Thunderbirds Thrills and Chills

Author:  Orrymain
Category:  Slash, Drama, Established Relationship
Pairing:  Jack/Daniel ... and it's all J/D
Rating:  PG-13
Season:  Beyond the Series - September 24, 2017
Spoilers:  None
Size:  51kb
Written:  April 15-16,25-27, 2011, July 7-12, 2017
Summary:  Jack and family take in the United States Air Force Thunderbirds at an air show and discover some real thrills and chills.
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) Thanks to Mama Bear who assisted with the original idea and concept for this fic back in 2011!

Thunderbirds Thrills and Chills
by Orrymain

“Is it time yet?” Jonny Jackson-O'Neill called out as he sprinted into the kitchen.  His eyes were wide and bright and his eleven-year-old heart, as of the day, was beating fast from the anticipation.  ~I can't wait.~

“We still have an hour, Son,” Daniel replied as he sipped on his coffee while seated at the circular table in the nook of the kitchen.  He reached down with his right hand and caressed a meowing Mittens while thinking, ~I'm not sure who's more excited, Jonny or Jack.~

“Well, I'm ready, Daddy.”

“I can see that,” Daniel returned with a smile.  “Maybe you should check on your brothers and sisters.”

“Okay,” the boy stated, snapping his younger father a salute and then running off.

“Jonny.”

Turning around, the boy stared at his daddy politely as he waited for what was to be said.

“Comb your hair.”

“Huh?”  The boy frowned and then realized what Daniel was talking about.  With a proud grin, he reached up at his self-made cowlick and responded, “I wanna be super like Dad today, okay, Daddy?”

“Uh, well, okay.”

Happy, Jonny bounded up the stairs to seek out his siblings.

Daniel chuckled, amused by the oldest Munchkin's eagerness and longing to be like Jack.  Standing up to get a refill of his beverage, he further pondered the growing boy's excitement and desire to follow in Jack's military footsteps.  In fact, Jonny was wearing one of the general's old T-shirts with his dark denim jeans.  It was gray and had the Air Force label on it.

~Jack used to wear it to bed.~

As a surprise for her little brother, Jennifer received permission from Jack to draw the shirt in to suit the boy's body.  She worked hard to give it the proper fit and was thrilled when Jonny put it on and she saw how good it looked on him.  It was one of the boy's favorite Christmas presents from the last holiday season.

~He's growing so fast.~

Jonny was always at the tallest end of the spectrum for children his age.  He'd just experienced another growth spurt and was now five-feet tall.  Athletically inclined and well fit, as were the entire Jackson-O'Neill brood, he now weighed an even hundred pounds.

The family's itinerary for the day had one major event on it, that being the air show.  This was Sunday, and the main attraction of this September happening was the appearance of the highly touted air demonstration team known as the Thunderbirds.

~I think we're going to make it this time.~

Daniel's thoughts were interrupted by the thud of his husband's feet planting themselves at the counter that separated the kitchen nook from the living room. The archaeologist observed his lover picking up the cordless phone, holding it in his hand, and then looking all around the area.

“That's the answer,” the general muttered with a deceptive grin.

Daniel was about to respond when he saw the direction his Love was headed.

“Jack!” Daniel called out, quickly rising to cut his lover off and causing Mittens to let out an unhappy meow and scramble upstairs.  “Jack, no!” he forbade, reaching out and just grabbing the phone before it splashed down into the large fish tank.  “We're not going to ruin the phone or have people talking to the fish.”

“Let's go now.”

“It's too soon.”

“Daniel, something is going to happen if we don't get out of here now.”

Over the years, Jack ran into all kinds of obstacles in seeing this unique flight team perform.  Be it his sexy husband or a lost cat, something always seemed to interfere, even when plans to go were made far in advance.  They'd managed to attend similar air aerobatic shows by groups such as the Navy's famous Blue Angels, the Air Force's Air Combat Command Single-Ship Demonstration Teams, and even the Canadian Snowbirds, but the Thunderbirds remained elusive to the general and his family.  That's why both Jonny and his older father were on pins and needles, both eager to finally get to see the pride of the Air Force.

“Nothing will happen,” the archaeologist assured.

“The zoo!  Where's the zoo?”

“All present and accounted for, Babe.  Bij and Katie have been on zoo-sitting duty all morning.”

“I heard that cat.”

“That ... cat was Mittens, who was peacefully sitting on my lap until you threatened to kill the phone and maybe the fish.  You owe her some snuggle time tonight.”

Ignoring the words that he didn't even really hear, Jack asked, “The kids?”

“All dressed, all healthy, and all eager to go, and even if they weren't, Jonny's been hounding them for the last thirty minutes.”

“SGC?” Jack questioned anxiously.

“We're retired.  They don't call us anymore,” Daniel reminded, though he squinted and sighed.  “Well, not much anyway.”

“Sara?  Carter?  T?”

“Jack, calm down,” Daniel urged, patting his husband's chest gently.  “We're going to get there.”

“Oh ye of so much faith,” Jack groaned.  “You've said that every year for more than a decade.”

“Well, not quite every year, but I'm confident about this year.”

Just then the phone rang, causing the general to glare into his Angel's cerulean blue eyes.

“I'll hide it,” Daniel promised, taking the phone and putting it inside a kitchen drawer.

“Thank you,” Jack sighed.

“Let's get the brood and go.”

“Even though we'll get there early?”

“Even though,” Daniel replied, leaning in for a tender kiss.  ~He won't last another ten minutes.  Better to go earlier than encourage disaster, real or imaginary.~

====

As the family began piling into their SUV, a familiar vehicle pulled up in front of the Jackson-O'Neill home.

