The Joy in Happiness
Category: Slash, Angst, Drama, Romance, Established Relationship
Pairing: Jack/Daniel ... and it's all J/D
Season: Beyond the Series - the future
Written: March 9-10, 2021
Summary: Time marches on for the Jackson-O'Neill family and then one day, Jack and Daniel discover a joy in happiness they've never known before.
Disclaimer: Usual disclaimers -- not mine, wish they were, especially Daniel, and Jack, too, but they aren't. A gal can dream though!
1) Silent, unspoken thoughts by various characters are indicated with ~ in front and behind them, such as ~Where am I?~
2) There is a special postscript by the author at the end of this story which some readers might be interested in.
The Joy in Happiness
For Jack and Daniel Jackson-O'Neill, life was at a peaceful horizon. They were no longer military men saving the universe or peaceful explorers making new allies across the galaxies. Their contact with the Stargate Program was limited these days to the actions of their children or occasional trips through the Gate to visit old friends in the Land of the Light or on the Nox world.
The couple still kept their hands in the company they created, J-O Enterprises, a highly successful archaeology firm, but these days, most of the operations were handled by their children, primarily Little Danny and David. Not long ago, the company made an innovative move by opening an architectural division, headed up by the oldest male brood member, Jeff. The tag line was: let us ensure you're building on safe ground and then us design your building the right way! The bundled service saved clients a lot of money, not to mention there were certain time and convenience factors that also worked to their advantage. Jeff was now a sought after architect and at one time it was believed he would become a partner at Archonics Ltd., the company co-owned by the retired Byron Stone and still active Alex Dennison. In fact, Alex figured one day Jeff would become a co-owner, but Jeff's loyalties to his parents' business lured him away, making a one-time joke about J-O having a department dedicated to architecture turn into reality.
As for the brood, all but JD were out on their own, some married, some married with children, some attending college out of state, and others working hard and making a living. The youngest child, JD would probably be out on his own within the next year or two. There were some notable changes, natural events that came with time. Of prime note, Jennifer felt she'd kept her promise to herself, one made when JD was born. She wanted to be the boy's sister in all ways. She wanted him to know her, as a person, and not just as a name, an older person he saw from time to time. Her husband, Peter Hamilton, understood that promise and helped her to keep it. For many years, they lived in the home behind and just to the left of the Jackson-O'Neill homestead. Their family kept growing, though, and space was extremely limited. With JD essentially grown and ready to make his own way in life, Jennifer told Peter she was ready for them to expand their horizons, too, which they did.
This meant the once busy and noisy home of Jack and Daniel was quiet and calm, except perhaps for the family zoo, most still housed within the boundaries of the home. Some of the animals were simply going along, living their anticipated long lives naturally. Ptolemy, their beautiful hyacinth macaw, Peanut Brittle, their Galápagos tortoise, and the Shetland ponies and other horses (they were still kept at ranch outside of Colorado Springs) still caused Jack to joke that they would outlive him easily. Amazingly, all of the other critters were still plugging along as well. Perhaps it was the love found in the house or maybe the pets simply had great genes, or maybe it was Thor's intervention and monitoring of the zoo that played a part in the unusually long lives.
Bijou and Katie were happy and active, the beagles still bringing much pleasure and comfort to their humans. The cats, Mittens and Calico, still drove Jack crazy by clinging to him and messing up his word documents on the computer by running over the keyboard. The guinea pigs and rabbits were showing some age, but they appeared happy, especially during their frequent outings to the backyard. Even Bogey the bearded dragon was alive and enjoying his well-stocked cage. There had been a few close calls concerning the health and welfare of the zoo over the years, but at the moment, they were healthy and happy animals.
All of this left Jack and Daniel with plenty of time to donate to their various causes and charities. Their favorites, of course, were those dealing with children. They assisted with time and money at several children's shelters and organizations throughout the city. It gave them enormous pleasure to spend time with the kids and see their smiles when given unexpected gifts or sometimes just the basics, like food, medicine, and clothes.
Such was life in the current day and in truth, the couple began to think about making their dream a reality. That dream was to spend out their days at the cabin Jack inherited from his grandfather. The Minnesota cabin was now part of a larger complex built by the parents so that their large family and extended family could enjoy time together there. The complex accommodated this desire and was often used over the years. The cabin, though, was Jack and Daniel's sentimental spot. It was still much the same as it was the first time Jack took Daniel there back in the nineties. It was the perfect spot for two men in love, plus two beagles they could never live without. One day, they would move to the cabin and let time and nature pass. Lately, they were wondering if that day was now or at least approaching. Once JD was on his own, the children would tend to the zoo on their own and their parents would enjoy the serenity of their dream.
Today, though, the parents weren't thinking about a new life in Minnesota. They were taking food supplies to a private orphanage that was fairly new to the city. The unique layout of the orphanage was thanks to some wealthy investors who wanted to be part of something different. Jack and Daniel invested a bit of money in the place, but had no vested interest in the operations or financial aspects. Their investment was more to assist in the success of the concept rather than to make a profit. One of the things that made this orphanage stand out were special apartment-like units, some of which were like one or two-room hotel suites. Some of these had their own bathrooms and kitchenettes included. This allowed siblings placed in the facility to stay together instead of being mixed in with others in a massive dorm. There were dorms, but they were limited in size so that children could more easily bond. Children with other types of difficulties could also be assigned to a more private room as well.
Having dropped off their supplies, Jack and Daniel were walking around, saying hello to some of the kids they'd met during previous visits. They were on their way out, walking by some of the individual units, and talking about Jonny's latest news, delivered in a phone call that morning.
Jack was rattling away on the topic when he suddenly realized his lover wasn't at his side. He turned around and looked back. Something was off.
Daniel stared inside the one-bedroom unit and watched with concern. There was a young woman who looked to be in her early twenties sitting on a sofa. She was chatting away a mile a minute on her smartphone. Daniel wasn't certain of the topic for sure, but he heard something about a boyfriend and another woman and all kinds of things about life being unfair. The woman was focused solely on the TV screen on a shelf in front of her. She used the remote to change the channel, going from one music channel to another. The visuals were raunchy and the lyrics totally inappropriate. It wasn't her he was worried about. It was the small boy he saw that made it disturbing.
Sitting on a blanket on the wall-to-wall carpeting was a young boy. Daniel figured he might be four or five. The boy was totally still with absolutely no movement whatever. He just sat.
~This is wrong.~ Daniel entered the apartment at about the same time his husband approached and was about to ask what was going on.
His observation skills as sharp as ever, Jack caught on quickly as to why his soulmate was suddenly so distracted.
"Uh, excuse me," Daniel spoke.
The woman was so involved and the music so loud that she didn't even hear Daniel, but the archaeologist noticed the boy cocked his head slightly.
"*Excuse me*," Daniel repeated more loudly. "What are you doing?"
"Hey, I'm on the phone here."
"I noticed. What's he doing?"
"Sitting. Look, he's fine. He's a vegetable. He won't move. Now, if you don't mind ..."
