Texas Two Step

Author:  Orrymain
Category:  Slash, Angst, Drama, Romance, Established Relationship
Pairing:  Jack/Daniel ... and it's all J/D
Rating:  PG-13
Season:  Beyond the Series - August 2012
Spoilers:  None
Size:  52kb
Written:  November 13-15,17-21,23,28, 2007
Summary:  It's yellow roses, lots of opinions, and an attempted two-step to avoid trouble for the Jackson-O'Neills as they hit the great state of Texas during their road trip across America.
Disclaimer:  Usual disclaimers -- not mine, wish they were, especially Daniel, and Jack, too, but they aren't.  A gal can dream though!
Notes:  
1) This is part of the “Wanderin' in the USA” road fic in honor of Jack and Daniel's universe readers.  Thanks for your support!
2) Texas, Our Texas lyrics written by William J. Marsh and Gladys Yoakum Wright; composed by William J. Marsh; The Eyes of Texas written by John Sinclair; Deep in the Heart of Texas lyrics by June Hershey.
3) Sometimes, Jack and Daniel speak almost telepathically.  Their “silent” words to each other are indicated by asterisks instead of quotes, such as **Jack, we can't.**
4) Silent, unspoken thoughts by various characters are indicated with ~ in front and behind them, such as ~Where am I?~
5) Thanks to my betas who always make my fics better:  Linda, Melissa, Tonya, Claudia!

Wanderin' in the USA
Chapter: Texas Two Step
by Orrymain

The Jackson-O'Neills had enjoyed a wonderful day in North Dallas, Texas.  They were on the home stretch of their road trip, but the family was still as enthused about their adventures today as they had been the day they'd left Colorado Springs.

Today, the family was visiting the Dallas Heritage Park at Old City Park.  The place was a living museum, portraying life as it had been in Northern Texas from 1840-1910.  It featured everything from a general store to a church, a railroad depot to a farmstead that included a blacksmith shop, a law office to a saloon, a shotgun house, and so much more.  The children loved it all, especially the chance to interact with the 'interpreters' of the wild west town, people who took on the personas of the characters from the mid-nineteenth century.

Though they weren't finished exploring the park, they'd already had two tiny ordeals, one while visiting the Alamo Saloon and one while at the shotgun house.

//Flashback//
“I'll have a whiskey,” Jonny joked as he moseyed up to the bar.

“Let's see your ID,” the bartender requested, not cracking even the smidgeon of a smile, although his eyes were twinkling with amusement.

“This is my ID, Pard,” Jonny said, pulling up his hands and pretending to fire while making funny sounds.

“Ain't gonna work, Kid.  How about a sarsaparilla?”

“Make it milk,” Jonny said seriously, before he finally laughed, as did the bartender.

After some chuckles, the family looked around the saloon, just taking it all in.

“Hey, look, it's a statue of a bear,” David called out, seeing a large black bear standing atop a rock.

“That's Choctaw Jack,” the bartender advised.

“Jack?” Daniel questioned, unable to stop from laughing.

“Careful,” Jack warned, raising his right hand with his finger pointed towards his lover.

Little Danny circled the 'statue' with an odd look on his face.  He had a horrible, sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach.

“Jeff, pick me up, please.”

Jeff picked up the youngster, letting him get an up close view of the large bear.  Suddenly, the teenager heard a sniffle from the younger boy.

“Hey, what's wrong?”

“He's real, Jeff.  He's not a statue; he's a real bear!” Little Danny exclaimed in horror.

“That's right,” the bartender confirmed.  “Choctaw Jack was the last bear in the Dallas Zoo.  When he passed on, the owner of the saloon purchased him and had him mounted.”  Hearing the sniffle, he asked, “Don't you think he's a fine looking specimen?”

~Specimen?  That's like an experiment.~  Little Danny's sniffles stopped as his anger took over.  He asked fiercely, “When you die, would you like to be mounted and stared at by strangers?”

“Little Danny,” Daniel admonished softly.

“Choctaw Jack was a big, brave bear, Daddy.  He deserves to be at peace, not ... on display for ... for ... for ...”

“Tourists?” Jack completed.  He cocked his head in surprise.  His young son had just sounded so much like his husband, the disbelief at the bear's predicament coming through in his passion-filled voice.

“Yeah!” the boy agreed, wiping away a tear.  “It's not fair.”

Try as they might, Little Danny's brothers and sisters couldn't console him, anymore than Jack's attempts at humor could distract him.  Finally, though, Daniel came to the rescue; that is, at least to a point.

“Son,” the cultural expert began, taking the boy from his brother and walking over towards the wall, away from the bear.  “Think about Ancient Egypt.”

The boy thought for a moment and said, “Mummies?”

“Hmmm-mmmm,” Daniel expressed quietly.  “Tell me why the Egyptians mummified their dead.”

Little Danny sighed as he brought out the information from the extensive filing cabinet of his mind that was his photographic memory and responded, “It was important to them because of their religion.  They thought that the more life-like the dead were then the better the chances were that they'd make it into the after life.  If the bodies of the dead were kept that way, then their souls would live forever.”

“And who did they mummify?”

