Ten Months

Author: Orrymain
Category: Slash, Angst, Humor, H/C, Drama, Romance, Established Relationship
Pairing: Jack/Daniel ... and it's all J/D
Rating:  NC-17
Season:  Beyond the Series -- February 16, 2006 - November 20, 2006
Spoilers:  Hathor, The Serpent's Lair, Need, Message in a Bottle, One False Step, The Other Side, Shades of Grey, Upgrades, New Order
Size:  823kb total
--Chapter One:  50kb
--Chapter Two:  44kb
--Chapter Three:  42kb
--Chapter Four:  108kb
--Chapter Five:  48kb
--Chapter Six:  78kb
--Chapter Seven:  126kb
--Chapter Eight:  142kb
--Chapter Nine:  94kb
--Chapter Ten:  91kb
Written:  December 11-15,20-21,23-25, 2003, January 8-9,28-31, February 1-10,13-14,18,20-21,27-29, April 7, July 13-18,20,22,24-25,27-30, August 3,5-6, 2004  Tweaked: Ch. 7 only August 21, 2004  All chapters revised for consistency:  July 15-22, 2007
Summary:  Jack and Daniel finally start their family.  Witness it all, from the insemination through those first crazy weeks when they come home from the hospital.
Disclaimer:  Usual disclaimers -- not mine, wish they were, especially Daniel, and Jack, too, but they aren't.  A gal can dream though!
Notes:  
1) Due to spoiler potential, most notes are at the conclusion of this piece.
2) Hanky warning for some of the chapters.
3) The story stands on its own, but has references to several of my prior fics including “Dangerous Interludes,” “Stay Awake,” “Because You Loved Me,” “Delusions of Love,” “The Last Mission,” “Black and White,” “Brothers,” “Just When You Thought You Knew Jack ...,” “Flying High,” "Daniel Jackson - Fly Boy?" and “Heart and Soul”
4) Thanks to my betas who always make my fics better:  Charlotte, Suzanna, Drdjlover, Claudia, QuinGem!  A nod to Dianna as well for some tips on the delivery.  Also, thanks to Linda, Jodi, Ysandir, Jo, Carol, and Melissa for doing a quick read through on one or two of the chapters that went through big changes on the consistency revision.

Ten Months
by Orrymain

====

-- Chapter One:  Planting the Seed

====

“Welcome back, Kayla,” Jack greeted Janet's niece enthusiastically, giving her a big hug.

“Sorry, couldn't get Teal'c off the phone,” Daniel said, running into the living room from the study.

“Book of the month time?” Jack questioned.

“Yeah.  He's fascinated by Oprah's selections,” Daniel stated.

“Teal'c?” Kayla inquired.

“Uhhhh,” Daniel groaned, looking at Jack, who shrugged.  “Teal'c is ... well, you know him as Murray.”

“Oh, your friend from overseas, right?” Kayla asked.

“Sort of.”  Daniel smiled as he and Kayla hugged, saying, “Nice to see you,” while hoping the woman would let the name conflict go.

“Teal'c is an unusual name,” Kayla commented.

“Actually, Murray is his real name, and Teal'c is a nickname.  It's an inside joke and a lonnnnng story,” Jack fibbed, hoping to curve the young woman's curiosity”  **Don't yell at me, Danny, unless you want to tell her about the Stargate,** he communicated, seeing his lovers' stare.

**I'm not yelling, but I don't like lying,** Daniel responded.

**It's not lying; it's a fib for national security's sake,** the older man exaggerated.

**Right; Kayla's a big threat,** Daniel sighed inwardly.

“Funny nickname,” Kayla chuckled.

“He's a funny guy,” Jack replied.  Twisting around, he invited, “Let's sit down.  Would you like something to drink?”

“Lemonade or juice would be nice, if you have it.”

“Sure, be right back,” Jack said as he headed for the kitchen.

“Where are the girls?”

Daniel smiled, touched that Kayla would inquire about the two beagles, Bijou and Katie.

“Well, when I looked outside a minute ago, Katie was sunning herself, and Bijou was chasing a squirrel,” the archaeologist answered.

“I'd love to see them,” the young woman stated, a smile on her face.

~Gawd, I like her.~  “You sure?”

Seeing Kayla's nod, Daniel stood and went to the patio door.  He called the two dogs, watching as they sprinted inside and ran straight to their guest.

“Hello, Bijou and Katie!”

Jack listened from the kitchen as he prepared their drinks.  He, too, had a smile on his face, pleased that the dogs had taken to Kayla.

~It's a plus.  Definitely a plus.~

“Did you enjoy Yellowstone?” Daniel asked the brunette, smiling at the way the beagles lay down by her feet as she continued to pet them for another minute.

“Definitely.  You know me by now.  I love everywhere I go.  Seeing the world, experiencing different cultures, meeting new people.  I just thrive on that, Daniel.”

“You'd make a great anthropologist.”

“I considered that for a while, but it's a bit too limiting,” Kayla replied.

“Here we go, lemonade for all!” Jack announced as he put a small tray on the coffee table.

There was a pitcher of pink lemonade, a small bucket of tiny ice cubes, and three glasses, already filled with the pastel colored drink, along with some napkins.  A bowl of Chex Mix was also on the tray.

“Thank you, Jack,” Kayla said as she reached down to grab a glass.

“Daniel made notes from the last time you were here,” Jack said as he and Daniel both reached for their glasses of the fizzy drink at the same time.

“Thank you, Daniel.”  Kayla smiled.  ~Janet is right.  They really are in sync with each other.~

Holding his glass in his hand as he sat on the arm of Jack's favorite chair, Daniel looked at Jack and then back at the young woman who could see the men's nervousness shining through.

“You're welcome.”  Daniel returned her smile.  “Besides, I like lemonade, too.  It's ...” Daniel had stretched out his hand over Jack absentmindedly, as if to motion “it was nothing,” but he had forgotten he had a drink in his hand, and so when he turned over his hand, the drink spilled onto Jack's lap.

“Oh, gawd!  Jack, I'm sorry.”

Daniel jumped up, almost spilling the rest of the drink onto the floor before he thought to put the glass down.

“For crying out loud, Daniel,” Jack bellowed as he reached for a napkin to try and dry his damp pants.

“Oh, gawd,” Daniel repeated, on the verge of hyperventilating.

Jack suddenly heard the panic in Daniel's voice, and just as suddenly, his damp pants meant nothing.  He stood and took Daniel in his arms.

“It's okay, Love.  You didn't mean to.  You're just nervous,” Jack soothed, feeling the tension in his lover while he gently caressed Daniel's back.  “Breathe, Danny.  It's okay.  Breathe.  That's it.”

Daniel had closed his eyes.  He felt anxious, and now he feared everything was going wrong.  His right hand clung to his husband's shirt as he felt a deep remorse for having ruined their plans.

“Gawd, I'm sorry.”

Jack pulled back and gazed into Daniel's eyes as he expressed, “I love you.”  He placed a tender kiss on Daniel's lips.  “It's fine, Danny. I'm going to go upstairs and change.  Are you okay?”

Daniel was still breathing rapidly, but he nodded.  Jack considered going upstairs alone, but then decided against it.

“Kayla, will you excuse us a moment?” Jack requested.

“Sure, go ahead.  I'll enjoy my drink here with the girls,” Kayla answered, reaching down to the floor to massage the middle of Katie's back.

“Come on, Love.”

“I should stay ...”

“Come on.”  Jack tugged on Daniel's hand, pulling him into motion and up the stairs to their bedroom, closing the door after they walked in.  Before Daniel could speak, he kissed him passionately as he held his heart close.  “Listen to me.  It's okay.  Stuff like that happens all the time.”

“I'm a clumsy geek,” Daniel lamented.

“No, you're not, and you never were.  You were just ... nervous sometimes, and that's okay, Danny.”

“Jack, maybe I'm ... I mean ... gawd ...”

“Daniel, it was a drink, not our baby.”

“Our baby.”

Daniel suddenly grinned, loving the sound of the word and the entire phrase.

“Yeah ... sounds good, doesn't it?” Jack asked.  Daniel nodded and seemed more steady again, so Jack finally removed his soggy pants and put on a new pair.  “You okay now?”

“Thanks, Jack ... but if I were Kayla, I'd run.”

“Don't over think.  Let's get back down there,” the older man stated.

“What if she says no?” Daniel questioned nervously.

“Then we'll deal with it.”  Jack cupped his lover's face gently in his hands and said, “Danny, we've taken a lot of time to think about this, and so has Kayla.  She's been all over the world in the last year or two, but doesn't it seem like fate that at the same time she wrote that she was ready to settle down again for a while that we had just decided that we were definitely going to retire and have our family?”

“It does seem like destiny, doesn't it?”

“Geez, Love, we had just had the conversation, and ten minutes later, her email comes through.  'Hey, guys, I'm tired of traveling.  I think I'll come home for a year or more.  Maybe the Springs even.'  Danny, that was a message.  I'm sure of it.”

“I want it to be, Jack.  I ... I want Kayla to have our babies.”

“Me, too,” Jack said with a nod.  Then he kissed his husband.  “Come on.  We'd better corral her before she runs for the hills.”

“That was bad, Jack.”

“Can't come up with a winner all the time,” the older man said as he headed for the hallway.

“I did.  I have you.”

~Geez, what he does to me.~  Jack turned, love blooming in his eyes.  He reached out and took Daniel's hand in his, squeezing tightly.  His voice was tender and full of emotion as he verbalized his inward thought of just a moment before.  “Geez, what you do to me; how you make me feel. Love you, Angel.”

“I love you, too.”

====

Back downstairs, Daniel apologized, “Sorry about that.”

“Not a problem,” Kayla said with a laugh.  “I've done a lot worse in my time.  Do you know that I once dropped an ice cream cone on Tom Cruise?”

“You're making that up,” Daniel said, confident Kayla was only trying to make him feel better.

“No, I'm not.  He was making a film, and I bumped into him ... literally.  Boy, was I embarrassed.”

“I know how you feel,” Daniel said, folding his arms across his chest as he again sat on the arm of Jack's chair.

“Guys, what do you say we skip the travel updates, put the lemonade and ice cream cones behind us, and get to the real topic of the night?”

“Good idea,” Jack said, leaning forward in his chair, his hands rubbing together.  “We've made our decision,” Jack reached over and took Daniel's hand, forcing him to stop the self-hug.  “We've decided on what we hope our family will be and how we want to get there.  Have you made your decision?”

“As a matter of fact, I have, and just so you know, I'm very secure in it.  I'm positive that my decision is in the best interests of all concerned.”

“Who goes first?” Daniel asked timidly.

“We should.  After all, we started it, Danny.  Uh, Kayla, Daniel and I do want to start our family, and we're ready to do it.  I'll be retiring in April, maybe earlier, depending on the schedule.  It's been in the works for a while.  They keep asking us to stay, and we keep doing it, but the time's right, so in two months at the latest, I'm out.”

“We're out,” Daniel corrected.

“We're out,” Jack echoed, adding, “So, we want to proceed.”

Daniel jumped in, talking rapidly, almost in lecture mode as he said, “We've studied all the alternatives, which you know, and we've talked to a lot of people. We like you, Kayla.  From the very first moment at Janet's lawn party when you started talking about being a surrogate someday, I knew.  I can't explain how, but I did.”

Jack continued, “You're probably aware that we checked you out thoroughly.”

“Oh, yes, and I did the same with you,” Kayla replied, smiling at the two men.

Laughing, Jack responded, “We know, but more important than background checks and resumes was the rapport that we believe we've built over the last year or so.  I know I haven't been good at staying in touch.  Words aren't my thing.”

“Oh, yes, they are,” Daniel stated confidently.

Jack flinched a little, but continued without missing a beat, “... but I've seen and been a part of all the emails and communications you've had with Daniel, and every one showed you in nothing but a good light.”

“Kayla, Jack and I would very much like for you to be the mother of our children.  Preferably of both, but if it's too much, we'll understand and find someone else for the other, but you're our first choice.  Will you ... will you carry our children for us?”

The twenty-six-year-old female leaned forward and looked at Jack, then over at Daniel.

The couple watched Kayla closely for a sign, any sign.  Daniel felt his heart in his throat, and Jack thought living through his prison nightmare in Iraq had been easier than waiting for the woman's response now.

Kayla smiled as she revealed her answer, saying, “Yes.  I would be honored to bring your children, both of them, into this crazy world.  I can't wait.  Yes.”

“Oh, gawd!”

Jack jumped up and turned to face Daniel who was stunned speechless. The young man had just been overwhelmed.  It was the answer he wanted, but when Kayla spoke the words, it was almost too much for him to process.

Jack took Daniel's hands in his, rubbing them as if to prevent his lover from going into shock.  Then Jack cupped his husband's face.

“Breathe, Danny.  She's going to have our baby.  Come on, Love.  In ... out ... in ... out.  There you go,” Jack spoke softly, calming his very jittery husband.

“Yes?  She said yes, Jack!”  Turning to Kayla, Daniel needed verification that he wasn't hearing things.  “You did say yes?”

“Yes,” Kayla said as she sat, a bit weepy-eyed at Daniel's reaction.

“We're ... going to have a baby ... I mean, two of them.”

“How about that?”  Jack gazed into Daniel's eyes.  “Geez, what you do to me,” he said as he caressed Daniel's left cheek and then kissed him.

“It's happening.”  As the lovers embraced, Daniel's eyes closed as he tried to soak it all in.  Daniel whispered, “She said 'yes'.  Our dreams, Jack.  They're finally going to come true.”

“Yes, they are, Angel, thanks to Kayla,” Jack said, kissing his Heart again.  Then he turned to the caring female.  “Thank you, from both of us.”

The young woman stood and hugged the couple.  

When the three broke apart, Daniel said, “We have a lot to talk about, but you've made us both so happy.  We can never thank you enough.”

“Yes, you can.  Raise them well, and be good parents.  That's the only thing I ask.”

====

“Jack, are you okay?”

Daniel had climbed the ladder to the roof deck, knowing Jack would be there.  It was almost 4 a.m. the next morning when Daniel had awakened to a lonely bed.

“Danny.  I've wanted this for so long.”  Jack paused.  His hands were latched tight to the top of the railing.  He bowed his head, shaking it for a second.  “You. Me.  Family.  All because of a falling star.”

Jack looked up towards the night sky, a bit in awe of the twinkling lights he saw.

Daniel smiled, remembering the night they had both admitted their love after watching a falling star flash through the sky, and said, “It's because you loved me, and never gave up on me.”

Jack turned his face to look at his lover, speaking softly, “I think that's the other way around.  You knew how I felt a long time before that night.  You could have left me high and dry.”

“No, I couldn't.  I loved you, Jack.”

“You didn't know that then.”

Daniel moved to Jack's side, putting his arms around his lover's.  He leaned his head on Jack's shoulder.

“We're having a family.  We've made it through all the nightmares, all the doubts and insecurities.  It's a wonderful feeling to finally know what ... what family is.”

“We made the right choice,” Jack said.

“Yes, we did.  Kayla is perfect.  The girls love her.”

Jack laughed, nodding his head as he replied, “I think that when Bij and Katie met her that first time, it sealed the deal for me.  Our girls are great judges of character.”

“That was important.  Jack, let's go back to bed,” the archaeologist suggested.

“Tired?”

“Nervous, and I have a hunch the next several months are going to ... be nerve-wracking.  I want to sleep while I still can.”

“I love you, Danny.”

“You know what's nice, Jack?”

“What?”

“Ten years ago, I couldn't even conceptualize being loved like this.  Now ... now I depend on it ... rely on it ... believe in it.  Gawd, I believe it.  It's such a part of me.  Thank you for giving me that ... for showing me what love is.”

“Angel,” Jack whispered before kissing his husband with a deep, passionate, needy kiss, one that led to more and more.

Daniel never did get to sleep again that night, but he had no complaints, either, being happy in the nation of two with his soulmate.

====

“... so Sylvia set the appointment for the twenty-second at 1100 hours,” Jack concluded, having filled his husband in on the details of his phone conversation with their doctor and friend who would be overseeing Kayla's insemination and pregnancy that all hoped would lead to pregnancy on the first try.

“That's so ... soon,” Daniel spoke, marveling at the happiness he was feeling.  ~It's really happening.~

“Syl knows we're anxious to get the show on the road,” Jack replied.

“You make us sound like a traveling circus or something,” the younger man chuckled.  “Step right up, and insert sperm.”

Laughing, Jack quipped, “You're in good hands with us.”

“Just pump and go,” Daniel retorted.

“Freshly made and freshly squeezed,” Jack offered.

“Okay, that's enough,” the archaeologist insisted, shaking his head at their insanity.

“Humor's a good thing, Love,” Jack put forth.

“I know,” Daniel agreed.  His mind shifted to Kayla and something the couple had been discussing for quite a while, even before the woman had agreed to be the mother of their children.  “Jack, we should make her the offer,” he professed.

“She'll refuse.  She's made that clear before, and Danny, I don't want her to think we're trying to, I don't know, coerce her or something.”

“I don't either,” Daniel replied as he sat on the edge of their bed, petting Bijou's tummy as she rolled over on her back.  “Hey, Bij, where's that pup of yours?”

“Woof!” the mama beagle answered as she turned back over and looked over to the closet.

“Uh oh,” Daniel said.

“I'll get her,” Jack said, walking to the closet.  “Aha -- there you are, you little thief.  You cannot have my slippers.  Don't look at me like that, you little runt.  Ya want Danny's slippers?”

“Jaaaack!”

“Just kidding, Angel.  Katie darlin',” Jack spoke in his Irish brogue.  “Are you tryin' to hint for some new toys, lass?”

“Woof! Woof!”

Daniel laughed as he stood up, urging, “Let's go.”

“Just like that?” Jack asked.

“Jack, look at her.  How long are you going to be able to ignore that look?” Daniel asked, trying to be realistic.

“What can I say, Love?  She does the pout almost as good as you.”

“Jack!”

The older man pulled Daniel into his arms, kissed him on the nose, and said, “Let's go.”

====

With their beagles in tow, Jack and Daniel spent quite a while at the local pet store.  Bijou selected a new bone, sweater, and squeaky ball, while Katie insisted on no less than eight new toys, including a chew toy and some rubber treasures for her play yard.

“Are you really going to get all of that?” Daniel asked.

“She wants them; needs them for her archaeology studies.”

“She has you wrapped around her little paw, Jack.”

“Well, why shouldn't she?  She is, after all, just like you.” Jack laughed as he headed for the counter with a very perky beagle on his heels.

====

It was four days after the shopping event with the beagles, and the couple had spent most of their free time debating over the offer they wanted to make to the young woman.  It had been difficult, but, in the end, they decided they had to give her this opportunity, because what she was giving to them was a blessing of a lifetime.

“I wasn't expecting to see you two tonight,” Kayla said, letting Jack and Daniel into her just-rented apartment.  “Change in plans?”

“No, no, Sylvia is expecting us tomorrow at eleven,” Jack stated.  “We'll pick you up at ten, if that's okay.”

“I can drive myself,” the independent women stated.  Seeing the looks on the two male faces, she chuckled, “Ten will be fine.  So, what's up?”

“I'm sorry.  We should have called.  We'll go,” Daniel said as he tugged on Jack's arm.

The general didn't budge, however, saying, “He's right.  We should have phoned, but we wanted to talk to you about something.  Do you want us to go?”

“No, of course not.  Have a seat,” Kayla invited, pointing towards her new sofa. “I was just reading.  So, what's up?” she asked again.  “Oh, care for something to drink?”

“No, we just came from dinner,” Jack answered, sitting down.  “Kayla, Danny and I have gone round and round about this for a while, but the last few days, it's been very difficult because, well, to be honest, there's a part of us that's afraid you might misunderstand what we ...”  He paused, looking at his lover before continuing, “... would like to offer you.”

“I don't want your money.”

“No, that's not what we're offering ... exactly,” Daniel stated.

“Daniel, I told you both from the beginning ...”

'Kayla, um, will you hear us out ... please?” the younger man requested.
 
“Of course.  I'm sorry, go ahead,” Kayla permitted.  She listened in silence as Daniel made their proposal.  She was totally surprised by the offer.  Standing, she walked around her place, looking at some of her collected treasures from various trips throughout the world.  “You're right.  I've felt this desire to write my novel for some time.  The passion is there.  I can't describe it.  It's like a song ... music, that plays in my head over and over.  All these ideas demanding to find their place on paper.  I need to do it.  I *have* to do it.  I just never imagined I would have the opportunity to ... to make my dream come true.”

“Kayla,” Daniel stood and walked to her.  “We ... you're giving us such a wonderful gift, and Jack and I ... well, we're believers in making dreams come true.  What we're offering benefits all of us.  It helps Jack and I because our babies will have the same birth mother and then both legally and biologically, they'll truly be siblings, and with the laws how they are, that will be a big plus for us.  I mean, uh, it'll just make it that much easier.”

“I know what you mean, Daniel,” Kayla stated, smiling and taking another look at Jack.  “I don't want to owe you.  I ... like you said, this is my dream, and I don't want it handed to me on a silver platter.  I want to work for it.  When I get it, I want to know that it's an achievement that I made happen.  Does that make sense?”

“Yes,” Daniel said a bit sadly, returning to the sofa to sit back down by his husband again.

“Listen, Kayla, I'm all for independence and all of that, but we are asking you to essentially give up two years, maybe more of your life; to push back a couple of those trips, so why shouldn't you get something from it, too?  What's the harm in all of us winning?” Jack challenged.

Kayla rubbed her hands together as she considered the proposal.  Jack's words had been logical.  She was giving up something, and what they were offering wasn't a handout.

“It is my one opportunity, and I have to admit, I may not get another.”

Daniel smiled, sensing an opening, and pleaded hopefully, “And don't you see, Kayla?  You're giving Jack and I our one big opportunity to have our children raised together the way we want.  Please, let us help you with your opportunity, like you're helping us.”

Kayla turned her head and released a breath.  It sounded almost too good to be true, and yet, looking at her new friends, she could taste the dream she had coveted in her heart for so long.

“Okay, but it has to be on my terms,” Kayla stated.

“Which would be?” Jack asked.

“It's a straight loan, with interest, and we keep solid records.  I will work part-time because I'd feel inadequate if I didn't, but the rest of the time, I would write.”

“We have no problem with that,” Jack agreed.

“So, just to be clear, what you're proposing is that we do the first insemination with Daniel's sperm, and after that baby is born, a few months later, we go right ahead with yours, Jack?  Correct?”

“That's affirmative.”

“Jack, you're retiring,” Daniel chastised, rolling his eyes at the military-like response.

“Sorry, it's habit,” Jack responded.  “That's correct, Kayla.  That way, our children are only separated by a year or so, and that's pretty much what we want.”

“You pay only what I absolutely need.  No frills,” the young woman stated.

“Agreed,” Jack said.

“And I pay you back, with interest.  No hedging, Guys,” Kayla put forth.

“Agreed,” Daniel confirmed solidly.

“Deal!  This is so exciting!  I'm going to write my novel!” the young woman gushed happily.

“And we can't wait to read it, Kayla,” Daniel said enthusiastically.

“You two are awesome!”

The couple looked embarrassed, evading Kayla's glances.  The trio spent another hour talking about Kayla's book and the baby plans.  Everything was moving quickly now, and every day, Jack and Daniel were moving another step forward towards becoming parents.

====

The day had arrived.  All the preliminary examinations, questions, and decisions had been handled.  Kayla had passed a thorough physical and spent a lot of time with the doctor reviewing the process.  Thus, Jack and Daniel received a 'go' from Sylvia.  All the lovers had to do now to keep the process moving along was to deliver the sperm.

“Are you nervous?” Daniel asked.

“Me?  I'm a general in the United States Air Force, at least for another month or so.  This isn't exactly something new, you know.”

“Right, Jack.  I'm petrified.”

Jack drew Daniel into his arms and kissed him, passing on his strength and calm as he suggested, “Just think of me because I'll be thinking of you.”

“I love you so much, Jack.  Today, it's not just another day.  It's the most important time we've ever ... you know.”

“Geez, Daniel, don't ever change.  You're priceless, a gem, and I love you just the way you are ... practically perfect in every way.”

“Gawd, you're quoting Mary Poppins again.”

“You'd prefer Tinkerbell?” Jack quipped.  Seeing Daniel pick up the phone, he queried, “Hey, who are you calling?”

“The clinic,” Daniel answered.

“Why?  We'll be there in an hour.”

“To tell them to switch the sperm.  They need to lose yours and replace it with ... the Scarecrow,” the younger man joked.

Jack laughed at his soulmate, and right now, they needed some humor to help them relax.  He had to admit that while he wasn't as anxiety-ridden as Daniel, he still was a bit nervous.

“Love you, Space Monkey.”

Putting the phone down, Daniel chuckled before responding, “Love you too, My Silver Fox.  Gawd, I'm so nervous.”

“We've only done this how many times?”

“Too many to count,” Daniel answered shyly.

“This time, we're creating a baby,” Jack stated, knowing that was the difference between this time and every other time over the years that the couple had been together.

“Two babies.”

Jack leaned forward and kissed his husband again, saying, “Just remember, we can't get carried away.”

“Jack, I'm too nervous to get carried away.  I can't breathe,” Daniel pointed out, not exaggerating at all.

“Angel, look at me.  Just look at me.  This is the closest we'll ever be to creating our children together.  It's something we'll always remember.  So, just take a breath, try to relax, and think about the baby we're helping to create right now.”

“I love you.”  Daniel leaned over and cupped Jack's face and kissed him mightily.  “Love you so much.”

“Let's create a baby or two.  Ready?”

“Ready!”

Never losing eye contact, Jack and Daniel then produced the sperm samples needed for the insemination, each working the other to completion in a loving caress of creation.

The twosome followed the instructions Sylvia had given them to protect the samples and quickly washed up.  Then, they headed for the clinic.  As long as they made it there within the hour, they'd be okay.

“Do you want me to drive?” Jack asked with a grin.

“No, I think I can handle it,” Daniel said, rolling his eyes.

“And boy do you know how to handle it!”

“Jaaaack.”

Daniel blushed, getting into the car.  He made good time driving his sporty Silver Fox, the 1999 Shelby-American Jack had gifted him with years before.  He loved the racing car because it reminded him of his own silver-haired human fox, his Jack.

====

“Hello, Jack, Daniel.  How are you guys feeling?” Doctor Sylvia Preston greeted.

“Great!  Raring to go.”  Jack grinned, holding a bag up.  “Or maybe I should say we were, and here's the proof.”

“Don't buy it, Sylvia.  He's as scared as I am about the whole thing,” Daniel interjected.

“Men!  You all get so uptight when it's time to produce the goods.  You make a big fuss when there's nothing to it.”

“That's what every woman thinks,” Daniel snorted.

Doctor Sylvia Preston, a long time friend of Jack's and now one of Daniel's, too, had been assisting the couple as they prepared for the artificial insemination.  She was a consultant for one of the leading clinics in Denver and was overseeing their case.

“Fellas, you remember Nancy?”  After Jack and Daniel nodded hellos to one of the nurses, Sylvia informed, “Nancy will process the samples, so if you'll hand them over, she can begin.  Do you two have any questions?”

“Yeah, do you have anything for hyperventilation?” Daniel asked anxiously.

“Ah, Danny.”

Jack leaned over and kissed his husband.  He loved that he could do this openly.  Their hiding was coming to an end, and for Jack, it wasn't ending soon enough.

“Sorry, I'm still nervous.”

“Relax, Daniel.  There's no need to be nervous,” Sylvia said reassuringly.  “Kayla's the one who should be nervous today.”

“Where is she anyway?” Jack asked.

“How *is* Kayla?” Daniel corrected sternly.

“She's in another room, and she's just fine.  The gonadotropin injections seem to have worked as expected, and she's ... raring to go, as you say, Jack.”  Sylvia smiled at the two men.  “Jack?  Daniel?  Um,” the doctor pointed at the brown bags they were carrying, “We can't proceed without your ... contributions.  Hand over the goods.”

“Right!” both said in unison, handing the 'goods' as Sylvia had called them over to the nurse.

“Now, I want to verify this.  You want me to keep both of these fresh ... why?”

Jack answered, “Because of a lifetime in the military, Syl.  We've learned the hard way to never go in without backup.”

“That ... makes ... sense, I guess,” Sylvia responded.

“We've ... seen things, Sylvia,” Daniel spoke sincerely.  “You just never know what tomorrow might bring, so Jack and I are just covering our bases ... in case something ... um, something unforeseen happens.”

“I could freeze this.  It would last longer, Jack,” the physician pointed out.

“No, we just want this to last for the duration of what we're doing now, in case something crazy happens.”  As Sylvia looked at her friends in confusion, the general stated seriously, “Look, Syl, we just like to have a backup plan for everything we do.”

“There's always an 'or',” Daniel said, “... which doesn't make sense to you, does it?”

“But it does to you two?”  Seeing her clients' smiles, she nodded and agreed, “Okay, not a problem.  Nancy will process both per our normal procedures.”

“So, Syl, you inseminate Kayla today, and then what?” Jack questioned.

“We'll do a follow-up in a week or so, inducing ovulation again.  It simply increases the chance of Kayla becoming pregnant right away.  If she doesn't conceive this month, we'll continue the cycle twice a month for the next two months, and if nothing happens, we'll discuss alternatives, but let's not get ahead of ourselves, okay?”

“Okay,” Daniel exhaled and spoke at the same time.

“Breathe, Danny,” Jack urged as he tugged the younger man to him, his arm wrapping around him protectively from behind.  Looking at Sylvia and Nancy, he mouthed silently, “First time father jitters.”

“Jack, I love you, but stop speaking behind my back.”

“And I love you, even if you do have eyes in the back of your head.”

“I do not!” the archaeologist argued.

“Do, too!” the general insisted.

“Stop it, Jack. We're not at home.”

“We will be soon enough.”

“Jack!” Daniel warned.

“Daniel!” Jack chuckled.

Daniel rolled his eyes, saying, “Gawd, why are we doing this?  You're just a big child yourself.”

Jack laughed loudly.  His husband was right, but Jack was just glad he also knew Daniel wouldn't want him any other way, nor could Jack live any other way.

“Come on, Daddy.  Let's go see Kayla before the procedure,” Jack said, leading his lover away.

“How they kept their relationship a secret for all those years, I'll never know,” Sylvia whispered to Nancy as she watched the couple walk out.

====

Several days later, SG-1 walked through the Stargate on their latest mission.  Jack looked over the area and adjusted his sunglasses, while Sam took her usual readings, verifying that everything was okay for them to proceed.

“Looks good, Sir,” Sam reported.

“Okay, Kids, let's move out,” Jack ordered his team onto the rugged terrain of PX0-399.

SG-1 was on a standard recon mission, a trek to check for mineral deposits and possibly to make contact with the locals.  Three hours into the mission, however, the team hadn't seen anything but large stones and desert.

“Carter, are you sure there is something worthwhile on this planet?” Jack questioned in his usual semi-sarcastic mission tone.

“I can't be positive, Sir, but the UAV picked up some signs of rare minerals that could be useful to us, and there were images nearby of what appeared to be dwellings.”

“Appeared to be?” the general asked.

“They were pretty primitive, Sir,” Sam stated.

“How primitive?” Jack questioned, ready to call the mission a bust and return home.

“Huts and something that resembled Indian teepees,” the blonde colonel answered.

“Swell.  Where, Colonel?”

“Should be up ahead,” Sam said, motioning in the appropriate direction.

“Colonel?” Jack asked sharply, wanting a clear and distinct indication of where the dwellings were.

“A...about another two miles according to the data,” Sam hedged, knowing what Jack's reaction would be.

“Two more miles in this heat.  That's just ... peachy, Carter.”

“Who knows, Jack?  Maybe we'll find some ruins,” Daniel jested.

Jack stared at his lover, then twisted his face as he sarcastically spoke, “Very funny, Daniel.  Let's get going.”

====

Finally, SG-1 reached the desired area.

“I don't see anyone,” Daniel said curiously as he stared at the community of small structures in front of them.

“It looks deserted,” Sam commented.

“I don't like it.  Heads up,” Jack warned.

The general led his team from the hill overlooking the small valley down to the vicinity of the huts.  They still didn't see anyone, but the huts were full of signs of life -- cots, cooking utensils, clothes.

“These ... dwellings seem to be made out of ... canvas and some kind of mortar,” Sam observed.

“There are bricks used on some of these.  Well, they look like bricks, but ... they're softer,” Daniel said, reaching out to touch one and observing that the brick-like material was sturdy but also flexible.

“Do you suppose the inhabitants are in hiding, O'Neill?” Teal'c asked.

“From what?” Daniel questioned.  “They couldn't have known we were coming.”

Jack responded, “Well, something's not right.  Maybe we should ...”

“Jack,” Daniel interrupted, looking off to the northeast.  “Do you hear that?”

The team stood still, listening to the noise seemingly being carried by the wind.

“Laughter?” Sam commented.

“And lots of it,” Daniel added.

“Let's check it out,” Jack ordered as he began to move toward the noise.

As the four followed the noise, the gravel road turned, circling around a large group of the huts.

“I don't believe it,” Jack said.

“Wow!” Sam exclaimed.

Daniel stood, his mouth open as he took in the sight.  In front of them were approximately one hundred people, most of which were wading in a large opening in the ground.

“Is that a pool?” Jack asked.

“It looks like a hole in the ground, O'Neill.”

Indeed, there wasn't any cement or fiberglass, or any other substance the team recognized to make up the pool, but it did look like a large hole, and it was full of a liquid.

“Is that ... water?” Daniel asked as he looked at the light pink liquid the people were wading in.

“I don't know,” Sam answered.

“We have visitors,” a man called out, causing the inhabitants to turn and face SG-1.

“Welcome,” one of the females said, elevating herself out of the liquid.

“Holy levitation,” Jack said, stepping back a foot.  When Daniel stared at him, he asked, “What?”

“Nothing.”  Daniel sighed and moved towards the inhabitants.  He motioned to himself with his right hand as he spoke, “Hello.  I'm Daniel Jackson, and this is Colonel Carter, that's Teal'c, and this is, uh, Jack.”

Jack looked at his lover incredulously and communicated via their special non-verbal communication, **Jack?  Carter's a colonel and I'm just ... Jack?**

**Be quiet ... General.**

“I am Moxlan,” the man introduced.  “She is my mate, Rogian.”

Daniel nodded towards the woman and then continued, “We're peaceful explorers from the planet Earth.  We came through the Stargate.”

“Stargate?” Moxlan asked.

“The, uh, circle ... chaapa'ai?”

“Big round thing, makes a lot of noise, blue shimmering water,” Jack tried to explain.

“Oh, they mean the Sphere of Light, Moxlan,” Rogian said.

“Yes ... the, uh ... sphere,” Daniel responded.

“We don't get many visitors through the Sphere,” Moxlan said, adding, “We are having one of our Days of Celebration.  You are welcome to join us.”

“Cool.  We like to celebrate,” Jack said, moving forward to stand beside Daniel.  “What are we celebrating?”

Rogian answered, “This is our day of the family.  We celebrate it every five cycles of our sun.”

“That would be about once every three months, Sir,” Sam explained.

SG-1 spent the next three hours talking with the people who called themselves the Filatios.  The inhabitants valued home life, purity of the land, and simplicity.  Their huts had been deceiving as it became clear during their discussions that they had both intelligence and the ability to be technologically advanced, but they had chosen this basic way of living.

The natives enjoyed many special days of celebration and remembrance, but none was more special to them than those devoted to the family.  On these days, the entire community without exception would spend the day together, relaxing and participating in various types of recreation.  At the center of the attention were the children who were encouraged to express their wants and desires during the celebrations, and many of whom were honored for their achievements since the last Day of Celebration.

Daniel had been fascinated by the type of honors given.  While some were recognized for their intelligence and contributions that bettered the community, many were acknowledged for more simple things, like doing a kindness for a neighbor, helping a sibling with a chore, or having learned a valuable lesson related to character and morality.

Just before leaving, Daniel walked off to the side, sitting on a rock a few feet from the pool, or what the people called the water glade.

Jack walked up quietly to his lover and said, “Dollar for your thoughts.”

Daniel chuckled, “A dollar?  Luxury.”

“What you think is important, worth far more than a penny.”

Daniel smiled shyly, then answered his lover's question with, “I was just thinking about the Filatios.  In Latin, filiatio is like a relationship between a father and a son.  Family, I guess, with all the rights and obligations that makes a family that way.  Jack, look at these people.  I've been watching the parents with their children; they're all so happy.”

“Children are a great source of happiness.  Trust me, I know.”

“It's kinda weird to think about, Jack.  A year from now we could be like those people right there,” Daniel sighed, a hope in his voice and eyes.

Jack looked at a couple off in the distance.  They were talking to an infant child, the mother's singing barely audible from their position.

“I hope so,” Jack said, observing the smiles on their faces.

“Jack, when next month comes, I don't want us to talk about a ... a last mission.  I mean ... the last time ... I just don't want to jinx us.”

The last time the lovers had actually said the words 'we're retiring', Daniel had almost been killed.  His recovery had taken months.  This time, Daniel didn't want to speak the words; he just wanted it to happen.

“Danny, we'll be fine.”

Daniel bowed his head and folded his arms across his chest as he responded, “I just want us to go ... and come back.  Please, Jack.  When it's time, let's not talk about it.  We'll both know, but let's just ... agree not to say the words.”

**I love you, Angel.**

**I love you.  Gawd, Jack, a family.  We're going to have a family of our own.  I guess I'm just a little scared.**

Jack wished he could hold his husband, but all he could do was smile, and silently reassure him as best he could.

**It's okay, Love.  You'll see.  When the time comes for us to walk through the Stargate for the last ... for the final time, it'll be a piece of cake.**

“I hope so.”

“Trust me,” Jack urged.

“I always do,” Daniel replied.  The lovers watched the celebration a while longer, soaking in the happiness they observed.  “I can't wait to see you holding our baby,” he spoke softly, the sweetest smile warming his face.

“That's how I feel.”

“It ... could be anytime ... couldn't it?” Daniel asked, knowing the answer.

“Oh, yeah,” Jack affirmed.

“Parents, you and me,” Daniel spoke.  “Jack, I just ... I want it, so much.”

“Me, too, Angel,” the older man said as the lovers gazed into each other's eyes.  “Soon, Danny.”

“Very soon, Jack.”

“Sir, the tests are complete,” Sam called out, having completed the mineral testing she was charged with doing on the recon.

“Thanks, Colonel.  Let's go home.”

SG-1 thanked their hosts for their hospitality and returned to Earth.  For Jack and Daniel, the mission had turned out to be a welcome retreat, a reminder of the joy they were about to share together, one that would forever change their lives.

====

-- Chapter Two:  It's For Real This Time!

====

“Sir, the perimeter is secured,” Sam spoke confidently.  “SG-2 is in place surrounding the Stargate, and SG-3 reports no sign of hostiles in our area.”

“Good.  Teal'c, lead the way, and let's see if we can manage to get in and out of this paradise without starting a war.”

“We shouldn't be here, Jack.”

“I know that, Daniel, but we have our ...”

“Orders.  Yes, I know, but the orders are wrong, and you know it.”

“Daniel, the intel on the advanced weaponry these people have can't be overlooked.  We need those ... gun things, whatever they call them.”

“Neuexgarrotics.”

“Whatever.  Darn things don't even have a name that can be logically shortened.”

“Jack, we don't know anything about this war, or the Grizslems or the Tzlites.”

“Who comes up with these names anyway?”

Pulling on Jack's arm, Daniel stopped the leader of SG-1.

“Listen to me, General.  The Grizslems appear out of nowhere, claiming to be friends of the Tollan, a race you don't even like, I might add, not to mention a race that may not even exist anymore, and then draw us in with the lure of this super-weapon, like a fisherman hanging a baited line for a fish.”

Jack groaned at the metaphor, but Daniel released Jack's arm, knowing he was at least getting in his say.

“Think, Jack.  If this neuexgarrotic was all it claimed to be, why do the Grizslems need us to extract it from this planet?  Why don't they come here and get the weapon themselves?  Why can't they use another neuexgarrotic,  or some other supposedly advanced ... doohickey, to use your term, to get what they want?  Why do they need us?”

Jack sighed, distressed at Daniel's logic.  It was another of those “too good to be true” scenarios.  The Grizslems had promised the Tau'ri they would share their technology so Earth could build its own neuexgarrotics.  The catch was that they wanted their new allies to go to the Tzlite home world and retrieve the stolen neuexgarrotic.

However, if the weapon was so wonderful, and if they could be replaced so easily as these supposed friends of the Tollan claimed, then why were the Grizslems sending SG-1 to retrieve the one reportedly stolen by the Tzlites, a race the Tau'ri hadn't even met?

Even though he knew Daniel had a valid point, Jack still had his orders.

“The point is, we don't know anything about either of these two races, and without doing any investigation, any background check at all, Kinsey has us here, ready to jump in and destroy a world based on what?”

Jack shuddered at the sound of Kinsey's name.  The man was a pain in the mikta.  Though no longer Vice President, he had wormed his way back into the Senate and into a place of power in the Pentagon.  When Jack had found out the man was back to pulling strings at the government level, he had told his lover, “That man is like a snake who refuses to die.  You keep cutting off his head, but he comes back again and again, growing a new one.”

 Knowing Kinsey was behind their current orders should have made Jack question them from the get-go, but he hadn't.  He was hoping the Grizslems were ... honorable.

“Daniel, I hear you.  I do; but we have our orders, and the Grizslems seem like nice enough folks.  They gave us that pain-killer stuff.”

“That means nothing, and you know it.”

“We have our orders,” Jack barked.

He walked on, increasing his pace, separating himself from Daniel quickly.

“I HAVE ONE WORD FOR YOU, GENERAL,” Daniel yelled.  “EURONDA!  THEY SEEMED LIKE NICE FOLKS, TOO, JUST ... LIKE ... US!”

Jack froze in his tracks.  He felt like the air had just been sucked out of him.  He couldn't breathe.  His desire for Earth supremacy had just been slapped down.  He turned, staring at Daniel.  They were separated by several yards.  Their eyes met, but neither said anything at this point.

Finally, Jack looked around, and with a nod of his head, he clicked on his radio, “Carter.  Come in.”

“Sir?”

“Pack it in, Carter.  Recall SG-3, and head back to the Stargate,” Jack said quietly.

“Sir?  Our orders?”

“You know that old saying, Carter, 'Fool me once, shame on you, but fool me twice, shame on me'?”

“Um,” Sam flinched as she stood in her position about a half mile ahead of where Jack and Daniel were.  “Yes, Sir.  I've heard it.”

“Well, our orders stink, Carter, and we're going home until we can find out a bit more about these 'friends' of the Tollan.”

“But Senator Kinsey ...”

“... is a moron, Carter.  We knew that years ago.  I gave you an order.  Do it -- now!”

“Yes, Sir.  Carter out.”

Daniel smiled, proud of his husband.  What he had just done had not been easy for him, and it was the final step of an evolution for Jack O'Neill, a man who used to carry out an order without ever questioning, a Jack O'Neill who eventually began to question, but still followed orders without too much of a disagreement, and now, here was the Jack O'Neill who would do what was right, orders or no orders.

From a distance, Jack shook his head at the man he used to be, grateful that Daniel Jackson had entered his life, and opened him up to a world that was far greater than anything he ever could have imagined!  

As the rain began to fall on the heavily forested planet, Jack started to walk towards SG-1's archaeologist.  He'd almost reached the younger man when they were suddenly surrounded by hostiles, one of whom sneaked behind Daniel.  The alien pulled out a long knife and held it to Daniel's throat.

Jack stood motionless, as two others approached him, pointing weapons at him, and yet another was jabbing him in the back with a sharp object.

“Inczwa mel torzic!” the man behind him said.

“Yeah, whatever,” Jack responded, moving forward towards Daniel, which he assumed is what the man wanted, based on the prodding of the object at his back.

A fifth man stood near Daniel and the man with a knife.  Jack noticed that the man was watching the actions of the others intensely.

As they neared Daniel and his captors, the two on either side of Jack stopped him.

“Daniel, do you know what they're saying?”

“I think, uh, that we're some kind of prize,” Daniel spoke tentatively, the knife still at his throat, though it had been lowered just a tad, until he spoke.

“Crzoia mel viorliz.”

“Daniel?”

Daniel shrugged.

Jack raised his voice to the group of hostiles, which numbered only five that he could see, the two by Daniel, the two in front of him, and the one behind him, but his instincts told him there were more nearby.  He could feel them, and he saw small motions from the apparent leader towards a small clump of bushes to the south of their position.

“Who are you, and what do you want?” Jack demanded to know.

“Crzoia mel viorliz!”

“Jack, I think that means ...”

“Shut up,” Jack said.  “I didn't mean you, Daniel.  I meant I figured that out on my own.”

A punch to his solar plexus took Jack by surprise.

“JACK!”

“I'm okay,” he gasped, his hands holding his midsection as he stared a dagger in the face, the dagger belonging to the man he assumed was the leader.

“Crzoia mel viorliz,” the man said again, only this time with an air of superiority.

“Backatcha, you cretin.”

The leader punched Jack again, shoving him back to the ground.

“Jack, stop!”

“Daniel, be quiet, and THAT'S AN ORDER.”

Daniel flinched, unable to move, his throat still feeling the pressure of the knife being held against it.  One of the others who had been guarding Jack, moved nearer to the archaeologist, aiming a weapon at Daniel's heart.

Daniel knew what Jack was doing, taking the attention away from him.  Daniel had seen the look that the leader had given him, and he knew Jack had seen it as well.  Daniel spoke a silent prayer, to that power in the heavens that both Jack and he knew existed, “Please, we're so close to our dreams.  We don't know what you are, or who exactly, but we know you're there.  Please, help us ... one more time.”

With two of the hostiles concentrating on keeping Daniel at bay, and one desperately trying to get a clear shot at his enemy, Jack fought the leader and the fifth hostile, the one that had been jabbing him in the back.

Quickly, Jack had been able to down the fifth man, three hard blows in succession knocking the fighter out.  Jack reached for a weapon, but the leader pulled him away, and the two continued to fight each other.

Daniel watched, helpless to assist.  Still, he had to try to do something, no matter what, so he struggled to get free of his attackers.  Unfortunately, their grip was firm, and the knife that had been so near his skin finally nicked his throat, a small amount of blood beginning to drip down Daniel's neck.

Then the hostiles that had been in hiding revealed themselves, helping  the leader to fend off Jack, who was fighting not for his life, but for Daniel's.

“Well, now, imagine that. You're not alone,” Jack taunted the leader, knowing they didn't need to speak the same language to understand each other.

Jack had been outnumbered, and had to give up his fight or be killed, and if he was killed, he knew it would be over for Daniel, too.  Breathing hard as he lay prone on the ground, he raised his hands in surrender.

The hostiles spoke heatedly to one another, and Jack, who had been prodded into standing up again, saw the leader that he'd been fighting with walk excitedly towards Daniel.  Seeing all the attention being focused on his husband, Jack covertly raised his right hand, flipped on the radio, and then watched the hostiles continuing to argue amongst each other.

The man who had been fighting with Jack seemed to be arguing with the leader of the group that had been in hiding.  Finally, the angered man that had hit Jack stabbed the other, and fiercely walked to Daniel, grabbing hold of his chin.

“Grizslem tor mel frizloic.  Te mel viac.”

Daniel shook his head, and again, Jack didn't need words to know Daniel understood what the man had said.  After all, Jack understood it clearly, and no way in creation was the leader of the hostiles getting a hold of Jack's lover in private, not while Jack was alive.

The leader ordered one of his men to tie Daniel's hands, which he did. Daniel winced at the tightness of the binding, a grunt coming from his throat as his captives pulled the rope taut.  Others were holding Jack at bay, or so they thought.

Daniel's eyes were locked onto Jack's as one man started to pull Daniel away, and the blue eyes widened as he saw another pointing a weapon at Jack.

Jack mumbled into his radio, “Now would be good, Carter.”

Hearing two clicks of acknowledgment which indicated Sam was in position, Jack yelled, “DANIEL ... DOWN ... NOW!”

Without question, Daniel dropped to the ground, keeping his head up so he could see what his lover was doing.  Jack had charged forward, into the leader, knocking him to the ground.  He landed punch after punch to the man, who without his weapon, wasn't much of a match for Jack's hand-to-hand combat skills.

Seeing the second man who had been guarding him taking aim at Jack, Daniel rolled over and, using his feet, kicked him in the shins, causing the man to scream and fall to the ground.

At the same time, Sam and Teal'c emerged from hiding and took on the other hostiles, briefly surprised when even more appeared out of the bushes.  Fortunately, SG-1 had superior firepower and better tactical skills.  Knowing their battle was lost, some of hostiles tried to flee.  Within two minutes, the battle was over, SG-1 having killed four of the hostiles and capturing six others.

“SG-3 has the area surrounded, Sir, and are en route to our location.  They should be here in five.”

“Thank you, Colonel,” Jack said, standing.

“Feel free to shoot this one, Teal'c,” Jack said, motioning to the leader and then rushing to Daniel, who was still on the ground.

Even though Teal'c had responded, “Indeed,” the look the large Jaffa gave the hostile was sufficient to leave the man visibly shaking in fear.

“Danny, are you okay, Angel?”

Jack quickly examined the small cut on Daniel's neck, relieved that it didn't appear to be severe.  Pulling out a first-aid kit from his pack, he carefully applied a small band-aid to cover the wound.

“I am now.  It's just a scratch,” Daniel said, smiling as Jack moved to untie him.  “What about you?  Are you hurt, Jack?”

“Nah, been punched in the gut a lot in my time.  His didn't even register.”

“Jack, they're the Grizslems.”

“What?”

“I figured out part of what they were saying.  They wanted us as a trophy.  I don't understand it all, but I think it's a competition between the Grizslems and the Tzlites.”

“And we're the game?”

“Yes.  I don't think that weapon works for long.  I think it was just a mock-up or something.”

“I thought we were helping them, protecting them even from the evil Tzlites.  Geez, Danny.”

With Daniel's hands free, Jack tenderly caressed his lover's wrists, held his hands, and then leaned in and kissed his husband.

“Jack, SG-3 will be here any second.”

“I know.  Come on.”

Jack pulled Daniel up and began organizing the trip back to the Stargate.

====

“Janet, he has a small stab wound on his neck,” Jack said to the SGC doctor even before the Stargate had shut off.

“Jack, its just a scratch!  You're the one that got beat up.”

Janet took one look at Jack's worried face and pulled Daniel to a sitting position to get a better look and attend to the injury.

The gate room was full of activity, the Marines making sure the prisoners were contained, and the medical staff working on the various injuries.

Jack didn't leave Daniel's side even though he saw Hammond waiting for him, an anxious look on his face as he watched from the control room.

“Doc?”

“Jack, it's nothing,” Daniel spoke up.

“I'm the doctor here, Doctor Jackson,” Janet said, smiling, “but in this case, he's right, General.  Just a tiny surface wound, not much worse than a razor cut.”

Janet replaced the band-aid and smiled as she spoke authoritatively, “You're just fine.”

“Thanks, Doc,” Jack chimed, reaching down and helping Daniel up.

“Jack?”

Daniel was noticing a difference in Jack's demeanor.  The man in front of him seemed more like his husband than the 2IC of Stargate Command, and considering they were in the gate room, that wasn't normal.

“General, why did you abort the mission?” Hammond asked abruptly, having entered the gate room and approaching his flagship team.

Jack looked at Daniel, and replied, “One word, Sir ... Euronda.”

The lieutenant general studied his 2IC, himself a general, and knew it would be an interesting debriefing.  He also knew President Hayes wouldn't be happy with it.  Silently, the leader of the SGC also acknowledged that he shouldn't be happy with it, either.  Somehow, though, he had a hunch Jack was right.

The room was full of military personnel, as well as the medical team looking over the few injuries that had been received in the short skirmish.  SG-2 and SG-3 were still present, as were the always nearby armed and on duty Marines that guarded the gate room whenever anyone travelled through the Gate.

Above the gate room, the control room was full of the usual personnel as well as representatives of Kinsey and others who thought like him.  Jack and Daniel were still at the base of the ramp, waiting for orders or a scolding, Daniel thought.

Daniel tensed briefly when suddenly, as Jack looked around the room, he felt his hand being held by his husband.  His first instinct was to pull away before anyone saw, but Jack's hold was firm.

Jack turned to face Daniel.  They looked like a perfectly centered arrangement, standing there with their profiles against the backdrop of the Stargate.  Jack's right hand still held Daniel's.  His left hand reached up to caress his lover's face.  The noise of the gate room began to hush.

“Jack?”

“It's time, Danny.  We've done our duty, and more.  Maybe we can still help out from time to time, but, it's time, and we both know it.”

Daniel blinked just twice, and sighed, nodding as he did so.  They were a few weeks ahead of their planned exodus from the SGC, but that didn't matter.  Daniel had promised Jack that the next time the older man wanted out, they'd go.  Besides, Daniel truly agreed.  It was time.

“General Hammond,” Jack turned to face their friend, “it's been a pleasure and an honor, but I'm retired now, Sir.”

“And I resign,” Daniel added.

Jack smiled at Daniel's words, and as silence loomed in the crowded room, Brigadier General Jack O'Neill of the United States Air Force, the 2IC of the SGC, leaned forward and kissed the Head of Archaeology, the wonder who had opened the Stargate, the geek who had taken down System Lords and worse.

It was a long, lingering, tender kiss, their arms wrapping around each other in warmth and possessiveness.  It was clear to almost everyone that this was not the first time these two had kissed.  When they stopped, the sound of a pin dropping could be heard.

“I love you, Daniel Jackson-O'Neill, and our forever, our dreams, they begin now.”

“And I love you, Retired General Jack Jackson-O'Neill, so freakin' much.”

The room was still quiet as Jack and Daniel headed for the exit, walking hand in hand, but before they exited, they heard a Marine say, “But I thought he was doing it with Carter?”

Jack and Daniel burst into laughter, as did Sam.

Looking at the Marine, she responded, “You guys are so easy!”

With a nod, Sam and Teal'c followed their friends out of the gate room, knowing Jack and Daniel were about to begin their new life together.

====

“Gawd, Jack, I thought I was going to die, right there in front of everyone,” Daniel spoke, his voice an octave higher than normal.  “You could have waited and let us tell the general in his office.”

Jack shook his head, as he insisted, “No, I'm through.  Danny, when you showed me how much this mission was like Euronda, I knew right then that it was the last time.  We're too close to having everything we've wanted.  You could have died, and I won't risk losing you anymore just so we can have the biggest gun.  Besides, I've always wanted to kiss you in the gate room, in front of everyone.”

Daniel laughed, knowing the truth of that statement.  Jack had teased and joked about kissing Daniel on the ramp for years.

“I love you, Jack.”

“Yeah, and now I have more witnesses to prove it, too!”  Jack sneaked up on his half-dressed lover and kissed the nape of his neck.  “We're going home, Danny.  Finally, no more hiding.”

“No more hiding, My Love, not ever,” Daniel agreed, turning to face his husband.

As the two kissed, Teal'c entered.

“O'Neill, DanielJackson ...”

“That's DanielJacksonO'Neill, Teal'c.”

The Jaffa glared at his former CO and stated honestly, “If I said all of that, O'Neill, he would be dead before I could warn him of danger.”

“It's my name, and you don't have to warn me anymore.”

Daniel smiled, putting on his blue plaid shirt.  Jack just laughed, then looked at his lover, a quizzical look on his face.

“What?”

“Geez, Danny, of all days for you to wear that old retread.  You rarely wear that stuff anymore, but it used to be all you wore.  Just seems kinda ... nostalgic.”

Jack turned back to his locker.

“Not even sure why I wore it,” Daniel acknowledged, wondering if it was a strange premonition about their sudden retirement.

“General Hammond wishes for the debriefing to begin immediately.”

“We'll be there in a minute, Teal'c,” Jack responded.

After Teal'c exited, Daniel suggested, “Maybe we should be wearing our ...”

“No, our life begins now.  Besides, these uniforms aren't exactly trendy.”

“You're a scoundrel, Jack, flaunting us in front of the SGC.”

“Ain't it grand?” Jack smirked with a gleam in his eye, “but I'm not flaunting.  I'm just ... happy.  No more hiding.  No more ridiculous games with Carter.  Just you and me and our forever.”

“Gawd, Jack.  You're not supposed to talk like that in here.”

Jack went up to Daniel and kissed him.

“No more hiding, Love, and no more pretending.”  Jack started to turn, but stopped.  “Danny, there's something you should know.”

“What?”

“When that idiot had that knife to your throat, I said a prayer ... a real one.”

“Gawd, Jack,” Daniel whispered.  “So did I ... I mean, when they were attacking you ... so did I.”

Jack nodded, and then, as if one mind, both Jack and Daniel reached into their pants pockets, removing their wallets.  In a singular motion, they removed their wedding rings from the velvet pouches that always protected them.

Daniel held out his ring, and Jack took it, placing it gently on his husband's finger.

“Forever and always, Danny, I love you, and this time, that ring stays on.”

Jack kissed the ring on the finger, and then handed his golden ring to Daniel.

Sliding it carefully onto Jack's finger, Daniel spoke softly, “I love you, Jack, forever and always, for our eternity, and from now on, this ring,” Daniel kissed the ring, “it never comes off, not ever.”

The couple kissed again, no longer bogged down by concerns of “Don't Ask, Don't tell.”

“We have so much to do, Angel.  I can't wait to get home and start our eternity, our way.”

“Sounds perfect.”

Jack moved back to close his locker, and Daniel did the same with his.  Then, Jack extended his hand out.  Daniel reached out and took it, and together they walked to the briefing room, not noticing the constant stares and whispered voices as they made their way through the corridors.  All they knew was that for the first time, they didn't have to hide who they were or how much they loved each other.

====

“Your minds are made up?”

After the debriefing, Hammond had asked Jack and Daniel to accompany him to his office to discuss their resignations.  The lieutenant general was seated at his desk,while the two lovers in chairs in front of the desk.  The door was closed, and Hammond had asked not to be disturbed during the meeting.

“Yes, Sir, it's for real this time,” Jack declared.  “No more retiring and being talked back into service, or delaying it.”

Jack paused, leaning forward in his chair, clasping his hands together, speaking mildly.

“George, you know we were going to do this over a year ago when Daniel got hurt and almost died.  We came back, originally for six months to make things right with the Hedronix, but it didn't go how we planned.  There was that mess with the Ancient's knowledge messing with my brain, and you got promoted.  We could have left then, but we didn't feel like we could leave the SGC in the hands of another civilian ...”

“Or worse,” Daniel interjected.

Nodding, Jack agreed, “Or worse, so we stayed.”  He looked at Daniel, shaking his head.  He returned his focus to his friend, the lieutenant general.  “There's always been something, Sir.  We stuck it out longer than we promised.  We found Atlantis, kept this place moving forward as much as possible, and when you came back, we felt like we had to stay yet again.”

“We wanted the transition to be smooth,” Daniel explained.  “We were afraid the President might do something ... I don't know.  We just thought we should stay until everything got back to normal again, so we did.”

“The point is, General,” Jack picked up the ball again, “the government always wants from us, and they use whatever crisis they can to lure us back in.  We love what we do here, and that's part of the reason we've stayed, in spite of ourselves, but there comes a point when enough's enough.”  He took a breath.  He leaned his chin on the tips of his fingers as his hands were held together at the palms.  “Two months ago, we decided it was time to stop, but you did it again -- convinced us to stay.”

“For the good of the universe,” Daniel interjected.

“Even though we had plans, plans we've worked for and thought about for a long time.  Like I said, there's always some danger or threat that everyone thinks only SG-1 can handle.  Up until today, I've let myself believe it, or be talked into it.  Well, Sir, no more.  Daniel almost died out there because someone wanted a weapon.  The people we thought we were helping were the same ones who attacked us.  So, yes, Sir, our minds are made up.”

Leaning back in his chair, Hammond asked, “Doctor Jackson, there is still a lot for you to do here.  Are you sure that you won't reconsider?”

“It's up to you, Danny.  He's right.  What you contribute has always been beyond anything I or any other member of the SGC can do, and *no*, I'm *not* exaggerating!”  Seeing his lover blush slightly, the brigadier general smiled and commented, “Geez, he's beautiful when he blushes.  Actually, Sir, he's always beautiful.”

“Jaaaack, not here!”

“Yes, here.”  Jack reached over and took Daniel's left hand in his.  “No more hiding or pretending.  You're my husband, and I love you.  It's time for us to start our family, but if you want to stay on as a consultant or something, you can.  There's no reason why you can't, Danny.”

“Yes, there is.  You see, I happen to love you, and we've already decided what our future is going to be.  I love the Stargate, Jack.  The experiences we've had, the friends we've made ... they're wonderful and awesome, but that experience is ours, together.  Its magic and mysteries belong to both of us, and without you here to share it with ...”

“You mean argue about it, don't you?”

“... whatever.”  Daniel smiled, his hand gently massaging Jack's.  “Whatever you call it, Jack, without you, I don't want it anymore.  We have plans, remember?”

“I get to be your eyes.”

“If you still want to.”

“Tthere's nothing I want more, except for you and our children,” the silver-haired man responded.

“Children?” Hammond questioned, surprised to have heard that word from the two men in front of him.

Jack stood up, bringing his husband with him.  They exchanged a look of agreement.  His arm around Daniel's waist as they faced the now-standing lieutenant general, Jack smiled.

With sparkling eyes, Jack explained, “Yes, Sir, Daniel and I are hoping to be pregnant any time now.”

Seeing the general's stunned look, Daniel elaborated, “We're using a surrogate, General.  She might already be pregnant.  We're hoping, anyway.”

“I had no idea,” Hammond admitted, totally surprised by the announcement.

“Well, *George*, the less you knew about our lives, the better off you were,” Jack replied.

“Very well.  I'll need your written resig...”

“Had them written years ago,” Jack said, handing over two envelopes.  “Just needed to put in the date.”

The general laughed, “I knew when you were riding that bicycle built for two in my gate room that you'd never stop surprising me.”

“You saw that?” Daniel asked, totally caught off guard.

“Yes, Son,” Hammond affirmed, nodding.  “Although I should say, I saw enough to know that for everyone's sake, I didn't want to see anymore.”

“I, uh ... I didn't think you knew until all that crap with Thor,” the archaeologist responded.

“Why do you think I knew you were at Jack's house every time I needed to track you down?” Hammond questioned with a knowing expression.

“Our house, General,” Jack corrected.  “Danny's ...” Jack stopped suddenly, “Danny, we're having a party!”

“What?”

“A house deed burning.  Geez, I can't wait to get rid of that house.  I hate it,” Jack spoke, referring to the house Daniel had purchased as an investment property in March 2004.

“I do, too,” Daniel admitted.

“Your house?” Hammond asked, confused by the dialogue.

“Not ours, General, but that little outhouse Daniel bought right before Osiris showed up here,” Jack reminded.

“It was a cover, Sir,” Daniel said.  “Financially, it was a better deal than keeping the apartment.”

**Danny, I need to tell him,** Jack communicated.

**About what?**

**That covert mess.  I hated lying to him.  Do you mind?**

**No, I don't mind.**

Hammond had watched the two men staring at each other.  He'd seen it before, this silent communication between them.  He didn't really know what was happening, nor did he understand it, but he was sure they did.

Suddenly, Jack spoke up, saying, “General, I'd like to come clean about something that has bothered for me for years.”

Hammond looked surprised, but nodded, and they all sat back down in their chairs.

“Remember that mess with the Tollan when we uncovered Maybourne's operation?” Jack asked.

“As if I could forget,” Hammond answered.

“I apologize, Sir, but I disobeyed your orders.  I had to, and I've regretted having to lie to you ever since, but ... I'd do it again.”

“What are you talking about, Jack?” Hammond inquired curiously.

Jack confessed, “Daniel knew.”

Hammond looked at the archaeologist, who simply nodded.

“Sir, we were living together.  There was no way I could have pulled it off without him knowing,” Jack opined.

“For my part, General, I apologize as well,” Daniel spoke.  “It wasn't easy lying to you, but we both did what was necessary.”

Hammond nodded, his face tight as he thought back to the covert operation of that time, remembering how Jack had been ordered to go undercover.  The Tollan, Nox, and Asgard had all threatened to cut ties with Earth if the thieves stealing their technologies were not apprehended.  They had also insisted that only Jack be told.

“It wasn't an easy time,” the man behind the desk acknowledged.  “You pulled it off very well, Doctor Jackson.  I didn't have a clue.”

“I guess that's a ... compliment.”

“I understand your reasons, Jack,” Hammond sighed.

“I didn't like doing it, and I didn't do it easily,” the Special Ops expert admitted.

“I understand.  Thank you for telling me now.”

“We owe you honesty.  We wish we could have told you then, but, truthfully, we never wanted to risk your position here,” Daniel stated.  “Everything Jack and I have done has been not only to protect ourselves, but our friends.  We didn't want anyone to be hurt because of our love.”

Then, the room got quiet.  The commander of the SGC opened the letters of resignation and read them to make sure they were in order.  Then, he placed them on his desk in front of him.  No one spoke for a minute or more, but then Hammond stood and walked around his desk to his friends.  They stood and faced him.

“It's been a privilege, General O'Neill, and an honor, Doctor Jackson, one this old war horse will never forget.  Thank you, Gentlemen.”

The three shook hands, and then Daniel announced, “Sometime soon, we're going to have another wedding, Sir.  You may remember we talked about that.  I ... we, hope you'll come ... and, well ...”

Jack reached out, took Daniel's hand and then clarified the young man's thoughts, saying, “What my linguist here is trying to say is that we consider you part of our family, General, and you're always welcome in our home.  Our kids could use a grandpa, if you're interested.”

“You're a great grandpa, General.”

Daniel had spoken with great sentiment in his voice and moist eyes, remembering when Hammond had been the grandfather to a nine-year-old Jack and an eight-year-old Daniel due to an unusual transformation that had reverted the two men to childhood for a week. The two had truly believed Hammond was their grandfather, and he hadn't let them down, showering both with nothing but love.  Neither had forgotten it, and both sincerely hoped Hammond would want to be a surrogate grandfather to their children.

“I'd like that.  Thank you.  Thank you, both,” Hammond answered, his voice cracking just slightly.

“We should let you get back to work,” Daniel spoke quietly.

“You realize we have a little transition time here, things to be discussed, finalized ...” Hammond began.

Jack interrupted, “We'll be here, but no more missions through the Stargate.  We've gone through for the last time.  Goodnight, Sir.”

“Goodnight.”

As the two men left his office, Lieutenant General George Hammond, head of the SGC, found he couldn't mourn the passing of SG-1.  He was too glad that the premier unit of the SGC had ended like this, with all members of the team alive, happy and moving onto bigger and better things.

====

“Carter, Teal'c,” Jack said as he and Daniel walked into Sam's lab.

The couple were glad their two teammates had agreed not to leave the base until after the meeting with Hammond was over.

“Thanks for waiting for us,” Daniel said calmly.

“No problem, Daniel.  So ... you guys are really going to retire?” Sam asked.

Daniel nodded, but it was Jack who responded with “You know we've wanted this a long time.  We've made plans to start a family.  Actually, it's already in the works.”

Sam smiled, first out of surprise, then out of pleasure.  She knew, of course, that they were going to have children, having agreed over a year-and-a-half ago to take the Jackson-O'Neill children should something disastrous happen to the couple at the same time.  She was just surprised that they had already begun the process, even before her CO's retirement.

“Yeah?”

“Yeah,” Daniel affirmed.  “Jack's going to make a great dad.”

“Hey, so are you,” Jack asserted, smiling at his husband.

Daniel's smile as shy and hesitant as he answered, “I hope so.”

“I have great confidence in your ability to be a father, DanielJackson,” Teal'c expressed as he stood with his hands clasped together behind his back.

“Thanks, Teal'c.”

“We're going to miss you guys.  It's ... I mean, we're ... I ...” Daniel stammered, his emotions running high.

Jack tugged Daniel close to him, and looked at his friends as he continued, “You know what we mean.  You're like a brother, T, and Carter, we owe you, big time, for all that ... crap we pulled off.”

“I was glad to do it, Sir.”  Sam looked at Daniel, saying, “Um, not that I was glad, exactly.  I mean, I'm your friend.  I was glad I could ... oh crap.”

Daniel laughed out loud and felt Jack's hand rubbing his back.  Now wasn't the time to rehash old insecurities or military crushes.  It was all in the past, but now they had a bright future ahead of them.

“Don't sweat it, Carter,” Jack assured.  “Listen, how would you two like to come for dinner tonight?  It'll be a ... last team night.”

Teal'c nodded, as did Sam.  The group agreed to pizza due to the lateness of the day, and decided to meet at Jack's and Daniel's home in ninety minutes.

====

“To SG-1,” Jack said, raising his glass of champagne.

“To SG-1,” Sam and Daniel stated.

“Indeed,” Teal'c nodded.

Jack, Sam, and Daniel clanged their glasses together, Teal'c abstaining since he didn't drink alcohol, and then sat down.

“I'm going to miss working with you guys,” Sam said before taking another sip.

The group of friends had already devoured the pizzas and were now assembled in the living room.  Sam and Teal'c were seated on the sofa while Jack was comfortable in his favorite chair.  Daniel sat on the floor, in between his husband's legs.

“Do you know what GeneralHammond intends for SG-1, O'Neill?”

“I imagine we'll get new team members, Teal'c,” Sam stated.

“Command's all yours, Carter.”

“I guess it'll be real this time,” Sam stated, looking downward as the reality began to sink in.

“Real?” Daniel asked.

“Well, when the general was promoted, you know how it was.  I didn't so much command as just give him someone to yell at,” Sam chuckled.

“I didn't yell.”

“Not much, Sir,” Sam said with a smile.

None of the teammates knew what would happen to SG-1, but they did know that the bond the four of them shared would not end because Jack and Daniel had retired.  They would maintain their strong ties, and the lovers explained that soon they'd be an aunt and uncle to their children.

“We'll see you two tomorrow,” Jack said as he and Daniel said goodnight to their friends.

“Do you know when your last day will be, Sir?”

“We're not going through the Gate anymore, but we'll be around to help with the transition for a little while.”

“And we have to clean out our offices,” Daniel said.  “Gawd, I need boxes.”

Jack chuckled.  His lover had several personal possessions in his lab, mostly artifacts and relics that would have to find a place in their home now.

“Don't worry, Love.  There's lots of boxes in the storage room.”

The couple watched Sam and Teal'c leave and then returned to the living room to clean up a bit.  After checking on Bijou and Katie who were asleep in their doghouse outside, the two locked up the house, turned off the lights, and went upstairs.

“As wonderful as it's going to be, it's also going to be a little funny for a while, Jack.”

“I know.  No more Goa'uld.  No more glowing eyes.”

“That I won't miss,” Daniel stated dryly.

“Me, either, Love.  Let's go to bed,” the older man suggested.

Excited about their future, but also with a touch of regret about what they had to give up to have their tomorrow, Jack and Daniel soon fell asleep in each other's arms.

====

A few weeks later, Jack and Daniel stood in front of the Stargate.  They had cleaned out their offices, made recommendations for their successors, and helped facilitate the transitions as much as they could.  The two had also agreed to continue to help as needed at the base, but, after today, coming to the SGC would no longer be a daily part of their lives.

“So much has happened, Jack.”

“I know,” Jack said softly, his arm around Daniel's waist.

“That first time, the ground shook from the Stargate, and going through was so cold,” Daniel recalled.

“Before Carter and the other techs worked their magic and made it a lot simpler,” Jack replied.  He looked at his husband staring at the circular object that had been the center of their lives for almost a decade.  “You're thinking about Sha're.”

~He's good.~  Daniel smiled and sighed.  He nodded, saying, “I just wish she'd had a chance to live; that's all.  I pushed my way onto SG-1 to save her; in the end, I couldn't do it.”

“You tried, Danny.  In a way, you did save her.  She had more control of that parasite than most, and that was because of you.”

“She loved me.”  Daniel looked at his spouse and spoke, “I didn't even know what love was back then, Jack.  I cheated her out of the chance to find it.”

“No, you didn't.  You did the best you could.  We've both learned a lot since then.”

“Abydos,” Daniel spoke softly.  “It's the place that started it all.”

“Oh, no.  That was here,” the older man refuted.

“What?”

“When you solved the puzzle, Danny.  That's what started it.  I watched you make mincemeat of those so-called experts in mere minutes,” Jack spoke with pride.

Daniel laughed as he responded, “And I already drove you crazy.”

“The best kind of crazy.”

“I wouldn't change a thing, Jack, because good or bad, it's all led up to this moment.”

“The beginning of our forever,” Jack said tenderly.

“Exactly.”

Jack and Daniel were surprised when the Gate began to move.  There had been no warning about an off-world activation, and it was late at night.  No teams were scheduled to return or check in.  The Marines weren't running in to guard the Gate, either.

The two stood mesmerized as the first chevron engaged, then the second, and the third, until, finally, the seventh chevron locked, and the kawoosh of the Stargate blasted towards them.

Slowly, Daniel walked up the ramp, Jack a step or two behind.  They looked at the shimmering blue event horizon in awe.  The archaeologist reached out his hand and touched the beginning of the wormhole lightly.  Jack, too, reached out. He did the mark of Zorro, a big letter “Z” as he had done once before, but then he looked at Daniel and smiled.

With his finger, Jack wrote, 'Jack loves Daniel.'

“You're hopeless.”

Jack just smiled, then laughed when Daniel's finger wrote, 'Daniel loves Jack.'

“Goodbye, Friend,” Daniel softly.

Jack sighed and bobbed his head.  He reached down and took Daniel's hand, and then the two turned and walked to the end of the ramp.  They paused and looked up at the control room.

Sam leaned over to the microphone and stated, “Goodbye, Sir.  Daniel.”

Then the blonde stood up straight and saluted, but Daniel had heard her cracking voice, and even from a distance, he could see the tears she was fighting back.

“Bye, Sam.”

“Thank you, Carter,” Jack added, returning the salute.

With a final look at the Stargate, the lovers exited the gate room, and the SGC, finally free to love in plain sight.

====

-- Chapter Three:  You Have a Go!

====

“Boys, I talked with Evan last night, and he sends his love,” the exuberant woman spoke with a big smile.

“Thanks, Mrs. Valissi.  We'd have you return the message, but we're planning on calling Evan and Robert this weekend,” Jack stated enthusiastically.

“Oh, they'll love that.  You two are always part of their conversation when they call.”

Sophia Valissi was Jack's and Daniel's long time neighbor.  She had fallen for Daniel the very first time she had laid eyes on him, and from quite early on she had known about their relationship, though she hadn't ever let on.  Her son, Evan, was himself involved in a steady same-sex relationship, and as a result, she had recognized all the loving signs of Jack's and Daniel's commitment to each other.

Finally, after a few years, she had confessed to Jack that she was aware of his relationship with Daniel, revealing the true relationship between her son and his life partner.  Those two had joined Mrs. Valissi in Canada for the celebration that had been Jack's and Daniel's wedding in the fall of 2003.

On this early Saturday morning, the senior citizen was taking a stroll, something she did often at all times of the day and night.  Jack and Daniel had been doing yard work when she stopped to chat.  Daniel looked at Jack and nodded.  Jack broke out into a huge grin!

Putting down his rake, Jack walked over to Mrs. Valissi and gave her a big kiss and a hug.

“Well, goodness, General, what was that for?  Not that I'm complaining mind you, but for a woman my age, that was positively ... orgasmic!”

Jack roared, and Daniel blushed, which made Jack laugh even more.

“Isn't he cute?” Jack asked, his left arm around Mrs. Valissi's shoulders.

“Jack, don't start.”

“But, Danny, look at you.  Blushing and it had nothing to do with you.”

“Jack!  I'm warning you ...”

“He loves to do that,” Jack spoke quietly, but loud enough for his lover to hear easily. “Threaten.  You know, do this or don't do that, and what does he use as his bargaining chip ...”

“JACK JACKSON-O'NEILL ... STOP NOW!”

Jack bent over in laughter, his “Geez, I love him” barely understandable through the joyful noise.

“He's a good boy, General.  You shouldn't tease him so much.”

“See!  See!  See!  See!  See!” Daniel said repetitively, hopping up and down slightly.  “You should listen to her!”

“Careful, Love, or the next thing you know you might be running around pretending to be an airplane or watching plants spring up out of nowhere.”

Mrs. Valissi looked clueless, not understanding the comment at all.  Daniel, meanwhile, was wide-eyed in disbelief at Jack's comment, but Jack gave him that, “No one in the world will know what that means, Danny, so chill” look.

Jack had recalled their time on PJ2-445 when, among other things,  Daniel had tried to communicate with aliens, who didn't possess the power of speech, by running around their “homes” with his arms outstretched trying to be an airplane.  While Jack hadn't witnessed it, he had read about it in one of Daniel's computer diaries that Daniel had shared with him.

Daniel shook his head and spoke emphatically, “Do you see what I have to live with?  The man is incorrigible.”

“And you love him, Dear.”

Jack grinned, and Daniel shrugged, admitting his fate.

“I took pity on him.  Someone had to.”

“Mrs. V, we have some news,” Jack said, moving away from her and back over to Daniel, who again had a shy smile on his face.  “It's not totally official, but it will be in a few days.”

“I'm all ears.”

“Better yet,” Jack said jovially, “be all eyes.”

Jack turned, faced Daniel, and kissed him.  Mrs. Valissi had seen them kiss lots of times, but rarely had they been so open in their front yard.  She also noticed both had on their wedding rings.  Again, it wasn't totally out of character, but there was something about their look, and they did have news, Jack had said.

“Boys?  Are you ... out?”

“More out than the outdoors,” Jack answered as he laughed, squeezing Daniel as he held him in his arms.

“I love you!”

Jack had waited so long to be able to hold and kiss Daniel without fear of repercussion.  He had wanted to shout their love to the world for years, and now he could.

Mrs. Valissi radiated with joy, her voice full of excitement as she spoke, “I'm so happy for you both!”  She walked quickly to them and all exchanged hugs.  “Are you telling everyone?  I mean, the neighbors?”

“Mrs. V, we're telling the world.  I may take out a billboard!”

“Jack, be calm.”

“No way, Danny.  We've waited too long for this.  I want the whole  world to know.”

“So do I,” Daniel spoke truthfully, resting his head against Jack's shoulder.

“He's all mine, Mrs. V.  Am I a lucky man or what?”

Daniel rolled his eyes.

“I think you're both lucky.  Oh, look at the time.  I have to run.  Luncheon date with some of the girls.  I can tell?”

“Tell anyone you want.  I insist,” Jack enthused.

Mrs. Valissi saw how embarrassed Daniel was, and yet she saw something else.  The younger man was soaking it all in, having Jack make such a fuss over him.  She knew it was something he hadn't been used to, being loved openly, or even loved at all.  She bade them goodbye, and winked at Jack as she left.

He knew she knew ... Daniel was his love, and Jack was proud of that.  If Jack had his way, the whole world would know how much Jack loved Daniel and how special Daniel was.

“No more hiding, Danny.  No more.”

Jack kissed his husband again.

“I don't know about that, Jack.”

“What are you talking about?”

Daniel got very close to Jack and spoke in a low, seductive voice, “The grass is hiding and,” Daniel moved his right hand to skim Jack's neckline, running down his chest, “ if you don't hurry and get the leaves off it,” Daniel nibbled just briefly on Jack's left ear, “we might not have time to,” Daniel traced Jack's lips with his finger, slowly, gently going from one side to the other, “... you know ...” Daniel brushed Jack's lips, his tongue just flicking slightly between Jack's lips, teasing and promising of more to come, “before the game tonight.”

Jack suddenly wasn't sure he could even wait another minute.  He looked down, just to be sure he was “presentable“ in public. With a gulp, he said, “Good point.  Where's that rake?”

Daniel watched his lover return to his task and smiled, inside and out.  It felt good to be loved so much and to have such an effect on his husband.  He looked across the street and suddenly turned crimson red when he saw Jacob and Christa, both smiling broadly, about to get into their car to go out.  He knew they had just witnessed Daniel's almost-seduction of Jack.

~Oh, well.  I'm in love.  Sue me.~

He smiled, gave a slight shrug of his shoulders, and saw the senior citizen couple start to laugh.  Then he turned and went back to his own chores.

====

“Jack, where are we going to put all this stuff?  We can barely walk through the garage now.”

Daniel was referring to the boxes they'd brought home from the SGC the week before.  Most of them contained Daniel's artifacts and relics, along with notes and research, but a number of them were full of Jack's things as well.

“No clue, Love, but we'll find a place for it all.  Is there anything in there you want to put in the house?”

“A couple of things I got in Egypt.  I'm not ready to give the rest up, but the other things don't need to be out.”  Daniel began doing a quick survey of the boxes, reminding himself what was where.  He came to one of Jack's and smiled.  “We should hang this by your other diplomas.”

Jack winced.  Daniel was holding up Jack's certificate of graduation from the Academy in Military Science and Engineering.  It had hung in his office at the SGC for years.  The other diplomas Daniel had referred to were Jack's post-graduate degrees, ones he had not mentioned to his husband until the day they packed up his office, and Daniel came across Jack's stash of ChiMe newsletters.

ChiMe was the newsletter for the Chicago chapter of Mensa.  That had been the moment Daniel the geeky genius realized he was married to Jack the military genius.  It had not been an easy night for the older man, but in the end, Daniel was proud of his husband's achievements, insisting on unearthing Jack's degrees and hanging them on the wall of the study next to his own diplomas.

“Daniel, I think there's enough on the wall as it is.”  Daniel chuckled, knowing Jack was a tad uncomfortable.  “Danny, you aren't still mad at me, are you?”

“No.  I told you.  I'm proud of you.  I still wish you had trusted me and told me the truth, but I understand.  I'm not all that sure you were even wrong.  I ... I don't know how I would have handled it earlier.”

Jack moved nearer to his spouse and said firmly, “You would have it handled with the same compassion you always have.”

“I'd like to think that, but ...”

“You would have.  So, how about we not worry about this right now and go to Baskin-Robbins for a cone?”

“Sounds good ... my genius.”

The lovers kissed and then headed out for an afternoon treat.

====

“There you are!” Jack exclaimed with a smile, finding Daniel in his den reading.

“Been here for a while, Babe.”

“Anything of interest?”

“Rocks ... and more rocks,” Daniel answered.

“Ah ... boring then!” Jack teased as he perused some of the new items Daniel had put on display on the shelves.

“Very funny,” the younger man replied.

“Mrs. V dropped by a few minutes ago,” Jack stated.

“And?” Daniel asked, looking over at his spouse.

“And she invited us to a dinner party to celebrate our ... outness.”

“That's not a word, Jack,” Daniel informed as he shook his head.  Then he smiled and said, “She's so sweet to have us to dinner.  When?”

“Tomorrow night.  Nothing fancy, she said, just you, me, Mrs. V, and her cats,” Jack answered.

“I hope she makes her lasagna,” Daniel said and then licked his lips in anticipation.

“Oh those lips.”  Jack ambled over to his husband's chair, leaned over, and kissed him.  “Oh yeah.  Love those lips.”

“Jack, we need to talk about something,” Daniel stated a bit hesitantly.

“Sounds serious.”

“Uh ... kinda.”  Allowing Jack to pull him up, Daniel and his lover sat down in the big recliner and snuggled closely together.  As they settled, he laughed, “I can't believe we've figured out how to fit both of us into this chair so comfortably.”

“We're motivated!  So, what's the topic?” Jack inquired.

“Our house.”

“Love our house.”

“Me, too, but ... well, it's not really the house.”

“Okay.”  Jack felt a bit of tenseness in his lover.  He pressed his lips against Daniel's forehead and said softly, “Then what?”

“We need to remodel,” the archaeologist stated.

Nodding, Jack replied, “I know that.  We've talked about it quite a bit.”  After a pause, he realized there was more.  “You're hedging, Love.”

“Kids.”

“Danny, speak English, okay?”

“Jack, kids ... our kids ... in our house,” Daniel stammered, making eye contact and not really wanting to verbalize his thoughts.

“That's the plan,” the older man agreed, still not getting the point the younger man was trying to make.

“And our house ... we'll need to ... um, well, childproof it.”

“That would be the thing to do to keep our children safe ... to ...”  That's when Jack understood what Daniel was gently trying to say.  His eyes opened big and wide, almost in a panic, and his breathing hitched.  “We have to remove the guns.  We ... have to take it all out ... all of it,” he said softly.

