervisor grabbed Little Danny and put him down on the floor.

"You didn't have to do that," Jonny stated firmly.

"What you just did was dangerous. You both could have been hurt."

Both boys shook their heads while Jonny pointed out, "We make pyramids at home all the time. This was a piece of cake."

"Whatever. Just please don't do that again while in this store."

"Okay, but how are we going to reach the salt?"

"We'll move it to a lower shelf."

"That'll work," Jonny agreed.

The brothers returned to David and Aislinn and handed over the box of salt.

"Geez, sorry, guys, but we need two of these according to the list."

Jonny and Little Danny ran back down the aisle, reaching the end where Little Danny announced, "I won."

"Next time, I'll win," Jonny vowed. He looked all around and said, "I don't see him."

"Call him."

"I don't know his name."

The boys stood and shouted in unison, "Hey Mister Salt Man."

The brothers were about to revert to their own devices, when Lian arrived, out of breath from running.

"Sorry, Mister, but we need one more box of salt," Little Danny advised.

Still attempting to catch his breath, Lian grabbed a box and handed it to Jonny.

"Wrong brand."

Lian's head bowed, but he quickly chose the right box and handed it to Little Danny. Hearing a page over the public speaker system, he left the area.

"He forgot to put this one back," Little Danny noted.

"Should we call him again."

"It'll be quicker if we do it ourselves," the youthful genius opined.

In less than a minute, the incorrect box of salt was back in its place and the standing pyramid ended. The brothers then raced back to the front of the aisle.

"Told ya," Jonny declared happily.

"Next time," Little Danny replied with a happy smile.

====

Not long thereafter, much of the family were close by and couldn't help but wave to one another. Jennifer's group was on the right side of the store where various cleaning supplies were being selected, while Jeff and Lulu were on the left side of the store choosing some candy and snack items to satisfy their list. The middle section of the store was more open with several aisles with multiple large bins contained all manner of clothing for shoppers to choose from. David and his charges were just behind that open area, currently looking for some other cooking needs, like aluminum foil, wax paper, and Ziploc bags. The close proximity was too much of a lure, and before the group leaders knew it, the Curly Tops, the Munchkins, and the Spitfires were gathered together in a spontaneous 'try on the clothes' session.

The children tore through the bins, trying on everything from coats and shirts to shoes and socks. The problem, of course, is that they didn't pay any attention to what bin a piece of clothing came from. When they were done, bins labeled for shirts had a variety of clothing in it that included dresses and scarves and none of the clothes were in their previously folded and sorted positions.

JD was giggling and clapping and seemed to be having a great time. Jennifer kept wondering what was so funny, but she was eager to get the cleaning wipes and Windex that still remained on her list. Finally, though, she followed her little brother's gaze and saw the merriment of so many of her other brothers and sisters.

"Nope, I'm not going to say a word ... yet. JD, we'll finish this and then deal with that, or if I'm really lucky, Dad and Daddy will show up and find them," Jennifer told the most innocent member of the family.

Of course, Jennifer didn't anticipate what would happen next. Tired of their clothes shopping, the younger brood began another activity.

"This floor is really slippery," Jenny noticed when she almost fell after removing a dress she'd tried on a minute before.

"Yeah," Jonny replied with a growing grin of mischief. "Race ya to the back!"

The great brood race was on. The good news is that they managed to avoid hitting other customers, though there were several close calls.

As he approached the end of the aisle, Jonny called out, "Watch this."

Seeing her brother slide down the last several feet of the aisle, Aislinn announced, "Safe!"

"Yes!" the oldest triplet responded with an excited fist pump.

"Race you back," Ricky challenged. "Winner makes the other's bed for a week."

"You're on!" everyone agreed.

The bunch of kids again avoided a few collisions before reaching their point of origin.

"Wow, you were fast," Jonny gasped to Little Danny.

"I hate making my bed."

Everyone laughed, including Jonny who as the runner-up actually earned the privilege of honoring the bet and would be making his brother's bed all week long.

