The Morgans Go Home
Category: Slash, Drama, Romance, Established Relationship
Pairing: Jack/Daniel ... and it's all J/D
Season: Beyond the Series - October 6-18, 2008
Written: April 16, August 2,4-6,8-9-11, September 4,22, November 24, December 10-12, 2004, January 15,27-28-31, 2018
Summary: As Jack and Daniel return to the Stargate Program, their family enjoys Chenoa's third birthday and embark on a surprising and emotional journey to the home where the Mouseketeers were raised as the Morgan children.
Disclaimer: Usual disclaimers -- not mine, wish they were, especially Daniel, and Jack, too, but they aren't. A gal can dream though!
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): “Transitions: The Next Ten Months” and “Stargate”
The Morgans Go Home
With clear skies and weather in the sixties, this first Monday in October was a great one to celebrate a birthday and that's exactly what the Jackson-O'Neills and some friends were doing. It was Chenoa's third birthday and even though it was a weekday, there were plenty of adults who were happy to participate in the special event, especially since some were homemakers (male and female) who homeschooled their kids.
The first part of the day was spent at the Jackson-O'Neill home with all the usual birthday trimmings. Eight of Chenoa's friends, including Angela Wilson and Chloe Payne, attended the party. The children were ones she knew either from attending a toddler version of kinder camp or from living in her neighborhood.
Chenoa's best friend was Angela, the four-year-old daughter of Jack's ex-wife, Sara, and her husband, Mark. The two families were amazingly close and Angela and Chenoa, separated only by one year in age, loved to play together.
“We really appreciate this, Mark,” Daniel mentioned to Sara's husband as Jack said a final word to Lou and Carolyn Ferretti, the caregivers for the Munchkins and the twins while Jack and Daniel were gone.
“Daddy, go now?” an anxious Chenoa asked as she jumped up and down from her excitement.
“Yes,” Daniel responded, smiling at Mark for a second before walking his daughter to the SUV and getting her settled into her seat.
“You have the directions?” Mark inquired of the general.
“Yep. We'll see you there,” Jack answered. “Jen, David, let's go.”
“Coming!” Jennifer called out while tugging on David's arm since he was lagging behind.
After receiving the invitation to Chenoa's birthday, Mark arranged for the Jackson-O'Neills to attend a private event for Chenoa at the stables owned by his boss, Adolph Granger. Chenoa barely slept over the past couple of days once she learned about the additional surprise. For that matter, Angela was over the moon about it, too.
At the large ranch owned by Mister Granger, stable hands and riding instructors were available to give the girls riding lessons and teach them how to care for horses. They began with a tour of the stables and followed up with being shown some of the breeding horses kept at the stables. Next, the instructors spent some time with the children, introducing them to the basic concepts of riding safety and grooming.
Jack and Daniel were amazed Chenoa was paying such close attention to the presentation. She was totally into what was being said until near the end when she began fidgeting quite a bit and looking around anxiously.
Unable to contain herself any longer, the birthday girl interrupted the speaker and asked, “Horsies now?”
Everyone laughed as Chenoa bounced a bit on her seat. With a nod from the instructor, two of the stable hands rose and went to get the horses.
“Horsies now,” the instructor replied, rubbing his hand lightly against Chenoa's blonde hair and enjoying the huge smile that broke out on her and Angela's faces.
“Yeah! Ang'la, horsies!”
As the ponies were brought out from their stalls, Jack and Daniel watched their daughter's face light up even brighter than before.
“She thinks it's Santa Claus,” Jack commented.
“Santa Claus, ice cream, and you, all wrapped up in one,” Daniel corrected.
That comment earned the younger man a loving look from Jack and the response, **Geez, I love you.**
“Thanks again for hosting this little shindig, Mark,” Jack commented sincerely as the two stood at the barn door and faced the corral that stood several yards in front of them.
“No problem, Jack. Angela loved it when we took her to my boss's daughter's birthday party last year, so I figured Noa would get a kick out of it, too.”
“I'm watching, Noa. You look *great*!”
Chenoa beamed as she held onto the tiny pony. She looked at the stable hand who held the reins for safety since this was her very first ride. He smiled and nodded at her, pleased with how well she was taking to riding.
“She loves the horses,” Mark joked as he watched Jack's daughter and then gave his own princess a loving glance.
“I'd better make sure she never meets a bookie,” Jack barbed. Then the newly un-retired Air Force general added, “Seriously, thanks for thinking of this. She's really having a good time.”
“Thank my daughter,” Mark replied.
“Angie thought of this?”
Mark laughed, “You know, Jack, you are the only one who calls her Angie. To the rest of the world, she's Angela.”
“Sara tells me that all the time,” Mark laughed.
“Does she now?”
“Yep. She says, 'That Jack, he's special in his own mind'.”
“You're pulling my leg.”
Mark laughed, enjoying the joking with his wife's ex-husband. It was something he couldn't have imagined doing during the early years of his marriage. Now, though, he actually thought of Jack as a friend, something that both amazed and pleased him.