**Danny, I told you we should have left earlier,** Jack bemoaned via the couple's silent communication.

**Relax, Fly Boy; let's see what they want.**

~Interesting.~  That was Jack's thought when he caught a glimpse of Jeff smiling at the occupants as they exited their vehicle and began walking towards the family.  ~Apparently, he's in on the reason for this little visit, whatever that may be,~ he opined as he and Daniel ambled a feet away from the SUV to meet the unexpected visitors.

“General, Daniel,” Marc Reynolds greeted, while his lover Paul Davis stood at his side.

“Reynolds, Davis, whatever it is, *we* are not going to the Mountain today; we have plans,” Jack advised the two men.

“Uh, Jack, I don't think they're here on business,” Daniel put forth, motioning toward their visitors' casual attire.  “Civvies,” he stated quietly.

“I see that,” Jack snarked, still worried about actually getting to the air show.  ~We should have camped out at the airport last night.~

“We aren't going to the Mountain either, Sir,” Reynolds replied, happy that he and Paul both had the day off as well.  Giving Jeff a quick nod, he added, “We know you have plans; that's sort of why we're here.”

Having caught the small gesture between the colonel and his eldest son, Jack inwardly confirmed, ~I'm still on my game.  Jeff definitely knows something.~

“Jeff told us that you were planning on attending the air show today,” Davis explained.

~Aha!  Jeff!~ Jack exclaimed inwardly.  “And?” the antsy general prodded.  ~I have places to go, planes to see ...~

“Jack, lose the attitude,” Daniel ordered in a subtle whisper.  To their guests, he rationalized, “He's on edge.  You know little boys and their toy airplanes.”

Chuckling, Reynolds responded, “That's exactly why we're here.”

“It is?” both the archaeologist and his soulmate questioned in unison.

“With your permission, I'd like to give Jonny something,” the current second-in-command of Stargate Command requested of the parents.

Reynolds opened the bag he held in his hands and showed Jack and Daniel the contents.  The parents exchanged a glance of approval.

“Jonny's gonna love it.  Permission granted,” Jack permitted, eager to see his namesake's reaction.  He turned to face the SUV and called out, “Jonny, front and center.”

It took a few moments for Jonny to obey the command since he was already in the SUV and had to maneuver around some of his siblings to get out of the vehicle.  Eagerly, he sprinted over to the adults, assumed a military stance, and saluted.

Returning the salute, Jack told his son, “Colonel Reynolds has something for you.”

Jonny turned around to face Reynolds and Davis and saluted them as well.

“At ease,” Reynolds ordered, playing along with the military protocol.  “Jeff told me how much you like the Thunderbirds.”

“I want to fly one someday,” Jonny commented.

“My hunch is that you will,” Reynolds encouraged.  “When I was a kid, I liked the Thunderbirds a lot, too, so when I was ten, my grandfather surprised me by taking me to see one of their shows.  He bought me this that day.”  Holding out a decades-old vintage Thunderbirds cap, he expounded, “It brought me good luck back then and now I'd like you to have it.”

“Are you sure you want to give that up?” Jack asked Reynolds while motioning to Jonny not to take the hat as yet.

“Yes, Sir.  It's special to me, and I'd really like Jonny to have it.”

“Can I, Dad?” the Munchkin besieged excitedly.  After Jack motioned to him that it was okay, Jonny took the hat and gently placed it on his head.  “I'll take really good care of it, Ice, I promise.”

“I know you will, Jonny.  I only wore it a few times that year.”

“Did it really bring you good luck?”

“That's the truth.  Maybe I'll tell you how one of these days.”

Interrupting the private discussion, Davis reminded his partner, “We really should get going and let Jack and Daniel be on their way.”

“Right,” the full colonel acknowledged.  To Jack and Daniel he spoke, “Sorry for delaying your trip.”

“Seeing how you made Jonny one happy little camper, we'll overlook it,” Jack teased.

“Jonny, Paul and Marc are leaving," Daniel called out, noting that the Munchkin quickly ran back over to the adults.

“Thank you, Ice and Paul, for the presents,” Jonny gratefully stated as he gave each man a quick hug.

“You're welcome,” Reynolds responded on behalf of both men.  “I wanted to do something extra to show my appreciation for your hard work with the fence,” he told the budding young pilot.

“Oh, you didn't have to do that.  I had a good time and I learned a lot about putting in a fence.”

“That's great, but I still want you to have the hat.”
 
“Thanks!  Are you going to the air show, too?” Jonny inquired.

“No, we have other plans, but we wanted to drop off you bonus first,” Davis answered.

“We really need to go.  Have fun at the air show,” Reynolds said before heading to the car with Davis.

“Dinner soon,” Daniel called out, getting a nod from the exiting couple.

“What a cool way to start off our birthday,” the oldest Munchkin commented.

As the couple drove off in Davis' Ford Mustang, Jack ordered his son, “Saddle up.”

While Jonny hurried to the SUV, Jack put forth, “Maybe Reynolds and Davis are finally ready for kids.”

“Maybe, but they haven't 'borrowed' the brood lately,” Daniel responded.

“Which means?”

“I have no idea; I'm just saying.”

In the past, Reynolds and Davis essentially borrowed the younger portion of the brood to baby-sit and, in the process, remind them that kids were cuter when they were someone else's.  The two often talked about adopting, but it would be a huge change to their lifestyle and they just weren't sure they were really parent material.  Somehow, the younger members of the brood knew the reason for their visits with the two men and as a result, they had a great time being intentionally mischievous.  It was still a mystery whether or not they'd ever have kids of their own, but they were happy together and that was what mattered the most.

