The Last Hour of Christmas

Author: Orrymain
Category: Slash, Drama, Romance, Established Relationship
Pairing: Jack/Daniel ... and it's all J/D
Rating: PG-13
Season: Beyond the Series - December 25, 2018
Spoilers: None
Written: April 10-11,25, 2011, December 14-16, 2018, January 17-18, 21, & 31, 2021
Summary: It's another Christmas for Jack and Daniel, one marked by sentiment and a coming of age ritual for many of their brood.
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): "Evil Winds" and “General Jonny Comes of Age”

The Last Hour of Christmas
by Orrymain

Jack and Daniel had their entire brood seated in front of them in the recreation room. Some were on the sofa or seated in chairs, but most were on the floor pillows, surrounded by the new toys, gadgets, and accessories of all types that Santa brought them very early in the morning. It was late in the evening now in what was essentially the last hour of Christmas for the children. Starting tomorrow, the focus would be on the new year and thoughts of its promise for the future.

The bright smiles and energetic faces brought great joy to the parents. With several members of their animal zoo in the room, too, it made everything complete.

“Now?” Daniel quietly asked his lover.

“Yeah,” Jack agreed. “Need help with that?” he asked JD, the youngest of the children being just a week shy of six years old.

Daniel smiled as he watched Jack kneel down to help their son with a remote control fighter jet.

~Keep trying, Babe, but I think JD's headed on the scientific fast track,~ the archaeologist mused as he walked away.

====

A few minutes later, Daniel returned from his husband's study with two large tote bags of gifts that were hidden away. Seeing the archaeologist, Jack gave JD more word of encouragement and then stood to join Daniel.

“You ready for this?” Jack asked.

“Jack, this isn't exactly the end of the world.”

“Maybe not exactly, but ...”

“I know,” Daniel sighed. “They're not babies anymore.”

“Sometimes when we're saying goodnight, they look like babies,” the older man admitted.

“To me, too.”

“What's in the bags?” Aislinn inquired with a smile that was grinning from anticipation of more presents.

“Hey, more presents!” Ricky called out as his cheeks reddened with excitement.

“We love presents,” Chenoa, a teenager as of two months ago, interjected with twinkling eyes.

“Settle down,” Jack ordered, motioning with his hands for everyone to stay where they were. “Daddy is going to hand out two more presents for each of you, but do *not* open them until we give you the go ahead.”

“Covert,” Jonny laughed.

As Daniel distributed the gifts, Jack took a moment to gaze at their children, starting with their oldest. At age twenty-three, Jennifer wasn't a child anymore. Rather, she was a college graduate and a grown woman, married and with a baby of her own. While her immediate family enjoyed part of the day at the Jackson-O'Neill home, they returned to their own house a few hours ago. At her parents request, however, Jennifer arrived back at her parents' residence a few minutes ago to be present for what was about to happen.

On the sofa sat Jeff, also no longer a child. Like his older sister, he was a college graduate, a full-fledged architect, employed and making progress in his future. Part of that future was Chely Tillison, his fiancee. The two were deeply engrossed in making decisions about their marriage and the children they hoped to raise. Their wedding date wasn't set yet, but it was expected to take place early in the new year.

Sitting on the floor in front of the sofa was eighteen-year-old Brianna, the tomboy of the family who no longer looked quite so tomboyish. The retired general wondered what happened to that snarky Gretzky-loving hockey player. He knew she still loved hockey; they played now and then. Even so, the Maverick was a natural beauty in her own right, and she was still involved with her long distance boyfriend, Conway Bell of McBee, South Carolina. Having graduated from homeschooling and received her high school diploma last year, she was currently enrolled at the University of Colorado at Denver. Brianna was as determined as ever to be a marine biologist and dolphin advocate.

Along with JD, the Munchkins, Spitfires, and Curly Tops were on the floor pillows. The triplets turned twelve in September, while the twins were now eleven. Jack could barely believe his little babies now stood so tall with independent minds and personal desires. They were growing up and nothing he could do would stop it. As he looked into their eyes, he saw pieces of himself, Daniel, and Kayla Armentrout, the birth mother of the triplets and the twins. It was like looking in the mirror and that both excited and terrified him.

