Transitions: The Next Ten Months

Author: Orrymain
Category:  Slash, Action/Adventure, Angst, H/C, Drama, Humor, Romance, Established Relationship
Pairing:  Jack/Daniel ... and it's all J/D
Rating:  PG-13
Season:  Beyond the Series -- December 13, 2006 - October 15, 2007
Spoilers:  Smoke and Mirrors, Crossroads (minor), Exodus (minor), It's Good to be King
Size:  605kb total
--Chapter One:  64kb
--Chapter Two:  36kb
--Chapter Three:  36kb
--Chapter Four:  44kb
--Chapter Five:  43kb
--Chapter Six:  71kb
--Chapter Seven:  47kb
--Chapter Eight:  71kb - Revised August 8-10
--Chapter Nine: 106kb - Revised August 8-10, 2007 Revised Again: January 14, 2008
--Chapter Ten:  87kb - Revised August 8-10, 2007
Written:  December 1-24, 2003, February 11,13-17,20, March 1-5,9, July 20,22-28, August 9-10,13-17,24-27, September 11-13, 2004  Chapter Nine Revised:  January 12, 2005  Revised: July 23-30, 2007 Revised Again Per Above
Summary:  As the Jackson-O'Neills continue to settle in to their new life outside of the SGC, something surprising happens!
Disclaimer:  Usual disclaimers -- not mine, wish they were, especially Daniel, and Jack, too, but they aren't.  A gal can dream though!
Notes:  
1) Sometimes, Jack and Daniel speak almost telepathically.  Their “silent” words to each other are indicated by asterisks instead of quotes, such as **Jack, we can't.**
2) Silent, unspoken thoughts by various characters are indicated with ~ in front and behind them, such as ~Where am I?~
3) This fic stands alone, but it does reference my past fics, “Sacrifices,” “Danny,” “Just When You Thought You Knew Jack ...,” “Gifts of a Lifetime,” “Heart and Soul,” “The Twelve Days of Christmas - Day Six,” “House of Walls,” “Brothers,” “Ten Months,” “A Munchkin Christmas,” and “Daniel Jackson - Fly Boy?”
-----Added note:  Though not necessary, it's advisable to “Sacrifices” prior to this fic as it will help in the understanding and awareness of a certain event in this story.
5) Reference is made to Brenda and ELG's wonderful story, “New Year's Resolution” in which the characters of Christa and Jacob were first created.  It can be found at:  http://www.bunnyfic.com/Brenda_ELG/New_Years_Resolution.htm
4) Thanks to my betas who always make my fics better:  Charlotte, Claudia, QuinGem, Drdjlover, Linda, Melissa, Carol!

Transitions: The Next Ten Months
by Orrymain

====
-- Chapter One:  They're Asleep
====

“Jack.”  Daniel nudged his lover, who was lying next to him.  “Jack!”

“What?” Jack fussed, not wanting to wake up.

“They're asleep ... ALL *three* ... sound asleep.”

“So am I,” Jack abruptly stated, rolling over onto his right side, wanting nothing more than to return to his blissful slumber.

“But, Jack.”  Daniel tugged on the older man's arm.  “The last time all the Munchkins were asleep at the same time was three weeks ago.”

“That's nice,” Jack mumbled, taking a breath and closing his eyes again.

Daniel was in the mood for love.  It was Wednesday night, which wasn't their date night, but since developing their routine, they'd also begun to weave in a few spontaneous moments for themselves, and Daniel wanted one of those moments to be now, especially since the last spontaneous event had been two and a half weeks ago -- a lifetime for the two lovers, who had once made a daily habit of indulging in the pleasure of physically loving each other.

“Jack,” Daniel said as he nibbled on his lover's ear.  “I want you.”

“Want you, too, Space ... <yawn> ... Monkey.”

“Now, Jack,” Daniel spoke urgently.  He kissed the side of Jack's neck, the older man automatically moving his head to give his husband better access.  “Get with the program, Babe,” he ordered as he moved Jack to lay on his back and then connected with his husband's lips, nibbling slightly on the upper lip.

“Hmm, Danny, love you,” Jack crooned as his hands wrapped around his love.

“Finally!”

At last, Jack had woken up and become fully aware of his spouse's wants and needs.  He knew them well.  He had the same desires himself.

“Geez, Danny, why didn't you say you wanted to ...”

“I did!  For fifteen minutes, I've been trying to ...” Daniel began.

“Never mind.  Let's just do it while we ...”

“WAH! WAH!” came over the baby monitor.

“Wah,” Daniel echoed in a whiny voice, rolling over on his back, totally deflated, in more ways than one.

“Sorry, Love.  I'll handle it,” Jack said before he placed a kiss on Daniel's cheek and got up off the bed to see which of their Munchkins needed to be tended to.

“I wish you would have *handled* it fifteen freakin' minutes ago, O'Neill.”

“Soon,” Jack promised, heading for the nursery, leaving a frustrated, and sadly flattened, Daniel behind.

Unfortunately, it would be their regular Friday night date before the lovers would be able to satisfy their physical cravings for each other.

====

With the triplets down for a nap, and Bijou and Katie on watch in the nursery, Jack and Daniel carried the portable baby monitor outside with them as they went to wash and clean their vehicles.  These days, the two had to seize every free moment they could find to tend to things that weren't directly related to their newborns.

Daniel sashayed over to his car and put down his bucket and cleaning items.  He made a little grunting noise that drew Jack's attention.  The older man was standing by his truck and had already begun to clean out the interior, but his actions were halted when he saw his lover do a little striptease.

~Out on the street?~ Jack questioned.  He was about to object to the unusual public display when he saw Daniel had removed his jeans to reveal the short cut-offs he had on beneath them.  Then the younger man removed his shirt, letting it slide slowly down his back, slowly revealing his smooth skin.  ~This must be illegal,~ the older man thought about the display.

As Jack stared, Daniel stretched, letting out another groan, a low, taunting sound.  His abdomen flexed as he moved, and Jack could swear that as his lover bent over to grab a sponge he had purposely wiggled his hips.  As if in a trance, he couldn't move.

Daniel proceeded to wash his car using extremely suggestive moves, shoving his entire body against the hood, his pectoral muscles flush against the windows from time to time.

Batting his eyelashes innocently, Daniel looked up at Jack and asked, “Aren't you going to clean the truck?”

“Huh?”

“Your truck.”

“Truck?” Jack questioned, still under his soulmate's seductive spell.

“Jack, that big thing you're standing against.  The truuuuuuck,” Daniel replied, pointing at the Ford F-350 truck that had been his husband's pride and joy for many years.

“Oh ... Daniel, what are you doing?”

“I'm washing my car.  What does it look like I'm doing?” the archaeologist answered.

“I'd tell you, but I'm afraid the neighbors might hear.”

Daniel just shrugged and returned his focus to the car.  He walked over and grabbed the hose to rinse the area he was working on, letting the water spray back against his body.  He moaned from the feel of the running water, making sure Jack heard, of course.

~This is working out nicely,~ Daniel thought, enjoying Jack's inability to concentrate on anything but Daniel.

“Okay, Daniel.  That's it,” Jack expressed as he tossed down the rag he'd been holding, walked over to his soulmate, and kissed him hard, resulting in a legitimate moan that had the younger man swooning.

“Public,” Daniel reminded when his brain cells kicked in again.

“You started it.”

“Yeah, and you wouldn't wake up.  Get off of me.  We have to finish this,” the younger man reminded, scooting out of Jack's hold as he laughed and ran around to the other side of his car.

“Now I get it.  This is revenge.  You'll be sorry,” Jack threatened.

The chase was on.  The lovers had had lots of chases in the privacy of their backyard over the years, but this was the first time they'd been so free in the front yard of their home, visible for all to see.  Daniel's shouts teased and taunted his lover, while Jack's replies threatened of ravishings and not being able to breathe.  He chased Daniel around the yard, almost catching him several times.  They used the hose to spray each other, threw sponges to fend the other off, and even grabbed rags to wave provocatively in front of their bodies.

--

Across the street, Mrs. Sophia Valissi was visiting with Christa and Jacob Svenson, all three sitting on the front porch.  They broke out into laughter as they watched the frolicking of the Jackson-O'Neills.

“Aren't they adorable?” Mrs. Valissi said.

“I'm so happy for them, Sophia,” Christa spoke.  “Young Daniel has changed so much.  Can you imagine him doing this when we first met him, Jacob?”

“Christa, the day we met him he was going to leave Jack ... over coffee,” Jacob reminded.

“Oh, no.  That would never happen,” Mrs. Valissi said.

“It almost did; some silly fight,” Christa recalled.

Jacob nodded as he stated sympathetically, “Poor Jack.  He's just like me.”

“Well, Dear, how hard is it to remember what kind of coffee I like?”

“Coffee?  I thought you preferred tea!” Jacob teased.

Christa leered at her husband.  The two had had a long and happy life together, including their years in Colorado Springs as Jack's and Daniel's neighbors across the street.  When they had gone for a visit, it had been Daniel who answered the door, and it hadn't taken them long to figure out that it was Daniel who had captured Jack's heart, and vice versa.  Fortunately, their words of wisdom convinced the lovers to work out their latest disagreement, and since that day, they'd all become wonderful friends.

“The babies are growing so fast.  I visited with them yesterday.  Just adorable,” Mrs. Valissi said.  “I'm so happy for them all.”

“They are all blessings, of that I am sure,” Christa added.

Just then, their attention was again drawn to the lovers.  The three senior citizens couldn't help but laugh.

“You two do realize Daniel just let himself be caught,” Mrs. Valissi said slyly.

Jacob agreed, saying, “That's right.  Jack's got Daniel right where Daniel wants him to.”

The neighbors continued their visit while across the street, the lovers continued to enjoy their relatively new freedom.

--

After several kisses on the lawn, Jack promised, “I'll wake up next time, Love.”

“You'd better.  Gawd, Jack, I love you.  Need you so much,” Daniel responded, his eyes speaking even more than his words.

“Geez, Danny, what you do to me.  You make me crazy with want.  Love you to the moon and the stars and beyond.”

“My poet,” the archaeologist sighed happily.

The couple kissed again and then finally returned to their vehicle-cleaning chores, realizing they probably didn't have much more time to get the tasks done.

====

As Daniel finished polishing his silver sports car, the one Jack had surprised him with several years earlier, a sad realization hit him.

“Jack, gawd, I can't even fit the triplets in my car.  We ... need a new one.”

“Then we'll go buy one,” Jack stated, hearing his Love's distress.

Daniel sighed, the sound summing up his sadness.  It simply wasn't sensible to put sentiment before practicality.  He folded his arms, hating himself for what he was about to say, and hating that he had to say it.

“We should sell my car.”

“Danny, you love that car,” Jack balked, not liking the idea of parting with something that meant so much to his lover, and that he loved, too.

Daniel nodded, his gaze fixed on the sturdy racing car in front of him.  Jack's F-350 was the closest to the house.  Daniel's 1999 Shelby-American, a very classy and sporty two-seater, was next to it.  He stood rigid, unable to stop looking at the small vehicle he truly did love.

Jack walked up behind Daniel and placed his arms securely around the young man's waist.

~I never thought a car could mean so much to me,~ Daniel lamented silently.
He sighed as his body leaned back against his husband.  He said softly, “We need a new car, and it doesn't make sense to keep the Silver Fox.”

“Daniel, do you love that car?”

“You know I do.  It ... it reminds me of you, my Silver Fox.”  Daniel raised his right arm to reach up behind him, his hand making contact with Jack's head.  He ran his fingers through Jack's silver-gray hair.  “Sleek and sexy.”

“Me or the car?”

“Both of you,” Daniel answered with a smile.

Sternly, Jack replied, “Well, I'll have you know that I am *not* for sale, and neither is your car.  Come on.  Let's go.”

Jack patted Daniel on the rear as he moved towards the house.

“Go?  Jack, we can't go anywhere.  Jack?”

Daniel hurried to follow the older man inside, where he saw Jack was already on the phone.

“Carter, you're not doing anything, are you? ... Good!  Good!  Triple Play time! ... Yes, now!  Daniel and I are going car shopping ... Thanks.”  Jack hung up the phone, a smile on his face as he informed, “She'll be here in a flash.”

“What was she doing?”

“Hmm ... not sure.  Something about sleeping,” the retired brigadier general mused, not feeling the least bit of guilt about waking the blonde colonel.

“Jack!”

“She said she'd be here.”

“Was she at least ... alone?” Daniel questioned hesitantly.

“Did you want me to ask her that?”

“Um, no.  I guess not.”  Daniel had to laugh.  He looked at Jack, who was trying unsuccessfully to look repentant, but instead was looking quite pleased with himself.  ~Gawd, I love him.~  “You're incorrigible, Jack, and I love you so much.”

~He's beautiful.~  The shine in Daniel's eyes was all the payment Jack needed. “No one's touching that car.  Besides, we should look ahead.  We need one of those vans or something.  We'll be doing a lot of chauffeuring from now on.”

“Hockey games,” Daniel mused.

“Ballet recitals,” Jack added, smiling.

“Shopping trips.”

“Chuck E. Cheese nights,” Jack offered, a smirk on his face.

“Movies,” the younger man put forth.

“Sleepovers.”

Daniel chuckled and said, “School.  We'll be on some rotating parent's list.  We drive every Monday.”

“Baseball practice.”

“Girl Scouts,” Daniel suggested.

“Playtime at the park,” Jack said and then sighed.  “Geez, Danny.  We're going to be chauffeurs for the rest of our lives.”

“I can't think of anything more enjoyable, Jack.  Can you?”

“Not a dang thing.”

“We'll be the perfect symbol of Americana and family.”  The archaeologist shook his head and chuckled in mock pity.  “We'll have to get a freakin' van.”

“Complaints, Doctor Jackson-O'Neill?” Jack asked smugly, knowing the answer was a slam dunk.

“Not a one ... Dad.”

====

“It's sporty,” Jack observed about the vehicle the couple was looking at on the car lot.

“I thought we were getting a van; being a slice of Americana,” Daniel commented.

“I like it, Danny.  Besides, this is the new Americana.  There's plenty of room, and we can ...”

“Go camping?” Daniel asked.

“Come on, Love.  Pleeeeeease,” Jack pleaded, cocking his head slightly and giving his lover his best Irish grin, which he knew always affected Daniel in all the best ways.

“Jack, that's not fair,” Daniel replied.  “Look at you, with that ... that grin.”

Jack walked over to his husband and said softly, “Well, if you think that's not fair, I'll make you a deal.  We get this, and when we get home, I'll ...”

“Not fair,” Daniel echoed as he blushed bright red from the things his lover was whispering into his ear.  A moment later, he asked, “Where do I sign?”

====

A couple of days later, Jack was reading the latest issue of the National Geographic in the nursery.  His NeoRitual night was too hard to come by these days, so he was taking advantage of a free moment.  In his sight was the crib with the three infants.

The proud father looked up and smiled.  Aislinn was fully captivated by the Winnie the Pooh rotating mobile that hung over the crib.  She apparently had a fondness of Piglet as she was constantly swinging her arms to try and reach the pink animal as it passed.  Jonny was testing out the crib railing.

~You look like a little criminal through those bars, Son.  We may have to keep a closer eye on you as you grow up.~

Michael was observing everything.  He hadn't made any noise all morning, but his eyes were as focused as they could be at that age on the devices surrounding him.  Jack smiled as he saw that more often than not, the infant's eyes came back to rest on the two beagles sleeping beside the crib.

~Love my Munchkins!~

Jack was about to return to his article when he heard a sound.  Michael had laughed at the mobile and then started to cry.  Quickly, he stood and picked up the infant.

“Hey, what happened?”

The middle child looked startled.  He was looking around as if expecting to find some dangerous creature.  Jack began to play with him, making funny faces, and then Michael laughed again.  Almost immediately, the newborn startled yet again.

Jack smiled, explaining, “That's you, you crazy Munchkin.  You're laughing.  Laughing is good.  You'll be doing it a lot, and that's a promise.”

“What's a promise?” Daniel asked as he entered the nursery, having returned from a trip to the grocery store.

“Danny, this was so funny.”

“I'm all ears,” Daniel said, leaning in for a quick kiss, one for Jack, then one for his namesake.

As Daniel walked to the crib to greet the other children, Jack explained, “He laughed.”

“He did?” Daniel had been leaning over, but hearing that he straightened.  Michael was a very quiet baby for the most part.  He had laughed a few times, usually when prompted, like when they had gone shopping for Christmas presents the week before, but otherwise, when left on his own, the middle Munchkin tended to be on the quiet side.  “Really?”

“Yeah, all on his own, without me doing anything.  That'll be the first of many laughs, right, Son?”  The infant laughed again at Jack's face as he buried it in the baby's jumper.  Like before, Michael stopped, looking around.  “See, Danny, he scared himself.”

“Hey, it's okay to laugh.  There's a lot of good in the world,” Daniel said after returning to see the boy close up.  “That's odd, Jack, how he's scaring himself.”

“I think it's because we're not causing it, and he's laughing alone.”

“I guess that's confused him,” Daniel theorized.

“Probably; he's used to laughing in unison with Jonny and Ash,” Jack stated.  “But now he's laughing on his own, aren't you?  And the bestest good thing in the entire universe is your father, Michael.  It took him a while to learn to laugh, but he does it all the time now, and you will, too,” he asserted with confidence.

Jack made another face, and again, Michael laughed.  He laughed a lot over the next twenty minutes as both of his parents doted over him, doing whatever they could to get their middle triplet to giggle and make happy noises without being startled.  Katie had the most success with Michael, tickling his face with her whiskers and nuzzling his cheek.

In the end, their laughter mission was a definite success, and Jack and Daniel both felt good from all the fun they'd had.

“Lots of smiles and laughs in this house,” Daniel sighed.

“Always, Love,” Jack agreed as the lovers shared a tender gaze before returning their attention to their family.

====

The holiday season had passed, and the new year begun.  For the retired general, that meant it was time to make some happy noise.

“Jack, are you sure we should do this?” a less than positive Daniel questioned.

“Geez, Danny, I've been waiting years for this moment,” Jack said as he embraced his husband.  “I can't wait to show everyone how much I love you and our children.  I want to show them off.”

“Not everyone is going to be thrilled to see us.”

“Well, if they want to be close-minded and keep leading shallow ignorant lives, there's not much we can do about it.  Besides, there are a lot of people who have been waiting since the day the Munchkins were born to see them.”

Daniel's expression turned into a broad smile as he admitted, “I want to show them off, too.  I love them so much, and they're ours.”  He was full of pride as he wrapped his arms around Jack's neck and moved his hands to fix Jack's collar.  Then he caressed the back of his lover's neck, using his fingertips to provide a gentle massage.  Suddenly, a realization caused him to laugh.  “Jack, the Munchkins don't have clearance yet.”

“Who's going to stop us?” Jack laughed, full of confidence that they'd have no problem entering the Cheyenne Mountain Complex.

“Gawd, Jack, General Hammond is going to have a cow,” the archaeologist chuckled.

“A cow?  Danny, My Love, you are definitely hanging around me too much.”

Daniel sighed remorsefully, “Not really.  I miss you.  I mean ...”

“I know what you mean, but it's getting better, isn't it?” Jack asked, referring to their progress in developing a working routine that allowed them to spend much-needed private time together.

“Yes, and I love our life.”

“Me, too.  Now, let's get the babies and go shock the heck out of the SGC.”

Having already placed the triplet stroller in the back of Jack's truck, the two headed upstairs to bundle up the triplets.

“Babe, did it ever occur to you that they might not let us in?” Daniel asked as they walked up the stairs.

“Us?  You're joking.”

“Well, it has been a while since we just walked in without being expected,” Daniel pointed out.

“They wouldn't dare try and keep us out.  Besides, we still have clearance, and we've both been there a few times a month since we retired, sort of,” Jack chuckled, referring to their inability to completely sever ties with the SGC in spite of their so-called best attempts to do so.

The two gathered up the babies and put them into their specially designed car seats, then carefully placed the seats securely in the back seat of the truck.  The windows on Jack's vehicle were tinted and would make it harder for the guard at the gate to see the babies, not that they were trying to hide them; they simply wanted to keep the element of surprise.

====

Jack drove into the SGC like he owned it, smiling at the guard on duty when he came to a stop at the security gate.

“Nice to see you again, General O'Neill, Doctor Jackson.”

Though their legal names were now Jackson-O'Neill, the lovers had agreed that professionally, they'd continue to use their birth surnames.  It would be easier.  Of course, when it suited their purposes, they would tease, taunt, or hassle, whichever the appropriate case may be, people about the proper use of their married names.

Daniel nodded at the airman as Jack drove in, chuckling.  Daniel looked at his soulmate inquisitively, wondering what had caused the laughter.

“What's so funny?”

“He didn't see the Munchkins.  They sure do know when to be quiet, considering they've been making noise the entire way here.”

Daniel laughed, too, as he commented, “Well, you lectured them all morning about being quiet until we were safely inside.”

“Then they do have at least some of my genes.”

“What?”

“It's nice to know someone listens to me.”

“Jack!” Daniel chastised.

“Sorry,” the older man laughed, reaching out and taking Daniel's hand for a quick moment.  “Just teasing, Angel.  I can't wait to see everyone's faces.”

“Most of the personnel know about us by now.”

“Yeah, but I bet they don't know about our brood,” Jack spoke mischievously.

“That's true,” Daniel agreed.

Jack parked the truck, and the two worked together to get the stroller set up and the kids in place -- first Jonny, then Michael, and finally Aislinn.

“Okay, kids, remember -- make them sweat!” Jack commanded.

“Jack!”

“Sorry, make them all wish you were theirs, but no way.  You three are ours.  Show time!” the general mused.  ~This is gonna be fun.~

Daniel laughed at his husband.  He loved this 'Proud as a Peacock' side of Jack and thought it was adorable.  Of course, he also had to admit that perhaps he was prejudiced, just slightly.

Pushing the stroller ahead of him, Jack boasted a huge grin as he walked up to the final security gate and greeted, “Nelson.”

“General O'Neill?” the airman asked in surprise, staring at the stroller with the three cooing babies.

“Hi, Fred,” Daniel spoke enthusiastically.

“Doctor Jackson.  Um ...”

“We're just visiting,” Jack explained as he pushed onward, Daniel following with his own bright smile.

The airman wasn't sure what to do, so he just shrugged and stood at attention as the Jackson-O'Neills entered the facility.

“General O... oh my, how precious,” Airman Tracey O'Connor spoke as she reached in to tickle Aislinn's feet.

“Thank you,” Jack and Daniel said at the same time, stunning Tracey who simply stared and smiled, suddenly filled with questions.

The airman had heard the rumors about Jack and Daniel, but until this moment, she had thought that they had been just that ... rumors.

“Um, are they ... I mean, do they belong to ...” the young woman pointed to both Jack and Daniel.

“Oh yeah, they're ours.  Look at the eyes -- all Daniel's.”

“And Jonny has Jack's chin and ...” Daniel began pridefully.

The two rambled on like typical boastful parents as Tracey listened to them, smiling at their obvious joy.

“It's good to see you again, General, and you, too, Doctor Jackson.  You'll need to sign in.  We have V.I.P.'s coming in so they're keeping a closer reign on things today,” Tracey informed.

“Gawd, not Kinsey.  Please tell me it's not Kinsey -- not today,” Daniel begged.

Tracey shrugged apologetically as she explained, “He and some others should be here in an hour or two actually.”

“I'll never understand how he managed to blackmail his way back into Congress,” Jack lamented, but then he assured his lover they'd make sure to leave prior to the senator's arrival.

Tracey laughed as Jack signed in, taking up the last blank space on the page.  The general handed the pen to his archaeologist and then picked up Jonny's rattle, giving it back to the oldest Munchkin.

“OUCH,” Daniel cried out as he turned the page to sign in.  “I hate paper cuts,” he bewailed as he shook his hand a couple of times then signed in.

**I'll kiss it and make it feel better later,** Jack communicated privately.

**I'll hold you to that,** Daniel replied.  Looking at Tracey, he jested, “Do the babies need to sign in?”

“Can they write yet?” Tracey quipped, totally amused by her conversation with the couple.

“That's next week's lesson,” Jack answered.

“The place just isn't the same without you two around.  Go on up, er, down.”

Tracey smiled, making a final notation on the sign-in sheet.  The couple was pleased to see that, although she had looked surprised at their names, she didn't seem the slightest bit perturbed.

“Gawd, that was fun,” Daniel admitted as he and the rest of his family entered the elevator.

“And we've only just begun.”

====

As Jack and Daniel entered the infirmary, they saw Casey Hemmings.

“Hemmings,” Jack greeted, stopping the stroller a few feet from the male nurse.

“General, Daniel,” Casey acknowledged.  “So these are the famous triplets that Doctor Frasier is always talking about,” he said, kneeling down in front of the stroller and smiling at Aislinn, who was smiling at him.

“Where is the Doc?” Jack inquired.

“In her office doing some paperwork,” the medical man answered as he picked up a rattle that Jonny had dropped on the floor.

Jack got a mischievous grin on his face as he glanced toward the petite doctor's office.

**Jack, what are you up too?** Daniel asked.

**You'll see, Love.**

“I gotta get back to work,” Casey informed the couple as he stood back up. “They are adorable.”

“Thanks, Casey,” Daniel said, beaming with happiness.

“See ya later, Sirs,” Casey said and then walked away to continue his duties.

“Jack?” Daniel questioned warily as they approached Janet's office.  ~He's up to something.  I know that look.~

“Wait here, Danny,” Jack instructed as he stopped the stroller.  He opened Janet's door and said excitedly, “Doc, come quick.  It's an emergency!  Daniel has a paper cut that needs immediate attention.”

Quickly, Janet jumped up and rushed towards the door of her office, letting out a groan just as she reached the threshold of the door.  She knew she'd been tricked.

“General, you'll pay for that.  Someday, I'll have you back in my infirmary, and I'll have a very biiiiig needle waiting just for you,” the feisty redheaded physician threatened.  Just then Jonny threw his rattle on the floor again, causing Janet to turn around to see what the noise was.  “You brought the babies,” she exclaimed excitedly, all thoughts of needles disappearing.

“Just for the record, he really did get a paper cut,” Jack informed.

“Let me ...”

“Janet, don't humor him,” Daniel said, holding up his finger.  “See, run of the mill, everyday paper cut.”

Janet chuckled, nodding her head, and then refocused on the triplets.

“They are so cute,” the doctor observed.

The three adults talked for a few minutes, while Janet fussed over the babies, until she was called away to take care of an emergency.  One of the new recruits had gotten hurt during a freak training mishap.

“Freak mishap, my foot,” Jack responded as the family left the infirmary.  “He was just being careless.”

“Jack, you don't even know what happened,” Daniel pointed out.

Dryly, the general responded, “If it's a newbie, he's at fault.  It's a rule.”

“Rule?” the archaeologist questioned in surprise.  “Where, uh, is that rule?”

Jack shrugged and pushed the stroller towards the elevator, while Daniel lagged behind, pondering, ~Sometimes, I really do worry about him.~

====

The Jackson-O'Neills had just entered the elevator, intending to head for Hammond's office.

“Jack, let's find Sam first.  She'd love to see people's reactions herself, especially after all those years of that ridiculous game.”

“Good idea.”  Jack leaned forward to adjust Michael's blue cap.  “Better hit her floor.  I went straight for Hammond's office,” he stated, referring to the floor button he had pressed a few seconds earlier.

Daniel pressed the appropriate button, and soon they were at the door to their friend's office.  He put his fingers up to his mouth and made a quiet 'shhh' noise to Jack and the triplets, and then ambled nonchalantly into Sam's lab.

“Sam, you'd better hurry.  We have that briefing in ten minutes.”

“What?  Rats, I lost track of the ... Daniel!”  Sam laughed at the deception, and then she saw the triplets.  “Holy Hannah, the babies!”

Sam grinned, walked up to the stroller, and immediately began to fuss over the triplets.

When Jonny grabbed her finger, Sam laughed, “Hey, are you going to give that back?”  She laughed at the infant's strong hold, saying, “I need this, you know.”

“Careful, Sam.  He might eat it.”

“The babies!  I can't believe you brought them to the SGC,” the blonde commented just as Jonny released her finger, hiccuping at the same time.  “What are you guys doing here?”

“We thought we'd introduce the kids to the SGC,” Jack answered jovially.

“Oh wow.  Does the general know you're here?”

“Not yet.  Danny thought we should get you first and let you enjoy the payback with us.  You know, shock and stun,” Jack suggested.

Sam's smile broadened as she picked up Aislinn and said, “Hey, there.  How ya doing, Aislinn?”  She placed a kiss on her cheek and commented, “She's so precious.  They all are,” she spoke, looking at Jonny and Michael, still in the stroller.  “Let's go,” a beaming Sam stated, carrying Aislinn out as they walked down the hallway.

“I told you she'd be into this,” Daniel whispered.

“It's the shock value.  Most guys on base can't imagine Carter in a dress, let alone holding a baby.”

“It's the P-90, Jack.  They're afraid to,” Daniel said, both he and his husband chuckling at the truth of the statement.

“Colonel ... Carter?” Sergeant Walter Davis stuttered as he spotted Sam with Aislinn just as she and the others rounded a corner.

“Sergeant, this is Aislinn Jackson-O'Neill,” Sam introduced.

It was then that the sergeant finally took his eyes off the unusual site of Samantha Carter, dressed in green BDUs, holding a baby outside the gate room, and looked behind her.

“General O... General Jac...” Davis took a breath.  “General!” he finally stated, a nervous expression visible on his face.

Daniel said, “Hello, Sergeant.”

“Nice to see you, Doctor Jackson ... O'Neill,” Davis coughed, remembering the hyphenated names, but not feeling very comfortable with saying it.

Jack and Daniel looked at each other and smiled while Sam audibly laughed, knowing her friends were having a good time.  Davis was a good man and a hard worker, but they'd waited a long time for their life in the open, and Sam wasn't going to spoil it for them.  Just then, Jonny began to cry.

“Oops.”  Jack leaned over and picked up the biggest of the babies.  “Hey, Jonny, you tired of that spot?  Want to meet the sergeant?” he asked, extending the baby's hand out.

Sergeant Davis shook the infant's hand and commented, “Firm grip you have there, Jonny.”

“Is the general in his office?” Daniel inquired, looking over towards the end of the corridor where Hammond's office was.

“Yes.  Did you know that K...”

“Please, no swearing in front of the children,” Jack interrupted, not wanting his children to even hear the man's name spoken aloud.

Daniel shook his head as he picked up Michael and said, “Let's go show off the family.  Sergeant, would you mind pushing that to the office?”

“Uh, sure.”

Davis did as asked, leaving the stroller just outside the general's door, and then excused himself to continue with his duties.

“Danny, let me,” Jack nodded.

Daniel let Jack take the lead, knowing he was going to do the same thing with the general that Daniel had done to Sam.

Jack wiped the smile off his face and entered the lieutenant general's office like a grizzly bear, saying agitatedly, “General, this is ridiculous!  I am not getting my memos, and there's no excuse for it.”

“Jack, calm down and ...” the general let out a sigh, realizing he'd fallen for the false entrance.  He caught sight of Jack's entourage, smiled, and asked, “Well, what do we have here?”

As Hammond rose from his spot behind his desk, Jack answered, “The absolute best of the Jackson-O'Neill household, Sir.”

Hammond went over and reached out to take Jonny's hand and greeted, “Hello, there, Jonny.”  Wearing a sloppy smile on his face, he eagerly studied the newborns and greeted, “Hello, Aislinn, Mi...”

“Little Danny says hello, too, Sir,” Jack said smugly.

“Jack, his name is Michael,” Daniel corrected sternly.

“It's Daniel Michael.  We agreed we'd call him ...” Jack paused, seeing Daniel's glare.  “Michael,” he sighed, though he whispered to the general, “but not for long, Sir.”

“Haven't changed any, have you, General?”

“Only for the better, Sir!” Jack exclaimed with a confident grin.  “Hey, where's Teal'c?”

“I am here, O'Neill.”

“Big Guy!  Long time no see.  I'd give you a hug but ...”

Teal'c stared at the babies and observed, “They have grown, O'Neill.”

“Babies tend to do that, Teal'c,” Jack responded.

====

After a few minutes of visiting where almost everyone played with the triplets, Teal'c brought in the stroller, and the three babies settled in their usual spots, allowing the friends to spend some more time catching up.

“I will return.  I must check on the process of the new recruits,” the Jaffa stated.

“Give 'em ...”

“Jack, the babies,” Daniel warned, nodding at the Munchkins.

Jack smiled, altering his words to something more mild than those he had started to say -- “Give 'em ... heck, T!”

Teal'c stared, a bit confused at why Jack had changed his words.  Then again, the Jaffa had known Jack O'Neill for almost ten years, and nothing much really surprised or puzzled him anymore.  He nodded and exited, leaving the rest to continue their visit.

====

The babies seemed to be on their best behavior at the SGC, laughing, cooing, and even sleeping while their parents talked with Sam and Hammond.  The peace was interrupted when Michael suddenly began to whine, a loud, desperate, almost fearful cry.

“Hey, what's wrong?” Daniel asked, concern in his voice.

Right then, an unfriendly voice asked abruptly, “General, what's going on in here?”

“Well, that explains it, Daniel.  Michael must have a sixth sense about bad ...”

“Jack,” Daniel warned.

“Right,” Jack replied sarcastically.

“I would have thought you'd have been announced,” the lieutenant general said to the guest, noting the lack of advance warning and, for that matter, the lack of personnel surrounding their nemesis who seldom went anywhere alone anymore.

“I prefer to catch people unawares, General.  You learn more that way ... a lot more,” Kinsey responded as he glared at Jack and Daniel.  “So,” he took a few steps towards the stroller, “these are the babies I've heard so much about.”

“Stop right there,” Jack ordered, stepping between Kinsey and his children.  “I don't let them look at scary things.”

Jack's voice was teasing in tone, but his facial expression almost dared the politician to try and advance.

“You were always a bit on the wacky side, General,” Kinsey said, stepping around Jack to look at the triplets.

Daniel stood, prepared to move the stroller back, but then Jack turned and raised his voice.

With a look that promised murder, Jack threatened, “GO ONE MORE STEP, AND YOU'RE A DEAD MAN, KINSEY.  MOVE AWAY FROM MY CHILDREN!”

At that moment, Teal'c returned and when he realized what was happening, he thought, ~It is not wise for SenatorKinsey to be near the babies.  He is upsetting them.  I cannot allow that.~  Calmly, he spoke, “Indeed, I must agree with O'Neill.  Step back.”

“General, stand down,” Hammond ordered in exasperation.

“Glad to, Sir, just as soon as this ... man ... moves away from my children,” Jack replied.

Kinsey shook his head as he faced Jack, arrogantly saying, “Just who do you think you are to come waltzing in here and ...”

“WAHHHHH! WAHHHHHHHH!”

A chorus of crying rang out from all three children simultaneously, interrupting Kinsey, who turned to look at them in total frustration.  The crying was loud and without pause.  Daniel moved to try and quiet them, but the three continued their wailful 'song'.

Facing Hammond, Kinsey spoke, “General, I have a call to make.  Our meeting will commence in precisely fifteen minutes.”

Hammond considered reminding Kinsey that he wasn't the Vice President any longer, and that he was only here as a courtesy.  However, he decided to simply acknowledge the comment so that the man would leave his office sooner rather than later.

Kinsey glared at Jack who glared back, unmoving, and totally self-assured.  It was Kinsey who blinked and backed away.  As soon as the man exited the office, the children stopped their cries and began to coo again.

“These are *so* my kids.”  Jack beamed with pride as he helped his husband ensure that their children were okay.  “Don't worry, Munchkins.  The bad man is gone now,” he said reassuringly.

Little giggles broke out from all three kids, causing both Sam and Hammond to laugh.

“Munchkins, O'Neill?”

“Yes, Teal'c.  It's from 'The Wizard of Oz',” Jack explained.

“They were the small humans who walked the golden road, were they not?” Teal'c questioned.

“Yellow brick road, Teal'c, and that's close enough for now.  We'll watch the movie again on Saturday when you all come for dinner,” Jack spoke.

Daniel's eyes grew wide, but he said nothing.  They hadn't discussed asking their friends over for dinner, and he wasn't sure they were ready quite yet to entertain in their home now that they had the triplets.  Sure, they'd had their friends over during Christmas, but that had been mostly impromptu and nothing formal like what Jack had just suggested.

“Dinner?” Sam asked.

“You don't have to come if you don't want to, Carter, but I figure it's time for everyone to get better acquainted, and Teal'c here needs to learn how to change diapers,” Jack stated, smirking at the tall, dark man now staring at him.

“Diapers?” the Jaffa asked incredulously.

“Diapers,” Jack confirmed.  “You can't babysit until you know how to change diapers.”

“Oh, gawd,” Daniel spoke aloud without realizing it.  As Teal'c looked at him questioningly, the archaeologist stammered, “I just meant ... Jack is right.  You ... have to know how to change ... diapers before you can ... babysit.”  **You're so dead, Jack.**

**Danny, don't you trust Teal'c?**

**Sure, but ... you could have asked me first about dinner,** Daniel admonished via the couple's special non-verbal communication.

**Sorry, but we need more babysitters, and these people are our family, right?**

**Right.**  ~I have to not be so ... so whatever it is I am.  The Munchkins will be fine with our friends.  Still have problems with trusting that; still want to keep them just to myself ... and, Jack, but it's time to let others in ... slowly.~

“Call me with the dinner details, Jack.  I need to get ready for the meeting,” Hammond stated.

The Jackson-O'Neills said their good-byes to the general and also to Sam and Teal'c, both of whom agreed to come to dinner.

The couple found themselves taking an unplanned tour along several floors, stopping briefly in the commissary where they ran into Lou Ferretti, Jeff Cornell, and some other friends.  Then they walked along the eighteenth floor.

“Danny, look.  They still have your name on the door,” Jack pointed out.

“Yeah, how about that,” Daniel replied, walking into his old office and looking around.

“Sure is empty in here now,” Jack stated, noting the absence of artifacts and books.  “I thought for a while they might never clear it out, especially after the Goa'uld nightmare a while back.”

“It seems like another lifetime now.  It feels ... strange somehow,” the scientist commented.

With a smile on his face, Jack knelt down in front of the stroller.

“Munchkins, this is where your daddy saved the world, time and time again,” Jack informed.

“Jack,” Daniel said shyly.

“Hear that?  He's so modest, but he did.  We're all here because of him, and in this room, he spent hours ... doing whatever he did,” Jack teased.  “You're daddy is a hero, and right here is where he so often worked his magic.”

Aislinn giggled, her small, chubby arms reaching out.

“Yeah, right here, Little One.”  Jack smiled, adding, “This is where Daddy used to shut out the world.”

“Jack, stop exaggerating.”

“Ask Daddy how many times I had to drag him out of here just to eat or sleep,” Jack suggested.

“Okay, I give up.”  Daniel chuckled, but he was also glad Jack felt that way.  “Let's go home.”