"Oh, I ... I do mind." Daniel approached the boy and kneeled down. Wearing a smile, he reached out gently and touched the boy's hand. It was then he made a startling realization. The young boy was blind. "Hi. My name is Danny."
Jack practically fell backwards. Never in all of their years together had he heard his husband introduce himself with his nickname. It was overwhelming.
"What's your name?" Daniel asked.
"Oh! Oh!" the boy called out. He smiled, a giant smile, and he raised his hands so they were equal to his face. His hands made little fists and moved about as his head also turned from side to side. "I'm Billy Martin the thirrrrrrrrd!"
Daniel laughed and replied, "Hello, Billy Martin the third. How are you?"
"Oh. I'm fine."
"I'm glad." Daniel looked up at the caregiver and asked, "Shouldn't you be paying attention to Billy?"
"I don't know who you are, but he's just fine."
"I don't think so," Daniel refuted. "Billy, is it okay if I pick you up?"
"Sure. Oh, it's good."
Daniel picked up the boy, breezed by his lover, and headed out of the apartment.
"Where ..." the woman groaned. "Patty, I'll have to call you back."
Jack shook his head at the female and went after Daniel, while the woman sprinted behind trying to catch up with both men.
Daniel had a specific destination in mind, the office of the facility's director, Mrs. Rossen. She was completely in charge of all aspects of the orphanage's operation.
The forty-three-year-old female with short, brown hair was on her feet, about to check on something when she saw Daniel heading her way.
"Doctor Jackson-O'Neill, hello." Mrs. Rossen grinned and added, "Billy, how are you today?"
The boy knew the woman by her voice instantly. He smiled and told her he was fine.
"Um, what ..."
At that moment, the director saw one of her employees running to the office and stopping to the side of Jack. She noticed the phone dangling out of the caregiver's right hand and that there was a rather frazzled look on her face.
"Mrs. Rossen, I think there's a problem with this young woman. When I saw Billy just now, he was planted on the floor, not moving. She was gossiping on the phone about her boyfriend going out with someone else. She was also listening to music videos that, well, aren't appropriate for young children."
"Is this true, Veronica?"
"Give me a break, Mrs. Rossen. The kid doesn't do anything. Put him down and he stays there for hours. He's like a bag of laundry. I have a life, you know."
"Enjoy your life, dear, away from here. You're fired. I'll have your check sent to you before I leave today."
Veronica glared at Daniel and spat, "Gee, thanks, Mister, for getting me fired."
As Veronica fled, Jack called out, "And thanks for all that great care you gave Billy here."
Mrs. Rossen returned to her desk and sighed, "I'll have to check our video footage for verification. We try to vet our employees, but sometimes bad apples slip through the cracks. I was at her interview. She said all the right things."
"Action is better than words," Jack put forth.
"Oops," Daniel said as his hands ran over the boy's wet bottom.
"I'm sorry," the woman called out. "We have everything he needs in the apartment. I'll get one of my staff ..."
"Don't bother them," Jack interrupted. "I'll take care of it." He walked over to stand by his husband. "Billy, I'm Jack."
"Jack. Oh, hi, Jack!"
"Hi. Can I pick you up and help you get dry?"
Jack took Billy from Daniel and walked away, already beginning to tell the boy a story about people who loved trees and even had twigs as part of their hair.
"Uh, Mrs. Rossen, what's his story?"
"Please, sit down," the director suggested, pointing at one of the two chairs in front of her desk. She also sat down and automatically opened a big drawer and pulled out a file. She opened it, but didn't refer to it when she spoke. "His name is Billy Martin."
"... the third," Daniel mused.
"Yes, that was something his dad taught him. He gets very excited when he gets to say his full name."
Daniel waited until Mrs. Rossen was ready to tell him about the boy.
"When Billy was two-years old, he developed a problem. His parents took him to the doctor who referred them to a specialist. This man was considered an expert in his field. He had a wonderful reputation and a proven history in his field of neurology." Mrs. Rossen sighed. "Unfortunately, he also had a problem no one knew about ... until Billy. He had a love affair with alcohol and drugs."
"He diagnosed Billy with a brain tumor and said he needed surgery, which he performed, drunk and drugged. He just had an amazing ability not to show it, but the narcotics impaired his judgment. There was problem in surgery. He, ah, had totally misdiagnosed the situation. What he did, he didn't need to do, and how he did it changed the lives of that family forever."
"You saw, Doctor Jackson-O'Neill ..."
"Daniel," the woman acknowledged. "Billy is five years old. He'll be six later this year, but his mind is still that of a two-year old. He can't walk. He's blind. He requires assistance for all of life's basics: eating, getting dressed, going to the bathroom."
"Where are his parents?"
"Tragedy upon tragedy." Mrs. Rossen glanced down, but she wasn't reading the file. It was imprinted on her mind. "When Billy was misdiagnosed, the Martins also had another son, a baby boy just six-months old. They were a happy family, but Mrs. Martin couldn't handle the reality of her toddler remaining a toddler. When the youngest son left the toddler stage behind ..."
"... you mean when the younger boy outgrew Billy mentally ..."
"Billy was still two. She couldn't handle it. She tried. Everything I've read or been told and, quite frankly, I've spoken with her myself. She's not a bad person, Daniel, but emotionally, she can't handle Billy's reality. She loves him. She's sent him presents. She's even visited him, and she has called him from time to time, but she can't stay with him more than a day or two before her own anxiety causes her to run. The Martins divorced. She kept their second son and moved to Florida. The father kept Billy. Eventually, Mrs. Martin gave up all parental rights to Billy."
"Where's Mister Martin?"
"He was devoted to Billy. He kept one night a week for himself, to have fun away and keep him mentally fresh to help his son, and that's what he did. Billy was his life."
"Where is he?" Daniel asked again.
"He's dead, Daniel. On that one night a week out, his car was struck by another head-on. It was a drunk driver. Mister Martin was killed instantly."
The news about the death hit Daniel hard. Any death at the hand of an intoxicated driver touched him deeply and always had since the mother of the Munchkins and the Spitfires, Kayla Armentrout, had her life cut short in drunk driving accident.
"So, Billy's here with us now and I suspect he will be for the rest of his short life."
At that point, Jack returned with Billy in his arms and announced, "It's all dry on the bottom front."
The comment amused Mrs. Rossen who stood and said, "Let me get someone to watch Billy for a bit."
"It's okay ..." Jack began.
The woman shook her head and walked to her doorway where she called out, "Thelma!" She looked back and asked, "Billy, do you remember Thelma?"
"Oh, yes. Thelma likes ball."
"Hi, Billy," Thelma called out as she approached.
"Thelma, would you watch after Billy for a little while."
"Of course," Thelma responded as she reached out and took hold of the boy. "Shall we play ball?"
"Oh, ball. Ball, yes!"
When the caregiver walked away, Mrs. Rossen said, "Please have a seat."
Jack sat down while the director once again returned to her office chair.
"Forgive me, but I didn't want Billy to hear what I was about to tell your husband," Mrs. Rossen told Jack. "You see, the doctors don't have a positive prognosis for Billy. They never expected him to live to be five, and don't expect him to reach six, either."