Jonny was as military as ever, though he loved science, too. He and Little Danny often told their parents that they were the perfect blend of them. After all, both boys were smart in the tactical aspects of life and they both loved to dig in the dirt, as Jack mused now as he thought about the odd combination. Jonny was determined to figure out a way that both boys could join the Air Force while also going on archaeological digs. Jack chuckled inwardly at his namesake's presumed girlfriend, Tootie. It was an unofficial relationship, but Tootie really had Jonny's number and was about the only person who could call Jonny on his little general behavior and attitude and come out the winner. The two kids met during the holidays six years earlier and talked a lot on the phone and over the computer.

For his part, Little Danny didn't mind the military, but he didn't want to do anything that meant killing people. More like Daniel in that respect, the unofficial leader of the brood held a strong passion for life, which is why the family maintained a full blown turkey sanctuary and why the boy ate more like a vegetarian with each passing year. Jack wondered if his very sensitive son would develop a long term union with Carrie Lapierre now that he was forcibly over his crush of Karissa Lewis, now Karissa St. James after she was married earlier in the year. He and Carrie were best friends; that is, except for his siblings.

The youngest Munchkin, Aislinn, was the belle of every ball, if there were balls. Her beauty, inside and out, won over every heart. She had an equally enchanting singing voice. For a period of time, Jonny was her agent. She sang not just at events in Colorado, but all over the country, something that began with an accidental posting of a video online some time ago. Now, though, she focused more on benefits, charities, and other ways in which her singing could help people and sing for the joy and not for money. She'd already had dozens of boyfriends in her lifetime, though none of the relationships were ever that serious. She simply flitted from one boy to the next, like a butterfly exhibiting its beauty. Jack just hoped he'd be able to ward off the leaches when the Munchkin officially began dating and wanted to do more than talk about her doll collection and ways of saving the world from hunger, which was becoming a favorite topic of hers lately.

Jenny was feisty, unafraid, strong, and determined. Her red hair was almost stereotypical of her personality. Her intelligence was high, as much from observing her genius older siblings as it was from her homeschooling. She had a penchant for cheerleading, a passion that befuddled her parents though they supported her every step of the way as she cheered for any local team or school that would let her. Boys loved her, but she tended to be unimpressed except for purely friendship couplings. Jack could still count on the Spitfire to help him work on his truck or do repairs around the house.

Then there was Ricky, the architect phenom who still wowed his family with amazing drawings on his Etch-A-Sketch, though he now also had software programs and other equipment to put his skills to use. He was always happy, no matter what. His mind tended to focus on what was important in life, and it never upset him to be different from everyone else. Jack was relieved that the boy's old and tattered blue blanket now had a more appropriate home on Ricky's bed instead of on his hip, where it was for most of the boy's life.

The giggles of the Curly Tops made Jack smile. Chenoa at thirteen still looked like Shirley Temple with her blonde locks and bright grins. Once frightened and lagging behind in her speech development, she was now above average and ahead of her peers. She actually didn't know exactly how far she'd come, but even so, her confidence in life jumped leaps and bounds as one year became another. Jack still groaned at the tap dancer's own version of a long distance boyfriend, K'hang, who was Teal'c's grandson. The general was amazed that his young daughter didn't just have a Chulakian boyfriend, but also served as an official ambassador from Earth to an off-world ally.

As for Lulu, she'd beaten her demons, the ones brought on from abusive adults who failed to even comprehend the meaning of the word 'parent'. Now a teenager of fourteen, her counseling sessions were reduced to once a month. She hadn't had a nightmare in two years, not since she'd fended off Kevin Guyer and reclaimed her right to a happy life. She was a joyful ballet dancer with so much to look forward to as she aged.

Sitting on a chair as he closely examined his new rock miner's kit that was full of geologist tools, David was far from the insecure boy with the oft broken glasses he'd been when Jack and Daniel first met him. He was a teenager at seventeen, almost a young adult. He was enrolled in college and putting in time at J-O Enterprises. Sometimes overshadowed by Little Danny the child prodigy, David wasn't far from that prodigy label himself. Jack admired his son's humility and charity. The teen was never bothered by the intelligence of Little Danny or the others, some of whom also possessed very high IQs. David actually looked a lot like Daniel. He had the longer, shaggy hair, wore the same style of wire glasses, and shared his compassion for the world. Since the family's trip to India, he was also active in environmental concerns, something encouraged and nurtured by Brianna.

Jack took a breath. He and Daniel had waited so long to begin their life together and have this family and now it was simply moving by too fast. He wanted more time, much more time.

“Okay, everyone should have two packages,” Daniel reminded as he handed JD the last of his two packages. “Don't open them yet.” He walked over to his soulmate, his back to the brood. “Are you okay?”