“Jack ...” but Daniel didn't know what to say, so he simply placed his head snugly into his Love's shoulder, his left hand roaming Jack's neck, shoulder, and arm.

The couple sat quietly for a long time, just taking in the solemnness of their obligations to keep their children safe.

Finally, Jack spoke, “Okay, so I'll include some downstairs stuff in the plans, get the gun cabinet taken out.  I'll figure out what to do with the weapons.  They'll be long gone before our children arrive.  Let's go get something to eat.  I'm starved.”

Jack got up quickly and headed downstairs, not even looking back.

Daniel took a big breath.  He looked over at the wedding gift Jack had given him, the Jackson-O'Neill Tree of Love.  Under the space that read “Our Children” was a photo of Charlie.  Since Jack and Sara had both agreed that Charlie was as much Daniel's and Mark's as theirs, Daniel had asked Jack what he had thought about putting another photo of Charlie in their Tree of Love.  There was already a small one on one of the tree branches, the side of Jack's ancestry, but this one would be bigger and included in the section devoted to their children.

Jack had been truly touched.  As soon as they could, they had talked to Sara and arranged to have lunch when the couple returned from their honeymoon.  At that time, they had perused some photos Sara  had brought out, selecting one of Charlie to include in their Tree of Love.

Looking at it now, Daniel said reassuringly, “We won't let what happened to you happen to your brother or sister.  I promise -- we'll keep them safe!”

====

“Breath-taking,” Daniel put his arms around his husband.  “You are so sexy, Jack.  Love you, my Silver Fox,” Daniel spoke leaning in for a kiss.

Jack was wearing a long-sleeved burgundy shirt with black pants.  Daniel had on a similar shirt, but his was navy blue with white horizontal stripes every few inches.  He also wore black pants.

“You're no mince meat yourself, Love,” Jack complimented.

“Jack, do you know what this is?” Daniel asked.

“No, what?”

“It's our first real night out.  I mean ... not hiding, not being covert.  It doesn't matter who sees or where we go or what we do.  It's just us, going to a dinner party.”

“She's known for a long time,” Jack pointed out.

“I know, but it's different.  Don't you feel it?”

“Just another night,” Jack teased.  Then he broke into laughter, saying, “Geez, Danny, it's the best night.  I get to show the world you're mine, even if it is just Mrs. V, and she already knows it.  We'd better go.”

“What about the girls?” Daniel asked about Bijou and Katie, their much beloved beagles.

“It's a little cold out.  Let's let them in the house.”

“You're such a toughie, Babe,” Daniel mused.

“That's what you keep telling me.”

The couple secured the house, making sure Bijou and Katie were comfortable on their beanbag, and walked up the block to Mrs. Valissi's home.  Her lights were on, but the blinds were closed.  Jack rang the doorbell.

“Who is it?” a call shouted from inside.

“Just us, Mrs. V,” Jack yelled in response.

“The door's unlocked.  Come on in!” the senior citizen invited.

“Jack, we need to talk to her about doing that.  It's not safe for her to leave her door open like this.”

“I agree,” Jack said as he opened the door.

“SURPRISE!” a chorus of voices rang out.

Jack and Daniel stood stunned, the door still open.  

“Welcome to your party, Boys!” Mrs. Valissi announced as she approached the couple, wearing a smile as big as can be.

The house was full of friends and neighbors, and across the ceiling was a banner that said, “Welcome Home, Jack and Daniel!”

“Wel...welcome home?” Daniel asked, still not sure what was happening.

“Well, Dear,” Mrs. Valissi began, “we weren't sure what to say, but in a sense, you are finally home, aren't you?”

Daniel smiled as he hugged their friend and neighbor.  

“Wow, Mrs. V,” Jack said. “You didn't have to do this.”

“Yes, I did.  It's about time we said thank you for bringing Daniel to us.”  Daniel blushed.  “You're a sweetheart, Daniel,” Mrs. Valissi raved, “and the day Jack O'Neill conned you into falling in love with him was the day we all became blessed.”

“Conned?” Jack bellowed.  “I'll have you know I'm a prize catch.  Just ask Danny!”

Daniel headed for the crowd.

“Danny? ... Daniel! ... Just like an archaeologist.  If you aren't an artifact, they just don't care.”

“Come mingle, Dear.”

Mrs. Valissi led Jack into the room, following Daniel's path.  Many of their neighbors were there: Christa and Jacob Svenson from across the street, John and Mitzi Miller who lived next to Mrs. Valissi, Ben and Joan Iverson, Carl Ramirez, Bob Stevens and Shelly McClain, and so many others.

“You knew?” Daniel said, astonished at what Shelly was saying.

“Oh sure, Daniel.  You were always there.”

“Yeah, I know.  I guess we weren't as ... careful as we should have been.”

“We all knew,” Bob added, “but it wasn't our place to interfere.  Jack had been a good neighbor for a couple of years already, and when you entered the picture, you were a good neighbor, too.  That's what mattered.”

Joan added, “Besides, Jack was in the Air Force so we knew why you weren't going public.  I swear, sometimes I think we should abolish our government completely and start over ... see if we can do it right; let people love whoever they want without all these silly rules.”

“I know what you mean.”

In another part of the large living room, Jack was chatting with other neighbors.

“Believe me, it was a surprise to me, too, but after two minutes, I think even you'd fall for him, Christa.”

“You know I would have snatched him up from you if I didn't have Jacob to argue with,” Christa laughed.

Christa and Jacob had known about the newlyweds from the beginning and had been saddened to have missed their wedding.

“Jack, do you think the military will ever get their act together?” Mitzi asked taking a drink of her punch.

“I don't know, but I hope so.  Loving Daniel is the easiest thing in the world to do; hiding that love has been one of the hardest.  I don't ever want to have to do that again.”

“I'm just glad I won't have to lie anymore.”

“Lie, Mitzi?”

“Oh, maybe I shouldn't have said anything,” the woman stated with uncertainty.

“No, please.  What are you talking about?” the curious man asked.

Mitzi answered, “I think we've all had to deal with questions, Jack.  Military or ... I don't know who ... some passerby asking questions about you or Daniel.  I'm sure they were checking up on you.”

“I've always wondered who they were myself,” Carl added.  “They've been by my place two or three times over the years.”

“I'm sorry about that.  You should have told me,” Jack stated.

“Why, Jack?  Why worry you and Daniel, or make you two feel uncomfortable?  You two have been our friends.  Whenever anything goes wrong around here, you two are the first to offer help.  So we lied a little -- small price to pay for protecting friends from ... who knows who,” Ben said, his conviction strong.

Jack nonchalantly took a drink of punch and asked, “When's the last time anyone was around, that you know of?”

The neighbors thought for a moment.

“Well, I think about six months ago; don't you think so, Honey?” Mitzi asked John.

“That's about right, Dear.  Someone said they were interested in the house, wanting to know if we thought you'd sell, but they weren't house hunting.  I remembered one of them from of couple years back.”

“I'm sorry about that,” Jack said sincerely.  “Your lives shouldn't be invaded because I live here.”

“Not your fault, Jack.”

“Toast time!”

Jack turned and saw Mrs. Valissi and some other neighbors bringing out the champagne.  They passed glasses of the bubbly to everyone present, and then in synch, as they had done with their opening cry of “Surprise,” the guests held out their drinks and said, “To our wonderful neighbors, Jack and Daniel Jackson-O'Neill.  Welcome home!”

Jack walked to Daniel and kissed him, feeling even freer now than he had before.

“I love you.”

Daniel smiled in response, saying, “I love you, too,” and then they kissed again.

When they looked at their neighbors, they saw friendly, accepting faces, not curiosity seekers or people in shock, just friends and neighbors.  It was what they had wanted for years, and now, they had it.

“And here's to you,” Jack raised his glass, “all of you.  You have no idea how much it means to us to have our friends and neighbors here like this. Thank you.”

Daniel's arm wrapped around Jack.  They'd never experienced this before, the acceptance of their marriage with their neighbors.  What so many in the world took for granted, Jack and Daniel held as a treasured gift.

====

“Five ... that's it ... six ... come on, no shortcuts ... seven ... two more ... that doesn't count.  I said no shortcuts.  Okay ... eight ... nine ... ten!  Well done, Babe.”

“Danny, I'm exhausted.  Don't you think this is going overboard?” Jack questioned hopefully.

“We have to stay in shape, Jack.  Now that we aren't going on missions, we could get ... flabby.”

“I am *not* flabby,” Jack said as he wiped the sweat from his face.

For the last hour, Jack ha been doing the Daniel Jackson-O'Neill workout, only it wasn't the kind of workout Jack had been hoping for.

“And we're going to keep you ... not flabby by exercising ... every day.”

“I have nothing against exercise, but couldn't we just have sex?” the older man asked eagerly.

“That's not exercise.”

“It's not?  I've lost a few pounds when we've ...”

“Jack, it's not the same thing.  Now, if we're going to have a family, children, then we need to be able to keep up with them.”

“She's not even pregnant yet,” Jack argued.

Daniel glared at his lover, then he gave his next orders -- “Okay, no more pushups, but it's time for your sit-ups.  Twenty of them.  Go on.  Ready?  Okay ... go ... One ... that's it ... two ... good ... thr...thr...thr... THOR?”

Daniel stood up and yelled at the top of his lungs.

“THAT'S MY HUSBAND YOU JUST SNATCHED UP ...  AND HE'S RETIRED, THOR!  YOU HEAR ME!  THOR, BEAM ME ... up,” Daniel said, realizing he was suddenly aboard Thor's ship, aptly named, 'The Daniel Jackson'.

“Hey, Babe.  Nice of you to join us,” Jack greeted jovially.

“Very funny, Jack.”

“Hey, even I heard you yelling.”

“Thor, what's going on?  You know the rules.  No ... snatching,” Daniel said.

“I am sorry, Daniel,” the tiny alien replied.  “I did not mean to intrude, but I only just learned that you and O'Neill have retired from the SGC.”

“Thor, you can't talk us into going back; not this time,” Jack said firmly just as Daniel walked to his side.

“That is not my intent.  I only wished to give you this,” the Asgard said, handing Jack a communications device.  “If you need to contact me, you may use this.  It has long range capability.”

“Thanks, Buddy,” Jack said with a grin.

“You are now free to exhibit your real relationship?”

“Yes,” Daniel said, still smiling.  “We only had to keep it a secret because Jack's military, but now that he's retired, we can ... do whatever want.”

Thor had known about Jack's and Daniel's relationship for years.  He had found out about it while beaming down to request Jack's help.  The Asgard leader had thought it strange that the Tau'ri had such odd rules about whom they could love.

“The Asgard wish you well.”

“Thank you, Thor,” Jack said, adding, “and thanks for this.  It's good to know we still have friends ... up there.”

Thor nodded, and, in a flash, Jack and Daniel were back in their house.

“We need to find a safe place to keep that,” Daniel said, looking at the device.

“For now, the safe.”

“Jack?”

“Yes, Love?”

“Why didn't he beam me up with you?” Daniel inquired curiously.

Jack grinned as he answered, “He was just pulling your chain.  He knows you hate being left behind.”

“Great.  An Asgard being an ...”

“Daniel, he might be listening,” Jack warned, waving his finger at his Love.

“The old snoop,” Daniel said with a chuckle.

“Let's put this in the safe,” Jack suggested, heading for the closet.

====

“Hey, Bijou, that's my cookie!”

Jack tore after the crafty mama beagle, chasing her around the living room.  Daniel laughed, watching his family at play.

“That's what you get for putting your plate down on the floor, Jack.”

“It was just a temporary thing.  I was ... oh forget it.  GRRRRRR,” Jack growled at Bijou.

“Grrrrrrrr,” Bijou growled back, her tail wagging wildly.

Holding Katie in his arms, Daniel continued to laugh as he watched Jack run after Bijou.

“Come on, Jack.  You don't really want the cookie now, do you?”

Seeing Bijou's grip on the cookie shifting, Jack laughed.

“No, I guess not” and returned to the kitchen to get a new oatmeal treat.

“Keep your paws off of this one, Bij, or you'll regret it!”

Bijou's tail was still wagging, her face alight with a big smile.

“She's trembling, Jack ... just trembling with fear,” Daniel teased as a knock on the door grabbed his attention.  “I'll get it.”

Daniel rose, carrying the youngest beagle with him.

“Hi, Daniel.  Hey there, Miss Katie,” Sylvia said happily, petting the beautiful dog.

“Hello, Sylvia, come on in,” Daniel greeted the doctor and opened the door.

“Syl!” Jack exclaimed, about to get up until the doctor motioned for him to stay seated.

“I'm in a hurry.  I have a meeting to get to, and I'm late but ... well, I just had to come by.”

“Is everything okay?  I mean, Kayla's exams and everything?” Daniel inquired with concern.

Sylvia had a warm, comforting smile on her face.

“Things couldn't be better.  In fact, well, Kayla dropped by my office today,” the physician informed.

Jack couldn't remain seated, worry beginning to consume him.  He stood and walked over to Daniel, putting his arm around Daniel's waist securely, as if bracing him for some disaster.

“Fellas, why do you always assume the worst?” Sylvia sighed.

“It's our line of business,” Jack answered straight-forwardly.

“Our ... old line of business,” Daniel corrected, making Jack smile.

Sylvia shook her head, and continued, “Kayla is fine.  Thrilled, in fact.  She wanted to come over tonight, but she had a writer's workshop and didn't want to miss it -- some special guest lecturer or something.  She specifically asked me if I could come and give you the news tonight because she didn't feel right keeping it from you any longer than necessary.”

“Keep what from us?” both Jack and Daniel spoke at the same time.

“You're ...”

Just then there was a loud pounding on the front door,  and a voice was heard shouting, “JACK!  DANIEL!  Hello!”

Sylvia laughed, recognizing Kayla's voice, as Jack and Daniel scurried to the door.

“Are you all right?” Daniel asked with worry.

At the exact same time, Jack questioned, “What's wrong?” as he looked all around for signs of danger.

Kayla smiled, catching her breath as she replied, “No ... I mean, I'm sorry.  I'm fine.”  The young woman rushed to Sylvia.  “Am I too late?”

“No, Dear, I haven't told them yet.  I was just about to, though.”

“Oh, for crying out loud, tell us what?” Jack barked.

“Go ahead, Kayla.”

“Thanks, Syl.  I was headed for the lecture, and I just knew I had to come by here first.  It wouldn't be right otherwise.”

“Women.  I swear.  I'm going to shoot them all,” Jack muttered, shaking his head wildly in frustration.

“Jack, calm down,” Daniel ordered sternly.

Kayla beamed as she gave them the thrilling news -- “You're going to be a father, er, fathers!”

“Yes, we know that, but what's the news?” Jack asked, totally missing the message.

“Jack,” Daniel whispered and then suddenly stopped breathing, his eyes locked onto Kayla.

“Jack, she's pregnant,” Sylvia stated informatively, a grin highlighting her face.

“Oh, gawd,” Daniel exclaimed, still not breathing.

“Daniel, dear, you're about to turn blue.  Breathe!  And here, give me Katie.”

Sylvia took the beagle and put her gently on the floor.  Katie looked up at Daniel, her head tilted.  Unable to figure out what was wrong, but feeling her 'parent' was safe, the youngest dog trotted over to her beanbag and curled up into a ball, deciding it was time for a nap.

“She's ... I mean ... You are ... For real?”

~This is always so exciting.~  Sylvia smiled.  Moments like these made her job a career.  “Congratulations!  In a few months, you're going to have a baby to take care of.”

Jack and Daniel stood motionless.

“Guys?  Say something,” Kayla urged.

“Ppppregnant,” Jack stuttered uncharacteristically.

Sylvia placed a kiss on each of their cheeks, then said, “I have to go.  Call me tomorrow when you both need a reminder that this wasn't your imagination.  Jack, make sure he breathes,” she pointed at the younger man, “and take a few breaths yourself while you're at it.”

“I'm going to go, too, but I couldn't miss this moment.  I'll talk to you later tonight or tomorrow,” Kayla said, giving both men a hug.

“Daniel?  Are you going to be okay?”

“Ba...ba...preg...nant?”

“Yes, Daniel,” Kayla answered, placing her own kiss on his cheek.  As she headed for the door, she added, “Jack, I think you'd better follow Sylvia's advice, and make sure Daniel keeps breathing.  Bye!”

Jack nodded, watching Kayla walk out.  He turned to face Daniel who had missed a breath again.

“Danny?”

Daniel let out a half laugh and gasp, his voice a wispy sound as he said, “We're going to have a baby!”

“Yeah, how about that?”  Then, suddenly, Jack shouted in joy, “WE'RE GOING TO HAVE A BABY!”  He laughed, raising Daniel up in the air slightly, and spinning them both around.  When he put Daniel down, their eyes locked.  Both swallowed, their eyes misty.  “We're pregnant, Love,” he said softly.

“Pregnant,” Daniel repeated, on the verge of finally snapping out of the shock in he had gone into.  “All our dreams, Jack.  Our little baby dream ... it's ... coming true.”

“I love you, Angel,” Jack proclaimed as he took his husband into his arms.  Then he looked over at the beagles, both now in the beanbag.  “Girls, we're having a baby!”

For the rest of the night, Jack and Daniel cuddled together, their beagles at their sides or in their arms, all happy and blessed at their good fortune.

====

“Hmmm,” Daniel sighed, his left hand reaching out and feeling nothing but cotton ... the cotton of the light blue sheets that adorned their king-size bed.

He got up and put on his navy blue robe and slippers and went in search of his husband, finding Jack on the roof deck.  Jack was in their favorite spot, his back leaning against the house.  His knees were drawn up just enough for his hands to rest on as he thought.

“Jack?”

Daniel moved to sit down next to Jack, grateful he had pajamas on under the robe.  Jack himself had gotten dressed and was wearing his new pair of gray sweats to replace the old, tattered pair Daniel had loved for years.

“Danny, I can't ... there has to be something we can do.  Crap, I feel so mixed up, like I'm being pulled in two different directions.”

Daniel leaned forward to kiss Jack's cheek.  He put his left hand on Jack's face and let it slip to his neck where he rubbed gently.

“Talk to me.”

“Charlie.  I can't let that happen again,” Jack vowed.

“It won't.  We're taking care of that,” Daniel assured.

“And that's the problem, Love.  We can't afford to use that solution,” the older man stated.

“I don't understand,” Daniel replied.  He watched as his lover looked down, leaned forward a little, and put his head in his hands.  Daniel shifted and put his right hand behind his husband's head in support.  His other hand was on Jack's left arm.  “Jack, Mrs. Valissi's party.  You were awfully quiet when we came home that night.  I ... I remember thinking there was something you weren't telling me, but I let it go.  Something happened, didn't it?”

Jack nodded, finally leaning his head back against the wall and facing Daniel, who moved his hand down to caress his husband's shoulder.

“We've always known there have been people watching us.  Geez, our lives have been invaded by the NID or Kinsey or the CIA or I don't know or even care anymore who friggin' else, but I had hoped that when we got out, that they'd go away.  It was a silly notion, Danny, that we could walk away and have them walk away, too.”

“What happened?”

“The neighbors, just like we knew, they've been questioned over the years.  That wasn't a surprise, except that the last time was just six months ago.  Six months, Danny.  We weren't doing anything then, and most anyone who knew us knew we were leaving the SGC.”

Daniel took a breath of defeat and regretfully spoke, “I guess we were being naive to think we could have a life free of all of that.”

“Angel, the only thing we were naive about was having hope, and yet, we have to have hope.  It keeps us going.”

“Jack, are we wrong to bring a life into this world if we're still targets?”

“No, there are always going to be dangers in the world, and we're entitled to live life, Danny -- all of it.  We've earned that right, and we're going to.  It's just ... crap, Daniel, I have to be able to protect you ... and the girls ... and our children.  How can I do that if we take away the guns?  We're not accountants!  Anyone, anything could be after us at any time.  Look, I'm not advocating people owning guns, but we aren't normal, and we never will be.  It's tearing me apart because I don't know how to protect the girls and our babies without risking what happened to our son.”

“We'll find a way, Jack.  We just need to think about it realistically.  We know there's a solution.  There has to be.”

“I hope so, but I don't know what it is,” Jack said weakly, his emotions threatening to overtake him.

Daniel pulled Jack to him, so that Jack's head was resting on his shoulder.

“We'll find a way, Love.  I promise.  You know what you always tell me, that together we're unbeatable, so ... we'll think of something because ... gawd, Jack ... that's what we always do ... we think of something.”  Daniel heard the release of a sniffle, and held Jack securely.  “Shhh, Love.  It's going to be okay.  I love you.  We'll think of something.  Shhh.  Everything will work out the way it's supposed to.  Love you so much.”

Daniel kissed the top of Jack's silver-gray hair and gently rocked his husband as they sat under the twinkling stars, both unsure of everything except for their nation of two.

====

--Chapter Four:  We Have a Little Problem!

====

“Guys, Sylvia says everything is fine,” Kayla assured.  “Please calm down before you make the baby nervous.”

“Sorry, Kayla, I guess we're just ... jittery or something,” Daniel said, sipping his coffee.

It had just been a couple of weeks since Jack and Daniel had learned that Kayla Armentrout, Janet's niece, was pregnant with their child, having gone through a successful artificial insemination procedure.

“You're going to be a basket case if you don't settle down, and, Jack, I'm not going to let you do that mother hen thing to me that you do with Daniel, so don't even think about it.”

“Mother hen?  Moi?”

“Nice try, Jack, but Daniel has told me too many stories, not to mention the things Janet's described.”

“Janet exaggerates.”

“I'll be sure to tell her you said that,” Kayla stated with a strong stare that reminded the general of the SGC physician.

“Ouch!” Jack flinched as he spoke.  “I'm glad I'm retired.”

“She'd get you with one of those long needles, Jack,” Daniel said, laughing.

“Don't remind me.  I remember one time ...”

The rest of the night was spent back in time, as Jack, Daniel, and Kayla visited, sharing moments from their pasts as they continued to get to know one another better.

====

“You've *got* to be kidding me, Joel.  This couldn't possibly be true!”

Sylvia was speaking with Doctor Joel Sumneers, who ran the Clinic Sylvia was using for Jack's and Daniel's surrogacy needs.  She consulted at the clinic frequently, and Joel was a close friend.  He was responsible, more dedicated than most physicians in this day and age, and he prided himself on hiring staff that valued good work and patients more than jobs and salaries.

The physician had office space at the clinic and knew the staff very well.  She had never known of any instance of incompetence, complacency, or just plain carelessness.  So, when Joel gave her the shocking news, Sylvia was stunned.

“I don't know what to say, Sylvia.  I've talked to everyone involved, and apparently, it happened just the way I told you.  Janeel feels just awful and is thinking about quitting.  I've been on the phone with her off and on all day.”

“She's a wonderful nurse.  We can't afford to lose her, but Joel, this is serious.  The repercussions to those involved are ... reprehensible.  I know that sounds extreme, but what do I say to these people?”

“We'll take full responsibility.  We have to do whatever they want.  I know it's not much, but I've already contacted the lawyers to be prepared, and to instruct them that we will not shirk responsibility for our mistake.”

“They aren't going to sue, Joel.  They won't care about that.”  Sylvia looked again at the report.  “You're sure?  I mean, there couldn't be a mistake here?”

“No, I ran it three times myself, and had two others start from scratch.  We've studied the samples and the inventory.  There's no mistake, Syl. I'm sorry.  Refund their money, and the next one is on us.  It's not enough, but it's all we can do.”

“Do you want me to talk with Janeel?”

“Like you said, she's a good nurse, and what happened shouldn't have, but it was an honest mistake.”

“Joel, how do we prevent this from happening again?”

“We're having a meeting this week to discuss that.  You'll have the memo on that by tomorrow afternoon.  Obviously, we need a few additional steps in our process, and we need to look into temporary solutions for when things get a little too hectic around here.  It's not enough for us to say it only gets that busy once a year.  That's once a year too often if we don't have a plan on how to handle it effectively.”

“Thank you, Joel, for letting me know so quickly.  I'll make the call.”

“Give them my number if you'd like.”

Sylvia nodded and sat down in her chair, shaking her head.  She was numb from the news.  Of course, it could be worse, but still, she knew it would be a shock.

Not wanting to prolong the agony, Sylvia picked up the phone, dialed an outside extension, and made an appointment for 7:30 p.m. that night.

====

“Do you miss it?” Daniel asked Jack as they drove up to the security gate of the Cheyenne Mountain Complex.

The two men were meeting Sam and Teal'c for lunch.  Since they'd left, their two former teammates had been busy, and all had realized just how much they missed their team get-togethers, so when Sam called with the invitation, the Jackson-O'Neills had jumped at the chance for a short reunion.

“A little,” Jack answered truthfully as he reached over and squeezed Daniel's thigh.  “But I like this more -- being free to be ourselves.  Not risking our lives against snakeheads every day.  Living our dreams.  What about you?”

“I miss the discovery of it all,” Daniel responded.  He could see that Jack was worried the archaeologist was regretting their retirement and hastened to reassure the older man.  “But, Jack, the discovery of new artifacts doesn't compare to the excitement and challenges we have now.  We're going to be parents!”

Jack grinned.  He loved seeing Daniel so happy and excited.  While the younger man still had bouts of anxiety about their upcoming parenthood status, he also radiated enthusiasm, excitement, and joy.

“Good morning, General, Doctor Jackson.”

The guard at the gate nodded to the two as they drove into the parking area of the SGC.  Once they were out of sight, he immediately picked up the phone.

“Colonel Carter? ... They just drove in ... You're welcome ... Thank you, Colonel.  I'd appreciate that.”

The airman smiled as he returned to his normal position, happy to know that a piece of the surprise would be waiting for him when he went off-duty.

====

Jack and Daniel made their way to Sam's lab.  Finding it empty, they decided to go straight to the commissary, figuring they were to meet her there.

“Maybe we misunderstood,” Daniel suggested.

“Or maybe Carter got hungry.  You know how she gets when she wants a steak.”

Daniel laughed, remembering the tremendous appetites they had all had while wearing the unique armbands the Tok'ra Anise had affixed to them as an experiment years earlier.  The devices had affected their ability to think rationally as well, resulting in a covert visit to a local restaurant that had ended with a fight after a man mocked Daniel.

“That wasn't just her idea, Jack.  As I recall, you brought up steak.”

“But she thought of O'Malley's, and you didn't exactly argue either,” Jack reminded.

“I was hungry,” Daniel admitted with a smile.

The two were still laughing as they approached the mess area and entered.

“Attention!”

Jack looked in shock as he saw the room full of people, now all standing at attention.

“Oh wow,” Daniel responded.

“Carter, what's going on?”

“Uh, Jack ...” Daniel nudged his lover.  “The salute.”

“Oh.”  The retired general did a salute.  “Carter, didn't I tell you I was only going to say 'at ease' once?”

“Yes, Sir, and you didn't say it now, either, Sir.”

Sam looked pleased with herself.  The room was decorated with a banner that read “We Miss You” and another one that said “Happy Retirement.”  Tables were adorned with finger sandwiches, fruits, and snack foods, and there was a large bowl of punch.

“O'Neill.  DanielJackson.  It is custom for the Tau'ri to celebrate days of retirement.  This is your celebration.”

“Thank you, Teal'c,” Daniel said.

“We're a little behind schedule with the party, but every time we planned it, either we got sent off-world or you guys had something come up.”

“Oh, gawd,” Daniel reacted shyly, remembering how they had cancelled out on lunch two weeks ago, only because they had become distracted  -- by each other in what had turned out to be an all day love fest.

“Danny,” Jack whispered, “stop turning red.  They'll know.”

“Know what, Sir?”

Sam's eyes had a shine to them, and her smile seemed to be a bit smug.  Jack knew she knew and decided to ignore it.

The party commenced.  Just about all of their SGC friends made their way down to the commissary during the celebration to at least say hello and wish the couple well, and other acquaintances came to offer their best wishes, too.  Some, of course, stayed away, disapproving and ignorant.

Jack and Daniel enjoyed the luncheon delights and visiting with their former colleagues, reliving old missions, and talking about the future.

“May I have your attention please,” Lieutenant General George Hammond called out, the room quickly quieting.

“While we're on duty and can't enjoy champagne, we'll have to make due with this ...”

At Hammond's nod, Sergeant Davis led three of the mess hall workers into the area, each holding trays of glasses full of drink.  Jack assumed it was more punch, or maybe something like Martinelli's.

“General,” Davis held out the tray.  Jack reached for a glass.  “Uh, no, Sir, one of the ones on the right.”  Jack's eyebrows raised, but who was he to argue?  He picked up a glass, and Daniel did the same.  “Enjoy, Sirs.”

Jack watched Davis passing out his tray, seemingly very selective of who got the drinks on the right.  Jack looked at his drink, and grinned.

~Why you old goat!~

“As we all know, General Jackson-O'Neill doesn't like speeches,” Hammond began.

**He said your name, Jack.  I mean ...**

**I know.  Pretty amazing man, that General Hammond.**

Hammond was one of a few that had known of their intention to legally change their names.  It wasn't a secret; they just hadn't publicized it because it wasn't yet legal.

“So we're going to make this short, with only a few hundred short speeches from his closest friends.”

“Ouch!” Jack responded, earning some laughter in the room.

“Let me start by saying that it was my good fortune to have someone like Jack O'Neill as my second-in-command.  He wasn't the usual second, but he certainly made the job entertaining.”  More laughter broke out.  “And what can I say about Doctor Jackson-O'Neill?”

**Jack, as much as I love it, he shouldn't be doing that, not here.  He's risking his pension.**

**Who's going to tell?  He's giving us a present, Love.  Let's just enjoy it and not make a big deal out of it.**

“As someone once said, Daniel made this place happen.  None of us would be here without his dedication and capabilities to see things that most of us couldn't even imagine before being assigned to the Stargate program.”

Hammond raised his glass to the couple, and others followed suit.

“To Retired Brigadier General Jackson-O'Neill, a colorful yet dependable second, and a loyal and trusted friend, and to Retired Doctor Jackson-O'Neill, a caring, compassionate, and intelligent soul who led the way for all of us, and someone I consider it an honor to know and call my friend.  Happy retirement, Jack and Daniel.”

Jack's eyes bulged, as did Daniel who worked hard to stifle a cough from the strong drink.

**This is so not punch,** Jack communicated.

**Definitely not, Jack.**

Sam smiled, enjoying the reactions as she sipped her drink.

**Carter was in on it.**

**Jack, you do think General Hammond knows?  I mean, she wouldn't ...**

**No way.  Hammond knows.  Look at that smug expression on his face.**

For the next thirty minutes, Jack and Daniel were toasted by some of their friends, although it sometimes felt like a roast.

“I remember when Jack led the way, setting an example for all of us.  He was gung-ho.  Not a one would be left behind.  Nope, not a single Simpsons comic book remained in the store that day,” Lou Ferretti spoke.

“You're just sore because I got them first, Lou,” Jack shouted out.

“I knew DanielJackson would not let us down.  He would say the words that would make the inhabitants understand our presence on their world.  I observed him as he considered the proper translation.  When he started to open his mouth, I knew we would be freed.  Then, he sneezed, and sneezed again.  I had been unaware that sneezing was a language.”

“Well, we did get out of there, Teal'c.  It's not like I sneezed all day.”

“That is correct, DanielJackson.  You sneezed only for twelve minutes and twenty-nine seconds before the inhabitants escorted us to their Stargate and ordered us never to return,” the Jaffa spoke.

Jack laughed, earning him a punch to the abdomen.

“We never did go back there,” Daniel lamented.

“You want to?  I'm sure Hammond ...”  Daniel's glare cut off his soulmate.  “I guess not,” Jack said to the room, more laughter spreading.

Onward it went, the good-natured ribbing indicative of the warmth felt for the two men, until finally, it was time for most of the SGC personnel to return to their duties.

“Thank you, Sir, not just for the privilege of working with you, but for what you said today.”

“Son, you're missed around here.”

“Just Daniel, General?” Jack asked as he joined the conversation.

“I'll get back to you on that,” Hammond teased.  “You know, Jack, if I hadn't already been bald when we met, I certainly would have been by now.”

“Thank you, Sir,” Jack boasted, bouncing on the balls of his feet, a smug expression on his face.  After Hammond laughed, Jack echoed his husband's sentiments.  “Seriously, Sir, thank you, for everything.”  The trio shook hands, and then Hammond left.  “Carter, you did good,” he said as he and Daniel approached the blonde colonel.

“Uh, Sir, an airman will driving you and Daniel home, and I'll be driving the Silver Fox, if that's okay, Daniel.”  She saw the question in their faces.  “That was, uh,” Sam looked around the room, “good stuff, wasn't it, Sir?” she asked, motioning at the drinks.

Jack considered arguing, but his 2IC was correct.  Both he and Daniel had enjoyed the party and lots of whatever it was they'd been drinking.

“That's why you insisted I drive my car,” Daniel said, finally catching on.

Sam had often driven Daniel's car.  He was much freer and tolerant of other driver's than Jack was with his truck.  Sam shrugged in answer.

====

Soon, the three teammates were at the Jackson-O'Neill home.  Sam handed over the keys to Daniel, who hugged her.  Jack looked uncomfortable.

“Oh, come on, Jack.  She's just Sam.”

“Thanks.  I think,” Sam replied.

Jack laughed and hugged their friend, thanking her for the surprise.  The couple stood, arms wrapped around each other's waists as they watched her drive off with the airman.

“I was a great party,” Jack opined.

“It was nice, Jack.  I wasn't expecting that,” the younger man admitted.

“Me, either,” Jack agreed as the couple walked to the door, unlocking it.  “We'd better take a little nap before dinner.”

“Oh, yeah, Sylvia's visit.  I hope nothing's wrong.”

“She would have told us,” Jack insisted.

“I guess you're right.”

====

“I'm a little early.  Traffic wasn't as bad as I thought it would be,” the doctor spoke as she walked into the entranceway.

“No problem, Sylvia.  Daniel's upstairs, lost in some artifact or something.  Have a seat, and I'll go get him.”

“Thanks, Jack.”

Jack headed for the stairs, but paused and turned back to look at his friend.

“Syl, is everything okay?  The baby?”

“The baby's fine, Jack.  So is Kayla.”

“Okay,” Jack said, but yet he stood in place for several seconds, almost biting his lip, before heading upstairs.

The couple had taken a nap after returning from the Mountain, then had a nice dinner, reminiscing about the party and the roasting comments they'd received.  It had been a fun visit with old friends.  After dinner, Daniel had gone to the den to study an artifact sent to him by a friend wanting an opinion about its origin, and Jack had been watching television.

“Danny?”

“Hmmm?” Daniel responded, without looking up.

“Something's wrong.”

Daniel quickly put down the artifact, almost dropping it, and practically jumped up from his chair.

“What?”

“I don't know, but Sylvia's here.”

“Already?  She's not supposed to be here for another forty-five minutes.”

“Yeah, said traffic wasn't bad.  She says the baby's fine, Kayla, too, but ...”

“...something's wrong,” both said softly.

Jack raised his hand to caress Daniel's right cheek.

“Remember, Love, no matter what, we're together, and when we're together ...”

“... we're unbeatable,” Daniel completed.

“You got that right!”

Daniel leaned into Jack for a moment, needing some reassurance.

“Come on, Angel, let's go face ... whatever.”

Slowly, the two walked to the living room, where Daniel greeted their guest.  They exchanged a few pleasantries and a brief bit of small talk,  but the doctor could see the enormous worry on Daniel's face and the growing anxiety in Jack's voice and expression, and decided to stop evading the reason for her visit and get directly to the point.

“Jack.  Daniel.  There's a little problem.  Believe me, the baby is fine.  Let me assure you that there really is nothing wrong with the baby, or with Kayla.  In fact, she's doing extremely well.  Her only potential problem was a couple weeks ago.  I thought she might have been a bit diabetic.  We gave her a glucose test, and she was borderline.  We did a follow-up test, and she passed with flying colors.  Nevertheless, we'll continue to monitor her blood sugar and glucose levels as a precaution. So, again, everything's fine.”

Daniel was sitting on the arm of Jack's favorite chair, Jack holding his hand as he sat in the chair.  Sylvia saw Jack's grip was tight.  She also saw the worry in both their eyes.  She hated that they were feeling so anxious.  What had happened was a horrible mix-up, but it wasn't the end of the world, and it could have been worse.

“There was a mix-up at the Clinic on the second day that Kayla was inseminated.”

“WHAT?” Jack sprang forward in his chair, releasing Daniel's hand.  Daniel said nothing, simply staring at Sylvia.  “What kind of mix-up, Syl?”

“Doctor Sumneers brought it to my attention today.  He does several internal audits per year, on his own.  I told you about him when we talked about clinics.  He goes way beyond what is required, guys.  So, anyway, this past week they did an audit.  A mistake was found, and Doctor Sumneers had it checked and verified several times to make sure of the error.  He's already talked with the staff and determined exactly what happened.”

“AND WHAT DID HAPPEN?”

“Calm down, Jack.  This isn't as bad as you think.  Just let me explain from the top.  I know how you are.  You like details, and I'm going to give them to you as fully as I can, but you're going to have to listen.”

“I'm listening,” Jack said in a strained voice, his eyes dark in anger, even though he didn't yet know what the problem was.

Daniel hadn't moved or spoken.  Sylvia tried to make eye contact with him, but it was like Daniel was looking right through her.

“Okay, let me take you back, and I'll give you the blow by blow.  As you recall, Kayla was inseminated the first time using the fresh sample you provided, Daniel.  As per our discussions, and normal procedures, she came in again ten days later.  This was a bit earlier than planned, but there was some scheduling conflict with Kayla, as I recall.  This is apparently what happened when Kayla did come in for her second visit.

//Flashback - Day of Kayla's Second Insemination//
“Good afternoon.  Can I help you?”

“I'm Kayla Armentrout.  I'm supposed to have my second ... treatment today.”

“Oh, yes.  I'm Susan.  Have a seat, and I'll get Doctor Preston for you.”  Before Susan could move, the phone rang.  “It's a zoo here today,” she said before answering.  She put that call on hold, and before finally getting up to find Sylvia, the nurse had answered four more calls, answered a question for another nurse, and dealt with two other patients who had walked in.  “I'm sorry about that.  I'll be right back.”

Kayla sat calmly, reading an issue of Parenthood Magazine, grateful she was only giving birth and wouldn't have to deal with all the issues involved in raising a child.

“Kayla, how's it going?” Sylvia asked.

“Just fine.”

“Come to my office, and we'll chat for a few minutes, and then if all's well, we'll go ahead with the next procedure.”

“Sure thing.”

Walking to Sylvia's office, Kayla could hear the buzz of the busy facility. The phone was ringing non-stop.  People were coming in and out, not just patients, but salesmen and distributors, and people walking in off the street with questions.  She heard the sounds of the hard-working staff as they reached Sylvia's office.

“Carol, get the Zemekis chart, please.”
“I will in a moment, Chris.  I have to get these specimens to Doctor King first.”
“Nancy, can you do it?”
“My hands are full, Chris, and Doctor Rivers just paged me.  Sorry.”
“Doctor Morrison, the Peterson's sperm has arrived.  No, not Jared.  First name is Rod ... P-e-t-e-r-s-o-n.  O-n, not E-n.  Right.  I'll bring it right in.”

Emerging from Sylvia's office several minutes later, both women were smiling, chatting about France, where both had visited previously.

“Doctor Preston, Doctor Sumneers is on line four and says it's urgent.”

“Thanks, Susan.  Please take Kayla to Lab 2 and get her ready, and get the specimen ready.”

“Yes, Doctor Preston.”

Sylvia returned to her office to take the call as Susan led Kayla to the appropriate room.  

“This place is really jumping today,” Kayla said, as she witnessed all the activity.

“It's not normally like this.  I think someone must have made some scheduling mistakes or something.  It's crazy,” the nurse laughed.

Having done her duties with Kayla, Susan was about to get the appropriate specimen from its storage place when she was interrupted.

“Susan, Chris says she needs you right away.  There's an emergency with Doctor Morrison's patient.”

“Okay, Janeel.  Listen, I need you to grab the specimen for this patient.”

“Susan, we need you,” a shout came from another area.

Susan hurriedly made her way down the hall, when she heard Janeel call after her.

“Susan, there's no chart.  What's the name?”

“Daniel Jackson-O'Neill,” the nurse shouted amid ringing phones and a clash of files that had just fallen to the floor from someone bumping into a desk.

Janeel smiled apologetically at Kayla.

“It'll just be a few more minutes.  I'll be back shortly.”

“No problem,” Kayla laughed, happy that she was not a nurse.

Janeel entered the area where the specimens were kept, searching for the one she needed.  Normally, they used numbers, but when it wasn't an anonymous donation, they didn't always worry about it, and names were included with the numbers as a precautionary backup.

“Iverson ... Jabowski ... Jackson-O'Neill ... there you are ... oh, there you are twice.”

Realizing there were two sperm samples, Janeel started to take a closer look until she was distracted.

“Janeel, as soon as your finished, Doctor King wants you to assist.  Pronto, Janeel.”

“Yes, Ma'am,” Janeel responded to Abigail Pointer.

Abigail was the Head Nurse of the facility, and Janeel was the most recent hire.  She had only been working at the clinic two months and had earned high praise, but she still felt vulnerable and was feeling her way towards job approval and peer acceptance.

Wanting to please her supervisor by acting speedily, Janeel quickly reached her hand up behind her, grabbing the sample without looking at it except to verify that it said “Jackson-O'Neill.”

The insemination took place as planned, and when she was finished with Doctor King, Janeel made all the proper notations on the chart and made sure the inventory was properly in place before moving on to her next task.
//End of Flashback//

“Sylvia, what are you saying?”

“Jack, Janeel didn't check the first names, and without the chart, she didn't have the number to cross-check with.  She reached up in the area where she had been looking and grabbed the specimen.  When Doctor Sumneers ran the inventory, yours came up short, and Daniel's came up with a surplus.”

“Syl, I'm known for being thick-headed, so please, English, and slowly,” Jack said both sarcastically and anxiously.

“When Kayla was inseminated the first time, it was with Daniel's sperm, but the second visit ... it was your sperm, Jack.”

Daniel looked down at the carpet.  It was the first time he had moved. Quietly, he stood and walked to the patio door, and with his arms folded, he looked out at the darkness.

Jack leaned forward, outrage on his face, and shouted, “WHO'S THE BLASTED FATHER OF THE BABY?”

“Jack ...”

“NO, FOR CRYING OUT LOUD, DON'T TELL ME TO CALM DOWN.”  Jack had risen, pacing angrily.  “You said this place was the best.”

“They are, Jack.  I explained what happened.”

“WHO'S THE FATHER?”

“I don't know,” Sylvia answered forcefully.

“Sweet!”

Jack ran his fingers through his hair in disgust.

“This doesn't have to be a crisis,” the doctor insisted.  “Listen, we can do a DNA test.  I know it's inconvenient, but if you absolutely have to know this second, we can arrange it.”

“THEN DO IT, BLAST IT!”

“Jack, please listen.  We can do it, if that's what you want ...”

“BUT?” Jack asked, the veins bulging in his neck.

“But doing DNA tests during pregnancy can cause a miscarriage.  We can do it after the baby's born with no risk at all, and then you'll know, and you can proceed with your plans,” Sylvia stated.

Jack picked up a newspaper that was on the table, and making sure the beagles weren't in the house, he slammed it down to the ground, needing a release of some kind.  Daniel was still staring out the window.

“I understand your being upset, but it's not the end of the world.  You're having a baby, Jack,” looking over towards the window, “Daniel, do you hear me?”

Daniel turned, giving her a small, sad nod.

“It's ineptitude.  This was supposed to be fool-proof,” Jack argued angrily, his voice still raised above normal.

Sylvia stood.  She was upset about the mistake, but she was also frustrated by Jack's and Daniel's reactions, not that it wasn't to be expected.  She had just hoped they'd see that the mistake wasn't the end of their world.

“You two are having a baby.  Do you know how miraculous that is?  Okay, so maybe, and I repeat MAYBE, the baby is Jack's and not yours, Daniel.  So what?  You get to make the next one.  Isn't what you two want two healthy, happy babies?  One would have your genes, Daniel, and the other yours, Jack?  Does it really matter who goes first?  Does it?  I would like to put forth that if you think it does, then just maybe you'd better rethink your priorities.”

Jack sighed, too angry to reply, but hearing her words nevertheless.

Sylvia picked up her coat and put it on as she stated, “We can talk about this some more later.  Doctor Sumneers is ready to do anything to make up for the error.  The nurse in question says she's quitting.  She's a good nurse, gentlemen.  She made a mistake, on the craziest day the clinic has ever had.  Now, that's regrettable, but it's far from being tragic.  Oh, and you'll be receiving a refund.  This baby, and the next one, should you two so-called rational human beings decide you can handle parenthood, is on the house.  Goodnight.”

Sylvia fled in haste, leaving Jack standing in a huff and Daniel numb at the patio door.  She felt horrible, and maybe she shouldn't have been so defensive, but she was human, too, and right now she was disappointed with everyone involved.  She also felt guilty.  She'd expected Jack to be outraged, but she'd also expected Daniel to accept the mix up philosophically.  Now she realized how unfair that had been.  Daniel, more than anyone, had a right to be upset and disappointed.

Sylvia toyed with the idea of going back and apologizing for her parting comments, but then she decided it would be better to give the two a chance to come to terms with the news.  She made a note in her daily planner to call the couple in a day or two.

--

Inside the house, Jack looked at Daniel, who said only, “I'm going for a walk, and I'd like to be alone ... just for a while.”

Jack watched his husband walk out the door, and looked around for something to punch, but there was nothing, so he did something he had never done before, he screamed as loud as he could at the empty house.  In fact, he screamed out his frustration and anger for a solid five minutes.  When he calmed, he looked and saw Bijou and Katie staring at him in wonder.  They were at the door.

Jack let the girls in, and picked both up, carrying them to the sofa.  He lay down, keeping both on top of him.

“We've had a bad night, Girls.  Danny's upset, and I'm angry.  Be patient with us for the next couple of days, and stay close, okay.  I think we're both going to need some of those kisses.”

Katie lay down, stretched out lengthwise, her nose almost at Jack's chin.  Bijou curled up against Jack's arm, and gave him a kiss, and then made sure she was as close as she could be.

Jack smiled and said, “I knew I could count on you two.”

====

Jack awoke some time later, surprised he had fallen asleep.  The girls were securely in place just as they had been when they all had relaxed on the sofa.  Jack gently woke them, moving them off the furniture.  He looked around for Daniel, wondering why he wasn't home.  Then he looked at his watch, noting that it was 11 p.m.  Jack was about to panic when Bijou ran to the patio door.

Jack noticed it had been unlocked and questioned, “How'd he do that?”

“Woof!”

“Yeah, I know.  I trained him well.  Sometimes, I regret it.  He's gotten way to good at this stealth business.”

Jack climbed up to the roof, immediately catching sight of his angst-ridden lover.

Daniel was sitting Indian-style right in front of the railing.  His elbows were on his knees, his head buried in his hands.

Jack sat down a bit behind the younger man, gently rubbing his back, as he soothed, “Syl's right, you know.  We're having a baby.”

“I know.  It's okay.  It was just a surprise.  I'll be fine tomorrow.  I promise,” Daniel droned apologetically.

“Danny, I don't want you to be 'fine' because I know what your definition of 'fine' is, and it's not happy.”

“It's okay, Jack.  Like Sylvia said, it's not a big deal.  So the first one is yours.  That's what I wanted originally, anyway.  The next one will be mine.  The main thing is that the baby is healthy.”

Jack continued to rub Daniel's back, small, gentle caresses that pressed lightly and soothingly against his lover's back.  He leaned forward and kissed Daniel's nape, and then he put his arms around him.

“What makes you think the baby is mine?”

“I just know, that's all.”

The twosome sat quietly for several minutes, Jack holding his husband, now massaging the tense muscles of his abdomen.

“Danny, I want you to do something for me.”

“What?”

“For the next twenty-four hours, I want you to be angry,” the older man ordered.

Daniel looked back over his shoulder, stunned, “What?”

“You heard me.  I want you to be angry.  I mean, really angry.  I want you to resent what has happened.  I want you to yell at me, break some plates that we don't want anymore.  I want you to feel sorry for yourself.  For twenty-four hours, Love, I want you to let yourself feel and be all of that, and whatever other emotions you need to in order to process this and move on.”

“That's crazy.  There's no reason to be upset.  You're making a big deal out of ... nothing.”

“And that's a piece of crap,” Jack insisted, every fiber of his being reading the signals that once again Daniel Jackson had been the butt of the universe's worst joke ever.  “You don't think I know what's going through your mind?  Danny, we're one heart and one soul, remember?  What you feel, I feel.  Everything you've thought, I have, too.  Now, let it out, Danny.  Let it all out, and then, day after tomorrow, we move forward.”

“I can't,” Daniel said softly.

“Yes, you can. Just ... feel.  Tell me, Danny.  Tell me how it feels to know that something that was certain, isn't now.  Come on.  Tell me.”

Daniel's breathing was becoming labored.  He was even more tense now than before, and Jack was holding on for their life and their future.

“Trust me, Danny.  You can do it.  You told me that you want our children to stand up for themselves, to be able to express their needs and wants.  Didn't you say that?” Jack questioned pointedly.

“Yes.”

“Okay, practice what you preach.  How does it feel?”

“Like ... woknena,” Daniel swore, using an alien language term he'd learned.

Jack chuckled lightly, but then spoke firmly, “Danny, Love, I don't even know what language you just spoke in, but I can guess the definition of the word.  Try it in English.  The world isn't going to fall in on us.  I promise.”

Daniel swallowed hard, shaking his head, desperate to maintain his control, but Jack kept on prodding him, over and over, until he finally shouted, “IT FEELS LIKE ... gawd, it just feels like crap.”

Jack squeezed his lover wanting him to feel their link, and he leaned his chin on Daniel's shoulder.

“Well, at least it's English, but I know what you really mean.  Tell me what you feel, what you're thinking.”

“Why does it always happen like this?  Why, Jack?  No matter what I do, or how hard I try, nothing ever happens like it's supposed to.  It's not fair.  It's just not fair.”

“Tell me, Love,” the older man requested quietly.

“My parents died ... in front of my eyes.  Blood everywhere, and no one even noticed me, and when they did, they didn't care.  They just let me sit there.  And then they wouldn't let me see them, so all I remember is their bloodied bodies, crushed ... gawd,” Daniel sobbed.

“Talk to me.  You're just starting.  Tell me.”

“I tried.  I did what I was told.  I tried to fit in.  I didn't cause problems.  I swear I didn't.  Gawd, I was like a tiny robot.  I did whatever they told me when they told me to because I just wanted a home again.

“I ate what they gave me, which wasn't much.  It was never pizza or ice cream.  They hardly ever gave me something extra.  Chocolate.  Gawd , I love chocolate.  It was almost like tasting it for the first time when I finally had some again in college.

“I tried not to get sick.  Sick kids never stay.  They get taken back and placed somewhere new.  Always some place new.

“All I wanted was a family.  They ... the other kids ... I just wanted to be their friend, but I was so scared.  They laughed at me.  Sometimes, it was because I wouldn't talk, or because I wore glasses, or I was smarter than they were.  I didn't try to be smarter.  Sometimes I tried ... tried to be ... not smart, but I didn't know how.  They hated me. The foster kids ... my classmates.

“Why, Jack?  I didn't want to stand out.  It wasn't my fault the teachers treated me differently.  I didn't do anything extra ... just my homework.  Weren't we all supposed to do our home ... homework?” Daniel cried.

“Yeah, we were, but some of us were more diligent than others.  Some of us, Danny, preferred to say our dogs ate our homework rather than admit we were playing War and not reading chapter three.  Go on, Love.  Tell me more.  It's your turn.  Come on.”

“I tried not to rock the boat.  I never asked for anything.  Nothing.  Never, not even when all the other kids would get things, for Christmas or birthdays.  It was okay.  I only wanted a home, but no one wanted me ... except as ... a punching bag ... or ... or ... oh gawd.”

Daniel suddenly hunched over, his body trembling as he remembered, “I don't want to remember.  Gawd, no!”

Jack closed his eyes.  This was the one thing, he assumed, that Daniel had never fully discussed.  They had always skirted around it.  Daniel had said he would tell Jack one day, and Jack knew he would, but as their nation of two had strengthened, and Daniel had let go of his tragic childhood, this part of his past had slipped through the cracks.

“I love you, Danny.  You're safe. You know that,” Jack said as he held his lover as best he could, the shaking and tears continuing.

Daniel nodded, his voice breaking, “Why me?  I never did anything to them.  I didn't take anything.  Not even their parents.”  The tears were  lessening as Daniel distanced himself from the unpleasant events.  “No one loved me.”

“Danny, I'm here.  I'll protect you, forever.  I'm here, right here.  It's okay to remember because whatever happened is nothing but a memory from a long time ago, and it can't hurt you anymore.  I love you, Angel.”

Daniel turned his head to look at Jack.  He had tried hard to block the memories of his past, especially these.  In fact, he had convinced himself they weren't true, believing everything that had ever happened to him had been his own fault, that he had caused the pain somehow.

“I was lucky, Jack.  I know kids who weren't.  It could have been worse than it was.  They didn't rape me, but they tried.  Gawd, they tried.  So many tried.  Why, Jack?  What is it about me that says 'victim' or ... I don't know what.  Why?”

It was an impossible question to answer, but Jack had to try, so he answered, “It's your innocence.  Even now, Love, you have that aura.  It's ... geez, Danny, I guess it's like Anne Frank wrote, you always try to find the good in people no matter what.  Crap, I saw that myself with Apophis' host.  I would have broken his neck, but there you were, mumbling about rites and statues or something.  People see that, that you want to see the best in everyone, and they ... they make the mistake of thinking you're weak, that you won't fight back.  They're wrong, and that's why they lose.  I ... love ... you, My Angel.”

“I was a little boy, Jack, and I had nothing anymore, and ...”

“I know, but now we're together.  It can't hurt you anymore.  We're unbeatable, right?”

Daniel began to shake some more, his head vehemently shaking 'no' as he seemed to fight some unwanted memory.  He jerked forward, out of Jack's hold as he bowed down so that his head was on his knees.

Jack rubbed his back, trying to provide strength for his husband.  It's not that he was particularly anxious to hear the sordid details, details he had envisioned in his mind years ago when he first made his assumption about what Daniel's childhood had been like, but this was their unexpected transition.  It was time for Daniel to finally excise this ghost from his past, the one thing they hadn't talked about fully.

“I love you, Danny.  You and I ... we're forever.  What you're remembering ... Angel, it's over.  It's history.  Let's send it packing, huh?  You can do it.  I'm right here beside you, just like always.”

Daniel let out a loud sniffle and straightened up.  Jack again placed his arms around his lover's waist, reestablishing a bond that could never be broken.  Jack kissed Daniel's nape as Daniel ran his hands across his eyes.

“The fourth home I was in ... I still wasn't talking, not much anyway.  I was only ten years old.  He ... gawd, he was supposed to be my father.”

Jack paused his touches for a minute, unprepared for what Daniel had just said, but he continued quickly, listening carefully.

“Mrs. Clayton went to visit a friend in the hospital.  She was going to be gone all day.  I wanted to go outside, but he wouldn't let me.  I didn't understand why, but I went to ... I guess it was my room.  It was really just a corner in Mrs. Clayton's sewing room.  I wanted to read, just read.”

Jack heard Daniel distancing himself again, his tone becoming more stoic, emotionless.

“Mister Clayton came into the room and closed the door.  He ... he said my clothes were dirty, and we needed to wash them.  I shook my head, but he kept telling me that it would be a surprise for his wife.  It didn't make any sense to me, bbbb...but then, he reached down and he ...” Daniel's voice was distant, but Jack could hear his lover's thumping heart, and he could feel the rapid breathing, “... hhhe pushed my pants down, and he touched me ... he ... touched, rubbing ... he ... gawd.”

Daniel was having difficulty talking as the memory resurfaced.  He didn't want to see it, no matter what Jack said, but it was too late.  The image was there, taunting his mind.

“I didn't like it.  I didn't know what he was trying to ... to do ... I couldn't know ... Could I?  I didn't know.  He wanted me to do things, but I ran.  I ... I kicked him, Jack, and I ran to the door and out of the house ... and I just ran until I couldn't run anymore.”

“I'm so sorry, Angel,” Jack said, knowing that was only the beginning of Daniel's nightmare.

“They found me, two days later.  I was still hiding.”

“Where'd you hide?”

“I don't know ... some ... alley.  New York has a lot of alleys.  I just picked one and stayed there.  When the policeman found me, I had my report card in my pocket.  That's how they identified me because I ... I didn't want to tell them who I was.  I didn't want to go back.  But, I guess I was lucky because Mrs. Clayton said she didn't want to worry about some little runaway who didn't appreciate the home they were giving him.  She said I was spoiled and rude.  'You ungrateful, spiteful, troublesome child'.  That's what she said.  I remember.  She said it in front of the social worker and the policeman.”

“Geez, Danny, I hope you know she's the one with the problem, and we won't even talk about her husband.”

Daniel nodded, and suddenly he started rocking back and forth a little as he mumbled, “Don't ... no ... go 'way ... no, please no.”

“What is it, Danny?”

“I ... I don't want to remember.”  The rocking increased as the archaeologist began to recall a memory he wished would stay buried.  “I ... no ... I don't want to ... no ... don't make me.”

“Danny, it's over.  Remember, we're here, together.”

“I couldn't help it.  I tried.  Oh gawd ... NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!” Daniel cried out, his agony ripping apart Jack's heart.

The cry had been a wail, a loud, agonizing wail, and Jack knew it was because of something more than a pedophile foster parent.

“I'm here, Danny.”

“She was only six years old.  She reminded me of an angel that I saw in a picture once.”

~She?  Six?  Oh gawd, Daniel.  This is worse than I thought.~  “Who?”

“Carrie.  Her name was Carrie.  She was only six ... just six,” Daniel answered.

“What happened?” Jack questioned, knowing the answer was nightmarish.

Daniel looked down, still shaking his head.  He repeated his desperate plea.

“I don't want to remember.  Please ... no ... don't ... can't ...”

Daniel hunched over as far as he could, his hands pressing against the side of his head as if wanting to block the memory from emerging.

~I can't stand this.  He's never been like this before.  Maybe I'm wrong, and talking about it isn't going to help, not if it's hurting him so much.~ “Okay.  Shhh.  You don't have to, Danny.”

Daniel's pain was too much for Jack.  His lover was violently shaking in his arms more than he ever had before.  Every muscle was quivering.  The tears were flowing like a waterfall, and Daniel was rocking again slightly.  His voice ... it scared Jack.  There was a distance and a strangeness in the tone that Jack had never heard before from Daniel.

It reminded Jack of an incident in his own past, something he had experienced that he never wanted to think about.  That kind of pain had to come out in its own time, not when beckoned.

“It's okay, Love.  We'll just sit here for a while.  No more remembering.  I love you so much.  We're going to make our dreams come true ... every one.  Shhh, it's okay.  It's okay.”

Daniel suddenly let out a huge breath.  He sat up, and his head went back, leaning against Jack's left shoulder.  His moaning cries continued as he looked up at the stars.  When he spoke next, his voice was so tiny that Jack had to strain to hear the words.

“I was ... gawd ...”

“Danny,” Jack ran his left hand across Daniel's head, his fingers leafing through his hair, trying to calm him as he whispered quiet reassurances, “you don't have to remember.”

Daniel continued on, ignoring Jack's words.

“Eight.  I was eight years old.  I wish we had been bro...brothers.  That memory is so good, but it's not real.  The reality ... it ... it's bad, Jack.”

“Your parents died when you were eight.”

Daniel nodded, his voice faint as he spoke, “It was the first home ... the first one.”

Jack's hold on Daniel tightened.  He considered maybe giving Daniel some space, except he realized Daniel's hands were gripping his arms.  His husband wanted the contact, needed Jack's close proximity now more than ever before, so the older man stayed where he was.

“Jack?  She ... she was six years old.”

Daniel couldn't seem to get past that one little fact, and Jack wasn't sure now whether to let it go or press Daniel.  He was confused and struggling to do what was best for his soulmate.

“She had a brother.  He was seventeen.  The parents ... they didn't care anymore about them than they did me.  He was drunk most of the time, and she ... she was gone most of the time.  The boy ... he was in some gang I think, or maybe he just associated with others just like him.

“One day, some friends of Jed's came over.”

“Jed was the seventeen year old?”

“Yes.  He was gone.  She was gone.  He was drunk.  When wasn't he drunk?  Carrie and I were in the basement.  She was playing with her dolls.  She loved her dolls.  She would sing to them.  Well, actually, it was more of a hum.  She used to bring the dolls over to me and make me hold them.  She would try to get me to talk, but I couldn't.

“She ... would laugh and say I was cute.  She wanted to be around me.  She was the only one besides Suzanna that mattered to me, and gawd, I wiped her out of my mind,” Daniel said sadly.

“She'd understand.”

“I don't.  I haven't thought about her since ... since it happened.  I pushed her out, buried her like she never existed.  I don't understand why would I forget ... for...why ... gawd ...”

Daniel was struggling in some unseen tunnel between conscious memory and subconscious protection.  He knew something had happened, but still wasn't sure what.  Carrie.  Sweet Carrie.  Was she a phantom, or was she real?  Even as he told Jack his memory, he wasn't sure.

Flashes of memory filled the young man's mind.  Sensations of sight and sound flooded through his body, and none were pleasant.  

“I was reading.  I guess I read a lot.  Jack ... she looked like Shirley Temple ... a little doll, in a little white dress with curly blonde hair.

“Jed's friends must have just walked in the house.  They came down to the basement and ... gawd, no, it didn't happen.  Tell me it didn't happen.  It couldn't have.  I ... no ... Jack ...”

Daniel was shaking again, and now he was sweating, too.  The tears had moistened his entire face, his shirt collar dampened.  His eyes were red and as he touched his lover, Jack could feel the warmth.  Daniel's entire body was in rebellion against the memory.

“I'm holding you.  You're safe.”

“I was then, too,” Daniel sobbed, the recollection no longer a shadow to him.

“One of them ... he grabbed her.  She started to cry.  I got up.  They didn't see me until I got up.  One of them held me.  He made me watch.  I tried ... I swear I tried, but I couldn't scream.  I kicked and I hit ... but my voice ... I couldn't scream.  Even if I could have, he had his hand over my mouth.  But she did.  Gawd, she screamed.”

Jack felt his heart come up to his throat.  He was anxious and rage was building inside of him.  This nightmare should never have happened.

~Kids.  They were just kids.~

“They raped her, Jack.  And when they were done, they told me they'd come back and do it again if I said anything, and they told her the same thing.  I didn't know what to do.  When they left, Mister Gibson was still drunk.  When Jed got home, he was ... acting weird.  I think he was on drugs.  Mrs. Gibson didn't come home until the next morning.  Gawd, she saw Carrie's dirty white dress ... and the stains ...” Daniel began to laugh, a hysterical, ugly disbelieving laugh, “she yelled at Carrie for getting her dress dirty.  She spanked her.  I started to tell, to say something, but right then, Jed's friends showed up ... one of them had a knife, and he showed it to Carrie.  Mrs. Gibson was so clueless.  I was eight.  I knew what he was doing.  I should have said something.  Gawd.”

For one of the few times in his life, Jack truly didn't know what to say.  This wasn't the nightmare he had anticipated, and he wasn't sure which was worse ... the truth or the one he had imagined.

“Those don't sound like parents to me.  They shouldn't have had you, let alone their natural born children.  How the heck did they get to be foster parents, anyway?”

“Jack, I was in so many homes.  Theirs ... it was the worst, but not by much.  I know there are some good people out there.  Good foster parents, but they didn't get me.”

Daniel held back the tears for himself.  He would cry for Carrie, but not for himself.

“Danny, how much longer were you there after that?”

“Too long.”

Daniel closed his eyes.  Jack felt a chill run down his spine.  He hadn't heard the worst yet.

“What happened?”

“They came back, Jack.  I wasn't there.  I was at school, but when I got home, Mister Gibson ... he was drunk again.  Jed was so into drugs by then that he didn't know where he was, let alone what was happening around him.  Mrs. Gibson was ... surprise ... gone.  And Carrie ... Carrie ... after the first time, she just played with her doll quietly.  She didn't hum anymore, and she ... she didn't talk to me.  She just kept to herself, playing with her favorite doll.

“I don't know for sure what happened that day.  I think they ... they raped her again, only ... she was a little girl.  She couldn't handle it.  She ... there was blood all around her.  Blood.  Like my parents.  Blood everywhere.”

“Danny,” Jack asked with alarm, “are you saying that you ...”

“I found her,” Daniel sobbed into Jack's neck as he turned his face into it, shifting his body slightly.  “Jed's friends were leaving the house when I got home.  They were grinning and laughing, saying things I didn't understand and didn't want to.  Jed ... was just sitting there.”

“Where, Love?”

“Steps ... at the top of the stairs.  I couldn't see Carrie, so I went downstairs.  Blood.  I knew she was dead.  Jed came downstairs and saw her.  He thought she was playing.  Can you imagine?  Playing.  He picked her up like he was going to dance with her.  She just hung limp in his arms.  That's when Mrs. Gibson got home.  She screamed.  I don't remember much after that.  I just sat in the corner, and like before, everyone ignored me ... until Social Services took me away later that night.  I never saw any of them again.”

“Thank the Heavens for that,” Jack said as his tight hold on Daniel continued.

“I blocked it out.  I should have saved her, Jack.  I should have told.  I should have done something to stop them the first time,” Daniel said as began to sob again.

“Daniel, you were eight.  Eight, for crying out loud, and you had just seen your own parents get killed.  You shouldn't have seen that, and you shouldn't have been in that home.”

“But that doesn't absolve me, Jack.  I didn't do anything.”

“Exactly.  You didn't do anything to deserve being in that place.”

“That's not what I meant.”

“I know that, but it's still true,” Jack sighed, “Daniel, they were holding you.  They were older, stronger, and maybe all on drugs.  What did you think you could do?”

“She's dead, Jack!”

“I know, and I'm sorry.  She shouldn't have been there either.  Those two people didn't deserve to have children.”

“I didn't do anything to help her.”

Jack moved, suddenly going to kneel in front of his husband.  He held his hands on Daniel's arms.  It was a tight grip, and he made Daniel look at him.

“Look at me,” Jack said forcefully, but Daniel shook his head, the pain too strong, the tears from the memory consuming him.  Jack shook him, a fierce shake. “LOOK AT ME, DANIEL!  RIGHT NOW!”

Daniel blinked several times, but he focused on Jack.

“Daniel, you were a young, innocent little boy, still living through your own nightmare.  Those boys restrained you physically, and then they threatened you and that little girl.  And, Danny, even if you had said something, geez, the mother saw the proof in front of her eyes, and she still didn't want to see it.  She wouldn't have believed you.  This was not your fault.  Do you hear me?  There was nothing you could have done that would have saved that little girl's life.”

“I could have told someone else.”

“Do you think they would have believed you?”

“What?”  Daniel collapsed forward into Jack's hold, weakened, drained, and emotionally spent.  He answered, “No ... gawd, no.”  He cried on, and his husband cried with him for a while.  Then the younger man spoke again.  “I guess I knew what Mister Clayton was trying to do after all,” Daniel admitted.  “I knew what they all wanted.  It happened again ... and again.  People who were supposed to be brothers or ... gawd, fathers.  I don't understand our world, Jack, a world were little girls are raped and murdered, or a world where little boys are nothing but ... prey for people who are supposed to protect them.”

Jack took a deep breath and shook his head as he responded, “I don't either, but what we have to do is make sure that those we touch never have to live through that kind of miserable ordeal.”

“It's a sick world.”

“No, Angel, there are just some mixed up, ignorant people, and I grant you, there are some plain evil ones out there, but Daniel, just look at us, where we are, and what we have.  We're here.  Look, Love.  It's just you and me and the stars, and downstairs, we have our beautiful girls.  It's just us.  The past is a long, long time ago.  It can't hurt us if we don't let it.”

“How am I supposed to forget her again?”

“Maybe you aren't supposed to.  Danny, we're about to start our family, so maybe there's a reason you needed to remember now.  Don't ask me to know what that is ... unless just maybe it was the last piece of nasty pain that you needed to release to really be free of your past.  Don't forget her, Love.  Remember the pretty little girl who thought you were cute.”

Daniel sighed.  He was so tired, and yet, he felt like a weight had just been lifted off his shoulders.  Jack moved back to sit next to Daniel, his arm wrapping around his waist.

“Is there more?”

Daniel leaned his head against Jack's shoulder and asked, “You know what's funny?”

“Why do I think it's anything but funny?” Jack asked.

“Maybe because it's not.  For years, somehow, I was always able to get away or fight off the ... men who tried to rape me, but the closest I came, before Hathor, of course, was a woman.  Why, Jack?  Why?”

Jack kissed Daniel's temple.  He moved one hand up to warm his lover's face for a few moments.  He wanted Daniel to feel warm, not cold, as he spoke, so Jack caressed him, trying to curb the still-falling teardrops.

“People are monsters sometimes.  I wish I had answers for you.”

“Me, too.”

“You want to tell me?”

“It was surreal.  I was graduating early, and there were exams and quizzes I had to take, and papers to fill out.  I was the genius; gawd, sometimes, I just hate that.  I wanted to be accepted for a special program that one of the professors ran off-campus.  It was a real elite thing.  I didn't care about the status.  I just wanted to learn, and he was supposed to be the best in Ancient Cultures.”  Daniel paused and looked at Jack.  “I just wanted to learn,” he said earnestly.  “That's all ... just ... wanted to learn.  I like to study; I really do.”

“I know, Danny.”

Daniel held back a sniffle or two as he tried to continue, saying, “She was his wife.  I had called his house to ask for an appointment, to bring him recommendations and convince him to let me in.  I had talked to him before, and he was considering it, so I thought if I brought him the recs from some of my high school teachers, he might give me a chance.  He wasn't home, but she said he would be and for me to come over, so I did, but when I got there, he was still gone.”

Daniel's grip on Jack was still strong, his hands moving with Jack's as they tried to comfort him by touch.

“She was nuts, Jack.  I could tell that from the moment she let me in the house and locked the door.  The curtains were drawn.  Her eyes were crazed.  She had this knife she kept brandishing all around.  I told her that I was going to leave.  She kept saying things, that she wanted me, and it would be good.  She'd ... teach me things.  I told her no, and turned around.  She shoved me, or tried to push me.  I don't know what she was trying to do, but I hit my head against something when I fell, and it knocked me out for a minute.  When I came to, she was taking off my pants.  Gawd, I shoved her off me and ran ... again.”

At this point, Jack was really wishing he hadn't retired.  He needed a System Lord.  Actually, he thought any Goa'uld would do.  He just needed someone to kill.  Daniel's past was full of monsters, and it was taking everything he had to remain calm and supportive.

Daniel twisted his body, his arms desperately going around Jack, his face completely buried into Jack's neck.  He wished he hadn't remembered about Carrie and the professor's wife, the latter bringing on vivid memories of Hathor's rape.  He was trembling again, trying not to cry anymore.  He had cried enough for one night.

“Shhh.  Love you so friggin' much.  Danny, give me a list, and I'll find everyone who ever thought about hurting you, and I'll ... I'll give them all a symbiote for Christmas.”

Daniel actually chuckled for a second, having expected Jack to threaten bloody murder.  He realized that maybe for the first time, it wasn't Jack's anger ruling the older man, but rather his love.  Finally, Daniel's needs were coming first.  On this night, Daniel didn't need threats or promises of revenge.  He needed Jack's love and acceptance.

“Jack?  Paul Duncan.”

“The man who stalked you a couple of years ago?”

Daniel nodded, then continued, “He tried to rape me in the library, but I got away.”

“I remember when you told me about that.”

“But ... I didn't tell you all of it because I didn't remember all of it.  I didn't want to.  He was so crazy ... demented, insane, crazy.  He tracked me down one night after I quit the study group.  He wanted me to do things to him.  I tried to get him out of my apartment, but he wouldn't leave.  He was drunk, and so strong.  He beat me up, Jack ... gawd, it was bad.  He used that knife on me.  I couldn't fight him.  I tried so hard.”

“Danny,” Jack spoke tentatively, “did he rape you?”

“He ... tied me to the bed.  I was bleeding ... had cuts all over.  Do you believe it?  He cut off all my clothes.  He was going to rape me ... gawd, he passed out.  He was all ready for action, and he fell down right on top of me.  I couldn't breathe.  I was so scared.  I didn't know what he was doing; what sick thing he had planned when he fell like that.  I just knew he was going to rape me, but then I realized he hadn't moved.”

“The knife was in his hand still.  I had to try and get my hands out of the binds.  It took hours.  He was on me the whole time, but finally, I got out.  I got dressed, packed up anything that mattered, and went to a shabby hotel.  I couldn't afford anything else.  I hid out for two weeks.  Finally, he seemed to have disappeared, so I got a new apartment and went back to classes.”

“He'll never hurt you again.  He's long gone.”

“I know.”  Daniel pressed himself even closer to Jack.  “Hathor.  She cut my hair.”

“She's a Popsicle now, Love.  She can't touch you anymore, and, hey, you save a lot on shampoo now.”

Daniel chuckled just slightly, very briefly, then said, “Shyla.  She tried.  She wouldn't take no for an answer.  I got so tired of pushing her away.  She tried over and over again.”

“Love you, Danny.”

“That's why no matter how hard she tried, or tired I got, or how much that sarcophagus warped my mind, somehow, I kept saying no, because ... you loved me, and I couldn't lose you.  I was so afraid of losing you.”

“Daniel, listen to me.  Even if she had ... succeeded, you would *not* have lost me.  Tell me you know that.”

“I do now.  I ... I didn't then.  We were new, Jack.  I never thought you'd stay with me.  I always knew you'd leave me sooner or later because everyone else always did.”

“Oh, Angel,” Jack said, not knowing what else to say.  “I tell ya ... we were both insecure idiots.”

“Why?  I mean, I know I was but ...”

“I always knew you'd leave me when we got Sha're back.  I never thought I was good enough for you.  I was sure you'd leave me.”

“Gawd, Jack.  You were always everything I wanted.”

“And you, too, more even.”

Jack held Daniel for the next hour, whispering words of love and support.  Daniel gave Jack all the details of the various attempts to  violate his body, things he hadn't thought about in decades, things that suddenly needed to be released, and there were a lot of them.

The older man cringed knowing just how hard it had been for Daniel to simply survive childhood and adolescence.  Yet, his nightmares didn't stop there.  Daniel's stories went through college, almost up until he joined the Stargate program.

~I don't understand.  I just don't, Danny.  Sick world to hurt a child like you.  I'll never be able to comprehend it.~

The memory of little Carrie had shaken Daniel's already rocky world.  He had buried it in order to survive, always blaming himself for something that he had never really had any control over.  And then, while he had usually gotten away safely from the others who threatened him during his childhood and adolescence, the incidents with the professor's wife and Paul Duncan had reinforced Daniel's withdrawal into himself.

Other episodes had been equally traumatic, Daniel forced to see or sometimes do things a child should never have had to deal with.

The result was a young man who had learned to hug himself, because no one else ever would.  He was a man who wasn't afraid to fight for what he believed in, in part because he had nothing to lose, having already been laughed at and ignored.  He couldn't be hurt any more than he already had been.  People had treated the little boy Daniel like a cipher.  He was nothing, zero, except maybe a meal ticket.

Daniel cried, as did Jack, still holding his husband firmly, and then they sat in silence for a while.  Then, Jack kissed Daniel, a kiss so tender that Daniel almost dissolved into oblivion from the warmth of it.

As they sat now, Daniel's head rested on Jack's right shoulder, their hands caressing the other.  Daniel was almost seated on his lover's lap, but it was sort of a half lap sitting, Daniel leaning back a bit into Jack's hold.

“Angel, that's the worst, right?” Jack asked, seeing his husband nod in response. “But there's more.  Tell me about your other pain.  This is your day to be angry.  It's your independence day.  Be selfish, for me.  Tell me,” Jack instructed encouragingly.

“Just once, Jack, I wish I'd win.  College.  I didn't try to be the stand out. I just ... did the homework, and I ...”

“... asked questions?”

“Lots of them.  I didn't have any friends.  Sarah and Steven.  Now that was a joke.  Sarah just wanted an 'in' with the professors, but she never really supported my work, and Steven wanted the power ... and Sarah.  I just wanted a friend.  Was that too much to ask?”

“No, it wasn't.”

“It just doesn't matter anymore.  I could list all my woes, up through that ridiculous lecture that ruined my reputation for good, but it just doesn't matter.  I lost again.”

“The baby is yours.  I know it, Love.  I feel it.”

“It just needs to be healthy.”

“Hey, I told you.  Angry -- twenty-four hours.”

“But ...”

“No, tell me, Danny.  Tell me about your baby ... come on!”

“I wanted it to be mine.  I wanted it to be yours at first, but you kept talking about it so much, and I started thinking about it, and I wanted to know those feelings you were talking about.  I felt things ... I wanted to know I could really make a difference, to bring a life that matters into this crazy world.  It was my turn, Jack.  It was my turn for life to treat me fairly.  Why?  Why does a place like that make a mistake, their first mistake ever ... and it's with me?  It's not fair ... it's ...”

Jack held Daniel, who ranted on for at least two more hours up on the roof.  Anytime he stopped, Jack egged him on, never letting him out of his hold.  Daniel had kept so much pent up inside him.  It was something he had learned to do from the day his parents had died.  Years of reinforcement that what he wanted or needed didn't matter had festered, hiding deep within his being until Jack drew it out, a little bit at a time.

There was anger over his parent's death, the shuffling about in the foster care system with families that didn't care about him and only thought of him as a way to bring in a few extra dollars, the attempted abuses, the Hathor rape, being laughed at by colleagues for ideas and theories that were right and yet never being able to say that, the lack of respect at the SGC, primarily in their early years; and there was always little Carrie, the sweet little girl who had died.

The list went on and on.  Things Daniel had glossed over, rationalized, ignored, explained away, refused to think about, convinced himself were only nightmares, but now, he was finally letting them out into the night, and Jack, his Jack, was chasing all the monsters away, finally, and for good.

====

The soulmates eventually went to bed and slept for a few hours, and then Jack woke early the next morning with an idea.  Daniel's crying had been good, but he remembered the release he'd gotten from his screams earlier in the night.  He also knew the relief that came from a physical venting of frustration and other emotions.

Daniel had kept too much in for too many years.  A few hours of crying and letting go wasn't enough.

Jack recalled a time years ago when Thor had needed him for a mission.  Daniel had done something then, something to survive Jack's absence -- he had hit and stabbed a large plastic reproduction of a Roswell alien, one that looked exactly like Thor.  The young man had felt guilty for doing it, but it had saved Daniel from doing something crazy.  Now, Jack had a plan.

Grateful that the neighbors next door were on vacation, Jack got down some dishes they'd been intending to give away for quite a while.  Though he knew some family could use them, he figured he'd give a check to the charity and put the plates to a more important use.

As Daniel continued to sleep, tossing and turning, still restless from it all, Jack called Sam.

Jack didn't explain, but simply used an old code that said all it needed to:  “Boonie Bear is safe, but in distress.  I need you.”

Sam arrived within twenty minutes, and as he opened the door, Jack handed her the leashes attached to two dogs, Bijou and Katie.

“Carter, take them for a nice, long walk.  Two hours, no, make it at least three ... minimum.  I'll explain another day, but I really need them safely out of the house with someone they love for a little while.”

Sam took the beagles without question, assuring Jack they'd be safe in her care.  He had given them a hug before releasing them to Sam and called after for them to not give Sam too difficult a time.

Jack went to the garage, and put together some boards.  He took some old cloths and rags and used markers to color them, making faces or designs on each.  He also found some balloons and darts and put them to use.  When he was done, he took his handiwork to the backyard and placed it away from the house and the doghouse.

Next, Jack headed upstairs, and just as he walked in, Daniel began to scream from a nightmare.  Jack woke him and held him gently in his arms.

“Shhh, Angel.  It's not real.  It's not important anymore.  You're with me now.  I'll always protect you.”

“... and drive the monsters away?”

Jack smiled.  Every now and then, not often, little Danny came out.  Daniel had suppressed his inner child, that sweet youth that had been taken advantage of in so many ways after the cover stone had fallen.  Jack realized the appearance of that little boy, the fact that he felt safe enough to come out, was evidence of the tremendous trust that Daniel had in Jack.

“I've chased all the monsters away, Danny.  They're all gone now.  All that's left is us, and our family.”

“Gone?” Daniel asked vulnerably.

“Gone.  You're safe, Angel, but we have to do something else now,” Jack informed softly.

“What?”

“I've driven off the monsters, but you need to excise them from your mind, so that's what we're going to do.”

Still trembling a little, Daniel pulled back from Jack's embrace and replied, “I don't understand.”

“You will.  Change into some nice warm sweats, and meet me downstairs,” the older man instructed.

Jack kissed the man who was his heart and soul and left the room.

Daniel, as usual when Jack had some strange idea, had no clue what he was about to walk into, but one thing he had learned from the day he had first met his husband was that, somehow, Jack always seemed to know what was best for him, even when he didn't.  So, the little boy Danny and his adult protector Daniel did as instructed.

====

“You want me to what?” Daniel said as he stared at his husband in surprise, not that he was surprised at being surprised.

“See that red stick figure?”  After Daniel nodded, Jack explained, “That's the teenage terror, Jed's friend, the first one.  This is your revenge, Danny.  It's time to let out the anger.”

Seeing Daniel about to raise up his finger to protest, Jack ignored him.

“I don't want to hear about the kid's problems and how we have to have compassion, and all that stuff that makes you wonderful.  Today, you release the pain.  Today, you're still angry.  Today, you stand up for yourself and that little boy that you once were.  Right now, Daniel, you tell that kid that he had no right to hurt Carrie or you.  You tell him that you matter, that it wasn't your fault.  Go on, the red one.  Toss that old plate right in ole Red's groin.  And you keep tossing plates or whatever is in these boxes until Red falls off that board.  Do it, Daniel.  Do it now!”

Daniel almost argued again, but then he decided to go along with his lover's scheme.  What could it hurt to try what Jack said?  Besides, Jack had obviously worked on this for a long time.  The board was covered with strategically placed images, some of which Daniel easily recognized.

It only took three plates to destroy Red.

“I knew you had it in you.  Okay, who's next?” Jack asked, knowing his plan would succeed.

Daniel was breathing hard, just staring at the board.

“Okay, how about that one?  Definitely not a favorite of mine either.  Ah, don't give me that cool level-headed persona.  Shyla's a witch.  You know it, and I know it.  Tomorrow, you can explain away her actions all you want to.  Today, Danny, she's a manipulative, selfish, unfeeling witch who tried to rape you and who kept your lover and closest friends locked away, slaving in mines.  You know which one she is on the board.  Go on, Danny.  Tell her ... tell her you're important, and she had no right to treat any of us the way she did.”

“I ... GAWD, I HATE YOU!”  Daniel shouted at a sock that Jack had attached a picture of the Wicked Witch from “The Wizard of Oz” to.

It took four plates and one cup, but the sock was on the ground.

“How about that one next?”

Daniel didn't need any more encouragement.  He was with the program now.  In an hour, he had 'killed' every old cup, plate, and saucer Jack had been able to find.  In fact, seeing the venom spilling out from his husband, Jack had quietly gone inside and grabbed some of their newer dinnerware.

~So we go shopping,~ Jack had thought, secretly bringing their wares outside, knowing Daniel wasn't paying attention anymore to what he was throwing.

All that were left now were a few balloons that Jack had written names on.  Daniel took the darts and threw the first one at the balloon labeled Kinsey, but the release wasn't enough.  Jack watched his husband searching for something, and then Jack knew what he needed.  He hurried to the garage and came back, Daniel still searching.

“Here, use this.”

Daniel took it, pausing only momentarily to focus on Jack, and then with the baseball bat, Daniel beat the rest of the balloons to explosion, and even then, he didn't stop.  He pounded the board with the bat until it began to fall apart.  With a final mighty swing, the last piece of the board fell to the ground, as did Daniel, sobbing, holding his abdomen as he sat on his knees.

Jack rushed to his side, his arms shooting around Daniel in a flash.

