Category: Slash, Drama, Romance, Established Relationship
Pairing: Jack/Daniel ... and it's all J/D
Season: Beyond the Series - September 5 - October 10, 2008
Spoilers: The Nox, Touchstone
Written: April 16, August 2,4-6,8-9-11, September 4,22, November 24, December 10-12, 2004 Revised: August 24, 2006 (rank issue only) Revised for consistency: August 10, December 11, 2007 Revised Again: January 14, 2008 Revised: January 15,17,19-27,29,31, 2018
Summary: Jack and Daniel are asked to officially rejoin the Stargate Program. If they do, what will it mean for their family and their business?
Disclaimer: Usual disclaimers -- not mine, wish they were, especially Daniel, and Jack, too, but they aren't. A gal can dream though!
1) Sometimes, Jack and Daniel speak almost telepathically. Their “silent” words to each other are indicated by asterisks instead of quotes, such as **Jack, we can't.**
2) Silent, unspoken thoughts by various characters are indicated with ~ in front and behind them, such as ~Where am I?~
3) The Hokey Pokey is written by Roland Lawrence LaPrise, copyright 1950, Acuff-Rose Music Inc.
4) This fic stands alone, but it does reference my past fics, “The Last Mission,” “Detour,” “Home at Last,” “Brain Drain,” “Gifts of a Lifetime,” “Egyptian Erotica: Another Ten Months,” “Homecoming,” and “Transitions: The Next Ten Months”
5) Thanks to my betas who always make my fics better: Claudia, QuinGem, Drdjlover, Linda, Kat, Pepi!
“Did you see Beyonce's latest video? ... Yeah, awesome; it's a lot better than 'Upgrade' ... hold on, Nikki. Someone's at the door.” Jennifer Jackson-O'Neill, age thirteen, stood and peeked out the window to see who was at the door. She remembered seeing one of the men before at Cheyenne Mountain. “Uh, Nikki, I have to go. I'll call you later ... Bye.”
Putting her cell phone in her pocket, the teenager opened the door just slightly and observed a group that included three generals, one major, and two sergeants standing on the wooden porch.
“Can I help you?”
“We'd like to see General O'Neill and Doctor Jackson,” one of the generals requested.
Jennifer studied the men and responded sternly, “Jackson-O'Neill.”
The generals looked at each other while the major looked at the ground, trying to hide a smile.
A bit more forcefully than his first request, the same general stated, “If they are at home, we would like a bit of General Jackson-O'Neill's and Doctor Jackson-O'Neill's time. Are they in?”
“I need to see your ID,” Jennifer responded.
Their feathers more than a bit ruffled, the three generals displayed their IDs.
Jennifer read each thoroughly and then motioned to the major and sergeants, saying, “And yours ...”
At nods from the generals, all complied.
“One minute, please,” Jennifer stated.
The group was stunned when the teenager closed the door in their faces and became even more flabbergasted when they heard the clicks of the door locks. Only the major looked amused at the teenager's behavior, though he tried desperately to hide it.
Jennifer approached the nursery where Jack and Daniel were playing with their children. It was late afternoon on an overcast Wednesday and the entire family was inside participating in various activities.
“Dad, Daddy?” the teenager called out as she entered the nursery, which was also Chenoa's bedroom. “There are three generals and some other military types at the door. They want to talk to you.”
“Three ... generals?” Daniel asked hesitantly. Seeing his daughter nod, he asked, “General Hammond?”
“Daddy!” Jennifer rolled her eyes. “Like I'd leave Grandpa outside?”
“Sorry, but do you know who they are?”
“I checked their IDs; they looked legitimate, but I don't recognize any of them except ...”
~Good going.~ Jack's laughter interrupted Jennifer. With pride in his voice, he praised, “That's my girl. Check those IDs!”
Jennifer smiled before continuing, “One of them is General Armstrong. I remember him from when we went to the Mountain, but I still made him show me his ID.”
“I'm glad you're laughing.”
“Danny, we have generals waiting for us on our doorstep. That's worth the annoyance.”
“You say that now, but they want something, Jack.”
“They're out of luck; I'm taken,” Jack teased, ignoring his Love's eye roll at his jest. “Jen, stay here and keep everyone upstairs until further notice.”
“Okay, Dad.” Jennifer watched as her parents exited the room. ~I wonder what all those military types want?~
The teen shrugged and then took charge of her siblings.
The couple chuckled when they reached the entranceway, seeing that Jennifer also locked the front door.
“Being cautious?” Daniel questioned.
“Cautious, my foot. She's being snarky!” Jack stated. He peeked through the blinds and noted with great pleasure, “They aren't happy, Danny. They're hopping around out there like they need to use the bathroom or something.”
“As you say, Love, my heart bleeds.”
“Geez, I love you,” Jack declared, pulling his husband in for a kiss, one that grew in passion and length.
“Let's forget the door,” Daniel suggested.
“They'll just come back.”
~Crap.~ Daniel sighed, knowing the truthfulness of his husband's words. He grumbled, “You're right. Let's see what they want. Geez, Jack, three of them? *Three* generals?”
The humor of the military presence and his daughter's handling of the situation having petered out, Jack acknowledged, “Yeah, and I don't like it.”
“Me, either, but let's get it over with.”
With a bit of trepidation, Jack opened the door, immediately recognizing two of the three high-ranking officers.
“General O...Jackson-O'Neill,” the leader of the group spoke.
~Good job, Jen.~ Jack realized his daughter must have spoken about her parents' names to the Air Force Brass currently standing at their front door. “You have five minutes,” Jack advised as he opened the door for the group to enter. ~Though I'd rather slam the door in your faces. Whatever it is -- *no*!~
“This way,” Daniel reluctantly invited as he pointed to the living room.
**Daniel, how the heck did that moron get to be a four-star?** Jack questioned about the highest ranking general who was an occasional thorn in their sides.
**I don't know, Babe. I'm a civilian.**
The general referred to by Jack and Daniel was Franklin Armstrong who was recently promoted to a full general, something the lovers were unaware of until now. Armstrong led the entourage into the living room and motioned for the others to introduce themselves. The assemblage consisted of Major General Carlton Eastwood, Brigadier General Thomas Woodall, Master Sergeant Kevin Dorhay, and Sergeant Tina Klanger. Major Paul Davis needed no introduction, having been a part of the Stargate Program for many years.
“May we sit down?” Dorhay asked.
“You won't be here that long,” Jack responded.
Dorhay looked at Armstrong, who in turn motioned to Eastwood to bring up the subject of their visit.
Taking the lead, Eastwood advised, “General, Doctor, we would like you to return to the SGC on a full-time basis.”
“Sorry, not interested,” Daniel spoke up immediately as he stood in a defensive posture with his arms folded across his chest.
Jack and Daniel heard this before and while both held a deep affection for the Stargate Program, they had a family now and a business. Both men were very happy in their new life away from Cheyenne Mountain.
“I realize this is an unique situation, but what the two of you have to offer the Stargate Program can't be matched by anyone else. The Goa'uld are still out there. We're meeting new races, potential allies, every week, and we need you, Doctor, to help sort through their cultures, to help us know who to trust,” Eastwood stated.
Jack shook his head, snickering slightly at the request as he stood next to Daniel with his hands in his pockets.
“General. Generals,” Jack restated. “We have a business, we have a family, and in case you hadn't noticed, we're the same sex. Daniel and I are married. I am *not* pretending we aren't.”
“We're not asking you to,” Armstrong claimed as he stepped forward.
“You're not?” Daniel asked skeptically. ~I don't believe you.~
“Did the regulations change while I was changing diapers?” Jack inquired tersely.
“No, but as we did before, we'll ... look the other way.”
Armstrong referred back to when Jack and Daniel originally planned to retire. At the time, Daniel was severely injured and almost died. During Jack's vigil at his husband's bedside, at least two SG teams and most of the medical personnel on duty quickly learned of the true relationship between the then-colonel and his archaeologist. In their minds, the lovers were done with the military and were starting their new life together.
However, the Brass needed the couple to stay with the Program, especially when a crisis occurred with the Hedronix. The couple was asked to come back for six months. Six months extended to over a year. There was always a reason to stay a little longer.
In order to retain the services of the two men, the Pentagon looked the other way and anyone who had learned the truth during Daniel's recovery was ordered to forget whatever was seen and heard. In the end, containment wasn't that difficult.
Jack's exasperation grew. This was a different time now. When he and Daniel agreed to the six months, it meant continuing the lie, taking off their wedding rings, and pretending to be 'only' best friends. He would not allow that to happen ever again.
“Look, you see this ring?” Jack waited to make sure each of the generals at least glanced at the gold band he bandied in front of them, wiggling his ring finger to make sure they were focused in the right place. Then, he reached over and took Daniel's hand. “See this one?” Again, he paused. “And do you see these?” He pointed to the pins the couple presented to each other at their second wedding. “These rings and these pins, are *never* coming off again. You want us, then you have to know up front that it would be as an openly married couple, jewelry and all.”
Armstrong made a deep, grunting sound, clearly unhappy about the situation; yet, he raised his head to look straight at Jack's eyes and responded, “That's acceptable.”
Jack's head made an unconscious move forward in shock. He looked at Daniel, who was looking a bit like a guppy again with his mouth partially opened.
~What kind of game are they playing?~ Daniel decided to make his own challenge to the generals. “And that also includes using our names. We're not going backwards in time. We are the Jackson-O'Neills, officially, legally, and we're not changing that, either.”
“Also acceptable,” Armstrong replied, standing firm as he responded to the two men in front of him.
“What exactly is it you want?” Jack asked, very suspicious and totally stunned by the complete acquiescence of the Brass.
Dorhay spoke, “As we indicated, we want you to return to the program. No one else has your experience and know-how. We've learned the hard way that it takes more than military training to be successful out there.”
“We have a business. We can't ... we won't go back on a full time basis,” Daniel stated, a bit hesitantly. He just hadn't anticipated this kind of tolerance from the government at this stage of the game, and wasn't sure just how to handle it. ~There has to be more to this.~
“Agreed. Part-time would be acceptable.”
**Gawd, Jack. What's going on?** Daniel questioned with their silent communication. ~This is ... it's ... gawd, it's wacky.~
**I don't know, but they're making me nervous by agreeing to everything so quickly.**
**This doesn't make any sense, unless ...** Daniel began, pausing as the hidden truth sank in.
**They've screwed up and want us to save their rotten behinds.**
“We'll work around your business obligations,” Armstrong added. “We are willing to be flexible. Frankly, gentlemen, though it's unusual, we're in a situation where you can pretty much dictate your terms.”
“There's gotta be more behind this,” Jack said skeptically.
“Sirs, if I may,” Paul Davis interjected as he walked forward. Getting looks of approval, the major turned to his former colleagues and spoke, “Sir, Daniel. There's a crisis.”
“Surprise, surprise,” Jack intoned with sarcasm. **I knew there was more to this than met the eye, Danny.** He noticed Daniel's tenseness: the smooth face taut, a tiny frown, the uncertainty in the eyes. ~Heck, let me show 'em what I'm talking about.~
As Jack moved, Davis ignored his remarks and continued, “Our major allies are losing confidence in the way we're doing business. I'm afraid we've ...”
By the time the major spoke one line, Jack's arms were wrapped around Daniel, who skipped a breath, a bit unsure about being so open in front of the visiting Brass. Within two seconds, though, the archaeologist didn't care about their guests. Jack's hold was strong and secure and a quick reminder that they'd be united and together through whatever nightmare was threatening to interrupt their paradise.
**It'll be okay, Love. We don't do anything we don't want to. Okay?**
Daniel nodded, confusing the visitors who didn't understand why he reacted in that way.
Jack smiled, placed a kiss on Daniel's nape, and then looked back at the military men, not the least bit embarrassed at his actions, even though a few of them were clearly uncomfortable as they looked away and fidgeted.
~Like I really want to be around you people again?~ Jack decided to confront the Brass with the truth. “You mean you're speaking out of both sides of your mouths.”
It was clearly a statement and not a question.
Davis hesitated, but acknowledged the truthfulness of the statement as he explained, “Yes, Sir. General Jackson-O'Neill, General Hammond has done his best, but the Pentagon has its own goals and those goals have conflicted with those of the SGC. Too often, General Hammond makes a promise and then ...”
“The Pentagon breaks it,” Daniel interjected, noticing that the trio of generals were suddenly looking very ill at ease while not denying anything. **I wonder what happened with the Hedronix this time?** Unhappily, he asked, “So, what is it you expect us to do?”
“Restore honor to the SGC,” Paul Davis answered straightforwardly. “The Pentagon is willing to back off, relinquish some of the decision-making power and give it back to the SGC.”
Daniel sighed, exchanging a 'been there, done that' look with Jack. Neither said anything.
General Armstrong put forward, “The two of you are our greatest assets with our allies, especially with races like the Nox, the Hedronix, the Mengal, and, of course, the Asgard. They trust you.”
“We won't be front men,” Jack stated. “If we give our word, we expect it to be honored.”
“And it would be,” Eastwood responded. “To be frank, our reputation has been tarnished, and the situation with the Goa'uld and other potentially destructive races is not only still present, but increasing. To protect Earth, we have to maintain our alliances, strengthen them even, and it's our opinion that the only way we'll be able to do that is by showing we can be ...” the man hesitated.
“Trusted?” Daniel asked, eyebrows raised in an accusatory tone.
“Yes,” came the simple answer.
“How do you get around us being married?” Daniel asked. “It's bound to create resentment, or are you so blind you don't think there are other same-sex couples that work at the SGC? I can tell you there are, and they are not going to like the fact that Jack and I can parade around the SGC freely while they can't.”
“That will be your challenge,” Dorhay stated. “We can't change the laws, Doctor Jackson.”
“Jackson-O'Neill,” Jack corrected Dorhay.
“We can only do so much. This, we can do,” Dorhay responded.
“How?” Jack asked, wanting to understand how they could bend the rules at all.
Armstrong explained, “It's a Presidential Order. The two of you would return to the SGC, to SG-1, but you would be there as a Presidential Committee of two, rather than military.”
“So, I'm still retired?”
“Yes, and no,” Armstrong answered, clarifying that, “Yes, as far as the laws of the land go; no, to everyone and everything else.”
“You're looking the other way. That's what it boils down to,” Daniel purported to Armstrong.
“Maybe, but it's the best we can do, and gentlemen, make no mistake, we do need to do it,” Armstrong stated.
“We have a family,” Jack reminded.
“And they've been to the SGC,” Daniel added.
“Your point is?” Armstrong asked.
“We won't lie to them,” Daniel answered. “We can't work at the SGC and pretend we don't.”
“They know the difference between deep space telemetry and visiting alien planets, or they will,” Jack told the generals.
“Acceptable,” Armstrong replied.
“Excuse me?” Daniel questioned in near shock as he leaned forward and blinked a few times.
Unemotionally, Armstrong advised, “We've already prepared the documents for your family.”
“We've got clearance, *full* clearance?” Daniel inquired.
Armstrong nodded as he informed the couple that, “How you conduct your lives with your children is up to you.”
“Have you heard of 'going to work with Dad days'?” Jack asked.
“As I said, General, it's up to you. We do, of course, expect you to make intelligent decisions. Surely, you don't want your children meeting a System Lord,” Eastwood stated.
Jack looked at Daniel, a look of 'do you believe this?' on his face.
“There's another thing,” the archaeologist mentioned.
“What's that, Doctor Jackson-O'Neill?” Dorhay asked, not even hesitating over the lengthy name now.
Daniel stared the group in the eyes and stated, “Sara and Mark Wilson. They'd have to be cleared as well.”
“The general's ex-wife and her husband? Why?” Armstrong questioned.
Jack bristled a bit as he realized the group knew who Sara and Mark were.
“General Armstrong, if anything happens to us, Sara and Mark are part of our ... back-up. The point is, if a worse case scenario happens, or if some crisis comes up, Sara and Mark would probably end up taking care of our children. If our children know the truth, it's vital that Sara and Mark do, too,” Daniel answered.
The generals fidgeted slightly, not having considered this.
“Daniel is right,” Jack asserted. “Our kids need to be able to talk with an adult about what they might encounter. Sara and Mark have to be included. Otherwise, no deal.” He smiled subtly as he communicated, **That'll take care of it, Danny. They'd never clear civilians on that basis.**
Armstrong sighed as he looked at his two counterparts. Each nodded, and then Armstrong spoke again.
~What?~ Daniel's eyes grew wide as he turned sharply to the right to stare at his lover. **What do we do? They said 'yes'. Jack, they're agreeing to everything.**
**They're desperate. Whatever's been happening out there, they've made a royal mess of things.**
Jack sighed. He moved to Daniel and smiled before he kissed him, surprising the younger man who hadn't expected such a full, deep kiss in front of the military representatives. Still, Daniel found his arms going around his husband's neck as his desire also grew.
“Gawd, Jack,” Daniel gasped when he came up for air.
Jack looked at the stunned generals. He looked at each, making sure they saw his intense stare. He just couldn't believe what was happening.
“Just making a point. We are *not* pretending. Do you understand that?” Jack questioned.
Armstrong answered, “As we said, we're not asking you to change anything.”
“Space Family Jackson-O'Neill?” Jack queried, a reference to the old 'Lost in Space' television series where a family was launched into space.
Dorhay nodded in understanding as he answered, “In a manner of speaking, General, yes.”
“You're actually saying I can take my kids through the Stargate to meet, oh, let's say the Nox?” Jack asked nonchalantly with a tiny shrug.
“If that's your wish, General,” Eastwood answered.
“We need to think about this,” Daniel said. “We'll let you know.”
Daniel's tone was definite. The conversation was over.
~Sorry, my husband has had enough, and so have I.~ Speaking in his command voice, the one that left no room for argument, Jack advised, “Translation, General Armstrong: We've listened. Now it's time for you to go. We'll be in touch.”
“There is one more thing, Brigadier,” Eastwood mentioned.
“Brigadier?” Jack echoed, eyebrows raised at the obviously intentional use of his rank.
“If you agree to return to the SGC, you'll be promoted to a major general,” Eastwood spoke.
“Sweet,” Jack responded, completely surprised by the statement and definitely still skeptical about everything stated thus far. “We'll get back to you.”
Though hesitant, the generals and their associates left, except for Davis, who paused and looked back at Jack and Daniel. They saw him say something to the generals just before heading back to the couple.
“How's Colonel Reynolds?” Jack asked softly.
Since finding out Paul Davis had a partner of his own and wasn't after Daniel, Jack was more receptive to the major and considered him one of the few people in Washington D.C. that could be trusted. Daniel trusted Davis from the start and thought of him as a friend, but Jack's Mr. Jealousy tended to get in the way of his opinion of the man, at least until he learned about the private relationship between Davis and Reynolds.
Davis smiled, answering, “Good. He ... we're good, and that's why you have to do this. Look, I don't have a right to ask this, but this is the first time the Pentagon has seriously come close to looking at those regulations. In the past, it's all been for show. They've never come close to actually making a change, but they are now. If you two can return to the SGC, do your jobs, be the example, it will go a long way.”
“We're not your guinea pigs, Davis,” Jack responded curtly.
“No, of course not, but like you said, you're not the only ones. No one is going to resent you and Daniel, General. Don't you get it? They'll be rooting for you. It'll take time, but be the example, and maybe someday, it will open the door for others. Please, don't be hasty in your decision. Besides, the SGC really does need you. The Pentagon's actions have put us in a state of perturbation, and I know you two can do a lot to help fix it.”
“Help? Help to fix it?” Jack questioned.
“I'm not naive, General. The presence of you and Daniel will go a long way, but we have to back up what you do. The two of you can't be everywhere all the time. You're the start, the center of what needs to happen, but then we have to ...”
“Keep the big shots in line?” Jack suggested.
“Come back, General. We ...”
“I won't take Hammond's job, and if they think that promotion will ...”
“No one wants you to replace General Hammond,” Davis responded.
“They don't?” Jack replied. “Well, good, because that's something I won't do.”
“The general's place at the SGC is secure, Sir,” the major assured. “I know you're skeptical, but General Hammond will remain the leader of the SGC until such time as he chooses to retire, or go elsewhere. He has the President's highest confidence.”
“So, not connected?” Jack interrogated.
“Not connected, General,” Davis affirmed. “Sir, Stargate Program needs you and Daniel for a lot of reasons, most of which go far beyond the day-to-day decision making of the facility. Your role will not conflict with General Hammond's. Believe me, Sir, when I say that your affection for the general is well known.”
“The President knows Daniel and I would walk away in a heartbeat if Hammond were reassigned or relegated to any role other than the one he's *rightfully* earned,” the silver-haired man expressed in a combination of fact and warning.
“He does, but that still has nothing to do with General Hammond remaining at the SGC.” Davis sighed and then spoke thoughtfully, “I'm afraid, Sir, that as much as we want, and need, you and Daniel back, that even if you demanded the top position at Cheyenne Mountain, you'd be turned away. The President's backing of General Hammond *is* that strong.”
Jack stared at Paul Davis, studying him carefully. He believed the major to be sincere on this issue.
“That's good to know,” Jack finally responded.
“Please consider the request, General. We do need you,” Davis implored with earnest as he backed away and headed outside to join the others.
~What a day,~ Jack thought as he locked the door. He blew out a whiff of air as he made his way back to his husband. “I wasn't expecting that.”
“Me, either. What are we going to do, Jack?”
Jack pulled Daniel into a loving embrace, kissing his cheek just before doing so.
“Right now, we're going to go upstairs and play with our children, and then we're going to make dinner. After that, we're going to take the girls for a walk.”
“Then we're going to make love.”
Daniel smiled as he added, “And think about this tomorrow.”
Their immediate plan of action agreed upon, Jack and Daniel walked upstairs to put their plan into motion.
“Hey, whatcha' doing?” Jack asked as he walked into Daniel's den the next morning.
Daniel twirled his chair around to face Jack, and replied, “Just looking at the aerial survey of the New Mexico site.”
“Does it look promising for the warehouse?”
“Yeah, pretty standard. We should send Megan and Ty to have a closer look, just to make sure.”
“That sounds good.” Jack sat down in the recliner near his lover's desk and settled back comfortably. “Twins are down for a nap; the Munchkins are with the girls in the Pen ...”
Daniel laughed at Jack's latest nickname, opining, “That sounds horrible, Babe. We need a better name for it, although Jonny does look as if he's trying to find escape routes.”
Jack and Daniel recently built a special portable playpen for their toddlers. It was big enough for them to move around in and play comfortably with a few specially selected toys, soft enough for them to bump against and not be injured, and yet tall enough for them not to 'escape' from, though just in case, there was a built-in musical alarm that went off any time the kids got lucky and tapped the top of the playpen. The playpen could go anywhere -- the nursery, living room, and even out in the backyard.
Their creation gave the parents a tiny bit of freedom to move around without having to worry, too much, and, as always, the various baby monitors around the house were on.
Jack thought for a moment and then grinned as he suggested, “How about ToddlerTown, TT, for short?”
Daniel chuckled again at his husband's crazy creativity and admitted, “Well, they aren't technically toddlers yet, but they will be and that makes the playpen their town. I guess it works.”
“Of course, it does,” Jack remarked with pride.
In actuality, the triplets were just a couple of weeks away from being two, so they were already being referred to as toddlers by many. The twins were on the verge of turning one-year-old so weren't near the toddling stage as yet. In fact, their first birthday was on Monday, just two days away. A small party was planned for late afternoon into early evening to hopefully allow time for visitors who would be working during the day to celebrate the twins' birthday, if only for a few minutes.
“So, with Jen and David at school and Noa spending the day with Angela at Sara's,” Daniel rose, walked over to the recliner, and dipped down into it next to Jack, who at the same time pressed the control that reclined the chair backwards, “that means we have, oh, ten minutes?”
“Probably, so let's not waste it.”
“Let's not,” Daniel agreed as he kissed his soulmate.
The parents managed to get in fifteen full minutes of quality snuggling before they heard the cry.
“That's Little Danny. Wonder what Jonny did now,” Daniel pondered before placing one more kiss on Jack's hairy chest.
“Hey, who said it's Jonny's fault?” Jack called out to his husband, who was now standing and walking towards the door.
Turning back, Daniel emitted an expression of 'Oh, please'.
“Okay, so he's ...” Jack began as he put the recliner in its regular position and stood up.
“Just like you,” Daniel teased, a big grin on his face. He walked the few steps that separated the two men and, cupping Jack's face, kissed him. “Jonny loves Little Danny, and he'll always take care of him. He'll also always tease him. It's just ... who they are.”
“Come on. Let's go see what kind of trouble Jonny is getting into.”
The trouble was quickly determined.
“Mean, Jon'y,” Little Danny scolded.
“No mean to.”
“Jus' playin',” Jonny rationalized.
“Okay, you two, let's play nice,” Jack ordered while retrieving one of Little Danny's toys that Jonny apparently tossed out of ToddlerTown. He handed it back to Little Danny. “Share.”
“Dan'y share,” Jonny admitted. “Jon'y bad,” he muttered with a bit of pout on his face. “Jus playin'.”
“Play nice,” Jack repeated with Daniel at his side.
“Sor'y, Dan'y,” Jonny said with true remorse.
Jack and Daniel watched the two boys hug and begin to play anew as if nothing happened.
Having restored peace in ToddlerTown, the lovers decided to keep an eye on their brood from the three-quarter size bed that stood against the wall in the nursery. The Munchkins were happily playing away, the twins were still napping, and Bijou and Katie, who asked to be let out of ToddlerTown after the commotion, were taking turns getting rubdowns from Jack and Daniel.
The couple leaned back against the wall, sitting side-by-side, and smiled as they watched their treasures at play, and at rest.
Hearing Daniel laugh, Jack asked, “What's so funny, Love?”
“Jonny. He's just like you.”
“This is a good thing, I hope.”
The archaeologist leaned over, kissed his lover on the cheek, and whispered, “Always.”
“Yeah, now you say that. What did you really mean?”
Daniel snickered and explained, “Jonny is like you, Babe; he's always playing with Little Danny's toys, just like you're always playing with my things.”
Jack arched his eyebrows as he leered at Daniel. He mirrored Daniel's earlier action and moved to within an inch of his husband's lips.
“I adore playing with your ... things ... <kiss> ... You have ... <kiss> ... some really ... <nibble on Daniel's upper lip> ... *big* things, one in particular ...”
“Jack ... our children ...”
Jack managed to lower Daniel to a supine position on the bed and now the older man looked over at their kids and the beagles, who jumped off the bed to flee the activity.
With a smile, the general spoke a somewhat apologetic, “Sorry, Girls.”
The two men returned to their upright positions, allowing Bijou and Katie to jump back onto the bed. The beagles nestled closer to their humors as if to prevent the lovers from 'forgetting' again.
“Jack, we have to talk about the SGC,” Daniel stated.
“We need to be honest,” the general pointed out.
“Yes, we do.”
With a nod, Jack began, “Danny, we talked about this a few months ago, how we never really cut the tie. We've kept the door open. We both know that had we really wanted to shut that door forever, we could have.”
“But we didn't. I kept helping with the translations and the research.”
“And I've been training new recruits and advising the teams. We've both done things to keep our hands in it, even going off-world,” Jack reviewed.
“I don't want to go back full-time,” Daniel stated unequivocally.
“I don't, either. I love J-O Enterprises. Goa'uld aside, Egypt was exciting, and I liked sharing that experience with you and our family. I want us to do it again.”
“We've talked about going back,” Daniel replied, referring to Egypt. “There's also the project in Mexico, not, uh, to be confused with the warehouse in New Mexico.”
“We're a success, Danny, and I don't want to give up J-O.”
Daniel replied, “I love J-O, too. We're lucky to have Megan; she does a fantastic job.”
