Scenes of the Season - Scene 7

Author:  Orrymain
Category:  Slash, Drama, Romance, Holiday, Established Relationship
Pairing:  Jack/Daniel ... and it's all J/D
Rating:  PG-13
Season:  Beyond the Series - December 25, 2013
Spoilers:  None
Size:  38kb, short story
Written:  December 5-8,12, 2017
Summary:  Today's holiday scene is Christmas is Everywhere.  Can it really be that simple?
Disclaimer:  Usual disclaimers -- not mine, wish they were, especially Daniel, and Jack, too, but they aren't.  A gal can dream though!
Notes:  
1) Silent, unspoken thoughts by various characters are indicated with ~ in front and behind them, such as ~Where am I?~
2) Though part of a series, each scene stands completely on its own.

Scenes of the Season - Scene 7
by Orrymain

====
--Christmas is Everywhere - Snapshot One
====

“Ready, Love?”

“Ready, Babe,” Daniel answered.

Jack ensured his camera was properly affixed to the tripod.  He'd been recording Christmas' since the Munchkins were born, making this his eighth consecutive year of photographing the family.  Though Jeff volunteered, Jack refused.  This was one of his personal “Dad things” that belonged just to him, and Daniel, too, of course.

Since Jeff loved photography, he was filming and/or taking pictures of much of the holidays on his own, but aware of how much pride his father took in filming certain occasions himself, the amateur picture taker steered clear of those special Dad instances.

Standing with his back to the stairway, Jack called out in a loud voice, “Wow, Danny, look at all those presents Santa left!”

“Too many to count, Jack, and they're all for our children.”

The scampering of the Jackson-O'Neill brood could be heard a mile away, somewhat of an exaggeration Jack thought, but the pattering of feet and excited words were definitely high in volume.  Jennifer and Jeff entered through the hallway since their rooms were separate from the other kids' rooms, but the rest of the brood appeared in a near stampede on the stairs.

“Hold it!” Jack exclaimed with his right hand held up, palm facing the kids, to stop the herd from moving any further.

The brood's collective hearts were beating so fast and the expressions on their faces were ones of complete anticipation.  They could barely stand still, yet they knew they had to stay in place.  From their position, they couldn't see the tree or the tremendous accumulation of presents from Santa Claus.  Mouths were watering and some of the younger ones were bouncing on their feet in tiny up and down motions.

“There's a password to touch this carpet.  We discussed it throughout the year.  Danny, call one out.”

It was true that in the course of the year as the children studied foreign languages, they often talked about how to say phrases meaning 'Merry Christmas' or other accepted holiday wishes from various countries and cultures.  Little games like this one were a way the parents could keep their children engaged in their learning, especially since there was no homeschooling at all during the current month.

“France.”

“I know!  I know!” Chenoa called out eagerly.  “Joyeux Noël.”

“Merry Christmas.  Go see what Santa's brought,” the philologist encouraged with a responsive smile.

Her eyes wide as dollars and her cheeks red with promise of Santa's offerings, Chenoa made her way through her siblings to get her first look at the tree that was surrounded with presents.

“Oh, they're beautiful,” the white dove observed about the gifts that stuck out far beyond the circumference of the tree.

“Someone volunteer,” Daniel suggested, wanting to keep the game fun and not formalized.  With hands raised, he called on a Spitfire.  “Ricky?”

“Frohe Weihnachten,” the boy shouted enthusiastically.  ~Gotta be right.  I worked on 'membering all year.  My brain tired.~

“Go see Santa's gifts,” Jack instructed.  “Someone shout out a greeting.” he requested, following Daniel's concept of keeping the atmosphere light.

It was Lulu's voice Jack heard as she greeted, “Buon Natale,” in honor of Italy.

“Israel,” Daniel stated while giving Lulu the nod to move forward.

There were a lot of frowns, so finally Little Danny responded with, “Chag Molad Sameach,” and headed for the tree.  He'd wanted to answer for Egypt, but he was happy to see the gifts.  There were so many that he wondered if Santa's bag broke and all the world's presents were left in his house.

“A challenge,” Daniel warned.  “Latin.”

“Ah, Daddy,” Jennifer whined.

“We need at least a try,” the speaker of at least forty foreign or alien tongues advised the remaining brood.  Latin was the hardest of the languages studied.  ~Any honest guess wins.~

Then there was a huge sigh.  It was one of reluctance and it was accompanied by a very familiar foot shuffling against the step on which he stood.