“Pharaohs and noblemen.  It was expensive, Daddy.”

“Yes, it was.  Now, think very hard.  Who else did they sometimes mummify?” Daniel questioned.  “Think about Sakkara,” he prodded.

Little Danny's eyes widened as he realized what his father wanted him to remember.

“Animals, like ibis birds and crocodiles and baboons and bulls.  The bulls were sacred.  The early dynasties even had a special bull cemetery at Sakkara.”  Little Danny sighed, “A lot of those animals were mummified.”

“It was an honor to the Egyptians.”

Little Danny looked his father in the eyes and said, “Daddy, I know what you're trying to tell me, but Choctaw Jack wasn't a bull, and he didn't live in Egypt.  He lived here, and he was tall and powerful.  It makes me sad to see him like that.”

Saddened, the boy sighed with regret, leaning his head against his father's shoulder and looking over at the upright, mounted creature, a couple of new tears trickling down his cheeks.

“I'll bet he lived a great life,” Jennifer stated, trying to make her little brother feel better.

“King of his domain,” Jeff added.

“Sproglet, I know it's hard, but try to think about how much Choctaw Jack enjoyed his life and, well, he was loved so much that when he died, someone wanted to keep his memory living forever,” Daniel comforted, hoping to soothe his upset son.

“Do you really think that's why they did it, Daddy?” Little Danny asked, looking up at his father with sad, intelligent eyes.

While Little Danny preferred to believe the best of everyone, he was also aware that the more likely reason the bear had been mounted and placed on display was to give the place more ambience.

“I don't know, Son, but it is a possibility, and it's the explanation that I'd prefer to believe.”

Little Danny nodded and sniffled a little more before asking, “Can we go now, Daddy?”

“Yeah, I wanna see the shotguns,” Jonny stated eagerly.

“Jonny, we aren't going to see any shotguns,” David stated.

“But the pamphlet said there was a shotgun place,” Jonny insisted.  “Dad said so, too.”

As the family began to exit the saloon, Daniel asked his namesake, “Are you okay now?”

“No, but I will be, Daddy.  I promise,” the boy said, hugging his younger father, who then put him down and watched the boy hurry over to be with his siblings.

Daniel sighed, glancing back at the bear as he thought, ~He's going to have a hard time growing up.  I don't know how to cushion the blows he's going to face.  I'm sorry, Choctaw.  He's right; you deserve to be remembered in a better way than this.~

The archaeologist rejoined his family as they walked around, taking in some of the other thirty or so structures that made up the village.

--

Finally, the Jackson-O'Neills arrived at the shotgun house.  Jonny hurried inside, eagerly looking all around.  He frowned and folded his arms across his chest as he faced down his older father.

“Where are the shotguns, Dad?”  The boy tapped his foot on the floor and repeated, “Where are they?”

“Jonny, there aren't ...” Daniel paused, looking over at his husband.  “What did you tell him?”

“I didn't ... not really,” Jack mumbled.

“Jack!”

“Dad told me if I gave him my piece of ice cream pie that we'd see the shotguns,” Jonny announced.

The family had purchased three special ice cream pies the night before.  Jonny had had a bit of an upset stomach, so he'd decided to save his for tonight.  However, late last night, a hungry Jack had not been able to curtail his craving for a second piece of the delicious treat.

With all eyes on him, the general winced and spoke, “I told him we were going to the shotgun house, and he could see it.”

Jonny glared while saying, “We started talking about guns, big, old time, honkin' guns, didn't we, Dad?”

Jack nodded and shrugged, saying, “I was hungry.”

Daniel glared at his soulmate, his eyes communicating a message that was received loud and clear, despite the lack of verbal, or non-verbal, words being spoken.

“Okay,” Jack spoke, kneeling down in front of the little boy.  “How about when we get home, we'll go see Colonel Giardini and put in some time on the shooting range?”

“Jack!” Daniel called out in warning.

There was nothing wrong with Jack's offer.  Quite a few times during the year, Jonny had been taken to the SGC shooting range, learning about weapons usage, safety, and care from Vincent Giardini.  Giardini didn't take any guff, and Jonny had learned a lot about respect for weapons from the man.  Obviously, though, Daniel felt that Jack's offer wasn't enough to compensate for his dessert gaffe.

“Okay, how about this.  You were disappointed earlier when we saw that they have gunfights here every first and third Saturday, right?”  After Jonny nodded, Jack offered, “You and I will fly back here in Jo one Saturday before the year is out and watch one of the shows.  How's that?”

“Just you and me?” the boy asked eagerly.

“Yeah.  Special time to make up for your old man being greedy with the ice cream pie,” Jack stated with a smile.

“Promise?”

“Promise,” Jack said, crossing his heart.

With a grin, Jonny looked up at Daniel and said, “Thanks, Daddy.  It's okay now, but why do they call this a shotgun house if it doesn't have any shotguns in it?”

Daniel looked at Jack, communicating his approval at the deal of atonement, one he knew the older man would keep just as soon as possible.

~I wonder if he did that on purpose?~ the archaeologist pondered, especially since Jack had whined just as much as Jonny had about missing the old west gunfight.  ~Geez,~ he sighed, thinking he'd been had by his cunning husband.