“Daniel,” Jack twisted his body so that he faced Daniel more, “Let's give Megan a raise, ask her to take on a bit more of the responsibility, let her promote someone to be her assistant, and let's ...”
“Go back to the SGC?”
“It has to be on our terms, Jack -- totally. I mean, we need to be here for our family first.”
With a bob of his head, Jack suggested, “We set the schedule, Love. Maybe we give them two days a week, three tops.”
“Jack,” Daniel spoke a bit more quietly than before, “No rescue missions.”
“No digs away from me,” Jack added with a sly smile on his face.
“You just want the rank,” Daniel chuckled.
“Major general is nothing to scoff at. Pay raise, and with the brood, we might need that one of these days,” a practical-sounding Jack responded.
There was a pause as the soulmates looked at each other and processed everything just spoken.
“Okay, we need to be honest,” the archaeologist sighed. “If we go back to the Program, we both know that if a situation arises ... if something bad happens, you'll want to be a part of it. Maybe I would, too.”
“No, Jack, let's be honest. We'll qualify what we just said because the truth is that if someone we're responsible for or maybe a friend gets captured or hurt, SG-1 is going. We couldn't stay out of it and leave it to others to rescue them. At the same time, maybe something will come up where I believe I need to be on a dig or doing research for something vital. Jack, we *have* to be reasonable. We can't lie to ourselves.”
“I'll give you that, Danny, but we limit it. If one of us gets out of hand, we slam on the brakes. Agreed?”
“Agreed, and we promise each other to listen. Jack, I know I get lost in it. Just show me our children.”
“I'll do that and you hit me on the head or,” Jack formed a huge smile on his face, “just plant one on me.” Jack pointed at his lips for emphasis and promised, “I'll back off in a hurry.”
“Okay then, we agree on *rare* missions and research trips.”
“Daniel, we have to agree. That's how we'll check each other.”
“I like that,” Daniel responded. “We make our case and if we both don't agree, we let it go, no matter what it is, *but* ...”
“Oh, I don't know about buts ...”
“We promise to listen with open minds. Agreed?”
With a nod, Jack answered, “Agreed.”
“General Hammond confirmed that his position at the Mountain is secure,” Daniel noted as he referred to a conversation over the phone earlier in the day. “He was, uh, touched that we were so concerned, but he was pretty forceful when he said your coming back wouldn't, uh ...”
“... Step on his toes,” Jack stated, completing the thought for his lover. “I would *never* step on Hammond's toes.”
“I know, and so does the general.” Daniel smiled, his excitement growing in spite of himself. “We need ground rules, for us. We have to agree on what we both can live with because if we do this, we're risking our lives and our future, and we need to be honest about that, in our hearts, and with each other.” He paused, taking a deep breath before continuing. “Jack, walking through the Stargate is exhilarating, but there's always a chance something could happen, so ... we need to be realistic and both be comfortable with the level of risks we decide to take. We have to protect ourselves as much as possible.” He stayed firm, saying, “It might not be easy for us to say 'no' sometimes, but we have to, or we can't do this. No ... self-sacrificing or ... or ...”
“... or the world won't survive if you don't go or I don't go.”
Jack leaned forward for a brief kiss. He gazed into Daniel's eyes. The younger man was right. They couldn't afford egos in this, and sometimes, even when it might mean going against their first instinct, they were going to have to follow their rules.
“You're right,” Jack stated. “No first contact missions. We're not coming back to fight the Goa'uld. The reality is we'll probably end up in the thick of things, but we don't go looking for it.”
“Jack, we have to be true to that. I ... I need you, you know.”
“Angel, I need you, too. Ground rules come first and we make a promise to each other not to break them.”
“What about the children?” Daniel questioned.
“We can't hide it. I don't want to lie to them,” Jack stated knowing what the alternative meant.
“They've already seen the Stargate and the Goa'uld. So why not show them the good side of the Gate? Jack, why not let them meet the Nox? The Mouseketeers, I mean. Let's take them to the Land of Light -- let them see that the universe has good in it. Maybe ... maybe it will help them to see the bigger picture, make better decisions about what really matters in life.”
“The universe is their classroom?” the older man put forth.
“Yeah.” Daniel sighed, “We need to stop fooling ourselves. We talk about the danger and all the bad stuff, but the truth is we ...”
After Daniel hesitated, both men spoke in unison, “We love it.”
The lovers smiled and then Daniel continued, “And in everything, there is an element of risk. You know that old saying, and it's true. Life isn't living if we don't take some risk.”
The couple shared another smile and an awareness that the Stargate program was deep inside them.
“We just need to make smart choices,” the general stated.
“Jack, we need to agree on missions. I mean, totally.”
“I agree. Danny, I don't think we should do anything apart. Like you said, no solo rescue missions for me and no digs just for you. Whatever we do, we do together.”
The young man nodded as he picked Katie up and held her to him. She licked his face, causing him to laugh.
Jack added, “We need to talk to Sara and Mark, too. I'd prefer the kids and the girls stay with them whenever were gone.”
“You're assuming Sam will be with us.”
“Why don't we invite them over for dinner tonight?”
Jack laughed, “You know, we told Sara just the bare facts before. This is really going to freak her out.”
“I thought it was ... magical and ... incredibly awesome,” Daniel reflected on his initial reaction to the Stargate.
“Me, too, after it freaked me out.” After a shared laugh, Jack opined, “Sara can handle it, though; Mark, too. Let's take them to the SGC for dinner.”
“Indoctrination by fire?” Daniel asked.
“Only without the fire, Love. Just a quiet dinner at the base of a mountain.”
“You'd better call the general.”
“Danny, I've got an idea.”
“We need to be sure about this,” Jack stated cautiously.
“I agree, so ... what ...?”
“A trial run. We'll see how the kids deal with it, and Sara and Mark, too.”
“Tonight?” Daniel asked with uncertainty. “All of them?”
“No,” Jack corrected before clarifying his thought. “Tonight, it's just Sara and Mark, but what I was thinking was that we'll give the SGC three weeks of chitchatting with some of our friends off-world and at the end of that time, you and I will make our final decision, give them our requirements if we decide to go ahead, and go from there. What do you think?”
“I think you're my genius, and I love you so freakin' much that I might explode.”
The two kissed to seal their agreement, after which Jack contacted Hammond with their proposal. Then, of course, he would have to make sure the Wilsons were available for an evening get-together.
“Jack, we're going to Cheyenne Mountain?” Sara asked as Jack turned onto the winding road that led up to facility.
Sara and Mark were pleased when the Jackson-O'Neills invited them to dinner at, according to Jack, “a place that will knock your socks off; that is, when we show you our special surprise.” Now, the two were shocked as they sat in the second row of seats in the SUV to learn they were going to the famed complex.
“Yep, the Mountain,” Jack confirmed, responding to Sara's inquiry.
“This is the thing that's going to change our lives forever?” the blonde asked, referring back to their conversation when the dinner arrangements were made.
“It's an amazing thing, Sara,” Daniel added. “Trust us.”
“NORAD?” Mark inquired, trying to piece the puzzle together.
“No,” Daniel answered. He took a breath and twisted around to face them. “We're going below NORAD, to the lowest part of the complex. It's called Stargate Command, or the SGC for short, or just SGC. Technically, you don't need the 'the' in front of it, but most use it anyway.”
“Prattling,” Jack mumbled out of the corner of his mouth. ~He's nervous, so he's rambling.~
“Stargate?” Sara repeated, stunned to hear the word.
Sara was told the bare minimum about the Stargate a few months earlier. She knew it was dangerous and that her ex-husband battled space creatures, but the details were still unknown to her and seemed a bit surreal.
“We're making some changes, Sara. They want us back, and we've agreed to return part-time -- maybe.”
“Two or three days a week maximum,” Daniel clarified. “But we insisted the two of you had to be cleared and told about the SGC.”
“Because of the kids,” Mark surmised.
“Exactly,” Jack confirmed. “Mark, we're very grateful to you and Sara, but we can't do this and lie to you. Our kids are going to be a part of that, too, and we'll be talking more about the specifics, but you need to know what's out there because ...”
Jack's words trailed off as he cleared his throat to try and stop the emotion.
Daniel took over, explaining, “Because if something happens to us through the Stargate, our children will know, and we don't want them to have to be alone. Since Sam will be with us most of the time, we ...”
“Want the back-up. If something happens to both of you, it might happen to Sam, too,” Sara deduced.
“Right. Besides, we just don't want to lie to you when we go off-world,” Daniel stated.
“Off-world?” Mark asked.
“Uh, Sara, we never asked you. I think we assumed you would have told Mark about ...”
“She did. It just sounds ... odd. Off-world,” Mark responded.
“It's an incredible experience, and the Stargate will take your breath away,” Daniel put forth, unable to hide his awe of the circular object. “Um, listen, if you two are uncomfortable with this, tell us now, and we'll turn around.”
Sara and Mark looked at each other.
“I want to see it, Mark. I hope you don't mind, that you'll understand, but I want to see what I lost my husband to.”
“I'm curious, too, Darling.”
“Ah, Jack, I didn't mean that how it just sounded. I realize our marriage ended when Charlie died, but ...”
“I know what you mean, Sara. Don't worry about it,” Jack replied, smiling as he looked back at her through the rearview mirror.
Regaining her temporary loss of composure, Sara asked, “Jack, you said 'maybe' you were going back? Why show us this now if you aren't sure?”
With complete honesty, Jack answered, “We want to see how you guys handle it, and the brood, too. If we can make this work so the kids are okay and the business is covered, then we'll do it.”
“But if things don't work out, if our children are afraid or feel upset we aren't home as much as we've been, then we'll stop. We'll also stop if you and Mark aren't comfortable with what happens. Our family comes first,” Daniel added.
Sara heard the conviction in Daniel's voice, and then she heard that same firmness coming from Jack.
“Trust that, if nothing else, Sara. The Jackson-O'Neill children are at the top of the list. One thing we'll be relying on you and Mark for is to make sure they don't hold out on us ...”
“You mean in case they cover up their real feelings thinking you want the Stargate more ... well ...”
“That's exactly it, Sara,” Jack responded. “That brood of ours is very attuned to us. I don't want them hiding their own feelings thinking Danny and I are off playing and having a good time at their expense. Can you handle that?”
“Don't worry, Jack. I know what you mean. I'll ... cover your six.”
“We both will,” Mark chuckled lightly.
“Thanks. We really appreciate this,” Daniel added as Jack stopped at the security checkpoint.
“This is the Stargate?” Sara walked up the ramp and studied the device, reaching out and touching it with her hand for a moment. Jack stood behind her. At the base of the ramp were Daniel and Mark. “It *is* amazing, Jack.”
“Yes, it is, and in a few minutes, SG-11 is returning from a mission and you can see it engage.”
“It sure is big.” Sara turned to face her ex-husband and asked, “What you told me before was only the tip of the iceberg, wasn't it, Jack?” Seeing the man's expression, she added, “I can't imagine the things you've seen, can I?”
“You know those B-horror movies we used to watch?” Waiting for Sara's affirmative nod and getting it, Jack answered, “That's pretty much how it is, except that along with that, you mix in some 'E.T.' and 'Star Trek'; basically, that's the universe.”
~Fiction that isn't fiction.~ Sara studied the round ring, letting her hand trace the unusual item. She sighed and softly commented, “This is the mission they reactivated you for ... before.”
“Yes, it is, but it was different in the beginning. I wasn't going to come back, Sara. The job that had to be done ... well, it ... I wasn't going to come back.”
~He was going to die out there somewhere.~ Sara looked down to the edge of the ramp where Daniel was talking with her husband. “You've told me Daniel saved your life. He kept you from doing something horrible, didn't he, Jack, and don't lie to me.”
Jack nodded, followed by a short laugh, and explained, “He was a long-haired geek, and I couldn't stop listening to him, even though he was saying the opposite of everything I felt at the time.”
“You were in such despair. I tried so hard,” Sara asserted emotionally.
Jack closed the small gap between them, taking Sara into his arms to comfort her.
“I was in a deep, dark abyss, Sara. I know you tried; it was my fault. Please don't ever doubt that. It was *all* my fault,” Jack stated, a bit emotional himself.
As she pulled back slightly, Sara glanced over again at Daniel and whispered in a cracked voice, “He literally saved your life.”
“Then, and more times than I count since then.”
“I'm glad he got through to you, Jack.”
“Yeah, well, this thick head of mine has never been a match for Danny's intelligence, or his heart and soul.”
“Jack, how many times do I have to tell you to stop selling yourself short?” Sara asked in complete seriousness.
The former married couple's conversation was cut off by Sergeant Walter Davis, who announced from the control room, “General, SG-11 is due back any minute.”
“Sara, we need to get off the ramp.” Jack gently tugged on Sara's elbow and led her towards the foot of the metal incline. “You're about to see what looks like a big puddle of water,” he said as they stepped down onto the floor.
“What?” Sara laughed.
The klaxons blared and a minute later, the loud kawoosh appeared. Both Sara and Mark jumped backwards involuntarily. Sara's hands went to her chest, and Mark let out a small gasp at the site while he put his arm around Sara protectively.
Jack and Daniel grinned. They couldn't help it. The Stargate was, after all, like a giant playground, and they were finally able to share it with Sara and Mark.
“That's some puddle, Jack,” Sara observed with some nervousness. “What is it, really?”
“Ask Carter. I just walk through; she understands why I can walk through it.”
As SG-11 was about to return, the Special Forces team took their positions in the gate room.
“Uh, don't worry about the fire power,” Daniel explained. “It's routine. Whenever a team returns, the SFs get into position ... just in case.”
“Special Forces,” Sara whispered as she continued to piece together how the Stargate connected with her ex-husband.
Sara and Mark looked at the group of military soldiers, all fully armed and in ready positions. They exchanged a look and then returned their focus to the Stargate, not wanting to miss anything.
SG-11 walked through, surprised to see Jack and Daniel in the gate room, but there wasn't only a brief second to say a quick hello since General Hammond announced over the tannoy, “SG-11, we'll debrief in fifteen minutes.”
“I bet it would really be something to go through this ... Stargate,” Mark commented.
“You can go,” Daniel divulged, earning shocked looks from the visiting twosome.
“You don't have to,” Jack quickly added. “Here's the deal. If you two are interested, if you want to really know what it's like, there's this place, called the Land of Light. Before I retired, Daniel and I managed to get there at least once or twice a year. Very friendly world, and you're welcome to go there for ... five minutes, an hour, a day ... it's up to you. No pressure, but the door is open.”
“The Land of Light?” Mark echoed with a vast amount of curiosity.
“The leader there is a man named Tuplo. He's a good man,” Daniel put forward with a smile.
The blonde saw the look on her husband's face and laughed, “Goodness. We have to go through, Jack. How can we not take the opportunity to experience something like this, just once in our lives?”
“We think Jen and David will want to go, too, so ...”
“A family outing,” Sara chuckled. “We'll look forward to it!”
“And now for your entertainment pleasure,” Jack jested. “If you'll follow us, we'll give you the grand tour of this place.”
“Let me guess,” Mark laughed. “Dinner is in the mess.”
“We make a crazy blue Jell-O you just have to try,” Jack replied with a smile as led everyone into the corridor to begin the base tour.
“We'll be in touch about the big day,” Jack stated. “Thanks for everything.” He gave Sara a kiss on the cheek and shook Mark's hand. “Give Angie a kiss for me.”
“We'll do that,” Mark agreed with a nod.
“Goodnight,” Daniel called out calmly before turning and heading back to the SUV.
A minute later, Sara and Mark waved and called out a final 'goodnight' before entering their home. With the house to themselves, they spoke freely about the experience.
“That Stargate is something else,” Mark opined.
“Yes, it is.”
“Darling, are you positive you want to walk through that thing to some unknown place?”
Sara turned around and faced her husband while answering him with a nod.
Mark walked forward until he was right in front of his wife and asked, “What is it?”
“Mark, you know I love you with all my heart.”
“Yes, I know.”
“Can we talk about this?” the blonde inquired with soft eyes that looked deep into her Love's eyes.
“We discuss everything. That's been number one in our guidebook from the moment we agreed not to date anyone else.”
“I remember that conversation.”
“We were a little old for wanting to go steady.”
“But it was right for us, at the time,” Sara responded with a light smile.
“I saw you talking with Jack up on that stage, platform, whatever they call it. You looked serious. My guess is you're looking for some answers.”
“I want to understand.”
“You think the Stargate will help, that it was responsible for your breakup with Jack?”
“Charlie shooting himself with Jack's gun and dying is what caused our breakup. This sounds so trite, but no parent should have to bury their child. No parent, Mark, not ever. It rips you apart inside. Jack and I, we both hurt so much. I tried my best to help him, but he hid away, inside himself, and he wouldn't let me in, not even for a moment.”
“You needed him, too.”
“Of course, I did, but we were always in different places with our grief. Jack,” Sara sighed and looked down. “Mark, I can't even imagine how he must have felt, how he still feels. One night, just one night, he left that gun in the end table. He rarely did something like that. He was always so conscious about it, but we were in a hurry the night before and we both forgot about it and the next day was the next day. He left that gun there and I knew it was there, and the sound ... that dreadful sound ended Charlie's life and our marriage at the same time.”
Mark embraced his wife, comforting her to the best of his ability. He only wished he had magic words to make her feel better, but what he could say that would ever make the loss of Charlie less painful?
“The Stargate saved Jack,” Mark surmised.
“No,” Sara negated as she pulled back out of Mark's hold. “Daniel saved Jack, but the Stargate made that possible, and that's why I want, maybe even need, to experience it. I want to know what they feel when they walk through that ... puddle of water and end up ... where?” Sara laughed, her eyes bright. “Where do they go and what they see and how does that make a man want to live again, or was it all Daniel, from day one?”
Sara turned and walked around for a minute. She whipped off her high heel shoes and finally removed her jacket, placing it on the back of the sofa.
“I remember it all as if it were yesterday. I was in the kitchen when they came, the military. They took Jack with them and all he said was that he was being ordered back to service. I barely saw him after that until I didn't see him at all. He was so cold. I felt it in my bones, that something dark had taken him, but I didn't know what it was or exactly what it meant. All I knew is that we were over, so I left.”
Mark simply listened without saying a word. He looked at Sara with understanding eyes and patience. He was there to support her and not being jealous of Jack and feeling secure in the relationship he had with the strong woman allowed him to do just that.
“You're an incredible man, Mark Wilson,” Sara declared tenderly.
“I'm a lucky man,” Mark countered as he approached the woman and rubbed his hands along her upper arms. “Sara, it doesn't bother me that you still love Jack, or that he stills love you. Unconventional? Not for me. If love is real, it's forever, regardless of how it alters itself or transforms. What matters for me, for us, is that Jack has Daniel and is, from the looks of it, very happy, and we have each other, and as long as you're looking at me the way you are now, I *know* I'm the winner here.”
Sara and Mark kissed, after which Sara suggested, “I have all kinds of ways of looking at you and showing you how very much I am in love with you. We need to take advantage of Angela being with Mike.”
“If what you have in mind is the same thing as I have in mind, we can make, what was it they called that puddle?”
“Um, oh ... a kabloo?”
“Kawoosh,” Mark recalled. “We're about to make a big kawoosh of our own.”
Sara giggled, the couple kissed again, and then they headed upstairs to make their own personal thunder.
“Now?” Daniel suggested once he and his lover left the nursery where the Munchkins, the twins, and Chenoa were all napping. It was an odd time for the naps, but it wasn't unusual for the family to cope with odd hours and odd schedules. They often went with the flow and didn't worry about this type of oddity as long as it didn't become a daily situation. “We might get thirty minutes out of this.”
Jack checked his watch and nodded in agreement. The couple went downstairs and walked to the wooden patio in the backyard.
It was late afternoon on Tuesday the ninth, the day after the twins celebrated their first birthday. The parents intentionally waited for that special day to pass before broaching the proposed trip through the Stargate as they didn't want anything to interfere with the party.
Jack and Daniel decided to start their family adventure with Jennifer and David, their two oldest children, since both were familiar with the Stargate, having already seen it. Jennifer especially knew about some of the potential dangers from her experience in Egypt. In addition, the parents believed the two already proved themselves in understanding, as much as possible, the importance of secrecy.
“They look so innocent,” Daniel remarked as he watched the siblings playing catch.
“Second thoughts?” Jack asked. “There's nothing that says we have to go through with this.”
“Space Family Jackson-O'Neill,” Daniel mused. “They have to know, Jack. We can't lie to them.”
“Jen, David,” Jack called out, motioning for the brother and sister to come inside the house.
“What's up?” Jennifer asked.
“We have a question for you,” Daniel announced.
“What?” Jennifer questioned, her query stepping over David's exact same response.
“We're thinking of taking you two through the Stargate and want to know what you both think about it,” Jack stated as his eyes carefully studied the expressions of both youngsters for their true responses.
“We get to go through the Stargate?” Jennifer inquired, her eyes bright with excitement.
“For real?” David added, his looks going back and forth from parent to parent.
“If you want,” both Jack and Daniel said at the same time.
“Oh wow!” both children exclaimed in unison, after which they high-fived each other.
“Where are we going?” Jennifer asked, her essence bubbling over in excitement.
“The Land of Light to visit an old friend of ours named Tuplo.”
The two children listened intently as their parents told them about the planet and its friendly inhabitants. As they talked, Jack and Daniel could see David's eyes alight with interest at the idea of a whole new culture to explore.
“Now, we've talked about the secrecy issue, but ...”
“We know. Dad, Daddy, we really do understand. It's ... our lives, right?” Jen stated more than asked.
“Right,” Daniel confirmed softly.
“What about Noa?” David asked.
“Well,” Jack hesitated, looking at Daniel.
“We'll see how it goes with you two and then maybe we'll think about taking her through, but right now, we just want to keep it to the two of you.”
“And Mark and Sara,” Jack added. “Listen, I want you both to remember another rule. You aren't to talk about this, even with them, unless something happens. We can't risk their family. Do you understand?”
“Yes,” both children answered, their tones and focused looks showing their sincere comprehension of the need to protect the Wilsons.
“But if something happens to us, and maybe Sam, then ...” Daniel began.
“Then Sara and Mark will be there for us and understand,” Jennifer interjected. ~They'd take care of us, but I don't want to think about that. Nothing will happen to Dad and Daddy.~
Daniel nodded. He hated this discussion, and similar ones, but he and Jack needed to make sure their children understood not just the majesty of the Stargate, but the risks that went along with it.
Jack continued, “Now, the Wilsons are going with us when we go through, so naturally, you can talk there, but that's it, okay?”
“Is that because someone might overhear us at Aunt Sara's house?” David inquired.
“It's a possibility, Son, and remember, Angela doesn't know anything about this,” Jack answered.
Daniel jumped in, saying, “Look, this is very important. We're only going back to the Program if everyone agrees. What we're trying to do is make sure that all of you have support. That's why we've insisted that the Wilsons be included.”
“That *might* include Angela some day,” Jack added. “That will be Sara and Mark's choice and will come from their own request. You cannot *ever* discuss this with Angela and have her put pressure on them to let her go through or be involved.” He paused for a moment. “Listen up, you two. This is serious business. What you both think you know at this point is nothing. *Nothing.* You cannot risk harm to anyone by telling them about the Stargate, not today, not next year, not ever, not without our permission. If you can't handle that, tell us now and we'll end this. Keep in mind that the consequences of going against this rule, breaking your promise of secrecy, could have dire results, and I don't think either of you wants to live with that.”
“I understand, Dad,” Jennifer replied.
“I do, too,” David responded quietly.
“Good,” Jack acknowledged.
“And, uh, remember it's very possible that the Stargate will not be a regular part of the Wilsons' lives. They're going through it once, to understand it a little better, but it's probable they'll never know anything more about it, good or bad. Okay?”
With two definitive nods, the conversation continued and then a date was set for yet a new Jackson-O'Neill family adventure to take place.
“Tuplo!” Jack greeted the following Saturday as he emerged from the Stargate. “We weren't expecting you to meet us at the Gate.”
“We are honored to have you visit the Land of Light again, General O'Neill. As always, we welcome you.”
“Hello, Tuplo,” Daniel spoke while also bowing his head slightly in reverence to the leader of the world being visited.
“Doctor Jackson. You remember my daughter, Melosha, and this is her husband, Renard.”
The couple nodded and then Jack pointed to his children and introduced, “And this is our daughter, Jennifer, and our son, David.”
“We are honored,” Tuplo stated as he bowed.
“So are we,” David responded as he grinned and bowed dramatically.
Jennifer watched and followed suit, saying, “Yeah, I mean, yes, we are.”
Tuplo smiled as he saw the children dressed in BDUs like their parents.
Jack saw what the man was looking at and remarked, “Miniature uniforms. We had them made especially for our children.”
“Aren't they cool?” David asked.
“Cool?” Tuplo repeated, having no clue what the youngster meant.
“Um, he means they're great,” Daniel clarified.
“Ah. Yes, they are ... cool,” Tuplo agreed with a smile.
“Jennifer,” Melosha began. “I have gathered some of our people together who are close to your age. We thought you might like to spend some time with them.”
“Cool. I mean, yes, I would. Daddy?”
“That's why we're here,” the archaeologist replied.
Happily, Jennifer followed Melosha and Renard away from the Stargate.
“What about me?” David asked.
Warmly, Tuplo answered, “My wife has assembled some of the younger children for you to meet. They are at our home.”
The group headed for Tuplo's residence. As soon as they arrived, David began to interact with a group of eight boys and girls, all of whom were between the ages of seven and twelve.
“General, Doctor, we would like to ask your advice on some improvements we have made to our city. Would you come with me so that I may show you?”
**Not sure I like leaving both the kids, Danny.**
**I know, but we're in the Land of Light, Jack. We can't hover over them if they are going to be a part of this.**
“Lead on,” Jack told Tuplo.
“Okay, kids, review time. What did you think?” Jack asked Jennifer and David as they walked down the ramp at Stargate Command.
“Awesome!” David answered.
“It was great. Can we go again?”
Before Jack or Daniel could answer, a voice came over the loud speaker, ordering, “Mouseketeers, we'll debrief in five minutes.”
Jack and Daniel couldn't contain their smiles as they looked up at Hammond.
“Oh, wow, a debriefing!” David exclaimed excitedly.
**Gotta love Grandpa.**
**You can say that again, Jack.**
**Gotta love Grandpa.**
Daniel rolled his eyes as the Jackson-O'Neills made their way to the briefing room. This wasn't planned, so Jack and Daniel weren't totally sure if Hammond was joking or not, but when they walked into the meeting area, they realized the lieutenant general was totally serious. Janet was already seated at the table, looking very professional and with a notepad in front of her. As was standard procedure, a technician was sitting at the end of the room and prepared to log the meeting.
“This is the ultimate,” Jennifer remarked as she headed for the seat at the head of the table.
“Uh, Jen ...” Daniel said quietly, shaking his head, and then nodding towards Hammond who entered at that moment.
“Okay, people, have a seat,” Hammond stated as he sat down at the head of the long conference table. “Mouseketeers, report.”
David's grin was huge, and he didn't miss a beat jumping in and answering, “It was great, Gran... I mean, Sir.”
Jack and Daniel chuckled a little. Hammond was a surrogate grandfather to the entire Jackson-O'Neill clan and all the children called him 'Grandpa'.
“And I want you to tell me all about it. It's very important in a debriefing to be detailed. Something you consider minor might turn out to be very major,” Hammond informed his newest recruits.
“Well, we walked through the Stargate and Tuplo and his daughter, Melosha, were there. Oh, and so was her husband, Renard. We bowed like Da... like Doctor Jackson-O'Neill taught us to and waited for him to introduce us.”