“It's okay to be angry, Love.  Don't you see?  You don't have to protect the world.  It's not your job to explain away the actions of others, not all the time.  You're entitled to be angry, to be hurt.  None of this was ever your fault, Danny.  That little boy was abused and neglected time after time, but it wasn't his fault.  He was a beautiful child, like Charlie, and no one had a right to hurt him.  It's okay, Danny, to let that out, to admit it.  It's your right, Daniel.”

“I hate them.  I HATE THEM!  I HATE THEM!  I HATE THEM!” Daniel yelled at the top of his lungs until he thought he had lost his voice.

Then at a frantic pace, Daniel shot up out of Jack's range.  He picked up broken pieces of the dishes and threw them against the broken board and the broken, frayed and crumbled representations Jack had made for all the ills of Daniel's past.

Jack had tried not to leave any pain off the board.  There had been the violators of his body as well as certain foster care families he had heard horror stories about before.  Jack included the professors and peers who had given Daniel grief over the years.  He also had representations for a variety of Goa'ulds and so-called human beings like Frank Simmons and Senator Kinsey who had treated Daniel badly on multiple occasions.

Even Nick, the grandfather in name only who had abandoned Daniel not once, but twice, was depicted on the board; and, finally, there was a building that represented the clinic, the most recent pain in Daniel's life.

Jack watched his lover deplete his store of anger, finally sinking to the ground again.  This time, Jack just held him, rocking him in his arms, saying nothing except how much he loved Daniel.

When he felt like Daniel was ready, Jack took him into the house, upstairs to their room.  He kept his husband in his warm embrace as they snuggled on their bed, Daniel clinging to him.

“Monsters gone now?” the younger man asked in a quivering, child-like voice.

“All gone now, Danny.  It's just us now.”

“Love you, Jack.”

“And I love you.”

====

When Daniel fell into an exhausted sleep thereafter, Jack went outside and cleaned the yard, packing up the broken dishes and the dismantled board.  He made a careful sweep of the yard, needing to make sure it was safe for the beagles.  He finished only ten minutes before Sam returned.

“Exchange time,” Jack said.  “Bij, Katie, Danny needs you.  Go upstairs.”

Sensing something had been wrong all day, the girls didn't need to be told twice. They ran as quickly as they could to the bedroom.

Jack motioned towards the backyard, leading Sam to the pile of boxes he had there.

“I need you to get rid of these things.  It's just broken dishes and some board, but I need all of it to be gone when Danny wakes up.  Can you get rid of this stuff for me?”

“Yes, Sir.”

Jack loaded the car with the boxes and thanked Sam, but as he walked towards the house, she called out, “Sir?  The baby?”

Turning around, Jack replied, “The baby's fine.  Kayla's fine.  Tomorrow, Danny will be fine, too.  Thank you ... Sam.”

Jack turned and walked into the house.

Sam knew there was more to the story and that they'd tell her eventually, but right now, she was simply grateful that the baby was apparently okay.  She got into her car and headed for the nearest dump.

--

Upstairs, Jack saw Bijou look up when he entered the bedroom.  She was seated at the edge of the bed, not quite sure of what the danger was.  Katie had cuddled up in a ball next to Daniel's left leg.

“It's okay, Bijou.  It's not that kind of danger.  He just needs you to love him, okay?  Be close, real close for a while.”

Bijou gave out a tiny whine.  It wasn't a whine for her, but almost a little cry for Daniel.  She walked over near Katie and settled in next to Daniel.

Jack looked down for a second and then back at their girls, always amazed at the perceptiveness of their dogs.  He took off his shoes and scooted in next to Daniel, wrapping his right arm securely around Daniel's chest.

“I love you, Danny,” Jack whispered, laying his head next to his husband's shoulder.

====

Two hours later, Daniel awoke, feeling Jack's hold on him immediately.  He also felt Bijou and Katie guarding his left side.

“Surrounded by love,” Daniel said softly.

“Danny?” Jack asked groggily.

“I've got you on one side, and Bij and Katie on the other.  Can't move.”

“You want to?”

“No, not ever,” Daniel answered, grateful for his loving family.

Jack put his head back down, and Daniel shifted slightly, moving his arm to cradle Jack's head.  Daniel kissed Jack's forehead.

“Thank you, Jack.”

“I didn't do anything,” Jack replied.

“You felt my pain and helped me get rid of it.”

“Did you?”

“Yes, I think so.  I just ... the baby ... I counted on it, you know?  For once, I had decided I'd do something for me, and it sort of blew up in my face, and it ... hurt.”

“It's your baby, Danny.  I know it.”

“If it is, that's ... good, but if it's not, then it's still good because we'll have our child, and then, we'll have another, just like we planned anyway,” Daniel spoke assuredly.

“Yes, we will.”

“Jack?”

“Yes, Angel?”

“You know what's weird?” Daniel asked.

“Tell me.”

“It really doesn't hurt anymore.  Even though I had blocked so much of it out for so long, it didn't hurt to remember like I thought it would ... except for Carrie.  It's just ... I was angry that no matter what, something always seems to go wrong in my life.  My parents, Carrie, Hathor, the pain -- whatever was left, it's gone now.”

“Danny,” Jack moved up to look into Daniel's eyes, “I hope it's gone, but if it's not, you have to tell me.  We'll blow up more balloons or get voodoo dolls or something next time, but don't keep it inside.  Let it out, Love.  Trust me to help you, and trust yourself, because you're important.  Geez, Daniel, you are the most important part of my life.  Do you understand, Love, that you matter?”

“I didn't ... for a long time.  I just felt like ... like nothing.  I always thought it was my fault.”

“An eight-year-old boy?  A little boy who only asked to be loved?  How was anything that happened to that sweet child your fault?  Or a college genius, whose only mistake was to not protect himself from predators, mainly because my genius always sees the good, even in the bad?  How is it wrong to try and see good, Danny?”

“You love me?” the younger man asked.

“Oh yeah, more than ever,” Jack pledged.

“Then, I don't need anything else, because all I've ever needed was your love, Jack.”

A few minutes passed as the lovers held each other, softly and gently.

“Jack?”

“Yes, Love?”

“It doesn't matter to you ... what ... happened to me ... I mean ... gawd, I can't talk.”

“Relax.  We have forever, remember?” Jack reminded.

“All those people ... the ones who tried ... Hathor ... the ones who made me do things sometimes before I got away ... does it ... I mean ...”

Jack raised himself, looking deeply into Daniel's eyes.  With his right hand, he touched Daniel's cheek.  He leaned forward and brushed his lips against Daniel's.

“It matters.  It matters that people tried to hurt you ... that they did hurt you.  It matters a helluva lot that there are insensitive, ignorant, spiteful people out there who would harm a defenseless child, or take advantage of someone for no reason other than to get their jollies.  Oh, it matters, but that wasn't your question, was it ... Space Monkey?”

Daniel shook his head, tears welling up again.

“No, Danny.  There isn't a thing in the world that will ever take away from our marriage, or our love.  Nothing will ever lessen our first night together, or the thousands of nights since then.”

“But ...”

“Danny,” Jack sighed, his own nasty past surfacing, “What about me?”

“You?”

“You know what happened in Iraq, in that hellhole they called a prison,” Jack said quietly.

“It wasn't your fault.  Gawd, you were sick and practically dead.  You couldn't help what happened.”

“No, I couldn't.  With all my training and all my male machismo, I couldn't do anything to stop it.  It wasn't my fault, and neither was it yours when those monsters abused you.”

Daniel searched deep into Jack's eyes, wanting so much to believe, “But ...”

“No buts, Angel.  Not even a bububububu,” Jack said warmly.  “Those people who tried to hurt you.  Did you give them even a sliver of you?”

“No.”

“Then all they did was try to take, and, thankfully, they didn't get much, did they?” Jack questioned.

“No, never ... except for Hathor,” Daniel answered.

“And on our first night together, my beautiful falling star, what did you give me?”

“Everything,” a tear fell as Daniel whispered his answer.

“It's all the difference in the world.  I love you so much.”

Jack kissed Daniel again, a very tender kiss, a kiss that lead to more warm touches between the two.

“Jack?”

“Mmm?” Jack placed another kiss on Daniel's neck.

“We're going to have a baby,” Daniel said, a smile on his face and in his voice.

“Yes, we are.  Two of them eventually,” Jack replied.

“They'll be beautiful babies.  Healthy, that's all that matters,” the younger man asserted.

“Yes, Love, it is,” Jack said before delving in for another kiss, this one uniting their tongues.

Daniel's fingers calmly ran through Jack's silver-gray hair, and Daniel leaned up slightly to make contact with his spouse's lips again.  Their arousal was fully ignited.

Suddenly, Daniel felt movement by his legs, and Jack felt the bed move a tad.  Bijou let out a small “Woof,” not at them, but at her baby.  Katie looked up and the mama beagle pushed her with her nose, nudging her up.  “Woof,” Bijou said, a bit sternly this time.  Katie stood up, jumped off the bed and went downstairs.  Bijou shook herself for a moment and stretched and then jumped off the bed.

“Bij!” Jack called.  The beagle stopped and turned around.  “Thanks,” Jack said, a loving smile on his face.

“Woof!  Woof!” Bijou acknowledged before going downstairs to join her puppy.

Daniel laughed as he said, “No one would believe this.”

“I believe it.”

“So do I.  Love you so much, Jack.”

“Of course you do.  I'm extremely loveable!” the older man pronounced.

“And humble.  Don't forget humble, Babe,” Daniel teased.

“Never.”

Daniel's hands reached up to the top button on Jack's brown striped shirt.  One by one, slowly, carefully, he undid the dark buttons, gazing into Jack's eyes with each progression.

“Love you,” Jack whispered, biting Daniel's upper lip for a second as their kiss deepened.

Daniel moaned with the next kiss, his fingers moving to the next button on Jack's shirt.

“We should buy 'Monsters, Inc.', Jack ... for the children.”

“It's a good movie.”

“It'll remind them that monsters aren't always scary.”

“Them or you?” Jack questioned.

Daniel slipped the shirt off Jack's shoulders, down his husband's arms, until it fell to the sheets.

“Both.  Come here.”

Daniel pulled Jack into a different position so that Jack was more fully on top of him, straddling the younger man.

“Come here,” Daniel repeated, pulling Jack's lips to his.

“So demanding.  You geeks think you rule the world with your brains.”

“No, trust me, my Silver Fox, it has nothing to do with our brains.”

Daniel's hands ran fluidly along Jack's back.

“I love you, Danny,” Jack spoke, as they kissed.

This one began as a small uniting of their lips.  Daniel bit softly on Jack's lower lip, and then his tongue slipped into Jack's mouth.  Jack's quickly did the same.  Their heads turned from side to side a couple of times as they sought to explore every part of the other's mouth, their tongues counting teeth and reaching for the other's tonsils.

“You like me to be demanding,” Daniel sighed.

“I like you to realize that Daniel is just as important as any other creature you insist on protecting all the time.  Geez, Daniel, how many times have you tossed yourself in front of some danger for someone who isn't a third of the man you are?  We're having a family now.  Don't you realize how much you're needed?  No one can give this family what you can.  So yes, I like you to be demanding, to tell me what you need and want.  How many years did it take you to learn that, anyway?”

“Too many, but I'm not afraid anymore.”

“Prove it.”

“I want this,” Daniel's hands slipped down, inside Jack's jeans as far as they could go as he kissed the older man again.

Jack pushed up Daniel's sweatshirt.  When Daniel moved his arms to help take off the garment, Jack began placing a sweet trail of kisses all over the younger's man chest, in no set pattern, just one here, and one there, surprising Daniel with each moist touch.

“You're such a tease, Love.”

“And you love it.”

“Sure of yourself, aren't you, General?”

“General?  Left him back at the SGC.  Gone for good,” Jack said, smiling as Daniel unfastened the top button to Jack's jeans and then rubbed hard against the material, squeezing slightly through the denim material.

Jack groaned from the touch, and took a more devouring taste of Daniel's mouth.

“Geez, what you do to me.”

“I haven't even started.”

As Jack continued to kiss his love, Daniel unzipped his husband's jeans, and then slowly worked them as far down as he could get them with his hands.  Not wanting to stop what Jack was doing, but desperate to remove all of Jack's clothing, Daniel used his knees and feet to push, shove and even kick off the underwear and jeans.

“Good.  I'm expecting a lot from you, you know.”

“Hmm, so many expectations,” Daniel leaned forward, kissing Jack's neck, his hands currently playing in the field that was Jack's chest hairs, something that made Daniel very eager for other parts of his husband's anatomy.

“You're always 'up' for the challenge,” Jack teased, lowering himself down Daniel's body, taking the young man's sweatpants and boxers with him, gliding both off along with his socks and shoes.

“Am I talented or what?” Jack laughed at his smooth action.

“More like lucky!”

“Oh, lucky, am I?” Jack moved back up, straddling Daniel and starting to tickle him, just slightly.  Daniel giggled.  “I love it when you do that.”

“I don't giggle!”

Jack had a big grin his face, his hands sliding up and down Daniel's smooth chest, his thumb and fingers pressing inward just enough to get a response, a little sound of release from Daniel.

“I didn't say you giggled, but you just did.”

“Did not.”

“Did, too.”

“I said I didn't.”

“But I never said you did, so why would you say something that I never said you did in the first place?  I mean, it's a bit defensive and ...”

Daniel squeezed Jack's shaft, causing Jack's eyes to widen and a moan to escape.

“Jack, who cares if I giggle?”

“Not me,” Jack gasped as Daniel massaged Jack's length, stroking at a more rapid pace.

“You know, uh, Danny ... I ... <groan> ... sort of had ... <moan> ... plans for ... oh gawd ... that!”

“So do I.”

Daniel flipped Jack over.

“Geez, I am a good teacher.”

“Or maybe I'm just a good student.”

“My genius!”

Daniel kissed his husband as his hand stroked the erection.

“Jack?”

“Right now, Danny, you can have anything you want.”

Daniel laughed, “You're so easy.”

“Well,” Jack panted a little, “you have to admit that you have me by the ...”

“Jack!  You're so bad.”

“Gawd, I hope so,” Jack teased, his hands moving to cup Daniel's face, to bring him down to a kiss.

“I like the general.  I don't want him to go away all the time.  I mean, sometimes we need him.  He's ... very comforting to have around ... sometimes.”

“I thought you wanted him gone.  Didn't you say you didn't like him very much?”

“I know ... but not always.  I ... was a little wrong about that,” Daniel said as his hand worked quicker now.

Jack was practically drooling from the sensation of the touch.  Daniel's hand moved like a fingers on a keyboard, smooth, tender, with the  chords getting more and more dramatic as the music swelled.  Finally, he moaned loudly and Daniel gave a final press.  Jack came fully in the young man's hands.

“Oh geez, I love your hands.  I love being an artifact.”

“My favorite artifact,” Daniel whispered, kissing Jack, and then without warning, inserting a finger inside of him.

“Oh geez,” Jack exclaimed, his head shooting backwards, “you're full of surprises today.”

“The general, Jack.  Actually, he wasn't ... bad.  It was the colonel, but ... he, the colonel, got us through so much.  He just sometimes acted without thinking, and that's when I didn't like him.  It had little to do with conscious choices, it was just that ... robotic aspect that drove me crazy.”

“Sorry 'bout ... oh yes ... that.  It was all those ... wow, Danny ... years of ... love you ... training.”

Daniel had prepared his lover with his fingers and now, slowly entered him.  He remained still at first, as their bodies joined.  Jack's hands roved Daniel's sides, up and down, and then his back.  He was eager to feel Daniel deep inside him.

“Come on, Danny.  Whatcha' waiting for?  An invitation?”

“Hmm ... an invite?  Is it black tie?”

Jack moved his hands to reach Daniel's buttocks and squeeze, causing Daniel to release a noise from his throat.

“It's a ... bare essentials invite,” Jack said.

Daniel began to move a little.

“Well, in that case.”

“But it requires ... going deep,” Jack said.

“Everything in time.”

Daniel moved a bit quicker, but not much.

“Tease.”

“I learned from the best,” the young man laughed.

“So did I.”

Jack grinned, suddenly shoving Daniel into him, not wanting to wait any longer.

“JACK!”

Jack groaned from the sudden deep impact of Daniel's length against his prostate.

“Move it, Daniel.  Need you.  Demanding ... gonna be demanding ... like you!”

“And,” Daniel moved faster inside Jack, “I'll be ... <grunt> ... possessive like ... <deep breath> ... you!”

“Danny ... gawd ... yes!”

The conversation was finally ceasing as Daniel thrust into his husband.  Each thrust was like lava in a volcano, the volcano pulsating more and more, preparing to erupt.

Daniel was moving back and forth, in and out of Jack, changing positions.

“Don't ... do ... that!” Jack whined, hating the loss of contact any time Daniel shifted.  Daniel impaled himself into Jack again.  “Dan...ny ... Love ... need you!”

“Mine ... you're so ... mine, Jack!”

Jack arched, giving Daniel as much room to work in as he could, and Daniel took full advantage.  His hands clung to the sheets around Jack's head.  Jack's hands were digging into Daniel's skin on his shoulders.  Their hips were in motion together, rocking at a high speed.

“Healthy ... all ... that matters!” Daniel grunted as he powered into Jack with another thrust.

“The only thing ... both of them!  There!  Gawd, right there!” Jack shouted when Daniel hit the perfect spot.

Accommodating his husband, Daniel focused hard on the location.  He drove himself into Jack.  The older man screamed Daniel's name repeatedly.  He sat up little.  It seemed to help Daniel hit the one spot Jack was ripe for.  

Daniel grunted, hard sounds, as he worked feverishly.  The sweat was rolling from his body.  Daniel jammed his length into Jack over and over, plunging in as far as he could go.  With one last forceful lunge, Daniel propelled himself against Jack's prostate.

Jack screamed loudly, and then Daniel found just a bit more within himself.  He paused a brief moment, and then in a blistering moment, frantically jabbed his length against Jack four more times, each move pushing him more to an edge he had never reached.  The last downward drive ended with Daniel shouting out Jack's name, coming inside him, his orgasm filling his shivering body to convulsions.

Jack was panting, trying to catch his breath. Daniel was gasping for air.

“Breathe ... Breathe,” Jack ordered.

“Oh gawd,” Daniel said, his torso flat against Jack's.

“Love you, Angel.”

“Love ... always.”

The two fell back to sleep, Daniel's pain a forgotten nightmare, their focus once again on their nation of two, and their new family.

====

The next day, Jack and Daniel spent a cozy morning together, sleeping in late, having a leisurely breakfast, and taking time to play with Bijou and Katie.  Around noontime, each left the house with a list of errands they wanted to run.  They agreed to try and be home by 4:30 p.m. and either go to a movie or take in a sporting event, depending upon their mood.

Jack was on the last of his errands.  He had gone to the library to check out some books on remodeling and interior design, had new tires put on the truck, and had stopped at the SGC to talk to Sam, to explain a bit about the night before.  

In years past, that was something Jack probably wouldn't have even thought about, but Sam's presence in their family was greater than ever.  She was not only a part of their extended SG-1 family and a dear friend, but the potential mother of their children should anything happen to both Jack and Daniel.  She had earned a respect and a trust from them that could no longer be shirked.

Sam had come without question when Jack had called her, and she had always done whatever Jack and Daniel had needed.  As Jack had  headed for the SGC, he knew she was entitled to know the whys of their requests.

After his visit, Jack picked up a lovely flower arrangement, one dozen freshly gathered meadow varieties.  Walking into the clinic, he asked for Sylvia.

“Jack, I wasn't expecting to see you today,” Sylvia shut the door behind him as Jack entered.

“Yeah, well, I owe you an apology.  Here,” Jack handed her the flowers.  “I blew my stack a couple of days ago, and ... you were right.  The important thing is that the baby is Daniel's and mine, and healthy.  Who donated the sperm just doesn't matter.”

“We'll know for sure after the baby is born,” Sylvia promised.  “All it really does, Jack, is delay the certainty of who goes next.  It was an unfortunate mistake, and none of us here mean to belittle the seriousness of it, but when you think about all the things that could have gone wrong, this ... really wasn't so bad.”

“You're right.”

“How's Daniel?”

“Good.  We, uh, had sort of day of therapy yesterday.  Today, we're good, ready to go.”

“Thanks for the flowers, Jack, and, um, I apologize, too.  I may have been a bit harsh with my words.”

“No, you weren't -- not with me anyway.  I think if you hadn't been so tough with us, I would have got caught up in my anger, and it might have taken me even longer to get over the shock.”

“You're going to be parents, Jack.  It's a wonderful blessing.”

“Yeah.  See ya, Syl.  Oh,” Jack turned just as he was about to exit, having opened the door just slightly, “what's happening with that nurse?”

“She's taking a few days off.  Doctor Sumneers doesn't want to lose her.  She's good, Jack.”

“Would it help if I talked to her, assured her we ... are ... I don't know, okay with it?”

“I'll let you know, and, Jack, give Daniel my love.”

“I will.”

“Let her do it herself.”

Jack turned, having heard his lover's voice, and asked in surprise, “What the heck are you doing here?”

“Apparently, the same thing you are,” Daniel said, nodding towards the flowers and laughing.

“These are for you, Sylvia.  I wanted to apologize for being such a dope the other day, and I see I'm not the only dope who had the idea.”

“One heart, one soul,” Jack whispered, his eyes full of such love for his husband.

Silence filled the room and suddenly Sylvia almost choked, “Oh, sheez, get out of here, and get a room.  I can't take it.”

The two laughed, and Daniel added, “Thanks for being there for us, Sylvia.”

“I didn't mean to lecture either of you, Daniel.”

“I'm glad you did.  We needed it.  I ... needed it.  I just ... I forgot for a while what was really important,” the archaeologist stated.

Sylvia gave Daniel a quick hug and then reminded, “Just always remember the gift of life coming your way.”

“Which doesn't mean you're not allowed to get angry when things go wrong,” Jack interjected, happy to see Sylvia nod in acknowledgement of this.

Daniel smiled shyly as he spoke, “I'll remember, Sylvia, and ... I'll try, Jack.  If I mess up, I know you'll set me straight.”

“You can count on that,” Jack promised.

“Okay, have fun, you guys.”

“Believe me, we will,” Jacked teased, slapping Daniel on the butt as the younger man walked out in front of him.

“Jaaaack!  We're in public!”

“So what?  Let them eat their hearts out.”

“Jack, honestly, there's out and there's out.  Too much PDA isn't always a good thing.”

“PDA?  Not more abbreviations.  I've had too many of those.  NID, CIA, FBI, USAF ...”

“PDA ... public display of affection.  There's a time and a place and ...”

“I agree,” Jack suddenly stopped, scooped Daniel into his arms, and with a bevy of nurses and patients watching, kissed him soundly.

“Jaaaack!”

“What?”

“Gawd, I love you.”

Boisterously, Jack laughed, “Love you, too.  Home?”

“Home!”

Sylvia shut her door and laughed, “Those two: heaven help their children.  It's going to be a crazy ride!”

====

“Jack?” Daniel asked as they walked into the house.

“Yes, Love?”

“I guess my brain is thinking again, but yesterday, when I ... uh, when ...”

“When we had ... group?” Jack asked, a smile on his face.

“Yeah.  The girls.  They weren't here, were they?  I would have hated for them to see me like that.”

“No, I called Carter.  She took them for a long walk, played with them at the park for a while, and let them investigate her backyard.  She said they had a great time.”

“What about the, uh ...”

“Remains?  Carter again.  When she brought Bij and Katie back, we loaded everything in her car, and she disposed of it.”

“Jack, we need to ...”

“I already did.  I stopped by the SGC before seeing Sylvia.  We talked for a while.  I told her about the mess up.  She understood,” Jack explained.

“There was a time you wouldn't have done that,” Daniel noted, feeling proud of his husband for the steps he'd taken in the last couple of days.

“I know, but Carter's ... family, right?”

“Right,” Daniel said, a big smile on his face.  “I, uh, think maybe she deserves a little more than just an apology.”

“I've got it handled.  Ordered flowers for her when I picked up Syl's.”

“I love you, Jack, and I swear ... it doesn't matter.  We're so lucky,” Daniel spoke, his eyes shining with love and sincerity.

Jack closed the distance between himself and his spouse, kissed him, and then agreed, “We are lucky.  Somehow, we've been given everything we need to be happy.”

“Each other,” Daniel acknowledged.

“Yeah!”

The lovers kissed and headed for the living room to decide what to do that night.

“How'd it feel to have to sign in like a guest to the SGC?” Daniel asked.

Jack shrugged as he answered, “Don't know.  I still have my ID and keys.  Hammond won't take them back.  You have yours still, don't you?”

“Yeah, you're right, I do.  That ... makes me a little nervous.  The general wouldn't take mine back either.  He kept coming up with excuses.”

“With me, too,” Jack stated.

At the same time, the two men said, “They're hoping we'll come back.”  Then both laughed and, again at the same time, exclaimed, “Never!”

After another kiss, the two prepared for their evening and their future, and whatever mysteries it held.

====

-- Chapter Five:  What Do We Have Here?

====

“Jack, tell me something,” Daniel requested, his arms draped around his husband's neck, gently caressing.

“Anything, Love.”

“We're retired, so why is it I'm not going with you to Washington?”

Jack smiled at his lover as their eyes locked.  Daniel was the essence of beauty to Jack, so handsome and full of goodness.  He hated their pending separation, but it was necessary this one time.

“Because you're supposed to be researching our new business venture.”

“Oh yeah.  It's going to be so much fun, Jack.  You and me ... and our children ... excavating!” the archaeologist spoke enthusiastically.

“I'll miss you.”

“Four days,” Daniel sighed, his fingers now making sure Jack's collar was properly fixed and in place.

“Do I pass inspection?” Jack questioned with bright eyes.

“Oh, yeah.  Sexy as ever!” Daniel answered, still wishing they weren't about to undergo this separation.

Jack smiled, kissed his husband, and then stated, “Danny, when I get back, we need to make sure Mark has put those papers through.  He's been busy, but we need to make sure everything is finalized.”

“The Jackson-O'Neills ... officially!  I can't wait.”

“I'll call you.”

“You'd better, and Jack ... don't be too hard on the new trainees.  They're all good or they wouldn't be there in the first place.”

“Trainees are meant to be abused, Daniel.  It's in the manual,” Jack laughed.  “This is a special setup anyway, not so much a training as indoctrination.  I still can't believe I let them talk me into this.”

Daniel laughed knowingly and responded, “You're doing it for the same reason I did when Megan talked me into consulting with that artifact SG-11 brought back a couple of weeks ago. It's fun to keep in touch.”

“Do you miss it, Danny?”

“A little.  You?”

“A little, but no regrets,” Jack stated.

“Not a one, Jack.  Gawd, not a single one,” Daniel said and then the two ravished each other, their love demanding a physical expression.  “You'd better go.  I'll keep the cell on.”

“You'd better!  Love you,” Jack responded.

“Love you, too!”

====

“Daniel, hey,” Sam walked from the bar to greet her friend, their arms wrapping around each other.

“Sam!  You look great!”

“Geez, it seems so strange not to see you and the general every day,” the blonde said as they hugged.

“Miss the yelling?”

“Actually ... yes.”

The two laughed and then were seated at a table for their lunch.  It was the second day of Jack's business trip, and Sam and Daniel decided to have lunch together at O'Malley's.

“How's Kayla doing?” Sam asked as she perused the menu.

“Oh, she's super.  She's excited about her writing.”

“Yeah, but I mean ...”

Daniel laughed a bit shyly and answered, “Yes, she's happy about that, too.  She's keeping a journal for us, sort of a day by day account of what it's like to be carrying our child.  Gawd, I still can't believe it.”

“I'm so happy for you both,” Sam said as she reached her hand across the table to squeeze Daniel's.

“We're so happy it almost seems ... wrong.”

“Being happy is never wrong.”

“I agree, Sam, and I think ... gawd, it sounds horrible to say it out loud, but I think Jack and I have earned it ... the right to be happy.  It feels good,” the young man smiled sweetly for a moment as he talked.

Daniel suddenly sighed, lost in thought, and Sam could tell it wasn't over the happiness they had just discussed.

“Is something wrong ... with the general?”

“It's just ... we have a little problem, and neither of us knows the solution.  It's ... difficult.”

“Wanna share?” Sam asked.

After the waitress took their order, Daniel took a drink of coffee, and sighed again.

“Sam, you know ... the babies.  We've been planning the remodeling and how we need to childproof the house, and ... well ... you know Jack, he has ... ” Daniel looked around the restaurant, “guns and ... stuff ...”

“Charlie,” Sam said as she sat back in her seat, suddenly understanding.

“Sam, there's two big pieces to this.  Jack has this really big part of him that never wants to put a child at risk again.  He's ... Sam, it's taken years, lots and lots of painful memories, to get him to where he is now.”

“And that is?”

“He can laugh now.  He can look at a photo of our ... of Charlie and smile and remember why that photo was taken ... and then go on with the day, without getting consumed by the loss.  He's at peace now, Sam.  He's finally able to cherish Charlie's life and not let the way Charlie died eat away at him.”

Daniel took a sip of his drink before continuing.

“We had decided to get rid of everything.  Neither one of us want to take a chance.  You know how curious kids are, always investigating.  There's no such place as a safe place, so we decided to get rid of them.”

“So what's the problem?” Sam inquired.

“When we retired, the neighbors gave us a surprise party,” the archaeologist stated.

“Really?”

“Yeah, Mrs. Valissi was behind it, but so many of them were there, Sam, full of nothing but ... friendship.  They've known about us forever, but ... they pretended, just like we did,” Daniel revealed.

“They probably would have had to have been blind not to know it.”

“I know.  Anyway, we always knew the NID or ... whomever ... was checking on us.  You know that.”

Sam nodded, remembering when Daniel had been kidnapped and tortured.  It had taken a year before the mystery had been solved and handled.

“Sam, we found out at the party that just six months prior to that, someone had been checking up on us.  Jack's ... well, that other part of him ... it's the protector.  His whole life has been about that.  The team, me ... our children.  It's deep inside of him, that need to keep us safe, and it scares him that he won't be able to do that without ... all that stuff.”

“Yeah, I bet it's tearing the general apart.”

“It is, Sam.  He can't stand the idea of what might happen if we keep them, and at the same time, he feels like he'd be inviting something equally bad to happen if he doesn't have the tools to keep us safe.”

The waitress brought their food, and the two friends began to eat.

“It's quite a dilemma, Daniel.  Kids are inquisitive,” Sam pointed out, understanding the predicament facing Jack and Daniel.

“I know.  Telling them to stay out of someplace is like telling them to try and get into it.  They could find the keys to any lock, guess a combination, find a way in.  There's just no way.  We can't figure out the answer.  It's been so frustrating.”

The two continued their lunch, and as they hugged goodbye, Sam suddenly pulled back, her speech excited and enthused, “Daniel!  I think I've got it!  Are you going to be home tomorrow?”

“Um ... I could be,” the young man shrugged.

“Do be.  And be prepared for company.  I may need to bring Sergeant Siler with me ... upstairs ... okay?”

“Um, sure ... I guess.  Sam?”

The blonde smiled brightly and stated, “I need to get back to the SGC.  I have some plans to work on.  Be home, Daniel!”

Sam hurried away, leaving Daniel behind.  He really didn't know what to make of her words, but he figured he'd find out soon enough.

====

“Morning, Daniel!  Glad you're up.”

“Up?” Daniel yawned.

It was 7 a.m., and to Daniel, that was the middle of the night.  Sam had phoned from the porch to wake him.  He was just happy that she was alone.

“Okay, Daniel, I need to see the den.”

“The den?” the weary archaeologist inquired, trying unsuccessfully to stifle another yawn.

“Your den.  Upstairs?”

“Oh, yeah.  Um ...”

Sam laughed at her friend, knowing he wasn't really awake yet.

“Daniel, why don't you make some coffee.  I need to check some measurements. I'm going into the den.  Okay?”

Daniel nodded as he shuffled into the kitchen.  Sam watched her friend disappear around the corner.  He wasn't wearing a pajama top, and the bottoms were hanging a little low.  He was barefoot.  His hair was uncombed, completely mussed.  He had growth on his face from not shaving yet.  He looked wonderful.

Smiling to herself, Sam thought, ~I should have grabbed him myself back on Abydos.  There's nothing wrong with harems.  Yeah.  I could have started one and convinced Sha're to share Daniel with me!~

Shaking her head, the female scientist walked upstairs to set about her task.

Meanwhile, Daniel yawned as he put on the coffee.  He reached up towards the ceiling to stretch, and then with his right hand scratched an itch on his abdomen.  Suddenly, his eyes widened.

~Oh, gawd.~

Daniel literally ran upstairs to the bedroom and stared in the mirror, realizing how he had answered the door.  He closed his eyes and shook his head, and then quickly shaved and dressed into more suitable attire.

====

Fifteen minutes later, Sam saw Daniel walk in the den, dressed and looking more alert.

~Good things never last, not that he's still not gorgeous now, but ... meow.~

“Sorry, Sam.  I'm not much of a morning person when I don't have to be.”  Seeing Sam staring at him with a far-off look, he called out, “Sam?”

~Get a grip, Carter.  You've got a fella, remember?  Not to mention the general.  Oh boy!  Don't want to see that jealous streak again, not in this lifetime,~ Sam reminded herself.  “Sorry.  Lost in thought, and uh, I know.  It's okay.  I think I've got this figured out.  I'll be back in a couple of hours, and then it'll take me a while to set it up and get it operating.”

“Operating?”

“Trust me.  Be back soon!”

Daniel shook his head.  He still had no clue what Sam was contemplating, but he definitely did trust her.

====

While Sam was gone, Daniel decided to run a couple of quick errands himself.  All the talk about child safety had gotten him thinking about things like open plug sockets and cabinets full of cleaners and other items that could harm a child.  So, he went shopping and decided that while Sam was working on whatever she was doing, he would childproof the house.

====

Hours later, Daniel had completed his task, satisfied that for the moment, anyway, he'd done all he could.  Sam was upstairs and had been working on her project for quite a while.  Now, Daniel patiently waited downstairs, playing with the beagles.

Sergeant Siler had come by two hours earlier, carrying a heavy box of something.  After making sure he had brought the desired amount, he had given Sam an acknowledging nod, one that seemed strange to Daniel.  It was as if the two had a secret, one that was more serious than most others.

“Daniel,” Sam called out excitedly as she quickly came down the stairs.  “It's ready.  Come see.”

Daniel put Bijou down and followed his friend into the den.  She walked over to the wall that adjoined the master bedroom and pointed out what looked like a large wall length painting.  It stretched from the bottom of the floor to just one foot shy of the ceiling.  It was just under eight inches in depth, fourteen inches wide, and looked solid.

“What is it?”

“Feel.”

Daniel walked to it, taking a closer look.  It had a gray background that highlighted the overlying Japanese artwork.

“I love the painting, but this is a strange material,” Daniel said as he felt it.

It wasn't canvas, ceramic, or any of several other kinds of artistic platforms Daniel knew of.

“It's very unique,” he said.

“You can say that again.”

Daniel looked at Sam, full of questions.

“I don't get it.  I mean, I love the artwork.  It fits in even, but ... why?”

Sam pointed towards the top of the painting as she spoke, “See that piece of origami, the one representing the sun?”  Daniel nodded.  “And see that one, just to the left that represents the moon?”

“Yes.”

“And a few inches down from both, this one which represents the Earth?”  Again, Daniel nodded.  “Put your hand against the painting so that your fingers touch the Sun and the Moon, and press softly.  The bottom of your hand should be about here,“ Sam pointed to the spot, “where the Earth is.”

Daniel did as Sam requested, jumping back when the painting began to move, splitting in two, the top half sliding up and over.

“Wow!” Daniel said wide-eyed.  “It's ... oh gawd ... wow!”

Sam grinned, proud of her work.  She had stayed up all night planning it, certain it was the answer Jack and Daniel were looking for.

“It's a palm scanner, like we installed at the SGC after the incident with the Reetou.  I've used the patterns for just you and the general so you'll be the only two people it will open for.  I wasn't exactly sure what weapons the general has, and, frankly, I don't think I want to know.”  Sam smiled hesitantly and continued, “I made some gun racks here, and a few shelves, and, if you need it modified, you can just let me know.”

“Sam ... wow!”

Daniel was stunned and extremely grateful.  It was like the answer to a prayer, and already, he felt a peace flowing through him.

“No keys, Daniel, and to everyone else, it looks like a painting.  It should be silent with the tracking mechanism I used, so when it moves, it won't make noise, at least not much, and ...”

“Hey, what ...”

Daniel jumped again as the painting began to close.

Sam beamed again, happy her new twist had worked so well.

“I put a timer on it, just in case.  I mean, you don't really know when you might need this, or if it'll be urgent, so it's set to stay open as long as the sensors show activity every few seconds, you know ... reaching in or out, but after sixty seconds without a reading, it closes automatically.  Oh, and it slides back into the closet a little.  I did have to make a bit of a false back, but I don't think the kids will figure it out if they find it.”

“Sam, it's ... wow.”

“Oh, and one more thing ...”

====

“Nice to see you, too, Kayla.  Any problems before we begin?”

“No, Sylvia, everything's fine.  Still adjusting, but I sure am putting on a lot of weight.  Is this normal?”

“Oh, yes.  It varies from pregnancy to pregnancy, of course, but you've been fine.  Let's see what we have today.”  Sylvia proceeded with Kayla's check-up.  “We need to do an ultrasound.  Actually, we should have done one last month.  Why didn't we?”

“I had a meeting with my publishers the day we had it scheduled originally, and the next time Jack and Daniel had some commitment they couldn't get out of.”

“Well, I don't think we should put it off again.  Let's schedule it,” the doctor stated firmly.

“Something wrong?” the concerned mother-to-be asked.

“Not at all.”  Sylvia smiled as she wrote some notes on her chart.  “I'll give them a call, and we'll set up something for next week, okay?”

“Sure.  Any day but Thursday.”

“Publisher?”

“Yes.  I can't believe it, Sylvia.  They aren't buying yet, but they're interested in the concept.  We're just disagreeing on how it plays out.”

“Keep to your guns, whatever they are!” Sylvia advised with a smile.

“Oh, I am.  This is my one shot at my dream, and it's going to be my way or no way.  I'm not compromising just for the sake of getting it published.”

“Good for you, Kayla.”

====

“Missed you so much, Angel,” Jack spoke softly.

“Ditto ... you feel good!”

The two lovers had been sitting on the sofa for an hour, just holding each other and reconnecting.  They hated being apart and always took time when reunited to just sit and enjoy the other's presence.

“Jack, I need to show you something,” Daniel stated a few minutes later.

“Oh, I'm all for that.”

“Not that! ... Well, at least not yet.”

“How about that first, and the whatever second?”

“Hmm ... very tempting, but ... um, no, you need to see this.  I really want you to see this.  It's ... amazing!”

“I'm all yours.”

“Amen to that.”  Daniel smiled as he stood to lead Jack into the den.  As they stood just inside the doorway, Daniel asked, “Notice anything different?”

Jack studied the room, starting on the right and working his way around, finally noticing the addition.

“Hey, what's that?” the general questioned.

“A painting -- Japanese.  Like it?”

“Sure, looks great,” Jack commented as he moved closer to look at it.

“Kinda big for a painting, Danny,” Jack observed.  “Who's the artist?”

“Hmm, I think ... actually I don't know, but I'm thinking it's a Carter,” Daniel smirked.

“A Carter?  Carter who?”

“Samantha Carter.”

Jack's eyes shifted to his lover as he questioned with amazement, “Carter?  Sam?  My second, Carter?”

Daniel nodded, smiling with his arms folded from habit, and instructed, “Go ahead, Jack.  Touch it.  I mean really study it, with your hands.”

“You hit your head while I was gone?”

Daniel laughed, and urged his lover on, saying, “Trust me.”

Smiling, Jack looked up and down the new piece, and with his hands traced the majority of the painting.  Then, he flinched.

“Danny, if I didn't know better, I'd say this was made out of ...”

“Don't say it.  You don't want to say it.”

Stunned, Jack looked at his soulmate and remarked, “Daniel, this stuff protects the Stargate.  I didn't know we were using that now as a canvas for a painting.”

“Neither did I, until yesterday.”

“How did she ...”

“Jack, I don't know.  I didn't ask her.  Do you want to ask her?” Daniel challenged, his eyebrows arched.

~Definitely not.  Just exactly what the heck is going on here.~  “No ... oh no, I don't think so, but why is it here?”

Daniel took Jack's hand, opening the palm to his face.  He kissed it gently, and then guided it up to the origami points.  He placed Jack's palm in position and pressed slightly.

Jack's head moved back quickly in surprise.

“Surprise!”  Daniel explained all the features of the hidden cabinet.  “What do you think?”

Jack nodded, and then shook his head, not in a negative response, just a movement.  He twisted his body to look at their Tree of Love, focusing on the photo of Charlie.

“What do you think, Son?”

Daniel slid his arm along Jack's and took his hand, leaning his head against Jack's shoulder.

“I'm thinking Charlie will help us make sure we keep his siblings safe.”

“I'm thinking your right.  It's ... as perfect as it can be.  Danny,” Jack turned to face his husband, his hands on Daniel's arms, “no matter what, unless there's a threat in this house, we don't open this.”

“Agreed.”

“Look, the weapons have to be maintained, but we'll schedule it.  None of the kids will ever be in the house when I do that, okay?”

“Okay,” Daniel agreed.

“No exceptions, Daniel.”

“None.  It's the best we can do, Jack, and for us, I think it's the safest answer.  As much as we'd like to think we can be Ozzie and Harriett, as crazy as that sounds, we have a dangerous past, and,” Daniel sighed, “something tells me we may always be associated with that past ... by choice as much as by need.  You're right.  We have to protect our family.  Sam ... she gave us a way to ... at least let us breathe a little easier.”

“That woman's a good friend.  She's good ... very good,” Jack opined.

“Just figuring that out?”

“No, but I don't want to know what she did or ... I just don't want to know.”

“Then don't ask,” Daniel suggested with a smile.

“I won't.  She just risked her career.”

“Not for the first time, Jack.”

Jack nodded as he spoke softly, “No, not for the first time.  Now, about that other thing you were going to show me.”

“This way ...”

Daniel led Jack to their bedroom where, once again, they said hello as only their bodies could.

====

The next day, Jack came downstairs, whistling a happy tune; that is, until he tried to get into the cabinet to get his much-desired box of Froot Loops.

“Oh, for crying out loud.  *Daniel!*” Jack shouted as he glared at Bijou, who looked like she was smirking at his inability to open the cupboard door.  “Don't laugh, you.  DANIEL!”

“Jack, what's wrong?” Daniel asked, running into the kitchen, concerned some disaster had occurred.

“I can't get this blasted thing open,” the older man complained.

“Relax, Babe.  While you were gone, I did some childproofing, for safety.  You just need to squeeze it right here, hold it, and then slide this off.”  As Jack stared at him, the younger man explained, “Jack, without this lock, a child could easily open this cabinet without this lock.  It only takes a second, and it only takes a spoonful of Comet, or something like, that to do serious harm.  Do you want to risk that?”

“No, of course not,” Jack sighed.  With a cough, he added, “But how about giving me a lesson?  A P-90 was a lot easier to use than these plastic things.”

Daniel smiled and gave his lover a kiss before spending the next thirty minutes acquainting him with all the new safety features he had installed.

====

Daniel was laughing as Bijou and Katie were tickling Jack with kisses on the living room floor.

“You little beasts,” Jack laughed, moving to 'box' with the girls, his hands doing little jabbing motions.  “Okay, okay, I give.  You win!”

Jack sat up, leaning his back against the sofa, in between Daniel's two legs.  Daniel placed a kiss on his husband's head, and massaged his shoulders.

“They're just too much for you, Babe!”

“Yeah, should have known I could never get the best of those two!”

Jack put his head all the way back to look up into Daniel's eyes.  He smiled.

“What?”

“Just looking.”

Daniel leaned down and pressed his lips against Jack's and smiled, “Hey ... I had an idea while you were gone.”

“I'll bet you had lots of ideas,” Jack replied.

“Well, this one might be functional,” Daniel stated.

“What is it?”

With a smile, the archaeologist answered, “J-O Enterprises.”

Knowing exactly what his husband meant, Jack replied thoughtfully, “I like that.”

“It's so simple, but it seems perfect.”

“Did you check it out?” Jack asked, referring to copyrights and other legalities.

“Yep, it's ours, if you agree.”

“Oh, I agree.  I most definitely agree,” Jack said, moving up onto the sofa to kiss his husband tenderly.

Sitting side by side, facing each other, their hands caressing and stroking each other's bodies, the two shared a smile and another moment of acknowledging the birth of yet another dream come true.

“How do we work this, Angel?”

“I'm still figuring it out, but there are a lot of options.  We can limit our focus or be more open-ended, doing everything from excavations to surveys and appraisals ... and the usual assessments and briefs.  There's a lot we can do, Jack, and we can work with companies and foundations plus museums ... even private investors.”

“I have a lot to learn, Danny.  I still don't have a handle on all the lingo.  Briefs are underwear to me.”

“You're doing great ... my foxy genius,” Daniel chuckled.  “Don't worry, I have faith in you.”

Daniel paused for a moment and smiled, seeing that Jack was waiting for an explanation.  Daniel's heart was so full.  He had never imagined that Jack would really want to get so involved with the other great love of his life, archaeology.

“A watching brief is just, in very simple terms, watching an area for signs of any remains.  It's usually in developing regions or smaller sites where a full-scale project isn't in the budget.  Most of the time, there's already been some indication that it might have some historical significance, or not.”

Daniel laughed and then continued his educational lecture.

“Think of it as being similar to an environmental impact report.  You're building a garage complex, and you have to meet a code, not just electrical or environmental, but also archaeological.  No one knows for sure what might be found once the digging starts, so someone goes out and checks it out when groundbreaking happens and whenever necessary after that.”

“Okay, briefs equate to making sure a developer meets a code,” Jack responded.

~Close,~ Daniel laughed.  “That's good enough for now.”

“But it's not that simple?”

“Of course not.”

“What about assessments?  To me, that's evaluating my archaeologist.  How many times did he disobey my orders?  How many times did he touch something he wasn't supposed to?  How many gray hairs did I get each mission just because of him?”

“You're so funny, Babe!”

“Thank you for the acknowledgement.  Assessments?”

“Computer junkie stuff.  In a sense, it's a watching brief on the computer, an analysis of all the historical and archaeological data that's been gathered.”

“What kind of data, Danny?”

“Hmm, photographs, especially aerial ones.  Monument records, archives, museum notes, land owner records ... that kind of thing.  We feed it all into the computer and study the results.  It's another way of giving a preliminary report before someone actually starts digging.”

“Like Jimmy the Greek?”

Daniel laughed at his lover's analogies and replied, “Yeah, what are the odds?  Exactly that.”

“We're going to have it, Danny.”  Jack smiled, exchanging a loving look with his partner.  “Do you still want to try and incorporate some of the college types?”

“If we can.  I mean, I know we need to make money, Jack, but if we can provide practical training for one or two a year, it would be so beneficial for them.  There's so much to see and learn that you can't find in a book.  Still,” Daniel brought Jack's hand up to his mouth and kissed it, “we'll need to hire some sharp staff.  I don't want anyone who can't think beyond their noses.”

Jack chuckled and was about to say something when Daniel continued to speak.

“Maybe the job application should be a copy of that lecture I was giving about the pyramids when Catherine found me.  'Read and evaluate the following'.”

Daniel laughed, shaking his head at the absurdity of the thought.

“Why not?  Danny ... seriously ... why not?  After all, we may not be fighting the Goa'uld anymore, but we want J-O to be the best, right?”

“Yes, of course we do.”

“Well, if they think your theory is full of crap, and the way they evaluate it indicates they think it's a ridiculous piece of ... manure, then we don't want them on the team.  If, however, they approach it from the point of view that it's possible, and evaluate it realistically ... or Danny, even if they think it's crazy, but yet your opinion is considered with due merit and not just assumed to be ... crackpot based, then maybe they'll fit in.”  Jack gazed at his husband.  “What do you think?”

“I think it could be the most unique application in the history of all of archaeology!”  After a moment, Daniel couldn't help but comment, “Jack, you're really excited about this, aren't you?”

“Oh, yeah.  It's exciting, Danny -- working with you, like this, making this company real.”

“Real and different, Babe,” the younger man responded.

“Just like us, Love.  When have we ever done anything that could even remotely be described as normal?” Jack asked.

“Not often.”

“Hey,” Jack took Daniel into his arms, “Tell me.”

Daniel lightly shook his head and stated, “It's just ... I see it in your eyes.  Jack, I'm so happy, and this is just so incredible to be starting our company in a profession that is meaningful and that I'm passionate about, but gawd, you, the general, and knowing what you thought about me that first day ... I mean, not just me, but how you felt about science, and look at you ... gawd, Jack, you're working so hard, but it's not ... I mean ...”

“You mean I'm loving it.”

“Yes, that's what I mean.  I love you for that, Jack.”  The two kissed for a few minutes.  “Sorry, I got a little sappy there,” Daniel spoke softly as they pulled apart.

“Love sap, but back to work,” Jack chirped.  “Danny, we should hire Carter to do some part-time stuff for us.”

“Like what?”

“Listen, I just ... I think we need to move forward in our lives, but I don't believe we should ignore who we are, or what we've done in the last decade ... longer for me.”

“Background checks?” Daniel questioned.

“Yeah, and Carter can do more than a service would ... and ... I trust her to do it right.”

“Me, too.  We can ask her when she comes for dinner next week.”

“One more thing, Love.  Have you considered trying to steal away some of that SGC talent?”

“Jack, you're impossible!”

“You know who's good and who's passing time,” the general pointed out mischievously.

“Yes, but ... we can't afford to pay them what they're making now ... at least not until we get off the ground.  The best civilians on the SGC payroll are making good money.”

“Too bad the military can't match it.  I made table scraps compared to you,” Jack smirked.  “But, Danny, they might want to work for us.”

“The wonders of the universe versus Egypt?” Daniel questioned.

“Aren't there still wonders to be found in Egypt?  Or Israel?  Or Africa?  Or South America?  Aren't there wonders here on Earth just waiting to be found by someone with the heart to find them?  Isn't it possible there are others out there, including people like Megan Williams who just might want to buy into the dream of our own world for a while?” Jack asked with a smug expression and a wink.

“What happened to that military bravado of yours?” the archaeologist challenged.

“Oh, it's there, but it's in perspective now.”

Daniel shook his head in amazement, but then smiled and said, “I'll make a list, and we can go over it later and maybe make some offers.  You could be right.”

“J-O Enterprises.  You did good, Danny,” the older man praised.

“*We* did good, Jack!” Daniel corrected.

“Woof!  Woof!”

“Oops, our girls are beckoning,” Jack said.

“You'd think they'd be a little less obvious than standing right by the drawer with their harnesses.”

“Why hide it?  We're pushovers, and they know it,” Jack chuckled before sharing a kiss with his Love.  Standing, he said happily, “Okay girls, time for a walk.”

====

“The Rancolinis were very nice, Jack,” Daniel opined as they reviewed their visit to the Dale and Nancy Rancolini home.

Jack nodded, agreeing, “It was great seeing them again, and Sean, and some of the others.”

Daniel unbuttoned his shirt, lost his thought about the backyard barbecue they had just arrived home from.  Jack looked at the man who was his heart and knew he was thinking about Kent Stevens, the one man at the unofficial Air Force Academy reunion who had reacted negatively to their love affair.

“Kent was always a jerk, Danny,” Jack spoke.  “He has limited tolerance.  I'm not even sure why Dale invited him.  He was never really part of the group.”

“It's not like we've haven't dealt with intolerance before,” Daniel replied.

“Put him out of your mind,” the general advised.  “Everyone else was fine with us.  In fact, I thought that once they got used to the idea, most were cool.”

“They were, especially the Rancolinis and Douglas'.”  Daniel put on his pajamas and walked over to the bed, where Jack was sitting, removing his shoes and socks.  “Jack, wasn't Jeff Cornell part of your class at the Academy?”

“Yeah.  I asked Dale why he wasn't there.  He said Jeff and Margaret were invited, but they phoned, said they would be out of town visiting Margaret's sister in Florida.  Bad timing.”

“Oh.  I guess that's why he hasn't been over to visit the girls recently,” Daniel surmised, having gotten used to Jeff's beagle-focused visits.  “He sure loves them.”

“Yes, he does, and that's probably why he hasn't been by,” Jack agreed.  Chuckling, he added, “That's one of the cons of being retired, Love.  I'm not up-to-date on everyone's schedules.”

Jack joined his lover under the covers, and they snuggled together, loving their closeness.

“Jack, tell me how it felt when you first flew a plane.”

Daniel hadn't forgotten the discussion he had overheard at the Rancolinis, a discussion about the passion of flying, something Jack had said he missed.  It had planted a seed in his mind, but he needed to be sure, and this was one way of doing it.

“It was incredible, soaring through the sky.  It puts you in your place, but there's nothing quite as serene as flying a plane through the sky, fluffy white clouds all around you, doing a spin or two.  I remember ...”

Daniel smiled as he listened to his lover talk, and talk, and talk.  In fact, it was two hours later before Jack finally realized he had gone into lecture mode, something that was normally Daniel's forte.

“I'm sorry, Love.”

Daniel chuckled, assuring, “No, Babe, don't be.  I loved hearing you talk about it. Thank you for sharing your passion with me.”

Jack turned them over so that Daniel was lying on his back.  He leaned forward for a tender kiss, his hand caressing Daniel's cheek.

“You're my true passion.  Nothing compares with you.”

“Not even flying?” Daniel questioned skeptically.

“Close, but no.”

“Fishing?” the younger man asked, his eyes hinting at the real truth beneath Jack's words.

“Well, there you have ... OUCH!”

Jack laughed at the pat Daniel had given him on his rear.  It hadn't hurt, nor was it intended to.

“You're my passion, all I need, all I want.  I love you.”

“Show me,” the archaeologist requested, and, much to his delight, Jack did.

====

“It's a beautiful plane, Neil.  Of course, I don't really know much about ... planes.”

“Trust me, Daniel, this baby is a gem.  A classic 1960 Meyers 200A in tip-top shape.  You'll love flying her.”

“I, uh, don't fly.”

“You don't?”

“No, my ... my husband does.”

“Husband?”

Daniel nodded, explaining, “He was in the Air Force.  He loves to fly and misses it.”

The archaeologist walked around the plane.  Telling people openly about Jack was still new and a bit scary.  There was always that one awkward moment, and after that, people either disappeared, became very formal, or understood.  He hoped Neil was in the last category.

“Husband, eh?  Air Force?  Now there must be a story there.”

“Long one.”

“Well, if he has the soul of a pilot, he'll love this plane.  Now, some fly boys care only about speed, silly tricks you can do in the sky, better fire power, but if you just love to fly, this plane will take you to new heights.  She's sleek and fast, and put together with love and care.  They were all handmade, the Meyer's planes.”

“I didn't know that.”

“Your husband will, if he's a genuine aficionado of the magic of flying.”

“He is.”

“I've kept great records, and I'm willing to let you take her for a spin.”

“How about ... two spins?”

“Two?”

“Well, I'd like to surprise Jack, have everything worked out.  Let him fly her not knowing she's ... ours, and then I'd to let him take her on a test flight.  He's the pilot, Neil.  I don't know anything about it.”

“Okay.  Two flights.  Would you like me to help you with a flight plan for the first one?”

“Yes, that would be great.  Thank you.”

“Let's go inside.”

Daniel was thankful that Neil was part of the understanding group, especially because he had a feeling about the red aircraft.  It had called out to him.  He couldn't understand it and wasn't sure what it meant, but in the end, he remembered that so much of his life with Jack was the result of luck and some unknown forces that seemed to pull them from Point A to Point B.

~He's going to love it!  I hope.~

====

“Excited about the ultrasound?” Jack asked.

“Hmm-mmm,” Daniel responded, zipping up his navy pants.

“You don't sound like it.”

Nervously, Daniel replied, “Jack, we're going to find out the sex of the baby today.”

“I know.”

Then each caught a glimpse of the other's eyes.  That was all it took.

At the same time, the two men spoke, “I don't want to know.”

Both laughed, and Daniel said, “Gawd, I really don't.  I want the surprise.”

“Me, too,” Jack agreed.

“I guess that seems unusual with my curiosity about things, but ... this isn't an experiment.  This is our child, and I want it all to be ... magic.  I want to be surprised,” Daniel explained.

“Okay, then we agree,” Jack said as he held Daniel close.  “We have Syl screen the ultrasound.  What about Kayla?”

“We can't stop her from knowing.  She has a right to know if she wants to, and she'll respect our wishes if we explain it to her.”

“You're right.  Let's go.  Traffic is going to be murder this time of day,” Jack said in anticipation.

====

“I thought you boys might not make it,” Sylvia said as she greeted Jack and Daniel in her office at the clinic.

“Traffic, Syl.  It was terrible,” Jack stated, regretting that he was right.

“They need a couple more lanes on that freeway,” Daniel added.

“No argument from me,” Jack agreed.  “Syl, we need to let you know about a decision we've made.”

“Okay, have a seat,” the woman doctor invited as she returned to her desk and sat down.  “What's the decision?”

Sitting, Daniel began, “Jack and I ... we want to keep the surprise alive.”

“The surprise?” Sylvia asked.

“We don't want to know the sex of the baby.  All we want to know is that the baby is healthy and that Kayla is okay,” Daniel informed seriously.

“Oh, I see.”

“Is there a problem with that, Syl?” Jack asked.

“No, you're certainly not alone in that.  I just wasn't anticipating that you'd feel that way.  What about the ultrasound?” the physician inquired.

“Well,” Daniel said, “we'd love to see our baby, if you can ... screen it for us.”

“I think I can handle that.  There is something you might want to know, though.  You see ...”

“No,” Jack interrupted sternly.  “Sorry, I just ... I can't explain it, Syl, but this morning, we discovered we just want to experience it as it happens.  We don't want to have it all be planned like some mission briefing.  It's personal, not an itemized agenda.”

Sylvia nodded in understanding and stood up, saying, “Okay, let's go.”

====

Jack and Daniel said hello to Kayla as she lay on the bed, her bulging belly exposed.  They'd already explained to her their decision about knowing the sex of the baby, and they were grateful she understood.

“I swear, I feel like I'm the size of a house, and it's only the half-way point.”

“He's going to be a big one,” Jack boasted.

Daniel just smiled.  This *was* his baby.  It didn't matter to him anymore if it was his sperm or Jack's.  It was their baby together.  It was his baby.  It was Jack's baby.  It was a well-loved baby.  He had so many emotions flowing through him, and all of them were good.

“Whoa, a kick!”

Daniel's heart fluttered in excitement.  His eyelashes batted shyly as he realized that little life would soon be one he could hold in his arms.

“Can ... I mean ... can I ...”

“Come here, Daniel.”

Kayla reached out for Daniel's hand and placed it on her protruding belly.

Jack moved to stand on the other side of the bed.  He wanted to see his lover's face.  He knew the feeling.  Watching Daniel become aware of that life was going to be a beautiful memory for Jack.  After a few moments, the baby kicked again.  Daniel's eyes grew wide, and his face beamed.

“Wow!  Gawd, Jack!  Wow!  That's my baby ... our baby!  Hey, he kicked again.”

Jack nodded, full of emotion.  Daniel's serene look had gone beyond what Jack had imagined, and when Daniel looked up, their eyes bore into each other's.  No words were needed, and Jack had to turn away and feign a cough to stop the tears welling in his eyes from falling.

“Jack ...” Daniel reached out for his soulmate's hand.

The older man took it.  Together, their hands joined, they felt their child kick yet again.

Jack shook his head, unable to speak.

Kayla and Sylvia exchanged a look.  Both smiled, holding back their own tears of happiness for their friends.

Finally, Sylvia said, “We'd better get to that ultrasound.”

“Yeah,” Jack sniffed, backing away.  “Thanks, Kayla.”

“It won't be the last time,” the young woman promised.

This time, it was Jack who held out his hand for Daniel, who immediately walked to him.  They stood together, their hands around the other's waist as Sylvia took a final check of the equipment.

“You two sure you don't want to know?” Sylvia asked one more time.

“Positive.”

“Okay, then you two had better come over here behind the monitor and I'll tell you if it's safe to look.  You know I can only control this so much.”

The couple nodded and moved to where Sylvia had indicated.  Then, Sylvia began the ultrasound.

Kayla laughed.

“What?” Daniel asked, a bit alarmed.

“I'm having a baby.  Gee whiz, look Sylvia ... how funny is that?”

Sylvia shook her head and instructed, “Take a look guys.  This baby is definitely yours.”

Jack and Daniel looked at the monitor.

Jack laughed, “This is definitely your baby, Danny -- too shy to show anything if anything is there.”

Daniel blushed, but still a tear fell from his eye as he watched their little baby.  The hands could just be made out, and it was appropriately covering up the “tell-all” area where they'd know if it was a boy or girl.

“Our baby is beautiful, Jack,” Daniel whispered.

“Just like his Daddy,” Jack said, kissing his Heart's temple as he held him close.

“Hands are moving ... better move back, unless ...” Daniel said, leading his husband back as they continued to hold hands.

Sylvia laughed.

“SYLVIA!” Kayla gasped.

“What?” Jack and Daniel asked with alarm, in perfect unison.

“You two sure you don't want to know anything?”

“Not a thing.  We told you ... just healthy,” the archaeologist stated.

“Oh -- healthy, definitely healthy,” Sylvia said.

Kayla was laughing as she said, “Oh, Sylvia.”

“Careful, Kayla, they really don't want to know,” the doctor reminded

“But this is different.  Don't you think they'd want to know ... this?” the young woman inquired.

Thoughtfully, Sylvia spoke, “Kayla's right.  This is important, Jack.”

“The baby is healthy?” Jack questioned.

“Yes.”

“And Kayla is healthy?” Daniel asked.

“Yes, but ...”

“Then we don't want to know,” Daniel stated.  “We want every part of this birth to be a surprise.  Sylvia, I've studied histories and cultures all over the uni...world.  We're one of the few societies that are so preoccupied with knowing the details of an unborn child.  Jack and I just want to feel it all as it happens.  I don't know how to explain it any better than that we just want to let it happen.  Please.”

Sylvia and Kayla exchanged another nod.

“Okay, but you'll probably not want to see the ultrasounds that we do in the future,” Sylvia advised.

“No more modesty, uh?” Jack queried smugly.

“No ... no more, Jack,” Sylvia answered.

“Well, thanks, Syl.  Kayla, we'll call you tonight, okay?” Daniel spoke.

“Okay, Daniel.”

“Kayla, thank you ... just ... thank you so much for what you're doing for us,” the archaeologist spoke emotionally.

Jack and Daniel left, leaving the two women alone.

“Sylvia, they are going to be so unprepared.  Are you sure we shouldn't tell them?” Kayla asked, her eyes still on the monitor.

“You heard them.  As long as the pregnancy continues smoothly, we should probably adhere to their wishes.”

“Imagine,” Kayla chuckled.  “Jack and Daniel with twins!”

“Heaven help those babies!”

====

-- Chapter Six:  Mid-Term Madness!

====

Jack closed up the box of old clothes to be given away to Goodwill and carried it downstairs.  On the way down he remembered one more old shirt he didn't want, so instead of taking the box to the porch, he turned to sit it on the sofa, stumbling over a pile of magazines in the process.

“DANNNNNNNNNIELLLLLLLLL!” Jack screamed, falling onto the couch and letting loose with a slew of curse words.

“Jack?”

Daniel ran into the living room from the study where he had been on the phone.

“Oh for crying out loud ... baby magazines?”

Jack tossed the current issue of Parenting to his left side as he tried to settle himself.

“Are you all right?”

“Danny, why are all these magazines here?”

“I ... just brought them in from the car.”

“And you left them on the floor?”

“I was going to read them, but then I remembered I needed to call Megan.  She needed some advice about a translation.”

Jack nodded, his hands gripping the top of the sofa back tightly.

“Don't you think you overdid it a little?”

Daniel looked at the pile of publications and shrugged.  Jack shook his head and moved to straighten out the pile and put it on the coffee table, but first he moved the large box of clothing to the end of the sofa.

Daniel knelt down to help pick up the scattered items.  He had to admit he might have gone overboard, having purchased at least thirty-five different baby, parent, and children magazines.

Jack started laughing looking at some of the titles.

“Daniel, I love you, but you have to admit ... look at this ... Child's Life.  It's fiction for nine to eleven year olds!  And this one ... Jack and Jill, specializing in self-confidence for seven to ten year olds!  Danny, our baby isn't even born yet!”

“But ... but we have to be prepared.  We need to know what's out there ... and they aren't all for older kids.”

“Babe, even this one ... a standard ... ole Humpty Dumpty doesn't kick in until they are at least four years old.”

“I got Disney,” Daniel said defensively, knowing how much Jack loved all the Disney cartoon characters.

“Oh yeah?”

Jack searched, coming up with Disney Princess, Disney's Winnie the Pooh, and Disney Adventures.

After looking through all of them, Jack laughed some more.

“Love Disney, but Angel, Pooh is the first one we can make use of ... in about two years!”

Daniel sighed, feeling a bit like an idiot.

“I just ... we should learn as much as we can, that's all I'm saying.”

“Now this is more like it,” Jack said, thumbing through the latest issue of American Baby.  “At least it's about babies.  Oh look, 'Fashions for the Trendy Two-Month-Old'.”

Jack laughed at the over-exuberance of his lover, but actually, it just made him love Daniel even more for caring so much.

“You're making that up.”

“Yes, I am ... it does have fashion in it, but looks like it has some good stuff on health and medicine, too.  Might be a keeper.”

“Here's one called Parents.  We're parents, Jack,” Daniel said hopefully.

“Look it over.  See if we're included.”

Suddenly, Daniel threw the magazine towards the door.

“Not about us?”

“Women, eighteen to thirty-four, on how to run a family.”

“Try this one, Angel ... Parenting.  Sara used to read this.”

Jack handed the magazine to Daniel who finally smiled.

“It's for babies and young kids with age-specific child development guides.  Oh, and it focuses a lot on discipline and diet and other health issues.”

“A keeper,” Jack said.

“Fit Pregnancy?” Jack chuckled, his eyes sparkling.

“Well, I thought maybe Kayla would like it.  It has stuff about breathing and exercises and post-natal ... women-type stuff.”

Daniel shrugged, feeling a bit embarrassed.  At the time, he was sure buying all of the publications had been the right thing to do, but now, he wasn't so sure.

~I only want us to be prepared.  I'm ... new at this.~

“Women-type stuff?” Jack teased.

Daniel glared, his embarrassment turning into aggravation at Jack's teasing.

“I was just trying to help,” the archaeologist said a tad defensively.

Jack scooted off the sofa and sat next to Daniel.  He took his lover's right hand and gently caressed it, and then he leaned forward for a passionate kiss.

“Geez, I love you.”  Jack understood.  He'd been there once, not quite to this extreme, but everything Daniel was doing these days was in keeping with the caring, loving, and nurturing person the young man was.  Jack smiled and kissed him again.  Then he spoke gently, “You're trying so hard, but you don't have to, Danny.  You're a natural.”

Daniel looked down, still feeling a little silly and insecure over his overindulgence into childcare publications, most of which wouldn't apply to their children for a few years at least.

“Hey.” Jack smiled, putting his arm around Daniel's shoulder and pulling him close.  “I love you, even more for this.  Love you, Angel.”

Jack placed a kiss on Daniel's temple before going back to their unexpected project.

“Let's see what else is here,” Daniel suggested, giving Jack a covert glance, and then losing himself in his silent thoughts.  ~I love you so much, Jack, especially for times like this, when I get a little crazy ... because no matter how crazy I get, you still love me.~

Jack looked up and saw Daniel looking at him.  He smiled and the two kissed again.

They spent the next half hour reviewing the magazines, and finally selected several to subscribe to for a while.

“We'll, uh, keep the rest of these in mind for the future,” Jack promised his lover.

“I'm sorry I got carried away.”

“I'm not.”

“Yes, you are.“

“No, I'm not.”

“You are, too!”

“Am not!”

“Are, too!”

“No way!”

“Way!”

“Love you!”

“You, too!”

Daniel smiled as the magazines were forgotten in lieu of a wonderful thirty-minute make-out session, interrupted only by a phone call from Sylvia's office reminding them of their appointment for the next day.

====

“Another good check-up, Syl?” Jack asked hopefully.

“Jack, Daniel, sit down.”

Hesitantly, the two sat on the chairs in Sylvia's office.  Just then, there was a knock on the door.  Sylvia went to open it, and smiled.

“Come on in, Kayla.”

Jack and Daniel stood, hugging the mother of their unborn baby.  They chatted lightheartedly for a couple of minutes, and then Sylvia got their attention with a loud whistle.

“Sorry, but I can't get a word in here.”

“Sorry,” Jack laughed, turning to give the doctor his full attention.

“Okay, listen ... Jack and Daniel, for the last several weeks, the two of you have been insistent that you didn't want to know anything about this baby other than that everything is normal.”

“That's right, and we don't,” Jack spoke assuredly.

“Okay, I understand what you're saying, and the reasons, but guys, there really is something you need to know.”

“No!” both Jack and Daniel spoke in unison.

“Unless there's something wrong,” Daniel added meekly.

Sylvia just shook her head at the expectant father.  Daniel was always worried, and she was trying her best to keep him reassured whenever she could.

“Is the baby healthy?” Daniel asked.

“Yes.”

“I mean ...  everything's there ... where it's supposed to be ... you aren't trying to tell us the baby's healthy, but not ...”

“Daniel, your baby is just fine.  No problems.  I promise.  If something comes up, I will tell you,” Sylvia said as firmly as she could.

“Is there any risk or concern with Kayla?” Jack asked again, looking to the young woman for anything she might be hiding.

“No, but, honestly, this is something a father might want to know,” Sylvia put forth as sincerely as possible.

“Then ... NO, NO, NO!” Jack insisted, pushing his chair back and standing up.  He moved behind the chair, and leaned forward, his hands holding on to the chair back.  “No,” he repeated calmly.

Kayla laughed softly, commenting, “You two are wonderful, just wonderful.”

“We just want it all to be ... whatever it's supposed to be, without all the science and techno stuff ... if we can avoid it,” Daniel explained.

“Fellas, I wouldn't be doing my job if I didn't try to explain this one more time.  You see, it's just that ...”

Sylvia's words were cut off by a sudden, loud hum.  Jack was prancing around the office, his fingers in his ears, humming the Air Force theme song, finally starting to sing it, “Up we go, into the wild blue yonder” ... only he wasn't using his good voice.

Daniel both cringed and laughed as he stood up to get his lover under control.

“Stop, Jack,” the archaeologist requested, removing Jack's hands from his ears.

“Okay, I give ... but don't say I didn't warn you,” Sylvia scolded lightheartedly.

“We won't,” Jack assured, a big grin on his face.

“Well, Kayla is fine.  No problems with ... anyone.”

Kayla listened as Sylvia reported anything relevant about the baby's condition.  She noticed how Jack's hand held Daniel's securely, his thumb gently rubbing Daniel's as they listened; how, as Sylvia spoke about how the baby had grown since the last sonogram, Daniel glanced at Jack and smiled, seemingly just enjoying the expression on his lover's face; and how when they were done, Jack and Daniel exchanged a look where their eyes seemed to be talking -- no words were spoken, but the young woman could swear her friends were engaged in a very loving conversation from their hearts.

The more Kayla got to know Jack and Daniel, the more she realized she had made the correct choice in deciding to have their babies.  For the first time in her life, she sensed there was something truly greater than adventure and chasing dreams.  She wasn't yet sure what that was, but whatever that strange thing was, she knew Jack and Daniel had it.

At the end of the appointment, Sylvia spoke, “Jack, Daniel, Joel would like to meet with you tomorrow, for lunch, if possible.  I'll be there, as well.”

“Oh, for crying out loud, why?” Jack snapped.  “We aren't gonna sue, so ...”

“Jack,” Daniel interrupted.  “Lunch works.  Is one o'clock okay?”

“He said anytime that was good for you, he'd make sure he'd be there.  I'll give him a call, and then he'll phone you tonight and confirm,” Sylvia spoke.

“We have plans,” Jack informed.

“Uh, ask him to leave a detailed message,” Daniel instructed, glancing at Jack with a warning.  “We'll meet him; he just needs to give us the details.”

“Okay,” Sylvia acknowledged.

====

“I wonder why he wants to meet with us again,” Daniel pondered as he buttoned his green and white striped shirt early the following afternoon.

“How about because his clinic messed up?” Jack quipped sarcastically.

“Jack, we agreed.  We're just happy we're having a baby.”

“Daniel, the point is, it never should have happened.  You know, most couples would have already filed the law suit.”

Jack zipped up his pants and reached for his black shirt that he had placed on the bed earlier.  The two had been working around their home, so had both taken a shower and were changing into more appropriate clothes for their business meeting.

“I don't want to sue, Jack.  Maybe that makes me an idiot, but doing something like that would take a lot of time and energy, and to be honest, I'd rather devote all that to my family.”

“I'm not arguing, Danny, but does that mean we just let them off the hook?” Jack asked, inwardly reconsidering their earlier agreement not to sue the clinic for their error in mixing up the sperm that was used for the pregnancy.

Daniel pulled his gray jacket from the closet and slipped it on, and then he sat on the edge of the bed.

“Jack, years from now, I don't want to tell any of our children that they weren't wanted or loved, or that I even had a second thought about bringing them into this world simply because it's not my sperm that helped to bring them here.  I don't want to tell them that any amount of money played a part in their birth.”

“So we let them off the hook?” Jack asked again.

“What do you want to do?”

Jack put on his own gray jacket and sat next to his husband.  He took a deep breath as he thought.

“We don't need the money, do we?”

“No.”

“We could settle for a nice amount and stick it in a trust fund for the baby,” Jack suggested.

“And what do we tell our other children?  Besides, I don't know how to explain it, but I don't want any part of our family tied into money like that.  But, if you think it's the right thing to do ... I mean, it's not just me.”

“We could split it among all our kids.”

“Okay, Jack.  We should go,” Daniel stated as he stood and headed for the door.

“Whoa there, Dannyboy!” Jack called out.  ~No way.~

Daniel turned, folding his arms in front of him.  Jack approached his husband, physically unfolding Daniel's crossed arms.

“Jack, what are you doing?”

“No defensive postures.  No self-hugs.  You don't want us to take any money?” the older man inquired, wanting to know his husband's true feelings on the matter.

“But you do, Jack, so we will.”

“Daniel, I'm not trying to punish anyone, but we were lucky because we can afford to have another baby, and because we're just so dang happy to be having one in the first place.  What if it had been someone else, or, even worse, if it hadn't been our sperm?  What if that nurse had grabbed some stranger's?”

“Okay,” Daniel said softly.

Jack sighed.  He wasn't trying to be greedy, but there was an important principle at play here.  They were lucky, yes, but it could just as easily have been yet one more nightmare to endure.  Just as he had been reprimanded over the years for actions, in spite of good intentions that had caused those actions, he felt the clinic needed to do something to right the wrong.

“It's not the money, Daniel.  You know me better than that.  Think of something else.”

“What do you mean?” Daniel asked.

“You're the negotiator, the genius with the solutions.  Find me an 'or', just like in the old days.”  Jack smiled warmly and kissed his husband.  “Give me an alternative.”

“Right,” Daniel responded as turned back towards the hallway and walked down the stairs, Jack following a few seconds later.

====

“Doctor Jackson-O'Neill.  General Jackson-O'Neill.  Thank you for coming,” Doctor Joel Sumneers greeted his guests with a smile and motioned to the empty chairs in the private dining area of a local restaurant.  “Please, sit down.”

“Please, just call me, uh, Daniel, and this is Jack.”

“I thought Sylvia was going to be here?” Jack asked.

“She's going to try, but she had an emergency about an hour ago,” Sumneers informed.

Jack nodded, but said nothing as the waitress approached to take their lunch order.

“Doctor Sumneers, I've been wondering about the nurse who ...” Daniel paused, not wanting to place blame.

“Janeel?” the clinic owner asked.

“Yes.  What did she decide?” Daniel questioned curiously, not wanting the woman's career to have ended because of this one mistake that wasn't entirely her fault.

“I think we've finally convinced her to stay.  She's an excellent nurse with a promising future.”

With a nod, Daniel replied, “I'm glad.  Sylvia really sang her praises.”

“I know apologies don't go anywhere near far enough in this kind of a situation,” the doctor spoke sincerely, “and that potentially, this could have been much worse.  I wanted to let you know some of the things we've come up with to prevent it from ever happening again.”

“I'd like to hear about that,” Jack responded, the intimidating general extremely evident in his voice.

For the next half hour, as the three men lunched on salads, soups, and their entrees, Sumneers outlined the changes the clinic was introducing.  Among them were a new labeling system that included a special procedure for samples where there were multiple donors with same or similar names, a triple check procedure to verify the sample being used prior to insemination, an arrangement with a nearby nursing agency where they could easily and quickly get staffing help when needed, and the creation of a new staffing position which had as its primary function the overseeing of procedures and reviewing staffing needs on an hourly basis.

“I'm excited about this new position,” Sumneers concluded.

“Don't you already have someone who does that, some sort of office manager?” Jack inquired.

“Yes, but the responsibilities aren't as focused as this new job is.  The office supervisor has an abundance of duties that don't necessarily tie in with the medical staff.  The new position will be one of our nurses.  His or her main duty is to not only point out any flaws in our current medical protocol, but when we get those unexpected calls, they will have the authority to immediately call in assistance, without approval from me or any other staff member, including the office supervisor.”

“So it's an administrative position,” Daniel sought to clarify.

“No, not at all.  In fact, I've asked Janeel if she'd be interested,” Sumneers informed.

“Okay, so what if Janeel or whomever you hire is involved in a procedure or whatever, and that's when the crisis hits?” Daniel questioned.

“She'll always have a backup, and that person will have the same authority.  They'll be responsible only to me and no one else.  It's actually a chance for someone to look at what we do and point out what works and what doesn't, and having it be one of our regular nurses will enable that.  Who else to better know if we need to change things?”

“Sounds good,” Jack said.  ~He's trying.  I have to give him credit for that.~

“General, Doctor, I don't expect this to be enough for you.  As I said from the beginning, I take full responsibility for what happens at my clinic.  We could call in the lawyers and have them discuss some kind of settlement.  Frankly, I'm a bit surprised not to have been served already,” Sumneers admitted, having expected the worse in spite of having been told in the past that the Jackson-O'Neills would not be taking the clinic to court.

Jack and Daniel exchanged a look and then Jack spoke up, “Look, Doctor Sumneers, the money isn't the point, but ...”

“No, it's not,” Daniel interrupted.  “Jack, I think I have your 'or'.  Doctor, would you excuse us for a minute?”

Sumneers nodded, and Jack and Daniel stood and walked to the corner of the room.

“Okay, I'm listening,” Jack stated, his brown eyes looking at his lover's blue eyes with intrigue.

“Jack, we've both agreed that it's not about money, not for us, and Doctor Sumneers is doing everything he can to make sure it doesn't happen again, right?”

“I guess so, but how do we really know?  Daniel, we may have had our share of bumps and bruises over the years, but what do we know about this and what Sumneers is doing?”

“Okay, okay, but let's do this,” Daniel began, feeling excited about his idea.  “Let's check it out with Janet and Sylvia.  Sylvia probably already knows, but we can ask Janet what she thinks about the new changes and the staff position.”

“And then what?” Jack asked.

“Jack, what good does it do to bring in lawyers who are going to get some ridiculous fee to get us money we don't want or need ... and,” Daniel paused, organizing his thoughts, “maybe more importantly, why drain someone like Sumneers of financing that could be put to better use?”

“Daniel, where are you going with this?” the older man queried.

“Instead of putting it in a trust for our baby, let's do something in honor of our baby, something that is already a positive thing,” Daniel suggested.

“Daniel, the point?”

“A scholarship.  The Baby Jackson-O'Neill Scholarship, specifically designed to educate and maintain the clinic staffing.  Jack, we make them pay for 'x' number of scholarships per year for 'x' number of years, *and* they employ them when they graduate, if a position is open, and the graduate is interested.  We don't have to figure out the details, Babe; that's what the accountants and lawyers are for,” the experienced negotiator put forth, raising his eyebrows as he saw his lover responding to the idea.

~My genius!~  Jack chuckled at the notion.  Leave it to Daniel to once again come up with a solution that benefits others.  “The Baby Jackson-O'Neill Scholarship, eh?”

“They won't forget, Jack, and we'll be doing some good and not just cashing in on a mistake.”

Jack glanced over at Sumneers and observed him.  They'd researched the man and the clinic thoroughly before deciding to use the facilities, and Jack had to admit the clinic owner hadn't shirked responsibility or reacted in haste.  What's more, in their conversations since the mistake had been discovered, the doctor had never been anything less than forthright.  As he observed the doctor, he was impressed that Sumneers didn't seem overly nervous or anxious and seemed prepared to do whatever was necessary to move forward in good faith.

“Okay.  Let's tell him we may have a proposal, but we need to finalize it.  We'll go see Janet and get back to him in a few days.”

“Jack, are you really okay with this?  I mean, do you want the money?  It could be ... a lot?”

Jack answered, “It could set our kid up for life, and maybe not this baby, but all our brood.”

Daniel listened, a sadness taking him over that was evident to the older man.

“But, like you've said, we don't really need it, and even if we did, we both grew up earning our way, and I'm not sure that's not the best way to go,” Jack continued, happy that the sadness was disappearing from his Love's demeanor.  “It would be a legacy for our child.  No, Danny, I don't want the money.  I have everything I want right here,” he said as he tapped his husband on the chest.

“I love you, Jack.”

“Backatcha, Babe,” Jack spoke with a lustful grin.  “Let's go!”

“Backatcha?  Geez, Jack, has the romance burned out or what?”

Jack laughed, pinched Daniel on his butt as they walked and whispered a suggestion for what they should do when they got home.

By the time the two reached the table, Daniel was ready for action, and couldn't wait to get home with his spouse for Jack to carry through with his suggestions.

====

“You bought them all?” Sam asked and then took a bite of her salad as she, Daniel, and Kayla lunched at O'Malley's.

Jack and Daniel were both trying their best to stay in touch with their friends from the SGC.  They especially wanted to keep close ties with Sam.  One of the ideas they had come up with was to have lunch with her at least once every week or two.  Sometimes, other friends would come along, and, sometimes, like today, only half of the Jackson-O'Neills attended.

“I didn't have time to look at them at the bookstore, so I just picked up one of everything.  Gawd, Jack thought I was crazy,” Daniel recalled as he relayed the story about his recent magazine purchases.

“He's been a father before, that's the only reason he's calmer than you are, Daniel,” Kayla said with a smile.

“He's not so calm.  He's just better at hiding it,” Daniel commented before swallowing a spoonful of his soup.

“Where is he anyway?” Kayla asked, adding, “You know it's funny, but I'm not used to seeing one of you without the other.”

Daniel smiled as he answered, “We like it that way.  Gawd, you'd think we'd get tired of each other, but we don't.  Um, sorry.  He, uh, is over at Lou Ferretti's working on the MonsterMobile or ... whatever it is those two do when they're together.”

“Oh, I've heard Jack mention that before,” Kayla replied.  “Are the Ferretti's neighbors?”

“No, Lou's military.  He and Jack served together for a long time,” the archaeologist answered.

“Kayla, have you decided yet what method you want to use for the birth?” Sam asked, knowing the young woman had been studying several different options.

“I think natural childbirth is the way to go.”

“Lamaze?” Sam questioned.

“Yes, definitely,” the pregnant woman confirmed.

“That's great,” Sam responded.  Looking at Daniel, she asked, “Are you and the general going to be the coaches, Daniel?”

“Co...coaches?” Daniel stuttered as he dropped his spoon, causing it to splash into the soup, vegetables flying all over his tie and his place mat.

Sam and Kayla chuckled as Daniel tried to clean up the mess, but finally he tossed in the towel, or the napkin, to be more precise.

Shrugging, Daniel confided, “Gawd, I'm nervous.“

“Daniel, you've delivered babies before.  Relax,” Sam urged.

“Yeah, but they weren't *mine* before, Sam,” Daniel reminded with a sigh.