“Jonny?” Daniel prompted with a lilt of surprise in his tone.  “Do you have a guess?”

“I guess it's for Santa,” Jonny spoke softly.

“You know it, Jonny?” Jenny asked.

“Come on, Son,” the general urged.  ~He's too good at playing the dumb game; crap, he's better than me.~

The Munchkin spoke slowly, one word at a time with pauses in between as he answered, “Felicem ... Diem ... Nativitatis.”

“Wow!” almost everyone said within a second or two of one another.

“Come on down,” Jack invited, giving the boy an approving pat on the rear as he walked by.

“Little Danny taught me,” Jonny confessed.

“We're proud of you,” Daniel called out to Jonny's fleeing back.

“What's next?” an eager Jenny inquired.  She wasn't able to contain her excitement any longer.  “I know one!  Can I go next?  Pleeeeease,” the Spitfire asked as she jumped up and down and clinched her dress.

“Yeah, go ahead, Jenny,” Daniel agreed.

“Feliz Navidad!” Jenny exclaimed with a grin.

“Easy one, Sis,” Jeff teased.

“But it's still Merry Christmas,” the spirited redhead reminded.

“Merry Christmas, Sweetie,” Daniel greeted, giving his daughter a nod to go see the tree and gifts.

Those remained heard Jenny cry out with glee, “Santa ate the cookies and drank the milk we left him.”

“I knew he would,” Aislinn opined with a happy smile.

“Any Native American Indian Christmas greeting,” Daniel chimed.

“Believe it or not, I learned one, just for this moment,” Brianna chuckled.  “It's from the Navajo People and its Nizhonigo Keshmish.”  With a smile, she teased, “Try saying that three times in a row.”

“No thank you,” Jennifer chuckled.  “Now that you've brought up the Indian, Daddy, how about something from India?”

“Take it away,” Jack interjected.

“This is the Hindi way.  Subh krisamas,” the young woman answered.

“Free to enter,” the general responded.  “And that leaves us with three.  I'm interested in one of two places: Egypt or China, and we're going with Ash first.”

David rolled his eyes.  He knew he wouldn't be selected to answer in Arabic.  Besides Daniel, he and Little Danny were the Egyptian experts and knew the language well.  It would have been a snap for him to say Egypt's version of Merry Christmas.

“I know it, David,” Aislinn told her brother confidently.

“I know you do, Ash.”

“It's Eid Milad Majid, so there.”

“Hey, attitude,” Jack reminded.

“He didn't think I knew it.”

“Ash, I knew you'd know it.  That's basic in this house.  I just knew Dad and Daddy wouldn't ask me because I'd know it.  I mean ... Daddy, help!”

With a bit of a smile, Daniel told the Munchkin, “Sweetie, David knows Epytian very well.  He's studied it since before he was part of our family.  I think what David was trying to say is that he knew Dad and I would want to challenge him, like asking you is a little bit of challenge.  You're learning a lot of languages, and something like Spanish or French would be simple for you and not much of a challenge.  Do you understand?”

“Yes, Daddy.  I'm sorry, David.”

“So am I, Ash.  I love you.”

The two children hugged and then Aislinn hurried down to join her siblings by the presents.

“Pretend you're in Hawaii,” Jack told David.

With a smile, David answered, “Mele Kalikimaka.”

“Pass 'Go' and have fun at the tree,” Jack urged.  “Jeff, any country but ours.”

“Well, there's more than one way to say the greeting in Italy, just like there is here.”

“Let's hear it.”

“Buone Feste Natalizie.”

“Nice job,” Daniel complimented.  As Jeff passed him, the archaeologist walked up three steps and picked up JD.  “Say 'Merry Christmas'.”

“Merry Christmas.”

“Let's go see what Santa brought you.”

“Yeaaaaah!”

Jack and Daniel stayed in the background as the children took in the many presents surrounding the tree and protruding out even past the sofa.

“Santa's sleigh must be really big,” Ricky supposed.  “So many presents.”

“Maybe he beamed them here,” Jonny responded.  “Santa could use the ...”

“Careful,” Jack interjected, having a sense what might be coming out of his namesake's mouth.  He nodded pointedly and looked over at JD.  With a cough to supplement his vocal warning, he thought, ~We don't need JD hearing strange words he might repeat later.~

“Use what, Jonny?” Jenny asked.