Jack stared at his husband for an explanation.
"I'll tell you about it at home," Daniel said quietly. "Um, it's none of my business, but what happened to the doctor who misdiagnosed Billy's case?"
"He lost his license and was disgraced. I understand he tried to get a job in the medical field, but no one would hire him. I fear he's probably working in the black market somewhere."
"Can we come and visit Billy again?" Daniel inquired.
"Anytime," the woman agreed. "He likes you both." She chuckled. "He likes almost everybody."
"We'll be back," Jack stated.
The lovers went home and Daniel told Jack all about Billy's history and the disastrous surgery that never should have happened. They were sad at the events, but when they thought about the boy, they found themselves smiling.
For the next three months, Jack and Daniel visited Billy weekly and sometimes even two or three times a week. Individually, they found themselves dropping by the private home for a visit, even if they only had a few minutes before having to leave.
The visits were fun in many ways. Billy would light up upon hearing the voices of the two men. His grin was always big and he never failed to raise his hands, make those fists, and excitedly call out, "Hello" to his guests. While it was true, Billy stayed in place wherever he was put, he loved to play with toys, and it was interactive. He also loved music.
The men were advised that every night when going to bed, Billy insisted on listening to a cassette tape that was made for him a few years ago by his grandparents. On the tape, the seniors talked to Billy, asked him questions, and told him stories, but mostly, the tape on both sides was full of music. Billy knew all the words and would sing along with his grandparents or sing on his own when told to on the tape.
When made aware of the tape, Jack and Daniel also learned that Billy did have a large family of grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. In fact, that was where the name fun kicked in for the youth. There were a lot of men named William in the Martin family, so when they all got together, the men all had nicknames to distinguish one from the other: William, Bill, Will, Willie, Billy, etc., and that's why Billy was called Billy the third. While the family loved the developmentally-challenged boy, none were prepared to take care of him on a daily basis. To the soulmates, it made Billy's situation even sadder.
Then one day, Jack and Daniel said goodbye to Billy and began for the exit door, when Daniel stopped walking. Jack turned around and looked at the younger man with some curiosity.
"I can't, Jack. I just can't do it anymore."
The silver-haired man walked close to his husband and replied, "Do you know what a major commitment this would be?"
"Of course, I do, and, apparently, so do you."
It was clear. Jack knew what his lover was thinking about because he'd been thinking about it himself.
"Danny, our hearts are one thing, but we have to be clear. Our lives would change drastically. Right now, we pretty much do what we want when we want. That stops, right now, if we do this."
"And how will our hearts feel if we leave Billy behind again?"
Jack smacked his lips briefly and simply shook his head before verifying, "You're sure?"
"Aren't you?" Daniel challenged.
"What about JD?"
"He's not a baby anymore, Jack. He doesn't need our constant attention and he might like having someone else around to give himself more privacy. Besides, he's not going to live with us forever. We both know that."
"Yeah, and we've been holding on for as long as we could," the retired general admitted. "Okay."
The lovers walked swiftly to Mrs. Rossen's office and, when invited, sat down in the chairs by her desk.
"Mrs. Rossen, we want to foster Billy," Daniel advised.
"Foster?" Mrs. Rossen was stunned. She hadn't expected anyone to want to care for Billy in their own homes. "You do remember what I said about his prognosis?"
"Yes," came the response in unison.
"That doesn't mean he doesn't deserve a family to love him," Daniel pointed out.
"A social worker and some specialists will have to go to your home. I suspect several accommodations will have to be made for Billy's safety and protection."
"Ma'am," Jack began. "First, we can afford to do anything necessary to keep Billy safe in our home. Second, you don't know that we have a brood, do you?"
"A ... brood?"
"Twelve children," Daniel clarified.
"Six of them were adopted, most taken away from their own nightmares in life," Jack stated. "Third, we love Billy and we have the time and desire to dedicate ourselves to ensuring that however long he remains on this earth, he's happy and loved."
Mrs. Rossen nodded and smiled as she pulled out a variety of papers.
"Well, since you're adoptive parents, some of this will be familiar to you," the woman stated. "References will be required, but I'm sure you have those."
"Would high-ranking Air Force officers ..." Jack began.
"... ex-Presidents of the United States ..." Daniel added.
"... well-known business types, doctors, lawyers, and Indian chiefs," Jack quipped. "Would they work?"
"I don't really know you two, do I?"
"We don't advertise," Daniel replied, adding pointedly, "unless we have to. We, uh, know a lot of people."
"No problem with the references then," Mrs. Rossen surmised. "Your home will require change, I'm sure ... well, unless you've had special needs children living in your room in the past?"
"None on Billy's level," Jack acknowledged.
The process began. The Jackson-O'Neills had no issues meeting the requirements for foster parents. Financially, no one could argue with their ability to care for the child. Annie Glenn, now a retired social worker, made for a great reference and also assisted her successor in working with the couple. Annie was an instrumental contact when Jack found a home for Danny Hopkins and when the lovers adopted Lulu.
Special case workers acquainted with the needs of children like Billy visited the Jackson-O'Neills and worked with the couple on how to create proper living and play areas. Alex Dennison, acclaimed worldwide for his interior design, sat in on the meetings, making notes and almost immediately creating ideas in his mind that would meet Billy's needs and yet not permanently damage or alter the home itself.
As Alex made the updates, Jack and Daniel attended a class to learn more about tending to Billy's unique needs. It wasn't just his physical limitations, but they had to be conscious of what could happen if he incurred any type of head injury. They also had to be completely realistic about life with a boy who would forever be mentally two-years old. When the class was successfully completed, the couple next spent more time with Billy at the facility, but this was much more than playtime. They spent parent time, staying for hours to tend to all of Billy's needs as if no one else was around.
When all of this was done, the parents finally contacted their brood via conference call. They explained only that Billy had some mental and mobility issues and they were going to take care of him for a while. Nothing more definite was said as Jack and Daniel didn't want to say too much in case something happened and Billy couldn't stay with them.
The kids were excited, but they were all busy and didn't think too much about it. Most figured they'd meet the boy when they were home for the holidays. Some of the children in the Springs were extra anxious to meet the newcomer to the family, but Jack and Daniel asked them for time so they could get adjusted. JD would be the main contact with the brood, though he agreed not to reveal everything for the moment. His parents requested privacy and mostly time for Billy to settle into a new life with them.
Finally, the day arrived and Billy Martin III came home to live with Jack and Daniel. He met JD, who was thrilled to have another child around and didn't mind playing games of his youth with Billy.
"Hey!" JD exclaimed as he faced his parents. "I'm not the baby anymore!"
Excited, JD went to Billy and began to talk to him about having an awesome big brother, which, of course, was himself.
One of the first things the parents did was to slowly introduce Billy to the zoo. The boy laughed hysterically when Ptolemy landed on his shoulder and squawked.
"Polly wants a cracker," the beautiful bird requested.