====

When the family arrived home, Jack and Daniel put their tired babies down for a nap and decided to cuddle on the sofa and watch and old movie on TV.  As soon as they sat down on the couch, Jack gently grabbed Daniel's hand, raising it to his lips.  Gently, he kissed the paper cut on his Love's finger, causing the younger man to smile endearingly.

“I promised you that I would kiss it and make it better, later, and now is later,” Jack said before kissing the barely noticeable cut again.  “Better?”

“Yeah, but, uh, my lips don't feel so good,” Daniel said, licking his lips in invitation.

“They feel good to me,” Jack refuted as he began another kiss that led to a short but passionate make out session.

Afterwards, the lovers settled in and watched the old 1954 musical, 'Seven Brides for Seven Brothers'.

“Great movie,” Jack proclaimed as the credits appeared on the screen.  “You know they made a TV series back in the early '80's based on this movie, but it only lasted one season.”

“Was it any good?” Daniel asked.

“I thought it was.  It even had MacGyver in it, before he was MacGyver.  He played the oldest brother, Adam.  They even had a brother named Daniel, just like the in the original movie that we just watched.  Actually, now that I think about it, the only names that were the same in the movie and the series were Adam and Daniel,” Jack said.

“Did they sing, too?” Daniel asked.

“Oh, yeah, and MacGyver wasn't half bad,” Jack proclaimed.

“MacGyver singing; wish I could hear that,” Daniel stated.  Then he added, “But I'm sure that his vocal skills don't come close to yours, Babe.”

“Thank you, Angel.  I bet we could find a clip on the internet somewhere.  Let's go to the study and ...”

Jack's next words were cut off by the sound of a three crying babies coming through the baby monitor in stereo.

“I guess it will have to wait,” Daniel stated as the couple stood up.  “Oh, and thanks for making it feel all better,” he chuckled, holding up his finger.

“I'll be happy to make any and all of your body parts feel better at any time,” the older man replied with a smile.

“I'm happy about that, too,” Daniel laughed as he began up walk up the stairs, wiggling his hips intentionally.

Jack smacked his lips as he watched his lover move and sighed, “Gotta admit; it's hard to make perfection better, and that is definitely perfection!”

“Hey, you coming?” Daniel called down from the top of the stairs.

Jack mumbled, “Not yet, but tonight for sure.”  Smiling, he called out, “On my way.”

====

The following Monday, Jack and Daniel returned to the dealership to pick up their SUV that had finally arrived.  After checking it over, Daniel drove it home while Jack drove the Silver Fox.

“It looks great, Danny,” Jack said as he put away his keys after locking the Silver Fox.

Getting out of the new 2007 Cadillac Escalade, a full-size sports utility vehicle, Daniel responded, “It drives great, too.”

The couple's SUV had plenty of room for the triplets and the future children they were planning on adopting some time down the road.  They'd spent a bundle on the vehicle and its special packages, but it was well worth it.

“I still think we should have gotten the burgundy one,” Daniel added as he joined his lover at the walkway that led up to the front door.

The younger man hadn't said it out loud, but weeks ago, when they'd looked at the burgundy-colored SUV, Jack standing next to it with his silver-gray hair, his heart had zinged.  He wanted that vehicle just so he could lust after his husband as he stood by it.

“But I like this color,” Jack semi-whined and then winked, scooping Daniel into arms as they looked at the Cadillac.

The older man had no clue about his husband's secret desire, and Daniel decided not to tell him.

~Maybe we'll get another vehicle someday, and when we do, it's definitely going to be burgundy,~ the younger man declared inwardly.  “Jack, aren't you over your blue fetish yet?”

“I figure I'll get over that when I'm over you, and that day will never come.  I love you, Danny.”

“I love you, too, my Silver Fox,” Daniel said.  “We'd better go relieve Sam; she has to get to the Mountain.”  As they walked to the door, he said, “Jack, you really have to stop calling her and expecting her to show up at a moment's notice.  I mean, uh, these are our children, not Sam's.”

“They are?” Jack joked.  “Danny, she loves the Munchkins.  She wouldn't drop everything at a moment's notice if she didn't.  We all know that's the truth.”

Daniel smiled, realizing his lover was right.  Looking back at the driveway, he chuckled.

“Did I miss something?” Jack questioned.

“I was just thinking that it was a good thing Sam parked on the street, Babe.  It's a little crowded in the driveway, now.”

Jack laughed, “Just wait until the triplets learn to drive.”  Suddenly, he got a look of terror on his face and said, “No, scratch that.  They're staying babies forever.”

After a shared laugh, the lovers kissed and walked inside their house to check on Sam and the triplets, leaving their new blue SUV parked in their driveway.

====

“Jack, maybe you should ask Daniel about this,” Sara warned as her ex-husband sipped on coffee in her home.

“If I do, he'll say 'no'.  Sara, you're the one who reminded me to go with what works, and it did, beautifully,” Jack stated.  “Daniel realized that we have to take care of ourselves in order to keep our family happy.  We've done great.  I think we've both compromised and worked hard to set up a routine.”

“I know what you're saying, but you're talking about an overnight trip, and while I agree that you have to do it sometime, don't you think you could get him to agree to it first?” the woman asked supportively.

“Not a chance in ... um, no.  Sara, I had to pull teeth to get him to agree to have people over, and not just any people -- Sam, T...” Jack growled at himself.  First 'Netu', now 'Teal'c.'  He'd forgotten how hard it had been to lie to Sara when they were married.  Still, everything was classified, and he hadn't a choice then, nor did he now.  He covered his misstatement with a cough and continued, “Murray and Hammond.”

“Aren't they people?”

“Of course, they are, but they're family,” the general clarified.

“I thought you said he had loosened up.”

“He has, with me, the Munchkins, and the girls, and he's okay now with us taking the babies somewhere, but he's still a little whacked about the concept of having people over, other than on our date night.  It's time, Sara.  We need to get out, prove life goes beyond Friday nights.”

“Jack, he's a new father.  Give him a chance,” Sara urged.

“I am, but I know him.  He needs to get over the hump, just that first time.  He needs to realize that by going away for a night we're not abandoning our kids.  So, will you do it?”  Jack looked hopefully at the blonde woman.  “I know it's a lot to ask.  I mean, I'm asking you to take a night away from your own family.  I probably shouldn't ...”

“Jack, let me talk to Mark,” Sara said, referring to her husband, Mark Wilson.  She leaned forward a little and smiled as she spoke, “Actually, you have impeccable timing.”

“I do?”

“Angela's been invited to a sleep-over this weekend, and Mark has a business trip.”  Sara laughed at her ex-husband's pleased expression.  ~He is soooo ... confident.~  “So, let me review your plan.  It'll be me, Sam, and Janet.”

“One adult for each baby, and Janet is a doctor,” Jack verified, feeling that would make it easier to get Daniel over that hump he'd been talking about.

Sara smiled as she continued her review, saying, “It'll be your regular Friday night date, only you're going to kidnap Daniel and fly off to ... where?”

“Utah, Bryce Canyon to be specific.  We went there the first time we rented a plane.  It'll be nostalgic.  Daniel loves nostalgia.”

“Part of your plan, I'm sure.”

“Oh, yeah,” Jack affirmed.

“You'll stay in Utah and be home ...”

“... by dinner time on Saturday, maybe earlier if he's anxious,” Jack stated, hoping that wouldn't be the case.

Nodding, Sara replied, “Okay, I'll talk to Mark when he gets home from work, and I'll let you know as soon as I can.”

“Thanks, Sara.”

“Jack, what if he argues?” the blonde asked curiously.

“He will, but we'll get through it.  He'll understand,” Jack said, as he stood up in preparation to leave.

“You don't sound so sure,” Sara responded, standing as well.

“Sara, I don't like playing games, not these kind of games, not with Danny.  It's just ... if I don't, it'll only get harder for him,” Jack explained.

“And you, Jack?”

The retired general smiled weakly and looked away.

Sara tilted her head in surprise, a thought occurring to her; she asked, “Jack, are you doing this for Daniel, or for you?”

His hands in his pockets, Jack shuffled his feet a little.  He faced Sara again, his face expressive with the conflict he was feeling.

“It's not ... easy to leave them, to trust other people.  Memories, Sara, I want to protect them all the time, I don't want to miss anything, not a single second, and ... I ...”

Sara smiled at Jack as she walked to him.  She put her hands on his chest and placed a kiss on his cheek.

Jack found himself wrapping his arms around Sara, confessing, “I'm scared if I don't do this, I won't ever leave them alone for more than a couple of hours.  The only reason I do it now is ...”

As Jack trailed off, Sara pulled back, the two still holding each other, and continued, “Because you're helping Daniel by being the strong one and acting like raising children is old hat.  You’re trying to let him know that it's okay to leave your precious babies with babysitters.”

“It's harder than I remember,” Jack sighed.

“That's because you had the Air Force to force the issue with Charlie.”

“Yeah.”

“Jack, why don't you tell him the truth?  If I know Daniel, it'll help him to take that step, too.  Then the two of you could help each other,” Sara suggested.

“It makes sense, except that he needs me to do this.  Sara, I'm not sure we wouldn't just settle down into some hermit existence.  It's too easy for us.  Daniel and I are all we need.  It wouldn't be hard for us to enter a lifestyle where we kept to ourselves all the time.  I don't want that, for us, or for our children, because it wouldn't be a healthy choice, but one made out of fear, fear of something happening to the kids.”

“I understand, but he might surprise you,” Sara said, smiling, her expression challenging her ex-husband.

“He always surprises me.”

====

“Jack,” Daniel called out softly as he walked out onto their roof deck.  He placed the baby monitor down on the deck and moved to sit in front of his husband so that they were facing each other.  He took his lover's hands in his and kissed each one tenderly.  He smiled, noticing the portable monitor Jack had also brought with him when he had gone outside.  “I guess we may have gone a little overboard with the monitors.”

“We just want them to be safe.”

“Yes, we do,” Daniel agreed.  “Jack, the last couple of days, you've been a little quiet.  Something's wrong.  Tell me.”

Jack sighed loudly, tilting his head back against the wall, and then confessed, “I don't want to kidnap you.  I want you to go because you know we should; more than that, because you want to go.  We need to go.  If we don't, we might never go.”

“Jack, what are you talking about?”

Daniel listened as Jack recounted his plans for the upcoming weekend and his conversation with Sara.  The young man never released his loving hold on Jack's hands.

“You're afraid we'll become hermits?” the archaeologist questioned.

“Maybe that's an exaggeration, but our nation of two is so strong and complete,” Jack responded.  “Geez, Danny, we don't need anything but what we have, and we don't even need all of that.  It's hard to leave the Munchkins, so I think we need to force the issue, for ourselves, and for them.”

Daniel let out a whiff of air as he considered what his soulmate had said.  He knew he was overprotective, as was Jack, and he thought about how hard it had been to start their date nights, to allow their family of friends to care for their children, but it had gotten easier, and as a result, the children were healthier, as were they.  Their family was a stronger unit.

“So, where are we going?”

“What?” Jack asked, looking at the younger man in surprise.

“You told me everything except where we're going,” Daniel replied, giving his lover a smile.

“Danny?” a hopeful, happier Jack called out.

“You're right, Babe,” Daniel spoke.  “It'll be hard, and I think we'll both go a little ...”

“Nuts?” Jack said with a smile.

“Yeah, nuts, but in the long run, it's the right thing to do, for ourselves and for our children.”

“You sure?”

Daniel wanted to say no, to change his mind, but he knew that would be wrong, so he answered, “Yes, I'm sure.  Where are we going?”

“Bryce Canyon,” Jack answered.

“That's the perfect place.”

“Planning always was my strength,” the military man boasted before kissing his lover.

====

A few minutes later, the couple was checking on their three infants in the nursery.
 
**Jack?**

**Yes, Love?**

**They're asleep -- all three of them.**

Jack grinned, and, with a final look at the babies, the happy couple set out to take advantage of their gift of time, renewing their devotion as their passion flamed.

====
-- Chapter Two:  Something's Missing
====

~Here we go,~ Jack thought as he smiled deviously, preparing to put his plan into action.  “Showtime,” he said verbally.  “Okay, Little Danny, you ready for action?  Daddy will be here any moment.”

Jack picked up his infant son from the crib that sat in the living room.  Aislinn was playing quietly with the mobile that hung over it, and Jonny was with Daniel.  They had gone outside to get some fresh air for a while, though with the temperatures in the high thirties, low forties, they wouldn't be outside for long.  Still, the skies were clear, and they were having fun playing with Bijou and Katie, tossing their ball back and forth in an attempt to show Jonny how to do it, not that it took at this early stage in life.

The silver-haired man looked covertly into the yard and saw Daniel was headed inside, so he acted like he was deeply involved in a conversation with Michael.

“Now, these are DVDs.  Yes, I know, *Mickey*, that you don't know what they are yet, but ...”

“What did you just say?” Daniel questioned, not believing his ears.

“Hmm, let me think,” Jack replied in a calculating manner.  “Oh, DVDs.  I was explaining them to Mickey.”

“Mickey?  *Who* is Mickey?” Daniel asked, his glare undeniable.

“Our son.”

“His name is Michael.”

“You know me and nicknames, Danny.  You already said 'no' to Mike and Mikey, so I've decided on Mickey, and I'm going to insist!” Jack stated firmly.

“Jack, our son is not a mouse,” Daniel argued.

“No, you're not a mouse, *Mickey*,” Jack said as he bounced his son in his arm, mirroring what Daniel was doing with Jonny.  “But you're going to make a great baseball player.”  He heard Daniel sigh and opted for a short-term change of subject, still related to the topic.  “How'd Jonny do with the ball throwing?”

Daniel laughed at the silly attempt he'd made with his son, even though it had been fun, and explained, “I think he's still a little young, but Katie had a great time.”

“Just wait until we give you a shot, *Mickey*.  You'll be great.  Baseball's in your blood.  Mickey Jackson-O'Neill!”

“Michael.”

“You can call him Michael.  I'm calling him *Mickey*,” Jack maintained, turning around towards the DVD collection again, a big grin on his face.  ~It's in the bag.~

“No, Jack; that's a horrible name,” Daniel opined.

“Hey, there are a lot of famous Mickeys,” Jack refuted, facing his lover again.

“Such as?”

“I told ya ... one of the best Yankees of all-time, Mickey Mantle!”

“Great ... I admit he was a Hall of Famer, a great baseball player, but his lifestyle wasn't exactly a role model for our son,” Daniel pointed out, sighing that yet again, he was now sports-knowledgeable.  ~Gawd, when did I become conversant in sports?~

“Mickey Dolenz,” the older man put forth.

“Who?”

“The drummer for the Monkees.”

“For the who?” Daniel questioned, having no clue who his lover was talking about.

Jack laughed, muttering, “Never mind.”

“Jack, try someone real here,” Daniel requested forcefully.

~See, he's hooked; he just needs justification, something that intellectual mind of his can latch on to,~ Jack theorized.  “He is real.  How about Mickey Rourke?”

“Who?”

“He's an actor.  Or even better, Mickey Rooney.  Now c'mon, you have to know the Mick,” Jack stated with a smile.

Daniel was about ready to scream as he retorted, “Do you know how many times Mister Rooney has been married, Jack?”

“About as many as Lizzie Taylor.”

“Lizzie?  Oh, gawd.  Let me make this simple.  Our son's name is Michael.  End of story.  Period.  Finis.”  Daniel raised his voice slightly as he emphasized, “The End!”

Jack was loving this exchange.  Daniel was weakening with each example given.  He just needed to reel in his lover like he would a mighty bass.

“Hey, Mickey Gilley.  Can you picture little Mickey here singing in a honky tonk night club somewhere?” Jack asked.  “We should get him a ten-gallon hat, Danny.  Or ... I got it ... Mickey Spillane, a real rough and tumble character to raise our son after.  You have to admit, he's a great author.”

“You aren't helping your cause, Jack.  Our son is *not* going to be called Mickey.”

“Mickey Jackson-O'Neill,” Jack repeated determinedly.  ~Just a little more, and I've got him.~

Daniel closed his eyes as he put Jonny down in the crib next to Aislinn.  He smiled at the two babies, little Aislinn smiling back.  Then he walked over to his husband and their middle child.

“You're enjoying this, aren't you, Jack?” Daniel challenged.

“Would you like to hold Mickey?” Jack asked, ignoring his soulmate's question.

“Michael,” Daniel said sternly.

Jack carried Michael over to the other side of the room, pretending to want to get the newspaper, and said, “Don't worry, *Mickey*.  It's a real man's name.”

“Michael!”

“I'll protect you from Daddy, *Mickey*,” Jack promised.

“Over my Goa'ulded dead body will Michael be called Mickey!” Daniel exclaimed as he followed his husband to where he was now standing.

“I'm calling him Mickey!” Jack exclaimed.

“Michael!”

“Mickey!”

“Michael”

“Mikey!”

“Michael!”

“Mike!”

“Michael!”

“Mickey or bust,” Jack put forth.

“Michael!”

“Little Danny or Mickey!”

“MICHAEL -- M - I - C - H - A - E - L!” Daniel shouted.

“Hey, Mickey, your daddy knows how to spell!  I'm so proud of him, Mickey,” Jack said, grinning a self-assured smile that made Daniel want to kill him; and he would have, if he didn't love him so dang much.

Daniel sighed, trying one more time by saying quietly, “Michael.”

“Mickey,” Jack argued, though he was about to burst out into laughter.  ~Got him!~

Daniel looked at the baby boy and ordered, “Give me our son.”  He gently took Michael from Jack.  “You dad is sooooo darn frustrating, but I love him to pieces,” he said as he walked away holding his namesake.

“Hey, Mickey, do you ...”

“Jack, you're going to confuse him.  Gawd!”  Daniel groaned as he walked over to the crib with Michael.  “Dad drives me insane sometimes!  Okay, I give up ... Danny.”

“YES!” Jack exclaimed, his hands going to his head, fists clenched and pulling down dramatically.

“Gawd, Jack,” Daniel laughed.  “You act like you just won a million dollars.”

“I did, the day you told me you loved me,” Jack spoke, still grinning from ear to ear.

Daniel sighed an embarrassed breath and said softly to his namesake, “Look what your dad does to me ...” He looked at his husband and then back at the infant, “... Danny.  Jack, it's going to get confusing,” he said as he put the baby, once known as Michael and now known as Little Danny, in the crib with his siblings.

“No, it won't.  You'll see,” Jack said confidently, standing by Daniel's side and rubbing the younger man's back.

Jack reached out and caressed the babies, and then looking at their middle child, he said, “I told you I could change his mind, Little Danny.”

Daniel sighed again, leaning his head against Jack's shoulder, compliantly stating, “We have Jonny, so I guess Danny is fair play.”

“You don't really mind, do you, Angel?” Jack asked, his question sincere.

Daniel shook his head, admitting, “No, not really.  It ... I love that you want us to call him that so much.  Gawd, Jack.  I love you, even when you are more aggravating than a System Lord.”

Jack laughed as he kissed his husband, the babies watching and cooing in wonderment, with Aislinn giggling, too.

====

“Hi, Sam, it's Daniel ... <laughter> ... They're great.  Jonny is incredibly agile, Ash smiles all the time, and Little Danny loves to watch everything ... yes, I gave in.  Jack worked overtime to con me into calling him that ... persistent?  More like nagging to the max!  Um, Sam, I need to ask you a favor.  I was reviewing some notes about a mission we went on years ago and ... Yes, I know I'm retired, but there's something bugging me, so could you call up the mission reports to P9X-418 and send them to me? ... Thanks, I appreciate it ... <laughter> ... Yes, I still have clearance.  They keep thinking Jack and I are going to unretire!  They are delusional, Sam! ... <laughter> ... Thanks.”

====

The babies were almost three-and-half-months old, and the Jackson-O'Neills were making daily progress in figuring out how to function as a family.  It still wasn't easy, but once they had realized they didn't have to be super men and do it all themselves, it began to get much easier.  They really did have some great friends, and sometimes they needed those friends to help them as they settled into a new routine.

It was 2:30 a.m., and Jack awoke, not to the sound of crying babies over the monitor, but to the emptiness of his bed.  His husband was missing.  He slipped on his burgundy robe and walked into the nursery, delighted to find three healthy, beautiful, sound asleep babies, but surprised that his husband wasn't there.

Jack returned to the master bedroom, and this time opened the door to the roof deck.  Sure enough, there was Daniel, sitting in their favorite spot against the wall, legs drawn up to his chest, his head leaning forward onto his knees.

“Danny?” Jack called out softly, concerned at the pensive look of his husband.

Daniel looked up and smiled just as Jack slid down the wall to sit next to him.  He watched every inch of the move, their eyes connected.  As soon as Jack held out his arm to wrap around Daniel's shoulder, the younger man leaned into his spouse, wanting to be held.

“Is something wrong?” the retired general asked.

“No, not the way you're thinking.  The Munchkins are sound asleep,” Daniel informed, nodding to the silence coming through the portable baby monitor he had brought outside with him.

“Yeah, they're beautiful, like their daddy.”

Jack kissed the top of Daniel's shaggy hair.  He couldn't help it; he laughed.

“What?” Daniel questioned.

“I love your shaggy hair.  I didn't know how much I missed it,” Jack admitted.

“Me, either.  It's who I am.  I just ... it took me a while to realize I wanted me back ... this way.  Besides, it's not as long as it used to be, but it's how I like it now.”

Jack's lips connected with Daniel's in a loving union and then he spoke, “Yeah, it is shorter than it was at the beginning, but I like it better this way, too.”  He brushed the locks of hair out of Daniel's face and commented, “I'm not sure you could even describe it as long by today's standards.  It's just ... fluffy,” he teased.

The lovers sat and enjoyed their togetherness.  They hadn't had many of these moments since the triplets had been born, so every second was precious to them.

“Danny, are you going to tell me?”

“You'll think I'm silly, ridiculous, crazy ... totally gone,” Daniel sighed.

“Try me.”

“I can't really even explain it.  You'll think I'm nuts, psycho, ready for the funny farm.”

“Daniel, you've been hanging around me too much,” Jack chuckled, as did his lover.

Then the younger man took a breath, almost afraid to speak.

Jack gave Daniel an encouraging nudge as he urged, “Come on, Love.  We don't keep secrets from each other.”

“I love our babies.  They're our dreams, our little miracles,” Daniel began.

“No argument there.”

“It's so beyond belief,” the younger man opined.

“That we have a family?” Jack asked.

“That I ... that I feel like someone is missing.  Oh, gawd,” Daniel expressed as he buried his head in Jack's neck, holding on tightly, almost as if he was afraid Jack would get up and run as far away from Daniel as he could.

“Missing?”

“I told you it was crazy.”  Yet, Jack hadn't flinched, surprising Daniel.  He hadn't grown sarcastic or flippant, nor had he laughed or teased.  In fact, the older man almost seemed understanding, as if he truly did understand.  “Jack, do you know what I mean?  What I'm trying to say?”

Jack kissed his lover, then said, “You feel like as much as we love the Munchkins that there's still another little life out there who belongs here.  Maybe ...” he paused, his own insecurities sneaking out, “... a little baby girl?”

At the same time, both men smiled, and, in unison, spoke the name, “Jennifer.”

“Danny, who's Jennifer, and why can't I stop thinking about her?”

“I'm not sure, but I can't either, exactly.  Jack, remember years ago we went on a mission to a planet ... um, P9X-418?” Daniel questioned.

“Yeah, strange place.”

“Well, a while back, I was rereading some of my journal entries.  There were notes in there about things I don't remember.  I ... I asked Sam to pull the mission reports so I could review them, but ... Jack they don't say anything about what I wrote in my journal.  I mean it's like my journal is about something entirely different.  I don't ... I mean, my journals ... they're the most accurate records I know.”

“I think ...” Jack spoke softly as he worked through his own thoughts. “Choices.  We made choices, Danny.  It was ... like an alternate reality except ... it wasn't.  I ... I remember choices.  I ... made a choice.”  He shook his head, trying to jog the memory.  “I don't remember, Danny.  I can't put my finger on it, but ... I know it's there.”

“It's elusive.  I can't grab hold of the memory, either except for ...”

“Jennifer,” both spoke at the same time.

On Planet P9X-418, the team had been captured by aliens and separated from one another.  Individually, each had then been given the opportunity to make the life of one of their teammates ideal.

Jack's sacrifice had given Daniel the perfect childhood.  His parents hadn't died, and with the change, the young man had married, had children, and was working happily in the archaeological field.  One of his daughters had been named Jennifer.

For Daniel, his sacrifice had meant Jack could have his happy family.  Charlie had never pulled the trigger on Jack's gun, and the O'Neills (Jack and Sara) had gone on to have other children, including a daughter named Jennifer.

The sacrifices had been huge and had come at a price, and even in their supposedly ideal lives, each member of SG-1 had known something was missing.  When all was said and done, their memories of what had occurred on the planet had been wiped out, lingering only for a few days.  It had been during this time that Daniel had written in his personal journal.

As more days passed, Jack and Daniel had forgotten the truth about what had happened on the planet, except for Jennifer.  She was a bond between the two that, even in a strange, altered, unknown universe, had again tied them together.

“Jack, we're missing our daughter.  I feel her.  I can't explain it, and I know it doesn't make any sense,” Daniel stated emotionally.

“No, it doesn't.  Some crazy mixed up mission on a world that messed with our minds, but I feel her, too, Danny.  She should be with us,” Jack agreed, shaking off the eerie feeling it gave him.

The two men looked at each other.

“We're nuts,” they both said, each breaking out into laughter.

“Kayla said she's willing.  She doesn't know about the DNA tests, though,” Jack stated.

“We need to tell her.  Jack, we can't ask her to go through another pregnancy without her knowing the truth.  She'd be doing it thinking she was honoring the original agreement, but we're ... we're both ...” Daniel sighed as his words trailed off.

“We're both not just parents to our Munchkins, but each of us also had our little tadpoles working just fine,” Jack spoke proudly.

“Tadpoles?” Daniel laughed.  “Where do you get these lines?”

“Movies,” Jack teased.  “Okay, we tell her the truth: tell her the DNA results, about Jennifer, and then we honor her decision.  If she agrees, no problem.  If she says no, then we have another decision to make.”

“Jack, what if we get a ... Fred ... instead of Jennifer?”

“I don't think we will, Love, not with how I'm feeling about this.  If we did get a Fred, I'd love him just as much, but I think we'll get our Jennifer.  I know there aren't any guarantees, but ...”

Jack shook his head lightly.  Every fiber of his being told him there was a little girl out there just waiting to be born.  Daniel agreed, feeling the same, strong emotions.

“Me, too.  I love you, Jack.  You do realize that not only is Kayla going to think we're out of our minds, but Sam, Sara, and Mark may all disown us?”

“That's the beauty of it, Angel.  They're already hooked.  Carter positively coos around our babies, Sara already is planning on how to get Jonny and Angela hooked up, and Mark beams every time he gets 'stuck' with them.  They are completely, utterly, totally smitten with our Munchkins,” Jack declared as happily as any proud parent would.

“But they'll still kill us,” Daniel said gleefully.

“Yes, they will,” Jack acknowledged with a laugh, leaning his head against Daniel's as they enjoyed the night sky.

====

“Surprise!”

Jack and Daniel smiled as they stood outside Kayla's apartment door, their stroller full of babies in front of them.

“Well, hello!” Kayla laughed gaily as she leaned forward to greet the littlest Jackson-O'Neill family members; then she hugged Jack and Daniel and motioned for them to come inside.

“We should have called,” Daniel said.

Kayla smiled as she responded, “You two never call, and I love it.  Who says life has to be so formal, especially among ...”

“Family,” Jack said, seeing an approving nod from Daniel.

Kayla reached into the stroller and picked up the middle child, calling out, “Hello, Michael.”

“Um,” Daniel gulped, sighing.  “That's ... he's ... gawd.”

Kayla looked at Jack who had the silliest grin on his face.  In fact, he looked downright smug.

The young woman glanced at Daniel and laughed, “Jack, you convinced him!”

“More like conned, nagged, and blackmailed,” Daniel clarified.

“Well, Little Danny, how are you today?” Kayla asked, smiling brightly at the middle Munchkin.

The infant seemed to laugh as Kayla bounced him slightly in her arms.

Within minutes, Jack was holding Jonny and Daniel had Aislinn, while Kayla continued to play with Little Danny.  They talked about the babies quite a bit and Kayla's progress with her novel, which had her gushing a mile a minute for quite a while, but then she quieted as she observed her visitors.

“Guys, I'm getting that vibe again.  There's a reason for this visit.  You ready for the second go around?”

Jack and Daniel exchanged a look, and then Daniel said, “We ... need to tell you something.”

“Kayla, after the babies were born, we did a DNA test,” Jack informed.

“DNA?  Why?  Daniel's the father.”  Seeing the two men's expressions, she added, “Isn't he?”

“Well,” Daniel sighed, “there was a mix-up at the clinic the day you were inseminated the second time, and, well, when we were told about it, we ... I mean, at first we were upset, but then ... it just didn't matter.  We wanted babies, and we had them.  It didn't seem very important which one of us was the birth father, so to speak.”

“Wait a minute. You mean they used Jack's sperm the second time?” Kayla asked.

“Yep,” Jack answered matter-of-factly.

“So, these are your ... I mean, it was your sperm that ...”

“Yes, and no.” Jack stated.

“Excuse me?” a stunned Kayla responded.

“Kayla, the DNA tests show that Jack and I both are the fathers,” Daniel explained.

“Both?”

“Sylvia said it's not that uncommon,” Jack explained.  “As it turns out, one of us scored two, the other one.”

“Jack, this isn't a sporting event,” Daniel chastised.

“Now that depends on how you look at it.”

“Jaaaack!” Daniel exclaimed as he looked at his devilish husband, though he couldn't help but smile in response.

“Wow.  So who belongs to who?” the woman queried curiously.

“We don't know,” Jack said.

“And we don't want to, either,” Daniel added.  Seeing Kayla's quizzical look, he continued, “It's just ... Kayla, we love them, all of them.  They are our miracles, and ... we know that we brought them into this world, that they belong to us, and that's all we need to know.”

Jack added, “Sylvia has the test results under lock and key.  If we ever need to know for medical reasons, or if they want to know when they're older, then they can find out, but for us,” he looked with adoration at his husband, “we know everything we need to.”

“Exactly.  We have three beautiful, healthy babies that we both brought into this world.  There's nothing more we need to know ... except for that.”

Kayla's admiration for the two men grew even more as she listened.  They were unique in her book, and she was happy she had agreed to be their surrogate.

“So, guys, why the visit?”

“Because,” Daniel glanced at Jack, “Someone's missing.”

“We want another baby, Kayla.  I know it may seem unusual,” Jack acknowledged, “but we've talked about it, and we both feel there's a little baby girl out there that belongs to us and needs to be here.”

“What if it's a boy?”

“Then we'll love him,” Daniel said with confidence.  “But it'll be a girl because ... she's the one we're missing.  I ... we ... feel her.  Gawd, it doesn't make sense, but it's real.”

“But Daniel and I agreed that you had to know the truth about the DNA thing so that you could make a fair choice.  You've done what we asked.  It wouldn't be fair to ask you to carry another baby for us thinking it was the ...” Jack tilted his head, trying to find the right words, “I don't know, the rest of the deal.  You've fulfilled your promise to us.”

“But you want another baby?” Kayla asked, making eye contact with each of her friends.

“Yes,” both men responded emphatically.

“I see.”  Kayla smiled as she played with the contented infant she held in her arms.  Laughing, she said, “Well, Little One, it looks like you get another little sister to take care of.”

“Kayla?” Daniel asked, hope shining in his eyes.

“I look at it this way.  I agreed to two pregnancies.  We've done one.  I'm well prepared and willing to do it again.”

“Gawd,” Daniel stood and went to sit next to Kayla, the two babies making little noises as they saw each other.  “Thank you so much,” he said, placing a kiss on Kayla's cheek.

“I love you guys.  I hope you know that.”

“That's good, because we love you, too,” Daniel admitted.

“Ditto ... what he said,” Jack agreed.

“When do you want to do this?” Kayla asked.

“We thought we'd call Sylvia today.  She said originally that we could do it as quickly as three months after, as long as you checked out okay.”

“Works for me.  It should time out perfectly with the book, too.  Uh, one question.  Who's donating the sperm this time?” Kayla asked.

“Me!” both men answered with a smile.

“Huh?”

Jack grinned as he stated, “Well, it worked so well the first time, we thought we'd do the same thing again, only on purpose.”

“Somehow, Kayla, it wouldn't be right to know who, exactly, so ... this time, Jack will be the first treatment, and I'll be the second.  Hopefully, one of us will, um, connect,” Daniel blushed, “and we'll have a baby.”

“Like we did this time, we'll have Syl do the DNA test and keep it for the kids if or when it's needed, but we don't want to know.”

“Um, we have to have it for the adoption, too,” Daniel sighed, frustrated at the laws that meant he and Jack had to adopt the children legally fathered by the other.  “We love all of our children equally,” he added sincerely.  “It wouldn't be right to know the birth parentage of just one.”

“You don't want to take any chances of playing favorites?” Kayla asked gently, her voice low.

The two men looked at each other, and then Jack admitted, “Look, I ... I don't think that would happen, but we'd be stupid to deny the fact that we're human.  We've been through too much to deny basic emotions, so, in a way you're right, Kayla.  We don't want to take chances on letting something that doesn't matter get the best of us.”

Kayla smiled her agreement, then her expression changed as she felt something, and laughed, “Oops, time for a change, Little Danny.”

“Oh, sorry, I'll trade you,” Daniel said as he started to get up to tend to Little Danny.

Kayla shook him off, saying, “I'll donate this ... change.”

“Thanks,” Daniel laughed as he sat back down with Aislinn.

====

“There we go, Love.”

“It's perfect.  Thank you, Jack,” Daniel said as he observed the latest version of the Jackson-O'Neill Tree of Love Jack had given him for a wedding present.  “I'm glad you thought ahead when you did this.”

“I knew we'd have the four kids, but I thought you might want more than one set of photos.”  Jack had just put in the baby photos of the triplets and a new one of Bijou and Katie, too.  “Ready for our snack?”

“Long overdue.  I'm starved,” Daniel answered, his hand running over his abdomen appropriately to indicate his hunger.

The lovers were planning a cozy rendezvous in front of the fireplace.  They had chilled a bottle of 1959 Chateau Beychevelle from St. Julien's, Daniel's favorite wine, and had some of their favorite cozy treats.  The archaeologist was eagerly looking forward to the Godiva truffle he had purchased for himself that afternoon.  He hadn't had one in months, which to him, was like an eternity.

~Maybe it's only been weeks, but it seems like months,~ Daniel thought.  ~No, I didn't even have any for Christmas this year.  When did ... geez, not since Jack quizzed me while I was studying for my pilot's license.  It *has* been months.~

On their way downstairs, Jack and Daniel were distracted, hearing Aislinn begin to cry.

“I'll see what she wants,” Daniel volunteered, heading back upstairs.

Jack made sure everything was in place, setting several of their treats on a tray that he placed next to the soft comforter that was in place on the floor.  He made sure the baby monitors were all on and then went outside and checked on the beagles, making sure they were okay.

“She's fine.  Just woke herself up moving around a little,” Daniel informed his husband as he joined him in the living room.

“Good.  Danny, I think the girls want to come in.  They've got that look,” the older man reported.

Daniel sighed.  If the girls were in, they couldn't follow through on their plans.  Well, they weren't really plans as such, but he had ulterior motives.  Still, he couldn't resist the pleading looks the two canines were giving them through the patio door.

“Oh, well.  We can't leave them out if they want to come in,” Daniel stated.

“The best made plans,” Jack lamented, opening the door.

“Hey, Bij, Katie,” Daniel called out.

The lovers were greeted with warm, wet kisses, and then, they were surprised to see Bijou and Katie quickly go up the stairs.

“Oh,” Daniel said, a smile on his face.

“Oh, yeah,” Jack said, his own ulterior motives coming back into his mind.

Just to be sure, the couple went to the nursery, smiling when they saw the two dogs on the bed, relaxing and keeping watch.

Bijou looked up and wagged her tail, letting out the tiniest little “woof” sound.

“Thanks,” Jack mouthed before leading his husband back downstairs.

====

Back downstairs, Daniel looked over at the tray of comfort food delights, salivating at the layout.

“I can't wait.  Strawberries, chocolate-covered cherries, and ... and ... Jack?”

“What?” the older man responded.

“Something's missing,” Daniel stated, his tone serious and pointed.

“What?”

“My truffle.  Where is my truffle?”  Seeing Jack gulp and smile innocently, Daniel stated with darkened, no-longer-lusting eyes, “I *want* my truffle, O'Neill.”

“Jackson-O'Neill.”

“*Not* if you don't find my truffle!” Daniel threatened.

Jack chuckled nervously, rubbing the palms of his hands together.

“Jack, where is my truffle?”

“It's ... missing,” Jack answered.  ~I feel like a System Lord right now.~

“Like your body is going to be.  You are *so* dead, O'Neill,” Daniel stated, charging towards his lover.

Jack took off, running outside.  They'd done this before -- the chase through the backyard, but it never lost its appeal.

“Daniel.  Danny.  You'll hurt my body!” Jack pleaded as he dodged the determined archaeologist.

“Hurt is going to be the least of your problems, you ... you ... truffle thief!” Daniel called out.

As usually happened, Jack tried unsuccessfully to elude Daniel's grasp, the younger man tackling and then straddling him near Katie's play yard.

“You *stole* my truffle!”

“I was ... hungry,” Jack responded, shrugging even as he lay trapped on the grass.

“But it was *my* truffle,” Daniel argued, continuing to keep the other man pinned to the ground.

“I thought we shared everything,” Jack retorted.

“*Not* my truffle!”

“Angel ...”

“I'm *not* your angel, for crying out loud.  Jack, I was looking forward to that stupid truffle.  I haven't had one in months.  Geez, O'Neill.”  Daniel got off his husband and pulled his knees up to his chin, burying his head in his arms.  “I know it's dumb, but I really wanted that chocolate truffle.”

“Danny.”  Jack leaned forward and kissed his sad lover.  Softly, he apologized: “I'm sorry, Angel.”

“I'm sorry, too.  I'll always be your angel, at least I ...”

“Always, Danny.”

The two kissed, their passion growing, but then Daniel remembered something that stopped their motions.

“Jack, the monitors aren't on out here,” the archaeologist reminded.

“Not to mention it's cold out here,” Jack spoke about the brisk evening air that was chilling his bones.  “Let's go back in the house.”

====

Inside the house, Jack excused himself for a moment, so Daniel went back to the fireplace and sat down.  A bit sadly, he reached for one of the strawberries and ate it.

~I'd rather have a truffle,~ the younger man silently bemoaned.

“Angel?” Jack called out a minute later.

Daniel twisted his body to look behind him where Jack was standing, a huge smile on his face.  In his hand, he held not just one, but an entire box full of Daniel's very favorite chocolate truffles.

“Truffles!” Daniel exclaimed excitedly.  His entire face lit up.  Reaching upwards, he extended his arms out fully as he ordered, “Gimme!”

“Your wish is my command,” Jack said, kneeling down so that the two men were facing each other.