“How old do they look to you?” Jack asked in a near whisper.

“About two, give or take a few years,” Daniel answered with a comprehending smile.

The general let out a groan and snapped himself out of his lamentations by calling out, “Brood, you have presents.”

“We *know* that, Dad,” Jonny sighed. “Can we open them now?”

“Not yet,” Daniel answered as he turned to face the children. “The first package to open is the green one.”

“Go ahead,” Jack told the kids. “It's something fun.”

The children were excited to get brand new mini-cams, which meant the end to their often purchased disposable cameras. They were highly featured cameras, and each was engraved with the child's name. Since Jack and Daniel charged the mini-cams before wrapping them, the children spent the next few minutes taking still and video images of their family. Even JD was in on the fun, not needing a bit of help in figuring out how to turn on the mini-cam and select the option he wanted.

“Now that's scary,” Jack whispered.

“Oh yeah,” Daniel agreed.

====

With the children settled down, it was time to open the second package, which was red. When the kids saw their gifts, their eyes nearly bugged out of their heads. It was a simple, familiar thing and yet it was full of something all the children desired, independence, freedom, and a feeling of being grown up, at least to an extent.

“Wow, my own key,” Ricky gasped.

“Daddy, is this to our house?” Aislinn inquired, her voice nearly trembling from the possibility.

“Is it?” Chenoa asked with restraint.

“Yes, that's right,” Daniel confirmed. “Dad and I decided it was time for all of you to have your own key to the house.”

“We haven't forgotten what Jonny went through earlier this year when he and Jerry rescued the Hoagland girls,” Jack stated as he recalled Penny and Meg Hoagland who were abused at the hand of their father until Jonny and his best friend, Jerry Portman, reacted to their instincts and freed the youngsters from their plight. “But there are rules.”

“That's very important.”

“It's plastic,” JD mumbled. “Mine's not real.”

Daniel walked over and sat down in front of his youngest son and, with a smile, replied, “Yes, it is real, but it's ... different.” He held out his hand and caressed the child who would be seven in just a week. “I know you won't like this, but you're still a little young to have a key, but it won't be that long.” Nostalgically, he added, “Stay a little boy, for just a while longer, okay?”

Jonny leaned over and whispered into his brother's ear, “Dad and Daddy need someone to be the baby 'cause we're all getting older. Don't worry, JD, I'll get you a key as soon as they'll let me. I promise.”

“Okay, I'll practice with the fake key,” JD agreed. “For a little while, until Jonny gets me a real one.”

Jack gave his namesake a warning expression that lasted until the Munchkin squirmed. There would be no making of any unauthorized keys. The message was received, loud and clear.

Daniel stood and returned to Jack's side.

“Hey, no key here, but I love the key chain,” Brianna praised about the chain accentuated with a dolphin. “Thanks!”

“Mine's pretty cool, too. Thank you,” Jeff spoke as he held up the Ford truck key chain for all to see.

"This is neat, too," David spoke about his Jeep Wrangler chain. "I'll put it over the rear view mirror."

Naturally, the oldest members of the brood were previously given keys to the residence. Since Jennifer, Jeff, Brianna, and David already possessed the prized item, they were given key rings or key chains in their red packages.

Daniel looked out over the brood and for a moment saw only babies and young children. He pictured Jeff at five or six years old, running around and asking all kinds of questions about the Air Force. He saw questioning looks as the child Jeff heard about war and killing, but he also saw a boy who loved air planes and who wanted to be like his dad in the best way possible.

Switching his view to Brianna, Daniel imagined the tomboy taking refuge in a tree, hiding from a nightmarish life, one made of loneliness and abandonment. Yet, he saw hope in the girl's heart. All she wanted was a family and some time. The girl was sad, but deep inside, a wealth of potential was present. She could go far with her dreams, if given the chance. He saw her exploring the world around her, trying to learn even as reality kept hitting her in the face.

Daniel noticed David studying the key chain. It was just a chain with the logo of the vehicle he drove, but David was a genius whose mind always sought to learn and examine the world around him. Though rocks were his thing, David loved astronomy and that feeling of discovery. When he looked into the boy's eyes, Daniel saw a familiar desire to learn. David resembled him a lot, not just physically but emotionally. Those first few visits with the Morgan children were filled with snark from David. He was bullied, but it didn't define him and it didn't scare him, at least not on the outside. David could truly be his own son. Daniel laughed at his thought because David was his son, as much as Jennifer, Chenoa, Jeff, Brianna, and Lulu were. They were all his children as much as the Munchkins, the Spitfires, and JD were. He loved them all and couldn't imagine life without any of them.

