Transformation
(Slice of Covidity - February 2021)

Author: Orrymain
Category: Slash, Drama, Established Relationship
Pairing: Jack/Daniel ... and it's all J/D
Rating: PG-13
Season: Beyond the Series - February 1, 2021
Spoilers: None
Written: February 6, March 15-16,26, April 17, 2021
Summary: COVID-19 is still an issue, but that doesn't stop children from growing up or thinking about their future.
Disclaimer: Usual disclaimers -- not mine, wish they were, especially Daniel, and Jack, too, but they aren't. A gal can dream though!
Notes:
1) Silent, unspoken thoughts by various characters are indicated with ~ in front and behind them, such as ~Where am I?~

Slice of Covidity - Transformation
by Orrymain

On this February day, Jack was in his study, taking care of a few online business matters. Mittens was on his lap, purring peacefully.

A tap on the door drew the general's attention.

"Enter," Jack called out, still typing. He finished his sentence and then looked up to see Jenny, now thirteen years of age. He smiled. "How can I help you?"

Jenny closed the study door and walked slowly to one of the chairs in front of her father's desk. Clasped in her hands was a folder. She smacked her lips once nervously.

"Red, are you okay?"

"No," Jenny answered. She sighed as she sat down. "Dad, I think I need to break a promise, but I've never broken a promise, never in my whole entire life. Should I break it?"

"Jenny, you know what Daddy and I have taught all of you."

With a nod, Jenny said, "Breaking a promise should only be done to protect someone from harm, or something like that."

"Is someone in danger?"

"No." Jenny stood and headed for the door, but then she turned back and said emphatically, "But their life is in danger, not physically, but mentally. Oh crap!"

"Anything you can tell me without breaking your promise?" the father inquired. ~She's really having a hard time. What have Danny and I missed?~

Slowly, with her head bowed, Jenny returned to the chair and sat down. For over a minute, she remained silent.

"Dad, what if when you were a little boy, you absolutely knew in your soul of souls that you had to be in the Air Force. Nothing else mattered, but joining the military and flying those jets." Jenny licked her lips. "And, um, let's say you were really good at something else, like ... like ... oh, I know. You were great at building things. You were so good that everyone assumed when you grew up that you'd be in construction. They bought you things all the time to encourage your enjoyment of putting things together."

"I think I've got the picture."

"But you like construction. It's not that you don't want to do it, but it's not what you want to do every single day for the rest of your life. You want to fly planes and protect our country, but how do you tell everyone else that, when they believe construction is your life?"

"Okay, Jenny, time for specifics, but only if you really believe your only option is to break the promise."

"I've been thinking about it for weeks," Jenny admitted. "Dad, I think he'll be miserable if things don't change, but he just doesn't know how." She sighed and then blurted out, "Ricky wants to be an artist."

"Ricky what?" Jack asked. ~She didn't just say what I thought she said, did she? An artist? Where did that come from?~

"Dad, he loves interior design. The very first time he picked up that Etch-A-Sketch, he was hooked. He enjoys creating like that, and we all know he has a talent for it, but somewhere along the way, the fun and skill turned to expectation. Jeff is always talking about Ricky being part of his someday company in the future. You know, the two working together in another family business, or part of J-O even, which is a little odd, but stranger things have happened."

"You're sounding like your daddy."

"Thank you," the teenager responded with a grin of pride. "Then there's Alex. Dad, he keeps giving Ricky new equipment and software. Trust me, Ricky's grateful. He likes doing interior design, but, well ... you know how Noa and Lulu are with their dance?"

Jack nodded and replied, "It's their passion, their joy, their pleasure, but neither one of them wants to make it a career."

"Careers are supposed to be all those things," Jenny pointed out. "But they can't even explain it. There's something special about their feelings towards dance that says they want it to be something, I don't know, not really private, but they don't want to get paid for it. That's kinda what Ricky feels. He wants to dabble in interior design, not live in it."

"I see."

"Dad, he's good. He's really good." Jenny eased the folder away from her chest. "Ricky doesn't keep much of his work. He throws it away. I think he's afraid someone will see it, but he's given me these drawings." She sighed, "I promised never to show them to anyone, so I keep them hidden, but I think you should see them."

Jenny leaned forward and passed the folder to her older father. She watched as her dad put the folder atop his desk and opened it. He studied each page and when he reached the fifth one, he laughed.

"I know which one that is," Jenny said. "It's the caricature of you and the zoo."

"I look like a maniac, which is usually how I feel," Jack admitted. "Jenny, these are very good."