When the chuckles subsided, Mark explained, “Anyway, when we got the invitation to Noa's birthday party, Angela asked if we could bring her here, so I called my boss, and he set it up for me.”
“You went out of your way to make it happen, Angie's idea or not. We're grateful.”
“You can pay us back one day.”
“Take Angela up for a ride in a jet,” Mark stated with a serious expression. Then he laughed, “Just kidding. I was happy to do it.”
Jack chuckled as he nodded. His gaze went to Angela and he found himself wondering if she might like a jet ride one day. She did like his stories about flying. He made a mental note to check it out and consider it for a future time.
A bit later, Daniel was chatting with Sara by the corral. Jennifer and David were riding freely on horses, waving at the two adults.
“They look good out there,” Sara opined.
“Uh, yeah. Apparently, they've both ridden before,” Daniel returned. “I'm not sure of the circumstances, but Jen mentioned their parents took them a few times.”
Sara nodded and let out a sigh as she replied, “Daniel, it's not my place to butt in.”
“I've been known to butt in sometimes.”
The blonde smiled and continued, “A girl needs her mother. Please don't misunderstand me. What I mean is that she needs a connection. I don't know what that is, but Jen is missing her mother.”
“She hasn't said anything.”
“No, not to me, either, but mother to father, I sense it. It's not a destructive thing, but it's a female thing.”
“Jack told me you helped him to grieve for Charlie, to let him go in a sense. To do that, he had to embrace Charlie again, take in the love and hold it close. Maybe you can find a way for Jen and David, and I suppose Noa, too, to embrace their parents again before too much time passes.”
“Awhile back, Jack and I talked about taking them by their old house,” Daniel confided. “They weren't allowed to go back when the Morgans died.”
“Never?” Sara saw Daniel shake his head in confirmation. She sighed and shook her head, too. “There's something very wrong with our child services system.”
“Daniel, I'm sorry. I wasn't thinking.”
“No, it's okay. Foster care wasn't a highlight of my life. I know what the system is like, so I understand and I agree with you.”
“Speaking as a teacher and considering what I've seen when my students experienced a transition from divorces and deaths, that closure takes a very long time, but going home, back to that house, might be exactly what those three need. Did I butt in too much?”
“Sara, if things ever go wrong, you'll be the parents of the Mouseketeers, of all our children, so, uh, I don't think it's possible for you to butt in.”
“That's nice of you to say.”
“I wouldn't say it, if I didn't mean it.”
Right then, Jack and Mark arrived at the corral to join their spouses. It was just in time to see Chenoa and Angela returning from the pasture where the pony ride took them.
“Daddy. Pony home us?” Chenoa asked hopefully.
“Uh, where would he sleep?” Daniel asked.
The birthday girl thought hard and then asked brightly, “With me?”
“And the babies?”
“Oh,” Chenoa sighed, looking a little sad. Accepting the reality, she brightened again and queried, “Come back?”
Daniel looked at Mark, who answered the question for him, saying, “Noa, I'll check on it, okay? I can't promise, but I'll ask.”
“Thank you, Unca Mark!” Excitedly, Chenoa looked at her friend and asked, “Ang'la, have pony?”
“Mark, you might regret this day eventually,” Jack put forth softly.
Mark grinned and suggested, “So, are you interested in buying a couple of horses together?”
“Oh, gawd,” Daniel expressed, getting a responsive laugh from Sara.
Sara told the archaeologist, “I'm not sure letting those two loose is a good idea.”
“Noa and Angela?” Daniel inquired.
“No, the big kids, Jack and Mark. I think we're about to become horse owners.”
“Oh, gawd,” Daniel repeated.
“Night Bij, Katie,” Jack told the beagles as they nestled in close to their humans on the large bed in the master bedroom.
“We love you,” Daniel added as he snuggled close to his husband.
The day was a long one, longer than anticipated. In fact, because of the chance for Chenoa to meet the ponies, a planned parent teacher conference at David's school was postponed until tomorrow afternoon, which meant the lovers' first official day back at Stargate Command would be a shorter one than scheduled. This would no doubt infuriate General Franklin Armstrong, the ranking officer responsible for getting Jack and Daniel to agree to return to active duty.
Jack and Daniel didn't really care about Armstrong's emotions. Their kids would always come first. Plus, with Hammond on their side and Jack's promotion to major general, that gave the good guys five stars total to Armstrong's four stars. At least, that's how Jack saw it.
Even with the tiring day, the couple fit in a family meeting after dinner and quality beagle time with the girls before lying down. Once they did, though, and spoke their goodnights to the dogs, both Jack and Daniel were asleep within seconds.
The soulmates were in their usual positions, Daniel sleeping with the secure tone of Jack's heartbeat in his ear and his left leg secure between Jack's. Tonight, too, their hands were joined together, each finger interlaced with the other's. Jack's left hand was wrapped around his spouse's back, tucked just inside Daniel's pajama bottoms.