"Here, Billy," Jack said, handing him the bird's favorite treat. Just hold your hand up and don't move."
"Polly, be nice. Billy's new and he wants you to have a cracker."
"Polly nice bird," Ptolemy assured.
Sure enough, Ptolemy very gently took possession of the cracker and flew away.
Billy also giggled and laughed when the beagles greeted him for the very first time. Having plenty of experience with young children, Bijou and Katie knew when Billy wanted to stroke them or when he was playing wildly. That sometimes meant Billy's arms and hands flailed about, unintentionally striking the dogs. It didn't take the canines long to adjust. They leaned over, rolled over, and sometimes walked away until Billy's body movements settled. With time, they became quite skilled on knowing when to approach the boy and when to leave him alone. Billy, though, loved the dogs. He hadn't been around them before, but took to them instantly. Sometimes at night, the girls would jump up onto his bed and sleep next to him. While he couldn't express it fully, the boy felt happiness with the dogs at his side.
One day, Billy met Hot and Chocolate, the two Shetland ponies that lived in the small barn behind the house. There was some chatter about moving the ponies to be with the other horses, but nothing had come from that as yet. Even though it was his idea to move them, Jack often regretted ever bringing it up. He discovered it oddly tranquil to brush the ponies down every day and even to exercise them. They were great confidants, too, never telling a human anything Jack confided to them.
Eventually, Billy met the rest of the zoo. He was fascinated by Peanut Brittle's hard shell, entranced by Strawberry's and Shortcake's squeal as they ran all over him, and tickled by the furriness of the rabbits, Bagel and Cream Cheese. He held them both, squeezing them close until told not to hold them so hard. He loved their softness and smiled all the time he was with them. He hadn't yet met Bogey since the lizard was currently with Jonny at his residence.
As summer was ebbing, Jack and Daniel made a decision. It wasn't hard for them at all. They began the preliminaries and then placed another call with their brood, which was actually more difficult than dealing with the legalities they were facing since the kids had such varied schedules.
"What's up, Dad and Daddy?" Jonny asked, his picture in the upper far left corner of the screen.
Jack answered, "Kids, Daddy and I have something very important to you."
"Is everything okay?" Chenoa questioned, her picture appearing in the middle row right in the center of the screen.
"Everything's fine," Daniel replied. "Dad and I have decided to adopt Billy. We want him to stay with us forever."
There were lots of positive responses from the children who had a variety of enthusiastic comebacks to the news.
"But," Jack interrupted. "We need to tell you more details about Billy."
"What do you mean?" was the query from the lower far right of the screen. Aislinn added, "You look so serious."
"It's just we haven't exactly told you everything about Billy," Daniel admitted.
The next twenty minutes of the call revolved around Billy's situation in life and the tragic details of his family. Several questions were asked and answered.
"You held out on us," Jonny accused. "You should have trusted us."
"You're right," Daniel said. "We take the blame for that, but Billy's situation is unique and Dad and I just ... well, we just needed time to make sure we were doing the right thing."
"And now you know you are," Little Danny assumed, his image at the center of the screen in the top row.
The chatter continued until finally Jack stated, "You'll all get to meet Billy when you're home for Christmas. You'll love him."
"We already love him," Ricky said from his spot on the bottom row on the right.
"Okay, well, we need to go. We love you all so much," Daniel said.
All types of goodbyes were uttered and the call ended; at least, it did for the parents. As soon as the call disconnected, Aislinn began reconnecting with her brothers and sisters.
"I knew you'd call," Jonny teased.
"If she didn't, I would have," Jenny put forward.
"Hey, guys, we have a new little brother!" Brianna exclaimed happily.
"Well, I don't know about all of you, but I'm not waiting months to meet him. I want to see Billy now," Aislinn stated, her words a surprise to no one.
"I think Dad and Daddy still want some privacy," Jennifer stated.
"Jen, they've had privacy," David rebutted. "I think they're a little scared."
"A lot scared," Lulu opined. "They've dealt with some of us when we've had problems, but this is different."
"Lulu's right," Jeff interjected. "I think they need our support. I know I live here, but I'm going to clear my schedule for a week. They said they went through a training class. Shouldn't we do that, too, even if it's a shorter, quickie version?"
"You're right, Bro," Ricky agreed.
"David, Karissa can handle the office. Let's ..."
"Count me in, Little Danny. Nothing is more important than this."
"Anyone with spouse or kiddie issues?" Jonny inquired.
Jennifer laughed, "I think our loved ones know us well enough by now that they'll just say, 'yes, Dear' when we abandon them for a while."
The children laughed. They would not be deterred. Plans were made and soon, their parents were in for a huge surprise.
Three days later, having acquired the security code from JD, Aislinn happily charged through the front door of her family home. She tossed down her duffel bag and overnight case and called out, "Dad! Daddy! JD! *Billy!*"
"Oh, oh, Billy's here."
Aislinn entered the recreation room and smiled at the little boy, seated on a floor pad, surrounded by toys that included a stuffed giraffe named Jerry.
"Hey, Princess," Jack returned, standing up from one of the ottomans and eagerly approaching his daughter for a hug.
"Ash?" Daniel called out, joining in the hug as he entered from the guest room. "What are you doing here?"
"I came to see you and meet my brother. Can I talk to him?"
"Sure," Daniel invited with a motion towards the boy.
Aislinn walked over and sat down Indian-style opposite Billy and stated, "Hi. I'm Ash. It's really Aislinn, but everyone calls me Ash. Can you say my name?"
"Oh, yes, hi ... Ash. Ash. Ash."
Aislinn laughed and said, "Yes, that's me. You know what?"
"I'm one of your new sisters. We're family. Isn't that awesome!"
Billy's hands came up, he formed the usual fists, his head turned back and forth, and he loudly echoed, "Awwwwwesome!"
"Can I hug you, Billy?"
For the first time, Aislinn hugged the boy.
"Who's this?" The Munchkin held up the giraffe and remembered Billy was blind. Gently, she handed the toy to her brother. "Does he have a name?"
"Oh, oh, that's Jerry. Jerry the girrrrrraffe!"
"I can't believe you stopped everything to come here," Jack put forth.
The girl looked over at her older father, shook her head in disbelief, and replied, "You're kidding. You two call us up and say we have a new brother and think we're okay with waiting to meet him until Christmas? We're the brood. We don't wait."
"The ... brood," Daniel echoed, suddenly catching on.
With a huge grin, Aislinn said, "I hope our rooms aren't full of junk. You're about to have a full house because we aren't staying in hotels."
Right on cue, Jonny and Little Danny entered the home and just as they were getting their hugs, Jeff and David walked inside. Less than five minutes later, Jennifer, Chenoa, and Lulu added to the happy reunion. Brianna and Ricky arrived one after the other about ten minutes later. Finally, Jenny joined her family, sounding like the grizzly bear her dad was often accused of being.
"My car broke down."
"Jenny, please get a new car," Aislinn pleaded.
"Why? It still works. I just hated the delay. Have I missed anything?"
"Missed ... missed," Billy echoed, still seated on the pad.