"I told you. Dad, he tries to tell Jeff and he started to tell Alex, but then Alex started talking about him working for Archonics, part time, as soon as he legally could. There's a lot of pressure on Ricky, from everyone."

"Yeah, I see that now." Jack closed the folder and handed it back to his daughter. "I'll talk to Daddy, and we'll figure out something."

"Thanks, Dad." Jenny stood and walked to the door, but she paused and looked back. "Did I do the right thing? Breaking my promise?"

"Yes," Jack answered. "Daddy and I won't tell Ricky that you came to me."

"Oh, you can tell him," Jenny asserted. "I can't live with telling you and not confessing it to Ricky. I'll wait until you talk to him and then I'll explain. I hope he understands."

"He knows you love him. He'll understand."

"I've never broken a promise before."

With a sad sigh, Jenny opened the door and left the study.

Jack reviewed his computer screen and decided the rest of his business could wait.

"Okay, Mittens, you're on your own," Jack said as he nudged the cat off his lap.

====

Jack's path to his destination was deterred several times. First, Jonny wanted to play catch for a few minutes, and Jack simply couldn't so no. Second, JD had a question about his geography assignment, so the father paused to assist him. Third, Jennifer showed up with Sophie, just to say 'hi', and a visit with his granddaughter was priority to the general. Finally, though, he reached his husband's den and sat down in the recliner next to the desk. He leaned over and patted Katie, who was resting in the beanbag that always stayed in the den for the beagles' use.

"Danny, we have a situation," Jack advised.

"What kind of situation?" the archaeologist questioned, his eyes still on a proposal by a potential new client.

"One of our children is being pressured to be something they don't want to be."

"Wha...what?" Daniel dropped his pen and turned his chair to face his lover. "Who? What?"

Jack explained about Ricky's secret love for art and expressed Jenny's concern for her brother.

"Angel, he's very good."

"She's been hiding his artwork?"

"For a long time. Some of the drawings were dated."

"I don't understand, Jack. We've always told our children they could come to us with anything."

"They know that, but put yourself in Ricky's shoes. Danny, we've all made such a huge deal out of Ricky's talent for interior design. Maybe we've gone overboard."

"Jeff talks about it a lot, but he'd never want Ricky to do something he didn't want to do."

"Neither would Alex, and he's only being helpful to Ricky, but imagine you're a kid and you get all these software goodies and ..."

"... and how do you say 'no'."

"That seems to be the situation."

"Hasn't Ricky kept any of his work?"

"I think he probably has and I suspect he hides his stuff the same place Jenny hides hers."

"Where, Jack? We spot check their rooms all the time. They never know where we're going to look."

"Danny, have you ever, in any spot check, looked between the mattress and the foundation?"

"The ... mattress and ... gawd, no. I never even considered it," Daniel admitted.

"Me, either." Jack stood and motioned for his soulmate to follow him. "Look, this isn't kosher for us, but I've seen Ricky's work, and I think you need to see it, too."

The parents entered the boys' room and, sure enough, when Jack lifted the mattress and felt around, he discovered a large envelope that, when opened, revealed several drawings. Together, Jack and Daniel reviewed them.

"Jack, he's employed a number of different styles. Look, these are terrific portraits."

"Look at this self-portrait."

"And these caricatures are terrific."

The two men marveled at the talent possessed by the Spitfire. Neither could believe they never had a clue about it. They put Ricky's drawings back and returned to the den.

"So, how do we fix this?" Daniel questioned.

"Straight up truth?"

"Probably the best choice."

"And then we have a family meeting and we call Alex," Jack suggested.

"Nothing like the present," the archaeologist stated as he stood up again.

====

Ricky was in the game room, playing an arcade game. Nearby, Jenny was seated beneath Muffin the dinosaur as she read a book. In between the twins, Little Danny and Aislinn were engaged in a fierce air hockey battle.

Seeing her parents enter, Jenny actually slid down to the floor, wishing she could slip into it and disappear. The Munchkins nodded, but kept on playing, neither knowing why their parents were in the room. Ricky was well involved in his game.

"How's it going?" Jack asked.

"... al...most there," Ricky replied. "Got it!"

"Well done, Sport."

"Thanks."

"Ricky, Dad and I would like to speak with you for a few minutes. Is now a good time?"

"Sure. I've finished my homework, and I'm just playing now."

"Works for me," Jack said as the three headed for the door.

"Is anything wrong?" the teenager asked.

"Nope. We just want to check in with you," the silver-haired man claimed.

Checking in with their children was something Jack and Daniel did regularly, so Ricky didn't suspect a thing when they went to the study and closed the door. Once seated, it was up to Jack to begin the conversation.

