The Bouquet

Author:  Orrymain
Category:  Slash, Drama, Romance, Established Relationship
Pairing:  Jack/Daniel ... and it's all J/D
Rating:  PG-13
Season:  Beyond the Series - January 16 - March 11, 2018
Spoilers:  None
Size:  62kb
Written:  July 21-25, 2013, June 9-11,23-28, July 7-8,10-12, 2014 Revised for Consistency: September 2, 2014 Revised Again: September 11, 2014
Summary:  Ricky decides the tradition of the wedding bouquet should be honored by two people very close to him.
Disclaimer:  Usual disclaimers -- not mine, wish they were, especially Daniel, and Jack, too, but they aren't.  A gal can dream though!
Notes:  
1) Sometimes, Jack and Daniel speak almost telepathically.  Their “silent” words to each other are indicated by asterisks instead of quotes, such as **Jack, we can't.**
2) Silent, unspoken thoughts by various characters are indicated with ~ in front and behind them, such as ~Where am I?~
3) This fic stands alone, but it does reference my other fic(s):  “Blowout,” “Loss,” “Twizzling,” and “Mrs. Hamilton”

The Bouquet
by Orrymain

The skies on this early Tuesday morning were full of clouds creating a gloomy overcast over the suburban area where the Jackson-O'Neill family lived.  Fortunately, it wasn't affecting the moods of Jack, Daniel, and their children, even though a tinge of heartfelt sadness over the absence of oldest daughter, Jennifer, was felt by all.  Two days earlier, the young woman had wed her long-time beau becoming Mrs. Peter Hamilton and now the newlyweds were on their honeymoon. Going forward with their regular routine, Jack and Daniel were conducting business, although of differing kinds.  Jack had already gone to J-O Enterprises for a meeting with a new client and Daniel was just about to get the day's homeschooling session under way.

“I'm not even awake yet,” Little Danny yawned at the large table in the hospitality room where the children were assembled.

“I didn't get to finish my Froot Loops,” Jonny whined, though in a bit of a whisper.

“What are you two complaining about?” seventeen-year-old David asked.  “I'm going to college now.  I shouldn't even have to be here.”

“Hot and Chocolate are hungry,” Chenoa complained in reference to her Shetland ponies.  “I was just gonna go out and feed them.”

Unseen from his position inside the kitchen, Daniel sighed and glanced at his watch.  Perhaps he had overdone it, getting the kids together to start their studies when it wasn't even 7:30 yet.

~They're fine,~ the archaeologist quickly determined.  ~I'm the one with, gawd, empty nest syndrome ... and the nest still has eleven birds in it.~  Smiling, Daniel entered the room, immediately noticing the disgruntled faces of the brood.  Though unhappy, they were also very quiet children, apparently recognizing that an order for studies to begin was an order to be obeyed without question.  Standing at the head of the table, Daniel lightly tapped the tablet computer he had in his hands against the tabletop.  “Class dismissed.”

“Huh?” came a round of voices.

“I'm sorry,” Daniel told his children.  “I guess I'm just missing Jen.  No school today.”

Cheers rang out as the children pushed back their chairs and went about their business, with one exception.  Ricky remained seated in his chair, which was directly to the right of where Daniel was standing.

“Problem?” the father probed.

“Daddy, I know catching the bouquet at a wedding is important to girls, but how come?”

“Well, according to wedding lore, it means that the person who catches it is supposed to be the next one to get married.”  Daniel gave his son an inquisitive and curious look.  “You already know that, though.”

“But how does it work?  And how do you know for sure?  And ...”

“Okay,” Daniel interrupted, pulling out a chair and sitting down.  He turned his body to face the ten-year-old boy.  “In fourteenth century Europe, people believed that having part of a bride's wedding dress was good luck and, uh, well, a ... a sign of fertility.”

“What's that?”

~Why didn't I leave that out?~ Daniel asked himself.  “Um, having children.”

“Oh,” Ricky expressed with a blank expression.  Then his eyes narrowed and he asked, “How can a dress make you have babies?”

“It can't,” Daniel answered calmly.  “But people thought it did, so they used to rip off pieces of the bride's gown after the wedding.  Eventually, as the cost of a wedding gown increased, women wanted to keep their dresses, so as an alternative, they started throwing garters.”

“Garters?”  Confused, the young boy queried, “That thing Peter took off Jen's leg?”

“Yes, but in medieval times, it wasn't the husband who tried to get the garters, and it became inappropriate, so again, an alternative was created.”

“The bouquet!” Ricky correctly deduced.

“Exactly,” Daniel affirmed with a smile.

“Daddy, if Mrs. Valissi gets married because she caught Jen's bouquet, does that mean she's gonna have a baby?”

For a moment, Daniel just stared at the inquisitive youngster.  Then he licked his lips and lowered his head.  He let out a tiny sound, somewhat of a vocal squirm.

“No, not necessarily.  Uh.  Let's just say we hope she'd have a very ... happy life.”

“Who?” Jack asked, surprising his husband by his presence.  “Hey, Angel,” he greeted, walking over and giving Daniel a kiss before taking a spot on Daniel's left and looking over at Ricky.

“We were just talking about Mrs. Valissi having a happy life,” Daniel answered.

“'Cause she caught the bouquet that's supposed to mean she'll have babies.”

“What?” a confused Jack questioned.

“It's a long story,” Daniel returned.  “Son, if Mrs. Valissi gets married again, she probably won't be having another child.”

With a bit of an amused snicker, Jack retorted, “She gets the fringe benefits without having to deal with the aftermath, not to mention inflation.”

“Jack!”

“Daniel, she's shacking up with Hammond and ...”

“Jack!” Daniel admonished sternly.

Ricky just grinned, not really understanding what was going on, but that was okay because he'd learned a few things already that he'd wanted to know and he was certain he could find out the rest later.

“Thanks, Daddy,” Ricky said, getting up and leaving his parents alone.

“Jack, I can't believe you said that General Hammond and Mrs. Valissi were shacking up in front of Ricky.”

“Well, they are,” Jack asserted matter-of-factly.  Seeing his lover's incredulous stare, he shrugged and asked an astonished, “What?  She lives next door, Daniel.  The kids see his car, even when he tries to hide it by parking it in her garage or around the block.  Anyway, what was all that interest in the bouquet?”

Getting up from his chair, Daniel took hold of his tablet computer and responded, “I'm not totally sure, but if I were General Hammond, I'd be worried.”

As his husband walked away, the curious general called out, “Hey, aren't you even wondering why I'm home so early?”

Turning back, the archaeologist smiled as he answered simply, “You miss her, too.”

With that, Daniel disappeared from Jack's sight.  Alone, the general bobbed his head up and down as he fidgeted.  His mind worked to piece together his Love's statement with the fact that he'd headed for the office hours before it was necessary.  He'd wanted to get out and be active, avoiding any thoughts of the honeymooning Jennifer.  Unfortunately, it was futile, something he'd realized halfway to the J-O building.  He'd diverted for a couple of his favorite Krispy Kreme donuts before returning home.

~Crap, he's smart to figure that out.~

**No, but I'm her father, too,** a sudden communication from his husband interjected.

Laughing at the mindful eavesdropping, Jack rubbed the back of his neck for a second before heading upstairs to see what Daniel was doing.