“Daddy?”

“Oh, sorry.  I was thinking about something,” Daniel admitted, giving his husband a brief 'I've got your number' look.  Turning his attention back to the question Jonny had asked, he looked at the oldest Munchkin and answered, “The name doesn't have anything to do with weapons.  What it means is that this house is one room wide and at least two rooms deep.”

“I don't get it,” David stated.

“Me, either,” Aislinn agreed.

“I don't ...” Jonny began.

“Okay,” Daniel interjected, putting his hands out in front of him to stop a slew of children from communicating that they didn't understand the name.  “It's possible that the shotgun name was derived from the African word 'to-gun', meaning a place of assembly, but folklore says the name comes from the fact that you could shoot a shotgun straight through the house because of its layout.”  He pointed around the house as he added, “You can see that the house is relatively simple and basic in construction, which means it's also inexpensive to build.”
//End of Flashback//

The rest of the family's visit had gone smoothly.  The kids were enthralled by what they'd seen, and Jack and Daniel loved watching their children have a good time.  They'd taken advantage of the fact that there weren't really that many visitors to the museum today by holding hands briefly a few times and even sharing a quick kiss or two when they thought they were alone.  In fact, the family had enjoyed their time so much that they were one of the last to exit when closing time came.

The family walked leisurely, talking about various things as they headed for the visitor's parking area where their RV and beagles were waiting.  Jennifer was pushing JD in his stroller, and all the children were holding hands with at least one sibling, as was their norm when they were going to, and from, their vehicle and a place being visited.

That's when things turned south for the traveling Jackson-O'Neills.  The parking area was almost deserted.  Just the RV and a handful of automobiles remained.

“Hold it right there,” a voice called out.

Jack and Daniel turned around to find themselves being confronted by some unhappy Texans.  The burly group of seven men was huddled together, with three on the front line, three in the middle, and one languishing at the back.  All were dressed in jeans; four of them wearing baseball caps.  One was smoking a cigarette, practically chewing on it as he held it in his mouth by biting down on it.

It didn't take long for the men started verbally abusing the two men.  Apparently, one or more of the harassers had seen the lovers kiss inside the village.  It was unclear to the couple just how the group had grown in size, or if all the men had seen them.

**Danny, the one on the far left,** Jack communicated.  **I think he was lurking around the museum by the print shop when we were there.**

**I don't recognize him,** Daniel said, after taking a closer look.  **The one in the middle: I saw him, though.  He was staring at was us at the doctor's office.  He was standing at the side of the bay window that was in front of the office building.**

For ten very long minutes, Jack and Daniel tried to reason with the men, but they weren't making any headway.  The group was becoming more aggressive with their words and one had just spit in the direction of the children while making a derogatory remark about their heritage.

**Jack, don't!**

**You saw what he did.**

**Yes, but punching him in the nose, which we'd both like to do, by the way, wouldn't achieve anything.**

**Oh, yes, it would,** Jack argued almost telepathically.

**Okay, fine, but what are we teaching our children if we give in and fight when we still have options?**

“You two freaks just gonna stand there and stare?” the man in the center challenged after the married twosome had been silent for a minute.  He taunted, “Maybe you lost your ...” he gestured with his hand near his crotch in an obscene manner to complete his insult.

“Maybe they're both really girlie girls,” one of the men cackled brazenly.  “Neither one of them has what it takes.”

“We're not going to be able to get out of this,” Jack spoke to his lover, though his eyes were warily watching the group in front of the couple.

“I know,” Daniel acknowledged, glancing worriedly back at the couple's dozen children as they hovered nearby.

“Look, we're just passing through.  You don't really want to do this,” Jack said for the fourth time as he tried to reach a peaceful resolution with the would-be attackers.  Seeing the men step forward and not back, he sighed, “Okay, maybe I'm wrong about that and you do want to do it, but I'm warning you, it would be a mistake.”

“We don't want your kind here,” a man in the back of the small mob shouted.

“Our kind?” Daniel called out in disbelief.  “We just passed through the Bible belt. No one called us names there.  Did a few folks preach to us?  Yes, a little bit, but they left wishing us well, just like we did them.”

“Fighting isn't going to do anything but give all of us a headache,” Jack put forth.

“I doubt Sissy Boy there could do much,” one of the man shouted.

Daniel sighed.  It would never change, no matter how much he bulked up.  His preference for non-violent solutions and, apparently, something about his look always made adversaries think he was some kind of weakling.  Maybe his longer hair had something to do with it, too.

“*Sissy Boy* could take you in about ten seconds,” Jack threatened.

“Jack, don't,” Daniel said, glancing back at the brood again.

“Danny, you could slice ...”

“Jack!  I don't need defending,” the younger man argued.

“I'm just saying ...”

“I know what ...” Daniel began.

“Aw, look at the two little girls, quarreling,” one man tossed out, his voice patronizing and sarcastic.

Jack and Daniel let out a collective sigh.  They were both frustrated and beginning to snap at each other as they sought to resolve the unforeseen conflict.

“Look,” Daniel began.  “Fighting doesn't solve anything.  We're not trying to ... convert anyone, and we're pretty much just minding our own business, so if you'll excuse us, we'll just ...”