"Son, let's talk career."

"You mean my interior designs, or, I know, did Jenny tell you Alex wants me to work for Archonics?"

"Ricky, what do *you* want?" Daniel asked.

"Huh?"

"Have you spoken to Noa and Lulu about their career choices?"

"Not really."

"Wait one," Jack said, standing up and opening the door. He shouted, "Noa! Lulu! Study ... now!"

"Jack ..."

"Yeah, yeah, I know. We have an intercom."

As Ricky chuckled, Chenoa and Lulu walked in, both a bit sweaty from practicing a new routine in the dance room.

"Ah, perfect," Jack said when he saw the sisters. "Curly Tops, could you explain to Ricky about your love and passion for dancing, but how you don't want to do it professionally."

"Oh, sure," Chenoa responded. "Ricky, dancing makes my hear sing. It fills me up with joy. I can't even say what it does, but it's something ... internal. I will always love choreographing unusual routines, dances that merge different styles together, but it's something my heart."

Seeing Chenoa looking at her with a chagrined look, Lulu added, "The problem, Ricky, is it's really hard to make sense out of, but as precious as dance is for us, we don't want it to be our career. Noa wants to be nurse; I don't know what I want to do yet, but I know I don't want dancing to be all there is in my life. There's something else there for me, like medicine is there for Noa."

"We love dance. Tapping makes me feel like laughing and, I don't know," Chenoa sighed.

"We aren't helping, are we?" Lulu queried doubtfully.

"Princess, you've been perfect. Thanks. You two can go now," Jack stated. He looked over at his son. "Did any of that make sense to you?"

"Well, um, kind of ... yes."

"Ricky, don't hide the truth. Tell us. Right now, when you think about your future career, what is that career?" Daniel prodded.

The youngster sighed and looked around nervously for several seconds.

"I really love interior design."

"First and foremost? Above all else?" Daniel prompted again.

Ricky lowered his head and shook it.

Jack and Daniel shared a relieved look. Progress was being made.

"Son, what's above it?" the general asked.

"Jenny told you, didn't she?" Ricky surmised. "It's okay. She's been encouraging me to tell you the truth for a long time, but I didn't know how to do it. I tried. I really tried, but I just couldn't do it."

"Ricky, your artwork is amazing," Daniel opined. "Yes, Dad and I have seen some of it. Yes, Jenny told Dad about your situation. We're glad she did, but I hope you know and consider how difficult that was for her."

"Son, your sister broke a promise to you, and she's devastated by doing so, but she did it because she wants you to be happy in life."

"I know, Dad. I'm not angry. I'll talk to her later."

"Good, but right now, we're talking about you."

"I want to be an artist. I'm not sure what I'd do with my artwork, but that's what I want to do."

"Do you want to study art in college?"

"Yes. I want to learn how to be better and I want to understand the history of art to help me know how everything fits," Ricky elaborated.

The more the discussion continued, the happier Jack and Daniel were that they'd broached the subject now instead of waiting. With Ricky also sounding both relieved and happy, it was time to correct some of the false impressions.

Daniel pulled out his smartphone and called the house next door.

"Chely, hello. Is my son available?"

"I'll get him."

Jeff came to the phone and heard the appeal to come to the house for a couple of minutes. He did so and promptly entered the den.

"What's going on?" the young man asked.

Ricky sighed and, sounding very much like his daddy once did, jumbled his words and thoughts together as he spewed, "Jeff,nowantIbeinterior ... designer." He gulped and more clearly informed, "I want to be an artist."

"You do?"

"Yes."

"Cool. Hey, you can design the logos for my company, whenever I get my company."

"You're ... not mad at me?"

"Mad. Little Man, why would I be mad at you for wanting to be an artist?" Confused, Jeff looked at his parents for answers. "What did I miss?"

"Miscommunication," Jack answered.

Daniel told his oldest son the story in shortened detail, but it was enough for Jeff to get the gist of the situation.

"Geez, Ricky. You should have said something." Jeff kneeled down in front of his seated brother. "Look, if you ever want to do interior design, I'll support you in that all the way, but if drawing and sketching is your thing, I'm equally proud of you. Don't hold out on me like that again."

"I won't," Ricky promised, leaning forward and hugging his brother.

"I apologize for my assumptions. You're an artist. So cool!"

Jeff needed to get back to his family, so began to leave, but then he looked back and asked, "Can you do a drawing of Chipper?"

"Sure!" Ricky responded brightly.

With Jeff gone, Daniel rubbed Ricky's back and offered, "That wasn't as bad as you thought it would be, was it?"