“Let's get going, Babe.  Do you want to drive?”

“Yeah,” Jack affirmed.

Daniel headed for the front passenger seat while Jack approached Jeff, who was still outside the SUV.

“Forget how to sit?” Jack joked.

“Nah, I just felt like standing until you guys were ready.”

“By the way, “Did you set this up with Reynolds?”

“Not really, but Ice and I were talking about the air show at Jen's graduation back in May and he mentioned having two caps from the late seventies.  He called me in Cincinnati a few days ago to see if we were still going to the show.”

“Reynolds is a sly one.”

“That's why you like him,” Jeff teased, getting a sly laugh from his father in return and finally taking a seat in the car.

~There's that, and the great support the man gave me when I first got my stars,~ Jack opined as he settled into the driver's seat and turned on the engine.  “Okay, kids, we're on our way at last.”

Or so the general thought.

As Jack was backing out of the driveway, Daniel's cell phone rang.

“Daniel!”

“I forgot,” the archaeologist admitted with a grin.

“Man lived for centuries without smarty cell mobile phones.  Mine's in the house. Why isn't yours?”

The children giggled as their younger father smiled sweetly without answering the question.

“Muzzle it,” Jack ordered, watching as Daniel took out his smartphone and casually glanced at the incoming call indicator.

“It's Sam.”

“She has a husband,” Jack bellowed.

“Jack, I can't ignore it.”

Putting the SUV in 'park', the general mumbled, “Elmendorf is too ritzy for her.”

Daniel shushed the giggling children as he took the call, greeting, “Hey, Sam.”

“Busy?”

“No, of course not.”  Ignoring the daggers being tossed his way, Daniel queried, “What's up?”

“I wanted your advice about ...”

Suddenly, Daniel felt his phone being removed from his hands.

“Carter, how's Shanahan?”

“Fine, Sir.”

“Alive; no injuries?”

“He's ... pruning, Sir,” Sam responded.

“So he has vital signs?”

“Um, yes.”

“How are the kids?”

“Helping Pete.”

“So this call isn't about life and death?” Jack prodded.

“No.  I just wanted Daniel's advice about the garden and what flowers to plant next season.”

As the brood giggled some more, Jack stared at his husband as he replied in monotone, “He'll get back to you.”

As Daniel reached for his phone, Jack's hand went up and to the back where Aislinn was sitting.

“Ash, put Daddy's phone on 'off' and hide it in your booster seat.”

More laughter ensued as Aislinn did as requested.

“Jennifer, Jeff, a piece of advice,” Jack began.  “If you have your cell phones on your person, I suggest that change -- *now*.”

Covertly, both of the older children turned off their cell phones and placed them in storage holders inside the SUV.

“Thunderbirds, here we come!” Jack announced as he once again began to back out of the driveway.

====

The family SUV cleared the gate at the Colorado Springs Airport where the Pikes Peak Regional Air Show was being held and quickly found an ideal parking space.  The show was one of the biggest ones ever planned for the annual event, so to accommodate all of the planes, it was actually being held at an Army facility off Cresterra Parkway, located just south of the passenger terminal.
 
“Rank has privileges,” Chenoa giggled as the family got out of the SUV.

“Especially when you have stars,” Lulu laughed.

“Jack!”

“Today, Daniel, rank is good,” Jack smirked happily, not the least bit sorry that he'd let his multiple-star general status be known in order to be let inside the air show parking area early.  It was still an hour before the public would be allowed in, but the Jackson-O'Neills were already on their feet and walking to the display area.  “We'll stake our spots and then take a quick look around before the show starts.  Jeff, need help with the chairs?”

“David and I have it under control, Dad,” Jeff responded about some of the lightweight portable chairs they'd brought with them so that whoever wanted to could sit down during the day.

With Jack and Daniel carrying a large cooler of juices and such, Jeff and David followed with the chairs.  The rest of the children mixed in until Jonny zoomed past all of them to mark his chosen place to watch.  It was right up front against the ribbon boundary that separated the crowd from the demonstration area.

“Good choice, General Jonny,” Jack praised as he and Daniel placed the cooler on the ground.  “Bri, have the marker?”

“Right here, Dad.”

As Jeff and David arranged the chairs in two rows, Brianna placed a flag marker next to them.  The marker read simply, “Brood.”

“Just a reminder,” Daniel began as he looked at the brood.  “Dad's stars may have rank today, but so do Jen, Jeff, Bri, and David.  If you want to go somewhere, it has to be with one of them, and no more than three young brood per old brood.”

“Daddy!” Jennifer balked at being called 'old'.

“Does everyone understand?”

“Yes, Daddy,” a chorus of Jackson-O'Neills acknowledged.

“Good.  Let's have fun.  It's a special day,” Daniel put forth with a smile.  He glanced at his husband and joked, “You must really be happy.”

“Why?”

“You haven't reminded us yet how much the tickets cost.”

“Twenty bucks for the adults *with* the military discount, fifteen each for the kiddies: petty amount for what being at one of these shows brings in terms of experience.”

**I love you, Babe.**

**Love you, too, Angel.  Let's have some fun.**

**After you.**

====

Jack wandered around and spied someone he knew, an officer apparently working with the Thunderbirds.  He glanced back over his shoulder where the Munchkins were and grinned.

~I'm about to be king for a day,~ the general opined as he walked over to his colleague and set up an event Jonny would remember forever.

--

“General Jonny, front and center!” came the order.

Jonny looked over, as did his siblings, and saw that the call was from a man he didn't know, but that didn't matter, since the man wasn't that far away and he was certain his entire family was watching.  He ran over, stood at attention, and saluted.

“General Jonny, present and accounted for, Sir.”