“You'll be just fine,” Kayla spoke reassuringly.  “The classes only last a few weeks, and you won't be alone.  There'll be several other couples there for support.”

“Oth...oth...other couples?”

“That's not a problem, is it?” Kayla asked.

“No ... no, of course not.  Gawd, I'm nervous.”

Sam and Kayla laughed again as Daniel sank further down in his chair.

====

“Daniel, no ... N - O ... NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!”

“Why not, Jack?” Daniel asked, stunned by his husband's instant and intense objection to participating in the Lamaze classes.

“Because ... I don't know ... just no!”

“Lamaze is helpful for everyone.  Kayla needs us.”

“NO!” Jack repeated as he put the newspaper in front of his face and then sipped a cup of coffee.

“Do you even want to see our baby brought into this world?” Daniel asked accusingly.

“Of course, I do,” Jack answered, letting the paper fold over a bit.  “I want to be right there.”

“Then why the objection to the classes?” the younger man questioned curiously.

“Danny, Kayla is going to be doing the hard work.  There's not much we can do, you know!”

“Yes, there is.  We can help her, Jack ... do something constructive instead of just standing there ... gaping!” Daniel exclaimed in disbelief.  ~I don't understand.~

“I do *not* gape, Daniel.  You are the gape-ee, usually standing there looking like a guppy or something.”

“I do not look like a guppy, and stop trying to distract me,” the younger man ordered.

“Usually works,” Jack said off-handedly.

“Well, not this time, Colonel,” Daniel stated.

“General,” Jack reminded.

“Sorry.  Old habits, based on old points of view that I don't understand ...  General,” Daniel stated, feeling very confused by the conversation.

“Besides, I'm retired.”

“Sometimes I wonder why,” Daniel stated.

“Oh, Danny, stop it.”

“I don't understand the problem here, Jack.  We can be there to help her breathe, stay calm, focus, and ... I don't know ... Obviously, I haven't been to the classes yet, so I don't know what there is to do, but whatever it is, we can do it ... help her ... breathe.”

“She knows how to breathe,” Jack claimed.

“Jack, as you are well aware, the dumb act doesn't work anymore, not that it ever did,” Daniel pointed out.

“Daniel, do you really want to walk into a class with a dozen other couples for a month and ... breathe?”

“Yes, I do!”

“Give me strength,” Jack requested of the ceiling.

“Fine, Jack.  Don't do it, but I am!” Daniel stated, then turned and walked outside to play with Bijou and Katie, leaving Jack to stew in the living room.

The other man grunted in frustration and then his eyes focused on the fish tank.

Staring at the fish, Jack said, “I am not giving in!  No, I'm not!  I am *not*!”

Jack could have sworn he heard “Bloop!  Bloop!  Oh, yes, you blooping are” coming from one of the fish that seemed to be staring at him.

“Watch it, Fish, or you'll find yourself down the toilet!” Jack warned with a glare.

“Bloop!”

Jack grunted in response, then asked, “Where'd he go anyway?  Daniel?”  He walked outside and sat on the patio deck steps, watching Daniel with Katie in her play yard.  “Danny, are you going to be mad at me because I don't want to do this?”

“No,” Daniel answered with conciseness.

“Are you sure?”

“Yes.”

“I'm not sleeping out here tonight?” Jack questioned.

“No.”

“Okay.”  Jack nodded, not convinced.  He stood nervously for a moment, and finally said, “I'm gonna go inside and ... watch the fish.”

“Okay.”

====

Later that night, Jack and Daniel prepared for bed.  Jack got in first, wearing only pajama bottoms, silently thinking about luring his lover back into their nation of two.

~The chest will get you, My Sweet.~

However, when Daniel lay down, it was on his left side, away from Jack.

Jack watched as his husband settled in, listening he said, “Goodnight, Jack.”

“Hey!  Where's my blanket?” Jack asked.

“I'm not a blanket.”

“Right, and I'm not a pillow either,” the older man groused.

“No, you're not,” Daniel agreed.

“Oh for crying out loud, will you get over here where you belong?  Danny, I love you, and I'm cold!” Jack argued.

Daniel sighed and turned, moving to his usual position, his head against Jack's chest.

Jack smiled as he put his arms around his husband and stated, “Thank you, Angel.”

“You're welcome.”

~Hmmm ... still cold, dang it!~

====

A couple of days later, Daniel thumbed through the latest issue of Pregnancy Magazine as he chatted with Kayla on the telephone.

“I think it'll be an awesome experience, Kayla ... I know I can't really do much, but ... It's nice of you to say that ... No, I've tried, he just doesn't want to, and I don't know why.  Maybe it's just because of Charlie.  He's done this before ... What? ... No, I don't think they did Lamaze.  He was out of the country until just before his son was born ... I know, Kayla, but I don't want to talk him into everything.  I'd feel like I'd be forcing him, and that wouldn't be right ... Yeah, I know ... I'll be there, though.  I'm really excited about it! ... <laughter> ... Well, don't be surprised if I pass out ... Okay, maybe passing out is an exaggeration, and, yes, Sam was right.  I have delivered a couple of babies, but this is different, Kayla.  This baby is the first one that is actually mine! ... <smiles> ... Thanks, but you don't need to talk to him.  I'm being overly sentimental about the whole thing.  I just want to share it all with him.  It's all new to me, and, uh, I forget this is old hat to him. ... oh, okay.  Good luck with the publisher ... Night!”

Daniel hung up the phone as he continued to read an article that had caught his eye during the conversation.  He meant what he'd said to Kayla, and he had vowed not to let his lover's refusal to be a Lamaze coach interview with their happy family.

====

“How's the great American novel?” Jack asked, sitting down on the small sofa in Kayla's apartment.

“Actually, it's coming along nicely.  It's interesting because it's not at all what I thought it was going to be.”

“How so?” Daniel asked, leaning back into Jack's embrace.

It the was the following night, and the pair were enjoying a visit at Kayla's, just chatting about life and current events.  They had made a point of meeting at least once a week to talk, either at Kayla's or the Jackson-O'Neill residence.  They'd spent hours discussing the world and themselves.  It was a growing relationship, each of the three learning to care more about the other as time progressed.

“Well, I always had a dream about writing some great big adventure.  I wanted it to be grand ... wild ... exotic.  My travels have always been a part of that, or so I thought, but when I finally sat down to write, what's emerged hasn't been grand or wild or exotic at all.  In fact, it's been very simple, but ... simple is oftentimes the grandest story of them all.”

“I hope we get to see it,” Jack spoke earnestly.

“You will, when the time is right, and when you do, I hope you'll like it,” Kayla replied with a sweet, but coy smile.

“I'm sure we both will,” Daniel responded.

“It has a long way to go, that's for sure, and I'm still trying to hook the publisher I want.”

“I thought you had that settled?” Jack asked.

“Not quite, Jack.  I actually have two interested, but both want me to make changes I'm not willing to make.  I'm working hard to try and get one of them to believe in the concept, that it's appeal will be broader than they think,” Kayla explained.

“How about giving us a glimpse?” Jack asked.

“No, not yet.”

The three chatted some more about the publishers and other things Kayla was doing in her daily life, and then Jack and Daniel told her about their recent trip to Laramie, Wyoming in Jo.

“Jo?” Kayla questioned.

“J-O, Jo, for Jackson-O'Neill,” Daniel explained.

“Which is actually a nickname for The Flying High,” Jack added.

“Oh, you named the plane ... twice?” a confused Kayla asked.

The lovers laughed, and then Daniel admitted, “I guess it's a little silly.”

“No, it's not,” Jack insisted.  “Anyway, we're taking her to New Mexico tomorrow, and if she passes muster, she's ours.”

“She already is, Jack, and you know it,” Daniel corrected, knowing they were both pleased with the plane.

====

A short while later, Jack and Daniel got up and put on their jackets to go home.  They had spent the last few minutes discussing the healthy and frequently kicking baby.

“That baby has a big kick!” Daniel exclaimed.

“Guys, are you sure you don't want to ...” Kayla began.

"Kayla,” Jack barked with a smile, “We'll throw away your manuscript and notes if you speak one word about our baby.”

“Baby?” the woman tried to tease.

“YES!” both said in force, with laughter, but still quite serious.

Kayla shook her head and closed the door behind them, saying, “You two are in for a very big surprise!”  Then she sighed, ~Daniel is so tolerant, Jack.  He wants you to participate in this birth, but he's letting you off the hook, acting like it doesn't bother him.  What's the problem?~

====

A few days later, while waiting for Sam and Teal'c to meet him for lunch, Daniel took the opportunity to call Kayla on his cell phone.  He had promised to give her the name of a book he thought would be helpful in her research for her novel, at least, he thought it was the subject of her novel, but he wasn't really sure.  After giving her the source information, they continued chatting.

“I was surprised you two were so ... close,” she said about their visit the week before.

“Why?” Daniel asked curiously.

“Well, you were angry at Jack about the Lamaze, right?” Kayla asked in reply.

“No, not angry, just disappointed.  Jack and I ... well, we're different.  We always have been.  I'm more curious than he is, and like I said before, he's already been a dad.  I'm driving him crazy with stuff as it is.  I don't have a right to force him,” Daniel explained.

“But you wish he'd do it?”

“Gawd, yes.  I feel like an idiot.  I mean,” Daniel paused, wondering when he and Kayla had bonded so completely.

“Come on, Daniel.  No holding out.  It's not good for your baby to know Daddy is stressed,” Kayla encouraged as she tried to understand her friend better.

Daniel laughed, “I'm not stressed.”

“Aren't you?”

With a sigh, the man answered, “I just wish he understood how important it is to me that we do everything we can to be the best we can, and that means ... helping with the birth in some small way.  I want him there, participating.  I want him ... with me, not just ... standing there like a statue.  Oh, ignore me.”

“I don't want to ignore you, and neither should Jack,” Kayla replied.  ~He doesn't know how much Daniel wants this.  I do not understand how he can shut his eyes to how much Daniel wants this.~

“He's not, and if I told him I wanted him to ... absolutely, positively, then he'd do it ... but I don't want him to do something he's not comfortable with.  I can ... con him into it, or plead with, and he'd give in, but I just don't want to.  I want him to want to share it with me as much as I want to share it with him, but I guess that's just me.”

“Daniel!”

“Oh, they're here ... Okay.  Take care, Kayla,” Daniel said, disconnecting the call and putting his cell phone away.

“Kayla?” Sam asked.

“Yeah, she's doing great!  Hi, Sam, Teal'c.  So, tell me what's new at the SGC,” Daniel requested.

--

Kayla heard the click and slowly hung up her phone.  She found herself getting very angry, and that wasn't a good thing.

~Calm down, Girl.  You have the workshop to go to, so ... go.  If Jack wants to be stupid, let him.  It's no skin off your back.~

====

“Kayla!  Come on in.  Danny's not here.  He's ...”

“Don't 'hi' me, Jack O'Neill!”  Kayla barged into the country-style home she had been to on many occasions, shooting by Jack and heading straight into the living room.

“Jackson-O'Neill,” Jack corrected lightly, not understanding Kayla's unusual entrance, and closing the door.

“Right now I don't think you deserve the name, Colonel O'Neill.”

“General,” Jack corrected again, walking to stand within a few feet of the pregnant woman.

“You don't deserve that title, either,” Kayla claimed.  “Right now, you're not even the colonel I first met, and you're far from the honor of a general.”

“Ouch!  Okay, what did I do?” Jack asked innocently.

“I can't believe you're being so selfish and unfeeling,” Kayla answered harshly, letting out a screech of outrage at the end of her sentence.

“Kayla, calm down.  You're pregnant,” Jack said, putting his hands to her shoulders, and surprised when but she pushed them off.

“Nice of you to notice, but don't touch me,” Kayla ordered.

“Where have I heard that before?”

“From your husband most likely, and, frankly, I'm on his side!” the woman announced.

“Side?  Kayla, Danny and I are just fine.  We're going to Oshkosh this weekend, and ...”

“Really?  And you know this *how*?  Because he's not arguing and yelling like ... like a grizzly bear?  Because he's letting you have your way and hiding how hurt he is?  Because he's ...”

“Okay, slow down, and let's start over.  Here,” Jack motioned to the sofa, “sit down.”

Reluctantly, Kayla sat down on the sofa, but it was only because her back was sore.

“Better?” Jack asked.

“Yes, thank you.  Now, was that so hard?” Kayla questioned.

“Huh?” Jack asked, totally clueless.

“Calming me down.  Reducing my stress level.  Making me feel relaxed.  Helping me to breathe.”

“Oh, now I see where this is coming from,” Jack sighed.

“No, Jack, excuse me, but you don't.  I know that in the grand scheme of things, I haven't known you and Daniel very long, but one of the first things I learned about you two is that you like the truth, correct?”

“Definitely.  I think,” Jack added, still not sure why Kayla was so upset.

“Jack, I'm going to be honest, and so help me, if you tell Daniel this, I'll never forgive you.”

Jack nodded and motioned with a wave of his right hand for her to continue.

“Look, I think Lamaze is great,” Kayla began.  It has a purpose, and it works really well for a lot of people.  In fact, Jack, I've coached it ... overseas.  I already know it, from all sides, and even if I didn't, you know how I am, or you should by now.  I'm strong and independent, and I like to do things on my own.  I'd learn whatever I need to do and focus my own mind.  It's unique, but that's who I am.  However, early on when this came up in Sylvia's office, I saw Daniel's eyes light up when she mentioned Lamaze.  He didn't say anything.  He didn't have to.”

The young woman shifted a bit, causing the general to inquire, “Are you okay?  Can I get you anything?”

“I'm fine; it just gets uncomfortable sometimes.  Okay, the point is, after reviewing all the options, I came back to Lamaze, not because it's my choice necessarily, but Jack, this isn't my baby.  It's Daniel's and yours, and I knew this is what he wanted.  Did you?” Kayla asked pointedly.

“No.  I ... we didn't talk about it.”

“Because you didn't want to?” Kayla asked angrily.

“Because I figured it was your choice, as the birth mother,” Jack answered.

“Okay, I'll accept that.  Still, when Sam asked me what choice I'd made, I knew it was the right one from Daniel's reaction.  He was so sweet, Jack, nervous as a cat, and wanting to do so much.  He's excited, and he loves you.  Do you understand that?  That he loves you so much that when you two do things separately, it ... it hurts him?  I'm having *your* baby.  What a gift, a joy, that is for both of you, and Daniel ... Jack, he wants to share every single thing about this experience with you, and what I don't understand is why you apparently don't feel the same way.”

“That's crap ... excuse me, I mean ...”

“Stop,” Kayla interrupted, holding out her hand towards her current adversary.  “I've been around.  Crap is mild, Jack.”

Jack nodded and explained, “I just ... It's not my first baby.”

“And that's an excuse.  He wants you to be with him, to experience everything.  For Pete's sake, he is so into every aspect of this pregnancy.”

“He's just ... overeager,” Jack rationalized, wishing they weren't talking about this.

“No.  Jack ... haven't you asked him why this is so important?”  Kayla saw Jack flinch.  “Oh, Jack.  Why not?”

“I'm not good with words.  Danny ... he brings out the words in me.  He brings out anything good in me,” Jack spoke earnestly.

“He loves you,” Kayla continued.  “Jack, he wants you two to go through this together as much as possible, because he knows that down the road, your child might have a question about their birth, about what it felt like, and he wants to be able to answer.”

“But our child will have you.”

“Yes, as a friend, a good friend, I hope, but, Jack, I'm not this baby's mother.  That job, good and bad, falls to you and your husband; and when the time comes that your baby asks you what labor was like, I may be in India or Russia or Shrangri-La.  What are you going to do then, say 'hold that thought for a few months'?” Kayla asked pointedly.

“Daniel's going to help.  He'll know.”

“Yes, he will, and what are you going to say when your child turns to you and asks why you didn't help like his daddy did?”

Jack closed his eyes.  He was running out of excuses and words.  Why did he ever answer the knock at the door in the first place?

“Jack, Daniel wants you with him.  More than that, he needs you there, by his side, helping, loving, participating.  The man you say you love is aching for you to want to be a part of this.  It's why he hasn't argued.  He doesn't want to force you into this, but you're hurting him.  He doesn't understand this stance of yours, and neither do I.  He thought you wanted to be a part of the entire process, just like he does.”

“It's breathing, Kayla.  You know how to breathe,” Jack said weakly, not facing the surrogate mother.

“I'll tell you something, Jack O'Neill.  You're going to regret this.  Daniel's not going to push it, but he'll remember it, and he'll always wonder why.  He's told me a bit about his past, how alone he used to feel, how he never knew what it was like to be happy and have a family, how he lived so many years alone, being independent, afraid to trust and care because whenever he did, he got the door slammed shut in his face.  Well, Jack, you're slamming that door again, but I guess that's your business,” Kayla stated sternly and then struggled to get up, wanting to end the discussion and then refusing Jack's help.  “I have to go.  I missed a workshop to come here for this.”

“Kayla.”

“No, I'm sorry.  It wasn't my place to butt in, but I'm not in a mood to hear more of your rationalizations.  My back hurts; I'm as big as a truck; I'm tired all the time; and I can't stand to look Daniel in the eye knowing how sad he is that you aren't helping with this.  I'll see you later ... General,” Kayla said as she walked out of the house, leaving Jack to the silence, and more “Blooping” of the fish.

“Oh, shut up!,” Jack yelled at the fish.  “I have my reasons.  Yes, I know.  He hurts.  Well, so do I.  Geez, anytime he hurts, I do, too, but ... I can't ... I just can't .. okay?  SO, SHUT UP!”

====

“Hey, Love.”

“Hey.”

It was the end of July, and the couple were moving forward.  They'd completed their purchase of Jo, their Meyers 200A aircraft, and gone to Oshkosh for a weekend to celebrate.  Together, they continued their plans for the future, and the subject of the Lamaze classes was never discussed.

Right now, Daniel leaned in for a kiss with his soulmate.  Jack had been running some errands all day, having left home at 10 a.m.  It was now 4:30 p.m.  The result was that in seconds, the couple became engaged in some heavy “I've missed you” kissing in the entranceway of their home.  Nothing in the world could break their embrace, except for one thing.

“WAH WAH WAHWAHWAH WAH WAH WAH WAHWAHWAH!“

“Danny, what the heck is that?” an alarmed Jack asked, looking behind him towards the living room.

“Oh, gawd, it's the baby!” Daniel exclaimed as he scurried away from Jack, running into the living room.

Jack hurried after him, calling out, “Baby?  What baby?  Kayla ... I mean, it's too soon ... Danny, I was only gone for a few hours!”

“Calm down,” Daniel said, turning around, holding a baby in his arms.  “Shh, it's okay, Baby.”

“Danny ... what ... what is that?” an astonished Jack asked.

“It's our baby, one of them anyway.  Junior is still asleep,” Daniel stated, looking over at the cradle where the other 'baby' was.

“Junior?”

“I didn't want to name them without you,” Daniel said, smiling as he rocked the baby in his arms.

Jack walked towards Daniel, stared at the baby and then at the second baby still in a small cradle.

“Daniel, I'm going to call Janet.  Everything will be okay,” Jack promised as he turned and headed for the phone.

Daniel rolled his eyes, thinking, ~Someone has to love him.  I guess it's me.~  “Jack, they aren't real.”

The older man paused as he looked at his husband, then let out a big breath, relieved Daniel was still acquainted with reality.

“Well, I'm glad you know that, but what are you doing with ... fake babies?”

“We're going to practice,” Daniel informed.

“WAH WAHWAHWAH WAHWAHWAHWAH WAH!” the baby in the cradle cried.

“Oops, there goes yours.  Better pick him up,” Daniel advised.

“Daniel, I am *not* going to ... pick up that ... that ...” Jack began.

“Your son, Jack, and you will ... now!”

Jack saw the look.  If he didn't want to sleep alone tonight, he was going to have to play along with his lover.

~It's the stress.~

“I heard that!” Daniel informed.

Jack groaned as he stood, unmoving, and replied, “Sometimes, Daniel, this telepathic thing isn't so good.”

Daniel walked away with his baby without saying a thing.

With a groan, Jack stated, “I didn't mean that, Danny. Come on ... you know I didn't.”

“Sometimes I don't know what you mean,” Daniel spoke as he bounced the baby slightly.

Jack winced at the comment.  Things were a bit dicey at the moment, and comments like that cut him to the bone.

“WAH WAHWAHWAHWAHWAHWAH WAHWAH WAHWAHWAH WAHWAH!”

“Jack!”

“Okay, okay!”  Jack picked up the second baby.  “Danny, I feel ridiculous!”

“We have to practice, Jack.”

“BUT, DANNY, I'VE ALREADY DONE THIS!”

“Stop shouting,” Daniel said forcefully, adding, “But you haven't had to do it with two babies, and since we're having two babies just a year apart, and not even that if we're lucky, we both need to be prepared.”

“Danny, the basics are the basics,” the older man claimed.  “I know how to calm a baby and take care of ... it,” Jack bounced the crying baby, annoyed by its fake whine.

“WAH WAH WAH!”

“If you know how to do it, Jack, then *stop* your baby from crying,” Daniel ordered.

“Oh, for crying out loud!  This is nuts!  I know how to do this, Daniel!  It hasn't exactly changed, you know!” Jack argued.

“But they've improved baby care techniques a lot,” the younger man contended.

“Danny, they've *improved* how you give a bottle to one end and remove the stinky diapers from the other?  They've done this ... exactly *how*?”

“That's what the books are for,” Daniel responded.

“You're not making any sense, Angel.”

“I don't have to ... we're pregnant!”

“Oh give me patience,” Jack said looking up to the ceiling.  “Sara wasn't this bad, AND SHE WAS ACTUALLY HAVING THE BABY!”

Daniel glared in frustration, perturbed beyond belief.  His tone was harsh as he informed his husband that, “MY baby and I will be upstairs. Please don't disturb us until you have *your* baby under control!”

Jack shook his head.  Tossing the fake baby onto the couch, he sank into his chair.  Hearing another WAH, Jack said, “Oh, shut up.  I am so sleeping alone tonight ... and I had ... plans .. and it *didn't* include some fake baby toy.”

====

It had been a long few days, but Jack had slowly gotten with the program, taking care of his assigned baby as required.  It was either that or go without his preferred blanket of choice at night.

It was evening, and Daniel had left to go to the first Lamaze class.  It was a bit of an early start for the pregnancy, but Kayla had other plans that would conflict with doing the class at a later time, so they'd decided to begin now.  Besides, she was already so big no one would know she wasn't in her seventh or eighth month.

Jack had planned to watch a game on TV.  True to Daniel's word, since their big discussion, the younger man hadn't badgered or argued about it with Jack.  He'd let it go, and their life had continued on as happy ever, except Daniel had a little sad spot on his heart, and Jack had one on his, too.

At the clinic where the classes were taking place, Daniel and Kayla met the other couples.  There were only six others for this session, making a total of seven.

“Let's begin,” the instructor said, quieting everyone.

“Whoa! Wait!  Am I in the right place?” Jack burst into the room, out of breath, having run from the truck to the large room where the couples were.

“Jack!”

Daniel shot up from his seated position, a huge grin on his face.  Jack smiled, treasuring the happiness he had just given his soulmate.

“What?  You were going to start without me?  Now that wouldn't be very nice would it?”

“No, it wouldn't,” Daniel said softly.

“Jack Jackson-O'Neill, Ma'am,” Jack introduced himself to the instructor.  “I'm with him,” he, nodding towards Daniel.

Some of the couples looked at each other in surprise, not sure what to make of the comment.

“But aren't you with her?” the instructor asked Daniel.

“We both are.”

“You both are?” two of the husbands asked at the same time.

“Yeah, we are.  She's a surrogate, and Daniel and I are married, and if any of you have a problem with that, let's get it out of the way now,” Jack stated, looking from couple to couple in anticipation.

There were a lot of looks, but after a minute, there were nothing but smiles, so Jack and Daniel took their spots next to Kayla, and the class began.

Daniel looked at his husband, communicating, **I love you, Jack.  You don't have to do this if you don't want to.**

Jack smiled as he looked into Daniel's beautiful blue eyes and responded, **Yes, I do, because you see, I love you, too, and we're having a baby.  I belong here.**

**Yes, you do.**

====

Back at home, Jack had barely entered the house when he found himself plastered up against the wall.

“I love you so freakin' much, Jack Jackson-O'Neill,” Daniel said in between deep, wet kisses.  “Gawd, I love you,” he repeated after another kiss.

Within minutes, the two were engaged in the wildest, most passionate session of lovemaking they'd had in a month.  Afterwards, they held on tight to each other, their bodies settling from the trembling and convulsions of their climaxes.

Jack held Daniel in his arms, gently fingering through his hair, hair that was a bit longer than it had been for a long time.

“Gonna let it grow, Love?”

“I don't know ... maybe,” the younger man answered.

“I kinda miss that beautiful shag,” Jack admitted.

“I miss you playing with it all the time.  You do a pretty good job with it short, but still ...”

“More to do with all that mess,” Jack chuckled.

A few minutes passed as the two continued to caress each other, speaking words of love and talk of their future.

“It was Charlie,” the older man stated quietly, his eyes on the ceiling.

“Charlie?”

“Our son.  I felt guilty.  I know, not logical, but when can you ever accuse me of being logical?” Jack questioned.

“Jack, what are you talking about?” Daniel asked, shifting his body up so he could look into his husband's eyes.

“Sara wanted me to do Lamaze, and I didn't want to.  It scared the living daylights out of me, but I agreed.  Then missions kept popping up, and I never made the classes.  Her father had to be her coach.  When Charlie was born, I was there, as an onlooker, watching her dad support her, watching him bring our son into the world.”

“I didn't know,” Daniel said leaned up and gently kissed Jack, his hand going to Jack's cheek.  “I mean, I knew you were there with her.”

“I was a body in a room, and I always felt bad about that, for her and for me, and, geez, Danny, I think I resented Sara's dad for being there where I should have been,” Jack confided.

“I'm sorry, Jack.”

“You don't have anything to be sorry for.  As usual, I'm the jerk.”

“No, you just should have told me,” Daniel chastised lightly.

“I didn't want to admit it.  Danny, in a crazy, mixed up, totally out of whack sort of way, I felt like if I did this for our kids, that it was a betrayal to Sara and Charlie.  Is that insane or what?”

“It's human, but you're not betraying them.  You know that, don't you?”

“Yeah, I know it now.”

“What made you change your mind?” the archaeologist inquired.

“I turned on the game, and it was pre-empted.  When I got up, I turned and saw Charlie staring at me, looking at me like I was a fool.”

“The photo on the mantle?” Daniel asked.

“Yeah.  I swear, I could hear him say, 'Dad, this is my brother or sister, and why aren't you there?'  It was a simple question that I had no answer to, so ... I put my butt in gear and high-tailed it to the clinic.”

“I'm glad you did,” Daniel sighed contentedly.

“Me, too.  I'm sorry, Danny.  I do want to experience everything with you.  I love this baby.  I just ... my mind got distracted.  It won't happen again.  I love you, Angel.”

“I love you, too.”

====

“Jack!  JACK!  JACK ... GET UP, AND GET DOWN HERE ... NOW!”

Daniel was going through the day's mail.  Jack had gone upstairs to take a nap, having been up all night with his fake baby who had finally quieted.

“Danny, what's wrong?” Jack called out as he bounded down the stairs, worried.

“It's ... it's here,” Daniel said softly, holding a document in his hand.

“What?  Danny, talk to me.”

“We're legal ... I mean ... the Jackson-O'Neills!  Us!” Daniel exclaimed happily.

Jack let out a whiff of air as Daniel handed him the papers from the court.  There was one for Daniel and one for Jack.  Though they'd been using their hyphenated names since Jack's retirement from the Air Force, they were now legally Jonathan Jackson-O'Neill and Daniel Jackson-O'Neill.

Jack smiled, looking at the paper as some kind of sacred item, and said, “Legal.  Finally.”  He reached over with his right hand to caress Daniel's cheek.  “Geez, I love you, Doctor Jackson-O'Neill.”

“And I love you, so freakin' much, General Jackson-O'Neill,” Daniel practically laughed with emotion.  The two joined together, their arms holding on tightly.  “It's real.  Gawd, I didn't think they'd ever put it through.”

Daniel couldn't get close enough to Jack.  They'd waited so long for this simple change in their lives.

“Yeah, Mark had to push it, but he did good,” Jack replied, referring to their lawyer, Mark Kingston.  “He's a darn good lawyer.”

“The best,” Daniel agreed, pleased with everything Mark had done for them over the years.

“Angel, could we ... please ... just tonight ... turn off the babies and ...”

“... and you know?”

“Yeah ... and you know.”

“I think we've had all the practice we need, Jack.  We have love, and in the end, like you've said before, that's all we really do need.  I'll return the dolls to Sylvia tomorrow,” Daniel stated, getting a happy look from his lover.

“Let's go to bed, Angel.”

“And tomorrow, we need to go buy new stationary, too.”

“And monogrammed towels,” the older man added.

“Personalized shirts,” Daniel suggested.

“And address labels.”

“Driver's licenses.  We have to go change our driver licenses,” Jack laughed.

“Change the deed and all the legal stuff,” Daniel pointed out.

As they entered their bedroom, the couple stood staring into each other's eyes.  They leaned their foreheads together.  It was a sign of their oneness, a unity that was unlike any other.  This was a milestone in their lives, one they had fought for, and they would never forget it.  They couldn't help but grin at each other, happiness radiating from both men.

“And we have to change the names on the bills,” Jack said.

“Hmm ... and new monogrammed handkerchiefs for my fly boy.”

“And we can't forget the doormat,” Jack chuckled.

“Uh, we don't have a doormat, Babe,” Daniel pointed out.

“We should ... great big huge honkin' letters ... The Jackson-O'Neills!”

“Gawd ... it's a dream.”

“No, Angel ... it's our life ... ours ... finally.”

Daniel nodded, and the two fell gently onto the bed where they made tender, caring love, their nation of two never more united than at this moment!

====

“No, Daniel!  Absolutely not.  Not a chance in Netu am I going to wear that thing,” Jack stated adamantly.

“Yes, Jack, you are!” Daniel insisted.

“Danny, I'm a father ... not a mother.”

“No, Love ... we're everything.  To our children, we are going to be their entire world.  We have to make sure that our roles as dads include as much as we can of ... of what it is to be a mom, too.”

“Danny,” Jack began.  He approached, his hands taking Daniel's and holding them securely.  “I love you.  I am so impressed with how concerned you are with our knowing as much as we can.  I know, too, that you are empathizing with Kayla, and yes, I know, she's having a hard time with the backaches and all of that, but Danny, we're not married to her.  We're married to each other ... and there's no way in ...”

Daniel's eyes were piercing through Jack's, and Jack knew he didn't have a chance of talking his lover out of his latest crazy scheme.

“Danny, please.”

“We need to understand what it feels like for her, so we know, Jack ... and someday, it might help us with our kids,” Daniel explained.

“Help us?  How?” Jack inquired.

“Because, Jack, our daughter won't have a mother who has given birth to ask these questions to.  I know we can't be everything ... but wouldn't it be nice to know that we did all we could to help.  Maybe we can tell her that while it wasn't exactly the same, that we wore these for a while, and so we can truly have some idea, limited as it might be, to really understand what Kayla's going through.”

“Danny,” Jack sighed.  He couldn't deny those blue eyes any longer.  “How ... long do we have to wear these ... these contraptions?”

Daniel lit up, getting Jack's item, and putting it on as he answered, “Just ... I don't know ... today since we don't have anything on the calendar, and we'll see how it goes.”

“I can't believe ... ouch ... careful ...”

“Sorry, Babe!” Daniel apologized with a smile.

“I can't believe I'm letting you do this to me,” Jack griped.

Daniel was beaming as he fastened the Empathy Belly onto his husband.  Then, he put his own on.

“If I were in a better mood, Daniel, I'd be laughing like a hyena,” Jack whined.

“Want to look in the mirror?” the archaeologist teased.

“NO!  For crying out loud, no!  Geez!  I'm hungry.  I want food. I am allowed to eat, aren't I?”

Daniel laughed, leaning their bellies together for a kiss, which wasn't easy.

“Of course, you can and should do everything per normal, but you can't take it off, Jack ... not for anything!”

“Sweet,” Jack turned and headed downstairs, muttering, leaving Daniel staring in the mirror at his belly.

====

“What the ... hey, what was that?” Jack asked, looking down at the belly.

“I don't know; they're synchronized.  What happened?” Daniel asked.

“I think it ... geez, Danny, it kicked me!  That hurt!”

“Well, our baby kicks Kayla all the time,” Daniel reminded.

“Hey ... stop that,” Jack said to the “belly” sternly as Daniel laughed.

Jack tried to ignore the kicking and go back to reading the paper when he glanced up and saw Daniel scrunching his nose as if in discomfort.

“What's wrong?”

“I have to go to the bathroom.”

“So ... go!”

“Yeah, but ... this feels strange.  Be right back.”

Daniel finagled himself to get up out of the armchair, mumbling something indistinctive.

“What was that, Love?”

“You don't want to know,” Daniel said as he headed for the stairs.

“Oh no!”

Daniel turned and looked, asking, “What?”

“I have to go!” Jack exclaimed.

“Go where?”

“I have to go ... *now*!”

“Go where?” Daniel asked.

“To the bathroom!”

“I'm first.”

“Not if I get there first!” Jack called out.  He got up as quickly as he could, desperately trying to beat Daniel upstairs.  “But ... Danny ... I really ...”

“SO DO I ...”

“But ... it can't wait ...”

The two pulled and grabbed, fighting each other to get to the bathroom first, until both fell down, losing complete control.

“OH, GAWD!” Daniel roared in laughter.

Jack was in hysterics, too, saying, “Danny, you have some of the most ridiculous ideas in the world, and, sometimes, gawd, I love you, but you get us into the craziest messes.”

“I'm sorry, Jack,” Daniel choked out between his laughs.

“Don't change, Daniel ... don't ever change.  I love you ... so friggin' much.”

Both of their abdomens were bouncing up and down from their laughter, their breathing rapid from the energy.  Then, as they lay on the floor near the bathroom, both looked at each other, their smiles still strong on their faces.

“This was pretty silly, wasn't it?”

“No, Danny, it wasn't.  As usual, you were right.  Geez, what Sara must have gone through.”

“And what Kayla is going through now.”

“Blessed be to pregnant mothers everywhere.  I swear ... we've only had these things on for a few hours, and I'm exhausted.  How do they do it?”

“I don't know.  I guess they're stronger than we are,” Daniel answered as he reached out and took hold of Jack's hand.

“Where'd you get these things anyway?”

“Sylvia.”

“A female,” Jack acknowledged with a nod.  “It figures.”

“I was talking about wishing I could understand better what Kayla was experiencing.  We can hear the words, Jack, but that doesn't mean we have a clue what is it like to carry a child.”

“Have I told you lately that I love you?”

“Yeah, about a minute ago.”

“Way too long.”

“Even if we're both still lying here on the floor, afraid to move,” Daniel stated.

“Shower,” Jack suggested with a wink.

“You have great ideas,” Daniel replied as his lover started to move.  He stopped him, saying, “Jack ... thank you.”

“For what?”

“Letting me talk you into all this crazy stuff.  I know you've already been here.  I just want us ... to be ... I don't know.”

“Danny, it's okay.  It's normal.  You're scared.  Heck, so am I ... but we're gonna be okay ... in fact, we're gonna be great!  You wait and see.”  Jack smiled, chuckling as he added, “And I have to admit that with Charlie, I never wore one of these things.”

“I love you, Jack.”

Jack kissed his lover and then pulled him up for their shower.  They took off the empathy bellies and tossed them onto the beds.

“Bet Kayla wishes she could do that.”

“No bet!” Jack said, leading Daniel to the bathroom for a one on one connection of their real bellies, and other body parts.

====
 
Daniel reached out with his hand and felt nothing but a sheet.  He swore in Abydonian as he got up, putting on a robe and once again went in search of his husband.  He found him like he had once before, a couple of years ago, sitting in the middle of the backyard on a lawn chair, staring at the house.  That was the time when Jack had decided to build Daniel his den.  The young man smiled at the precious gift.  It had affected him deeply, and Jack had done an extraordinary job of creating the perfect environment for Daniel to not only work in, but to relax in as well.

Daniel walked outside and knelt in front of Jack, reaching up to take his lover's hands.  He kissed them and looked up to Jack's smiling eyes.

“What are you thinking about?” Daniel inquired.

“We need to finalize the remodeling, Danny.  Time is flying by, and we haven't figured it out yet,” Jack answered.

Daniel turned around and sat on the grass, once again grateful he had worn pajamas to bed that night.  Jack's hands massaged his shoulders as both stared at their house.  Bijou and Katie, having seen Daniel, came out of their doghouse to sit with the couple.

“Oh, I get it.  I'm not worthy of your getting up.  What am I?  Chopped liver?” Jack asked in mock anger.  Bijou yawned as she stretched down next to Daniel.  “Sweet,” Jack laughed, “They just adore me.”

“Jack!”

“I know ... just giving them a hard time.”  Katie picked that moment to brush against Jack's hand.  “You rang, Katie?” Jack leaned down.

The youngest beagle planted four solid licks against Jack's face before settling back down on the ground on the other side of Daniel.

“See, Jack, they love you,” Daniel mused.

“Mutts!  I love them, too.”

“I think they know that.  What has you stymied about the house?” the younger man questioned.

“You're going to think I'm crazy.”

“That's okay.  I was the crazy one yesterday.”

“True.”

“Ouch!” Jack reacted to the slap on his shin, courtesy of his husband.

“I guess I shouldn't have agreed with you.”

“Love you, Jack.”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah.”

“The Beatles are here?” the archaeologist teased, looking all around.

“Daniel, you've been hanging around me too much,” Jack chuckled.

“No such thing, Love.”

“Now that is true,” Jack sighed, leaning forward to kiss Daniel on the head.

“About the house ...” Daniel prodded.

“Slight problem,” Jack sighed.

“I'm listening.”

“We planned on extending out this way, not adding a bottom structure, just the columns, but bringing the second story out, adding a nursery and one room, and moving the roof deck.”

“And the second bathroom.  That's a must,” Daniel reminded.

“Definitely.  Don't remind me!” Jack laughed as did Daniel.

“There's plenty of room, Babe.  I don't see the problem,” Daniel admitted.

“The columns,” Jack explained.  “Danny, can you envision where the columns would need to be?”

“I'm not an architect, but I would imagine ... over there, and there, and ... oh ...”

“Oh.”

Jack and Daniel looked down at Katie, their precious baby beagle.  Both sighed.

“At the time we created her play yard, Danny, we weren't thinking about having kids or needing more space.”

“That's her special place, Jack,” Daniel pointed out needlessly.

“I know.  It's hers, and she knows it.”

“How can we take that away from her?”

“That's why I'm sitting out here at ... what time is it anyway?” the older man asked.

“I have no idea.  I just woke up ... alone ... again ... Jack, for the record, I do *not* like waking up alone.  *Stop it!*”

“I don't want to disturb you.”

“Wake me freakin' up next time.  I don't like waking up and finding that you're gone.  It ... scares me.  You know that, Jack!”

“Okay ... I'm sorry,” Jack apologized, continuing to rub his husband's shoulders in a massaging action.  The two sat for a long time, studying their problem.  “We don't have a choice, Danny.  In the future, we can build a room over the garage or something, but we need the nursery by us.  If we don't want to move ...”

“And we don't,” Daniel said emphatically.

“... then we don't have a choice.”

“Gawd.  I feel like a heel,” Daniel admitted.

“We'll build her a new play yard ... a ... a bigger one, over there.”

“She won't like it,” the younger man sighed, hating what they were about to do.

“Why not?”

“It's too hot over there.  You know Katie doesn't like to dig in the sunshine too much.  The tree kept it shady over here.”

“We'll just have to explain to her and hope she understands,” Jack replied.

“I feel like a heel; I'm ... going back to bed,” Daniel said, kissing Bijou and Katie, and then walking into the house slowly.

“You're not the only one, Angel,” Jack sighed, picking up Katie and holding her to his chest.

“I'm sorry, Girl.  We goofed.  I'll think of something ... I hope,” Jack said as he continued to stare at the house while petting the dogs.

====

Daniel walked into the house, car keys in hand.  He had just returned from a lunch with Sam, catching up on SGC gossip.  He had noticed some vehicles in front of the house, and upon entering, he heard noise coming from the backyard. Cautiously, he made his way to the back of the house and immediately saw Jack, Lou Ferretti, Jeff Cornell, and a couple of men he didn't know.

“Jack?  What's going on?” Daniel called out.

“Hey, Doc!” Lou greeted, raising his arm to wave.

“Hi, Daniel!” Jeff called out.

“Lou.  Jeff.  Jack?”

“Be right back.  Make sure you get that in there where I indicated,” Jack directed to a man in a green uniform.

“No problem, General,” the man replied.

Jack walked over to his lover and gave him a welcome home kiss and steered him to the patio deck.

“I bought us some trees,” Jack announced.

“You bought us trees?”

“Yeah, for Katie.  Look, she doesn't like the sun.  If we planted a couple of new trees, it would take too long.  So ... I got us a couple of ready made trees.  Instant shade!”

Daniel just stared at Jack.

“Danny, we don't have a choice, so all we can do is try and make it the best we can.  We get the trees in.  We build a bigger play yard for her, get some new toys, and give her the time to get used to it, and then we hope she doesn't hate us.”

“She has a lot of toys and bones buried already,” Daniel responded.

“We'll go on a dig.  A family outing -- all of us,” Jack suggested.

“You're going to dig with Katie?” the younger man asked, feeling encouraged.

“Why not?  You do!”

“She'll like that.”

“It's the least I can do!  We'll do it in a couple of weeks, before the construction crew starts.  In the meantime, we'll spend more time over there, make it feel secure, like home,” Jack stated.

“I love you, Jack.”

“But will she when we're done?” Jack sighed, certain he was doing his best, but doubting its success.

“She loves you now, and she'll love you then,” Daniel insisted.

“I hope so.  If I could have thought of any other way ...”

“I know.  This will work.  I know it will,” the younger man maintained.

“Lou and Jeff are helping to move things around.  Come and say a better hello,” the older man urged.

“Okay.”

Jack and Daniel walked towards their guests, holding hands as they did so.  They had survived another month, and, still, it was only just beginning.

====

-- Chapter Seven:  Expect the Unexpected!

====

“Good morning, Angel,” Jack grinned as Daniel's head began to move slowly along Jack's chest.

“Mmmm...morn...ing,” Daniel sighed and then yawned.

“Anything special on the agenda for today?” Jack asked, as he stroked his lover's back.

“Lunch with Kayla, and we promised the general we'd drop by and try to help with that ... whatever it is that SG-2 brought back from P-whatever it is.”

“P-whatever it is?” Jack asked with surprise in his voice.

Daniel chuckled at his failure to remember the planet's designation.  He lightheartedly explained, “They don't pay me to remember anymore.”

Jack placed a kiss on Daniel's head, and then clarified, “Yes, they do.  Consultant type stuff.”

“Peanuts.  Jack, we need to make some decisions about J-O today, too.”

“Okay, we'd better hop to it then.  What would you like for breakfast?”

“You're cooking?” Daniel asked, raising his head and smiling.

“Yeah.  You have a choice of Froot Loops or Cheerios,” Jack smirked.

“Oh,” Daniel replied despondently.  “Cheerios, I guess.  I'm going to take a shower.  No sugar, Jack.”

Daniel rose from their bed and headed for the bathroom.  Jack joined him briefly, and then got dressed and went downstairs.

====

Several minutes later, Daniel walked into the kitchen expecting to see bowls of cereal on the table.  Instead, he smelled the aroma of hot food being prepared.

“Jack, I love you,” the younger man cooed as he placed his arms around his husband, who was turning the bacon over in the skillet.

“It was nothing, Love.  You had your heart set on something decent, so ...”

“You spoil me, Jack.”

“Geez, I hope so,” Jack replied, as he put the fork down on the counter and turned to kiss his love.  “Do you have any idea, Danny?  Any at all?”

Daniel nodded in affirmation and answered, “Yeah, I do.  Love you so much.”

Daniel leaned in for a kiss, and then sighed contentedly in Jack's embrace.  Life was good and getting better every day.

====

“Sorry we're late, Kayla,” Daniel said, smiling as he took a seat at their table in the restaurant.

“Traffic bad?”

Jack grinned devilishly, answering, “Not exactly.”

“The girls demand a walk?  Phone call?”

“Not exactly.”  Jack's grin broadened.  “It was more like an urgent call to nature.”

“Jack stop it,” Daniel said softly.

“Oh,” Kayla expressed, blushing.  “In the morning?”

“Morning, noon, and night,” Jack chirped with pride.

“Jack!”

“Geez, isn't he cute?”

“Jaaaaack!”

Kayla burst into laughter.  She was growing to truly love these two men, which was a good thing since she was having their babies.  She saw a rare and wonderful love between them.  It wasn't perfect; nothing was, but it was real and vibrant and almost always made the young woman smile.

“I'm sorry,” Jack tried to say sincerely.

Kayla laughed, pointing her finger at Jack as she responded, “No, you're not, Jack O'Neill, er, Jackson-O'Neill.”

Jack beamed, as did Daniel, and the two ended up gazing into each other's eyes.

Kayla watched with a warm smile, and shook her head in amazement just before asking, “You two are doing it again, aren't you?”

“Huh?” Jack asked.

“What?” Daniel asked at the same time.

“That communication thing you mentioned once, Daniel.  You told me that sometimes you and Jack can communicate without words, almost telepathically.  That's what you were doing just now, wasn't it?”

“Maybe we were just staring,” Jack answered.

“No, I don't think so.  Your eyes were talking.”

“You're very observant, Kayla,” Daniel admitted.  “Yes, we were doing it; talking, I mean.”

“Geez, Danny,” Jack laughed, seeing Daniel blush.

“Well, if she knew what we were ... oh gawd.  Can we order?” Daniel requested, ready for the conversation to move forward.

Kayla laughed again, something she did a lot as the trio enjoyed a pleasant lunch together.

====

“This is like the device we brought back from PC2-337 a few years ago,” Daniel observed.  “Remember, Jack, that unit that operated like a remote.  It kept opening the doors and turning things on and off, and it took us forever to realize it was the device we had brought back and not some gremlin in the system?”

“Yeah, if it had been Halloween, it would have been really spooky,” Jack replied as he looked at the object being analyzed.

“Well, that's what this reminds me of.  The symbols, the way it's put together.  Anything strange happening around here, General?” Daniel asked, looking over at Hammond.

“Not so far,” the lieutenant general answered.

“You mean not that you know of, Sir,” Jack warned with a smile.

“Don't give it any ideas, Jack.”

“Daniel,” Megan Williams interjected, “I remember reading some old mission reports about that orb that SG-1 brought back.”

“Don't remind me,” Jack shuddered.

“That's right.  It spoke through you, didn't it, General O'Neill?” Megan asked.

“Literally,” Jack confirmed as he shuddered and rubbed the shoulder that the spike had gone through as he remembered the nightmare.

“It was a bit more complicated than that, Megan,” Daniel added.  “What's your point?”

“Well, I remember the reports mentioned EM spikes.  This device has acted in a similar fashion, although ...”

“Whoa!”  Jack stood up, took the device out of Daniel's hands, placed it quickly on a table, and, pulling Daniel close in behind him, began backing over on the other side of the room.  “If that thing moves, you duck.”

“Jack, calm down.”

“Hey, I remember what that orb did very clearly.  You're my husband, and I am *not* taking chances with something unknown like this.”

Daniel rolled his eyes and sighed as he addressed the others in the room, saying, “He gets like this sometimes.”

“Sometimes?” Megan asked, trying not to laugh.

“Okay, all the time.”

“Understandable, Doctor Jackson,” Hammond responded as he smiled at Jack, who still had one hand on Daniel and one eye on the object.

“Jack, at ease,” Daniel teased.

Jack sighed, “It's just ... you know.”

“Yes, I do, but calm down,” the archaeologist instructed.  Turning back to Megan, he prompted, “So, what were you saying Megan?”

Megan responded, “Well, the device gave off similar readings, but to a smaller extent.  My point was that maybe it is some kind of communication device, and we just need to figure out how to tap into it.”

“Could be.  We should ...” Daniel started to walk over towards the table, but Jack pulled him back.  Daniel glared, but Jack shook his head, and his eyes spoke loudly.  He sighed as he turned back towards Hammond and Megan and suggested, “Read Sam's report about the EM stuff.  That's not really my area of expertise, but there might be something there that could help, and whatever you do, if it starts to do anything, stand back.”

Jack smiled as he explained, “He's going to yell at me when we get home, but it's okay, because we'll be home, alive, and in one piece.”

“Thanks for coming by, Daniel.  I was really stuck, but now, I think I know where to look,” Megan spoke.

“My pleasure, Megan.”

Jack, Daniel, and Hammond exited Megan's office.  The three chatted for a while until the general had a briefing to attend.  As the couple headed for the elevators, the klaxons sounded, and the SGC became a bevy of quickly moving personnel.  Jack and Daniel exchanged a look as they watched the Marines hurrying into position.

“Jack?”

“Why not?” Jack laughed, so the two went to the control room just in time to see the kawoosh of the Stargate.

Seconds later, SG-8 returned from a mission.  The couple watched the usual return greetings and the team members adjusting to being back on Earth, taking off their helmets and handing over their weapons to the armory personnel.  Almost too soon, the gate room was quiet again.

“Let's go home, Jack.”

Jack nodded, and the two exited the facility, a bit sad they were no longer traveling through the Stargate.  As they got into Daniel's Silver Fox, they looked at each other and exchanged smiles.

“I wouldn't go back for anything, Danny.  I love our life.  We did our time, and it was great, but this,” Jack kissed Daniel tenderly, “this is everything to me now.”

“Me, too.”

“Home, Angel.  We need to take care of that business stuff.”

“Yeah, we have a lot of decisions to finalize,” Daniel agreed as he started the vehicle's engine.

====

Back at home, the soulmates spent several hours reviewing the paperwork and coming to agreements about their new franchise.  They decided to go ahead and set up an internship with the University that would allow two archaeology or anthropology majors to work for them in various capacities, including going on occasional digs.  They also finalized an offer they wanted to make to Megan, hoping to steal her away from the SGC.

“She's good, Jack.  We'd be lucky to have her, and she'd be worth the extra money,” Daniel put forth.

“I agree.  I trust her, and she's got a good level head on her shoulders.  The extra investment in securing her as part of J-O would pay off in the long run.  Do you think she'll do it?”

“She might,” Daniel replied with a thoughtful expression.  “She's indicated an interest.  Let's make her the offer.”

“Agreed.”

The two sealed their agreement with a kiss.

“Geez, I love it when we finalize a decision.”  Daniel laughed.  “Let's decide to finalize all our decisions with a kiss.”

“Okay,” Jack readily agreed.

“Deal.”  They kissed again.  “All kisses to last a duration of no less than sixty seconds.”

“Okay.”

“Deal,” Jack said, and then they kissed again.

“And ...”

“Jack, we really need to get this done.”

“Agreed.”

Jack grinned, and Daniel kissed him again.

“You are incorrigible, and I love you, but we need to get this done, and no we aren't kissing again ... yet,” the younger man chuckled.

“Okay, back to J-O business, and then ... monkey business,” Jack said, winking at his lover.

Daniel laughed yet again, but then got down to business, saying, “We need to decide on a logo so we can start printing a letterhead and brochures.”

“I like this one,” Jack said, pointing to an inviting design.

“Yes, I know, and, no, we're not using that one,” Daniel responded, having no intention of having his lover's selection on their company letterhead.

“But, Danny, it's cute!” the older man smirked.

“This is a business, Jack, not a ... children's club,” Daniel argued.

“Angel, this will get people to remember us.”

“Yes, to remember to steer clear.”

“Let's try it out,” Jack suggested.

“No way, Jack.”

“Danny!”

“Jack, I should never have let you keep that boonie bear in the first place,” Daniel stated.

“Look at him, Angel,” Jack urged, pointing at the picture.  “He's wearing the boonie, has a little pack of equipment, a little video recorder, and a shovel.  He's an archaeology bear if I ever saw one.”

“No,” Daniel said, shaking his head and pulling out a different design.  He spoke firmly, “Look at this one ... very classy and ...”

“... Boring,” Jack completed.  “Anyone can do initials.  Trust me on this one, Danny.  The bear will work like wildfire.”

“Jack ... no ... N - O ... Nooooooooo,” Daniel replied and then stood up from the table, walked over towards the fish, and stared at them, folding his arms.

Jack walked up behind him, and pulled the younger man into him.  Kissing Daniel's nape first, Jack worked his way up to Daniel's right earlobe.

“Jack, no fair.”

“I haven't said a word,” Jack said softly.

“Exactly.”  Daniel turned around and kissed his spouse enthusiastically.  “You drive me crazy sometimes.”

“Isn't it great?”

“Have I mentioned that you're incorrigible, Jack?  Gawd, a boonie bear?” Daniel asked incredulously.

Assertively, Jack opined, “He's cute, an eye-catcher.  Customers will remember us because of the bear.”

Daniel ran his hand along Jack's chest and opined, “You just want to look at it all the time.”

“I have you, the one and only original Boonie Bear!”

“Jack,” Daniel sighed the name of his lover.  “You really want the bear, don't you?”

“Danny, I know it seems silly to you, but I'm not just fighting for the bear to be silly.  People love gimmicks, and we're just starting out.  We need something to grab people's attention.”

“But it's not like we're advertising on TV, Jack.  This isn't that Snuggle product or rabbit in a tuxedo.  This is a serious operation, with scholars,” Daniel pointed out.

“You're a scholar, Daniel.  Are you going to tell me you wouldn't remember that bear if you saw it?”

“I'd remember, but the question is, would I take it seriously?” Daniel asked seriously.

Daniel sighed, opting to lean into Jack, who held him in his arms.  It was a strange way to do business, but it was working for them.

“Okay, we'll do the initial thing if that's what you want,” Jack conceded.

“No, we'll do the bear.”

“You don't want the bear.”

“Jack, it's not what I want, or you; it's what we want,” the archaeologist reminded.

“And that would be?”

Daniel answered, “For J-O to become a presence, to gain a reputation that is honorable and respectable; for that to happen, we have to get the word out.”  He paused, nodded, and said, “You're right; they'll remember the bear.”

“But like you said, will it be the right kind of remembering?”

“It'll get them to look at the brochure, to read the bios, and maybe make a call; and then, it's up to us to prove ourselves, that we deserve their business,” the younger man stated.

“You sure, Danny?”

“I love you.”

“Forever and always, My Love,” Jack whispered as he kissed Daniel again.

“The initials won't make them open the letter; that dang bear will,” Daniel laughed, “if only to see who the crazy people are who would use a ... boonie bear as a symbol.  The brochure and letter has to reel them in, Jack.  They have to be totally professional and show why they should call J-O and not one of our competitors.”

“And that would be your department, Love.  You're the best negotiator I know,” Jack spoke with confidence.

“This isn't a negotiation.”

“Isn't it?  Think about it.  The bear gets them to open the paperwork, and now we're negotiating for their time.  You have to convince them that it's worth their while to keep reading, and then to pick up the phone and make that call.  It's one of the most important negotiations you'll ever conduct.”

“My genius,” Daniel laughed, causing Jack to laugh as well.

“What else do we have to decide today?” Jack questioned.

“Whether or not to make love right here or go upstairs?”

Jack grinned as he placed an O'Neill Special on his husband, making Daniel moan as he forgot that anything other than his husband existed in the universe.  The two sank to the floor, and that answered that question.

====

The next day, Jack and Daniel both had busy days planned.  Daniel had a morning meeting with a friend, who was particularly good at publishing, someone he felt could help him prepare a high quality brochure for J-O Enterprises.  After that, he had a flying lesson since he was learning how to pilot the couple's new airplane, and then it was his turn to do the grocery shopping. Somehow, he also needed to find time to take his blue suit to the cleaners before going to Denver, where he had an afternoon appointment with the heads of the Archaeology and Anthropology Departments at the University to finalize their agreement over the internships.

Jack's morning meeting was with a contractor about the remodeling project that was scheduled to begin soon.  He wanted to make sure they understood the time frame for getting the work done, as well as the quality of materials they wanted for the project.  Both men were all too aware that today's industry standards were often yesterday's sub-standards.

After that appointment, Jack needed to go by the pet store to get a new supply of dog treats for Bijou and Katie as well as a new supply of food for the fish since they had run out recently.  He also had to go by the bank to check out alternatives for the J-O bank account.  If he had time to play with, he had promised Lou Ferretti that he'd drop by and visit for a while since Lou was on downtime for a few days and had made some new improvements on the MonsterMobile, his large, modified truck.

“Have a good day, Love,” Jack said as they parted.

“You, too!”

Jack and Daniel kissed at the door and then left to take care of business.

--

By the time they arrived home that night, Jack and Daniel were tired, though their business meetings had all been fruitful and productive.  After dinner, the couple took their dogs for a walk and spent some time with the beagles, mindful that they'd been preoccupied a lot with business over the last few days, so it was important for them to give their girls some quality time.

Then, the lovers reviewed the results of the day, comparing notes, going over new ideas, and working through various obstacles they'd encountered.  They relaxed on the sofa, secure in each other's arms for a bit as they listened to some soothing music, romantic instrumentals that carried their spirits away to peaceful, exotic locales.  After that, they had planned to do some light cleaning around the house, but both had fallen asleep, not waking until Bijou pawed at them to go outside.

“Oh, geez,” Jack yawned, realizing they had fallen asleep.

“Bed,” Daniel said.

“Oh, yeah, without a doubt,” Jack agreed, yawning again.

“Sleep,” Daniel said, almost as a warning.

“Who's arguing?”

Jack laughed as he let the girls outside and locked up the house.  Daniel had sat down on the bottom of the stairs and was beginning to slump over to his side.

“Just wait until the baby comes.  You haven't seen anything until a baby changes your world, ... and your definition of sleep,” the older man mused.

“Baby ... baby,” Daniel said, giving his lover a big, wide contemplative smile. “Our baby.”

“Ours,” Jack said as he pulled his lover up.  “Let's go to bed.”

“Bed,” Daniel sighed as Jack chuckled and led his husband upstairs to their bed.

====

“Okay.”  Jack swallowed a spoonful of oatmeal as he stared down at the diagram that lay on the table between he and Daniel.  “We put the nursery right next to the master bedroom, and we add another room on to it, so that as they get older, we can convert the nursery into a regular room and each of the kids has their own place.”

Daniel chewed a bite of waffle as he studied the plan, and then asked, “What about the roof deck?  Do we still have space to put something beyond the second room?”

“Oh, yeah, that's a must.  It'll be smaller, but we don't need much space, just a place for us to snuggle and a corner for the telescope,” the amateur astronomer mentioned.

“Good, then we're ready to go.  Can they start soon?” Daniel asked.

Jack nodded and then sipped some apple juice, starting to talk almost before he had it all swallowed.

“On the twenty-eighth, and they know the timeline.  Weather predictions are good, so they should be able to get it done as scheduled,” Jack answered.  “Uh, if necessary, though, they're willing to work through the Labor Day weekend, but that's a last resort, and, if it does come down to that, we'll be paying them a mint.”

“It's our own fault, Babe,” Daniel interrupted.  “We're cutting it a little short.  We always think we have forever,” he commented.

“That's because we do, Angel.”  Jack met his husband's smile, their eyes shining, their nonverbal communication speaking loudly.  “Oh, and, Danny, cost-wise, it makes more sense to have them go ahead and do the rest of the work now.  It's not like our plans will change.”

“What other work?”

“For the older kids,” Jack answered.  “They all need their own place; it's important to older children.”

“The garage, and I think we should add the second bathroom attached to it,” Daniel agreed, also nodding his consent while lifting his fork to take a bite of scrambled egg.

“And the study,” Jack added before finishing off his oatmeal.

“Study?” Daniel asked, putting down his fork.  “What about the study?”

“Each kid needs their own space, so one can have the room over the garage, and we can convert the study for the other, maybe extend it a little.”

“No, Jack.  The study is your place, just like I have the den,” Daniel refuted.

“Our kids need space.  I can just hang out with you,” Jack maintained.  “It's what I normally do anyway.”

“No.  You need to have your own ... space for the Neo-Ritual and your Flight Nights and ... and just for your crappy fish stuff,” the archaeologist insisted.

“Crappy fish stuff?”

“You know what I mean,” Daniel replied.

Jack laughed at his linguist's choice of words and responded, “The kids are more important.”

“Jack!”

“Daniel, it's a done deal.  We don't want to move, so we don't have a choice without giving up the garage, and I don't think we can do that.  Hey, what did Megan say?”

Daniel was frustrated.  He just hated it when Jack didn't hear him, and this was one of those times.  He wanted to scream, but he knew it wouldn't do any good.  Agitated, he tossed his napkin onto the table, crossed his arms, and walked over to the fish tank.  He sighed, only half listening to his husband, who had ignored the fact that Daniel hadn't answered his question about Megan and was now  rambling on about how he had loved having his own room as a child.

Daniel opened the drawer, remembering that the feeder was empty, but instead of the new box of fish food he was expecting to find, he found nothing but space.

“Jack, where's the fish food?” Daniel questioned, cutting off his lover's oration about kids having their own rooms.

“In the drawer, where it always is,” Jack answered.

“The new box ... that you got yesterday?” Daniel asked as he turned to face his lover.

“New box?” Jack sighed.  “I thought all we needed was dog food.”

“Jack, I specifically told you to get the food for the fish.  I told you three times, *and* it was on the list.”

“I didn't look at the list,” Jack admitted as he stood and carried their dishes into the kitchen, rinsing them off and placing them in the dishwasher.

Daniel was hot, hotter than the breakfast they had just eaten.  Jack was always talking about “our” fish, but he never wanted to take care of them.

“How could you be so absentminded, Jack?  They're ... *our* fish!  They rely on us, and now ... now, they're going to starve!”

“They aren't going to starve.  We'll just go get some now,” Jack stated.

“We?  No ... *we* won't, Jack, but *you* will!” Daniel ordered as if Jack were an airman awaiting the day's orders.

“Daniel, I can't do it.  I have meetings.  You know that.”

“And so do I!”

“They're your fish!”  Jack saw the hurt and anger that flashed across Daniel's face as that barb hit home.  ~Crap!~

“They're supposed to be *our* fish!  Is this what you're going to do with our children, Jack?  Sorry, that one is yours so, oops, out of baby food.  Guess it'll be okay,” Daniel argued.

“Danny, don't be ridiculous.”

“I'm *not*, Jack.  They are living creatures, and they need nourishment just like we do, and if you can't take that seriously, what assurance do I have that you'll take the responsibilities of being a parent seriously?”

“What assurance do you have?” Jack asked incredulously.  “Oh, for ... Daniel, in case you've forgotten, I've already been a father, so I guess I know a bit more about being a parent than you do.”

“Are you saying that you're worried about my ability to be a father?” Daniel questioned.

“For Heaven's sake, Danny.  Stop twisting what I say,” Jack demanded.

“I haven't twisted anything.  Just because you've been a father doesn't mean you know everything.”

“Well, I sure don't seem to know as much as you do, but then, of course, according to Saint Daniel, I never have,” the older man argued.

“Stop acting like a child.  You made a mistake.  How about owning up to it for once so that we can move on.”

“Own up to it and move on?  I forgot to buy fish food.  It's hardly a major crime now, is it?” Jack asked, his ire rising.

“No, but it shows that you pick your priorities, and the rest can all go hang.  Admit it!  You don't like fish.”

“I love fish ... especially when they're hanging from the end of my rod.”

“You're really sharp today, Jack.  Make sure you don't cut yourself; and correct me if I'm wrong, but when have you ever had a fish hanging from the end of your rod?  Pity you didn't use some of that sharp wit to REMEMBER TO BUY THE FISH FOOD!”

“That's a bit much, don't you think?”

“No, I don't!  You say over and over they are our fish, but whenever it comes to being responsible, you aren't!”

“Hey, I got the feeder *and* the new bigger tank,” Jack said defensively, as if buying the gifts should be enough.

“So ... you buy the Pampers, but you don't have to change the babies?  Or you pay for the books, but don't need to help them learn?”

“Daniel, you are blowing this way out of proportion!”

“YOU SAID YOU'D GET THE FISH FOOD!”

“WELL, I FORGOT.  So sue me!” Jack exclaimed, waving his hands in front of him to dismiss the entire notion that he'd done anything wrong.

“If I thought you'd learn from it, I would!”

“Oh great, sued by my own husband!”

“And I'd win!”

“And don't you just love to do that?  You have to win every argument.  Heaven forbid the great Daniel Jackson should *ever* be wrong!”

“O'Neill!” Daniel corrected.

“What?”

“Jackson-O'Neill ... at least that's supposed to be my name,” the younger man stated.

“It is ... geez, Danny, you're taking this way over the edge!”

“I am *not*!  I asked you to do something, and you put us through all of this, and for what?  NOTHING!”

“Daniel, I am *not* the one who is turning the little, teeny tiny mound of dirt into the frigginest highest mountain ever created!  Geez, the genius Doctor Jackson,” Jack paused and grunted, “Doctor Jackson-O'Neill  versus the ever dumb colonel Jackson-O'Neill ...”

“General,” Daniel smirked, though he wasn't the least bit amused at the moment.

“What?  Oh, yeah. I forgot.  Old habits,” Jack sighed.  He paused, wondering if the argument would end, but he could tell from Daniel's posture it was far from over.  “As I was saying, the genius versus the general.”

“Excuse me, but you're a genius, too,” the younger man reminded.

“Don't start, Daniel.”

“Truth hurt, Jack?  Or maybe the lie?” Daniel challenged.

“Okay, do you really want to bring all that up again?  I thought you understood,” Jack responded angrily.

“I ... do.  Okay, backtrack.”

“Fine.  Rewinding,” Jack agreed.  “As I was saying, the genius versus the general.  No contest is there?  I couldn't possibly know more about something than you ... even if my IQ is in the genius range.”

“I thought you didn't want to bring that up?” Daniel inquired.

“I didn't, but you brought it up first.”

“Fine.  For a genius, you certainly don't know how to read a shopping list, and I still think it was mighty convenient the way you managed to keep that genius of yours hidden for years.”

“Grrrrrrr!,” Jack grunted loudly.  “Oh, for crying out loud, it's FISH FOOD!”

“For *our* fish, so you keep telling me.”

“Stubborn,” Jack complained, turning his back to make sure the girls were still safely out of hearing range of the unexpected fight.

“Selfish!”

“IRRATIONAL!” Jack retaliated.

“IRRESPONSIBLE AND UNTRUSTWORTHY ... and I'm going now,” Daniel stated sharply as he took out his keys and headed for the door, stopping in the hallway closet to get his jacket and put it on.

“That's right, run away again.  Geez, that's *so* true to form.  The minute things get bumpy, you run.  Very mature, Doctor,” Jack retorted.

“Oh, shut up, Jack, and give your brain a rest before it collapses from exhaustion.  I'm not running out, I'm walking out before you say something that pushes me out,” Daniel responded with ire of his own.

“Where are you going?”

“Out.  I have things to do, and now I have to stop and get fish food, too, something you *promised* to do, so that they don't die.  Have a good day, Jack,” Daniel said, hurrying out the door and slamming it behind him.

“Oh, for crying out loud.”  Jack ran his fingers through his hair and growled loudly.  “Sometimes, Daniel Jackson-O'Neill, you can be *impossible* to live with.”

Jack plopped down in his favorite chair and continued to mumble about the stubbornness of his lover.

====

Several hours later, Daniel stood at the counter at PetSmart paying for a box of their favorite fish food.  He sighed as he carried it out to his car, and then gently slid onto the seat, locking the door and turning on the radio.  He closed his eyes.

The young man felt awful.  Their fight had been ridiculous, just as Jack had said it was.  He wondered why he and Jack fought so much, considering how much they loved each other.  Then, he smiled.  Love always won out.

Daniel started the Silver Fox, intending to head home, anxious to see his husband and resolve their latest disagreement, but he found himself heading to their private paradise instead, the little place beyond Cheyenne Mountain that was part of Pike's Peak.

The archaeologist locked his car and went for a walk, replaying the latest in a long line of arguments with Jack that he'd had over the years.  Just as he got to his favorite spot, the open meadow where they usually sat and made love whenever they visited the place, he heard noises.

Daniel smiled, seeing Sara and Mark with their little daughter, Angela.  He watched for quite a while and considered saying hello, but decided against interrupting the happy family.  Finally, he turned around and quietly walked back the way he came.

Two minutes later, Daniel heard a voice.

“So you're just going to watch and not say 'hi'?  I don't think so, Daniel Jackson-O'Neill.”

Daniel turned and smiled, replying, “Hello.  I, uh ... I just didn't want to interrupt.”

Sara O'Neill Wilson moved towards Daniel and hugged him warmly as she spoke, “You could never interrupt, Daniel.  You know that.  You're family now.”

“I'm not sure anyone would believe that, even on one of those irrational reality TV shows.”

Sara put her arm through Daniel's as they continued to walk towards his car.  She told him all the latest family news and proudly ranted about Angela's accomplishments before suddenly changing gears.

“What did he do, Daniel?” Sara asked.

“Who?  What?”

“Daniel, I was married to him, remember.  What did Jack do ... or not do, as the case may be?”

“Oh,” Daniel took a deep breath as they continued to walk.  “He forgot to buy fish food.”

“Daniel?”

“Yes?”

Sara stopped, still holding the young man's arm, and questioned, “What did Jack do?”

Daniel couldn't help but smile.  Somehow, they truly had become some strange extended family, and it never ceased to amaze him how easily Sara had accepted him.

“You know about our remodeling plans?”

“Yes.”

“Jack ... he ... Sara, he wouldn't, absolutely refused to let us do anything to the den to give us more space, and now he wants to redo the study as a room for one of the older children.”

“And you don't want that?” the blonde asked.

“No, I don't.”

“Why?”

Daniel sighed as he looked around for a moment and then explained, “Because everyone needs a sanctuary.  It's why he wouldn't let us touch the den.  Sara, that study has always been Jack's spot to do ... whatever Jack does.  I mean, it's his.  It always has been.  He won't have anyplace just for him if we do this.”

Sara pulled Daniel along with a tug of his arm so that they continued to walk again and asked, “And I take it Jack doesn't understand your point of view?”

“Not at all.  He's so darn stubborn.”

“And you're not?” Sara chuckled, her eyes getting at yet another truth.

“Gawd, when did you get to know me so well?” Daniel mused, bowing his head for a second in amazement.

“I'm not sure.  Daniel, there's a bit more to this, though, isn't there?  I can't tell you why, but I sense there's something else.”

Daniel let out a whiff of air and looked anxiously around the forested area.

“Sara, even before Jack and I were lovers, he was doing things for me.  He's always doing things for me.  I never know what I'll find when I walk in the door.  Sometimes, it's just ... breakfast.  You know, my favorites, but things he hates, and sometimes ... gawd, sometimes it's a sports car.”

“Wow!  Jack gave you the Silver Fox?”

Daniel nodded shyly, then added, “But I paid him back.  It's kind of a long story.”

“I'd love to hear that one sometime.  I had to beg to get a rundown VW from him once,” the woman chuckled.

“I'm ... sorry,” Daniel said hesitantly, suddenly afraid that maybe he shouldn't be talking so freely to Jack's ex-wife.

“Goodness, no, Daniel, I didn't mean it like that.  It was a different time and a very different situation.  Besides, you and I are two very different realities for Jack.  Now, you were about to tell me more about what really has you upset.”

“It's just that sometimes it feels like it's all about me, and it shouldn't be.  Gawd, Sara, Jack deserves as much spoiling if not more than I do, but it's always him doing this or that, giving something, doing something, taking us somewhere ... and a lot of the time, it's what I want, not what he wants.  I mean, I try to make sure we do things for him, but he makes it so freakin' hard sometimes, and then, just when I think maybe we're on some kind of even ground, he ...”

“Even ground?”

“We just bought a plane,” the archaeologist informed.

“Oh, my!  I'll bet he's happy about that.”

“You should see him flying Jo.  Um, that's what we call her -- Jo.  He's so at peace up there, so ... serene.  It's ... Sara, I swear, it's not about he does something for me, so I have to equal it.  I swear that's not it.  It's just ... you have no idea what he's done for me, how he's ... how ... he's changed my life.  I want Jack to have the same peace and serenity I have now.  I don't want him to keep sacrificing himself.  He's always giving up things for me.”

“And giving up the study is just the latest and ...” Sara began.

“And it's too much, and I won't let him do it,” Daniel completed, pulling away from Sara, needing space.

“Daniel, remember when we met?”

“Um, yes.  The ... hospital.”

With a nod, Sara spoke, “You know, I still don't understand that.  I know you do, and Jack, of course, and I'm not asking you to tell me what that was really all about, but when Jack came by the next day to try and explain it away, he talked a lot about you.  Most of it went in one ear and out the other.  Frankly, I thought Jack and I still had a chance at that point, but ... what I remember is that he mentioned your background, just briefly, and that it had been a bit ... tough, sad.”

Sara closed the gap of several feet that Daniel had put between them.

“And then,” Sara laughed, “Jack told me this story about something that had happened a few nights before.  He said he had conned you into watching a hockey game at the house, but that you then tried to get him to watch something on A&E.  He said you two started to argue, and he threw a pillow at you, and then one thing led to another, and you ended up in a tickling match, on the floor, along with your beers, the pizza, and the remote control, which ended up ...”

“... in the beer,” Daniel said at the same time as Sara.

“He loves to make you laugh, Daniel.  When he told me that story, he said it was the first time he had heard you really laugh.  What I've learned since, after the wedding and all, is that he lives for your smile and that sound of laughter.  In fact, the day I found out about you two ... here,” Sara looked around the forestry area, her hands motioning all around, “he told me that his mission was to make you laugh and smile, words he repeated when he spoke his wedding vows.”

Daniel couldn't help but smile at the mention of their wedding.  It had been perfect, an intimate affair with only a scattered few of their friends in attendance, and thinking about that day actually made him shiver in delight for just a moment.

“Daniel, he can't help wanting you to have all the things he can give you that, in his mind, make up a little bit for all those years of sadness.  Jack wants you to have it all, and what you need to understand, is that by giving you everything he can, it makes him happy.  I've seen it.”

“Are you saying I should let him give up the study?”

“No, I think you're right about that, but what I'm saying is that you need to be aware that you truly are Jack's happiness, and you shouldn't feel guilty about the things he does for you.  Daniel, that husband of yours, is happy now.  He's at peace, and that's all because of you.  How can anything the two of you do in your lives be bad with a result like that?” Sara asked.

Daniel found himself hugging Sara, a simple act that for years had seemed so difficult for him to do without tensing.

“Gawd, I normally don't do this,” the archaeologist said aloud, surprising himself.

“I know, and I feel honored to be included in your life,” Sara responded with a quiet reference for the act and the emotion behind it.

“You're just like Jack.  You bulldozed your way in,” Daniel chuckled, his dimples showing as he smiled.

Sara laughed gaily as she responded, “And that's why Jack and I got along so well.”  The two smiled, and then she said, “I should get back to Mark and Angela. When are you two coming over for dinner again?”

“The next time Jack's supposed to cook?”

Sara laughed, “Mark and I will look at the calendar and give you a call, but tell Jack that next time, he cannot tell Angela stories about monsters with glowing eyes and mechanical sounding voices.  Honestly, I don't know where he comes up with these strange ideas.”

Nodding, the young man gave Sara another hug and said, “I'll tell him, and thanks, Sara.”

“I'll call!” Sara called out as she began to jog back towards the area where her family was.

Daniel walked to his car and got in, remembering again about all the love that he and Jack shared.  He'd find a way to get through to his husband about the study, and it wouldn't be through another argument.

====

Meanwhile, at the house, Jack had been following through with his own plans.  He smiled at the arrangement.  Everything was in place.  All he needed was Daniel.

Jack sat in his chair again and looked over at the fish, spitting out, “Stop staring at me.  I said I was sorry, didn't I?”

“Woof!” Bijou seemed to chastise him.

“Okay, I was ... wrong.  Satisfied?” Jack asked, looking over at the mama beagle.

“Woof! Woof!”

Bijou walked proudly over to her beanbag and lay down next to her puppy.

“Can't get anything over on you, can I?” Jack chided gently, smiling a second later.  Then, he heard the key in the lock.  He grinned as he stood and headed for the door.  “Hey,” Jack greeted as he grabbed Daniel quickly, scooping him up for a kiss.

Daniel had been unprepared for the welcome, the bag holding the food for the fish dropping to the ground.  He moaned softly as the passion of the kiss enveloped him, his arms soon reaching up around Jack's neck as his tongue tried to reach the furthermost parts of Jack's mouth.

“Gawd, I love you,” Daniel gasped at the earliest opportunity.

“Now that's what I like to hear,” Jack quipped.

Daniel raised his eyebrows, asking, “That's it?  That's all you have to say?”

“I love you, too,” Jack laughed, placing a quick kiss on his lover's lips and then motioning towards the patio.  “Come on.”

“Jack, I need to feed the fish,” Daniel insisted as he picked up the bag, beginning to get frustrated all over again.

Daniel walked to the tank and took out the box, and then he stopped and sighed.

“Got it first thing this morning, right after you left,” Jack said proudly.

“Thank you,” Daniel responded softly, putting the box he had purchased inside the drawer, next to the box Jack had purchased earlier in the day.

“Take off your coat.  In fact, go change if you want.  We have ... plans,” the silver-haired man announced.

“Jack, I don't want to go out.”

“We aren't,” Jack smirked, bouncing up on the balls of his feet one time.

Daniel sighed as he stared at the fish for a few moments.  He loved this husband of his, but, sometimes, he wondered why, especially when Jack could act like nothing had happened, even making plans for them before they had made up; that is, he wondered why he loved Jack so much until he remembered all the love and goodness inside the man who could make him scream within ten seconds, and then make him smile, full of happiness.

Shaking his head at his own internal conflict, Daniel headed upstairs to change out of his business attire into something more comfortable.

====

“Jack?  Jack, where are you?” Daniel called out when he came back downstairs after taking a quick shower and changing clothes.

“Hey, Beautiful!  Up here!” Jack responded, peering over the roof deck towards the house.

Daniel climbed the ladder slowly and started to stretch for a second when he arrived at the top, but he stopped mid-stretch when the sight he beheld sank in.

Standing on the other side of the deck was Jack, wearing a silver shirt made of silk, black pants, and the most gorgeous grin Daniel had ever seen.  The roof deck was beautifully decorated with Chinese lanterns hung artfully overhead, which Daniel knew had to have taken some work.  Jack had apparently used some poles and accessories to string the lanterns.

Candlelight illuminated a small table, with food, Daniel assumed, under several silver trays.

The sound of ocean waves filled the air.  Daniel looked around and saw the sound device that was normally kept in his den.  It could be set to a variety of nature's sounds and noises, including the ocean.  Adding to the atmosphere, a Celine Dion CD was playing softly in the background.

“Jack,” Daniel said softly, prompting his husband to approach him.

“I love you, Danny,” Jack pronounced before kissing the man who not only owned his heart, but was his heart.

Daniel relaxed against Jack's strong hold, feeling truly calm for the first time in two days.

“Daniel, I'm sorry.  I should have gotten the food for the fish, but I forgot, and the truth is, I felt stupid for forgetting.  I love our fish, and they *are* our fish, and I'll even clean out the tank next time.”

Daniel chuckled, “I'm going to hold you to that!”

“You do that, and I'm sorry for whatever else I said in the heat of battle this morning.  Geez, Danny, you're my world.  Sometimes, I just get my hackles in an uproar over nothing.”

“I'm sorry, too, Jack.  I was miserable all day knowing we fought like that.  Besides, you were right.  I did blow it out of proportion.”

Jack kissed Daniel on the forehead and then moved back a bit as he stated, “But, Danny, you weren't angry about the fish, were you?  I've thought about this all day, and I swear I don't know what else it was, but I have a hard time believing you got that angry with me that quickly about the feed.”

Daniel leaned in again, his head tucked down against Jack's left shoulder.  His hands moved from their current position of clinging to the silk fabric that caressed Jack's chest to around the older man's neck.  Daniel pulled Jack to him, as he moved his head to look beyond his husband's shoulder at the Chinese lanterns.  He held Jack tight, and then he sighed deeply.  Backing up a tad to look at Jack, Daniel admitted the truth.

“You're right, and Jack, I mean this.  It's important.  Listen to me, okay?  When I was a boy, I was lucky if I had a cot to sleep on.  A bed?  I was doing good, and if that bed was bigger than a twin and had a warm bedspread on it, I was really doing well; and the real prize was if that bed was someplace clean, warm and safe.”

Daniel turned and looked around the roof deck, walking a couple of feet away as he did so, and then he turned back to look at Jack.

“Jack, our kids are going to have love.  It's what you told me a long time ago that they needed most, and you're right.  We're not exactly destitute here, and they ... they'll have things, and a roof over their heads and ... and lots of love.  Jack, they don't each need to have their own room.  If we had the space, that would be one thing, but we don't, and I ... I ...” Daniel stopped, his eyes filling with moisture, something Jack saw.

Not able to stand back, Jack moved to Daniel, his hands reaching out to hold his husband's as he listened.

Daniel smiled at the contact and continued, “Jack, I love my den, and I remember when we first started talking about remodeling I said maybe we should give it up, but you wouldn't.  You insisted that I needed a space for 'me' time.  You're right.  I do.  Everyone does, including you.”

“The study,” Jack said softly, finally understanding.

“I want you to keep the study ... just like it is.  It's your place, for when you need to get away from me, and ...”

“I never need to get away from you, Angel,” Jack declared.

“Yes, you do.  Jack ... gawd, I love you, but as close as we are, sometimes we both drive each other up the wall.  We both need a place to retreat, to relax, and to remind us why we're so good together.  I have my den with my ... rocks,” Daniel smiled at his choice of words, “and history records, and you have your study with your Air Force things and fishing stuff and ... whatever you want.  It's important, Jack. I just ... gawd, I just can't deal with you acting like you aren't as important as me or the children ... because you are.  You are so important!”

Jack smiled and nodded, and leaned in for a kiss, his hands still gently holding Daniel's.

“Okay, so they share a room.  I guess it wouldn't be the worst thing in the world.”

“They might whine, but we can handle it,” Daniel replied.

“Thank you, Angel, for loving me so much.”

After another kiss, Jack pointed to their meal, one of Daniel's favorite Chinese dishes.  They ate slowly as they enjoyed each other's company and contemplated their future together with their growing family.

~Good timing.~  Knowing what the next song was, Jack stood and reached out his hand.  With a smile on his face, Jack asked softly, “May I have this dance?”

Daniel glowed as he took his husband's hand and stood up.  They moved together as one body, holding on to each other.

“Our song,” Daniel said softly as Celine's “Because You Loved Me” circulated around them.

“It was the best day, Danny.”

“The best,” Daniel agreed as the two danced smoothly together until the music subsided.

Jack took his hand and put it up to Daniel's left cheek and caressed, “My Angel.  Whatever I did to deserve you, I'll never know.”

“I'm not so much.”

“You're everything and more.”  Jack engulfed his husband's mouth in a warm kiss, one filled with the promise of more to come.  “Want some more wine?” he asked.

Daniel nodded and sat down on one of the chairs.  Jack pulled the small table to the side, and then poured his lover a glass of St. Julien's, which Daniel sipped with pleasure.

“You're so good to me, Jack.  Gawd, one day we were at a wine tasting and all I said was ...”

“Gawd, this is the best stuff I've ever had.  I wish I could have it every day,” Jack quoted the line, word for word.

Daniel gaped in astonishment.  That's exactly what he had said, years ago.  The young man smiled, blocking a near blush from being cared about so much.

“From that day, we've always had this in the house.  I never asked you for it, never expected it, but ... it's always here.  Always,” Daniel said softly.

“And it always will be because you love it,” Jack promised.

“I love you,” Daniel said, his voice filled with assurance and gratitude.  “You spoil me, Jack ... way too much.”

Jack was standing a couple feet away, sipping his own glass of the wine.  Hearing Daniel's words, he put down his glass and nodded.

“And that's something that I will never stop doing.”

“You shouldn't, Jack.  I mean ... I only need you, not all the ...” Daniel looked away, not sure how to continue, but then Jack made a move that surprised him, sending his thoughts running.