Though Bijou and Katie had a beanbag in the room to rest in, they were free to sleep on the bed whenever they wanted. Tonight, they enjoyed the warmth and love of settling in alongside Jack and Daniel, nuzzling together to create a loving family unit.
Three hours passed and almost everyone was sleeping soundly through the night, an amazing feat in the Jackson-O'Neill household considering there were eight children under the roof, plus the two beagles.
Katie put her head up when she heard a small tap on the closed door to the master bedroom. Another tap was heard and then the door opened. The two lovers were so exhausted they didn't hear the dainty rap against the wooden material.
Seeing the youngster, Bijou gave her daughter a nudge and the two jumped off the bed and went to their beanbag. They sensed the child needed her parents more than they at the moment.
“Da...ddyyyy,” Chenoa sniffled as she climbed up onto the bed, tugging against Daniel's arm.
In seconds, Daniel's eyelids fluttered open and he asked, “Noa? What's wrong, Sweetie?”
The girl sniffled again and tried to wipe away her tears.
“Jack, wake up,” Daniel urged as he scooted up out of Jack's hold and reached over to pick up the toddler. “Noa, what's wrong?”
“Sle...eeeep you, Da...ddddy?”
“Noa, shhh,” Daniel tried to soothe.
“Danny, what's going on?” Jack questioned, sitting up and turning on the light.
The parents now sat against the headboard with Noa leaning into Daniel, her head on his right shoulder.
“Did you have a nightmare, Princess?” Jack asked.
“Y...y...yes,” Chenoa answered, her tears wetting Daniel's pajamas.
“It's okay, Noa. Everything's fine,” Daniel assured calmly.
“Maybe it was the horses,” Jack suggested.
“Oh, gawd,” Daniel expressed as he held their daughter even closer, while Jack reached out to stroke her curly blonde locks.
“I know, Noa, but she didn't mean to go away. It wasn't her choice, and she loves you so much. So does your daddy,” Daniel promised softly.
“No say ... <sniffle> ... bye ... <sob> ... bye.”
“It wasn't her choice, Noa. She loves you. Don't ever doubt that, Sweetheart, not ever,” Daniel stated firmly.
“Sleep here?” the girl's tiny voice asked again.
“Yes, of course, you can,” Daniel answered and then looked at Jack.
The older man reached over to turn off the light, after which the couple settled back down into bed with Chenoa between them.
“What, Honey?” Jack asked.
“No go. Say bye-bye.”
Daniel thought as Jack looked at him questioning. Slowly, the younger man pieced it together, using his own experience as a reference.
**Jack, Noa's too young to really remember all of this, but it's in her subconscious. I think her nightmare was about her parents leaving and not saying goodbye. She wants us to promise to always say goodbye.**
“I won't, Noa,” Jack responded reassuringly. “I'll never go anywhere without saying goodbye.”
“Me, either,” Daniel promised. “Close your eyes, Sweetie. Everything's okay.”
Seconds later, Bijou and Katie hopped back onto the bed, flanking Chenoa.
With a smile, Jack whispered, “Way to go, girls.”
When Jack and Daniel awoke the next morning, Katie was in Chenoa's arms, somehow pressed between the little girl and Daniel.
“How ya doing, Sweetie?” Daniel asked.
“Katie ... funny,” Chenoa laughed, scurrying off the bed to go into her room, urging Katie to follow her. “Kaaaaatieeeee, come.”
“I guess she's fine,” Daniel asserted, a bit surprised, but definitely pleased.
“Maybe she doesn't remember,” Jack offered. “Kids are like that.”
“I hope she doesn't remember. Something must have triggered it, though.”
“I don't know, Danny. The Mouseketeers never got to say goodbye to their parents. That's a hard thing for anyone to swallow.”
“My heart broke when I realized what her dream was about.”
“Now that I think about it, I think it was a natural thing for her to remember yesterday, Danny. It was her birthday. What more appropriate day to remember your parents?”
“Yeah.” Suddenly, Daniel perked up. “Jack, the Munchkins and the twins? They slept all night.”
“Are the monitors on?” an alarmed Jack asked.
Both men hurried to check on their children, relieved all were just fine and a bit surprised that they'd all slept peacefully through the night. Usually, one of the five would wake up at some point and end up disturbing the others. There were times when it was one big baby chain reaction, one cry leading to the next. With everything golden in the nursery, the lovers returned to the bedroom to continue dressing.
As he pulled down his burgundy turtleneck sweater, Jack reminded, “Angel, we've never taken the Mouseketeers by their old house.”
“Yeah,” Daniel replied quietly. “We promised we would.”
“Geez, when was that?”
“A few months ago,” the archaeologist recalled. “Why'd we let it go?”
“I don't know, Danny. I'd like to think it was because we were worried about them going back, but maybe we're a little afraid of how it might effect us.”
“We need to do this, Jack. Uh, Sara mentioned at the stables that she thought it would be a good idea.”
“Well, we were talking about the Mouseketeers and that need to connect with their parents. I told her we'd thought about it. She agreed.”