The strange man returned the salute and ordered, “At ease.”  The man looked the Munchkin up and down.  “I understand you want to fly one of these birds one day.”

Jonny's eyes were wide as dollars and his heart was in his throat as he gulped, “Yes, Sir.”

“You think you have what it takes?”

“Sir, yes, Sir!” the Munchkin piped strongly.  “I know how to fly our plane.  She's a Meyers 200A.”

“Impressive, but it can't hold a candle to one of our fighter jets.”

“Jo's not a fighter jet, but I love her, and I love Air Force jets.”

“You have the right stuff, do you?”

“Yes, Sir!” Jonny snapped.

“There,” the man stated as he pointed at a F-16D jet.  “Move it, *now*!” was the order, with a nod that indicated he should go to the plane.

“Daaaaad!,” the Munchkin called out, desperate to make sure he wasn't dreaming and that he had their permission.  “Dad, where are you?”

“Right here, Jonny,” Jack called out from behind the youngster.

“Dad, he said I could go over to that jet,” Jonny stated as he pointed to the plane.

“Then you'd better get going.  They're busy; they don't have time to wait,” Jack advised in a general's tone, followed by a smile.

Jonny looked around and saw his younger father and called out, “Daddy?”

“Have fun,” Daniel permitted.  “We're all watching.”

Apparently, Jonny was the last one to know about Jack's spontaneous surprise for his namesake, but there was the brood, smiling, waving, and calling out for him to hurry up.  The boy looked back over at his dad and had the biggest smile ever before he turned and ran over to the twin-seat trainer jet.  There were two of them that were with the Thunderbird team at all times.

Jack joined his family and they watched as Jonny was shown the plane.  He was impressed.  He knew how excited Jonny was, but now that the initial shock was over, Jonny was all business as he listened to the instructions and, after putting on a junior-sized flight suit along with an extra piece of necessary attire, climbed into the backseat of the Falcon aircraft.

“Dad, what's he wearing?” Aislinn questioned.

“That's a G-suit, a special contraption that has pressurized pouches over the abdomen and the legs.”

“How come?” Ricky questioned.

“Once inside the cockpit, the G-suit attaches to a special air supply.  Let's just say at high G-forces, it's necessary.”

“Oh,” the youngster responded, though he didn't really understand what his dad was saying.

**Danny?**

**Yeah, stop there.**
 
Jack didn't really want to get into the specifics at the moment.  Once the brood was back down on the ground, he and Daniel could answer the question in more detail, including explaining how the G-suit protected against blackouts due to how the blood reacted under high acceleration flying.

“Wow,” there he goes,” Aislinn remarked excitedly a few minutes later.

The next several minutes were serene until Daniel suddenly lost some of the joy.  He was currently to the left of the ogling brood with his husband to the right of the eleven children.  Something was wrong and it disturbed him.  While he was about to pin it on his soulmate, he knew should have been more attentive to the potential problem as well.

**Jack, *you* have a problem.**

**Me?  Look at our son.  He's gonna be grinning for a year.**

**Eyes left,** Daniel ordered.

**Huh?**

**General, eyes left ... now.**

Jack didn't want to miss a minute of Jonny's flight time, but he knew the order was real and he was going to be in the doghouse if he didn't obey.  He took what he intended to be a glance, only that glance turned into a prolonged observation as he took in the problem.

All the children were full of smiles as they focused on the sky, but using his best discerning skills, Jack now saw what Daniel noticed.  Though smiling, there were some looks of envy, of desire, and of sadness that they weren't in the air.

**I spot three bogeys,** Jack admitted.

**Fix it, Jack.**

The general looked down and let out a big puff of air.  On top of the world mere seconds ago, now he felt dumb for not realizing that while Jonny was the declared pilot wannabe, most of the kids knew how to fly the family's private plane nicknamed Jo and some knew how to fly their Lear jet.  The truth was that a lot of the brood enjoyed flying with their parents.

~You're a jerk, O'Neill.~  Jack grunted.  ~'Fix it', he says.  Yeah, right. sure.  Piece of cake.~

Fixing this mess was going to take the right person, at one of the highest levels of the Air Force, and a lot of fast talking from the silver-haired man.  The problem was he was almost out of time.  The father walked away and while he was never one who liked to run fast, he ran at his fastest pace to the SUV and retrieved Daniel's smartphone from Aislinn's booster seat.  The phone wouldn't have the direct line he needed, so he was forced to go through the system, and that wasn't easy, especially on a Sunday.  His rank, reputation, and intimidating tone finally got him to the person he needed.

“General,” Jack began.  ~Forget the formalities,~ he told himself.  “David, I'm pulling in a huge favor.”

Jack explained his request and, as expected, got the 'no way; it's impossible' speech from the high-ranking officer.

“Hey, I'm not asking for the risky stuff here, no Calpyso or Knife Edge stuff.  I don't want some fancy reflection pass.  I'm just asking for a safe, quick little roll and maybe a sweet loop.  Five minutes, David, and I'll foot the bill.”

“That's a big bill, Jack.”

“They're my kids and it's the Munchkins' birthday.  Come on.  There aren't that many people here yet and the ones who are will think it's just another pre-flight check.  You've got two D craft.  Five minutes for the first set, five minutes for the second.”  Jack heard the hesitation.  “I'll owe you one.”

“You're retired.”

“That should tell you how much this means to me.”  Jack paused as he looked up at the sky.  “David, they're landing.  I need this done *now* or I'm gonna be in the doghouse for a *long* time.  I'll owe you twice.”

“No arguments?  Anytime, for anything?”

“Anytime, anything.  You have my word.”