"Hey, are you Billy?" Jenny called out as she walked over and sat down by the child.
"Yes, I'm Billy. My name is Billy."
"Well, Billy, my name is Jenny and I'm glad to meet you. Hey, do you like dinosaurs?"
"Oh, big, big."
"We have one, you know."
"We have a dinosaur?"
"His name is Muffin. He doesn't talk, but he's great fun to talk to because he never talks back. He just listens." Jenny looked over at her parents. "Can I show him Muffin?"
"Um, sure," Daniel agreed. "He ..."
"We listened," Jenny interrupted.
JD moved in to help and said, "You have to get him on his feet first. It's not that hard. Then take his hands, raise them up over his head, and you walk behind him."
"Like leading him, from behind?" the redhead asked. "Okay, Billy, let's give it a shot."
"Oh, yes, shot."
Carefully, Jenny helped her brother up and followed JD's instructions to the letter. Billy entered the game room for the first time and was led to the corner where Muffin still stood tall, towering over everything and everyone.
"He's very tall, Billy. I don't think you can touch his face yet, but we'll work on that. Here, this is his leg. Can you feel his ragged skin?"
Jenny helped Billy meet Muffin, at least Muffin's lower body, impressing her parents greatly. Then they all returned to the living room where Billy was returned to the pad.
"He doesn't move from there," Daniel informed the kids quietly.
Jonny took the opportunity to sit down in front of his new sibling and stated, "This is going to be a little complicated." He saw Billy's head cock to his right a bit. "Billy, you are part of a giant family. There's Da..." he looked over at his parents, an important query in his mind.
"Jack and Daniel," Jack answered the unspoken question.
"There's Jack and there's Daniel and you have a whole bunch of brothers and sisters."
Jonny wasn't sure why the boy singled out brothers and not sisters until Daniel advised, "He has a birth brother."
"Okay," the Munchkin acknowledged. "Billy ..." he paused again and looked at his daddy. "Older or younger?"
Jonny nodded and focused again on Billy, saying, "Billy, you have a lot of brothers and sisters. I'm your big, big, big, big ... oh never mind. There's just a bunch of us, like a bunch of bananas."
The comment made Billy laugh.
"Do you like bananas?"
"Bunch of bananas," the boy responded.
"Billy, all of us, all of your brothers and sisters love you. You're part of us now. We're the brood. Billy, you're part of the brood."
"Yeahsureyabetcha!" Jonny chimed, smiling when Billy laughed.
One by one, the kids introduced themselves and slowly learned about Billy. They had dinner and as night fell, Billy was tucked into his special bed, one that prevented him from falling. The cassette tape of his grandparents was turned on, as was the advanced visual monitor now used by the parents to keep an eye on their new son.
The parents and children gathered in the rec room again and began speaking in depth about Billy. The kids told Jack and Daniel they wanted to learn how to care for the boy, too. More than anything, they wanted to be a part of Billy's life.
"There is one ... one more ..." Daniel stammered, unable to get out the words.
Jack grabbed his Love's hand in support and said, "Doctors don't think Billy will live long, but they never have." He explained about the prognosis and how they said Billy would die by the age of three. "We think of him a bit how we think of JD."
"A miracle," JD sighed contently.
"You can never have too many miracles," Aislinn added with a smile of her own. "After all, I'm the original miracle."
In the days that followed, the brood went through a crash course of how to care for Billy. Several of them said they were going to look into taking a regular class later, but for now, they didn't want to be timid around their brother when it came to assisting him with mobility.
The children also made sure their parents had a night out. While their date nights were no longer the needed escape they once were due to their SGC experiences or from having a house full of kids, it was still special to enjoy a night together. The kids were well aware that since fostering Billy, Jack and Daniel had not gone out. Thus, they practically forced the lovers out the door to eat a hearty meal at O'Malley's, dance the night away at one of their favorite same-sex hangouts in Colorado Springs, and then spend the rest of the night at one of the best hotels in the city. They were told not to return until breakfast. They were allowed two check-in phone calls, but that was it. The lovers were nervous being away from Billy for so long, but they treasured their private time greatly.
All too soon, the brood left to return to their individual lives, but from then on, the phone calls to their brother were frequent. It didn't take long for Billy to learn all of their voices and he responded happily to every phone call he received. He loved the assurances as well that the big family would be together again for the upcoming holidays.
During Billy's second year with Jack and Daniel, he turned seven. While he grew a little, his mind was still that of an innocent two-year old. He had regular sessions with physical therapists who came to the work with him. They moved his body, helping him to shake his arms and legs, and they rolled him over from right to left. They often tried to get him to the position where he could move using his hands and knees. It was a slow process, but one day, Billy began to crawl. It was a huge breakthrough.
Of course, Billy crawling meant he was no longer a lump of laundry on the floor. When placed on the pad he was used to sitting on in the rec room, it would take less than a minute for him to start crawling away. It was tiring for the parents who constantly chased Billy around, but it was also exhilarating.
Life continued. Billy did not live in a bubble of the Jackson-O'Neill home. He went out with them all the time, to the park to play, to the doctor's office for checkups, to the store for groceries, and wherever Jack and Daniel needed to go. Most of the time, a traveling wheelchair was used. Otherwise, the boy would have to be carried. Sometimes, they did walk him around, but that proved hard to do on a regular basis when running errands or shopping.
When out, it almost never failed that the parents would hear whispering. It wasn't nasty, but it was something they didn't want to hear: words of pity, words that said the poor child wasn't really living, and words that claimed he'd be better off dead. Many times, Jack and Daniel seethed from hearing those words, but they remained silent, mostly because they didn't want to upset Billy.
At home, at the urging of the therapists, the parents began exercising Billy more by walking him up and down the main stairs. They were told this would strengthen his legs and help the memory muscles to learn the process of walking.
One day, JD was playing with Billy in the rec room. He turned away for a moment to retrieve a Lego from beneath one of the ottoman's. Something told him to look over at his brother. JD's mouth opened and his eyes widened. He held his breath until he finally let out a gasp.
"Billy, what are you looking for?"
"Jerry. Want Jerry."
JD stood and walked slowly over the intercom and spoke calmly, "Dad, Daddy, can you come to the rec room -- now!"
At the room's edge where the kitchen led to the large meeting room, JD perched himself, not surprised when his parents literally ran to his spot.
"Look!" JD exclaimed, drying a tear.
"Wha..." Daniel began.
"Look at that," Jack remarked.
"Hey, Sport, what are doing over there?" Jack called out emotionally.
"Right here, Daddy," JD said, handing the stuffed animal to Daniel. "It was under the sofa."
"How long has he ..." Jack started to ask.
"A minute before I called you. He was playing by the ottoman and I went over there to get a Lego. I don't know why I looked, but something told me to look. I saw him stand up. I mean, he just stood up and started walking around."
Jack pulled the emotional boy to him, hugging him in support.
"Jerry's right here," Daniel stated. "Billy, can you follow my voice and come to me? I'm holding Jerry. He's waiting for you."