"No. I was afraid he'd be mad at me. He and Alex have invested a lot of money and time on me being an interior designer."

"Because they thought that's what you wanted," the archaeologist pointed out.

"One down, one to go," Jack said as he dialed the number. "Alex, are you available for a Skype call? We need to talk."

"I need three minutes. I'll call you back. Landline or smartphone?" the globally acclaimed interior designer asked.

"Landline."

For the next few minutes, Ricky paced the study. Telling his brother the truth was one thing, but telling Alex was another.

"He's spent a lot of money on me," the boy lamented yet again. "And he's given a lot more of his time," he sighed.

"Honesty is the best policy," Daniel reminded. "He'll understand."

The phone rang, Skype connected the callers, and the time of truth was at hand.

"Alex, Ricky has something very important he needs to discuss with you," Daniel said. "I want you to know he's having a hard time, so please be patient with him."

"I hope nothing's wrong," Alex replied.

"Ricky, it's time," Daniel called out, motioning for the teen to sit down on Jack's chair and look at the computer monitor where Alex's image was waiting. "We'll be right here," the archaeologist advised as he and Jack stood behind their son.

"Alex, I really do love interior design, and you've been a terrific mentor."

The man of Italian descent could see Ricky was having difficulty.

"Ricky, what's the problem?"

"I love interior design," the Spitfire repeated, "but I want to be an artist. Please don't hate me."

"An artist? Are you any good?"

"I think so. Jenny says I am, but no one else has seen anything I've drawn; well, maybe Dad and Daddy have now, too."

"I want to see your work, Little Man. Send me some scans."

"Oooo...okay, but ..."

"Listen, have you thought about working on interior design the way Jen does with her weaving? On an occasionally basis? Special projects."

"I'd really like that." Ricky looked back at his parents and nodded. "I really would, to do it sometimes, but not all the time."

The conversation went on for a few minutes and then ended.

"I'm going to get my drawings and show the brood, okay?" Ricky energetically spoke.

"Okay," Jack replied. "We'll be there in a jiffy." He watched Ricky sprint out of the den. "Danny, did that feel off to you?"

"Yeah. I mean, Alex took that very well, very fast."

Just then, Jack's smartphone rang. It was Alex.

"Jack, is Ricky absolutely sure about this? He's guaranteed great success as an interior designer."

"You should see his artwork, Alex. Apparently, he's been drawing for years and keeping it a secret from everyone except Jenny. How'd you know, and you did know?"

"Jeff called me before he was out of your house and gave me a heads up. Jack, I'll support Ricky in whatever he wants to do, but I need a day to really let this sink in."

"We understand, but thanks for the quick response. Ricky needed that."

"That's what Jeff said. Oh, Jack, I meant what I said. If Ricky really does want to work as an independent contractor, so to speak, he's got the job."

"He knows, and we support that."

After the phone call ended, the parents took a minute themselves to let the news of the day settle.

"You know, Danny, it makes sense."

"Ricky being an artist?"

"That kid has always marched to a different drummer."

"The mismatched socks."

"The crazy shirts he likes to wear. They remind of the sixties."

"Wearing superhero costumes when we ran errands."

"We never stopped him," Jack recalled.

"There was never a reason to. He was only being himself, and that was always okay with us," Daniel replied. "I'm still a little surprised he didn't confide in us, though."

"That's proof of the strength of peer pressure."

"And adult pressure," Daniel offered. "Jack, none of us ever intended to press Ricky into a career he doesn't want, but we jumped in so fast and so hard because of those Etch-A-Sketch drawings, that we were pressuring him. We need to be more careful."

"Live and learn, Danny." Jack continued, "Our kids teach us every bit as much as we teach them."

"And maybe more."
Hearing noise, Jack suggested they join their family, which the lovers did happily.

====

The rest of the evening had Jack, Daniel, and the rest of the brood stunned in a positive way. Ricky's drawings convinced all of them that his desire to be an artist was valid and worthwhile. It was a surprising transformation, from interior designer to artist, but the family fully supported Ricky's desires. No one chided the teen for keeping his emotions inside. It wasn't necessary. They did approve and loved seeing a new freedom in the youth. Somehow, Ricky appeared freer than he did that morning at breakfast.

For the Jackson-O'Neills of Colorado Springs, life was full, and today, it was extra full because Ricky was free from assumptions and free to express himself outwardly in a new way. In fact, as the night crawled onward, a new sketch was being worked on. It was a drawing of the family as they laughed in the rec room. It would be a sketch the boy would always remember. It was the day his family loved him for who he now knew he was: an artist. Yes, life was good and always full in this wonderful home of love and acceptance.

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

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