“Done.  You're word is good enough for me; now hang up so I can give the order.”

“Thanks.”

“And, Jack?”

“Yes?”

“Just pay the bill.  You've done your bit, and more.  This country owes you and your family a heck of a lot more than this.”

“Thanks, but we made a deal, so if you need me, I'm available.”

As the call ended, Jack tucked the phone into his pocket and returned to stand with his family.  The fighter jet with his son just touched down on the runway.  He glanced over where the Thunderbird jets were located.  As a matter of routine, there were six planes used in the shows.  Four were the F-16C Fighting Falcons, the Air Force’s premier multi-role fighter jet.  Two were the D-version, the two-seater training jets.  All were combat ready, even though a few adjustments were made to them for the air shows.  All of them could be called into service for a military combat situation immediately, without alteration.

Combined, the six jets made up the diamond formation that sometimes began the air shows.  Then the C-version solo planes did a set of dangerous, precision-based maneuvers.  Throughout the performance, there were an assortment of solo stunts, two-jet close proximity demonstrations, and four-to-six jet formations and maneuvers.  The shows tended to be roughly thirty minutes in duration plus the preparation time beforehand and the landing routine at the conclusion of the air demonstration.

Jack's stare lightened when he observed movement by the planes which had actually already performed their pre-flight checks and morning practice maneuvers.  He saw the second D-craft being readied and then his friend running over to him.

“Jack, I don't know what you did or how you did it, but we've just been given orders to allow a couple of quick flights.”

The children were close enough that they could hear, so when their dad turned to face them, there were twenty-two very curious eyes staring at him, plus two pleased parental ones.

“Kids, listen up.  Dad made a little mistake by thinking Jonny would be the only one who would want to fly in one of those birds.”  Jack drew a breath and then called out, “Little Danny, Aislinn, Jenny, step forward.”

The three children did exactly as requested, their eyes never leaving the general.

“Who wants to go for a ride?”

Jack didn't need a verbal response.  His answer was evident by the lit-up expressions.  While he was certain his read was right, he couldn't afford to gamble.

“Brood, the rest of you, pay attention and no holding back,” Jack warned.  “If you really want to go up, I need you to tell me now.  There's room.  Talk to me!”

Jennifer was content with her skills with the family planes.  Jeff considered it, mostly because of his late father, but he decided it wasn't something he really needed to do and he had a sense that there were really only so many seats available and he didn't want to be responsible for one of his siblings missing out on the special ride.  Brianna and David were both happy for their brothers and sisters, but they had no interest in tumbling through the skies.  JD was too young and fortunately made no signs of wanting to experience the jets up close and in person.  Ricky was also disinterested.  Lulu was open to it, but wasn't feeling the drive to get inside one of the jets on this day.

However, Chenoa grinned, stepped forward, and announced, “I want to go up in the jet, Dad.”

The announcement floored just about everyone, except for Lulu, who knew all of her sister's secrets.

Jack looked across at his husband, who shrugged and then nodded.

“Okay,” Jack reminded.  He turned to his friends.  “Four for the wild blue yonder,” he announced.  “Perimeters?”

“Understood,” the man replied.  “Easy and light.”

“Correct, but remember, they're all fliers,” Jack advised with a smile.

“Yes, Sir,” the man acknowledged.  “Kids, this way.”

At that moment, Jonny was being escorted back to his parents when he saw his siblings coming towards.

“Did you see me?”

“It was awesome, Jonny,” Aislinn replied.

“We're going next,” Jenny told the youthful general.

“Yes!” Jonny exclaimed, doing his dad-like fist pump of joy.  “I'll be watching.”

It wasn't long before the two F-16D fighters roared into the sky, each carrying a member of the brood.  They did rolls and loops and a couple of maneuvers that were considered basic and safe.  After a changeover in kids and the routine check of the plane, the fighters returned to the sky and repeated the same maneuvers.

“Jason, do you get to fly every day?” Little Danny questioned the pilot.  It was the first of several inquiries by the birthday boy in the backseat, who was totally calm during every minute of the flight.  “Wow!”

“This is my office in the sky.  I live up here,” the pilot declared.  “Rolling left.”

Little Danny felt the pressure.  He felt his muscles tightening and for a second, he thought every one of his brothers and sisters were sitting on top of him.  It seemed like forever, but the child prodigy counted in his head and realized the entire roll only took about thirteen seconds.

“That was way cool,” Little Danny told the pilot.

“We normally maneuver faster than that.  That was a 4.2 G-turn and that means ...”

“... that it's 4.2 times my body weight.  It's why I felt like I was being crushed by the brood and why it was hard to breath for a little bit.”  Little Danny paused and asked, “Is that how you get away in a plane fight?”

“It could be, but most of the time we'd use it in a one-on-one fight.”

“A dogfight?”

“That's affirm.  Rolling right would help us get behind the enemy and get a clear shot.”

“I don't like fighting, but I understand why sometimes we have to fight.  My dad's a general.”

“I've heard about him.  He's a hero.”

The boy smiled and affirmed, “He is and so is my daddy.”

That line surprised the pilot, but he refrained from commenting on it and instead praised, “You know your stuff, Danny.”

“We read a lot,” Little Danny answered.  “Can we go faster?”

“Not today, young man.  You need to do a bit more growing before we could do that.”

“Okay, I understand, but can we do it again?”

Loving the boy's enthusiasm and calmness, Jason smiled and answered, “Sure, one more time.”

====

Back on the ground, the pilots took pictures with the four children, just like they had with Jonny earlier.  There was lots of chatter as they talked about their experiences, and then the big show was about to begin.