Billy turned and went straight to Daniel, who handed him the giraffe. Then the boy amazed everyone by finding his original spot and plopping down.
"Wow," Daniel said.
"Wow doesn't cover it."
Billy's surprising movement wasn't repeated in the weeks that followed, but the therapists told the couple that it was now more important than ever to exercise the boy. The body was learning. He just needed to know how to use the mobility skills he had.
As the year progressed, so did Billy's strength. He crawled with regularity and had no fear of moving all over the place. As the holidays approached, he began to stand up again. He walked slowly, his hands usually up at his sides, his fingers wiggling all about. What mattered was that he was walking. It became easier to take Billy out as the wheelchair wasn't always required.
The child's progress made for a wonderful family holiday when the entire brood returned to the home of their youth and shared in the glory of Billy's progress.
During the next year, Billy turned eight, yet again defying the expectations of his doctors. Jack and Daniel held a big celebration for their son, one attended by most of the brood and several of their extended family members. Billy was doing well, walking more and more. In fact, the big breakthrough was that he learned to say when he needed to go to the bathroom. Up until now, it was always a guessing game. Caregivers could ask Billy if he needed to go, and most of the time, he was accurate in his response, but sometimes he wasn't, which meant there were plenty of accidents over the many months of his living with the couple. Now, though, he was able to say he needed to go the bathroom and with his increased mobility, he could stand up and actually walk to the bathroom on his own. For the parents, that was a huge gift.
The year, however, had one very scary moment those who loved Billy.
"Jack, he has a fever," Daniel told his lover who just walked into Billy's bedroom.
"Kids get fevers."
"It's a hundred and four."
"I'll make the call."
From the beginning, the lovers were warned that fevers and infections were extremely risky for Billy, but this was the first time a fever hit such a high mark. The words of the doctors about Billy's life expectancy silently ripped through both parents. They prayed for the best as the ambulance arrived and delivered Daniel with Billy to the hospital. Jack followed in his Ford truck.
At the hospital, a slew of tests were run on Billy as the parents waited anxiously in the waiting room. Daniel paced as Jack leaned against the wall, playing with a yo-yo he kept in his pocket. It was silly, but it was the general's only way of relieving his own nervousness.
It seemed like days passed until the neurosurgeon appeared and explained, "He has an enormous amount of fluid in his brain. We have to place a shunt in his brain."
"A shunt?" Daniel asked, unaware exactly what that was.
"A shunt is a thin tube that we insert into the ventricles to drain the excess cerebrospinal fluid. This fluid is necessary to protect the brain, like a cushion. It supplies nutrients and also helps eliminate waste."
"You said there's too much fluid," Jack interjected.
"Correct. When there's too much fluid we have what we call hydrocephalus. This means the body's draining mechanism isn't working. The ventricles enlarge, causing them to press against the brain. A number of very dangerous scenarios can ensue. The shunt will help the brain to drain the fluid buildup. I need your permission to operate."
Jack and Daniel looked at one another and quickly agreed to the surgery and implantation of the shunt that would hopefully save their son's life. They signed the necessary releases and were told Billy was being prepped for immediate surgery.
"Should we call?" Daniel asked.
"They'll kill us if we don't."
"Let's, uh, call Ash. She can contact the others," Daniel suggested, not sure he could make through a dozen phone calls himself.
Jack agreed and made the sad call to the Munchkin, who readily agreed to call her siblings. She started with Little Danny, who quickly rounded up the brood living in Colorado Springs. Soon, those kids were sitting with their parents in the waiting room.
Ninety minutes later, the neurosurgeon returned and advised the operation went well. He stated Billy would be watched closely for the next twenty-four hours. It there were no problems, he could go home roughly forty-eight hours after that. The family was given permission to stay in Billy's room once he was released from the intensive care unit where he would be for another hour or so.
Ultimately, Billy recovered nicely from his surgery, but he lost some of the mobility he'd gained over the year. It wasn't a lot, but his strength wasn't the same. In time, the family hoped Billy would regain all that he'd lost. If he didn't, that was okay with them. They were just happy he was still alive.
During Billy's fourth year as a brood member, he and his parents had a surprise visitor.
"Mrs. Rossen," Daniel greeted. "It's nice to see you again," he said, opening the door to allow her inside. "I'm sorry Jack and I haven't been to the orphanage in a while, but ..."
"I understand, Daniel. Billy keeps you busy, I'm sure."
"Yes, he does."
"Um, I hope you don't think I'm interfering, but I'm here because of Billy. Is Jack home? I'd like to speak with both of you."
Jack was called into the living room, leaving Billy with Jonny, who was visiting him on this afternoon, in the train room. The boy loved playing with the trains. Though he couldn't see them, he could touch them, and the sounds of the moving engines was exciting for him. He especially loved his own train, one Jonny gave him for Christmas. Billy named it The Choo Choo, which amused everyone, but it was a good engine and fairly won many of the train races held by his parents and siblings.
After the pleasantries were spoken, the three sat down, Jack and Daniel on the sofa and the woman in Jack's very old but extremely comfortable recliner by the patio door.
"I've been getting updates on Billy from a couple of the therapists."
"Nothing's wrong," Daniel stated.
"Not at all. In fact, they tell me it's time for Billy to start school."
"School?" both parents queried at the same time.
"There are several well accredited special education schools in Colorado Springs and a few of them are close to your home."
"I don't ..." the confused Daniel began. "I mean, school?"
"Daniel, Billy has a lot he can learn and that he needs to learn. Special needs children learn to socialize with one another, to play and talk. You'd be surprised how well they understand each other, even with communication skills that are lacking."
"But ..." Jack started to rebut.
"There are an abundance of life skills for him to absorb and utilize. Billy can learn how to dress himself. He can learn academics. Granted, his mind won't ever take in calculus, but he can learn basic math and other subjects. Tell me, didn't you teach any of your children when they toddlers how to read and write?"
Jack coughed. It's just that their children ended up being little geniuses, so they weren't the best choices for examples of what she was trying to say. However, he did know what she meant.
"Kids do learn early," the general remarked.
"So, Billy can learn some things. Enrich his life, Jack. Educate him about the world. You're be surprised."
"Do you really think it's a good idea?" Daniel questioned.
"Yes. He'll meet other kids his age, mentally and physically, that he can interact with. He'll learn social etiquette. He can learn the difference between Colorado and Florida."
"We can think about it," Daniel offered uncertainly.
Opening her purse, Mrs. Rossen pulled out a piece of paper, handed it to Daniel, and explained, "These are the four best schools for children like Billy in the Springs. I'm well acquainted with all of them. Go drop in, unannounced, and see for yourselves how Billy's life could be enriched." She paused and admitted, "Normally, drop-ins aren't encouraged because of privacy issues, but I've contacted the principals and told about Billy. They're expecting you, whenever you want to come."
The visit lasted several minutes longer, especially when Mrs. Rossen asked to see Billy. She was delighted when he responded to her voice. When she left, Jonny continued to spend time with his brother, while Jack and Daniel contemplated letting their son go to school. It would be a giant step, if they opted to do it.