====

With the charges back where they belonged, each group did a final review of their assigned lists and then began to backtrack to find the items they'd missed. Brianna also advised the twins that once everything on their list was in the cart, they'd have to pick up their mess from their unofficial food sampling stands. She'd been thinking about it while continuing the shopping and now felt it was best to clean up the area before telling her parents about what occurred.

David instructed, "Guys, we forgot the dairy." As the Munchkins stuck close to their brother, they listened to the list. "We need milk, regular and chocolate milk, butter, eggs, and cheese."

"Provolone and mozzarella," Aislinn clarified.

Once at the long aisle of dairy products, the Munchkins headed to the far end to retrieve the six gallons of milk requested on the list, while David began at the other end, going in line to pull out the butter and other needed items.

Aislinn opened the big door that had the milk behind it and reminded, "Check the expiration date."

Jonny got down on his knees and pulled out the closest milk container. He frowned.

"No good." The boy pulled out more gallons, but they all had the same expiration, which was only two days away. That simply wouldn't work for the family. "I can't reach the ones in the back, and I don't see the chocolate milk."

"The ones back there are probably the newest," Little Danny put forth.

"Yeah," Aislinn agreed. "They push the old stuff to the front all the time. We learned that when we were babies."

"Find a store helper," Jonny ordered. "We can ask him about chocolate milk, too.

The triplets couldn't find any store employee nearby, but Aislinn called out as she pointed and advised, "Door is open."

The trio walked into the cold room and found the milk from the inside.

"This is better," Jonny said about the expiration dates.

"Hey, look, Jonny," Little Danny stated. "That looks like a brand new cart of milk."

"Yeah," Jonny agreed happily.

"There's the chocolate milk, too," Aislinn observed as she pointed to another pallet loaded with the product.

The Munchkins walked over to the large flatbed mover and quickly realized this was brand new milk. They carried four fresh gallons of milk to where the milk was actually displayed for sale and then went to the chocolate milk flatbed.

"It's all wrapped up," Little Danny noted.

"We'll unwrap it," Jonny answered.

With plastic all over the floor, the Munchkins retrieved the two gallons and put it with the four gallons of regular milk. They headed for the door they'd entered through and gulped nervously.

"The door is closed," Aislinn stated a bit nervously.

Jonny tried to open the door, but it was too heavy for him. The three banded together and almost got the huge metal door to open, but they were simply not powerful enough to push it ajar.

"Jonny, it's cold in here. What do we do?" Aislinn asked.

Taking thirty seconds to think it out, Jonny grinned and ordered, "Follow me."

The triplets were back where the milk was in the bins. Jonny again went to his knees and pulled out gallon after gallon of milk. Little Danny and Aislinn pushed each gallon behind them so the drink didn't block their path. Finally, all of the milk from the lower shelf was in the closed refrigerated area.

"Let's go, and don't forget our milk," the little general ordered. He crawled through the bottom shelf and pushed through the vinyl flap at the front until he was back on the aisle floor. He looked up at a man he didn't know and greeted, "Hi. We're just getting our milk."

"Need some help?" the man said.

"No, we've got it, but thanks," Jonny replied as he stood up.

Aislinn appeared next, pushing through two gallons of milk in front of her and then reaching back to get two more containers that Little Danny pushed behind her. Then Little Danny pushed the last two milks in front of him until they and him were also on the aisle.

"You sure you don't want any help?"

"No, that's our cart right there," Jonny said before hurrying over to put the heavy gallons inside the shopping cart.

"Milk present and accounted for, David."

"Thanks. Any problems?"

"Nope," Jonny responded.

"Okay, we have everything now. Let's get to the checkout area."

The man watched and laughed as the children left the area. He looked through the open door and saw the scattered gallons of milk, along with a bunch of broken plastic wrap, on the floor inside.

~Creative. I have to give them that,~ the man thought as he walked over to the door and opened it with the intent of entering and cleaning up after the kids.