Jack knelt down on one knee in front of Daniel and took his hand.  When he spoke, his voice was soft, but sure.

“Don't you understand, Daniel?  Seeing you smile or hearing you laugh,  knowing I've done something to make you feel special or loved, geez, Angel, that fills me up, gives me life, makes me ... makes me feel like I'm alive.  Spoiling you, that's my mission in life, and no matter how many kids we have, or what we do in the future, I will never stop trying to give you everything I can, even if it does seem like I go overboard sometimes.”

“I love you, Jack,” Daniel proclaimed and then leaned down to kiss his spouse.

It was a kiss filled with love and promises for the future, a kiss so intense that their toes curled in response.

“Danny,” Jack looked into his love's sparkling blue eyes, eyes that told Jack just how loved he himself was, “I told you once that while you are busy protecting the rest of the world, I would go on protecting you, making you smile and laugh because you have the most incredible, wonderful laugh.  It makes my heart sing to hear you.  I promised you that I'd keep you laughing, and that I'd protect you, and that no matter what, we're forever because, well, like I always say, together we're unbeatable.”

“Jack ...”

“Shhh, your crazy husband who hates words has a few to say, so ... shhh, Angel,” Jack smiled, as did Daniel.  “Forever and always, Danny; the circle of our love never ends.  I don't know what you see in me, but I thank the heavens you see whatever it is, because I couldn't live without you, not for a day.  You're my heart, my soul, my life.”

Jack saw the recognition of his words in Daniel's eyes.  The words were familiar.

“Yeah, I said those exact words during our wedding.  It was the best day of my life.  I said that no matter what happened in our future, it would be a paradise, and geez, Danny, it is.  Every day, it just gets better and better.  I love you so friggin' much.”

Jack took a breath and kissed his lover's hands, and then he looked up and smiled.

“Daniel Jackson-O'Neill, you are my universe, and I want the world to know it.  I love you.  Will you marry me ... again?”

Daniel blinked in surprise.  He should have known it was coming, but somehow, he had missed it.  He'd thought Jack was just being romantic, as he so often was.

“Again?” was all the emotional scientist managed to get out.

“Remember?  We promised Teal'c and Hammond a big wedding they could be a part of, so that all our friends we couldn't tell or let share in our day, could come and see how much and how well we belong together.  Marry me, Danny?”

“Gawd, yes,” Daniel answered, a tear falling from his left eye just as Jack leaned up to kiss him.

“Here, I got us something,” Jack said as he reached into his pocket and pulled out his gift.

“I don't want to ruin anything, Love, but gawd, I hope those aren't rings.  I just couldn't take this off, Jack,” Daniel looked down at his golden wedding band.

“Angel, you think I could?  I admit I gave it a moment's thought, and that's about it, a moment, because I remembered that you gave this to me.  You put in on my finger, and the last time we did that, it really was forever, and it's not coming off.”

Daniel exhaled a relaxing breath, relieved he and his heart were on the same page, and then he focused on the box, curious what was inside.

“So, what did you come up with?”

“Ah, now you're curious!”

“Well, yeah,” the younger man admitted.

“Geez, how I do love you!  Here,” Jack said after a pause, handing his husband the black velvet box.

Daniel took it and opened it slowly.  Jack focused on the young man's eyes to see his reaction, and he wasn't disappointed.  Daniel lit up.

“Perfect.  It's beautiful, Jack.”

“Not real original, but ... it's something we can wear with anything and ... well, it says ...”

“...that we belong to each other.  I love you so much,” Daniel said, lifting out the small lapel pins.

The pins were twenty-four karat gold, a simple elegant joining of their initials, 'J' and 'D' linked together by a decorative line.  Each was only three-quarters of an inch high and about a half-inch wide, so it would be appropriate for virtually any type of attire without standing out too much.

“I figured we could wear them on our lapels or shirt pockets or even inside our jackets, just depending on where we are and you know,” Jack stated, pleased with the presents.

“Yeah, sometimes we still have to be careful.  Gawd, I hate that.  Jack, I just don't understand why people ... don't understand us.  Why do they think it's wrong to ... love whomever it is you fall in love with?  I'll never understand why society tries to make us feel ... out of place.”

“I don't know, Danny.  Laws are changing ... slowly, and yet for every step forward, there seems to be a step backwards.  I don't know that we'll ever see the human race really comes to term with ... us.”  Jack shrugged, saying, “But we have our love, and we're going to have our family soon.  We'll do the best we can.”

“It's not going to be easy on them, Jack,” Daniel said sadly, his hands fidgeting with the box.

“No, it won't, and we can't lie to ourselves about that.  We've talked about it before, but sometimes we ...”

“... don't want to think about it,” Daniel said, sharing a smile with Jack.  “We get so wrapped up in how happy we are that we forget we're ... gawd ...”

“... different,” Jack finished.  “It's okay, though, Danny.  No life is easy.  Look at you.  Look at Carter.  Neither one of you had the beautiful childhood that the fairy tales make us all want.  Our children are going to have to face some tough times, and we're going to have to watch them, be a bit more vigilant in some ways than others, but they'll have an advantage.”

“Us!” Daniel said with a grin, “and all the love we have to give them.”

“You got it!” Jack agreed happily.

“These are beautiful, Jack.  No matter where we are, we can wear them ... somewhere.  I can't wait to marry you again.”

Jack leaned forward and kissed Daniel again.  As he moved, he gently took the box from his lover's hands and put it safely aside.  He would have put them on, but where the two were headed, clothes and accessories were a hindrance.

Jack was on both knees now as he arched up to devour his lover's mouth, and then moved to kiss his neck, planting a small line of kisses from just below the ear to under Daniel's chin at his Adam's apple.  Daniel's hands were roaming all over, going from Jack's hair, fingers walking through the thin strands to behind Jack's neck and then onto the older man's shoulders.

“Love you, Angel,” Jack said as Daniel leaned back to give Jack more room.

“Love you, Jack ... gawd, wish I had the words,” Daniel sighed at the same moment that Jack began to unbutton the younger man's brown shirt, placing kisses on Daniel's chest with each button opening.

Daniel was already quivering at Jack's kisses and the touches from the hands that had always held him so securely.  For a moment, Daniel thought about the hands that were caressing his abdomen and slowly moving downwards.  They were hands of courage and strength.  They'd both loved and protected him.  Jack's touch, Jack's hands, were warm and inviting.

For just a second, Daniel remembered the touch that had started them on their adventure together ... the sensation of Jack's hand on Daniel's right cheek aboard the Goa'uld Mother ship.  Daniel shivered as he remembered.

“You cold?  Wanna go inside?”

“No,” Daniel answered, then leaned over and cupped Jack's face and kissed him.  “I was just remembering.”

“And that made you shiver?” Jack asked.

Daniel's hands moved down and took Jack's in his.  Jack was a little surprised.  They had been en route to a whopper of a love session and now they seemed strangely in need of just warmth; but that was okay, more than okay.  He loved Daniel so completely that all he ever needed was what they had right now -- togetherness, presence, love.

Daniel raised Jack's hands to his mouth and kissed them and then seemed to be studying them.  Jack recognized that look of “artifact” and chuckled.

“Okay, what's so fascinating, and connect the dots for me while you tell me,” Jack requested.

Daniel chuckled as his hands held Jack's, moving them around slightly to study the palms, knuckles, nails -- every part of the hands he loved so much.

“Danny?”

“I was thinking about your hands.  Sounds silly, I guess.”

“Tell me.”

“It's just ... these hands ... over the years, they've loved me, made me feel like I'm ... gawd, some amazing artifact, or something.  They've protected me as if I were a precious gem.  They've held me as if I were the most beloved being that ever existed.  Yet, they're not perfect hands.

“Here,” Daniel traced a path, “the scar of some Special Ops assignment that is from another lifetime.  And here,” He rubbed against the third finger on Jack's left hand, “a break from the encounter with the Rigolytes.  And here,” He kissed a spot on the right hand, “the callous of someone who works hard and has done so much.  Not perfect,” he reiterated, “but when this hand touched me on that mother ship, my whole life changed.  These hands, they've made me feel things I could never have imagined, and I'm not just talking about sex.”

“That's good to know,” Jack laughed, adding, “but you know, these old hands of mine, they were kind of on a mission there for a minute or two.”

“Oh yeah -- sorry,” Daniel said, but still relishing the feeling of holding his soulmate's hands.  “I love them, Jack.  The happiness they've brought me.  I love your hands,” Daniel said, bringing them up to his face and rubbing them gently against his cheek.

Jack knew what Daniel wanted, and he moved his palm to caress his lover's cheek, just as he had done years ago for the first time.  Daniel closed his eyes at the touch and sighed.  For a moment, just a flash in time, both were transported back in time, to that first connection that truly began their love affair that would span an eternity.

“It was just an instant, but gawd, my world ... it just ... exploded, Jack.  I had to live.  I had to see you again.”

“Come here, you,” Jack requested as he pulled Daniel down to the deck to lean into him.

“I'm sorry.  I've turned all ... sentimental and mushy,” Daniel sniffed, trying to keep the tears back.

“That's okay.  I have those moments, too, you know.”

“I thought you were a grizzly bear,” Daniel mused.

“Me?  I'm your marshmallow, all gooey inside,” Jack teased.

“*Soft* and gooey?”

“Not at the moment,” Jack snickered, causing Daniel to laugh again.  “Geez, I love your laugh,” he remarked, leaning his head against Daniel's.

As the couple sat, Jack realized again how much he loved just being with Daniel like they were now, holding on to each other.  He moved to place a kiss on Daniel's growing hair.  He chuckled.

“What's so funny?” Danny queried.

“Thinking about your hair, beautiful silky soft locks, and how ironic it is that you're growing it again.  My Space Monkey,” Jack voiced with an abundance of sentimentality.

“I suppose for professional reasons I should keep it short.”

“Don't you dare!”

“What?” Daniel looked over at Jack, astonished at the vehemence he had heard in his lover's voice.

“Danny, we don't need to please anyone anymore except for ourselves, and what I said years ago still holds.  You want it long, then you wear it that way.  If you want it short, or somewhere in between, then do it, but don't you dare do something for people we don't even know, not now.  We've been through way too much for that,” Jack stated firmly and from his heart.

“What about J-O?” Daniel questioned, not wanting to hurt their business by having an inappropriate image.

“It'll survive your hair, long or short,” the general maintained.

“Jack, if you could pick, what would you choose?” Daniel inquired curiously, his question of mixture of just wanting to know and also wanting to please his life partner.

“Oh, no you don't.  You are so not doing that to me.”

Daniel scooted around, actually twisting to sit on his knees to face Jack squarely, and requested, “No, Jack, tell me.  If you could decide, long or short.”

Jack smiled as his fingers walked through the brown hair, hair that was getting lighter somehow as it grew in length.

“Space Monkey,” Jack answered.

“All that crap you gave me about military haircuts, and now you want it long?” Daniel chuckled.

“I just want you, but, geez, Danny, I fell for you with long hair, and it suits you.  It's not like you wore it that long.  It was just long enough to play with,” Jack said with a lilt in his voice.  “I know we've talked about this, but what do you want?”

“You,” Daniel answered, leaning in for yet another kiss.  “Weren't your hands on a mission?”

“I'm not the one who yanked them from their assigned task.”

“So sorry.  Please ... continue,” Daniel smirked with a gleam in his eye.

“Are you sure?  I mean, maybe you'd like to study my feet next?”

“Hmm,” Daniel looked down at Jack's shoes, “Let me think.”

Then, Daniel moved and took off Jack's shoes and socks and, still on his knees, focused in on the ten toes, the arches, and the heels as if they were also some new artifact to be evaluated.

“Danny, stop staring at my feet!”

“I love your feet,” Daniel stated.

Jack looked up at the stars and spoke aloud, “Just my luck to fall head over heels with an archaeologist who thinks I'm an artifact.”

Daniel laughed as he stood up and brushed off his knees slightly.  He reached down and took Jack's hands.

“Come on, Babe, let's go to bed and ...”

“... you know?” Jack smiled, finishing the sentence for his shy lover.

“Actually, I was going to say let's go to bed and have mind-blowing sex.  I want to ...”

Jack's eyes bulged as he listened to his husband speak as they went down the ladder and into the house.

“And then,” Daniel nibbled for a second on Jack's ear, “I want to take my ...”

Jack was about to explode on the spot.  He barely got the patio door locked, making sure the beagles were safe and secure in their doghouse, before his mind began to reel at Daniel's words.

Shutting off the last light in the living room, Daniel moved to the stairs, meeting up with Jack again.

Daniel pulled the older man to him and ravished his mouth, his hands reaching around Jack to squeeze his buttocks gently, “And then, my Silver Fox, you'll be so gone that you won't even know when I ...”

Jack's mouth was open, gaping at the stranger who was his husband.  Like a cow going to the slaughter house, he let Daniel guide him up the stairs to their bedroom.  He just couldn't believe the words and phrases coming out of Daniel.  In all their years together, he had never ever been so bold.

Finally, as they got to the bed, Daniel said, “And that's what I was going to say.  Any comments?  Questions?”

“Okay, who are you, and what have you done with my husband?”

Daniel laughed and shrugged, his arms wrapping around Jack's neck as they kissed again.

“Didn't know you had it in you,” Jack whispered.

“I keep remembering what Sara said that day.”

Jack laughed as he commented, “I never would have believed that either.”

“What?”

“How much Sara has become a part of our lives, and I do mean *our* lives,” Jack remarked.

“Yeah, I guess it is ... different, but then, so are we.  We create our own 'normal' so why shouldn't we do what's right for us?”

“I love our norm, and which golden pearl of wisdom that Sara used are you thinking about?”

“The one that said there should always be a little mystery and some surprise in every relationship.”

“Yeah, that's a good one.  So, are you going to talk dirty to me all the time now?” Jack asked mischievously, grinning like the Cheshire Cat, full of hope for an affirmative response.

Daniel laughed, “Um, well, probably not.  It's not really ... you know.”

“Geez, what you do to me.”

“Actually, I haven't done it yet,” Daniel pointed out.

“Better get to it then,” Jack said.

“Yes, Sir, General, Sir,” Daniel teased as he began his attack.

“Geez, now he remembers my rank.”

Both men laughed before beginning a glorious night of lovemaking; well, almost.

Lying in bed, preparing to enter his lover, Daniel suddenly stopped and called out, “Jack?”

“What?” Jack asked as he looked at Daniel, concerned something was wrong from the alarmed tone in his voice.

“We left them on the roof deck.”

“Left what?”

“The pins!” the younger man exclaimed unhappily.

“They'll be there later.  Get on with it, will ya!  I'm ... dying here!”

“But something might happen.”

“Like what?  It's a calm night; the Weather Channel said so,” Jack assured.

“But what if they're wrong?  What if the wind blows too hard or ...”

“Hard?  DANIEL, HARD IS THE WORD HERE!”

“Or what if a cat gets them?  Or a burglar?  Or maybe ...” Daniel continued, full of concern for the precious pins.

Jack pushed Daniel backwards, completely off of him, and got out of bed.

“Jack?  Where are you going?  JACK!”  Jack didn't respond, just kept walking out the door.  “Jack, you're naked!  JACK!” Daniel shouted, still sitting on the bed, a small smile on his face.  “Gawd, I love him.  He's so easy,” he said softly as he waited.

====

Two minutes later, Jack returned, rubbing his arms for a second.  He got back into bed, making it into a big production number, dramatically shoving the box with the pins in front of Daniel's nose.

“See!” Jack opened the box, “Safe and sound, and now they are going right here.”  Carefully, he put the box down on the nightstand by  Daniel's side of the bed.  “And now, Doctor Jackson-O'Neill, if you don't mind.”  He pointed to his lower body, his eyes wide, an expression of “well, come on” on his face.  “Now's good.”

“I love you, Jack,” Daniel said with a huge grin on his face as he straddled his husband, but then he backed off again.

“Oh, for crying out loud.  What now?” Jack barked frustratingly.

“You're cold,” Daniel laughed, his chuckles growing into a hysterical fit.  It was so bad that after a few moments even Jack began to laugh.  “I'm ... I'm ... so...sorry,” he tried to apologize, his laughing fit still running wild.

“Geez, Danny.”

Daniel plopped down next to Jack, their heads touching, their hands each finding the other's.  They laughed for a few more minutes, and then as they settled, they looked into each other's eyes.

“We never do anything normal, do we, Danny?”

“Think how boring it would be if we did,” the younger man responded.

“You going to stay over there all night?”

“Na-uh.”  Daniel moved, once again straddling Jack.  “Thought I'd come over here.”

“Coming is good.”

Daniel started to laugh, and Jack did, too.

“Gawd, Jack.”

Daniel's laughter erupted again, so much so that he collapsed onto Jack's chest.  Jack was laughing heartily again, too, his arms holding onto his lover as they tried to stop the frantic convulsions of their bodies from their hysterics.

“Jack?”

“I know.  I love you, Danny.  Wouldn't change a thing, not a thing.”

“Me, too.  Night, Babe.”

“Sleep well, my Love.”  Jack put a kiss on Daniel's hair and smiled.  “Life is good,” he said aloud, not really intending to.

“The best,” Daniel agreed.

Not five minutes later, the two were sound asleep.  The night hadn't quite ended like they thought it would, but as they said, neither would have changed a thing.  Besides, they made up for it the next morning, in more ways than one.

====

“How are you doing today, Kayla?” Doctor Sylvia Preston inquired of her patient.

“I'm big as a semi-truck, that's how I'm doing!” Kayla exclaimed.

Sylvia laughed with understanding and responded, “It'll be over soon.”

“Not soon enough,” Kayla sighed.  “Who knew I'd gain so much weight.”

“Well, you're carrying two little ones, remember.”

“Sylvia, are you sure we shouldn't tell Jack and Daniel?  You should hear the plans they have for the nursery, but it's only for one baby.  I feel like I'm lying or something,” Kayla espoused.

Beginning the examination, Sylvia replied, “Kayla, do you have any idea how many times I've tried to get them to listen?  Those two are so stubborn.  All they want to know is whether or not you and the baby are healthy.  Any time I try and say more Jack starts singing the Air Force flight song, and Daniel starts talking in some language I've never heard in my life.”

Thinking about the archaeologist, Kayla chuckled, “He's so funny.  Sometimes, he'll stub his foot against something or get frustrated, and he comes out with some word I can't understand.  I've asked him what the language is, but he gets this look like 'oops' and says he doesn't remember what he said.”

“Do you know how many languages he speaks?” Sylvia questioned.

“No, not really.  Jack told me that when they met Daniel spoke twenty-three languages, but that he's actually learned a bunch more since then.  Can you imagine that?  I wonder what his IQ is.”

“He's a genius, and that's about all I know, too.  He gets so shy whenever I bring it up, but I'm guessing it's got to be near two-hundred.”

“I'll bet it's off the scale.”

“I wouldn't doubt it!  Now, how about we discuss you and those babies?”

Sylvia opened her chart and began to review.  She was about to ask Kayla a question when she saw the young woman looking as if she were far away, a sweet smile accenting her face.

“Oh, Kayla!  Are you out there?”

“Sorry, Sylvia, I was just thinking.  They're going to be surprised, but they're going to be so happy.”

“Yes, they will.  I have to admit that I can't wait to see that second little head pop out, just to see the look on their faces,” the doctor laughed.

“Sylvia, you'd better be concentrating on me and not them!” Kayla said in laughter.

Finally, they proceeded with the examination.  When they were done, and Sylvia walked Kayla out, she asked, “So, what do you think about the big wedding?”

“I love it!  I'm so proud of them.  It takes a lot of courage to be so bold,” Kayla spoke with admiration.

“From what I've heard, it's going to be a big event.  I would have loved to have been to their first wedding, though.  The little they've shared with me makes me wish I could have seen them.”

“Do you know Sam?  Samantha Carter?” Kayla asked.

“No, I've heard about her, but we've never met,” Sylvia answered.

“She was there, and she can't talk about it without crying.”

“Oh, there's my next patient.  Watch that cholesterol, and I'll see you soon.”

“Thanks, Sylvia.  Bye.”

====

“Jack, we're crazy.  You realize that, don't you?”

“Well, I admit we're trying to do a lot at once, but, Danny we have to get married now.  Trust me on this.  Once the baby comes, we won't have time, not to mention we won't get a honeymoon.”

“Honeymoon,” Daniel sighed seductively, reflecting back on their wonderful time in Australia.  “Okay, but we need to decide where in a hurry!  So ... where?”

“The Air Force Academy Chapel?” Jack offered.

“Jack, you're sick, out of your mind.”

“Couldn't resist.  Indoors or outdoors?” the older man queried.

Daniel petted Bijou as he thought, ruffling her ears, and asked, “Yeah, you like that, don't ya, Girl?”

“Woof!” the youngest beagle whined.

“Jack, get Katie.”

Jack chuckled and put his pen down on the table where he had been making notes.  He walked over to the sofa and picked up the youngest dog.

“Such a con artist, Miss.  You've got him wrapped around your little paw, dontcha'?”

“Woof! Woof!” and a lot of tail wagging came from the puppy as Jack held her, sitting down next to his husband.

“Jack, I know we did outdoors the first time, and we can't try and match that, but, at the same time, I can't imagine saying our vows surrounded by closed walls.  Can you?”

Jack leaned over and stuck his nose under Katie's head, making a funny gurgling sound as he shook his head rapidly against her chest.  The puppy woofed happily, her paws going all over the place as Jack tickled her with his face.

“Gawd, Jack,” Daniel laughed.

“She loves it,” Jack paused a moment and added, “So do you!”  He  thought a minute and continued their conversation.  “I agree, Angel.  There's something about being outdoors in front of ... whatever it is ... whoever ... I ... I want to marry you under the heavenly skies or maybe even at night under the stars where that greater power can see we're still here, and still grateful.  Geez, where'd that come from?”

“You've always been a poet, Jack.”

“For you,” the older man said, smiling.

“So ... where?” Daniel asked again.

“Monument Valley ... or maybe our spot up at Pike's Peak?” the general suggested.

“No, that's for us.  Gawd, that sounds horrible,” Daniel sighed.

“No, it doesn't.  It's a fairly private place, and we just want to keep it that way.”

Daniel laughed as he rubbed Bijou's stomach.

“Okay, that was a mischievous laugh,” Jack observed.

“Sara.”

Jack shook his head, replying, “Danny, so help me ...  you tell me you want us to get married in Sara's backyard, and I'll ...”

“No,” the young man chuckled.  “I laughed because she's the one who recommended Canada, but ... Jack, Mark is a member of Garden of the Gods, and I thought maybe we could have him check it out, see if we can arrange something outdoors there.  Think about it.  It's beautiful, close by, which considering our time frame is important, and we have an 'in' with him being a club member.”

“I don't believe this,” Jack said, standing and walking over to get the phone.

“Woof!” Katie objected.

“Hey, did I put you down?  All I did was move to get the phone, okay?” Jack asked sternly.

“Grrrr...oof”

“You are as bad as Danny,” Jack chided the puppy.

“Jack!”

“Grrrrrr!” Jack growled lovingly at his husband, returning to sit by his side as he pressed the speed dial, Katie settling in for more of a rubdown.

“Speed dial!  She's in the blasted speed dial,” Jack mumbled.  “Oh ... Sara?  It's Jack ... yeah, sorry, I didn't mean anything, and, yes, I was talking about you.  You'll understand in a minute ... No, we haven't had a fight ... You did?”

Jack stared at Daniel in surprise as he replied, “No, he didn't tell me that.”

Daniel looked around the room, his brain desperately trying to remember what Sara could have said, and then he said softly, “Oh!”

“Oh what? ... No, not you, Sara,” Jack laughed, “I think Danny just realized he forgot to tell me something.”

Daniel shrugged his shoulders, mouthing a “Sorry” as Jack listened to Sara talk.

“Did she?  Angela's a winner, Sara ... Yeah, I think he'd be proud of her, too.”

Daniel recognized the tone.  Sara had mentioned Charlie.  Jack's voice always had that special gentle quality to it when he talked about their son.

“Danny, Sara says Angela looked at a photo of our son today and said his name.”

Daniel smiled and spoke quietly, “He'll always be a part of all of us.”

“Sara, Danny says ... good ... she heard,” Jack whispered to Daniel, “What? Oh, yeah, I did call.  Sara, guess what? ... Twins?  No, I don't think so.  Don't even think it! ... Yeah, right, you say that now, but just wait until you and Mark have another ... Really? ... Keep us posted ... Yeah, the reason I called is that Danny and I are getting married again ... Yes, I'm serious ... Sara ... Sar...Sar... Sara! ... Okay, hold on ...” Jack handed the phone to Daniel.  “She wants to talk to you.”

“Hi, Sara! ... Oh, geez, I totally forgot to tell him I saw you with the fight and all, and when I got home well ... he distracted me ... um, well, I don't think you really want to know ...”

“HE'S BLUSHING, SARA!” Jack shouted.

“Gawd, Jack!  He's so incorrigible ... <laughs> ... Good point.  I don't know.”

“Okay, what is she saying to you?” Jack asked inquisitively.

“She wants to know if I'm sure I'm making the right choice.  Wants to make sure I've considered the alternatives, like running for my life.”

“SARA, YOU'LL PAY!” Jack yelled.

“She wants to know how,” Daniel relayed.

“Tell her *lots* of babysitting ... LOTS, SARA!” Jack said teasingly.

“Kayla's fine, Sara.  We're really excited ... Yeah, leave it to us to plan a wedding and the remodeling right before we become parents.  I told Jack earlier that we were crazy.”

“CRAZY IN LOVE!”

“Jack ... gawd, he's horrible ... <sighs> ... that's exactly it.  I love him to pieces ... No, we weren't just calling to tell you.  Actually, we wanted to ask a favor.  We were thinking about places, and I remembered Mark said he was a member of Garden of the Gods, and I, I mean, we, were hoping that he might be able to get us in ... Okay ... She's checking with Mark, Jack.”

“I figured as much.  I can't believe you didn't tell me you saw her that day,” Jack remarked.

“I forgot.  I was going to tell you, but you were standing there all beautiful and sexy, and then you tried to seduce me.  Oops, hi again, Sara.  Gawd,” Daniel lamented as he sank lower into the sofa, Bijou jumping off his lap at the movement and running over to her beanbag.

“HE'S BLUSHING AGAIN.  GEEZ, SARA, WHAT ARE YOU DOING TO MY HUSBAND?”

“Sometimes, I could just kill him ... Ga...noooo, Sara, I'm not going to ask him that.”  Daniel sank down lower in his chair.  “Oh, gawd.”

Jack grabbed the phone, surprising Daniel, inquiring, “What are you saying to my husband?  He looks like a tomato! ... uh huh ... yeah ... Sara, you are so bad, but if you really want to know, what he does is ...”

“JACK JACKSON-O'NEILL, NOT ONE MORE WORD!  STOP NOW!” Daniel shouted as he sat up straight, still bright red, but speaking forcefully.

“Hmmm, Sara, I think maybe ... <laughs> ... yeah, lunch.”

“I don't think so, Jack.”

“Oh, he'll be worrying for weeks now, wondering if I'll tell you on the sly.”

“Jack, just ask her what Mark said,” Daniel requested.

“Sara, Daniel wants to know ... right ... okay ... sounds about right ... no, we haven't.  We figured we should get the place first, but it has to be soon, three to four weeks maximum with the remodeling and then the baby ... perfect.  Tell him thanks ... Take care ... Night.”

Jack clicked off the phone, put it on the coffee table, and stated, “Okay, Girl, you go over with Bij.”  He gently put Katie on the floor, and reluctantly, she ambled over to the beanbag and sacked out next to the mama beagle.  He smiled and turned his attention to his lover, reaching out with his left hand to caress Daniel's cheek as he leaned in for a kiss.  “Geez, I love it when you get so embarrassed.”

“She's as bad as you,” Daniel observed.

“Why do you think I married her?  By the way, she said to tell you goodnight, she loves you, and if you ever want to reconsider, she and Mark will always have a room for you.”

Daniel laughed, then asked, “But what about the wedding?”

“He's going to make some calls tomorrow and check on dates, and in the meantime, we need to firm up exactly what we want.  He said there is some basic information online.”

“Yeah?  Let's go,” the younger man suggested.

The couple got up and headed for the study where Daniel powered up Jack's computer, and they went in search of the club's website.

“There we go.  Oh, here, special events.”

Daniel clicked on the link, and the two proceeded to discuss ideas and options for their wedding.

====

“T, old buddy, how's it going?” Jack inquired two days later as he stopped by the Mountain.

“O'Neill?  It is good to see you well.  Where is DanielJackson?” the Jaffa inquired.

“O'Neill,” Jack added.  Seeing his friend's confused stared, he clarified, “It's Jackson-O'Neill, Teal'c.”

“Indeed.  Where is DanielJacksonO'Neill, O'Neill?”

Jack shook his head, wishing he hadn't brought up the name thing, and replied, “You know, Teal'c, you really need some more things in here.”

“I have all I need here, O'Neill,” the tall, strong man answered.

“Jackson-O... never mind,” Jack said and then paused.  “Teal'c, Daniel and I are getting married.”

“You are already married, are you not?”

“Uh, yes, but we're getting married again.”  Teal'c looked at Jack intently, waiting for more.  “Look, Teal'c, we ... Daniel and I, felt guilty about the first time.  I mean, it was perfect, but we always regretted that you and General Hammond weren't there.  We promised ourselves that after I retired we'd have another ceremony that both of you could attend, and all of our other friends, so we're finally doing it.  Will you come?”

“I would be honored O'Neill.”

Jack meandered around the room some more.  Teal'c's quarters at the SGC were larger than they used to be.  He also had a home on Chulak for his visits there as well as regular quarters on the Alpha Site where training was held.  Since Jack's retirement, Teal'c had become one of the SGC's main training instructors, and he frequently worked with the recruits on the Alpha Site.

“Is there something more?”

Jack coughed, and finally spoke, “Actually, T, I was thinking.  We have this custom on Earth.  When Daniel and I got married last time, we had to forego some of the traditions, but this time, no shortcuts.”  Jack took a breath, “Teal'c, I'd like you to be my best man.”

Teal'c looked blankly, trying to decipher the term.

“What it means is,” Jack began, “that you are like a brother to me, and I'd like you there, by my side, when Danny and I do the vows thing again.”

“I would be honored,” Teal'c repeated, bowing his head.  “Does DanielJackson also require a ... best man?”

“Actually, he has that covered.  How about some lunch?” Jack asked, the conversation having made him hungry.

Teal'c nodded, and the two headed for the SGC commissary.

“Been a while since I've had blue Jell-O,” Jack spoke, eager to enjoy one of his favorite treats.

“It is now turquoise,” Teal'c stated.

“No way,” Jack refuted.

“Blue has been banned,” the Jaffa continued.

“You're just yanking my chain,” Jack said as they walked.

“You do not have a chain, O'Neill, but, if you wish me to get you one ...”

“Never mind,” Jack sighed.  ~Turquoise Jell-O?  Nah, he's teasing me.~

====

“I'm going to miss this,” Daniel sighed.

“We'll still have a deck,” Jack reminded.

“I know, but it won't be this one,” Daniel said, leaning against Jack.

The two men were seated on the roof deck in their favorite spot, both sitting against the wall, Jack's arm around his husband, and Daniel resting against Jack's left shoulder.

“Space Monkey,” Jack said a bit sadly.

“Our first anniversary ... I mean ... you know.”

“It was like Christmas.  I think we gave each other everything but the kitchen sink.”

Daniel laughed, but then became somber as he softly recalled, “Sha're's death.”

Jack placed a kiss on Daniel's head, and added, “So much of us is here.  We're giving it up for a good cause, but a part of us will be gone.”

“I love you, Jack.”

“Ditto, Love.”

====

“Guys, will you cooperate, please?” Kayla begged for the sixth time in as many minutes.

“Sorry,” Jack said, putting Daniel's shirt back down.

Kayla was taking the first ever Jackson-O'Neill family portrait, but her subjects were misbehaving.

First, Daniel had teasingly insisted on wearing a bandana until Kayla had silenced him with “Daniel, you are not covering up that beautiful hair with anything.  I love that you're growing it out.  It suits you well.”

Then, Jack had kept making faces, prompting Kayla to remind him, “Jack, you aren't in Kindergarten, so stop acting like you're five years old!”

Next, the two dogs, Bijou and Katie, began a tug-of-war with one of their toys.

“Come on, Girls,” Kayla had begged.  “I was counting on you two to keep the boys in line.”

Bijou whined, dropping the toy, and nudging her puppy back into place by Daniel's feet.

Kayla thought she'd finally get her photo taken.  The backdrop was very sculptured and old-fashioned, and Jack and Daniel were wearing compatible clothing; that is, until Jack pulled out a bra and put it on.

“Gawd, Jack, I don't even want to know where you got that.”

Daniel laughed while Kayla simply groaned!  She had set the shot up again, but then it was Daniel's turn to make faces.

“It must be contagious,” Kayla had said.  “I'm warning you guys.  I'm going to go home if you don't settle down and help me out here!”

Both men had apologized sincerely, so as Kayla had prepared her sixth shot, she had been confident which she soon realized had been a mistake.  Right before snapping the picture, Jack had reached down and lifted up Daniel's shirt, revealing the young's man's well-built torso.  Even Daniel had objected to that one.

“Okay, guys, last chance ... and I mean it!”

“Okay!  Okay!  Don't get your panties in a wad,” Jack teased.

Daniel scrunched his nose as he turned around and looked at his husband, asking, “Don't get her what in a what?”

Jack shrugged nonchalantly and answered, “Panties ... in a wad.  It's an expression.”

“It is?”

“Yes, it is,” Jack said defensively.

Daniel stared for a few seconds, and then looked at Kayla, still in a bit of shock, and that's when Kayla got her photo.


Jack and Daniel were both facing the camera as were the two beagles and all four expressions seemed to say, “Are we through yet?”

“Perfect!  That's it!”

“Yes!” Jack jumped up.  “Free at last!  I'm free at last!”  Then he saw Daniel, still sitting, stared up at his husband, another scrunched look on his face.  “Daniel?”

“Jack?”

“Why are you looking at me like that?” the older man asked.

“Jack, I think we need to get your head examined.”

“Oh, but, Love, you can do that la...” Jack saw the shocked expressions on both Daniel's and Kayla's faces, “...ter ... I think I'll go change.”

As Jack turned and walked upstairs, Daniel broke into laughter, saying, “It must be the sun.  He's ... he's getting too much sun.”

“Must be,” Kayla chuckled, putting her camera equipment away.

“Kayla, I'm sorry we weren't very cooperative.  To be honest, I don't think we knew how to handle it.  It sounds silly.  A family portrait -- should be a snap.”

Daniel saw Bijou standing over by the patio door, so he opened it and let her out. Katie ran over to follow her mama out as well.

“Daniel, this is the first one, isn't it?  I mean ... for you, personally.”

A bit hesitantly, Daniel nodded and said, “My first family.  I mean ... you know, since my parent's died.  Jack, this house, those two,” Daniel looked outside for a moment, “my family and ... no, I've never had a portrait taken as part of ... anything, except  ... at work.  You know, they took team pictures every year, but that's not like this, of course.”

“This is going to be great.  You should take a portrait once a year, to show your family growing.  It's a great way to document the changes.”

“I'll talk to Jack about it.  He just hates to sit for more than five minutes at a time, unless we're ... gawd,” Daniel blushed.

Kayla laughed at Daniel's shyness and said, “It's okay.”

“No, I'm getting bad.  For so long, years actually, we had to lie, hide, cover up everything, and now we don't have to anymore and sometimes, without thinking, I say things I never would have said in front of anyone but Jack.  I'm not sure why that is.  It's kinda rude, I think.”

“No, it's not.  It's life, Daniel, and it's a sign of trust.  Friends and family talk about their love lives all the time.  We all joke and tease about whatever is or isn't happening.  You shouldn't be any different than the rest of us.”

Daniel walked over and gave Kayla a peck on the cheek, then stated, “That's, uh, something else I've never done a lot of ... until Jack.  Thank you, Kayla, for everything.”

“You're welcome.”

“Here, I'll carry this to your car for you,” the archaeologist offered.

“Thanks, Daniel.”

====

“Jack, I wish I hadn't agreed to this,” Daniel lamented.

“They were desperate,” Jack acknowledged.

“Tell me something, Love,” Daniel requested.

“What?” Jack asked.

“How come you gave in?”

Daniel had been surprised that his husband hadn't argued more vehemently when the request for Daniel's assistance had been made.  After all, he'd be gone for several days.

Jack kissed his lover.  He considered answering with a snappy retort, but changed his mind, choosing to be serious since they were about out of time.

“How often do the Nox approach us for anything?” Jack questioned.

“Never.”

“That's why.”

“And ...” Daniel prodded.

“And you may notice when you get there that Ferretti's team is going with you, and SG-3.”

“Both?”

“Both,” Jack said emphatically.

“We only need SG-9, Jack.”

“Maybe ... but if you're going, you're getting SG-2 and SG-3.  No discussion and no negotiation, and, Daniel, so help me if you argue about this I'll revoke your travelling permit, but Lou is gonna hang by you like a fly to paper.  You got that?”

“You're so tough.”

“No, I'm ... in love, and I need to be able to sleep at night.  Danny, don't touch anything.  Please?”

“This isn't that kind of a mission,” Daniel pointed out.

“Danny?”

“I promise,” Daniel agreed, then kissed his husband soundly.

“No chances, Danny.  We're having a baby,” Jack said softly, suddenly thinking he should grab his lover and do anything and everything he could to keep him from walking out the door.

“Jack, I have another question.”

“No?  You?  More questions?  I can't imagine!”

“Stop that.”  Daniel lovingly slapped Jack on the arm, but then put his arms around Jack's neck.  “Why aren't you coming to the SGC to see me off?”

“Honest truth?”  Daniel nodded.  “Because I couldn't do it.  Danny, I couldn't let you go.  It's taking everything I have to let you go now, and I guess, somehow, the illusion of you walking out of our house like you were going to the supermarket is just enough to keep me from going crazy.”

“I love you, Jack, and remember something while you're going crazy.”

“What?”

“I can't change who I am or what I do, but I have the most precious gift in the world waiting for me now.  I have you, and there's nothing in the world I want more, than to come back home to you.  I love you so much,” Daniel declared happily.

“Danny ... My Angel.”

The two kissed again, wishing they would never have to stop.

====

“We'll be starting here,” Andy Majentic said.

“Okay,” Jack sighed, looking up at the roof deck.

Andy walked away to talk with his crew.  Jack stood in the middle of his backyard looking up at the roof.  He watched as the crew got into position.  He saw Andy nodding to his assistant who headed over towards some other men, but just as they were to knock out the first railing, Jack yelled.

“STOP! ... “Wait!” Jack ran over to Andy.  “There has to be another way.”

“Another way to do what?”

Jack looked up at the roof deck and answered, “To save some place ... some place important.”  Looking back at the construction chief, he asked, “Where are those plans, and where's John?”

John Quinn was the owner of the construction company Jack and Daniel had hired to do the work.  Andy pointed Jack to the front of the house where John was making a phone call.

“John, we need to make some changes,” Jack said, almost as an order.

“Okay, General.  What did you have in mind?”  After Jack explained his idea, he snorted, “That's a bit unusual.”

“But can it be done?”

“Yes, at a *huge* price tag, with more manpower, if you want this job done as fast as you say.”

“I don't care.  Can you do it ... now?” Jack asked.

“It's your dough, General O'Neill.  I'll get on it right away.”

Jack nodded, breathing easy for the first time since the crew had arrived to begin their work.

~Some things are just way more important than money.~

====

Daniel had expected to see the bunch of workers laboring at the remodeling when he arrived home, and he wasn't disappointed.  He was also looking forward to surprising his lover, since his temporary return to the SGC had been concluded fourteen hours ahead of schedule.  As he walked inside, he had to move carefully to avoid stumbling over remnants of the remodeling.  They were paying a hefty price to get their job done quickly, and that meant hiring three times the normal work crew.

Daniel nodded to several of the men as they scurried about.  He finally walked into the backyard, but still didn't find his husband.

“Daniel?”  Daniel turned around and grinned.  “Danny!  You're home!”

Jack rushed to his husband and physically picked him up as he spun them both around in a circle.

“Jack, put me down.  There are people here!” Daniel said nervously, though quite pleased with the reception he had just received.

“Ah, Danny,” Jack gushed as he put his lover down to face him.  “I missed you so much.”

Jack kissed Daniel soundly, and though the younger man had intended to put off such a welcome until they were alone, he found himself drawn into his spouse, his arms wrapping around Jack's neck lovingly.

“Gawd, I love you,” the archaeologist sighed, happily resting in Jack's embrace until he saw the stare of a worker.  “Jack, stop.”

Daniel's tone was clear, and Jack understood, turning around and staring down the worker with one of his best general-type glares.  The worker finally went back to his labors.

Still facing the worker, Jack said assuredly, “I really don't give a fig, Danny.  This is our home, and we're married, and you've been gone for four long days, and I'm glad to see you.”  He looked back at his soulmate and asked, “All in one piece?”

“All in one piece.  I ... didn't touch anything,” Daniel said laughingly, his joviality being interrupted by another kiss, and again, he couldn't stop himself from responding to his husband.

“I love you, Danny.  Missed you ... crap, it was hard.”

“I know.  Me, too.”

The two chatted for a while, and, true to his statement, Jack didn't care what anyone thought.  He held Daniel close.  He had a right to be touching his husband, and they'd been separated.  He'd be darned if he was going to wait hours for nightfall before letting Daniel know just how much he was missed.

After a little while, Daniel said, “Jack, I want to go see the girls.”

“They've missed you, too.”

“Have they been all right with Mrs. Valissi?” Daniel inquired, concerned the beagles might be lonesome.

“Yeah,” Jack said hesitantly.

“Jaaaack?”

The older man smiled, admitting “I'm weak.  So sue me.”

“Which means?”

“Which means at night I've brought them home and kept them with me all the time,” Jack confessed.

“You must be exhausted.”

“What makes you think that?” the older man asked.

“Because you'd worry about them stepping on something so you wouldn't get any rest with them here.”

“They needed to know we were still here,” Jack asserted.

“My marshmallow.”

“Go on.  They'll be thrilled!”  Daniel started to walk away, but Jack grabbed him and again pulled him close.  “My heart.  My soul.  My life.  Always,” he said, kissing his husband with great passion.

“Mmmm,” Daniel moaned, “Forever.”

Another smile, and then Daniel left to visit Bijou and Katie.  He was grateful they had such a wonderful neighbor as Mrs. Valissi to take care of the two beagles while the remodeling was done.

~Let's put a stop to this.~  When Jack looked around, he saw the construction worker staring again.  He walked over to the man and asked sternly, “Do you have a problem?”

The worker glared, “No, but you do.”

“You have a choice.  Keep your eyes and your attitude to yourself, and do your job, or get out ... now.”

“You can't fire me, Mac.  I'm the bosses' brother,” the worker laughed, turning around and ignoring Jack.

Jack walked away, taking out his cell phone as he did so.

“John Quinn.  It's Jack O'Neill.”  Five minutes later, after discussing the situation with John, Jack put it bluntly.  “Look, I put up with a lot of crap in this upside down world, but I'm not going to do it in my own home ... Don't give me that crap, Quinn.  I have resources that you can't even imagine.  I want him gone ... now ... Fine.  You're fired.  I want your men off my premises within the hour.”

Jack hung up the cell, whistling.  This project was paying John Quinn way too much money for a bit of nepotism to win out.  He returned to the backyard and sat in a chair, smiling and whistling at the worker in question.  The worker glared back, but Jack just smiled, whistled and occasionally waved.

====

Twenty-five minutes later, John Quinn arrived.  Jack didn't move; he just smiled at John Quinn, watching as the man took a deep breath and moved to his brother.  One minute later, the worker threw down a tool and stormed out, sputtering a few obscenities, and right before leaving, he yelled back, “You two are queer, and there are ways to deal with that!”

Jack saw the owner of the business try to usher his brother out quickly, and while he did that, Jack made another phone call.

“Thanks, Carter ... Yeah, the sooner the better.  I can handle threats and idiots, but I want to make sure I know who I'm dealing with.”

====

That night, as Daniel laughed, Jack questioned, “What's so funny?”

“Think about it, Babe.  All those years in sleeping bags on other planets, and here we are in a sleeping bag in our backyard,” Daniel chuckled.

Jack also chuckled at the realization, but it was just like their recent trip to Oshkosh.  Just like that trip, they were camping out was by choice, and that made all the difference in the world.

“Yeah, I guess it is pretty funny, but then, on most of those missions, I couldn't do this,” Jack spoke.

Jack rolled over and kissed Daniel, his right hand tracing the side of Daniel's body.

“Most, but not all,” Daniel said, his face smiling from the memories.  “P0R-112,” he whispered and then leaned in for another kiss.

“Was that the one with the waterfalls and the beaches?” Jack asked.

“Hmm-mmm.  Loved that planet.”

“Great place,” Jack agreed before nibbling on Daniel's ear.

“Did the thunderstorm put us behind schedule?” Daniel questioned.

The archaeologist had already been told about a brief shower the day before, too. Actually, they'd been lucky.  Since construction had begun, the weather had been clear for the most part, except for an hour or show on the thirty-first and then the rainfall that had occurred earlier today.

“It only lasted a couple of hours, Danny, and with all the extra workers, I don't think it did any real harm.”

“But they will work over Labor Day if ...”

“Yeah, I confirmed that with Quinn when the rain started,” Jack informed.  “Everything is a 'go' for the extra overtime, if it's needed, but he indicated he didn't think they'd have to work the actual holiday.”

“It just needs to get done, Jack.  We waited so long.  Why do we do that?  No, don't answer.  I know we already talked about it.  We think we have forever,” Daniel sighed.

“We always do, Angel,” Jack said, sharing another kiss with his Heart.

The lovers were nestled together on the patio in a sleeping bag made for one and loving every minute of it.  The grass was still a little too wet to have placed the sleeping bag on.

~I'm going to miss our roof deck,~ Daniel thought, full of sadness.  As he looked upward at the construction area, instead of the wooden railing, all he saw now were walls.  He knew there would be a new deck, albeit smaller, at the end of the house when they were done, but, still, he silently yearned but that precious place where he had first given Jack his heart.  ~I wish there had been a way to save it.~

Jack sensed his lover's thoughts and was about to tell him what he'd arranged, when his internal alarms began to go off.  Focusing on what was disturbing him, he realized there was definitely something wrong.

After a minute, the Special Ops trained man whispered, “Daniel, shh.  Don't move.”

At first, Daniel thought Jack was being playful, but he quickly recognized the tone.

Jack brought his finger up to his mouth in a shushing motion as he quietly climbed out of the sleeping bag and moved to the side of the house.

Daniel got up and followed him, as Jack had known he would.  Now in Special Ops mode, Jack pointed towards the front of the house and signaled for Daniel to go around the other side.  With all the construction work, the yard wasn't fenced in like it normally was.

It only took a minute before a man chose to try and enter the back of the yard, carrying a can of gas.  Jack grabbed him, tossing him to the ground.  Hearing the commotion, Daniel quickly returned.

“Who is it, Jack?”

“If I'm right, it's that moron,” Jack stated as he moved to turn over the man.  Sure enough, it was the fired worker, John Quinn's brother.  “You just sealed your fate, Mister Quinn.”

“You're sick, Mac, slobbering all over pretty boy there.”

“Want some advice?  Don't bother answering; I'm going to give it to you anyway.  Shut up,” Jack ordered.

The man laughed, a cold, evil sound, spitting out, “What do you think is going to happen?  So I go to jail for a few hours.  Then I'll be out, and I'll be coming after you.”

The man's eyes were dark.  He wasn't making an empty threat, and Jack knew it.

“Oh, I don't think so, but you're welcome to your delusions.  Get out.”

“What?”

“Go.  Get out,” Jack ordered as he got off the man and motioned for him to leave.

The worker was momentarily confused, and then he laughed again, this one even colder and more chilling than the last.  With a glance at Daniel, he left.

“Jack?”

“He's right.  He'd be out in twenty-four.  We can't prove anything.”

Daniel turned and walked quietly away.  Jack followed, sitting down on the sleeping bag next to the younger man.

“Danny, he's just a loud mouth.”

“The girls, Jack ... and soon, our baby.  We have to protect them,” the concerned archaeologist bemoaned.

“We are, and we will.”

“From a lunatic carrying gasoline?”

“From anyone who tries to hurt them,” Jack promised.

“How?”

Jack smiled reassuringly.  The lovers weren't alone.  Their extended family was very close, and each would never hesitate to fight for the other.

“We have resources,” the general promised.

“Jack, Teal'c isn't going to become our private bodyguard, nor are we going to have him terrorize our enemies.  He'd never get to meditate.”

“Who says we need Teal'c?”

Jack kissed Daniel and got up, walking inside the house.

“Jack?  Jack, what are you going to do?” Daniel called after his husband and then gave chase.

====

“You're brilliant, Jack.  Definitely a genius,” Daniel cooed in Jack's ear.

“It was nothing, Love.  I think that man, and I use the term lightly, will learn his lesson,” Jack mused mischievously.

“Love my fix-it man,” Daniel said, kissing Jack's bare chest as they once again lay under the stars in their backyard.

Jack flipped them over and began his own exploration of Daniel's bare chest, until suddenly, a dark spot caught his eye.

“What's this, Danny?”

Jack kissed the bruise on Daniel's upper left arm that he'd just discovered.

“Oh, I fell,” Daniel explained.  He saw his marshmallow about to overreact so he quickly cupped Jack's face and kissed him.  “It was a simple fall, Jack.  No Goa'uld.  No aliens.  No bad guys.  I tripped ... kinda like the old days.  I was ... thinking about you and ... not paying attention.”

“I'm sorry.”  Jack brushed his lips on Daniel's.  “Does it hurt?”

“A teeny tiny bit,” Daniel admitted.  Jack kissed the bruise again, tenderly pressing his lips on purplish skin.  “Any better?”

“Mmmm ... lots,” Daniel sighed happily.

“Good.”  Jack grinned as he leaned his head against Daniel's shoulder.  “I worried, you know.”

“I know.  You always do.”

“It was really okay?”

“Safe.  Peaceful.  Just the bruise from my own carelessness because I missed you so dang much.  By the way, you can reward Lou.  He was on my six so much that for a minute I thought we might be joined at the hip.  Jack?”

“Mmm?”

“I ... I probably shouldn't admit this.”

“Tell me,” Jack requested curiously.

“I let him.  I mean.  Normally, I argue.  You know how I am, but ... I have a lot to live for now.  I ... I let Lou be just as ... as ...”

“Glued to you?” the general completed.

Daniel smiled, nodding, and then said, “Yeah.  I let him stick to me like glue.  Thank  you, Love.”

Jack sighed as he ran his hand along Daniel's body, thankful his lover was still in one piece.

“I love you, Angel.”

“Love you, too!”

====

The next morning, at dawn, Jack and Daniel had a visitor as they enjoyed their breakfast -- Froot Loops for two.

“Hey there, good buddy!”

“O'Neill.  Doctor Jackson.”

“Good morning, Thor,” Daniel greeted with a smile.  “How'd it go?”

“Loki enjoyed the opportunity to do another experiment on humans.  I would say it went ... very well,” the Asgard replied.

“And that idiot Quinn?” Jack asked.

“I would anticipate he will not be bothering you again,” Thor stated confidently.

“How do you know, Thor?  I mean, are you sure?” Daniel asked, a tone of concern in his voice.

“Loki made the subject aware that certain humans had a vital link, necessary to the Asgard.  He pointed out that O'Neill had such a link and that anyone around him who possessed malevolent feelings towards or those close to him would be brought up for further studies.  You can rest well, Doctor Jackson.  The subject was ... not intrigued by the prospect of another ... examination.  You might say that Loki went a little ... overboard.”

“Thank you, Thor,” Jack and Daniel said in unison.

“If I can be of further assistance ...”

“We'll call,” Jack stated.

“I must go.”

“Sure ... and there he goes,” Jack said, smiling at his spouse.

“Resources,” Daniel stated softly.

“Yeah, and I didn't even have to kill him,” the Special Ops expert mused.

“Jack, I hate leaving again,” Daniel sighed.  “I mean, I just got back, but ...”

“But duty calls, Love,” Jack replied about the meetings Daniel had scheduled in Denver.

“I'd cancel them, but they're meeting with me over the weekend as a favor,” Daniel reminded.

“I understand.  Danny, you might as well stay overnight,” Jack suggest.

“I don't really want to,” the younger man sighed.  Then he added, “But with the schedule I have, I guess I should.”

“When's the first appointment?” Jack asked.  “Maybe we could ...”

“Uh, actually, Babe, I need to get to the airport,” Daniel interjected, though he hated himself for it.

“Airport?”

“Jack, I just missed four days of flying time.  If you want me to get this pilot's license anytime soon, I need to make up for the hours I missed.  I don't want to get rusty.”

“Rusty?  After four days?” Jack asked.  Realizing Daniel was correct, though, he waved off his objection with his hand and said, “Nah, you're right.  You need to get in some time.”

“I figured I could get in a couple of hours and still make it to Denver in time for the first meeting, if I leave ...”

“Now?”

“No, I still have thirty minutes,” Daniel said with a seductive smile.

“Daniel, stop smiling like that, and eat your Froot Loops,” Jack ordered.

“I love you, Jack.”

“I love you, too, Fly Boy,” Jack teased.

As the laughter subsided, the lovers kissed and shared another spoon of Froot Loops before regretfully parting one more time.

====

~Perfect.~  Jack took a final walk-through of the job, pleased with the results.  He couldn't wait for his husband to get home to show him.  As he wrote out his final check to John Quinn, he commented, “I want to apologize again for my brother.  He's opinionated, to say the least.”

“Just as long as he stays away from my family.”

“Not a problem, General.  He moved to Brazil over the weekend,” Quinn announced.

“Brazil?  What's in Brazil?” Jack asked.

“I don't know, but he's been acting strangely, talking about aliens and mumbo jumbo like that.  He said he needed to get far away from here.  I always knew he was a bit off, but he's really gone over the edge now,” Quinn answered.

Jack didn't say anything, just finished his business with John Quinn and waited for Daniel to come home.

====

“We really need to stop this being apart business.  It's bad for my health,” Jack whined after greeting Daniel with a huge kiss.

“Mine, too.  I never sleep.  I need my comfy pillow.”

“And I need my warm blanket.”

“Gawd, we're sappy.”

“We have more sap than trees and maple syrup,” the older man quipped.

“That's bad, Jack.”

“Sue me.”

“I'd rather do this,” Daniel said, connecting their mouths together for yet another kiss.  “Mmm,” he responded after, his hand running the length of Jack's chest.  “I really missed you.”

“Ditto, Babe, big time.  I want to show you the house, but, first, I really need to do this.”  Jack's tongue worked its way inside his lover's mouth, the kiss lasting until both gasped for air.  Their kisses fueled the passion that had been launched minutes earlier, and Jack didn't think he could wait any longer.  “I want you, Danny.”

“You'd better!”

Daniel almost leaped into his husband's arms as he pressed his body into Jack.  The two never made it to the bedroom.  In fact, they fell to the floor of the entranceway, their need and hunger for each other so strong they had only moved two feet away from the door.

“Gawd, I missed you, Jack.”

Jack would have responded in kind but he was too busy ravishing his lover, and words simply weren't possible.  They made love in the entranceway, their need overwhelming.  Then, they lay together, as they so often did, just holding and caressing the other with tender touches that reaffirmed their love and need for each other.

A few minutes later, the two finally got up.  They cleaned up and took a quick shower, a shower that could have been quicker if they hadn't kissed and fondled each other so much during it.

“Hey, let me show you the new rooms,” Jack said after they dressed.

“The nursery.  I'm so excited, Jack,” Daniel responded.

“Uh, I ... I have a little surprise, too.”

“I should have known.  You're always full of surprises,” Daniel spoke with a smile.

Jack showed Daniel the garage first, which now featured a loft atop it, accessible only from the inside of the house, via stairs located next to the study.  Then they went upstairs.

Jack had led Daniel by the hand, but he stopped suddenly and said, “I hope you like this because I have to admit, it raised the cost from whooo to whooooopidoooo.”

“What did you do?” Daniel questioned, laughing at his husband's terminology and the expression that had accompanied it.

“It's more what I couldn't do, Angel.  I couldn't let it go,” Jack admitted.

“Jack?”

“Come on.”  The two stood at the edge of the hallway at the top of the stairs.  “So,” Jack said a bit nervously, “We have your den and our bedroom, and the plan was to tack on the nursery and a second smaller room for the babies with a little roof deck on the end, right?”

“What did you do, Jack?” Daniel asked suspiciously.

Jack took Daniel's hand and instead of going down the hallway, he took him inside their bedroom and over to the wall nearest the outside of the house.

“A door?  Here?” Daniel questioned.

Jack smiled as he opened the door and led Daniel outside.  The younger man was wide-eyed with surprise.

“Gawd, Jack, it's ... our deck.”

Daniel turned around in a circle, trying to study the configuration.

“I couldn't do it, Danny.  They were going to chop it down.  Geez, I know that was our plan, but I saw them with the equipment ...” Jack gazed into Daniel's eyes and shook his head, whispering, “La Mio Bello Stella Cadente.  I couldn't let this spot disappear.  Don't be angry, Danny.”  He looked down and away to his right.  Begrudgingly, he added, “It cost us a fortune.”

In silence, Daniel took it all in once again.  Their roof deck was virtually intact except for the access that they'd had from the backyard.  The ladder they had used to climb to their stargazing haven was also gone, and they no longer had a view of their backyard, the hallway now in its place.

Opposite the master bedroom was the nursery wall.  The roof was open and the outside wall to their room untouched.  As they had done for years, Jack and Daniel would still be able to go outside and sit in their favorite spot and look up at the stars.  Jack even had the roof to the nursery sloped.  Their nighttime view would be unobstructed.

“Danny, look ...” Jack pressed a button, and Daniel almost fell backward watching as a roof closed over them, “... a sunroof.”

“Oh, Jack.  Wow!”

Daniel gazed up.  He didn't have words to express his feelings.  All he could do was walk the deck area, continuing to breathe in the joy from something he thought he had lost forever.

“We can have picnics, even if it rains,” Jack smiled, “and I thought about a door on the baby's side, but I figured it was safer just leaving us with one access.  I took out the other ladder, too.  Easy enough to put them back, maybe add a door when the kids are old enough to be responsible, if we want.”

Jack pushed the button that opened the roof again.  Daniel walked over to the railing which was still intact as decoration against the new walls. He delicately traced it along the hallway and the nursery, and then to the one totally open side, the one that technically faced the neighbors, but all he could see were trees.  The view was still very nice from that angle.

“Angel, I know it put the nursery a few feet further away, but we're going to have all those monitoring devices ...” Jack said with anxiety in his voice, his concern about Daniel's reaction beginning to consume him.  “Danny?  So sue me, I'm a romantic sap.”

Daniel finally turned and walked slowly over to his husband, saying nothing as he moved.

“Danny, say something.”

Daniel reached up with his right hand and touched Jack's cheek, caressing briefly, and then he lifted his left hand and did the same.  Cupping Jack's face, ever so slowly, Daniel leaned in and barely brushed Jack's lips.  Looking briefly into the chocolate brown eyes he cherished, Daniel began to devour Jack's mouth.

Jack went willingly, happily, as Daniel lowered them to the ground.  He was answering Jack with a communication of their bodies, as they made love on their roof deck haven.

====

“How'd you think of it?” Daniel asked as he lay on his back on the deck next to his husband, looking up at the stars.

“Desperation,” Jack answered as he brought Daniel's left hand to his mouth and kissed it.  “You really like it, Danny?”

“Gawd, Jack, I dreaded coming back and having our deck gone.  I'm glad you thought of it.”

Jack took a hesitating breath, turning his head to look at Daniel as he asked, “Even though it pushed the nursery further away?”

“It's only a few feet, and like you said, with what Sam is doing for us, we'll be able to hear everything.  It's ... Jack, it's like the study.  That room is for you, and the den is for me.  This deck ... it's us, and I don't think we should lose sight of us when we have our children.”

Daniel frowned causing Jack to frown.

“Hey, what's wrong?” Jack asked.

“Jack, why is it when I talk to you, I feel like I'm in the second grade?  I'm a linguist, and I can never say what I really want to, and it drives me crazy.  It's so important.  Oh, for crying out loud!”

Jack laughed at being channeled by his lover.  Daniel said so many things now that were Jack-like phrases, and every time, it made the older man smile.

“You're thinking too hard.  I know what you mean.”

“Jack,” Daniel turned over onto his right side and kissed Jack's chest before speaking again.

“Hmm?” Jack sighed softly as he took his hand to rub Daniel's bare back.

“We have to finalize the wedding.  Did you make up your mind about what we talked about?”

“It's crazy, Babe.  I'm not sure we have the right to ask.”

“I know.  It's one thing to go to the wedding, but this ... it's probably too much,” Daniel spoke with a hint a sadness in his voice.

“I'm sure it would surprise everyone if he'd do it.”

“It kinda seems right, though, but I'm just concerned he'll go along with it because he knows it's what we want.”

“I don't think he'll do it if he doesn't want to,” Jack opined.

“What do we do, Jack?  We're not hiding anymore, but that doesn't mean it's easy for our friends who are still military.”

“You know what, Angel?  I'm tired of making choices for everyone, worrying about what's right or wrong.  We're right.  I mean, together.  Let's go with we want.  They all know we'll understand if they say no, but at least they'll know we wanted them there.”

Daniel rested his head on Jack's chest and agreed, “Okay.  Then we go with the first list we made.”

“Plan A it is!”

====

-- Chapter Eight:  Faint of Heart!

====

“Wow!” Janet said as she looked around the room that she and Cassandra were sharing with Sam at the Garden of the Gods Country Club.  “How much do you think Daniel's salary was?”

“Whatever it was, I think we underestimated it all those years,” Sam mused.

“They just want all of us to have a good time,” Cassandra said as she unpacked her overnight bag.  “Besides, they aren't paying for everyone.  Just us special people.”

“Right,” Janet scowled at her daughter.

“I can't wait to be pampered again,” Sam spoke jovially.

“What's the schedule for the day?” Janet asked, as she nodded at their personalized, engraved invitations to the weekend event, which included an individually designed schedule for each of their very special friends.

Jack and Daniel had gifted those in their extended wedding party with a weekend at the facility.  They'd hoped to book the facility for Saturday and Sunday, but the popular club was previously booked for Saturday, so they had to make do with a Sunday and Monday combination.  They figured a lot of their friends wouldn't be able to attend, having to work on the weekday, but, after reviewing other options, they had decided that this was the best one.

Thus, today, Sunday, the guests would be treated to a special day of  pampering.  There would be a group lunch and cocktail party, and then the wedding would take place at sunrise on Monday and be followed by a brunch reception.

The guests would each have a massage featuring an aromatherapy soak with herbal extracts and essential oils; facials, that for the women would include a deep cleansing, gentle steam, facial massage, specialty ampoule and a specialty mask; and for the men a deep cleansing process, facial massage, intensive hydrating mask and calming protective barrier to assist in soothing the irritation caused by razor burn; a manicure with special attention given to cuticles and a pleasurable hand massage; a pedicure that featured exfoliation and a massage with Alpine oil; and, finally, a shampoo and blow dry.

As for Jack and Daniel, they had arranged to have the 'Romantic Couples' special.  Of course, they had planned ahead, making sure no one would be shocked by a same-sex couple.  Their special pampering included a private hour with dual aromatherapy massages by candlelight, complete with rose petals.

The day proceeded smoothly.  Various guests chatted as they checked in and passed each other during their pampering sessions, and all were eager to attend the evening's cocktail party.

The happy couple had decided the cocktail party would be the best option, considering their decision to be married at sunrise, since it would allow for an early evening.  They had asked that guests not bother with gifts, requesting that if anyone felt the need to give them something, then they should give to their favorite environmental or children's charity.

“Mom, do you think they'll be surprised?”

Cassandra had been looking forward to the cocktail party all day and couldn't wait for her favorite uncles to arrive.

“Totally, Sweetie.”

“Here they come!”  Frances grinned, strolling over to join her sister, Crystal.  The two women had met Jack and Daniel during their very first trip to Disneyland years ago, and they'd also been at their first wedding.  “I can't wait to see those two again.”

“This is so exciting,” Megan stated, beaming with happiness for the two men.

Jack and Daniel entered the large reception area and were greeted by their family of friends.  Hugs were exchanged, memories recalled, and laughter was in abundant.

“Wow, Jack, look at everyone,” Daniel spoke, surprised to see the room filled with so many family and friends.

“Yeah,” an amazed Jack said, looking around for his ex-wife, who had ended up coordinating the RSVPs since the event had been scheduled with her husband's name and club privileges.

Then, Erik Wilcox clanged on his glass to get everyone's attention.  Erik was a friend of Jack's from his childhood and high school days in Chicago.  They hadn't seen each other in years until they had accidentally ran into each other when Jack had taken his lover back to his hometown to show him some of his old childhood haunts.

The room was crowded, and everyone was having such a good time that Erik needed some help to get the group's attention, so Teal'c, wearing his 'Murray' hat and identity for the evening, whistled loudly.

Jack stared at his friend, stunned, and then leaned over and whispered in Daniel's ear, “Did you teach him that?”

“No, not me.”

Suddenly, Sam, Janet, and Cassandra all let out a series of loud, near-deafening whistles to quiet the room.

Jack and Daniel stared at each other, speaking at the same time, “That's who he learned it from!”

“Listen up, Folks,” Erik began.  “Those of you privileged to be at Jack and Daniel's first wedding know that it was pretty perfect.  It would be ridiculous to try and top that, so we're not going to, but we do have a few surprises for our friends here.”

“Should we duck out now?” Jack joked loudly.

“Just watch, my friend,” Erik replied mischievously.  “First of all, these two thought they could get away with asking us not to bring them any gifts.”

“Oh, gawd,” Daniel said softly.  Whispering to Jack, he said, “It's not that we were being selfless, we just don't have room for anything.”

“Tsk! Tsk! Tsk!,” Erik said as he shook his head.  “Sam?  You want to do the honors?”

Sam smiled and went to stand by Erik to address the group.  As she talked, Erik slipped off to the side to go help with the surprise.

“I'm sure everyone knows that Jack and Daniel are about to become parents,” the woman spoke, addressing the crowd.

Whoops and hollers went up in the room.  Mark Kingston, the couple's lawyer, patted Jack on the back, and Suzanna Simpson gave her foster sibling a kiss on the cheek.  Kayla was radiating as she gently rubbed her bulging belly, showing it off to the guests.  Jack and Daniel radiated, too, as they both looked at the young woman with sweet smiles on their faces.

“Well, I happen to know that they've been squabbling ...” Sam began.

“We are *not* squabbling,” Jack corrected sternly.

“We don't squabble,” Daniel reiterated.  As Sam stared at them, he clarified, “We bicker.”

“Oh.  Sorry,” Sam laughed, as did much of the audience.  “I happen to know that these two are still bickering over nursery styles.  They've gone back and forth from modern to traditional, maple or cherrywood, natural ... oh, geez, and should it be Jay Jay or Winnie the Pooh or Mickey Mouse.  To tell you all the truth, it's been the happiest bickering I've ever heard.”  Most everyone smiled, making eye contact with others in the room as Sam continued, “But you haven't decided yet, right?”

“Right,” the two said in unison.

“Good.  We decided for you,” Sam announced.

“What?” both men responded at the same time.

“Fellas!” Sam looked over at several of the men who brought out the special gifts for the happy couple.

The hardworking men were Evan and Robert (Mrs. Valissi's son and his partner), Mark Wilson (Sara's husband), John Miller (one of their neighbors), Sergeant Siler (from the SGC), Mark Kingston, and Erik.

“Wow!” Daniel exclaimed enthusiastically as he walked over towards the nursery furniture.

“It's handcrafted by a friend of Evan's, using only the best materials, of course,” Sam informed.

“It's too much, but it's perfect,” Jack said as he looked over the crib, cradle, changing table, double drawer chest, and set of two toddler beds.

“Now, I know you're wondering how it can be handmade and done so quickly.  The truth is that a lot of us have been planning this as a baby shower present, but when you requested that no one bring gifts, we thought folks might want to contribute to this,” Sam explained.

“And it's so cool,” Cassandra jumped in.  “Everyone contributed.  Everyone here.  I think that says a lot about how wonderful my uncles are.  Uncle Jack and Uncle Daniel, you know how much I love you both.  I really want you to remember this because, well, I was the financial director of this project, and, well, I didn't have to bug anyone.  Not a goofball in the bunch!”

“Wow!” Daniel repeated, still marveling and examining the furniture.

“Plus,” Janet spoke up, “We collected so much that we have a couple of sizeable gift certificates that we arranged for at a couple of the best stores so that when you decide on Jay Jay or Mickey, you can go get the mobiles and smaller accessories.”

“I think we'll need diapers, lots of diapers,” Jack commented.

“No, we got you those.  Actually, we purchased a diaper service for you, too.  Figured you might appreciate that,” Sylvia Preston announced as she beamed, adding to discussion.  Silently, she added, ~Trust me, you *are* going to need all of these things!~

“Jack,” Daniel said as he leaned into his husband.  “We have the best friends.”

“The best family,” Jack whispered, giving Daniel a kiss on his temple.

“My turn!” Sara called out.

“Watch out!  The ex-wife is about to speak!” Jack teased, a big grin on his face.

“And this ex-wife demands your attention, Sir!”

“Now she says 'Sir'!  I tried for years to get her to say that.  Actually, I always wanted her to salute me after ...”

“JACK!” Daniel chastised, hitting his lover sharply in the abdomen.

“He'll never change,” Sara said, not trying to cease her growing laughter one bit.  “I have a surprise, too.  Jack and Daniel, I know you both wanted Lisa to come and preside over this special occasion, but, as you know, her husband had a photography assignment overseas, and he wanted her to go with him.  Unfortunately, it wasn't just a trip, but a second honeymoon for them, and one they'd been planning for a very long time.  So, I know you've arranged for a replacement, and I'm sure they'll be great.”

Jack and Daniel nodded, but both looked at each other, sharing a silent wish that Lisa had been able to attend.  Lisa Anderson Cassidy was one of Sara's sorority sisters.  She lived in Canada and had been honored to officiate at the couple's first wedding in November 2003.

“Well, I should tell you.  I fired the replacement,” Sara announced, stunning the couple.

“You did what?”

“You heard me, Jack O'Neill.  Fired him!  I got my own replacement,” the blonde responded smugly.

“Sara!” Jack said with a warning, not sure whether she was teasing or if he should strangle her.

“Here's your replacement, Jack,” Sara said as she pointed to the back of the room.

“Jack, it's ...”

“Lisa!” both men said at the same time, and both wearing huge smiles on their faces upon seeing the woman.

“What the ... Holy Wedding ... Way to go ex-wife!” Jack exclaimed.  He actually walked to Sara and gave her a big hug, picking her up.  He placed a kiss on her cheek and whispered very quietly, “Thank you, Sara.  You really are a peach.  I mean that.”

“Aw, Jack.  Go say 'hello' to Lisa.”

Jack nodded and headed over to greet Lisa.  Daniel was already there, smiling and chatting happily with Lisa and her husband, Carl, as they worked their way across the room.

“We couldn't miss this,” Lisa informed cheerfully.

“Thank you so much,” Daniel replied appreciatively, fighting back a tear as he hugged her.

“Carl, you didn't have to interrupt your trip for us,” Jack stated sincerely as he shook the man's hand.

“Lisa nagged me something crazy,” the photographer replied.

“I couldn't miss the chance to officiate your wedding ... again.  You two are very special people, and it meant a lot to Sara, too.”

**She's amazing, Jack.  Sara, I mean,** Daniel communicated, looking over at Sara and seeing how truly happy she was.

**Yeah.  No argument from me.  She's not you, though, Love, and this is how it's supposed to be -- you and me.  Geez, I'm happy, Danny.**

**Me, too.**

The party continued on for a while, Jack and Daniel both overwhelmed at their wedding presents and special surprises.  They visited with their guests and were happy to see that Dale and Nancy Rancolini had come, as had Sean and Barbara Douglas.  Dale, Sean, and Jack all owned airplanes now, and the old Air Force Academy buddies had decided to begin meeting a couple of times a month just to talk about flying, something Daniel highly approved of.

“Okay, Uncles,” Cassandra said, approaching the couple at the agreed upon hour of 9 p.m.

“Cassie, you are so *not* separating us this time,” Jack stated as he pulled Daniel to him, holding onto him tightly in a big dramatic movement.  “He's mine, and I'm not sleeping without him.”

“Jack, she just wants to say goodnight,” Daniel soothed.

“Oh.  Well, that's okay then.”

“I love you, Jack,” Daniel said, leaning in to give his love a kiss.

====

“Morning, My Love,” Jack said, kissing the top of Daniel's head as he caressed his back.

“Shhh, J'ck ... sleep'ng.”

“Oh.  Danny, it's 0500.”

“That's nice.  Now, go sleep, J'ck,” Daniel replied as he moved his head slightly on Jack's chest, as if trying to bury himself in amongst the gray chest hairs.

“Angel, sunrise is in just around the corner,” Jack stated, hoping to get a more appropriate response from his lover.

“Shhh ...”

“Danny?”

“What?  Gaw...<yawn>...shhh ...”

“Daniel!” Jack spoke more loudly and forcefully.

“What, Jack?” Daniel asked, finally moving his head to look at his husband but feeling angry at being disturbed.

“Sunrise,” Jack stated succinctly.

“So?”

“We're getting married,” the older man reminded.

“That's nice, Jack.  NOW BE QUIET AND GO TO SLEEP!” the younger man ordered, putting his head back down on his Jack pillow and closing his eyes.

Jack hummed the wedding march for a minute.  His Danny was not a morning person, especially after a late night like last night.  While the cocktail party may have ended at a decent time, the two lovebirds had been engaged in a passionate love fest that went on until after midnight.  Jack wondered now if maybe they should have had Cassandra keep them apart after all.  He was beginning to get concerned that he might not be able to roust his lover.

“WEDDING?  OH, MY GAWD!  JACK ... WHAT TIME IS IT?” Daniel shouted as he shot up out of bed in a panic.

Jack laughed as he quickly rose and went to Daniel, assuring, “Danny, we have plenty of time for a nice, calm shower.”

“Calm?”

“No hanky panky,” Jack advised.

“I like hanky panky,” Daniel admitted with a shy smile.

“Yeah, well if we hank our panks we'll miss our wedding,” Jack quipped.

“No hanky panky,” Daniel sighed before sharing a kiss with his Love.  “Jack?  We're getting married.”

“Again.  Don't forget.  You are already mine, so no backing out,” the older man reminded.

“Never.  Love you so much.”

“Love you, too, but we need to scoot.”

====

Sunrise would be at 6:43 a.m., and that's when the wedding ceremony would commence at a secluded overlook.

“So beautiful,” Jack crooned into his lover's ear as he embraced him.

“And you're so sexy.  I love these outfits, Jack.  I'm glad we're getting to wear them again.”

“Me, too.”

The couple had decided to wear the same clothing they'd worn at their first wedding -- cream colored Filipino Barongs, each with an unique embroidered pattern, and white pants.

At 6:10 a.m., Sam and Janet knocked on their door, impatiently waiting for a response.

“You know, Janet, I'm thinking we should have separated them.  I'd bet they ...”

“You would bet they what, Carter?” Jack asked with a grin on his face as he opened the door.

“Nothing, Sir.  Where's Daniel?” Sam inquired.

“Here!  I'm right here!” Daniel called out as he scooted in quickly between Jack and the door.  “I was, uh ...”

“Oh, you two ready?” Sam asked, a bit surprised but still a bit skeptical that things were running as smoothly as her friends were acting like they were.

“Oh, yeah,” Jack said as he looked at Daniel and smiled.

The wedding party used a golf cart to head to the site of the wedding.  Sam drove with Janet sitting next to her and the nervous couple in the back.

“Hey, what are you thinking about?” Jack inquired.

“It's silly,” Daniel said, looking off to his right.

“Tell me.”

With a sigh, the archaeologist confided, “Part of me wishes the girls were here.  I told you, it was silly.  They're dogs, but I ... I just ... gawd, it's silly.”

“Not really, Love, not the way we treat them, and to be honest, I miss the little beasties.  I wish they were here, too.”

“We should have brought them,” Daniel lamented.

Sam and Janet shared a grin that went  undetected by the two men as they continued on.

“It's lovely here,” Daniel observed as the four got out of the vehicle near a tent that had been set up for them to wait in.

The happy couple strolled around the tent, too nervous to sit down.

Outside, some one-hundred fifty of their friends were seated in a circle around a shrine.  The shrine was made of two circular platforms, one slightly higher than the other, topped by a canopy of red and yellow roses.  More roses had been placed around the base of the platform in the shape of interwoven hearts.  A slew of rose petals also lined the path that led from the tent to the circle.

At one side of the circle, overlooking a beautiful vista, a trio of friends played soft and gentle music, the combination of violin, guitar and harp forming a lovely yet unique chorus.  It was the perfect musical harmony and made a pleasing backdrop to the lovely floral decor of the setting.

At the center of the shrine, on the top platform was an elegant white archway, completely covered with vines and various colored roses.

Jack and Daniel sneaked a peak outside the tent at their family of friends.  The two had been stunned at how many had accepted their invitation to their wedding, especially the military types.  The first few rows were reserved for their closest family of friends, including those who had attended their first wedding.

Over in a corner, Sara and Sam were huddled together.

“You think they'll do it like we rehearsed it?” Sara asked, hoping their surprise would go off without a hitch and yet terrified that it wouldn't.

“They are so smart, Sara.  It's uncanny,” Sam replied.

“It's going to be quite a surprise, but it could backfire.”

“Maybe, but I'm betting it goes as planned,” Sam stated confidently.  “By the way, where's Mark?”

“He's checking on Angela,” Sara answered.  “She was being fussy.  It's a little early for her.”

“Hello, Ladies,” a smiling Jack greeted.  “Here we are again!”  As the three laughed, he asked, “What happened to Daniel?”

“Suzanna stole him away for a minute.  I think she's having troubles with her boyfriend,” Sam informed.

“Time to get this show on the road!” Erik announced with a grin.

“Erik, you always worry me when you look like that,” Jack commented.

“The surprises aren't over, Jack.”

“Yeah, well, if we don't find my wayward husband, nothing will happen,” Jack said, moving to look around various people in the tent as he tried to find Daniel.

“Let's go folks,” Erik began to usher people out.

“Hi!” Daniel greeted, smiling as he returned from his conversation with Suzanna.

“She okay?” Jack inquired.

“She will be.  I love you, Jack.”

“Love you, too, Angel.  Ready?”

“Yeahsureyabetcha,” Daniel chuckled.

The ceremony today would be as unique as their first, a combination of tradition and the couple's own version of normality.  It would begin with words from their biggest fan and supporter, Cassandra.

As the sweet chorus of the musical instruments continued, Cassandra walked to the center of the circle, stopping in front of the shrine.  She smiled and clasped her hands together in front of her.

“Wow!  What a great turnout, and no two people deserve it more than my uncles, Jack and Daniel.  They told me to keep it short, that they didn't want a lot of accolades or fancy words.  Tough!  My uncles are two of the greatest two people on the face of the Earth.  They are here today to get married -- again.  It's a special day, and I know how much it means to them to have all of you here, supporting them, showing your love; and I am aware that for some of you, that wasn't an easy choice.”

Cassandra walked around the circle as she spoke, a smile never leaving her face.

“As you can see, for their wedding, they've asked us to join together, to link ourselves in a ring.  The circle has no beginning and no end, just like their wedding rings, just like our friendships and our love.  It's constant and ongoing.”

Cassandra took a deep breath and grinned, looking up at the sky and then off towards the vista for a moment.

“It's such a beautiful morning, and for these two special people we are lucky enough to know, it will be an unforgettable one.  Jack and Daniel have asked some of their dearest friends to participate today.  Again, sometimes, it wasn't an easy choice for them to make.”

“It wasn't so hard, Cass,” Lou Ferretti spoke up.

Cassandra laughed, making a challenge, “Maybe not for you, Lou.  You were just afraid Uncle Jack would never help you again with the MonsterMobile if you didn't show up!”

Cassandra was referring to Lou's monster truck that Jack frequently helped him maintain.  Several in attendance laughed, including a squirming Lou Ferretti.

Cassandra grew serious as she continued her remarks, saying, “Two hearts who beat as one.  Two souls who live as one.  One union.  One breath.  Uncle Jack and Uncle Daniel are joined in a way I hope to understand myself one day.  It's a love I marvel at.  It's a love I want to know.”  Then the young woman smiled brightly.  “Uncle Jack?  Come on down!”

As the music filled the air, Jack walked along the path to the edge of the circle, Teal'c a single step behind him.  As Cassandra spoke they stepped onto the lower platform of the shrine.

“This is my Uncle Jack, and this is ...Murray, who stands next to him, not as a best man as such, but as a dear friend, one who promises to always be supportive and be true to what is right.”  She smiled and then called out, “Uncle Daniel?  You're on!”

Happily, Daniel walked down the path, with Sam behind him, and they, too, stepped up onto the shrine beside Jack and Teal'c.

“This is my Uncle Daniel, and this is Samantha, who stands next to him, not as a best man, er woman, as such, but as a dear friend, one who promises to always be supportive and be true to what is right.”  Cassandra was about to burst with excitement as she saw her mother nod.  With laughter ringing in her voice, she said, “And now ...”

“Woof!  Woof!  Woof!  Woof!”

Bijou and Katie walked eagerly down the path, tails wagging, each wearing their own custom made mini-Barongs.

“Oh my Gawd!” Daniel exclaimed, breaking into laughter.

“The girls!” Jack exclaimed, grinning.

Both men left their spots on the platform, eager to greet their dogs.  Seconds later, each bent down to welcome their babies.

“You two look beautiful!” Jack boasted.

“Love you so much!” Daniel said.

“Bijou, Katie!  Positions!” Cassandra ordered.

Jack and Daniel looked up at Cassandra, totally surprised, especially when the two dogs hopped up onto a moderately sized pillow at the side of the shrine.  The couple looked at each other, totally thrilled with the presence of their dogs.

“I wondered what that pillow was for,” Jack whispered to Daniel as they returned to the circular shrine, resuming their previous positions.

“For those who don't know, these,” Cassandra pointed back to the two dogs, “are Bijou and Katie, my uncles' two beautiful beagles.  They are here because ... well, where else would they be right now, but here with the two people who have given them so much love?”

Cassandra looked out at the sea of smiles surrounding her, turning around to look at the entire gathering of guests.  She really did hope that she'd be as lucky as Jack and Daniel, not just in love, but in friendship.  With a warm sincerity, she spoke again.

“Thank you all for being here to share in their circle of love.  Lisa ...”

Lisa Anderson Cassidy walked up the aisle from the tent.  She stopped in the middle of the circle at the shrine, taking a moment to pet Bijou and Katie.  The simple act was something that touched Jack's and Daniel's hearts.

“Where to begin?  It's an interesting question since we're all part of an unending circle; yet even circles have some catalyst that first created their bond.  For Jack and Daniel, their bond was built on an unique understanding of the other.  Both have overcome a wealth of issues, tragedies, and things that have threatened to come between them, but no matter what, they've not let their bond weaken.  So, here we are, together again, to celebrate the love and union of Retired Brigadier General Jonathan 'Jack' O'Neill and the very unmilitary Doctor Daniel Patrick Jackson.”

Lisa turned and stepped up to the top step.

“It is tradition at weddings to have a best man and maid of honor.  Today, we have a best family, two people who honor Jack and Daniel by being at their side.  It is also tradition at a wedding to have someone give the bride away.  Well, we don't have a bride, but we do have two wonderful men who want only to belong to each other.

“I wonder, is there someone here who would give these two away ... to each other?”

The crowd looked around, a bit unsure of what to expect.  Jack and Daniel looked at each other and shrugged, having no idea what was coming.

**Jack, do you know what's happening?**

**Not a clue, Love,** Jack answered.

“It is with great honor and respect, that I present Brigadier General O'Neill and Doctor Jackson to each other.”

“Holy Hannah!” Sam said, surprising herself.

“Holy Hannah is right!” Lou repeated.

Jack and Daniel grinned watching Lieutenant General George Hammond walk down the path, stopping between them both.