The mob's mutterings grew.  The mini-mob just wasn't listening to Daniel.

Finally, hoping the sound of reason would still get through to the other men, Daniel pointed over his shoulder, saying, “Those are our children, and ...”

Cutting off the linguist's words, a slew of unpleasant words began to be tossed into the air by the angry men confronting the two lovers.  Jeff and Jennifer were doing all they could do in order to keep the brood under their control and to protect them, but it wasn't easy.  The brood knew some of those words, but, worse, the men were taking it to another level, spitting violent expressions towards the kids themselves for being the children of homosexuals.

Both parents were pleased to see that Jeff had a strong hold on Jonny, who was glaring furiously at the men and clearly wanted to come and stand beside his parents and help protect his siblings.

“Jack, do you have your phone?”

“Battery's out, remember?” Jack reminded.  Exhausting the battery was a rare occurrence these days, but one day of forgetting to recharge the phone combined with some 'toss the phone around' calls to Jack's brother, Billy, in Australia, Grandpa George in Colorado Springs, and Aunt Catherine and Uncle Ernest in Europe had resulted in the 'beep beep' of a dead battery.  ~Crap,~ he thought.  “You?”

“I gave it to Ricky so he could call Alex to talk about one of the buildings.  Alex was going to call him back later, and Ricky asked if he could hold on to phone and answer it.  I said he could, as long as he didn't answer it without permission,” Daniel explained.

“Great,” Jack sighed.  “Okay, you take the guys on the right, and I'll take the ones on the left.”

Though not speaking loudly, Jack purposely did not use the couple's private method of talking.  He wanted the men to know that the two were prepared to fight.

The younger man realized the same thing.  He didn't want to fight, but, at the same time, he had a hunch their taunters weren't taking the couple as much of a threat.  Speaking verbally might have some effect.

“The children?” Daniel questioned, not really didn't want to have to fight in front of them.

“Daniel, if you have a way out of this, now would be the time.”

“The brood could get hurt,” Daniel replied, trying desperately to think of a way they could defuse the situation.

Suddenly, one of the men threw a tomato at the couple, hitting Jack's shirt.  The red goo ran down his shirt as the man shouted out that gay degenerates should be dead degenerates.

Hearing this, Chenoa began to cry.  It was just too much for her.  Though she'd seen her parents fight before with ignorant people, it hadn't been on this level, especially since she was older now and understood more what was happening.

Seeing how upset his sister was, Jonny's ire knew no boundaries.  He broke out of Jeff's hold and huddled together with his fellow triplets.  Less than a minute later, the triplets put their hands one on top of the other and called out a loud, 'Munchkin Power'.

“Oh, gawd,” Daniel expressed, fearing for his children after hearing the chant of unity.  **Jack, we can't wait any longer.**

“Okay, back off,” Jack said more aggressively than before while also moving forward one step.  He'd heard the triplet's cheer of solidarity, too.  ~I don't know what they're planning, but we need to get out of here, now.~

The swearing and name calling escalated.  Though the brood had already heard their share of bad words, there were some new ones being levied towards their parents on this day, not to mention the growing death threats.  This was the most violent outburst of words they'd witnessed to date.

Jonny motioned for all the family to circle around, except for Jeff and Jennifer, because, ~They'll try to stop us,~ the military leader of the brood thought.  “Noa, don't cry.  We're strong.  We're the brood!”  Once the little girl stopped sniffling and nodded, he said calmly, “Time for Plan B.”

“Jeff ...” Jennifer began, her voice trailing off as she realized she really didn't know what to say, or do.

“What can we do?” the teen boy questioned.  ~Besides, I wouldn't mind trying to silence those guys myself.~

“I think the question is, what are they going to do?” Jennifer questioned, watching the huddle continue.

“Jack ...”

“I know,” the older man responded, aware the brood was about to strike.  He was just as afraid of that as Daniel was.  “We're going to leave now,” he said in desperation, choosing to make a quick retreat in order to keep the children safe.  ~Like they'll really let us leave ... not.~

“Why don't you idiots think before you get someone hurt?” a woman called out at the group of men as she strode towards them.

“They have no right to soil our town,” one of the men snarled.

“These men have just as many rights as you do,” another woman argued.  She was just five-feet-two, but her words made her taller.  “Go home, and fill your belly with beer.  That's about all you're good for.”

“You tell 'em, Evelyn,” the first woman responded.

“I'm not sure they have the brains to listen, Neetz,” Evelyn replied.

“Shut up,” the man sneered.

“Now that's the pride of Texas,” a third woman spoke.

The three were standing together, having heard the disturbance and decided to check it out.

“Jack, this is getting way out of hand.”

“I'm trying to get us out of it, Daniel,” Jack stated, his frustration mounting.

“Get out of here!” one of the men shouted towards the women.

At the same time, the mini-mob started flailing their hands all about angrily as they walked forward.

“Let's get the ki...” Jack began, about to grab his lover and suggest they grab the children and make a run for it.