“That's pretty amazing, how they walk and turn like that in sync,” Brianna opined as she watched the pilots and their plane techs march across the runway and turn off by their assigned planes.”

“Dad, did you do that?” Jonny asked as he looked up at his dad for a second.

“I've done my share of marching,” Jack responded.  ~It was that or face an early court-martial.  Besides, it is kinda cool.~

“It's loud,” JD, who was seven, noted.

“Is it too loud, JD?” Daniel questioned.  “Maybe you should put on earphones.”

“Na-huh, but it is loud,” the child opined about the sound of all six F-16 planes engaged at once.

~Music to warm my soul,~ Jack thought.

~I want to fly one of those,~ Jonny cogitated, laughing because he had a secret.  He'd been allow to fly a straight pattern, seemingly by himself for a few seconds.  Of course, the pilot never really relinquished control, but he did give his passenger the feeling of flying the fighter jet.  ~Best birthday ever!~

“Even their helpers do everything at the same time,” Chenoa remarked about the two plane technicians assigned to each jet when all twelve moved in sync with their counterparts, never missing a motion or step that was done together.

“Precision flying starts on the ground, Princess,” Jack responded.

“Who are they, Dad?” Ricky inquired.

“The crew chief and the assistant crew chief.  It's their job to keep those birds safe and ready to go at all times.  If they mess up, it could get very, very messy.”

“What if the others finish before one of them?  They might not finish like they're supposed to,” Jonny stated.

“They've gone through an extensive process to get here,” Jack answered.  “These are the best of the best at what they do, but you tell me, Jonny.  If you were that crew chief and for whatever reason, you weren't done with your task when it was time to move on.  What would you do?”

It was a serious question and Jonny thought for a moment before he answered, “It would be embarrassing not to finish when I was supposed to, and if I made the others look bad because I was slow, or something, then they probably wouldn't let me do it anymore, and I'd want to do, but ... I'd have to do it right, Dad, because if I did something wrong, maybe someone would get hurt.”

“That's the right answer,” Jack confirmed with a pleased smile.  “If you're on the ground crew, your assignment is to make sure that bird is safe for the pilot.  His or her life is in your hands.”

“I understand,” Jonny responded with conviction, showing a true respect for performing one's job appropriately.

“Daddy, look!” Aislinn exclaimed.

“What, Sweetie?”

“There's a woman out there!”

“Ash, don't you think women can do these jobs?” Daniel asked.

“Yes, they can,” the girl declared firmly.  ~Wow!~

“Hey, there's a girl out there,” Lulu noted, unaware of Aislinn's chat with their daddy.

“Girls, just so you know, women have flown with the Thunderbirds as pilots,” the archaeologist told his very impressed daughters.

“Really?”

“I was reading about this last week.  The first woman was Nicole Malachowski, a major later promoted to lieutenant colonel.  She flew in the right wing slot in 2006 and 2007.  Later, Captain Samantha Weeks flew the opposing solo, the, uh, six position,  She joined the team in 2007 which meant that there were two women pilots on the Thunderbirds for that demonstration season.  The other female pilot was Major Caroline Jensen, who also flew right wing.  I'd like to point out that when she was elected to the team, she was also a wife and a mom.”

“Women can do anything!” Jenny avouched with pride.

“Yeah, but only three women?  The Thunderbirds have been around since 1953.  Do the math.  Three women in all those years isn't much,” Brianna suggested unhappily.

“For the Air Force, that's something.  It's a start,” Jack opined.  Seeing the stares, he raised his hands and added, “I didn't say it was good enough, ladies, I just said it was a start.”

“They're moving!  They're moving!” Jonny exclaimed.  “JD, come here,” he beckoned, picking the boy up so he could see better.

“Let me help with that, Sport,” Jack said, taking JD from the Munchkin and hoisting the youngest member of the brood onto his shoulders.

“This is the best view.  Thanks, Dad,” JD responded as he began to clap and cheer.

The crowd watched as the twelve members of grounds crew worked in precision movements, making final adjustments on the planes as they sat on the runway and also picking up and putting away various pieces of equipment used in the jets' preparation.  Then the twelve returned to the formation, walking away in unison, the same way they'd begun the preparation for the flight.
  
Over the public address system, the large crowd heard, “Thunderbirds, let's run em' up!”

As one, four of the jets released big plumes of exhaust and took off as one, joining in the sky for their first formation.  Seconds later, another jet took off, doing a quick roll, and then the last of the fighter planes left the ground and thrilled the public with a magnificent loop, causing gasps and applause.

“Dad, they're flying upside down!” JD spoke in scattered breaths as excitement took his voice.

“They sure are.”

“That is so scary,” Jennifer remarked, her body doing a combination of cringing and trembling as she watched one jet get inches away from another as the four flew dangerously close to one another.  “I thought that plane was going to go right between the other two.  I could never do that.”

“Man, if just one of them loses their focus or miscalculates a move, they're all dead,” Jeff commented soberly.

“Daddy, am I too heavy?” Jenny asked, after watching two plans fly overhead and then crossover in a perilously close flyby.  “My neck hurts.”

With a smile, Daniel picked up Jenny and situated her on his shoulders.  Age ten for less than a month, the redhead was actually the shortest of the children, except for the younger JD.

“How's that?”

“Much better.  Thank you, Daddy.”

“You're welcome, Jenny.”

“Oh, that's scary,” Chenoa opined.  “How can they fly with the wings like that?”

“Lift, angle, speed, drag,” Jack answered.

“He means ask Aunt Sam,” Ricky snarked.

The comment earned the Spitfire a stare from Jack, but also a small chuckle accompanied by a, “Yeah, do that.”