Jonny's eyes looked to his right and he scratched his head before responding, “He could use planes.”  He frowned.  ~Dumb answer, but it works.~

“Jen, Jeff, start passing them out,” Jack requested.  “Kids, better separate or you'll be buried by Santa's generosity.”

The brood did as their father asked and awaited the gifts as Jennifer and Jeff passed out.

“I'll help,” Brianna offered.

“We need it,” Jennifer mused.

“I can help,” Little Danny stated.  “Please, Daddy, can I help?”

“Sure.”

Thus, the four kids began to pass out the gifts.  Jack and Daniel helped, too.

“Whoa!”  As everyone stopped their movements, Jack decided there was a better way than walking all around one another.  “We're about to become a conveyor belt.  Jen and Jeff, you pick up the gifts from different sides of the tree.  You'll hand them to one of us,” he motioned to Daniel and himself, “and we'll hand them to our helpers, Jonny and Little Danny, and then Lulu and Noa will carry them to their recipient's spot.  The rest of you will stay where you are and remember who is around you so the gifts go to the correct spot.  Bij, Katie, make sure JD doesn't get lost.”

“Me here, Dad,” the toddler stated.

“And that's where we want you to stay.”

“Dad, we put Bij and Katie's gifts by JD?” Little Danny asked.

**Daniel?**

**They have gifts, lots of gifts.**

**Under this tree?**

**Uh, yes, I think so.  I hope so.  Boy, do I hope so.**

With an uncertain smile, Jack answered, “Yep, that's affirm.  Put the girls' gifts from Santa by JD.”  As the system started, the general thought, ~I sure hope we have gifts from Santa to the girls.”

Jack and Daniel could barely see their children once the presents were distributed and everyone was seated.

**Do you think we went overboard?** Daniel asked his lover.

**Nah.**

**Just thought I'd ask.**

**Santa loves our kids.**

**Yeah,** Daniel replied with a grin.  **Not that we want to spoil them.**

**Didn't we agree not to talk about not spoiling the kids until next year?**

**Yes, you're right, we did.  My bad.**

As they looked around, the lovers focused on Ricky, who had a dreamy expression as he held a box in his hands.  They could tell he was imagining what was inside, the possibilities overwhelming him.

Then there was Aislinn, who was studying all of her gifts with intense radiance.  Every part of her was joyous, glowing with the goodness within her.

Jack nudged Daniel and then both looked at Jonny with amusement.  The Munchkin was expecting a lot of adventure in his gifts.  He kept picking up packages and shaking them for a clue of where that present would take him in his playtime.  His ears wiggled from the fun.

Chenoa's face featured a broad, unrestrained smile.  She was so happy that she was giggling while her dancing partner, Lulu, had her eyes fixed to the many presents that when stacked up was sure to go through the roof; at least, that's how she imagined it.  Her eyes were twinkling.  She had no expectations.  Anything Santa brought her was special.  Her family was her non-stop present.

Jennifer, Jeff, Brianna, and David watched with pleasure and some musing.  All wore gentle smiles with eyes that shined at the joy they saw before them with their siblings.  Each decided to wait to open their gifts for a bit.  They wanted to take in the magic of the younger ones.

Little Danny was licking his lips and eyeing each gift with great curiosity.  He could tell it was a lot and for one second, he wondered if it was too much.  He let that thought go, though, because he was positive Santa also delivered lots of presents to those in the shelters and without a home of their own.  Santa wouldn't let down, so he could be happy and enjoy the gifts given to him.

The parents' perusal ended with JD, who was giggling up a storm and clapping his hands.  Bijou and Katie surrounded him, giving him an occasional kissing lick.  Jack and Daniel were both relieved so see that they'd remembered to include several presents for the beagles, though neither could recall what gifts they'd put under the tree in Santa's name.  Naturally, the entire zoo were given presents for the holiday, but the two dogs were always remembered by Santa as well.

All in all, it was a wondrous site.  Now for the next step.

With smiles of their own, Jack and Daniel said in unison, “Merry Christmas from Santa.”

“Have at it,” Jack added.

There were no rules now.  The kids were free to share and enjoy to their hearts' content.  It was Santa's time and no child should have to be restricted when it came to seeing what Santa brought them.  That's what Jack and Daniel believed.