“Sara's a smart cookie, especially with kids. I remember her talking about some of her students going through bad times. It wasn't always pretty.”
“Yeah, so ...” Daniel paused. “Babe, it's not just the promise we made, but they need this. Call it making a connection or remembering a vital part of the past, but they need to say goodbye in a physical way and the only way they can do that now is going home.”
Jack nodded and was about to respond when the couple's conversation ended with a loud outcry. The twins finally awoke and were demanding attention.
“You're right and to be continued,” Jack retorted lightly as he and Daniel headed to the nursery.
“Sir, here's the information you wanted,” Sam stated as she entered Daniel's office where she was certain Jack would be. It was just the second week that her friends were back at work and she'd noted they were spending a lot of time together as they planned SG-1's missions. She handed over the paper and elaborated, “Joseph and Keva Lowe purchased the Morgan house once the probate was concluded. They have four children and two dogs.” Sam paused and smiled as she elaborated, “Beagles.”
Jack grinned, hoping that the beagles were a positive sign and the Lowes were good, understanding people.
The colonel continued, “I checked contractor records and it doesn't appear that they've made any major alterations or renovations to the home.”
“Thanks, Carter,” Jack responded with an appreciative nod. As Sam left the room, he sighed. “I'll make the call.”
“I could ...”
“No, go,” Jack interrupted. “I can handle this.”
“Remember, Jack, they don't know us and they have no reason to allow us to visit the house. It's *their* home now.”
“Yeah.” Straightening, the general advised, “I'll let you know what happens.”
Daniel wanted to be part of the call, but he had a meeting with the staff members he'd chosen to be a part of the next mission in the effort to restore trust in the SGC and Earth among off-world allies.
With a sigh and tiny smile of hope, Daniel shrugged lightly and said, “Good luck.”
“Lunch after your meeting?”
Jack gave a nod and headed towards his office, while Daniel hurried to get his notes and head for the designated meeting area.
In his office, Jack dialed the number on the paper. Three rings later, a woman answered the phone.
“Is this Mrs. Lowe? Mrs. Keva Lowe?”
“Yes, it is.”
“Ma'am, you don't know me. I'm Major General Jack Jackson-O'Neill,” Jack began, using his rank only as a potential reassurance to the woman that he wasn't a crackpot or scam artist.
“Air Force. Ma'am, I'm calling because of my children. I don't know if you'll recognize their names or not. They're Jennifer, David, and Chenoa ... Morgan.”
“Morgan? We bought our house from a Morgan family.”
“Yes, Ma'am. Mister and Mrs. Morgan were killed in an automobile accident in New York and we adopted their children a little over a year ago.”
“I'm glad they've found a home. I don't mean to sound rude, but may I ask why are calling, General?”
“Jack,” the man corrected. “We have no right to ask this, but the kids need to see their old house. I'm aware of the imposition it would be, but ...”
“Gen...Jack, please give me your number. I'll speak with my husband and we'll get back to you.”
“Thank you.” After providing the information, Jack decided he needed to say one more thing. He couldn't afford an altercation to occur in front of the children. To be so close to their home and have unpleasantness break out would be, in his opinion, detrimental and perhaps even devastating. “One more thing. If this is a problem, we're willing to accommodate you however you wish.”
“What is it?”
“Ma'am, I'm raising these kids with my husband, Daniel. He's an archaeologist and we've been married a few years now. We have eight children.”
Jack was fearful he'd just blown the opportunity to take the Mouseketeers home. Maybe he shouldn't have said anything. Maybe just he, or Daniel, should take the kids there.
“We have four children. You must have your hands full.”
Jack broke out into a smile and relief flooded through him as he felt the lightness in the woman's statement.
“We do. It's a challenge, one we love dearly.”
“We'll be in touch, Jack.”
“Have a good day, Ma'am.”
When the call ended, Jack leaned back in his chair. He hoped the Lowes would understand and allow the couple to bring the Mouseketeers to their home. He was convinced it would be closure to some extent and that it needed to happen. He glanced at the clock, eager to update his lover, but it was too early.
Seeing personnel files for potential recruits on his desk, Jack decided to review them. He still hated paperwork, but he needed to find suitable replacements for the personnel he was using for the special 'restore honor' missions. SG teams were going ahead with regular missions and needed to be fully staffed.
~Okay, let's see who might be ready for the SGC.~
That Saturday, General Hammond was in his grandfather role. Tessa and Kayla, his granddaughters, were visiting and the three of them were babysitting the Munchkins and the twins at his lakeside home.
Meanwhile, Jack and Daniel took the Mouseketeers out for a special lunch at the Olive Branch Restaurant and then on a short shopping spree. Jennifer purchased a new outfit that actually passed Jack's inspection, David selected a baseball bat, and Chenoa picked out a book on stars and constellations that had lots of brightly colored photos in it.