Jenny gasped and covered her eyes as she asked, “Daddy, is he going to crash?”

“No, Honey, it's okay.  He's going low and slow.  Open your eyes and you'll see him take off in a minute.”

“Oh, there he goes!  My heart stopped, Daddy.”

“These pilots are experts at what they do, Jenny.”

“I believe it.”

“This has always been my favorite part, all the jets together with those cool white contrails behind them,” David opined.

“David, I love ya, but do you know what those pretty white condensation trails are doing to this planet?  Think global warming,” Brianna urged.

“You're kidding?” David asked.  Seeing his sister's expression, he sighed, “You're not kidding.”

“Bri, prepare a report for next week.  We'll talk about it at home.  David, you do your own research and see what you come up with.  No communicating between you two.  I want these to be independent assessments.  Understood?”

“Yes, Sir,” David acknowledged while a smiling Brianna nodded at her dad.

After roughly thirty minutes of the Air Force team captivating the audience with a variety of precision maneuvers, most of which caused gasps of fright and delight from many, including the brood, the jets landed.  The maintenance crew were introduced before returning to their precise routine as they guided the jets to a stop.  As one, all six fighter pilots shut down their engines and opened the cockpit windows as the audience applauded.

The pilots climbed out of their planes, exchanged strong pats of support with their crew, and removed their G-suits.

“I've got chills,” Lulu told Chenoa as she rubbed her arms and showed how her hairs was standing erect.

“Me, too,” Chenoa agreed.

“Favorite moments?” Daniel asked while he lowered Jenny to the ground

As the family sat down in their seats to enjoy some drinks and snacks for several minutes, Jeff answered, “That Diamond 360 was neat.”

“The Diamond Burst was better,” Ricky opined with a smile.

“I think it was all fun, but that thing at the end was super.  What was that called?” Jenny questioned.

“The Reflection Pass,” both Jonny and Little Danny answered and then chuckled.

====

With the Thunderbird demonstration over and the Jackson-O'Neills refreshed, those that wanted to and hadn't yet met all six pilots were able to have their pictures taken with them.  After that, the family spent hours going through the display areas, looking at a variety of restored aircraft, especially from World War II, some of which performed throughout the day and others that were only on display.  There were also boats and cars to be reviewed.

The day was extra special because it was celebrating the Air Force's seventieth birthday and the one-hundredth anniversary of the founding of Fort Carson's Fourth Infantry Division, for which several of the fort's helicopters were flown in to be part of the show.

“Anyone want to go see the helicopters?” Jennifer asked.

“Me!” Chenoa and Lulu said within milliseconds of each other.

After letting her parents know where she was headed with her sisters, the trio began walking away.

“Don't forget me,” Ricky called out.  “Copters are neat.”

“I agree,” Jennifer returned, signaling to the boy to join them.  “*Daddy!*” she called out, pointing at Ricky as a way of letting the archaeologist know that the Spitfire was joining her.

Whether they were exploring helicopters, walking among vintage aircraft, or canvassing the museum and demonstration areas, the family was enjoying the experience fully.

====

Around six in the evening, the Jackson-O'Neills were on the road and headed for their favorite ice cream parlor.

As Daniel drove the SUV right into a front parking space, Jenny called out, “Hey, there's the Millers.”

“How about that?” Jack quipped with a smirk.

“I see Angela ... and Maddie ... and Aunt Sara,” Chenoa observed happily.

“Everyone loves this place,” Jack noted.

Out of the vehicle, the children were chatting away as they approached the front entrance.

“Hey, it says their closed for a private party,” Little Danny called out to his parents.

“Ya think?” Jack responded as he opened the door and nodded for the children to enter.

As soon as the brood walked, a loud exclamation of “Happy Birthday, Munchkins!” was heard.

The excited triplets were thrilled at their unanticipated celebration.  The three believed that the extent of their party was the air show and ice cream with cake, so they were delighted to see a restaurant full of their family and friends.  As greetings were made, Daniel walked over to the counter where the manager was to make sure everything was going as planned.

Since Jack and Daniel rented out the entire restaurant for the evening, the guests were free to mix and mingle at their leisure.  Jack chose a moment to speak with his oldest son.

“Jeff, Daddy and I have a little surprise for you.”

“It's not my birthday,” the college student teased.  In fact, Jeff was only home for the weekend.  First thing tomorrow, he was scheduled to return to the University of Cincinnati where he was in his final year of studying architecture.  “What is it?”

“The Thunderbirds have a show coming up in Georgia.  If you want to fly down from Ohio, we've arranged for you to have some flight time in one of the birds, just like the Munchkins and Jenny did today.  Are you interested?”

Jeff smiled in disbelief and he quickly nodded as he answered, “Yes.”

“Daddy had a hunch you were holding back to make sure your younger siblings had this day be special for them.  Was he right?”

“Yeah, I guess so.  I'm not going to be a pilot in the Air Force, Dad, but Jonny's going to be and probably Little Danny and who knows about the rest.”

“It was a nice thing you did, but Daddy and I agree you deserve some airtime.  Your dad was a great pilot.  His record was exemplary in the air.  We'd like you to have a better understanding of it's like up there in a real fighter.”

“I'd love that, Dad.  Thank you,” Jeff replied as he hugged Jack.

“Thank Daddy, the eagle eye.”

“I will.”

The party was a great success.  The guests were treated to dinner and dessert that included generous helpings of ice cream and cake.  Jeff took several photos to memorialize the event.  While the invitees were asked not to bring presents for the Munchkins, some did anyway, so the triplets loved opening their gifts, something that happened sporadically during the party.