**Love you, Angel.**

**I love you, too.**

====

That night, Jack was up on the Aerie, looking through his telescope when he heard a voice shout out.

“Dad, can I can come over?”

Jack looked down and saw Ricky standing at the doorway that led from the master bedroom out to the original roof deck.

“Be careful,” the father responded, granting permission for the boy to walk out onto the deck, open the gate, and cross the narrow corridor that led to the higher and bigger deck known as the Aerie that actually was above the hospitality room.  “What's on your mind?” the perceptive man asked when his son joined him and sat down Indian-style on the deck.

“If a lady catches a wedding bouquet and she has a boyfriend, does he have to ask her to marry him?”

Not thinking terribly hard about his response, the stargazer answered, “Of course.  It's the honorable thing to do.  Besides, once the girl has the bouquet, his goose is cooked.”

“Huh?”

Jack was properly amused with himself, but realized his son was clueless at his joke so he dismissed it by saying, “Tradition.  It's all down to tradition.”

“So because of tradition, the man has to propose to be honorable, right?”

“Yeah, sure,” Jack agreed.  ~Sounds good to me.~

“Dad, Grandpa is honorable, isn't he?”

“Darn tooten, he is.  He's one of the few men deserving of a salute,” Jack opined.

“Thanks, Dad.”

“Anytime,” Jack responded, shrugging as the happy youngest headed back across the walkway.  ~Danny's right: Hammond's in trouble.~

====

“Jenny, are you working on your debate stuff?” Ricky questioned the following afternoon as he entered the library where his twin sister was doing some research.

“Uh huh.”

The redhead enjoyed debating.  A friend of hers who went to private school was on a debate team, and Jenny often enjoyed assisting her in forming ideas and prepping for the school debates.  In fact, the Spitfire enjoyed debating so much that she'd recently talked Jack and Daniel into including debates in the kids' homeschooling curriculum, although the parents had yet to do anything but introduce the topic to their children.

Ricky knew a little bit about the debating process from his sister, but he hadn't learned enough to really know how to go about preparation; hence, his question now.

“How do you write that thing that convinces everyone?”

“You mean the argument?”

“I don't want to argue, I just want to know how to convince someone of something.  You know, so they know it's the right thing to do.”

“Make your affirmation, wr...”

“My what?” the boy interrupted.

“Your statement, the thing you think they should do,” Jenny explained.

“Oh.  Then what?”

“Support it.  Say why they should do it and try to rebutt all their arguments against it.”

“Butt it?”

“Rebutt, like rebuttal,” Jenny clarified.  “Think about all the reasons they will have not to do what you want them to do and tell them why those reasons are wrong before they can bring it up to you.”

“Then what?”

“Sum it up into one big conclusion and make it so good that they will just have to do it, whatever it is.”

“Thanks, Jenny.”

“You're welcome, Ricky.”  As the girl started to return to her work, she suddenly became curious and twisted her body around while calling out, “Ricky, who are trying to convince and what is it you want them to do?”

“It's all about tradition,” Ricky answered with a cryptic smile before exiting the library.

~That explains it, not,~ Jenny mused to herself.

====

“That was yummy, Mrs. Valissi,” Ricky sighed contentedly as he rubbed his abdomen.

“I'm so glad you liked it, Ricky,” the senior citizen responded as she took the empty plate off the table.  Laughing, she mused, “I don't even think I need to wash this dish.  You wiped it clean.”

“I was hungry, and that was good.  I've never had macaroni like that before.”

The macaroni dish featured included pork laced with chili pepper, eggplant, and ricotta that was salted.

“I must admit I haven't cooked it years, since my son was a little boy.  Back then it was a favorite,” the woman spoke, her face growing serene and tender as she reflected back on her younger years as a wife and mother.  “Evan loved it, and it was a tradition in my husband's family.”

“Tradition?” Ricky echoed, perking up at the mention of the word.

Nodding, the happy cook elaborated, “They would make this dish whenever the children were celebrating an accomplishment.”

“Mrs. Valissi, do you believe in tradition?”

“Of course, Ricky.  Traditions are very important.  I know things have changed a lot since I was a young girl, but families need a heritage of rituals to bind them together and pass down through the generations.  That doesn't mean traditions can't change, but it's important to have them.”

“How about the bouquet?”

“Bouquet?”

“Catching the bouquet at a wedding.  My sisters talk about that a lot,” Ricky told his host, though he covered up his real reason for bringing up the ritual.

“It's a lovely tradition,” the woman acknowledged.  She stilled and let out a happy sigh as her face took on a faraway expression, her eyes focused on an image of long ago.  “As it happens, Ricky, I caught the bouquet at my cousin's wedding and wouldn't you know it, I was the next one to get married among my cousins, and there were a lot of us back then.”  Amazed, she added, “I haven't thought about that in eons.  It was a large wedding and my boyfriend attended the event with me.  He wasn't having a good time, though.”

“Why not?”

“I was a bridesmaid and had obligations to attend to during the wedding and he was off on his own much of the time.  Well, to be truthful, Ricky, I think he was a little anxious.  Some of my old beaus were there and ...”

“What's a beau?”

“That's an old fashioned term for boyfriend,” Mrs. Valissi answered.  She continued, “They were fancying me a good deal.  One kept saying we'd made a mistake in ending our relationship and ...”  She paused, laughing at the angst of young love.  “My current boyfriend felt a little out of place and on the spot.”

“What happened when you caught the bouquet?”

“I looked over at him right away and smiled.  He smiled, too, until everyone started making a fuss and asking when he was going to propose.  I thought he was going to break up me for a while.”

“Huh?”

“The pressure to get married back then was huge, but he loved me, and I him,” Mrs. Valissi spoke softly.  “He did propose not long after my cousin's wedding.  For all of our marriage, he kidded me that if I hadn't caught the bouquet, he never would have gotten the nerve to ask me to marry him.  My husband could be a bit shy sometimes.  He needed some encouragement.  He said it was the bouquet, but I think it was my old beau.”

“Did you like being married?”

“Yes, very much.  We had a rich life, a full one,” the woman responded, her sweet smile proof of her words.

“I bet you wish you were married now,” Ricky returned in a not-so-subtle tone.

Mrs. Valissi looked down at the youngster, a grin on her face as she replied, “Marriage is one of the best traditions.  It might be quite wonderful to experience it once again, but I'm very set in my ways now.”  At last, she took the dish to the sink and began to rinse it a tad absentmindedly.  Her gaze was at some far off place, a nondescript moment from the future.  The sound of fidgeting feet drew her back to the present day.  “Maybe one day, if the right man came along.  He'd have to be very special, though,” she stated firmly.

“My grandpa is special,” Ricky asserted.

“Yes, he is,” the woman agreed.

“I wish I had a grandma.  You'd make a great grandma!”

“Thank you.  I always wanted grandchildren, but it wasn't in the cards, I'm afraid.”

“Because Evan likes men.”

“That, and he and his partner have chosen not to have children.  It's one of the few regrets I have in my life, but even so, I don't let it get me down.  My son has someone who loves him beyond life and that makes him happy.  It makes me happy, too.”  Mrs. Valissi looked down at the boy and suggested, “I like to think I am your grandmother, Ricky.  In a sense, I feel that I am.”