With gift wrap, tissue, ribbons, and bows going everywhere, the parents enjoyed the view.  Jack's camera was capturing much of the action from the tripod which, he noticed, Jeff was adjusting from time to time.

~Thanks, Son,~ Jack thought silently.  He didn't mind the help.  He found living the moment more satisfying than filming it.  ~Maybe it would be a good idea to let Jeff take over next year.~

The kids were so happy, the smiles, the laughs, the twinkling eyes all evidence of that.

“Nollaig Shona Dhuit,” Jack expressed tenderly to his husband in his best Irish Gaelic brogue.

“Vrolijk Kerstfeest,” Daniel replied in Dutch.

The lovers shared a kiss and gazed into each other's eyes.  It was a glorious start to Christmas, a day that was sure to get better with each passing hour.  For now, they moved closer, separating as they went from child to child to be a part of the joy.

Later, the couple watched as Little Danny assisted the beagles in opening their gifts.

**Good thing we remembered,** Jack opined.

**Jack?**

**What?**

**Did you buy the girls the tennis ball launcher?**

**Me?  No, I assumed you did.**

**No, I didn't.**

**What about the treat dispenser?**

**Never saw it before,** Jack answered.

As his hands rubbed against his arms that he held close to him, the archaeologist let out the nervous query, **And, ah, the rope throws?**

**Saw them at the pet store, but bypassed them.**

**Jack, I didn't buy any of those for the girls,** Daniel confided.

**Maybe one of the kids?**

Daniel looked at his husband skeptically and then the older man simply shrugged.

**The kids, Danny,** the silver-haired man asserted again.

**The brood,** Daniel concurred.

Both men smiled, nodding their heads in agreement.  They chose to believe one of the brood bought the presents and wrapped them for Bijou and Katie.  That was their story and they were sticking to it.  Otherwise, the logical general and the scientific archaeologist would have to contemplate something fantastical and they weren't quite prepared to do that as yet.

====
--Christmas is Everywhere - Snapshot Two
====

“Are you ready to play Naughty or Nice?” Jack questioned enthusiastically.

The sounds of yeses and other affirmation responses resonated throughout the recreation room where the children were lined up at the head of the room and the parents were at the rear, standing in front Ptolemy's empty cage.  It was vacant because the majestic hyacinth macaw was sitting on Jack's left shoulder.

“I didn't hear you!” the general challenged, as if talking to a group of airmen.

From the tops of their lungs, the brood shouted out joyfully another round of affirmations.

The furniture was pushed to the side so nothing but floor space separated the children from their parents.  In front of the twelve children were big circles that each child cut and placed on the wood floor.  Of course, twenty-three-month-old JD had assistance.  His spot was in the middle of the group, between David and Jonny, who both understood that they had a bigger obligation than simply winning the game.

“Tell 'em, Polly.”

“Tell 'em, Polly,” the intelligent bird repeated.

With a groan, Jack responded, “Say 'go'.”

“Go!”

With chuckles, the Angel in the Snow race began.  At stake, being the first Jackson-O'Neill to make a snow angel on the abundant and pristine snow in the family's backyard.  What made the yard special was that the day was actually clear outside, the temperature in the high thirties.  Except for a brief half-hour dusting a couple of days ago, no snow fell in the neighborhood in several days.  Wanting a White Christmas for the kids, Jack pulled out the snow machine and thanks to freezing overnight temperatures, created a mountain of snow for the brood.

“Remember, take one step forward if the statement is true.  Stay where you are if the statement is false,” Jack instructed.

“The first statement,” Daniel announced.  “The big man with the white beard and red suit is commonly referred to as Santa Claus.”

Giggles abounded as all the children stepped forward, including JD, who clapped his hands excitedly.  The child loved to clap and did so with fervor when he was happy, and he was happy a lot.

Jack and Daniel exchanged a pleased look before Daniel continued, “Christmas is celebrated in November.”

Everyone stayed in place, though JD started forward until David tapped on his shoulder while shaking his head.  The littlest boy in the family gasped and jumped back as fast as he could.

“Next,” Daniel advised as he totally ignored his youngest son's temporary move forward.  “Santa Claus enters the house by coming down the chimney.”

“Can't wait,” JD said as he and his siblings moved forward.

“Santa Claus is a big part of Christmas, but the day was created to celebrate the birth of Jesus.”

Once again, all of the children moved forward, including JD.