All of a sudden, though, nine children let out a loud Jaffa war cry as they jumped in between their parents and the mob.  Their hands were in front of their faces, and their stances were fluid, but steady.  They knew how to protect themselves; Teal'c had taught them.

The noise of the pouncing kids caught the group of men off guard, stopping them.

Quickly, Jennifer and Jeff joined their fathers, both of the teens shrugging at their failure to prevent the younger children from moving forward.

“Jennifer, get back,” Daniel ordered since the girl was still responsible for protecting JD, still in his stroller, at the moment.

Regretfully, Jennifer did as instructed.  She wanted to be part of the showdown, but she realized her first obligation was to JD, who was too young to make his own choice yet.  Jack and Daniel both moved forward slightly, but with their kids in front of them, they were a bit concerned about the men rushing them if they moved forward too far, resulting in the children being injured.  Thus, they hung back, even though their hearts were pounding, with the brood in front of them, instead of behind them.

“Okay, Bad Mens,” Jonny said, relaxing his fight stance to a more familiar hands-on-his-hips pose.  “You aren't so brave, if you hurt kids.  We're kids, and we're gonna protect our parents.  They love us and are proud of us.  Are your parents proud of you?”

“Out of the mouths of babes,” the third woman spoke quietly.

“Those kids are more grown up than those so-called adults, Carla,” Evelyn pointed out, shaking her head at what they were all watching.

“Move it, Kid, or we'll walk right over you,” a man to the side yelled.

“Bless your idiotic, misguided hearts,” Neetz called out to the mob.  Her piercing blue eyes were full of contempt for the bigots.  “You big, tall men, threatening little kids.  Now there's something to put on your life resume.”

“Listen you old hag ...”

“That's not nice!” Lulu shouted.  “She has white hair like my Aunt Catherine.”

Neetz chuckled at the comment.  There was an air of instant approval from the little girl, all because of her hair color.

“We've been all over America, and we've met a lot of nice people,” Little Danny stated as he stood next to his brother, his fight stance also relaxed now.  “Even we know,” he said, pointing to his siblings, “that some people think we're funny, but we're not.  We're just like you.  When we go home and talk to our friends, we'll tell them all about the nice people and the nice places we've been to, but we won't talk about Texas, not if everyone is mean like you.  We didn't do anything to you.  Why do you want to fight?  If you're mad at someone, then go fight with whomever you're mad at.  You can't be mad at Dad and Daddy because you don't even know them.  We were just walking.  Why would you be mad at us for walking?”

“Yeah,” Aislinn added.  “We were looking at your town, talking about the nice buildings.”

Little Danny continued, “Daddy was telling us about Sam Houston and how he helped make Texas great.  I remember reading about him.  He said once, 'Be men, be free men, that your children may bless their father's name'.  I don't think he would call you men for hurting us.”

“More like wimps,” Carla quipped.  “Talk about women in men's clothing.”

“Hey, I'm a woman, and I'm better than all of them combined,” Evelyn stated.

“My apologies.  I just can't think of what to call these misfits, but it sure ain't men!” Carla stated.

The burly men continued to mutter, though they were still now.  The name calling continued, with the threats escalating to include the three 'busy bodies' that were verbally sparring with them.

“Why do you want to make us cry?” Lulu asked, putting her arm around Chenoa.  “You scared Noa.”

“You scared all of us,” Ricky stated.

“Not me,” Jenny corrected.  “I'm not afraid of you,” she said, letting out another Jaffa fight cry.

“Jenny,” Brianna called out, still holding her fighting stance.  “They're afraid of us.”

“Yeah, right,” one of the men snickered.

“You are,” Little Danny stated.  “You don't understand why Dad and Daddy are married to each other.  It scares you that two men love each other like that.  You're afraid that because they're here, you might catch something.”

**Danny, where did he learn this?**

 **I have *no* idea,** the archaeologist replied, stunned by the child's words.

The child genius continued, “That's why you're scared.  We're different, but you're different from him, too.”  The boy had pointed at two different men.  “He has black hair, and you have brown.”  Looking at another man, he said, “Your skin is lighter than his.  I bet you don't all like to do the same things, either.”

“Kid, shut up,” the man in the back shouted again.

“You're the most afraid,” Jonny accused.  “That's why you're in the back.  You're not brave like Sam Houston.  He wouldn't hide in the back.”

“If this was the Alamo, no one would want to remember you,” Chenoa called out.

“This is ridiculous,” the man in back shouted.  “Let's get this over with.”

As the pack moved forward, this time not to be stopped, Aislinn began to sing, her voice strong and loud, yet pure and tender:

“There's a yellow rose of Texas
That I am going to see
No other soldier knows her
No soldier, only me.”

As the little girl sang, the men came to a grinding halt, staring at the youngest Munchkin.  Songs about Texas were revered in the longhorn state.

“She's the sweetest rose of color
This soldier ever knew
Her eyes are bright as diamonds
They sparkle like the dew.”

The men were completely taken aback by the girl's beautiful voice as she sang what many considered to be Texas' number one song.  The mini-mob stared in disbelief when the song ended, and, instead of quieting, the little girl began to sing another Texas favorite.