“You take care of us, just like Grandpa does,” Ricky assured.

“You know Jen calls me Grandma from time to time.”

For a long time, Jennifer's reference to the woman as her grandmother was a secret, but eventually, she began to use it more freely.  Occasionally, others in the brood chose to use the endearment as well, though it wasn't done with any specific regularity or by any one member of the family.

“We have, too ... sometimes,” the boy responded about his siblings.

“It's all right with me if you want to call me that all the time; well, as long as your fathers don't mind.”

Ricky grinned as he threw his arms around the family neighbor and declared, “I love you, Grandma.”

“I love you, too, Ricky.”

~Grandmas need grandpas,~ the boy thought.  ~It's tradition!~

====

“Ricky, come on!” Jonny beckoned of his sibling the next afternoon.

The Spitfire was seated in front of his computer in the boys' room.  He had been there for an hour and was very focused on his task.

“I'll be out in a few minutes,” the child responded.

“We need you for the pyramid.”

“Let Jenny be on top,” Ricky suggested.

“I thought you finished your homework,” the Munchkin stated as he walked over a bit closer to his brother to try to get a look at what the boy was doing on the computer.

“I did.  This is something else.”

“What is it?”

Ricky covered up the monitor with his hands, successfully blocking Jonny's view.

“Ricky!” the Munchkin whined.

“It's a secret, Jonny, but it's really important.  I need to finish it, okay?”

“Okay,” Jonny acknowledged.  “Do you need any help?”

“Not right now, but I might later.”

“See ya.”

“Sorry about the pyramid.”

“That's okay.  We'll make one later,” Jonny replied before exiting the room.

With that, Ricky returned to his project.  He needed his argument to be perfect.  It was vital to his plan.

====

A few days later, Ricky had done his best to work out a winning strategy.  Confident and yet anxious, he prepared to engage his plan.

“This is fun, Grandpa,” Ricky expressed enthusiastically as he stared out over the water, his hands firmly gripping his fishing pole.

“It sure is, Son,” Retired General George S. Hammond otherwise known as Grandpa to the Jackson-O'Neill family.  “Plenty of trout in this old fishing hole this year.”

“You said there's always trout in Colorado.”

“One of the best things about being reassigned to the Springs all those years ago was always having a fishing spot.  There's no such thing as a fishing season in Colorado.  You just have to know where to look.”

“Like you do, huh, Grandpa!”

Hammond smiled with a slight nod of his head at the Spitfire.  He had arranged this outing with the boy weeks ago.  Of all the children, Ricky always seemed to get a special pleasure from spending time with his surrogate grandfather.  Of course, Hammond loved the entire Jackson-O'Neill family.  Every member, including Jack and Daniel, were like sons and daughters to him, as much a member of his personal family as were his biological children and grandchildren.

On this day, Hammond and his grandson were at a lake near Green Mountain Falls which was just eleven or so miles west of Colorado Springs.  He'd taken the children there many times over the years.

“Got him!” Ricky exclaimed, reeling in a rainbow trout.  “I'll bet he's ten pounds, Grandpa.”

“At least,” the proud man replied.

“You're the biggest fish I ever caught, Eighty-Nine.  Thanks.  Now go swim away and stay away from fishing poles,” the boy advised as he released the fish back into the lake.

~Chip off the old block.~  The action caused Hammond to chuckle as his mind wandered to the boy's dad.  ~Jack's caught more fish than most I know, but I never recall him ever taking one home.~

“I might catch Number Ninety today, too,” Ricky put forth with a huge smile as he readied himself to re-bait his line.

“Why don't we have some lunch first,” the bald-headed man suggested.

“Okay,” the youngster agreed, putting down his reel.

The grandfather and grandson sat down on a couple of logs and munched on sandwiches, peanut butter and jelly for the youngster, roast beef on rye for the retired general.  With apples and chips to complete their simple picnic lunch, the two chitchatted about fishing, the brood, and Ricky's new bicycle that had been a thank you from Alex Dennison for assisting him with a new idea for the design of new children's center in nearby Cimarron Hills.

“Grandpa,” the boy began before downing another sip of his water, “you're a big man, huh.”

Hammond looked at the remains of his second sandwich, a triple ham and cheese special the deli made for him, and wondered if maybe he should forego it for another apple.

“No one's more important than a general,” the boy clarified.

Feeling a tad better, Hammond replied, “We're all doing a job, protecting our country.”

“With honor, huh!”

“Honor is important.”

“So you should do the honorable thing all the time, right?”

“A man should always strive to do the right thing, Ricky,” Hammond agreed and then bit into the last of his sandwich.

“It's like a promise, Grandpa,” Ricky continued.  “Doing the honorable thing is following through on a promise.”

With a contemplative nod, the authority figure acknowledged, “I suppose you're right.”

“It sets a good example for everyone else, too.”

“That's important.”

“Everyone pays attention to a general,” Ricky put forth.

“Maybe too much,” Hammond joked, curious about the boy's conversation.

“Tradition is very important,” the Spitfire continued, remaining focused on his task.

“Certainly,” Hammond concurred.

“It's like honor, sometimes,” Ricky put forth.  “If we don't honor our traditions, we aren't being true to our true functions.”

~Ah, that's his daddy speaking,~ Hammond thought.

“A general needs to be true to himself, respect tradition, and always do the right and honorable thing.  Isn't that right, Grandpa?”

“Darn tootin',” the man answered.

“And he needs integrity.  Dad talks about that a lot, having integrity.”

“Your dad is a smart man,” Hammond spoke about Jack.

“That's why he salutes you, Grandpa.  You have integrity.  Dad says so,” Ricky put forth passionately.  He paused and then took the big plunge.  “Grandpa, do you love Mrs. Valissi?”

Hammond nearly sprayed out the coffee he was in the process of drinking at the boy's question.  It seemed to come out of nowhere, startling the military man.  Getting his bearings, he stared at Ricky and saw an earnestness in his expression.

“Yes, son, I suppose I do,” Hammond admitted, the first public acknowledgment he'd ever made to anyone on the subject.

“She believes in tradition, too, and honor,” Ricky stated.  “I asked her.”

Chuckling, the Air Force retiree responded, “I'm sure she does.  She's a wonderful woman.”

“Did you know that catching the bouquet at a wedding means you're supposed to be the next to get married?  And Mrs. Valissi caught Jennifer's bouquet.  When are you gonna marry her, Grandpa?  I want a grandma.  She wants to be my grandmother.”

Hammond started to answer, but at the moment, the lad was speaking at a rate that was very reminiscent of his younger father.  It wasn't often Hammond could recall Ricky sounding so much like Daniel, but right now, he was certainly giving his speech pattern and vocal quality the best Danielesque quality possible.

“We need a grandmother, Grandpa, a real one, like you're our grandpa.  We love her, and you love her, and we want to dance at your wedding.  We want you to be happy, Grandpa.  Doesn't Mrs. Valissi make you happy?  I bet your wife would want you to be happy.  She was pretty,” Ricky observed, having seen plenty of photographs of Hammond's deceased wife over the years.  “She doesn't want you to be alone.  You have such a big house, Grandpa.  So does Mrs. Valissi.  It gets lonely in there, by yourself.  Huh, Grandpa?”