Holding his head up high, facing Lisa, General Hammond added, “In all honesty, I don't know anyone else who would put up with them except for each other.  They can be stubborn, insubordinate, unconventional, and downright make a man wish he had hair again just so he could pull it out!”

Laughter erupted from the crowd.  Hammond turned to Jack and shook his hand.  He spoke with a lightness in his tone and with a deep sincerity in his voice and eyes.

“General O'Neill, you take good care of our boy,” Hammond ordered affectionately.

“I will do that, Sir,” Jack promised.

Hammond turned to Daniel and shook his hand, saying, “Son, don't let him spin any more of those yarns than he already does.  He's incorrigible enough as it is.”

Daniel laughed in agreement, then nodded and spoke appreciatively, “Thank you, Sir, for being here.”

“My pleasure.”  The general started to walk to his seat, but he stopped and turned around, staring at the crowd.  He looked back at Lisa and said, “As I recall, when I gave my daughters away, I did it a bit differently.  I see no reason why two people who love each other shouldn't have some tradition, do you?”

Lisa shook her head.  She didn't know what the lieutenant general had planned, though she had an inkling the military might not approve of whatever it was.

The officiate answered simply, “That's why I'm here, General Hammond -- continuity.”

“All righty then.”  Hammond took a breath, walked back to Jack and Daniel, and stood tall.  He reached out with his right hand expectantly.  When Daniel stared at Jack and then at the lieutenant general, the bald-headed man instructed, “Son, your hand.”

Nervously, Daniel held out his hand.

Hammond looked at Jack and instructed, “General.”

Jack swallowed.  This, he hadn't expected, but who was he to buck the usual uniqueness of their life, so he also extended his hand.

The crowd watched spellbound as Hammond united the two hands with his on top.

A pin could be heard dropping when the leader of the SGC spoke firmly, “General O'Neill, Doctor Jackson, I give you to each other, with honor, respect, and friendship.  Good luck!”

The lieutenant general walked away, leaving a stunned Jack and Daniel latched on to each other's eyes, their hands connected.

“Gawd, Jack,” Daniel spoke, totally overwhelmed yet again, and eternally grateful that George Hammond was someone he could call 'friend'.

“Expect the unexpected, Love,” Jack expressed, his voice cracking.

“Gentlemen,” Lisa called out, motioning for Jack and Daniel to walk forward a couple of steps.  With a smile to the guests, she focused on Jack and Daniel.  “I'm honored to be here today, to once again share in a celebration of the wondrous love that Jack and Daniel share.  They didn't want anything too involved, just a simple reminder that they are one heart and one soul.”  She paused for a moment, then continued, “I read a poem recently that reminded me of these two men, so I've decided to share it with all of you.  The title is 'Question Not'.

“Question not my love for thee, but hold it true,
and see nothing less in my eyes than adoration.
For if indeed, this affectionate thread,
this harmonious union is able to be doubted,
what hope is left then for lovers anywhere?
We sit, and gaze long moments as human words fail,
in silent expression of our souls
who yearn to soar toward the stars and moon,
and float toward the earth and collapse once more,
entwined within a gentle embrace.
Question not the vows which I whisper to your name,
but store them within your innermost chambers,
and hold them bound as you hold me,
moved beyond all sense of space and time.
Drink me in with but a look, a breath
that plays warm against my skin,
then gladly, no vile onslaught shall wring me from your side.
Question not my love for thee, but hold it true,
and till death I shall always be for you,
your one true love.”

Lisa paused to give everyone a moment to let the words of the poem sink in, and then she stated, “It's a beautiful poem, and the only part of it that I disagree with, and that I know Jack and Daniel would as well, is the ending.  So let me revise it now.  Question not the love these two share for each other, but hold it true, for time and all eternity, each shall always be for the other, their one true love.”

The emotions were flowing high; no one was regretting their decision to give up sleep and attend this beautiful sunrise event.

Lisa turned to the younger man standing before her and asked, “Daniel, what would you like to say to Jack today in celebration of your love and commitment to each other?”

Daniel gazed into Jack's eyes.  He said nothing for several seconds.

Then the archaeologist shook his head as he began, “You'd think I'd be better at this the second time around.”

“You are the linguist,” Jack teased softly.

“I'm not so sure about that.  See, that's one of the things I love about you, Jack.  You always say you're so bad with words, but you're not with me.  You are one of the world's truly great romantics.  It sounds corny, but gawd, you've swept me off my feet time and time again with ... rose petals and sensuous scents and words that make my heart sing.

“And these hands,” Daniel looked down at their entwined hands and let out a silent chuckle, “they're so strong, but they make me feel so loved and wanted.  I love you, Jack.  I know it makes no sense, but it's the way it is.

“If I could have dreamed of finding someone perfect to love and be loved by, I could never have imagined you, Jack, because you're beyond my dreams and my imagination.  We share a commonality, a single purpose that I didn't know was possible, not even after we first got together.

“Gawd, Jack, I was so sure it would end, that you'd get tired of me and walk away.”

“No, Angel.  How could you ever think that?”

“Look at you,” Daniel answered as he moved his right hand to Jack's face.  He traced Jack's eyes and spoke softly, “Your eyes shine so bright.  There's character there; depth, and this ...” Daniel ran his hand through his lover's silver-gray hair, “gawd, I love this.  You're so sexy, Jack, and goodness knows,  you're not the dummy you've allowed so many people to think you are.”

“Let's not make assumptions,” Jack tried to tease.

“No assumptions, Love.  You're funny and caring and so giving.  Me?  I was that geek, always putting work first, feeling guilty about ... about Sha're.  I never thought I deserved you, especially because of ... of her.”

“Aw, Danny,” Jack expressed, comforting his love with a small kiss, their lips just brushing.

Just like their first wedding, they were doing things their own way.  There would be nothing conventional about this wedding, except that it was an unconventional traditional wedding.  Their vows weren't being done as the usual string of promises, but rather as a conversation that spoke of their love and deepest feelings, almost as if they were alone in their nation of two.

“You've seen me at my worst, but you still love me,” Daniel stated, smiling as he spoke.  “You've compromised and given in ... you've kept me safe.  It took a while, but now you even listen to me.”

“You have the most beautiful voice, Danny.”

“And that's important, too.”

“Your voice?”

“No -- 'Danny'.  I can be Danny with you,” the younger man clarified.  “Actually, you showed me that I could be Danny with myself.  Jack you gave me life in so many ways,” Daniel moved his hand down to caress the area just over Jack's heart, “your heart is mine.  There's no difference anymore, and I thank you for giving me that gift of love and oneness.”

Daniel took a breath and again entwined his hands with Jack's.

“We have a big future planned.  We're going to be parents.  I don't think everyone here knows that, but soon, very soon, we'll have our own baby, our first, and I'm so excited about sharing that little life with you.  We have so much love to give.

“I promise you that I will love and honor you for the rest of time.  I cherish you, Jack O'Neill.  You are my heaven, and I question not that we are forever.  I love you so much.”

Daniel nodded at Lisa, who spoke to the older man, asking, “Jack, what would you like to say to Daniel today in celebration of your love and commitment to each other?”

“My Danny.  I tried, too, to discover those magic words, but just like before, I couldn't find them.  All I can say is that you've made me a whole human being.  You've showed me how to care in a way that I never knew I could.  You can be such a nag.”

“I do not nag,” Daniel refuted.

“Sometimes, you do.”

“I do not.”

“Do, too,” the older man insisted with a smirk on his face.

“I do not nag, Jack.”

“You ... persevere then.”

“Jack?”

“Yes, Love,” Jack responded.

“I love you, but you are in serious jeopardy of spending tonight alone.”  Hearing laughter, Daniel blushed.  “Gawd, I wish I wouldn't do that!”

“Don't worry, Love.  There's only one-hundred fifty or so of our best friends and co-workers here.”

“That doesn't make me feel any better, Jack.”

“How about this?” Jack questioned as he leaned in for a tender kiss.

“Yeah, that works,” Daniel chuckled as he smiled shyly.

“So where was I?”

“You were about to say how I do *not* nag,” Daniel reminded.

“Oh, yes, Danny doesn't nag.”

Jack looked out over the crowd as he spoke, causing many to chuckle.

“Sorry,” Daniel said shyly.  “I'm ... persistent sometimes.”

“And that's because you need to be with me.  I'm not the easiest man in the world to live with,” Jack admitted.

“You're not?” Daniel asked in mock surprise.

“Cute, Daniel!”

“Thank you.  I'm glad you think so.”

Jack broke out into laughter, his torso moving backwards as a result of his laugh, and responded, “Geez, what you do to me.  You make me laugh and want to live until time runs out, and even then, somehow, I know we'll go on together, wherever we are.  You're my falling star, Danny, my good luck, my strength.  Everything, *everything* I do is for you and only you.”  He smiled sweetly as he added, “And now, it's for our family.  It's happening, Danny.  You and I -- no more hiding, no more worrying about what people think.  We're finally living our lives on our terms.

“I love you, Daniel, to the moon and the stars and back again, and to all the worlds in the universe and beyond.  You are my life force, my stimulation, my reason for being.  I promise you that I'll continue to drive you crazy because when I do you laugh and smile, and I live for that.  And I promise, with all my heart, to treasure each and every moment we have in our nation of two ... and family,” Jack added joyfully.  “I question not that you are my love, that we are forever and always.  I love you so friggin' much!”

Lisa spoke, “And now before we continue with Jack's and Daniel's celebration of their love and unity, there's something I'd like to share.  Jack and Daniel were forced to hide their love for years.  When they were married at my home in Canada, they pledged their love and devotion, and they gave each other rings, the universal symbols of love and marriage, circles which have no beginning and no end, but, just like their love, only a forever.

“Since then, they've had to take their rings off numerous times, but they've told me that the last time they put them on, the day Jack announced his retirement, they promised to never remove their rings, and even on this occasion, they wish to keep the promise of that day, so we're improvising a little.”

Jack and Daniel were locked onto each other's eyes, their hands still entwined, and both were smiling, no, grinning at the event that was happening.  The crowd was bright with smiles, too, the good vibrations overflowing from the simple altar.

“Jack O'Neill, do you take Daniel to be your husband, to love, honor and cherish, for all of time?”

“Oh, yeah, most definitely,” a beaming Jack responsed.

“Daniel Jackson, do you take Jack to be your husband, to love, honor and cherish, for all of time?”

“With all my heart and soul, yes.”

“Jack and Daniel have chosen to give each other a small token of their love.  It's a golden pin with their initials bonding them together,” Lisa announced.  “Daniel ...”

Daniel turned to Sam, who held out the pin.  He smiled and kissed her on the cheek.

“Thanks, Sam,” Daniel whispered.  Then he gently affixed the pin to the collar of Jack's wedding Barong.  Neither wanted to damage the sheer material so that was the agreed upon place that would be the safest.  “Question not, My Love.  We are two bodies, but we're one mind, one heart and one soul.”  He leaned down and kissed the golden wedding band that Jack wore,  then finished, “Forever and always, I love you.”

“Jack ...” Lisa prompted.

Jack turned to 'Murray', who nodded as he held out the pin.

“Thanks, Big Guy,” Jack stated, grinned before turning to face Daniel and placing the pin on his collar.  “Question not, My Love.  We may be two bodies, but our minds are joined in unison, and we are one heart and one soul.”  He traced the wedding band Daniel wore and then leaned over and kissed it.  When he looked again into Daniel's eyes, he spoke the words that had become their special words of devotion, saying, “Always and forever, Danny, and forever and always, I love you.”

Lisa continued, “Jack and Daniel, I want to repeat what we did during your first ceremony.  Please look deeply into the eyes of your loved one as you continue to hold hands.  Say nothing with your voices, but speak only with your hearts and souls.  Hear with your heart.  Understand with your soul.  Speak with your eyes.”

Just as it had been during their first wedding, the intensity of the moment was awesome.  Tears trickled down their faces, and a few sniffles were heard from those closest to the two men.  Both pledged themselves to the other again, and each promised to never forget the preciousness of their love.

“Once again, I urge you both to remember what you've just shared, and when you have those difficult days, tap into this moment.  Your love is enormous and so special.  Remember your silent vows and bring them forth whenever necessary.

“And now, by all the powers that are holy in our world, with the blessings of nature and purity, using the joy of our hearts and the majesty of forever, I again pronounce you husband and husband, for time and all eternity.  You may now give us a big thrill,” Lisa declared joyfully.

“With pleasure,” Jack said, scooping Daniel up into his arms.  It was a huge kiss, full of passion.  “I love you.”

“I love you.”

Looking out at the guests, Lisa said, “For the first time publicly, Jack and Daniel wish to announce their formal change of name, and, thus, it is with great pride and happiness, that I present to you, legally I might add, Daniel Patrick Jackson-O'Neill and Jonathan 'Jack' Jackson-O'Neill.  Ladies and Gentlemen, the Jackson-O'Neills!”

The music blared as Jack and Daniel kissed again and worked their way back down the aisle.  When they reached the end, Jack picked Daniel up and spun him around.

“Jack, stop that!” Daniel laughed at his husband's actions.

“I can't.  I'm too happy.  Way too happy.”

“Me, too.”

“Hey, we need to get the girls,” Jack stated.

“Gawd, they were so cute, Jack, walking down the path,” Daniel observed.

“Woof!” Bijou interjected.

“Hey, we were just coming to get you,” Jack stated as he leaned over and picked up Katie, while at the same time Daniel took Bijou into his arms.

“Thank you, Girls,” Daniel said as Bijou gave him a kiss.

“Party time again!” Suzanna announced, leading the couple to the brunch area where the party would be.

====

The brunch was a huge success.  Though they hadn't ordered it, a four-tier cake was brought out, and, once again, the happy couple stuffed each other with pieces of the decorative dessert.  Several of their friends had toasted them, including General Hammond, Sam, Teal'c, Erik, and Suzanna.

“Okay, Uncles, it's time.”

“Cassie, this really is too embarrassing,” Daniel said softly.

“Oh, now you've peaked my curiosity,.” Frances said, wondering what could possibly embarrass Daniel at this point.

“We had a deal, Uncle Daniel.”

“Cassie, Daniel is right.  After all, we're ...” Jack's words were interrupted by a stern look from the young woman.

“A deal is a deal, Uncle Jack.  That's what you've always told me.  Are you wimping out on our deal?”

“Come on, Jack.  It can't be that bad,” Lou jostled.  “Can it?”

“We did promise, Jack.”

“Only because she threatened to do that separation thing again.”

“Come on, Uncles,” Cassandra said, putting one of her arms through one of each of theirs so that they walked towards the center of the room with Cassandra in the middle.

“Who goes first?” Daniel asked his husband.

“You!”

“Why me?”

Jack shrugged his response, saying, “Because I was smart enough to say you go first?”

“I think not!”

“We'll flip a coin,” Cassandra teased, taking out a nickel.  “Heads or tails?”

“Heads!” both men called out.

“Tails” both changed their answer.

“Tails again” both said in unison.

“Okay, that's enough.  I'll decide.  Uncle Daniel, sit!” Cassandra ordered, giving Daniel a stern look.

Seeing the glare, Daniel decided to give in and go along with her wishes.  He would have to do it eventually, anyway.

“Have fun, Uncle Jack,” Cassandra said with a wink.

Jack scowled at his niece and then turned to Daniel and winked.

“Gawd, Jack, this is so embarrassing,” Daniel said as he sat on the chair.

“What can we do?  We promised her.”

“Only because she threatened us.  We should have ...”

Daniel stopped seeing Jack's “oh yeah?” expression as both remembered their passionate, all night lovemaking session the night before.

“Never mind, Babe.  What's a little embarrassment at this stage of the game?” Daniel said, smiling.

“Folks, all eligible human beings line up here,” Cassandra instructed, while  motioning to a specific area.

“Eligible human beings?” Mrs. Barbara Harper asked.

“Sure.  Male or female; if you're single, you belong here,” Cassandra replied.

“Oh, widows, too?”

“Widows, too,” Cassandra laughed.

Some fifty people, including Mrs. Harper, who had been one of Daniel's neighbors when he had his loft apartment, ended up in the designated area.

“What do you think they are going to do?” Mitzi asked as she watched from her spot with her husband, John.

“With those two, who knows,” John replied.

“Maybe they're going to throw the bouquet,” Evelyn Siler said.

“They didn't have one, Dear,” the sergeant pointed out.

“Well, they should have.”

Sergeant Siler shook his head at his wife's comments and looked back at the center of the room to see what was happening.

“Uncle Jack, you're on!” Cassandra urged again.

With a smile, Jack knelt down in front of his husband and slowly rolled up his left pant leg.  With his fingers gently walking up Daniel's leg, he leaned forward and kissed his Love.  He let his fingers seductively knead the skin as he moved upwards towards the blue garter Daniel wore at Cassandra's insistence.  Jack's fingers were like magic.  He was only half way up Daniel's leg when Daniel leaned over and whispered something to him.

“Oh, yeah?” Jack asked with a grin.

“Jack ... behave.”

“That's no fun!”

“Oh, gawd,” Daniel said softly.

Jack's moves were seductive, and he was enjoying this now.  He was a bit surprised and disappointed though as he completed his task, that of reaching the garment and removing it from Daniel's leg, when Daniel, though looking at him, didn't react any further.

~Losing my touch; not a good thing on our wedding day,~ Jack thought.  “Ready everyone?” he laughed as Cassandra spun him around for a second.

“This isn't Pin the Tail on the Donkey, Cass,” Jack whined.

Cassandra just shrugged, and then Jack tossed the garter.  The gathered guests all looked around to see who caught the first garter.  When Jack saw, he burst out into laughter.

“I guess that qualifies, Big Guy,” Jack remarked, seeing that the garter had landed on top of Teal'c's head.

“What is the meaning of this, O'Neill?” Teal'c inquired seriously.

“That's Jackson-O'Neill, Murray,” Mrs. Valissi corrected.

“I'll explain it to him,” Sam volunteered.

“You're turn, Uncle Daniel.”

Daniel had a smile that seemed to have a distinct purpose.  In fact, as he took his place on the chair, Jack shuddered from a brief moment of panic.

“Danny, what are you thinking?”  Daniel only smiled.  “Danny?  Angel?”

“Paybacks, Babe.”

Jack sat up straight as Daniel rolled up his husband's left pant leg.  He let his hands massage the back of Jack's calf, kneading softly with tiny presses from the tips of his fingers.  He leaned forward and kissed Jack's knee, at least to those present it looked like a kiss, but while it had begun that way, Daniel began to lick with his tongue, making flicking strokes and sucking actions.

Jack closed his eyes, wishing he had behaved himself.  Certain body parts were starting to react, and that wasn't a good thing.

“Danny, Love ... oh, gawd,” Jack whispered as Daniel's hands continued to rub against the inside of Jack's leg.  “Daniel, we're not exactly alone here, you know.”

“Hmm-mmm, seems I tried telling you that a few minutes ago.  Paybacks, Jack.”

“But, Angel, do you really want me to walk around ... you know ... in front of everyone?”

“What an image,” Daniel laughed, then quickly removed the garter, but as he got up, he let his hand slide up the inside of Jack's leg, up along his crotch, and over his chest, and then Daniel devoured Jack's mouth in a deep, wet kiss that had Jack sliding backwards in his chair and moaning.

“My, isn't it hot in here,” Frances said, waving her napkin in front of her face.

“Yes, very,” Evan drooled as he squeezed the buttocks of his husband, Robert.

“Okay, who wants it?” Daniel called out, cheerfully waving the garter around, having decided he would not die of embarrassment until after he and Jack were alone.

“Me!  Me!  Me!” Crystal called out.

“You're already married, Sis,” Frances nudged the eager woman.

“I don't want the garter.  I want the kiss!”

Everyone laughed, and then Cassandra did as she had done with Jack, spinning Daniel around a couple of times, and then the young man tossed the burgundy garter into the crowd.

“GOT IT!” Janet yelled.

“Janet and Murray -- woo hoo!” Lou exclaimed enthusiastically.

Janet blushed nervously, risking a glance at Teal'c, who nodded.

Cassandra worked her way over to Janet, “Mom, you're blushing!”

“No, I'm not.”

“You are, too.  You have a thing for T...Murray, Mom?” Cassandra asked curiously.

“Cassie, don't you have something to do, Dear?”

“Not at the moment.”

“Well, find something,” the petite physician ordered.  Janet gave her daughter a kiss on the cheek and turned around to join their friends at the rest of the wedding.  ~It is hot in here, isn't it?~

====

The brunch was winding down.  A good majority of their guests had stayed for the entire thing, something that had surprised the couple.

“Are you two going on a second honeymoon?” Lisa asked.

“Just a short one this time.  With the baby coming, we don't want to go too far or be gone too long,” Jack answered, placing a kiss on Daniel's temple as they stood with their arms around each other.

“So where to?”

“Actually, I don't know.  Daniel's surprising me.  Where are we going?”

“You'll find out soon enough,” Daniel said as he leaned his head against Jack's shoulder.

“He loves surprises.”

“Everyone loves surprises,” the younger man commented.

“Good, My Love, because I have another one for you,” Jack stated, grinning yet again at what he had in store for his husband.

“You do?”

“Carter!”

Sam looked over, and Jack nodded.  She put down her drink and disappeared.

“Jack, what are you planning?” Daniel inquired, wondering if he'd end up bright red again.  ~Might as well move to Mars.~

“You'll see,” Jack promised.  “Let's go talk to Erik for a few minutes.  I want to find out about the baby furniture they gave us last night.”

====

Fifteen minutes later, Sam returned, calling out, “Ready, Sir.”

“May I have your attention, please?” Jack requested boisterously as he walked to a small stage at the far corner of the room.

Daniel and the others shifted their positions to move to that end of the room.

“I'm going to keep this short.  You all know I love this geek of mine to the ends of Earth, and beyond.  Well, during our first wedding, we danced.”  Jack's voice turned soft as he had finished his words, his eyes looking down to Daniel, whose mouth opened as he took on the guppy look.  “It was the best dance of my life.”

“The very best,” Daniel agreed.

Smiling, Jack explained, “I told our friends then that everything I am is because Daniel loves me.  He makes me so much better than I really am.  He challenges me, and no matter what idiotic thing I do to mess things up, somehow, someway, he digs into that well of forgiveness of his and the next thing I know, we're okay again.”  His focus hadn't moved from Daniel's eyes, their connection strong.  “We played a song that's become our song, or at least, it's my dedication song to this extraordinary man who makes me feel like the king of the universe.”

“It was so romantic,” Cassandra sighed dreamily, getting sighs and smiles of affirmation from those who had been there.

Jack looked out at the crowd and stated, “The song was a beautiful piece, and I think it's only appropriate to ask my husband to dance to that song with me again.”

Daniel smiled as Jack moved off the stage and walked towards him.  Jack took his husband's hand and moved them to the center of the room and began to dance.

“Jack, there's no music.”

“I hear music, Love.  You are the harmony of my soul, the music of my heart,” the older man said from the depths of his being.

“Oh, Jack.  I love you so much.”

“But you're right, Love.  We should have music everyone can hear.  Celine, want to help me out here?” Jack asked, looking over and away from his lover.

The crowd gasped.  Daniel blinked his eyes several times, his mouth wide open as the curtain on the big stage swung open.  The piano began to play, and then Celine began to sing.

“Gawd,” Daniel said in shock.

“No, not Him.  Celine Dion!”  Jack had lit up as if he had won the lottery, and he had.  He had won Daniel's heart, yet one more time.  “Dance with me, Angel.”

The two began to dance, concentrating mostly on each other, but looking over at Celine frequently.  She sang an extra-long version, and it was especially poignant with only a handful of instruments being used.

“Jack?  Geez, Jack.  I never know what you'll do next.”

“I like it that way,” Jack whispered as he kissed his lover, then held him tight, and as he had done before, he sang softly into Daniel's ear that everything he was, was “because you love me.”

“And that makes me ridiculously happy,” Jack said as the song ended.

The couple went up on stage and thanked the international singer, who hugged them.  They chatted for a couple of minutes and had a few photos taken before she left, needing to return to Las Vegas for her regular show.

Then the brunch reception faded to a memory, and it was Daniel's turn to surprise Jack.

“Okay, where are we going?” Jack asked about their honeymoon.

“Well, it's not terribly romantic.”

“It's not?”

“No.  How could we top Australia, especially when we only have a couple of days?” Daniel queried.

“We couldn't.  So, where to?”

“I just thought we'd do something we've never done before, to be different, and maybe just have a good time,” the archaeologist answered cryptically.

“I always have a good time with you, Angel,” Jack said as he kissed his husband, “but you still haven't told me where we're going.”

“Rawhide, Arizona.”

“Rawhide, as in head 'em up and move 'em out ... like the old TV show?”

“I don't know.  I never saw the show, but it's an old western town with a great big steakhouse and lots of crazy ridiculous things to do that aren't even remotely related to Stargates and Goa'ulds.”

“Now that works for me,” Jack stated, smiling and eager to trek off into the Old West.

====

Returning from their honeymoon, the lovers headed for Jack's vehicle, parked in the airport parking lot.  Jack saw Daniel looking back towards the airport, and he seemed a bit distracted.

“Danny, is something wrong?”

“It's still light out,” the archaeologist answered.

Jack looked around, nodding his agreement and asking, “Your point being?”

Daniel dropped the luggage he was carrying and walked to his husband.  He kissed him passionately, his fingers playing with Jack's collar.

“Jack, take me flying.”

“What?”

“Let's get Jo.  It's still light out.  We don't have to go anywhere.  I just ... I want to be up there, with you, today, as part of our honeymoon.  It's so peaceful up there.”

“You could take me flying now, Love,” Jack said proudly, now that Daniel had passed all of his examinations and was a licensed pilot.

“Not today, Babe.  I want to watch you work your magic with Jo,” the younger man said, his voice having a hint of eroticism to his comments.

Smiling, Jack replied, “We'll be flying high in The Flying High.  Our whole life is like that, Danny.  Let's put this stuff in the truck, and then we'll take Jo up for a spin.”

Daniel loved flying with Jack.  He wished he had thought of it earlier, but then again, as the plane took off, he knew it was the perfect conclusion to their all-too-short second honeymoon.  They soared through space, taking in the majesty of the blue skies, and then landed to return to their beloved home.  It had been all been perfect -- again.

====

“Jack, don't even think about it!” Daniel warned as the two got out of Jack's F-350 truck, having driven home from the airport.

“Think about what?” Jack asked innocently.

“You know perfectly well what!” Daniel said, his mind replaying what Jack had done when they had arrived home from their Australian honeymoon.

“I have no clue what you're talking about, Daniel.  Care to be a tad more specific?”

Jack stepped onto the porch.  Daniel watched warily, but shook his head and said nothing.

The retired general put the key in the door, and then suddenly said, “Crap.  Danny, I left my coat in the truck.  Will you get it for me?”

“Sure.”

Daniel turned and headed back towards the truck.  Jack unlocked the doors and pushed their bags inside.

A minute later, Daniel approached his waiting lover, who smiled, and said, “Thanks,” ostensibly reaching for the jacket, but, in a covert move that caught his lover off guard, the older man turned Daniel and picked him up.

“Oh, for crying out loud, Jack,” Daniel laughed.  “I should be angry.”

“But you aren't.  Come on.  Admit it.  You'd be disappointed if I hadn't done this,” Jack said as he carried Daniel into the house.

“I'm admitting nothing,” Daniel chuckled as Jack put him down and the two kissed tenderly.

“Hmm ... love you.”

“Love you, too, Angel.”

The two were tempted to go straight upstairs and make love, but as they stared into each other's eyes, both had the same thought --“The girls!”

The once-again newlyweds laughed together and then went to greet their beloved beagles.

====

“Yeah, we got back last night.  Had a great time!  Daniel picked the perfect spot ... okay, that sounds good ... looking forward to it ... Bye.”

Holding the mail in his hand, Daniel walked into the living room just as Jack hung up the phone and asked, “Who was that?”

“Kayla.  She's doing great.  She invited us over for dinner tonight,” Jack informed.

“What time?”

“Six, and Sylvia is going to be there.”  As Daniel stopped sorting through the mail and looked up at Jack, the older man approached his worried lover and kissed him.  “Everything's okay.”

“You sure?  I mean ... I don't know what I mean actually.”

“She sounded fine.”

“Okay.”

The two started doing various tasks around the house, but within fifteen minutes both found themselves standing in front of the phone.  Jack shrugged his shoulders, picked up the phone, and called Sylvia, who chuckled and reassured them all was well.

“Now that we've given Syl her laugh for the day, why don't we tackle putting this furniture in place?” Jack suggested as he looked around at their wedding gifts.

Daniel laughed, “You mean this isn't a storage facility?”

“Right now, it is,” Jack groaned.

“Okay, manual labor, it is,” Daniel agreed.  “Then, tonight, we'll do some *real* manual labor; you know, in, out, in ...”

“Daniel, if you start that ...”

“I know,” the younger man laughed.  “Where should we start?”

====

“Whew!  Last piece,” a tired Jack reported happily, wiping his brow and sitting down on a crate near the door of the nursery.

Daniel stood by the crib and ran his hand along he top.  He was focused totally on the handmade item.

“It's not an artifact, you know,” Jack pointed out.

“Winnie the Pooh,” Daniel stated.

“Mickey Mouse!” Jack sang, just like on the old television series.

“Winnie the Pooh,” the younger man repeated, smiling.

Jack rose and walked to Daniel, standing behind him and wrapping his arms around the young man's waist.  He studied his lover for a moment, and then he smiled.

“Okay, Winnie the Pooh.  Hey, when did you learn to like Winnie?” the older man inquired.

Daniel turned and looked into Jack's eyes as he answered, “Suz liked Winnie.  She used to make me watch it with her.”

“Make you?”

Daniel laughed, admitting, “I liked it, too.  Winnie was sort of ... different for a bear, and I was ... sort of different, too.”

Jack kissed Daniel on the forehead and said, “I'm surprised you aren't a bigger fan of honey then.”

“But I do love tree houses.  Always ...” Daniel smiled and shrugged, then moved out of Jack's embrace and began to fidget with one of the boxes of baby items that they still had to unpack.

Jack looked down at the floor for a second and then asked, “Hey, do we want to put the changing table here, or over by the window?”

“Hmmm.  Decisions, decisions!”

Daniel smiled as the two proceeded to finish setting up the nursery.

====

“Sounds like you two had a great time in Rawhide,” Sylvia noted that night as she and the others enjoyed dinner.

“Yeah, we did, Syl.  It was perfect.  Of course, anywhere I am is perfect as long as Daniel's with me.”

“Jack.”  Daniel leaned in and gave his husband a kiss.  “Gawd, this feels good.”

“I like being kissed myself,” Kayla said, smiling.

“No, it's not that.  Well, I mean, that's good, too,” Daniel replied.

“Gee, thanks, Doctor Jackson-O'Neill,” Jack spoke, acting hurt.

“I just meant ... not having to pretend and being able to do this, hold each other, kiss ... it's ... nice to be able to be open in front of people we care about.”

“It must have been very difficult for you all those years,” Kayla stated as she took a drink of lemonade.

“We're both pretty private, but, it was murder.  Every touch, every look, every everything ... I mean, we always had to be careful.”

“Not any more, Danny.  We're free,” Jack said happily.

“Free.”

“Okay, what?” Jack questioned, sensing there was more to whatever his husband was thinking.

“It's just ... we are, but we aren't.  Did you see how that couple looked at us at the restaurant yesterday?”

“I tried not to.”

“I did, too, but I guess I noticed anyway,” Daniel said sadly, adding, “It's not like we were doing anything except this,” he held up their joined hands and started to shake his head.  “I'm sorry.  I guess I'll just never understand why some people think we're so abnormal.”

“It's just different, Daniel.  People are uncomfortable with things that don't fit into their frame of reference,” Sylvia explained.

“I know, but I still don't understand.  Our world preaches love, and yet when two people find it, we have so many rules.  I didn't go looking for another man to love.  I only looked for love, and one day, I felt it.  I felt my heart giving itself to someone and I felt myself soaking in love, too.  When I opened my eyes, the love was Jack.  Why is that wrong?  We're in love.  Why don't they understand we're just people, like they are?”

Jack ran his left hand through Daniel's hair and kissed his temple, and then he nuzzled his chin against his husband's head as he spoke, “I don't know that we'll ever have the answer for sure.”

“I just want people to understand.”  Daniel had grown deathly serious, and then he caught himself from continuing his commentary.  Looking at Sylvia and Kayla, he leaned forward to pour a glass of lemonade for himself and as he did so, he apologized.  “Sorry.  I didn't mean to bring everyone down.”

“Daniel,” Kayla began, “that's what your diaries are about, isn't it?  I remember you mentioned them to me once.”

“Yes, I've done a few, but the problem is that our missions are all classified, and I doubt they'll be declassified in our lifetime.  I guess it's pointless, but I thought if I could write about what happened to us, maybe it would make it easier for the next guys.”

“Or gals,” Sylvia suggested.

“And you were okay with the diaries, Jack?” Kayla inquired.

“Daniel and I are private.  You both know that, but this one,” Jack mussed Daniel's hair as if he were a small child, “he feels a need to try and help, and I can't deny him that.  Besides, now we're starting a family, and I agree.  We need to do our part.”

“You've read the diaries?” Kayla questioned.

“Most of them, at least the ones I know about,” Jack answered, looking over at the younger man for verification.

“All of them,” Daniel stated with certainty.

“You know what they are, Kayla?  They are glimpses of our life, but take out the classified bits, make me 'Jacqueline' or Danny 'Danielle', and it could be about any happy couple, living life, going through their ups and downs.”

“And at the end of the day, all that matters is being together,” Daniel stated, gazing into his Love's eyes.

“Amen to that,” Jack said softly, a sweet smile appearing on his face.

“Hey, how about a game of Scrabble?” Kayla asked.

“You dare to play with a linguist?” Jack teased.

“I'll take my chances,” Kayla laughed, getting up gently to get the Scrabble game.

====

“Just at night, Kayla,” Daniel spoke, a plea in his voice as he formed the word, 'worry' on the board.

“Well ...” the pregnant woman began.

“It might be a prudent idea, Kayla,” Sylvia opined, studying the board and making the word, 'wart'.  “I realize being on your own and pregnant isn't that unusual these days, but having someone around to help out might not be a bad idea.”

“I'm just seven months pregnant.  It could be weeks before th...” Kayla caught herself just in time.  She was about to say 'they', referring to the twins she was carrying.  Correcting herself, she continued, “... I give birth.  That's a lot of nights to be separated.”

“It's our baby,” Jack interjected, putting down the tiles that created the word 'mine'.

“Jack, maybe she just doesn't want us ...”

“No, that's not what I meant, Daniel,” Kayla said, cutting off the man's words, knowing he was concerned that she didn't want the two spending nights with her.  “I just think it's asking a lot for you two stay here night after night.  I can get Janet to stay with me sometimes,” Kayla spoke about her aunt and then smiled as she wrote down her points for the word 'need'.

“Carter will do it, too,” Jack added confidently.  Seeing the looks, he asserted, “She has a vested interest in this kid.  She just gets to start babysitting early.”

Daniel chuckled, shaking his head as he bowed it for a moment.  He returned to his word and added three tiles to form the word 'baby'.  He looked up at Kayla, who looked at Sylvia, who looked at Jack, who looked at his lover, who was now looking at him.  All four broke out into laughter.

“Well, I'm willing to do whatever makes you two feel better,” Kayla agreed as the chuckling subsided.

“Great!  I'll take the first shift tonight,” Jack offered.

“Actually, Janet is dropping by after her shift ends tonight.  I'll just ask her to stay,” Kayla informed.

“That'll work,” Jack agreed.  “We'll set up a schedule with the Doc and Carter tomorrow.”

“Anything you say, Jack,” Kayla mused lightly.  ~They are both so cute when they're concerned like this.  Oh, there's a word.~  Leaving the part of the board where they'd been playing, the woman took two tiles as she said, “That was a great word, Daniel; 'baby', I mean.”  Playing off the 'o' of another word, she laid down her tiles.  “Two,” she said, smiling coyly as she looked at Sylvia, who chuckled at their temporary secret.

====

Thrilled to have the night to themselves since Janet was staying with her niece, Jack and Daniel made the most of their evening, hitting the real climax of their night with great intensity and lots of sweat.

“Wow!  That was ... mmm ... I love you, Danny,” Jack said as Daniel fell to his chest, their orgasms still causing their sweat-soaked bodies to tremble.

“Love you,” Daniel said as he kissed Jack's moistened chest.

The two whispered tender declarations of love as they touched and cuddled after their love fest.  After quite a while, as Jack continued to caress his soulmate's back, his mind went back to the nursery and their discussion about Winnie the Pooh and tree houses.

“Danny?  Are you awake?”  Jack kissed the top of Daniel's head as he continued to hold him securely.  “Angel?”

Jack smiled, loving the feeling of his sleeping angel on him.  After another minute, as he stared at the ceiling, Jack spoke quietly, “Winnie the Pooh.  Winnie has a lot of friends, Danny.  So do you, and you have me, forever and always.  You're going to have that tree house.  Little boys should always have tree houses.”

“Are you going to build me one?” Daniel asked groggily with a vulnerability that tugged on Jack's heart.

Jack was surprised to hear his husband's voice and asked, “Do you want me to?”

“It would be silly.  We're going to be parents.  We're supposed to be grown up and responsible.  You can build one for our children later.  Besides, what would I do with a tree house at my age?  Go to sleep, Babe.  I love you.”

“Love you, too, Danny.  And we don't have to be grownup all the time, even with our own kids.  I'll build you a tree house, and the kids can grow into it.”

Jack felt Daniel smile against his chest.

====

“No.  Please don't.  NO!  Don't.  She's just a little girl,” Daniel pleaded.

Jack woke, feeling Daniel thrashing about, his arms and legs moving restlessly against Jack's body, and called out, “Danny!  Daniel, wake up.  Everything's okay.”

“Don't ... please don't!  NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!” Daniel shouted in a combination of both fear and anger.

“Danny, I'm here.  You're safe!”

“Jack?”  Daniel shifted to look down at his husband.  “Gawd!” he said as he sat up on the side of the bed.

“It's okay, Love.”  Jack scooted over, kissing Daniel's bare back as he moved his hands to encircle the younger man.  “Haven't had a nightmare in a while, Love.”

“Treehouse.  I think it was the tree house,” Daniel spoke, briefly looking at Jack.

“You're still shaking, Danny.  Come back here.”

“No,” Daniel replied as he shook his head and got up.  He walked towards the door and then stopped.  “Gawd, Jack.”

Jack didn't need a second invitation.  He jumped up and went to his husband, turning the younger man to face him.

“I love you, Angel,” Jack said, embracing Daniel.  “We don't have to use Winnie.”

“It was my idea,” Daniel reminded.

“I know, but ...”

“No.”  Daniel backed up slightly, explaining, “It was just something else I had forgotten about ... Carrie.”

“The little girl who died?”

“Yes.  She loved Eeyore.  She was upset that he didn't have a tree house, too,” Daniel recalled sadly.

“Angel.”

Jack's hands caressed Daniel's face and slowly moved back to brush away the longer hair that Daniel now had.  His fingers combed through the growing brown locks while Jack's thumbs tried to dry the escaping tears.

“Jack, she didn't deserve to die.”

“No, she didn't, and neither of you deserved to be hurt the way you were,” Jack stated firmly.

Daniel looked up, almost in alarm, and said, “I got off easy.”

“Did you?  I don't think so,” Jack said as he drew Daniel into him.  “I don't think so at all.”

“They didn't ... rape me like they did her.”

“I know,” Jack acknowledged while holding onto Daniel securely.

Daniel didn't say anything for a long time, but he stayed in Jack's embrace, his chin resting against Jack's right shoulder and his hands at Jack's lower back.

“Jed's friends,” Daniel spoke with a distance in his voice.  “One of them ... touched me.  He made me touch him, too.  I wanted to run, but they were holding me.  Carrie was only six-years old.”

“I know.”

Jack swore at the tormenting memory that was haunting his husband, and the reality that had taken a young life.

“They made me kiss her.  Gawd.  She was crying and ... they thought it would be cute.  Jack, they said they'd rape her again if I didn't.”

~Kiss her?  Oh, Angel.~  “You didn't have a choice, Danny.  You were only eight.  Angel, hear me.  You didn't have a choice.”

“Jack, have I blacked out anything else?” Daniel asked timidly, afraid of the answer.

Jack looked into Daniel's eyes and answered confidently, “No, you've remembered it all now.”

“How can you be sure?”

“I don't know, but I am.”

“Jed was there.  What kind of a man, even if he was only seventeen, lets someone hurt his baby sister like that?  She just wanted to play with her doll and watch Eeyore.  He threatened me, Jack.  He was the one who touched me, not his friends.  He was supposed to be my brother.  I needed a brother, Jack.  I needed someone so badly.”

Daniel was crying into Jack's shoulder again.  Every second seemed to result in a new memory recall that he didn't want.  Jack's hands were warm on the young man's back, gently caressing up and down the bare skin, desperately trying to reassure him.  The sobs intensified as Daniel tensed.

“It was Jed, Jack.  Jed killed her.  He let his friends rape her.  He didn't care, not at all.  He ... he did it, too, Jack.  Gawd.”

Daniel broke away.  He wanted to run, but there was no place to run to ... except to Jack, so he did, going right back into his husband's arms.

“What happened the day she was ... the day she died, Danny?” Jack questioned, hating having to, but knowing that it was important to work through the nightmare of his lover's past.

“It was like I said, except Jed was ... gawd, it was like he was insane.”

“Did you see it, Danny?  It's okay to remember now.”

Daniel's fingers seemed to embed themselves into Jack's skin, but the older man didn't react.  Pain didn't hurt, not that kind, not right now.

“Yes, I heard ... I heard her screaming.  I ... I ran downstairs and she was lying on the floor.  Jed was ... was laughing while one of his friends ra...”

Daniel couldn't even say the word, and his face was full of terror.

“It's okay, Angel.  Tell me,” Jack encouraged gently.

“The blood from them ra...”  Again, Daniel couldn't bring himself to say the word.  “... it was ... it was all around her.”  Daniel's fingers pressed harder into Jack.  “I pleaded with them to stop; I tried to push him off her, but ... but one of Jed's other friends grabbed me.  He was so strong.  I couldn't break free.  I tri... I tried, Jack.  I swear I did,” he cried.

“I know you did, Danny.  You were only eight, and he was a teenager; it wasn't a fair match-up,” Jack reassured.

“When the friend fin...finished, Jed started unzipping his pants and said my ... 'my turn'.  When he was done, he ... oh, Jack, Jed picked her up.  She was still screaming.  He strangled her.  He ... gawd, Jack.”

“Let it out, Danny.  Let it all out now.  It's okay.  Come on, Love.  All of it now,” Jack urged, though his blood was boiling with anger, not just that Daniel had witnessed the horror, but that an innocent little girl had been victimized and killed.  ~They can't get away with this.~

====

Five minutes later, Jack was still holding Daniel tight to him.  He pressed his right hand against the back of Daniel's head, gently holding him close.

“You ready to lay down for a while?” the older man asked softly.

“Jack?”

“What?”

“Kayla looks like she could give birth any time now,” Daniel observed.

“Big as a truck as she says,” Jack tried to tease.  ~Odd change of subject.~

“So ... we can't do this once she has the baby.”

“Do what?” Jack asked, confused.  ~What's he talking about?~

Still shaken, Daniel pulled back and asked, “Can we get drunk?  I mean ... just lock ourselves away here for twenty-four hours and get drunk?”

“Is that what you want?” Jack questioned.  ~Now I get it.  He wants to blur this memory so bad that it'll never come back.~   After Daniel nodded, he agreed, “Okay, but let's put some clothes on first.”

Quietly, the two put on their jeans, pepperstone ones for Daniel, black for Jack.  Jack then slipped on a gray T-shirt, but Daniel pulled it off of him, shaking his head.

“I need to feel you ... I mean ...”

“Okay.  I understand,” Jack said, reaching over and picking up a regular brown shirt, leaving the buttons unfastened.  “Better?”

“Much.”

Jack pulled out a blue shirt for Daniel.  He buttoned it up except for the top couple.

“You need to stay warm for a while,” Jack stated.  As Daniel just stared at him, he asked, “Trust me?”

Daniel nodded again, and the two went downstairs.  Daniel went over to the patio door, but he noticed Jack had gone into the kitchen.  A minute later, he sighed.

“We can't get drunk.  The girls,” the younger man lamented, refusing to worry their precious beagles.

Not hearing a response from his husband, Daniel turned around and saw Jack was preparing a snack for them and had turned on the coffee maker.  Daniel smiled in wonder.  He walked to the counter and sat on one the bar stools.

“You knew we couldn't get drunk.”

Jack walked to the counter and put down the sandwiches he had prepared.  He went to the other side and sat on the stool next to Daniel, spinning the stool slightly until the two faced he other.

Jack took Daniel's hands in his and stated, “You don't really want to, Love.  You never did like it when I got you plastered.”

“But sometimes ... sometimes it helped, like with Hathor.”

“Did it?  Or was it that we were together and just working through the hellacious event the best we could by being together.  We couldn't do this back then,” Jack said as he squeezed Daniel's hands supportively.

“I guess you're right.  I just ... I guess I wish I could forget.  You knew, didn't you?  Not about getting drunk ... but Jed.”

“My gut instincts told me there was something more, yes.  As much of a torture as that whole thing was, I felt ... something was missing.  It just ... it was like a puzzle with a piece missing.”

“Jed was supposed to be my brother.  I wanted a brother,” Daniel sighed.  “There's more, Jack.”

“There is?”

“Not about that specifically,” Daniel stated.  “Jack, Nick came to town after that. They tried to convince him to take me.”

“But he didn't.”

“I told him, Jack.  I told him what I saw.”

“He didn't believe you,” an angered Jack spoke.  ~Just when I thought I couldn't hate that man any more than I already do.~

Daniel shook his head, saying, “He thought that I was trying to get his attention by making up some crazy story.  He told me I should be ashamed of myself and that from then on, I needed to ... to just be quiet.  He said children should speak only when spoken to.”

Jack pulled back, still holding his husband's hands.  His blood pressure shot up as he took in Daniel's statement.

“Daniel, are you telling me that that scared little boy, who hadn't said much of anything since watching his parents die, that little angel trusted his grandfather, and that same grandfather told him to shut up and mind his own business?”

Daniel nodded, his voice barely audible as he repeated Nick's words to him that day -- “The best little boys are quiet.”

“What?”

“That's what Nick said.  He just didn't want to deal with me.”

“But you didn't know that then, so because of his words, you tried to be what he wanted.  You shut out the nightmare and stopped talking.  For how long, Danny?” Jack questioned.

“A year,” the younger man stated.

“You didn't talk for a year ... a friggin' solid year?” Jack asked incredulously.

“Only in school, if I had to.  I ... that's when I spent those months at the state home.  No one would take me.  I wanted Nick to want me, but he never came back.  He didn't answer letters.  He wouldn't respond to the social workers, and they kept hoping he would.”

“But he wouldn't let you be adopted.”

“Jack, he did the best ...”

“Don't, Daniel.  Don't defend him to me.  He left you.  You told him a little girl had been murdered, that you had seen it, and he told you that little boys shouldn't talk.  Do *not* defend him to me.”  Jack was angrier than he had been in a very long time.  ~I hope that selfish old man is miserable, wherever he is.  How could he do that?  I'll rip him in two if he ever shows up here again.  Oh no, Nick Ballard.  You will *not* ever again hurt my husband.~

Jack was still steaming.  He had suspected that Daniel might have seen more than he had revealed a few months earlier, but he hadn't suspected Nick of having ignored the words of his own grandson, and that knowledge was taking him over the edge.

“I started talking again, though,” Daniel stated, trying to make a joke of it.  “The Simpsons took a chance on me, and ... I guess you could blame them for my prattles.”

Daniel's attempt at levity wasn't working.  Jack knew that while Daniel had opened up more to the Simpson family that he suffered through many more nightmares in his subsequent homes.  He hadn't become the prattler of Jack's heart until college, when the archaeologist had finally been freed from having to 'go along', as he referred to it.

The general still had a full steam of anger boiling within him, and his attempts at internal anger management were not succeeding at the moment.  Then Jack looked at his soulmate, and that was the best method of calming his murderous hostility.  Daniel needed Jack, not his rage.

The older man took a breath and refocused, saying, “Danny, all those things we talked about before, they still apply.  Tell me you know that.”

“I do.  I don't feel ... guilty like that anymore.  But ... gawd, Jack, I wish I hadn't remembered,” Daniel admitted.

“It'll be easier now,” Jack promised.

“Easier?”

“It's always better when you face your demons.  You taught me that,” Jack responded.

“I did?”

“On Abydos, remember?”

Daniel smiled in remembrance, but then he shook his head and said, “It's just that I didn't know I had any left.  I'm so happy with you, Jack.”

“That's why it's safe to remember.  It can't hurt you anymore.  Not what happened to Carrie or Nick's stupidity ...”

“Or Jed?  I was so scared of him.  I just didn't let myself think about it.  When I was a little boy, before I blacked it out totally, I remember, Jack, having nightmares about him trying to find me, raping me and then ... killing me.  They were so real.  There was something so intense about him.  Gawd, I wonder if he's still out there somewhere.”

“Daniel, look at me.  You're safe.  You're home.  We're happy as sin, and getting happier by the day.  Focus on that.  All that other stuff is history now.”

“You think we'll ever completely stop having nightmares?”

“I don't know.  Iraq, both times, still comes back to haunt me, but you always remind me that I'm safe.”

“You are,” Daniel said and then leaned over and kissed Jack.  “I'll always protect you.”

“You always have, Love.  And when those times come when my brain goes back to that hellhole and the ... well, when it goes back there, I know you'll make it better.”

“Like you do with me, like just now,” Daniel stated.

Jack let out a small whiff of air as he came to a conclusion about their nightmares.

“No, I guess they'll never go away, Danny.  We've seen too much and been through more than our share of ... torture, but, they'll never defeat us, never win, because ...”

“... we have each other,” both said at the same time.

“Danny, about Winnie ...”

“I love Winnie the Pooh, Jack, and I really did want a tree house.  Winnie's not a bad memory.  I think he just, uh, acted as a catalyst.  I really want our nursery to be Pooh.”

“Okay, Pooh it is!  Better now?”

Daniel thought and then slowly shook his head, answering, “No, not yet, but after you hold me a little while, and we talk some more, I will be.”

“I love you, Daniel Jackson-O'Neill!”

Daniel perked up, responding, “Gawd, that still sounds like a dream.  I'm glad we did that.”

“Me, too.  Now, let's eat our snacks and go cuddle.”

“Cuddling is good.”

“Cuddling is excellent,” Jack corrected.

The two chuckled and at the same time said, “Saps!”

====

Early the next morning, Jack slipped out of the house to run an errand.  After a couple of quick calls, it didn't take him long to seek out his contact.

 “Jack O'Neill.  I'm mighty surprised to see you, old buddy, but nice to know you're still alive.”

“I need a favor, Tom, on the QT,” Jack said, his eyes darting all around their location, both from habit and genuine concern.

“No small talk, eh, Jack?”

“When did we ever chit chat?” Jack questioned.

“Good point.  That's probably why we were so successful on all those missions.  Went in and did our jobs.  No one said we had to be friends, did they?” Tom responded.

“No, they didn't,” Jack said as he handed a piece of paper to his former colleague.

“Jed Gibson.  What did he do to you?” the man asked, having read the name on the paper.

“No chit chat, remember.  I want you to find him, and give me a detailed report on his life.  Where he lives, what he's doing, any indiscretions.”

“You must have contacts closer to home who could do this,” the operative stated.

“On the QT, Tom.  No trails.”

“Okay, Jack.  I'll get back to you.”  As Jack turned and started to walk away, Tom called out, “One thing, Jack.  We didn't discuss price.”

“No, we didn't,” Jack said as he turned again and walked away.

====

“Hi there, Beautiful,” Jack said as he entered his house and saw Daniel stretched out on the sofa, Bijou on his abdomen, and Katie near his feet.

This was the life the general loved now, not the covert secrets of the life he'd just been reminded of in his rendezvous with Tom.

“Hi, Love.”  Daniel reached up with his hands to grasp Jack's as the older man sat on the on the edge of the sofa and leaned down to kiss Daniel.  “Missed you! Where'd you disappear to?”

“Nowhere special.  Just had some errands to run.  Hey, Ragamuffin.”  Jack leaned down to rub his nose against Bijou's.  “How ya doin'?”

“Ragamuffin?”

Jack shrugged and asked, “What's on the agenda for this lazy Sunday afternoon?”

“Hmmm, being lazy?” Daniel quipped.

“Sweet,” Jack responded, approving of the plan.

“Megan called.”

“And?” the older man asked.

“She said 'yes', but she needs to give notice.”

“That's great news.  Danny, that reminds me, the letterhead and other supplies are due on Monday,” Jack stated.

“I still can't believe I let you talk me into using the boonie bear,” Daniel sighed.

With pride, Jack laughed, “It's a great gimmick, and you know it.”

“In your dreams, Babe.”

Sensing her owners were about to get a bit too cozy for her comfort, Bijou jumped off Daniel and went over to her beanbag.

“Thank you, Bij,” Jack acknowledged as he moved his right hand to reach under Daniel's white T-shirt.

“That feels so good,” Daniel said as he reacted to Jack's touch.

Jack kissed the middle of Daniel's abdomen and then suddenly, he simply rested his head on his husband's chest.

“Hey,” Daniel responded as he moved his hands to hold his lover.  “Is something wrong?”

“No.  I just decided I wanted to hear your heartbeat, like you do mine,” Jack answered.

“It can be very reassuring,” Daniel stated.

“That it can, My Love.”

====

“Danny, as much as I love being lazy with you ...” Jack began.

“Yeah, I was just thinking the same thing, especially ...” Daniel interjected.

“That's it, exactly.  We're going to be spending a lot of our nights at Kayla's for a while, and we still have ...” Jack continued.

“Gawd, there's so much to do.  Having a baby is a lot of hard work, Jack,” Daniel stated.

The lovers paused, laughing at their conversation.  They loved being so well connected.

“So, shall we ...” Jack began with a tilt of his head.

“I'll get the certificates,” Daniel answered, getting up.

====

“Jack, I think we bought out the store.  This stuff is heavy,” Daniel stated as he brought in the last of the packages.  ~What happened to our lazy day?~

“That's because we bought backups for the backups.”

“We've really got to get over that.  We're not military anymore, not that I ever was, of course,” the archaeologist pointed out.

“This is great stuff,” Jack said as he deposited several bags full of items on the small bed that was in the nursery.

“Look at this mobile, Jack -- Winnie, Tigger, Piglet, Eeyore, and Little Roo.  I love it, and I adore this crib set, too.”

“Daniel, you adore all of it.”

“So do you,” the younger man asserted.

“True, but we probably should have held off until after that, I hesitate to say the phrase, baby shower Kayla is giving us.”

“I know, but you can't have too much Pooh, so even if we get doubles, it'll be okay.”

As Jack burst into laughter, Daniel stared and asked, “Okay, what's so funny?'

“Daniel, I promise you that when our baby is born, we'll have plenty of poo to go around!”

Daniel let out a groan and muttered, “Jack, you're crazy.”

“But you love me.”  Jack grabbed Daniel and pulled him down onto the bed, then leaned both of them into a prone position with Daniel on the bottom.  “Tell me.”

“You're so demanding, Jack,” Daniel said as he massaged the back of Jack's neck.

“Tell me.”

“I love you more than life, forever and always.  Just you.  Only you.”

“Music to my ears,” Jack replied just before they kissed and made love for the first time in the nursery, both men happy they had selected the three-quarter-sized bed for the room.

====

“Goodnight, Daniel,” Kayla expressed to her friend who had arrived at her apartment just ten minutes earlier.  ~He looks awfully ... hmm; yeah, he has that afterglow.~  Inwardly, she chuckled, ~Who says that's just a woman thing?  Whoever it was is, or was, out of their minds.~

“You're sure you're okay?” the archaeologist asked.

“Yes, I'm fine.”  Kayla laughed at the overprotectiveness of her friend and then encouraged, “Go to sleep, so I can go to sleep.”

“Okay.  Sweet dreams,” Daniel said as he moved to lay on the sofa in Kayla's apartment.  ~I'll dream about My Jack and how ... wow, that was good,~ he thought about their lovemaking just a couple hours earlier.

The schedule for 'the watch', as Jack and Daniel were calling it, had been established earlier in the day.  Regardless of how silly it might seem to some, to the happy couple, the idea of the pregnant woman being alone this close to her giving birth was unthinkable.  Though she still had weeks to go, Kayla realized that she was carrying two babies, and a premature birth was possible, so she was fine with being 'babysat', as she was calling it.

Dressed in his gray sweatsuit, Daniel tried to sleep, but now that he was at the apartment with nothing to distract him,  he was nervous.  Not only that, but if he had to be honest, sleeping without Jack was always difficult.

As the night progressed, the archaeologist succumbed to the sandman every now and then, but it was never for long.

~Where's my Jack pillow when I need him?  Okay, so it's more that I miss him, but the point is, I can't sleep, so where is he?  I know, he's in our nice, warm bed, with our sweet beagles.~  As he banged on the pillow to try and get more comfortable, he sighed, ~When did I get to be so needy?~  He smiled and answered his question.  ~Yeah, he told me he loved me; that's when.~

====

At 6 a.m., Daniel heard a gentle rapping on the front door.  Rubbing his eyes, he rolled off the sofa and opened the door.

“Hi there,” Jack greeted.

The general grinned and moved inside the apartment, kissing Daniel softly and gently pushing his Heart backwards, all at the same time.

Daniel yawned after the kiss as he continued to back up.  Jack reached back and closed the door and then put his arms around his husband.  Daniel yawned again as he leaned his head against Jack's shoulder.  It felt good, safe, warm.  He smiled just as Jack kissed the top of his head.

Daniel sighed contentedly, “Not complaining, but why are you here?”

“I missed you.”

“Missed you, too.  So much.”  Daniel ran his right hand along the side of Jack's neck and then down his chest.  “Don't like being apart.”

“Me, either, which is why I'm here.  Couldn't sleep, so I made sure the girls were okay and came over to spend the morning with my Angel.  Did you sleep?”

“A little, not much.  I don't do well without my Jack pillow.”

“Yeah, I know the feeling.  Hard to get comfortable without my Danny blanket to keep me warm.  Come on.”  The two sat down on the sofa, Daniel relaxing into his soulmate's embrace.  “Close your eyes, Angel.  I love you.  Geez, I can't even sleep without you anymore.  How sappy is that?”

“Sappy.  Very sappy,” Daniel mumbled, adjusting his body a little so that he turned more into his husband.

Jack smiled as he held the man who was his heart.  Almost instantly, Daniel fell asleep.  It was the first real peaceful sleep he'd felt since arriving at the apartment.

“Sleep, Angel.  I'm here now.”

Kayla quietly closed her bedroom door.  She had heard some noises and had decided to see what was going on.

As she lay back down on her bed, Kayla rubbed her belly and quietly spoke, “You two are so lucky to have Jack and Daniel as your parents.  They have so much love to give you.  Always embrace that love and the family they are giving you.  It won't always be easy, but you'll be protected and surrounded by the love your dads have for you.  It'll get you through everything.”

Closing her eyes, Kayla went back to sleep.

====

Two hours later, Kayla emerged from her room.  Jack started to wake his husband, but she silenced him with a shush and motioning of her hand.  She went to her kitchen and returned with a glass of orange juice.

“He's so cute,” Kayla said quietly as she sat in her lounger.

“Yes, he is,” Jack said with pride, his right hand still caressing Daniel's back.  “I hope you don't mind that I ...”

“Oh, not at all.”

“You knew I was here?” Jack questioned, realizing the pregnant woman hadn't acted surprised to see him.

“I heard you come in, Jack.”

“Sorry.  I didn't mean to wake you, but I was lonesome,” Jack admitted.

Kayla smiled and focused on the sleeping archaeologist, saying, “He's exhausted, and you knew he wouldn't sleep without you.”

Jack saw Kayla's knowing expression and answered, “Yes, in part, but it's equally true that I need this, this right here,” he indicated Daniel's body, “to relax.  I guess that seems strange.”

“Why should it?  You two love each other.”

“There's a connection between us, Kayla, that's a little outside the norm.  Being apart, it's not easy for either of us in a lot of ways.  And Danny,” Jack kissed his lover's forehead, “he's had so many tough times.  Every time he thinks they're gone, something else happens.  He's the strongest person I've ever known.”  He placed another kiss atop his lover's head and continued, “He can handle anything on his own, and beat it, whatever it is, but I won't let him face anything alone anymore, not if I can help it.”

Kayla sensed something in Jack's tone that made her concerned, so she asked, “Something's happened since the wedding, hasn't it?  And don't bother to deny it.  He's tired, and I'm guessing that it's from more than just nervousness over the baby.”

“Just an old memory.”

Kayla studied Jack.  The older man's hold on Daniel was tender, but strong, even protective.  She saw the look in Jack's eyes, seeing love, respect, passion, and fear, too.

“Jack, what are you afraid of?”

~Where did that come from?~  Jack looked up, briefly surprised at Kayla's question.  He shrugged.  “I just don't want him to get hurt.  He's the kindest soul in the universe.  How could Ni... how could anyone hurt someone like Danny so much and not even care?  I just don't understand.  I never have, and I never will.”

“Can I ask you a question?”

Jack chuckled lightly, but tried to suppress it so he wouldn't wake his sleeping lover, and answered, “I think by now, Kayla, you've earned the right to ask me just about anything.”

“Daniel's diaries, and the reason he's writing them -- you aren't as disturbed by the things that bother him, are you?”

“To heck I'm not!” Jack answered strongly.  “But I'm crustier.” Jack chuckled lightly, and then became more serious.  “Danny cares about everyone.  His heart is this open book in a lot of ways.  People make the mistake of thinking he's some wimp.  They hurt him with their words.  Kayla, I've got a reputation.  They don't mess with me much unless they don't know me at all, so Daniel gets the brunt of the hatred, the jokes, and the taunting.  He always has.  I wish I could protect him from all that, but I can't.”

“Jack, has it ever gotten physical?” Kayla questioned, hating that anyone, especially Daniel, had to suffer through this kind of prejudice.

“More than once,” Jack confirmed.  “Not much here because we've had to hide, but on vacations or trips when we were open, a couple of times.  Gawd, there was that one time, though.  Danny,” Jack trailed off, remembering the attack on his husband that had occurred a few years before in the parking lot of a local mall.

Kayla watched Jack's hold tighten, and she saw his eyes moisten from the memory.  She also saw a promise there, that whatever had happened would never happen again.

“J'ck?” Daniel called out.

“Hey, Beautiful.”

“Love you.”  Daniel raised his right arm to go around Jack's neck fully and leaned up to kiss the man he loved.  “Hmm, want you,” he spoke seductively.

“Um, Daniel.”

“Shhh!  I'm on a mission,” Daniel said as he began to move his hand downward as he kissed Jack.

Jack knew he had to act quickly or Kayla would get an unanticipated show, so he questioned, “Daniel, not a problem, Love, but, uh, you sure you want to do this in front of Kayla?”

“She's an adult,” Daniel responded as he kissed Jack again and right in the middle of the kiss, Daniel's eyes grew wider than ever.  “Oh, gawd.”  He leaned his forehead against Jack, and then shifted to try and bury it in Jack's neck.  “I'm so embarrassed ... again.”

Jack laughed, as did Kayla, who assured, “It's okay, Daniel.  I'll be right back.”

Kayla rose slowly, laughing at the difficulty she had getting up and headed for the bedroom.

“Is she gone?” Daniel asked, not wanting look up from his embarrassment.

“Yes, it's safe now.”

“Gawd, Jack.  Why do I do that?”

“Because you love me?”

“Oh, yeah, that's it.  That's definitely it!” Daniel agreed with a chuckle in his voice.

“Let's make sure the pagers are on and go home, Danny,” the silver-haired man suggested.

“Okay, but we need to wait for Kayla to come back out,” Daniel responded.

Jack retorted, “I didn't mean we should just get up and go.”

“Didn't you?” Daniel challenged.

“So, get a good night's sleep?”

Daniel laughed as the two men waited to make their departure.

====

“Why don't you two come over for dessert tonight?  It's Sam's night to babysit me.  It'll be fun,” Kayla suggested as she stood at the doorway several minutes later.

“She's not babysitting you,” Daniel responded nervously, not wanting Kayla to feel that way.

Kayla laughed, knowing the truth, and replied, “It's all right; it's actually comforting to know someone's around all the time.  Dessert at eight?”

Daniel nodded at his lover, who replied, “Count us in.  See ya.”

“Bye,” Daniel added as he and Jack turned and left.

Smiling, Kayla closed the door and thought, ~Okay, what do I need to get done first?~

====

“Someone must be having a party,” Jack said as he searched for a parking space in Kayla's complex that evening.

“Probably,” Daniel agreed.  “By the way, Babe, did I mention how sexy you look tonight?”

“Thank you, Love.  You look gorgeous yourself, but then you always do,” Jack chimed.

Finally finding a space, the expectant parents headed for Kayla's floor.  Standing in front of the door, Jack was about to knock when Daniel stopped him and leaned in for a passionate kiss.

“I've been wanting to do that for ... minutes and minutes,” the archaeologist laughed.

“Now is so not the time to start this, especially when you look good enough to eat,” Jack replied.

“Just wait until I get you home,” Daniel whispered.

“My, my Doctor Jackson-O'Neill, how you've changed.  What happened to that quiet, shy geek I met all those years ago?” the older man jested.

“He fell in love with someone who loves him back,” Daniel answered in earnest.

“And that is the truth,” Jack promised, leaning in for another kiss while knocking on the door at the same time.

“Come on in!” Kayla called out from inside her apartment.

“More of that when we get home,” Jack spoke about their kiss.

“And that's the truth, too,” Daniel chuckled as he opened the door.

Having entered the comfortable apartment, Jack observed, “Hey, it's dark in here.”

“Turn on the lights!” Kayla shouted.

Daniel flipped the switch and immediately heard a choir of voices.

“SURPRISE!”

Laughter at the stunned expressions on Jack's and Daniel's faces filled the room. Their friends had promised them a baby shower in a few weeks, but it seemed that had been a front for the surprise shower, which was in reality happening right now.

“And surprised we are,” Jack said.  “I thought we were having dessert,” he said.

“We are,” Sam said, pointing over at the counter full of cakes, pies, brownies, and other tasty treats.

“Sweet!” the general exclaimed.  He raised an eyebrow, however, when he saw that Cassandra had somehow finagled her boyfriend, Dominic, into coming to the shower.  A moment later, he whispered into Daniel's ear, “Dominic is here.”

“Well, uh, what's wrong with that?”

“Danny, it's a baby shower.  Cassie brought Dominic to a baby shower,” the other man pointed out.

“Um, Jack, I guess I'm missing the point?”

“Daniel, if we weren't having a baby, would you ever imagine yourself going to a baby shower?”

“Well, I ...” Daniel looked protectively at the young woman being discussed.  “She's not a child anymore, Jack.”

“Exactly my point!  What do you think she did to get him here?” Jack questioned accusingly.

“Jack,” Daniel said as he turned his body around to face his lover.  Putting both hands on Jack's arms, he spoke, “Trust me, you don't want to know.”

Daniel smiled and turned back towards the group, making a mental note, however, to quietly check on Cassandra's 'bait' that she had used on her boyfriend.  He looked around for their host, wanting to check on her.

Totally floored, Jack and Daniel were led like lambs to the slaughter to a few hours of baby shower fun.  Dominic aside, the couple took comfort, however, that they weren't the only men there to 'suffer', as Jack called it, through the various party games and such.  Carolyn Ferretti had dragged Lou along, Margaret Cornell had blackmailed Jeff into attending, and Sam had made sure that Teal'c aka: Murray was there, too.

Seeing Kayla about to get a drink, Daniel approached and said, “This was really a surprise.  Thank you.”

“I was just the easy way to get you guys here,” Kayla answered, quickly adding, “And before you worry about how much was involved in planning this, Janet and Sam handled the majority of it.”

“Oh, uh, good,” Daniel responded, pleased Kayla hadn't overdone the preparations.  “How are you feeling tonight?”

“Pretty much the same, Daniel.  My back is aching a little more today than usual, but I think it was all the preparation for the shower.”

“But you said ...”

Kayla laughed, “Daniel, I hardly did a thing, but I get tired at the drop of a hat.  It's not easy carrying a baby.”  Seeing his thoughtful expression, she teased, “You should try it sometime.”

“Uh ... well, I ...”

“Oh, I forgot,” the woman laughed.  She remembered Daniel telling her about the empathy bellies.  It hadn't been easy, especially going to the bathroom and getting up and down.  ~He's so cute.  Look at him, all flustered.  No wonder Jack fell in love with him.  Oh, he's getting serious about something.~

“You know something crazy, Kayla?”

“What?”

“If I could ... I think I would,” the scientist confided.

“Daniel, you're so sweet,” Kayla praised as she hugged him.

“Time for another game,” Janet called out enthusiastically.

“Poor Jack,” Kayla chuckled.  “I don't think he's recovered yet from pantyhose golf.”

“He's survived worse,” Daniel chuckled as he walked Kayla over to join the others.

====

“Don't worry,” Sam reassured the lovers as the party concluded.  “I'll make sure she sleeps in.”

“Get out of here!” Kayla insisted.

“Okay, and thanks again,” Daniel said as he and Jack headed out of the apartment, loaded with gifts.  Ahead of them were several friends who had volunteered to take a cart load of treasures over to the house.  “Jack, I think someone messed up.”

“The second crib?” Jack asked, having taken note of that as well.

“Yeah.”

“Not everyone was at the wedding, so they didn't all know,” the general surmised.

“But Cassie said that everyone chipped in, remember?  Jack, everyone who was here participated.  She showed us the list,” Daniel reminded.

“Well, they know we're having a second baby.  If Kayla gets pregnant again right away, the first one could still be in the crib when the second is born,” Jack rationalized as they walked.

“I guess that makes sense,” Daniel replied thoughtfully.  “Sam and Janet would have thought of that, and they both know what we're planning, time wise, but where are we going to put all this stuff?”

“The garage for now.  We'll figure it out,” Jack responded.

====

“Thanks for the help, Fellas!  We appreciate it!” Jack said as he closed the door when the last of the volunteers left for their own homes.

“That was the craziest few hours of my life,” Daniel laughed as he petted the sleepy beagles who were both lounging on their beanbag by the fireplace.

“And we've gone through some crazy hours,” Jack agreed, walking over and doing the same for a moment.

“I don't think I'll ever get that image of Teal'c pinning a little pink dress to a clothesline while wearing a lilac apron, holding a doll, and talking on the cordless phone out of my head.  Gawd, I thought I was going to die when he put that clothes pin in his mouth,” the archaeologist mused.

As he put his right arm around Daniel's waist and led him towards the stairs, Jack laughed, “It was something.  I think we need to send Teal'c to baby boot camp before he gets near our baby.”

Daniel chuckled, leaning his head against Jack's shoulder while admitting, “I could have lived without the pacifier game, though.”

“Hey, that was my favorite!”

“Why am I not surprised?  I would be within my rights to kill you, Jack.  No court in America would convict me.”

Jack turned to face Daniel, running his hands lovingly along the younger man's chest, and challenged, “Yeah?  Not my fault you said the word 'baby' first.”

“Sam didn't explain the rules completely,” Daniel pouted.

“Whoa there, Dannyboy.  Are you actually saying that Carter, the queen of explanations and prattlization, *didn't* explain something in detail?” the older man challenged.

“In the first place, there's no such word as prattlization, and in the second place, yes,” Daniel answered, his lower lip buckling, causing his lover to laugh.

“You looked so cute,” Jack opined, putting his hands on Daniel's waist, caressing as they stood facing each other.

“I was not cute.  I looked ridiculous.  Gawd, for thirty minutes.  Thirty minutes, Jack.  You're supposed to protect me,” Daniel stated, putting his arms around Jack's neck.

“I'll always protect you, Angel ... except from pacifiers!”

“You never said it.”

“What?” Jack asked.

“Baby.  Everyone else got caught but you,” Daniel stated.

“I won the game!”

“Say it.”

“Oh, no.  I don't trust you,” Jack stated as he started to pull away, but Daniel didn't let go, and in fact, moved so that their bodies were pressed against each other completely.

“Say it, Jack.”

Jack wanted whatever Daniel was about to offer, so he eagerly said the word -- “Baby.”

Daniel smiled and inserted his version of a pacifier into Jack's mouth.  For several minutes, his tongue silenced Jack's voice, pleasing both men.  Then they leaned their foreheads together, a symbol of their unity, and both sighed contentedly.

“Not all the games were silly.  Some of the activities were actually very nice,” Daniel opined.

“Yeah, I have to admit I liked that baby book thing,” Jack said.

“Because it makes it personal.”

“Yeah.  Just think, Danny, we can show our baby their special collection of books and tell them they were given to them by their friends, and each one has a special message.  Did you read some of them, Angel?  They were pretty special,” Jack responded.

“I know.  I just read a few.  Cassie's ... gawd, Jack, did you see what she wrote to our baby?”

“... that if she could have picked a father, she'd pick us, that she thinks of us that way.  Yeah, that meant a lot.  Which reminds me, I did talk to Dominic,” Jack stated.

“Jack, you didn't threaten him ...”

“Threaten?  Dominic?  Of course not.  I just reminded him of Cassie's virtue and indicated it had better not be touched until she's wearing a wedding ring!”

“Jack, you didn't!  I mean, she's a woman now,” Daniel chastised.

“Where'd the years go?  She was just eleven when we found her,” Jack sighed.

“She's special, and she's all grown up, Jack.  I have a hunch she and Dominic ...”

“Don't say it, Daniel.  I don't want to hear it.”

Daniel laughed and then said hesitantly, “I, uh, said something to him, too.”

“You did?”

Nodding, Daniel responded, “I sort of told him that we loved her and then, uh, um, well, I ...”

“What did you say?”

“I told him that Teal'c was becoming concerned and that he was talking about putting Dominic through a Jaffa ritual to make sure he was pure of heart and honest and respectful, emphasis on the respectful part, and that if he wasn't, well ... I sort of suggested that a certain body part would be ... at risk.”

“Daniel Jackson-O'Neill, you are joking?  Aren't you?”

Daniel grinned and shook his head, saying, “It's her life, Jack, and she's a woman, but I still feel protective of her, and I really just wanted him to know that.”

Taking a big breath, Jack changed the subject, saying, “I'm exhausted, Love.  How about a quick shower and then quality sleep time?”

“Works for me,” Daniel answered.  As they took a few steps up the stairs, the phone rang.  “I'll get it, Babe.”  He turned and headed to the kitchen counter, where the cordless phone rested.  “Hello ... Hey, Sam ...”

Jack had been waiting at the bottom of the stairs.  He had heard Daniel's greeting, but now, his husband was just standing there, looking like a guppy.

“Danny, what does Carter want?”  Seeing his husband nearly catatonic, he rushed over and called out, “Danny?”  He waved his hand in front of Daniel's eyes until the younger man finally blinked.  “Daniel?”  ~Okay, not working,~ Jack determined, urgently grabbing the phone.  “Carter?  What's going on?”  Hearing her words, he finally understood why his lover was standing like a statue.  “Plan B, Colonel,” he ordered, hanging up the phone.

The retired general walked to the door, opening it and ordering, “Bijou!  Katie!  Outside.  Don't look at me like that.  We're having a baby!  Move it!”

“Woof!” Bijou responded, nudging her sleepy puppy from her spot and then following her outside.  “Woof! Woof!” Bijou said, her tail wagging.

“Yeah, exciting!  Love you both.  We'll be home soon.”

Jack locked the door and then put on his jacket.  He walked over to Daniel who still hadn't moved.  He chuckled as he slipped on Daniel's coat.

“Help me out here a little, will ya?” Jack requested.  He zipped up the jacket and gazed into Daniel's eyes, “You are breathing, aren't you, Danny?  Come on, Love.  Breathe.  Yeah, there we go,” he said, cupping his Love's face.  “I love you, Angel, so friggin' much.  Our baby is about to enter the world.  Geez, I wish I could tell you how wonderful that makes me feel.”

“J'ck?” Daniel finally managed to croak out.  “Ho...hol...hold me?”

Jack smiled as he embraced his love and said, “It's going to be perfect.  Carter knows what to do.  You ready, Danny?  Ready to go welcome our baby into our lives?”  When his husband didn't move, Jack held on to him for a moment longer, but he knew they needed to get moving.  He kissed Daniel's neck and then his lips before he backed off a bit.  “Kayla needs us.  We need to go.”

“I love you, Jack, but I'm not sure I remember how to breathe.”

“I'll remind you if you forget,” the older man promised.

“CPR?”

“The fun kind.  Come on.”

====

Once in the truck, Jack handed his cell phone to Daniel, instructing, “Plan B, Danny.”

“Jack?”  Daniel looked at his husband a bit hesitantly, saying, “It's too soon.  Our baby is going to be premature.”

“Danny, Syl's been watching Kayla like a hawk, and everything's been fine.  A lot of babies are born early, especially first ones.”

“I thought first babies were late,” Daniel expressed with concern.

“Maybe it depends on the baby.  Daniel, it's okay.  We're having a baby. Relax,” Jack urged as he drove towards the hospital.

“Are you crazy?  I can't even br...br...breathe, and you ... you want me to relax?”

Jack had to smile, but then he spoke reassuringly to his spouse, saying, “I love you, Angel.  Our baby is healthy.  I'm positive.  Now, Plan B.”

Daniel took a cautious breath, and then dialed Sylvia to make sure Sam had reached her.

“Sounds like the real deal, Daniel.  She's gonna pop,” Sylvia teased.

“Pop?” Daniel repeated as he nodded, repeating Sylvia's word.

“Daniel, Jack is with you, isn't he?” the physician asked.

“Jack?” Daniel repeated, though he wasn't calling out to his lover, nor was he answering the question.

Jack chuckled, grabbed the phone, and stated, “He's fine, Syl, or he will be.  Just a bit in shock.  What's the scoop? ... yeah ... okay ... you sure? ... no, I understand ... we're about thirty minutes away ... right ... Oh, Syl, wait ... Daniel's concerned the labor is early and ... that's what I told him ... Thanks, Syl!”

“Baby,” Daniel said as if the word were a strange one he'd never heard before.

“Daniel, call the troops,” Jack ordered.  “Syl thinks it's the real deal.  She also says everything is fine and not to worry about the early labor pains, okay?”

“Pop,” Daniel said.  “Don't worry ... ppppop.”

“Huh?”

“She's gonna pop,” the younger man said.

Jack thought for a minute, engaging his Danieleze translator guide, then responded, “Oh, Syl said that, didn't she?”  Chuckling, he prompted, “Danny, Love, the phone calls.”

“Oh, gawd.  Where's my brain?”

Jack reached over and took Daniel's hand.  Carefully, he leaned over just a tad to press it.

“It's okay.  You're just in shock a little.  Been there, done that,” Jack spoke.

“I bet you weren't like this when Charlie was born,” Daniel lamented, hating his failure to be fully engaged, brain-wise.

“Of course not.  I just put on my best captain exterior.  You'll be fine.  The phone calls will help,” Jack said as he released Daniel's hand to focus more on his driving.

Daniel took a breath and then phoned their very close circle of friends, all of whom had requested to be contacted so they could go to hospital for the birth.  Lou and Carolyn, Jeff and Margaret, General Hammond, Janet, Cassandra, Teal'c, and Mrs. Valissi were all thrilled at the news, each promising to join the couple as soon as they could get there.

“Jack, it's funny isn't it?”

“What is?”

“All these phone calls.  We've always been so private, so, uh, guarded with our lives, and here we are, at ... gawd, what is one of the most intimate and private moments and, um, we just called a bunch of people to come and share it with us,” Daniel spoke in utter amazement.

“Danny, if you don't want them there, tell me.  I'll call them back,” Jack replied.

“That's the thing, Jack.  It's what I don't understand.”

Jack shook his head as he drove, saying, “I don't know what you mean, Love.”

“I want them there.  I don't understand that.”

Jack smiled, full of understanding as he explained, “Maybe it's because those people have cared about us, supported us, been family to us for a long time.”

“Still ...”

“Yeah, I know what you mean, but be sure, Danny.  This is our moment.  We've waited for this for a long time.  There's no rule that says we need to share this experience.”

Daniel thought about Jack's words as he looked out the window and then stated, “You're wrong, Babe.  There is a rule.  It's the rule of love.  Loving means sharing.  Gawd, Jack, how long did it take you to teach me that?”

“You've shared plenty.”

“No, that's not what I mean.  You taught me about trust and family.  Jack,” Daniel paused as he struggled to find his words.  “I've lived my life as a loner for so long.  I was shut off from everyone.  No one cared about me, and I ... I had no one to care about, not really.  Sarah ... Sha're ... that's all.  I like our world.  I, uh, I mean, we don't need anyone else, but you know, still, it's nice to have people to care about that for once I know really do care about me ... about us, too.”

At a stop light, Jack reached over and took Daniel's hand, squeezing it tenderly as he vowed, “You'll never be alone again.  You're stuck with me forever and always.”

“And those people, they are our family, too.  I want them there.  Do you?”

A grin took over Jack's face as he answered, “Yeah, I do.  It's not so strange, Danny, for families to share these big moments.  It doesn't mean we've lost our privacy or even our need for it.  It just means we've ...”

“It just means we have family we love, want, and need,” Daniel put forth.

“Especially at times like now,” Jack asserted.

“Like now,” Daniel agreed as he smiled.

====

As per Sylvia's instructions, Sam was taking Kayla to the hospital since that would be quicker than Jack and Daniel returning to the woman's apartment.

As she drove, Sam's curiosity got the better of her, so she asked, “Kayla, you practically insisted that we get the general and Daniel a second crib.  Why?”

“I told you, they like backups, and they want a second baby,” Kayla answered as she smiled evasively.

Sam looked over at her friend and laughed, “Come on, Kayla.  Tell me the truth.”

“Twins!  Ooooooh, gawd, it's twins!” Kayla exclaimed as she endured another contraction.

Sam automatically noted the time while replying, “You're kidding!”

Kayla shook her head in response, saying, “We've known for months, but ...”

“They don't know?”

“They didn't want to, Sam,” Kayla explained.  “Sylvia and I have both tried to tell them, but they kept saying they wanted the complete birth experience to be a ... OH MY ... OW ... surprise!”

“It'll be a surprise all right.  How are you doing?” Sam asked, not happy that Kayla had just had another contraction.  ~Too close.~

“Drive, Sam.  Just ... drive!” Kayla encouraged as she grimaced from the latest pain she'd felt.

====

“Jack, Daniel, are you two ready for this?” Sylvia asked with a grin.

Sam and Kayla had arrived in time, with Jack and Daniel having just sprinted to the maternity ward.

“Always ready, Syl,” Jack answered.

“Let's go on in.  I'd like you to meet someone before we get too far along,” the doctor spoke.

“Hello again,” Kayla greeted her friends, seeing them enter.  She smiled just as she let out a painful cry at the latest contraction.  “Oh, my!”

“Hi, Kayla,” Daniel responded as he suddenly came to life, going to her, and holding her hand in support.  He immediately noticed the fetal monitor she was hooked up to.  “How ya doing?”

“Oh, just ... swell,” Kayla answered.

Jack stood behind his lover and expressed, “Thank you isn't what you want the most right now, Kayla, but thank you.”

“You're right, Jack, but you're welcome anyway.”

“Daniel, Syl says that backache I had today was probably back labor.  Do you believe that?  Labor ... in my back!”

“Right now, I'll believe almost anything.  Did you practice your breathing today?” the archaeologist inquired.

Kayla glanced at Sylvia, who purposefully interrupted the conversation by informing, “Guys, she's about eight to nine centimeters dilated.  I don't think it's going to be all that long.  Uh, Jack and Daniel Jackson-O'Neill, I'd like you to meet Doctor Kolar.  She's a pediatrician and will be assisting.”

“Assisting?  Is there a problem?” Jack asked, confused by the presence of a second doctor.

“No, not a one,” Sylvia answered.  “It's normal procedure with premature labor.”  ~Not to mention, there are two babies here and not one.~

Jack's sixth sense was telling him something wasn't quite right, but he knew Sylvia wouldn't lie to them, and he didn't want to upset Daniel or Kayla, so he put his suspicions on the back burner.