Now, the family were headed home, or so the three children thought. As David and Chenoa chattered away about their day, Jennifer suddenly got a strange feeling. Feeling butterflies inside, she held her hands over her abdomen. Air became hard to breathe in due to the questions her mind was asking. As the vehicle passed nearly forgotten streets and landmarks, she realized they weren't headed for the home they'd know for the last fifteen months or so. She stared out the window as Jack made familiar turn after familiar turn in his Ford truck.
Without intending to, Jennifer heard herself ask, “Dad, where are we going?”
“Home,” Jack answered softly.
Jennifer never took her eyes off the road. They were driving through a distant neighborhood far from the country-style home the three Morgan children now loved. Suddenly, she reached down and took David's hand in hers, surprising the youngster who wasn't paying any attention to the route being driven.
“Jen?” the boy questioned.
“David, we're going home,” the teenager observed, her voice low and tentative. “Look,” she whispered, nodding at houses that they'd seen many times before.
“Home?” David asked, vulnerably.
**Jack, maybe we should have told them.**
**Then they would have wondered about it all day, Love. You might be right, but this way, the agony is shorter lived.**
**I hope so.**
David stared out the window, the streets growing in familiarity to him now, too. He reached over and took Chenoa's hand, linking the three children together. The truck became eerily silent for the remaining part of the ride.
By the time Jack pulled up to their destination, Jennifer was holding back tears and David's eyes were moist. Little Chenoa wasn't sure what was going on, but she knew something was.
Jack turned off the ignition and he and Daniel both twisted around to face their children.
“You don't have to do this, but a few months back, David indicated he wanted to come here, to say goodbye,” Daniel recalled.
“We'll leave if you want,” Jack told them.
“Or ... we can go inside.”
“Inside?” David asked. “Really?”
Daniel explained, “We talked with Mister Lowe. He owns the house now, and he was very understanding, but it's up to all of you.”
Without saying another word, Jennifer opened her door and got out of the truck. David followed, turning back to help Chenoa out. Within seconds, all three were again holding hands.
“Mommy,” the toddler said softly, looking up at her big sister.
Jennifer tried to smile and reassure Chenoa, but her heart was beating so fast that she was afraid she would collapse at any moment.
Just then the door opened. Mister Lowe smiled as he walked out with his family. His wife, Keva, and their four children all said hello before veering off to the side to give Jennifer, David, and Chenoa lots of space.
“Would you like to go inside?” the kind man asked the three children. They nodded. “Go on. It's okay. You take your time.”
“You don't mind? Really?” Jennifer queried, no longer able to hold back her tears.
“No, Jennifer. This was your home once. It's fine with us.”
“Thank ... thank you.” Jennifer turned to Mrs. Lowe and tried to smile, mouthing a 'thank you' that had lost it's vocal sound.
Daniel sighed, folding his arms tightly across his chest, **I don't like this.**
**They need this, Danny, just like you needed to go back to the museum and to the Great Pyramid.**
**I know,** Daniel replied. He turned his head towards Jack and said, **But it doesn't mean I have to like it.**
Jack watched Daniel amble slowly forward towards the front door.
“This must be very difficult for your family,” Mister Lowe commented. “They never came back?”
“None of the kids were home when their parents died. They were picked up wherever they were and taken immediately to a shelter. The social workers gathered up some of their things, but the kids were never allowed to come back here.”
“That doesn't seem right, to lose your parents and everything you know in one shot.”
“It's not right. Have we thanked you?”
“Several times, but it's not necessary. If the worst happened to my wife and me, well ... I'd hope ... I ...”
“Not easy to think about is it?”
“No, it's not.”
Inside the house, the three children roamed around freely. Daniel didn't interfere. He let them go at their own pace. He listened as they reminisced and shared old stories, but mostly he watched Chenoa whose one comment seemed to be “Mommy.”
After fifteen minutes, Daniel felt Jack by his side.
“How are they doing?” Jack questioned.
“As well as can be expected. They're remembering a lot. Noa seems to be looking for something. I don't know what though, but she's looked under beds and in the closets. I can't believe she remembers this place.”
“It's amazing what kids remember. This place meant home, love, security; and it was yanked away from her in a split second.”
“I wonder what's she's looking for.”
“I guess we should go,” Jennifer sighed several minutes later. She looked around her old room one last time. “I had a lot of fun here. I miss it, but that's okay, right?” she asked her dad.
“More than all right,” the general replied softly.
David sat on the bed in his old room and looked up at Daniel, who stood in the doorway.
“They painted it. I don't like this color, but ... it's still my old room. Daddy and I used to talk here all the time.”
“Never forget that, David. Hold on to those memories and how they make you feel.” Daniel sat down next to his son. “Sometimes, it's hard to remember, even painful, but in the end, you'll be glad you did. The memories are an expression of the love.”
The boy nodded, took a final look around, and whispered, “Goodbye,” before returning to the living room.
Daniel stood, desperately trying not to let his emotions gain control, but having a very difficult time not succumbing. He felt like he couldn't breathe, like his stomach was in his throat. Finally, he headed back to the living room as well.