“The stars at night, are big and bright,
deep in the heart of Texas”

In seconds, Aislinn's siblings joined in.  They had already sung this song while crossing into Texas for the first time during the trip.  They clapped before the downbeat, and sang proud and loud.

“The prairie sky is wide and high,
deep in the heart of Texas.
The sage in bloom is like perfume,
deep in the heart of Texas,
Reminds me of, the one I love,
deep in the heart of Texas.”

Still, the men remained grouped together, but they didn't move.  They just weren't sure what to make of what they were hearing and seeing.  They were further shocked when the song ended, and Aislinn waved her siblings off to sing a song of Texas pride.  She sang just one verse, before going into the song that truly conveyed her message.

“Texas, dear Texas! from tyrant grip now free,
Shines forth in splendor, your star of destiny!
Mother of heroes, we come your children true,
Proclaiming our allegiance, our faith, our love for you.

The eyes of Texas are upon you,
All the live long day.
The eyes of Texas are upon you,
You cannot get away.
Do not think you can escape them,
At night, or early in the morn.
The eyes of Texas are upon you,
'Till Gabriel blows his horn!”

Aislinn stared at the group of men.  She was unafraid.  Her siblings rejoined her, all staring at the men.

Jonny challenged, “I don't think those Texas eyes are proud of you right now.”

Little Danny added, “We can't hurt you.  We're just a family.”

“Let's get out of here,” the man in front said as he looked at the children.  He looked over at Jack and Daniel and shook his head.  “I don't like you or what you stand for.  I wish you weren't here, but I won't disrespect Texas.”

“Aren't you a fine spectacle of a man?” Neetz spat.  “You won't disrespect Texas, but you'll hurt little kids.  Run home to Mama.  You make me sick.”

“Some cowboys you are,” Evelyn said, waving her arm out to dismiss the mini-mob.

One by one, the men dispersed, leaving the Jackson-O'Neills and the three women.

“They're really ignorant,” Jenny stated.  “We coulda beat them.”

“Jenny, we don't fight,” Daniel reprimanded.

“But we could have, Daddy.”

Daniel sighed and looked at his husband.  Jenny had been afraid of only a few things growing up, but she'd witnessed prejudice very early on, and that just wasn't one of the things that frightened her anymore.

“Kids ...” Jack sighed.  He wanted to lambaste the brood for interfering, but he couldn't.  He was proud of them for standing up for each other, and he knew they took after their parents.  Right now, he was just too happy that the family was still safe and healthy.  “Come here,” he requested, kneeling down and opening out his arms to hug the kids.

The younger man sighed, too.  He was well aware of his husband's inner conflict.  After all, he felt the same way.  He, too, soaked in hugs from the children.

“Are all of you all right?” the first woman spoke.

“Yes, we're fine,” Daniel said, smiling as he stood up.  “We want to thank you.”

“Us?” Neetz laughed.  “We didn't do anything.”

“Diversion, Ma'am,” Jack said, rising from his haunches.  “You got their left flank, and that helped.”

Carla laughed, “Sounds like you're well acquainted with the Alamo.”

“Just the military,” Jack spoke.

“Uh, I'm Daniel.  This is Jack, and that's ... our brood,” Daniel chuckled.

“Pleased to meet you,” Carla spoke.  “I'm Carla Hanley.”

“Evelyn Duncan,” the second woman said, nodding at the family.

“Neetz.  Everyone just calls me Neetz,” the woman in her mid-fifties spoke with an air of infectious amusement.

“You know, those clowns aren't a good representation of our state.  We were just going to my place to make some banana splits,” Neetz stated.  “Why don't you join us.”

“Neetz, they probably think we're crazy for having banana splits for dinner,” Carla laughed.

“I like Texas dinners,” Jenny opined, licking her lips.

The comment was followed by lots of 'me, too' remarks from Jenny's siblings.

Jack and Daniel laughed, and it was Daniel who stated, “We wouldn't want to put you out.”

“Let's do it at my place,” Carla suggested.  “It's larger.”  She took out her business card, writing her home address on the back.  “Hope you don't mind dogs.”

“Uh, no,” Daniel responded.

“We have beagles,” Little Danny piped up.

“They're in Betsy,” Chenoa added.

“Betsy?” Carla questioned curiously.

“That's our RV,” Chenoa clarified, pointing to the large vehicle.

“Can we bring them in your house?” Little Danny inquired.

“Do they get along with other dogs?  I've got two,” Carla informed.

“They love other dogs,” Jack assured.  Then he mused, “And cats and birds and lizards and ...”

“We have a bit of a ... zoo at home,” the archaeologist explained.

“Then they're welcome,” Carla spoke cheerfully.

====

The Jackson-O'Neills, including Bijou and Katie, were sitting in Carla's backyard, enjoying their banana splits, the best Texas dinner they'd ever had according to the children.

“So you're not from here?” Daniel asked.

“Oh, no.  I live in Tulsa, Oklahoma,” Evelyn stated.  She looked in the house, seeing her tabby cat staring out the window.  “Sweetie and I are here visiting Carla and Neetz.  We're friends from way back.”

“We have cats, too,” Lulu spoke.

“But they aren't tabby cats like Sweetie,” Little Danny pointed out.  “I'm glad Sweetie likes Bij and Katie.”