Next, the father smiled at Lulubelle, remembering the first time he saw her. The Munchkins and the twins brought the girl with the black locks home as a stray, one they were determined to keep. Daniel recalled the instant when he truly became aware of the girl's horror. He saw her eyes widen, the whites of her terrified eyes prevalent. It was a look he never wanted to see again. He kept smiling at his daughter whose eyes now were happy and free. That's the expression he wanted to see every single day on the dancer's face.

The father's focus shifted to the family's other dancer, Chenoa. She was a sweetheart from the beginning. Jennifer was so very protective about the white dove, as was David. Chenoa stole his heart from the get go. She wasn't even two when he met her. She was innocent and vulnerable. He could never let her or her siblings stay in a foster home or shelter. It wasn't going to happen and, of course, it never did.

Daniel's attention was drawn to the Munchkins as they laughed about something. He saw their bright smiles and their obvious devotion to one another. They had Munchkin power. He wasn't sure what that was except it cemented their bond even further. He saw himself in the triplets and his husband as well. Jonny wanted so much to be just like Jack and he was well aware that Little Danny had his sensitivities. Aislinn? Well, she ruled the Munchkins, quietly and subtly. He saw Kayla in Aislinn, too. In fact, he sensed that the older the Munchkin got, the more she felt as Kayla did, with her own special outlook on life.

Then Daniel thought about the Spitfires. His eyes were drawn to them. Jenny was full of fire and adventure. He wasn't sure if that was the influence of her parents or her mother. Maybe it was a bit of all three. The girl was fierce. He knew she'd get the best of any Goa'uld in her path, which is why he worried a bit more about her than the others. Her fierceness was exactly the thing that could get her in trouble one day. She wasn't afraid of much. He smiled. Jenny was like her parents.

Daniel looked down at JD who was playing with his fake key. Maybe they should have given him a real one. The purely biological child of he and Jack, JD exhibited an amazing understanding of mathematical and genetic science. The youngster didn't quite understand his own knowledge, but at this tender age, he already played a huge role in assisting the Asgard with the saving of their race. Great progress was being made and JD was getting the credit, secretly. For his protection, Thor and his people were safeguarding JD's role in their survival, something for which the couple was extremely grateful. JD's future was limitless, but then he believed that was true for all of the brood.

The archaeologist closed his eyes, picturing Jennifer as a four- or five-year-old little girl. She was an only child at that point, the angel of her father's eyes and the joy of her mother's heart. He saw happiness in the young girl's aura as her mother showed her how to sew for the very first time.

Letting out one more sigh, Daniel could feel Jack looking at him. He opened his eyes and smiled. It was time to ask the brood a very important question.

“Uh, Dad and I need to ask you a question,” the archaeologist spoke. “We, uh ... we ... uh.” He shook his head and looked at his soulmate. **You ask. I can't.**

Jack put his arm around his lover's waist and pulled him close. Staring at the growing children, he understood. They wanted so much to keep the brood safe. The question wasn't a difficult one, but it was a reminder of their genius, their closeness, and their potential to get into trouble unintentionally. Not only that, it would confirm just how difficult it really was to keep a group of intelligent children with inquiring minds safe, even in their own home.

“You know that Daddy and I change the security code at least once a week. We wish we didn't have to change it so often, but you all know we do it for a reason. It's not a choice; it's a necessity. Raise your hands if you know what the current code is. Raise them now.”

Lots of heads went down. There were evasive looks to the right, to the left, in front of them, and behind them. Hands rubbed together nervously while tiny sighs and gulps of air were heard.

Finally, Little Danny took a giant breath as he raised his hand.

“Oh, for crying out loud,” Brianna exclaimed as her hand went up.

“Have to be honorable,” Chenoa admitted as she lifted her arm high up.

By the time the admissions were done, only the Spitfires and JD didn't have their hands up.

"How come we don't know it?" Ricky asked his twin.

"I guess we haven't been in the right place at the right time," Jenny answered with a shrug.

"I know why I don't know it," JD said. "I'm too young."

The remark lightened the load with plenty of giggles going around.

"We thought so. Let me guess. You see us changing it? You hack it. You guess. Someone who is given the code to turn the system on or off blabs it to someone who blabs it to someone who blabs it ... and so on. Am I right?" the general probed.