Meanwhile, the Munchkins and the twins were giving Hammond and his natural grandkids a run for their money as they explored the general's home. While the twins were still stumbling more than toddling, they were fast movers and a fall or slip to the floor didn't faze either of them.
Fortunately, there were lots of toys in the home for them to play with, courtesy of previous stays at their grandfather's home. Still, a few hours of running around after the five youngsters found Hammond ready for some quiet time. He ushered the children into the kitchen and gave them a treat -- soft cookies and chocolate milk.
Not too much time passed when Hammond transitioned to his living room. His granddaughters assisted in ensuring no milk was spilled or cookies crumbled in the move, which wasn't easy since some of the children were still munching away.
“Grandpa, your plane?” Jonny pointed a picture of a plane that was on the wall.
“No, it wasn't mine. One of my very good friends, Matthew Hunter, flew that bird.”
Hammond sat down on his leather sofa. It was an extra long sectional that folded around in a semi-circle, and it was very comfortable.
~Love cookies.~ Jonny finished his cookie and climbed onto the sofa. He put his arms around Hammond's neck. “Tell us story.”
“Story,” Jenny echoed as Tessa helped her climb up on the sofa on the opposite site of the general. She placed her arms around Hammond's. “Like stories.”
“Megrscto,” Ricky seconded.
The general laughed as he looked at the youngster downing the last of his cookies.
“What was that, Ricky?”
The child gulped and repeated, “Me, too.”
A minute later, all five brood members were on the sofa, crowded around their surrogate grandfather, arms and legs crossed with one another's like a giant pretzel. Tessa and Kayla chuckled at the kids as they also settled on the sofa, content to let the babies and toddlers have center stage with their grandfather for the moment.
“Alrighty then. I'll tell you a story about something that happened a long time ago to Matthew Hunter and me. We were eager new officers in the Air Force.”
“Dad Air Force,” Aislinn pointed out.
“That's right. That's how I met your father,” Hammond stated.
“Dad in story?” Little Danny queried.
Hammond laughed lightly as he answered, “I'm afraid not. He was too young.”
“Daddy in story?” Jonny asked.
“No, silly. Daddy no Air Force. Daddy ar'logist,” Little Danny corrected.
“That's archaeologist, Danny, and he wasn't even born when this story happened,” Hammond advised. ~That's a nice long sentence that boy just spoke. Wasn't it just yesterday when he wasn't speaking a word?~
“Tell story, Grandpa,” Little Danny requested, shifting to lay on his back, his head on Hammond's left thigh.
“Very well.” The lieutenant general continued, “As I said, it was a long time ago. It was so long ago that I had hair.”
“Hair?” Jonny asked. Jonny took his hands and ran it across Hammond's head. “Grandpa no have hair.”
“Not now, Jonny, but I did once. So, Matthew and I ...”
Hammond enthralled the children with his story. They hung on his every word, just as they clung to him as he told it. The twins didn't understand much of it, but they were taken in by aura of the story. The Munchkins asked lots of questions, which caused the general to wonder why he didn't just make it a question and answer session.
“Were we like that, Tessa?” fifteen-year-old Kayla whispered to her sister.
“Uh-huh,” came the affirmative response from Tessa, who was now seventeen. “Don't you ever pay attention to Mom's home movies?”
“Nope,” Kayla chuckled.
When the storytelling was done, Hammond opined, ~These are great kids. Jack and Daniel have done themselves proud with all their children.~ His mind drifted, resulting in a sigh. ~I wonder how it's going with the Mouseketeers.~
Their visit coming to a close, the Jackson-O'Neills stood with the Lowes in the living room.
“I hope it helped,” Mister Lowe put forward. To the children he added, “If you need to come back when you get older, and we're still here, call. You're welcome to return.”
“Thank you,” Jennifer replied appreciatively.
“Thank you,” David expressed at the same time, extending his hand out to shake Mister Lowe's, which earned him a smile from the current owner of the home.
Chenoa kept looking around as she called out, “Mommy,” her tiny voice breaking everyone's heart.
“She keeps looking for something,” Daniel observed, a worried frown on his face.
“Oh, wait a minute,” one of the Lowe children said excitedly. “Mom, remember that box we found?”
“The one in the garage?” another of the girls questioned.
“Goodness, yes. Please, wait a moment,” Keva requested and headed to the garage with her oldest daughter following her.
A confused Jack and Daniel stood, exchanging a look, until Mister Lowe explained, “I'd forgotten. When we first moved in, we found a box of items. We figured they belonged to the old owners, but we didn't know how to contact them. I'm glad Susan remembered.”
A minute later, the two females returned with the box. They put it down in front of all three children, but directly in front of Chenoa.
“Dear, is what you're looking for in here?” Keva Lowe asked as she helped the little girl take off the top.
Chenoa looked down, getting on her knees to search. Slowly, as she went through the box, she began to smile. Then she cried. She picked up a stuffed animal, a unicorn, and held it close to her heart for a moment.
“Uni,” Chenoa stated emotionally. “Mommy, found Uni.”