The general pursed his lips to respond, but Ricky wasn't quite finished yet.

“Besides, you love her and she loves you, or she wouldn't let you shack up with her,” Ricky asserted.

Hammond coughed, trying to dismiss the youngster's latest comments.

“You love her,” the boy repeated strongly, his face the perfect picture of innocence.

“Yes, son, I do,” Hammond acknowledged again, this time with even more conviction.

Ricky jumped up and threw his arms around the man he'd grown up with as his grandfather and declared, “I love you, Grandpa, and I want you to be happy, and I want Grandma to be happy, too.  Please marry her, Grandpa.”

Hammond patted the boy's back, saying nothing, but then fully embracing him.  He felt quite fortunate to be on the receiving end of such love.

“Let's see if we can't find you Number Ninety to throw back in.”

“Okay,” a sniffling Ricky responded, pulling back and rubbing the moisture out of his eyes.  Emotionally and with some vulnerability in his tone, he added, “I really want a grandma, Grandpa, and I want it to be Mrs. Valissi, but only if you really want it, too.”

“Get your pole,” Hammond ordered, his speech crumbled with emotion and therefore softer than normal, his eyes watching the boy with pure love and gratitude.  ~Jack was such a thorn in my side back in '97 and Daniel, a real pain in the keister,~ he reflected.  “Thank God for those two and their brood.”

“Grandpa, are you gonna sit there or fish?”

“Fish,” the man replied with a smile, getting up to join the brown-haired boy.

====

“What's wrong, Ricky?” Jenny asked her brother late that night after finding him sitting beneath Muffin the dinosaur in the game room.

“I'm not very good at debate.”

“It's hard.  It takes a long time to learn how to do it right,” the redhead responded.

“It was so important,” the boy sighed.

“You tried, right?”

“I tried my best, Jenny, but I got ...”

“Got what?” Jenny interjected when her twin's voice dropped off into silence.

“I got emotional.”

“Sometimes, being emotional is a good thing.”

“Not in debate,” the boy denied, shaking his head for emphasis.

“It's called passion, Ricky, and you have to be passionate about your argument.”

“Does that mean I want it a lot?”

“Sort of.”

“Then I guess I was passionate, but I forgot half of what I'd written out.  I don't think I convinced him.”

Curious, Jenny asked, “Convinced who of what?”

“Jenny, wouldn't you like Mrs. Valissi to be our grandmother?”

Jenny blinked and grinned her response, solidifying it with, “That would be fun.  I'd like to have a grandma, a real one, who was alive.  Dad's mom is our grandma, and Daddy's mom is our grandma, but they're dead.  I wish they were alive.”

“Me, too.”

“We need to have another balloon day.  I have lots to tell them,” Jenny sighed.

“It would be nice not to have to send a balloon to say 'I love you, Grandma,' wouldn't it, Jenny?” Ricky asked vulnerably.

Jenny sat down next to her brother, put her left arm around his shoulder, and leaned her head against his shoulder as she replied, “It would be nice.  I wonder what it would be like, to have a grandmother.”

The two remained in their quiet hold until they heard the sound of their older father, seeking them out.  It was time for bed.

“Jenny, when you say your prayers tonight ...” Ricky whispered as they walked out of the game room behind Jack.

“I'll pray for a grandma.”

“Huh?” Jack questioned, having heard something odd but not quite sure of what  he'd heard.  ~What did Red say?~

“Jenny,” Ricky began, finishing his sentence by whispering into her ear while still walking; that is, until he crashed into the doorway.

“Son, watch where you're going.”

“Sorry, Dad,” Ricky apologized.

“Anything you want to talk about?” the father questioned the twins.

“No, thank you, Dad,” Ricky responded.  “Don't forget, Jenny.”

“I won't,” Jenny promised, smiling at what Ricky had told her in secret.  ~That would be so nice.~

====

It was Valentine's Day, a Thursday evening for one couple that included a cozy dinner at a favorite restaurant, a bit of square dancing with friends, and now featured some quiet time.  The two enjoyed the sounds of nature, especially with springtime on the horizon.

“I never tire of sitting here in your sunroom, George,” Mrs. Sophia Valissi spoke as she relaxed in one of two comfortable arm chairs in the room.

“It's a blessing, Sophia,” the man responded.  He laughed in remembrance, “Those Jackson-O'Neills: always full of surprises.”  He looked at the table where tiles painted and signed by the brood were visible.  As he often did in quiet reflection, he became uncharacteristically emotional.  “I treasure this table more than any of it.”

“They worked very hard to give you this room,” Sophia replied, knowing very well the story of how Jack and Daniel's family had surprised Hammond with a new sunroom where he could relax and enjoy the view of the lake.  The family had also done a slight bit of remodeling that included adding an old fashioned ice cream parlor in the large home.  It provided many happy memories in the years since for the general and his surrogate grandchildren.  “Jenny still insists that one day she'll have a real Peanut Brittle,” she chuckled about the stone turtle that the child bought for the new walkway outside the sunroom.

Hammond nodded, his fingers tapping on the album Jeff had made for him that detailed the entire project.  The album never left the sunroom and was frequently reviewed.

“Those crazy kids.”

“They certainly love you,” Mrs. Valissi remarked, a warm smile and sparkling eyes highlighting her aging-but-still-energetic face.

“I love them as much as I do my own grandkids,” Hammond responded in earnest.  “Those horses,” he mused, shaking his head.  “Little Lulu went through such heartache to put those beautiful horses on the wall.”

“Yes, I heard about that, too.  She's grown so much since then.  She's becoming more confident and self-assured every day.”

“Love,” the retired leader spoke softly, so quietly that the word was somewhat muddled.

“Excuse me?  I didn't hear what you said.”

“I'm sorry, Sophia.  When I got back from my trip and asked Jack and Daniel what was going on, they told me it was all about love.  That's what I feel in this room, love, love for my children, my grandchildren ... my late wife.”  Hammond paused, smiling as he thought back.  “I include Jack and Daniel and their brood in those categories.  They've made this old man's golden years thriving ones.”

“Yes, yes, I know what you mean.”

“I do wish my wife had known them.  She'd have gotten a mighty chuckle out of them.”

Mrs. Valissi nodded in understanding.  She, too, loved and appreciated her neighbors and often reflected on the family's strong impact on her later years as well.

“Sophia, I'm a quiet man, military even though I've stepped away from that door.  I don't often express myself in a way that others would like.  My dear wife understood my shortcomings.”

“Now, George, you've spoken often of your years with your wife, shared your love for her with me, as I have of my husband with you.  We all have our shortcomings.  Life is full of them.”

“This is a big house, Sophia.”

“And a beautiful one with a lake in the backyard.  Who can argue with its perfection,” the woman replied with a pleasing smile.

“Lately, it's felt more empty,” the general noted.

“Why is that?”

Hammond looked into the woman's eyes and answered, “Because you're not here.”

“Oh, George, you make me feel eighteen again.”

The general chuckled as he reached over and took the woman's hand in his.

“It's how you make me feel every time we're together,” Hammond declared.  “Sophia, I'd like to make that feeling permanent.”