====

"Spitfires, you're ... gee, you're lucky," Brianna mused when she saw there was no clean up to be done where the twins handed out food. "This is cleaner than we got here."

"Store guy probably did it," Jenny suggested.

"Probably, but we still have to tell Dad and Daddy."

Their fate was sealed, but the twins were fine with it. In their minds, they were helping the store. Surely, their parents would understand that.

"Oh, I forgot," Brianna told her siblings. "Bulk candy time."

"Yippee!" Ricky exclaimed eagerly as he returned to his seat for the ride to another part of the big store.

====

Brianna and the Spitfires were in the bulk food area where they chose several different items to stock up on for their cooking adventures at home. The older sister then became intrigued by some of the specials located on a nearby shelf.

"Guys, pick out a few or the candies and we'll get them after I look at this stuff to see if there's anything we need."

"Okay," the twins agreed with scattered responses.

Nearby, David and the Munchkins were selecting some of the ready-to-eat items from the deli and prepared foods bin. While the family didn't often choose to go this route, they sometimes chose to have a few items pre-made for 'on the go' situations or to use as ingredients in some dinner dish.

"Ricky," Jenny called out, but not loudly. "Catch." The redhead pulled a chocolate covered peanut out of a bin and tossed to her brother. "Cool," she replied when Ricky caught it.

The male twin saw Jonny holding a small container of potato salad and called out, "Eat it!"

Jonny ran forward, opening his mouth wide and enjoying the gummy bear his brother tossed in his direction. Thus began the bulk bin game where all five of the youngsters pulled out pieces of candy and challenged one another to catch it in their mouths. They even tossed candies to other children whose parents weren't paying attention. Finally, they all broke out into laughter.

"Ut oh," David sighed as he walked towards Brianna.

"What?"

"You missed it?"

"I was looking at these pans. We need a couple and ..."

Brianna finally saw the candies not caught by anyone's mouths. The floor was lined with all types of bin products.

"We are so dead," the teen stated.

"Very dead," David agreed. "I guess we should clean this up."

"Let's finish the shopping first. We're almost done. We can clean it up then," Brianna concluded, utilizing the same plan as the one for the free food giveaway mess which actually ended up okay in the end. ~Yep, dead, dead, dead.~

====

"Kids, line 'em up," Jack ordered. They were actually on schedule, the shopping concluded at the one-hour mark. Now it was all about the checkout, with one exception. When the carts were lined up at an open checkout stand, he advised, "Daddy and I have one more thing to get. You stay here. We'll be back before they get to you."

Jack was confident because the very busy store had multiple stands open and yet their first family cart was behind three other full carts. He and Daniel strode away, in search of their final item.

"Look, Ricky. That says self-checkout. Wonder what that means."

"We check us out?" the boy put forth.

"Let's go look at it."

The twins walked over to the checkout stand which was the furthest one on the store's right. No employees were nearby, since they were needed either on the floor, at the entrances, or at one of the stands. Jenny took a candy bar and ran it over the scanner, but nothing happened.

"It's not on," Ricky sighed disappointingly.

"I'll turn it on."

Jenny studied the checkout stand carefully. She and Jonny were both very good at mechanics. She smiled as she pressed a couple of buttons.

"Try it now," Jenny told her brother.

"It works," Ricky said with joy. "Let's do more." He looked around and saw a display of batteries. He grabbed several and ran them through the scanner. Then he found some light bulbs and ran them through. "This is fun."

"Fun, but not for children," Williams stated. "You'd better get back to your family. I think your parents are coming back."

"Thanks, Mister," both kids said as they hurried back to their carts, only Ricky scooted to a stop and ran back to the self-checkout stand. He picked up two of the candy bars. "I like these."

"Me, too," the man said before he cleared the scanner, turned the stand back off, and then returned the various items to their display locations. ~These kids are something else.~

====

"We got off lucky," Kurt said as he and Lian watched the Jackson-O'Neills pay for their extremely large order.

"Kurt, there's some confusion among the employees," Lian said.