Hammond hid his chuckle, but Jack and Daniel had to work even harder to hide their amusement. David was struggling to be very formal in his report. For the next thirty minutes, the youngster told the lieutenant general everything he could think of that happened during his first planetary visit.
“Thank you for a very thorough report, Airman.”
David's eyes opened as wide as he could make them go and his mouth was open wide enough to stuff a Big Mac through. He was sitting on air, happy and proud at his grandfather's words.
As he smiled, Hammond elaborated, “Anyone who goes through the Stargate and provides such a detailed report deserves a rank, so I'm making you Honorary Airman Jackson-O'Neill.”
“Wow. Thank you, Gran...General, Sir.”
“And now for you, young lady. What can you add to the airman's report?” Hammond questioned.
“Well, Sir, I observed that the people in the Land of Light are very friendly. They love their world a great deal and are very thankful for the alliance with the ...” Jennifer paused, trying to remember the word, finally able to bring it to her mind after a few seconds, “Tau'ri, but, Sir, I was talking with two of the girls who are my age -- Valosha and Karinzy -- and both of them showed a big interest in wanting to come here and see our world. They said Tuplo had been here a couple of times, but mostly the Tau'ri went to them. They're eager to learn more about us, Sir.”
Hammond looked at Daniel and asked, “Doctor Jackson-O'Neill?”
Daniel smiled at Hammond. Normally, their friend used their original surnames and that was okay with both Jack and Daniel, but in this special debriefing, the children were working so hard at being good and formal SGC personnel that the three-star general was going along with them.
“Um, actually, I didn't know that, General.” Daniel looked at Jennifer and inquired, “Jen, did they happen to say how their parents felt about it?”
“Well, I asked them, Da...Doctor Jackson-O'Neill, and they said that some of the parents weren't sure about it, but others thought it would be educational for their children to go on an exchange program.”
Jack leaned forward and looked at his daughter suspiciously as he questioned, “Exchange Program?”
“Yeah, well ...”
Jack cocked his head as he looked at his daughter, who gulped slightly.
“Go ahead, Airman. I'd like to hear about this exchange program,” Hammond ordered.
“Airman?” Jennifer beamed with delight and then she shared her idea. “Well, I just thought maybe one or two of the children there could come here and visit for a few days. I mean, we have clearance, and I'm sure others here do, too, so ... couldn't they come here to learn, just like countries do. I mean, in school they have those ... oh ...”
The teenager began to look frazzled as she tripped over her words a bit. She wanted her report to be accurate and she was thoroughly excited about her idea. At the same time, she was extremely nervous.
“Jen, you're doing great,” Daniel encouraged. “We know what you mean.”
“I wish there were kids here who could go there, but I know we're sort of the exception to the rule,” the teenager responded as she hung her head, her eyes daring to look at each of those gathered around the table.
“That's an interesting idea, Jennifer. Doctor Jackson, I'd like ...”
“O'Neill,” both Jennifer and David said at the same time.
~Old habits, children. Not sure this old goat is capable of breaking that full time,~ Hammond thought to himself.
Before Hammond could reply, Daniel looked at his children and interjected, “Jen, David, you know Dad and I are very proud of our names, but we agreed a long time ago that for the sake of simplicity, we'd let our professional associates use our ... our, uh ...”
Jack laughed at Daniel's distress, thinking, ~Exactly how do we distinguish it? Our 'old' names? 'Birth' names?~ He decided to help out a little. “You two know what Daddy means, right?”
The children nodded and then David added, “Unless it's one of those Brass id...”
“David!” Daniel warned. **And don't laugh, Jack!**
“We understand about the name,” Jennifer assured.
“But it doesn't mean we have to like it,” David mumbled under his breath, not really trying to hide his comment.
Jack and Daniel exchanged a look, but said nothing out loud.
**Jack, we need to talk with them about that. I mean, with J-O and the SGC, most people use our ... old names. We can't be correcting everyone.**
**I know. We'll explain it to them.**
**They need to understand. Jack, what about the babies? What if ...**
**Daniel, it'll be okay. Our brood knows who we are and that we're proud of who we are. Trust me.**
**I always do, Jack.**
A moment later, Hammond continued, “Doctor ... Jackson-O'Neill ...” He paused, noticing the two smiling faces of the children as he spoke. “I'd like you to investigate the possibility of Tuplo's people coming here to learn, and while the airman is correct about Tau'ri children, we do have many young airmen and privates assigned here who might enjoy a cultural exchange to the Land of Light.”
“Maybe before they get assigned to a team they should have to go there; they'd learn about other people and tolerance,” David wisely suggested.
Hammond smiled at the young boy. He was a mere child of seven and yet he was much older in many ways.
~Much as I suspect Daniel was at that age,~ Hammond thought. “Job well done, Mouseketeers. I think we'll forgo the written reports, but Doctor Fraiser here will be requiring a moment of your time.”
“Big needles,” David said hesitantly.
“Yeah, really big,” Jennifer added.
“Little Napoleon,” David uttered next.
“Don't get her mad, David,” Jennifer tried to whisper.
“Oh, gawd. They are definitely our children,” Daniel heard himself say.
Janet laughed, “Yes, that's me. Anytime you walk through that Stargate, your body is mine afterwards. I don't care who you are or what your rank is. Come on. Scoot.”
The diminutive doctor rose and motioned for the children to accompany her to the infirmary.
“Daddy?” both children pled pitifully at the same time.
“What happened to Doctor Jackson-O'Neill?” Jack asked the two, glancing at Daniel as he did so.
“We want our daddy,” both replied within seconds of each other.
Daniel chuckled, stood, and pulled Jack's arm, urging, “Come on, Dad. We went through the Gate, too.”
“Traitor! Did you have to remind her?”
The jokes and barbs continued as the Jackson-O'Neills made their way to the infirmary for their post-mission examinations.
Back and home and on the phone in his study, Jack remarked, “They loved it, Sara. I'm sorry you and Mark couldn't go today.”
Sara sighed, “Me, too. We were truly looking forward to it.”
“Sylvia thinks she'll be better in a couple of days,” the blonde woman answered about the family practitioner's opinion. “This virus is really hanging on though. Jack, I think we'd better cancel dinner for tomorrow, too. I'd hate for one of your brood to get this.”
“Rain check granted. Dinner in a few weeks then, okay?”
“For that ... and the you-know-what. We do want to go,” Sara stated in all seriousness.
“You will,” Jack responded confidently. “We can reschedule for next week, or do you want to postpone it longer?”
“Let me check with Mark. Is there a specific day?”
Jack responded, “We were hoping for Wednesday.”
“I'll ask him tonight and ...”
“Sara, you can let us know in a few days. I know you want to make sure Angie is okay. This isn't a 'now or never' proposition. We can go anytime,” the silver-hair man insisted.
“Thank you, Jack. I'll be in touch.”
“Come here, you runt,” Jack teased as he picked Katie up and carried her to the sofa.
Jack stretched out the length of the couch and placed the beagle on his abdomen, petting her continuously. It was a wonderfully leisurely Sunday for the family thus far.
“Runt?” Daniel questioned from his position behind the counter in the kitchen.
“Hey, she knows I love her, and she was the runt, the smallest of Bij's litter. No one wanted her. Geez, Danny, do you believe that? Jeff couldn't give her away.”
“She belongs here.”
“Woof!” the young dog spoke.
“You're not just a runt, Katie. You're *our* runt,” Jack asserted, a bit more emotionally than he intended.
The beagle settled down, resting her head over Jack's heart.
“Mmm-hmm,” Jack acknowledged, leaning his head forward to place a kiss on the top of Katie's head.
“I'll never forget that day, Jack.”
“Your birthday, plus two months,” Jack laughed.
“I was definitely surprised,” Daniel commented as he fed the twins.
From his perch, Jack chuckled while watching his husband.
“Angel, we're getting the hang of this at last.” When Daniel looked up in question, Jack instructed, “Take a look around.”
Daniel did as Jack requested. The house was clean, like normal, just a jacket hanging from a chair, two books out of place on the coffee table, and a stuffed animal in the corner against the wall. Outside, David and Chenoa were playing contently. Jennifer was seated on one of the patio chairs that she moved over by the doghouse. She liked the breeze that floated through that area of the yard. When she first went outside, she patted both dogs quite a bit as they relaxed by their doghouse.
Inside the house, ToddlerTown was set up. The Munchkins were playing away. Little Danny was watching Jonny try to build a house with some Lincoln Logs and Aislinn was playing with her dolls. It was an interesting assortment -- Barbie the homemaker, Barbie the executive assistant, Major Matt Mason, and Raggedy Ann. Bijou was keeping watch, having requested Jack put her in there with the triplets several minutes earlier.
Daniel was easily feeding both twins and Jack was resting, giving Katie some quality one-on-one time.
The archaeologist smiled and agreed, “Yeah, I guess we've come a long way from when we first brought the triplets home. We've learned a lot.”
“We sure have. Need any help, Danny?”
“No, I have it under control.” Daniel continued his task and recalled, “She was so small, Jack.”
“No, well, of course, Ash was, but I was talking about Katie. I'd never seen a puppy so tiny before.”
“And look at our girl now. She ... buffed up, just like you!” Both men laughed, and then Jack noticed Daniel had a funny look on his face. “Danny, whatcha' thinking?”
“Nothing ... just ... how things change. Not bad change, Jack,” Daniel responded quickly, afraid his lover would get the wrong idea.
“Okay.” Jack wasn't sure what was going on in Daniel's mind, but there was something. He wouldn't make an issue out of it, sure that sooner or later his husband would say what was on his mind. “Daniel?”
“What?” the archaeologist asked.
“You will tell me ... eventually. Right?”
“Eventually,” Daniel agreed with a smile.
By Wednesday, Angela was back to normal. She and Chenoa were eager to have a play date, so Jack drove his daughter to the Wilson home and ran a few errands before returning home. Once there, he couldn't wait to get in on the outdoor action going on with Daniel and the beagles.
“Checked off the entire list,” Jack responded as he walked outside. “Oh, Danny, Sara has some errands of her own to run, so she said she'd swing by with Noa. That was a while ago, so it shouldn't be too long.”
Daniel continued to play with the dogs and Jack quickly joined in on the activity. Their family playtime was very special for all of them.
“Here you go, Girl,” Daniel said as he threw the ball roughly fifteen minutes later.
Bijou gave chase, quickly tracking it down, and then prancing around the yard. Daniel turned his attention toward Katie's play yard. Jack was in the middle of it on his hands and knees, his nose digging into the dirt. Katie was furiously digging, too. It was a race for the golden bone.
~My Jack. Always a little boy, and gawd, I love him. Just look. He's actually using his nose to dig. Fair play.~
Daniel saw Jack slow. He smiled, a smile that turned to a full grin when seconds later Katie emerged victorious.
“Ya runt. You lucked out. I'll get ya next time,” Jack teased the beagle as he stood up and brushed the dirt off his clothes. He walked to the steps of the patio where Daniel was sitting. “Angel, I'm going to clean up a little and check on Ricky and Jenny and then I'll be back out.”
“Okay, Love. Jack, while you're at it, Jen and David wanted to have a story time with the Munchkins in her room. I said it was okay, but will you check on them and make sure everything's going smoothly?”
After several minutes passed, Daniel felt Jack sit down beside him and spoke quietly, “I love you, Jack.”
“Good to know since I happen to be bonkers over you.”
“You're a pushover.”
“Me?” Jack questioned, pointing at himself with his right hand.
Daniel chuckled, “I saw that race with Katie.”
“The little runt won,” Jack griped in jest.
Daniel moved his left hand to Jack's cheek, rubbing gently with his thumb. His eyes bore deep into Jack's.
“She sure did because you chose her to be part of our family. My pushover. Love you,” Daniel whispered as he leaned forward and connected with Jack's lips.
“You think I ...”
“Shhh. Let's keep it a secret,” Daniel suggested.
Jack smiled and looked out at the two beagles, both now resting on the grass.
“The twins are still asleep. Babies ... ya gotta love 'em: eat, sleep, and expel,” Jack quipped.
After a moment of laughter, Jack nonchalantly checked his watch and commented, “She'll be home soon.”
“Noa loves to play with Angela.”
“I like that, Jack, that they're good friends. It'll help if ... you know,” the archaeologist stated quietly.
“The only 'you know' that is going to happen, Daniel, is when I kiss you senseless before ravishing your gorgeous body.”
“When? Soon, I hope.”
“Soon,” Jack promised before he kissed his lover.
“Jack, do you think we should take Noa through the Gate?”
“What do you think?” Jack replied.
“No fair. I asked you first.”
“I asked you second.”
“So you have to go first.”
“Do not,” the older man stubbornly maintained.
“Nope, I outrank you, Danny, and may I point out that rank may soon be increasing,” Jack quipped.
“No way, Babe, and that's whether you're a major general or an airman.”
“Stubborn,” Jack opined. “Very much way,” he added.
“I don't think so,” the archaeologist insisted.
“I know so,” Jack said with a grin.
“I forgot what we were bantering over,” Daniel confided.
The two laughed and kissed, and then Daniel leaned his head on Jack's shoulder.
“Yes,” both said at the same time, causing more laughter.
“But only if she isn't afraid,” Daniel put forth.
“She's bound to be a little uncertain, Danny, but we'll watch her, and if it goes beyond what's normal, we shut it down.”
Daniel asserted, “The only choice for Noa.”
“I think I hear a car. Let's go greet our littlest Mouseketeer,” Jack said, standing and then helping Daniel up.
The lovers shared another kiss and then headed for the door to greet the toddler.
The next Monday, with the Munchkins and the twins at Sara's and Jennifer and David at school, Jack and Daniel knelt in front of Chenoa in the gate room at Cheyenne Mountain. Teal'c was also present and stood between the toddler and the ramp that led up to the Stargate.
“Okay, Noa, remember what we talked about. The Stargate, that big circle right there,” Daniel pointed to the Stargate, “will start to turn.”
“It's going to light up seven different chevrons. Chevrons are those big V-like symbols,” Jack added as he pointed to the objects on the circular item.
“And then there will be a really loud noise and a giant blast this way.”
Jack added, “But it will only last a few seconds and then you'll see what looks like water.”
“Big. Loud,” the little girl repeated.
“ChenoaJacksonO'Neill, it is perfectly safe. Do not be afraid,” Teal'c directed with his normal stern-sounding voice.
The little girl turned towards the Jaffa and pulled on his pant leg. He knew from prior experience what she wanted, so he bent down and picked her up. Jack and Daniel stood, one on each side of their daughter, who was now safely in the arms of the Jaffa.
“Noa, if you don't want to see the Stargate ...” Daniel started to say.
“Not 'fraid. Safe,” Chenoa responded while pointing at her parents.
Jack and Daniel spent a lot of time assuring their children that they'd always protect them and keep them safe. They were pleased Chenoa was able to retain that concept and use it now.
Smiling confidently, Daniel responded, “Always, Sweetie.”
“Daddy and I will always protect you, Noa,” Jack added.
As Chenoa smiled brightly at him, Teal'c nodded and affirmed, “That is correct.”
Jack looked up at the control room and nodded at Sergeant Davis who began the dialing sequence.
“T, look! Moving,” the little girl observed as she pointed at the rotating Stargate. “I 'member that.”
There was one time when Chenoa saw the Stargate engage and lock, but Jack and Daniel shielded her from the noise and sight of the kawoosh, fearing it would scare her.
“Chevron seven ... locked.”
“Here it comes, Noa,” Jack warned.
The little girl watched, wide-eyed and a bit afraid, so she leaned her head against Teal'c's shoulder.
Daniel was watching her carefully and opined, **She's okay, Jack. She leaned into Teal'c, but never looked away. She's a little apprehensive, but she's not hiding.**
**We keep going?**
**Yes, but we watch her.** Daniel looked at Chenoa and asked, “Noa, how about we go see the ... water?”
The little girl nodded her head, so Teal'c carried her to the Stargate's event horizon.
“Watch this,” Jack requested, drawing a giant 'Z' in the shimmering water-like wormhole. “That never gets old.”
Chenoa giggled as she reached out and imitated Jack's actions. She clearly still wanted to be held, but she was reaching out, playing with the event horizon. Laughing, she wrote her name in the blue water.
“Yeah, I guess so,” Jack responded, having never really heard the Stargate being called 'funny' before.
Chenoa leaned forward, put her entire arm in, and then pulled it out.
“Hokey Pokey,” the young girl said, giggling louder than before.
Daniel laughed, and Jack did, too. Then Jack happened to glance up at the control room and saw General Armstrong scowling down at him. It was just too good of an opportunity to pass up. Armstrong wasn't happy with their decision to spend the first few weeks of their return to service acquainting their children with the Stargate. He was helpless to stop them, but he wasn't hiding his displeasure either.
**Danny, we have to do this.**
**Jack, we are not ...**
**Look up ... control room.** Seeing his lover looking up at the frowning stoicism of Franklin Armstrong, Jack theorized, **It'll help Noa to see the Stargate as something fun and not to be afraid of or fear.**
**You're right, Jack. She's still a little apprehensive. This crazy idea of yours might just help her to relax.**
**You mean 'stick it to the man' time,** Daniel translated.
**That's one of my specialties.**
**And you do it so well, Babe.** Jack smirked and raised his eyebrows at his lover. Then he looked at his daughter and declared, “Hokey Pokey time! Do you remember the words?” The curly-haired blonde nodded her head. “Big guy, you know the Hokey Pokey, don'tcha'?” Jack asked Teal'c.
“ChenoaJacksonO'Neill has taught me these words. They make no sense, O'Neill.”
“Just go with the flow, T.”
Daniel closed his eyes, not believing he was about to embarrass himself in front of numerous SGC personnel, but he really didn't like Armstrong, and this would drive him batty. He didn't often give in to these feelings, but this was a special occasion.
~And it's for Noa.~
Jack leaned over and whispered in her ear, “We're going to do a little show for Grandpa. See him up there?” he asked as he extended his arm up to point to the control room.
“Grandpa!” Chenoa exclaimed.
“We're going to do the Hokey Pokey, and at the very end of the song, we'll go through the Stargate, but not until we say, okay?”
“On three,” Jack instructed.
The three men and their young charge began to sing and do the Hokey Pokey, right there at the edge of the Stargate.
“You put your right foot in,
You put your right foot out;
You put your right foot in,
And you shake it all about.
You do the Hokey-Pokey,
And you turn yourself around,
That's what it's all about.”
“Come on, guys. I'm a general. I order you to sing!” Jack instructed the personnel, including the Special Forces team, staring at them in shock.
The song continued as the confused protectors of the SGC stared at one another in disbelief. Jack, Daniel, Teal'c, and Chenoa were a chorus line of moving limbs.
“You put your left foot in,
You put your left foot out;
You put your left foot in,
And you shake it all about.
You do the Hokey-Pokey,
And you turn yourself around.
That's what it's all about.”
“It's an order -- *Sing*!” Jack commanded.
The airmen and Marines inside the gate room joined in as Jack, Daniel, Teal'c, and Chenoa sang on. Armstrong was seething, but Hammond was grinning, wishing he were able to participate in the fun on the lower level.
“You put your right hand in,
You put your right hand out;
You put your right hand in,
And you shake it all about.
You do the Hokey-Pokey,
And you turn yourself around.
That's what it's all about.”
Jack looked up at the control room and said, “Ah, come on, Armstrong. Have some fun. Sing a song!”
“You put your left hand in,
You put your left hand out;
You put your left hand in,
And you shake it all about.
You do the Hokey-Pokey,
And you turn yourself around.
That's what it's all about!”
As the singing went on, the foursome put in their right sides, and then their left sides, then their noses, and their tushies, a part Jack particularly enjoyed shaking all about. He took great care to make every part of his body contort in a twisting motion, smiling as he sang in a silly voice. They put their heads in and then came the big finale.
Jack nodded at Teal'c, who reached down and picked up Chenoa.
“We go now?” Chenoa asked.
“Almost time,” Jack said.
Chenoa looked up at Hammond, a relaxing smile on her face and waved. Her grandfather smiled and waved back, earning a glare from Armstrong.
“You put your whole self in,”the group sang.
Daniel took his daughter's hand and glanced at Jack who nodded.
“You put your whole self out,”everyone sang.
Of course, the group couldn't really go completely into the event horizon and come back out, but they pretended to, and then on the next line, Daniel, Teal'c, and Chenoa walked through the Stargate to the Nox home world.
“You put your whole self in ...”
Jack laughed as he comically performed a solo for the rest of the song, actively shaking his body.
“And you shake it all about,
You do the Hokey-Pokey,
And you turn yourself around ...”
Jack pranced in front of the Stargate, went half into the wormhole, looked up at the extremely angry Armstrong, and sang as loud as he could, “That's what it's all about!”
“That was worth coming back for,” Jack laughed loudly as he stepped out of the Stargate.
“How ya doing, Noa?” Jack asked his daughter. “Were you afraid?”
“Piece cake,” the young girl answered with a smile, resulting in laughter from everyone around.
“She's been hanging around you too much, Jack,” Daniel teased.
Jack beamed. He loved it when his kids picked up on his trademark sayings.
“What was worth coming back for, Sir?” Sam asked.
The female colonel already went through the Gate an hour earlier to make sure everything was ready for the toddler's visit.
“I'll tell you later,” Jack returned quietly, seeing their hosts approaching.
“Noa!” Daniel warned.
“Pretty.” The young girl reached out with her hands towards the strangers. “Hair?”
“It is good to see you again, friends,” Lya greeted.
“You, too, Lya,” Daniel replied, a sweet smile on his face. “This is our daughter, Chenoa.”
“It is good to meet you, Chenoa,” the Nox woman vociferated warmly.
“I'm two,” the little girl stated, holding up her hand and showing two fingers.
“You are very young.”
“Three? That is a good age, and a very young one,” Lya responded.
“We're going to have a big party in a couple a couple of weeks,” Jack expressed happily about his daughter's upcoming birthday.
“Hair?” Chenoa pointed at the unique type of hair that characterized the Nox race.
Lya smiled and reached out for the youngster, taking hold of her and letting Chenoa freely examine the strange hair.
“Come.” Lya motioned with her right hand to Jack and Daniel. “Anteaus and Nafrayu await.”
Lya turned, Chenoa still in her arms, and led SG-1 to one of the primitive huts nearby.
Back at the SGC, Armstrong was still fuming in the control room about the spontaneous sing-a-long.
“We have to do something about those children. I don't care what the President says, children do not belong on this base or off-world.”
“Are you referring to Chenoa, General?” Hammond asked coyly. “Or did you mean General Jackson-O'Neill? Sometimes he's younger than his own children.”
Glaring at Hammond, Armstrong ranted, “I don't want children running around here. If we must, we'll set up some kind of ... daycare for them.” The general shuddered at the thought of his own suggestion. “We'll have to do it on the sly so those idiot parents can't object. I'll get the President to order them through the Stargate and then we'll take care of those children.”
Sergeant Davis and others in the control room were all shocked at the chilling tone of the four-star general's words. They listened as he began to devise ways to keep the Jackson-O'Neill children off the base, or at least, out of sight.
“Maybe the President can coerce them, apply some pressure ...”
Davis looked over at Hammond and saw his demeanor changing. He knew the look. He quietly stood and motioned for the rest of the control room staff to clear the room.
Armstrong was so caught up in his scheming, he didn't even notice the exodus.
With the area free of personnel, Hammond called out to his angry colleague and walked into his personal space. He stared the other general down with a look of terror that Jack would be proud to see.
“General Armstrong, you will not do anything to harm those children or to get them out of your hair. General Jackson-O'Neill and Doctor Jackson-O'Neill are considering their return to SGC, but that decision must be voluntary. If they opt to include their family in this program and the President approves, which, I might point out, he does, then that's how it's going to be.”
“General Hammond, may I remind you that I outrank you?” Armstrong questioned, having bristled at Hammond's gull to argue with him, especially in front of subordinates.
Undaunted, the base commander responded, “True, but may I remind you that the red phone in my office goes directly to President Hayes. He's rather fond of the Jackson-O'Neill children. He wouldn't take it lightly if he were to find out that someone was plotting to deceive their fathers.”
“You're awfully sure of yourself, George.”
“I am, Franklin. You do one thing to hurt those children, you do anything to them that their parents haven't agreed to, and trust me, you won't be a happy man.”
“Is that a threat?” Armstrong asked, his stars having been ruffled.
“It's a promise,” Hammond answered, unafraid to do battle with the man.
Having never lost eye contact with the higher ranking officer, Hammond held his ground until Armstrong blinked and backed away.
“Children in the SGC. It's preposterous,” Armstrong rambled as he left the control room.
Seeing the general depart, Davis and the staff returned to their work.
“Yes, Sir,” the technician replied.
“You know what to do,” Hammond ordered, giving him a slight nod.
Davis nodded, knowing exactly what Hammond wanted.. He was glad to follow through. From now on, the sergeant would keep a close watch on anything related to the children and Armstrong's activities regarding them. In his position, he was in a good place to keep track of the comings and goings and any strange orders that might be given.
~We've got your six, SG-1,~ Davis thought as he set up some specially coded records.
Several hours after the Tau'ri arrived on the Nox world, Sam and Teal'c were taking a walk with Natila and Kia, two Nox they were introduced to earlier in the day, while Daniel and Lya were chatting in one of the huts, the cultural expert always eager to learn more about Nox philosophy. Elsewhere, Jack and Chenoa were with Anteaus and Nafrayu, sitting among the trees as they chatted about nothing in particular. Time passed so quickly among the friends, but it was almost time to return to Earth.
“Lya, how are the Filgrun?” the archaeologist inquired.
“They are well, Daniel. Swarsha just had a palgra.”
“Palgra? I don't know that word.”
“Children. I am not sure of an exact translation.”
“But plural?” Daniel smiled. Having plural children sounded great to him these days. “How many?”
“The Filgrun normally have a palgra of three, but Swarsha gave birth to five. Korsha is very happy.”
“I'll bet. Is this their first ... palgra?”
“Yes, and in the lifetime of a Filgrun, they can only attempt to have a palgra twice, so both are very pleased.”
“I'm glad they're doing well,” Daniel stated fondly.
“Would you like to see them?”
“Really? Daniel's face lit up at the possibility. “Could we? Lya, could we go to Xanadu?”
The Nox woman smiled as she responded, “But only your family. We cannot risk more. There is not the power.”
“Power?” Daniel inquired, a bit confused.
“Uh, Jack and Noa ...”
“Yes, they can come, but that is all.”
“Jack!” Daniel called out upon following the Nox woman out of the hut.
“Over here,” Jack returned as he stood, picked up Chenoa, and approached his husband. “What's up?”
“We, uh, we can go somewhere for a visit,” Daniel replied without being verbally direct.
“For a short while,” Lya advised with a slight bob of her head.
“Sweet!” Jack exclaimed with a big smile. “Princess, we're going through the Stargate again.”
“No, Sweetie,” Daniel responded. “We're going to a wonderful place. It's very special.”
“Thank you,” Lya responded with a smile.
“They are,” Daniel agreed with a smile of his own directed at Lya.
“Carter, hold down the fort. Lya, do your thing.”
Lya nodded and engaged the Stargate without use of the DHD. The Nox never needed to use the dialing home device, thanks to their own unique abilities.
Leaving Sam and Teal'c to talk more about the continued alliance between the Tau'ri and the Nox, the Jackson-O'Neills and Lya stepped through the Stargate.
“Welcome to Xanadu, Noa,” Jack chimed when they walked through the Stargate from the Nox home world to the distant 'planet'.
“Xan'du!” the little girl exclaimed, her eyes widening as she saw a furry creature approaching. “Ko'la!”