“Permanent, George?”

With a nod, the nervous-yet-calm general asked, “Sophia, would you do me the extreme honor and blessing of becoming my wife?”

“We're both pretty set in our ways, George.  Are you really sure about this?” the woman questioned, even as her heart was beating faster than it had in years.

“It's the surest I've been about anything since my wife died,” Hammond admitted honestly.  He sighed, “There was a time when I imagined these years, traveling the world with my wife, taking some time for me to fish and her to knit and write her poetry.  When she died, I had my sights on living quietly, letting the days pass here by the lake with short visits from my daughters and granddaughters.  Then Jack and Daniel turned everything upside down.”

“No such thing as quiet with them,” Mrs. Valissi mused.

“I love my children, Sophia, but they have full lives away from here. Tessa and Kayla are grown now, busy with their lives, making their way into the world, and Vanessa has her hands full trying to get through college.”

“But the brood,” the wise woman deduced.

Hammond smiled and nodded before affirming, “Those kids keep me young.  I keep thinking they'll tire of me.”

“How silly of you,” came the chastising reply as Mrs. Valissi supportively squeezed the hand of her suitor.

“Even Jennifer, married now...,” Hammond began, pausing for a brief moment to recall what he was about to say, “...called me a few days ago.”

“She's a dear one.”

“I told her she had better things to do on her honeymoon than worry about me.  She told me she wasn't worried, she just loved me and missed me, and she made an appointment for lunch.”

“Oh, she told me you two had a wonderful lunch together last week.”

“She wants to make me a great-grandfather soon,” Hammond added with a chuckle.  “I'm not sure Jack's ready for that.”

“He'll never be ready, but he'll be an amazing granddad when the times come.”

Nodding, Hammond returned to his earlier thoughts and continued, “My retirement is far from the quiet respite I had considered, thanks to those kids, and with JD still so young, well ...”

The sentence didn't need completion.  Though they both believed they still had years ahead of them, Hammond and Mrs. Valissi were in the final seasons of their lives.  They shared a look of understanding that the odds were on their side, that both would pass on before all of the Jackson-O'Neill children were grown and out on their own, meaning lots of zany living was still to come their way.

Hammond leaned over, getting closer to his paramour and completely engulfing her right hand in both of his, and smiled as spoke, “Sophia, there will be adjustments and decisions to make, but I'm confident we can make them together.  Neither one of us should only be marking days on a calendar, wondering if the kids are going to call or if one of our grandchildren,” he grinned at the reference to the brood, “shows up for a visit.  I want to live these last years as fully as health allows, and I want to show those kids that life doesn't end at fifty or sixty or seventy, that it goes on just as long as the heart can love, because that's what the world is, Sophia, it's love, just like Jack and Daniel told me when they gave this sunroom, just like the brood shows me every time we have an ice cream in the parlor.  It's love and I love you.  This house is too empty, like my heart is when you're not near.  Marry me, Sophia, and make this old heart feel like a kid again.  What do you say?”

With her heart beating so hard she thought she was having a heart attack, Mrs. Valissi smiled at the man whose hands were so protectively embracing hers.  She was enthusiastic, even eager, at the thought of marrying again, but she had to be sure, absolutely positive that the union would be one motivated by love.  Regardless of age, in her mind, love was the only reason to wed.

“Are you sure this isn't about Ricky?”

Hammond laughed broadly, his head going back for a moment, and he was still chuckling when he answered, “Of course, it's about Ricky.  He tells me a woman who has caught the wedding bouquet deserves a wedding of her own.  It's tradition.”  He drew a big breath.  “He wants his grandpa and his grandma to be happy, Sophia.  Yes, it's about him, and Jennifer and JD, and Evan.  It's about everyone we care about who believes in family, but I can be a selfish old ba...”  He stopped, choosing to alter his language.  “I am being selfish.  I want you to be in my life 24/7, no more ...” he coughed in not-so-subtle amusement, “...shacking up and parking my car down the street, fooling no one that I haven't spent the night at your place.  I want a wife, Sophia, and I want you to be her.”  In honor of the romantic evening, he added, “Be my valentine, Sophia, my valentine for the rest of our days.”

“Yes, George, I'll marry you,” Mrs. Valissi answered, sealing her response with a loving kiss that spoke of her devotion to the retired general.

“Sophia?”

“Yes, George?”

“I may be having a heart attack.”

Temporarily stunned, Mrs. Valissi then grinned knowingly as both she and her new fiance broke out into laughter.

“Happy Valentine's Day, Sophia.”

“Happy Valentine's Day, George.”

====

Ten days later, the Jackson-O'Neill homestead was bustling with activity, as was its norm on any given day of the week.  Not all the children were home, however.  Jennifer, now an old married woman of eight weeks, was in her house with her husband and Jeff was at the University of Cincinnati, finishing off his final semester of studies before graduating in May.

Jack was in his study when Ptolemy walked in.

“Hey, who said you could come in here?”

“Polly want a cracker.”

“That bored, are ya?”

The majestic hyacinth macaw bird just stared at the silver-haired man.  Her boredom was obvious.  Normally, she'd never refer to herself as Polly or use the cracker pun.  She was beyond that in her mind.

“Okay, I'll bite.  Let's go play.”

Ptolemy let out a happy bawk as she turned and flittered her wings before exiting the study.

“I used to fight the Goa'uld, now I play with birds,” Jack mumbled as he followed Ptolemy into the recreation room.

====

A few minutes later, Daniel was reviewing a file.  He'd come downstairs and gone into the kitchen for a snack.  Retrieving a package of Twinkies, he began to open it when he heard a noise.  Curious, he slowly proceeded to the doorway that led into the rec room.

“Jack, what are you...”

“Shhh!” Jack commanded.

“It!” the magnificent bird exclaimed as she landed atop Jack's shoulder.

“You realize you have an unfair advantage, flying up to the ceiling to look down.”

The bird simply fluttered her wings, though she remained affixed to the general's shoulder even as he stood up.

“Hide and Seek?” Daniel surmised.

“The bird was bored.”

“And you weren't?”

“Daniel, I swear.  I was in my study working when this creature walked in and demanded playtime.  Tell him, Polly.”

Silence filled the air.

“Daniel, this bird has it out for me.”

“This bird loves you, and you love her.  Carry on,” the archaeologist ordered in one of his best Jack-like tones as he turned to go back upstairs.

“You'd better hide bird because when I find you next, I'm gonna pluck those feathers right off ya.”

“Jack big tease,” Ptolemy squawked as she flew off to find a hiding place.

“Who taught you that?  Polly!”

====

The day ticked on until the afternoon was about to ebb into evening.  Dinner would be the next part of the day, once the bulk of the family returned home.  Jack was about to check up on the busy brood to see if it was time to start cooking.  His growling stomach was the catalyst for his current recon mission.  However, as he headed down the hallway, a surprise entry captured his heart and made him grin as wide as he ever had before.

“Hey, Sweetheart,” Jack greeted, beaming at seeing his married daughter walk into the house.  He stood, giving Jennifer a hug and kiss.  “Weren't you just here for lunch?”

“Tired of me, Dad?”

“Wanna move back in?”

“Very funny,” Jennifer returned.  “Where's Grandpa?”