“Oh, I forgot,” Jennifer gasped, unable to stop her tears. She knelt down, putting her arm around the toddler, and apologized, “Noa, I'm sorry I forgot.”
“Uni. Noa found Uni.”
Chenoa continued to hug the white toy close to her and leaned her head to rest against it. Tears ran down her young face as she whispered “Mommy” over and over again.
Daniel wiped away his own tear and Jack looked away, over towards the window as he tried to fend off his emotional outburst.
“I'm glad I remembered, Mom,” Susan spoke quietly. “I'd hate if I lost SuSu Bear,” she admitted as she thought about the build-a-bear her mother helped her make years ago.
Moments later, the adults listened as Jennifer explained the story of the unicorn while still encompassing Chenoa with her love and presence.
“I feel horrible,” Jennifer sighed as she looked up at Jack and Daniel. “Mommy was super talented. She always made things for Dad and us. She crocheted this unicorn for Noa just a few months be... a ...”
The teenager stopped, giving into her emotions and openly crying. David moved to her side, crouching down beside her. He reached over to support her with his love, so now, as Jennifer held Chenoa, David held Jennifer.
The boy continued the explanation, saying, “I remember now, too. Mommy made Uni for Chenoa as a Christmas present. Noa couldn't say 'unicorn' so she started calling it Uni. We all called it Uni.”
“She took it everywhere,” Jennifer recalled while stroking Chenoa's blonde, curly hair. “I'm sorry, Noa. I should have remembered and made them find it.”
“Mommy give Uni.”
“She made it just for you, Noa. With her own hands, with all the love she had in the world, Mommy made Uni just for you. She loved us very much. So did Daddy”
“Love Uni. Love Mommy.” After some sniffles, Chenoa added, “Love Daddy, too.”
“Me, too, Noa,” Jennifer said, rocking her sister for a minute.
Jennifer held on tight until Chenoa tried to free herself. She ran to Daniel and extended her hands while still holding Uni. Daniel leaned over and picked up the crying toddler. She nuzzled into his neck, her little body trembling from her tears.
“It's okay to cry, Noa, and we'll make sure we keep Uni safe.”
“Love Dad and Daddy, too,” Chenoa sniffled.
“We love you, too, so much, Noa. Gawd, so much,” Daniel expressed, trying not to cry in front of the Lowes.
“Jen, look,” David urged as he looked to see what else was in the box.
“Oh, wow. I should have remembered this stuff. Why didn't I?” the teenager berated.
“Maybe because you had other things on your mind,” Jack put forth, a small smile on his face. “You kept your family together, Jen. You made sure David and Noa felt safe. That was far more important than anything else at the time.”
Jennifer nodded and turned her attention back to the box and the other treasures that were there.
“Mommy's necklace,” the teen commented. “Daddy gave it to her for Mother's Day one year. See ... it has all our birthstones in it. She told me that one day I'd have my own family and my husband would give me a necklace like this, too.”
“I wouldn't doubt it.” Jack moved to his daughter and surprised her when he took the necklace from her, removing it from its black velvet case. He pulled back her long brunette hair and then clasped the necklace around her neck. Turning Jennifer to face him, he stated, “And until then, I think she'd want you to wear this one, a reminder of the bond and love shared by the three Morgan children and their parents.”
Jennifer smiled and brushed away another tear as she gently touched the gold chain of the necklace with her fingers.
“Squiggy,” David laughed at his green frog. “I never used to sleep without Squiggy, but I'm too old for that now. The kids down the street made fun of me when they found out.” With lament, he sighed, “Too old now.”
“Why?” Jack wondered.
“There's no such thing as being too old, David. If you decide you don't want to sleep with Squiggy anymore, that's one thing, but not doing something because others tease you or don't understand, is not a reason.”
“But I'm a big boy now,” David responded, pride of being seven and believing it to be an old age.
“Yes, you are, so does that mean you don't love something because others tell you not to?” Daniel questioned.
“Peer pressure, David. You should have told me they were picking on you,” Jennifer scolded firmly.
“I didn't want you to fight them,” the boy admitted as he looked fondly at the bright green frog.
“David, remember how it was for us at the shelter? You get back up and you do what's right for you. It doesn't matter what anyone else thinks.”
The boy smiled at Jennifer for her support and then hugged Squiggy while whispering, “I missed you.”
As the family reviewed the contents of the box, Daniel remarked, “You know, Jack, they brought some things to the children at the shelter. I can't believe they didn't intend to take this one, too.”
“Maybe it just got missed, an actual oversight.”
“I'm glad we held onto it,” Mrs. Lowe remarked.
“So are we,” Daniel replied sincerely.
“Me, too,” Chenoa said as she relaxed in her father's hold. “Noa happy.”
“Good. How about we go ...”
Daniel stopped, suddenly not sure what word to use. He looked at Jack, a question on his face. Jack looked equally uncomfortable.
“The word you're looking for, Daddy, is home. This,” Jennifer began as she stood up, “was our home for a long time, and we'll always remember and love it. It's where we learned about love and family for the first time, with our mother and father who loved us all very much.”