“Syl, thanks in advance for being here for the duration.  I know it's not really normal these days,” the general spoke.

“I wouldn't dream of letting you two go through this alone.”

Daniel looked at the clock, noting it was 11:30 p.m., and then watched Sylvia and the nursing staff prepare for the impending birth.  Jack, too, was paying close attention to everything that was going on around them.

“Everything looks good.  I do see it looks like one, um, it looks like a membrane has ruptured during a contraction, but that's okay.  No problem.  Let's give Kayla the epidural,” Sylvia instructed.

“What happened to all that Lamaze training?” Jack asked.

“Slight change in plans, Jack,” Sylvia answered with a smile.  “But you can still be supportive.”

Jack tilted his head slightly, not sure what to make of that, and Daniel was too busy talking to Kayla, trying to be calming and reassuring, to have let the change in their plans sink in.  He was just doing what he was asked to do as time passed.

====

An hour later, a distressed Kayla insisted, “Honest, Syl...Sylvia, I need to ... oh ... I really need to push.”

Sylvia examined Kayla and agreed, “I think you're right, Kayla.  You're fully dilated - ten centimeters - and one-hundred percent effaced.  This is it, folks.  Here we go!  Push!”

Jack and Daniel looked at each other, their eyes meeting in a silent union that spoke of a universe of love they felt for each other and the life that was about to be born.

“Push, Kayla!” Sylvia ordered.

Daniel was still holding Kayla's hand, and Jack was holding onto Daniel, his arms around Daniel's waist.  Both were looking at Sylvia, watching and waiting to see their child make his or her first appearance.

“Jack ... gawd,” Daniel spoke as he lay his head back on Jack's shoulder for a minute.

“I love you, Danny,” Jack whispered as they waited.

“Love you so much, Jack,” Daniel answered softly, knowing at any moment their baby would breathe its first breath.

“Here we go.  Head.”

Moisture begin to fill Daniel's eyes, and, without doing it intentionally, Jack's hold on Daniel tightened.

“Wah!” the newborn cried.

“It's a boy,” Sylvia pronounced as she delivered the baby.  “Okay, Baby A, welcome to the world.”  She looked over at the two fathers and asked, “One of you two want to cut the cord?”

Normally, Sylvia wouldn't have been in such a hurry, but this wasn't a normal situation.

“Go on, Love,” the older man urged, smiling brightly.

“Jack?”

“Do it,” Jack said with an affirmative nod.

Daniel moved forward and cut the cord.  Then, a nurse wrapped the baby gently in a warm wrap, and Sylvia looked up expectantly.

“Danny, hold our son,” Jack said, not trying to hide his own falling tears.

Daniel looked over at Kayla and mouthed a “Thank you” as he accepted the most precious gift he'd ever been given -- his son.  His smile grew as he held the newborn baby for the very first time.

“Jack, look at him.  One ... two ... three ... four ... five,” Daniel counted, checking out the fingers and toes, the eyes and the ears.

“He's beautiful.  Big sucker,” Jack teased.

“How are you doing, Kayla?” Sylvia inquired.

“Oh, geez.  Okay, but ... oh, Sylvia.  I HATE BEING A WO...WO...WOMAN!”

Daniel looked over full of concern.  Kayla looked like she was still going through labor.

“Okay.  Sue, give Kayla more of the epidural,” Sylvia instructed one of her nurses.

Jack looked up at Sylvia, surprised, “More?  Why?”

Sylvia grinned as she continued her preparations and answered, “Don't blame me, Gentlemen.  You didn't want to know.”  As Daniel looked at Jack wide-eyed, she reminded, “Daniel, remember you're holding your son.”

“Mmm...mm...more?” Daniel stuttered in disbelief.

“Whoa!  Kayla, this one is ready to pop now!  Water's broken,” Sylvia announced.

The hospital room bustled with activity as Baby Number Two prepared to make its way into the world.

One of the nurses took the baby from Daniel and walked over to Doctor Kolar.  Jack watched as the doctor began the usual examination of the newborn.  He had known something was off, but he hadn't expected this at all.  Now, as he stood behind Sylvia, he was almost like a statue, much like Daniel had been during Sam's phone call at the house.

“This one is breeched,” Sylvia called out, alerting her staff.

“Syl,” Kayla gasped, “No C-section unless we absolutely have to, okay?”

Nodding, the doctor spoke, “Let's see if we can turn the little one.  Come on you.”

Daniel glanced at Jack, a look of worry on his face.

Jack smiled and put his arm around his husband, whispering, “Happens all the time, Danny.  Nothing to worry about.”

“He's right, Daniel.  No problems here.  Stubborn like your fathers,” Sylvia talked to the still unborn child.  “C-section might be safer, but I think we can go ahead with a vaginal delivery.  Whoa, not much of a choice anymore.  There's the feet.  Push, Kayla.  Yes ... welcome to the world, little one.  Almost.  Another push, Kayla.”

A minute later, the suspense was over.

“Another son!  Congratulations, you two.  Baby B looks just fine,” Sylvia said, beaming as the second Jackson-O'Neill let out a soft cry in contrast to the deafening howl of the first born infant.

“Jack, you cut the cord this time,” Daniel insisted.

Jack moved into position and did the honors.

“Jack ...” Sylvia started to hand him the baby, assuming that he would also hold the infant first, but Jack shook his head.

“No, Danny first.”

“Jack, I ...”

“Take our son, Danny.”

Sylvia placed the second baby in Daniel's arms.  This time, Jack did all the counting, his chin resting on his soulmate's shoulder as they smiled and marveled at the small child.

“Twins.  Jack, we have twins.”

After a minute, another nurse took the second baby.  Jack and Daniel were holding on to each other, never taking their eyes off of their children.

“Okay, Kayla, let's get you cleaned up and see how many stitches we're going to need,” Sylvia said as she started to walk back to the foot of the bed.

“Um, Doctor Preston?” Sue called out.

“OW ... WHAT THE ... OH MY GAWD,” Kayla shouted.

Surprised, Sylvia looked at Kayla and questioned alarmingly, “What's wrong?”

“Doctor Preston, I think you'd better get over here,” Sue spoke with urgency.

Sylvia returned to her delivery position and smiled, asking, “Well, what do we have here?  Hold on to your hats, people.  We have triplets!”

“Trip...tr...triplets?” Jack asked, stunned, stuttering for the first time in his life.

“No, that can't be.  Can it?” Daniel asked blankly.  “Jack!” He turned to look at his husband, who was positively pale; in fact, he wasn't sure his lover was breathing.  “Jack, Love.  Look at me, Babe.”  He cupped Jack's face, gently slapping his cheeks to try and nudge his husband back to reality.  “Jack!”

“Tr...trip...triplets?” Jack asked, once again stuttering.

Daniel smiled, his eyes twinkling with love and excitement, and echoed softly, “Triplets.”

“Give Kayla another boost of the epidural, Sue,” Sylvia ordered, adding, “And make it quick.  Baby C isn't going to be patient.”

Two minutes later, a tiny baby emerged, letting out sad little cries at having been disturbed from the womb.

“Gentlemen, you have a daughter,” Sylvia announced.

“Daughter?  Jack, we have a daughter,” Daniel cooed before cutting the cord and then holding the precious baby in his arms, while having the most serene look on his face.  “She's so tiny, Sylvia.”

“I know.  Sue,” Sylvia prompted as she took the baby quickly from Daniel.  “She's small, Daniel.  We need to take precautions.  Nothing to worry about.”

Daniel was surprised not to feel Jack's hands on him, so he turned, surprised to see the older man looking ahead blankly.

“Jack?”  Daniel walked up to his husband.  “Jack?  Say something.  Jack!”  He ran his hand in front of Jack's eyes.  “JACK!”

Jack startled, calling out, “Triplets?”

Daniel smiled and drew Jack into a warm embrace, saying, “Isn't it amazing, Love?  We have three children.  Three.  Ours.  Three amazing new lives, and they're ours, Jack.”

“Triplets,” Jack repeated in shock.  “Danny, I don't feel so good.”

Daniel chuckled at his normally in control and calm general and said, “Come here, Love.  You'll be fine.”

Daniel led Jack to a chair and told him to sit down.  Both had their eyes glued on Sylvia and the nurses as they fussed with the three babies.  Daniel's left hand was on Jack's shoulder, and he felt Jack reach up and take it.  He knelt down in front of his lover.

“You think they're okay, Danny?”

“Yes.  Three.  Three, Jack.”

“I think I'm in shock,” Jack admitted.

“I know, but that's okay.  I was in shock on our way here,” the archaeologist chuckled.

“I guess we balance out pretty well,” the older man mused.

“I guess so.  Geez, Jack, Kayla.”

“I'm fine,” the exhausted young woman said as a nurse assisted her into changing positions slightly.

“Sylvia, what's going on?” Jack called out a few minutes later.

“Just checking.  Come see your babies.”

Jack and Daniel walked hand in hand over to where the babies had all been examined.  They watched as each infant had its footprints taken, and then each were given tiny plastic bands of identification that were placed on their ankles.

“They're perfect,” a beaming Daniel stated.

“Absolutely perfect,” Jack agreed.

“She's so tiny.  Sylvia?” the younger father questioned.

“We're going to put them all in incubators for a while, but they're strong.  We need to keep an eye out on Baby Girl Jackson-O'Neill, but I think the boys are definitely going to be out on their own soon enough.”

“Baby Girl Jackson-O'Neill,” Daniel repeated, leaning his head on Jack's shoulder.  “We're so blessed, Jack.”

“Amen.”

====

-- Chapter Nine:  By Any Other Name!

====

A short while later, Jack and Daniel stood watching their three babies who were now in incubators.  Jack's arms were around Daniel's waist.

“They're so beautiful; just like you, Angel.”

“I can't believe it, Jack.  They're ours,” Daniel said as he leaned his head to rest on Jack's left shoulder as he placed his hands atop Jack's.  “Aislinn Elizabeth Claire,” he added suddenly.

“What, Angel?”

“Aislinn, our dream, Jack, and our inspiration, just like your mom, and mine.  Our little Aislinn!  Aislinn Elizabeth Claire.”

“I like that.  I like that a lot,” Jack responded.  “Aislinn.  It's even Irish.”

Jack smiled, proud of his ancestry, and that his husband had suggested such a loving name.

“Look at our first born, Jack.  He's so squirmy.”

“He's a big one!”

“I'll say.  Poor Kayla,” Daniel chuckled.  “She was carrying triplets all that time and didn't know it.”

“He needs a name,” Jack pointed out.

“Jonathan Charles, little Jonny, after you,” Daniel stated firmly without hesitation.

“Danny ...”

“No, Jack.  He's our first, and I really want him to be named after you.  Please?”

Jack gazed into the depths of Daniel's cerulean blue eyes and crumbled, seeing all the love and admiration those eyes held for him.

“I can never deny you anything,” Jack spoke softly.  After a beat, he joked, “Besides, he's big enough and definitely loud enough to be mistaken for me.”

“So, he's named after you and ... our first son.  Do you think he'd mind?” Daniel asked about Charlie.

Jack swallowed hard, so proud of Daniel for remembering Charlie at this moment, and answered, “No, I think he'd be honored.”

“Is ... is it okay with you, or would it make you feel funny?  Be honest, Jack.”

Jack smiled as he responded, “I'm touched, Angel, and I think it's perfect.  Thank you for remembering Charlie with our little miracles.  Love you so much.”

“It just ... feels right, Jack.  He'll help us watch them.  I know Charlie will.”

“Yes, he will.”  Jack nodded in agreement as he rubbed the stray tear from flowing down his cheek.  “And this one, this one is Daniel Michael, after you.”

“Jaaaack ...”

“I want our son named after you.  I didn't argue over little Jonny, did I?  Well, not much anyway.”

Daniel sighed lightly and after a few seconds asked, “Where'd the Michael come from?”

“The same place Aislinn comes from ... our hearts.”

The younger man smiled as he commented, “Like your grandmother said -- sometimes things just happen.  All those names we talked about, but looking at them, these names ... they are just right for our babies.”

“Grandmothers are always so wise.  So, Daniel Michael,” Jack stated decisively.

“We're not calling him Mikey,” Daniel warned, prepared for Jack's onslaught of nicknames that he was sure would be forthcoming soon.

“Mike.”

“Michael.”

“You drive a hard bargain, My Love.”

Daniel laughed at their exchange and then marveled at all the hours they had spent researching names for their children.  Yet, in the end, it came down to one minute and a magic that just happened, like Jack's grandmother had said.

“Wow, Jack.  We have three children, three little babies.  Gawd, they're ours.  Our miracles,” Daniel sighed happily.

“Jonny, Little Danny, and Aislinn, our blessings,” Jack said proudly.

“It's Michael,” Daniel corrected strongly.  Softening his voice greatly, he added, “Jack, we have a family.”

“You can say that again.  Geez, Danny, you'd think just once things would go according to plan.”

In an instant, Daniel stiffened in Jack's hold.  Panic began to build as he made a sudden realization.

“Jack, the nursery.  We're not ready!”

“We will be.  I have a hunch the babies are going to be here for a little while because of their size, except for the little giant there.”  As Daniel started to laugh, Jack asked, “What's so funny?”

“Look at Michael.”

“Yeah?”

“He's reaching for Jonny.  He misses him already,” Daniel theorized.  He and Daniel exchanged a look, and then he spoke, “I'll bet Jonny took care of all of them in the womb.”

Daniel sensed something about the oldest of the triplets.  He felt a protectiveness present in their first born.  He smiled, knowing without having any logic or proof to support it, that as life progressed Jonny would always be the protector, with Michael and Aislinn looking up to him for guidance and support.

“Well, if he's my kid, he'd better take care of his brother and sister,” Jack bellowed.

Daniel laughed again, teasing, “He did cry a lot when he was born.”

“He was cranky.  Wanted to stay where it was warm, not come out into this cold world.”

“He's going to be a grizzly bear like you.”

“And Little Danny there will make him a marshmallow.”

“MICHAEL!”

“Okay, okay.  Sorry.  Little ... Michael,” Jack said, a large grin on his face.  ~But not for long, Angel.  That's our Danny.  He knows it, and I know it, and soon enough, so will you.~

“Don't even think about it, Jack.”

Jack chuckled, “Hey, we need to go see our friends.  They're out there worrying, I'm sure.”

“Oh, forgot.  I just ... I'm not sure I can leave here.”

“I'll go,” Jack said and then kissed Daniel's nape.

“No, we'll both go.”  Daniel reached out and touched the closest incubator.  “I love you all so much,” he whispered, and with the whisper, Jack couldn't stop the tears.  Daniel turned, and the two held each other for a couple of minutes, knowing they were now more than their nation of two.  “We're a family, Jack.”

“We always were, Angel, but now, we're a brood.”

“You're incorrigible, and I adore you.”

“The feeling's mutual.”

Jack kissed his lover as they held hands and headed for the waiting room.

====

“What is taking so long?” Lou asked anxiously.

Janet laughed.  Lou had children; he should know they came on their own time, not that of the parents.

“Some births take hours, Colonel,” the redheaded doctor pointed out.

“Hours and hours,” Mrs. Valissi teased, “and we've only been here for a little over three hours.”

Just then Jack and Daniel walked out, and everyone gathered around, curious to hear the news.

“Wow!  That was fast!” Sam exclaimed, smiling with the others.

“It's a boy!” Daniel exclaimed with pride.

“And it's a boy,” Jack boasted.

“And it's a girl,” Daniel said, unable to contain the biggest grin anyone had ever seen on him.

“Boy ... boy ... gi...girl?” Sam squeaked out in question.

“Triplets!” Jack and Daniel exclaimed in proud unison.

Sam almost fell backwards, but Teal'c caught her.

“Thanks T...Murray!  Triplets!  Oh gawd!”

Cassandra laughed as she asked, “Are you serious?  Kayla had trips?”

“Way to go, Doc!” Lou congratulated as he slapped Daniel on the arm.

“Details, General,” Hammond demanded with a smile.

“You start, Love,” Jack schemed.

“Well, the first baby is loud, like my husband here,” Daniel teased, “so naturally, we're naming him after Jack.  He's Jonathan Charles Jackson-O'Neill.  He's sixteen and one-quarter inches with all his toes and fingers and other parts,” he laughed. “He weighed a whopping seven-and-a-half pounds which Syl says is enormous for a triplet, but not unheard of.  The main thing is that he's healthy as a horse and came into the world bellowing like a grizzly bear, just like his dad.”

Daniel looked softly at Jack, indicating it was his turn.

“Our second baby, just a little guy, came out pretty quietly.  He keeps reaching over for Jonny, which we think seems appropriate.  He's fifteen and three-quarter inches, weighs a healthy six pounds, two ounces, and of course, he's beautiful with everything right where it's supposed to be.”

“What's his name, Jack?” Jeff asked.

“Danny.”

“Jack!”

Jack smiled and shrugged, and then answered, “He's Daniel Michael Jackson-O'Neill.”

“And we're calling him *Michael*, aren't we, Jack?” Daniel quizzed, giving his husband a stern look of warning.

“Yes, Dear.”  After Daniel jabbed him in the abdomen, causing everyone to laugh, he said, “Sorry, couldn't help myself.”

“You are so sleeping alone tonight!” Daniel threatened, though even he laughed at the bluff.  Realizing that was a lost cause, he faced his family of friends and stated firmly, “We're calling him Michael.”

“And what about the little girl?” Cassandra asked eagerly.  “I can't wait to see you two raising a little girl.”

“She's our blessing, our biggest surprise, and our deepest inspiration to be the best we can be, so we've named her after our mothers and given her a name that speaks of doing great things.  Her name is Aislinn Elizabeth Claire Jackson-O'Neill.  She's so beautiful, but she's tiny.”  He frowned and sighed, “She's just five pounds, but she's all there, sixteen inches, and Sylvia says she seems just fine.”

“And that's our brood.  Bless their hearts,” Jack said happily, drawing Daniel into him as he spoke.

Everyone chatted for a while, and then they began to disperse.  It was close to 4 a.m. by the time their friends started to leave.

“Sir, what about Sara?  I mean, I would have thought ...”

“It wasn't an oversight, Carter,” Jack responded.  “She, Mark, and Angela are on vacation at Disney World.  I have their number, and we'll give them a call in a few hours.”

“She'll be thrilled.”

“Stay healthy, Carter.  I'm not sure how thrilled Mark is going to be,” Jack mused.

“Um, Sir, any chance I could ...” Sam nodded towards the hospital nursery where the babies were.

“Jack?” Daniel called out.

“What are you looking at me for?  Like I have control of anything here,” Jack stated.

“Always the CO, Jack.”

“Right,” Jack said, shaking his head.  “Come on, Carter, sneak a peek.”

====

“Oh, wow!  They're so tiny.”  Sam giggled, “This is Little Dan...Michael, right?”

“How'd you know, Sam?”

“He's reaching out for Jonny,” the blonde pointed out.

“Did I say they could have visitors?” Sylvia asked as she walked in.

“Um, well, it's just ...”

“Give me strength!” Sylvia groaned.  ~Could be worse: could be the entire pack I heard was in the waiting room.~  “Hello, Sam.”

“Hi, Sylvia.”

“Syl?” Jack questioned.

“Everything checks out.  They are remarkably healthy.  Reflexes are perfect for all three; no complications at all.  Jonny should be out of the incubator tomorrow.  He's really the strongest, but they are all doing great.”

“You didn't know she was having triplets, did you, Sylvia?” Daniel inquired.

“No, Daniel.  We knew about the twins.  Little Aislinn was a complete surprise,” the doctor revealed.

“I'd better go,” Sam said.  “Thanks for the peek.”

“I'll walk you out, Sam.  Fellas, sleep is about to become a rare commodity for you two.  I recommend you go home and get some of it while you can,” Sylvia advised.

“She's right,” Daniel stated.

“I know,” Jack agreed.

The lovers chuckled as they sat down, neither having any intention of leaving the hospital just yet.  Finally, as the day shift began arriving, the couple agreed to go home.

When they finally went to bed, Jack held Daniel as he always did and quickly went to sleep, but after a few minutes, Daniel gently moved out of Jack's embrace.  He reached into the nightstand and pulled out his journal.  Since it was daylight, he didn't need a light.  With a smile, he began to write:

“It's September 24, 2006, and the most amazing thing has happened.  Today, I became a father ...”

====

“Look, we're married, and even if that isn't okay in your book, our names have been legally changed.  Now, I want these birth certificates to have both of our names on them,” Jack demanded.

“It's impossible,” the administrative clerk responded.

“Why?  Look, I read about it in the paper a while back.  There was a ...” Jack hesitated.  He wasn't used to using labels in describing his relationship with Daniel.  He felt frustrated, furious, and sick to his stomach at the injustice of it all.  He looked at Daniel for a moment, shaking his head, trying to will himself to remain calm.  “Ma'am, there have been couples like Daniel and I before, in this state, that have had both their names on the birth certificate.”

“I understand that, General O'Neill ...”

“JACKSON-O'Neill,” Jack barked in frustration.

“I understand that, General, but we have laws in this county,” the clerk replied.

“You know what you can do with those laws?”

“Jack.  Stop.  Let's go,” Daniel said and then walked off in resignation, arms folded.

“Daniel ...” Jack called out, hurrying after his spouse.

“It's our fault, Jack.  We didn't check on this and prepare for it.  Gawd.  How could we forget this?”

“Too much else going on,” Jack moaned.  “We'd better get back.”

====

As the triplets celebrated their second day of life, Sam knocked on the SGC leader's door, calling out, “General Hammond, do you have a moment?”

“Come in, Colonel Carter.  Is there a problem with the triplets?” Hammond asked, knowing the blonde had just come from the hospital.

“Not exactly.”

“Colonel?”

“The babies are fine, Sir, but there's a problem.  Actually, it's more like a red tape issue. Sir, they wouldn't ask, and I don't know if there are strings that can be pulled, but I thought, considering all they've done ...”

“Spit it out, Colonel.”

“The birth certificates,” Sam stated.  “Legally, they're only allowed the name of one man, and the hospital insists Kayla's name has to go on it.  The general and Daniel have tried to reason with them, even to work out a compromise that would include all three names, but they say that legally they can't.  They're heartbroken, Sir.  This is one thing they just hadn't thought about.”

Just then the klaxons began to blare, interrupting the conversation.

“Thank you, Colonel.  No one's scheduled to return, so right now, we'd better focus on matters here.”

“Yes, Sir.”

====

“There we go,” Jack said, scooting the crib back into place.  “You sure about this, Danny?”

“Yeah, I'm sure.  I did a lot of research last night, and I was pretty amazed, but most of the parents used one crib for the first few months. This crib that they made for us is larger than normal so it's perfect.  We can keep the crib they gave us at the shower downstairs.  We'll just buy a third if we need to later.”

“I still can't believe that Sylvia said we can bring Jonny home tomorrow.”

“And Michael in a couple of days,” Jack added happily, though his smile faded when he saw Daniel frown.  “What is it?”

“Aislinn will be alone.  She's spent a good eight months with her brothers, someplace safe, and now she's in a loud, noisy world, and we're going to take them away from her?  I don't know, Jack.  I just don't like it, that's all.”  Daniel drew a loud breath.  “Jack, when you talked with Sylvia, did she say for sure how long she'd keep Aislinn at the hospital?”

“She wanted her to gain another pound, I think, so however long that takes,” the older man answered.

“Jack, I can't wait for them to come home.  Knowing he can come home, I want Jonny here so bad, but ... but more than that, I want them to come home together.  Is that unreasonable?”

“I don't know,” Jack answered softly.

“Jack?” Daniel asked hopefully.

“Okay, we'll talk to Syl, and see what she says.  After all, why should we conform to the norm at this stage in our lives?”  Jack chuckled.  They knew so little about having triplets and what did or didn't make sense, so they'd do what they always did and follow their hearts.  Somehow, he knew life would never quite be traditional for them.  ~Would be boring if it was.~

====

Late that afternoon, Jack and Daniel were visiting with their babies.  At the moment, Kayla was standing with them, taking in the magic of the three young lives in front of them.

“They are beautiful, aren't they?” Kayla asked, staring at the three babies she had given birth to just a couple of days earlier.

“They definitely are,” Jack agreed, a bounce in his step as he stood, smiling at his children, pride evident in his entire demeanor and tone.

“It was the most incredible experience of my life.  I will never forget it,” Kayla said, patting her now-flat abdomen.  She looked down, and added, “Oops, definitely going have to work out.”

“We'll never forget it, either,” Daniel said, grateful as always for Kayla's gift of life.  “And for the record, we think you're beautiful just the way you are.”

~I still need to work out, but thank you for making me feel such a part of this,~ Kayla thought as she smiled brightly at the compliment, knowing Daniel meant every word.  “Sylvia told me that for triplets, it was a pretty calm delivery.  I mean, when you think about it, it was over fairly quickly, and you know what else?”

“What?” both Jack and Daniel asked.

“The pain.  At the time, it hurt like heck, but now, it just ... seems dull.  I'd do it again in a heartbeat; in fact, I can't wait for the next pregnancy.”

“Kayla ...”

“Jack, do you still want another child, or are the triplets ...” Kayla paused, unsure what word to use.  Were three children too many?  Was it overwhelming? Would they want to change their plans now?  “Do you?”

Daniel answered, “We have lots of love to give.  We'd still like to have another child, if ... I mean ...”

“You booked me for two pregnancies, Daniel, and I wouldn't dream of backing out,” Kayla stated strongly.

“It wouldn't be backing out,” Jack responded.  “I think you've done far more than asked.  Carrying triplets -- wow!”

“Listen, Guys.  I'm serious.  I love those babies.  I'm so glad I was able to do this for you, and I want to finish what we started.  So, if you still want to go ahead, then as soon as Sylvia says it's okay, or whenever you two are ready, then you let me know.  I'll be here,” Kayla said with a confident smile.

“Thank you,” Daniel said softly.  “Thank you so much.”

“Are you taking Jonny home this afternoon?” the woman asked.

“Ah, actually, we were going to talk to Sylvia about that,” Jack answered.

“I don't think she's here,” Kayla responded.

“We'd better try and locate her.  We, uh, want to bring the triplets home together,” Daniel revealed.

“I'm not surprised,” Kayla replied.

“How about you, Kayla,” Jack said.  “When do you get sprung?”

“Tomorrow!” Kayla answered eagerly.

“Let us know the details, and we'll get you home and settled,” the general advised.

“Why, thank you, General,” Kayla responded appreciatively.  “Look at them.”

“Amazing, just amazing,” Daniel sighed happily as the three adults marveled at the three smaller lives in front of them.  “Miracles: all miracles.”

====

As the sun was setting, Jack and Daniel finally reached Sylvia on the phone.  She'd had two emergencies since being at the hospital earlier in the day, and this was her first chance to return phone calls.

“She's doing fine,” Sylvia assured the couple about their youngest child.  “I checked in with Doctor Kolar before phoning you, and everything is looking very good.  She said you were hesitant to take Jonny home, though.”

“Syl, would you think we're crazy if we said we wanted Jonny and Michael to stay in the hospital until Aislinn can come home, too?” Jack asked over the speakerphone in the study.

“Actually, it's not that unusual.  Even though Aislinn is in her own incubator, I believe she can sense her brothers are nearby,” the sensitive doctor opined.

“So, it's okay?” Daniel questioned.

“It'll give me time to run a few extra tests on the boys,” Sylvia responded.

“Tests?” Jack called out skeptically.

Hearing the worried tone, Sylvia clarified, “I'm being cautious and preventative, taking advantage of this extra time to run the tests that most doctors wish they could do with a new life, but usually can't.  We'll be able to cover more bases now.  That's how you want me to be, correct?”

“That's affirmative,” Jack responded, squeezing his lover's hand and seeing his nod of approval.

“In the meantime, as you asked me to do, I sent the DNA tests in.  We should have those back in a few days.”

“Thanks, Sylvia.  We appreciate that.  You know it's only because ...” Daniel began.

“Yes, I know.  You still want to have another child for whichever one of you isn't the biological father.”

“Right,” both men acknowledged at the same time.

With a chuckle, Sylvia asked, “You sure Kayla wants to give it another go?”

Jack laughed, “She's a gutsy young lady.  She's already assured us she's willing.”

“And we didn't even ask her,” Daniel pointed out happily.

“What women will do for men,” Sylvia mused.

“Go figure,” Jack teased in return as the three prepared to conclude their conversation.

====

The next day, Jack spent the morning running household errands.  This would be one of the last chances he would have to take care of business and restock non-baby related items before the triplets came home.  Though he and Daniel were spending most of their time with the children, they had agreed to spend the bulk of this day at home or doing things that had been neglected since the birth of the Jackson-O'Neill children.

Carrying bags of supplies with him, Jack walked into the living room and tripped over something.  He cursed loudly, barely stopping himself from falling, though the supplies didn't have the same luck, falling from Jack's arms onto the floor.

“What the ... DANIEL!”  Jack picked up the things he'd dropped, and then took a good look around the living room.  There were stacks of books, some open, some closed.  “DANIEL?” he called out again.

Not getting a response, Jack went in search of his husband, starting with the study where he found Daniel seated on the sofa, deeply involved in his reading and muttering to himself.  He watched as his lover made a few notes, talking to himself as if figuring out a puzzle.

Jack smiled, walked over, sat down, and asked lightly, “Danny, whatcha' doin?”

“... Babies are born with more than one-hundred billion brain cells ...”

“Huh?”

“... Babies develop in somewhat different ways and at somewhat different rates ...”

“Angel, we've read all these things.  Danny?” Jack questioned, leaning forward and trying to get a good look at his husband's face.

“Hi, Jack.  I'm reading.”  Daniel got up and began to pace the room as he continued, “Newborns may look quiet, but they are alert and ready to learn ...”

“Danny, how about putting that book down for a minute?” Jack asked, still seated on the sofa.

Daniel walked to the desk, read another passage, mumbling it aloud, “Spend lots of time engaging your baby in eye contact.”  Then he wrote down a few notes.  “But we need a refresher, Jack.  Triplets.  Gawd, we have triplets!” he exclaimed, his voice full of love, happiness, and terror.

Still reading his book, Daniel turned and headed out of the room, only to crash gently into the wall.

“Daniel!” Jack called out as he leaped up and ran over to the doorway where Daniel stood.

“Oh, sorry, Babe.  Didn't mean to bump into you,” Daniel spoke quickly, moving into the hallway, totally unaware he had just tangoed with a wall and not his husband.

Jack shook his head as he hurriedly went after his distracted lover, warning, “Danny, watch out!”

Jack quickly shoved a pile of four books out of Daniel's path, preventing the younger man from tripping over them.  Daniel went to the coffee table, urgently looking for another book, pulling out one that looked more like a pamphlet in Jack's opinion.

“Danny?”

“... Wipe away any poop with the diaper, taking care to cover the ...”

“DANIEL!” Jack called out loudly.

“Busy, Jack,” Daniel answered while walking towards the dining area.

Jack began to panic, expressing, “Oh, crap.”  He ran towards the table, moving the chair into position, just in time to prevent Daniel from sitting right smack down on the floor.  He chuckled at his lover's single-focused mind and ran his hands down Daniel's chest from behind.  “I love you, Danny.”  Then he realized the humor had changed to deep desire.  “I want you,” he said as he leaned over as he kissed Daniel's nape.

“Crap?  What's crap, Jack?” Daniel asked as he focused on his book, quietly reading the current passage, “... Once you determine which nipple he likes best, you can select the bottles and bottle accessories you need ...”

“Geez.”  Jack laughed at the craziness of the situation they were in.  “Want you, Angel.  Come to bed,” he wooed, sliding his hand around to unbutton Daniel's green polyester shirt.

“Love you, too,” a compliant Daniel spoke.

Suddenly, Jack quieted, standing and moving away while saying, “Geez, Danny, this is just like the time a few years ago when we made love, and I'm still not convinced you were there.”

Jack's memory took him back and in an instant, he found himself woefully lost in that day.  Their lovemaking had been sensational, but it had been just a few months into their relationship, and when Jack had arrived at Daniel's apartment, the young man had been deeply involved in his research.  His responses had been delayed, like they were now.  In essence, Jack had handled his lover as if he had been a puppet.

Afterwards, Jack had felt guilty.  Later, Daniel had tried to convince him that he had been aware of what they had been doing, even if he had been behind in the conversation.

Now, it was like Jack had been transported back to those feelings of doubt and insecurities.  He had worried that day about taking advantage of the man he loved, and that was something Jack never wanted to do.  He walked solemnly to the fireplace, consumed with guilt.  His thoughts were spoken aloud, to the air, not to Daniel whom he knew was still operating on a response delay.

“You weren't there, were you, Danny, just like you aren't here now?  You just ... wanted me to feel better.”

Jack stared down at the cold fireplace and silently thought how cold he felt now.  He'd never forgotten that day in Daniel's apartment, though his lover had told him over and over again that he had done nothing to feel guilty about.

“I was there, Love,” Daniel said suddenly while, at the same time, he wrapped his arms around his husband.  “I was there.  No one touches me like that, Jack, unless I want them to, and you are the only one, the *only* one, that I've ever wanted to touch me in that way.  Jack, I told you, I know I get ... a bit involved sometimes, but it's because I trust you so much. I know you'll always keep me safe.”

Jack turned, still in Daniel's hold, and said, “I love you, Danny.  I just ... I know it was a long time ago, but ...”

“No buts, Jack,” Daniel said as he kissed his love.  “You're my soulmate.  We're one heart,” his lips brushed Jack's, “one, Jack, in every way.”  He nibbled on Jack's upper lip.  “Want you.”

Jack's arms went fully around his husband as their passion ignited, the two falling to the floor and joining their bodies together in a powerful unison that left both satiated and completely blissful.  As their sweat-soaked bodies held on to each other afterwards, each was thankful for their blessings in life.

“We're parents, Jack.  Do you believe it?”

“I think I'm still in shock.  Geez, Danny, it's been just us for years, and now, now we'll have three beautiful little babies,” Jack spoke, his voice full of the wonder and amazement he felt.

“Triplets.  It's like a dream.”

“Jonny, Michael, and Aislinn: our miracles,” Jack stated.

Smiling, Daniel replied, “You're my miracle, too, Jack.  Thank you for loving me and helping me bring our children into our home.”

“I love you,“ Jack said, arching up to kiss his husband again.  “You know, we might not have much time for this once we bring the kids home.”

“We'd better take advantage of the moment then.”

“Take advantage of me, Danny.”

Happily for both men, Daniel honored his husband's request.

====

“Mark, that's great! ... Yes, I know, but that's not what we wanted.  This sounds perfect ... Sure ... Okay, I'll check the schedule with Daniel and we'll call and make an appointment ... Bye, Mark.”

“How's Sara?” Daniel asked, entering the living room from the backyard, Bijou and Katie on his heels.

“Wrong Mark.”

“Oh,” Daniel laughed.  “Too many Marks.”

“Yeah, well this one was our lawyer.  They've finalized all the details for the scholarship with the clinic,” Jack announced.

“No problems?” Daniel asked.

“No.  Joel has been more than cooperative and, Mark said, even excited. He likes our idea.”

“No hedging financially?”

“Nope, and I admit I never thought I'd end up seeing medical integrity outside of the few good guys I know, but according to Mark, Joel took our concept and enhanced it.  He's actually getting together with a few other friends who run clinics and may need qualified staff when the students graduate,” Jack stated informatively.

“That's great, Babe.”

“Uh, Daniel ...” Jack coughed nervously as he walked towards his husband.  “There is one thing.”  He placed his hands on Daniel's shoulders, rubbing gently.  “Mark insisted and actually, he said it was Joel who felt there should be some, um ...”

“Get to the point.”

Nodding, Jack stated, “They insist on at least a small trust for the babies.  The scholarship is great and there's no problem, but they think there should be something between the clinic and us.”

Daniel sighed unhappily and asked, “How much?”

“Danny, I told them we were against it, but Mark said there should be something.”

“How much, Jack?”

“I talked them down to forty-thousand dollars which by the time the babies grow up ...” Jack began.

Daniel turned and sat on the sofa, stating, “I don't want it, Jack.”

“It's not for us, Danny.  It's for our kids,” Jack corrected.

“Fine.”

“Give me an 'or' and we can ...”

“Jack, this thing happened to us.  We don't have to do anything we don't want to do.  Do you want this money?  Tell me the truth,” the younger man demanded.

“I already told you.  No, I don't need to have it, but Mark thinks that legally there should be some retribution.”

“Fine.”

“Danny ...”

“Let's give it away.  No trust fund.  Just let them give it to us, and we can donate it,” Daniel suggested.

“To who?”

“How about the children's shelter?”

“Molly's?” Jack asked about Molly O'Hanlon and the shelter she ran in Colorado Springs.

“I'm sure she could use it,” Daniel opined.

“That's my genius.  I love your 'or's!”  Jack smiled as he sat down next to Daniel and took his hand.  “We'll give it to Molly for the children at the shelter. Agreed?”

“Agreed,” Daniel said.  He leaned over and rested his head on Jack's shoulder.  “Do you think we're being unfair to our children?  I mean, maybe they'd want the money.”

“Our babies have two parents full of love and a beautiful home full of treasures.  The kids at that shelter ...” Jack paused, emotion starting to get the better of him.  “I love you, Danny.”

“I love you, too, Jack.”

“I wanted to ask you one more thing,” the older man said.

“Always one more thing,” Daniel chuckled.

“It's a question,” Jack stated.

“Naturally.  What's the question?” Daniel asked.

“Any chance I could snatch one of those chocolate truffles?” Jack asked.

“No way, Babe,” Daniel answered.  “There's only one left.”

“Oh.  Only one.”

Daniel turned, kissed his lover, and then suggested, “But we can share it!”

“Sharing is good,” Jack agreed.

“Sharing is fun,” the younger man chuckled.

“Let's share!”

“Now?”

“Definitely now,” Jack said, suddenly hungering for something other than the truffles.

“I'll go get it,” Daniel said, starting to get up.

“Forget the chocolate, Danny,” Jack said as he pulled Daniel back down to the sofa and began to ravish him.

====

Early that evening, Jack left the house to mail some baby announcements the couple had prepared to send to friends out of state who hadn't been able to see the triplets.  While he did mail the letters and make a trip to get gas in the truck, his real reason for going out was to meet with Tom, an old colleague from his Special Ops days.

“What did you find out, Tom?” Jack asked at the meet.

“He's a twisted sort, Jack.  Gives me the creeps,” Tom answered.

“Explain.”

“Can't.”

“What?” Jack questioned in disbelief.

“There's no dirt, Jack, but he's bad.  I can feel it; I just can't prove it,” Tom stated.

The response seemed odd to Jack, and it was uncharacteristic for Tom to be spooked by anything.

“Did you talk to him?” Jack asked.

“No, but I watched him.  His eyes, they weren't normal, Jack.”

“Eyes?” Jack asked.  ~I'm not going to like this.~

“He's the controlling type; gets upset when things don't go his way, and when things don't go his way, he gets angry, and when he gets angry, his eyes light up.  It's crazy weird.”

“Light up?” Jack asked with alarm.  “Tom, be specific.”

“They ... glow.  I've never seen anything like it, and I don't want to again, Jack.  Here.”  Tom handed over a small notebook.  “It's all I know, and all I want to know.”

Jack studied the papers and started to ask a question, “Tom, you said ...” but when he looked up, his one-time colleague was gone.  Swearing, he headed back for his truck.  ~Glowing eyes.  Great, just great.~

====

“You know something?  I don't miss the ladder,” Daniel said as he sank down onto the roof deck to sit next to Jack, their shoulders touching per their tradition.  “It's 4 a.m., Jack, and you promised to wake me up whenever you were going to do this.”

“I'm sorry, but ... Danny, that, uh ...” Jack stopped suddenly, not wanting to continue.

“Jack?”  Daniel took Jack's left hand in his, sensing this was nothing trivial.  Fearing bad news about their babies, he began, “Jack, did Sylvia ...”

“Danny, no.  The babies are wonderful; that's not why I'm out here.”

“Then ... why?” Daniel asked.

“If I found out something, something that might mess up our plans just a tad, and I didn't say anything because I was trying to protect you and our future, and you found out about it later, you'd be angry, wouldn't you?”

“And disappointed,” Daniel answered.

“That's what I thought, and you would find out,” Jack stated.

“Because you'd tell me ... eventually.”

“Yeah.”  Jack looked at Daniel and saw complete, unequivocal trust.  There was no doubt or hesitation.  He nodded, saying more firmly, “Yeah, I would.”

Daniel didn't feel the need to pressure his lover.  He knew Jack would come out with whatever the problem was when he was ready.

“We're parents, Danny.  We have to protect our kids.  I can't let this go, no matter how much I want to,” Jack stated.

The archaeologist was curious, but he let Jack work out his dilemma in his mind.

“We promised we'd leave that life behind, be a family, but I don't see how we can ignore this,” the general stated.  “It's too risky.”

Again, Daniel was curious, even more than before.  He knew now that the Mountain was involved somehow, but he still had no clue as to how or why.

“Choiceless,” Jack sighed, closing his eyes for a few seconds.  When he opened them, he looked at his lover and questioned, “Remember Seth?”

“Like I could forget?”

Jack tried to laugh, but he couldn't.  He just sat there, looking up at the clear, early morning sky.

“What made you think about Seth?” Daniel questioned when his lover hadn't said anything.

“Could there be others?” Jack asked.

“Goa'uld here on Earth?” Daniel replied, surprised by the inquiry.

“Yes.”

“I guess so.”

Jack shifted, moving their hands so that he was holding Daniel's now.  Daniel noticed the change.  It signaled a shift in the caregiving.  Jack was expecting to have to protect Daniel.

The older man was conflicted.  If Tom's report was accurate, there was a good chance Jed was a Goa'uld.  He wasn't sure how that was possible, but the glowing eyes were a dead giveaway.  The timing was lousy, though.  Jack had no desire to leave the triplets, and he knew Daniel would feel the same way.  How could they move forward with their family life if now, with their babies just days old, they were running off to fight aliens?  This was simply not the time to be battling the Goa'uld.

“Choiceless,” Jack sighed again.  No matter how he tried to rationalize it, he knew that he and Daniel had an obligation to protect Earth, whether or not they were still attached to the SGC or not.  Not only that, but they also had to protect their babies.  Ultimately, that need is what propelled him forward.  “Danny, your nightmare about Carrie and Jed ...”

“You're reminding me about a nightmare?” Daniel asked, surprised at Jack's words.  “Why?  And what does that have to do with Seth?”

“Think back, Danny.”

“I don't want to think back, Jack,” Daniel said, standing and walking to the opposite wall, his arms folded tightly in front of him.

“Daniel, I need you to think about Jed Gibson, to visualize him.”

“WHAT?  Visualize him?” Daniel asked incredulously, facing his lover.

“Think, Danny.”

“Why?  Why would you ask me to do that?  What does Jed ... I mean, he was just ... he ... he was,” Daniel's look was faraway.

In spite of his own feelings, the archaeologist found himself doing as his lover had requested.  Jack saw the changes registering in Daniel's face.  It was a natural progression -- shock, fear, hate, disbelief, and, finally, recognition.

“He's ... gawd, he's a Goa'uld?  How can that be?  He was just ... seventeen, but he ... Jack ...”

Jack jumped up and went to Daniel, his hands rubbing firmly against Daniel's upper arms.

“Jack, it's surreal.  It can't be.  There has to be another explanation,” Daniel insisted.

“Okay, give me one,” Jack requested.

“I don't know.”  Daniel moved away, walking to the railing that faced their neighbor's home.  “The Tok'ra did that census, Jack.  Seth was the only System Lord unaccounted for.”

“Yeah, but ... who says this Goa'uld is a System Lord?”

“Then why would he be here on Earth, and he would have had to have been here for as long as Seth.”  Daniel turned and asked, “How'd you know?”

Jack sighed, “Danny, you know me.  The man murdered a little girl; I couldn't just sit by and do nothing.  I wanted to know if he was still out there.”

“And ... he is?”

“It looks that way, but we need to know if what we're thinking is possible,” Jack spoke.

Daniel turned around again, closed his eyes, and sighed, “I need to do research. Gawd.”

Daniel bowed his head.  Quickly, Jack moved behind his lover and wrapped his arms around Daniel protectively, not around his waist, but around Daniel's arms and chest.

“It may never end, Danny.  I guess we both should face that, but ... that doesn't mean we give up our life.  Our family comes first, always.”

“What are the odds, Jack?” Daniel asked as he leaned his head back against Jack's left shoulder.  “How ironic is it that I would meet up with a Goa'uld as a child?”

“I don't do the math thing,” Jack said, starting to move his hands down.

“No, don't,” Daniel said.  “Keep me safe, Jack.  Don't let me go tonight.”

“I'll always keep you safe, and I'll never let you go,” the older man promised.

“Jack, the Goa'uld have never quite acted the way Jed did.  It doesn't make sense,” Daniel put forth.

“What are you thinking?”

“I'm not sure exactly.  Maybe ... I don't know ... an off-shoot.”

“A renegade Goa'uld?” Jack asked.

Daniel took a breath and said, “Or something.  Jack, we need to talk to Teal'c.  He might know something.”

“Now, or in the morning?” the general inquired.

“We could wait.”

Jack chuckled nervously, “Like either one of us is going to get any sleep.”

“Teal'c sleeps now,” Daniel replied.  “I'm not sure how he'd react to us barging in on him.”

“He won't mind,” Jack stated.  “Let's go dust off the security keys; see if they still work.”

“We don't even know for sure he's at the base,” Daniel replied.  “He could be on a mission, or on Chulak, or ...”

“Being Mister Negative, are we?” Jack only half joked.

“I guess you're right,” Daniel responded.  “Let's get dressed.”

====

“What do you know?  It still works,” Jack boasted as he swiped his security card through the first gate.

“You make it sound like we haven't been here for months.  It's only been a few weeks.”

“Considering we practically lived here for a decade, a few weeks seems a lot longer,” Jack replied, getting a nod of understanding from his spouse.

A few minutes later, they knocked on the door to Teal'c's quarters.

“Enter.”

“Hey, Big Guy!” Jack called out.

“O'Neill.  DanielJackson.”

“I hope we aren't disturbing you, Teal'c, but Jack and I need to ask you some questions,” Daniel began.

The three sat, each quiet at first, until Jack nudged Daniel's arm.

“Teal'c, have you ever heard of any, I don't know, renegade Goa'uld?” Daniel questioned.

“Renegade?”

“Like someone who might have gone out on their own, broken away from the main group,” Daniel explained.

“Like Seth, Teal'c, but not a System Lord,” Jack added.

“There is a story about a small band of Goa'uld that once tried to overtake the System Lords.  They were defeated, and most of their number were killed, but a few escaped death.  It is believed the story is a myth.”

“How long ago would that have been?” the archaeologist inquired.

“Before the time of Seth.  It is an old story,” the Jaffa answered.

“Teal'c,” Daniel began, “Seth had a cult.  Wouldn't any Goa'uld stand out?  I mean, the Goa'uld we know all seek power.”

“Indeed, the story says that the rebel Goa'uld did seek the power of the System Lords, but they did not need or want to stand out as the System Lords do.  They wanted to control, from a distance.”

“I don't get it,” Jack admitted.

“They want prestige, Jack, but not accolades. They figured they could do more if they acted quietly.  Special Ops. Covert,” Daniel spoke softly.

“So ... that means ...”

“It means there could be more Goa'uld here on Earth.  Jack, some of the worst leaders, murderers, instigators of horrors in our history could have been Goa'uld,” Daniel theorized.

“That is an interesting idea, DanielJackson.  The myth would support the idea of infiltration,” Teal'c agreed.

“Infiltration,” Daniel repeated softly.  “Yes.  That fits.  They don't seek a dominating power, just a private one.”

“But people die, Daniel,” Jack argued.

“If it's covert, then when the human body would obviously have died ...”

“... the symbiote would transfer, quietly, and take over a new host,” Teal'c added.

“And start a new reign of terror.  Sweet,” Jack lamented.  “But, Daniel, doesn't having a symbiote keep the host young?”

“If they have a sarcophagus,” Daniel stated.

“It is also possible these Goa'uld allow their hosts to age,” Teal'c said.

“It would stand out if they didn't.  I mean, if they never aged, they'd have to change hosts constantly, so, uh, they'd have to make sure the host aged normally,” Daniel spoke thoughtfully.

“Okay, so these Goa'uld infiltrate on a small scale; power mongers,” Jack clarified.

“Exactly, and sometimes they might try and extend their power over a city or nation or even a part of the world.  Or maybe just ...”

“Maybe just a sick teenager who was never really a teenager,” Jack looked at his husband intently.

“Right.  Jack, I need my office.  I mean, the computers.  I have to check out Jed's history,” Daniel stated, standing up and feeling an urgent needed to do his research now.

“May I be of assistance?”

“Definitely, Teal'c,” Jack spoke.  “I'm afraid SG-1 may be back in business for one more mission.  Let's go round up a computer for Daniel.”

“Your office is still intact, DanielJackson.”

“Oh, well, okay,” Daniel agreed.

====

As soon as Hammond had sat down at his desk that morning, he was approached by Jack, Daniel, and Teal'c.  He was further surprised when his questions about the triplets had been answered with brevity; that is, until the reason for Jack's and Daniel's presence at the Mountain had been explained to him.

“Are you sure about this, Jack?” General Hammond asked.

“Yes, Sir, we are,” Daniel answered, glancing at his husband.

“I hate to think what this could mean.  If you're right about this Jed, then there could be more.”

“A lot more, General,” Daniel stated.

“Okay, Jack.  Bring him in.”

Jack and Daniel exchanged a look.  They knew this was coming, and they knew they had to follow through.  Still, there was that split second's hesitation.  They were parents now.

**Danny, we could get SG-3 or ...**

**No, this is my unfinished business,** Daniel opined.

**Our unfinished business,** Jack corrected.  Looking at the lieutenant general, he said, “We need Carter, Sir.”

“Of course,” Hammond responded.  “SG-1, you have a go.  Good luck.”

“Never thought I'd hear those words again.”  Seeing Jack's concern, he smiled and said, “Don't worry, I'm fine.”

“Webster's definition or ...”

“Webster's,” Daniel answered, nodding at Hammond as he turned to walk out.

Teal'c took the lead and was several steps ahead of the couple when Jack tugged on his lover's arm, stopping him and asking, “Are you okay with this?”

Assertively, the archaeologist answered, “Let's fill Sam in, and go kick some Goa'uld butt!”

Jack smiled at his heart, his Daniel.  They'd get through this, and then they'd come home to their triplets.  After this, nothing would interfere with their family.  Jack wouldn't let it.

====

“Nice house,” Sam said as SG-1 studied the large home of Jed Gibson.

Jed lived in Cape Elizabeth, an affluent coastal suburb of Maine.  The house was a two-story structure located right off the beach.

“Teal'c, just to double check, this Goa'uld does not want to go back through the Stargate, right?” Jack asked.

“The Goa'uld would be killed instantly by the System Lords.”

“Which means ...” Jack paused and looked at Daniel.  “You gonna be okay with this?”

“It's a Goa'uld.  Let's go.”

“Right,” Jack said skeptically, wondering how they'd gone from fussing over how to care for their babies to killing Goa'uld in a span of hours.

Dressed in black BDUs and armed with firepower that included P-90's and zat guns, the team moved towards the house.

It was 3 a.m. the following day.  The plan was to take the Goa'uld by surprise, learn what they could, if anything, about other Goa'ulds still on Earth, and then bring him back to the SGC.

Jack knew it wouldn't go down that way.  The Goa'uld wouldn't give itself up, and it would fight.  They'd have to kill the parasite and the host.

Sam deactivated the house alarm.  Teal'c remained outside the home, standing guard.  Inside, the rest of SG-1 checked out the lower level until they were satisfied no one was there.  Jack nodded at Sam, who remained at the foot of the stairs, prepared to provide backup to any of her teammates in need.

Jack and Daniel headed carefully up the stairs with Jack in the lead.  They believed Jed would be in the last room down the long hallway.  Carefully, they checked out the other rooms as they moved forward toward their destination, finding each of them empty.  With a nod to Daniel, Jack opened the door to the last bedroom.

The general walked stealthily to the full-sized bed and saw a body lying under the covers, totally still.  For a moment, he considered ending it there with one quick shot.  It would spare his lover the agony of having to face Jed Gibson, but he couldn't do it.  Daniel wouldn't want it to go down that way, so Jack went along with the original plan.

Daniel stood inside the doorway on the other side of the bed, watching his lover watching Jed Gibson.

**Jack ...**

**I know,** the older man communicated.  “Wakey, wakey,” he said aloud, pressing his gun into the head of Jed Gibson, who was sleeping on his back.

“What the ... Who are you?  What do you want?” Jed questioned as he awoke and realized there were armed intruders in his home.

“You ... whoever you are,” Jack answered.

“Look, you're making a big mistake toying with me,” Jed warned as he started to get up.

At the same time, Daniel, still holding his gun outstretched, walked over near Jack.  He stared at the man, now almost fifty-years old, looking for recognition.

“You can stay right there,” Jack ordered, poking his weapon against Jed's chest.

“You don't know who you're playing with here.  Get out of my house before I call the cops.”

“You do realize we have weapons aimed at you?” Jack pointed out.

“What do you want?” Jed questioned, not showing any signs of fright.

“We want to know who you really are,” Daniel intoned, not a hint of emotion showing in his tone or demeanor.

“Jed Gibson, and, frankly, I don't care who you are, but I want you *out* of here now!”

“Brave words,” Jack said, “But we're running this show.”

“Do your best,” Jed dared, his eyes glowing, certain that would scare off the attackers.

“Amateur.”  Jack smiled wickedly and saw the surprise on Jed's face.  “What?  You thought we'd run.  A little glowing eye action and we'd be scared of little old you?  I don't think so.”

“You killed her,” Daniel said suddenly.

Jed looked at Daniel, boring through his eyes, and asked, “Do I know you?”

“No, you never knew me, but I know you, and I know what you did,” the archaeologist answered.

Jack didn't like the look on Jed's face and quickly interjected, “Okay, here's the deal.  You tell us, now, who you are, what you are doing on Earth, and where your pals are, and we let you live.  Play dumb, and you die now.”

“You impudent punk,” Jed said with an evil smile.

“What is it about you snakes and impudence?” Jack asked.  “A little short on the vocabulary ladder, don't you think?”

Ignoring Jack's threat, Jed faced Daniel and asked, “Where have we met?”

“You *killed* her,” Daniel accused a bit more emotionally than he'd spoken before.  “She was just a little girl.  A sweet little girl.  Why?”

“Daniel, let it go,” Jack ordered.

Jed repeated, “Daniel?”  He looked at the young man again, an intense expression on his face.  “Yes, I see now.  Well, look who grew up.  Pretty, even, but I have no time for this game.”

Suddenly, Jed lunged towards Jack who managed to get a shot off, a bullet entering Jed's ribcage.  Hearing the shot, Sam and Teal'c ran up the stairs.

“Let him go,” Daniel ordered calmly, his gun aimed at Jed's head.

“I remember you,” Jed stated as he held Jack in a stranglehold.  “You were that wimpy kid.  Pretty boy.  Still pretty.”

“Let the general go,” Sam instructed from the doorway.

“I will kill him,” Jed threatened, tightening his hold which caused Jack to flinch.

For one brief second, Daniel closed his eyes, and when he opened them, he saw Jed's wicked smile.

“When did you take Jed as a host?” Daniel asked curiously.  ~I have to know.~

“What does it matter?”

“I just want to know.”

“No concern for your friend here?” Jed asked.

“He can take care of himself,” Daniel answered dryly.  ~Training: remember your training, Jackson.~

Sam looked at Daniel, a bit confused at his conversation, but she noticed he hadn't lowered his gun and that his grip on the Beretta was firm.  From her position, a hit would be difficult, but Daniel's angle was perfect.

“You were always curious, even as a child.  Your eyes asked many questions, though they were seldom voiced,” Jed observed.

“You killed her,” Daniel repeated.

“She was a toy.”

“She was a little girl,” Daniel reminded quickly.

Sam stared at her friend, having no clue who or what was being discussed.

“Lay down your weapons, or I will kill him now,” Jed threatened.

“Daniel ...” Sam spoke intently, “I think maybe ...”

Daniel interrupted the blonde, his focus still on Jed as he spoke, “You didn't answer the question.  When did you take over Jed's body?”

“I will kill him.”

The eyes glowed again, and Daniel saw nothing but pure evil, an evil consumed by hatred and everything self-serving.  He would not get his questions answered; he knew that now.

“No, you won't,” Jack gasped as Jed's hold began to suck the air out of him.

“No, you won't,” Daniel echoed with an eerie calm, firing a single shot that went straight through Jed's head.  “Jack, move!”

Jack lunged forward, and, as he did, both Daniel and Sam fired rounds into Jed's body.

“T, no remains,” Jack coughed out as he rubbed his neck.

Understanding, Teal'c aimed his zat gun at Jed and fired three times.  Jed and the Goa'uld were gone forever.

“Jack!”  Daniel went to his husband's side, asking, “Are you okay?”

“Are you?” Jack questioned as he continued to rub his sore neck with his hands.

“I'm fine,” the younger man answered.

“Webster's or old days?”

“Old days,” Daniel answered, looking at Sam.  “We need to get out of here.”

“Yeah,” Jack said.  Standing, he smiled and added, “We have triplets to bring home.”

====

“I'm sorry, Sir.  He wasn't talking, and I don't think he would have,” Jack informed Hammond.

“So, we really don't know if there are others hiding here on Earth?” the lieutenant general asked, wishing the outcome had been slightly different.

“No, we don't,” Daniel answered.  “But I would guess there are, and we should be on guard for that ... potential.”

As the debriefing was concluding, Hammond stated, “Very well.  General, Doctor, I will need reports from you at your earliest convenience.”

“That might be a while, Sir,” Daniel responded.  “We're ... behind schedule.”

“Sir, if I may,” Sam interjected.  “The general and Daniel told Teal'c and myself everything that happened.  Wouldn't our reports cover it?”

“For now, Colonel,” Hammond answered.  Looking at the married couple, he suggested, “Type up your reports, and I'll have an airman pick them up from your home in forty-eight hours.”

“Thank you, Sir,” Daniel acknowledged gratefully.

With the debriefing over, Sam and Teal'c left the conference room.

Before walking out, Hammond began, “Jack, I don't suppose ...”

“No,” Daniel answered on Jack's behalf.

Jack smiled at the interception of the predictable question and agreed, “No, Sir.  We have three kiddies to take care of now.  They're full-time jobs.”

“Tell me, Jack, little Aislinn ...”

After some chit chat about the babies, Hammond returned to his office while Jack and Daniel walked to the locker room and changed back into their street clothes.  Neither spoke, leaving the SGC in silence.

“Jack, let's ...”

“Way ahead of you, Love,” Jack said, heading the truck, not for their home, but their private paradise beyond Cheyenne Mountain in Pike's Peak.

====

A few minutes later, the lovers walked in silence, holding hands.  Their hold was firm as they made their way to the vista that held a special place in their hearts.  When they got there, they stood looking down over the city, just watching with wonder the life that was unfolding within their view.

Finally, Jack and Daniel faced each other, looking into each other's eyes.

“I wonder if Jed ever really had a chance to live,” Daniel pondered.

“I don't know, but it's unusual for a Goa'uld to take over someone so young ... isn't it?”

Daniel shrugged, answering, “Jack, we keep making the same mistake.  We keep thinking we know all the answers, or that we know everything, but we don't.  We also assume that Teal'c and the Jaffa we know are, well, in a sense, all-knowing about the Goa'uld, but Jed proves that we only know about one part of the universe.  We don't know what happened to those other renegade Goa'uld.  There could be other factions, all around us.”

Jack nodded, adding, “We've never seen any Goa'uld act like Jed did.”

“Exactly.”

There was a pause as both men became aware of how little they really knew about the powerful enemy of the Tau'ri.  However, Jack decided it was time to get back to their world.  The two had done all they could, and now they had a more pressing priority to take care of.  He closed the tiny gap between them and put his arms around Daniel's waist.

Daniel put his hands on Jack's upper arms, and then slowly, as if giving in to emotion, his hands moved up to his lover's neck.  He leaned, his chin pressed against Jack's left shoulder.  The older man's hands ran soothingly up and down the younger man's back.

“You saved my life, Danny.”

“He didn't have a chance.  No one will take you away from me,” Daniel stated with certainty.

“I don't think Carter knew you were that good of a shot,” Jack mused lightly.

“She probably thinks I got lucky,” Daniel replied.

“You had the perfect shot, and you took it.  I'm proud of you, but ...”

“I'm okay, Jack.  I've done worse.  Jed was a Goa'uld, and he was trying to kill you.  I'll always protect you, Jack, and our children,” Daniel proclaimed.

“Still ...”

“I didn't have a choice, Jack,” Daniel stated.  He looked down for a moment and lamented, “Poor Carrie.  She never had a chance.”

“It went down as an unsolved murder so at least no one was hurt.”

“Jack, let's go by the hospital and visit with our miracles for a while, and then let's go home and play with the girls.  I just want us to remind ourselves ...”

“Of what's really important, our babies and our girls,” Jack completed.

“The last thirty-six hours has been like living a TV show or something,” Daniel observed.

“What we need, Love, is a good, strong, healthy dose of everyday life,” Jack replied.

“General Hammond wants us to come back,” the archaeologist sighed.

“Sorry, we're booked,” Jack said, smiling and sharing a kiss with his Love.

“Booked forever and always,” Daniel agreed, returning the kiss with a growing need and passion.

“Danny, how about after we visit the kids and play with the girls, we ...”

“... definitely, we,” Daniel agreed as his right hand slipped inside Jack's white shirt, caressing.  He moved forward and placed a kiss at the side of Jack's neck, saying, “we ... you know.”

“Yeah, lots and lots of ... you know.”

“Hmm, lots,” Daniel whispered as the two connected for another round of sensual lip-lock.

“Danny, I have another idea.”

“Oh, yes,” Daniel said, pulling Jack to the ground where the two made love in the open meadow, rearranging the order of their day yet again.

====

“Mmm ... love you so much, Jack,” Daniel said as the two stood beside Jack's truck as they prepared to go back to their home.

“You know something?” Jack asked.

“What?”

“I remember a time when you couldn't say that until I said it first,” the older man recalled.

“I was scared,” the archaeologist admitted.

“I know.  I'll always remember the first time you said it first.  Geez, Danny, I thought I'd explode from how good that made me feel, that finally, you trusted me enough.”

“It wasn't trust.  I've always trusted you, Jack,” Daniel responded.  “It was just that defense mechanism of mine.  It wouldn't let me trust myself.  I didn't think I was ... I mean, why would you want me?  I couldn't imagine why.”

“My Angel,” Jack said as he kissed his lover again.  “You know now why I love you so much, right?”

“I know now that you love me.  I know that without reservation.  There's nothing to be afraid of anymore, because even if I don't always believe in myself, Jack, I do believe in us.”

“I love you, Danny.”

“Let's go see our babies, Jack.  They're our center, the evidence of all the love we share,” the younger man replied, a smile on his face.

====

Once again renewed in their nation of two, Jack and Daniel dropped by the hospital, visiting their triplets for quite a while.  Then they returned home, where they finished out their day playing with Bijou and Katie.  Their evening was spent with some quality cuddling time together.

“Quality cuddling time ... geez, Jack!”

“Hey, it's true, Love.  When the kiddies come home, we aren't going to have much time for this.”

“I like quality cuddling time.  It's the next best thing to ... you know,” Daniel chuckled.

“Danny?”

“Hmm?”

“You get to teach our children about the facts of life,” Jack stated.

Daniel sat straight up, panicked.  Jack broke out into laughter and pulled his soulmate back to him.

“Relax, Angel.  You have a few years.”

“Gawd!  I'll just die!” Daniel exclaimed, relieved he had several years to come up with the right words.  ~I'm a linguist; I can do this ... gawd.~

“I'll help,” Jack said softly as Daniel's breathing seemed to become more even; at least, for a moment.

“Maybe we can get Sam to do it.  She's their aunt, kind of,” Daniel stated hopefully.  “Or even Sara.”

“Daniel, relax.  We'll get through it.”

Daniel settled back into Jack's hold and started to laugh lightly.

“What?” the older man asked curiously.

“Jack, I'm more panicked about telling our children about sex than I've ever been about facing down the Goa'uld.”

“It is kind of funny,” the general mused.

“We have to protect our children,” Daniel stated more seriously.

“We will,” Jack assured as his hands slipped just inside Daniel's pants.

“Hey there, General.  Are you trying to get fresh with me?” the willing archaeologist inquired.

“You have objections?” Jack questioned with a seductive smirk.

“I thought we agreed to do quality cuddling?” Daniel asked, though not really objecting to the feel of his Love's hands on his body.

“We did, and we have been.  We are,” Jack affirmed.

“But we won't be if your hands keep moving in that direction,” the younger man advised.

“Okay, spoil sport,” Jack said, removing his hands and returning to full time cuddling.

“Okay, that's enough cuddling.  Get back to the seduction,” Daniel spoke after a minute.

“Seduction?  I was not seducing you,” the older man refuted.

“Okay, I'll seduce you,” Daniel chuckled.

“Let's seduce each other,” Jack suggested.

“Hmm ... bubble bath.”

“And a massage,” a smiling Jack put forth.

“Oh, yeah.”

“Love you, Angel.  Can't ever get enough of you.”

“That's exactly how I like it,” Daniel said, smiling as he led Jack up to their master bedroom.

====

The next morning, Jack was pleased that his lover hadn't had any nightmares.  To the contrary, upon first gazing down at Daniel's face, he saw a happy smile there, one which warmed his heart.  They'd gone through another brief nightmare and survived.  Amazing, Daniel had actually told him that he felt a sense of closure after the recent events.

Tragically, the fact that Jed had been taken over by the Goa'uld gave Daniel an understanding of why it had happened, something he hadn't had before.  The archaeologist would never forget the little girl, but she wouldn't haunt him anymore.

“Danny, time to get up,” Jack spoke gently.  “We have to meet with Syl in ninety minutes.”

Daniel grumbled, but soon awoke, the memory of their triplets helping him to wake up.

“Our babies: we have three babies, Jack -- triplets.  Do you believe it?”

Jack chuckled.  The lovers had made statements like that frequently since September 24th.  It was a day that had truly changed their lives for the good, but they were both still having a hard time believing it.

“Believe it, Danny.  Our family is for real,” Jack stated happily.

====

Standing in the hospital corridor, Jack and Daniel were huddled together, Daniel's arms folded across his chest while Jack's hands were covertly fisted in his pockets.  It was time to finalize the birth certificates, something both found to be less than pleasurable, considering the problem with the names that would be put on the papers.

“Jack, I don't like it,” Daniel stated, aggravated by the situation.

“I know, but since we can only have one name, it makes sense that it's yours,” Jack opined.

“Or yours,” Daniel offered forcefully.

“I know those babies are from your genes,” the older man stated just as forcefully.

“Jack, we've been through this,” Daniel reminded, not wanting to argue over the birth certificates any longer.  ~We made a mistake; we should have thought of this sooner.~

Feeling his lover's despair, Jack sighed, “We might as well face the music, and tell them.  Let's just put your name on this batch, and I'll take the next.”

“That's not an answer, Jack.”

“Does it matter, Danny?  I mean, really?” the older man challenged.

“No, I guess not, but I wanted both of us on there.  I should have checked it out,” Daniel spoke, guilt written in his tone of voice.  ~Big oversight; not good.~

“Neither of us thought about it.  Let's get this done, and we'll never have to think about it again,” Jack suggested.

“Okay.  Might as well,” Daniel agreed reluctantly as the two headed for the administrative office.

====

“Just a moment.  What was the name?” the administrative clerk asked.

“Jackson-O'Neill,” Jack answered, twiddling his thumbs as he leaned against the window countertop.

His hands in his pockets, Daniel stood next to Jack, waiting anxiously to get this obligation completed.

“I don't see anything under that name,” the female spoke.

“WHAT DO YOU MEAN?  THEY'RE TRIPLETS ... THREE OF 'EM!” Jack shouted.

“Jack, calm down,” Daniel ordered.

“Maybe it's spelled unusually?” the clerk asked, her voice high from her nerves.

“Jackson-O'Neill.  What's so difficult about that?” Jack asked, glaring at the fidgeting woman.  “I'll spell it for you.”

“Sir, I ...”

Jack shouted, “J - A - C - K - S - O - N - O - APOSTROPHE - N - E - I - L - L!”

“I just don't see anything like that,” the clerk said, her fingers thumbing through pages of computerized entries.

“YOU'VE LOST MY CHILDREN?”

“Jack, relax.  The babies are upstairs,” Daniel assured, his hands on Jack's right arm, trying to calm him.  “They're fine.”  Looking at the clerk, he requested, “Could you look again, please?”

“I've looked five times, Sir.  There's nothing even close to that name in the O's.”

“I said JACKSON-O'NEILL ... WITH A J!” Jack snapped loudly.

“Jack, quiet.  She's doing her best,” the younger man chastised.

“With ... a J?” the clerk asked timidly.

“It's hyphenated,” Daniel explained.  “Jackson hyphen O'Neill, so it should be under the J's, not the O's.”

“Oh, I thought your name was Jack, for Jackson, and the last name was O'Neill.  Just a moment, and I'll check again.  Yes, here they are,” the relieved clerk sighed.

Jack scowled, leaving the clerk visibly shaken.

“Don't mind him.  He's just a bit surly this morning,” Daniel stated with a smile.

“Yes ... Sir, anything you say,” the woman replied.  “Okay, so you said you need to supply the name of the birth father?”

“That's correct,” Jack responded.

“I ... hmm ... no, that's not what's here.  Hold a moment.”  The clerk frowned, leaving the computer behind and retrieving the physical papers.  Confused, she said, “Everything is ... wow.”

“What wow?” Jack questioned as he stood up a bit straighter.

The clerk's eyes were wide as she explained, “Um, there's a note here that says the birth certificates are being issued by a Special Commission ... by the federal government.”

“What?” Jack and Daniel both asked at the same time.

“By a ... Presidential order.  Wow! ... Um, the, uh, certificates are being mailed, apparently,” the amazed clerk stated.

“What names are on them?” Daniel asked.

“Wow!”

“What now?” Jack asked, quickly running out of patience with the woman.

“There are notes in the file.  One says that the President called the Governor, who called the Mayor, who called the Board of Directors, and then the presidential order was issued.  Wow!”

“WILL YOU STOP WITH THE WOWS AND ANSWER THE FRIGGIN' QUESTION?” Jack shouted, drawing the attention of others in the vicinity.

“Jack!”

“Daniel, will you stop 'Jack'ing me here?”

“JACK!  Gawd!” Daniel exclaimed.

“I'm sorry, but for crying out loud, get her to answer the question, will ya?” Jack begged.

“Miss, please, what names are on the birth certificates?” Daniel asked.

“See for yourselves,” the clerk responded, turning the papers so that the two men could see it.

“Wow!” Daniel said with a grin.  A giant weight had just been lifted from him.  Happily, he exclaimed, “Look, Jack!”

“I wonder who did this,” Jack replied.

The papers indicated that the babies Jackson-O'Neill were born to Daniel Jackson-O'Neill and Jonathan Jackson-O'Neill, with the loving assistance of Kayla Armentrout.

“Presidential order?  I didn't call him, did you?” Daniel questioned.

“No.  I didn't feel I had a right to for something like this, so personal,” Jack answered.

“Wow!” the clerk said again upon overhearing the discussion, realizing the couple were acquaintances, maybe even friends, of the President of the United States.

Jack glared at the young clerk, who physically took a step back.

“Jack.”

“Daniel!”

“Let's go see our children,” Daniel suggested, handing the papers back to the clerk.  “Thank you,” he said as he and Jack turned to walk away.

“Loving assistance: I like that,” Daniel commented, still smiling at the unexpected resolution to their problem.

“We need to find out who arranged for that so we can thank them,” Jack put forth.

“It's a precious gift.  We need to call the President, too, Jack,” Daniel said.

Jack roared and was still laughing when he asked, “Did you see that clerk's expression when she realized we knew the Prez?”

“Jack, behave.  We're teaching our children humility, even if I have to keep duct tape over your mouth,” Daniel teased.

“Duct tape?  Daniel, have you decided you'd like to try ...”

Jack suddenly found Daniel's hand over his mouth.  Two nurses stared as they passed by.

“Jack, one word ... *no*!”

“You sure.  I remember those ties you got for that ...” Jack began.

Daniel glared at Jack, his eyes delivering a message to change the topic in a hurry.

Jack gulped and tried to backpedal, saying, “It was just the ties.  Never mind.  Let's go see our babies.”

Daniel groaned and looked up towards the ceiling, his hands spreading out from his sides as he asked, “Why me?”  He walked a few steps to catch up with his husband, but then he stopped.  Looking up again, he smiled as he sincerely and solidly stated, “Thank you.  I wouldn't want him any other way.”

====

Over the past seven days, with the exception of their Goa'uld hunt, Jack and Daniel had spent most of their time at the hospital with their children.  They held them frequently and were able to feed them.  They had fallen in love each and every time they saw their babies.

The couple had also received lots of advice and tips on how to raise them from nurses and other parents.  Jack laughed at the notebook full of notes Daniel had taken of the pearls of wisdom being passed on to them.

The two had taken Kayla home and made sure she was taken care of.  Janet and Cassandra helped out quite a bit in that regard, with Cassandra promising to spend a lot of time at Kayla's apartment for a while to make sure she was okay.

The nursery was ready to go, and the new parents were as prepared as they were going to get.  All they needed now was the all-clear from Sylvia, and they knew that would be coming at any moment.

Today was Saturday and, after spending hours with their babies, Jack and Daniel headed to the clinic to see Sylvia.  She had phoned earlier to let them know that the DNA tests were in.

The elevator ride was quiet, and so was the wait for Sylvia who had to delay the meeting due to an emergency.  Finally, the doctor greeted them and invited them into her office.

Jack and Daniel both sat down, their chairs separated by mere inches.

“Okay, the test results are in, and I think you'll find them interesting,” Sylvia began, opening the file.  “Okay, the father of ...”

“NO!” both Jack and Daniel shouted at the same time, stunning the doctor.  The two looked at each other, surprised.  Both gave small smiles and said again, “No.”

Jack reached over and took his husband's hand, turning his body to face him at the same time as he stated, “Danny, I don't need to know.  I don't even want to know.”

Daniel let out a whiff of air.  It was a release he didn't even know he needed.

“I was just thinking the same thing.  Gawd, Jack, they're ours.  All three of them.  We love them.  It just doesn't matter,” Daniel agreed, smiling when his lover reached over and caressed his cheek.

“No, it doesn't.  They're our hearts and souls, and since we're one, then the technical stuff isn't important.  Little Jonny bellows like me, and little Michael is so like you, and Aislinn is our little miracle gift.  We both gave them life.”

“I don't want to know, Jack,” Daniel stated more strongly.

“You know, Danny.  It's just like with Charlie.  You are every bit as much his father as I am because you love him like I do.  That's what a child needs, our love,” Jack stated confidently.

“Gawd, Jack.”

Daniel felt like he was about to lose what little composure he had left.  Never before, with the exception of their wedding, had Jack so openly talked about Charlie as being Daniel's son.

“He is your son.  You know that, and all three of these babies belong to both of us.  Sperm is just sperm.”

“But love, love is home and life,” Daniel responded.

Jack nodded and then faced their doctor, saying, “Syl, Daniel and I don't want to know the DNA test results.  Keep them in case the kids need it someday.  When they get older, they may want the information for themselves, so when they're eighteen or twenty-one or something, if they want to know, they can have the results.”

“They have a right to know if they want to,” Daniel added.  “Or maybe they'll need to know for medical reasons.”

“We love our brood, *all* of them, equally, and it's not important like we thought it was,” Jack stated.

“Okay, well, then, are you going to give up the idea of another pregnancy for Kayla?” Sylvia questioned.

“We'll decide that later,” Daniel answered.  “But it's okay, Sylvia, no matter what we ultimately decide.  In fact, it's better than okay.”

Daniel gazed into his soulmate's eyes.  The two were locked onto each other, their hands practically glued together.

“Geez, I love you, Danny,” Jack said just before the two kissed, something they rarely did in public like this.

“I love you, too.”

With a nod, Sylvia stated, “The files will be locked away, per your request.  If you change your minds, you can call me at any time.”

“Um, we should,” Daniel said hesitantly.

“We should what?” Jack asked.

“Jack, if one of us should ever change our minds, we should just make sure that it's okay for Sylvia to tell.  You might want to ...”

“No, Danny.  I have everything I want and need.  Genes are great, but they aren't the defining factor.  Love is, and I am surrounded by it.”

“Me, too,” the younger man stated.

Jack and Daniel thanked Sylvia, and then they discussed taking the babies home. Because of the lateness of the day, Sylvia asked them to wait and pick up their children at 9 a.m. the next morning.  The two agreed.  They hugged Sylvia and headed for the door, but just as they got there, Sylvia spoke up.

“Wait.  Listen, I agree with and applaud the decision the two of you have just made, but I think you both should know this much.”

“Syl ...”

“Jack, on this I'm going to insist.  Please.  Trust my decision this time,” Sylvia requested.

“Danny?”

Daniel nodded, trusting the physician and assuming the doctor would have a good reason for whatever she was about to say.

“I truly believe it's more than right, that there's a magic involved here, a special magic.  Jack, Daniel, each of you is the biological father of at least one of the triplets.”

“What?” both men asked in unison, amazed at what they had just been told.

“How?” Jack asked.

“How is that possible?” Daniel asked at the same time, his words overlapping Jack's.

“Truthfully, it's not all that unusual.  These babies came from three eggs.  One of you is the father of twins, the other of one baby.”

Jack and Daniel beamed at each other, huge grins on their faces.  It was yet another miracle of their love.

“Danny,” Jack expressed tenderly, taking Daniel into his arms.  “Geez, we've got it all.”

“We're so lucky, Jack.  We should thank that nurse for messing up.  I mean, who would we give back?”

“Not a one, not ever!”

After a few more minutes of conversation, the couple finally left for home, happier than ever.

Sylvia glanced again at the test results and smiled.  Silently, she thought how lucky the three babies were.  She had never been more proud of her friends than she was at this moment.  She took a final look at the read out and the notes she had summarized:

Baby Jackson-O'Neill, Boy, first born -- father: Jonathan Jackson-O'Neill
Baby Jackson-O'Neill, Boy, second born -- father: Daniel Jackson-O'Neill
Baby Jackson-O'Neill, Girl, third born -- father: Daniel Jackson-O'Neill

Then Doctor Sylvia Preston closed the file, making a note to have it sealed for privacy in the morning.

====

“Jack, don't forget to have the camcorder, the regular camera, and the digital camera out so we don't have to search for them,” the younger father of the triplets reminded.

“We won't have time to search for anything,” Jack said, locking the door as they entered the living room.  Then he laughed.  “Danny, Love.  Don't you think using all three might be ...”

“Going overboard?” Daniel asked.  Seeing Jack's nod, he questioned, “Too much?”

Jack looked at his soulmate, then shook his head, saying, “Actually, no.  Backups for the backups!  I'll go get them.”

====

The two men had been home for a few hours.  They had let the girls in, briefly petted them, and then attended to business, ending up back in the nursery doing a final check.

When Bijou and Katie had walked up to join them, Daniel had shooed them out, saying, “Sorry, Girls, not in here.  Go back downstairs.”

Once the beagles had gone, Jack and Daniel had gone back to their discussion about how they would manage their babies the next day when they brought them home.  When they had gone downstairs, they headed straight for the study to look up some more information about sleeping habits of newborns on Jack's computer.

It was now almost 10:30 p.m., and the couple entered the living room to get a snack before going to bed.

“Jack, look at this.”  Daniel looked at the beanbag, shocked to see it had been torn to pieces.  “Bad girls,” he chastised.  “It's completely destroyed.”

“I'll get the broom,” Jack said, heading for the garage.

The room was cluttered with pieces of white fluffy beanbag filling.  It was everywhere.  When Daniel looked, Katie was lying down by the patio door, Bijou protectively near her puppy.

“Well, I guess you two can go outside then.  Why'd you do that?  Gawd, we don't have time to go shopping for you two right now,” Daniel sighed, then opened the door and ordered the dogs outside.

“I brought a garbage bag, too, Danny.  Geez, it's all over the carpet.”

“Jack, we need to make sure everything is perfectly clean in here,” Daniel spoke. “We need to keep the house free from germs and dust and ...”

“I know,” Jack agreed.  “Just what we needed to be doing tonight,” he grumbled.  “What were those girls thinking?”

“I don't know, but the sooner we get it done, the sooner we get to sleep,” Daniel spoke.

====

“Morning, Angel,” Jack greeted with a happy smile.

“Did you sleep, Jack?”

“Not much,” the silver-haired man admitted.

“So you know ...”

“... that you didn't sleep much either?” Jack laughed, “Yes, I know.”

Daniel lifted his head off of Jack's chest and spoke, “This is it, Jack.  All those years of dreaming and hoping ... it becomes reality today.”

“Any regrets?”

“None.  You?” Daniel asked.

“Not a one.”

“Shower?”

“Shower.”

====

“This is insane!” Daniel whined.

“Daniel, it doesn't matter what you wear.  Trust me; it'll just end up with drool all over it.”

“That doesn't make me feel any better, Jack.”

Jack laughed and tossed Daniel a tan shirt, saying, “Wear that.  Never liked it much anyway.”

“What's wrong with it?” the archaeologist questioned suspiciously.

“Doesn't fit your shape well.”

“Excuse me?” Daniel questioned.

“It just doesn't accentuate your positives,” Jack teased.

“Jack, what the heck are you talking about?” Daniel asked, slipping on the short-sleeve tan shirt.

“That!” Jack exclaimed while pointing to the shirt.

“What?”

“Look how baggy it is.  You could gain forty pounds, and it would still be baggy,” the observant general asserted.

“I doubt that,” Daniel responded, rolling his eyes.  “I thought you liked my clothes now.”

“I do, just not that baggy thing.”

Daniel was about to argue some more when he heard the sound of the knocker against the wooden front door.

“I'll get it, Angel,” Jack chimed as he gave Daniel a peck on the cheek and headed downstairs.

“Baggy.  It's not that baggy,” Daniel whined to himself.  Looking in the mirror, he sighed, “Well, maybe just a little.”

====

“Kayla, come on in,” Jack invited.

“Thanks.”

“You look great!” the general complimented, leading the woman into the living room.

“Not yet, but I will soon,” Kayla pledged, determined to get back in shape as quickly as possible.  “I saw the babies yesterday.  They're so adorable.”

“They sure are.”

“Kayla!” Daniel called out happily as he came down the stairs.

“Hiya,” Kayla greeted, walking towards the younger man.

Daniel and Kayla embraced warmly.  They were family now for sure; a bond that could never be broken now connected Kayla with the Jackson-O'Neills.

“We were just about to leave to get the babies,” Daniel announced.

“They're coming home today?  That's so exciting!” Kayla responded, a broad smile on her face.

“Um, did you want to come with us?”

Kayla smiled gently at Daniel and then at Jack, responded, “Fellas, I meant what I said.  I'll be their friend, and I admit, I love them to pieces, but I'm not mother material, at least not right now.  These are important moments, and I shouldn't be part of it.  Okay?”

“Okay,” Daniel said softly.

“Which doesn't mean I don't want frequent updates, dinner invitations, and babysitting privileges,” Kayla laughed.

“Deal!” Jack agreed, grinning.  “So what's up?  Did you need our help with something?”

“No, not right now, but I brought you something for the children,” Kayla announced as she began to unload the tote bag of items she had brought with her.  “Um, I think I know some of what you wanted, Daniel, in terms of the babies knowing their birth mother, and also, from my friend's experience, I have an idea of the kind of medical history and whatnot that might be important down the road, so I made these.”

“Videos?” Jack asked.

“Yes, partially.  This is a set of four videos that I made during the pregnancy.  It's a bit of a journal.  Everything is there from my hormonal insanity, ridiculous cravings, and why I did this whole thing.  I also made these.  There are three books, one for each child.  I had to do last minute juggling because of Aislinn, but I think hers is as good as the boys'.”