“Hammond?  At home?”

“Well, he called earlier and asked if I could come over before dinner and it's before dinner, so here I am.”

“News to me,” Jack responded, curiosity growing within him.  “Danny?  *Daniel!*”

“Dad, there is an intercom, you know.”

“Yeah, but what's the fun in that?” Jack teased.

“Jack, we have an intercom,” Daniel retorted as he walked down the stairs a few seconds later.  “Jen!”

“Hi, Daddy,” Jennifer greeted, approaching her younger father for a hug and kiss.

“Weren't you just here for lunch?”

Jennifer laughed, “You two really are two peas in a pod.”

“Thank you ... I think,” Daniel responded.

“Danny, Jen says Hammond called her and asked her to come here before dinner.  You know anything?”

“I know a lot actually, but, uh, not about this.”

“Where should I set this up?” David asked as he bounded rapidly down the stairs, laptop in hand.

“Set up what and why?” Jack queried.

“This,” David answered, exhibiting the technological device, “because Grandpa told me to so that Jeff can be a part of the family meeting.”

“Family meeting?” both Jack and Daniel echoed in unison.

“Daniel, are we having a family meeting?”

“Apparently,” the archaeologist surmised.

“Am I on time?” Brianna asked, gasping as she ran inside the house, tossing her backpack on the ground.

The tomboy was out of breath from running home after a seminar she'd gone to that afternoon.

“Bri, why didn't you call us?”

“Come on, Dad.  I'm not a kid anymore.  No one's going to kidnap me on the way home,” Brianna groaned.  Seeing the focused stares of both parents and her siblings, she sighed, “Sorry; wasn't thinking except that Grandpa called and said it was super important for me to get home for the meeting.  I got my stuff together and hit the pavement.”  She grinned as she added, “For the record, there's a message on your cell, Dad.  Uh, don't you have it on you?”

Jack let out a groan of his own.  Even after all these years, he disliked the concept of the mobile phone and the need to carry one at all times.

“In the den,” the general confessed.

“I told you when I left and the route I was taking in case you wanted to meet me halfway or something *and* before you ask, the home phone was busy and I knew Daddy was expecting a call from Abayomi today so I didn't call his cell.”

“What about your sisters and brothers?”

“Dad, if I called every phone in the family, I'd still be at the museum.”

“Good point,” Jack conceded.

“So...?” David questioned pointedly, again holding up the laptop.

“Uh, recreation room,” Daniel suggested.  “Where are the ...”

“Grandpa here yet?” Jonny asked as he led the Munchkins and the Spitfires from the game room where'd they'd been playing into the living room where Jack, Daniel, Jennifer, and David now stood.

“Daniel, did you ever feel out of the loop?”

“All the time,” the younger man acknowledged, bobbing his head up and down as he reflected back on his career.  Shaking it off, he called out to one of the children.  “Ash, JD's on the phone with Aunt Sam.  Would you break up their scientific exploration and bring JD downstairs, please.”

“Sure, Daddy.”

“What about the Curly Tops?” Jack inquired.

“I'm guessing they'll show up soon,” Daniel answered with an assumptive shrug.

Both Chenoa and Lulu were having a tea party next door at Mrs. Valissi's, an event that had been planned for a couple of weeks.

“We're home,” Lulu announced right on cue, leading the way inside the house.

“Imagine that,” Jack quipped.  “Grandpa call you, too?”

“Grandpa?” Chenoa questioned, a confused look on her face.  “Na-huh.  Our tea party ended and Mrs. Valissi had something important to do.”

“Good,” Jack replied.

“Rec room,” Daniel repeated for David's benefit.

“I'll get Jeff online,” David advised his parents as he headed for the large room.

====

“When did Grandpa say this family meeting was to start?” Jack asked the brood several minutes later as the family settled in comfortably.

“Soon,” Jonny answered as he sat on one of the floor pillows.

A knock on the door drew the attention of all.

“I'll get it,” Daniel offered.

A minute later, footsteps were heard approaching the rec room, prompting Jack to call out, “So, George, what's the ... Mrs. V!”

“Hello, Jack.”

The woman was greeted cheerfully by the Jackson-O'Neill family and then took a seat on the large sofa between Ricky and Jennifer.

“Hammond called you to be at this little pow wow?” Jack queried.

“In a manner of speaking, yes, he did,” Mrs. Valissi answered.

Another, louder tap on the door announced the arrival, at last, of Retired Lieutenant General George S. Hammond.

Hellos said, Jack got to the point with the direct inquiry, “So, Sir, what's this all about?”

“Aren't we beyond the 'Sir' crap, Jack?”

Laughing, Jack agreed, “Yeahsureyabetcha ... Sir.”

The children chuckled, though all were curious about the unusual assembly.

“Okay, here's Jeff,” David announced, smiling when his older brother finally responded to the online call.  “Hi, Bro.  Glad you made it.”

Thanks to his webcam, Jeff appeared on the laptop screen, waving as he replied, “I almost didn't.  Is everyone there?”

“Hi, Jeff,” Chenoa called out, getting up, hurrying to the laptop, and kissing the screen.  “I miss you.”

“I miss you, too, Noa.  How are the ponies?”

“They miss you ... cleaning out the muck.”

“That's my little sister,” Jeff mused.  “Grandpa, what's up?”

“Yeah, Grandpa, what's up?” Jack echoed.

“I apologize for interfering in your schedules, but I felt it was important to speak with you all as a group.”

“Are you okay, Grandpa?” Chenoa asked, her enthusiasm of a minute before lapsing into concern for the man.

“Fit as a fiddle, Noa, slower, but fit,” Hammond assured, loving the girl's resultant grin.  He smiled and nodded toward the family neighbor.  “Sophia.”

“Hello, George,” Mrs. Valissi greeted with cordiality.

“Bear with me,” the bald-headed man requested.  He took a moment to look into the faces of each person assembled.  “I was speaking with someone dear to me recently about all of you.  You, all of you,” Hammond asserted, making a point to focus on the parents as well as the children, “are as much my family as if you were my blood.  Jack, Daniel, I could never have imagined the impact you and your brood would have on these retirement years.”  He chuckled, “In 1969, when you knocked me out, Jack, thinking of you as a son never crossed my mind.”

“Huh?” several voices among the children questioned.

“1969,” Daniel restated.  “Michael and Jenny, remember?”

“Oh, yeah, I remember now,” Lulu responded, with other nods and small voices affirming the story they'd heard about SG-1's visit back in time. They'd only heard the tale because the couple who had been so instrumental in aiding SG-1's return to the present had, in a twist of fate, become an indirect part of a high school project Jeff was doing several years earlier. “We haven't seen them in a while.”

“Yeah, can we invite them over for dinner next week?” Little Danny questioned.

“Good idea,” Jack agreed. “I'll give them a call tomorrow.”

The kids smiled and then put their attention back to the subject at hand, whatever that was.

“I love my daughters and my granddaughters.  Their lives have taken them away from Colorado Springs now and were it not for all of you, this old man might be very lonely.”

“You'll never be lonely with us around, Grandpa,” Jenny promised.

“I'm counting on that,” the man replied as he smiled with twinkling eyes at the young girl.

“You've helped me to realize there's still a lot of living yet to do,” Hammond stated.