Daniel laughed and corrected, “That's koala, Noa, but this isn't a koala. This,” he grinned, “is Korsha. He's called a Filgrun and he's a friend.” He walked over and knelt down to the small creature who did indeed look much like a koala. “Korsha, it is so good to see you again.”
As Daniel and Korsha hugged, Jack and Chenoa moved forward.
“Korsha, old buddy, I hear you're a papa now, too,” Jack greeted with a broad grin and warm eyes.
“We have a strong palgra.”
“So do we,” Jack responded happily. “Korsha, meet Chenoa, one of our darling princesses.” He lowered the young girl to stand on the ground and instructed, “Say 'hello', Noa.”
Daniel extended his hand to his daughter, who took it and stood next to her kneeling father.
“It's okay, Sweetie. Korsha is a friend. He just had babies, too.”
“Babies?” the toddler asked.
“Yes, five palgra. I am honored to meet you, Chenoa.”
Korsha extended his paw. The toddler giggled as she took it, her giggles turning into a full blown laugh when the Filgrun smiled.
“If you wish. Come this way.”
Daniel stood and was about to pick up his daughter when Korsha again extended his paw to her. To both Jack's and Daniel's amazement, Chenoa took it and happily walked alongside the alien while her parents followed with Lya at their side.
“We can only stay a short while, Korsha,” Lya told the Filgrun.
“Why?” Jack asked, hearing Lya's comment.
“The cloak we use to help shield Xanadu is very delicate. We must make use of certain time relays for our travels to ensure the cloak does not malfunction.”
“Time relays?” Daniel inquired thoughtfully.
“Windows,” Lya clarified a moment later.
“Oh, I see,” Jack stated. “And when's the next window?”
“In one of your hours. That should be long enough to see the palgra.”
“Lya, we haven't endangered the ...”
“No, Daniel. All is well, or I would not have allowed the trip.”
“But that's why Sam and Teal'c couldn't come?”
“The cloak is frail. To have too many to guard against would have been unwise. It is ... complicated,” Lya answered, bowing her head slightly.
“The very young ...” Jack whispered.
“Yes, you are still very young,” Lya concurred in a matter-of-fact tone.
Daniel smiled. He should have known Lya would never endanger the critters, but he held a strong affection for the furry Filgruns and would never want to be the cause of any harm coming to them. He had to ask the question for his own peace of mind.
Several years ago, when Jack and Daniel were stranded on the planet after a strange power burst disrupted the Stargate, they became very fond of the creatures, especially since the Filgrun saved the archaeologist's life when his allergies and asthma acted up.
When they entered the tree house structure where Korsha and Swarsha lived, the visitors smiled. Running around were five pint-sized creatures, all chattering away in Filgrun. Korsha said something, and in a flash, the five went to their straw beds and sat down quietly.
“You have such a way with them,” Swarsha smiled.
“You've learned English,” Daniel verbalized excitedly.
“Yes, my husband has taught me. You have come to see our palgra?”
“And you, you cute little thing you,” Jack noted devilishly.
“And we wanted you to meet one of our ... palgra,” Daniel stated. “This is Chenoa, which means white dove.
“Hello, White Dove,” Swarsha greeted, hugging the girl, who giggled brightly. Then she asked the males, “How many palgra have you?”
“Eight,” Jack and Daniel answered in unison while sporting huge smiles.
“Oh,” the mother of the palgra laughed. “You are proud parents.”
“Very,” Jack and Daniel acknowledged simultaneously.
“Play?” the curly-haired blonde asked, pointing at the five littlest Filgrun.
“Yes, you may play with my palgra,” Swarsha permitted, escorting Chenoa to the bed of straw.
Jack and Daniel heard Swarsha talking to her palgra in Filgrun and then she backed away. Chenoa and the palgra began to interact in a way that only children can do, not needing verbal communication skills to spend time together. It was a unity of the heart and a desire to have fun.
Meanwhile, the adults visited, reminiscing and discussing the latest about their lives. As they talked, Daniel asked where Lya of the Filgrun was. The eldest of the Filgrun, this Lya was named after Lya of the Nox. She played an especially important role in Jack's and Daniel's rescue from Xanadu and, more importantly, in saving Daniel's life. Both Jack and Korsha agreed that Lya of the Filgrun was much like Daniel of the Tau'ri.
“She is with the other of the oldest, too far away to join us now, but she will be pleased to know you are doing well. Perhaps you will return one day and bring the rest of your palgra,” Korsha replied hopefully.
“We'd like that,” Daniel answered. He turned to Lya and inquired, “Would that be possible ... one day?”
“If you wish it.”
“Of course, we wish it. We love konkeys,” Jack mused gaily, using a nickname for the Filgrun created during his first visit to Xanadu.
Jack's teasing smirk was obvious and Korsha laughed loudly hearing it. There was no malice. It was great fun. Someday, he might even tell Jack some of the nicknames the Filgrun had for their human friends.
“Kon...key?” Chenoa was still playing with the palgra, but turned upon hearing the unusual and funny-sounding word coming from her dad. “What that, Dad?”
“Uh, Noa, pretend you didn't hear that.”
The toddler didn't understand, but that was okay. She was surrounded by the palgra of their hosts and having a great time. She quickly resumed playing with the babies.
“Sometimes, having a common language doesn't matter,” Daniel observed as the adults watched the children.
“You are wrong, Daniel,” Korsha refuted. “They have the language of innocence.”
“You're right, Korsha.”
As the adults continued to chat, a noise drew Jack's and Daniel's attention. Chenoa and the palgra were all holding hands and walking around in a circle.
“Ring 'round the rosy,
A pock'ful of posies,
All go *Boom*!”
Chenoa plopped down onto the straw bed, pulling the little Filgrun down with her. All giggled incessantly.
Daniel turned his head to face Jack and asked, “All go boom?”
Jack cringed a little. Daniel's 'boom' was drawn out, spoken slowly and phonetically. The older man smiled and shrugged as innocently as he could.
Daniel shook his head and repeated softly, “All go boom.”
“No language barrier there,” Jack commented as he eyed the playing children.
“Children are often very wise,” Korsha opined. “They see not the politics, only the simplicity.”
“Amen to that,” Jack returned.
“Laughter -- the universal language,” Daniel put forward softly.
All too soon, the hour was up and it was time to go.
“Noa come back?” the youngster asked Swarsha with hope in her eyes.
“I hope so, White Dove.”
Chenoa grinned. She ran to the palgra and hugged each one of them. She told each one, “I love you,” and exchanged big grins.
“Bye bye,” the toddler spoke while waving.
“Swarsha, you're a peach,” Jack told the female Filgrun. “I hope to see you again.”
Daniel smiled and added, “We love being here. Thank you for making us feel so welcome.”
“You are welcome, Daniel.”
With hugs and smiles on all everyone's faces, the friends bid adieu, full of goodness and hope that they would all see one another again one day soon.
“Did you enjoy your travels, ChenoaJacksonO'Neill?” Teal'c asked when she ran up to him after returning from Xanadu.
“Indeed,” Chenoa replied with a smile.
Teal'c raised an eyebrow and looked at Jack and Daniel, both of whom just shrugged.
“You must tell me about your adventure,” Teal'c requested as he picked up the child and carried her to a tree stump where he sat down and positioned her to sit on his lap.
While Teal'c listened to their daughter, Jack and Daniel, along with Lya, joined Anteaus near the huts.
“Thank you for taking us to visit the Filgrun,” Daniel stated sincerely.
“It was our pleasure.”
The two Nox exchanged a look, causing Jack and Daniel to look at each other in concern.
“What?” Jack finally asked.
Daniel quickly jumped in and asked, “Is there something wrong with the Filgrun?”
“No, rest easy. The Filgrun are safe,” Lya answered.
“You will go,” Anteaus said.
“Uh, yes, if ...”
Anteaus quickly interrupted, “No. I did not mean it in that way. You are our allies and our friends, even though you are still very young.”
Jack nodded knowingly. It was an old line, one he'd already heard a couple of times that day, and apparently, still very true. Daniel had the same expression on his face, a closed smile and eyes that seemed to acknowledge the truthfulness of the statement.
Anteaus continued, “You are welcome to bring your children to our world. We would be honored to meet them.”
“All of them?” Daniel queried. “I mean, we have ... eight.”
“We know. The choice is yours, but we have no objections if you wish to bring them here.”
“But no others,” Lya added, her smile gone. “Your world has disappointed us greatly.”
“Yeah, we've heard about that,” Jack acknowledge, disdain in his voice, “and we're hoping to fix that ... in time.”
“We believe you, Jack. It is why we have allowed this visit and have not yet severed our communication with the Tau'ri, but think wisely. The Tau'ri continue to extend themselves into a universe they are not prepared to deal with. If you do not gain control of your actions, the consequences will be dire.”
“We understand,” Daniel responded. “Uh, we do need to get back now, but we'll be in touch soon. I don't know about all of our children, but our oldest two, Jennifer and David, would love to come here. We took them to the Land of Light recently and they had a great time. I know they'd ...”
“Go wild,” Jack interjected.
“Yeah, go wild,” Daniel said laughingly, “if they could visit here.”
“You know how to reach us,” the Nox woman stated with a slight nod.
“Yes, and thank you again, for your friendship and for keeping the Stargate open for us. We'll work to regain your trust.”
“Daniel,” Anteaus said forthrightly, “*You* have our trust. It is the others in your world whom we question.”
Daniel nodded and whispered a “thank you” to the Nox. He wished he could reassure them and defend his home world, but he couldn't say that as yet, not knowing what he did about the betrayal of the Tau'ri towards multiple allies. All he could do was sigh and give a personal smile to his friends.
Their visit concluded, the Jackson-O'Neills, Sam, and Teal'c returned to Earth.
“Mouseketeers, meeting,” Jack called out early that evening.
Chenoa eagerly ran into the kitchen nook where her parents were sitting at the table. She eagerly accepted Daniel's invitation to sit on his lap.
“Noa tell now?”
“Absolutely,” Jack answered with a smile.
“Are we in trouble?” David mused, certain the trio weren't, but asking anyway.
“Not at all,” Daniel assured. “Sit down, please.”
“Is this going to take long?” Jennifer asked. “I'm listening to a new song .,.”
“Blondie can wait,” Jack interrupted, certain Jennifer was listening to Britney Spears, her favorite singer. ~What she sees in that girl, I don't know and what that girls utters is not music, not to my ears.~
“Jennifer,” Daniel stated as he nodded to an empty chair.
Once Jennifer was seated, Jack announced, “Noa would like to tell you about some special friends she met today when we took her through the Stargate.”
“Noa, you went through the Stargate?” Jennifer gasped joyfully with a vibrant smile and happy voice. “How was it?”
“Fun. Love Nox.”
“The Nox?” Jennifer questioned.
“Intriguing folks. They like sap,” Jack stated.
As Daniel rolled his eyes, Jennifer and David chuckled, though they were both confused. For several minutes, the couple chatted about the Nox and helped Chenoa tell her story about meeting them. Then Daniel told the little girl to tell her siblings about the meeting with the Filgrun.
“Cute. Love cuddle,” Chenoa told Jennifer and David. “Look like ko'la, but not.”
“Who are the Filgrun?” the teenager inquired with curiosity.
“Friends,” Daniel answered succinctly. “They're, uh, special, and they live very far away. Dad and I spent some time there a few years ago. They ... saved my life.”
“They must be special then,” Jennifer returned with a grin. “Daddy, can we meet them, too?”
“Maybe some day, Jen, but it's not always safe to go there, so ...”
“You mean we'd be in danger?”
“No, not us, not usually, but the Filgrun might be. The Nox keep their world hidden. We'll talk about it sometime.”
“Okay,” Jennifer sighed.
“What about the Nox?” David queried. “They sound cool.”
“I think we can arrange that,” Jack responded. “In fact, you've both been invited to come for a visit.”
“Wow!” David exclaimed.
“Pal*graaaa*,” Chenoa shouted out joyfully.
Daniel bounced her a bit on his knee as he held her and then asked, “And what does palgra mean, Noa?”
“Jack, Noa speaks Filgrun!”
Jack shook his head as everyone laughed.
The family talked for quite a while longer and then, after the usual reminder that everything said was a secret not to be discussed with anyone else, it was time to prepare dinner.
“Danny,” Jack sighed as he pulled out the hog dogs.
“Yeah, me, too,” the archaeologist agreed.
“Can you prepare the ...”
“Spicy or ...”
“Let's go mild with the slaw tonight,” Jack suggested. “I'll give him a call.”
“Are we overdoing it? I mean, are we worrying too much about this?”
“We might be, but the way she feels about ...”
“You're right. Call.”
While Daniel continued fixing dinner, Jack went to the living room and made the phone call. He thought of the action as covering the bases and cementing the need for secrecy for one of his princesses.
“Hey, Big Guy, thanks for dropping by.”
Teal'c nodded as he entered the Jackson-O'Neill home. Dinner was over and the five youngest children were relaxing peacefully in their cribs. David was readying for bed while Jennifer was listening to music in her room before her bedtime rolled around.
Jack was happy to see the Jaffa. It was very important that Chenoa not mention the Stargate to anyone, including her best friend, Angela Wilson. Both he and his soulmate felt Teal'c could help reinforce that concept.
“Where is ChenoaJacksonO'Neill?”
“Upstairs with Daniel. It's her bedtime. Come on up.”
In the nursery where Chenoa slept, Daniel held his daughter as he sat on her bed. Since the babies were still awake, there wasn't a need to worry about keeping quiet. However, the Munchkins were talking now, so when Jack and Teal'c appeared in the doorway, he motioned for them to wait. With Chenoa still in his arms, he stood and walked over to door that separated the nursery from David's room.
“David, would you come into the nursery and watch the little ones for a few minutes while we speak with Noa?”
“Good idea, Daniel,” Jack praised as he neared David's room and closed the door after Teal'c entered.
“Well, the Munchkins might pick up on something. I'm not sure we should risk that yet.”
“Good idea, Daniel,” Jack repeated with a smile.
Once everyone was situated, Daniel looked at Chenoa and smiled. He realized she was so tired that she wasn't even aware that her favorite person in the world was nearby. Her head was nestled close to him and that warmed his heart. He loved the physical connection with his children.
“You had a big day, Princess.”
The toddler yawned, moving her hand in front of her face as she remained snuggled against her daddy's shoulder while affirming, “Noa had fun.”
“I'm glad. Sweetie, we need to talk for a minute, okay?” Daniel glanced over at Jack and Teal'c for a second and smiled. “Noa, I have a surprise. Look who's here.”
“Aw!” the little girl gasped as her head snapped up and she saw the tall man standing close to her. “T!” She reached out with her arms, happy when she felt his hands swing her over to him. “Hi, T.”
“Hello, ChenoaJacksonO'Neill. We must talk,” Teal'c informed the child as he looked at her.
“Tea party?” Chenoa asked hopefully.
“Um, not tonight, Noa,” Daniel answered for the Jaffa.
With Daniel's nod, Teal'c sat down on David's bed with the little girl in his lap, while Jack walked over to stand by his husband next to the boy's desk.
“ChenoaJacksonO'Neill, remember when we told you the Stargate is a secret and that you cannot talk about it to anyone, except for us, and only here at your home?” Teal'c questioned. After she nodded, he continued, “It is important, Chenoa, that you understand what your fathers have told you.”
Jack interjected, “Noa, tomorrow you have a play date with Angela, and I know it's going to be tempting for you to tell her about Korsha and the babies.”
“Palgra,” Chenoa said, smiling as she remembered them.
“ChenoaJacksonO'Neill, it would not be honorable to share this information with AngelaWilson.”
“Not hon'rble ... honorable,” Chenoa echoed sternly, correcting herself. She was learning this word and knew it was an important thing. She didn't want to let Teal'c down, or her parents. ~Be honorable for T.~
“That is correct. Do you understand?”
“Yes,” Chenoa answered resolutely, bobbing her head dramatically up and down. “Noa hon...honorable,” she said again.
“That's our girl,” Jack praised.
“T, read story?” Chenoa requested as she yawned.
“Uh ... hold that thought.” Jack returned to the nursery and looked around, grinning the entire time, and pulled out a book. Returning to his son's room, he held out the tome and suggested, “Try this one.”
Teal'c took the book and stared at the title -- “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves.”
“What are dwarves?”
“Read and learn,” Jack challenged.
“It's educational,” Daniel chuckled as he walked over to his teammate and little girl. He leaned over and gave Chenoa a kiss. “I'm so proud of you, Chenoa. You're a perfect princess.”
“Honorable princess,” Chenoa corrected with a serious yet sweet smile. “Read story, T,” she urged while settling in against the Jaffa's neck.
**Gawd, she's adorable.**
**And she loves Teal'c. Having Teal'c come over tonight is one of our better ideas recently.**
**She understands honor because of him; it was the logical thing to do.**
The lovers listened for a couple of minutes as Teal'c started the story and then opened the door to the nursery.
“Teal'c,” Jack whispered, motioning at the door he'd just opened.
Understanding, the Jaffa continued to hold the book and read from it, even as he stood and carried Chenoa back to her bed, where he sat down and continued the story without missing a beat.
Jack and Daniel walked over to the cribs to help settle the babies into their slumber. They noticed all five babies were listening as Teal'c read the story of Snow White to their daughter. David sat down on the bed, too, and listened to the story that he already knew well, but there was something about listening to it being read by the deep voice of Teal'c that was mesmerizing.
**She won't say a word, Danny, not one.**
**No, she won't. She'll never talk about the Stargate, the Nox, or the Filgrun. It wouldn't be honorable and if there is one thing our little girl is going to grow up being, it's honorable.**
**I'd bet on it.**
A few days later and after having a successful birthday party that celebrated the Munchkins turning two years of age on the twenty-fourth, Jack and Daniel were dealing with an unpleasant situation that had nothing to do with the military.
“How's she doing?” Jack asked as he entered the master bedroom where Daniel was rocking baby Jenny in his arms.
Barely twelve-months old, Jenny was suffering from what her parents believed were a lot of colds lately, including one during the past few days.
“She's okay, I guess. Jack, I don't think it's a cold.”
“Then what?” the older man questioned as he went to sit on the edge of the bed, facing his lover and youngest daughter.
Daniel sighed, “I think maybe it's allergies. She's allergic to something. Her runny nose, watery eyes, the rashes: no, I think it's an allergy.”
“I'll call Syl.”
“No, let's see if we can figure it out. That's what Sylvia is going to say anyway.”
“That we try and figure it out?” Jack queried, getting an affirmative nod from his husband . “Okay, where do we start?” When Daniel didn't answer and had a sad expression, he called out, “Danny?”
“The girls: they're always protecting our babies. Gawd.”
Jack sighed, too, as he reached out to stroke Jenny's forehead, but he refuted, “It's not the girls.”
“You can't be sure.”
“Yes, I can. It's *not* the girls.” Jack loved Daniel's smile, a smile that clearly said he hoped Jack was right. “Where do we start?” he asked again, totally refusing to believe that Bijou and Katie could be the cause of the problem. ~Not the girls, no way, Jose.~
“Okay, well, we keep this place ridiculously clean, so I don't think it's dust mites, but maybe it's something we use on her -- baby powder or something.”
“Wait a second.” Jack leaned forward to the nightstand, opening the drawer and removing a notepad and pen. “We'll make a list of everything we can think of and then we'll develop a plan.” He saw Daniel's still-worried look and maintained, “Daniel, it is *not* Bij and Katie.”
Later that morning, Jack dropped by the Wilson home and was enthusiastically greeted by a beautiful young girl who was the mirror image of Sara, only with longer hair.
“Hey, Angie,” Jack chimed, leaning over to pick up the youngster.
“Hello, Jack.” Sara laughed, having already taken a sleeping Ricky into her arms, and walked over to sit down on a chair in her family room. “Have a seat, Jack. Angela, why don't you go play in your play room for a little while?”
“Can Uncle Jack come and play, too?” Angela asked.
Jack interjected, “Next time, Angie, okay? I need to talk with your mom, do some shopping, and then I have to pick up Chenoa.”
“Where's Noa?” the little girl questioned.
“At Susie's house,” Jack answered, knowing Susie was a friend of both girls.
“Can Noa come over later?”
“Not today, Angie,” Jack answered. “Maybe next week, if your mom says it's okay,” he suggested as he put the little girl down.
Angela was about to ask Sara, but the blonde quickly spoke up, “Noa is welcome here any time, and you know that. We'll set up a play time.”
“Cool,” Angela said. “Is he asleep?”
“Yes, Dear. Angela, go play, please, so Uncle Jack and I can talk.”
“Yes, Mommy,” the little girl replied, laughing when Jack reached out and tickled her tummy as she walked away.
“I recognize that look, Jack,” Sara noted. “What's up?”
“Still asleep?” After verifying Ricky was still asleep, Jack got down to the point of his visit. “Sara, we've been going round and round on where to take you and Mark on your exploration and, well, Daniel thought since we were having such a hard time that maybe we'd let you decide.”
“Me? Jack I know nothing about these cultures.”
“I'll tell you about the two we've narrowed it down to and maybe you and Mark can talk it over and tell us where you'd like to go.”
“Okay, I'm game, but I thought we were going to that light planet,” the woman commented.
“The Land of Light, and it's a great place, but since we just took Jen and David there, we thought we might pay a visit to a different ally with you and Mark. Is that okay?”
“You're the expert on the stars.”
Grinning, Jack gave a nod and informed, “There's a beautiful little planet called Madrona. The weather is always perfect there.”
“Always. If you go there, I'll show you why. They are a friendly people with technologies either on par or beyond ours, and yet, they live very simply.”
“What's the other choice?”
“A great little place called Cimmeria. From a history standpoint, you might enjoy going there. You know the Vikings?” the general queried.
“Tell me more.”
Jack gave Sara more background on both Madrona and Cimmeria.
“Both places sound fascinating. I'm all for perfect weather, but the teacher in me says go Vikings!”
Jack and Sara shared a laugh and then the general reminded, “It's totally up to you, Sara. Talk it over with Mark and let us know tomorrow where you'd like to go.” He paused and questioned, “We are still on for Saturday?”
“Yes. We're very excited,” Sara confirmed.
“Okay,” Jack responded as he rose. “We have places to go and people to see,” he quipped as he gently took Ricky back into his arms. “Well, I do, anyway. He may sleep all day.”
Sara laughed and led the way to the door, opening it for Jack and his son to safely exit.
“Hey, don't forget the play date for Noa and Angie.”
“Don't you mean for you and Angela?”
“No, I mean Noa. I want my own play date.”
“I'll find you an hour.”
Grinning, Jack waved and headed for his truck to continue on with his day.
“I think maybe beef franks,” Jack opined as he and Ricky, who was now very much awake, were shopping at the grocery store. “Hot dogs. Armour hot dogs,” he sang jovially as he reached into the bin and pulled out two packages of hot dogs. “The dogs kids love to bite.” He waved the items in front of his son. “This is one of your food staples for life.”
Ricky reached for the packages, but Jack shook him off and tossed them into the shopping cart.
“And how about some bologna? You know that's Oscar Mayer, as in b-o-l-o-g-n-a,” the father sang, just like in the commercials.
Ricky laughed. He was in a baby seat attached to the shopping cart and he was totally focused on his dad, who was turning their food shopping into a theatrical production. They moved on to the canned food aisle.
“Oh, yes. We can't forget this, but which one? What do you think, Ricky? 'Sorry, Charlie' or What's the best tuna? Chicken of the Sea?” Jack sang to his son.
“Sharly,” Ricky replied in an attempt to say 'Charlie'.
“Starkist it is,” Jack laughed and then tossed a few cans into the cart.
Eventually, Jack and Ricky ventured down the cereal aisle, prompting the general to begin teaching his son about the really important things in life. This would be vital to the child's proper upbringing.
“Now, Son, there really is only cereal that matters and that's this one,” Jack state as he picked up two packages of Froot Loops.
“Sam!” Ricky exclaimed while looking at the colorful cereal box.
“That's right. This is Toucan Sam. He's your cereal buddy, but, just so you are up on the choices, let me introduce you to some of the also-rans.”
“Loops,” Ricky chuckled. “Loops, Loops, Loops,” he repeated over and over again.
Jack laughed and inwardly thought, ~He's already learned.~ He held up another product and advised, “Okay, now, this is Tony the Tiger. See?” He smiled at the box of Frosted Flakes. “Now, if I weren't a Loops fanatic, I might choose this one because they're greaaaaaaaaaate!” he said, imitating the famous cartoon symbol, making a confident funny face, and raising his right hand upward as he spoke.
Ricky's entire body moved in laughter at Jack's antics.
“Now this one; it's made for us. 'Trix are for kids', but they're mean,” Jack scowled. “They don't like rabbits. Son, do you know that this mean, mean company won't let their mascot, the rabbit, have any Trix?”
“Mean!” Ricky echoed, frowning at the same time.
“But,” Jack raised his right hand with one finger pointing outward, “a long, long time ago, they had a vote, and the children of the world told this company they were wrong, and the rabbit finally got to eat some Trix.”
Jack put the box back, lamenting, “It was just the one time, though. I just can't support a company that won't feed their own mascot. He got that one bowl and that's been it.”
“Mean,” Ricky repeated.
“That's right, but we're not.”
Ricky's hand flew outward as he shook his head and stated, “No mean.”
“Besides, we are the champions,” Jack sang as he moved his hands to pat Ricky's. “Patty cake, patty cake ... well, that's for another day.”
Ricky's hands bounced back slightly as he played the brief game of Patty Cake with his father. He laughed loudly.
“Speaking of champions,” Jack commented as he picked up a box of Wheaties. “This is the breakfast of champions. It's not bad. Mostly, they make great collector's items, so sometimes we'll buy Wheaties, but, ah,” Jack looked around covertly, whispering, “we'll throw out the cereal and then put the box away for safekeeping.”
The shopper put the box back. Then he leaned forward so that he was up close to his youngest son.
“Ricky, you *are* a champion. No matter what happens, no matter what anyone thinks, you ... *you*,” Jack pointed to Ricky, gently pressing against the baby's chest, “are a winner. Never forget that. Always remember what your daddy and I know and knew the moment life first touched you -- you *are* a champion. All you have to do is be yourself, whoever that is. Be yourself, a champion with whatever life brings you.”
Jack placed a kiss on Ricky's forehead and held his son's hand, just looking for a moment at the priceless wonder that was his and Daniel's.
“What's next on our shopping list?”
Having moved to another aisle, the silver-haired man opined, “Ah, good stuff. Rice-a-roni, the San Francisco treat. Someday we'll take you to see the Golden Gate.” Then they continued on, until Jack laughed as he picked up a large box. “You can't grow up, Ricky, without these. Candy-coated popcorn, peanuts, and a prize, that's what you get in Crackerjacks. You'll love it!”
Suddenly, the father noticed the clock on the wall of the grocery store and sighed, “Oops. Your daddy is going to kill me. We're late. Come on, Son. The rest of the groceries will have to wait.”
Jack hurried to the checkout, stopping only briefly to pick up a large Hershey's chocolate bar. He wished it were Godiva.
“Peace offering. Daddy loves chocolate and Hershey's is the great American chocolate bar.”
“Close,” Jack chuckled, “and not bad for twelve-and-a-half months.” He smiled inwardly with pride. He really didn't need a house of genius, but the twins were learning fast and that did make him feel good inside. “We have to hurry. Dad is in big trouble for being late. You know how Daddy feels about those museum exhibits, and we still have to pick up your sister at Susie's.” He picked up one more chocolate bar, “just for insurance,” and then finally made it to the counter to pay for their food.
Daniel was supposed to take David to a museum exhibit in Denver that focused on artifacts unearthed in a recent dig in Peru. They'd been wanting to go since finding out about it upon their return from Egypt. One thing or another kept interfering with the excursion and today was the last day of the exhibit.