Months passed and Billy was now a school regular. His parents took turns taking him to and from school. They also volunteered their time at the school and often were able to witness the small advancements Billy made there over time.
One of the little achievements was Billy learning how to dress himself. While his parents selected the wardrobe, he was able to put on his underwear and then his pants, even zipping them up correctly. He had some difficulty with tying his shoelaces, but getting his socks and shoes on was easy for him. To make it easier for the boy, Jack and Daniel purchased shoes with Velcro closures. Billy caught on quickly on how the Velcro worked and no longer had issues with his shoes. He learned to put on his shirt, pulling it over his head. That was sometimes a struggle, especially if he misplaced his arm, which happened from time to time. When that happened, a caregiver stepped in, removing the shirt and encouraging Billy to try it again. He would and was usually successful on the second attempt. Mostly, every morning, he dressed on his own. Though there was never a change with his blindness, he learned how to comb his hair after dressing. It felt like another miracle to those who cared for him.
Jack and Daniel also allowed more socialization for Billy and his friends at school. Special play dates occurred, either at the Jackson-O'Neill residence or at the home of other parents. Sometimes, they met at a park or some other spot where kids loved to spend time. They even went to restaurants or fast food places, something made easier since Billy was learning how better to handle various foods and how to use utensils properly.
There were still the whispers Jack and Daniel hated, the muted words of pity for the poor boy. It was infuriating, but the parents always put it out of their minds as quickly as possible and focused on their son.
Sometimes, Billy spent time with his siblings at their homes. This gave Jack and Daniel some alone time, which was sorely needed as most parents of a special needs child were aware. Being at the other residences also let Billy explore his senses. It was new, spending time in places he didn't know that well. It wasn't scary for him. He always had the familiar voices of his brothers and sisters to reassure him if he ever did get frightened at being in unknown surroundings.
One autumn day, the Shanahans popped in for a visit and the conversation shifted to Billy for a while, especially after Pete played the name game with him, resulting in a loud and jubilant shout-out of, "Billy Martin the thirrrrrrrrd!"
"You never did change his name, did you, Sir?" Sam asked Jack.
"No. You heard him. His name is Billy Martin. It's what he knows and it's who he is," Jack put forth strongly.
"Daniel, where's Jerry?" Billy asked suddenly.
"Let me see." Daniel located the giraffe and said, "Turn around. Take six steps. An ottoman is there and Jerry is in the middle of the ottoman."
Up until this year, the answer to the query would have involved Daniel retrieving the giraffe and handing it to the boy, but now Billy was a little more self-reliant, thanks to training he'd received in school. He was repeatedly instructed in directions, his numbers, and the alphabet, all of which helped him in daily life. This was an example of that fact.
Everyone watched as Billy turned around and counted out his steps, correctly going from one to six. He reached out and felt the furniture. His hands glided over the ottoman until he took hold of the stuffed animal.
"Hello, Jerry!" Billy exclaimed, hugging the item and sitting down to play with it.
"He doesn't call you Dad and Daddy, either," Sam noted.
"No," Daniel affirmed. "He knows his father, Sam. Bill Martin was a good man who was dedicated to his son. Billy talks about him. He remembers games they played and songs they sang. I'm not going to take that away from him."
"We never asked the Mouseketeers or the Mavericks to call us Dad and Daddy. When they were ready, they asked if they could do that," Jack pointed out. He sighed. "Billy doesn't know to ask and we don't want to risk upsetting or confusing him."
"We have his love," Daniel asserted. "We don't need any words or special names to go along with that. We just need his love."
Billy was now age nine and knew how to do many more things than before. He'd regained his lost strength from when his shunt was implanted and gained even more. It was an exciting year, except for the moments when medical issues threatened the excitement. He had a few fevers and one infection, but medication handled it and he avoided any hospital stays.
During the next year, life went on pretty much as it had the year before. Billy now sang in the school choir, something he truly loved. Aislinn, who loved to sing and had an angelic voice, often called and sang to him. She encouraged him to sing with her, too. Oftentimes, she recorded the songs, putting them onto a CD and surprising her parents with in on Father's Day.
Unfortunately, the year was an uneasy one. Billy's shunt failed, an unusual event since it had been in place for over a year. The doctors suspected a broken valve and believed they needed to adjust the amount of pressure being used. That was his first hospital stay.
Billy's second stint in the hospital was due to pneumonia, most likely acquired from one his schoolmates. Because of his vulnerability, the child remain hospitalized for two weeks.
Life was interrupted one more time, just before Thanksgiving when Billy got an infection. Doctors worried about the boy's weakened condition and were concerned the shunt was malfunctioning again. More days were spent in the hospital.
Even with the scares, it was a good year as Billy celebrated an incredible milestone. Even with doctors continuing to predict his death, the boy turned ten years of age. Jack and Daniel held their biggest party in years for their son, who had a great time.
Though Billy was a little weaker with all the downtime in the hospital, he didn't lose his capability to walk or any of the new ways in which he was taking care of himself. He sang merrily during the school's Christmas production in December.
As they entered a new year, Jack and Daniel took great delight in the life of their son.
--Years Six and Seven
Over the course of the next two years, Billy sprouted in height. By chronicle age, he was a pre-teen, a young man. He was handsome, a nice boy who loved to learn, even if what he learned seemed elementary to other boys his age. His mind grew with what he learned, but he was still essentially a two-year old. He laughed, smiled, and sang.
Billy loved the family zoo, especially the beagles who were now experts on the boy, knowing when he needed their comfort and when he needed Jerry the giraffe. He was great with voices. He knew if the visiting person was Aunt Sam, Aunt Sara, or Mrs. Rossen. His face always illuminated in elation when someone he cherished walked in and said hello.
The boy excelled at school, soaking in everything his young mind could handle. He continued to sing in the choir and relate with his fellow students. There were more hospital stays, usually for a few days at a time. His shunt was replaced yet again. Every surgery hit the family hard.
Yet, as the holidays arrived again, the entire Jackson-O'Neill family gave thanks, for their love, for being together, and for the presence of their very special brother.
In the spring of Billy's eighth year with the Jackson-O'Neills, the school held an Easter concert, featuring its choir. As he had for the last few years, Billy sang with the choir, only on this night, he sang the main solo. He was perfect, hitting every note just right, singing every word correctly, and smiling as he did so. His voice was loud and proud as were his very vocal fans.
From the audience, Jack, Daniel, and their brood applauded and stood with great pride. They shouted out praise for Billy, making sure he could hear them and know they were there. His grin told them he was.
The Easter week was a special one with the entire family together, something spurred on when Aislinn learned Billy would be singing the solo. She made sure all of her siblings attended, inexplicably telling them it was very important. She even nagged at a couple who had long-made vacation plans and a couple with important business obligations. Her persistency paid off and everyone was in the audience to cheer Billy on. With the performance over, the family stayed together to celebrate the holiday.