“Now!”  Daniel's eyes were lit up like a child's on Christmas morning as he took hold of one of the chocolate delights.  “Mmmm,” he moaned as he slowly enjoyed a truffle, closing his eyes.  He moaned again as the first piece glided down his throat.  “Oh, gawd.”

“Daniel, let's not go overboard.  I'll feel ... geez.”

“Sorry, Love.  Jack, you teased me.”

Jack grinned mischievously, his Irish eyes sparkling brightly as he explained, “Danny, I couldn't believe it.  When you came home from shopping this morning and had one lousy truffle for yourself, I almost screamed.  One truffle?  Daniel, you're addicted to these things, you haven't had them in ages, and when you finally decide to treat yourself to them, you come home with just one truffle?”

“I didn't want it to look like ... I mean ... I don't know,” the younger man replied, bowing his head.

“I do.  You never think it's okay to splurge on yourself.  Well, it is.  Don't you ever come home with one truffle again.”

“Yes, Jack.”  Daniel leaned forward and gripped Jack's head in his hands as they kissed, the taste of chocolate on his lips and in his mouth.  “I love you so much, especially when you spoil me.”

“It's extremely mutual, and I live to spoil you.  I mean it, Angel.  Don't you do that again,” the general ordered.

“Next time I'll get two,” Daniel teased, starting round two of the chase.

Daniel let himself be caught a few moments later, Jack pinning him to the wall and giving him a passion filled kiss and then stating, “You're worth so much more than a lousy box of chocolates.”

“Yes, Sir,” a smiling Daniel acknowledged.

“I don't ever want to see you doing something that says you aren't important or worth it,” Jack concluded.

“Did you just lecture me, O'Neill?” Daniel chuckled.

“You have a problem with that?”

“No,” Daniel answered, rubbing Jack's cheeks, his thumbs gently tracing the edge of Jack's mouth.  “It makes me love you even more, and it makes me realize how lucky we are to have each other.  Jack, we have so much.”

“And more to come,” the older man promised.

“Jack?”

“Hmm?”

“I have plans for us tonight,” Daniel announced.

“So do I.”

“I vote we get to it,” the eager archaeologist opined.

Grinning, Jack stated, “It's unanimous then.”

“Definitely unanimous,” Daniel agreed.  “Make love to me, Jack.”

“Your wish is my command.”

====
-- Chapter Three:  Shedding the Cocoon
====

“Danny, I could stay home,” Jack offered as the lovers stood in their kitchen.

“No, Jack, Molly is expecting you.  You promised her.”

“Yeah, I know, but ...”

“Jack, we agreed that we need to start getting back to a life that extends beyond our house.  Like you said, we have friends, and there's a world out there.  We don't want our children brought up in a cocoon.  We made a good start when we went to Bryce Canyon.  Now ... well, now, we have to make sure that our daily life is as normal as we can make it,” Daniel asserted.

With a smile, Jack asked, “Have I mentioned lately that I love you?”

“Hmm, about five minutes ago,” Daniel chuckled as he answered his soulmate.

“Okay, I'm just going to spend about an hour at Molly's today, just to get back into the swing of it.  I'll have the cell on, so you can call me if ...”

“Jack, it's not like we haven't each been alone with our children before,” Daniel stated.  “That, we've done.”

Jack laughed in acknowledgement, saying, “Yeah, but you know, this is the first time one of us has just gone off to do something that wasn't essentially an errand.”

“It's been four months, Jack.  I don't want us to live in that cocoon, so ... it's time, no matter how hard it might be for a while,” the younger man stated, looking down a bit as the emotion of what he was saying permeated through his mind.

“When did you get so smart?”

“Truthfully?” Daniel asked, looking lovingly at his husband.  “I think it was that night when you made me leave the Munchkins and drove us to the club in Denver.  Gawd, Jack, if you hadn't done that, I don't know what would have happened.  You were right.  We have to take care of ourselves, or it's all for nothing.”

“We'd be happy as hermits,” Jack spoke.  “Don't forget Korsha and the Filgruns.”

“Xanadu,” a smiling Daniel recalled.  “We were trapped there.  I could have stayed there forever with you.”

“That's my point,” Jack replied.  “We're happy together, just us.”

“Yes, we are, but what about our children?  I think that's why the trip to the Canyon was important, showing us that we could leave the Munchkins without some disaster happening.  You were right again,” Daniel spoke.

“It was hard though.”

“Gawd, how many times did we pick up the cell?”

“I stopped counting, but we got through it, and we had a great time, didn't we?” Jack asked, recalling their romantic overnight stay.

“The best time, Jack, and we'll have more.  We'll always worry about our children, but we can't keep them in a plastic bubble.  People need people, and it wouldn't be fair to starve them of something so natural.”

“I love you, Danny,” Jack whispered into his lover's mouth before capturing it completely.  “I'll be back soon.”

“Oops, there's Jonny.  Say 'hello' to Molly for me, Jack,” Daniel requested, watching his lover leave the house and then heading upstairs to the nursery.

====

The retired general drove away from his home, heading towards the small children's shelter run by his friend, Molly O'Hanlon.

Molly was born in Ireland, but had come to America with her husband in the 1960's.  When her husband died in 1985, she felt a need to find something worthwhile to devote the rest of her life to, and she found it in the form of a small children's shelter that she opened in 1988.

Jack had met Molly in 1997, after the first mission to Abydos.  He had decided to live again, and just as Molly had searched, Jack had also been looking for something to do with his time, now that he had retired from the Air Force yet again.

One day, Molly had taken some of the children to the Air Force Academy as a treat.  It just happened that Jack had been there that day, too, attending a memorial service for a colleague who had died.  He hadn't been able to resist the small group of children who had seemed to be in awe of the colonel dressed in his Air Force uniform.

Jack and Molly had hit it off immediately, his Irish charm and heritage fitting right in with Molly's pure Irish blood.  From that moment on, Jack had devoted both time and money to her shelter.  He still helped out other shelters and homes, but Molly's Irish brogue and her dedication to the children had made her privately-run shelter his favorite.

Daniel had helped out occasionally, but not often, although he had taken a special liking to the kids at Molly's shelter a couple years back when Jack had conned him into dressing up as an elf and acting as Santa's helper at the Christmas party.  He liked Molly, and he loved the children, but it was often difficult for him to keep his emotions in check.  Thus, while he didn't often go to the shelter himself, he wholly supported Jack's participation in every way.  In fact, it had been Daniel's suggestion that they donate their settlement money from the clinic, for the sperm donor error, to Molly's shelter.

At the shelter, Jack spent the afternoon playing baseball with a group of fifteen children, his single hour turning into three, after he had called to make sure Daniel was okay with it.  He had expected to see one of Molly's staff, Barbara Colligen, tending to another group of ten.  Barb usually taught crafts on Saturday afternoons, though her normal role was academic teaching.  However, he hadn't seen her at all during his visit.

As he was getting ready to leave, Jack decided to go by Molly's office to let her know he'd be back the next week if he could swing it.  He tapped on the door and walked in.

“Hey, Gorgeous!” Jack called out, spreading his arms out wide to embrace the woman.

“Jack, me boy, you've been kissing the blarney stone again, and boy, are you full of it,” Molly laughed, a sparkle in her caring eyes as she walked towards him.

After a hug, Jack said, “Just wanted you to know I'll try and come by next week.  It's not easy with the Munchkins.”

“I'd love to see them sometime.”

“They're my pride and joy,” Jack said, beaming with joy.  “Hey, where's Barb?  I haven't seen her at all today.”  Molly sighed, and Jack could see the look of worry on the Irish woman's face.  “Molly?  Did something happen to Barb?”

“I had to let her go, Jack,” Molly answered dejectedly, turning around and walking to look out the window that was behind her desk.

“Let her go.  Why?” Jack asked, taking a couple of steps forward.

Molly turned to face Jack, the sadness in her expression obvious.  She sat back down in her chair behind the desk.

“Molly, what's wrong?”

“We've lost our funding, Jack.  When I opened this place, it was with the commitment of a wonderful, very generous man, but he died last year, and his family has opted not to continue the donations to the shelter.”

“He died last year?”

“Cancer.  He was a sweet man.  He helped so many children,” Molly said.  “I miss the talks I used to have with him.”

“There must be other sources of funding.”

“I've tried everything.  I've had to let three of my staff go already, and,” Molly leaned forward, picking up a file, “I'm just finalizing my choice for two more I'll have to let go by the end of this month.  I'm afraid if I don't get help soon, the shelter will be closed by the end of the year.”

“Molly, there must be something ...” Jack began, unable to believe that this awesome home for children would soon be no more.

Molly smiled sweetly as she spoke, “I've used as much of my savings as I can.  If I use any more, I won't have a home to live in.  It's breaking me heart.  These wee ones need so much love, and especially the older children who feel so alone and abandoned.  Jack, it tugs at me so, the way people bypass them.  Everyone wants babies,” Molly sighed.

Jack stood motionless, not knowing what to say.

Molly stood, walked to the new father and reached out, taking his hand, saying, “You've been a good friend to the shelter, and it's the money that you and your sweet Daniel provided that kept us going this long.”

“We had no idea, Molly,” Jack responded sadly.

Jack and Daniel had never formally told Molly about their relationship, but they weren't really hiding it, either.  In a crazy sense, it was a bit like “Don't Ask, Don't Tell” in that they didn't specifically tell her, and she had never asked them.

At first, Molly knew only Jack.  He was a divorced, military man whose son had died tragically.  As the years passed, she had come to hear a lot about a younger man named Daniel.  Jack's eyes had always shined extra brightly whenever he had talked about this man.  Finally, at the aforementioned Christmas party, Molly had met this mysterious Daniel.  She immediately adored him and quickly grew to love him.

After that, Jack had said only that he and Daniel shared a house together, and when Jack suddenly began talking about triplets, Molly never flinched.  She had asked once if he had remarried, and he had replied with a quiet but happy 'yes' before quickly changing the subject.  She had noticed over the months that the apparently newly remarried colonel still never seemed to talk about anyone but Daniel, and, more recently, his Munchkins.

Still, the woman had never asked, not even after they had jointly made the donation to the shelter.  She had no idea the funds had been part of a settlement, believing it only to be a generous donation from two very caring men.

As she stood with her friend, Jack, Molly felt blessed to have such wonderful people in her life.

“Jack, me lad, I thank you for your concern, but this is my problem.  I hope you'll come back next week.”

“I'll be here next week, Molly.  I promise,” Jack said reassuringly, placing a kiss on her cheek that made her blush.

====

That night over dinner, Jack gave Daniel the news about the shelter, explaining the staff reductions and that the only reason Molly hadn't closed the shelter already was because she loved the children so much and knew they all needed that love.

“Danny, that forty-thou kept her going.  *Your* idea saved those children,” Jack stated.

“If I had known, maybe I would have agreed to let Mark get more money from the clinic,” Daniel replied, referring to their lawyer, Mark Kingston, who had actually been the one to insist the lovers accept a cash settlement from the clinic in addition to a special scholarship program that had been set up.

“We've been in our cocoon a little too long, Angel,” Jack sighed.

“Yeah,” Daniel agreed simply.

====

After dinner, Jack, Daniel, the Munchkins, and the two beagles spent a cozy evening playing, reading, and just relaxing.  For a short while, they went outside on the lawn where Little Danny suddenly showed an interest in helping Katie go on a 'dig' in her play yard.  Of all the children, he seemed to have the deepest relationship with the two beagles.  He and Katie often looked like they were talking to each other.

Since it was too cold to stay out for long, the family returned to the warmth of their living room for the bulk of the night, just loving and enjoying being together.

====

“WAH!  WAH!”

Daniel yawned, hesitantly scratching out an, “I got it.”  He picked up the phone.  “H'lo?  Um, hello?”

“Danny, Love, it's not the phone.”

Daniel's eyes opened a little wider, and suddenly, he realized the only sound coming over the phone was a dial tone.  Then he heard another cry and realized the sound that had awakened him was one of his children.  Laughing at his actions, he said, “Sorry.”

“I'll do it.”

“No, it's my turn,” the younger man said, now more awake.  Daniel kissed Jack's hairy chest and then got up, slipping on his blue velvet robe over his pajamas.  He walked into the nursery and picked up the “WAH”er in question, Aislinn, who immediately quieted.  “Oh, just wanted to be held?  Okay, I can do that.”

For quite a while, Daniel roamed the room with his baby daughter in his arms, talking to her softly about anything that popped into his mind.  When he thought she was ready to sleep, he put her back in the crib.

For a minute or so, Daniel marveled at the blessings that were his children, after which he returned to the master bedroom.  Instead of going back to bed, though, he watched his husband for a few minutes, just enjoying the view of the man he loved.  Then he walked out onto the roof deck and stood over by the railing, his arms crossed as he looked out at the sky.

After a few minutes, Daniel felt the strong hands he loved so much on his sides, and then the warm, protective arms of his husband pulling him close as they enveloped him.

“Gawd, I love you,” Daniel said as he leaned back into the hold.

“I missed you, Angel.”  Jack kissed Daniel's nape.  “It was so cold in bed without you.”

“I just needed to come out here for a while.”

“The Munchkins okay?”

“It was Ash.  She needed to be held for a little while ... like me, right now,” the younger man spoke quietly.

“I aim to please,” Jack replied, smiling as the two stood peacefully under the night sky.

“Jack, I know we're pressed for time, but we did it with our date night, and I bet if we put our minds to it, we could set up something where we could help Molly,” Daniel stated.

“I thought maybe that's what you were thinking about out here.  It would be a big commitment,” the older man pointed out.

“But we're getting better with our routine, and didn't we just decide that it's time to start shedding our cocoon?  I mean, we're doing it with J-O, and ... can't we do it for Molly, too?”

“We can do anything, Love.  We're together, and together we're ...”

“Unbeatable,” both men laughed.

“So, what do you have in mind, Danny?”

“Well, Barb's specialty was classroom-type stuff, right?  Like a teacher? I could tutor or something ... maybe a couple of hours a few times a week.”

“My genius!  With Bob gone, the athletic program went, too.  I can do that, on a part time basis.  Danny, maybe we could alternate our days, so one of us is home with the kids and the other can go to Molly's for a couple of hours.  What do you think?”

“I think you're my genius ... and someday, Jack, I just *might* forgive you for that!  My genius, gawd!”  Daniel laughed, referring to Jack's failure to admit that his IQ qualified him for a membership in Mensa, something Daniel hadn't discovered until the day they packed up Jack's office at the SGC.

“Sorry, Love.  I swear, I never intentionally hid that little fact.  It just never came up,” the general insisted.

“Right, Jack,” Daniel responded, shaking his head against Jack's shoulder.

“Hey, I bet we can rope Carter into this.”

“Oh gawd.  Just tell her to call you 'Jack', and she'll run.  She panics as it is anytime we walk into a room with a new plan,” the archaeologist mused.

“I'm not sure I can blame her.  First, we plan to have four kids, then the Munchkins made it five, and now, hopefully with Jennifer's arrival, we'll have six beautiful, wonderful children.  We've turned Carter's life upside down, too.  Maybe we ...” Jack spoke, wondering if it was too much for the blonde.

“No, Jack, she wants it.  We can't second guess her, and I trust her enough to know that she wouldn't have said yes if she didn't really want to take care of our children should something unforeseen happen to us both ... even if it does scare her.”

“This could be good practice for her, if you think about it.  She could tutor, too.”  Jack grinned as he suggested, “Homemaking 101.”

“She'll kill you, Babe, just for thinking that.”

====

“Hi,” Kayla greeted as she walked into the Jackson-O'Neill house.  “The babies asleep?”

“Do you believe it?” Jack laughed.  “Actually, they've adopted a really nice schedule lately.  It's been amazing,” Jack said as he looked at his husband

Ignoring the lust in Jack's eyes for the moment, but only for the moment, Daniel commented, “I think they like being together.  The three of them are so bonded.”

“We need to watch that,” Jack responded, just a bit of concern in his voice.  “I've been reading about the bonds between triplets, especially since we've chosen to keep them together in the crib.  Most of the time, it works out great, but we need to be cognizant of it and look for any warning signs.”

“I've read some of those warnings, too, Love, and you're right.  We do need to make sure they don't get overly attached to the point where it's detrimental for them to be separated for a while.  I mean ... just for normal activities,” Daniel stated.

“It's great how connected they are, though, Danny.  They'll always have each other.”

“Just like we have each other, no matter what,” the younger man said.

“Uh ... Guys, hi!” Kayla called out.  “Remember me?”

Kayla noticed they had forgotten she was in the house.  She loved that, though, that they were so devoted to their children.

“Oh, sorry, Kayla,” Daniel apologized shyly.  “Have a seat.”

“Thanks,” the woman said, sitting down on the sofa.  “I have news, and I thought you'd want to know.”

Both Jack and Daniel looked at the young woman with broad smiles of hope and expectation.  She laughed and nodded, affirming their suspicions.

“Congratulations!  We're pregnant ... again!”

====

It was mid-afternoon, and snow was falling lightly outside.  Aislinn was still asleep, having not awakened yet from her latest nap.  Jack was lying on the sofa, his head propped up slightly so that he could see the drizzling snow as it hit the backyard.  Jonny was sitting on his chest.  The older man was having a good time playing with the infant's hands and feet and making him laugh and smile.

Daniel was on the floor, facing the opposite direction.  He was lying close to Jack's favorite chair and could easily make eye contact with his husband.  Aislinn was lying on a blanket on the floor next to Daniel.  Standing on his abdomen was Little Danny, freely laughing at his daddy's funny faces.  Suddenly, the baby made a noise.  It sounded like “Boo...bu...boo.”

Daniel laughed and immediately replied, “And a Boobuboo bugly boo a boo bop to you, too!”

Little Danny giggled as Daniel continued to stand him up on his chest. Then Daniel panicked.

“Oh, gawd.”

“What?” Jack questioned, about to jump up, certain something horrible was wrong with Daniel or Little Danny.

“Jack, I'm a freakin' linguist, but most of my conversation lately has been ... boobuboo bopawop.  I'm speaking freakin' baby!  It's all *your* fault, Jack!”

“Mine?” Jack asked defensively.

“They're *your* babies,” Daniel accused.  The two men looked at each other and then broke out into hysterical laughter for several minutes, all three Munchkins joining in, too.  Finally, as Daniel calmed, he looked lovingly over at his husband and said, “Jack?”

“What, Love?”

“I'd rather speak baby than any language on Earth ... or anywhere in the universe.  It's the most beautiful language I've ever learned.”

“You got that right.  I love you.”

“Me, too.”

“Boobuboo,” Little Danny added.

“And we both love you, too, you ... boobuboobopity bop,” Daniel said, a big grin on his face, as he talked to his namesake.

====

“Come on, you rascal.  Settle down,” Jack pleaded as he paced the living room with Jonny in his arms.

It was 11:20 p.m., and Jonny had awakened, crying ninety minutes earlier.  Jack had brought him downstairs so that the infant's cries wouldn't disturb the others.  Daniel was asleep, as were Little Danny and Aislinn.

Jack had tried everything.  The diaper was dry, Jonny wasn't hungry, he didn't have a fever or seem sick, but he was crying restlessly.  He hummed, whistled, and sang.  He tried playing.  He even got Bijou and Katie to try and help, but nothing worked.  Finally, out of desperation, he grabbed the keys to the truck and walked out.

The older father of three put his crying child into the baby seat in the backseat, the one closest to the passenger side so he could watch Jonny more easily, and then started to drive.

--

Daniel yawned as he walked downstairs, assuming he'd find his missing husband and child.  He was surprised not to see them there.  He checked the backyard, kitchen, study, roof deck, and every inch of the house.  He was beginning to panic, when he glanced over at Bijou and Katie resting peacefully.

Bijou looked up at him and wagged her tail.

“Bijou, you wouldn't be resting if something were wrong, right?” Daniel questioned.  He smiled as the mama beagle got up and came to him.  He laughed as she sat up and assumed a begging stance.  “Okay,” he said, leaning down and picking her up.  “Where'd my husband go, and where'd he take our son?  And why?”  He snuggled into the beagle, petting her as he slumped down onto the couch.  “I may just kill him, after I hug him.”

Daniel let out a sigh, holding in his panic on the assumption Jack would have a logical explanation.

--

“That's my boy,” Jack praised as he carried Jonny upstairs and put him down in the crib.  He took a moment to make sure Little Danny and Aislinn were secure, and then went back downstairs to his lover, who was asleep on the sofa, Bijou warming his feet.  “Am I in trouble, Bij?”

Bijou stood and walked over to the door, making her desire obvious.

Jack sighed, “Thanks.  Um, do you really want to go out, or were you just answering my question?”  When Bijou wagged her tail, went to her beanbag, and rolled over next to her puppy, he chuckled at the communication between the beagles and he and his soulmate.  ~Geez, I love those girls.~

The silver-haired man knelt down in front of Daniel and just looked for a while, studying the face he loved with all his heart.

“Danny, you are my love, only you.  I hope I didn't scare you, Angel.  I should have left a note, but ... I love you, Danny.  Look at you, so beautiful.  You're a work of art, and whoever would have thought you'd be mine for all of eternity.  Geez.”

Jack turned around, sitting with his back to the sofa, bringing his legs up to bend slightly at the knee, his arms reaching out and dangling loosely over his knees.

“I still don't believe it sometimes.  It seemed like no matter what we did, someone, or something, would try and keep us apart.  Sometimes, it was ourselves.  Crap, Danny, how many times did we almost push each other away because we were ...” Jack shook his head in disbelief, “scared?”

Jack let out a haunting laugh.

“And what were we scared of?  This?  This is everything.  You and me, this house, Bij and Katie and that play yard, the Munchkins, and oh geez, little Jennifer, too.  J-O with its boonie bear.”  Shaking his head again in disbelief at all their fights over the years, he asked, “Why'd we ever fight?”

The retired general paused as he pondered the question, tracing his wedding ring for a moment.

“Let's face it, Angel.  I loved you the moment I saw you.  It just ... petrified me.  I wasn't prepared for you, or for these feelings.  We don't have a perfect life, and yet we do, because it is perfect.  That doesn't make sense, does it?”

“Yes, it does,” Daniel answered, yawning.

Jack leaned his head backwards against the sofa, his eyes moving over to Daniel, and said, “I'm sorry.  I was going to let you sleep, and here I'm ... prattling on like Carter during one of those day-long briefings.”

“The man with no words, but not with me.”

“You make it easy.”

Daniel turned a bit so that he was lying on his right side, reaching over with his left hand to walk his fingers through Jack's hair.

“Where'd you go, Jack?”

“Again, I'm sorry, Love.  Jonny was fussing.  I tried everything, but nothing quieted him, and then I remembered something Mom said she used to do with me.”

“What was that?” Daniel asked curiously.

“She said sometimes I'd get restless, almost for no reason, and the only thing she could do was put me in the car and take me for a drive, so I tried it out on Jonny.”

“It worked?”

“Yeah.  He quieted down right away, but it was such a nice night, I just kept driving,” Jack explained.  “I should have left you a note.  I'm so sorry, Danny.  You must have been out of your mind with worry.  I know I would have been.”

“I was ... until Bijou reassured me.”

“Our genius girls.  Danny, I ...”

“Jack, shut up, and kiss me,” the younger man ordered.

“Geez, what you do to me,” Jack said as he moved onto the sofa and began a long, warm and tender make-out session with his husband.

====

“It went great, Sir, and I had a fantastic time.  Those kids are smart,” Sam stated.

Jack, who had dropped by the SGC while out running errands, responded, “I'm glad it went well.  So, you'll be going back?”

“Definitely.  I set up a schedule with Molly, though I explained that it was subject to ... well, you know.”

“Yeah.  Everything okay around here?” the general questioned.

“It's the usual.”

“How about being in command?  I mean in command of a full team, one that actually obeys orders,” Jack asked curiously, smiling at his inquiry.

Sam had technically been in charge of SG-1 when he had been promoted to general and replaced Hammond as the leader of the SGC for a while.  Yet, Jack had often gone on missions with them anyway, unable to sever that tie or the desire to be in the field.  Because of that bond, Jack had never given SG-1 a new fourth member.

~Can't replace me,~ Jack had thought smugly, knowing the thought was more sentimental than anything else, but the result was that SG-1 had been the only three-person team in the SGC.

Being in command of SG-1 or SG-1A, as the team was now called, was a challenge as well.  The new team designation had kicked in once Jack and Daniel had retired.  It was a tribute to their contribution to the SGC, and the world, to semi-retire the designation of the flagship team of the SGC.  As long as Sam and/or Teal'c remained on the team, it would be called SG-1A.  Once those two moved on, SG-1 (and its SG-1A off-shoot) would officially be retired for all time.

Of course, when the team was still SG-1, Sam had never really commanded Daniel.  Then again, Jack had never managed that either.  As for Teal'c, the Jaffa had always followed his own drummer, though loyal to the SGC and especially to Jack.  The end result of that meant Teal'c more or less just went along with the others, except on a couple of memorable occasions.

~That Tanith episode scarred me for life,~ Jack thought wryly.  ~I still can't believe the way he ignored orders, putting my life at stake, and went after that snake for killing that temple priestess.  Of course, they did have some serious sparkage.  Dang Jaffa revenge thing.  On second thought, maybe I can.  I'd do the same if someone hurt Danny.  Maybe it's not Jaffa revenge; maybe it's just ... loving.~

Now, the blonde colonel had a legitimate command.  SG-1A was truly her own team to lead.  Teal'c was still a part of it, the other two team members currently being Lieutenant Grace Satterfield and Doctor Keith Davidson.

“Gawd, Sir, sometimes I wonder how you put up with all the different team dynamics over the years.  My admiration has grown by leaps and bounds over the past year,” Sam spoke seriously.

Jack chuckled, silently thinking that no one could really understand how complicated it was to lead a team well until they actually did it.

“O'Neill!  It is good to see you.”

“Teal'c, old buddy.”  Jack gave the smiling Jaffa a hug.  “How ya doing?”

“I am well.”

“General, I told Teal'c about the shelter, and ...” Sam began.

“I would like to assist,” Teal'c stated.

“You would?  Um, how?”

“I could teach American history,” the alien stated, his confidence strong.

“American ... history,” Jack repeated skeptically as he glanced at Sam.

“Sir, if you think about it, I'll bet Teal'c knows more about America than both of us put together.”

Jack bobbed his head lightly, admitting, “You're probably right.”

“Sir, there are several other members of the SGC who have expressed an interest.  I don't know if it will be enough to save the shelter, but I think we could help.”

“Tell me more.”

====

“There you go, Little Danny.  You like that green spinach goo?” Jack asked, having just finished feeding the infant.

In response to his father's question, the baby made a nasty scrunching face, causing Jack to laugh.

“Yeah, I don't much like it, either, but we have to keep you nice and healthy, and that means spinach.”  Seeing his son's attire, he groaned, “And spinach will mean lots of clothing changes if today is any indication.”  He smiled, observing, “I think you have more spinach on your shirt than we managed to get in you.”

Jack could have sworn the infant winked and cooed at him.

~That's my boy!~

Jack took Little Danny upstairs where Daniel was playing with Jonny and Aislinn, both of whom had already had their lunch.

“How'd it go?” Daniel asked.

“Look at him,” Jack requested.

“Oh,” Daniel said, chuckling.  “Jack, I never liked spinach either.”

As Jack put the baby on the changing table, he suggested, “Danny, let's toss the spinach stuff.  None of them like it.  We don't even like it.  Why are we forcing our babies to eat something they hate?”

“The books say ...”

“Screw the books.  C'mon, Angel.  They're our babies.  We know what's best for them,” Jack argued.

Daniel smiled and nodded, then said, “Okay.  Let's toss what we have, and scratch it off the shopping list.  They do like green beans and ...”

“And lots of other stuff.  They've just inherited our dislike of spinach.  I don't know why we've bought it for ourselves over the years.”

“Recipes.  Health charts.”  Jack started to open his mouth to protest, but Daniel cut him off.  “I know ... screw 'em.”

The couple laughed, and then Daniel noticed something and asked, “Jack, why is it when you dress Little Danny, you always make sure he's wearing blue?”

Jack grinned, answering, “Matches his blue eyes, just like you, My Love.”

“Oh, gawd.  Jack, our son is allowed to wear colors other than blue.”

“Right.”

“Jaaaaack!” the younger man replied, giving his lover a warning look.

“I didn't argue,” Jack claimed.

“Jack!”

“What?”

“Clothes *other* than blue,” the archaeologist insisted.

“I heard you, Love,” Jack responded calmly.

“Say 'it'.”

“It,” Jack said, smirking at the fun he was having at the moment.

“Jack!”

“Fine.  Our son will ...”

“No!”

“No what?”

“Be specific -- use his name,” Daniel ordered.

Daniel could swear he heard Jack curse under his breath, but then he heard the words, “Little Danny will wear clothing other than blue.”  ~Like underwear.~

“I *heard* that.”

“Dang this ... no, scratch that.  Love that connection,” Jack stated, earning him a smile from his husband, too.  ~He'll wear blue when I dress him.  You can dress him in other colors.  Of course, I'll make sure I dress him as much as possible.~

Jack picked up Little Danny, now cooing, and gave him a kiss.  He looked over a Daniel and smiled.  The young man was shaking his head.

“What?” Jack asked.

“I heard that, too,” Daniel sighed in disbelief.  “Sorry, Little Danny.  I'll do my best, but your dad has this thing for blue.  If I were you, I'd just learn to live with it.  I have.”

Jack laughed, then approached his lover, giving him a kiss and saying, “I love you, Angel.”

“Heaven help me, Jack, but I love you so freakin' much, and I swear it's as much for this ridiculous blue obsession as anything else.  Gawd, makes me feel ...”

“Special ... and you are.  Your eyes are so blue, crystal blue like the purity of the ocean water or the skies when we're in Jo, flying high.  I love your eyes.  They're your soul, and when you're surrounded by blue, they stand out.  Love you,” Jack said, leaning forward for another kiss.

“Ohboo ... bop ... boo,” Little Danny said.

“I think he approves,” Jack said.

“Me, too, but it's only a theory, and we should ...” Daniel began.

“Test it again,” Jack said as he grinned.

Daniel nodded, and the two kissed again, their tongues mingling this time.

“Booogliooooo ... ohoo ... boobop ...” Little Danny said.

“He approves,” both lovers said together, and then they continued on with their day, enjoying life in Colorado Springs with their three precious babies.

====
-- Chapter Four:  Ghosts of the Past
====

“Jack, could you and Doctor Jackson come in this afternoon?  Something has come up that I think you'll want to know about,” Lieutenant General George Hammond spoke over the phone.

“General, we had plans ...”

“Jack, I think it's in your best interests to change those plans.  1300 hours.”

Jack was surprised to hear the click of the phone.  Worse, the general's tone concerned him.  It had been deep and coarse, sharp even, and he had sounded tense and angry about something.

Casually, Jack walked outside where Daniel had the triplets atop a large blanket. Bijou and Katie were playing with their 'charges', and all were enjoying themselves, especially Little Danny who looked like he was playing peek-a-boo with Katie, and Aislinn, who was having a good time with Bijou's floppy ears, while Jonny played with her slowly wagging tail.

“Danny, that was General Hammond,” Jack informed, looking off into the distance.

~Okay.~  Daniel noted his lover's look of concern, surmising the phone call was more than just a 'how are the babies?' chat.  “And ...?” he prompted.

“And he wants to see us this afternoon,” Jack responded.  “In fact, he more or less insisted.”

“He didn't tell you why?”

“No, but I have a bad feeling.”

Daniel nodded in acknowledgement and asked, “What about the Munchkins?”

“I'll call Sara and see if she can watch them for a couple of hours.”

====

“Thank you for coming, Jack,” General Hammond said as he reached out to shake Jack's hand and then did the same with Daniel's before closing the door.

As the couple entered Hammond's office, Daniel's focus immediately went to the stranger in the room.  He was standing almost at attention, but wearing a business suit, not a uniform.  The man was one or two inches taller than Jack, well built, and had a stern expression on his face.  He had an air of arrogance and superiority about him as well.

Jack also noticed the man, his own internal alarms going off.

“I'm not going to like this, am I, General?” Jack asked as he moved forward towards the man, locking eyes in what became a stare down.  The problem was that the man hadn't blinked.

“Jack,” Daniel said softly, “Why don't we just find out why we're here?”

The retired general didn't want to look away, but he knew Daniel was right. They had things to do, places to go, and babies to adore.  He didn't need to waste his time on whoever this man was.

As he sat down at his desk, Hammond stated, “General O'Neill, this is Arthur Cummings.  He's conducting reviews of past missions.”

“Of the SGC?” Jack asked.

“No.”

Daniel felt unnerved by the stranger, who seemed content to let General Hammond explain his presence.  In fact, his perception was that Jack was being studied.  The man hadn't said a word, but already Daniel didn't like him, and for the archaeologist, that kind of quick judgment was unusual.

“Jack,” Hammond said as he picked up a thick file from his desk, letting it bounce back down almost immediately.  In fact, the file rested upon several other files, all fairly bulky.  Resigned to his task, he informed, “Under the direction of Internal Affairs, Mister Cummings is acting as a sort of special prosecutor, independent of the Air Force.  He's,” the general hesitated, looking over at the still motionless man, “checking into certain past activities that some believe might be ... questionable.”

“What activities?” Jack asked.

General Hammond picked up the folder again and handed it to Jack.

Jack immediately noticed his name was on the folder.  As he thumbed through it, he grew pale, a fact that didn't go unnoticed by his husband, who stood along the edge of the wall, near the doorway, his arms folded tightly across his chest.

Daniel's initial instinct had been to move close to Jack.  His gut told him that his lover needed protecting; yet, something else told him that he also needed to be an observer, to get the big picture, so he stood back, carefully watching Cummings, who stood so securely beside Hammond's desk.

“What's this about?” Jack asked Cummings directly.

“I believe General Hammond has told you,” Cummings spoke.

“I'm asking *you*.  What are you after?” Jack questioned, his voice on edge.

Not moving from his spot, Cummings coldly answered, “You, General.  The people who have requested this inquiry have an interest in your future.”

“I'm retired.”

“That may be, but perhaps, General, that's not the issue.  The people I represent are concerned that your past actions were outside the scope of your orders.  Pressure is being applied to bring certain personnel to account,” the special prosecutor explained.

Jack looked at Daniel for a moment and then said, “Okay, that's enough.  I'm out of here,” and signaled to his lover to follow.

“You can answer the questions here, General, or in a more public setting.  The choice is yours.”

Having reached the doorway, Jack spun away and questioned, “Who do you think you're trying to kid, Cummings?”  He walked back towards the man in the black suit, holding up the file and saying, “The stuff in these files is classified.  The government doesn't want this out there.”

“If you went against orders, General, the government isn't at risk now, is it?” Cummings asked coolly, not rattled by any of Jack's comments or actions.

Jack smirked, “You do what you have to, but you'll do it without me.”  He again turned around and walked towards the door, saying, “Daniel, let's go.”

“I'm sure that three-year-old girl you shot in the head would like to opportunity to walk out, too.  Of course, she'd probably just like to be able to breathe.”

Jack's hand froze on the doorknob.  He looked down at the knob for a moment and then risked a glanced at Daniel, whose breathing had become heavier.  He again turned around, his face stone cold.

“Careful with your accusations, Cummings,” the Special Ops officer warned.

“I don't think it's an accusation.  You have a history, General; a very colorful, dark history, and it's loaded with moments of you going out on your own, disobeying orders.  Why should I think this incident was different?  What could you possibly say that would excuse you murdering a child?”

“Why you ...” Jack lunged at the man, shoving him backwards several feet until he was against the wall.  He held the man's jacket tight and jerked the man's body again for emphasis.  “I don't have to explain squat to you.”

“Tanisha was her name, wasn't it, General?  She had a baby sister and an older brother, and you killed her,” Cummings accused.

“I'll ...”

“JACK!” Daniel moved forward, his hand on Jack's forearm.  “Don't.”

The man smirked, “Aren't you proving my point, General O'Neill?  You have a temper.  I'm going to nail you to the wall for that little girl's death if I have to travel the world over a hundred times interviewing people.  You're going to pay!”

Daniel knew Jack's anger was on the verge of making him do something rash, so he tugged a bit on his husband's arm, calling his name -- “Jack.”

Jack released the man, backed away a few feet, and asked, “What do you really want?”

The man smiled smugly.  He cocked his head arrogantly as he answered the question.

“People just want justice, General.  Of course, if you were back on active duty, the Air Force would have more interest in protecting you,” Cummings answered.

“I don't need protecting.”

“That little girl did.  What did it feel like, General, to pull that trigger and watch the life drain from her body?”

Jack's rage took over, and he shouted angrily, “You smug, ignorant, self-righteous little ...”

Needing something more than words, Jack stopped his name calling and slugged the man, after which he turned and literally ran out of the office.

“I'll have his hide for that,” Cummings said as he got up off the floor.

“You're lucky he didn't kill you,” Daniel spoke sharply.  “Whatever it is you want, forget it.  Whoever has put you up to this, you can tell them they've wasted their time.  And,” he walked up to within inches of the man, “if you *ever* threaten my family again, you'll have to deal with me.”

“I'm trembling, Doctor Jackson,” the government official mocked.

Coldly, Daniel replied, “You should be.  You have *no* idea what I'm capable of -- none; and it's Jackson-O'Neill.  If you speak to me, you better freakin' well get my name right.”

The man raised his chin with a callous smirk and straightened his jacket.  He looked over at Hammond, who wished he could toss the man out on his ear, but at the moment, his own orders forbade it.

“If General O'Neill ...” Cummings began.

“Jackson-O'Neill,” Daniel corrected.

“If General O'Neill,” the man continued, ignoring the correction, “doesn't return to duty, this investigation will proceed, and the murder of that little girl ...”

“Yadda, yadda, yadda,” Daniel spoke in his best 'Jack' voice.  “Tell it to someone who isn't bored stiff by your pointless fairytales.”

Daniel turned and with a nod to Hammond exited the office.  He wasn't sure where Jack went, but he knew he needed to find him, and quickly.

====

“Daniel!” Sam called out, seeing her friend a minute or so later.  “What's wrong with the general?”

“Have you seen him, Sam?” Daniel asked urgently.

“He ran by me without saying a word.  He took one of the shafts, Daniel.  He must have headed topside.”

“Thanks, Sam,” Daniel said as he hurried towards the exit.

“Daniel!”

“I have to find him now, Sam.  I'll talk to you later,” Daniel spoke over his shoulder as he continued moving forward, taking the elevators to the top.  He walked outside, nodding to the airman who stood guard at the door and asking, “Have you seen General O'Neill?”

“He came out a few minutes ago, Sir.  Headed that way,” the airman answered as he pointed to the west.

Daniel figured Jack's knees had probably given out on him a little.  More than likely, his lover had gone up a few floors in the shaft and then taken the elevator the rest of the way.

“Thank you.”

====

It only took Daniel a couple of minutes to find his soulmate.  Jack hadn't gotten very far before he had dropped to his knees in a combination of anger and despair.  The younger man went up behind his Heart, knelt down to his own knees, and gently placed his arms around Jack's arms and chest.

“I have you, Love.  You're safe.”

“He had no right, Danny.  No right,” Jack choked out.