“Oh my gosh,” Daniel expressed as he reacted to the unexpected gift.  He smiled as he looked through the albums of photographs, family trees, and copies of articles Kayla had written.  “This is wonderful.  It'll mean so much to them.  I'm ... I'm sure of it.”

“It's a treasure, Kayla,” Jack said sincerely as he peeked over Daniel's shoulder to see the compilation.  “Thank you.”

“I was hoping it would be of help whenever the time was right.  Hey, I've got to go.  I have a meeting with a publisher.”

“How's the book coming?” Daniel inquired.

“Amazingly well.  It took me a long time to get it into a reasonable draft, and I've gone through a few publishing companies, but I feel like it's headed someplace incredible.  I'm so excited about it.”

“Are you ever going to tell us what it's about?”

“I'll let you read it ... later,” Kayla smirked pleasantly.  “Give those sweethearts a kiss for me.”

After Kayla left, Daniel looked again at the journal-like album, remarking, “This is incredible, the way she personalized it and highlighted special moments for her.  It's just great.  Jack, she must have stayed up all week doing Aislinn's, adding the personal notes.”

“She's a special lady, Danny, and as much as I wish we had time to look through these now ...”

“Oh, uh, yeah,” Daniel chuckled, realizing it was time to pick up their miracles.

The two men locked up the house and got into the truck, but Daniel began to frown, an odd feeling beginning to circulate within him.

“Jack, I feel like we're forgetting something very important, but I can't put my finger on it.”

“Well, it probably isn't very important then.  It'll come to you later,” Jack said, backing the truck out of the driveway and heading for the hospital.

Meanwhile, in the backyard of their home, Bijou let out a sad “Woof!” and walked slowly over to her puppy, who was lying quietly in the doghouse.  The mama beagle lay down, a frown on her face.  Katie rolled over on her side, leaning against her mother, and cried a few tears.

====

-- Chapter Ten:  The Jackson-O'Neills Come Home!

====

Thought the babies had been home for just two full days, Jack and Daniel were in a state of total and utter confusion, their house already showing signs of mass chaos.

At the moment, all three infants were crying at the top of their lungs.  Daniel was downstairs, hurrying to get more formula prepared, having underestimated the needs of the newest additions to their family.  The triplets seemed to be much hungrier than Daniel had assumed they'd be.

~They're so little.  How can they drink this much?~

In addition to their shower gifts, the couple had purchased an initial supply of everything from food to baby powder.  However, they had seriously underestimated the demands of three healthy, thriving, and very active babies; and, unfortunately, neither had yet thought to call to activate their gift of a free diaper service.

“DANIEL?  WHERE ARE THE BLASTED PAMPERS?  ALL I SEE IS AN EMPTY BOX!” the older man shouted.

“Pampers?” Daniel questioned, closing his eyes as the realization hit him.  “Oh, gawd, I forgot.  I didn't have time to go to the store, Jack.”

“WHAT?  WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU DIDN'T HAVE TIME TO GET ANY?” Jack shouted.

Daniel winced at the emergence of the grizzly bear in his husband and instructed, “Be quiet, Jack.  You're going to terrorize our children.”

Ignoring Daniel, Jack bellowed, “WHAT IN NETU ARE WE GOING TO USE?”

“Shhh, Jack, I'm right here.  I just had to get the form...”  At that precise moment, Daniel, with his arms full of baby nourishment, tripped over the plastic case of Wet Ones that Jack had accidentally pushed off the changing table earlier.  “...u...laaaaaaaaa.  Oh fuuuuuuuu...sh... I mean, oh, crap,” he exclaimed, watching the formula fall to the floor in front of him.

“You okay?”

“Me?  Oh, I'm just swell, but you aren't going to be once I have time to think about why that was on the floor.”

Jack gulped, not liking the intense glare in Daniel's eyes.  Their almost-bickering session was interrupted by more baby sobs.

“We don't have Pampers or anything.”

“What do you want me to do about it?” Daniel asked tersely.

“You're the genius, Love.”

“SO ARE YOU!”

Jack flinched, and then defended himself by refuting, “Only on paper.  It's not the same.”

Daniel didn't have time to get into the who is and isn't a genius discussion.  They had little ones to think about.

“FINE!  SURE!  ANYTHING YOU SAY,” Daniel shouted, then turned in a huff, grabbing the first thing he saw and using it to tend to Jonny.

~Now that's nerve!~  Jack's veins bulged as he saw what his soulmate was doing.  “DANNY, THATS MY SILK SHIRT!  DANIELLLLLL!

====

A couple of days later, Jack awoke in the wee hours of the morning and discovered he was alone.  Two hours earlier, both he and Daniel had awakened to a cry over the baby monitor.  Since it was Daniel's turn, the younger man got up to tend to the crying baby.  Jack had gone back to sleep.  Waking now, he looked at the clock.  After his lover failed to return within another few minutes, he got up and walked to the nursery.

“Danny,” Jack said as he gently touched his lover's shoulder.  “Hey, Angel,” he  whispered, gently trying to rouse his husband.

Daniel was sitting against the wall on the three-quarter-sized bed in the nursery. His head was tilted down, his chin resting on his chest, bobbing up and down slightly in what looked to be an uncomfortable state.  The young man had been awakened by the triplets in the middle of the night.  He had rocked Jonny for quite a while and right after he had settled back to sleep, Aislinn had awoken, and so he spent the next hour with her.  He'd been sure that Michael would wake up next, so in anticipation of this, he sat on the bed, just waiting.

Jack checked the triplets and saw that they were all resting peacefully.  He considered leaving Daniel where he was, but the archaeologist looked uncomfortable and restless in his current position.

“Angel, come on.  Go back to bed.”

“Bed?” Daniel said, still half asleep.

“Yes, come on.  I'll make sure you get there,” Jack said, trying to help his lover up.

“Michael ... he'll wake up soon,” Daniel argued lightly, yawning even as Jack led him back to their bedroom.

“Don't worry, Love.  I'll look after the Munchkins,” the older man promised.

“Munchkins?”  Daniel yawned again.  “Too much Oz.  Babies ... not Munccccccc...”

Jack chuckled, placing a kiss on Daniel's forehead and pulling the covers up.

“I love all my Munchkins,” Jack stated softly before he walked out and back to the nursery to check on the babies one more time.

====

That morning, Jack took an inventory in the kitchen, distressed by the clutter and chaos he saw.

“We need to get organized,” Jack said aloud, the general in him beginning to take control.  “We're just not handling this right.”

The couple had supplies scattered about everywhere, not yet having had time to figure out where to put everything.  They had only planned on having one baby at this point in time, but, suddenly, they had three -- three beautiful healthy babies.  He smiled, thinking about the wonderful problems those little lives were causing.

The older father prepared some formula, stocking up for later, and put on Daniel's coffee.  He ate some Froot Loops and was scarfing down the last bite when he heard Michael's cry over the monitor.

Rushing up the stairs, Jack picked up and held the little one in his arms, soothing, “It's okay, Little Danny.  Dad's here.”

“Michael, not Danny,” Daniel insisted from the doorway.

“Michael,” Jack repeated.  “Danny, you should go back to bed.  You're exhausted.”

“So are you, and we have too much to do,” Daniel refuted.

“Okay ... well, I made your coffee, and you need to eat something.”

“Hmmm-mmm,” Daniel said as he turned and headed for the kitchen.

“Danny, eat something.”

“Yes, Dad.”

“Okay, Little Danny.  I'm going to have to go check on your daddy.  I don't suppose you can curtail this little crying thing for awhile?  Yeah?  Really?  Thank you,” Jack mused happily as the cries began to ebb.  “Daddy has a miserable habit of taking care of everyone but himself so if I don't get down there and make sure he actually eats something ... well, it won't be pretty.  Love you, Danny.”

Jack put the little baby back in his crib, and, with a final check on the other two, he went downstairs.

As predicted, Daniel was sitting at the counter, inhaling his coffee.  His definition of food was apparently a piece of chocolate.

Jack shook his head, grabbing the chocolate from Daniel's hand as he admonished, “Oh, no, you don't.”

“What?” Daniel asked, looking like the child who'd just lost his Christmas.

“Breakfast.  Real food, Daniel,” the older man ordered.

“Oh,” Daniel expressed disappointedly.

Jack put the chocolate truffle away and fixed his lover a proper meal -- two scrambled eggs, two sausages, a piece of toast, and a glass of orange juice.

“Now, if you're a good boy and eat it alllllll up, you can have your chocolate later.”

“Very funny,” Daniel replied sarcastically as he begrudgingly took a bite of eggs.

“Need to keep you healthy.  It's not just us now,” Jack spoke.

The little reminder totally depleted the young man's hostility.  He smiled, the happy expression growing in scope with each passing second.  In fact, the smile became a grin, and it was so contagious that within seconds, Jack was grinning, too.

“We have ... Munchkins,” Daniel laughed loudly.

“That we do, Love.”  Jack kissed Daniel, surprising him.  As a result, they ended up sharing a bite of egg.  “Hmm ... needs more pepper,” he chuckled.

“Gawd, I love you.  I'm sorry I was grouchy.”

“You're tired, Daniel.  We have to remember that we need to take care of ourselves in order to take care of the triplets.  Oh, by the way, the feeling is so mutual.  Now eat up.”

Jack turned to start the dishwasher, already full of bottles and dishes.

“Jack, we didn't plan on this, financially,” Daniel pointed out seriously.

“No, but we're doing okay.  We should take another look at things, maybe shift around some funds in our accounts, though,” Jack responded.

“Good thing you're a stock market whiz.”

“Good thing you made that crazy salary for all those years,” Jack retorted, smiling.

“Your salary wasn't anything to sneeze at, either; in fact, it was pretty darn good, especially after your promotion to general.  We've never owed anything either.  The thing is we're used to a certain lifestyle, and ... well, we're very spoiled.”  Daniel paused, eating some of his sausage.  After a minute, he said, “Jack, we need J-O to work.”

“It will.  We've made a good start,” Jack asserted about their new business venture.

“Yeah, but ... three babies.  It's going to make it more difficult ... I mean, gawd, one of us taking care of one baby, and later ... that was one thing, but we can't even breathe right now.”

“We're adjusting.  They've only been home a few days.  We'll be okay.  Better than okay, even,” Jack opined as he filled a glass with some orange juice for himself.

“We haven't even had time to go see Kayla since bringing her home, and she's only been here that one day.”

“She's giving us time,” Jack spoke appreciatively of the distance the woman was giving them to bond with the newborns.  “Besides, Danny, right now 'we' can't go anywhere.  We need ... I don't know what we need.  Yes, I do ... babysitters.”

“Oh, no, not yet,” Daniel negated, speaking more firmly than he had about anything else this morning.

“Danny.”

“No, Jack.  They just came home.  They're too young.  One of us always has to be here.”

“Okay.  It's my turn to go shopping so I'll stock up.”

“We need a warehouse,” Daniel chuckled, looking around at the mess that was once their kitchen and living room.

“Yeah, isn't it great?”  Daniel smiled seeing Jack's grin.  They'd survive.  Both were happier than ever.  They only needed time to adjust and make a plan for the future.  He finished the last of his breakfast just as the sound of crying came over the monitor.  “I'll take care of the ... Munchkins,” Daniel said, placing a quick kiss on Jack's lips and then going upstairs.

Jack smiled, pleased Daniel was getting with the nickname program.

~Munchkins worked out well.  Okay, Little Danny.  It may take a little while, but don't worry, Dad's got a plan!~

====

“How's it going, Sir?” Sam asked as she paid a visit on her friends the next day.

“How does it look like it's going, Carter?” Jack barked, his arms holding a stack of freshly laundered towels.

Jack had been on the way upstairs from the pantry when Sam had knocked on the door.

Sam laughed, never thinking she'd live to see the day when Jack O'Neill was truly flustered, but seeing him now, she knew she had.

“Anything I can do to help?” the blonde asked, willing to help out if she could.

“No, just ... hold on a second.  I'll tell Daniel you're here,” Jack said, then quickly headed upstairs.

Sam looked around.  Her friend's house was usually impeccably clean, but now there were clothes tossed around, newspapers on chairs, Pampers and formula boxes near the kitchen counter, magazines open on the coffee table, and snack food all over the place.  She also noticed the baby monitors.

There was one monitor on the counter near the kitchen, one on the bookshelf in the living room, and one on the entranceway table.  Sam's instincts told her that she'd find units in the study and every other room of the home as well.  It wouldn't be so funny if she hadn't also installed a speaker and monitoring system throughout the house.  Her friends were definitely going a bit overboard, but who was she to point out their paranoia?  In truth, she figured she'd probably do the same thing.

Returning a couple of minutes later, Jack smiled, pointing at a yawning Daniel, and said, “See, he lives.”

“Hey, Sam,” Daniel said, shaking his head at his husband's comments and then hugging their friend.

“You look ... good,” Sam spoke generously.

“Yeah, well, haven't had much sleep since the babies came ... <yawn> ... home,” the archaeologist responded.

“Daniel, you weren't asleep?”

“Sleep?  What is that?  Jack, do you know what sleep is?” Daniel quipped slyly.

“Never heard of it,” the general said as he smiled in response.  “You want to see them?”

“Oh, yeah,” Sam answered without hesitation.  “That's why I'm here.”  Seeing her former commanding officer's stare, she gulped, then added, “I mean, one of the reasons ... Sir.”

“Jack, at ease,” Daniel ordered.  “Come on, Sam.”

Sam grinned as she followed Jack and Daniel upstairs where, sure enough, she saw another baby monitor sitting affixed to the railing.

“You sure you two have enough baby monitors?” the blonde colonel finally had to ask.

“Probably not.  We may have missed a spot,” Jack answered innocently, though his smile gave away that he was well aware they'd gone monitor crazy.

“Just as long as you don't think you're overdoing it, Sir.”

“Well, maybe we are, especially with the system you built in for us, but, geez, I don't remember this baby business being so nerve-wracking when Charlie was born,” the general admitted seriously.

“That's because after the first week, you were in Pakistan, Jack,” Daniel reminded.

“I was?  No, I wasn't.”

“Call Sara and ask her,” Daniel said a he stared his lover down.

“Oh, yeah, maybe I was,” Jack remembered a bit sadly, suddenly feeling a ton of remorse.

Daniel immediately picked up on the change in his lover's emotions and comforted, “Jack, you didn't have a choice, especially back then.  You had a job to do.”

“I missed so much, Danny, so dang much.”

Daniel reached over and took his partner's hand as he spoke reassuringly, “Sara told me that, all things considered, you were there more than any of the other Air Force husbands who, well, did what you did.  Charlie knew his father.  He loved you.”

“Yeah.  We had a lot of good times.”  All of a sudden, Jack became aware of his melancholy state and the presence of his 2IC.  He quickly regrouped, speaking enthusiastically, “Oh ... hey, Sara!  Babysitter!”

“Jack, she's your ex-wife, not our babysitter.”

“She's a lot of things, and she'd be a great babysitter,” Jack opined cheerfully.

“I know, but they're too young, so don't even think about it!” Daniel instructed, having no intention of the two of them leaving their triplets alone with another person, no matter how trusted.

Sam laughed quietly at the two lovebirds as she watched the sleeping triplets.

“They are so adorable!  I do get to babysit, don't I?”

“Carter, you're at the top of list.”

“Top?  I was hoping to just to be in the middle, Sir,” Sam said, seeing her social life coming to an instant halt, not that it was all that great anyway except for the times when Pete Shanahan was in town.

Jack winked, and the three continued their visit until feeding time.

“I should go.  I just wanted to come by and ...” Sam began.

“Oh no, Carter.  Stick around.  You'll need to know how to do this when you babysit,” Jack replied deviously.

Sam gulped, becoming very nervous.

“He's kidding, *aren't you*, Jack?” Daniel warned.

Jack sighed.  Daniel obviously had no intention of leaving their children for quite a while.  It's not that Jack wanted to either, not really, but he was already missing those little moments when he and Daniel could hold each other without falling asleep sixty seconds later.

“Yeah, I was just joking.  Thanks for dropping by.”

“Thanks for letting me,” Sam replied. “Uh, where are the girls?” she asked about the beagles, suddenly aware she hadn't seen or heard them at all during her visit, something that seemed totally out of the norm.

“Oh, uh, they're outside ... I think,” Daniel said.

“Yep, playing, probably,” Jack agreed.

“Oh, okay,” Sam responded, feeling a bit uneasy about the unusually unenthusiastic answer.

After seeing Sam out, Jack and Daniel tended to their family.

====

It was a couple of days later, and Jack was on baby watch while Daniel slept.  Hearing faint noises that weren't yet cries, he entered the nursery.

“Hey, what's wrong, little guy?  Monsters keeping you awake?  Don't worry, Dad's on the case,” Jack said as he picked up Daniel Michael and took him to the rocking chair where he slowly began to rock.

“Those monsters will never beat you, Son, not ever.  You have your Daddy and I, and your siblings, and Sam, and Sara and Mark.  You have a long list of people who will always keep you safe.  And your guardian angel, our Charlie, he's looking out for you, too, so see, nothing will ever beat you, not ever.”

The baby stopped fidgeting, his cries lessening.

“Hush, little Danny.  You're so beautiful.  Shhhh.”

Jack leaned his chin against the small infant and whispered a lullaby in his ears, changing the lyrics slightly.

“Over in Killarney,
Many years ago,
Me mither sang a song to me
In tones so sweet and low.
Just a simple little ditty,
In her good ould Irish way,
And I'd give the world if she could sing
That song to you this day.

Too-ra-loo-ra-loo-ral,
Too-ra-loo-ra-li,
Too-ra-loo-ra-loo-ral,
Hush, now don't you cry!
Too-ra-loo-ra-loo-ral,
Too-ra-loo-ra-li,
Too-ra-loo-ra-loo-ral,
That's an Irish lullaby.

Oft, in dreams I wander
To that cot again,
I feel her arms a huggin' me
As when she held me then.
And I hear her voice a hummin'
To me as in days of yore,
When she used to rock me fast asleep
Outside the cabin door.

Too-ra-loo-ra-loo-ral,
Too-ra-loo-ra-li,
Too-ra-loo-ra-loo-ral,
Hush, now don't you cry!
Too-ra-loo-ra-loo-ral,
Too-ra-loo-ra-li,
Too-ra-loo-ra-loo-ral,
That's an Irish lullaby.”

--

“I love you, Little Danny.  You have his eyes.  I know it's too early, but I can see them, riggggggght ... there,” Jack said, smiling and using his fingers to gently dab over the baby's eyebrows.

The baby quieted and just as Jack thought he might fall sound asleep, little Daniel Michael let out a big cry.

“Oops, I smell that one,” Jack laughed.  “Shhh, you'll wake up your siblings.  Come on.  Dad can handle this.”

Jack took the baby to the changing table and cocked his head, closing his eyes for a second as he got a whiff of the unpleasant nasty in the diapers.

“You just had to do that now, didn't ya?  You're testing me, just like your Daddy used to do.  Well, as you can see, little one, I'm still here; not going anywhere.  It took me years to get your daddy to believe me.  Every time we had a fight, he thought we were through.”

Jack shook his head as he remembered.  He cleaned the baby, applying just the right amount of powder, Michael cooing at the soft dryness of the new diaper Jack was affixing.

“Finally, your daddy believed me.  I love your daddy.  Geez, more than life, I love that man.  You're going to be just like him.  I can tell.  No, I know, I don't know how.  It's just a feeling, in my gut.”

The baby was focused on the soft steady tone of his father's voice.  His little legs and hands were moving all around, but he wasn't crying any more.  He was listening, hearing the sound of love.  Jack concentrated on disposing of the old diaper and making sure everything was put away and before he was able to pick up the baby, Daniel Michael began to cry a little.

“Hey, I'm right here.  Told ya, not going anywhere, not ever.”

Michael settled for a minute, until Jack bent over to pick up a towel that had fallen to the floor.  Hearing the baby begin to cry, Jack heard himself singing again, again changing the lyrics a tad.

“Hush Little Danny, don't say a word,
Dad's gonna buy you a mockingbird.
And if that mockingbird don't sing,
Dad's gonna buy you a diamond ring.
And if that diamond ring turns brass,
Dad's gonna buy you a looking glass.”

As Jack sang, he picked up the baby boy and moved to the rocking chair, gently rocking back and forth.

Daniel, wearing his blue pajamas, and barefoot, stood watching at the doorway as Jack settled into the rocker with their baby.  He slid down to the floor, his heart swelling with love as Jack soothed their middle child with soft musical sounds and words.

“Hush Little Danny, don't be blue,
I'm your Dad and I love you.
You and your brother, your sister, too,
You are your daddy's and my dream come true.
We love you, and Charlie, too,
You're the shining stars of our hearts and souls.
Hush Little Danny, don't you weep,
Daddy and I will protect you for all eternity.”

As Jack continued to hum, Little Daniel fell fast asleep in his arms.  Jack looked up and saw his husband and smiled.  He saw the tear rolling down his lover's cheek.

“Looks like I finally found a way to get you to sing again,” Daniel whispered.

“Well, Little Danny just needed some reassurance that he was safe, that's all.”

“Michael,” the archaeologist corrected quietly.

“Michael,” Jack said softly, still rocking back and forth in the chair.

“Do you believe it, yet?”

~Good question.~  Jack considered the question as he held Daniel Michael in his arms.  He shook his head.  “It feels like I'm daydreaming, and I'm scared to death I'll wake up and our precious angels won't be here.”

“Me, too.”  Daniel yawned.  “Ash is so tiny.  I know Sylvia says she's okay, but ... she's just so tiny.”

“Ash?” Jack questioned as he looked up, his eyes big with surprise.

Daniel shrugged, saying, “Daniel Jackson-O'Neill, did you just give our youngest child a nickname?”

“I guess your bad influence has finally taken its toll,” Daniel answered, a shy smile gracing his weary face.

“Ash.  I like that, Danny.  Jonny, Danny, and Ash,” Jack sang lightly.

“Jack,” Daniel said with a warning in his voice.

Jack coughed softly, saying, “Jonny, Michael, and Ash.”

Daniel yawned again, and rubbed his eyes, while, for a moment, Jack got lost in his lover's wiggling toes.

“Geez, your sexy.”

“Jaaaack, the children.”  Jack laughed.  “Jaaaaack!”

“Sorry.”

Daniel shook his head, a motion that seemed to express the idea of “What am I going to do with you?”

“You should be asleep, Angel.”

“Miss my pillow,” Daniel whined.

Jack kissed the baby and stood up, saying, “Hey, little one.  Daddy and I are right here.  You just holler if you get scared again, but remember, you have Jonny and Ash to help keep you safe, too.”  The baby made a gurgling, giggly sound, but was still asleep.  “You're safe, Little Danny.”

The older man could hear Daniel taking a deep breath of frustration and smiled, making sure Daniel couldn't see his expression.  

“Night, Son.”

Jack walked over to Daniel and with both hands, pulled him up and into his arms.

“I'm so tired, Jack.”

“I know.  It's been quite a week.  Let's go to bed,” Jack responded tenderly.

“Jack?”

“Hmm?” Jack said as they walked back to the master bedroom.

“His name is Michael.  You make him sound like ... like a Cartwright with that Little Danny business.  It's Michael.  We agreed.”

“Anything you say ... Danny.”

“Oh gawd,” Daniel crawled under the covers, his hand reaching up for Jack who climbed in next to him, taking his hand and bringing Daniel to his usual spot.

“Better?”

“Yes, much.  Need my pillow ... always,” Daniel said, happy to be on his Jack pillow, hearing the healthy beating of Jack's strong heart.

“Go to sleep, Love.  That's an order.”

“Orddddddddddddddd...”

Jack smiled, caressing Daniel's back.  His husband was exhausted, and so was he.  Seconds later, Jack also fell asleep.

====

The next few days were equally taxing on the couple as they learned to adjust to their new life, trying to figure out the ins and outs of baby supplies, feeding times, and laundry necessities.  They had survived another day and night, and, for the first time, all three of the Jackson-O'Neill offspring were asleep at the same time, but that hadn't happened until 1 a.m.  

Unfortunately, Jack and Daniel were too tired to do anything but collapse next to each other on the sofa, their heads leaning against the other's.  They knew they should be in bed, but right now, they weren't sure they had the strength to go back up the stairs.

Suddenly, Daniel shot up from his restful state, his head turned to face Jack as he ordered, “You have to go to the store.”

“No way.  I'm going to enjoy this all-too-brief break while I can, and, geez, it's the middle of the night.  Whatever it is you want, can wait.”

“We need Pampers, unless you aren't fond of your green silk shirt.  I used the last one on Ash before she went to sleep,” Daniel informed.

Jack sprang up off the couch, feeling totally frustrated.  Hadn't they already gone through this?

“Daniel, we've gone through *how* many Pampers today?  We had two packs left yesterday!  *Two* packs!”

“It's not my fault.  They're babies, and right now they basically cry, eat and ... you know.  We should have started the diaper service immediately instead of waiting for the first of next month.”

“Yeah, that was not one of your best ideas,” Jack pointed out, referring to the fact that they would have only missed out on four days if they had begun the service on October 5th, which was the date when they finally remembered to call and start the much-needed service.

Daniel glared, but decided to ignore Jack's little dig, deciding to get back to the actual problem of the moment.

“Besides, it was your turn to ...” Jack began.

“Yes, I know it was my turn to get more today, so, sue me.  It was shopping or feeding, and I figured you'd rather have Jonny eating than crying,” Daniel argued, staring at his lover, though it wasn't with an angry gaze, but was that of another one of his favorite looks.

“Oh, FOR CRYIN' OUT LOUD!  Do *not* start on me with the eyelashes and the big blue eyes.  We don't even have the energy to do anything about ... what it is ... I ... want to do to you when you look at me like that.”

Daniel smiled seductively, stretching his body as his arms reached high into the air.  He brought his hands down in front of him as he leaned down and bobbed up and down a bit, as if exercising, and then with his hands on his waist, he leaned to his left, then to his right, then forward, and then he leaned back ... way back, his body arching, allowing certain body parts to be accentuated in a manner that definitely got Jack's attention.

“Daniel, you know what that does to me.  Okay, okay, you can stop now.  Where are the keys to the truck?”

“Right here, Love,” Daniel said as he picked up the keys from the entranceway table and walked to his husband, smiling in victory.

Jack scooped Daniel into his arms and, after kissing him, said, “Geez, what you do to me.  I take out Apophis, Hathor, Sokar, Anubis.  I save the Earth again and again, and I'm driving to the friggin' supermarket at two in the morning for Pampers.”

“Um, Jack, while you're there, we're out of coffee, and ...” Daniel's fingers slid inside of Jack's shirt, running playfully in Jack's chest hairs, “... I'm in the mood for something, hmmm, succulent.”

“Succulent?”

“Rich and dark,” Daniel's lips met Jack's, “and yummy,” his tongue awakened Jack's, the two waltzing in a needful dance, “to the tummy.”  Jack was silly putty in Daniel's hands, their kisses the most they'd had time for since the babies had been brought home.  “Hurry, Jack.”

“Like we have a prayer of doing something about this?” Jack asked.

“Miracles happen.”

“Yes, you do,” Jack replied proudly, kissing Daniel again before heading for the front door.

“Jack?”

“Yes, Love, I'll get your favorite coffee, and, no, I won't forget the chocolate, either.”

Daniel grinned and sat down on the sofa.  Then he yawned and closed his eyes.

====

Jack got into the truck and smiled at the interplay.

“I know what's going to happen,” the general said to the truck.  “I'm going to come home and either the babies are going to be wide awake, or Daniel's going to be sound asleep.  When's the last time we ... oh crap, that long.”

Jack turned the radio volume up high, trying not to think too much about how long it had been since he and Daniel had made love.  It wasn't a safe topic for a man to be thinking about while going to a grocery store in the wee hours of the morning.

====

Almost a week later, Jack was still frustrated by the lack of physical love between he and his lover.  Still, he was too busy to think about it too much, especially today, when the oldest triplet had scared him by turning blue.

“Jack, Jonny is just fine,” Sylvia assured, shaking her head at the end of her examination.

“But he was blue!”

“What do you expect, Jack?  You gave him blueberries.  What color did you expect him to be?” the doctor questioned, somewhat amused by the reason for her house call.

“Well, we were playing,” Jack said as he tried to justify what had happened.

“With blueberries?”

“I like blueberries, Syl.  What are you, prejudiced or something?” the general quipped in question.

“Jack, if I were you, I'd just be glad Daniel wasn't home to see this.”

“Good point, except for one thing.”

“What's that?”

“I'll tell him,” Jack sighed.  “That's the down side to all this trust business.”

“I understand,” Sylvia chuckled, though she added, “Still, you might want to rethink that.  The only parent I know right now who's more paranoid than you, is Daniel.”

“True.”

“Well, I'm not one to condone little lies, but really, there's no fallout.  Just don't feed the babies blueberries, Jack.  They aren't ready.”

“I wasn't trying to feed him.  We were playing.”

“I'm afraid to ask how you were playing,” Sylvia chuckled as she held the oldest human child in her arms.  “Don't worry, Jonny, Daddy should be home soon to protect you from Dad.”

Jack laughed in acknowledgement of the Daddy and Dad names, saying, “I guess you picked up on that.”

“I'm a sharp cookie for a doctor my age,” the woman retorted.  “You've been very consistent.”

“That's the plan.  It was Danny's idea, and like most of Danny's ideas, it was a good one.”

The physician detected a note of dissatisfaction in Jack's voice and asked, “Is there something wrong?”

“Of course not.  We're as happy as those clams everyone keeps talking about.”

“Are you now?”

“Yes, we are.”  Jack took Jonny from Sylvia and walked over to a chair and sat down, staring into the baby's now-clean face.  “It's just ... Daddy and Dad haven't had much time together in the last few weeks.  I miss him.  That's all.”

Sylvia sat at the edge of the three-quarter-size bed that had been placed in the children's room, and sat, crossing her legs.  She leaned forward, her hands moving as she spoke, but often holding on to the other.

“Jack, you can't lose sight of the reason you have these babies.  You and Daniel have something very rare, and certainly, something more intense than I've seen in a long time.  I know it's hard, but you need to make time for each other, and that's a pattern you had better set into motion now, before you both get so entrenched in ignoring your marriage that it's too late to salvage it.”

Jack's head bobbed up in total panic, totally unprepared for Sylvia's frankness.

Seeing the alarm, Sylvia added, “Jack, don't over-react here, but you have people you trust.  These children are going to be front and center for the rest of your lives.  They are healthy and happy.  Just make a point of making sure that you and Daniel stay that way, too.”

“How?  Laundry, formula, crying ... blueberries.  We're both too exhausted to do anything these days.  The military was nothing compared to this.”

“Make time, Jack.  Isn't he worth it?” the intuitive physician inquired.

“Syl, he's worth everything, but how?  Tell me how?”

“You have friends.  Use them,” the woman suggested.

“Babysitters?  I'm surprised Daniel agreed to go to the Mountain today.  If it hadn't been a major crisis, I don't think he would have budged.”

“When's the last time you two did anything for just yourselves, or for you as a couple?” Sylvia asked.

“The day before we brought them home,” Jack answered, a faraway look in his eyes as he recalled their lovemaking.

“That long?  That's almost three full weeks.  Heed my words, Jack, and make time.  If you don't, you'll regret it.  Look at you.  It's not even a month yet, and you already resent it.  You may be happy, still in that beautiful euphoria of new parenthood, but you're not as happy as you are pretending to be.”

“You're not?” a surprised voice questioned.

Jack's head shot up at the sound of his lover's voice, and he grunted, “Sylvia, you have no idea what you just started.”

“And on that note, I'm going.”  The doctor walked over to Jack and Jonny and kissed the baby.  She picked up her bag and walked towards Daniel as he stood in the doorway.  “Nice to see you, Daniel.  Bye, Jack.”

“Bye, Sylvia,” Daniel said, focused on Jack, until suddenly, he called out, “WAIT” and ran to the stairs.

Sylvia was half-way down and turned, laughing, “Blueberries.  They were playing.  Jonny's fine.  Jack's the basket case.  Goodbye, Daniel.”

“Blueberries?”  Daniel walked back into the nursery where Jack was still sitting and holding Jonny.  He reached for the baby, insisting, “Let me take him,” and pulled the child from Jack's hold.  “Hey, Jonny.  What happened to you?  Are you okay?  I love you so much.”  He bounced the baby up and down as he walked over to the bed.  As he sat down, he asked softly, “What did Dad do to you, huh?”

“Dad,” Jack spoke up, “was playing with his son and ...” he stopped.  He was about to come out with something sarcastic when he realized that what he really wanted to do was kiss Daniel, not argue with him, and if he said much more, arguing would be exactly what they'd be doing.  “Danny, we need to talk.”

Daniel let out a cross between a sigh and a laugh, responding, “Sure?  When do the clones arrive?”

“Exactly.”

“What?”

“Nothing, but we're going to talk tonight if it kills us,” Jack insisted firmly.

“Jack, what ...” Daniel began, his question interrupted by two cries.

“Duty calls,” Jack said, walking to the crib and tending to both Michael and Aislinn.

====

In spite of Jack's best attempts, he and Daniel hadn't had their talk, and it was four days later.  Then, holding two of the babies and rocking them, watching the TV, Jack saw a commercial that said, “Having a baby changes everything.”

“I'll say, and I don't regret it at all, except,” Jack sighed, not finishing his sentence.

When someone knocked at the door, Jack listened closely to make sure Daniel was getting it, and hearing movement downstairs, he knew Daniel had.  He continued to rock Jonny and Aislinn in his arms.  With his attention focused on the babies, he didn't hear the footsteps on the stairs.

“Surprise!” a woman called out.

“Sara!  What the ...?  Um ...”

Sara chuckled and went to her ex-husband, asking, “Can I hold him, or her?”

“Sure.”

Sara took Jonny into her hold, remarking, “Oh, Jack, he's beautiful.  They all are, and they've grown so much since we saw them at the hospital.”

“Yes, they have.”

“I wish we'd been there for the birth,” Sara lamented.

“Mickey and Minnie versus hours of waiting in a hospital room?” Jack quipped with a smile.

“Angela might have objected.  Still, I wish.”  Sara exchanged a glance with Jack, a remembrance of a time years earlier.  Quietly, she asked, “Was he there, Jack?”

“Danny and I think so.  You know, Sara, the triplets were all born naturally, no C-sections, and it was quick.  Kayla was only in labor a few hours.  The only complication was when Little Danny was born.  He had to be difficult, came out feet first.  Yeah, I think Charlie was there to ... help.”

“And to see the latest additions to our growing family,” Sara smiled.  “Oh, and Little Danny?  Does Big Danny know about this?” she chuckled.

Jack coughed, “I'm working on it!”

“Jack, you'll never change.  He told me he only relented on the name because of Jonny, and he's determined that Little Danny,” Sara chuckled, “will be known as Michael.”

“I'm working on it,” Jack repeated with a smirk.  “How about a bet?”

Sara looked towards the door, and then at the babies.  She shook her head, laughing.  She knew Jack would be relentless in his pursuit.  Daniel would cave, eventually.

“No, I don't think so,” the blonde responded.  The two talked for another ten or fifteen minutes, and then Sara prepared to leave.  “I only stopped by to ... well, actually, I just wanted to see them.”

“You should bring Angela by sometime,” Jack commented.

“I did.  She's downstairs with Daniel and Michael.”

“You left your daughter with Daniel?”

“Of course!  Why wouldn't I?”

Jack shook his head, responding, “Nothing.  Forget it.  I'm just in a funky mood.”

“Nothing funky about it, Jack.  You aren't getting any, as they say, and you're sulking.”

Jack looked at his ex-wife in total shock of her bluntness and questioned, “And what would you know about it?”

“Silly question, Jack.”

“Yeah, I'm sorry, I'm just ...”

“... frustrated?  Sulking?” Sara challenged knowingly.

“You can stop.  You're as bad as Daniel,” Jack sighed.

“Good.  I'm in great company then.”  Sara paused, looking at Jonny.  “He has your brow.”

“He has Danny's chin.”

“Jack, who's the problem ... you or Daniel?” Sara asked, truly concerned for her ex-husband and his husband.

“Both.  He's paranoid about leaving them for more than ten minutes, and I'm getting an attitude.”

“Because you aren't getting any.”

“Sara, will you stop that?  We're beginning to take this ex-spouse thing to a level that is totally unheard of,” the general bemoaned lightheartedly.

Sara snickered.  It felt good teasing and laughing with Jack.  He was a good man, and their marriage had been solid until Charlie's death.  She was very happy now, but that didn't mean she couldn't miss the humor Jack had always brought into their lives.

“Old habits, Jack, and sometimes old habits are good things.”

“Okay, Mrs. Wilson, what is going through your crazed brain?”

Sara sighed, then confided, “Jack, I was paranoid once, and when Angela came along, I had to work three times as hard not to become totally irrational where her safety was concerned.  I'm guessing you've had a time of it, too.”

“Oh, yeah.  Memories I don't really want to remember.”

“Mark took me, by force actually, to a survivor's therapy group, and before you get your shackles up, that's not what I'm suggesting.  What I'm saying is that Mark knows me well enough to know that the way to get through to me is logic.  You know how I am, the educator always needing to be educated.  Give me facts, Jack.  So that's what Mark did.  He made me deal with the facts of my own paranoia, and my fears.”

“I'm glad, but I don't see the connection,” Jack stated.

“Sweetheart, you and Daniel have been together for years.  What does he need when he loses sight of logic or reason?  In all the years that you've been together, what have you done to pull him through those times?  Old habits, Jack. Old habits.”

Jack took in Sara's words.  He nodded his head as he played with his daughter's tiny fingers.  After a moment, he looked up at his ex-wife.

“Never let it be said that you aren't a smart woman, Sara,” the man praised.

“I'll take that as a compliment.”

Jack laughed as he began to formulate a plan, asking a moment later, “I don't suppose you and Mark would be interested in babysitting?  I might succeed for thirty minutes before he screams bloody murder and makes me bring him home.”

“How about Saturday night?  In fact, maybe we could ask Sam to come over.  It would give us time to get to know each other a bit better.  What do you think?”

“I think you shouldn't say anything when you go downstairs,” Jack spoke in collusion with the woman.

“You are going to tell him?” Sara asked.  With Jack's devious grin, she replied, “Jack, you're positively wicked.”

“Yeah, but you said old habits, and, Sara, when times were the roughest, that's what I did, forced the issue.  It's the answer, if there's going to be one.”

“Let me know what time.  I'll warn Mark,” Sara chuckled.

“Better make sure he's ready to buy that house,” Jack replied, referring to Mark's past comments about needing a bigger house if they ever did have to take custody of the Jackson-O'Neill children.

“Why?”

“Danny might just murder me.”

“I doubt that.  He's head over heels for you, Jack,” Sara assured.

Jack nodded, knowing and yet hoping, that Sara was right.  The blonde stood and put a sleeping Jonny in the crib.  Then she walked to Jack and knelt down, playing with the blanket that was wrapped around Aislinn.

“Aislinn, your daddies are wonderful men.  You're very lucky.  I have to go, Jack, but remember, we had some of those jealousy moments with Charlie.  That might happen here, too, so, try to use your experience to get beyond it.  You know he loves you, and I know you love him.  Call me.”

Sara leaned forward and kissed Jack on the cheek and then placed two fingers on Aislinn's cheek as a parting gesture before going downstairs.

====

Daniel studied his husband curiously.  It was Saturday night, and something was going on. He could feel it.  Jack was up to something; he was certain of it.

“Jack, what are you doing?”

“I'm making sure your blue silk shirt hasn't been used as a diaper,” Jack laughed as he perused his lover's wardrobe.

“Why?” Daniel asked nervously, arms folded as he stood by the dresser.

Jack took a deep breath.  War was about to break out at the Jackson-O'Neill homestead.  He braced himself.

“Keep one thing in mind, Danny,” Jack requested.

“What would that be?”

“The triplets are asleep, and if you make a fuss, they'll all wake up, and they'll cry and be miserable.  So, no matter what, you need to be, very, very quiet,” Jack said as he approached Daniel, who refused to unfold his arms.

Jack placed a quick kiss on Daniel's lips, his closed lips.  Just then, he heard the sound of a knock on the door.  Quickly, he hurried to answer it, hoping the kids wouldn't wake up.

“Good evening, Sir.”

“Carter,” Jack greeted as he opened the door for Sam to enter.  He whispered, “Be prepared.  It's about to get very stormy.  Use the kids.  It's the only thing that might divert the thunder.”

Sam nodded in understanding, having been briefed by both Jack and Sara prior to arriving.

“When are Sara and Mark due?” Sam asked.

“When are Sara and Mark due to do what, and hi, Sam.  What are you doing here?”

Daniel's arms were folded, and he had on that defensive skeptical stare that would have frightened even the staunchest of the Goa'uld.

Sam looked at Jack, who cleared his throat and walked towards his husband, extending his arm out to turn Daniel towards the living room, and urging him to walk towards the stairs.

“Uh, Daniel, there's something I think you should know.”

“And that would be what exactly ... Jack?”

“Danny, Angel ...”

Daniel stopped walking, and turned to face Jack.  They were close together, Jack's arm still on Daniel's shoulder, but there was more distance between them than met the eye.

“Right now, I don't want to be your angel, Jack.  What I do want is to know why Sam is here, why she was asking about Sara and Mark, why my blue shirt is out, why your burgundy silk shirt is out, and why you have on your best after shave, the one that ...” Daniel looked at Sam, about to cave without realizing it, but then regaining his resolve, “you know.  That's what I want to know ... General.”

“I'm retired.”

“I seem to recall that, but that's beside the point.  Answer me, Jack,” Daniel demanded.

“I will ... upstairs,” Jack answered.

“Jack!”

“Up...stairs ... Daniel,” Jack stated forcefully.  “Before you start yelling, remember the children.”

Jack smiled and walked up the stairs casually.  Daniel closed his eyes, ready to boil over in frustration.  He glanced at Sam and then marched up the stairs to their bedroom, and though he wanted to slam the door, he gently closed it.

“Put it on,” Jack said, holding out Daniel's shirt.

“Why?”

“You know why.”

“No, I don't,” Daniel responded, in denial about any need to go out with his lover.

“We're going out, Angel.  You and me -- the two of us -- for at least an hour,” Jack advised.

“I'm not going anywhere,” Daniel refuted ardently.

Jack said nothing, but as Daniel stared, he changed clothes, taking off the old ratty jeans and the white T-shirt he'd been wearing and slipping on the burgundy shirt, purposely not fastening half the buttons, something he knew drove his husband wild ... ~or at least it used to,~ he thought silently, temporarily losing his focus.

Then, Jack put on a nice pair of black pants and the appropriate accessories.  When he was dressed, he looked ~positively scrumptious~ according to Daniel's thoughts, though no one would have had a clue what the younger man was thinking since at the moment he was motionless, looking and acting pretty much like a cold and heartless statue.

Jack sighed and picked up the blue shirt and got into Daniel's personal space, pleading, “Daniel, listen to me.  I think I could probably talk you into this, or maybe blackmail you into it, without causing a scene or waking the kids, but it would probably take three or four hours, and then what would the point be?  I could probably get Carter or Sara to cajole you into it, but it would take them at least two hours, and then they would have used so much of their energy that they'd be too exhausted to babysit.”

Seeing Daniel's mouth about to kick in gear, Jack put his hand up to cover it.

Daniel's eyes grew wide.  He wanted to yell at Jack for doing what he just had.

Then, Jack said calmly, “You'll wake the kids,” successfully quelling Daniel's urge to yell.

Daniel closed his eyes and counted to ten in at least five of his forty-plus languages, and then he took a calming breath.  Jack knew then that he was safe, at least temporarily.

“So, here's what's gonna happen,” the older man spoke.  “You're going to put this and the rest of those clothes sitting there on, and we're going to go into the nursery and tell our children how much we love them and that we'll be back very soon, and then, Daniel, we're going downstairs, and for two minutes we're going to exchange pleasantries with Carter and the Wilsons.”

Again, Jack put his hand over Daniel's mouth.

“Don't start.  Sara's motherhood skills are beyond question.  She knows all she needs to know, and I've written, in detail, every place we're going, phone numbers, route, everything.  I lectured Carter for two hours, Daniel ... two friggin' hours on how to make Ash's formula just right, and then I lectured her for an hour about how to rock Jonny to sleep when he wakes up and does that little squealing noise, and not to be left out, I rambled on for yet another hour about not leaving little Da... Michael alone because he doesn't like the dark when he's alone, that he's afraid of monsters.  I wrote a book, Love.”

Jack exhaled and extended his arms, his hands rubbing Daniel's arms gently.

“It's time, Angel.  Our babies are safe and healthy, and we need to make sure we are, too.  We can't be with them every second of every day, and I miss you,” Jack declared.

The general's words had softened the archaeologist's anger, but, still, Daniel replied, “I miss you, too, but it's too soon.”

“No, it's not.”

“I won't go.”

“Yes, you will.  Danny, you can change in peace, or I swear, I'll put these clothes on you myself.  Do you want that?” Jack questioned in a somewhat threatening tone.

“Fine.”

Daniel changed without saying a word and then walked into the nursery.  Jack watched his husband fussing over the sleeping children and then joined him.

“We'll be back.  We won't be long,” Jack told the triplets.

“You can count on that,” Daniel added harshly, turning and walking away.

“Behave.  Don't scare, Sam.  We love you,” Jack added before following Daniel downstairs.

====

“Hi ... Daniel.”  Sara saw the tenseness in Daniel's demeanor, and then the look on Jack's face as he walked down the stairs.  Her cheery greeting had gone from exuberance to monotone.  She smiled at Jack in moral encouragement and mouthed, “Good luck.”

“He'll need it,” Daniel said coldly, heading for the door without saying another word, having totally ignored Sam and Mark.

Jack cleared his throat again, and smiled sadly as he said, “It's very cold around here these days.  I have a hunch we won't be gone long.”

Jack walked to the door like a man walking to the gallows.

“Jack,” Sara called out.  “He's scared.  It's that simple.  Don't make the mistake of making it personal, no matter what he says or does.  You know how he feels.  We all do.  We were there; remember the vows.”

Jack looked at Mark and back at Sara and then said, “Thanks,” before he headed outside to the chilly night air and the cold body waiting in the truck.

====

The ride to their destination had been made in silence.  Daniel's arms had remained folded as he stared out the window, while Jack had unsuccessfully attempted small talk.  Finally, out of desperation, Jack had tried to explain his reasons for doing what he had, even telling his lover about the conversations with Sylvia and Sara.  Still, his husband remained icy cold to his presence.

Jack turned off the truck and looked at Daniel, hoping to see some sign that they might at least be civil.

Realizing where they were, at a small same-sex supper club in Denver, Daniel gave Jack a quick glance.  This was going to be harder than the younger man thought.  His breathing became more rapid from the emotions that began to stir inside of him.

Jack got out of the truck, walked to the passenger side, and opened the door, saying, “Come on, Danny.  Let's have a nice dinner, okay?”

Daniel glared at the other man, but got out and walked inside the building.  He swallowed hard when they entered, the place not having changed much at all.  Before Jack's retirement, they had come here often.  It held a special place in their hearts, a place where they could be free, at least to an extent.

The archaeologist hesitated when Jack led him to their favorite table, the one they had sat at the first time they had come to this safe haven.

Jack ordered dinner, which was eaten in silence, Daniel glancing at his watch frequently and also trying hard not to succumb to this place of emotional blackmail.

Eventually, Jack stood and, as he had done years ago, he reached out his hand, love in his eyes, and asked, “Can I have this dance?”

Daniel almost hyperventilated, his head swimming in conflicting emotions.  He still wanted to scream, to be angry, and yet, there was Jack, beautiful and caring, trying to love him.

Slowly, at a snail's pace, Daniel's hand reached out to Jack's.  He looked at their joined hands, and then he looked up, seeing Jack's best Irish smile, the one that always melted his heart.  He nodded as he stood.

Jack walked backwards a few feet to the dance floor, and then embraced his husband.

Their first dance steps were cautious, tentative as they made their way back to each other.  Jack's head nuzzled into Daniel's neck, and Daniel felt the tear running down the cheek, and could no longer hold back a couple of his own.

“I love you, Danny,” Jack whispered, stopping briefly, his hands cupping Daniel's face.

Suddenly, the lovers were locked in a long, passionate kiss.

It didn't matter any longer if people saw them, especially not in this place, the tiny Denver supper club where Jack and Daniel had danced together publicly for the first time.  It had been a simple thing, to dance together, but it had turned out to be a very important moment in the evolution of their love affair, a love affair that continued to grow, in spite of occasional setbacks, like unexpected triplets demanding diaper changes at the same time.

“I'm sorry, Jack.  I love you so much.”

“And I love you.  Love you, Angel.  I love you,” Jack chanted, kissing his husband again.

The couple danced a few more dances, still not saying much, but touching and holding each other close.

“Time to go,” Jack whispered.

“Home?”

“If that's where you want to go,” the general responded, hope suddenly in his heart.

“You have an 'or'?”

“I always have an 'or' and this one is a pretty nice 'or', but we aren't going unless you want to,” Jack stated.

Daniel turned and walked out to the truck, and Jack figured they were headed back to the Springs.  He paid their bill and walked out, spying Daniel leaning against the truck, arms folded once again.

“Did you bring the cell?” Daniel asked.

“Glove compartment.”

“Not quite so tough, are you?” the younger man teased quietly.

“They're my kids, too, you know.  I'm not quite as calm as I seem.  It's just ... Danny, if we don't fix this, what's it all for?”  Jack sighed, unlocked the truck, and walked to his side of the vehicle.  “I love you,” he said.

Daniel hesitated a moment, but then got in.  He immediately pulled out the cell phone, hitting the code for their house.

Jack started the truck and began the drive back to the Springs, glad they'd made a tiny amount of progress, but filled with sorrow that it wouldn't be enough to help them solve their dilemma.

“Jackson-O'Neill residence,” a voice answered.

The words were like a dagger, a sharp blunt reminder of the stakes to the younger man.

“Hi, Sara.  It's Daniel.”

“I'm impressed.  Two whole hours.  How'd he do it?” Sara questioned in an amused tone.

“I was stubborn.”

Sara heard the strain in the young man's voice and stated, “Daniel, I'm about to butt in.  I did it with Jack, and since we're sort of related now, I figure that gives me a right to do it to you, too.”

Daniel glanced at his husband and responded, “Yeah, you can do it to me.”

Jack hit the brakes, exclaiming loudly, “Oh, no she can't!”

The younger man shook his head at his husband's words, and he could hear Sara chuckling as Jack hit the accelerator.

“Some things will never change, Daniel,” Sara warned lightly.

“I know.  How are they?”

“They're fine, and nice try.  Daniel, you have a choice to make.  You and Jack made a commitment to raise these children, to love them.  You promised them a family, a loving family, Daniel.  The kids will survive if you and Jack stay out for a few hours.  In fact, it's better for children to have some time away from their parents.  Check it out, but then I have a hunch you already know that,” Sara stated.

“It's not easy.”

“No, it's not, but if you love that ex-husband of mine, as I know you do, then it's time for you to remember that he needs some of your time and attention, too, and I'll tell you something else, you need him as well, and you know it.”

“What makes you think that?” Daniel asked.

“Two hours.  Two hours, and the fact that the first thing out of your mouth when you finally did call wasn't to check up on the triplets.  You know what you need to do.  The babies are fine.  Sam and Mark are upstairs with them.  They've all cried and fussed, and now they're back in happy slumber land.  They'll survive, Daniel, if you and Jack decide to stay out, say, another couple of hours, and so will we.”

After a minute of silence, Sara said, “Daniel?  Let Jack help.  One step at a time, huh?  See you soon, but remember, soon could be a few hours from now, and that would be okay.  Bye, Daniel.”

Hearing the dial tone, Daniel hung up the phone.

Jack observed, “Sounds like that was pretty much a one-sided conversation.”

“Lecture.”

Jack had to laugh at his buttinsky ex-wife and quipped, “Welcome to my world that was.”

“She's smart.”

“Yes, she is.”

“Turn around, Jack.  Let's go wherever ... wherever you were planning to go,” Daniel requested.

Jack's heart beat faster from a burst of joy, but he had to be certain, so he asked, “You sure?”

“No, and I think you should take advantage of my momentary weakness and turn the freakin' truck around.”

Jack slowed and, surprising Daniel, he stopped the truck and spoke, “No, Danny.  I don't want to take advantage of a weakness.  I don't want half of you.  I want all of you.  I want you to want me, as much as I want you.  Maybe that's not tonight, but I hope it's soon because I'm going out of my mind with this separation.  So, we'll go home.”

Jack started to put the truck in gear, but Daniel reached out and stopped him.

“I ... I want to be with you.  Gawd, Jack, please.”

“Angel, this wasn't an all or nothing.  I'm not going anywhere,” Jack reassured.

“I want you, Jack.  My body hungers for you.  I need you,” Daniel said emotionally.

Jack looked into the eyes he adored.  There was want and need in those eyes, and more importantly, there was love.  He nodded, and headed for the hotel just this side of Denver where he had made reservations.  It was a small place, but nice.  They had stayed there once when a winter blizzard had prevented their return to Colorado Springs.

====

“I remember this place,” Daniel spoke as Jack locked the door at the hotel.

“I love you, Angel.”

“You know what, Jack?”

“What?”

“You talk too darn much,” Daniel objected as he grabbed his husband, eager for their bodies to connect.

“Too long, Danny.  It's been too long,” Jack gasped as they fell to the bed.

“Want you.  Gawd, want you,” Daniel demanded, flipping Jack so he could top him.

It didn't take long for the two to shed their clothes, and soon, Daniel was inside his husband, thrusting powerfully, both proclaiming their want for the other, both shouting their love.  It ended with both being spent to numbness, their sweat-soaked bodies linked together like a chain-link fence, their legs, arms, fingers entwined as they lay together.

“Gawd, I almost forgot what this felt like.  I'm sorry, Jack.  I was an idiot.”

“No, Love.  We just need to remember that we have our children because we love each other, and we want to be a family.”

“We have to make time for us, Jack, but I don't know how.”

“Yes, you do.  Carter, Sara and Mark, Cassie, even Teal'c once we get him trained.  We trust them, Angel.”

The lovers snuggled together in silence for a long time, but this was a companionable silence, their hearts and souls speaking.  They had a lot to say, things that had been suppressed for weeks, almost from the day their children had been born.

“Jack, I think we should go out on dates,” Daniel suggested.

“Works for me,” Jack agreed.  “I like dating you.”

“You just think I'm easy,” Daniel teased.

“Oh no, nothing about you is easy.”

“Jack!”

“You're my heart, Danny, and, lately, my heart's been aching,” Jack confided, knowing his lover could finally hear him.

“I know.  I'm scared.”

“Sara said you were scared, but I'm not sure what you're afraid of.  Do you know?”

“I'm not sure.”

“You're a linguist.  You can figure it out,” Jack encouraged.

Jack placed a kiss on Daniel's head.  Daniel relaxed as he enjoyed their closeness.  His brain searched for his fear, and when he looked in his heart, he realized the truth.

“It's too perfect, Jack.  I have it all.  Gawd, I finally have it all.  What if something happens?  I mean, not just to us, but to them, or the girls?” Daniel's head shot up like a cannonball that had just been fired.  “Oh, gawd, I've even ignored the girls!  Jack, our girls.  We've ... I've ...”

“I know,” Jack sighed sadly.  “We'll fix it.”

Daniel settled atop his lover again, confessing, “I've been so afraid, Jack.  Like ... like Little Danny is afraid of the dark.”

Jack smiled.  It was the first time that Daniel had called their middle child 'Danny' and to Jack, that was precious.

“Jack ...”

The voice was frailer than before.  Jack's soul cried.  There was a pain there, inside his lover, and Jack knew it was up to him to heal it.

“Tell me, Danny.”

“You'd never leave me?”

“Not ever.”  Silence filled the room until Jack asked, “Danny?  Is that what this is about?”

“I think ... maybe, a little.  It's ... I went from nothing to everything, and I know we've been together a long time, but ...”

“But still, Nick, Sarah, and a long line of families ... never truly forgotten, are they?”

“They should be.”

“Oh, Angel, I could kill them all for what they've done to you.”

“It's not necessarily their fault, not, uh, all of them anyway,” Daniel stated.

“That's my Danny -- always the defender of the defenseless,” Jack noted, smiling.

Daniel sighed.  He couldn't help it.  To him, people were being the best they could be, and maybe they had their own stories that explained who they were and how they lived their lives.

“Okay, Love.  Come on.  We've been together too long for you to be worrying about being honest with me.  Trust me,” the older man requested.

Daniel again raised his head to look into Jack's eyes, replying, “You know me so well.”

“We're one, Danny.  You know that,” Jack said, wiping the single tear that had begun to fall down Daniel's left cheek.

The young man had needed that moment, that connection.  They could always see the truth by gazing into each other's eyes.  Having seen it, Daniel lay his head back down on Jack's chest.

“It's, uh, like Pandora's box, Jack.  If I open it, just a little, it just all floods out.”

“What does?”

“Fear,” Daniel stated.

“Fear of what?”

“That one day, you'll wake up and wonder why you've wasted all these years with a ... a geek, and, um, that you'll just ... you'll ... take them, our children, and the girls, too, and ... gawd, I'd be alone again ... alone in that ... that dark place where all I did was read and study; where the only thing I felt where the hugs I gave myself.  It's like ... like being in the dark all day, every day, knowing light is out there, but never being able to find it.”

Now that Daniel was letting out his innermost fears, the words tumbled out of him in rapid succession.  Jack let him continue, knowing it was important for Daniel to empty his system of all that had been buried inside.

“And I guess I ... I opened that box recently.  I didn't mean to, Jack.  I saw something on TV I think.  It was just a news story about an orphanage somewhere, and I saw this boy.  His eyes reminded me of me I guess.  I didn't know I'd ... I'd opened the box, but I did, and it was so dark and devoid of life ... I had to protect myself because if I don't, no one else will, and ... they'll ... the creatures of the dark ... they'll get me, swallow me up, and then ... I'll be nothing.  Alone, and I can't do that again, Jack.  I just can't.”

Daniel cried as Jack tightened his hold and promised, “I'll keep the monsters away.  You're never alone.  Your husband will always take care of you because I love you more than life, more than anything.”

Daniel tensed, but Jack gave him time.  Something told him to be patient.  There was still another piece of the puzzle to put in place.

“Do you?”

“Do I what, Angel?” Jack asked.

“Lll...love me ...?”

“Danny, you know ...”

“No, I mean ... more ... mo ... oh, gawd, I feel so ...”

Light dawned for the general as he held his archaeologist and comforted, “Shhh, Angel, it's okay.  I understand now.  I love you so much, so friggin' much, Danny, that I'm nothing without you.  I love our kids.  They're beautiful.  They are just like you, all of them.  They fill me up with their trust.  But I love you, Danny, and *nothing* compares to that.  I'll die for our kids.  I love them so much that sometimes I think I'm going to explode from the goodness of it all.  But you, you are my angel, my heart and soul.  I can't breathe without you.”

Jack shifted, turning them over so that Daniel was on his back.  His hand caressed Daniel's tear-stained cheeks.

“More than life, more than existence of any kind, more than forever ... you, Angel, only you, forever.  I ... love ... you.”

Timidly, fear in his tone, Daniel asked, “Am I jealous of our kids?”

“Might as well be.  I am.”

The response surprised Daniel.  He blinked a few times, then asked, “You are?”

“It's natural, Danny, to a point.  All these years, it's just been us, and then the girls, and let's face it, there's a huge honkin' difference between three sensational human kids and two wonderful beagles.  I see how you look at Jonny sometimes.  I hear you whispering little secrets to Ash, and I see you trying to encourage Michael to be brave and strong, to scare off the monsters.  You bet I'm jealous, especially when lately we've been lucky to find five minutes to ... kiss goodnight.”

“Song.”

“What?”

“You sang to him, Jack.  Gawd, I ... I can't help it.  When you sang to me during our reception, I was floored.  You don't know how that felt, to have you hold me, singing to me like that.  And then, the CD.  I can feel you when I listen to it, but I could never get you to do it again ... until we got married again.  All you do is ... tease, use that silly voice.  Jack, we can't get married every time I want to hear you sing to me ... crap, I am such a whiny, selfish brat.”

“No, you're not, Love.  You're my husband and the daddy of my kids.  You're my soulmate, and I adore you beyond anything.  You're also human.  We make mistakes, but the good news is that we can fix it,” Jack stated confidently.

“How?”

“You said it a while ago.  Dates.  Daniel, once a week, no matter what, we get a night out.  Once a week, we rely on our friends to help us.  I need you, Love.  It'll get easier.”

“You're such a liar.”

“Trying to make you feel better.”

“You're good at that,” the younger man acknowledged.

“Motivation.  Besides, I made you a promise to keep you happy.”

Quickly, Daniel assured, “Jack, I am happy.  We have everything.  Aren't you afraid we'll mess it up?”

“Heck, yes, which is why we're here.  I had to risk it.  I had to gamble that you'd see it, too,” Jack said and then kissed his husband tenderly.

“Fridays,” Daniel stated.

“Fridays?” Jack questioned.

“I think they're better than Saturdays, not that this Saturday wasn't incredibly ... awesome, but let's agree to make Fridays our date nights,” the archaeologist suggested.

“We can set the calendar to our dates,” the older man quipped.

“Exactly,” Daniel agreed.  After another couple of contented minutes had passed, he asked, “Jack, do you think maybe Michael is afraid of the dark because ...”

“... because sometimes you are?”  When Daniel nodded, Jack continued, “I think children are very perceptive, and I think Little Danny is just like his father.”

“He's always reaching for Jonny.”

“Because Jonny will keep him safe.  Close that box, Love, and throw away the key.  I'll bet Little Danny does, too.”

“Michael,” Daniel insisted.

“You just called him Danny,” Jack pointed out.

“It was a ... slip of the tongue.”

Jack leered, saying, “Speaking of tongues ...”

Jack slipped his tongue inside Daniel's mouth for a hungry kiss that filled Daniel with desire of his own.

“Want you.  Want you inside me ... now.  Now, Jack.”

With as much passion as earlier, Jack and Daniel reunited their nation of two, knowing that it was as important to keep their private universe strong as it was to keep their family healthy.  Another pact was made, by mutual agreement, as they fused their bodies together one more time.

====

“Thank you, Love.  I had a marvelous time,” Jack said, having shut off the truck and reaching over to hold Daniel's hand as he kissed him.

“I did, too, and next Friday, I get to surprise you, okay?”

“Okay, now how about we go surprise Carter with the news that she's booked for every Friday for the next ten or fifteen years?”

“I love you, Jack.  Thank you so much for not letting us make a really stupid mistake.”

“Ah, Angel.  Love you.”

The couple walked towards the door, and Daniel unlocked it and was about to enter when he heard Jack urge him to stop.

“Danny, wait a second.”

Innocently, Daniel turned, never suspecting what was about to happen. As he had done upon their honeymoon homecoming, Jack picked Daniel up in his arms.

“JACK!  Your back!  And your knees!  You might fall!  Put me down.”

“Don't worry, Love.  Everything will heal!”

“But what if you fall and injure your ... gawd, what would we do next Friday?  I need ... that ... it's ... mine!”  As Jack burst out laughing, Daniel suddenly realized the door had opened.  “Which one is at the door?” he asked without looking.

“Actually, Daniel, it's all of them.”

“Oh, gawd!” the young man cried, burying his head into Jack's neck, his right hand reaching around to hold on to his husband.

“It's okay.  I think they know what we were doing tonight and planning to do again at the earliest opportunity.”

“That's what I'm afraid of,” Daniel sighed, not making an effort to move.  “Jack?” he spoke softly.

“Yes, Love?”

“Hurry up and carry me over the threshold because so help me you break anything, and I'm gonna be so unhappy.”

“Anything you say.”

Sam, Sara, and Mark, all laughing, moved aside to allow Jack to carry his husband through the doorway.

“I'm so embarrassed,” Daniel said, still in Jack's arms.

“It's okay.  I'll protect you.”

“I know,” Daniel replied.

“You know, I think it's time for us to leave,” Mark said, grinning.

Sara quickly rattled off a few things about the evening and the children and then gathered Angela into her arms.

As Sam was walking out the door, Jack called, “Carter ... next Friday?”

Sam looked back at Daniel, still in Jack's arms, and smiled, “Yes, Sir.  Most definitely, Sir.”

Sam shut the door, using her key to lock it.

Jack could hear the tumble of the dead bolt.

“We need to check on the babies,” Daniel said.

“Hey, how come you didn't bolt when they opened the door?” Jack asked.

“We're married, Jack.  I don't care what anyone thinks anymore about our love ... even if you do embarrass me all the time.”

“Good embarrass, right?”

“The bestest kind, Jack.”

“Let's go see the babies.”

Jack put Daniel down, and then they kissed.  Hand in hand, they walked to the nursery.  They stood there for a few minutes, hands never parting except to make sure their children were tucked in safely.

“We love you, all of you, so much,” Daniel whispered.

“What he said,” Jack teased, just as softly.

The lovers kissed and walked out, making sure all the baby monitors were on.  

“Jack?”

“I know.  Let's go.”

====

Jack and Daniel walked outside and over to the doghouse Jack had built a couple of years earlier for Bijou and Katie.  The two beagles were awake, and they looked up at the couple when they pulled open the little door to the house.

“Hey, Bij,” Jack greeted as he reached in to pet the mama dog.

“Hey, Katie,” Daniel spoke with a smile as he leaned over to pick up the younger dog, no longer a puppy, but still their baby.

“Girls, we need to talk,” Jack said.

“But not out here,” Daniel stated.

Daniel placed a kiss on Katie's head.  In response, she seemed to smile at him for a second.

The lovers exchanged a look and, picking up Bijou, Jack stood.  The couple took their precious beagles into the house, up the stairs, to their bedroom.  They put the dogs on the bed as they changed out of their clothes into their flannel pajamas.  Then, Jack and Daniel sat down next to each other, their backs against the headboard.

Bijou and Katie were at their feet watching.  They hadn't been in the master bedroom since the babies had come home.

“Okay, it's like this,” Jack began with a big sigh.  “We screwed up.  Badly.”

“Very badly,” Daniel repeated.

“We went a little overboard when we brought the kids home. You know the kids, those things that cry all the time and keep us running around like you've never seen us do before,” Jack stated.

“And we sort of forgot that we needed to make time for each other,” Daniel added.  He sighed, “Once we remembered that, we realized we'd ... sort of forgotten to make sure you two knew that we ...”  He paused, unable to hold back the tears.  “Gawd, we've been horrible.”

Jack quickly put his arm around Daniel and reassured, “It'll be okay.”

“Look at them, Jack.  They didn't even run to us ... or kiss us ... or ... anything.  They're sitting down like ... like we were ... just anybody.  Gawd.”

“Come on, Girls,” Jack pleaded.  “We learned a lot tonight.  We're sorry.”  He kissed Daniel's head, the younger man crying in his arms.  “They'll forgive us, Danny.  We're family.  Shhh, Love.  We just need to prove ourselves again, that's all.”

“I hope so,” a dejected Daniel sniffled.

Jack looked at the two beagles, smiled, and said, “It's okay, Bij, Katie.  We've hurt you, and we know that.  We downright ignored you for a solid month.”

“Maybe even longer than that,” Daniel interjected.  “We had the wedding, then we were gone, and then we were so busy with the nursery and ...”

“The point is,” Jack interrupted, “you haven't been treated the way you should have been for longer than any of us wants to think about.  We brought home our human children and treated you both like you didn't matter anymore, but you do. You're our children, too, and we're going to fix it. Just give us a chance, okay?”

Jack coughed, suppressing his own emotion, not feeling the least bit funny about the deep emotion running through him and his husband while talking to two dogs, dogs they truly felt were children.  It was crazy, but Jack didn't care.  Bijou and Katie were special, and neither Jack nor Daniel would ever deny that.

“Starting tomorrow,” Daniel sniffled, “we integrate our family.  The girls have to know our babies because they're our babies, too.”

“I agree.  You know, Girls, the babies need a protector.  You know what it's been like in the past,” Jack reminded.  “You never know if one of those psychos will come back.  Yeah, I know, we have all this fancy dancy stuff now.  Carter has more doohickeys in this house than I want to think about, but how many times in the past have you two saved our skins, huh?  Alot, so we're counting on you.  Speech over.  Think about it, and remember, it's okay to stay angry a while longer.  We'll prove ourselves to you again.  You need time?  Well, we have all the time in the world.”

“We love you, so much,” Daniel said, leaning forward to pet the two beagles, his heart aching as he realized just how much they had neglected the cherished dogs they adored.

Taking a deep breath, both Jack and Daniel lay down to sleep in each other's arms.

====

“Jack?”

“Shhh.  Go back to sleep,” the older man responded.

“Jack, it's 6 a.m.  The babies,” Daniel pointed out, realizing they'd not awakened since falling asleep after their emotional confession to the beagles during the night.

Jack shot up.  Their triplets hadn't slept through a night since the Jackson-O'Neills had brought them home.  With Daniel right behind him, he ran to the nursery and immediately smiled.

“Wow.  Oh, Jack,” Daniel said, leaning his head against Jack's shoulder.

Jack reached over and took his husband's hand as they took in the most beautiful sight they'd ever seen.

“Now that's beautiful,” Jack spoke softly.

Jonny, Michael, and Aislinn were all quiet in their crib.  Michael, who usually woke up hating the dark, was cooing as Katie rested quietly at the edge of the crib, her nose tickling the baby's feet occasionally.

Jonny and Aislinn seemed to be focused on her, too, looking at the dog peripherally, from the corners of their eyes.  At the edge of the three-quarter-sized bed, Bijou sat, keeping watch, as she had done so often for Daniel during various times of crisis.  

Daniel walked over to Bijou and held her close, whispering, “Thank you,” as tears rolled down his cheek.

The beagle gave out the quietest small “woof” as if knowing a louder sound might frighten the newest members of their family.

“I wonder how she got in there,” Jack pondered about Katie, nodding towards the young dog lying peacefully in the crib.

“I don't even care, Jack.  Never look a miracle in the mouth, not even the smallest ones.”

“Danny, we've been winging this.  We're used to being independent, tough macho idiots.  We're not anymore.  We're parents.  We need help, and we'd be pretty ignorant not to admit that and not to go get it,” the older man opined.

“And you said I was the genius.”

Jack smiled, but continued the conversation.  He was more motivated than ever to get their family back on track, and quickly.

“We need a routine.  We need to figure out how to take care of these three, and those two, and the fish, and each other.”

“Big order, Jack.”

“Yes, it is, but worth it, don't you think?” Jack questioned.

“Definitely,” Daniel agreed.  He looked at the mama beagle and placed a kiss her nose.  “Definitely worth it.”

====

“Be careful, Bij.  She doesn't quite understand yet,” Daniel cautioned.

“Woof!” the beagle acknowledged, as baby Aislinn thrashed her hands around, not meaning to make as much contact as she was with the dog as the entire Jackson-O'Neill clan played on the living room floor.

It wasn't so much playing as it was just getting used to each other.  The infants were putting on weight, getting used to the various sensations of life, but basically, they were normal babies, not moving around much yet, except for Jonny who seemed destined to be the trouble maker.  Even at one month, he seemed to be the one managing to reach things he shouldn't be touching.

“He's definitely got your genes, Jack,” Daniel had a few days earlier.

Jonny had accidentally knocked over a new box of Froot Loops, causing it to empty onto the floor.  Daniel had been holding the infant who seemed to reach out for the box, his tiny hand tapping the open box causing it to fall.

“You know this is fun,” Jack commented while the babies and dogs interacted for what was essentially the first time.

“Yeah, why didn't we do it sooner?” Daniel asked.

“Because we were afraid carpet fuzz would be lethal or something.”

“Or something,” Daniel said regretfully, looking at the beagles, knowing he had been afraid to let the dogs play with the babies.  ~My fault, not Jack's.~

“Dogs are great protectors, Love.”

“I know.  I was being dumb,” Daniel sighed.  “We just need to supervise them until they're older.  We were so wrong, Jack.”

“We're fixing it.  Just like you, the girls always give us another chance,” Jack stated happily.

“Wooooof”

“Whoa. Jonny, where do you think you're going?” Jack asked as he started to put Michael down, but Daniel shook his head, holding his hand out to stop his spouse from moving forward.  

Hesitantly, Jack picked Michael back up, watching Jonny with Katie.

“Wooooof,” the beagle repeated, gently nudging the rolling baby closer to Daniel.

Jonny had somehow managed to scoot just far enough away from his parents that he was closer to the end table than to the protective reach of Jack and Daniel.  Katie had gotten between the infant and the potentially dangerous table.

“Thank you, Katie. They're too young to be out there like that.  Good girl,” Daniel praised as he reached out and petted her gently.

“Woof!” Katie responded, standing proudly for a moment and then sitting down, ready to assist again if necessary.

“See!”

“Jack, babies shouldn't have this much motor skill yet.  How's he doing that?” Daniel asked, amazed at what they'd just seen.

“Must be the Wheaties!”

“Or something.”

====

It was first day of November, and the Jackson-O'Neills were doing something special to commemorate that their human children had been home for a full month and that their loving beagles had completely forgiven them for being overlooked for several weeks.

“Guys, do you think you could behave this time around?” the freelance photographer requested.

“Like we don't normally behave?” Jack asked, a twisted smile on his face.

“Jack, the Munchkins are behaving.  I really want this to ... to be ...” Daniel began.

The older man smiled as he paused to caress his husband's cheek.  He knew how much Daniel had cherished their first family photo, the one with just them and their girls.  He wouldn't mess around with this special portrait; it was too important.

“Let's get the show on the road,” Jack urged tenderly.

Kayla placed the couple into position, one specifically requested by the younger man.

Jack sat in his favorite chair.  Carefully, Daniel placed Jonny in Jack's left arm and Michael in his right.  He put Bijou over Jack's right shoulder and Katie over the left, the girls lying down partially on Jack's shoulder and partially on the chair back.  Then Daniel stood behind his husband holding Aislinn.

“Okay, say, 'We are family' on three.  One ... Two ... Three.”  Kayla snapped the photo.  “Perfect, but let me try something.  Everyone stay where you are.”  She walked over to Jack and said, “The babies are being so well behaved.  Daniel, can I have Ash, please?”

“Um, okay,” the younger father said, handing over the youngest of the triplets.

“Okay, Jack.  I know you can do this.  There's lots of room here,” Kayla said as she very carefully placed Aislinn next to Jonny.  “Are they secure?” she asked before backing away.

“Yeah.  How about that?” Jack said, beaming while now holding all three of his children at the same time.

“Good.  Bijou, Katie.  You two stay ... no, wait.  Katie, you have to be perfectly still now.”  Kayla put Katie and then Bijou on Jack's lap, right smack dab in between the babies.  She chuckled.  “Jack, you so cannot move one inch.”  She stood back and smiled widely.  “Yes.  Daniel, lean over and put your arms around Jack's neck, and lean your cheek against his.”

“Like this?”

“Perfect!”  Kayla moved back to where the tripod was.  “This will be golden.”  She snapped a few more photos, then said, “That's a wrap.”

“Don't move, Babe,” Daniel said, moving quickly around to make sure the family didn't have any accidents.  “Bij, Katie, you two were great,” he complimented, giving both a quick rub on their ears before telling them to get down, which they gently did.  Then he took Aislinn back into his arms.  “Was that fun, Ash?”  Looking at his soulmate, he asked, “Are you okay with those two.  I think, uh, she needs to be changed.”

“I noticed, Daniel,” Jack said, sniffing the air.  “I've got Jonny and Little Danny.”

“Michael.”

“Yeah, him, too,” Jack teased.

Daniel turned to Kayla, a big smile on his face, and spoke, “Thanks.  That last photo ... wow.  Thank you.”

“Next year we'll do another one,” Kayla promised.

“They'll be too big!” Jack said a bit boisterously.

The adults laughed, and then Daniel went upstairs to tend to Aislinn.

“That really was a terrific idea, Kayla.  What made you think of it?” Jack inquired curiously.

“Daniel loves you.  I don't know.  I just thought he'd like a photo that showed his biggest love holding all of his loves; and then he could hold you, kinda like holding on to happiness.  I guess it's a bit of a stretch,” Kayla explained.

“Symbolic stuff,” Jack surmised as he carefully stood.

Jack walked to Kayla and made a little motion, so she took Michael into her arms. He then walked to the downstairs crib and placed Jonny in it.

“He waited so long, Jack, to be able to hold happiness in the palm of his hand.  I don't know half the story, I'm sure, but what little he's told me ... well, I don't know ...”

“Thank you, Kayla,” Jack said softly as he took Michael back.  “... for everything.”

“I'd better get going.  I have a follow-up appointment with Sylvia,” the adventurous woman informed.

“Everything's okay?”

“Oh, yeah.  I'm fine.  Just routine.”  Kayla chuckled as she saw Jack's worried look.  “I'll have her call you.”

Jack smiled as he placed a kiss on the middle triplet's forehead.

====

“Gawd, Jack.  Don't you think this is going overboard?  I mean, look at all this stuff!  Are you sure we got everything?” Daniel chuckled.

Jack looked at the two very full shopping carts.  He inventoried the selection:  a deluxe beanbag, two sweaters, four blankets, two travel beds that looked like miniature sleeping bags for trips to the cabin, six boxes of various dog treats, a large container of dog biscuits, several rawhide bones and chew toys, a hardwood dog massager that would be placed in the beagle's large doghouse, one hockey puck toy (mint flavored) for each dog, four frisbees of different sizes, a flying squirrel toy, five new balls (each a different size and material), some rope tugs of varying lengths and thickness, a small wading pool with a few toys designed just for the water, and too many to count small toys (squeaking and non-squeaking) to be buried in Katie's play yard.

The retired general panicked. saying, “You're right.  Be right back,” he added, darting off towards one of the center aisles.

Daniel laughed as he bent down to pet Bijou and Katie, saying, “You know that he's not trying to buy your love, don't you?  I mean, he just feels guilty, like I do.”  The two beagles sat calmly, smiling at Daniel as they listened to his words.  “We will never neglect you two again, not ever.  So ... forgive us for ... overindulging, okay?  And just know we love you so much, and this is just something Jack is doing because he wants to, not because he has to.  Okay?”

Two joyful “Woofs!” rang out in the large store, wagging tails accentuating the barks.  Both dogs gave Daniel several kisses while he petted them and waited for Jack's return.

“Almost forgot this,” Jack said, adding the deluxe brushes to the cart.  “I think they'll like these better.  They're softer.”

“You're such a softie, Jack,” Daniel said, standing up.  “A pool?  Jack, you realize that you're buying our dogs a pool?”

“They'll love it!”

“Don't you think the babies might get jealous?” Daniel asked.

“If Bij and Katie want to share, it's up to them.  We'll get the Munchkins their own pool if they want one,” Jack replied seriously.

“Big spender,” Daniel said softly, his heart full of love.

Jack was grinning, proud of his selections.  He really didn't care that he had gone ridiculously overboard.  Their precious beagles had forgiven them for being ignored, and Jack felt very grateful for that.  He wanted to pamper them, so he was.

~And you're not exactly fighting me on this, Dannyboy.  You can't fool me.~

====

Time passed, and Jack and Daniel had been on their third straight date night.  It had been another rousing success.  They'd eaten dinner at O'Malley's and then gone dancing, something they loved to do together, and they'd made love, an essential must of their one free night a week.

For the first time, Cassandra had babysat for them, along with Sam's assurance she'd be near by.  The young woman from Hanka was no longer a little girl, but it was still her first night alone with triplets.  Sam had promised to drop by unexpectedly just to make sure everything was okay.  Of course, Cassandra had been expecting her.

Then the couple had spent the weekend in a mixture of cleaning and playtime with their family, with a little bit of organizing for J-O Enterprises thrown in.

The lovers were gradually finding their way, settling into a routine.  Every day they had a playtime with all five of their children.  It wasn't easy, and sometimes it only lasted five or ten minutes, but they refused to miss a day.  Things were working out, and they knew now that they'd be okay.

On this Monday evening, Daniel was snuggled into his usual position, his head resting warmly on Jack's left shoulder, his leg hooked between Jack's and his left hand fussing with his husband's chest hair.  The babies were asleep, the beagles choosing to be in the nursery with them on this night.  The two men were resting quietly together, hoping for a couple of hours of sleep before one of them had to get up to tend to the children.

“Babe, it's Thanksgiving in a few days,” Daniel commented.

“Wild year, Danny,” Jack replied.

“We have so much to be thankful for, so many miracles and blessings,” the one man noted.

“You're right about that,” Jack agreed.  “How are we going to celebrate?”

“I have no idea, but I think we should,” Daniel opined.

“Danny, we always do the holidays,” Jack pointed out.

“What I meant was, that even though the Munchkins aren't even two-months old yet, we need to celebrate all the holidays.  I want them to know how special everyday is, but I also want them to learn about the special days, too.”

“We'll teach them,” Jack responded.  “Wild and crazy year,” he sighed as he thought back over everything that had happened.

“Wild, crazy, and blessed year, My Love,” Daniel corrected.

“Amen to that, Danny.”

The lovers quieted, each contemplating their life, love, and family.  As minute after minute ticked by, each thought the other was asleep.  Then, suddenly, Daniel heard Jack humming.  It was nice, soothing even.  Then Jack began to sing, modifying the lyrics to a popular Irish song, “Danny Boy.”  As he listened, his love for his Silver Fox grew even more.  He had no idea one person could hold so much love for another.  Jack's song bore deep into his soul.

“Oh Danny boy, the pipes, the pipes are calling
From glen to glen, and down the mountain side
The summer's gone, and all the flowers are dying
'Tis you, I love with all my heart and soul.
And we'll never be parted, not in all of time.
Nor when the valley's hushed and white with snow.
'Tis I'll be here in sunshine or in shadow,
Oh Danny boy, oh Danny boy, I love you so.

And if you stay with me forever and always
And are my beloved, through eternity and beyond,
I'll promise to love you with all I have to give and try
to be my best, to be the man you need,
that you've loved and trusted with your heart of gold.
And all my dreams will warm and sweeter be
If you'll not fail to tell me that you love me.
I'll sleep in peace until you come to me, Danny.
I love you so, my falling star, I love you so much!”

“So much, Danny, so friggin' much!” Jack spoke softly, kissing the top of Daniel's head.  He knew Daniel was awake, but his lover hadn't said anything.  Still, he could feel the shivers of his husband's body.  “Danny?”  When Daniel only sniffled, Jack scooted down and saw the tears.  “I love you, Angel.  I'll sing for you forever if that's what you want.  I love you.”

With tears seeping from his eyes, Daniel leaned up and kissed his husband and requested, “Make love to me, Jack.”

“The babies,” Jack stated in deference to his soulmate's protective stance about what they do in their home and when now that they had children.

“They'll get used to it.  Make love to me,” the younger man requested yet again.

Jack dried Daniel's tears, and then, for the first time since their children had come home, Jack and Daniel made tender love in their own bed.  There would still be months of adjustments for them.  Life would never be as free as it once was, but now, the new parents had rediscovered not just their nation of two, but the magic of their love, that indescribable emotion that bonded them together as few had been before.

A new norm was being established for the very outside-the-norm Jackson-O'Neill family, and they were truly loving every minute of it.  The year 2006 had brought a world of change for them, and the future?  The future was full of transitions from the old to the new, and it would bring about even more dreams and hopes, and Jack and Daniel knew that somehow, they'd make them all come true.

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

Notes:
1) I have to give a nod to Ximeria's super story, “Tales To Tell Your Grandchildren...” because that's where I first heard the name Aislinn. I've since seen it in other places and fics, but hers was the one that engraved the name on my mind, and after talking with several others about it, I just couldn't ignore it as being the perfect name for Jack's and Daniel's baby girl.  The story is located at http://www.anzwers.org/free/ximeria/sg-tales.htm
2) Once again, I reference Devra's lovely piece “The Last Dance” which has become part of my fanon for Jack and Daniel.
3) The poem “Question Not” is by Christopher Sampson.
4) “Too Ra Loo Ra Loo Ral” lyrics by James Royce Shannon, 1913.
5) “Hush Little Baby“ author unknown, modified here by Jack O'Neill!
6) “Danny Boy” core lyrics by Frederick Edward Weatherly. 1913, modified again by Jack O'Neill, of course!
7) The Jackson-O'Neill Family Portrait manip is by QuinGem and can be found on my website.  Thanks!!

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