“Of course, there is, Grandpa.  Why would you ever think otherwise?” a concerned Jennifer asked.

“When you get to be my age, you sometimes wonder.  I haven't done much of that, but I might have been, if I didn't have you to keep me on my toes.”

“We'll keep you dancing, Grandpa,” Chenoa promised, getting up and taking hold of Hammond's hands.  “Call it, Dad,” the little girl requested.

An impromptu square dance began, with Hammond taking turns dancing with all of the Jackson-O'Neill women.  Then he reached out for Mrs. Valissi, who willingly finished off the energetic dance with her partner of choice.

“Nimble feet, George,” Jack praised while the children sat back down.

“It keeps my heart beating: a good square dance, some fishing, the children,” his voice quivered slightly from the emotion he felt, “and Sophia,” Hammond added tenderly.  “I've decided to make a change that involves all of you, one that's been long overdue and ...”

Ricky gasped, sat up straight, and called out, “We're getting a grandma!  It's the bouquet.  It works!”

“What?” Jennifer replied, feeling a bit confused.

“You're getting married?” Aislinn questioned excitingly.  “Oh boy, another wedding.  New dresses.”

“Whoa!” Jack exclaimed, his hands outstretched with his palms toward the eager brood.  “Let's just wait and see what Grandpa has to say.”

Ricky gulped, his hands gripping the pillow he was sitting on.  His eyes were big, and his heart was pounding with hope.  His expression was impossible to miss.

Smiling at the Spitfire, Hammond confirmed, “Yes, Ricky, I've asked Sophia to marry me, and she's agreed.”

“Yes!” Jack exclaimed with a fist pump.

“Sir, that's terrific,” Daniel chimed as he reached out to shake Hammond's hand and then hug Mrs. Valissi.

“Grandma!” Ricky called out as he sprang up and immediately threw his arms around woman tightly.  “I have a real grandma!”

“You're a joy, Ricky.  I do love you, all of you,” Mrs. Valissi declared with teary eyes.

Jack and Daniel stood back a bit and watched as the brood interacted with their grandparents.  With their parents deceased, Hammond had been the children's only real symbol of anything close to a grandparent.  Mrs. Valissi was close, as were Catherine and Ernest Littlefield, though they lived in New York and were infrequent visitors as a result.  Years earlier, Christa and Jacob Svenson were great neighbors who could have been like grandparents to the brood, had they not passed on.  The kids still talked about them sometimes, especially after visiting the mama cat and her kittens that had been nurtured so tenderly by Mister Svenson just before his dying.  The kids had found loving forever homes for the felines and checked up on them frequently.

**Danny.**

**I know, Babe.  I wish my parents were here.**

**Mine, too,** Jack replied via the couple's unique silent communication.  **He's not marrying her because of that, is he?**

**Of course not, but it's a nice bonus,** Daniel put forth.

After several minutes of congratulations, best wishes, and joyful repartee about having a full set of grandparents now, the big question was finally asked.

“When's the big day?” Jack inquired of the former SGC leader.

Hammond looked over at the laptop and queried, “Son, are you still coming home this weekend for spring break?”

“My flight arrives Friday evening,” Jeff advised his listeners.

“Good,” Hammond responded.  With his arm around Mrs. Valissi, he announced, “We'd like to get hitched on Sunday.”

“*This* Sunday?” Jennifer asked in alarm.  “The kids need dresses.  We need ...”

“Jennifer, dear,” Mrs. Valissi interrupted, reaching out to take the newlywed's hand in hers, “simplicity can be a blessing, especially at our age.  All we want is for our children to be near.”

Smiling in understanding, Jennifer asked, “Are Evan and Robert coming?”

“Yes.  Evan absolutely insisted upon it.”

“He's gonna grill ya,” Jack teased his friend.

“Hope I pass muster,” Hammond joked back.

“Where?” Aislinn asked.  “Grandpa, Grandma, where are you going to get married?”

“By our lake,” Hammond answered, referring to his home and the waterside that flowed so beautifully alongside it.

“We'll take care of everything,” Jennifer declared happily.  “Flowers: we have to have flowers.  Ash ...”

“They are a force of nature,” Daniel told the happy couple as the adults watched the children take full charge of the upcoming nuptials.  “Do you mind?”

Hammond and his bride-to-be exchanged a look of complete agreement before each smiling at the archaeologist.

“Daniel, why do you think we're here?” Hammond questioned, only half jokingly.  “They're the springtime, our springtime.”

“We want them to be happy with the day,” Mrs. Valissi advised the parents.

“You're the ones who are supposed to be happy with it,” Daniel reminded.

“You'll be there?” the woman asked.

“Of course.”

“And you, Jack?”

“Wouldn't miss it, Mrs. V,” Jack responded.

“And the brood?  They'll all be there, including Jeff?”

Daniel smiled, knowing where the conversation was headed, and affirmed, “Yes.”

“Then it will be the happiest of days for George and me.  His daughters and granddaughters by birth will be in attendance, and my Evan and his Robert are coming, and our other grandchildren, all fourteen of them, will be there.  How could it be any happier?”

“Woof!  Woof!  Woof!” came two sets of insistent barks.

Hammond looked over at the beagles, shaking his head in amusement, and then informed the dogs, “We couldn't get married without the two of you there as well.”

Bijou and Katie danced around in happiness at being included in the festivities.

“You must want some of your friends to come?” Daniel asked the couple.

“There are a few good friends,” Hammond affirmed on behalf of himself and the woman he was about to marry.

“I'll make the list,” Brianna offered.  “We'll need to call everyone with the time and particulars.”

“David, we'll set up a little canopy,” Jennifer suggested.

“I know where, Sis,” the excited college student replied as he thought about his grandfather's landscape.

“Force of nature,” Jack concurred.  “Why don't we have a cup of coffee while the winds blow by.”

“They'll give us the details over dinner,” Daniel mused.  “You are staying for dinner?”

“Why else would I plan this family meeting for this time of day?” Hammond joked.

“Jen, why don't you ask Peter to ...”

“What, Daddy?  Who .. *Oh Peter!*  I forgot.  I'll be right back,” Jennifer giggled.  “Jenny, start a food list.  Ricky, call Alex and see if he's available tonight or in the morning.”

“Alex?” Jack and Daniel both echoed.  “Why?”

“I don't know yet, but I bet he'll help us somehow,” Jennifer answered before hurrying to her home to check on her husband and ask him to join the others for the wedding plans.

“Ten weeks, and she's already forgotten her husband,” Jack spoke quietly.  “Maybe there's hope yet.”  As he started to walk to the kitchen, Jack felt a jarring jab in his left butt cheek.  “*Ouch*”

“Sorry, Love.”

“Sure, you are,” Jack said with a glare that was followed by a laugh.  “I know, she loves him.”

“And he loves her,” Daniel pointed out.  “Coffee.”

“Jeff, call us from the airport,” Jack shouted out.

“I will, Dad.”

“We love you,” Daniel called out.

“I love you, too,” Jeff replied.  He then became all business as he called out to his siblings.  “Chairs: don't forget seating.  Ricky, get your sketch program going.”

“Okay, Jeff,” Ricky returned and then headed upstairs to retrieve his laptop that included the special software Alex had given to him after Hammond's sunroom had been completed.