"Pretty much," Jonny responded weakly.

"New rules," Jack stated. "The code is to protect this family. It will continue to be changed at least once and maybe now twice a week. You are *not* to talk with your siblings, or anyone else, about our code. Is that understood?"

A chorus of "Yes, Sir," rang out.

"In the past, Jennifer and Jeff were always given the code," Daniel told the children.

"Don't look at me," Jeff whined when his siblings all stared at him. "It's not my fault we're the oldest. It just worked out that way."

Again, there were a few chuckles that eased the strain.

"With Jen married and Jeff engaged, we started providing the code to Brianna and David as well. Both were attending college and it seemed the natural thing to do."

"Listen up," Jack called out. "The new codes will now be given ..."

The amount of anticipation was huge among the children. They all wanted to know the codes. It sure would make coming and going a lot easier. All eyes and ears were focused on and tuned into the silver-haired man.

"... everybody."

Cheers were shouted, high-fives exchanged, and hugs of joy given to one another. This was a very happy brood, almost.

With a sigh, JD said, "But not me, right? I know, I'm too young."

Jack actually picked up his son and said, "It's hard to be the youngest, but there will come a day when it won't matter that you're the youngest."

"Promise?"

"Cross my heart," Jack vowed, giving the boy a kiss on the forehead before putting him down. "Attention!" he called out to the wildly happy bunch of kids in front of him.

"You need to understand that having the codes means being responsible. Those codes protect not just you, but everyone sitting near you at this moment, and that includes Jen's family and maybe even our extended family. If you don't take this seriously, there will be no second chances. Let me be absolutely crystal clear on that. If you misuse the code, if you say it out loud, whisper it to a friend, write it down, carry it around so you can lose it or someone can accidentally or on purpose find it: do any of these things, and none of you will have the codes. You break the rules, you break it for everyone, except for whoever is technically the oldest at the time."

"Dad just means we always need at least one of you to know the code. It's backup, especially when we're at J-O or out for whatever reason. We don't want to frighten you, but all you have to do is think back to some of the not-so-fun incidents of the past to know this is a serious thing. We are trusting you for two reasons. First, you've earned the privilege of having a key and being able to use it by turning the security system on and off on your own. Each and every one of you have proven that you are trustworthy. Second, you aren't babies anymore and, well, having a key to your own home shouldn't be a forbidden thing once you become teenagers."

"We're close enough?" Ricky jested.

"Yes, barely," Jack teased in return.

"Does everyone understand the rules?" Jack asked, seeing heads bobbing up and down. "Does everyone realize the responsibility being entrusted to them?" Again, there were nods by all of the children, except for JD who bowed his head and frowned from being too young. "Good. There's more."

Reaching into the second bag that once held the wrapped keys, Jack began removing smartphones. These were the mobile phones his children owned. He'd taken the phones from them several days ago for an unexplained reason. At the time, it was upsetting for the kids, who knew they hadn't disobeyed any of the mobile phone rules. They all used their phones much less than any of their friends, never bringing it to the meal table or family meetings, gatherings, or other events. At the time, Jack simply asked them to trust him, promising they would get the phones back soon. Now was that time.

"Our phones!" Aislinn exclaimed happily.

Jack and Daniel returned all of the phones to the children, including Jennifer who hearkened to their request for her phone as well. They also took hold of their own personal phones, which were in the bag with those of the children.

"What did you do to them?" a curious Jonny inquired.

Before the parents could say a word, a query was heard.

“Hey, what's this app?” Brianna questioned upon discovery a new software application on her phone.

With a glance at his lover, Daniel suggested, “Try it, Bri.”

“But only Bri,” Jack instructed.

The app button was right on the main screen , along with normal selections such as text, camera, app store, and settings. This one, however, was called 'safe'.

Brianna hit the appropriate button, but nothing happened.

“Press it again with your thumb,” Daniel directed.

“I don't get it,” Brianna replied, frustrated when she did as told but nothing happened.

“Now, do it one more time, and say your name at the same time.”

Shrugging, Brianna hit the safe app one more time with her thumb while also saying her name.

“Hey, it changed colors,” the teenager observed.

With a smile, Daniel told his daughter to press the button again.

“Okay, I pressed it, so now wh...”

“Where'd she go?” Jenny asked, looking all around the room in confusion.

“Uncle Thor!” JD exclaimed, recognizing the beaming pattern.