“I love you, Jack.”

“I don't want you to know.  Things ... dark things ...” Jack began.

“Jack, it's okay.  You already told me ... a long time ago,” Daniel comforted.

“Danny ... a little girl.  How can you stand to touch me?”

“I love you.  I won't let some moron twist the past,” Daniel answered, feeling more hatred now towards Arthur Cummings than he ever had for Apophis.

“What do they want from me?  I'm retired.  Gawd, Danny, they're forcing people my age to retire.  Why me?  What's so special about me that they won't let me go?”

“You're the best,” Daniel said as he continued to hold his lover.

Daniel rocked his husband gently as they knelt on the ground, keeping his arms secure around Jack.  As much as he could, he enveloped his husband with love and security.

“We have a family.  A little girl, Danny.  I had to ... how can you ...”

“Shhh, Jack.  Don't let them confuse you.  You're not the same person, the world isn't black and white, and what happened over there ...”

“Isn't this cozy?” Cummings suddenly spat from a few feet away.

At the sound of the man's voice, Daniel's anger rose like a volcano erupting.  Without saying a word, he walked over to Cummings and flipped the man over his shoulder, Cummings landing on his back.  Quickly, Daniel lunged forward and shoved the man over to lay on his abdomen.  Kneeling with one knee on the man's back, he pulled Cummings' arms behind him, successfully pinning him to the ground.

~No one hurts my family ... no one,~ Daniel vowed silently as he had finished flipping the man.  “You moronic imbecile.  Listen to me.  You have *no* idea who you're dealing with here.  I ... *I* am your worst nightmare.  You leave us alone, or what Jack does to you will pale in comparison to what I'll do.”

“Big words from the ...”

Daniel hit the man, this time with sufficient force to knock him out.  At that moment, an airman who had heard the commotion came running over.

“Get him out of here ... *now*!” Daniel ordered in his best command voice.  He began to return to his lover, except when he turned around, Jack was gone.  “Jack?  *Jack*?”

Daniel ran through the wooded area, finally finding his husband seated next to a tree.  The older man's knees were drawn up a bit, and Jack was burying his head in his hands as they leaned against his knees.

Daniel went to his husband, falling to his knees beside him.  He kissed Jack's temple as he put his arm around his shoulder and pulled him in to lean next to him.

“Everything's okay, Jack.  He won't bother us anymore,” the archaeologist promised.

“She was so pretty, Danny.  Her eyes were so big ...”

Daniel listened, his heart aching as he did so.  Jack's voice was about as vulnerable as he'd ever heard it.  His lover was strong and brave, and if all else failed, sarcasm and wit could get him through most anything; yet, Jack O'Neill wasn't the same man he had been all those years before.  Still, he had to keep that past life buried or the man he had become, the man he was now, might shrivel up and die from the reality of horrible things he had been forced to do in the name of his country.

“... Pretty.  She was pretty.  Can't think about this, Danny.  Box -- kept her in that box,” Jack gasped, out of breath, not from his run, but from the reality of the nightmare that had long ago been locked away and was now being unleashed to rise to the surface.

“Put her back in the box, Jack,” Daniel encouraged calmly.

“Not sure I can,” Jack's cracked voice spoke, tears falling from his brown eyes at the same time.

“Yes, you can, Love.”  Daniel knew he had to get this under control.  Jack was depending on him.  “Listen to me, Jack.  Focus only on my voice.  There's nothing else, no one else.”

Daniel spoke calmly, firmly, and slowly.  He rocked Jack gently back and forth as he continued his words, rubbing against Jack's arm and neck with his hands in soothing caresses.

“Close your eyes, Jack.  Keep them closed.  Don't open them until I tell you.”  Daniel leaned his head against Jack's for a moment, taking a big breath as he did so.  “Keep your eyes closed.  Shut everything else out.  We're in our nation of two.  Just you and me, Love.”

Daniel moved his head so he could place another kiss on Jack's temple. He pulled Jack in even closer to him.  He leaned his chin against the side of Jack's forehead as he spoke.  He made sure his words were spoken in a steady, hypnotic fashion.

“The box is there.  It's big.  The lid is open, but it's within your reach.  You go to the box.  Next to the box is the memory of the little girl.  Don't think about the memory.  It's not important, but it's there.  It's just there.  Reach out and take the memory in your hand.  Don't feel it.  You don't need to feel the emotion.  Just hold it in your hand, and then put the memory into the box.  Set it down.  Make sure all the pieces of the memory are there.”  Daniel paused for a moment, then asked, “Did you put it in the box?”

Jack nodded, and his voice trembled as he spoke, “It's in the box.  There are others.”

Daniel could feel Jack tense even more, but he wouldn't let the nightmares win.

“No, listen.  All the memories belong in the box.  Make sure all of them, each and every one, are in that box.  It's where they belong, buried in the box.  Are they all there?  Tell me when you've put them all back in the box.”

It took a couple of minutes, but then Jack answered, “All there.”

“Close the lid, Jack.  Make sure it's tight.  Lock it.  Use the key.  Turn it.  Is it locked?”

“Locked,” Jack affirmed, his voice a bit stronger than before.

“Take the key, Love, and throw it away.  Throw it as far as you can.  Now turn around, and walk away from the box.  Keep walking.  The box is shrinking with every step you take.  Keep walking.  The memory is gone.  It's in the box, the locked box that you threw away the key to.  All you hear now is my voice.  Follow my voice to our nation of two.  I love you, Jack.  I love you so much.”

Daniel continued his words of love and encouragement, pausing when he heard a noise.  He didn't want interruptions now; his lover wasn't ready for that.

“Jack, I'll be right back.  Please don't move.  I love you,” Daniel said again.

Daniel got up and followed the noise, finding an airman searching for Jack.

“Doctor Jackson, General Hammond would like you and General O'Neill to accompany me to his office,” the airman stated when he saw the archaeologist.

“Tell the general we'll be right there,” Daniel responded, anxious to get back to his lover.

“Sir, I was ordered to ...”

“I DON'T FREAKIN' CARE ABOUT YOUR ORDERS.  I'M GIVING *YOU* AN ORDER.”  Daniel took a calming breath and lowered his voice when he continued, “Tell General Hammond we'll be there shortly.”

“But, Sir ...”

“I GAVE YOU AN ORDER, AIRMAN.  MOVE IT!” Daniel barked.

The airman blinked.  It was true.  Daniel's civilian rank was the highest of any civilian working at the base and on par with the highest officers, except for Hammond, even if he wasn't working at the SGC anymore.

“YES, SIR!” the airman acknowledged, saluting, turning around, and heading quickly back to the confinement of the SGC.  ~I don't care if the females on the base think he's dreamy; sometimes Doctor Jackson is scarier than the Goa'uld.~

“Giving orders, Danny?  That's not like you,” Jack called out as he stood a few feet behind Daniel.

The archaeologist turned and walked over to his husband.  He reached up with his hands to caress Jack's cheeks and neck.

“I will do whatever I have to do, whenever I have to do it, to protect my family.” Daniel pulled Jack into his arms, putting his right hand to the back of Jack's head, holding it to him gently.  “No one hurts you.  You've told me that a thousand times when you've taken care of me, and now I'm telling you ... no one hurts you ... no one!”

“Love you, Danny,” the unusually vulnerable Jack whispered as he let Daniel take care of him.  “I'm okay now.”

“Did you throw that key far away?”

“As far as I could,” Jack answered when he pulled back to look into Daniel's eyes.  “I can't think about that stuff anymore, Danny.  It'll kill me.”

“Then don't think about it.  It's over and done with.  I don't want you to ever remember those days.  We have a home and a family, and that's our here and now.  You understand me, Jackson-O'Neill?”

“Understood ... Sir.”

The lovers leaned their foreheads together, a symbolic gesture of their eternal love and bond.  They needed this moment to reconnect and reaffirm that no matter what, as long as they had each other, they'd get through anything.

Finally, Daniel said, “We'd better go see what General Hammond needs.”

====

“I don't know who is behind it, but my orders are to cooperate with him, Jack,” Hammond informed.

“And who gave you those orders?” Jack asked.

“General Armstrong.”

Jack shook his head.  This was a nightmare, one he didn't need right now when he was finally living his dream with Daniel and their three babies.

“General, we're retired, and we're staying that way.  You tell those idiots at the Pentagon that if they let their puppet go after me, they'll regret it.  I can play hard ball, and if they don't stop this, they'd better be prepared for the fallout from letting that moron harass me.”

“I'll see what I can do, Jack.  Something about this seems off,” Hammond said, sighing as he sat behind his desk.  “I can smell it.”

“Fish?” Jack tried to tease.

Hammond tried to smile in kind, then said, “I'll let you know if I find out anything.  In the meantime, Mister Cummings would like you two back here at 1000 hours tomorrow.”

“You can tell him to ...”

“Jack,” Daniel silenced his husband and then addressed Hammond.  “Tell him we'll be here when *we* decide to be here,” he said, a smile on his face.  “Come on, Jack.  We have a few calls to make.”

====

“Danny, if I make one more phone call, my ear is going to fall off,” Jack spoke as he entered the den where Daniel had just gotten off the phone himself.

“I know, but we have more friends than enemies, Jack.  If we can get them to hop off the fence, then we have a chance to stop this before it escalates,” Daniel replied.

“There has to be more to this.  I have a hard time believing someone would go to all this trouble just to get us to go back to the SGC.  Why?” Jack questioned as he sat down in the recliner.

“I don't know, but that seems to be what Cummings wants.”

“They could just ask.”

Daniel laughed, tossing the pen he had been holding onto his desk, and saying, “They have, Jack.  We say 'no' all the time except for a handful of times when the missions were ...”

“... Picnics?  A walk in the park?  A piece of cake?” Jack completed for his Love.

“Yeah, something like that.”

“Okay.  You've got that look.  What are you thinking?”

“I'm just trying to figure this out.  Is this the Trust, or some other old rogue NID offshoot or ... or, I don't know,” Daniel pondered.

“Nothing would surprise me,” Jack replied, suddenly standing up and surprising his husband by pulling him up and kissing him soundly.

“Wow!” Daniel responded happily.  “Not complaining, but what was that for?”

“Because I love you!”

“I love you, too!”

“Danny, whatever this is, I don't think it's tied into anything in our past,” Jack stated.

“Probably not; I'm just trying to make sense out of this, but ... it's senseless,” Daniel sighed.

“Enough,” Jack said.  “Let's go do something that does make sense.”

Daniel smiled, saying, “Our babies.”

“Yeah,” Jack agreed as he and his lover walked with their arms around each other's waist out of the den to enjoy their Munchkins.

====

The next day, at 1000 hours, Jack smiled as he picked up two of his children, Jonny and Aislinn, and headed outside.  Daniel followed with their middle child.  It was family time in the backyard, and they had a large blanket spread out in the middle of the lawn.  They'd picked this time specifically.  They would go to the SGC in the afternoon at a time of their choosing.

At roughly 11 a.m., or 1100 hours to those who cared about military time, Daniel went inside the house to get a new bottle for Aislinn.  Hers had fallen to the ground, and Katie had decided to drink from it.  It had made quite a sight and had the couple laughing.

While the archaeologist was in the house, Sam phoned.  They talked for a couple of minutes, and Daniel told her that he and Jack would drop by and see her at the SGC that afternoon if they had a chance.  Just as he was about to head back outside, he heard a knock on the door.

“You're not welcome here,” Daniel told Arthur Cummings as he stood at the door, two airmen behind him.

“Isn't that too bad?” the man began to push by Daniel, totally unaware of Daniel's combat skills.

In a split second, Daniel had the man pinned to the ground yet again, and outside of his house.  The two airmen looked on in shock.  Daniel took note that neither seemed inclined to come to Cummings aid.

“No one comes inside our house without our permission, and you do not have our permission.”

Daniel stood up, his eyes full of rage.

Getting up, Cummings was undeterred.  He brushed himself off, and then picked up the file that had fallen from his hands after Daniel had gotten the best of him.

“Read this, Doctor Jackson.  It contains details.  Lots of details about your precious ... husband,” Cummings spoke with disdain.  “I want to hear you, the great believer in humanity, defend him after you've read this.”  He shoved the papers in Daniel's hands and turned around.  He stopped only long enough to say, “And I do expect you to be in General Hammond's office before the day is through.”

Daniel locked the front door and carried the papers into the living room. He held them as he looked out, peering through the patio door.  Jack was on all fours, his nose nuzzled into Jonny, who was laughing, his little arms and legs thrashing about.  Then Jack picked up Little Danny, tossing him just a fraction into the air, but Daniel noticed that Jack's fingers were never off the baby's skin.  Little Danny laughed at the action.

Jack put his middle child down, and Katie walked up to the infant and kissed him.  Daniel watched as his soulmate ran his hand across the youngest beagle's ears, and then he swung his arm around his back and picked up Bijou.

“Got ya!” Daniel heard Jack exclaim as he turned the mama beagle over on her back and rubbed her tummy.

Then, with Katie at Little Danny's side and Bijou making sure Jonny wasn't getting into trouble, as he so often tried to do, Jack picked up their precious Aislinn, their inspiration and symbol of the magic of their relationship.  She had been so tiny when she was born, but she had made up for it quickly.

Jack held her in his arms and kissed her on the forehead.  Daniel listened as the older man began to sing a lullaby.  He saw Aislinn reach up for Jack's mouth, and since she couldn't reach far enough, he leaned down so she could touch his lips.

Daniel watched as Jack continued to sing to his daughter, and then he reached over and gently rubbed Jonny's feet, singing to him.  Next, Jack looked to Little Danny, rubbing his abdomen in calming circles as he sang the sweet tune.

Amazingly, in the three minutes that Daniel watched, all three babies had fallen asleep, and Bijou and Katie were both resting, though he could tell they were on alert as they always were when the babies were not in their crib.

Daniel looked down at the papers he held.  “The Case of Tanisha Christopolus” stood out in large bold lettering.  With one more look at Jack, he went to the fireplace and took a matchstick from its container.  After lighting the match, he held it to the folder and watched as it caught fire.

The archaeologist stared coldly at the flames as the edge of the papers began to crumble, the fire edging its way along the folder.  He then placed the burning file onto the grating and watched as the papers were reduced to ash.

“I don't need to read anything that's here,” Daniel spoke to no one.  “The man who did this, who lived through this period of time, doesn't exist anymore, and nothing anyone says will ever make me believe he ever really did.”

“Danny?”  Jack stood at the doorway, one eye on Daniel, one on the sleeping babies.  “I got worried, Love.  What's that?”

“Hey.”  Daniel smiled as he walked to Jack.  He was full of confidence as he answered, “Just trash; nothing but garbage.”

Daniel allowed himself a quick kiss before taking Jack's hand and leading him back outside to bring their children inside.

====

After the triplets were settled in the nursery with Katie snuggled up next to them, a check of the baby monitors done, and Bijou in her usual on guard spot on the three-quarter-size bed that was against the nursery wall, Jack and Daniel went back downstairs where Daniel told Jack about Cummings' surprise visit.

“You didn't read it?”

“Why read garbage?  Jack, I think we need to arrange for a trump card, just in case our friends don't come through like we hope they will,” Daniel suggested.

“Thor?”

“I hate to use him unless we have to.”

“Gotta love the little guy, Danny.  You know he'd do just about anything for us.”

“I know, but we can't make Cummings disappear.  We just need to make sure he takes back the message that your military history isn't to be used as some sort of tool.  It's nothing but fiction in those folders anyway.”

“No, Danny, the stuff I did ...” the older man began.

“No.  Jack, do you really believe the U.S. government would allow anything even close to the truth to get out?  That they would open themselves up to that kind of scrutiny?  I mean, they have to know we have some powerful friends.”

“You think those files are rigged?”

“I think they're phonier than that toupee Woolsey wore at that banquet we had to suffer through last month,” the younger man mused.

Jack chuckled, remembering how funny it had looked.  The banquet had been in honor of a Pentagon official who was retiring.  The lovers had attended the event, both independently noticing how strangely the hairpiece looked on Woolsey.

“Geez, I love you!” Jack exclaimed happily.  The two kissed, and then Jack asked, “So, do you have something in mind?”

“I'm not sure.  Let me think about it for a little while.”

“Okay,” Jack agreed as the two snuggled on the sofa, Jack thinking about how lucky he was to have Daniel, and Daniel thinking of alternative ways of getting Cummings off their backs.

====

Jack and Daniel returned to the SGC around mid-afternoon, leaving their triplets in Sara's care once again.  They walked confidently into General Hammond's office.  Their unexpected sense of self-assurance made Cummings feel off-guard.

Daniel noticed the man's discomfort and smiled, and before the special prosecutor could speak, he said, “I told you that you had no idea who you are dealing with or what we're capable of, so I'm going to give you a brief demonstration.  Don't worry, I'll go slow so you can keep up.”

The man raised his head up a tad.  He was angry and about to argue when Daniel simply held up a finger to stop him and continued his statements.

“You want to release those records,” Daniel pointed at the files that were still on Hammond's desk, “then you go right ahead.  In fact, we've decided to help you.  You see, you're right. The public has a right to know.”

Hammond hid his smile and sat down in his chair, clasping his hands in front of him as he watched.

~This is going to be fun,~ the lieutenant general thought silently, knowing his friends had come up with a solution.

“I've prepared some press releases,” Daniel continued.  “I thought you might like to see them.”  He walked forward and handed several pieces of paper to Cummings.  Walking back to stand with his husband, he spoke, “As you can see, we've outlined the basic events of the years in question.  You'll notice a few key names there that might be of interest.”

“No one important, though,” Jack chirped, adding, “just riffraff: a few generals, a couple of colonels.  Oh, and you'll see the current head of the Department of Defense there, and some senators.  You know, the usual ... riffraff.”

“You can't release this,” Cummings argued.  “It's full of lies.”

“Actually, it's darn close to the truth, more so than that fiction you have there,” Jack stated, nodding at the files.

“And the beauty of it is, there's nothing you can do about it,” Daniel said as he leaned against the wall, folding his arms.  “If you dispute it, you have to acknowledge the truth.  If you say nothing, then your blackmail, and make no mistake, blackmail is the appropriate word here, is pointless.  Game over.”

“You're a cocky son-of-a ...”

“HEY!  BACK OFF!”  Jack moved to stand in front of Daniel as Cummings had rapidly approached his lover.  “No one calls my husband names, except for me, of course.”

“Jack!”

Jack shrugged, moving away a few steps, but still keeping an eye on Cummings.

“We have other methods ...” Cummings began.

“Oh, I'm sure you do,” Jack reported.

“Did I say I was done?” Daniel questioned as he looked at his husband.

“No, I don't think so, Love.”

“I didn't, either.  I have more to say, Jack,” the archaeologist stated.

“I thought you did.  It was so rude of him to interrupt,” Jack chimed, smirking at Cummings.

“Yes, it was.”

“WHAT THE ... WILL YOU TWO STOP THE FRICK AND FRACK SHOW, PLEASE?” Cummings shouted, finally losing his grip, something the lovers noticed.

“Why, Daniel, I do believe Mister Cummings is losing his cool,” Jack said smugly.

“My heart bleeds, Jack,” Daniel replied wryly.

“WILL YOU GET ON WITH IT?” the special prosecutor shouted.

“Sure, why not?”  Daniel smiled, a cool, calculating one, as he walked closer to Cummings.  “I've written a theory.  Not a proof, mind you, just a ... theory.  I plan to share it with a few thousand colleagues of mine.  Oh, don't worry, nothing classified, but ideas, suggestions, possibilities.  Now I realize I was laughed out of Academia once upon a time, but the world has changed, and this little paper has a bit more substance to it than my earlier one.  Out there, someone is going to start asking questions.  They'll do some research, and, with a nudge here and there, it won't be long until someone blows the roof off the Stargate Program.”

“It'll just be a little nudge.  My Danny, he's good with words.  One of his best skills is connecting the dots for people.  He doesn't have to reveal a thing, just point them to what is already out there and speculate,” Jack spoke proudly.

Cummings was steaming, his face becoming flush.  He threatened, “We can lock you away, General.  It'll take years to get your constitutional rights argued in the courts.”

“Yes, you could do that,” Daniel said, “but what would be the point?  You see, I'd see to it that my husband got a trial, and do you have any idea what would come out during that trial?  Actually, I'm guessing you probably don't know, but I do, and the people who are ...”

“... pulling your strings ...” Jack interjected on Daniel's behalf.

“Thank you, Babe.”

The lovers didn't normally use terms of endearment and nicknames in front of others when outside of their home, but they knew Cummings didn't approve of their relationship, and any time they addressed each other lovingly, they could practically see the man jumping out of his skin.

“Anytime.”

“... and the people who are pulling your strings, they do know.  Believe me, they don't want anyone connecting the dots.”

“Long story short, Cummings,” Jack said as he walked into the man's personal space.  “Daniel's paper and the press releases go out in the morning; and that's not all.  We have contacts, lots and lots of contacts.  This government is about to be besieged with requests for information, demands from foreign governments to have cultural items that are here in the good ole USA on loan returned, and ...”

“And,” Daniel moved to stand side by side with his spouse, “if you do have Jack arrested, I'll make such a fuss that no one will know what's happening.  What you are accusing him of could be considered international in scope.  Just imagine what might happen if I make a few well placed phone calls to friends, or non-friends, whichever the case may be, in oh, say, Russia, China, the Middle East, or even Japan.  It's amazing what country rivalry can do, and the folks in Egypt, Iraq, Kuwait ... I imagine they'll have a lot to think about, don't you?”

Cummings let out a noise, but said nothing.  He stared at both Jack and Daniel, and then looked over at Hammond, who was trying his best not to laugh.

“I'll ... relay your message.  Excuse me,” Cummings said, heading for the door.

“Mister Cummings?  What about these?” Hammond called out, picking up the thick files with Jack's name on them.

Cummings looked at Jack and Daniel, then down at the ground and sighed, “Burn them.  They're just fiction anyway.”

Cummings exited the office, leaving the three other men alone, all with pleased expressions on their faces.

Hammond shook his head at what he had just witnessed and said with admiration, “I knew you two would come up with something, but I never could have imagined this.  That was brilliant.”

“It was all Daniel's idea,” Jack spoke with pride, his eyes speaking words of love as he gazed at his lover.

“I'll take care of these unless you ...” Hammond started, motioning to the files on his desk.

“No,” Daniel spoke up.  “We'll do it.”

====

“This was another brilliant idea of yours, Love,” Jack said that evening as he rubbed his hand against the smooth skin of Daniel's abdomen as they lay together in front of the fire.

“Those files make for good kindling,” Daniel said, smiling, his hand atop Jack's.

“I love you, Danny.”

“I love you, too, Jack.”

====

Jack gazed up at the stars.  It was 2 a.m., and all the Jackson-O'Neills were resting peacefully, except for Jack.  He closed his eyes, remembering the past forty-eight hours and the intrusion of his past on his present.

If it hadn't been for Daniel, Jack believed he would have gone insane, or he would have killed Cummings in Hammond's office.  Instead, they'd received confirmation that the investigation, or rather the witch hunt that it was, would be terminated, and then, Jack and Daniel had made love in front of their fireplace before Little Danny woke up demanding attention.

Jack smiled, imagining the feel of his lover, but then, he felt the familiar brush against his shoulder.

“Hey,” Jack said in a whisper.

“Couldn't sleep?” Daniel questioned quietly.

“No.”

“It's over, Jack.  We made our point.”

“Yeah, but it took our leaning on the President pretty heavily.  To be honest, Danny, I'm not sure he wasn't part of it.”

“Me, either.  They want us back,” Daniel replied, sighing afterwards.

Jack sighed as well at the politics involved.  He did love the Air Force, and working on the Stargate Program had been the experience of a lifetime, only it was in the past.  Now, Jack lived for the man he loved and the children they were bringing up in the world.

“You don't want to go back, do you?” Jack asked.

“Are you kidding?  Jack, we've got three babies and a fourth on the way.  No, I don't want to go back.  I love our life now.”

Jack looked away, but he also reached out and took hold of Daniel's hand, saying, “I thought for a minute ...”

“But just for a minute, right?” Daniel questioned.

Jack turned and saw the smile on Daniel's face, knowing Daniel was well aware of his fear that Daniel would leave him over the incidents that filled his Special Ops life.

“We can't escape our pasts, Jack, but we can sure fight for our future,” Daniel stated.

“I never told you about her.  You ... lied.”

“No, Love, I didn't lie.  Our nightmares say a lot,” the younger man said pointedly.  Seeing his husband's stare, he revealed, “I've known about her for years.”

“How can you stand to look at me?  I saw your eyes, Danny, when that idiot mentioned her.”

“Jack, stop.  Yes, I was angry and shocked, but that was because he had no right to talk to you like that.  He doesn't know you.  He has no clue who you are, or what you've been through; and he certainly doesn't understand that what happened was in another lifetime.  You were following orders, Jack, and what you did, saved an entire city.  You didn't have a choice.”

Daniel sighed as he paused.  He loved Jack so much, and hated it when he was in pain like this.

“Jack, I love you, and I'm just so sorry that you had to relive that nightmare again,” Daniel said softly as he leaned forward to kiss his husband tenderly.

“Hey, you do great giving orders!” Jack exclaimed, deciding it was time to move on.

“I learned from the best -- the loudest, most gregarious person I know,” Daniel teased.

“Thank you, Love,” Jack spoke with a smile.  ~Now if I could just get you to follow orders.~

“I heard that.”

The two spent the next hour enjoying the night air and then went back to bed.  The ghosts of the past had once again been excised from their present, but still, it had been a close call, so, now, each held possessively onto the other as they slept, knowing their soulmate would always keep them safe in their eternal nation of two.

====
-- Chapter Five:  Moving Forward
====

“Here they are, Jack.”  Megan laughed as she handed the retired Air Force general a pile of papers.  “You know, I'm still having a hard time getting used to addressing you by your first name.”

“And you weren't even military,” Jack teased as he shuffled through the stack of applications and walked towards the study of the Jackson-O'Neill home.  “This way,” he invited so that Megan would follow him.

Megan Williams, lured away from the SGC, was J-O Enterprises new Director of Operations.  Essentially, she would be handling the day to day tasks of the business and overseeing the personnel.  She would be at the home office every day, conferring daily or as needed with Jack and Daniel, both of whom would be making frequent trips to the office, otherwise known as J-O Enterprises or, as Jack called it, “that place Daniel bought for investment purposes that actually turned out to be useful.”

The 'office' as it turned out was the house Daniel had purchased in 2004.  It was a small place, and once Jack had retired, the two had slowly converted it from a home to an office.  The artifacts that were already there made for great decor.  One of the bedrooms was turned into an office shared by Jack and Daniel, whichever one happened to be there and needed it.  Another bedroom had been transformed into an office for Megan.

The rest of the house was divided into space for the employees.  They even set up a couple of work stations where people could work outside when the weather allowed.  Also part of the new office was a play area for the children, both inside and outside, with plenty of toys and equipment for them whenever they accompanied their parents to the office.

Since the new office was only twelve minutes away from the country-style home where the lovers lived, Jack and Daniel could easily go there when necessary.  The convenience factor had been one of the main selling points in convincing Jack to hold onto the house after his retirement from the military.

The female scientist was excited by her new position and the thought of working closely with Daniel whom she had respected and admired for a long time.  The fact that he trusted her in such an important role meant a lot to her.  She also loved the fact that she'd be doing a lot of traveling.

Since the Jackson-O'Neills had become the parents of triplets, they knew they were going to have to delegate more responsibility and duties to Megan than they had originally planned.  Three babies were definitely more time consuming than one.

Megan followed Jack down the hallway and into the study.  She sat in the seat Jack waved her towards, while he sat down on the chair behind the desk.

“So, what exactly have you done with these so far?” Jack asked.

“I reviewed all the applications to make sure they were completed in full, paying special attention to the final question, as Daniel requested.  I've arranged them by potential position within the company and have attached a rating based solely on their listed qualifications and skills,” Megan answered efficiently.

“Great!  It looks like there are about thirty-five to forty here,” Jack noted, still thumbing through the applications, glancing at names and personal information.

“Thirty-eight,” Megan clarified.  “Daniel told me to set up interviews with each candidate for next week, so on each application, I've included the day and time for their scheduled appointment.  Sir, I mean, Jack, are you sure you don't want me to weed these down a bit?”

“Nope,” Jack responded quickly.  “The most important question is the last one.  We'll see how they do with that, and then it'll be back to you for the next phase.”

Megan smiled, shaking her head slightly as she sat back in her chair.

“It certainly is an unusual way to hire.”

“J-O is an unusual company, Megan.  We don't want normal because, well, as you know, our lives have been anything but normal.  We're counting on you, too, to help set the tone and the example.”

“I'll do my best.  I really appreciate the trust and faith both you and Daniel have placed in me,” the woman spoke appreciatively.  “It really means a lot.”

“We feel lucky to have you, Megan,” Jack said as he finished his quick review of the applications.  “These look great.  Thank you.”

“You're welcome ... Jack.”

--

After Megan left Jack and Daniel's house, Jack more closely perused the resumes, and then he began to read the answers to the most important question on the application, the last one:

“The following is an abbreviated version of a theory first presented in early 1996.  Read it carefully, and then share your thoughts about the idea presented. Is this theory plausible?”

====

Jack stormed into the kitchen and grabbed a beer.  He was mumbling under his breath.

“Idiots.  I'll teach them to badmouth my ...”

“Jack,” Daniel called out as he walked into the kitchen with Aislinn in his arms.  “I'm guessing you've been reading the applications.”

“What makes you think that?” Jack asked a bit flippantly, which earned him a stern stare from his husband.  The older man sighed in frustration.  “All right, yes, but I swear, Danny, some of those ...”

“Jack, our daughter,” Daniel warned.

The younger man had made it clear that while they were by no means saints, in their household, language would be both age-appropriate and respectful of others, and that meant no swearing or badmouthing of other people in front of the children, even if they didn't know how to talk yet.

“Sorry, Danny, but some of those applicants I'd like to deliver to Ba'al to torture,” the general spoke harshly.

“Uh, he's dead,” the archaeologist reminded, with a bit of a smirk.  “Okay, sorry, I do know you mean, but this was your idea, Jack, and I agreed to it only because you promised me you wouldn't go ballistic.”

“I'm *not* going ballistic,” Jack sulked as he sipped his beer.  Then, he looked at Aislinn and then at his watch.  It was still the afternoon, and he'd made himself a personal promise not to drink during the day in front of the triplets.  “Ah, crap.”  He poured the remainder of the drink down the kitchen drain and walked to Daniel.  “May I ... please?”

Daniel smiled and handed Aislinn to Jack, who grinned as he kissed her cheek and held her closely, bouncing her lightly for just a moment.  She grinned in response, then raised her two chubby hands up to pull on his hair.

“Olympic hair-puller!  She scores,” Jack said excitedly, eliciting laughter from both Aislinn and Daniel.  He carried his daughter into the living room, keeping his face next to hers.  “This is what it's about; this turns a bad day into the best day ever.”  He took a deep breath and turned, smiling at his husband.  “Danny, I love you.  I know what I said, and I still believe this was a good idea, but when some idiot makes it personal, I get upset.”

“I understand, Babe, and I love you for caring about what people say, but this is an application process.  We created the situation.  You have to behave, Jack.”

“Behave?”

“Behave,” Daniel repeated, nodding his head for emphasis and folding his arms in case they were in for a minor skirmish over the issue.

“Define behave.”

“No sneers, threats, or looks of murder, and definitely no physical or mental harm to the applicants, not before, during, or after the interviews,” Daniel answered.

“But, Danny ...”

“No, Jack.”

“You're no fun,” Jack whined as he glanced at his baby daughter.  “You're daddy is a genius.  I don't like it when people make fun of him.”

“Jaaaack!”

“How about if I have Teal'c standing at the door?”  Seeing Daniel tilt his head slightly, a look of Jack's death in his eyes, the older man coughed lightly and asked, “Can I have my P-90 out?”  Since Daniel didn't move, and his eyes had turned colder, Jack envisioned sleeping on the sofa.  “How about I just glare at them the way you are at me right now?”

Daniel looked down and smiled, and then he walked to Jack and placed a kiss on his cheek.

“Do not harm the applicants.  Promise me, Jack, and no hedging.  You know exactly what I mean.  Promise me.”

“Oh ... okay.”  Jack handed Aislinn back to Daniel and walked out of the living room towards the study, muttering under his breath, “I'll sic Jonny on 'em.”

“I heard that, and where are you going?”

“I have to contact Thor and cancel some ...” Jack cleared his throat and smiled sheepishly before disappearing from Daniel's sight.

Daniel sighed, but then laughed.  Jack O'Neill loved him, and that was all Daniel needed in his life.  What others thought or said meant nothing.  He'd remind his husband of that later in the night when they were alone.

====

“Okay ... Brian,” Jack said, settling back into the chair.  “You read the theory, right?”

“Every word, Mister O'Neill.”

Jack made a note and then corrected, “That's General.  My dad was a mister, but that was a long time ago.  Actually, the title isn't important; what I mean is that I'm used to it.  No one's called me 'mister' in decades.”  ~I sound like an idiot.  Bad start, O'Neill.  On the other hand, when you apply for a job these days, you'd better know the company you're going to work for.  This kid did not do his homework.~

“Yes, M...General.”

“So, give me the short version.  What did you think?” Jack questioned, studying Brian closely.

“It's ludicrous,” Brian sneered.  “The author obviously isn't an archaeologist -- was probably on drugs when he wrote it.  No one would take this seriously, not even for a minute.”

“You don't see anything to it at all?  No redeeming features whatsoever?” Jack asked, not giving any clue to Brian what he was silently thinking.  ~He's not working for us.~

“No, Sir.  Not a thing.  It flies in the face of everything we know about ancient civilizations,” the applicant spoke more seriously.

~One more shot.~  Leaning forward, Jack asked, “Isn't there room for ... new ideas?”

“Of course, but this is a bit too far out.  We know the facts.  This is pure fantasy.”

--

“Kelly, you said you thought this theory was,” Jack put his glasses on to read, “the most insane thing I've ever read in my life, but I sure wish it were true.  Two questions.  First, why is it insane.  Second, why do you wish it was true?”

“It's a bit over the top, don't you think?  Pyramids as landing strips?  Where's the evidence?  There isn't any.  There hasn't been one single discovery that backs up this idea.  I also have a difficult time imagining how a ... ship ... could land on a pyramid,” Kelly answered thoughtfully.  Then she lit up and spoke with amazement, “That said, wouldn't it be wonderful if it was true?  Think of the possibilities it would open up!  There are so many things that are unexplained about Ancient Egypt, and this could answer so many questions about those cultures and how things were done.  It's a magical dream.”  Her smiled faded as she sighed, “Still, considering what we do know about Ancient Egypt, the theory seems ridiculous.”

“What's your opinion of the person who wrote the theory?”

Kelly took a breath and thought for a moment before speaking.  Jack liked that.  While being confident and quick to answer was good in some situations, other questions sometimes required more thought and consideration.

Finally, the woman answered, “I'd love to ask them why and how they made their conclusions.  They are either horribly misguided or they need to be locked away in a think tank to solve the wonders of the universe because he or she is either insane or a genius.  I really don't know which.”

--

“Be...Beb,” Jack stuttered.  “I'm sorry, I don't know how to pronounce your name.”

“It is Bibreanay.  It is pronounced Bee-bra-nay,” the extremely cordial applicant stated.

“Interesting name.”

“It is,” the woman agreed proudly.  “My parents had a lot of siblings.  I am named after all of them.”

“Like Rosebud?”

The young woman smiled, nodding and replying, “Yes, General.  Just like Richie Petrie on the old 'Dick Van Dyke Show'.”

“Aren't you a little young for black and white TV?” Jack asked.  ~Bonus points, though.~

“Not for classic shows like that one.”

“That's a point in your favor,” Jack chuckled.  “Bibreanay, you said you thought the idea of pyramids being landing pads for alien ships was probable.  What makes you think that?”

“Because it makes sense.  Ever since I first saw 'The Ten Commandments' when I was a little girl, I've been fascinated by Ancient Egypt and the pyramids.  The more I learned, the more questions I had.  There are wonders there; mysteries crying out to be solved.  The questions can't be answered in terms of what we know, so instead, we need to look at what might be,” Bibreanay answered.

“Yes, but you said 'probable', not just possible.”

The woman sat back and responded, “Yes, I did, and perhaps that's partly because I'm an optimist at heart, but when I look at the big picture and wonder how all the little pieces of the puzzle might fit together, the idea of an alien race using Earth as their playground, so to speak, seems logical.  I realize Doctor Jackson's views haven't been well received, but, personally, I think he may be right.”

~Didn't see that one coming,~ Jack thought, though not giving away his internal reaction.  “What makes you think these are Doctor Jackson's views?”

“They are.  Look,” the woman said, leaning forward.  “I do my homework.  I checked him out and you, too, as the owners of the company.  That's the smart thing to do; but, General, I don't change or color my opinions for anyone.  I heard about Doctor Jackson's theory years ago.  I never once thought it was crazy.  In fact, I wrote an essay on it when I was getting my degree.”

“An essay?” Jack asked curiously.

“Yes,” the applicant confirmed.  “I evaluated it based on the evidence known as of that point in time.”

With a nod of acknowledgement, the general inquired, “What grade did you get?”

“C minus.  My professor said I needed to spend more time with Budge.”

“He told you that?”

“Yes, he did.  Academics can be remarkably closed-minded,” Bibreanay sighed.

“And what did you say?” Jack asked.  ~More possible bonus points on the line here.~

“I told him I'd rather spend my time with my boyfriend than with a bore,” the woman answered seriously.

~Good answer; that's a bonus point,~ Jack thought.  “Not a fan of Budge then?”

Bibreanay laughed, “Not really.”

--

Fidgeting with a funerary statue he'd retrieved from Daniel's den, Jack sat back in his chair and asked, “Carl, straight scoop - no holding back.  What do you think of the theory?”

With a sneer, the man answered, “Of course, the Egyptians built the pyramids.  Everything we've read says that.  There's not a shred of proof anywhere to say anything different.  The theory is an idiotic adventure into Kiddie Land.”

“And what about the person who offered the opinion?”

Carl laughed, “I'm not the least bit surprised he was laughed out of Academia.  I don't remember his name, but I've heard about him.  The guy needs a reality check.”

~Not working for us unless he does better with this one,~ the interviewer opined.  Still twisting the artifact around in his hands, he asked, “What about the idea of cross-pollination of ancient cultures?”

“Sure, there was some transfer between cultures, probably because of trade.  You don't need to create some fairytale about aliens to explain that away.”

“Okay, uh, by the way, it doesn't bother you the way I'm holding this little trinket,” Jack asked, holding up the funerary statue.

“You're the boss,” Carl shrugged.

“Yes, I am,” Jack responded.  ~But not your boss, not in this lifetime.~

--

“Nicole, you wrote that the whole concept of aliens ever being on Earth was preposterous.  Why?” Jack asked, scratching his chin for a moment as he waited for her response.

“It's the most far-fetched thing I've ever read, and I've read some pretty crazy things.  Honestly, who wrote this thing anyway?  Whoever it was needs to spend some quality time reviewing the bible.”