Jack's problem was that after leaving Sara's, he'd made a detour before going to the market. That stop put him more behind schedule than he realized. Now, Daniel and David's trek was in jeopardy.
“No goofing off, Princess,” Jack warned as Chenoa acted playful while getting into her car seat.
“Dad truble,” Ricky laughed with amazing understanding.
“You in trouble, Dad?” the little girl asked.
“To be determined. I'm late for Daddy's very important date and I'm not even a rabbit,” the father replied cryptically.
Chenoa made a face and then laughed, “Dad funny.”
“Yeah, that's me,” Jack agreed as he put on his seatbelt and started the truck. “We never should have stopped at the arena to watch hockey practice.” He looked back at Ricky, correcting, “Scratch that; there's always time for hockey, but we'd better hope for no traffic delays on the way to pick up the girls.”
“Dad play hockey?” Chenoa asked.
“Don't tell your daddy,” Jack requested.
“Not hon'rble?” the little girl asked.
Jack sighed, not wanting to confuse the curly-haired girl about the meaning of honor, and responded, “It's okay to tell Daddy. In fact, I'll tell him, Noa, after we get the girls.”
The general let out another sigh as he thought about the reason for the beagles' visit to the groomers. Daniel suggested a professional grooming and bath might alleviate the problem, if the girls were the cause of Jenny's allergies.
“Bij 'n' Katie have fun,” Chenoa giggled.
“Yeah,” Jack laughed. “Beagles day out.” Once again, he kept any doubt out of his mind. ~They are *not* the cause of Jenny's problem, Danny.~ He smiled, looking through the mirror to see Ricky was focused intently on him as they traveled. “Well, I guess they deserved a day at the doggie spa anyway.”
“We go little girl spa?” Chenoa asked with big eyes.
“When you're older,” Jack promised. At the next stoplight, he checked his watch and groaned. ~If I don't make up some time, I am *so* sleeping on the couch tonight.~
“I know,” Daniel sighed as he stared out the front window.
“We're not going to get there in time,” the boy stated sadly with a bowed head.
Daniel reached out and rubbed supportively on his son's left shoulder while assuring, “Dad will be home soon.”
“But it takes a long time to get to Denver. Traffic.”
“David, I'm sorry we didn't make this more of a priority. Taking care of your brothers and sisters and running J-O Enterprises sometimes takes more of our time than Dad and I realize. I'm not making excuses. All I'm saying is that everyday things that are unexpected happen. As much as we wish we could plan out life, we can't, and if we could, we'd get tired of it. Listen, if Dad doesn't get home in time, we'll find something equally exciting.”
“It may not be these items from Peru,” Daniel began, “but, Son, that's the thrill of archaeology. Somewhere in the world, an archaeologist discovers something new to share with the world. Life is full of exhibits and discoveries to be viewed and to learn from.”
“Okay, Da...” David gasped in delight. “Dad's home.”
“Get your coat!”
In a flash, Daniel and David put on their coats and were outside before Jack could help Chenoa out of the truck.
**Cutting it close, O'Neill.**
**I brought chocolate.**
**Explain to David how chocolate replaces a one-time exhibit that can't be viewed again.**
**Danny, I'm sorry.**
**Apologize to David if we don't get there in time.**
Jack blew out a big whiff of air as he watched Daniel and David drive off in the Shelby-American sports car. He hoped his lover used caution and didn't speed in that fancy silver car. Then he looked at Chenoa and Ricky.
“Kids, hockey's everything, but maybe sometimes it can wait.”
“You in trouble?” Chenoa asked.
“Oh, yeah.” Jack smiled and added, “But Daddy will get over it ... eventually.”
“Sure is chilly in here,” Jack groaned as he pulled down his burgundy sweatshirt. “Yep, that's a cold wind I'm feeling,” he remarked when Daniel walked by him without saying a word. “Icy.”
“Thirty minutes, Jack, to see an exhibit that easily took two hours to obtain any real understanding of the artifacts and how they piece together. I realize that doesn't mean as much to you as it does to me and ...”
“Whoa! I'm co-owner of an archaeology firm. I get it.”
“You stopped to play hockey, knowing how tight the schedule was. Why?”
“It's hockey,” Jack responded with a shrug.
“And it's an exhibit.” Daniel stared his lover down and asked, “Did you talk to David?” The response was a grimace. “That's what I thought.”
“Danny, I'll make it up to him.”
“By taking him to a hockey game? A football game? To Spring Training when it rolls around?” Daniel paused and took a breath. “Jack, all those things are great. David wants to play sports. He likes it and he loves the attention you give him when you're teaching him how to play or just taking him to a game, but he also loves it when you're helping him with astronomy; and you know what, Jack? He loves it when we go to museums and to special exhibits. You robbed him of this chance to see these new finds. I know you didn't mean to hurt him, but, Babe, you could have stopped and watched or played or whatever you did this morning for half the time you were there and allowed us time to get to Denver and take in the full spectrum of the exhibit. You didn't do that, so, yes, I'm cold tonight, and I'm going to stay cold.”
Jack sighed. He knew he was wrong, even as he protested. One of his greatest weaknesses in life was his love of hockey. He left the master bedroom to check in on the children, ending up in the nursery. He noticed Ricky was still awake.
“Your old man screwed up, Son. Gotta remember the big picture. Hey, people mess up sometimes when they don't intend to, but they mess up anyway. Dad messed up.”
“Tru'ble,” Ricky laughed quietly.
“Yeah, big trouble, but I'll find a Plan B. Ricky, there's always a Plan B. Remember that, that and be yourself, like I said at the store.” Jack smiled and let out a “Hmmm” as an idea struck him. “Well, Daddy calls me his Mr. Fix-it and I'm going to fix it. What do you think about that?”
Jack smiled and gently rubbed the baby's abdomen. In just a few seconds, Ricky fell asleep, missing out on Jack's declaration of fixing things.
“Dad put you to sleep. In this case, I'm not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing.”
The loving father watched the twins for another minute and then focused on the older Munchkins for a bit. He drew such strength from the children, knowing how much they relied on he and Daniel. Their bond was gigantic and that warmed his heart as nothing else could.
~Ah, hockey. You're not first in my life by a long shot. You won't do this to me again. Nope, making the brood happy; raising them right; being present when needed is what matters. This isn't anything new, but we're human. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.~
His check on the children complete, Jack returned to the wintry bed and settled in. A minute later he grinned. Daniel might have gone to bed cold, but he was warm again as he automatically shifted and rolled over into his natural position with his head resting upon Jack's chest and one leg crooked against Jack's.
“I love you, Angel, and I will fix it. You'll see.”
“Love you, too, and ... I know.”
Harmony restored, the soulmates drifted off to a peaceful sleep.
First thing the next morning, Jack pulled David aside and apologized for his oversight in not returning home in time for the museum outing to go ahead on schedule. He promised the boy, as he had Daniel, that he would make it up to him. David was understanding and asked his dad if they could play hockey again soon. As they hugged, the father realized his son was trying to make him happy. There was nothing wrong with that except he knew it was a cover for the disappointment David was really feeling.
~Nope. I won't make this mistake again. You miscalculated, O'Neill, and you knew better.~
At that point, Daniel called out that breakfast was ready, ending the father and son chat, as well as Jack's internal woes.
When breakfast was over, the parents noticed that Jenny was once again showing symptoms of a cold or allergy. Having no choice, they contacted Doctor Sylvia Preston, the same physician the Wilsons used. With their caregivers unavailable, the good doctor agreed to make a house call and arrived at the home in short order.
“Syl, we've tried everything we can think of to do. Her symptoms still seem to act up,” Jack told the physician as she finished her examination of Jenny in the nursery.
“How long has this been going on?”
Daniel answered, “Um, I'd say about two months. She was fine when we were in Egypt. It began a couple of weeks after we got back.”
Sylvia thought for a moment and nodded as she advised, “I think you're right, Jack. This is an allergy. Have you changed products or your routine in any way with Jenny?”
“No, I don't think so. Jack?”
“I can't think of anything, and even if we did, Syl, like I said, we've tried weaning different things from her, and it just hasn't made a difference.
“Woof!” Katie greeted when she entered the nursery and saw Sylvia.
“Well, hello there,” the doctor greeted, leaning down to pet the youngest beagle. “I thought you were ignoring me.”
“Woooof!” Katie responded, rolling over for Sylvia to have better access to her belly.
Everyone laughed as Sylvia accommodated the beagle. After a minute, Katie got up and ran out.
Sylvia straightened and began, “Guys, I hate to suggest this, but ...”
“Then don't,” Jack interrupted forcefully. “Whatever this is, it is *not* our girls.”
Daniel folded his arms, an act that caught Sylvia's eye and caused her to prompt, “Daniel?”
The young man shrugged and almost whispered his response, “I ... gawd.”
Jack angered, nearly shouting, “It is *not* our girls.”
“Jack ...” Sylvia interceded.
“*No!* Syl, we even took the girls to the spa this week, to the friggin' spa. They're cleaner than we are,” Jack argued.
Raising his hands up into the air, Jack walked forward, passed Sylvia, while chanting, “No, no, no, no!” Turning back to face the physician, and his husband, he insisted, “There's something else we're not seeing. Come on, Daniel, think. You're the genius. Now's not the time to throw that back at me. Think, for crying out loud.”
Daniel sighed again and began to pace the nursery, reviewing, “We've tried everything: all the powders, even her food. We even changed diapers, her clothing. What more is there?”
Suddenly, Jenny sneezed. Everyone looked at the infant as she rested in her crib. She sneezed again and then it was like a light bulb went off in Daniel's mind.
“Of course! That has to be it.”
“What?” both Jack and Sylvia asked.
“Her pillow. It's down.”
“That could easily be it,” Sylvia acknowledged. “She's probably been allergic to down from the beginning, but it took a while for her to reach her tolerance level.”
“Gawd,” Daniel exclaimed, walking forward and taking the pillow out of the crib. “Jack, we still have the ones Kayla gave us for Christmas after the Munchkins were born. They should be in the hall closet. Get one of those.”
“Okay, Babe,” Jack responded, eagerly scurrying out of the room and returning a quick minute later.
Baby Jenny cooed as she lie against the fresh pillow. She felt so much better already. She was learning words and speaking, just like Ricky, but timed her verbal outbursts more carefully. Right now, all she wanted to do was sigh as her nasal passage and sinuses cleared.
“Geez, I hope you're right, Danny.”
It was the first time Daniel saw the fear in Jack's eyes. Neither wanted to think what it could have meant were the beagles the source of Jenny's allergy. It was unthinkable for them and was tearing them both apart on the inside.
“Guys, I have to go. Keep me posted.”
“Syl, does she need any shots or anything?” Jack questioned.
“No, just keep her away from down material. The next time you bring her in for a regular checkup, we'll do some allergy tests and see if there is anything else we need to look out for.”
“It's my fault, isn't it?” Daniel asked quietly.
“Are you asking me if Jenny is your biological daughter?”
Daniel's head shot up and over towards the doctor. He and Jack made a conscious decision not to know which of their five youngest children had their individual DNA. Sylvia knew, of course, and the information was available, if needed or desired one day. The couple assumed their children would want to know at some point and if requested, they would be given the data.
The two men were human, though, and there times when they privately wondered about who fathered which child, especially with Jonny and Little Danny, who both looked and acted like the fathers whose names they were given. It wasn't as easy with Jenny and Ricky and both parents went back and forth; that is, when they let themselves think about it, which wasn't that often.
After all, Jenny's allergies could mean she was the result of Daniel's sperm since he suffered from allergies that were fortunately controlled by medication. On the other hand, she was a redhead, which could point to Jack's Irish ancestry, even though the reality was that only about ten percent of Ireland's residents were redheads.
“No, I don't want to know,” the anthropologist replied as softly as he'd just taken the blame for Jenny's condition.
“I didn't think so,” Sylvia returned. “Daniel, allergies are very common. You're correct in that if one parent has allergies, there's a thirty to fifty percent chance a child will, too, but then again, research has shown that some allergies simply develop due to environment, emotions, air pollution, diet, respiratory conditions. Do I need to go on?”
“No. Thank you, Sylvia,” Daniel returned with a grateful smile.
“There you go, Danny; no fault, for either of us. Kids get sick. We've already gone through that with the Munchkins.”
“Yeah, I know. It's just ... Gawd, I hate it when they're sick. I don't want them to hurt, Jack,” Daniel bemoaned as he gazed down at their daughter.
“I know, Love,” Jack replied while putting his arms around his lover's waist.
“They're so young. I only want them to know love and good things. When they're sick, it just ... I feel so ...”
“Me, too.” Jack squeezed his lover tightly and nuzzled his chin against Daniel's shoulder. “I love you, Danny.”
“I love you, too,” the archaeologist sighed. “Being sick is part of childhood, I guess.”
“Yes, it is, and no matter how much we wish we could change that, we can't.”
“At least we have Sylvia to help.”
Suddenly, the couple recognized they'd gone to their own private world and exclaimed at the same time, “Sylvia!”
Turning around, the lovers observed they were alone.
“I guess she left,” Jack chuckled.
Daniel leaned his head against Jack's shoulder and then felt his lover kiss the top of his head.
“Jenny will be fine, Danny. I think you're right about the down. The timing works.”
“Right to say you're right?” Jack mused.
“Right to know it's not the girls. It was a nightmare to even think about that.”
“It's not the girls,” Jack reiterated.
“It's not.” Daniel looked up at Jack and smiled. Then, he glanced down at Jenny, made sure the now-sleeping infant was comfortable, and turned back to face his husband. “I want to take the girls for a walk.”
“No, with you,” the younger man stated.
“What about the brood?”
Daniel thought for a moment and finally answered, “It's time, Jack. We'll only go up the block and back. Ten minutes tops.”
“Jen and David?”
“And we'll have the cell.”
“And Carter's handy-dandy long-range monitor,” Jack stated as he moved to get the special device. “Gotta love Carter for thinking of this.”
When the triplets were born, Sam rigged the house with special monitors in addition to the regular ones Jack and Daniel purchased on their own. She also installed a long-range sensor for situations like this. Still, she chuckled at her friends' protectiveness when she located monitors all over the house, even in the entranceway. Even so, she didn't hesitate when she was asked to install the special sensors in a few of the monitors in order to give the couple full coverage.
“I'll turn them on, and you do a test out front.”
“Okay, Love,” Jack agreed.
Ten minutes later, the couple were ready for their walk with the beagles.
“You're really leaving us alone, *completely alone*, with the Munchkins and the twins?” Jennifer asked, totally surprised.
“Just for a few minutes, but only if you think you can handle it.”
“Of course, we can handle it. I just didn't think you'd let David and me baby-sit until we were thirty,” the teen stated.
“Very funny,” Jack responded.
“We have the cell and the monitors, so ...”
“I got it, Daddy. It's not legitimate,” Jennifer sighed.
“Jen, we're talking five very young children, toddlers and babies, plus David and Noa,” Daniel pointed out.
“Hey, I thought I was helping her.”
“You are, Son. I just meant ... we're a big family, and it's not easy to do everything that's necessary to keep us all safe.”
“I bet you aren't gone more than five minutes,” the teenager lamented as she sank down to the sofa, folding her arms in front of her.
Jack and Daniel exchanged a look and then Jack advised, “Ten minutes, Jen.”
“Look at it this way. It's a start,” Daniel suggested.
Jennifer looked up at Daniel and replied, “Okay. I understand. Go on.”
Jack and Daniel left the house with the beagles, walking up the street, carefully listening to the monitors. The long-range monitor was working perfectly. They could hear David telling a story to Chenoa and the Munchkins while Jennifer checked on Jenny and Ricky. Jenny was apparently still asleep, but Ricky was demanding attention. In no time at all, though, Jennifer was lulling the infant to a peaceful calm.
Jack and Daniel looked at each other and made a difficult choice, but one they felt Jennifer and David had earned.
“Long way back?” Jack asked.
“Just keep the monitors on.”
As the lovers were on the last leg of their walk, they heard a knock on the front door. They listened carefully as Jennifer put Ricky down and headed downstairs.
“David, stay with the babies,” came Jennifer's instruction to her brother.
Silence followed. Jack and Daniel hoped the quiet meant their teenage daughter was looking through the peephole or glancing through the vertical blinds near the door.
Now within sight of their home, Jack suggested, “Danny, let's just watch and listen.”
“Is that fair?” the younger man questioned.
“We'll feel better.”
“Who is it?” Jennifer called out.
“I'd like to speak to the woman of the house.”
“Sorry, she's not available right now,” the teen responded. “You'll have to come back later.”
“Could I speak with you?” a man asked.
“No, you'll have to come back.”
“I'd like to leave some information on a new satellite service.”
“You can put it in the mailbox, or leave it on the doormat,” Jennifer instructed calmly.
“Couldn't I hand it to you?”
“It's a great system,” the man spoke, trying to entice the girl into opening the front door.
“Wait. We have a bonus today, just for looking at our literature -- free movie passes.”
“No, thank you,” Jennifer responded.
“How about ...”
Forcefully, Jennifer warned, “You need to come back later. If you don't leave now, I'm calling the police.”
Jack and Daniel could hear Jennifer's raised voiced as she called out, “David, stay upstairs. I've turned on the security system because there's someone who won't go away at the door; and I'm going to call Dad and Daddy.”
“Okay, Jen,” David returned.
Jack and Daniel looked at each other. They were pleased with how Jennifer handled the situation. They watched as the disgruntled solicitor walked down the steps and back towards the street.
“Excuse me. Can I have some of the literature?” Jack asked when they met the man at the edge of the driveway.
“Oh, sure. We have a special today ...”
“Thank you.” Jack pulled out his cell phone and dialed the number on the literature. “What's your name?”
“Ken,” the salesman answered. “Why?”
“Hello? Yes, I want to speak with the owner,” Jack stated when someone answered the phone.
Just then Daniel's phone rang in a familiar tone that indicated the caller was Jennifer.
“We've got it covered. See you soon,” Daniel assured the girl.
Stunned, Ken listened as Jack complained about the man to the owner of the company. He explained the reason for his objection was that Jennifer asked the man to leave several times, indicating where he could place information. Yet, the solicitor remained.
“In this day and age, not smart, Mister Rowanski, and if he shows up here again, we'll be lodging an official complaint with the authorities.” Jack hung up the phone a minute later, a smug look on his face. He looked at Ken and advised, “The next time someone tells you to leave, I suggest you leave.”
“You might want to learn the definition of the word 'no'. Uh, in case you don't know how to spell that, it's N - O,” Daniel snarked with a pointed expression.
“Grrrrrr,” Bijou added.
“Grrrrrrrrrrruffff,” Katie warned.
“I think they're advising you not to come back ... ever,” Daniel translated.
Jack smiled at Daniel, and the two watched the angry worker walk away. A minute later, they disarmed the security system and went inside their home.
“Dad, did you set that up?” Jennifer questioned suspiciously before her parents could even say a word.
“No, Jen, I didn't,” Jack responded earnestly. “Neither did Danny. You did super.”
“We're very proud of you,” Daniel complimented.
“You even remembered to turn on the security system,” Jack chimed happily.
“Dad, I'm not stupid. I'm not going to risk my brothers and sisters because I'm in a hurry. Besides, we've talked about ... you know, the danger because of who you are. You know what I mean.”
“Yeah, we know,” Daniel replied, moving to his daughter and hugging her. “But we're still proud of you. Thank you, Jen.”
“Geez, Daddy. Well, since you're home now, I'm going to go call Sheila,” Jennifer told her parents as she walked away.
“Homework?” Jack called out.
“Gossip,” the teenager responded, pausing a moment to turn back and look at her parents. “I just heard some really outrageous news about Hilary Duff and I want to find out if Sheila knows anything about it.”
“Who's Hilary?” Jack questioned.
“Hilary Duff,” Daniel answered. “Lizzie McGuire?” he added, using the name of the singer's teen television series.
“Since when do you know TV?”
“Since I heard Jen and Sheila talking about the Duff sisters last week,” Daniel answered with a smile.
“I knew that,” Jack replied as he tried to cover up his ignorance. After a moment, he bent down to remove the beagles' harnesses and added seriously, “You know, Danny, our daughter is one smart cookie.”
“I agree,” Daniel responded. Looking down at the canines, he asked, “What do you think, girls?”
“Woof!” the beagles agreed.
“Hey, remember me?” David yelled from the top of the stairs. “I hear you talking, so it must be safe.”
“Sorry, Son,” Jack returned. “Go about your business.”
“No!” Daniel exclaimed. “David, come on down, please.”
Seconds later, a disheartened David sighed, “I'm here.”
“Yes, you are and you did a great job with Jen watching the babies. Thank you.”
“All I did was do what Jen said.”
“No, what you did was listen to your older sister and do exactly what she asked you to do *when* she asked you to do it. David, that man was a legitimate salesman, but he might not have been. You did what you were told and you were there with Noa and the babies. If you'd heard Jen scream or shout, what would you have done?”
“Called you and then run down to help her.”
“We'll talk about that one,” Jack interjected.
“Dad, I'm not going to do nothing if someone is trying to hurt Jen.”
“He's not, Jack.” Daniel grinned. “We're as proud of you and as happy with your actions as we are with Jen. Thank you, David. We love you.”
“Daddy's right,” Jack added as he joined in on the hug. “You did good.”
“Can I go now?” the boy asked, his words more upbeat than before.
Daniel nodded, giving his son one more smile.
As David started back up the stairs, he stopped and said, “By the way, I think Jonny knew something was happening.”
“What makes you think that?” Jack asked.
“He stood up and stared at the door. He kept saying we needed to be covert,” David reported before turning and disappearing up the stairs.
Jack and Daniel exchanged a look, shrugged in a shared agreement David's interpretation was probably spot on, and then continued with their day.
“General, are you sure you want to do this?” Jack questioned the next day as the men stood in the nursery of his house.
“We'll be fine, Jack. Now don't you have some place to be?” a casually dressed Hammond answered confidently before laughing at Little Danny, who wanted to sleep, as he tried to fend off Jonny, who wanted to play.
“All five is quite a challenge, Sir.”
Hammond dauntlessly responded, “I'm an old pro at this game, Jack. Get out of here.”
“Yes, Sir. Uh, if you run out of diapers, we have some pampers in the garage.”
“We'll get along just fine.”
“Right.” Jack started to move, but he stopped. “Sir?”
“Jack, get the heck out of my nursery.”
Jack chuckled, having just experienced a bit of deja vu. Many times at Stargate Command, Hammond ordered him out of his office in that same exact tone. He didn't know why he was lagging so much, except he did know and he simply needed to trust that everything would be okay.
Hammond had accepted the enormous mission of babysitting the youngest Jackson-O'Neills single-handedly. In the past, he babysat the Munchkins as a group and sometimes the twins as a unit and various groupings of the babies and/or the Mouseketeers, but he never took charge of all five babies at one time without someone else around to help out as well.
This was the only reason why Jack held an element of doubt in his mind. Still, he trusted Hammond, as did Daniel. Plus, they planned to be gone for only a few hours.
“Jack?” the archaeologist called out.
Daniel took the stairs two at a time and entered the nursery, greeting, “Hello, General.”
“Mission accomplished?” Jack asked.
“Yes. I picked up Angela and dropped her and Noa off at Mike's.” Daniel mused, “Those two were chattering a mile a minute, Jack, and I have no idea what they said.”
“I guess,” Daniel agreed. “But it made me feel like a failure as a linguist.” A second later, he inquired, “Did Jen and David get off okay?”
“Yeah, Carolyn came by right on time so both should be in school.”
Hammond checked his watch and reminded, “You two have a schedule to keep.”
“Yes, Sir,” Jack chuckled.
“General, are you sure ...”
Jack cut off Daniel's words, whispering, “We've done this.”
“We already had this conversation.”
“Oh.” Daniel smiled and gave Hammond a nod. “Thank you for helping us out, Sir.”
“Daniel, it's my pleasure.”
Two minutes later, the couple finally went downstairs. They were happy they had friends they could trust. Chenoa and Angela were best friends and spending the day at Sara's father's house was something she'd done once or twice before. Having Carolyn Ferretti chauffeur Jennifer and David to and from their schools saved the Jack and Daniel quite a bit of time, allowing Daniel to concentrate on making sure Chenoa was taken care of and feeling secure and Jack to make sure Hammond was settled in with the babies.
“It's going to be a good day,” Jack put forth as the couple walked towards the front door. “Sara is going to go wild.”
Daniel laughed, “You know what I really love about all of this? I mean, the children going through the Stargate and now Sara and Mark?”
“Seeing their reactions. It helps me remember how wondrous the Stargate really is. Do you know what I mean?”
“As in not taking it for granted?”
“A decade of going through the Gate: I think maybe sometimes we do, at least to an extent.”
“You're probably right.”
“Probably?” Daniel challenged.
“We need to go.”
“That's a cop out, Babe.”
“So, sue me,” Jack challenged as he opened the front door and stepped out onto the porch.
“Maybe I will.”
The bantering continued as the lovers headed out for the day's special adventure.
A few minutes later, as he continued the drive to the Mountain, Jack laughed, “I remember your face.”
“You were so in awe of the Stargate.” Jack quickly glanced at Daniel. “Your eyes lit up.”
“It's magic, Jack. We walk up a ramp, take a few steps, and we're in another place. We meet people we never even imagined as children. We just ... walk, and we're there.”
“It's the best gig in the Air Force.”
“It's the best gig for an archaeologist or anthropologist. I wish you knew what that felt like. I mean, I know you're learning, that you love J-O, but ... to have always wondered, to have asked so many questions knowing the answers were there, somewhere, and yet not being able to find them, and to have studied your whole life to understand not all, but just some of the mysteries of our world; geez, Jack, it makes your heart just ... swell.”
“That's a feeling I know,” Jack replied. “All I have to do is look at you.”
Daniel reached over and touched Jack's cheek, expressing, “I love you, Jack. You're my favorite wonder of the universe.”
“I love you, too, Angel.” At the stoplight, Jack leaned over to share a quick kiss. “For a while, I was afraid you were going to lose that sense of wonder.”
“Almost. We got so messed up at the SGC with the NID and the change in the presidency. Jack, I ... I fought it for a long time, but we both know that if you hadn't insisted that I learn all the covert maneuvers and defense training that we'd both be dead. I don't regret that training,” Daniel shook his head, “but you're right. For a few months there, I thought all I was, was a ... an action figure.”
“Action Jackson,” Jack teased lightly. “I didn't like those times.”
“I hope we never go back to that.”
“I guess that's a good reason for going back, isn't it?” Jack asked.
“We can't be the end-all solution, Jack. For a while, it felt like SG-1 was the only reason Earth survived.”
“I hate to say it, Danny, but it was the truth, for a while.”
“We're just two people, Jack, and we can't do it all anymore.”
“No, we can't, but we can try and make sure that the Nox and the Asgard know there's some good here; that we're worth the trouble.”
“Gawd, you sound like me.”
“Thank you for the compliment,” Jack returned in complete seriousness.
The lovers shared another look that spoke more than words, though it was a quick glance due to traffic.
“We need to keep the magic alive, Jack. Everyone who steps through that Gate should remember that they have a precious obligation. It sounds so corny, but we, and I don't mean us as being the ... gawd,the saviors of the planet like some of those ... people try to make us out to be, but we as in everyone who has access to the Gate, we all have to keep Earth as safe as we can, for our children, for all the children.”
“And that, Love, is the best reason for going back.” Jack chuckled, “Can you see the Munchkins with the Nox?”
“Someday, I'd like them to meet the Filgrun.”
“Cousins,” Jack laughed. “How about Jonny with Thor?”
“I'm not sure I want to think about that.”