Reappearing a few seconds later, Brianna smiled and relayed, “Thor says hi.”

“That's so cool,” Aislinn opined.

“Listen up,” Jack called out. “One at a time. Mouseketeers first, in birth order. Jen, go.”

“It imprints our thumb prints,” Jenny surmised.

“Exactly,” Daniel confirmed. “Bri, give your phone to Jenny for a minute. Jenny, give it a try.”

“Nothing, Daddy.”

“Because you don't have my thumb,” Brianna teased.

Jack pointed out, “No one but you can press that button.”

“What happens when Thor isn't in the neighborhood?” Jonny chuckled, well aware by now that the Asgard weren't always in listening range.

“Well, nothing's perfect,” Jack sighed. “It has a long range. Even if the Daniel Jackson or another vessel isn't close enough to respond, the Asgard will get the signal eventually. It might be a delayed response.”

“Brood, you know that you should ...”

“Can you repeat that, Daddy,” Jennifer mused when she beamed back into the rec room. “I was sort of out of hearing range for a minute.”

“Me, too?” JD asked when it was his turn. “My phone's fake.”

“Not all the way,” Daniel answered. “Go ahead.”

A minute later, JD giggled as he returned to the familiarity of his home.

"It works for me! I have an app," JD giggled with total glee. “Uncle Thor said he has to go now,” the youngster stated, still giggling.

Jack activated the program on his device and hit a special communication button that was only on his and Daniel's phone.

“Thor, we thank you, again. Safe travels.”

“Remind Little Thor to eat all his veggies,” Thor responded before closing the communication link.

Jack's head jerked back a bit at the comment and then put forth, “I think Thor's getting a sense of humor.”

“Why not, Babe? The Asgard aren't dying anymore. I've sensed a change in them recently.”

“Because of JD,” Little Danny praised, giving his brother a hug as everyone paused for a moment to recall the recent miracle when JD successfully assisted Asgard scientists in finding the solution to their cloning issues.

“Back to business,” Jack stated, putting his phone in his pocket and then rubbing his hands together excitedly. “Do not abuse the safe app. It's for danger, and you all know what that means.”

“We wish you didn't,” Daniel added softly with some emotion. “Gawd, I wish ... I really wish none of you had a clue what we're concerned about, but you do, and you've had to deal with situations that children shouldn't have to, including our overprotectiveness.”

“It's because you love us, Daddy,” Aislinn interjected with a sweet smile that warmed her daddy's heart.

“Oh yeah,” Jack affirmed for his husband.

“We have an app, too,” Ricky pointed out.

In fact, there were three more apps. One was marked 'DD', another 'J-O', and the last was labeled 'Brood'.

“How come we didn't see them before?” Lulu wondered since the app buttons hadn't been visible to the eye until a few moments ago.

“Because the 'safe' button activated them,” Daniel answered. “JD, hit the 'Brood' app.

Hitting the button, every single phone in the room rang, except for the parents.

“Now that's really cool,” Aislinn opined strongly. “Is this you?” she asked, jumping ahead and hitting the 'DD' button, smiling when she heard the two phones go off.

“Do *not* press the 'J-O' app,” Jack ordered, giving the youngest Munchkin a look of warning at having lacked the patience to wait for the instruction to do so. “Look, kids, these aren't playthings, and if you can't show responsibility, you won't have a phone for long.”

“I'm sorry, Dad,” Aislinn apologized contritely.

“These four apps are for emergencies. They are *not* for normal calls. You use the phone directory or your fingers to call us for a normal situation. All of these buttons set into motion an emergency situation. You need a ride home. What do you do?”

“Dial our home phone,” Jonny answered quickly.

“You're lost,” Jack put forth.

“The 'DD' button,” Little Danny surmised.

“You don't get an answer,” Daniel amended.

“The 'Brood' button,” Lulu called out.

“Someone takes you by force,” the archaeologist stated.

“Uncle Thor!” JD asserted with a confident smile.

The parents ran through a number of alarming situations, making sure the children knew when it was appropriate to use any of the four special apps. They also elaborated on why it wasn't a good thing to use any of the apps with frequency. In fact, they showed them, via a 3D simulation that had been prepared in advance, the dangers of misusing the apps.

“So you see, if certain responses aren't done to stop these actions, responses will come, and swiftly, from SGC, the Colorado Springs Police Department, and other family members. Now I'm sure you don't want to have to pay the police department for their time if you get lazy and try to call Dad to make a pizza run,” Daniel put forth.