“I'm glad they like cats,” the Oklahoman responded with a smile before taking another bite of her ice cream treat.  “You really didn't have trouble when you passed through our way?”

“No, we didn't,” Daniel answered.

“I'm glad, but I'm a little surprised,” Evelyn responded.  “We're the buckle of the Bible Belt.  If I get stopped on the street and asked if I'm 'born again' one more time, I just might die,” she mused.

“We liked Oklahoma,” David spoke.

“Everyone was very nice there,” Jennifer said.  “There were some looks.”

“And lots of questions,” Jeff added.

“No one called us names, though,” Chenoa sighed, bowing her head.

“Princess, are you okay?” Jack asked tenderly, reaching over to take her hand.

“It just makes me sad, Dad, and ... I was scared.  I don't like being scared,” the little girl admitted.

“No one does, Noa, but being scared is okay.”

“I guarantee you, Noa, those men were more afraid than you.  If they weren't a mob, they couldn't have said two words to you,” Neetz insisted.

Chenoa smiled and said, “Our cats are Mittens and Calico.”

The adults smiled as the conversation continued on.

====

“They're great,” Jack praised as he played with Carla's dogs in the backyard.  “Go get it, Adolph,” he said, tossing a ball and watching as the silver-sable German Shepherd gave chase, sprinting across the yard.

Several of the children were in the house at the moment, as were Daniel and the other two women.  They were washing the dishes and playing with Sweetie, Evelyn's cat.

“He senses your love of animals,” Carla stated.  “Adolph's always been a little protective of me, but he's a great dog and a great judge of character.”

“Many of my best friends are dogs,” Jack quipped, his shining eyes hinting that he really wasn't lying at all.

“Carla, you're out of kibbles,” Evelyn informed.

“Goodness!  With all the excitement, I forgot.  I'll go get some now,” Carla spoke.  She turned and called out, “Adolph, how about a ride with Mom?”

Adolph practically flew across the yard, causing Jack to laugh.

“He loves rides.”  Petting the dog, she noted, “I think maybe it's feeling that air whipping through his ears.”

“Mind some company?”

“I'd love some,” Carla replied, smiling as they went inside.

--

If the woman had any doubts about Jack, they vanished when he allowed the large dog to lean across him to stick his head out the window and enjoy the breeze.

“You're right, Carla: he loves rides!” Jack chuckled.

====

“How come she's in here and not out there with Sweetie?” Lulu asked as she helped Carla to feed her gray tabby cat.

“Well, Tara here is very jealous.  She hates it when 'Mommy's' attention goes to anyone else,” Carla informed, smiling as Lulu sat down on the floor, careful not to frighten or scare the cat.

“Tara, I think you're a great cat,” Lulu spoke softly.  “How long have you had her?”

“A woman never tells her age,” Carla chuckled in jest.  Growing serious, she stated, “You know, I found her walking down the road, her eyes just barely open.  She hadn't been weaned.”  She saw Lulu's expression change to a look of shock and anger.  “I know how you're feeling.  I took her in and fed her every two hours, except for when I was at work, and, when I was, my mother came over and did it for me.”

“Tara really does think you're her mother,” Lulu spoke, giving the cat a sympathetic look.  “It's okay, Tara.  Your mom will always keep you safe.”  Looking up at Carla, she added, “I understand why she's jealous.  She's just a little scared.”

“Maybe,” Carla said, putting down the food and saying, “Here you go, Tara.”

====

“Timmmmmmber!” Jack called out, his hands at his mouth as he shouted like a lumberjack, grinning as Carla's other dog, Timber, came bounding up to him.

“Jack!” Daniel chastised.  Looking over at Carla, he said, “You'll have to forgive him.  Sometimes, he's younger than our baby.”

Carla, Evelyn, and Neetz all chuckled.  The humans were all in the backyard, while Tara was in her playroom, and Sweetie roamed the interior of the house.  Bijou and Katie, along with Adolph and Timber, were with the people, playing.

“I've never seen a malmet before,” Ricky spoke, earning him several chuckles.

“She's a malamute, Ricky,” Carla corrected.  “She's another family miracle.”

“What do you mean?” Daniel asked curiously.

“We were at a gas station, filling up the tank.  Here came this little bedraggled scrap of a thing.  Her paws were blistered and bloody, her fur all matted, and she was so thin, but we took her in and nourished her with love, and a lot of trips to the vet.  She and Adolph hit it off.”

“She rescued Tara, too,” Lulu informed, telling her siblings what she'd learned about the woman and her cat inside the house.

“Thank you,” Little Danny spoke.

“Thank you?” Carla questioned.

“Little Danny takes in strays all the time,” Jonny spoke.

“We're all ... animal lovers,” Daniel attempted to explain.

“That's how we met,” Neetz interjected, looking at her friends.  She smiled, saying, “We've all helped out with animal rescues our entire lives.”

Little Danny grinned at the three women.  He couldn't express the warmth he was feeling, but he was very glad to know these new friends.

“Do you have pets?” Little Danny asked.

“Not right now.  My beautiful Pywacket died, and I just miss her so much.”