"What confusion?"

"Most of the time when we found out those kids created a mess, it was cleaned up by the time our employees got there. I know those little devils didn't pick up after themselves."

"They aren't little devils, Li, and you'd better remember that, not just about this family, but any children with parents who patronize this store. Children are curious and they don't understand the risks of doing certain things or breaking the rules. They want to play. These kids are actually very good kids. I've seen them at their best."

"I don't understand letting the kids get away with turning our store into a play zone."

"Check out how much the parents paid for their purchases today. Besides, Li, for the first time, the parents came prepared."

"What do you mean?"

"You said it yourself," Kurt began. "Our employees didn't spend more than a few minutes picking up after those kids. Most of the time, it was them."

Seeing his boss nod over towards four people who were standing at the exit doors, Lian questioned, "Who are they?"

"I have no idea, but they took positions around the store and watched every move those kids made. You want to know how those mattresses got back in place so fast or how the food tasting mess was cleaned up? It was those four." With confidence, Kurt advised, "Look."

--

Daniel led the way out of the store, all of the children either behind him or at his side. Jack hung back, though, with one of the big flatbed carts.

"Any issues?" the general asked the four SGC personnel.

"Nothing worth mentioning, Sir," Williams responded.

"Good job. Thanks for your help."

Jack pushed the cart towards his family and his truck, leaving the four cohorts at the exit.

"Why did you agree to do this?" one of the women asked Williams.

"There's an open spot on SG-2. I want it," Williams answered.

"How is doing what we did today going to help?"

"Because O'Neill is a heavyweight at SGC. He has power." Williams smiles, "He'll remember this. Wait and see. My chances of getting that spot just went up ninety-percent."

"What about you?" the same female asked the other male.

"Like Williams said, O'Neill has power. He will remember us, all of us."

"I still think he should have paid us," the female opined.

"He will," Williams claimed. "Aren't you due for a performance appraisal?"

"Next ... week," was the stuttered answer.

"Wait and see," Williams singsonged. As he headed out the door, he repeated, "Just wait and see."

--

"See, Li, O'Neill knows them. He put them in position."

"How do you know that?" Lian inquired.

"That's how I got this job: great powers of observation. Watch and learn, Li. Watch and learn."

Once again, a family shopping trip resulted in a myriad of unexpected events, though this time, Jack was prepared. The kids remained totally unaware of the four SGC personnel who covertly watched over them inside the store and also provided cleanup for their messy situations. That said, the children did convey to their parents all that they did, from the dress-up party with the clothes to the accidental spilling of the flour. Jack and Daniel only shrugged at the stories they heard and rewarded their inventive children with ice cream, though Jenny did receive a stern warning to never again play with any checkout stand controls without permission of an adult.

As for the four helpers, Williams did find himself selected for the SG-2 opening, while the second male was given a plumb special project with SG-3 that might one day lead to a permanent assignment with an off-world team, which is what he always wanted. The female who wished they'd been paid received a glowing performance appraisal that lined her up for promotion within a few months. Consuelo Alvarez was transferred from a record-keeping job to working as an assistant for Sergeant Davis, which was a huge switch for her, one that meant she would have frequent contact with General Hammond and his successor, once he retired. Being close to the base commander could lead to all kinds of career possibilities.

"I told you we'd get paid," Williams told the female a few weeks later.

"Never underestimate doing a good deed for O'Neill," the second man put forward.

"I'll never do that again," the woman responded. "I hope I get that promotion."

"I bet you will," Airman Alvarez challenged. "Twenty bucks?"

"No bet," the first woman replied, starting to laugh.

All four of the helpers shared in the laughter. An hour of their time resulted in major career shifts for all of them. Life couldn't be better at the moment.

That was true for the Jackson-O'Neills as well. They were a close-knit bunch, who loved to play together, chat together, and shop together. Would there be another red alert event in their lives? Probably, because they were, after all, the Jackson-O'Neills of Colorado Springs where life was never dull.

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

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