Billy turned thirteen, a true teenager, something the brood made a big deal about. Not all of them were present for the special day, but they all called at some point to wish him a happy birthday and ensure he knew they were thinking about him. They all chuckled a little at Billy's change of voice, something Billy himself didn't understand. He just kept saying his voice was lost and wanted to know where it was.
Then one day, Daniel called Aislinn and whispered, "You'd better come in a hurry."
Aislinn heard her daddy's voice quake and the tears that followed his words. That was all she needed to hear. She made all the calls to the family, and that included their extended family. Within hours, the hospital waiting room was full to capacity. Almost everyone touched by Billy Martin III was there, hugging and giving support to one another.
Jack and Daniel were in their son's hospital room. The teen's temperature was at a critical point. His body suffered from seizures, at least two of which were in the past twelve hours.
The doctors looked solemn when they entered with the latest test results.
"There's nothing we can do," the main neurologist spoke sadly. "The infection is wide spread and the stunt has failed. The pressure against the brain is overwhelming him. The fluid is swallowing him."
"Can't you put in a new shunt?" Jack pleaded.
"His brain has grown too much. The fluid: it's just too much. I'm sorry."
"Will he wake up again?" Daniel asked about the boy who was now in a coma.
"I'm afraid not."
The doctors left the parents alone with Billy. They held his hand and talked to him without stopping. They sang softly.
At one point, the brood was allowed to come in and say their goodbyes, which they quietly did while unable to hold back their sobs of sorrow.
Aislinn was the last of the children to see her brother. She took his hand and sang "Amazing Grace," a song she knew Billy loved. She was stunned when Billy sang a few words with her, but then returned to silence.
"I love you, Billy. You've been the best brother. I wish we had more time together, all of us, but every moment was the best moment. We have a lot of family in Heaven. I know your birth dad is there, too. Let them embrace you, Billy. It's a happiness you've never known. I believe that. I really do. I love you."
When Aislinn left the room, she hugged her parents and watched them return to the room. She kept Billy's brief song to herself, not wanting to give her parents any false hope. She vowed to tell them later. Perhaps, it was one last miracle the boy was able to share.
At dawn, Billy passed away, leaving mortality for what the Jackson-O'Neills believed was a better place. Yet, Jack and Daniel were devastated at the loss and held on to each other for comfort as only the other could give.
At the funeral, almost everyone who loved Billy was there: family, schoolmates and their parents, teachers, doctors and nurses, neighbors, and a few assorted others who knew the teenager. Tender words were spoken, mournful partings uttered, and stories of Billy's life shared. Tears overflowed, sniffles interfered with hearing, and leaders of various faiths gave words of comfort to all.
When the funeral ended, people slowly walked away until finally, Jack and Daniel stood alone with a handful of others still lingering in the area. Many of the attendees approached the parents with condolences, including Mary Jones, a neighbor the family only knew slightly. She expressed her sympathies and then sighed.
"It's a shame, but it's for the best. That sweet boy didn't have much of a life. It's better now that he's gone."
That was it for Daniel. He'd been listening to comments like this for eight years and enough was enough.
"Don't you dare," the archaeologist lashed out. "Don't you dare pity my son or say he's better off dead. Billy was a happy child. He never needed nor wanted pity from you or anyone else. He only wanted love and that's what he got from people with any sense."
"No, Jack," Daniel spoke harshly, shaking off the hold his lover had on his arm. "With no due respect, Mrs. Jones, our son lived a good, rich, and full life. He may have been only thirteen when he died, but I promise you, he accomplished more in those years than you ever have. Our son was happy and he gave us joy, great joy. Don't you understand that? The joy in happiness: that's what Billy gave this world, and if you can't comprehend that, then I pity you." The angry father spat, "Pity him? Don't you dare."
Daniel walked forward to the head of the coffin and kneeled down, sobbing.
Jack stared at the woman in disbelief that she could have said what she said at Billy's funeral.
"Well, I never ..."
"No, you never. That's your problem."
Jack went to his husband, kneeling down and putting his arm around him, tugging him close tightly. Both cried and mourned their loss.
For the rest of the day and evening, the Jackson-O'Neill home was full of mourners who tried not to mourn. More stories about Billy were told and made people laugh. Jack and Daniel were surrounded by those who loved them and tried to ease their pain, though everyone knew they couldn't. Slowly, the crowd lessened until it was just the parents and their brood.
"I think we should sing," Aislinn put forward quietly. "Our song," she added.
For the first time in many years, the family made a circle, joined hands, and sang, "Celebrate Me Home," until their words turned into tears one more time. Still, they felt better when they were done.
One by one, most of the kids left the home to return to theirs and the others staying at their parents' house went to bed.
Jack and Daniel found themselves on the aerie, silent for long minutes as each lamented Billy's passing.
"Jack, I really felt the way I said, to Mrs. Jones."
"Well, yes, but that's not what I meant." Daniel paused and repeated his words: "The joy in happiness." He gulped and continued. "Billy was always happy. He didn't know all the negativity of the world. Everything was good to him. His laugh, his smile, his sweet voice: all full of goodness, and when I looked at him, I always felt extreme ... joy. His happiness made me joyful."
"I know exactly what you mean. I've never met a kid like Billy."
"What happened to him was tragic, but all he knew was goodness It made him cheerful."
"He'll always be part of us, Danny. We won't forget, and every time we picture him, we'll feel that joy."
"I know." Daniel sighed looked upward and spoke, "Be at peace, Billy. We love you and we'll see you again sometime."
For Jack and Daniel of Colorado Springs, this day was arguably the toughest day of their lives, but the last eight years were years of great challenges and equally great joy. Life wasn't over. They still had twelve marvelous children and a zoo to fill their lives, but Billy Martin III would always be a very special part of who they are. The joy in happiness became a phrase oft uttered and a verbal remembrance of a very special boy.
~Finis - Finished - Done - The End - But is it ever Really?~~Postscript from the author: This story was inspired by a real little boy named Billy who I loved very much and was extremely privileged to know. While elements of the story are fictionalized, enhanced, or otherwise altered, the essence of Billy is as written. He was truly the happiest person on Earth. With the mind of a two-year-old, he learned to accomplish many things. He was once truly that lump of laundry that never moved who eventually became like an adventurous baby crawling all over the place. He did learn how to stand; he did go to school; he did sing in the school choir. He always lit up when someone he loved entered the room and he did remember the voices of those who he loved. There was a misdiagnosis and improper treatment that altered the lives of Billy and his family forever, but in the end, it is his smile, his laughter, and his sweet voice that I remember, all these many years later. Years ago, several readers requested Jack and Daniel adopt a special needs child. I knew I couldn't write it on an ongoing basis, but for some reason this year, as I thought of Billy, it seemed appropriate to share the joy of Billy by letting him also be the joy in happiness for Jack and Daniel. It's also my hope that anyone who pities a child with disabilities will cease and desist. Billy didn't need pity; he needed love. He was incredibly happy all the time. That's what he knew. Can you imagine living a life where you were constantly happy? Well, Billy did. Pity serves no one. Thank you for reading and I hope everyone understands the special love of this child and understands the gift of the joy in happiness that he gave to those he touched.
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