Next, Daniel declared, “Sights and sounds of Christmas include 'ho ho ho,' silver bells ringing, and women wearing Easter bonnets.”

Seeing JD about to step forward, Jonny quickly grabbed the boy's hand and whispered, “No.  No Easter bonnets for Christmas.”

At that point, Jack gave a slight nod to the two boys surrounding their younger brother.  It was their permission to allow JD to answer on his own, rather or not he was wrong or right.  As Daniel began the next question, Jack, with Ptolemy still on his shoulder, circled around the kids so that he ended up behind JD.

“Be forewarned.  The statements are getting harder from here on out,” Daniel told the children.  “Today mince pies are typically filled with dried fruit, but in the beginning, they were usually filled with meat.”

Everyone but JD moved forward.

“Sorry, kiddo, but you did great,” Jack praised as he picked up the toddler.

“It's okay, JD.  You still get to make a snow angel,” Jonny promised.

“Don't worry, Son.  You'll grow into this game.  Your turn will come.”

JD was already busy playing with Ptolemy and was totally nonplused about being the first one out of the game.  He had fun with his siblings and the concept of winning and losing wasn't yet in his psyche.

“This isn't celebrated in the United States, but several countries celebrate Boxing Day on December 26th.”

~Why would they celebrate boxers?~ Jonny wondered.

This time, Jonny and Chenoa stayed back and were eliminated from the game since Boxing Day was a real holiday in countries such as Canada and Australia, though the name referenced alms boxes that were distributed to the poor and not the sport of boxing.

“Moving on,” Daniel said.  “The first Christmas carols were written and sung in Latin.”

It was a split response, frowns and thoughtful expressions on the brood's faces as they tried to reason out the answer.  Unfortunately, Brianna and Lulu thought the statement was false and were eliminated.  The others either knew or guessed correctly about the carols that were never popular because the average person didn't understand them, or Latin.

“We all know that one of the colors of Christmas is green.  This is because Evergreen plants signified the promise that spring would come again.”

This one was a struggle for the kids.  They expected to hear about Christmas trees being evergreen.  Some of them didn't think it made sense for spring to be part of the equation and stayed put on their circles.

“Oh fudge,” Jennifer lamented when she and Aislinn were eliminated from the game.

The remaining players were Jeff, David, Little Danny, Jenny, and Ricky, who was feeling elated to still be in the game.

“Candles first became associated with Christmas with the advent of the Kwanzaa winter festival.”

Ricky proudly stepped forward, a big smile on his face, until he looked to his right and then to his left and realized he was the only one who moved forward.

“It's wrong, huh?” the Spitfire asked.

“Sorry, Son, but candles have been part of the holiday since the Middle Ages and  maybe earlier,” Jack responded.  “The Kwanzaa festival didn't start until 1966 and that's even after your old man was born.”

“That's not the Middle Ages?” the boy questioned with a straight face.

As the children laughed, Jack coughed and answered, “No.”

 “Okay, here's the next one,” Daniel introduced.

“Bird on the loose!” Jack interjected when Ptolemy suddenly flew off his shoulder.

Daniel shifted a tad to his right and watched as the bird flew straight into her cage.

“Danny ...”

“Yeah,” the archaeologist agreed as he closed the door on the cage.  “We'll be going outside in a minute, Ptolemy.”

The bird responded with a squawk and settled down.

“Here we go,” Daniel told his kids.  “The red plant Poinsettia that is often used for decoration at Christmastime are native to Central America and were brought to America by Joel Roberts Poinsett, for whom they are named.”

The children stepped forward and backward, all four uncertain, including Little Danny, who never read about the plants.

~I missed something.  I'll read about them tonight,~ the young genius told himself as he opted to remain still on his circle, as did Jeff.

Since the statement was true, recalling the first United States ambassador to Mexico who became fascinated with the plant and sent some to his South Carolina home in 1828, this left only David and Jenny in the game.

As Jack, still holding JD, called out with the voice of a commentator, “The tension builds.  We're down to the wire.  *This* one could do it.  *Who* will come out victorious and create the family's *very first* snow angel of Christmas Day?”  He smiled and added, “Should have brought out the drums.”

“I'll go get them,” Jonny offered as he started for the music room.

“Whoa there, Ringo!”

“Huh?”

“The Beatles,” several of the children whispered.

“The what?” Jonny questioned.

“Some days it doesn't pay to get out of bed,” Jack sighed.  “Stay here: no drums.”