At one point toward the end of the evening, Davis and Reynolds handed the triplets individual presents.  Enthusiastically, the children ripped apart the top of the gift bags that were tied with ribbons and loaded with a bunch of tissue paper.

“Wow!” Jonny exclaimed as he reached into his bag and pulled out a Matt Duchene action figure.  The Jackson-O'Neills were big time hockey fans and Jonny had many favorite players, including the longtime team center.  “Gee whiz, I love it!” Jonny exclaimed.  “I've been saving to buy one of these for a while,” he revealed as he examined the box and all the accessories that came with it.  “Dad, Daddy, look!  He comes with a helmet and everything.”

“We see that,” the general responded with a smile.  “Why don't you go show your brothers and sisters.”

“Jeff, look!” Jonny called out, running over to his sibling who was chatting with General Hammond.  “Grandpa, look at this!”

As Jonny grinned from ear to ear while showing off his action figure, Jack and Daniel remained with the colonels.

“Reynolds, you really didn't have to do that, especially with Jonny since you already gave him your prize cap.”

“None of the children were expecting presents,” Daniel reminded.

“She's beautiful,” Aislinn said about the blonde-haired doll that was dressed in a casual red, white, and blue outfit that featured an adorable monkey on the chest.  “The monkey reminds me of Bobo.”

“That's what we were hoping for,” Davis stated as he referred to the large stuffed monkey named Bobo that Kayla Armentrout left for her children.

“Thank you very much.  I'm going to go show Jenny,” Aislinn spoke before heading in search of her sister.

~I wonder what I got.~  Little Danny stared at his bag.  He knew it was lightweight, but he wasn't expecting it to be empty.  Still he smiled and said, “Thank you.”

Reynolds laughed and looked around to see who was near and then he bent down and whispered into the boy's right ear, “I had to get clearance for this one, from General Landry and your parents.  SG-11 just returned from a place far away and they brought back some interesting items on which there are certain glyphs that need translating.  Your daddy says you're up for the job.  What do you think?”

“I can do it.  I know I can.”

Now speaking freely as he stood upright, Reynolds advised, “That's the consensus, so if you aren't doing anything really important tomorrow afternoon, Paul will drop by and pick you up around noon.”  Seeing Little Danny's huge grin morphed into a sad face, he questioned, “What's wrong?”

“We have class tomorrow afternoon.”

Daniel reached over and touched his namesake's shoulder and, while shaking his head, informed the boy, “You're excused from class.”

“Really?”

“General Landry called and said they are backed up and they'd like a clue as to whether or not these glyphs mean anything important.  He asked for you.”

“He did not, Daddy,” Little Danny refuted in disbelief.  “He wanted you.”

“No, he asked for you, and you know I wouldn't lie about that.”

The sadness disappeared and Little Danny was feeling high once again when he asked, “So I can really go and it's a real ... you know?”

“Yes, and yes,” Daniel answered.

“Thanks, Daddy, and Dad, and Paul, and Ice!  I'm so excited.”  The boy paused and asked, “They're gonna asked me what I got?  What do I tell them?”

With a serious face, Jack responded, “Son, if you stay in this game at all, you're going to have to come up with fast answers all on your own, so you tell us, what are you going to say?”

Little Danny thought and sighed, “I'm making it too complicated.  I can just say Paul and Ice are taking me to the Mountain.  We all love going to the Mountain, just because.  That's a great present, all by itself.”

“Good answer,” Jack responded with an approving smile.  “Keep it simple.  You don't have to remember stories when you keep it as close to the truth as possible without saying things you shouldn't.  Capiché?”

“Capiché,” the Munchkin acknowledged with a smile of his own.

====

Several minutes later, one of the Spitfires was resting her head on her aunt's shoulder.

“Aunt Sam,” Jenny yawned as she leaned against the woman.  “Did you always want to be a pilot?”

“Pretty much.  I was an Air Force brat all my life, Jenny, and I worked very hard to get there.”

“What's more fun, being a pilot or being a mom?”

“A long time ago, I wouldn't have any problem answering that.  I didn't think about marriage, let alone having children.  Jenny, flying an F-16 is an awesome feeling.  I wouldn't trade that experience for much of anything.”

“Except?” the tired girl asked as she looked up at her aunt.

“Except for those five over there,” Sam sighed as she looked at her husband and their four children.  “I wouldn't want to give up my experiences with the Air Force, and I've done both for a while now, I mean, being a colonel and Mommy.”

“Dad thinks you're going to quit.”

“Your dad is a smart man, but I haven't made that decision yet.  It's hard for me to think about a life without being in the military.  The Air Force has always been the strongest source of my identity.”

“Daddy says we can all be whoever we want to be.”

“And he's a very smart man, too.”

“Aunt Sam, will you take me for a ride in an F-16 before you retire, if you retire?”

With a chuckle, Sam answered, “I don't really see myself retiring, but if I do, I'll see if I can call a favor.”

“Thank you.”

Sam chuckled.  Her focus at the moment was on daughter Susie and trying to find a way for her to hear.  To that end, she was taking leave from the Air Force and Stargate Command.  Beyond that, she had no clue what direction her professional life would take.

Within the next twenty minutes, the last of the birthday guests left and Daniel settled up with the manager.  After that, the family headed for home.

The day was long, full, and tiring, but it was also exciting, thrilling, and fun for the entire family.  After all, birthdays, no matter what the age of the celebrant, were always something special for the Jackson-O'Neills; and this one was especially stimulating for all.  As it always tended to be, life in Colorado Springs was good for Jack, Daniel and their brood plus zoo, and on this night, it was especially joyful for Mittens who was given her special snuggle time with Jack, along with her favorite treats.  To the cat, it felt like her birthday, too.

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

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