“And Aunt Sam might not be very happy if she is in the middle of quality time with her family and comes running just to see you can't find the ice cream,” Jack added.

“Nor do you want to worry Aunt Sara or Grandpa needlessly,” Daniel stated strongly.

All in all, Jack and Daniel were pleased with the response to their special gifts. They didn't believe any of their children would shirk their responsibilities and break the rules, neither with the keys nor with the apps on their phones, but they had to remind the children of the importance of trust and safety. They were thankful to Sam and Thor for developing and installing the apps that also had some unmentioned protective safeguards that included the phones disintegrating if someone other than the owner attempted to use the apps with regularity. The app remembered the fingerprints of those pressing the buttons and one too many attempts would result in the sending of the last fingerprints used to Stargate Command, the local police department, and to Sam, privately. The phone would then self-destruct.

While Jack and Daniel chose not to mention the safeguards, they did remind the brood not to allow friends or anyone else to use their phones for any reason. They provided multiple examples, including that if a friend wanted to give them their phone number, they should have the friend tell them the number and input it into their phones themselves.

Out of an abundance of caution, the safeguards on Jennifer's phone did not include the self-destruct. There was too much of a chance that baby Sophie could easily put fingers on the phone and set off the warning system. After marrying Chely Tillison, the safeguards would also be removed from Jeff's phone once they started a family.

====

Gift time was over and the younger children were in bed. The parents made very quick goodnight rounds since they had something important to attend to before it got too late. Jeff left the residence to spend a couple of Christmas hours with his beloved.

Jennifer remained, again at the request of her dad and daddy. She smiled as she sat down on the sofa in her older father's study. Daniel was seated to her right on the furniture, while Jack was leaning back against his desk. He grabbed a paperweight to bounce in his hands as he anticipated the conversation.

“Jen, Dad and I have something very important to talk about with you, and it's important to us that you keep what we talk about to yourself,” Daniel stated.

Her curiosity piqued, Jennifer hadn't had a second to reply when her dad interjected an elaboration of Daniel's point.

“Princess, that means we'd like you to keep this a secret from your siblings, your friends ... everyone,” Jack stated seriously.

“Okay,” the confused one woman responded.

“Look, it's nothing bad,” Daniel assured, taking her hand and squeezing it gently. “It's just you know how we are about allowing all of you to grow up on your terms, to be children and not have to worry about ... about certain things.”

“Okay,” Jennifer repeated, feeling very uncertain by the odd discussion.

“Jen,” Jack began, letting the paperweight drop his hands downward for the moment, “you know that J-O Enterprises is a dream of Daddy's and mine, and that it has done very well for all of us.”

“Is something wrong?”

“No, Sweetie, it's all good,” Daniel assured with an affirming smile. “J-O is more solid than ever.”

“Here's the deal,” Jack interjected. “Before any of you were gleams in our eyes, we set up accounts.”

“You did?”

“We wanted to make sure that all of our children would have the education they deserved,” Daniel elucidated. “It began with savings bonds.”

“As we gained a kid, or three, or two, or three,” Jack mused with a grin since the brood had grown in multiples with the sole exception of JD, “we set up accounts ...”

“... which grew into trust funds ...”

“... and an optional piece of the J-O puzzle,” Jack completed.

“I'm not sure I understand,” Jennifer stated.

“Over time, the bonds grew, the investments we made expressly for the bonds were successful, and the profits from J-O that we earmarked for all of you added up to a ... a decent amount, an amount we originally intended to make available for you during college.”

“I've graduated from college.”

“Yes, you did,” Daniel acknowledged with pride. “Jen, we considered giving you the bonds up front, but you were so independent, and that caused us to reconsider and go with Mark's suggestion of letting the trust funds mature when you're twenty-five.”

Daniel was referring to Mark Kingston, the family's trusted lawyer.

“Your work for Alex, the part-time gig working with Karissa at the office,” Jack listed with a shrug. “Princess, you just didn't seem to want anything handed to you, so we paid the tuition and expenses and let you earn your way otherwise.”

“It *is* what I wanted,” Jennifer admitted. “I never felt pressured financially, but I liked that I earned my own money for, well, my clothes and things. It made me feel grown up,” she added with a smile.

“And look at you,” Daniel spoke softly. “You're a beautiful woman, married, and with a family of your own, a life away from us.”

“I wish you wouldn't say it like that,” Jennifer sighed, bowing her head.