Confused, Jonny shrugged and remained in the rec room.

Daniel stated, “Christmas pudding was created by Hershey in 1876.”  He looked and couldn't help but laugh as David and Jenny both had looks of total disbelief on their faces.  “Sorry,” he apologized.

“Really, Daddy, Hershey?” Jenny chastised.

“You're right.  Bad statement,” the father agreed.  “Moving on.  The first candy canes were simple white sugar in Germany.”

With a grin, Jenny moved forward.  An uncertain David began to move up, but stopped himself and stayed behind.

“And we have a winner!” Jack exclaimed.

“Jenny is correct,” Daniel affirmed.  “By the way, while we're not doing any schoolwork this month, anyone who wants to read up on the statement they were eliminated from the game on, you can do so by the middle of January and receive homework credit.”

“Totally up to you,” Jack added.  “Due on the fifteenth.”

“In the meantime, wonderful job, Jenny.  You get to make the first snow angel.”

“Yippee!” the excited youngster responded.

Before going outside, everyone put on warm outerwear.  Standing on the wood deck, Jenny waited for permission to make her angel.  When she got it, she took one step down, but then she stopped.

The redhead walked over to her little brother and said, “Come with me, JD.  We're going to make the first snow angel together.”

“That's our girl,” Jack praised softly to his lover.

The parents smiled and watched the angels being made and then observed as the rest of the brood formed their own angels and played in the snow.  It was a delightful way to spend this part of the day.

====
--Christmas is Everywhere - Snapshot Three
====

“Five more minutes,” Daniel told his husband as he approached the dinner table.

“I'll get the surprises,” Jack responded.

“More surprises?” Ricky asked with awe.

“Yes.  Let me explain.  Dad and I have always wanted to teach you about other cultures and celebrations around the world, especially at Christmastime.  We've done a little, but not as much as we hoped for initially, so we're changing that.  Next year, our holiday will be celebrated with the theme of Christmas Cultures Around the World.”

“Wow,” Jonny expressed as his curiosity grew.

“The plan is that each of you will learn about a culture and for two or three days next December, you'll teach the rest of us about this place or social group.  We'll celebrate the way people do in their society.  We'll eat their foods, decorate our home, and enjoy the holiday as they do.  Now, how much we do that will depend on how much you put into the assignment.”

At this point, Jack returned with two bags.  He put them down and then reached inside, pulling out one box at a time and placing it in front of the child for which it was intended.

“Daddy and I are hoping you and Jeff will participate,” Jack told Jennifer as he held out her box.

“And if we don't?”

“Do you really want to know?”

Reaching out and taking hold of the box, Jennifer smiled and answered, “No, I don't think so, Dad.  Speaking for myself, I'm happy to participate.”

“Good answer, Princess,” Jack replied.  “Jeff?”

“I'm all in.”

“Open up the boxes,” Daniel told the brood.

There wouldn't be a mess as the boxes were prewrapped so that all the kids needed to do was lift off the box.

“A snow globe,” Jennifer observed.

“It's pretty,” Aislinn opined.

“The place inside the globe is the culture you'll research for Christmas 2014,” Daniel advised.

“Did you make these, Daddy?” Brianna questioned.

“We both did,” Jack answered.  “We donated part of our date night to it.”

“Sorry,” Jeff lamented at the time.

“Don't be,” Jack began.  “You wouldn't believe the fun that can be had making snow globes.”

“Kids,” Jennifer mused as a warning without looking at either one of her parents.

“What are these?” Lulu asked about the picture of Argentina's celebration.

“Those are called quemando globos,” Daniel answered.  “They're paper lanterns with a light inside that are released to the sky.  The rest is for you to learn.”

“I have Australia,” Aislinn observed.  “Dad and Daddy kissing in Australia on their honeymoon,~ she sing-songed.

“That's enough about kissing,” Daniel interjected.  “Your picture is of the Christmas Bush, a plant native to Australia and often used to decorate homes there.”

“Hey, what's up?” Jack asked his fidgeting namesake.

“Dad, Daddy, can I change cultures?” Jonny inquired.

“What's wrong with Chili?” the general queried about the country designated for the sandy-haired boy to research.

“Nothing, but Tootie says her family began in Africa.  I don't know where in Africa, but I'd like to research Africa.”