“The bible?”

“Budge.  It's essentially the bible of archaeology, wouldn't you agree?” Nicole asked, smiling.

“It's ... something anyway.  So what do you think of the person who wrote this theory?” Jack queried as he picked up the funerary statue and began to play with it.

“In all honesty, I don't think they belong in the field.  They haven't a clue how to interpret even the basics.  I wouldn't go near them,” Nicole answered.  She stared at Jack and asked, “Excuse me, but is that real?”

“Yep,” Jack acknowledged.

“Oh, well, I hope I'm not stepping over the line, but artifacts should be treasured.  Um ...”

“Speak your mind,” the general encouraged.

“It bothers me the way you're handling it, and, frankly, General, I'm surprised,” Nicole stated.

~Well, at least she has gumption,~ Jack thought, putting down the statue and nodding at the applicant.

--

“All right.  Karissa, tell me what you think.  What's your opinion of the ideas presented in this last question on the application?” Jack asked.

The blonde chuckled lightly and then smiled as she spoke, “If the pyramids were built by aliens, where are those aliens now?  Why would they just abandon the planet?”

“Who's to say that they did?  Maybe they're still here,” Jack suggested.

“I think we would have noticed little green men running around the planet,” Karissa answered in a mixture of amusement and seriousness.

“Maybe they aren't green.  Maybe they're orange, or maybe they look human, just like us,” the general put forth.

The woman's smile disappeared, and she was serious as she responded, “Don't you think that's a little unlikely?  What are the chances of more species evolving on other planets that look exactly like us?  Less than one in a billion.  It seems like a stretch.”

“Maybe they evolved here and had a reason for abandoning the planet.  Maybe they can change their appearance.  Isn't it possible?”

Cocking her head to the right slightly, Karissa nodded and answered, “Yes, there are always possibilities.  In fact, that's what archaeology is all about.  Thank you for reminding me, General Jackson-O'Neill.”

~She's good,~ Jack opined.  “Let me ask you about the section that discussed cross-pollination.  Any thoughts on that?”

“Trade always results in some merging of technology, language and culture.  I think that's a more likely explanation of things, don't you?”

“So you believe in a world of black and white?  A world where you have proof and nothing else?”

“No,” Karissa answered, shaking her head.  “I believe in possibilities.  From what I know, I don't see this theory as being a likely possibility.  Still, I guess you could say I'm open to it, should I be presented with some kind of proof for it; but I haven't been, and so using the knowledge I do have, I think we have explanations for the pyramids pretty well in hand without adding science fiction to the mix.”

--

“Have a seat, Ty,” Jack said to the latest applicant.  “I'd like to start with the last.”

“The last?” a confused Ty echoed.

“The pyramids of Egypt,” Jack explained.

Nodding, Ty responded, “It's an intriguing idea.  I've always wondered why more questions haven't been asked about how the ancient Egyptians could build such perfect pyramids with their limited technology.  The theory makes sense.”

“There's no proof.  Doesn't that bother you?”

“Bother me?”  The thirty-two-year-old male leaned forward.  He looked Jack directly in the eye as he spoke, “Proof of the theory would be nice, but the lack of evidence doesn't mean it isn't true.  For hundreds of years there was no proof that the Earth revolved around the sun.  Besides, there does seem to be some evidence for it.  The problem is that apart from Doctor Jackson, people just haven't looked for it or don't want to accept it.”

“So you've read this theory before?” Jack questioned.

“Yes, I have.  It was actually discussed in one of my classes a few years back.  My professor said it was the biggest piece of garbage he'd ever come across,” Ty revealed.

“Someone brought it up in class?”

“The professor.  He's a great guy.  He said it was garbage, but he also said that it took a courageous person to put his entire career on the line for such a crazy belief.  He said that is what the archaeology field was about, reaching out with our minds, asking questions and contemplating answers that may be outside the proverbial box,” the applicant informed.

“And what did you think when your professor said that?” Jack queried curiously.

With a smile, Ty answered, “I hoped that I could be like that.  General, no one accepted Galileo's theories at first either; it didn't make them any less true.  I know Doctor Jackson is co-owner of J-O Enterprises.  I hope to meet him.  His theories may be outside that box, but they deserve to be heard and considered.”

====

“This has been one of the longest weeks in my life,” Jack complained as he sat down on the sofa.

Daniel walked behind the furniture and rubbed his spouse's neck and shoulders as he laughed, “Not used to this hard work, are you?  Asking questions can be so tiring.”

“It's just the idea of paperwork.”

“This isn't paperwork.”

With a groan, Jack responded, “It feels like it, and I gave that up when I handed command of the SGC back over to Hammond, but I have to admit, there are some interesting people out there.”

“Any good prospects?” Daniel questioned, eager to put together a top-notch staff.

“Some,” Jack acknowledged.  ~Feels good,~ he thought about the massage his lover was giving him.  “Of course, half of the good ones think you're looney tunes, Love.”

“Oh, isn't that nice?  I hope they all left their interviews in one piece, Jack,” Daniel said as he continued to soothe his husband with his fingers.

“Let's just say that some of them had a very narrow escape.”

Daniel laughed, loving Jack's protectiveness, and asked, “So did you make the first cut?”

“Right on schedule.  Gave the A-list to Megan to do the initial verifications on, to make sure everyone is legit and doing what they claim.  Then she'll make the appointments for your interview with them,” Jack answered and then broke out into laughter.

“What?”

“Then it'll be me giving you the sympathy treatment!” Jack mused.

“Probably,” Daniel agreed, leaning over to place a kiss atop Jack's silver-gray hair.  “How many made the cut, Jack?”

“Out of thirty-eight, I picked twenty,” Jack answered.

“That's not too bad.”

“I had to remember that it wasn't necessary at this point that they all agree with you; just that they were open and willing to consider new ideas,” Jack stated.  “I really tried, Danny.”

“I know you did, and that was the whole point of the last question, being open to possibilities,” Daniel replied.

“Yep, but it still wasn't easy to listen to some of them.”

“Jack.”

“I'm overprotective, I know,” Jack admitted.  He added firmly, “This was still the best way to go.  J-O will benefit, even if does make my blood pressure go up.”

====

“Daniel, I highlighted certain things that you might want to ask about, things that need some clarification.”

“Thanks, Megan.  Did anyone not make the verification check?” Daniel inquired.

“Yes,” Megan sighed.  “We lost four, two apparent lies about where they worked now and two about where they went to college.”

“I appreciate all your hard work.  Hopefully, we'll be able to find some good possibilities here.  There's sixteen left, right?” Daniel sought to verify.

“Yes, and I have my favorites.  I think you and Jack should be able to find what you're looking for,” Megan spoke confidently.

“I hope so.  You realize you'll be the cornerstone.  I'm sorry we're having to put so much more on you than we originally planned, but ...”

“Don't apologize, Daniel.  I love this job.  I feel like I'm in on the ground floor of something wonderful.”

“We'll never be a huge company, Megan,” Daniel said.  “You could probably use this us as a stepping stone to something better down the road.”

“Wonderful doesn't mean big, Daniel.  I like what you and Jack are trying to create.  I want to be a part of that; it's what makes this a career, not just a job,” Megan refuted.  She smiled, then waved goodbye as she left the house.  ~I'd never use Daniel's company as a stepping stone.  I just have a feeling about J-O; I think this is my career.~

====

Daniel spent the next few days reviewing the applications and making notes, and then he interviewed the sixteen candidates.  His part of the interview process would be to determine which of the applicants had the technical expertise and desire to grow with J-O Enterprises.  He discussed their past jobs, what they liked or didn't like about their past positions; and he asked about their education and why they chose to study archaeology in the first place.

The archaeologist tested their knowledge, both on theories and techniques, and also inquired into their feelings about working in a company where perhaps a job wasn't so black and white, where everyone was expected to do whatever was necessary to complete a project.

Daniel did not bring up the question about his theory, but he thought it was interesting when a few of the potential employees did.  A couple seemed to want only to acknowledge his bravery at being willing to take a stand on something that was so on the fringe of the field, while one or two others seemed to be trying to impress him, even expressing a false belief in his theory.

The latter applicants were the first ones Daniel mentally crossed off the list. He had much more respect for the applicant who had said, “I commend your courage, Doctor Jackson.  I think you're crazy, but I respect you for taking a stand and sticking with it for all these years.”  The words had been spoken with sincerity and an honest smile.

~Remember this one ... Karissa.~

Even the one who had said, “You know, Doc, you're out of your gourd to have gone public with this, but I like that.  Yep, you're the kind of guy I want to work for.  Not sure I agree with that theory; I mean, aliens responsible for the Great Pyramid, and its true purpose is that they can land some gigantic spaceship on it?  I don't know, but hey, there's a lot to be learned in this crazy world.”

Daniel laughed silently.  This guy was bold, brazen even, and he wasn't sure it's what they wanted for J-O.

~Still, he answered the question.  We're not looking for 'yes' people; we're looking for ones who can do their jobs and answer truthfully.  Okay ... let's see ... James ... a potential maybe at this point.~

====

The day after the last interview, Jack and Daniel discussed the applicants.

“Jack, stop kissing me.  We have to talk about this,” the younger man said, trying to push his amorous lover away.

“But I like kissing you.”

“Jack.”

“Okay.  The sooner we get this done, the sooner we get back to kissing,” Jack said, eager to return to his more urgent priority of seducing his husband.

“That's my genius,” Daniel snickered.  “All right ...” He sat forward on the sofa with Jack to his left.  The applicant files were in front of them on the coffee table.  “Any definites in your opinion?”

“Without a doubt, three,” Jack answered.  “Rosebud, Ty, and that McClellan guy.”

“Rosebud?” Daniel asked, having no clue who his husband was talking about.

“Bibreanay.  Long story,” Jack explained with a smile.  “Do you agree?”

Daniel smiled at Jack's choices, answering, “Yes, completely.  Those were my top three, too.”

The company owners exchanged a look.  They loved it when they were on the same page as they were now, especially on something so important.

“We have three more to choose, though.  What about ...” Daniel pulled out a file suggesting, “Anne Hampton?”

“I thought she was a bit close-minded,” Jack opined.

“Maybe, but I think she was open to learning,” Daniel replied.

“I don't think so, Love.  Look at her history, her courses of study.  From what you've explained to me, she's been playing it safe for years.  I'm not sure she's open to anything if it means taking a risk.”

“You might be right.  How about Karissa?” Daniel asked.

Jack smiled, stating, “I have to admit I liked her.  Her resume seemed thin, though.”

“But she sounded eager, and I agree with you, Love, she seems really nice.  She's done some unusual jobs in between the ones in her field, and it made me curious.  I asked her about her employment history.  She's had some pretty hard times, Jack -- had to quit a couple of promising positions to take care of her family.  I jumped the gun a little and asked Sam to check it out, and she verified everything.  I don't think we should just consider her resume, but her capabilities as well.  I like the fact that she put her family ahead of her career.  It shows loyalty.”

Jack nodded his agreement, and added, “I liked how she handled my questions about your theory.  She didn't agree with it, but spoke intelligently when I gave her new ideas to consider.  She was flexible.”

“Let's put her in the 'yes' pile.”

“Okay, what about Marcus Mitchell?  He wasn't keen on your ideas either, but he wasn't married to Budge, either,” Jack put forth.

“I don't know, Jack.  I had a funny vibe with him,” Daniel stated, grimacing a bit as he recalled the applicant in question.

“A vibe?  You vibed with someone other than me?” Jack asked, acting shocked and angry.

Daniel rolled his eyes and requested, “Will you be serious, please?”

“Sorry.  Bad vibe?”

“Not bad as in scary, but he seemed too pat.  Look at his work history.  There's no permanence.  He's job hopping, and there's nothing wrong with that, but ...”

“But that's not what we want,” Jack stated.

“I don't want to hire someone every week.  I want people who care about J-O, who want to watch it grow and who want to grow with it; people who want to work for a company that is like a family.  That might take a while, but it doesn't have to.  I think we need to treat our employees like we'd want to be treated if the situations were reversed.  I'd like people who see a future in growing along with us, but are happy with the work and the satisfaction it gives, not the job title or salary.  We'll never be that big.”

“And we don't want to be ... right?”

Jack reached over and touched Daniel's cheek.  Jack's head was tilted forward.  It was very important to the older man that the two were in agreement on this point.  They'd discussed it before, but it never hurt to reaffirm their positions, to ensure nothing had changed.

“Right.”  Daniel smiled and leaned over to share a kiss with his husband.  “It's not about being one of the Fortune 500.  It's about the work.”

“Who's your next pick?” Jack asked.

Daniel shuffled through the folders, his nose scrunching as he silently reviewed the notes Jack had made and his own impressions from the interviews.

“Kelly?”

“Tatem or Landers?” the general asked, since they had two job seekers with the name of 'Kelly'.

“Oh, let me make sure I'm looking at the right one.  Yeah, Kelly Tatem.  I liked that she believes in asking questions.”

Jack laughed, “Yeah, after she told me she would be curious to know why you came to the conclusions you did, she rambled off about ten questions she'd ask.  She seemed firm in her opinions, though.”

“But anyone who asks questions is looking for answers.  She just needs to ask the right questions.  Did she?” Daniel inquired curiously.

“I have to admit she did.  I almost wanted to give her the answers just to see what she'd say.  Okay.  Kelly Tatem,” Jack said, agreeing to her as one of their first hires for J-O Enterprises.

The soulmates continued their discussion.  They still had one more person to agree on, but they were having a difficult time deciding between three people.  They'd been debating the three for over an hour.

“Danny, you know what the problem is with these three?”

“What?” Daniel asked sharply, getting a little impatient, not at Jack, but at their indecision about this last person.

“All three are interchangeable,” Jack pointed out.  “Their education and job histories are similar, their responses in the interviews were status quo, and frankly, nothing stands out about any of them.”

“So ... that means what?”

“James Zeller,” Jack stated.

“Zaller,” the archaeologist corrected.

“Whatever,” Jack responded, shrugging.  “Let's hire him.”

“Why?  He seems like a loose cannon to me,” Daniel stated as he reached for the file.

“Exactly.  Danny, we need a pot stirrer.  Every good company has one.  This guy is a bit over the top, but Carter will check him out and make sure he's not on the lunatic fringe of things.  My hunch is that he's just a man who speaks his mind and isn't afraid to say outlandish things that he believes in just because it goes against the norm.  Remind you of any one?” Jack asked, smiling at his lover.

“I'm not over the top ... except about you, of course ... sometimes ... soon, even ... like when we finish this.”

Jack smiled again.  Actually, he leered.

Suddenly, Daniel didn't care about their sixth employee, so he said, “James Zaller it is,” and put the file in with the other five yeses.

With that, the couple went upstairs to follow through on the question of topping.

====

The next morning, Jack and Daniel reviewed their choices as they fed the triplets and reaffirmed their decisions.  Their six employees of choice -- Kelly Tatem, Bibreanay Appleton, Karissa Lewis, Ty Harper, John McClellan, and James Zaller -- would move on to the next stage of their hiring procedure.

The couple called Sam, who took down the information on the six people.  She would be doing detailed background checks on any prospective employee for J-O Enterprises.  They had a lot of friends, but they also had a lot of enemies, so anyone going to work for them would be checked out thoroughly.

“Okay, business done for the day,” Jack chirped.

“We still have a lot to do.”

“I know, but I'm glad the hiring part is almost over.”

A knock on the door interrupted their conversation.  It was their neighbor, Mrs. Valissi, just coming to say 'hello' and check on the babies.

“They are such darlings,” the neighbor said as she looked at the slumbering triplets in the nursery.

“We think so,” Jack answered with pride.

The three went downstairs and as he moved to sit in his chair, Jack saw Bijou and Katie sitting on the lawn.  A thought occurred to him.

“Mrs. Valissi, are you free for about a half hour?” Jack asked suddenly.

“Yes.  Why?”

Daniel had no clue what Jack was thinking, so he stared at his husband with the same question mark expression as their neighbor had.

“Would you mind babysitting?” Jack inquired.

“Oh, I'd love to!”

“Jack?”

“Danny, I thought we'd take the girls to the park.  It's been a while since we've been able to go and let them run around with both of us there.”  **They forgave us for ignoring them when the Munchkins were born.  I think we need to take advantage of the opportunity for some quality beagle time.**

“Could you, Mrs. Valissi?  We'll have the cell phone with us, and we'll just be at the park,” Daniel said, fully agreeing with his husband.

“It would be a hoot,” the woman agreed.  “I'll go sit with them.”

“Thanks.  You're a peach,” Jack said, giving her a kiss on the cheek as he placed his hands on her shoulder.

====

“Don't go far,” Daniel instructed as he turned the beagles loose to run free in the park.  He smiled, noticing they weren't straying far, and in fact, both Bijou and Katie looked back at Jack and Daniel frequently, checking to make sure the two were not only still there, but watching them.  “Look at that, Jack.  They want us to watch.”

“Which is why we are,” Jack replied with a smile on his face and his arm around his spouse's shoulder.

“This was a good idea.  Our family time every day is great, and we do play with the girls, but we don't get to do this very much.”

“Yeah, that's what I was thinking.  It's usually one or the other of us taking them for their walks, or we've got the Munchkins with us,” the general spoke astutely.

“Bij and Katie need their own special time with both of us, too.  No matter what, we have to make sure they get it.”  Daniel paused, treasuring this time with his husband and their beloved dogs.  “Thank you, Jack, for thinking of this.”

“I love those mutts, Danny.  They're special,” Jack responded, determined to make sure all their children get quality time with him and his husband.

“Hey, Bij,” Jack chimed when Bijou came running back.  She woofed a couple of times playfully.  “Oh, you want to wrestle?  You're on!  Come on, Danny.  Katie, get over here,” he called out.

For the next ten minutes, Jack, Daniel, Bijou, and Katie wrestled playfully on the grass of the park, and when they were through, Bijou and Katie were victorious, both seated atop their captives.

“We surrender,” Jack laughed, his two hands raised above his head on the ground.

“Yeah, you got us,” Daniel said, sitting up and holding Bijou in his arms.  “You have fun, Bij?”

“Wooooooof!”

“I think that's a 'yes', Angel.  How about you, Katie?  Should we do this again?” Jack asked the youngest dog.

“Woooof!  Woooof!”

“It's unanimous, Jack,” Daniel chuckled, a happy smile on his face.

“Time to go home,” Jack said as he and Daniel reattached the leashes to the beagle's harnesses.

The four headed for home, all happy with their spontaneous playtime in the park.

====

The following Monday, Sam reported back on the potential employees.  Fortunately, all six employees passed the extensive verification process, so the next step was to decide on the actual job offer for each.  Two of the six would be hired as Research Archaeologists and the other four would be Field Archaeologists, though all six would be given the opportunity to perform all functions.

Megan arranged for a final appointment for each of the six prospective employees.  During this final meeting, which included Jack and Daniel, they reviewed the specific job being offered to the applicant, answering any questions the worker may have and making sure they were clear on what was expected of them.  Daniel focused on the technical details, while Jack centered on the family appeal and long-term future of a position with J-O Enterprises.  Megan then presented the administrative details, including salary and benefits.

The individual offers of employment were then made, and five of the six accepted.  One, John McClellan, had received an offer to work for another new company, SRI, which was located in Chicago, and he decided to go to work for them.

After reviewing the applications again, Jack and Daniel made an alternative selection, and after another interview and background check, hired their sixth employee, Jeff Leonard.

The couple also settled on the first two interns from the University who would be working at J-O while gaining credit for their college courses.  Mostly, they'd be doing research at first, and, of course, being gofers for Megan and her new staff.

Things were shaping up nicely for the new company.  Finally, J-O Enterprises was ready to open its door for business.

====
-- Chapter Six:  Blessings
====

“It's been a blessing,” Molly O'Hanlon said as she spoke with Jack and Daniel.

Molly was at the Jackson-O'Neill home for dinner.  The couple had decided to make a point of inviting their friend over once or twice a month if they could.  She loved the triplets and relaxing with her friends, especially when the weather allowed them to sit outside on the back porch as they were now, even if it was a bit nippy out.

The couple still hadn't told the Irish woman about their relationship.  They were a little nervous about telling her the truth.  In the back of their minds, they wondered if maybe she'd be worried about what the children at the shelter might think if they found out that Jack and Daniel were lovers.  Neither man wanted to risk being told that they couldn't continue to volunteer, so they remained silent.

As for Molly, even after Jack and Daniel had started inviting her to dinner and she had witnessed their home life, she had never asked.  She just went along with the 'best friends' story and smiled a lot, as she was now as she watched the lovers.

~If they have something to tell me, the sweet lads, they will.  'Tis none of me never mind anyway, even if that Jackie Boy can't take his eyes off his Daniel.  Aw, what a tender look of devotion, and look at that adorable Daniel.  What a sweet smile, especially when he looks at his Jack.~

So, the tone was set for this current evening.  It was another pleasant meal between friends, a silent not-so-secret secret in the atmosphere as they chatted on the porch.

“Carolyn Ferretti has done wonders with crafts, and Cassandra, bless her heart, comes by often to teach art.  She's even brought young Dominic along and cajoled him into teaching the children soccer.  They love him.  Dale and Nancy have been wonders, too.  'Tis the truth that all your friends have been such a source of strength for me.  Ah, and it makes me heart smile to see that big, strong Murray with the children.  They just adore him.  My, but he has such a dry wit,” Molly spoke warmly, laughing from the joy her new friends were bringing her from their volunteering at the shelter.

“Yeah, that's Murray all right,” Jack said with laughter in his voice and expression.

“And you two have been such gifts to me and the shelter.  I ... I just don't know how to thank you,” Molly said, pulling out her white lace handkerchief to dry her eyes.

“Oh, Molly,” Daniel said as he leaned forward in his chair and took hold of her hand.  “We've loved every minute.  I just wish we could do more.”

“You've kept the shelter open.  We're barely afloat, but if it hadn't been for you two and your friends, we'd have sunk already.”

“We've gained far more than we've given,” Daniel assured.

“And that blessed General Hammond!  Can you imagine?  The kids love having a grandpa to dote over them,” the Irish woman spoke.

Jack smiled, sharing a remembering look with his husband, before turning to Molly and replying, “He's a super grandpa.  I happen to have first-hand knowledge of that, and, in fact, it was all his idea to set up the foster grandparent program.  We've got Christa and Jacob and Mrs. Valissi helping out now.”

“And don't forget Mrs. Harper, Jack,” Daniel pointed out about his one-time neighbor from his old apartment.

“Blessings.  Blessings one and all,” Molly spoke humbly, a brilliant smile on her face.

====

Today, Janet was babysitting the triplets so Jack and Daniel could put in some time at the shelter.  They knew the group of friends and colleagues they had brought in to help had made a difference.  The volunteers now included Megan; Bijou and Katie's original owners, Jeff and Margaret Cornell, and Jack and Daniel's dear friend and doctor, Sylvia Preston.  Still, while the volunteers picked up the staff shortage, they knew it wasn't paying the bills -- insurance, utilities, food, school supplies, clothing, and the like.

It was Thursday, and Jack was giving tips on baseball bunting while Daniel was teaching geography.  The archaeologist was taking a break at the moment while the kids took a fifteen-minute recess.  As he walked down one of the building's hallways, a young brown-haired boy wearing glasses suddenly darted into Daniel's path.  Unable to get out of the way in time, the small boy crashed into Daniel.

“Whoa!  Hey, what's going on?” Daniel asked.  Then he saw a group of four older boys breathing heavily.  He knew they had been chasing the smaller boy that he was now gripping by the shoulders.  ~Now I understand.~

Suddenly, the small child shouted out words to the older boys.  The words were angry and harsh, but Daniel recognized the fear in their boldness.  It hadn't escaped his notice, either, that the child had spoken in a foreign language, something Daniel found fascinating since the boy looked to be only five years old in Daniel's estimation.

~He has to be older, though; must just be short for his age.  No way could he have spoken that dialect so well and be just five.  He's definitely older.~  “Okay, someone tell me what is going on here.”

“It's nothing,” the small boy said, managing to scoot away from Daniel and run towards the dorm rooms.

“He called us names, some really weird words,” one of the other boys said.

Daniel flinched when the boys repeated the words.  They hadn't said them well, but he still recognized them.

“And that gives you the right to beat him up?” Daniel challenged, looking sternly at the older boys.

Before the archaeologist could say anything more, the group turned and ran out of the building.  He couldn't recall seeing those particular boys before or the small child who had run into him, so he headed for Molly's office to inquire about them.

There was a steady turnover at the shelter as children were placed in foster homes or adopted, and Daniel had only ever met about half of the children there; it was the same for Jack.  He hoped his descriptions would be good enough for Molly to recognize them.

====

“His name is David Morgan.  Poor little Sweet Pea.  He's just six, Daniel, but he's oh-so-smart and shyer than you,” Molly spoke after Daniel had inquired about the boy.

Molly laughed, her eyes connecting with Daniel's.  Daniel wanted to laugh, knowing exactly what Molly meant, but there was something about the boy that prevented that, and it bothered him.  He simply smiled and continued to listen to what Molly was saying.

~Only six?  He looks five, but I was sure he had to be seven or eight.  Six?  He spoke very well ... very well.~

Another thing Daniel thought was interesting as he talked with Molly was that she seemed to be unaware David spoke a foreign language.  That seemed very unusual for a child so young to speak a second language and his main caregiver not to know about it.

~How could he keep that a secret?  Why would he, and then use it as a weapon against the other boys?~

“He's very insecure, frightened of being separated from his sisters,” Molly revealed.

“Sisters?” Daniel asked.

“Yes, beautiful flowers they are.  Jennifer just turned twelve and she's a whole other battle to be won, and the wee one is but a babe, just twenty months old.”

“What about their parents?”

“Killed in an automobile accident just two months ago.  These poor children have no living relatives, no one to love them.  They'd make a wonderful addition to any family,” Molly sighed, “but trying to place three children in one home ... I fear it will be next to impossible.”

“I'd ... better get back.  The recess is almost over,” Daniel said, backing away and nodding to Molly.

As Daniel headed back to the room he was using as a classroom, he couldn't stop thinking about the little boy and the sad fate that awaited him and his sisters.  The boy was clearly intelligent, and Daniel knew from bitter experience that smart children rarely flourished in an environment of foster homes and orphanages, especially those that looked like David.

====

“I can do that,” a young girl said boisterously as she watched Jack explain the suicide squeeze for the second time to a group of boys.

Jack, acting as the coach, turned around to see the girl standing defiantly off to the side.

“Oh, you can?” Jack smirked.

“Better than that jerk,” the girl nodded towards the thirteen-year-old boy, who had just failed miserably at following Jack's instructions.  ~He looked like a clown falling down.~

“Keep practicing,” Jack told the boys and then walked the few feet to where the girl stood.  Still holding a bat in his hands as he beat it against the ground, he stared at the dirt, then up at the girl.  He lifted his head slightly upwards as he said quietly, “Jerk, huh?  Are you sure about that?”

“He can't follow instructions.”

“A bit quick to judge, dontcha' think?” the coach questioned.

“Any moron should be able to listen and learn.  You already showed them twice.  What's so hard about doing what you're told?”

Jack nodded, banged the bat on the ground again, and then looked the pre-teen straight in the eye as he asked, “Have you stopped a second to wonder if there is a reason why?”

“He's a boy, and he's not listening,” the girl answered smugly.

“Have you considered that maybe he might have a learning disorder and requires extra instruction?”  Jack saw the girl soften, though she still held her ground.  He looked over at the boys as he added, “And have you thought that maybe he's still having a hard dealing with the emotional pain he suffered over the last two years when he was physically abused, then abandoned out on the streets?  Maybe, just maybe, his emotional scars are going to require some time to heal.”

The girl flinched, her face contorting as she processed the information.  Jack could see she felt compassion for the boy now, and then he saw her resolve tighten.  She couldn't lose this battle, and she wouldn't.

“Well, is that his story, too?  Because he didn't listen any better, either,” the girl said about the eleven-year-old boy who had just missed the ball entirely.

“Okay, let's see what you can do,” Jack challenged as he handed the girl the bat.  He called out to the pitcher, “Hold it a second, Brian.  She's going to show you guys how to properly execute the suicide squeeze play.”

“But she's a girl!” the boys whined, one after another, their voices and facial expressions clearly showing their displeasure.

“I noticed,” Jack smirked.  “Pitch,” he ordered Brian, the frustrated fourteen-year-old left-hander grunting as he went to his position on the mound.

Reluctantly, Brian threw the baseball, surprised, as were the other skeptical boys, when the girl laid down the perfect suicide squeeze bunt.

Jack tilted his head slightly, feeling both surprised and pleased, and announced, “And that, Gentlemen, is how you do the perfect squeeze bunt!”  When the girl began to walk off the grassy area that was used as a make-shift sporting area, Jack called out, “Hey, where are you going?  I thought you wanted to play?”

“No, I just said I could do it better than him.  I made my point,” the girl replied.

“One thing,” Jack said as he approached the girl.  “What I said about ... the jerk?”

“Yes?”

“That's not his story, but it could have been.  It is the story of one of the other boys I work with,” Jack informed.

“Then why tell me?”

“Because it's easy to make assumptions and use names to cover up our own pain and frustration.  I just wanted you to think about that for a minute,” Jack answered.

The girl stared at Jack, then shrugged and said, “Okay.  I've thought about it.”

With a sigh, Jack watched as the long-haired brunette turn and walk away.  Then he returned to the boys and spoke a few words of parting encouragement.  After dismissing the players, he picked up the equipment and headed for the main building.  As he approached, a figure caught his eye.  Sitting with her head bowed on a bench just outside the back door was the same pre-teen girl who had successfully hit the suicide squeeze.  He paused for a brief moment and, putting the equipment down, went and sat down next to her.

There was nothing but silence for at least a minute.  Jack nodded and rubbed his hands together as he leaned forward on the bench.

“My name is Jack O'Neill, Brigadier General, United States Air Force, Retired actually.”

“Long name.”

“It's actually longer but ... that's another story,” Jack said, a warm smile on his face.

The girl just stared at Jack, not saying a word.  She had blue eyes and was dressed in tattered blue jeans and a long-sleeve yellow shirt that seemed to Jack to be about two sizes too small, especially since her navel showed.

“What's your name?” the general questioned.

“What does it matter to you?”

“Just asking, that's all.”  When the girl said nothing, Jack decided to let go of the name issue.  “So where'd you learn to play baseball?”

“My dad used to play Double-A, but he had a knee injury so he had to quit.”

“Double-A.  That's cool,” Jack expressed.

“No, he wasn't very good,” the girl refuted.  “He admitted it himself, but he had some lucky breaks to get as far as he did.  He didn't have any regrets when he had to quit.”

“So you're the tomboy type.  Play hockey?”

The girl stared, her eyes rolling back into her head as she answered, “Oh, please. Get real.  Who wants to skate around on some cold ice rink, chasing some tiny puck around?  It's just an excuse to get into a fight.”

“Hey, hockey's a great sport!” Jack argued.

“Right.  Besides, I'm not a tomboy,” the girl corrected.

“You're not?”

“Sounds to me like you made an assumption,” the girl smirked.
 
~She's good,~ Jack thought.  He grinned and nodded, saying, “Touché.”
 
The girl explained, “Look, just because I know about sports and how to execute a simple play doesn't mean I'm not a girl.  My mom was a beauty queen.”

“She was?”

The girl elaborated, “She was Miss Cabbage, and if you laugh, I'll punch you,” her tone aggressive.

“Not ... laughing,” Jack responded, though he worked hard to suppress the hysteria swelling within him.

“She won a lot of titles like that in Montana.  She was beautiful.  She ... never mind.”  The girl stood up, folding her arms as she walked to the other side of the path.  After a few moments, she leaned forward, attempting to move a heavy cement flower pot.  “This would look better over there,” she said as she grunted in her efforts.

“Here, let me help you,” Jack offered as he rose and went to help.

The girl backed off in a huff, shouting, “I DON'T NEED YOUR HELP.  I DON'T NEED ANYONE'S HELP.  LEAVE ME ALONE,” and then ran off.

“HEY, COME BACK,” Jack shouted, sighing when the girl just kept on going.  ~She's fast; agile, too,~ he noted, seeing her move to miss a couple of objects that had been in her path.  He took a breath and then went to pick up the sports gear.  He mumbled, “Miss Cabbage” and laughed.  Yet, as he stored the equipment, he couldn't get his mind off the rough and tumble brunette.  Something about her fascinated him.  ~She's feisty.  That 'I'm so tough' business is an act, though, but she has spirit, and that will help her survive in this crazy world.~

Still, Jack couldn't help but wonder how long she'd stay that way without a loving home and family.  Silently, he hoped the girl would always retain her spirit and yet would lose the chip that was currently on her shoulder.

~Kids can be so cruel to each other.~

====

Later that same day, while Daniel was waiting for Jack to finish with the kids he was working with at the moment, he saw David running in his direction.  The same four boys were giving chase, but this time, the archaeologist grabbed the youngster and held on tightly.  Seeing this, the four boys scrambled in different directions.

Daniel knelt down, observing that David's glasses had been broken.  It was obvious, too, that the child had been roughed up a bit.  He smiled in an attempt to calm the boy and show his concern, but David lashed out, speaking sharply in a foreign tongue.

“I get it.  You think you can hide your hurt by burying yourself in a foreign world?  Well, guess what?” the linguist asked.

The boy swore more, calling Daniel a myriad of names and speaking with venom, telling Daniel that he had no right to hold him and that he was a big boy and could take care of himself.  He ended by asking what Daniel would know about being an orphan anyway.

Daniel kept a firm hold on David, stunning him when he answered his questions, in English, however.

“In the first place, I am not a donkey.”

The boy's expression turned from anger to shock.  Could Daniel have understood his ranting?

~No way, Jose.  He's faking it,~ the boy thought.

“In the second place, my mother was a beautiful lady, and I won't let anyone say things like that about her,” Daniel stated.

David visibly tensed, his face scrunching and panic setting in while thinking, ~Oh, no!  If he understood what I said, he'll kill me.~  He began to breathe hard, fearing the worst, especially when Daniel continued to speak -- in Arabic, the language David had been using.  ~I'm in big, big trouble now.~

“Let me explain something to you,” Daniel began, telling the boy that once upon a time, he was just like David, hiding from the world.  “You may notice that I wear glasses, too, and, uh, by the way, both my parents died when I was eight.  I grew up in foster care, so ... I think I have a ... a good idea what life is like here.”  He smiled and added, “So you see, I know quite a bit more than you think.”

~Wow.  He knows Arabic?  Cool.~

David started to succumb to Daniel's kindness, but then he pulled back, saying more words of anger, this time in Russian.

“Nyet, that won't work, either.  I'll have you know I'm way over the four-eyes thing.”

David audibly gasped at the realization that Daniel had truly understood all his words, in both languages.

~And Russian?  I've never met anyone who knew Russian before,~ David thought, totally in awe of the man talking to him.

“You can keep trying if you want, but I should warn you that I'm a linguist, and I speak something like forty-eight languages, the last time I counted, anyway.” Daniel said a bit hesitantly.

“Wow ... forty-eight?”  David's mouth was open, eyes bright and shiny, and his face lengthened as he marveled at the thought of knowing that many different languages.  “I'm ... I'm sorry,” the small boy said, bowing his head, now ashamed of the cruel words he had spoken earlier.  “Did your parents really die when you were a boy?”

“Yes.  I, uh, took it hard.  I ... didn't talk much for a long time,” Daniel confided.

“Sometimes there's nothing to say,” the boy said softly, bowing his head.

Daniel brushed the bangs out of the child's face and couldn't help but smile, recognizing the same shaggy-like hair that he had worn at about the same age.

“Sometimes you're right, but sometimes, silence is just a wall or a defense to hide behind.  It took me a long time to feel like I could be happy, that I had a right to be.  You have a right to be happy, too.”

“I'm sorry,” the boy repeated.

“It's okay.”

At that point, Molly approached, concern showing on her face, her wrinkles showing with her frown.

“Oh, David, they've done it again,” Molly sighed.  “It's the third time,” she said quietly to Daniel as she held the broken glasses in her hand.  Then she looked back at the child.  “Are you okay, David?”

“Yes, Ma'am.  May I be excused?”

“Yes, go ahead.”  Molly looked at Daniel, shaking her head at the reality of the world.  She spoke sadly, “Children can be so cruel.”

“I know what you mean.”

Molly looked at Daniel and couldn't help but be pleased David had run into him.  She had heard a little about Daniel's history from Jack and knew that he and David had a lot in common.  If anyone could relate to David, it would be Daniel.

“I'm sure it was the same four boys, the ones you saw earlier.”

“Yes, it was,” Daniel confirmed.  “I recognized them.  Molly, can't something be done?”

“I do my best, Daniel, but boys will be boys, and I'm afraid young David pushes them.  It's not always their fault.  He, the Sweet Pea, is hurting, scared of being separated from his sisters.  He's lashing out to try and cover up his feelings.  His older sister does the same, desperate, she is, trying to keep her family together.  So much anger caused by hurt and tragedy.  It saddens me soul.”

“Yeah, that's what I thought,” Daniel replied, taking a huge breath afterwards.

Molly sighed, knowing there was nothing more that could be done at the moment, so she moved onward and stated, “The general will be out shortly.  He got trapped into being a horse for a play.”

“A horse?  Now, that I have to hear about.”

After chatting a few minutes, Molly walked away.  She didn't know what she was going to do.  The volunteers had been a blessing, but funds were tighter than ever.  She just didn't have money yet for another new pair of glasses, either.

~The good Lord will provide, if He's willin',~ Molly prayed.

====

Still smiling from his pleasant chat with Molly, Daniel turned and saw David under a tree at the edge of the yard with an older girl and a toddler.

~Maybe those are his sisters,~ Daniel wondered, noting how they remained physically close to each other.  ~They sound like they're having a good time,~ he thought, seeing the three smiling and hearing them laughing gaily.  They made a lovely picture to view.  After a couple of minutes, he walked over to the area and smiled at David, saying, “Hello.”

“Hi,” David replied softly.  Looking up at the girl, he explained, “He's the one who helped me with those bullies.”

“Thank you,” the girl said, smiling, although Daniel noticed the protective way that she held the boy and toddler close to her.

“You're welcome.  Uh, I don't think we've met.  I'm Daniel.  I've been helping Mrs. O'Hanlon with ...”

“Geography and Ancient History,” the girl gushed, silently thinking Daniel was a pretty cute dude, for an old man.

“Um, sort of, yes.”

“I'm Jennifer, and this is my brother, David, and this is Chenoa,” the girl politely introduced.

“Chenoa,” Daniel repeated as he reached down and caressed the toddler's face, making her giggle.

“It's a symbol of peace and means white dove,” Jennifer said with pride.

“Yes, it's Native American.”  Daniel saw the surprise on Jennifer's face that he knew the meaning of the name.  “Is she your sister?”

“Yes.”

“Here we go, David,” Molly called out as she approached.  “Hello, Daniel.”

Daniel was surprised when Molly put the taped and apparently glued glasses back on David's face.

“Thanks, Mrs. O'Hanlon,” David spoke appreciatively.