As they continued on towards their destination, the lovers pondered how their children would interact with various off-world allies. Not only that, but deep down, both acknowledged the magic of their journey was far from over.
“I still can't believe it,” Sara remarked as she stared up at the event horizon. “I feel like I'm in a movie.”
“Oh, it's real enough,” Jack returned as he looked at his ex-wife as they stood at the foot of the ramp.
Next to Sara was her husband, Mark, and next to him was Daniel.
“Cautious,” Sara admitted.
Automatically, Jack took the woman's hand. Then he flinched slightly as he looked over at Mark.
“It's okay, Jack. Lead the way.” Mark looked over at Daniel and smiled. He could see the archaeologist's understanding of the strong relationship that still existed between his wife and Jack. ~He's as confident as I am. That's good to know.~
Mark's permission given, Jack continued to hold Sara's hand as they walked up the ramp and stopped in front of the water-like substance.
“We just step through?” the teacher inquired.
“Like a walk in the park.” Jack smiled and promised, “I've got you.”
Sara smiled in a nostalgic way, remembering a time before Charlie's passing. Jack always said that to her, that he had her, when something made her feel uncertain or afraid. Unfortunately, when she needed it most, he didn't say it, and that was the end of their coupling.
“Hang on, Sara. It's quite a ride.”
Jack led Sara through the Stargate to the planet known as Madrona, though sometimes a lazy tongue resulted in folks referring to it as Madronas. A second later, Daniel and Mark stepped onto the peaceful world as well.
“Wow!” Sara said after taking just one step onto the alien planet. “This is beautiful.”
“Like it's summertime in winter,” Mark added.
“You didn't believe me?” Jack asked, a smile on his face.
“Well ...” Sara teased as Jack released her hand.
“Madrona is a special place, Sara. Perfect weather year-round.”
Just then, the reception party walked up.
“Princess La Moor, we are honored to see you again,” Daniel greeted, bowing and making the symbol of greeting with his hands.
“It is our pleasure. We thought we would see you no more,” the high priestess replied.
“Yeah, well, things changed ... again,” Jack remarked as the group walked towards the brown-haired woman of royalty. “We'd like you to meet some friends of ours. This is Mark and Sara Wilson.”
“Princess La Moor, thank you for allowing us to come,” Sara greeted, bowing and making the same symbol as Daniel did moments earlier.
The Princess bowed and motioned for the visitors to follow her.
“How is Roham?” Daniel asked about her grandfather, the ruler of the land.
“He is well. He is away at the moment,” the woman answered.
“Your planet is beautiful. This weather is positively lovely,” Sara observed, still taking in the beautiful surroundings.
“Thank you. Do you have weather such as this on your planet?”
“Yes, we do, but not at this time of the year; at least, not where we live. The temperature is warm enough this month, but soon, it will be freezing cold.”
“With plenty of snow falling,” Mark added.
“We do not do well when it is cold. We require the sun.”
“Princess La Moor, could we show Sara and Mark the Touchstone?” Daniel inquired.
“Of course,” the Princess responded, leading the way to the room where the statue holding the Touchstone stood.
As the group entered the room, Jack smiled at the alertness of the guards whom he noticed studied the newcomers more carefully than they had during SG-1's very first visit to the planet several years earlier when the precious weather device was stolen by the rogue NID.
“The Touchstone resides here, in the palm of her protective hand. We adjust these rings as necessary to control our weather. Would you like to hold it?”
“May I?” Sara asked.
The Princess removed the device and handed it to Sara, explaining, “We can control the weather of our entire planet with the Touchstone. We depend on it. Otherwise, as the general and Daniel have seen, the winds and blizzard conditions would destroy us.”
“Hey, it's not a pretty sight,” Jack recalled, doing a 'brrrrrrr' sound and rubbing his hands together as he remembered the chill of the planet when the device was missing.
“It's fascinating,” Sara responded, handing the device back to La Moor who returned it to its proper place. “We could use this on Earth.”
“Not until our society grows up a little,” Jack responded. He sighed, “Believe me, Sara, we're too young for something like this.”
“Maybe someday we can tell you about that,” Daniel interjected about the phrase first told to SG-1 by the Nox. ~We were skeptical at first, but the Nox were right.~
“Come. It is time for the feast.”
“Feast?” Jack echoed with a pleased lilt in his voice. SG-1 attended feasts on Madrona before and they were always a pleasant treat for the general's stomach. ~I am hungry.~
“Jack, put your eyes back in your head.”
“But, Danny, the feasts on this planet are out of this world,” the older man replied.
“I'm glad I didn't eat breakfast,” Sara mused.
“Which means I'm starving. Where's the food?” Mark teased.
La Moor laughed with the visitors and led her guests to a large dining area where the feast began.
“You were right, Jack. This feast is unbelievable.”
The royal woman responded, “I am glad you are enjoying the fruits of our planet, Mark.”
“Princess La Moor, would it be possible before we go for us to see more of your world?” Sara queried.
“Yes. If you would like, we could take a walk along the Great Path, and I could tell you more of our history.”
“We'd like that,” Sara replied. “Jack, do we have time?”
Sometime later, the group was spread out a bit. The history lesson was over and right now, the visitors were simply enjoying the fine weather and the kindness of their hosts.
Jack and Sara were ahead of the others as they walked leisurely among the inhabitants.
“Ready to relocate?” Jack teased.
“It's science fiction turned into reality,” Sara marveled. “I'm amazed.” She took a breath before prodding, “But it's not like this everywhere, is it, Jack?”
“No, not everywhere.”
“Where'd you go, when they took you away?”
“A planet called Abydos. Daniel met his wife there.”
Nodding, Jack answered, “She helped us and they fell in love.”
“Sara, I can't tell you everything you want to know, but you know all that mythology stuff you teach sometimes? It's real.”
“I'm not sure I understand.”
“Daniel's the expert. Look, it's better if you don't know the details.”
“Like all those times you went away and couldn't tell me where you'd been or what you'd done?”
“Yeah. I'm sorry.”
“It was your work, Jack. I understood that and I never blamed you for being away so much. You had a job to do. I knew what I was signing up for when you proposed to me.”
The twosome kept walking, looking around and letting things settle until Jack finally confided, “Sara, I know you want to know what happened and why, but I guess what really matters is that I let you down. I let *us* down, but I couldn't handle Charlie's death.” Jack looked away for a moment. “Do you know what I was about to do in Charlie's room before they came?”
“I think so,” Sara eked out. “But I could never admit, not even to myself, until now.”
“The Air Force gave me a way of doing that while saving the world. It was better for you, for me, and for Earth.”
“But something happened.”
“Yeah, a shaggy-haired geek came along and challenged my bull.”
“I wasn't questioning what I was doing. I was so full of my own pain that I didn't care about anything or anyone else. The bad guys were on Abydos, but so were a bunch of innocent people.”
“Sha're, her father, her brother, and a whole lot of people just living their lives in their own way. For quite a while, I was willing to turn my back on them. All I had to do was follow orders. If I did that, my team would be safe back on Earth, but the bad guys would be dead.”
“And so would you?” a tearful Sara questioned.
“That was the plan. No more pain, courtesy of the United States Air Force.”
“Daniel,” Sara repeated softly.
“Daniel,” Jack echoed.
“What did he say to you, Jack?”
“Nothing much,” Jack answered, looking down at the ground for a moment as images from that time flooded through his brain. “He, uh, he said he didn't want to die and he was surprised I was in such a hurry to die; and then,” he paused and cocked his head slightly, “and then he gave me an alternative.” He smiled and even laughed a bit as he added, “He's good at that, giving me alternatives.”
“What do you mean?”
“Instead of taking out the bad guys on the planet and killing everyone in the process, we took out the bad guys' ship. Big bang. Problem solved.”
“And you came home.”
“I'm glad, Jack. I'm sorry I couldn't wait.”
“Funny Face, it wasn't your fault. We just were never in the same place after Charlie died. We had ... separate adventures to experience.”
“Mark for me, Daniel for you.”
“The Stargate's a magical thing, Sara.”
“It is, Jack.”
The two looked around and noticed their spouses were involved in their own conversation. They were smiling and fully engaged in whatever they were discussing.
“We're both very lucky, Jack.”
“I can't argue with that.”
“Do you think Charlie would understand all of this?”
“I do,” the general responded without hesitation. “I don't know if that's me wishing for it or what, but I believe that, wherever he is, he gets it, that he's okay with me being with Daniel.”
“I'm certain of that,” Sara agreed.
“I, uh, consider Daniel to be a parent to Charlie, too, Sara. I hope you don't have a problem with that. I tell Daniel Charlie's his son, too.”
“I don't have a problem with that, Jack, but thank you for telling me.” Sara smiled at the inner peace she was feeling. “I think I have my answers, Jack. Thank you for bringing me here and for telling me the truth. It reminds me of our first dinner, the four of us, a few years back. I guess it's clearing the air and closing out chapters, if that makes sense.”
“It does. I never lied to you, Sara.”
“I believe that. I do.” Sara sighed and couldn't help asking the one other question she had, and the answer was very important to her. “Have you forgiven yourself, Jack?” She looked deep into Jack's eyes and added, “It wasn't your fault. I knew the gun was there, too, and Charlie knew the rules about not playing in our room. It was an accident, Jack, an awful, horrible accident. Please tell me that after all these years, you're not blaming yourself for how Charlie died?”
Jack let out a deep breath, the sound piercing through the warm, Madronan air. He coughed evasively for a second, but then he nodded.
“It took a long time, but Daniel ... yeah, it's hard, but I guess I have. I never thought I could have another child, Sara, but Danny helped me come to terms with what happened. It's painful as hell, but I've let it go.” After a pause, he continued, “I used to say I could sometimes forget, but not forgive. Now I remember our son's life. Sometimes, I face the nightmare, but most of the time, I feel the love and just the love.”
Sara initiated a tender hug and felt Jack's arms wrap around her and hold her tight. She felt relief, like a weight was plucked from her shoulders that she didn't even know was there. She and Jack made peace years ago, but this release was needed as well. It was the final understanding of the collapse of their marriage and the rebirth of Jack as a man and a father. She knew Daniel was the reason for Jack's change in attitude, but now she comprehended some of the nuances that affected that change. Life was full of renewals and this moment, she believed, was another of those renewals.
“I'll always love you, Sara,” Jack admitted softly.
“And I'll always love you, Jack. You're very special to me. I can't imagine that ever not being true.”
The one-time married couple pulled apart slightly and Jack gave Sara a quick, but sweet kiss of remembrance.
“If you ever need me, I've got you.”
“I know that. I really do know.”
Jack and Sara hugged one more time, before Jack wiped away the moisture falling from Sara's eyes and the two walked onward, Sara's arms wrapped around Jack's as a normal couple might do on a walk together.
Then Sara laughed, causing Jack to smile and query, “What's so funny?”
“I was remembering how you and Mark faced off during dinner a few years back.”
Jack groaned lightly, “Yeah, we were a couple of he-man bears, growling over the mama bear.”
“I told Daniel that night that I wanted the four of us to be friends. Charlie wanted it, Jack. I can't explain it, but I know he was there and helping us get through that dinner.”
Jack nodded his agreement and replied, “He was there, Sara, and we are friends, good friends, now.”
From a distance, Daniel and Mark watched the ex-married couple.
“I think my wife just got her answers.”
“I hope so,” Daniel replied. “It ... can be complicated. I mean, the Stargate and how it effects people.”
“It's not the Stargate, Daniel, though it is incredible. Sara needed to understand what happened to Jack all those years ago.”
“Uh, you're okay with the, uh ... uh ...”
“Sure. If I were jealous, we wouldn't be here.”
Daniel smiled and nodded in understanding.
“You were married before, weren't you, Daniel?”
“Yes. Her name was Sha're.”
“An Egyptian woman, right? I've seen her picture. She was very beautiful.”
“So, you know what Sara and Jack feel in terms of letting go and holding on at the same time.”
“That's an interesting way to put it, but, uh, yes, I guess I do, or did. I mean ... it's complicated.”
Purely out of curiosity, Mark inquired, “How'd you meet her? Sha're?”
“It's a long ... really long story, but it's a good one,” Daniel answered with a big smile.
“We have some time, unless it's too personal.”
“Somehow, Mark, I don't think it is, not among the four of us,” Daniel responded as he observed Jack and Sara laughing near a bush in the distance.
“Were you on a dig in Egypt?”
“Actually, I met her ... on Abydos.”
“It's a planet,” Daniel explained. “Sha're wasn't from Earth. I met her on our first excursion through the Stargate. She was ... mysterious and intriguing, and we were sort of ... thrown together.”
“Her father gave her to me.”
“I ... Daniel, I don't know how to respond to that.”
Sharing Mark's quandary, the archaeologist replied, “Neither did I.”
The two men began to walk around as Daniel shared some of his history with Sara's husband. It wasn't planned, nor was it something he ever imagined doing, but he sensed the sharing between Jack and Sara and somehow, it felt right to let Mark in on some of his past. It was all about understanding and the strengthening of bonds. The archaeologist knew others probably would never understand how these complex relationships could exist and not prove troublesome, but for Jack and Daniel, and for Sara and Mark, it was working. He hoped it would continue throughout their lives and that the closeness between the two families would last the test of time.
Returning two hours later through the Stargate, Sara remarked, “That was the most incredible experience of my life ... well, almost.” She remembered the birth of her children and that would always be first for the woman. “Is Cimmeria anything like Madrona?”
“The people,” Daniel answered. “They're great, but Cimmeria is really an entirely different experience because of the mythology and folklore they live by.”
“We'll make plans.”
“Lunch with the Vikings,” Mark quipped. “That's a story for the men's club, if I were in a men's club, and we could talk about any of this outside of this place.” He smiled and shook his head. “I feel like a little kid.”
“I think of it as Alice going through the looking glass,” Jack put forth.
“Or another dimension -- a dimension of sound, a dimension of sight, a dimension of mind ...”
“Hey, you like the Zone?”
“It's the door to my imagination,” Mark mused about the television series, “The Twilight Zone.”
“Me, too,” Jack advised with a smile.
Sara and Daniel exchanged a smile of their own and then the conversation returned to the trip to Madrona and the future trek to Cimmeria. The day was long, yet satisfying, and it was one full of unexpected emotion and of answers and understanding. It was a thrilling day for dear friends and family, as the Jackson-O'Neills and the Wilsons definitely were.
The next day, Sunday, was a day of rest for many, but for Jack, there was much to be done.
Currently in the master bedroom, the silver-haired man put on his jacket and adjusted it. He picked up the keys to his truck and, after making a quick check in the nursery to kiss the twins, he traversed the stairs to the living room. His face lit up when he saw his beautiful lover surrounded by the Munchkins in ToddlerTown as he read them a story. The two beagles were also there, lying on their sides as they enjoyed ear rubs and pats from the toddlers.
Since the Mouseketeers were out with friends for the afternoon, the entire family was accounted for.
“Danny, Love, I'll be back in a couple of hours,” Jack stated. “Wasn't it supposed to rain today?”
“Maybe this evening,” Daniel replied. “Don't forget to pick up the watch for Megan.”
The general pulled out a piece of paper and reviewed it aloud: “Fish food, insurance papers, wood for the fire, watch, clothes for the orphanage.” He smiled and reported, “It's on the list.”
“I can't believe how quickly our children go through clothes,” the younger man commented.
“At least there's someone out there who can put them to use.”
“Yeah,” Daniel said softly.
Jack stood still. He had that feeling again, the same one he had a couple weeks earlier when his husband became pensive about something. He was sure the same thing was happening now. Still, he knew when the time was right, Daniel would tell him what was on his mind.
“Keys, cell, list: I'm ready to go,” Jack told his soulmate.
“Shoes,” Daniel stated, unable to hide his smirk.
“Shoes?” Jack questioned. He followed his lover's gaze downward and finally noticed his bare feet. “Oh, for crying out loud. How'd that happen?”
“House husband,” Daniel teased.
“Paybacks, Daniel,” Jack warned as he headed upstairs to put on socks and shoes.
Jack was on his last errand, dropping off some clothing at the orphanage. After delivering the items to the office, he was on his way out when, for a reason he didn't understand, he took the long way back to his truck, detouring by the playground.
Seeing some of the children outside, Jack stood and watched as they engaged in various activities. He wished he had time to play with them, but as he glanced at his watch, he figured he should get home. He took a few steps towards the parking area when one of the children grabbed his attention.
A girl was seated on the cement, her knees drawn up to her chin. She was watching the other kids enviously.
Jack wasn't sure what it was, but he was drawn to the girl. He just couldn't help himself. A minute later, he approached quietly and sat down next to her.
“Hi. I'm Jack.”
“That's how this is going to go down. Okay, I can play,” Jack said, ignoring the girl's look of contempt.
“I said, buzz off.”
“Buzz is a good word. It fits even.” Jack noticed the girl looked at him as if he were bonkers. “I'm Air Force; I was Air Force; I may be Air Force again. You know, planes ... flying ... buzzing around? It's the same thing.”
“If you say so.”
“Why aren't you playing with the other kids?” Jack questioned.
Jack shrugged while he responded, “I don't know. Why?”
The girl gave Jack a nasty look before she scowled and returned, “Look, I don't know who you are, and I don't really care. Leave me alone.”
“What's your name?”
“What is this, an interrogation or something? Leave me alone or I'll report you to the cops.”
A few seconds later, the girl got up and ran inside the building.
“That was one big strikeout,” Jack mumbled as he rose and began to debate whether or not to follow her.
“It's not you, General O'Neill,” one of the staff stated after she witnessed the interaction from nearby. “I'm sorry, but I couldn't help but overhear.”
“What's her problem?” Jack questioned curiously.
“Trina's been here for six years.”
~Six years; that's a long time.~ Jack twisted his body around to look at the door to the building and commented, “She can't be more than ten or eleven.”
The female answered, “She's eleven, a little small for her age. General, she was placed in a foster home a few months ago, and it ... well, she had some bad experiences.”
Jack didn't need the picture drawn for him. He knew from both the tone and look on the staffer's face that Trina was abused, both physically and mentally.
“And now she cops an attitude?”
“Defense mechanism,” the staffer explained. “She's getting counseling, but she has a long way to go. Anyway, I wanted you to know it was nothing you did or said that made Trina respond like that.”
Jack nodded, said goodbye to the worker, and returned to his truck. In the second it took him to press the vehicle alarm button, he realized what was on Daniel's mind lately.
“Danny, Danny, Danny. We are out of our f-ing minds, but ain't it grand?” the general asked aloud as he grinned and sat down in the driver's seat. “Out of our f-ing minds.”
“This is nice,” Daniel spoke tenderly as he relaxed into his lover's hold on the roof deck.
It was 8 p.m. that evening and the Mouseketeers were looking after the rest of the brood, giving their parents some alone time. Jack was leaning against the wall, his lover seated in front of him, leaning back into his chest. Jack's arms surrounded the younger man. Suddenly, Daniel chuckled.
“What's so funny?”
Turning his head slightly for a moment, Daniel answered, “Jen. Remember what she said?”
Mimicking their daughter, Jack said, “Oh, *please*, will you two go make out for a little while? I'll watch the babies. We'll *all* watch the babies. Just *go*!” He laughed, “I wonder what made her say that?”
“Maybe it was because for the last hour, all we've done is stare at each other and ...”
“Lust?” Jack teased.
“Yes,” Daniel admitted. “Funny, though, it's just ...”
“It's been a long day and we haven't had two seconds to touch each other. I go crazy if I can't touch you, Danny.”
“Me, too. Gawd, this feels so good.” Daniel's head rested comfortably against Jack's shoulder. He felt so loved and safe. He turned it to look at his Silver Fox and declared, “You're so sexy, Jack. I love you so much.”
“My Angel,” Jack whispered just before kissing his husband. Their hands entwined as they enjoyed the night air, Jack decided now was the time to broach the mystery subject. “I know what you've been thinking about.”
“What?” the younger man asked.
“Is that a challenge?”
“Is that a way of trying to get me to tell you without you actually knowing?”
Jack laughed and kissed his lover's somewhat shaggy hair, rubbing his cheek against him before saying, “No, I really do know. I had the craziest day, Danny. When I went to pick up the firewood, I saw this gang. You know, four not-so-tough guys who were trying to act cool, but weren't even close. One of them looked so lost. He was going along because he thought he had to.”
“How could you tell?”
“His eyes. Eyes don't lie,” Jack stated strongly. “He watched one of the others pick on a smaller kid and he couldn't watch. He turned away.”
“I didn't have to. Someone else stopped it. The point is, that one boy doesn't want to be where he is, doing what he's doing, but he sees that as his only option.” Jack paused, sighing, “Then at the pet store, there was this father with three kids. One of them reminded me of Danny.” He stopped and clarified, “Danny Jenkins, when we first met him.”
“That reminds me, Babe. He called today. He really wants to come for a visit.”
“Did you talk to Dave or Julie?”
“Yes, I did,” Daniel responded. “They said he can come any time we want.”
“The holidays?” the older man suggested hopefully. “Nah, they wouldn't allow that.”
“He'd love it, though. Maybe Thanksgiving?” Daniel suggested.
“Maybe. Let's feel out Dave and Julie about the holiday thing, and make a decision after that.”
“Okay. He says 'hello', of course.”
Smiling, the older man noted, “He's a great kid. Do you remember what he was like when we met him?”
“Like I could forget? He was an errand boy for that foster mother,” Daniel recalled.
Jack nodded and sighed, “That's what this kid at the pet store reminded me of. While the other two boys were talking, the father was loading down this kid, couldn't be more than eight, with stuff to carry, totally ignoring him whenever he said something. It was the eyes again, Danny. Then there was the business with Trina at the orphanage that I mentioned at dinner.”
At suppertime, Jack told Daniel and the family about the incident at the orphanage.
“No child should have to live through that,” Daniel responded.
“No, they shouldn't.” Silence filled the air for a few minutes until finally Jack spoke again. “Danny, I do know what you've been thinking about. You still want those two kids we planned on.”
“I'm totally insane,” Daniel sighed.
“No, you're not, Angel. You just have a huge heart,” Jack pointed out lovingly.
“So do you, and you want them, too,” the younger man stated confidently.
“Ya think?” Jack quipped in question.
“I know, and you know how I know?”
“Because you wouldn't have even broached the subject had you not already decided that you wanted them, too.”
“You know me too well,” Jack admitted. He placed another kiss on Daniel's head and their hands continued to caress and gently glide on the each other's. “Think we can handle two more? We'd have ten, Danny. That's a mouthful, no matter how you slice it.”
“We can do it. Don't you think we can?”
“I know we can; just had to ask the question,” Jack explained. “We're a go then.”
“We are, but when?”
“Maybe in a couple of years.”
“Like we planned.”
“Like we planned. We *are* insane,” Jack laughed.
“I love being insane,” the younger man admitted.
Ninety minutes later, after checking on the rest of their brood, the couple went to Jennifer's room to say goodnight. In addition to evening family time, Jack and Daniel also made a point to spend a few minutes with each child at bedtime. Sometimes they made their visits together and sometimes they did it alone. It didn't always work out as smoothly as they wanted, but they worked hard to make it a reality as each believed this private time was important.
Tonight, Jennifer was reading a book, sitting up in bed, when her parents knocked and entered her room. Each parent sat on one side of the bed as they chatted.
“Okay, Sweetie,” Daniel spoke after the three chatted for a couple of minutes. “Is there anything else you wanted to talk about?”
“Well, yes,” Jennifer responded. “Dad, I was thinking about that girl you mentioned at dinner.”
“Yeah. You didn't actually say it, but ... she was raped, wasn't she?”
Jack and Daniel exchanged a cautious look and then Jack answered, “I don't know the details, but she was abused.”
Looking down, the teenager opined, “I bet she doesn't think she has a friend in the world.”
“Jen, I'm sure ...”
Daniel's words were cut off as Jennifer interrupted, “Daddy, I could be her friend.”
“What?” Jack asked.
“No one should be alone. Couldn't I be her friend?” Jennifer asked eagerly.
“I don't know,” Jack answered hesitantly.
“You two volunteer at the orphanage sometimes. If you can do that, then couldn't she and I go shopping or something, or to a movie, or just hang out for a while?”
“You want to do that?” Daniel queried as he reached out and put his hand over his daughter's that lay atop the warm comforter adorning the bed.
“Yes, Daddy, I would.”
Nodding, Daniel smiled and said proudly, “We'll check on it and let you know, okay?”
“It's just ... we have so much,” Jennifer expressed poignantly, knowing just how lucky she and her birth siblings were to have found a home with Jack and Daniel.
“Yes, we do,” Daniel replied emotionally. “I'm so proud of you.”
“I'm not offering to do anything you two haven't done.”
“We love you, Jen. Get some sleep,” Jack stated as he stood up and placed a kiss on her forehead. “We love you.”
Downstairs, Jack and Daniel settled onto the sofa.
“Do you think they'll let Trina spend some time with Jen?” Daniel asked.
“All we can do is ask. Geez, Danny, we have the best brood in the world.”
“Eight isn't enough,” Daniel remarked.
Amused, Jack responded, “As always, My Love, you're right.”
“Welcome friends,” Anteaus greeted the guests from Earth.
Jack and Daniel nodded, after which Daniel introduced their children, saying, “Anteaus, this is our daughter, Jennifer, and our son, David.”
“It's an honor to meet you, Sir,” David said, extending his hand to the alien.
Anteaus looked at the strange gesture and then at Jack and Daniel. He smiled and extended his hand to meet David's.
The boy grinned as his excitement swelled within him.
“I'm glad to meet you, too, and thank you for inviting us,” Jennifer added.
“The Nox agree,” Anteaus replied. “You will come.”
Jennifer and David looked over at their parents as the man who appeared strange to them walked away from the Stargate.
“We will go,” Jack instructed lightheartedly, extending out his arm towards Anteaus. “So, go!”
Quickly, the two Mouseketeers did as their father said.
“Well, at least some of the young do as they are told,” Daniel mused.
“I thought so,” the archaeologist mused, smiling as he trailed after the children.
**I heard that.**
**Not a secret.**
**Jack, you will come.**
**You bet your sweet artifact, I will.**
**They only thing that is spoiling is your opportunity to come tonight, if you get my drift. Now move it, General. You're lagging behind.**
As Jack finally headed into the forest towards the Nox encampment, he returned, **Sometimes, Angel, you're a real dictator.**
**And sometimes, Babe, no matter how much I love you, and Heaven knows why I do, but I do, but, uh, anyway, sometimes, Jack, you're a real ...**
**It's just us.**
**You have an image to keep.**
Daniel lowered his head and was barely able to maintain the quiet of the walk. He was extremely tempted to laugh out loud at his lover's quip.
“Hey, Daniel,” Jack greeted as he caught up with the group.
“Hey, Jack. I thought maybe we'd lost you.”
“Just looking at the trees. Jen, David, see the trees.”
“Are they redwoods?” Jennifer inquired as her head went back to take in the height of the nearest tree.
“They're trees, and if there is one thing you'll see on planets, it's trees. Trees, trees, and more trees. There are *so* many trees on planets.”
“Oxygen, Dad,” David put forth. “You have to have oxygen for us to breathe and trees give us oxygen.” The youthful genius continued, “See, trees soak in carbon dioxide through leaves. Living trees have lots of those, and the leaves extract the carbon so the tree will grow. Then the tree emits the oxygen, um, through the leaves, like I said.”
“Have you been talking to Carter?”
“Aunt Sam,” Daniel quietly corrected.
“We're on a mission, Daniel. On missions, Carter is Carter.”
“To our children, she's Aunt Sam.”
“Are we going to fight?”
Daniel gave Jack a two-second stare, after which the general sighed, “David, have you been talking to Aunt Sam?”