“Cat?” Daniel asked.

“Yes,” Neetz confirmed, smiling sadly as she thought about her beloved feline.

“I hope you'll get another cat sometime,” Little Danny spoke.  “There's always room for more love.”

“I'll keep that in mind, Little Danny,” Neetz responded, reaching down to tap the boy's hand for a moment.

====

“Keep in touch,” Carla called out, holding Tara in her arms with Adolph and Timber by her side as she waved her good-bye.  “Call me tomorrow, Neetz,” she requested.

“I will,” the woman called out.

“It was a pleasure meeting you,” Evelyn spoke to the family as she opened the car of her door and placed Sweetie in her carrier inside.  “The next time you're in Tulsa, give me a call.”

“We'll do that,” Daniel promised.

A couple of minutes later, Evelyn drove away, headed for her animal-friendly motel.  Meanwhile, the children were saying their good-byes to Neetz, after which they took Bijou and Katie and headed inside the RV.  As Jennifer and Jeff helped their siblings to settle in, Jack and Daniel walked Neetz to her car, which was across the street from Carla's house.

“I hope now you'll have some fond Texas memories,” Neetz expressed with a smile.

“We sure do,” Jack responded.

Neetz sighed, “One of my cousins is gay; he's had such a hard time.  I have no tolerance anymore for close-minded people.”

“We know what you mean,” Jack responded with a nod.

“I speak my mind, and it's gotten me in trouble, but those narrow-minded, so-called Texans in that parking lot blacken the good name of Texas.  I'm proud of my state, and it irks me to the bone when lowlifes like that act the way they did.  There are plenty of us who have brains and ...”  Neetz stopped.  She sighed and gave a small smile.  “Sorry.  I tend to get on my soapbox, and I was just about to stand up on it and lecture you, and you aren't the ones who need lecturing.”

“It's all right,” Daniel assured with an understanding smile.

“Donner, get back here!”

The three adults looked over at the young woman who had just appeared on the doorstep of the house they were in front of.

Seeing the adults, the girl asked, “Have you seen a black and white cat around here somewhere?”

“No, Ma'am,” Jack answered.

“Uh ... there!” Daniel pointed, his hand extending towards a tree.

“Donner, get down here.  You know you don't like to be outside,” the female called out.  “It's dinnertime!”

“Meeeeeow!” Donner replied, jumping out of the tree and zooming by the woman, who shook her head.  She looked over at the visitors and said, “She's an indoor cat, but every now and then it's like she wants to remind me that *I'm* lucky she's chosen me.  Do you know what I mean?”

“Totally,” Neetz chuckled, while Jack and Daniel nodded.

“Goodnight,” the woman called out, returning to the inside of her house.  Seeing the cat sitting there, waiting for her, “Honestly, Donner!”

“Meooooow!”

“Anything you say,” the woman mused as she closed the door.

“It's an ownership issue,” Neetz laughed.  “Have a safe trip back to Colorado Springs.”

“Thanks, Neetz,” Daniel spoke, hugging the woman.

“If you want a cat, we can send you one of ours,” Jack quipped.

“Jack!”

“It was just an idea,” Jack said, shrugging innocently as Neetz got into her car, still laughing.

As Neetz drove away, Daniel glared at his husband.

“I wouldn't really do it, Daniel.”

Daniel let his head drop back a bit as he looked up to heavens, shaking his head and sighing before turning around and heading for the RV.

“I swear I wouldn't!” Jack called out.  “Daniel!” he said, sprinting to catch up with his husband.

====

Standing just inside the cockpit of the RV, Jack and Daniel were surprised to see their children lined up in a straight line, extending into the living area.  Jennifer and Jeff were in front of them, the two teens facing each other.

“Okay, the way you do it, is that you stand with your feet together like this, and then you put your hand on your partner's waist.”

“Hey, what's going on?”

Jeff chuckled, “Well, you and Daddy did such a good job doing the Texas Two-Step with that mob, that we thought we'd learn the dance.”

Jack and Daniel chuckled as they walked forward.  The children all began to laugh, none of them having any intention of dancing.

“Buckle in,” Jack ordered, patting his teenage daughter's arm.

“The same RV park as last night, Babe?” Daniel asked as he headed for the driver's seat.

“Nah, let's head on out, somewhere new.”

“It's sad,” Jennifer expressed, watching as her siblings settled into their seats.

“What is?” Jack chuckled.

“That our six weeks couldn't be six months.  I've really enjoyed this trip, Dad.  I know it's almost time to head home and, well, as much as I'm ready to go home, I'm going to miss all the adventures we've had.”

“There will always be more, Jen,” Jack assured.

“I hope so.”

The father and daughter shared a smile and then, soon, the Jackson-O'Neills were back on the road again.  They weren't sure just how much more they'd get to see before returning to Colorado Springs, but the last several weeks had been everything Jack and Daniel had hoped for, and maybe even more.

“Jack?”

“Yes, Love?”

“I love your crazy ideas,” Daniel spoke, glancing over at his husband as Betsy moved forward on the highway.

“I love you,” Jack replied tenderly and then began to whistle a happy tune as he and his happy family continued their trek across America.

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