With that, the two couples adjourned to the quietness of kitchen while the children became amateur wedding planners.

====

After a hectic wedding Sunday, Ricky knelt by his bed, his hands joined together, and his eyes closed reverently.

“Thank you, Mommy, for helping.  I know you did.  Now we have a Grandma and a Grandpa.  I miss you.  Say 'hi' to Mister and Mrs. Svenson, too, okay?  I miss them, too.  Night, Mommy.  Thank you, God, for my parents, and the brood, and our zoo ... and thank you for giving Grandma to Grandpa so he won't be lonely anymore.  With love, from Ricky.”

Jack and Daniel watched with tender hearts from the doorway as their son stood up from his knees and slid under the covers.  It had been a long day, and the Spitfire was actually the last of the brood to hit the hay.  The others were all fast asleep already.

“Dad?  Daddy?” the wee voice called out in the dark.

“We didn't mean to eavesdrop,” Daniel spoke quietly, not wanting to wake Jonny and Little Danny, as he and Jack walked over to the boy's bed.

“Grandpa's happy now, isn't he?”

“Very,” Daniel assured.

“And Grandma?”

“Very happy,” Daniel again assured, leaning over to tuck the boy in comfortably.

“And Grandpa's first wife and Grandma's first husband?  They aren't angry, are they?”

“No, Ricky, they're not angry.”

“They're up in Heaven dancing a jig,” Jack asserted as he stood a bit behind his husband.

“So they're happy for them, too?”

“Sport, Grandma isn't replacing Mrs. Hammond to Grandpa.  That's not how it works,” Jack stated.

“There's enough love to go around,” Daniel put forth.

“What happens when we're all together again?  Grandpa can't be married to his first wife and Grandma, can he?”

Jack and Daniel exchange a look that said neither knew the answer to the query.

“Ricky, let's not worry about it.  That's not our job,” Daniel told the youngster.

“What is our job?”

“To follow what our heart and soul tells us in order to be the best we can be and to love one another,” the archaeologist replied.

“And God will figure out the rest?”

“Yeah, something like that,” Daniel answered softly.  “Close your eyes.  It's time to sleep.”

“Daddy, do you think about Mister and Mrs. Svenson very much?”

“Yes, I do.”

“Me, too.”

“Night, Son,” Daniel said before leaning over to give Ricky a kiss on the forehead.

“Night, Ricky.  I love you,” Jack spoke before repeating his lover's actions.

“Love you,” Ricky yawned, his eyelids shut tightly as he dropped instantly into the land of nod, even before the yawn had finished.

The parents did a quick check on Jonny and Little Danny before exiting the room and going downstairs.

====

Settling onto the sofa in the living room, each with a cup of coffee and a lap full of beagle, Jack and Daniel enjoyed the silence for a few minutes.  It allowed each to gather their thoughts and simply enjoy the peace and serenity of being part of a loving relationship and happy family.  Soon enough, conversation would come.

“The kids were so invested in Hammond marrying Mrs. V,” Jack eventually opined.

“I didn't realize how much they missed having a grandmother.”

“I'm not sure they did, either.”

“Did the general say what they're doing with her house?” Daniel questioned.

“He said they were still discussing it.  They might rent out it.”

“In case the marriage flops?”

“Daniel, you're sounding more like me every year.”

“Yeah, I know,” Daniel replied with a frown.  “You think there's a cure for that?”

“Better not be!” Jack retorted, laughing a moment later.  He picked Bijou up and went nose to nose with the canine.  “Did you have fun with those ducks?”

“Woof!” Bijou responded.

“Well, it made for an interesting reception: the beagle and duck show,” Daniel mused as he played with Katie's ears.

“Grrrr,” the younger beagle whined.

“Sorry, Katie, but the ducks weren't there for your amusement.”

“Woof,” the dog argued.

“You won't win the argument, Love,” Jack remarked.  “The girls had fun, the kids were in giggles, and Hammond and Mrs. ...” the general paused.  “Danny, this is gonna take a while to get used to.”

“Mrs. Hammond.”

“Mrs. H,” Jack spoke, trying out the abbreviated name.  “Danny, this is gonna take a while.”  As his husband chuckled, the older man continued, “They thought it was a hoot.”

“The timing was perfect.  'If there is anyone here who objects to this marriage, let them speak now or forever hold their peace,'” Daniel quoted the minister.

“Woof, quack, woof, grrr, quaaaaaack!” Jack mimicked in amusing recall.

“The chase was on, under the table ...” the younger man sing-songed.

“Over the ring bearer ...”

“Across the dance floor, taking the canopy with them,” Daniel laughed.

“Into the lake ...”

“Onto the cake.”

“Memories,” Jack chuckled.

“It was crazy, but fun, too,” Daniel admitted.  “I was proud of the brood, Jack.”

“They pulled it off, Angel.  They had forty-eight hours to plan this shindig, and they did it.”

“That's not exactly why I'm proud of them.”

“I knew that,” Jack returned.  Quizzically, he asked, “Why?”

With a smile, Daniel explained, “It's how they did it and how they handled it with the general's daughters and granddaughters.”

“Yeah,” Jack concurred.  “Made them feel like they'd planned it.”

“Jack, I think Tessa and Kayla both felt a little guilty. Even Vanessa seemed a bit ...”

“What?” Jack asked, eager to see the word Daniel would come up with to describe Hammond's youngest granddaughter.

“I don't know, but that's how she seemed,” the younger man smirked.

Jack laughed lightly at the reference to the flightiest member of the Hammond family and then replied seriously, “You realize that's an excuse?” Daniel asked pointedly.

“Get used to it, Love.  One of these days, we may be telling ourselves the same thing.”

“Probably,” Daniel sighed sadly.  “It's the rotation of life.”

“Danny, what are we whining about?  JD's not even seven.”

“Good point.”

“It happens,” Jack chuckled.  “You're right, though, Danny, the kids did good.”

“Yeah,” the archaeologist agreed.  “Jack?”

“Mmm?”

“You're slipping.”

“Slipping?”

“We've been sitting here for fifteen minutes.  The house is quiet.  The children are asleep.  I mean, uh, you know.”

Jack grinned.  He liked where the conversation was headed.

“Bij, you've received your last pat for the night.  Pick a kid,” Jack ordered, gently assisting the mama beagle off his lap.

“Katie, sorry, girl, but ... you know.”

“You have eleven to choose from,” Jack told Katie.  “Remember, Jeff's home for the week.”

“Woof!” Katie acknowledged, heading for the front of the house and to the stairs that led to the college student's room.

“What about you?” Jack asked Bijou.

The beagle yawned, scratched her ear, and then took her time going up the stairs.

“She didn't seem too excited,” Jack opined.

“Babe, after that rubdown you've been giving her, she's practically asleep.”

“I spoiled her.”

“She loved it.”

“Time to spoil you,” Jack spoke seductively.

“Spoil me, my slave.”

Things were about to take a romantic and passionate turn for Jack and Daniel as they found their own way to celebrate the happiness of their good friends and surrogate grandparents.  It had been a busy and tiring few days, but for this twosome, there was no such thing as being too tired to enjoy their special nation of two.

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