Molly saw the shocked look in Daniel's expression and explained, “I just don't have the money this week, Daniel.  Heaven knows I wish I did.”

Daniel sighed.  He knew this boy's pain, and he just couldn't stand back and not try to help.

“Listen, um, let me take him to my optometrist on Saturday.  I'll get him new glasses and have his eyes examined, too,” the archaeologist offered.

“Daniel, I couldn't let you do that.”

“Hey all!”  Jack smiled as he walked to join the group.  He had actually been watching Daniel for a couple of minutes.  There was something about his husband's demeanor that worried him, although he couldn't quite put a finger on what it was.  “David, missed you at baseball.”

“I'm not good at sports,” David whispered as he again bowed his head.

“Well, it takes practice.  I'll help you the next time I come,” Jack stated, looking over at his lover, who seemed to still have an undefined look in his eyes.

“He doesn't need your help, Mister.  I can teach him if he wants to learn,” Jennifer spoke harshly.

“Now, Jennifer, General O'Neill just wants to help,” Molly interjected.

“Jennifer?  Is that your name?” Jack asked with a grin, but Jennifer just scowled at him.  He ignored her ferocious expression and looked at the youngest child present.  “And who's this?”

“Oh, General O'Neill, this is Chenoa, and you've just met Jennifer.  They're David's sisters,” Molly introduced.

“Nice to meet you, Ladies,” Jack replied, charming them with a bright smile.

In response, Chenoa brought her hands together in a clap, making both Jack and Daniel laugh.

When the laughter subsided, Daniel spoke, “Jack, I thought we'd take David to get an eye exam and new glasses on Saturday, okay?”

Jack recognized his lover's look, one of determination when 'no' was not an acceptable response.

“No problem, Daniel,” Jack responded.

“Thank you, but as I already said, we don't need your help,” Jennifer interjected defensively.

“It would just be for a little while so that ...” Daniel began.

“NO!  I WON'T LET YOU TAKE MY BROTHER!” Jennifer shouted as she pulled both David and Chenoa back a few steps with her.

After a quick look at his husband, Daniel kneeled down on his haunches, smiling at David and Chenoa.

“Well, how about if we all go?” the archaeologist asked.

“All of us?” Jennifer asked suspiciously, her guard still up.

Daniel looked at Jack again, needing to see his approval.  A slight nod gave him what he needed, but before he could answer, Jack beat him to the punch.

“Sure,” Jack answered.  “I have a nice big truck over there.  Maybe we could stop for an ice cream after.”

“Iceream?” Chenoa mumbled, a big smile on her face.

Daniel reached out with his right hand to touch the little girl's hands and asked, “Do you like ice cream, Chenoa?”

The toddler smiled brightly and clapped her hands in excitement.

“We'll make a day of it.  The eye doctor, maybe a movie, and ice cream,” Jack said enthusiastically.

Jack and Daniel saw the huge smiles break out on the faces of all the kids, even though Jennifer was working hard to suppress hers.

“How about it, Molly?  A field trip for these three would be okay, wouldn't it?” Jack asked.

“Oh, that would be wonderful.  Thank you so much, Lads,” Molly said.  “Call me and let me know what time you want to pick them up,” she said, smiling as she walked away to return to her office.

“Okay, we'll aim for 1300 on Saturday,” Jack suggested.

“Thirteen hundred?” the girl questioned.

“Jack,” Daniel chastised, shaking his head.  “One o'clock.”

“Does that meet with your approval, Jennifer?” Jack asked, letting the girl be the decision maker, just as long as she agreed with him.

“Well, okay, but ... no one takes my brother or sister away from me.  No one,” Jennifer responded protectively.

“Wouldn't dream of it,” Daniel said, noticing the sharpness in her tone.  “We'll see you in a couple of days.”

====

On the drive home, Jack asked, “You like those kids, don't ya, Danny?”

“David is a lot like I was.  I guess I see a lot of myself in him,” Daniel admitted.

~That's what I thought; that's what I was seeing in his eyes.~  Jack wasn't thinking just about the expressions he's seen on his lover's face today, but in the past as well when they'd run across frightened, abandoned children.  “Chenoa's a cutie pie,” he commented.

“She sure is ... and Jennifer, too.”

“Yeah, Jennifer,” Jack said, glancing at Daniel who was gazing back at him.  ~She's a package, that's for sure.~

Neither Jack nor Daniel spoke another word about the Morgan kids that night as they returned their focus to their own family and their new business.

====

The next day, as Daniel fed Aislinn, he worked out the couple's Saturday itinerary in his mind.

“Done?” Daniel asked.  “Yeah, okay,” he chuckled at his little girl.

Once he finished taking care of the youngest Munchkin, he held her in his arms while he made a phone call to his optometrist.

“I know it's short notice, but I'd consider it a special favor,” Daniel requested about the special Saturday examination.

“For you, Doctor Jackson, anything,” the eye doctor spoke.  He chuckled, “You are, after all, my best customer.”

“Thanks ... I think,” Daniel responded.  ~The sad part is, he's right.~

“You've kept me in business,” the doctor laughed.  “I order glasses by the caseload just for you.”

“Thanks again ... I think ... again,” Daniel said before ending the conversation.  “You know, Ash, a lot of people have told me I should wear contacts, but aside from the fact I'm allergic to the things, I don't think I could afford them.  I may break a lot of glasses, but I'd lose contacts by the case full.”

====

Saturday arrived, and Jack and Daniel gave their triplets kisses goodbye and left Sam a copy of their itinerary.  After a check to make sure the cell phones were working, the couple left.

“You know, I'm glad now that we decided to take that trip to Utah a couple of months ago,” Daniel said out of the blue.

“I'm glad you're glad, Angel, but why now?”

“Because otherwise, today would be the longest we've been away from the Munchkins, and it would probably make me even more crazy than I'll end up being if we hadn't started taking a couple of overnight trips, beginning with that one,” Daniel chuckled.

At the next stop light, Jack leaned over to share a quick kiss with his soulmate.  They were pretty much living a normal life now, running errands, going out on their date nights, taking a few scattered one or two-day trips, luncheon dates with friends, all thanks to the realization that they needed to let go, both for themselves and for their children.  It wasn't easy, but it was the nature of life.

Still, as the hours passed with the Morgan children, both Jack and Daniel had each called home a few times, frustrating Sam.  The blonde finally brought their attention to their over-attentiveness when she answered the phone with “Jackson-O'Neill residence.  Yes, they're breathing; yes, they've eaten; yes, they've been changed; yes, the girls are fine, too.  Now leave me alone so I can go make out with Pete.”

The blonde was confident it would be one of the fathers on the phone, and she was right.  Pete wasn't really there, but she just wanted to ruffle the overanxious father's feathers.

After the last call, Jack turned to Daniel and asked, “Do you think we're calling home too much?”

“No, of course not.”

“And Pete's not really at the house?”

“No, of course not,” Daniel said with mock certainty.
 
“Of course not,” Jack agreed as both refocused on the three children they were with, both aware they were being a tad paranoid.

====

After the movie ended, the group walked through the mall, the three kids a bit ahead of Jack and Daniel.

“Isn't she cute, Jack?” Daniel said softly about the little toddler.

“Adorable.  Why didn't we bring a stroller for her?” Jack asked.

Daniel shrugged and suggested, “Maybe because we didn't think of it until just now?”

Jack laughed for a moment and then grew serious, questioning, “Have you noticed the way Jennifer has held Chenoa close all day?  She's practically kept her in her hip pocket.”

“It's hard to miss, Jack.  She's very protective of them,” Daniel replied.

“She's scared.”

Nodding, the younger man agreed, “I know.  David is, too.  I ... they're all scared.”

Jack put his arm around Daniel's waist, pulling him even closer as they walked and asking, “Do you know how much I love being able to do this?”

“I have a clue, Love, but we agreed that with the kids at the shelter we'd hold back a little.  It's not our place to make decisions for their parents ... whomever they might end up being,” Daniel reminded.

Jack placed a kiss on Daniel's temple and then resumed their 'best friends' stance, returning to his observations of the children they were with.

Jennifer still had a firm hold on both of her siblings when she stopped in front of one of the shops.

The almost-teenager eyed the latest fashion trend for teens and remarked, “Daddy would have never let me wear this, but I bet I could have convinced Mom.”

“Na-uh,” David said.  “She'd have said you were her daughter, not Britney Spears.”

“Britney looks cool!  I admit she doesn't dress as classy as Beyonce, but Mom would have let me have this, eventually,” Jennifer spoke.

“Danny, she likes that 'oops' girl,” Jack said quietly as the couple stood behind the children.

“Oops girl?  Who's that?” Daniel responded.

“Some teenage singer who mouths the lyrics to her songs while shaking her booty and wearing as little as possible,” Jack replied.

“And you know about this ... Oops girl?”

“Danny, turn on the radio and ...” Jack paused, saying, “Daniel, she's been all over the news for a year since her divorce.  You're yanking my chain again, aren't you?”

Chuckling, the younger man responded, “Babe, don't you remember how Lou teased Teal'c about Britney taking his place at the SGC because she shaved her head and was bald?”

“Oh,” Jack expressed.  “I forgot.”

“Look, Jen!” David exclaimed, drawing the adults away from their quiet conversation about Britney Spears.  The boy tugged on his sister's arm, pulling her over to a science store.  “I've never seen such a big telescope.  I bet you could really see the moon!”

Jack looked at Daniel with a smile and whispered, “I knew I liked that kid.”

Jennifer turned to Jack and Daniel and asked, “Can we go inside for a few minutes?  David loves all this junk.”

“Sure, we have time,” Daniel said, seeing Jack's nod.  **Babe, notice how she didn't ask to go into the fashion store, but ...**

**Yeah, she didn't ask for herself, but she's asking for David.  I noticed,** Jack answered.

====

After fifteen minutes of watching David explore and check out several telescopes, microscopes, and a myriad of scientific equipment, Jennifer again turned to Jack and Daniel.

“There's a toy store a few stores down.  Noa's been so good.  Can we let her go play in the store for a little bit?  You don't have to buy her anything.  She just loves the stuffed animals and things so much.”

“Sure, we have time,” Jack echoed Daniel's earlier words.

Twenty minutes later, after Chenoa had enjoyed a lot of play time with the various toys at the store, Jennifer took her sister in tow and said, “We should go back now.”

“I have a better idea,” Jack said.  “How about we go back to the crazy clothes store and let you look around for a bit?”

“Really?  But I need to watch the kids,” Jennifer said.

“Hey, what are we?  Chopped liver?  You shop.  Daniel and I will guard the little ones,” Jack said enthusiastically.

“I'm *not* little,” David argued, making both Jack and Daniel smile.

Jack couldn't resist teasing the young boy, so he argued, “Are, too.”

“I am not!”

The words were spoken authoritatively, David stomping his foot as he spoke.

“Yes, you are!” Jack maintained, loving the verbal match.

“Not!”

“Too!” Jack insisted.

“Oh, gawd,” Daniel laughed.  “Jack, stop it!  I can't take it.”

“Jealous?” Jack teased, a smug smile on his face.

“You're so dead, O'Neill!”  Daniel quickly looked at the confused Morgan children, reassuring, “I'm just kidding.  Jack and I play around like that all the time.”

“You're good friends?” Jennifer asked.

“Best friends,” Daniel answered truthfully.  “Come on, back to the fashion palace.”

====

“Thank you, General O'Neill, and you, too, Daniel, for taking us out today, and especially for David's glasses,” Jennifer said graciously as the group stood outside the entrance of Molly's shelter.

“Hey, we're pals.  Call me Jack.”

“Um, well, how about General Jack?  That's what the other kids call you,” Jennifer suggested.

All the children at Molly's shelter called the retired Air Force officer 'General Jack'.  It was actually a tradition that had begun years earlier when Jack had first begun to volunteer at orphanages and shelters.  He had been a colonel then. Even the children at Cassandra's old school referred to him by rank and first name.

“I can live with that,” Jack agreed.

“Maybe we can do this again some time,” Daniel offered.

“More 'cream?” Chenoa asked hopefully.

Jack laughed as he answered, “Yeah, more 'cream!”

“YEAHHHHHHH!” the toddler cheered.

“Thank you for letting me play in the science store.  They had the neatest stuff,” David said, a happy expression on his face.

“You're welcome, Son,” Jack said, putting his hand on David's head and ruffling his shaggy hair.

“We'd better go,” Daniel said, adding, “but we'll see you next week.”

The adults and the children said their good-byes, and the three Morgan children headed inside.  Molly was waiting at the door, smiling and waving at Jack and Daniel.  Suddenly, the curly-haired blonde turned around and ran to Daniel, jumping into his arms.  He could hear her sniffling.

“Miss Daddy,” Chenoa cried.

Tenderly, Daniel held her, soothing, “I know you do, Chenoa.  It's okay to cry.”

Before Daniel had finished his words, Jennifer and David had returned to where the couple stood, and Molly was walking swiftly to them.  Daniel continued to comfort the little girl, rubbing her back gently and whispering reassurances.

“Love Daddy.”

“And he loved you, too, so much.  So did your mommy,” the archaeologist assured.

Jennifer explained softly, “She was a bit of daddy's girl.”  The teenager folded her arms, trying not to cry.  “I guess ... I ...”

“You were, too, Jennifer.  You had Daddy wrapped around your pinky,” David reminded.

“Well, you did the same with Mommy.”  Jennifer let out a sigh of exasperation.  “Mommy.  I haven't called her that in years.”

“That's normal, Jennifer,” Jack opined.  “You miss her.  It's okay to miss her and maybe remember a time when you weren't quite so grown up.”

Jennifer's chip was back on her shoulder.

As David had done before, the girl lashed out sharply, “And what would you know about it?  We lost our parents.  THEY'RE DEAD!”

Jack nodded, taking a big breath.  He swallowed hard, then looked back at the angry young girl.

With a voice that reeked of vulnerability, the general answered, “I lost my son.  He's dead now, too.  Daniel, let's go.”

Daniel sighed and placed a quick kiss on Chenoa's cheek.  He knelt down to put her back on the ground.

“Are you okay, Chenoa?”  When she nodded, Daniel smiled and promised, “We'll do this again.  I promise, okay?  We'll have lots more ice cream.”

The little girl smiled and ran to Molly, who picked her up.

“Daniel,” Jennifer said softly.  “What did General Jack mean about losing a son.  He wasn't serious, was he?  I mean, he was just trying to make a point ... right?”

Looking over at Jack, who had just started the truck, Daniel answered softly, “No, he wasn't just trying to make a point, Jennifer.  He did have a son, and he died.  I have to go.  We'll see you guys next week.”

“I feel like a heel,” Jennifer sighed, watching as Daniel hurried to the truck and got in.

Lovingly but pointedly, Molly advised, “Never assume, my dear.  General Jack is a wonderful man, but he's gone through so much.  Never assume your own pain is greater than another's.”

“He tried to tell me that once,” the girl replied.

“Well, Dear One, maybe this time, you'll listen, and learn,” Molly advised.

====

“WAH!  WAHHHHHH!”

“I'll get it, Angel,” Jack sighed.  “Go back to sleep.”

“Sl'p.  Mmmm.”

Jack smiled at his husband, placing a quick kiss on his forehead, and then getting out of bed.  He put on his burgundy robe and hurried for the nursery.

“Hush, Little Danny.  Shhh!”  Jack bounced the infant in his arms slightly.  “Wet? No, that's not it.  Hungry?” he asked as Little Danny began to quiet in his arms.  “Oh, just a bad dream, huh?  You haven't had one of those in a while.  Hey, how would you like to go look at the stars for a few minutes?”

The baby cooed softly, so Jack retraced his steps to the master bedroom, making sure not to wake his husband.  Opening the door, he took their middle child outside and sat down on one of the two chairs they kept on the deck.

“Look at all those stars.  See that one, Little Danny?  It's all twinkle and no substance.”

Jack continued to talk about the stars to his son for a few minutes.  Then he smiled and, with his right hand, caressed Little Danny's ultra soft skin.

“Daddy and I met these three kids recently.  Their parents died not long ago.  It's so hard, Little Danny, to see beautiful kids like them alone.  That Jennifer, she's a wild one, but it's all for show.  David.  Aw, David.  He's like you and your daddy.  He's a bright kid who wants nothing more than to be loved.  Then there's Chenoa.  She is cute as a button.  They deserve a home, a loving home where they can stay together.”

Jack continued to sit with his son, bouncing him gently every now and then as he thought about the Morgan children.

“Hey, maybe Dale and Nancy.  Oh, for crying out loud, what am I worried about?  They're great kids.  Someone will snatch them up, and they'll have great lives, just like you, Munchkin.  Daddy and I wanted you and your siblings for so long, and now you're here.  Miracles, and we love you, more than words can say.”

Jack kissed the now-sleeping infant.  He didn't see his husband had gotten up and was watching as he leaned against the doorframe, his arms crossed as he quietly yawned every few seconds.

“Bore you to sleep?”  Jack chuckled at his infant son and then grew serious.  “I need to stop worrying.  Someone will adopt them.  Molly works hard to find homes for all her charges, and Molly is a woman of her word, but you, Munchkin, you're home.  Nothing to worry about, Little Danny.  No monsters in your closet, just your daddy and I here to protect and love you forever and ever.”

Daniel smiled and returned to bed, getting comfortable under the covers.  A minute or so later he heard Jack walk through the room and knew that meant he was putting their son back into the crib.

Two minutes later, Jack climbed back into the king-size bed.  Instantly, Daniel moved to reclaim his Jack-pillow.

“Jack?”

“I thought you were asleep,” Jack said as he rubbed his lover's back.

“I was, but I was thinking,” Daniel replied.

“Always dangerous,” the older man mused, reaching down to pat Daniel's buttocks in amusement.

“Old joke, Babe, and don't go there with those hands of yours because we're both too tired to do anything about it tonight.”

“You just don't appreciate good humor,” Jack responded as his hands returned to Daniel's back.  ~Hate it when he's right.~  He yawned as he lamented, ~Dang it.~

“Right.  So, I was thinking ...”

Jack laughed, “Okay, you were thinking.”

“Let's go see Danny,” the younger man suggested.

“But I just put him back in the nursery.”

“No, Danny Jenkins.  It's been a while, and he's always asking when we're going to come for another visit.  He misses you, Jack.”

“Yeah, I miss him, too.  He's grown up so much,” Jack responded.

“But you're still his best friend in the whole wide world,” Daniel chuckled, repeating the child's comment, one he spoke just about every time he saw Jack or talked to him on the phone.  “By the way, you're my best friend, too.”

“I love you, Angel,” Jack said.  “Danny ...”

“Uh, okay, not that tired,” Daniel agreed as the two began to make love.

====

The next weekend, the lovers left their triplets in the care of Sam and Janet, both of whom had agreed to spend the night so Jack and Daniel could venture to Baltimore, Maryland where the Jenkins family lived.

A few years ago, Jack had befriended a little boy, Danny Hopkins, at a skating rink.  Daniel had actually spotted the lonely child, recognizing the look of abandonment on his face.  At the time, young Danny was in a less-than-desirable foster home where he was treated more like an errand boy than a child.

It had been the holiday season and the boy's situation had hit Jack and Daniel hard.  Eventually, Jack was able to find some friends interested in adopting a child.  The Jenkins came to Colorado Springs and instantly fell in love with Danny, adopting him as soon as they could.

Jack and Daniel had never lost touch with the boy, talking with him often on the phone and making visits when they could.  The Jenkins had even brought their son to Colorado a couple of times just so he could visit with his best friend, Jack.

Daniel wondered if Jack knew that the young boy saw him as his savior, the person who had rescued him from a life of misery and given him a home.

~My Jack, rescuer and savior of lost Dannys.~

Sam and Janet had agreed to babysit the triplets and had endured three phone calls, one pre-weekend visit, and, finally, fifteen minutes worth of lectures on the proper care and handling of the triplets and the two beagles.  For a few minutes, the two women were afraid the couple would never leave.

//Flashback//
“Stop worrying.  We've got everything covered,” Janet assured.  She added, “It's not like we haven't done this before.”

“We know it's an imposition, but we're so thankful that we have you two,” Daniel commented.

“Any excuse for a girls' night,” Janet laughed, a twinkle in her eye.

“Definitely,” Sam had agreed as she laughed a bit mischievously.

“Hey, this isn't a party night.  You're babysitting *my* children,” Jack said in his best 'no-nonsense' command voice, reminding both of just why he had been so intimidating to new recruits.

Daniel instructed, “Don't forget Little Danny still gets scared of the dark sometimes, not much, but sometimes.  He really hates being alone.  Katie sleeps next to him a lot now, and he likes that, so if he acts up, and having Jonny close doesn't work, get Katie.”

Jack jumped in, “And don't try and figure out how she gets in the crib.  We've never figured it out for sure, but we've stopped questioning just exactly how she does it.  Just put her in there if you want to ensure a peaceful night for Little Danny.”

“And Jonny is always getting into trouble.  He's way ahead of where he's supposed to be with his motor skills, so don't make assumptions, or you might be sorry,” the younger father warned.

“Yeah, lately, he's been trying to figure out escape routes,” Jack added with a smirk that reeked of pride for his oldest son's talents.

“Escape routes?” Sam inquired.

Daniel answered, “Out of the crib.  I think he thinks he's in Alcatraz or something.  Kayla took this picture of him looking out between the railings that is so funny.  I'll have to show it to you, but, uh, the point is, he's really sitting there plotting his escape.  Trust me.  Don't trust him.”

The archaeologist looked over at Jack, his eyes almost accusing his lover of training Jonny in covert operations.

“Hey!  What are you looking at me for?”

“Nothing ... that I have proof of ... yet,” Daniel responded.

Jack decided it was best to ignore his husband's silent accusations, so he moved on to give the two women advice about their youngest family member, saying, “And about Ash, she's starting this new thing lately.”

Daniel laughed and shook his head, drawing the two female's attention.

“Okay, we'll bite.  What?” Janet asked.

Jack answered, “She likes to get her brothers in trouble.  She thinks we haven't noticed that she's the one who started the mess, whatever it may be at the time, in the first place.”

Daniel continued laughing as he added, “It's so cute.  I think Jonny and Little Danny are in for years of doing Ash's bidding.”

“Yeah,” Jack said in mock sarcasm, “Yet, again, women get the best of the innocent men.”

“Innocent?” both Sam and Janet retorted at the same time.

“Anyway, watch her,” Daniel continued.  “She follows Little Danny a lot, but she's really just testing the waters.”

“Uh,” Jack almost hesitated to add, “Little Danny likes to be sung to, and if Jonny can't sleep, try taking him for a ride in the car.”

“And don't forget that Ash doesn't like her formula very hot, just slightly warm, and she eats ...”

“Daniel,” Sam interrupted, “like Janet said, we've been here before.  This isn't the first time we've taken care of the triplets overnight, and  ...”

“But ...” both Jack and Daniel interrupted.

“No buts, Gentlemen,” Janet insisted, opening the front door and literally tossing out the two duffel bags they were using for luggage.  “Out!”

“We'll have our cell phones on,” Daniel said.  “Oh, I forgot to tell you that Jonny ...”

“OUT!” both women exclaimed again.

Jack turned one last time, raising his hand to say something, but the door slammed shut in his face.

“Danny, you think they're trying to tell us something?” the older man asked.

“Yeah, to get the heck out of Dodge, Jack,” Daniel quipped.

“I love you, Angel,” Jack spoke, following his words up with a kiss.

The two started to walk away when Daniel suddenly darted back to the door.  Jack turned and watched, clueless.

“Sam!  Janet!  Please, this is important,” the archaeologist begged.

“Okay, one minute, Daniel,” Sam said after opening the door.

“Look, I'm sorry, but ...”

“We know,” Sam admitted, a smile on her face.  “Now, what's the urgent thing you forgot?”

“The girls.  It's important, Sam.  You need to spend some time, just with them, okay?  Five minutes will do it, but they have to have it, and at night, let them decide whether they want to stay in or out.  I know what we said about Katie, but sometimes she still likes to be out; so does Bij, and sometimes, they sleep with us, so ... I mean, I know not everyone likes that kind of thing, but ...”

“Daniel, Bijou and Katie have slept on the bed with me every single time I've babysat,” Sam informed.  “I'm not sure they trust me with their siblings.  Now, OUT!”

“Oh.  Sorry.  They're ... very protective, but they need ...”

“Yes, Daniel.  Goodbye, Daniel,” Janet ordered, using her 'Little Napoleon' voice.

Once again, the two women closed the door, locking it.

Jack laughed and nodded towards the vehicles in the driveway, saying, “Come on, Love.  Time to go.”

“Gawd, Jack.  We're so bad.”

“No, Love.  We're just ... parents,” Jack rationalized.

“Parents: what a beautiful word,” Daniel crooned as he headed towards the truck.
//End of Flashback//

Having finally left their home, Jack and Daniel flew to Baltimore in their airplane, Jo, and were met at the airport by Julie Jenkins.

“He's going to be so surprised!” Julie ranted about her son, Danny.

“You didn't tell him?” Jack asked.

“No,” the woman answered conspiratorially.  “Jack, he's at baseball practice.  He's been working so hard to make you proud of him, says he's going to prove to you that he can hit the ball.  We thought you might want to come watch.  Dave is with him.”

“That's great,” Jack replied.  “Hey, where are Billy and Kev?”

Jack was referring to the latest members of the Jenkins household.  As often happened, once the pressure had been off Dave and Julie to have a baby, thanks to Danny's adoption, she had gotten pregnant.  The first baby was a boy they named William, now three years old, and then she had gotten pregnant again, resulting in Kevin, now two years old.

“With my sister for the afternoon.  You'll see them tonight,” Julie answered.

As they drove, Daniel asked, “How's Danny doing, Julie?”

“Oh, he's doing wonderfully.  He excels in school.  Daniel, we have to thank you for all that information you sent Danny about Egypt.  He got an 'A' on his report, and he was so thrilled that he could actually take a genuine artifact to class as an exhibit.  He was the hit of the day.”

“I'm glad I could help.”

“Listen, uh, I know Jack is his best friend, but don't think he isn't just as crazy about you.  He talks as much about making you proud of his scholastic efforts as he does about pleasing Jack at sports.  Dave and I owe you both.  We don't have to pressure him about anything,” Julie spoke happily.

“Just sitting back and enjoying the ride,” Jack teased.

“Something like that, but you know what we're most proud of?  He never gives up.  You two taught him that if he fell down, to just get right back up and try again, and keep trying until he found what worked for him, and he does.”

“He sounds happy,” Daniel said softly.

“I think he really is.  I know we are.  What a joy he's been, and we never would have gotten Danny if it weren't for the two of you; and he loves his brothers.  It's really helped him to be their mentor.  The babies adore him, and it's helped with Danny's self-confidence; and you'll never guess what Dave and I have been talking about.”

“What?” the couple asked at the same time.

“We love having a big family and being able to see how Danny has grown with the security of a home, well, we're thinking about adopting a couple more children sometime soon, older children, like Danny,” the woman informed as she turned on the blinker to indicate making a left-hand turn.

“Julie, that's wonderful,” Daniel said.  “There are so many children out there who need good homes like yours.”

“That's what we've been discussing.  Ah, here we are.”

Julie parked the car and then escorted Jack and Daniel to the dugout area.  Just as they approached, Danny was just coming to bat.  He didn't see his special visitors, being so focused on his task.

Dave clapped his hands together, encouraging, “Remember, Son, just concentrate.  Don't try to overdo it.”

The boy nodded and went to the plate.  He swung and missed the first ball, and the second was in the dirt.  The third was a called strike, and the fourth almost hit him, causing him to fall to the dirt on his rear end.

Jack and Daniel could hear the boy muttering, “Just get up.  Keep trying.  Don't pay attention to the laughter.  I can do it.  I have to just be me, and I can hit the ball.  I can hit it.  I can hit it.”

The lovers exchanged a look, and then each watched, both mouthing words of silent encouragement.

The next ball headed for the plate.  Danny swung and hit it along the third base line.

“Run, Son.  Run hard,” Dave urged.

Like a full-steam locomotive, Danny ran down the baseline, beating the throw.

“SAFE!” the practice umpire called.

Danny jumped up and down in pleasure as Dave ran to him and slapped him joyfully on the back, praising, “Way to go, Son.”

“Kids, that's enough for today.  Good practice,” the coach called out.  “Make sure you get all your gear.”

“Now that's what I call running out a single,” Jack said with pride.

“JACK!  DANIEL!” Danny exclaimed, running to his friends.  “Did you see it, Jack?”

“Yeah, you did great!”

Smiles all around, the group chatted for a few minutes before heading for the Jenkins home.

====

The trip was a rousing success.  Jack and Daniel spent the rest of the night with the Jenkins family.  When the three boys were asleep, the adults talked in their family room for a while, all playing a friendly game of pool.

Jack and Daniel exchanged a few looks during the night, and when the game was over, Julie served the men a bottle of beer to enjoy.

Sitting down, Julie took a drink and then, leaning forward in her chair, stated, “By the way, I couldn't help but notice that the two of you seem ... well, you've been looking at each other a lot.”

“Looking?” Daniel asked, a little alarmed.

“Guys, uh, you're wearing wedding bands.”

Daniel's mouth opened, the 'guppy look' on his face, while Jack made a tiny noise by smacking his lips and then lowered his head for a moment.  The lovers had discussed telling the Jenkins the truth about their relationship, but they hadn't come to any conclusions, neither sure what Dave and Julie would think.

“Jack,” Dave interjected, “it's hard to hide love.  Danny, um, our Danny, told us a long time ago.”

“Danny?” Daniel spoke, his eyes widening in surprise.

“Yeah,” Julie answered.  “He said that the two of you took care of each other.  The last time you were here, after you left, he just smiled all day.  I asked him why, and he told me it was because Big Danny was happy now and that made you happy, Jack.”

“It's not hard to put two and two together,” Dave commented.

“So, are you okay with it?” Jack questioned, studying the two closely.

Dave answered, “Jack, you gave us our son, and that's led us to a family we had only been able to dream about for years and years.  So, if he's okay with it, shouldn't we be?”

“There's, uh, something we'd like to share, but ... I guess that's why Jack and I have been exchanging those looks you mentioned.  Every time we've talked about children, it's ... well, it's reminded us of ... of ours,” Daniel stated.

“You have children?” Julie asked.

“The Munchkins!” Jack exclaimed, pulling out a thick wallet of photos, causing his husband to laugh.

“Oh my gosh.  Dave, triplets!” Julie exclaimed as she devoured the photos.

“Jonny, Little Danny, and Aislinn,” Jack said proudly.

“Oh, Jack, they are beautiful.  Daniel, you must be ecstatic,” Julie chirped happily.

“Very.  They're our little miracles.  We'd like Danny to come for a visit and meet them, if you're okay with it,” the archaeologist replied.

“Hey, what about us?” Dave asked.  “Trips!  Wow.”

“Listen, the Jenkins are always welcome at our home,” Jack responded, a broad smile on his face.

“Did you adopt?” Julie asked.

“No.  Surrogate,” Daniel answered.

“I'm so happy for you both,” Julie said, hugging both men.

====

The next morning, Jack and Daniel returned for breakfast.  Dave and Julie had agreed that it was okay for them to talk openly about their relationship, so the lovers took the youngster aside just before they were to leave.

“Danny, Big Danny and I would like to share something very special with you,” Jack began.

“What?”

“Well, Danny and I, *we*, have children now,” the general informed.

“Babies?” the boy asked enthusiastically.

“Yes,” Daniel answered.  “Would you like to see their pictures?”

The child nodded, so Daniel pulled out his wallet full of photos and showed off the triplets.

“I bet they're funny,” Danny commented.

“Sometimes,” Jack answered.  “Would you like to meet them?”

“Can I?” Danny asked eagerly.

“Yes, and hopefully soon.  Your parents said they'd arrange a trip to the Springs in the near future,” Daniel informed, getting a bright smile from Danny in response.

“Oh, boy!”

“Um, Danny, you understand about Jack and I?”  When the boy nodded, he continued, “I mean, that we're ... more than just best friends.”

The child grinned, then said, “Jack made you happy, and that made Jack happy, and now you have babies, and I'll bet they're happy, too.”

“We hope so,” Daniel said with a smile.

“Hey, we've got to go, but we'll talk on the phone next weekend.  I want to hear all about your game, okay?” Jack spoke, patting the boy on the back supportively.

“Okay, Jack,” the boy said, throwing his arms around the retired general.  “You're my best friend, Jack.”

====

Soon, Jack and Daniel were headed home in their Meyers 200A aircraft.

“It was so simple for him, Jack.  All he knew was that we made each other happy,” Daniel opined.  ~I wish it was that easy for the rest of the world.~

“In the end, I guess that's it.  Love.  Happiness.  They go together when it's right.”

“It'll be fun to show off the Munchkins to Dave and Julie.  They love children so much.  I'm so glad their family has grown, too,” the younger man stated.

“Danny is happy.  It shows what finding a good home can do for a kid.  It scares me, Love, to think what could have happened to him if he had stayed with that cretin of a foster care parent, and I use that term lightly.”

“I wish all orphans could find a good home.”

“Me, too.  Hey, I wonder how Carter and the Doc are doing with the Munchkins?” Jack asked.

“I miss them.”

“We'll be home soon,” Jack assured.

“Jack?”

“Yes, Love?”

“How many times did you call home?”  When Jack shrugged innocently, Daniel urged, “Come on, Jack.  I know you did.”

“Five.  Six.  Okay, eight times.”

Daniel laughed, “You have me beat.  I actually stopped at the fourth one.”

“Only four?”

“Sam was getting a bit snippy.  She said if we didn't stop calling every hour she was going to change our phone number,” Daniel chuckled.

“She couldn't.”

“Jack, we're talking Sam here.”

“Good point.  Next time, we'll have to coordinate our calls,” Jack stated seriously.

“Next time,” Daniel said, laughing.

Soon, the lovers would be reunited with their babies, and when they were, they thanked the stars that they were a family, all healthy and safe, and together.

====

“Mrs. O'Hanlon?”

“Yes, Jennifer?”

“When is General Jack coming back?” the girl asked.

“Soon, Dear.  He and Daniel had some obligations to take care of, and they had to go out of town, too, but they'll be back later this week,” Molly explained.

Jennifer fidgeted, crossing her arms, and finally asked, “When?”

“Well, let me see,” Molly said, opening her day planner to check the schedules.  “Friday, I believe.”

“That's too long.  Please, Mrs. O'Hanlon.  Can I call him?” Jennifer pleaded.

“Call?”

“I said a horrible thing,” Jennifer reminded.  “Please, I feel just terrible about it.”

~Aw, he's making headway through that armor of hers.  Can't let this go unnoticed,~ the woman thought.  “All right.  Hold on a second.”  Molly dialed the house and was pleased when Jack answered.  “Jack, me love.”

“Molly, you old flirt!” Jack exclaimed jovially.

“If I were younger, you'd see what flirting was really about.”

Jack laughed and asked, “What's up, Gorgeous?”

“You're full of such blarney, but don't change.  I have someone here who'd like to speak with you.”  Molly handed the phone to Jennifer.  “Here you go, Jennifer. I'll be right outside; let you have a minute's privacy.”

“Thank you, Mrs. O'Hanlon.”  Jennifer watched Molly exit her office and then shyly put the receiver to her head.  “General Jack?  This is Jennifer Morgan.”

“Jennifer!  Hit any suicide squeeze bunts lately?”

The teenager laughed, then answered, “No.  It's no fun unless you're around to give me a hard time.  General Jack?  I ... I wanted to apologize for what I said the last time I saw you.  I mean ... you tried to tell me not to judge people, but ... well, I mean I'm ... I ...”

“Jennifer, it's okay,” Jack replied, recalling the conversation in great detail.

“No, it's not.  I'm really sorry about your son.  I don't know what happened, but I know it made it you sad, and I imagine losing a son is like losing a parent.  It's horrible,” the girl spoke.

“Yes, it is, but don't worry about it, Jennifer.  Look, Daniel and I will be at the shelter on Friday, and we can talk some more about it then.  Okay?”

“General Jack, we don't have to.  I just wanted you to know that I was sorry for mouthing off.  I was upset, but I shouldn't have said what I did.  It's just ... Chenoa was crying, and ... well ...”

“I understand.  I'll see you on Friday,” Jack stated.

“Okay.  Bye.”

Jack hung up the phone and sighed as he put the phone in its cradle.

~Someone will adopt those kids.  Jennifer isn't so tough.  She's just trying to protect her family.  Maybe Dave and Julie if Dale and Nancy can't.  Maybe,~ the general thought hopefully.

“Jack, come here.  Hurry!” Daniel called out.

Hearing Daniel's call, Jack raced upstairs to the nursery and found Daniel on the bed with Aislinn.

“What's wrong?” Jack questioned, full of concern.

“Listen.  Just ... listen.”  Daniel focused on their daughter, encouraging, “Come on, Ash.  Do it for Dad.  He'll smile.  Come on.”

“Dada,” the youngest Jackson-O'Neill said.

“Dada?” Jack said in awe, moving to the bed where he knelt down to the floor on his knees.  “Ash, say it again.  Say ... Dada.”

“Dada!” the infant repeated.

Jack and Daniel were bursting with pride.  Their daughter had uttered her first word.  Daniel always kept close tabs on the progress charts for babies and realized instantly that Aislinn was on the advanced side of things, but all he really cared about was the flip-flop his heart had taken when she'd spoken that first precious word a few minutes earlier.

“Danny, I can't breathe,” an excited Jack spoke.  “Ash, say 'Dada' again.  Say it for Dad and Daddy.”

“Dada,” Aislinn repeated obligingly, pushing up against Jack, who took her from Daniel, with his permission, of course.

“Our blessing, Jack.  I've never heard anything so beautiful in my life ... except maybe when you said you loved me,” Daniel spoke.

“Blessings.  Our blessings,” Jack echoed and then leaned over to kiss his husband.  “You're my blessing, too, Angel, forever and always.”

“Forever and always,” Daniel echoed.

“Dada!  Dada!” Aislinn said again.

Both men laughed as they fussed over their daughter, thrilled with the many blessings they'd been given, especially their tiniest miracle, their inspirational blessing named Aislinn.

====
-- Chapter Seven:  Family Ties
====

“Syl, it's Jack.  Just checking to make sure everything is okay with Kayla.  She says it is, but you know me.  Give me a call,” the general requested and then hung up the phone.

“The time is going by so fast, Jack,” Daniel said as he leaned against his husband on the sofa.

“Who would have thunk it, Danny?  The warrior and the geek with eight-month-old Munchkins,” Jack chuckled.

“And Kayla is eighteen weeks pregnant,” Daniel added.

“J-O is doing well,” Jack pointed out.

“Hiring Megan is one of the best ideas you've ever had, Jack,” the younger man complimented.

“She's supposed to call later, isn't she?” Jack asked.

“Yeah, she is, with the results of the dig at Site A,” the archaeologist answered. Smiling, he remarked, “It's not Egypt, but we're out there anyway.”

“It's not exactly how we planned it, Danny, but it's working.”

“Yes, and when the children are a little older, it *will* be how we planned it,” Daniel asserted confidently.