“A lot. Last week, we talked about hydrogenation, which is why the trees came up. Did you know a single tree produces two-hundred-sixty pounds of oxygen every year?” Before Jack could respond, David continued, “Chlorophyll makes the leaves green. It's the actual substance that makes the leaves breathe.” He smiled, “Trees breathing would make a funny cartoon.”
“Yes, it would,” Jack agreed, happy that the scientific part of his son's commentary culminated in a cartoon possibility.
“Friends,” Lya greeted when Anteaus and the Jackson-O'Neills arrived at the gathering place near some huts.
“Lya,” a smiling Daniel replied softly. His heart held a soft spot for the Nox woman. Every time he saw her was like the first time. “Thank you for letting us bring Jennifer and David to your world.”
“Children, I am Lya of the Nox, and this is Nafrayu, and Ohper.”
The greetings continued as twelve other Nox were also present. Within minutes, the family dispersed. David was playing in the forest with Nafrayu and a couple of other boys, while Jennifer was chatting with two Nox girls who looked to be teenagers, but who were most likely significantly older. The females were in a hut, their frequent giggles heard throughout the camp. Meanwhile, Ohper and a few other adult Nox sat with Jack and Daniel as they visited with Anteaus and Lya.
For a while, the adult discussion was casual chitchat and then it shifted and centered around the affairs on Earth, both races sharing in ways typical to their people.
“We have heard of the betrayal of the Hedronix,” Anteaus stated.
“We have, too, and we're going to try to make it better,” Daniel responded.
“You folks aren't going political on us, are you?” Jack questioned.
“The Nox are the Nox,” Ohper stated simply.
“Do you ... is there anything you want us to know?” the archaeologist inquired.
“Restore the trust, Daniel,” Anteaus replied. “Our Stargate is open for you, but we may bury it once again.”
The implication was clear. The Nox were very much aware of the goings on within their galaxy and beyond. They knew of at least some of the issues happening between Earth and other planets. If it were to continue, they would disappear and never grant the Tau'ri another audience on their world.
“We, uh, we're grateful; we've always been grateful that after our first visit, you allowed us to stay in contact. You re-opened the Gate for us. I know we're young. We like to think we aren't, but we are.”
“That's the problem,” Jack interjected. “Look, you folks know I don't like that phrase. I don't like being told we're too young, but the fact is that we ended up in the middle of one big, huge-honkin' space mess, and guess what? We beat the bad guys, *multiple* bad guys. Wait!” He could tell others were ready to jump in, so he held up his hand in a visual sign for the others to not interrupt him. “That's part of the problem. We have egos and our egos are too dang big. The head honchos on Earth think because we took down the Goa'uld, kicked out the Replicators, and sent the Ori to real Hell that we can dance around the universe doing what we want, when we want, and ignore any treaties or agreements we've made along the way. In other words, they've been spoiled brat babies. We acknowledge that. *I* acknowledge that we Tau'ri are dang young and let's just say we don't know as much as we think we know, and that's why we get in trouble. I apologize for the idiots who talk with forked tongues.”
“Forked ... tongues?” Ohper question.
“Liars,” Daniel clarified. “Uh, we know the Nox don't interfere, but I hope if there is something that might help us restore your trust in Earth that you'll find a way to share that with us.” He looked around, waiting for a response that didn't come. “Or that you'll let us know of any situations we should know about but don't ... know about.” He smiled. “Or not.”
The Nox nodded without responding verbally, leaving Jack and Daniel to hope their message was well received and understood. The Nox by nature were quiet and kept to themselves. They let others live their lives without judgment. They were neutral, the alien Switzerland. The one chance Jack and Daniel believed they had was that on a few very rare occasions, Lya walked a fine line toward justice and sometimes assisted them in saving the day.
Silence was not awkward to the Nox, so the quiet of the next two minutes did not stand out. With a smile, Lya broke the verbal stillness.
“You did not bring little Chenoa with you today. Is she well?”
“Yes, thank you,” Daniel responded.
“She's spending the day with Car...her Aunt Sam,” Jack explained while refraining from looking at his husband.
“Actually, Jack, she's with Sara.”
Indeed, Chenoa and the twins were with Sara at her home, while Sam watched over the Munchkins in her lab at Cheyenne Mountain. In fact, in the hopes of keeping the two-year-olds out of trouble, she created a makeshift version of ToddlerTown for them to entertain themselves in while she worked. Time would tell if her idea was successful or not.
The silver-haired man looked over at Lya and retorted, “We have so many kids, it's easy to misplace one every now and again.”
“She's not misplaced, Jack. She's with Sara.”
“Are you sure? I thought she was with Carter?”
Watching as Jack shrugged and smiled innocently, Lya was amused by the conversation. The unique and very honest banter of Jack and Daniel was one of the reasons the Nox trusted the two men. Should they ever change, the Nox might question their integrity. In her heart, Lya believed that was a day which would never come.
“Please tell her the Nox hope to see her again one day.”
“We will,” Daniel promised with a nod and a smile.
A few minutes later, a young Nox walked over and whispered something to Ohper, who rose from the tree stump he was sitting on and walked away.
“Anything wrong?” Jack questioned.
“All is well,” Anteaus replied before asking why Jack had his weapon with him.
“Habits are sometimes best revised.”
Jack's initial notion was to point out all the reasons why he needed a gun when going off-world, regardless of the world, but he stopped himself and nodded.
“Anteaus, you may have a point and I wish I didn't think I needed this today, but I guess until I really believe there's no danger out there, when I feel in my soul that my kids are safe, I'll keep carrying it.”
“You did not bring it when White Dove was here,” Lya reminded, referring to Chenoa by the meaning of her given name. ~Her name says much.~
“The team was here. They had their weapons, and she's ... younger,” Jack sighed.
Jack looked over at Daniel and gave a quick shake of his head, which Daniel understood. Jack was the protector and he would not and could not risk going off-world with the children without a weapon unless his teammates were there to cover their six.
Thinking it was best, Daniel opted to change the subject and asked Anteaus a question about Nox philosophy. He was eager to learn more about the special race and how they thought about the universe. Though it was an awkward transition from the gun topic, it was sincere and it successfully moved the meeting forward.
Twenty minutes later, with Opher and one of the teen Nox at her side, Jennifer walked over to her parents.
“Excuse me,” the teenager called out. “I'm sorry to interrupt.”
“What is it, Jen?” Jack queried.
“Dad, Daddy, Tyna has asked me if I'd like to go see her home for a little while.”
“Her home?” Daniel asked.
“It's up there,” Jennifer explained, pointing to the unseen city in the sky. “You can't actually see it, but she says it's there. Can I go ... for an hour or so?”
**Danny, we've never even been to their city. We have no idea what's there.**
**I know, but this is the Nox we're talking about. If we want them to trust us, we have to trust them, and personally, I do. I mean, how many times have they come through for us?**
**You trust them with our brood?**
**I do. Do you?**
“Jen, are you sure it's okay? I mean, maybe Tyna doesn't have permission to ...” Jack began.
“It was I who made the suggestion, O'Neill,” Ohper clarified. “Your daughter is welcome to visit our city.”
“Okay, sure; go. Have fun. Be back in an hour.”
Daniel chuckled and added, “Have a great time, Jen.”
“Take notes,” Jack called out.
“Our city is for us, not for others,” Anteaus stated.
“Right.” Jack was a bit uneasy, but he did trust the Nox. **I hope we're right about this.**
**We are, and you know it, Jack.**
“So, how was it? Come on, Jen, I'm your father. Details!” Jack ordered as the family headed home from the SGC later that day.
“Dad, weren't you paying attention in the debriefing?” the teenager answered.
“Dad, it was great. It's more than I can even describe, but they made me promise. Their world is secret. They keep it hidden for a reason, and they said you'd understand that.”
“You're just jealous, Jack,” Daniel observed, turning a corner as he drove the SUV.
“You'd think they would have invited us,” Jack groaned disappointedly.
“Well, Ohper said we're still very young, but that maybe someday you and Daddy could visit their city.”
“What about me?” David asked.
“I don't know. I'm sorry.”
Jennifer frowned, beginning to feel guilty that she couldn't share her experiences with the rest of her family. She felt like she was letting everyone down.
Noticing their daughter's expression, Daniel communicated, **Jack, we can't make her feel like this. It's not fair.** Verbally, he spoke, “Jen, listen, I'm glad you went. We've known the Nox a very long time and this was the first time they ever invited any Tau'ri to their city. You should be proud. We don't want you to tell us anything, do we, Jack?”
In full agreement with his soulmate, Jack turned his body around so he could look at the two Mouseketeers and added, “Jen, I'm sorry. Daddy is right. I was envious, but I was wrong to feel that way. I'm glad you were able to experience something you'll never forget.”
“Dad, they said I could come back.”
Jack didn't miss the softness in his daughter's comment and asked, “Do you want to go back?” When she nodded, he smiled. “Cool. You can be our Ambassador to the Nox.” Still smiling, he added, “Seriously, Jen, don't let me get you down. I just made a huge mistake. I spoke without thinking.”
“Happens to the best of us, Dad,” the teenager pointed out as her body sighed in relief. “Thank you. I'd like to go back.”
“Okay. We'll make that happen,” Jack replied.
Jennifer chuckled, “Especially if it means getting another day away from school.”
“Yeah,” David laughed.
“I hear ya, but don't get used to it,” Jack teased, seeing his lover shaking his head at the comments. **Danny, don't ever let me be a jerk like that again.**
**I'll try not to, Love, but you did a good job fixing it,** Daniel responded while moving into the right-hand lane in preparation for an upcoming turn.
**I'll talk to her about it more later, too; reinforce what I said here.**
**I love you, Jack.**
**Love you, too, Angel.**
Early the next morning, Jack was in the garage doing the washing, while Daniel was in the living room cleaning the fish tank.
As the archaeologist reviewed the tank, he discovered a problem with the filtration system. As a result, he was in the process of taking it apart so he could fix the issue.
Jennifer and David were watching the younger children as they played outside in the backyard, though the Munchkins were straying back and forth between playing and toddling inside to see what their parents were up to.
As for the beagles, Bijou was chewing on a bone and Katie was in the living room watching Daniel.
At the moment, Jonny and Little Danny walked back inside the house to watch Daniel work on the filtration system when the phone rang. Automatically, Jonny picked up the cordless phone.
“Phone? Answer?” When Daniel nodded his permission, Jonny clicked the button and answered, “Hello.” There was silence for several seconds and then the youngster said, “'Kay.”
“Jonny, who's on the phone?” Daniel asked as he worked to free his hands so he could take over the phone call.
Suddenly, the little boy stood at attention; then he giggled. He saluted, doing his best to do the gesture just as his dad trained him to do.
“Jonny?” Daniel called out, frustrated that his hands were tangled with the heart of the system that kept the fish breathing peacefully.
“I saluting, Mis' Pres'dent.”
“President?” Daniel questioned anxiously, frantically looking for a safe place to but the items he was holding.
“Jon'y. Dan'y here. 'Kay.” Daniel saw Jonny hand the phone to his brother. “It's the Pres'dent.”
Little Danny took the phone and said, with unusual clarity, “Hi, Mister President. Daddy clean fish ... lots ... Homer ... 'D'oh' ... <laughter> ... Ash 'side ...”
Just then Jack walked in to see Little Danny on the phone. He glanced over at Daniel to ask about the unusual event, but he noticed his lover seemed pale.
“Danny, who's he talking to?” Jack queried curiously.
“The President,” Daniel answered as calmly as he could.
“Oh, okay. *The President*?” Jack repeated loudly. He paused, clarifying, “Of the United States?”
Little Danny laughed, “Griz bear.”
“I am not!” Jack argued, apparently knowing what was just spoken over the phone.
“Too!” Little Danny claimed before returning his attention to the phone. “Want dump truck ... mic'ope ... hold.” The boy looked at his brother. “Jonny, what want Christmas?” After getting the answer, the Munchkin relayed, “He wants 'mote plane 'n' spy kit ... <laughter> ... Ash wants dollies, lots dollies ... bye-bye.” The middle Munchkin extended his hand out with the phone towards the general. “Pres'dent phone.”
“Thank you, Son,” Jack replied. “You two, scoot.” Obediently, Jonny and Little Danny returned to the outdoors to play. “President Hayes?”
“Hello, Jack, or should I say, hello, grizzly bear?” Hayes chuckled.
Jack coughed and replied, “It's always a pleasure to hear from you, Sir.”
President Hayes laughed, “Jack, while it's always a joy to talk with your kids, I called to find out if you and Daniel have made your decision yet.”
Jack glanced at his husband for a moment and responded, “Pretty much, Sir, but I have to admit, we'd feel better if we had some assurances.”
“You have them. I give you my personal guarantee that this government will back any promises you make to our allies off-world.” Hayes paused before continuing, “We've made some unfortunate mistakes, Jack, mistakes that have cost us dearly. I can't promise you that you'll have everything you ask for at the SGC, but I can promise that you have my complete support.”
“Daniel and I feel we need to make a couple of changes that some might think are inappropriate.”
“Have you discussed those changes with General Hammond?” the President inquired.
“Yes, we have, and he's in agreement with us.”
“That's all I need to know. You have my word, Jack, and you know I don't give that unless I intend to honor it.”
“I do know that, Sir.”
“Good,” Hayes responded. “I hope I can count on you and Daniel to do the right thing ... *Major* General Jackson-O'Neill,” he added for emphasis.
Smiling, Jack replied, “That is a nice incentive, Sir, but, frankly, the right thing for us might not be what you want us to do.”
“I understand. Tell the rest of your zoo 'hello' for me,” Hayes requested.
“I will, Sir,” Jack chuckled as he disconnected the call.
“So, what was that about?” Daniel asked.
“He gave his word that he'll support our decisions.”
“He really wants us back then.”
“Yeah.” Jack walked to the patio and watched their children playing. “Danny, do you trust President Hayes?”
Thoughtfully, the archaeologist answered, “He's better than the last one.”
“I agree, but do you trust him?”
Daniel paused, considering the question before answering, “Yes. I think he'll honor his word.”
Mid-morning, Jack received a phone call that ended with him doing a fist pump and exclaiming, “Yes!” Quickly, he went in search of his husband, finding him upstairs putting the twins down for a nap. “Angel, I'll finish that.”
“No need, as long as you don't wake them up.”
Jack looked and saw the babies were asleep and let out an alert, “Oh.” He pulled Daniel out into the hallway and grinned. “Daniel, you don't have much time, but if you leave now, don't hit too much traffic, pick David up, and don't hit a lot of traffic again, you'll make it.”
“Jack, what are you talking about? ”
“The Peru artifact exhibit,” the older man answered.
“Danny, I've made some calls; okay, a lot of calls. The artifacts have been undergoing more testing and review by some of the big guys in the field. It hasn't been publicized because, hey, why talk about something people can't see, right?”
“Right,” a still confused Daniel returned.
“The exhibit is heading out of the country tomorrow morning, but I've managed to get them to let you and David have a private showing, but you have to get there by three.”
“Jack, why all the panic? It's only ten.”
“Because you're flying in Jo to New Mexico.”
“Stop asking 'what' and get going. I'll text you all the info. I'll call the school and have David waiting for you in the principal's office.”
“I, uh ...”
“You, uh, are going ... now, Daniel! Move!”
Daniel quickly changed clothes, listening to his lover tell the story of several phone calls and pleas in tracking the movement of the exhibit after its final day in Colorado Springs. Those calls were followed by more calls and Jack explaining who Daniel was, not to mention how grateful J-O Enterprises would be for granting this favor. Though the business was a young one, its reputation was growing and the potential of getting a good deal from the archaeological firm at some point was a plus in the minds of some museums and those whose passion was learning about the world before motor cars and cell phones ruled the day.
Before he could truly process what was happening, the archaeologist was out the front door, in his Silver Fox vehicle, and headed for David's school. After that, father and son would head for the airport, do a pre-flight check of the family plane dubbed Jo, and head for New Mexico.
~Mr. Fix-it does it again,~ Daniel mused as he drove. ~How does he do that?~
All Jack cared about was taking care of the problem he created by not being more mindful of the clock. He couldn't wait to hear about the adventure that evening. In the meantime, he had a full afternoon planned and decided to see if he could get a caregiver or two to watch the children so he didn't have to break a promise to his pal, Lou Ferretti, who was counting on Jack's help with his MonsterMobile, a big truck that he loved to work on as much as possible.
Having easily enticed a trio of neighbors, Mrs. Sophia Valissi and Christa and Jacob Svenson, to watch the Munchkins and the twins and then dropping Chenoa off at the Payne residence to play with her friend, Chloe, Jack made his way to the Ferretti's to assist Lou with his favorite hobby.
Jack chuckled, “Lou, you're never going to finish this baby.”
“That's the beauty of it, Jack. The MonsterMobile is reinvented over and over again,” Lou responded, grinning at the joy his big truck gave him.
“Yep and for its current life, it needs new shocks,” Jack observed as he wiped his hands with a rag.
“I was afraid so. Time for a run down to Ace's.”
Jack checked his watch. He was enjoying the time spent with his longtime friend, but he needed to get home on schedule. There were no worries as yet; he had a couple of hours to go before he'd have to leave.
Fifty minutes later, the two men were in Lou's car on the way back from the auto parts store to continue their work. They were currently chatting about the Jackson-O'Neill children and the constant noise that so often filled the house.
“I think Carolyn misses it. With all our kids in college now, it's just us and the cats.”
“Too quiet for her?”
“Yeah. Not sure she'd admit it, though. She misses those beanstalks,” Lou admitted.
Jack laughed. Lou always referred to his children as beanstalks, little things that came from a tiny seed and suddenly grew into giants, giants compared to a seed, that is.
“And you don't miss them?” Jack challenged.
“Me? Nah?” Lou laughed as he glanced at Jack. “It's too quiet. All those years, all that noise, and now it's just the two of us. Mind you, Jack, as you know, being two and only two has its advantages.” He snickered for a moment, but grew quiet. “Still, when you have children at home, there's a ... a ...”
“I know what you mean, Lou. Has Carolyn thought about ...”
“Bite your tongue,” Lou warned jovially. “No more diapers. We've done that.”
Suddenly, a light bulb went off in Jack's mind. He turned it over in his mind before committing to a verbal illumination.
Carolyn Ferretti was a wonderful woman, a survivor. She'd been ill for several years, which placed a hardship on the family. Lou never cared about the money or doing whatever was necessary to get his family through the difficult time. What mattered most to him was that his wife survived with no indication of the cancer anywhere in her body.
The Ferretti children were intelligent and polite, even with having Lou as their father. Jack was also aware the Ferretti's financial status was stable, thanks to Carolyn's recovery, Lou's promotion to full colonel, and their daughters holding part-time jobs while attending college.
~Money wouldn't be an issue.~ The general smiled as he recalled Lou's promotion. ~That was one of the best parts about being in charge of SGC -- taking care of some of the oversights.~ He debated for another minute before deciding he had to ask the question. “Lou, what about an older kid?”
“What?” a surprised Lou asked as he turned to look at Jack for a second. “What older kid?”
“Have you and Carolyn ever considered adopting, or maybe becoming foster parents?”
Lou let out a single chuckle, shaking his head as he admitted, “Never thought about it.”
“You'd be perfect. Good home for a kid who needs some love,” Jack commented as he looked at his friend, carefully gauging his reaction.
With a shrug, the Italian responded, “Interesting idea. I could use a son; teach him how to adjust the brakes on the MonsterMobile properly.”
“Hey, I adjusted them just fine,” Jack balked.
“I think you were distracted, Jack, thinking about the Doc.”
“He *is* the most gorgeous thing on the planet,” Jack put forth as his smile and shining eyes attested his love for his soulmate.
Now thinking about Daniel and not wanting to push his friend, Jack allowed the conversation to move on in another direction.
After helping Lou install the shocks, Jack again checked his watch.
“Lou, I gotta go.”
Understanding, Lou walked his friend to his Ford truck and, just as they reached the vehicle, spoke, “Jack?”
“Yeah?” Jack responded as he settled into the driver's seat.
From the passenger side, Lou peeked in the window, his arms on the door, and inquired, “You have someone in mind? A kid?”
~Ah! Got his attention.~ Jack replied, “Actually, I do. She's a girl, about Jen's age. I need to be honest with you, Lou. She has some problems.”
“Needs some one-on-one loving and attention?”
Lou nodded and looked back at his house. He watched Carolyn closely as she walked onto the porch and began to water a large plant that decorated the area.
“Do you have to go, Jack?” Lou inquired with a certain longing in his voice.
“Hold on,” Jack requested. He pulled out his cell phone and called his home. “Mrs. V, it's Jack. How are things? ... Is Jen home yet? ... Good. Do you have another half-hour or so to ... <laughter> ... You're a peach, Mrs. V. I'll be back within an hour.”
Putting his cell back into his pocket, Jack exited the truck and joined his friend as they walked to the porch.
“Can't tear yourself away?” Carolyn asked.
“Honey, Jack wants to talk to us about something. I think maybe it will make us both very happy to listen to what he has to say.”
“Goodness me, what could it be?”
“Helping a girl in need and maybe helping us, too.”
Full of curiosity, Carolyn let herself be led inside her home where she and her husband listened intently to Jack's suggestion. Perhaps their quiet home could be full of noise once again.
That night the lovers were out on their roof deck. It was warm out, still in the sixties on this last day of September.
“I'm a hero again,” Jack mused.
“Jack, you're always a hero to our children,” Daniel replied as the lovers stood side-by-side as they stared upward at the clear sky.
“David couldn't stop talking about those artifacts during dinner,” a pleased Jack noted.
“He's telling the Munchkins about it again now, I think.”
“They're a captive audience in ToddlerTown,” the general pointed out in amusement.
“For another ten minutes anyway. Babe, what do you think the chances are that Lou and Carolyn will follow through with Trina?”
“I'm not sure, but I'd say pretty good. They miss the craziness of kids.”
“I love you.”
“Why, Doctor Jackson, what a wonderful thing to hear.”
“And ... we don't have time for anything else. The kids are still awake.”
“That's not exactly what I meant.”
Laughing, Jack shifted and put his arms around his lover while declaring, “Daniel Jackson-O'Neill, I love you, to the moon and the stars and back again, forever and always. You are my heart, my soul, and my Angel.”
“That's more like it,” a smiling Daniel replied.
After a few tender kisses, the parents returned to their children and their nighttime routine.
Assembled in briefing room of Stargate Command the next day were Jack and Daniel, General Armstrong, Major Davis, and Sergeant Dorhay. A technician at the end of the room was there to record the notes from the meeting. All were seated except for Jack and Daniel.
“Okay, this is the deal,” Jack began as he walked the length of the room. “Daniel and I will return ...”
“Part-time,” Daniel quickly interjected.
“We will agree to two days for sure, three if we can swing it. Neither of us goes anywhere without the other unless it's our idea. We have no intentions of going on rescue missions or digs. It might happen, but no one is going to tell us to go anywhere, on- or off-world. Agreed?”
“Agreed,” Armstrong replied.
Daniel, who stood with his arms folded near the head of the table added, “And we have complete autonomy over what happens wherever we do go. That means if we visit the Nox, the Hedronix, the Unas ...”
“Unas?” Jack interrupted, a bit wide-eyed and definitely not thrilled with Daniel's choice of civilizations.
**Jack, get over it already. Chaka is a friend.** Verbally, as he faced down his lover with piercing eyes, Daniel continued, “... whomever. The point is when we're there, what we say, goes. We're not going to be arguing with some SG team that thinks shooting is the only answer or with some Pentagon ...”
Daniel stumbled over his words, not wanting to say what he was thinking, but having a mental block at the moment that prevented him from coming up with a suitable alternative.
“Big wig,” Jack stated as he tried to help, knowing that wasn't really the word his lover wanted to use.
The young man nodded however and explained, “Our word has to be honored. If you want these people to remain allies, you have to let them know we can be trusted. We can't promise them one thing and have the Pentagon overrule us, and when we're there, we have to be able to make the promises necessary to begin the healing process.”
“And it won't be overnight,” Jack pointed out. “We're not talking about a Band-Aid. We're talking about repairing some severe carnage that has been inflicted by our own government. It's going to take time.”
**That was perfect, Love,** Daniel praised.
**Hey, I listen to you.**
“Agreed?” Daniel asked Armstrong, who was representing the Pentagon and reluctantly leading the quest to get Jack and Daniel back into the fold.
“Agreed,” Armstrong answered unhappily, the word dragging out of his mouth.
“One more thing,” Jack interjected. “We assign which SG teams go where. Short version -- we're not talking about first contacts or scientific teams necessarily, but wherever we go, in our quest to restore honor for Earth, we choose who comes with us and who goes when we're not here.”
Jack looked at Hammond with whom he'd already discussed this arrangement privately. He wasn't trying to do the other man's job. He'd 'been there, done that' and didn't want to go back to it. Still, he and Daniel believed it was important to make sure the personnel dealing with certain off-world cultures were suited to those races, meaning they were both knowledgeable and tolerant of diversity. For the time being, the lovers felt that was best. Jack was happy to see the subtle nod from Hammond, a visual sign that they were on the same page.
“Why?” Dorhay asked.
~How come this sergeant is so involved with this process anyway?~ Jack wondered. “Because we need to do everything we can to restore their trust in us and part of that means making sure we know that every single member of our team who sets foot on a planet will do the job we need them to do, without prejudice.”
“And that they'll be specifically trained in dealing with that culture, including understanding the languages and customs of those peoples. We had a near-disastrous experience a few years ago because of this and I won't allow that to happen again,” Daniel insisted strongly.
**You're thinking about that moron Journow?**
**Yeah; we can't have people like him dealing with the Asgard and our other allies; it's too risky when things are so fragile between us.**
“Agreed?” Jack asked the Pentagon representative.
“Agreed, General,” Armstrong responded.
Jack continued with the demands he and Daniel agreed to when making the decision to return to Stargate Command. Privately, he relished the position they were in since it would afford them a real opportunity to assist their allies and aid Earth in a productive manner.
“There will be times when Daniel and I will be unavailable. We have a business to run and that business is important to us. We may be out of the country for weeks or months at a time. We won't be hassled about this. We'll give you plenty of notice, but when we have to go, we're gone.”
“The activities of the SGC must come first. We have to be able to depend on you, General O'Neill,” Armstrong argued.
“With all due respect ... or not,” Daniel began, “this is not negotiable. We're willing to give the SGC precious time, time we could be spending with our family and on our business, a business we love, I might add. You can say 'no', but if you do ...”
“If you do, we're gone, out the door; gone with the wind,” Jack quipped with flair, his eyebrows arching with his words. “Are we agreed?”
Armstrong grunted, rubbing his hands together tightly, as if strangling them.
“General Armstrong, I can assure you that General Jackson-O'Neill and Doctor Jackson-O'Neill can save face for Earth. They'll get the job done, if we let them do what they do best. I can also promise you that if you do not go along with their wishes, they *will* walk out the door, and when they do, this command will not go running after them for the Pentagon when our allies cut ties with us.” Hammond leaned forward, staring directly at his ranking adversary. “In other words, Franklin, be careful with how you respond now.”
Armstrong took a big breath, but then, albeit a bit angrily, agreed, “Fine.”
With a slight nod, Jack continued, “Finally, as we've done the last few weeks, our family is part of whatever we do, if we choose to include them. That decision is ours and no one else's; and that includes the Wilsons, too.”
“Which means if we choose to take our daughter back to ... play with the Nox, we do, and no one argues.”
“Agreed,” Armstrong sighed, shaking his head and not waiting to be asked if he did agree or not. It was the part of the operation he hated more than anything else, but he knew it was non-negotiable. The oldest children had each been through the Gate, as had the Wilsons, and he was certain they'd be going through again. ~I'm going to think of something. Children going through the Stargate: it's not going to happen again, not if I can help it.~ Frustrated, but not having any other choice other than to agree to the terms being offered, he asked, “Is there anything else?”