Tootie Oliver was an eight-year-old African-American girl the family met last year, along with her parents and younger brother.  The Jackson-O'Neills actually set them up to meet a little girl at one of the shelters they frequented.  The Olivers felt a bond with orphaned Julie right away and ended up adopting Julie and her baby sister, Vanessa.

Jonny and Tootie were good friends.  She was the only person who always stood up to the little general and could see right through his guff, just like Daniel could see through Jack.  There was some joking about the two kids being boyfriend and girlfriend, but they were way too young for anyone to take it too seriously.

“Okay, sure,” Daniel agreed, “but you'll need to pick one country because not all of Africa celebrate Christmas the same way, just like sections of America have unique ways of making the season special.”

“I'll talk to Tootie,” Jonny returned with a nod.

“While you're doing that, ask Tootie if her family celebrates Kwanzaa,” Jack requested.

“Kuam-what?”

“Kwanzaa.  It's an African-American Christmas celebration.  If the Olivers celebrate Kwanzaa, we'll change your assignment to that,” Jack returned.  “If they don't, do as Daddy said and pick a country within Africa.”

“Okay, Dad.”  Jonny leaned over and whispered to Little Danny.  “Why would anyone celebrate kumquats?”

“They don't.  They celebrate Kwanzaa.”

Jonny shrugged, feeling really dumb for the first time in a long time, but he put the issue aside because it was almost time for turkey and all the fixings.

“What's in your snow globe, Little Danny?” Chenoa asked as she sat across from the middle Munchkin.

“A menorah, so I get to learn all about Hanukkah,” the genius announced with a bright face.  “Daddy, I need more than two days.  Hanukkah is eight days.”

“We're doing the Cliff Notes version,” Jack responded on behalf of his husband, ignoring the clueless and otherwise blank expression on the kids' faces.

“We have a year to discuss it,” Daniel reminded.  “Okay, we just wanted to whet your appetites for next year, and now it's time to enjoy our meal.”

The children's minds were already contemplating the joy of next year, but soon, they focused on the Christmas dinner before them.  Daniel said grace and then the family dug in, enjoying good food and ample conversation.  There were even laughs to relish as they ate.

The highlight occurred when, with Daniel seated at the head of the table and Jack on the far end, Jonny asked for a roll, only there weren't any near him.  Looking around, the Munchkin thought he spied one more of the hot buns at the table's head.

“Daddy, can you pass me that roll, please?”

Daniel picked up the plate with the roll on it and was just about to hand it to Aislinn, who was seated to his right, but then he halted his movement.  With a devilish grin, he picked up the roll, shouted, “Comin' down!” and threw the bun all the way down to the end of the table where Jack caught it.

“You've got to be kiddin' me!” Jack laughed.

The children were taken aback and weren't sure whether to laugh or cry in total amusement over their daddy's unusual toss.

“Listen, in Egypt, with my parents, sometimes there were so many workers that to get food, you had to rely on someone across the table to get it for you.  Okay, I never actually did it myself, but ...”

“I love it, Daddy,” Brianna praised.  “Wow, man, that's just so cool.”

“I could have caught it, Dad,” Jonny groused.

“Eat,” Jack ordered as he gave the roll to his namesake.  “Daniel, you are full of surprises.”

“Thank you, Jack,” a proud Daniel returned.  ~Gawd, I just set the worst example ever from a parent to a child, but it sure was fun.  Am I turning into Jack?  Gawd, scary.  Ah, but fun.~

**Angel, I don't usually eavesdrop on your mind, but ...**

**Out, Jack, out of my mind.**

**Sometimes I think you are.**

Suddenly, the two parents cracked up, confusing the children, who simply laughed with their dad and daddy.

By nightfall, the family was on to more snapshots of a very special holiday celebration.  More carols were sung, more ice cream was eaten, and more laughter was heard.  Their eyes were shining, their hearts were warm, and their faces were bright and rosy from holiday cheer of the best kind.  There was so much more to look forward to as the children grew, and the zoo would be there, too, to provide unconditional love and companionship to each and every one of them.

As for Jack and Daniel, they never knew life could be so rich and full as it was on this night, for while life was never perfect, it was in fact that imperfect quality to living that made this scene, and all their scenes of all their seasons, an adventure to be discovered and nurtured.  In Colorado Springs, as Santa Claus exclaimed overhead, “Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night,” Christmas 2013 was bright, festive, and full of love and joy for Jack and Daniel and their brood plus zoo.

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

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