“We have a new home now,” David purported.
“Home,” the toddler agreed, smiling and giving Daniel a great big hug that made him smile in spite of the emotional situation they were in.
“And we love you,” Jennifer declared on behalf of all three Morgan children.
“A lot,” David added.
“Home is where your heart is, right? Well, our hearts are with you and the Munchkins and the twins and the beagles ...”
“Don't forget the fish, Jen,” David interrupted.
Nodding, Jennifer requested, “We'd like to go home now.”
David walked to Mister Lowe and shook his hand again, speaking emotionally, “Thank you, Mister Lowe, for letting us say goodbye to our parents, but don't worry about us, because we have more parents now who love us just like our first parents did.”
“We're very lucky.” Jennifer smiled as she hugged her dad. “Very lucky.”
“I think we're the lucky ones,” Jack choked out. He walked over to the Lowes and stated, “We can't thank you enough.”
“Did I hear right? You have beagles?” the man asked.
“Two: Bijou and Katie, a mom and daughter duo,” Jack returned brightly.
“So do we. They're outside if ...”
“Can we take a picture to show our dogs?” David inquired.
“Our girls love to pose,” Lowe responded.
“I knew I was going to like you,” Jack chuckled, loving that the Lowes also referred to their dogs as girls.
After spending a few minutes with the Lowe's beagles, the goodbyes were completed. The emotional visit was over and the Jackson-O'Neills headed home.
At a stoplight, Jack glanced at the rearview mirror. Jennifer wore a sweet smile as her hand ran gently along her mother's necklace. She looked like she was back in time, sharing a special moment with her mother. David was holding Squiggy, bouncing the frog slightly in play while a jovial Chenoa extended Uni out to the frog.
“Missed you,” Uni told Squiggy.
David laughed and directed Squiggy's face to Uni's, giving a mock kiss and responding, “Missed you, too, Uni.”
“Mommy and Daddy love us,” Chenoa sighed, not sadly but with full belief and confidence that her statement was true.
“They did and they do,” Jennifer assured her siblings. “David, do you remember when Daddy brought Squiggy home for you?”
“Well, I do. It was right after your third birthday,” Jennifer recalled. “Dad had to miss part of your birthday because of work. He felt so bad. When he was a boy, he loved frogs. He had a lot of frogs. You loved frogs as much as he did, so two days after your birthday, he went shopping for the perfect frog, and Squiggy was it. He wanted to share his love of frogs with you.”
“He did.” With a gasp, David said, “Jen, I remember going to creeks and playing with the frogs with Dad. We had a lot of fun.”
“I thought Mom gave me Squiggy. Why'd I think that?”
“Well, when Dad gave it to you, he said it was a gift from both of them, because that's what they did. Mommy and Daddy gave us everything together.”
**We did the right thing, Danny,** Jack communicated as the Mouseketeers continued to chat.
**Yeah, but I may not recover for a week.**
The silence that filled the truck on the way to the home was now replaced by laughter and smiles as the children remembered the good times with their natural parents and looked forward to more good times with their adoptive parents.
“Gawd, Jack, I thought I was going to lose it right there in the middle of the Lowe's living room,” Daniel confided later that night.
“Hold me, Jack,” the younger man pleaded, not that he needed to.
The two men were in the nursery, watching the sleeping Munchkins and twins. It was the middle of the night. They didn't need to worry about waking Chenoa, who normally slept in the room, because on this special night, all three of the Mouseketeers were having a special sleep over in Jennifer's bedroom. When Jack and Daniel checked on them at eleven, Jennifer was holding onto David, who was holding onto Chenoa, who had Uni hugged tightly to her, just as David's Squiggy was nestled under his chin.
In the nursery, Jack's arms wrapped around Daniel's waist and in a flash, Jack pulled his husband to him.
“It was so hard, Jack.”
“I know, Angel, but I'm glad we did it.”
“Why'd we wait so long?”
“I don't know, but maybe this was the right time. I'm beginning to believe that everything has its own time and place.”
“Maybe,” Daniel responded, practically becoming one with his husband's body.
The younger man's need was growing and Jack knew it because his need was equally strong. Two minutes later, they were in their bedroom, making passionate love, reminding themselves that their love would survive anything.
In the ever changing world of the Jackson-O'Neill family, the first half of October proved to be pivotal. The parents were two weeks through their three-week trial period in the Stargate Program. Though there was another week, both knew they'd made the decision to return and would stick it out.
The Munchkins were typical toddlers, speaking up a storm, asking a zillion questions, and exploring their world every single day. The twins were turning on their verbal power and though only thirteen months old were doing their best to explore alongside the triplets. The Mouseketeers finally went to their birth home and reconnected with their parents. Finding the treasures hidden there made them stronger and for Chenoa, helped her remember her mother with more love than ever.
As for the beagles, they were happy their humans were happy. One day led to the next, full of adventure in one way or another.
For the Jackson-O'Neills of Colorado Springs, there was not only adventure, there was love and that's all they ever needed.
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