“Not at the moment, but we'll let you know,” Jack smirked.
“Actually, there is one more thing,” Daniel stated. “We need to know the exact details of what has gone wrong.”
“Listen ...” Armstrong started to object.
“I can supply that,” Major Davis spoke up, cutting off the general. He looked at Armstrong and then at Daniel. “My orders are to give you whatever information you require.”
“Don't hold back,” Jack ordered assertively.
“Trust me, General, you'll get the truth,” the major assured.
“Anything else, Daniel?”
“No, I think that does it.”
“Okay, we're back on the payroll. We did get a raise, didn't we, Sir?” Jack inquired of Hammond, who laughed and shook his head. “We didn't? We have to have a raise. It's the principle of the thing.”
“Very well, General, you've had your fun,” Armstrong stated as he stood. “You'll report in next Monday ...”
“Uh, oops!” Daniel said, moving forward a couple of steps as he raised his right hand up in front of him, his finger extended outward. “We, uh, did forget something.”
“And what would that be, Doctor Jackson?”
“Jackson-O'Neill,” Jack informed emphatically, causing the veins in Armstrong's neck to protrude.
Looking at his husband, Daniel stated, “Jack, we have to set our own schedules. I mean, we'll make them in advance so that everyone knows in plenty of time when we'll be here and who needs to be where, but our children's schedules are subject to change.”
“Glad you thought of that. We have that parent-teacher conference on Monday, don't we?”
“Exactly, and it's Noa's birthday, so we'll be hosting a party for her ...”
“I plan to be there;,” Hammond interjected in another supportive moment of Jack and Daniel.”
“We're counting on that, Sir,” Jack responded, beaming at the general's statement.
“Definitely,” Daniel agreed. “So, uh, sorry, General Armstrong, but we'll have to sit down tonight and plan out the next month as best we can. I'm sure we can start on Tuesday, though. Right?”
“Right,” Jack agreed. “We can do that.”
“I'm sure we can.”
“We'll write that down on the calendar: Tuesday 0900 hours,” Jack advised.
“Or maybe 10 a.m. We'll talk about it, tonight.”
“You two are getting away with bloody murder,” Armstrong spat angrily.
“Yeah, ain't it grand,” Jack replied smugly.
“Jack,” Daniel chided.
**Come on, Danny, you've gotta admit that it's fun to drive him up the wall, which we were both doing just now.**
**Unfortunately, it is.** Daniel let out a sigh. ~It's Jack's fault. He's the king of snark and he's taught me well.~
**Danny, that decency streak in you is ... absolutely wonderful. Don't change,** Jack communicated from his heart. ~Besides, he's almost as good as me at snark; maybe my equal at it; okay, perhaps he's even better at it, sometimes.~
**I'll try not to.**
Without saying another word, Armstrong hurried out of the briefing room, followed closely by Dorhay.
“I guess the meeting's over,” Jack remarked with a smile.
“I'll have the information you need in a few days. If there's anything specific you'd like to know ...”
“Actually, there is,” Daniel responded to Major Davis. “I'll, uh, give you a call or send you an email tomorrow with the specifics.”
Suppressing a grin, Davis nodded to Daniel and Jack and then exited the room.
“You two are quite the team,” Hammond opined with an amazed smile.
“Did we overdo it, Sir?” Jack queried.
“Overdo? Jack, you just kicked his butt so far out of the galaxy, he may never find it again,” Hammond responded.
Daniel rolled his eyes as he returned, “Gawd, Jack, don't look so pleased with yourself.”
“Listen, General,” Jack vocalized, growing serious in his tone and demeanor. “If you really need us for something, call. If we can, we'll be here.”
“I know that, Jack. I also know your children come first, but that you realize the importance of what we're doing out there. You know, some people might be surprised at my position on allowing your children to go through the Stargate.”
“I've wondered about that myself, Sir,” Jack admitted.
“Well, Jack,” Hammond moved to the large window and stared at the Stargate, “we've got the Alpha Site and several other worlds at least partially colonized with our people, all doing their jobs, but what we need are families to tell us more than what we can learn on paper, to see if diverse cultures, if worlds separated by millions and millions of miles can really become friends in every sense of the word.”
“Laughter,” Daniel commented quietly. When Hammond turned and looked at the archaeologist, he expounded, “General, our daughter met the Filgrun a few days ago and while we talked with our friends, we suddenly heard Noa and the children of the Filgrun playing 'Ring Around the Rosy'. The Filgrun children had no idea what she was saying or doing, but they were all laughing. The smiles were undeniable.”
Jack added, “The point is ... Swiss Family Jackson-O'Neill.”
“Space Family ... Jackson-O'Neill,” Daniel corrected with a smile. “Within reason,” he added.
“You control who goes and when they go ...” Hammond began, his sentence completed by Jack.
“And where they go.”
“Of course. Jack, Daniel, this is an exciting opportunity for us. It's not the reason you've been asked to return, but I think it's an important by-product. We need those children and what we can learn from their contact.” Hammond thought to himself, ~They're like Daniel, not afraid to speak the truth; heck, they're able to see the truth and that's pretty unique.~
“Jen's exchange program idea would be good,” Daniel proposed.
“I look forward to reading your report about that, Doctor ... Jackson-O'Neill.”
“You'll have it next week,” the archaeologist promised.
“Sir, Daniel,” Sam called out upon entering the room.
“Hi, Sam, Teal'c.”
“Uh, General Hammond, you wanted the mission report on ...” Sam noticed funny looks suddenly going around the room. “What's going on, guys?”
“Oh, gawd,” Daniel said softly as he realized the one part of the couple's return to the Stargate Program that wasn't as yet discussed.
“What?” Sam asked again.
“Carter, how goes command?” Jack bravely inquired.
“It ... goes, Sir. Why?”
“Colonel Carter, we need to talk in my office,” Hammond stated, getting up from his seat and heading towards his office.
“Is something wrong, GeneralHammond?” Teal'c inquired.
Hammond and Sam started to walk towards his office when Sam suddenly stopped, turned back around, and stared at her three friends. Her focus was on Jack and Daniel. Slowly, a smile began to emerge.
“You're coming back?” Sam's expression was hopeful, but looking at them, she saw the downcast looks. “Oh, come on. That's it, isn't it?”
“Part-time, Sam -- two or three days a week,” Daniel confirmed.
“Our team will be ...” Jack began.
“SG-1 is yours, Sir. It always has been and always will be, which is why we've used the designation 1A since you and Daniel retired. I've simply been the caretaker.” Sam turned again to face Hammond. “General Hammond, if that's what you were going to talk to me about, there's no need. I'm glad they're coming back, and I don't have a problem with the general resuming command of SG-1. It ... we are his team.”
“I knew I liked you from the beginning,” Jack quipped.
Sam turned and responded straightforwardly, “Actually, Sir, you thought I was some Women Lib's male-wannabe who played with G.I. Joe dolls.”
“That was Kawalsky,” Jack reminded a bit sheepishly. “Carter ... Sam ... you sure you're okay with this?”
“What about you, Big Guy?” Jack asked.
Teal'c replied, “It will be an honor to serve with you again, O'Neill, and with you, too, DanielJackson.”
“O'Neill,” both Jack and Daniel corrected at the same timing, causing both to smile.
“Just kidding, Teal'c.”
~Now this feels good.~ Hammond looked at the four. It felt like a miraculous reunion to him. Proudly, he declared, “Welcome back, SG-1.”
An hour after the lovers returned home, Jack spotted his husband sitting quietly in the middle of the backyard lawn. The archaeologist was staring at Katie, romping in her play yard. Bijou was rolling on the lawn, just enjoying the daylight.
~He's got that look,~ Jack thought, sensing something was amiss. Maybe Daniel was having second thoughts about returning to the SGC. Sitting down directly in front of his husband, he asked, “Okay, Love, what's wrong?”
“We've left them alone and I can't do that.”
“The girls. I know sometimes we have the children babysat here while we've been gone, but sometimes, Bij and Katie have been left home alone. I won't do that, Jack. I can't, not after what we ... I just can't.”
“Hey ...” Jack reached out and stopped the tear from falling. “Angel, it's okay.”
“No, Jack, it's not,” Daniel refuted strongly. “We promised them and I will *not* break that promise.”
“Okay,” Jack soothed, still uncertain what the concern was. “Just tell me exactly what you're thinking.”
Taking a deep breath, Daniel looked at the canines and stated, “Bij and Katie need clearance.”
“You want them to go through the Stargate?” Jack asked, totally floored by his husband's desire.
“Well, not if we're expecting the Jaffa, Jack, but if we're taking one of the Mouseketeers, then why not the girls, too?”
Jack looked at the two barking beagles staring at him. He'd never even thought about taking them off-world.
With a shrug, the general asked, “Girls, do you want to go through the Stargate?”
Chuckling, Jack replied, “Okay, we get clearance. Armstrong's going to love this.”
“Jack, I don't ...”
“I know,” Jack returned, his chuckles subsiding. “This is isn't about driving him crazy. I understand, Danny.”
“Do you? We hurt them, Jack. They did nothing to deserve the way we treated them that month or two when the Munchkins were born. I won't ... I ...”
“Hey, come here,” Jack urged, shifting their bodies so that he could firmly hold his lover in his arms. “It's okay, Angel. We'll take them. You're right. You're absolutely right.”
Before Jack could comfort his lover further, the two beagles were pushing against Daniel's thighs, each trying to reach his face to give him kisses.
“See, Angel. It's okay. They love us, and ... we're taking them with us.”
“Just them, Jack. The first time, we have to just take the girls,” Daniel put forward as he scooped up both dogs to hold. “Just the girls,” he repeated softly.
“So, Bij, Katie, let us tell you all about the Stargate ...” Jack began. Fifteen minutes later, he concluded, “and one more thing, you'll be wearing your harnesses at all times and you'll be on your leash most of the time. Sorry, girls, but we're talking off-world, and we wouldn't want to lose you.”
“Woof!” both dogs replied in understanding.
“Okay, it's a date. Tomorrow morning, bright and early, we'll take you to meet the Nox, if they're agreeable. You'll love their world. Lots of trees to ...”
“Jack, they're girls,” Daniel smirked.
“But trees are trees and dogs love trees.”
“Nice try, O'Neill,” Daniel mused, finally giving his lover a much-sought after smile.
Jack shrugged, smiling at the same time. Life was definitely good.
The next morning, Jack and Daniel stood in the briefing room, addressing Hammond and Armstrong. They informed them of the need to take their dogs through the Stargate.
“You want to *what*?” Armstrong yelled from across the table in the briefing room, looking out the large glass panes at the two beagles, currently being looked after by Sergeant Davis.
“Take our dogs to the Nox home world.”
“Actually, General, we'll be taking them anywhere anytime we choose. They are part of our family,” Daniel informed Armstrong with a matter-of-fact tone.
“Doctor Jackson, I draw the line at animals going through the Stargate.”
“We're not going to argue, General Armstrong,” Daniel replied calmly as Jack watched him carefully.
Jack agreed with his lover, but this was harder on the younger man than on him. Actually, it wasn't, but Jack's training in Special Ops taught him, out of necessity, how to move forward and shove nasty nightmares to the back of his brain. He recollected all-too-well how they neglected the beagles when the triplets were born. The realization of their actions broke their hearts at the time and they made a vow to never let it happen again.
“Good, this discussion is over,” Armstrong stood and began to exit.
“General Armstrong,” Daniel called out, pulling two envelopes from his pocket and moving forward. “You'll need these.”
Taking the sealed envelopes, the four-star general asked, “What are they?”
“Our official rejection of your offer to return to the SGC. We won't be back after all. Jack, let's go.”
Without uttering a word, Jack and Daniel silently left the room. Jack was a step or two behind his lover, but he quickly made up the distance, putting his arm around Daniel's waist and drawing him closer as they walked to Davis' desk to get their girls.
In the briefing room, Hammond shook his head as Armstrong again ranted about the two.
“They can't be serious,” Armstrong groused.
“They are, Franklin, and believe me, they won't come back. That's about the most emotional I've seen Doctor Jackson-O'Neill in an official briefing in a long time.”
“*They're dogs*!” Armstrong shouted in objection.
“To you, not to them. If you let them walk out of here, you'd better start thinking of a new way to win back our allies.”
The veins in Armstrong's neck were bulging as he yelled, “*Sergeant Davis*!”
Meanwhile, in the corridor as they walked, Bijou and Katie on their leashes, Jack said to his husband, “You did good, Angel.”
“Even if it means that we finally cut the tie ... forever?”
“Bij and Katie *are* more important than the Stargate,” Jack opined, smiling down at the dogs.
“Do you really mean that Jack?”
“You know I do. Let's take the girls to the park before we go home,” Jack suggested.
Just as the elevator opened, Sergeant Davis hurried down the hall, calling out, “Sirs, General Armstrong would like you to come back.”
“Tell him 'no thanks', Sergeant.”
Just then Armstrong appeared. He looked at the two men and down at the beagles.
With a disgusted but resigned groan, Armstrong tore up the letters and advised, “Very well. Your ... dogs are cleared. Excuse me. Sergeant, come with me.”
Jack and Daniel looked at each other for several seconds, happy to have won this important battle.
“Girls, time to meet the Nox!”
“Bijou, Katie, this is the Stargate. Don't be frightened by the loud noises and that big swooshing thing that's gonna happen,” Jack said in the gate room thirty minutes later.
Jack was holding Katie, and Daniel had Bijou as they stood at the foot of the ramp watching the chevrons engage and then lock.
“Any second now,” Daniel warned.
“Wooooooooof!” Bijou commented.
“Yeah, we agree,” Jack laughed. “Now, we can carry you through or put you in your travel bags. Which would you two prefer?”
Both beagles seemed to lock themselves in place within the arms of their “parents.”
“That answers that. Let's go,” Jack urged, leading the way up the ramp and stepping through.
“Woo...woooo...wooooooooooooof!” Katie exclaimed, shaking her head after they had walked through.
“Woof!” Bijou added.
“You two okay?” Daniel asked. He observed the canines looking around, as if taking a survey. “Uh, do you want to get down?” he inquired.
Seeing the girls both fidgeting, Jack and Daniel put the beagles on the ground, each holding the appropriate leash.
“They seem okay,” Daniel noted.
“They're getting their bearings, Love. Adventure is in their blood,” Jack remarked with a smile. “Here comes Lya.”
Lya gave a tiny nod and spoke, “Greetings once again, friends.”
Daniel replied, “Thanks, Lya, for allowing this quick visit.”
“These are ... dogs?” the alien questioned, focusing on the species she'd never before seen.
“Woof!” Bijou answered.
“That means yes,” Jack mused.
“You can speak with them?” Lya asked.
“Woof, woof!” Katie answered.
“It's complicated,” Jack replied, his face scrunching slightly. “We'd like to just take them on a short walk around the area. Is that okay?”
Lya nodded as she answered, “Surely. May I accompany you?”
“Of course,” Daniel answered.
After an hour of romping on the Nox home world, the family returned to the SGC.
“You think they're okay?” Daniel asked as they headed for the security gate.
“We'll take them for a checkup,” Jack suggested.
“Danny, I love them, too,” the older man reminded. “We'll drop by Pam's, just to make sure.”
“What do you think those are?” Daniel asked about the unique items each of the dogs held in their mouths.
“Tree bone?” Jack wondered.
“The Nox learned about us pretty fast the first time we met them. I suppose they did the same with the girls.”
“You know that old saying, Daniel. If he looks like a bone and tastes like a bone, it must be a bone.”
In an abundance of caution, Jack and Daniel turned around and headed for the infirmary so that Janet could examine the alien treat. They knew the Nox would never intentionally offer anything to hurt the animals, but both wanted an assurance that it was some kind of bone or product that would not harm Bijou and Katie. Janet could examine the dogs as well, giving the couple even more confidence that the dogs were well. Even so, they still planned to go to the animal hospital owned by Pam Lawrence so she could examine the dogs.
“Are we being too cautious?” Daniel wondered as they walked.
“But we're doing all of this anyway.”
“Just wanted to make sure we were aware that we're going a bit overboard.”
Daniel smiled, as did his husband. Nothing would ever be taken for granted where the health and safety of their children and their beagles were concerned.
After a quick visit to the veterinarian, the Jackson-O'Neills returned home.
“Biiiiiiiiiiiiij!” Chenoa greeted the mama beagle. “Stargate fun?”
Chenoa giggled and then she and the beagles played while the adults chatted.
“How'd everything go, Sir?” babysitter Sam inquired.
“It went great, Carter. Looks like the girls are natural born space travelers.”
“Glad to hear it,” the blonde responded.
“We are, too, Sam,” Daniel stated. “Uh, excuse me. I'm gonna go ... play,” he advised as he walked over to the spot where Chenoa and the dogs were already having playtime fun.
“Is Daniel okay, Sir?” Sam asked quietly.
“Yeah, he's fine. He's just afraid we almost forgot again.”
“You mean ignoring the dogs? You haven't been, not when I've been around.”
“It wasn't going to happen. Funny. My genius over there hasn't thought to ask why Lya was expecting us, or Pam,” Jack mused.
Sam drew back a step as the realization hit and then stated, “You'd already thought of it.”
Jack warned, “Don't ruin my image, Carter. I only thought of it the day before. I called Hammond. He sent a message through and got the okay reply from Anteaus. The only question mark in the plan was Armstrong and whether or not he'd give in.”
“I'll bet he knows,” Sam commented, looking over at Daniel.
“Doesn't matter. What matters is that the Space Family Jackson-O'Neill is ready for action -- all of us.”
The next morning, Jack and Daniel were at the office, which was the house Daniel purchased a few years earlier and subsequently converted to their J-O Enterprises headquarters. They planned to spend the entire morning there before having lunch at O'Malley's and then meeting with a client in the early afternoon.
“I spoke with Yazid, Daniel. He agrees with you about the prospects for Mexico,” Megan informed her employer about a potential new project.
“Good and ...” Daniel began.
“Megan,” Jack interrupted. “Oh, sorry, Love. I didn't mean to interrupt.”
Jack was in the CEO office, the one he and Daniel shared. Megan had her own office space and that's where Daniel was conversing with her.
“That's okay. What's that?” Daniel asked, pointing to the folder and papers in his husband's hands.
“Well, I thought it was going to be a survey for the building in Las Cruces, but, Danny, I know I'm not an expert or anything, but doesn't this seem a little ... devoid of information?” Jack asked as he handed the file over to Daniel.
After looking through the report, Daniel responded, “Megan, Jack's right. This is flimsy. It's not half of what we need to know.”
Megan took possession of the file and reviewed it for a moment before saying, “Ty was working on that. Let me give him a call and find out what's happening.”
Jack and Daniel listened to their Director of Operations, impressed with how she conducted herself over the phone with the employee in question.
“We need that by the end of the workday, Ty ... yes, I understand, but there's really no excuse ... right ... correct, and I'll speak with Linda when you two get back ... thank you, Ty.”
“What happened?” Daniel questioned when Megan hung up the phone.
“You know Ty. He's taking the responsibility, but it's Linda Yoblait, one of the gals from the University. I wanted to give her a chance, but I just don't think she has what it takes.”
“Why not?” Jack questioned.
“She doesn't pay the proper attention to detail. She gets excited about something and wants to jump ahead to the big finish, but in this business, the big finish is accomplished by taking a thousand tiny steps. Linda doesn't understand that. The survey work she was supposed to include in with the courier didn't make it because she was more focused on the big picture rather than the importance of her specific task.”
“Do you want to replace her?” Jack asked, curious to see what she'd say.
“Well, I'm mixed. She's good, but ... truthfully, this is a business, and she's been here for two months. Over and over again, we've tried to impress on her the importance of being specific and detailed.” Megan sighed, “I think we need to let her go. If you like, I can put together some new potential replacements for you two to review.”
“Megan, we brought you something,” Daniel said, purposely not answering the question. “Uh, be right back,” he advised, getting up and scurrying to his office to retrieve the object.
Jack grinned smugly, while Megan tried to interpret his facial expression. Before she got too far, Daniel returned, revealing a small package that was beautifully gift-wrapped.
“This is for you, from Jack and I, in appreciation for all you've done to make J-O a success.”
“Guys, you didn't have to do this,” Megan spoke as she took the gift.
“We know. That's why we did,” Jack boasted with a big smile. “And we have news.”
“But open that first,” Daniel instructed.
“Wow! This is beautiful,” Megan commented as she removed the gift from its box.
“We hope you like it,” Jack expressed sincerely.
“It's ... you shouldn't have. Thank you both,” the woman gushed while strapping on her new diamond watch. She stood and walked to her employers, hugging each of them. After a few more minutes of chit chat, Megan returned to her desk and sat down. “You said you had news.”
“We're giving you a raise,” Jack informed.
“Um, last I heard, a raise was considered good news,” a grinning Megan replied.
“There's a catch,” the silver-haired man explained.
“The catch is that it comes with your promotion,” Daniel interjected.
“Promotion? What's higher than D.O.?” the woman chuckled.
“D.O. Plus,” Jack teased.
Jack and Daniel proceeded to tell Megan that they were increasing her responsibilities. Her job title wouldn't change, but her authority level would heighten and she'd have to take on even more decision-making, if she accepted the job.
“And you can choose an assistant,” Daniel pointed out.
“That's easy. Karissa. She's our best worker and I trust her totally,” Megan stated. She looked at her two employers and questioned, “Guys, I'm not complaining, but why?”
“We're going back to the SGC part-time,” Daniel announced.
“*If* they don't renege on our terms,” Jack clarified. “And if they do, we'll be out of there before they ...”
“Jack,” Daniel interrupted. “Um, Megan, essentially we made a lot of demands and they surprised us by meeting all of them, but as long as going back doesn't adversely affect our family and J-O Enterprises, and as long as they continue to honor our requests ...”
“We're baaaaack,” Jack teased, sounding like the little girl from the 'Poltergeist' movie.
Daniel chuckled, “It'll only be two or three days a week, but it'll mean giving up a bit of the day-to-day dealings for J-O.” Quickly, he promised, “We're still here, though, Megan. We're definitely going on the Mexico dig and J-O is our number one professional priority.”
“I'm in,” Megan responded. “How is my role changing?”
“Let's sit down,” Jack suggested.
The lovers settled in their seats and spoke with Megan in greater detail about her new role within the company. She was advised of her new salary, after which she officially accepted the new challenge, which pleased both men immensely.
The following Friday was the conclusion of the couple's first week back at Stargate Command, although since they did not work Monday, it was only a four-day week. They spent most of it settling in. Jack was given his old office back and another star on his uniform with its commensurate raise in pay, while Daniel was assigned his familiar office/lab on Level 18 and a nice salary increase of his own. The first task completed was preparation of their first month's schedule. After that was submitted, the renewed SG-1's first mission was assigned. In three days, the team would go on their first official mission to try and restore honor to the Tau'ri name. It would be to the world of the Hedronix where honor was highly cherished.
It was late at night, nearly midnight, in fact, and the lovers were alone in the stillness of the embarkation room's doorway at Cheyenne Mountain. They didn't need to hurry home as their children were spending the night with Janet and Cassandra, who was home from college for a few days visiting with her mother. Even the beagles were at Janet's.
The past month was a long one, full of unexpected turns and twists. One thing the couple was especially happy about was that Lou and Carolyn met Trina and taken a shine to her, even with the lip she gave them. They put in an application to become foster parents and were spending as much time with the troubled teenager as they could. The wall was being chipped away and even though only knew Trina a little bit, the Ferrettis were hopeful of breaking through Trina's shell and being accepted as her foster parents. If nothing else, it was a start.
As they stood in silence of the open doorway of the empty gate room, staring at the Stargate, Jack looked up and over and saw a technician at the controls as Daniel studied the device that still held mysteries to be discovered. The newest Air Force major general smiled and led his lover to the base of the ramp. Once again, as was done almost three years earlier, the circular Chappa'ai formed a beautiful backdrop with the lovers framed in the center of the ancient device.
Jack turned his husband to face him. He placed the palm of his left hand on the young man's right cheek. Automatically, Daniel leaned into the touch, closing his eyes.
“We're back,” Jack whispered.
“With eight children. Are we crazy, Jack?”
“We've never been normal, Danny. I'm not sure who we were trying to kid, but I think we're supposed to be here, with the brood, crazy as that sounds,” the military man laughed.
“The Mouseketeers love the Stargate.”
“We'll keep them safe,” Jack assured.
“No Goa'uld, Jack,” Daniel warned. “We can't put them in danger.”
“We won't. We're calling all the shots, remember?”
Daniel smiled, enjoying the feeling of Jack's hand which now caressed his cheek, and commented, “In a way, we're home again, I mean, we're back at our home away home.”
Seconds later, Jack kissed his Heart, the contact a long, lingering, and needy kiss.
“I love you, Danny.”
“I love you, Jack. Let's go home, to our real home,” Daniel replied softly.
Hand in hand, the lovers exited the gate room and headed for the checkout points, chatting freely as they did so.
“Danny, did we hear from Abracadabra about the new job?” Jack inquired.
Daniel shook his head at his husband, laughing as he answered, “Yes. *Abayomi* left a message this morning. I forgot to tell you with all the SGC meetings we had today.”
“We got it!” the archaeologist exclaimed happily. “It'll mean a month, maybe more, for J-O in Mexico.”
“Yes!” Jack exclaimed excitedly. “We'll send Megan down first. When are we doing this?”
“First of the year probably. I thought we'd do like you said, send Megan and an advance team to get started. We'd have to go for the first few days, make sure everything is in place, but then we can let Megan handle the preliminaries. We can follow their progress from here, but we'd have to go back towards the end for at least a week. This is too big of a job to leave for Megan alone.”
The lovers signed out and were stopped a couple of times with 'welcome back' greetings from some of those working the late shift who hadn't yet seen them during the week. Finally, they reached the parking level and continued their conversation begun minutes earlier.
“About Mexico, don't you think we should be there the entire time?” Jack queried.
“Well ... yes, but what about the SGC?”
Jack stopped Daniel, turning his lover to face him, and insisted, “Danny, we call the shots, or I'm calling this off right now. Our number one priority is our brood. Number two is J-O. The SGC? It's number three on the list. We agreed, right?”
“That's what I want. Be honest, Love. Don't hold out on me.”
“I love you, Jack,” Daniel responded. “Yes, it's what I want, too. J-O comes before the SGC.”
“Then, we plan it. January in Mexico? Heat versus cold? I think we're definitely the winners. I figure we can get Ty to make an ...”
Daniel smiled, listening to his husband talk about their archaeological company. His soulmate knew the terms now, was more sure about what needed to be done and when, and had a good handle on the capabilities of their staff.
“Jack?” Daniel cut off his husband.
“I'm the winner,” the younger man put forth with a broad smile and sparkling blue eyes.
“Huh?” Jack questioned as he took his seat in the car.
After closing the car door, Daniel answered, “I have you, and I love you so much.”
Jack and Daniel kissed inside the Silver Fox and headed for home, where they planned to take advantage of their rare night without children and make love well into the daylight hours. It was, after all, Friday night, which was their usual date night.
The Stargate was back in their lives, but in reality, it had never really left. Still, they were happy without it, and each made daily vows to make sure that their priorities stayed focused -- their children (human and animal) first and their business, second, both areas ahead of the SGC.
Even more than that, Jack and Daniel pledged once again that their nation of two would never fall victim to the SGC or any demands of life. Forever and always, their love for each other would be above all else. That was the declaration, spoken and held deep in their hearts, for Jack and Daniel of Colorado Springs.