“Next year, we'll bundle up our brood and explore Egypt,” Jack replied equally confidently.

“Jack, we need to check on quarantine regulations for the girls,” Daniel pointed out.

“I already did.”

“You did?” Daniel asked, looking at his husband with a broad smile on his face.

“We aren't going anywhere for any length of time without our girls,” Jack stated matter-of-factly.

“Gawd, I love you.”  Daniel leaned over and kissed Jack.  “What did you find out?”

“Egypt is easy.  Just need a couple of papers from Pam saying they've had their shots and are healthy.  No big deal at all.”

“Really?”

“Really, so plan away.  It'll be our big inauguration of J-O Enterprises, for us anyway.”  Jack chuckled, then returned to the present.  “We need to call Doctor Bryant tomorrow and see if he's made his decision.  It'll be a big contract if we can land the Arizona project.”

“Gawd, it'll be one for the Boonie Bear if he hires us,” Daniel sighed.

Chuckling, Jack replied, “I told ya, Love.  People love gimmicks, even geeks.”

“It was his wife, though,” Daniel pointed out.

“Wives have power.”

“So I've heard.  We'd better check on the Munchkins,” the younger man suggested.

Jack looked at his watch and agreed, “Yeah, almost dinner time.”

The two men stood and shared a passionate kiss, after which Daniel commented, “It really has gotten easier, and I don't think we've given up a thing.”

“We haven't, Danny.  Like most people with kids, we've had to make a few adjustments, but we're making headway, and we *do* have it all.”

Jack kissed his husband again, and then, arm in arm, they went up to check on their children.

====

“I've done everything I can.  I thank you two for all you've done.  I'm going to do my best to find all my little darlings a good home over the next two months, but if I can't, they'll have to go into state care,” Molly announced sadly.

Daniel stood in Molly's cozy office, his arms folded.  State care meant Social Services would take over, and that meant overworked staffers, some who cared, some who didn't.  It meant foster homes with a few families in it for the right reasons, to provide love and security for the children, and all-too-many in it to get some cash or a servant, or both.  He'd grown fond of so many of the children at the Irish woman's shelter that this realization was hitting him hard.

“Isn't there something more we can do, Molly?” Daniel asked.

There was a touch of desperation in Daniel's voice as he asked the question.  He couldn't stand the thought of any of these children having the childhood he did.

“No, Daniel, and to be honest, I'm feeling old and tired.  I still have family back in Ireland and ... I want to go home,” Molly confided.  “If our benefactor hadn't died, that would have been different, but we're drowning, and as much as I love these little darlings, I can't give them all they need.”

“They just need love,” Jack insisted, his hands buried in his pants pockets.

“And glasses, and clothes, and schooling, and electricity, and food.  Jack, the list goes on and on.  I'm going to work hard to find them a home.  I've contacted some friends who have agencies, and they are going to help me.  Some of them may have room for a few of the children if we can't find them homes.  No.  No, I refuse to admit defeat.  I will find homes for these precious babes.  If'n it's with my last breath, they will all have loving families when they leave here,” the strong-willed woman vowed.

“Are you sure there isn't anything more we can do, Molly?” Jack asked.

“If you know of good homes ...” Molly sighed.  “I'm worried about the older kids. The babies will be easier.  There are so many parents out there wanting infants.  I'm worried about the others though.  Young Carl with his asthma and little Julie with her sight problems, and then David.”

“David?  He's a great kid,” Daniel said with concern.

“Yes, he is, but he won't interact with anyone he thinks wants to adopt him.”  Molly sighed again, her Irish eyes looking dim instead of bright as they usually did.  “He doesn't want to be separated from his sisters.  Poor darlin'.  He acts up just to prevent couples from wanting him, but soon, it won't matter.  He'll be seven, and couples just don't want older children.”

“Jennifer?” Jack asked, already knowing the answer.

“No, I'm afraid not.  Nor Colleen or Helen or Susie.  No,” Molly rapped her fists against her desk, “I'm determined.  I'm going to find them homes, if it's the last thing I do.  If it's the last thing,” Molly repeated under her breath, her inner strength shining through once again.

Jack and Daniel headed home, both sad and desperate to help; and yet knowing that there was a limit to what they could do.  They couldn't save all the homeless children in the world, no matter how much they wanted to.  All they could do for now was continue with their volunteer work, doing as much as they could in the time remaining before the doors to Molly's children's shelter closed forever.

====

“Well, you two look positively ... spiffy!” Sam said, holding Aislinn and Jonny in her arms as Jack and Daniel walked downstairs for their weekly date night.

“Carter, you're getting good at this,” Jack teased, noticing how well Sam was balancing the two babies.

“Practice, Sir,” the woman responded with a smile and then placed a kiss on Aislinn's forehead.

“Jack, look.”  Daniel walked over to the crib, smiling at his namesake.  The baby was curled up around Katie, who opened sleepy eyes to smile at them before going back to sleep.  “He's so peaceful right now.  He still doesn't like the dark.  Little Danny sleeps so much better in the light,” he said as he reached down to pull the blanket up a little and then took a second to reach over and brush his fingers against Katie's ears.

“He'll get over it,” Jack assured.

“You sure?”

“Jonny will help him,” Jack responded.

Daniel smiled in acknowledgement.

====

Heading towards O'Malleys in the Silver Fox, Jack and Daniel were planning on enjoying a nice dinner, then take in a movie, and head for their favorite hotel for a bit of x-rated fun.  All of a sudden, though, Jack coughed, the kind of cough that indicated he wanted to broach a potentially sensitive subject.

“Danny, Love, what would you think about swinging by ...”

“You mean it?” Daniel asked hopefully.

“You want to?”

“Yeah.  We could skip the movie,” the younger man responded.

“Turn this baby around, Danny,” Jack said eagerly.

Daniel moved over to the left hand lane to make a U-turn, pointing the Silver Fox towards Molly's shelter instead of the restaurant.

Tonight was a party night for the children.  They'd all be dressed up.  The older kids were having a dance, and the younger ones, a pinata party.  Both men had wanted to go, but they'd both been hesitant to say anything, since the party was on their date night.

“Danny ...”

“Yeah, I love it, too,” Daniel replied smiling, both men loving the fact they could communicate so easily and were on the same page with their desires.

====

“Boys, what a pleasant surprise!” Molly exclaimed, then walked over and hugged her friends.

“Hope you don't mind,” Jack said, listening to the music that was playing.

“Of course not; the children will love seeing you.”

“We'll just ...” Daniel began, motioning with his hand that they were just going to walk around and visit.

The couple mixed and mingled for a while at the pinata party, then separated to make the rounds and visit with the children, who, naturally, were in two separate rooms.

Daniel studied the large pinatas hung from the ceiling.  They were colorful and festive.  He watched as each of the small children took their turns whacking away at the hanging objects, except for David, who was sitting in a corner.  He shuddered at the reminder of his own childhood, remembering the number of times he'd hidden away from life.

Daniel approached the child and sat down next to him.  He didn't say anything for a moment, waiting to see if David would acknowledge him.  When he didn't, Daniel began the conversation.

“Hey, David.”

“Hi, Daniel.”

David couldn't hide the sniffle, which explained why he hadn't said anything when Daniel had first sat down.

“What's wrong?” Daniel asked, leaning forward and twisting around a bit to get a better look at the smart youngster.

“Mrs. O'Hanlon has to close the shelter.  She said I needed to behave to find new parents, but I want to stay with Jennifer and Noa and ... I ... no one cares what I want,” the boy sniffled.

“I do, so does Jack, and Mrs. O'Hanlon.  She's trying really hard to find good homes for everyone, but you have to help her,” Daniel replied.

David shook his head adamantly, insisting, “I want to be with my sisters.”

“I understand, David.  I really do.”  Daniel reached out to dry the falling tears and encouraged, “Don't lose hope.  Hope and faith can take you far.”

David looked into Daniel's eyes and replied, “Your eyes are blue like Jen's and mine are.”

~Blue eyes.  What's so great about blue eyes?~  Daniel smiled and chuckled in disbelief, “Yeah, they are.  Hey, how about taking a swipe at the pinata?”

David again shook his head, this time explaining, “I'm not good at sports.”

“You can do this.  It's not a sport.  You just have to hold the stick and swing hard.”

“They'll laugh at me,” David said, hanging his head low.

“So what?  David, I've been laughed at my entire life.”

The little boy looked up, wide-eyed, disbelieving Daniel's words.

Nodding, Daniel confirmed, “It's true, and maybe someday, I'll tell you about it, but ...”  He sighed, “I know it's not easy, but what you have to do is hold your head up high and keep walking, no matter what.  Take a swing, David.  If they laugh, do it again.  If they still laugh, swing harder.  You can do it.”

“Will you help me?”

“I'll be right by your side.  Lean on me if you need to.  Use my strength.”

“How can I hit it if I'm leaning on you?”

Daniel chuckled at the literal interpretation of the comment and clarified, “Pretend you're me.  Close your eyes and ... think big!  Go outside yourself.  No one can hurt you there.  Come on.  Let's try it.”

“Okay.”

David went to stand in line, and when it was his turn, he spun around and saw Daniel, standing there smiling.

“Remember.  Use me,” Daniel reminded with a smile.

David flicked his tongue across his lips as he thought about Daniel's words, and then he took a big breath and nodded.  As one of the working staff blindfolded the boy, she could hear him muttering under his breath, “Think big; think big; think big.”

The staffer spun David around in a circle and then told him to swing away.  David took a big swipe.  Unfortunately, he swung so hard that he missed and fell.  Some of the children laughed, but David stood up, repeating his mantra, “Think big, think big, think big.”

David took another whack using all his might and landed a crushing blow to the pinata which cracked open, spilling out its candied guts as it fell to the floor.  The children cheered, and David removed his blindfold.  He stood with eyes as big as dollars as he saw what he had done.

“Daniel, did you see?” David asked in a huge voice.

“I saw!  I told you that you could do it!” Daniel praised.

David ran to Daniel and gave him a big hug, and then returned to his chocolate treasure.

Daniel smiled, feeling a satisfaction that warmed his heart.  He continued to watch, knowing David's self-esteem had just taken a huge leap forward.

====

Meanwhile, Jack had gone over to check out the older kid's dance.  He laughed at some of the dances.

~Whatever happened to the Twist?~  The dapper general visited with several of the kids, and then he spotted Jennifer who, like David had been in the other room, was sitting quietly over in a corner.  He grabbed a couple of glasses of punch and walked over to the pre-teen.  He held out the glass and asked, “How about a Hawaiian Punch?”

“Huh?” Jennifer asked as she looked up, surprised.

“Old joke.”

“Joke?”

“It was a TV commercial ... back in the dinosaur days,” Jack sighed as he pushed the cup of punch in front of Jennifer, motioning for her to take it as he sat down in a chair next to her.

“Thank you, but if I had wanted some, I could have gotten it myself,” the stubborn brunette replied.

“Jenny, why do you act so tough?”

“Jennifer!”

“Oh, geez, not another one,” Jack stated.

“What does that mean?” Jennifer asked, feeling a bit agitated by the comment.

“Daniel.  He's not much on nicknames, but I think nicknames are a requirement of life.  Are you going to tell me no one has ever called you Jenny?”

With an exasperated sigh, the teenager said, “Jen.  You can call me Jen, if you have to.”

“Is that what your parents called you?”  When Jennifer nodded, Jack asked, “Did you like it?”  After the girl nodded in affirmation once again, he agreed, “Okay, Jen it is.  So, Jen, why aren't you out there fraternizing with the boys?”

Jennifer shrugged, her head bowed as she answered, “They're immature.  Besides, they don't like me, and that's okay, because I don't like them.”

“Which brings me back to my original question.  Why do you act so tough?” Jack questioned.

“I have to.  I have to take care of my brother and sister.  I won't let them separate us.  I won't, even if we have to ...”

Jack knew the rest of the sentence, even though Jennifer didn't complete it, and said, “Even if you have to run away?  Jen, that's not a solution, and even if you could get away with it, what kind of life would that be for Chenoa?”

“We'd be together.”

“Hiding in some flea-bag basement?  On the streets?  In a cardboard box?  Is that what you want for your brother and sister?” Jack asked pointedly.

“It's not fair.”  Jennifer looked away as she swallowed hard.  Wiping her eyes, trying to remain tough and not cry, the girl repeated, “We'd be together.”

“Molly's going to do everything she can to keep you together.  I'm sure she'll find a way.”

“If she doesn't, I will.  Being together is the most important thing.  Who needs parents anyway?” Jennifer asked more rhetorically than anything else.

Jack heard the threatening tone.  He also recognized the determination and the dedication the teenager had to keep her family united.  There was truth there, in the strength of togetherness, but David and Chenoa were too young.  They needed parents.

~And so do you, even if you do think you have all the answers.  I have news for you, Jen.  You don't even know what the questions are yet,~ Jack thought.  He decided it was time to lighten the conversation.  After all, this was a party.  He asked, “How about a dance?”

“What?”

“So I'm an old fogey.  Dance with me anyway,” Jack requested.

“With you, General Jack?  The girls would just die with envy,” Jennifer spoke, her tone a bit dreamy for the very first time since Jack had known her.

Jack smiled inside at the change in Jennifer's tone.  Suddenly, the edge had dropped from her voice, and her face had softened.  His simple request for a dance had changed the girl's entire demeanor.  She was even smiling now.

“Die with envy?”

“Yeah, next to Daniel, you're the hottest thing around,” Jennifer replied.

“Next to Daniel,” Jack mocked as he made a funny face.

“He's cute, positively buff!”

“Buff?”

“Yeah!” Jennifer exclaimed, her dreamy tone even dreamier now.

“Well, you'll have to make do with me,” Jack said, standing, offering his hand.

Jennifer smiled.  It was the first really big smile Jack had seen her exhibit.  They began dancing to the crazy music of the day.

“You know, this stuff is highly overrated,” Jack opined.  “Try this.”  He pulled the young girl closer to him, whispering, “It's called a waltz, and it is absolutely one of the most romantic dances in the world.”

“It's dorky.  They'll laugh at me,” Jennifer whined.

“I thought you said that second to Daniel I was ... hot!”

“You are.  Look, they're positively green with envy already,” the girl said, motioning to several of the other girls, all of whom were watching the two dance.

“Trust me.  This will really make them jealous,” Jack insisted as he led his youthful dance partner in a slow, sweet waltz.

The other girls continued to watch, each wishing they were Jennifer, especially when Jack dipped her.  Soft sighs of longing were heard, even over the loud music.

“Wow!  That was awesome, General Jack.”

Jack smiled as they continued to move to the music of the unplayed waltz.  Covertly, the girl looked around and noticed that, in spite of the fast music, most of the teens were now attempting the slower waltz steps themselves.

Jennifer leaned her head against Jack's chest and whispered, “Thank you, General Jack.”

“You're welcome.”

--

From the corner of the room, Daniel watched, a smile on his face.  He imagined Jack dancing with Aislinn when she grew up.  He also had visions of his husband on the porch with his P-90 fending off the suitors.  He laughed, but then he got lost in the sweetness of the picture he was viewing -- Jack making everything better for a girl who had no one but her siblings.

Daniel began to think about little Chenoa.  She had a big bright smile, a contagious giggle, and was so easy to please.  Her curly locks reminded him of Shirley Temple.

~She just needs the good ship Lollipop to set sail on,~ Daniel mused, knowing he sounded more like Jack than himself at the moment.  He also knew all she wanted was to be loved and feel safe.  ~A daddy's girl, wanting to be held.~

The archaeologist sighed, realizing Chenoa would find a good home, but knowing it would probably be away from Jennifer and David.  He had been just eight when his parents died, and as he had gotten older, he'd had problems remembering things about them.  Chenoa was even younger, just a toddler, so Daniel knew the odds were that as the little girl grew up, she would probably remember very little about her birth parents, about the loving couple that had given her life and then tragically lost theirs in a car accident.

~And what about Jen and David?~ Daniel lamented, fearing Chenoa would become a stranger to her siblings, growing up to forget them or remember only scattered images of her very protective older sister and brother, who were now fighting so hard to keep the three of them together as a family.

The young man reflected back on his last session with David and some other children.  David was shy, choosing to remain a loner.  He used his language skills as a weapon to lash back at the others whenever they caused him hurt or pain.  Daniel knew what that was like, too.

A part of the archaeologist wished he could bring the boy home, but that was a silly thought.  With triplets at home, another baby on the way, and firm plans to adopt down the road, Daniel was sure Jack would scream bloody murder if he even had a clue what he had silently wished.

~It's ridiculous; he'd never agree to it,~ Daniel sighed.  ~It's crazy.  I know I'm just being overly emotional, but ... oh, shut up, Jackson.~

Not wanting to intrude or think anymore about his secret desire, Daniel walked out of the dance area and went outside to watch the stars.

====

A few minutes later, Jack found his husband outside.  The two talked for a while, sharing stories of their encounters with the Morgan children and others.

“I'm glad we came,” Jack stated.

“Me, too.”

“Shall we ...”

“Definitely, shall,” Daniel chuckled as the lovers left for their romantic hotel rendezvous where they reunited their bodies in a joyful chorus of love and lust.

====

“Gawd, Jack.  I can't leave you to take care of the kids.  You can barely take care of yourself.”

Daniel sighed.  This was not the time for his husband to be sick.  Jack had a nasty summer cold, complete with temperature and frequent trips to the bathroom.  It had been five weeks since Molly's announcement, and time was ticking away on finding the children in Molly's care a permanent home.

On this particular day, the archaeologist was scheduled to work with a small group of students that included Jennifer and David on their language skills and linguistics.

“Bring them here,” Jack suggested, his voice hoarse from frequent coughing.

“What?”

“Call Carter to help, and then call Molly.  Tell her I'm sick,” Jack elaborated.

“We've never brought them here before,” Daniel replied softly as he looked towards the nursery, uncertainty filling him.

“Danny, we have baby monitors all over the friggin' house.  Our Munchkins are in a pattern now that's pretty reliable.  Have Sam pick up the kids from the shelter, and bring them here.”

“Are you sure?  I mean, we've never really let people ... I mean, you know how we are.”

“I also know we're getting more out of this little project than we ever thought we would.  We're not talking the NID here.  We're talking a few kids for a few hours.  We can handle the invasion, don't you think?” Jack challenged.

“I love you.”

Jack coughed, then replied, “Love you, too, Angel.”

====

An hour later, Sam arrived with Jennifer, who had reluctantly agreed to leave Chenoa with Molly, David, and three other children.  As Daniel proceeded with their lesson, Sam checked on the babies, and on Jack.

“Is there anything you need, Sir?”

Jack coughed, seeing his former 2IC standing in the doorway to the master bedroom.

“Uh, does ...” Jack paused, wanting to ask his question carefully.  “Does my husband know you're here?”

As Jack coughed again, Sam answered, “Yes, Sir.  I have permission to check on you.”  Sam laughed, adding, “From both Daniel and Pete, I might add.”

“Good.  I'm not sure which one I was more afraid of.”

“I'm guessing Daniel,” Sam quickly responded.

“That would probably be a good guess.”

====

A while later, Sam joined Daniel as the lesson shifted a bit towards science.  As she was explaining the topic, a cry came over the baby monitor.

“I'll be back,” Daniel said.

Jennifer watched curiously as Daniel walked up the stairs, and then she stared at the baby monitor, noting the crying stopped just a moment later.

“Shhh, Daddy's here,” Daniel soothed, a comment Jennifer could just hear over the speaker before it was turned off.

Daniel held Aislinn in his arms, speaking to her with an abundance of love.  She calmed, until suddenly both Jonny and Little Danny began to cry.

“Oh, gawd,” Daniel exclaimed quietly before swearing in Arabic.  “Now what?  Geez,” he chuckled, “three crying babies and one daddy.  I'm in such trouble.  I really need more hands.  Have some I could borrow?” he jokingly asked his daughter.  Then, as the cries grew louder and more persistent, he continued, “Do you all have to do this now?  Jack is sick, and we have company.  Come on, Munchkins.  Give Daddy a break.”  He startled, stopping his pacing with Aislinn.  Panicked, he said, “Oh no ... Do I sound like Dad?  Now, I'm *really* in trouble.”

Daniel tried to laugh at his ramblings as he continued his attempt to get his daughter to stop her wails.  It was a bit comical in ways; he was only flustered because of the children downstairs.

~Okay, Jackson.  You do this all the time.  Deep breath.  That's it.  Now, let's see if we can get the boys to calm down.~

Daniel turned, about to walk over to the crib to try and calm his other two children, but suddenly aware, the cries had stopped.  As he completed his turn, he was stunned to see Jennifer holding Jonny and tickling Little Danny.  Little Danny was cooing, and Jonny seemed fascinated by the new person in his life.

“Um, wow,” Daniel heard himself say.

The Munchkins, especially Little Danny, had never taken so quickly to a stranger, but they seemed to be loving the pre-teen.

“Are they ... yours?” Jennifer asked a bit shyly.

“Yes,” Daniel answered proudly.  “This is Aislinn,” he introduced as he smiled and kissed his daughter.  “The big one you're holding is Jonny, and the little guy you just tickled is, uh, Danny.”

“I didn't know you were married,” Jennifer stated.

“Um,” Daniel flinched a tad, “Yes, I am; have been for a few years now.”

Daniel turned away a bit.  He was a tad nervous, not in the sense that he was ashamed, but the subject of his marriage to Jack had never come up before with the children at the shelter.  In fact, their personal lives had never been touched upon.

The couple had finally told Molly about their marriage a couple of weeks earlier during one of her visits to the house, deciding that with all the extra time they were now putting in at the shelter, she needed to know, especially with more people from Social Services dropping by as Molly worked to find homes for the children.  It had been right before their dinner that Jack and Daniel had hesitantly told her the truth.

//Flashback//
“Hey, Gorgeous,” Jack began.  “You know you asked me once if I was married, and I told you I was.  What I didn't tell you is that I am married to Daniel.  The babies are ours, courtesy of a wonderful woman who acted as a surrogate.  In fact, we're having another.”

“We thought you should know, Molly, with all the state workers hovering around these days, just in case,” Daniel added.

Molly smiled warmly, shaking her head and then laughing, “Darlins, I've known the truth for many a day.”

“You ... you have?” Daniel asked, wondering how long the Irish woman had known.

“Oh, Daniel, me darlin', do you really think you can hide the love you have for Jackie Boy here?  And you, so formal, the big, tough general.  When your Daniel's around, you are nothing but silly putty.  Your eyes give you away.  Now, let's eat.  I'm starved!”
//End of Flashback//

Remembering that night filled Daniel with joy.  He always felt good when someone new learned the truth about his marriage and reacted positively, as Molly had.  Still, they continued to believe that it wasn't their place to make decisions for other people, people who would become parents to the children at the shelter.

As Daniel changed Aislinn's diaper, he wasn't sure if he had a right to mention anything about his lifestyle to Jennifer.

“Where's your wife?” the girl inquired curiously.

“Wwwife?” Daniel stuttered.  Then he sighed.  ~What do I say now?~

Suddenly, Jennifer began to notice things she hadn't before.  The room was full of photos of the babies and of Jack and Daniel with the babies.

“Oh wow!” the teenager exclaimed.  “You're with General Jack?”

Daniel smiled nervously, but he nodded in the affirmative.  He would never lie about his marriage, not anymore.

“That's neat.  He's a good guy.  He treats me like ... like he ... respects me or something.  They let you adopt?” Jennifer questioned.

“Well, they're ours.  We ... um, oh gawd.”

“A surrogate?” Jennifer surmised.

Daniel was amazed at the girl's perception, but after all, Jennifer wasn't a child.  Certainly, she would have heard about artificial insemination and surrogate mothers before, so Daniel decided to be calm and answer her questions as best he could.

“Yeah,” the younger father confirmed.

“Neat!”

“Actually, crazy as it sounds, we're having another,” Daniel heard himself saying.  ~Why did I tell her that?~

“Really?”

“Yes, we, uh, it's complicated, but the same surrogate who gave birth to these three,” Daniel motioned to indicate the triplets, “well she ... she's pregnant again.  In fact, we're going to name our baby Jennifer,” he said brightly.  ~Oh, well.  In for a penny, in for a pound.~

“Wow!  So you know it's a girl?”

“In a way.  I mean, we're not testing.  We just ... it's complicated, but we know it'll be a girl, and we know it'll be our Jennifer.”

Jennifer smiled, seeming to understand in spite of the complex situation.  Daniel watched as she continued to tend to the male Munckins while he finished putting Aislinn's pants back on after changing her wet diaper.  The pre-teen appeared to have the babies wrapped around her finger.  Jonny was playing with her nose, and Little Danny had his hands up in the air playing with her hand that continued to tickle and caress the infant.

“Can I show David?” Jennifer asked.

“Show David?”

“He likes babies ... a lot.  Before our parents died, Mom let him take care of Noa.  She, Mom, was ... sick a lot, but he loved to help her.  She told him Noa was his.  It's going to be hard on him when ...”

Jennifer stopped, but Daniel knew the end of the sentence anyway.  This was also the first time Jennifer had talked so calmly about anything with Daniel.  She had finally let her guard down.

“You said Noa?”

“Oh, when Noa was born, David couldn't say her name right; I mean, he had a difficult time saying Chenoa.  All he could get out was Noa, so that's what we call her,” Jennifer explained.

“She likes it?”

“It's her name.”  Suddenly, she made a face as she recalled, “Oh, that's right.  General Jack says you aren't fond of nicknames.  He likes them, though.  So, can I show David?”

“Uh, hold on a second, and for the record, I like nicknames.  I just like to drive Jack crazy by making him think I don't,” Daniel corrected.

Jennifer laughed, and Daniel started to move forward, but he stopped, deciding this might be a good time to ask the girl about her brother.

“Jennifer, David knows some very unusual foreign languages.”

“Arabic, Russian, German, and a little French ... oh, and Italian, too,” Jennifer responded.

“All of those?” a surprised Daniel asked.

“He's very smart.  Our parents homeschooled us.  They used a lot of those instructional videos,” Jennifer stated.

“David learned Arabic and Russian from videos?”

Jennifer nodded and expounded, “He has a thing for languages and science junk. He could sit and watch those boring historical shows all day long and never get tired.  So, can David come and see the babies?  Next to mummies and junk, he loves babies the best.”

“Mummies?”

“Yeah, you know, those Egyptian dead people,” Jennifer clarified.

“Right,” Daniel replied dryly, though inwardly, he was chuckling at the definition.

Jennifer laughed at Daniel's reaction, though she didn't quite understand it.

Daniel felt more conflicted than ever.  He had never left the babies alone with someone he didn't know extremely well, let alone a twelve-year-old girl.  Yet, Jennifer looked to be a natural with them.  They were happy and content with her, so he decided to trust her very briefly.

“Uh, I'll be right back,” Daniel said.  Still holding Aislinn, but keeping her facing away from Jack, Daniel entered the master bedroom.  “Jack ...”

“Danny, Ash'll get sick.  You know better than to ...”

“Jack, be quiet and listen.  Ash is fine.  Jennifer is a natural with the babies.  She says David is, too.  What do you think?”

“Danny, what are you talking about?” a confused Jack asked before letting out a nasty cough that made him growl.

Daniel rambled on, talking as fast as he could.  He was still anxious about having left Jennifer alone with Jonny and Little Danny.  He wanted Jack's okay, his approval, and at the same time, he didn't want to admit he had already left their children alone with the almost teenager.

“Whoa, Danny, slow down.  Breathe, Love,” Jack said.  “You're giving me a headache.  Now, if you trust Jen, and what she's said, and that big heart of yours is telling you it's okay, then just follow your heart, but WATCH OUR BABIES!” he warned.  Seeing his lover's expression, he surmised, “You left the boys with her, right?”

Daniel nodded, nervously looking towards the door as he began to speak, “You should see her.  What about David?  Are you okay with that?”

“Sure, just watch them.  He's young, Danny.”

“I love you,” Daniel said as he turned and walked out, returning to the nursery.

Daniel stopped still at what he saw.  Jennifer had both babies on the bed that was in the corner of the room and was happily playing with them.  The two boys were laughing and cooing, their arms and legs reaching out for the girl as she laughed and talked to them.  Seeing the cute scene prompted Daniel to make a decision that frightened him just a little.

Quickly, Daniel placed Aislinn next to Jonny and said to Jennifer, “Be right back ... uh, again.”

Still nervous, but feeling that what he was doing was the right thing, Daniel ran downstairs.

“Sorry, Sam.  I need to borrow David for a couple of minutes.”  One of the children started to ask Daniel a question, but his courage only extended for so long.  “Um sorry.  I'll be back down soon.”

Daniel took David's hand and hurried up the stairs, almost pulling at the small boy in his haste.  His worry was unfounded as when he walked into the nursery, all three babies were happy as clams.  Jennifer was still playing with them and was actually singing them a lullaby.  The three babies were entranced by her.

“They like you,” Daniel spoke.

“They're very sweet.  David, come look.  Triplets!”

David's eyes grew wide as he walked next to his older sister.  Daniel watched the two interact with his children for several minutes.  He found his heart was swelling with something he wasn't sure he could define, or maybe he was just afraid to.

Quietly, without saying a word, Daniel returned to the master bedroom.  He removed the blankets and tugged Jack up.

“Hey, have some ... <cough> ... respect for the sick.”

“You have to see this, Jack.”

Jack saw the mistiness in his husband's eyes and followed as instructed.  Standing in the doorway of the nursery, he watched in equal amazement as Jennifer and David interacted with his children.

“Hey, General Jack!” Jennifer greeted warmly.  “Your babies are beautiful!”

“I love babies,” David said.  “Are they yours, General Jack?”

“Um.”  Jack looked at Daniel, feeling the same conflicting emotions as Daniel had earlier.  “Yes, they're mine and Daniel's,” he opted to answer truthfully.

“What are their names?” David asked, totally unphased by Jack's answer, something that made Jack smile.

A couple minutes later, though, after answering a bunch of questions about the triplets, Jack began to weaken.

**Danny, I need to go back to bed.**

“Jennifer, watch the babies for me, okay?”

Smilely brightly, Jennifer answered, “Sure, Daniel.”

====

Daniel helped Jack back into bed, pulling the covers up and also giving his husband another dose of medication.

“They're pretty amazing, Jack.”

“The Munchkins love them,” Jack replied.  ~I do, too.  We have to find them a good home.~

~Me, too,~ Daniel thought silently.  ~We have to make sure they stay together; there has to be a way.~  He looked towards the door and said, “I'd better get back.  I love you.”

“Love you, Angel.”

====

After a quick side trip to the kitchen for three bottles, Daniel returned to the nursery, finding everything still running smoothly.

“They need to get some more sleep, Jennifer,” the archaeologist said softly as he placed the bottles on the dresser so he could give one to each baby as he laid them down for their naps.

“Okay.”

Daniel instinctively started to move towards his children, but then he noticed Jennifer handling everything.  He decided to stand back and watch, ready to step in quickly, though, if needed.

“David, watch Danny and Aislinn while I put Jonny down,” Jennifer requested.

“Okay, Sis.”

Daniel watched carefully as Jennifer gave Jonny a bottle when he started to cry.  Then she put the middle child in the crib, rubbing Little Danny's stomach just the way he always liked it.  Next, she put Aislinn down, playing with her tiny fingers for a moment.

Finally, after Jennifer had put all three of the triplets in the crib and after giving Little Danny and Aislinn their bottles, the girl sang a quick lullaby.

David stood on the other side of the crib, carefully taking the bottles and placing them back on the dresser after each baby had finished theirs.  It wasn't long before the littlest Jackson-O'Neills were sound asleep.

Daniel noticed David's smile as he had listened to his sister and the caring look in the small boy's eyes as he had watched the children fall into their slumber.  Jennifer was right; David obviously adored babies.

Quietly, the Morgan children began to walk out of the nursery, until Jennifer stopped suddenly, saying, “Oh, wait.”

Daniel watched as she walked to the baby monitors and turned them back on.

“Thanks, Jennifer.  You, too, David.  We'd better get back downstairs,” Daniel said, pleased by the last several minutes.

“Your babies are beautiful, Daniel.”

“I love babies,” David said.  “Can we come play with them again?”

“Uh, we'll see,” Daniel answered.

====

Later that night, Jack and Daniel talked briefly about what had happened.

“She turned on the monitors?” Jack asked.

“Yeah.  Jack, she did everything with great care,” Daniel informed.  “There wasn't any hurry, and she didn't take any shortcuts, either.”

“She's helped raise David and Chenoa, so she has experience,” Jack stated.

“Yeah,” Daniel agreed, yawning.

“Night, Love,” Jack sighed as he let out a yawn, too.  He chuckled.  ~How does he go to sleep so fast?~

====

Jack put away the athletic equipment in the storage room of the shelter and headed upstairs.  He walked to the room where he knew Daniel was giving some private tutoring to David in Arabic.

When he arrived at the room, Jack observed Daniel and David sitting at a small table, rambling on in Arabic and laughing.  David had a nice laugh, and as he thought back, he couldn't really recall hearing the boy laugh that often.  It made him think of Daniel and the decades of pain his lover had gone through.

Silently, Jack stood in the doorway and watched.  Daniel was connecting with this youngster big time.  Every bone in Jack's body told him so.  He smiled, thinking about the youngest Morgan child, Chenoa.  Her love for ice cream was even bigger than his own.  Then he pictured the overly protective pre-teen.  He felt her heartache the most.

Jennifer would remember her parents more than the others, and she'd also feel the separation the hardest.  If Molly didn't find a loving family for the up-front girl, he wasn't sure what might become of her.

For a moment he wished he could intervene, but that would be impossible.  They had triplets at home and another baby coming.  Daniel would think he was nuts for even entertaining the notion of adding the three children to their growing family.  He continued to try and think of alternatives -- the Rancolinis, the Jenkins; there had to be someone out there willing and able to adopt this wonderful trio of children.

“General Jack!” David smiled.

“Hi, Davey.”

“David.”

“Right,” Jack smirked and exchanged a “been there, done this” look with him.  “You don't like Davey?”

“It's okay, but my parents always called me David, and I like it a lot.  I guess if you really want to call me Davey, you can.  I just ...” the boy shrugged.

“David, it is,” Jack said, realizing that in this case, a nickname wasn't the right thing.

Jack and Daniel said goodbye to David and then headed home to their family.

As the lovers walked to the Silver Fox, the younger man said, “You made an assumption back there.”

Jack nodded, saying, “He's a lot like you, Danny, and I thought, okay, I assumed that his inner Davey was waiting to come out.”

Daniel chuckled, “Well, in this case, Love, his inner Davey is really an inner David, and there's nothing wrong with that.”

“Not a thing, Danny,” Jack agreed wholeheartedly.

====

“They sound like great kids,” Kayla said as she sipped her tea.

“They are,” Daniel responded.  “Molly is really doing everything she can to find homes for all the children in her shelter, but ... I don't know.  It's just hard to think about children like David and his sisters being brought up like I ...”

Daniel stopped his comments.

“Daniel, I know your childhood wasn't happy, but there are others who had positive experiences.  Try to hang on to that.  Think good thoughts for them,” the young woman urged.

“Yeah, you're right.”

“I'll bet this is hard on Jack, too,” Kayla spoke.

“He's a big softie where children are concerned,” Daniel acknowledged.  “He's actually at the shelter now, putting in even more time.  It's funny, Kayla, but this started as being a few hours a week, and now it's been like a job.  I mean, a good one, but we ... I don't know.”

“I do.  You care.  It's the reason the Munchkins, and this little darling,” Kayla rubbed her belly, “are so lucky.  They have parents who love and want the best for all children.”

“Thanks.”

“What are you thanking me for?  You're doing the hard part.”  Looking over at the clock, Kayla expressed.  “Whoops.  Hey, I have to go.  I don't want to be late for my appointment with Sylvia.”

“Don't ...”

“I know, Daniel.  I'll call you later and give you the blow by blow,” Kayla stated, used to Jack's and Daniel's need to know everything that was happening in the pregnancy.

“I guess we're a bit ... overly ... over the top,” Daniel said, trying to smile.

“Daniel, I wouldn't have it any other way.  I'm glad you two are so devoted, that you care about me as much as the kids, and I know you do.”

“We love you, Kayla.  You're part of our family.”

“I love you, too.”  The two hugged, and Daniel walked the mother of his children to the door.  “Talk to you soon.”  He watched Kayla walk to her car.  ~Another little life.  Thank you for making my dreams come true.  Gawd, I wish we could make the dreams of all the children at Molly's shelter come true, too.  I wish.  I just wish.~

====
-- Chapter Eight:  The Luck of the Irish
====

With the phone cradled between his ear and his shoulder while holding Aislinn in one arm and trying to prevent the cover from a small cup of apple juice she was drinking from coming loose with the other, Daniel went to the door, kneeling down slightly to barely grab a hold of the knob in order to open it.

“Yeah, I know, Sam, but ... Mark, hi,” the archaeologist greeted.  Back into the phone, he spoke, “Sam, I have to go.  I'll call you later.”

“You look like you have your hands full,” Mark Kingston spoke with amusement.

“It's been one of those mornings,” Daniel replied.  “Come on in,” he spoke, finally getting the lid on the cup and situated better in the baby's hands and thus allowing the cordless to phone drop to his hand.  Putting the phone down on the entranceway table, he asked, “Is there a problem?”

Mark laughed as he entered the living room, sat down on the sofa, and put his briefcase on the coffee table.  The lawyer had a huge grin on his face and quickly realized Daniel hadn't a clue why he had chosen to make a legal house call, which was not something he usually did.

“Mark?”

“Where's Jack?”

“Uh ... JACK!” Daniel shouted, suddenly getting an eerie feeling and forgetting about any other less audible methods of communication.

“Whoa, Danny!  I just got Jonny to slee... Mark!” Jack asked.  “This is a surprise,” he added as he stepped down onto the carpeted floor from the stairs.

Standing, Mark extended his hand, shaking Jack's.

“I have no idea,” Daniel stated when Jack gave him a questioning look.

“She's about to lose ...” Jack began, pointing to the cup.

As Daniel helped Aislinn hold the cup steady again, he explained, “We're trying to get the babies more accustomed to cups.  She's rebelling.”

“Stubborn, like her parents,” Mark jested.

“Funny,” Jack responded dryly.  “Why the house call, and I hope we're not paying for it.”

Mark laughed, “This one's on the house, Jack.”  He looked at the two men and shook his head.  “Have you two had your heads stuck in the ground the last few days?”

“We've ... been busy,” Daniel responded, shrugging.

“Haven't either of you watched the news, listened to the radio, or read the newspaper?”

“Mark, we have triplets,” Jack responded as if that explained the couple's lack of knowledge regarding current events.

“Jack,” Daniel chastised lightly.  “Actually, we have had a couple of crazy days.  What's happened?”

“Friday was an historic day.  HB1330 became law,” Mark announced.

“That's nice.  What  does that mean?” Jack asked, having no clue what the legislative item had to do with he or his lover.

“It means we don't need the President to make the adoptions legal,” Mark informed as he pulled out some papers.  “Now, those ...”

“What?” Jack and Daniel both interrupted at the same time.