“Jen, that's the cycle of life,” Jack offered.

“What is this about?”

“This,” Daniel answered, letting go of her hand and reaching into the pocket of his shirt and handing his daughter a piece of paper. He watched as Jennifer took the small white handout and slowly opened it. As her eyes widened, he continued, “That's how much your trust fund is worth today. Like all of the ones we have for the brood, that amount is yours when you're twenty-five.”

“Wow,” Jennifer whispered, totally unprepared for the dollar amount she was staring at.

“Now we know that as Mrs. Peter Hamilton, you're very secure,” Daniel stated, “but this money is yours, to do with what you want.”

“Invest it, bank it, spend it: whatever you want,” Jack pointed out.

“Or ... you can utilize another option,” Daniel put forth.

“Which is?”

“J-O,” Jack stated. “Jen, Daddy and I want all of you to have the chance to opt-in to J-O, if you like. You can use this money to invest and become a family shareholder.”

“You mean, I'd really have my own piece of J-O?”

“Exactly,” Daniel confirmed. “Uh, Mark prepared this for us,” he mentioned as he reached over and grabbed a large folder that was sealed. “It lays out the details.”

“There's no rush on this,” Jack advised the young woman. “The reason we're telling you today is so that you have time to research and mull it over. This decision is yours.”

“What we said earlier about not talking about, I think you understand why we're making that request.”

“The plan is to do the same with your siblings when they come within a year or so of their twenty-fifth birthdays,” the general informed as he put the paperweight back on the desk.

“You can discuss this with Peter; he's your husband and has a right to at least know your options, if you choose,” Daniel stated.

“One of the options Mark has arranged for is if you want to more or less be a silent shareholder, meaning you'd invest less in J-O, but it would safeguard your position within the company, you can. Nothing could happen to it without you being a part of that decision.”

“I think I understand,” Jennifer responded.

“Don't feel obligated, Jen,” Daniel told his daughter. “This company was my dream, and Dad has learned to love it, because of me, and we'd feel great if our children wanted to carry on with that dream to some extent, but you aren't obligated to, and we don't want you to feel like you ... well ...”

“Daddy, I love J-O, and I love you both very much,” Jennifer interrupted. “I want to look it all over, but I can already tell you that I won't ever walk away from it. I feel so honored that you'd allow me, and my brothers and sisters, to share the dream, for real, and not just as the brood following you around the world on digs.”

“Take your time on deciding,” Daniel urged.

“We just need to know within a few weeks of your birthday,” Jack advised his daughter.

====

"She was shocked," Daniel observed about Jennifer as he chatted with his husband in the kitchen.

Jack was fixing a couple of sandwiches for he and his husband and replied, "I didn't think eyes could get so big."

"It was a big check, Babe. That, uh, would be a lot for anyone."

Jack chuckled, "Crap, I hate to think what I would have done with it when I was her age."

"It sure would have made things different," Daniel opined with some melancholy as he thought back over his younger years. "What do you think she'll do?"

"Danny, I think Jen's searching. She wants to be a good wife and mom, but my gut tells me she wants something more."

"I don't think that's J-O."

"I don't, either, but I believe what she said."

"Which thing?"

"She won't walk away from it. If she's needed, she'll be there, and if some calamity happens, she'll be there for that, too."

"I have to admit it felt good hearing her say that," the archaeologist confessed.

"One down and eleven to go," Jack joked.

"I hope J-O continues to do well, to give all our children a good foundation."

"Danny, I know you know this, but money isn't the foundation those kids need. Their foundation is us and what we've been teaching them throughout their lives."

"Gawd, what did I say?" the embarrassed scientist spoke.

"You said you hope we don't go bust so that the kids will have some big bucks to fall back on in times of need."

"Oh, is that what I said?"

"Yep."

"You're right."

"Geez, I love it when I'm right," Jack said boisterously.

Daniel laughed as he took the plate handed to him and questioned, "I thought we agreed on half a sandwich each?"

"I'm hungry."

"What a surprise ... not," Daniel teased.

"I'll surprise you, later," the general promised.

"Big talk."

"Big action."

The lovers continued their lighthearted verbal sparring slash word foreplay as they enjoyed their midnight snack. Christmas was over and the new year was on the horizon. There was so much to look forward to in life. Their nation of two strongly in tact, the Jackson-O'Neills of Colorado Springs joked their way through the witching hour and looked forward to tomorrow. Life was good and only getting better for the couple, their brood, and their zoo.

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

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