“Fellas, HB1330 allows for second parent adoptions in the state of Colorado.  While the state still doesn't recognize your domestic union, it does now recognize the obligations of keeping our children protected,” Mark spoke.  “In plain English, Jack, Daniel, they look at you now as if you were a step-parent to each other's biological children.”

“We ... we can legally adopt each other's children?” Daniel sought to verify.

“I've spoken with my contact in the White House.  The Presidential decree has already gone into effect.  The papers are on their way to my office, but, I thought we'd cover all the bases.  He agreed that having this on the public record, going through the state court, would be a smart thing to do,” Mark informed.

“There should have been a memo on this,” Jack quipped wryly, still a bit stunned about the news.  “You know, I remember reading about the bill being proposed, but the opposition  to it was strong.”

“I remember that, too,” Daniel admitted.  “I never thought it would make it through.”

“It did, and Governor Ritter signed it.  It's the law.  Now, I'm fudging for you guys by having you sign these forms without the names filled in.”

“The DNA,” Daniel surmised.

“That's still the hard part about this,” Mark informed.  “That's why I'm keeping the White House involved, to help smooth over any rough patches we may have as a result.  Gentlemen, sign here,” Mark said, pointing to the papers and placing his pen atop them.

“Sweet!” Jack exclaimed as he walked forward and signed the documents.  When he was through, he took Aislinn from Daniel, saying, “How about that, Ash?  Dad and Daddy are about to be legal without Presidential intervention.”

With the papers signed, Mark snapped shut his briefcase and stood up saying, “Congratulations.  When the Presidential Order arrives, I'll send it over.  You may have to undergo some home study visits by the state social workers.”

“Bring 'em on,” Jack challenged happily.

“All things considered, Jack, I suspect it will be minimal because of the Presidential Order, but I do think they'll at least come by to make sure the home is in order,” Mark stated.

“Like I said, bring 'em on,” Jack stated confidently.

While walking the lawyer to the door, Daniel asked, “Mark, what about the future?”

“You mean the baby Kayla is carrying?  Because he or she is the biological child of one of you, the other will also be able to adopt,” Mark answered.  “That's the intent of the law.”

“Okay, good, but what about the future?” Daniel questioned.  “What I mean is that we've talked about adopting children down the road.”

Mark sighed, shaking his head as he answered, “I'm sorry, Daniel.  The law is limited in its scope.  Someone may challenge that down the road, and it might create a loophole that could open the door, but the intent is only to cover children already in the household or born into it biologically.”

“Like a step-parent,” Daniel responded.

“There's hope, Daniel.  It might be a tiny step forward, but it is at least a move in the right direction.  Keep the faith,” Mark urged, patting Daniel on the shoulder, smiling at Jack, and then saying, “See ya, Cutie,” to Aislinn before turning, opening the door, and walking to his car.

“Now that was a surprise,” Jack stated.

“A nice one,” Daniel admitted.  “I still wish ...”

“Me, too,” Jack said.  “But, Danny, that's one less battle we have to fight.”

“Yeah,” Daniel acknowledged, smiling at their youngest Munchkin.

“Speaking of adoptions, I need to call Dave and Julie,” Jack stated, handing Aislinn back to the archaeologist.

“Do you think there's a chance?”

“I hope so,” Jack sighed, giving both Daniel and Aislinn a kiss before heading into his study to place an important phone call.

====

One week later, Jack and Daniel headed for Molly's shelter to put in a couple of hours with the children.  Teal'c was babysitting for only the second time, and both Jack and Daniel were a little anxious.  Then again, they knew Teal'c would protect their Munchkins at all costs.  Still, they were nervous, so Sam had agreed to drop by unannounced, just as she had done when Cassandra had first babysat the triplets.

As the lovers drove silently to the shelter, each was sad.  This would be one of their last trips to the children's home.  Molly had managed to place two-thirds of the children previously in her care with adoptive families and was working hard to get the remaining children placed.  The couple was also very worried about the Morgan siblings.  The prospect of them being placed together in a home was shrinking more day by day.

Although neither of them had admitted it, both Jack and Daniel had each formed a special connection with the three children and simply couldn't stand the thought of them being separated.

An hour later, as Jack watched Jennifer show a couple of the remaining boys how to lay down a bunt, he thought back to the week earlier when he had such hope that Jennifer and her siblings would find a happy home with friends of his.

//Flashback//
Knowing the Jenkins were planning on adopting more children, Jack had contacted his friends.  Dave and Julie were very interested and had flown out the very next day to meet some of the remaining children.  They had spent all of Tuesday just visiting with the children and talking with Molly about them.

Towards the end of the day, Jack dropped by the shelter, hopeful the Morgans would find a home with Dave and Julie.

Julie spotted the retired general walking down the hall.  With a huge smile on her face, she approached him.  The friends chitchatted for a few minutes, and then finally, they began talking about the children.

“Aren't the Morgans great?” Jack asked.

“Jack,” Julie said, smiling though her heart was aching a little.  She knew Jack loved these children, more than he had even admitted to himself.  It was written all over his face.  She stepped a bit closer, took his hands, and said, “I know you have a special affection for those three children, and they are adorable, but we can't add three more children to our family right now.  It's just too much, especially with that adorable Chenoa.  She needs more attention than we can give her with our growing family.”

Jack was disappointed, but he smiled and nodded as he replied, “I'm glad you came, though, and were willing to consider adopting them.  Molly will understand.”

“Jack, three would be too many, but when we were introduced to the children this morning, there was a lovely girl.  She's nine, and she and our Danny hit it off right away.”

Jack smiled and asked excitedly, “Michelle?  Cute little blonde with dimples wider than the Mississippi?”

“That's the one.  She and Danny are in the library discussing ... some ancient land, and Dave is talking with Molly about her now,” Julie informed.

Their visit was definitely too short, and soon the Jenkins were headed home again.  They weren't able to take Michelle with them yet, but the paperwork had been started.

====

Three days later, Jack checked on another possibility and called his Academy chum, Dale Rancolini.

“Dale, have you and Nancy discussed adopting any of the kids from the shelter?”

“Jack, you could be their PR person,” Dale spoke.

“It's just I've known some of them a long time, and Molly's been able to find homes for most, but there's still some, you know, like the Morgan kids.  Great kids, loving, intelligent.”

“You don't have to sell me, Jack.  Nancy thinks we should,” Dale informed.

“The Morgans?”  Jack actually sat forward in his chair.  His heart stopped in anticipation.  ~Say 'yes', Dale.  These kids need a good home.~

“Sorry, Jack, not the Morgans.  They're a great bunch, but Nancy doesn't want a trio.  Maybe two.  She can't decide between those two boys.”

“Which ones?”

Jack sat back, deflated, but he had to remember that there was still hope for the other children Dale was talking about.

“You know, the carrot top and mechanics whiz.”

Jack laughed, “Oh, Joey or Mike.”

Joey was a redhead and Mike was good with machinery.  Both were ten years old, and as Jack and Dale talked, Jack knew that whichever boy his friends adopted would be lucky to have such terrific parents.  It wasn't a sure thing yet, but at least the Rancolinis were considering giving a good home to another child or two.
//End of Flashback//

His time with the children finished for the day and the baseball equipment put away, Jack met up with Daniel in the shelter's library.  Together, they went to Molly's office to let her know they were leaving, but would be back the next day.

Molly greeted both men with warm hugs and then sat down at her desk, motioning for them to sit down as well.  She began to give them an update.  It was going much better than expected as Molly's determination was paying off big time in finding homes for the children who had been in her care.

Then Molly sighed and took on the look of a defeated old woman as she spoke, “Boys, I don't know what to do.  The Martins love little Chenoa.  They want her.  I've held them off as long as I can.”

“What about Jennifer and David?” Daniel asked.

Molly shook her head as she continued, “It's going to devastate David not to be adopted with Chenoa, and I'm so worried about what it will do to Jennifer, but I'm out of time.”

“But ...” Daniel began.

“The Martins won't take anyone but the baby,” Molly spoke sadly, fidgeting with the release papers that would allow the couple to take the toddler.

Daniel sighed, exchanging a look with his soulmate.

“Well, Darlin's, I tried me best.  At least the wee one will have a good life.  I talked with Social Services, and they are just waiting for my call to come and get poor David.  And ...” Molly sighed dramatically, “Jennifer will be taken to a separate facility.  It's so sad.  The poor things, being pulled apart like this, their little world crashing down on them.”  Molly looked up slightly at Jack and Daniel, seeing both of them clearly squirming uncomfortably.  She continued in a soft, sad tone, “Poor little David, cut off from his precious baby sister and without the love and guidance of his big sister.  It's bad enough they lost their parents, but now they're going to lose each other.  It breaks me poor, old, sufferin' heart.”

Jack and Daniel sat quietly listening to Molly.  They didn't look at each other anymore.  Both were breathing a bit more heavily than normal, and both were moving restlessly in their seats.  Jack's hands were clenched together in a fist, and Daniel was self-hugging.

“Well, it must be His will that these sweet babes be torn apart, sent their separate ways, probably ne'er to be in the same room again.  I'll just sign the paper and call the welfare ...”  ~Time for the kill, me darlin's.  You'll forgive me soon enough,~ Molly thought as picked up her pen and began to sign her name.

“NOOOOO!” Jack and Daniel both yelled in unison as they jumped to their feet.

The couple stared at each other in shock and then looked at Molly who was grinning from ear to ear.

“You boys sure did take your sweet time.  Now, the baby's things are all packed.  David's, too.  Jennifer is still getting her stuff together.  Of course, I couldn't risk telling them where they were going, just in case you both decided to be stubborn.  I'll let you surprise them with the good news,” Molly spoke, unable to stop smiling.  She tore up the papers that would have sent the three Morgan children to separate places and pulled out a new file.  She quickly signed her name and then instructed, “Now, if you two boys will sign here, we'll be as official as we can be for now.”

Jack and Daniel were stunned.  Both looked at the paper, their names neatly typed in place.  They again stared at each other.

“Hurry now, your children will be waiting for you,” Molly ordered.

“Our ... our children?” Daniel asked softly.

Molly was still grinning.  Jack hadn't seen that kind of grin since his grandmother had caught him throwing a fish back into the lake when he was ten.

“You love those three babes.  You can't let them be separated, now can you?”  Molly pointed at the paper.  “Sign!”

Jack and Daniel again exchanged a look, and then Jack bellowed, “Oh, for crying out loud.”  He grabbed the pen, looked at the Irish woman, and said emphatically, “You set us up, you old matchmaker!”

“That I did, just as soon as I saw how you took to that young girl.  Jennifer needs a firm hand, Jack.  And David, he needs you, Daniel, to see he can overcome anything that life tosses his way.  And the wee babe, she just needs your love,” Molly expressed happily.

“Oh, gawd,” Daniel said as he signed the paper and then went to the window, feeling like he was about to hyperventilate.

“Molly, would you ...” Jack requested as he nodded towards the door.

“Of course.  I'll go get your children.”

Jack nodded and watched as Molly walked out, shutting the door behind her.  He walked over to Daniel, placed his hands on his lover's shoulders, and began rubbing gently against Daniel's upper arms.

“You okay with this, Love?”

“Gawd, Jack.  We came here to teach geography, and we're ... we're ...”

“Breathe, Angel.”  Jack turned Daniel and took him into his arms.  “It's crazy, isn't it?  Danny, I have a confession to make.”

“Tell me, but don't let go of me.”

“For quite a while now, I've kind of been thinking, wondering what it would be like to have those three with us all the time,” Jack confessed.

Daniel took a step back so he could look into Jack's eyes.  He couldn't believe what he had heard.  Why hadn't they talked about this?  Why had they both been so afraid?

“Are you serious?” Daniel asked.

“Yes, but I didn't say anything because I thought it was ridiculous.”

“Why, Jack?  I don't mean the ridiculous part, but why do you want them?” Daniel questioned.

Jack took a breath and Daniel's hand, gently tracing the wedding ring the young man wore.

“In part, it's what Molly said.  David,” Jack shook his head, “you said it, too, Love.  He's you a long, long time ago.  Look how far he's come since you began to work with him.  He was a scared, frightened boy, and now, he's talking more and gaining confidence.  He actually laughs when he's around you.  And Jen?  Jen ... she's beautiful, and Danny, no one is going to adopt her, not at her age. I can't stand the thought of those three children being torn apart.”

“Me, either.  It's what we worried about with our ... with our babies.  Jack ...”

“We'll have to talk with Sam, Sara, and Mark, and we'll need to give them an honest out.  This is far more than they bargained for.  We also need to take a good look at the bank account.  Going from three to seven all at once is dramatic.  I want to make sure their future is secured.  It'll make it easier on ... I mean ...”

“If something does happen,” Daniel completed.

“Right, and, Danny, the biggest reason, the one I can't let go of is that I love them,” Jack spoke without hesitation.

Daniel smiled, moisture in his eyes as he confided, “I do, too.  Gawd, Jack, I wanted them that first day by the tree.  I just wanted to take them home and hug them and make them part of our family.”

“Why didn't you say something?” the older man questioned incredulously.

“Why didn't you?”

“Because it's crazy.”

“And it's right ... isn't it?” Daniel asked.

Jack held Daniel tightly, knowing his husband needed the reassurance.  Their family life had just taken a turn they could never have imagined, and it was going to mean a lot of changes.

“We love them and so do our babies,” Jack answered.  “And the girls like them, too.  It definitely feels right.”  He rubbed the tension out of his husband's back, trying to calm and reassure his lover, who was still working on getting his steady breathing pattern back.  “You okay now?”

Daniel nodded, soaking in Jack's strength as his husband held him close, and then said, “It's unreal, Jack.  No one could have guessed this would be our future.”

“We don't have to do this.”

“Yes, we do.  Do you have any idea how happy I am?”

“Is it anything compared to how I feel?” Jack asked with a smile.

“I think so.”

“Then let's go get the new members of our family,” Jack suggested, still smiling as he motioned over towards the door.

“I love you, Jack.”

“I love you, Danny, so friggin' much,” Jack said before kissing his lover and leading him out to the hallway and their future.

====

“Hi, General Jack,” Jennifer said softly, a sad smile on her face as Jack walked towards her in the hallway.

“Daniel!” David called out.  He ran to the younger man and put his arms around him.  As Daniel's arms immediately wrapped around him, he said, “I didn't think I'd get to see you again.”

“Hi, kids,” Jack greeted, a smile on his face.

~I wish ...~ Jennifer's smile left her face as she stopped her silent thoughts.  She sighed unhappily, her eyes red from crying, as were David's.  Her voice was cracked as she informed the lovers that, “I think we're being separated today.  Mrs. O'Hanlon made us pack.”

“I know,” Jack said.

“Um,” Daniel expressed as he kneeled down to look at David.  Before he said anything else, though, he got a glimpse of Chenoa practically hiding behind her sister.  “Chenoa, would you come here please?”

The little girl peeked out from behind Jennifer's dress and walked slowly to Daniel.  David moved to the side so his sister was able to go right up to the archaeologist.

“Hey,” Daniel said softly, moving his left hand to rub against her cheek for a moment.

“Go bye-bye,” Chenoa sniffled, breaking Daniel's heart in the process, especially when tears began to run down her face.

Daniel smiled sweetly and spoke softly, “Actually, we'd like to ask you three a question.”

“I'm good at questions,” David said confidently, trying to hide his sadness.

Twirling her blonde, curly hair with one finger, little Chenoa simply stared at Daniel.  Daniel reached over and touched her hair, noticing how soft it was.  He took her little hand in his and held it.  She grinned at the loving motion.

Smiling, Daniel looked up at Jennifer for a few seconds, glanced again at David for another moment, and then finally said, “Jack and I were wondering how the three of you would feel about ...”

The archaeologist paused, a nervous anxiety filling him.  He looked up at his husband for strength.

Jack nodded in support, and sent a silent message -- **Go on, Love.**

Daniel nodded, and looked back at the three Morgan children, and started again, saying, “Well, we, Jack and I, were wondering how you'd feel about coming to live with us.  Would ... would, uh, you like to do that?”

Jennifer's eyes turned misty in an instant, only this time from joy, not sadness.  Her voice was excited, but timid.

“With you?  Both of you?  All of us?” the pre-teen asked enthusiastically.

“If you'd like to, we'd like you to stay with us, and see if you like it there; and if you do, then we can talk about all of you staying with us permanently.”

David threw his arms around Daniel and proclaimed, “I love you, Daniel.”

“Oh, gawd.”  Daniel lost it on the spot.  Holding the six-year-old boy tightly to him, he whispered, “I love you, too, David.  I want you to come home with us.  I don't want you to ever leave.”

Jennifer looked at Jack, who reached out and pulled her to him, and said, “Thank you, General Jack.”

Jack hugged the teenager tightly as she clung to him, the odd sniffle escaping as her tears of joy and relief made a damp patch on Jack's shirt.

“Home?” the toddler said.

David walked a few steps away, allowing Daniel to pick up the cute child.  He kissed her on the cheek and held her close.

The younger man's voice was barely audible when he nodded and said, “Yes, home.”

When Molly approached again, she saw all the wet faces, and her heart beat with joy.

~I knew they were perfect for one another.  I can rest now,~ Molly said to herself, knowing that somehow this family would be strong and happy together.

The Irish woman had managed to find homes for all but seven of her charges, a feat some had said would be next to impossible.  She hoped for yet a few more miracles before she left for Ireland.

====

All the way home, Jennifer and David chatted away excitedly while Jack and Daniel went through a nervous nightmare, silent thoughts flooding their minds.

**Jack, how are we going to do this?**

**With Love.  It's a good thing we did the remodeling of the garage already,** Jack replied.

**This is such a big step.  We're insane,** Daniel opined.

**Regrets, Danny?**

**No, but what are we going to do?**

**We're going to love them,** Jack answered simply, which is exactly what his husband needed.

**Gawd, Jack.  I love you so much.**

**Ditto, Angel.**  As he pulled into the driveway and parked the truck, Jack reached over and touched his husband's hand.  Their eyes locked.  **We'll be fine, Danny.**

**Yes, we will,** Daniel agreed as the couple got out of the vehicle.

“Home?” Chenoa asked as Jack picked her up.

“Home, Baby,” Jack answered, kissing her on the forehead.

Jack, Daniel, and the three Morgan children, luggage in hand, walked into the Jackson-O'Neill household where they were quickly greeted by Teal'c.

“T, er, Murray, how'd it go?” Jack questioned.

Teal'c stared at the unfamiliar children.  He had taught History and Civics to some of the older children at the shelter, but he had never met the Morgans.

“It went, O'Neill!”

“I guess that's good,” Jack said, wondering if it had gone well or badly, but deciding not to press the issue at the moment.

“I'll go check on the babies,” Jennifer said, beating Daniel's words by a hair.

Amazed, the parents watched her run up the stairs.

“Can I go see, too?” David asked eagerly.

“Sure,” Daniel answered, placing a supportive hand on David's back as they walked up the stairs to the nursery.

“They're asleep,” Jennifer said with a smile as she looked down at the triplets in their crib.

--

Back downstairs, Jack cleared his throat as Teal'c stared at the young child Jack was still holding.

“Murray, this is Chenoa, but we call her Noa.”

“Indeed,” Teal'c said in his deepest voice.

The toddler laughed, reaching out to touch Teal'c's forehead, and then she reached out to him, wanting him to hold her.

“Looks like you have a fan, Murray.”

“A fan?”

Jack gave Chenoa to Teal'c, who stood expressionless as she rubbed her hands against his head.

“A big fan,” Jack chuckled as he walked to the patio door and let in Bijou and Katie.  He knelt down and said, “Girls, our family has grown again.  You two are going to be spoiled rotten.  Trust me on this,” he said as he petted them.

“Doggies!” Chenoa cried out in laughter, struggling to get down.

At Jack's nod, Teal'c put Chenoa on the floor, and she toddled over to the two beagles.

“Ears funny,” Chenoa laughed, plopping down on the floor.

Bijou and Katie wagged their tails and licked Chenoa's face several times, causing the little girl to laugh even more.

“Murray, keep an eye out.  I need to bring in a few boxes from the truck and then I want to go see the Munchkins.”

“As you wish,” Teal'c agreed.

====

Upstairs, Jack joined his husband, who was on the opposite side of the crib from Jennifer and David.

“How are they?” the older man asked.

“Perfect,” Daniel said sincerely, a huge smile on his face that came from the knowledge that the three precious babies were theirs.

Jack slipped his hand around Daniel's waist and kissed his temple.  Then he looked across at Jennifer and saw her smile.  He took a deep breath.

“Jen, we need to talk.  We ... have some serious things to discuss,” Jack informed.

“About you and Daniel?” Jennifer surmised.

“Our life is ... it's different, and that might not be the easiest thing to live with.”

“Oh?”  Jennifer looked down at the babies.  She smiled lovingly at them, and then quietly said, “I don't think it's so hard.”  She leaned forward, adjusting the blankets that covered the babies.  A moment later, she asked nervously, “Are they my brothers and sister now, too?”

“Yes,” Daniel answered quickly and firmly.

“Good!” Jennifer exclaimed, ready and willing to become a caregiver to the infants.

“They're mine, too,” David said.  He ran over to the bed.  “Do I get to sleep here? It would be fun.”

Jack looked at Daniel for the answer.

The younger man shrugged and responded, “Gawd, I don't know.  We need to have a family meeting.”

“Family meeting,” Jack repeated.  “I like the sound of that.  You're right.  We need a family meeting.”

Just then, there was a knock at the door.  The family headed downstairs just in time to see Teal'c opening the door.

“Hey, Teal'c, I thought I'd ... oh, hi, General, Daniel ... Jennifer? and David?” Sam greeted, surprised to see the children there, her voice stuttering slightly.

“And you know Noa, of course,” Jack said.

Daniel nodded over to the toddler, who was still happily playing with the two beagles.

“I was here earlier and then left to do some shopping.  Thought I'd drop by and see if Te...Murray wanted a ride back to the base,” Sam stated, her eyes opening wide as she noticed the suitcases and boxes spread around the living room.

“Guess what, Sam?” Jennifer asked, her expression one of happiness.

“We're being adopted,” David shouted out, unable to contain his enthusiasm.

“A...a...a...ado...ado...” Sam gulped and then coughed.

“We, uh, oh gawd, Sam, I'm sorry,” Daniel apologized, rubbing her back as she stared at him in absolute terror.

“You ... you're ... all of ... really?” Sam tried to ask, but found she had lost all ability to speak intelligently at the moment.

“Don't worry, Carter.  We can discuss that other matter at another time.  We'll make arrangements,” Jack said, not blaming the blonde at all for backing out of their deal.  ~This would really turn her life around; I can't hold it against her for backing out.  This is three more children than she bargained for, and it wasn't our deal.~

Chenoa's laughter drew Sam's attention.  She watched David run to her and give his sister a hug and then plop down to sit beside her and play with the dogs.  She didn't recall ever seeing David so animated in all her visits to the shelter.  Sam looked at Jennifer and saw contentment on the girl's face as she walked over to join her brother and sister.  Then the colonel looked over at Jack and Daniel and saw their fear, not of their children, but of her reaction.

~Oh, well, what's a few more.~  Sam smiled and said with vigor, “In for a penny, in for a pound.”

“What?” Jack and Daniel said at the same time.

“Three, Four, Seven: what difference does it make?  A penny or a pound, it's all love, right?”

“Sam, you don't have to,” Daniel stated quietly.  ~But please do.~

“Yes, I do.  Well, I hope I never have to, but if I do, then I will.  I strongly advise giving Mark a double vodka on the rocks, though, before you tell him,” she laughed.

“Forget the rocks.  He'll want it straight.”

====

“Kids, have a seat,” Jack instructed.

Jack sat in his favorite chair with Chenoa on his lap.  Daniel was on the end of the sofa, his body turned towards the Morgan children.  David sat closest to him, and Jennifer was a foot or so away from her brother.  Bijou settled in next to David, who was petting her.  Katie was upstairs with the triplets, keeping watch. The monitors were on, including a portable one that Daniel placed on the coffee table.

“I love your house, General Jack,” Jennifer said.

“Our house,” Jack corrected.

“Our house,” the girl repeated softly, a smile on her face.

“Our telescope?” David asked hopefully.

Jack and Daniel had shown the newest additions to the family around the house, and when David had seen the telescope on the roof deck, Daniel had thought the six-year-old boy might actually start drooling.  Jack had been only to happy to show it off, and Daniel could picture the two spending many nights on the roof deck gazing up at the stars.

“Our telescope,” Jack confirmed with a smile.

“Listen,” Daniel spoke lovingly to the children, “Jack and I know this is going to take some time to adjust and get used to our new lives, but we're a strong family, and we have all the time in the world.  This house is your house.  The Munchkins are your brothers and sisters now, and Bijou and Katie, they're as much a part of who we are as anyone.”

“Woof!” Bijou spoke up, causing everyone to laugh and smile.

“Doggie!” Chenoa said, giggling again.  She scooted out of Jack's hold and worked her way in between David and Jennifer so that she could play with Bijou. “Ears soft.”

“Okay, here's the deal,” Jack began.  “It's been a long day, and like Danny said, we have forever to figure out details, but we need to talk about a few really important things first.”

“We're listening, General Jack,” Jennifer replied.

“You know, Jen, I think you can drop the 'General' title now.  Jack works just fine.”

“Okay ... Jack.”

“You've had the grand tour of the house, so you know it's not that big, but we love it here, so this is home.  Jen, I think you should use the room over the garage,” Jack suggested.

“I want to sleep with the babies,” David said.

“Actually, David, I think Chenoa should be there because she's younger.  How about if you take the other room?  You can still sleep in with babies every now and then, if you want.”

“Okay.”

“Now the hard part,” Jack stated, letting out a small sigh as he looked at Daniel for a few seconds.  “This family, it's not average.  You know that, Jen, and David, I think you do, too.  Chenoa will learn soon enough.”

“Because you're married to each other?” David asked.

Jack nodded and answered, “Yes.  You may have some difficult times as a result. Most families are a mother and father, not two dads.”

“This is important,” Daniel interjected.  “If you have problems, if other children tease you at school or anywhere, you have to tell us, and we can talk about it.”

“Words aren't my thing,” Jack said, “but we talk a lot in this family anyway.  Every day, we're going to have a family time, like this, where we can sit down and chat about whatever you guys want, good or bad.”

“But you can always come to us at any time, together or separately.  We're very involved parents, and, by the way, we're not going to try and replace your mom and dad.  We couldn't, even if we tried, but this is your home,” Daniel stated.

“Home?” Chenoa asked again, her eyes seemingly expressing uncertainty.

“Home, Noa.  You're home,” Daniel whispered.

The little girl crawled over Bijou and David to Daniel and settled into his arms and asked, “No bye-bye?”

“Never, Noa.  This is your home now.  Forever,” Daniel said reassuringly, kissing her on the forehead.

“Let's see.  You guys need to know that for the Munchkins, I'm Dad and Daniel is Daddy.  Oh, by the way, if you don't already know it, we're having another baby.”

Jennifer smiled and said, “I remember when Daniel told me.”

“More babies?” David asked, his mouth open in anticipation.

“Uh, baby, just one,” Daniel responded.

“Cool.  When?” David asked.  “I love babies.”

“Soon ... Gawd,” Daniel said, a bit overwhelmed.

“Breathe, Love,” Jack urged with a smile.

“I am ... I think.”

When Jennifer chuckled, Jack inquired, “What's so funny there, Miss?”

“I can't believe it.  All my friends at the shelter always thought Daniel was the hottest hunk around, and you were a close second, Jack, and now, wow, you're our parents.  They'd be blown away.”

“Close second,” Jack whined.

“Live with it, Babe.”  Daniel focused again on the children.  “Another thing, we have a lot of monitors and security equipment around the house.  Jen, tomorrow we'll show you some of it, and ...”

“Hey, I'm not a kid,” David interjected forcefully.

“Yes, David, you are.  You're very smart, but I won't let you forget that you are a little boy,” Daniel stated with equal force.  “However, we'll show you some of it, too.  The main thing for now is the baby monitors.  They aren't toys, and making sure they're on or off at the appropriate times is a very big deal around here.”

“I can tell.  Daniel, sometimes you're scary,” Jennifer teased.

“Sometimes,” Daniel said, smiling.  He was happy that Jennifer was feeling comfortable enough in her new home to tease him.  “We'll talk later about the monitors and how we handle them around here, okay?”

“Okay,” both Jennifer and David said.

Daniel looked at Chenoa who had a big smile on her face.  He was taking it all in, just enjoying the moment, even though there was still so much to say.  Jack loved the picture being painted in front of him -- his beautiful husband surrounded by their children.

“Why don't we get your bags unpacked and have some celebratory ice cream?” Jack suggested, knowing the toddler would respond, which she did by cheering and clapping her hands.  “We'll figure everything out as we go along.”

“Wait,” Daniel said.  “Jen and David, we're going to have some very strict ground rules, ones you might not like.  They will probably be more stringent, um, more strict than your friend's, but there is a reason for it, and we'll try to explain that.”

Jack leaned forward and added, “You kids know I was in the Air Force, right?”

“Right,” both David and Jennifer answered.

“Well, I did a lot of that secret type stuff that no one can talk about.  So did Daniel,” Jack began.  “What that means is that we have to be more careful.  I know that as much as you two want to understand all our rules right now, that when it comes down to living with them, you're not going to be happy with us all the time.”

“You're not going to keep us locked up or something weird like that?” the girl asked.

Jack laughed lightly and shook his head, then answered, “No, but, for example, as old you are, Jen, you don't answer the door without knowing for a certainty who is out there.  You never ever let anyone in this house without our permission.”

“Like Sam and Murray,” Daniel added.  “They're a part of our family, too, but no one else unless we tell you.  If someone official like a policeman, or anyone from the military, comes, you look at their ID through the door.  You come and tell one of us, but you do *not* let them in.”

“We'll talk more about the rules later,” Jack said.

“As soon as we figure out what they all are,” Daniel added with a smile.  He added, “And if you don't understand a rule, you can ask us about it, and we'll try to explain, but because of our history, you just have to believe us when we tell you that the rules are to protect all of us.”

“James Bond?” Jennifer asked.

“In a way,” Jack answered.  “Okay, enough for now.  You've had the grand tour.  Now it's time to move in and figure out what we need to go shopping for.”

“Do we get an allowance?” David asked.

“Sure,” Jack answered.

“And you'll have duties and obligations to fulfill as well,” Daniel added.  “It's part of being a family.”

The first official Jackson-O'Neill family meeting adjourned, and the children hurried to their luggage.

**Gawd, Jack.  We have so much to figure out.**

**We will, Love.  This is a good start,** Jack communicated.

**I don't want to scare them.**

**Look at them, Danny.**  Daniel watched the laughing Morgan children as they began to move their things to their rooms.  **They don't looked scared to me.**

**This is the right thing, isn't it, Jack?**

**Oh, yeah.  No doubt about it.  Let's go help the kids.**

====

Later that evening, Jack walked into the master bedroom and noticed the door to the roof deck was ajar.  He stepped outside to find his husband standing at the side railing, looking up at the stars, with his arms folded tightly around his chest, a classic self-hug.

~Uh oh.  That's a self-hug.  Don't see much of those anymore.  Not good.~  Jack walked to where his lover stood and slid his arms around the slim waist of the man he loved.  He kissed Daniel's nape and whispered, “I love you.”

Daniel sighed contently, leaning back into Jack's hold, but he was tense, and Jack could feel it.  The older man's hands normally would snake under his husband's shirt to caress the skin of his abdomen, but instead, Jack raised them to unfold the very-tight self-hug.

After Daniel reacted slightly, letting out a bit of a groan, Jack turned his lover to face him and requested, “Talk to me.”

“Are they ...” Daniel motioned inside the house.

“They're all asleep.  You know that, too, or you wouldn't be out here,” Jack pointed out.

“Jack, I checked the mail a few minutes ago,” Daniel said.

“Mail?  Geez,” Jack laughed.  “I forgot about the mail with everything else going on.”

“This day wasn't exactly normal,” Daniel replied.

“Regrets?”

“No, but ...”

“But what, Angel?” Jack asked.

“We got the papers today.”

“Papers?”

“The adoption papers ... for the Munchkins.”

“Yeah?  That's great!”  Jack had a big smile on his face, but it didn't stay there long.  Daniel wasn't smiling.  In fact, he had a look of defeat on his face.  “Danny, there's nothing wrong?  Mark said ...”

“Jack, everything's fine with the babies.  They're ours.  They have our genes.  No one can change that,” the archaeologist stated.

Because of the laws of the land, Jack and Daniel had to adopt each other's babies in order for both to be legally recognized as parents of the triplets.  Their lawyer, Mark Kingston, had finally received notification from the courts that everything was legal.  At long last, both men were the fathers of the babies in the eyes of the law.  It had taken a bit longer because Mark had to finagle around the fact that neither Jack nor Daniel wanted to know the DNA results, so they were signing papers “blindly” and that had to be explained to the court's satisfaction.

“Okay.”  Jack took his right hand and tucked it under Daniel's chin, raising it up so that the young man was forced to look him in the eye.  “Then what's wrong?”

“Jack, the Munchkins are ours without a fight only because they have our DNA.”

“So?”

“So ... Jennifer, David, and Noa don't have our DNA.  I don't know what Molly did to get that temporary custody approved, but they won't let us adopt them.  Gawd,” Daniel was getting visibly more upset as he spoke, his breathing heavier and voice reeking of vulnerability.  “We promised them a home.  We sat down there and told them, promised Noa, that they *were* home.  What are we going to do?”

“We fight,” Jack answered.  “We aren't going to break our promise to those kids, Daniel.”

“Jack, the laws ...”

“Screw the laws,” Jack responded with strength.  “We know people.  Those three are part of us now.”

“It won't be easy, Jack.”

“When has anything ever been easy for us?”  When Daniel smiled weakly and whispered something he couldn't make out, Jack asked, “What?  Sorry, Love, didn't hear that.”

“Loving you.  Easiest thing I've ever done.”

“Come here,” Jack said, moving to pull Daniel to him.  He nuzzled his chin against Daniel's shoulder as his hands made soothing touches to the younger man's back.  “We'll call Mark tomorrow and get everything started, and, Danny, if we have to call the President in on this, we will.”

“It's so unfair.”

“I know, but if they want a fight, they'll get one.”  Jack pulled back a bit so he could kiss his lover.  “We're getting ahead of the game here, you know.  Maybe they won't battle us, but if they do ...”

“If they do, they'll lose, because together ...”

Both men smiled and in unison completed, “we're unbeatable.”

====

It took a little while, but soon the new Jackson-O'Neill family members began to settle in.

Jennifer and David had both been enrolled in their respective schools and were attending classes which had just begun this week in their school district.  More fun for the two, and their young sister, was the time spent shopping for their new rooms.

Jennifer was having fun decorating her room over the garage, and Jack and Daniel were letting her choose the decor, within reason, of course.  On one wall, she had posters of Britney Spears and Beyonce Knowles right next to a self-portrait David had made for her a few months earlier.

Sam and Janet also took her shopping for new clothes and accessories, with strict instructions from Jack to make sure that any clothes purchased covered up the girl's body.  “*All* of her body,” he had ordered.  The decree hadn't gone over well with the pre-teen, but Sam and Janet told her to just mind her P's and Q's for a while.

“You might also try learning hockey,” Sam had suggested.  “The general loves hockey.  You might be able to use that to your advantage.”

Jennifer approved of Sam's sneakiness, and made a mental note to start learning what she could that might help in her future endeavors.

Although she hadn't met the SGC's doctor before, Jennifer was very impressed with 'Little Napoleon', and spent a lot of time asking Janet questions about what it felt like to be a doctor.

The girl was also looking forward to spending more time with Cassandra, who while several years older than she, was eager to make sure Jennifer had all the 'in' things of the day.  The two girls had met a few times at the shelter when Cassandra taught art.

David liked his new room next to the nursery, though Jack and Daniel frequently found him on the bed in the nursery with Chenoa.  They quickly discovered that Jennifer hadn't exaggerated when she had told Daniel how much the young boy loved babies.  He wasn't excessive, but he truly seemed to love to spend time with them.  Sometimes, the couple would wake to find him watching or playing with the triplets.  He just loved having babies for siblings.

“He's going to be an awesome older brother,” Jack had told Daniel one day.

David had requested his room be decorated with a variety of scientific items, including sheets that depicted the solar system.  He also wanted Mickey Mouse memorabilia, which is why his desk had both a microscope and a Mickey Mouse stuffed animal on it.  Of course, that gained Jack and Daniel's instant approval.  They were determined that David would never lose sight of the importance of frivolity and fun.

Chenoa used the bed in the nursery, having to share the room, at least for a while.  She was the easiest to please, never having truly realized that her family had been on the verge of separation before Jack and Daniel had come to their rescue.  All she seemed to remember were words about leaving their home, but even those were being quickly forgotten as the days passed.

Jack and Daniel set up a little table and chairs for the toddler, and found a way to give her a play area.  She had already invited each of her new parents to private tea parties, so the couple made sure the toddler had a child's tea set and other similar things in her part of the room.  It wasn't ideal, and was a little crowded at the moment, but it was something they'd have to work on in the future.

The couple also discovered that the toddler liked to watch dancing, especially ballet, so they purchased a photo of a ballerina to hang on the wall over the bed. Sometimes, they had found her sitting and staring at the photo.

“Pretty,” the toddler said to her fathers as they hung the picture.

“Bunk Bed City one of these days.  We just have to decide whether it's with David or if we put her in with Jen,” Jack said.

Daniel quickly responded, “Jen's almost a teenager, a woman in the making, Jack.  It's important for her to have her own room.  I don't think we should force that.”

“Okay, when the baby comes, we'll probably have to put Noa in with David then,” Jack had replied.

“They'll be okay until they get older,” Daniel had asserted, knowing it wasn't an ideal situation but was the best they could do at the moment.

“That they will, Love.”

====

The next day, Sam and Teal'c dropped by the Jackson-O'Neill residence for a visit.

“Big Guy, you remember our little cutie pie,” Jack said lovingly.  “Her name is Chenoa.”

“Indeed.  I am honored, Chenoa,” Teal'c said, bowing his head courteously.

Chenoa was awestruck as she looked up at the man wearing the funny hat.

“Noa, Honey, this is our friend Murray.  You met him the day we brought you home.  Remember?” Jack asked.

The youngster smiled and nodded shyly, but said nothing for a while.

While Jennifer and David watched over the triplets upstairs, Chenoa sat down on the floor near the beagles, who were having a great time, thanks to Sam, who was now giving them a thorough rubdown, leaning down to reach the two dogs.

“Good thing I have two hands,” the blonde colonel chuckled.

As the adults chattered away, Chenoa stared at Teal'c, and then she began to laugh.  While Daniel was seated to the left of Sam on the sofa, Jack and Teal'c were still standing as they talked.  Chenoa used her hands to push herself up and quietly toddled over to where her father and the new man in her life stood.

The little girl tugged on the man's black pants.

Teal'c looked down, surprised, and raised his eyebrows as he asked in a low voice, “Yes?”

The Jaffa looked like a mountain to the young girl -- so tall and strong.  She'd never seen anyone like him before.  Bravely, the twenty-three-month-old girl reached up, both arms extended as far as she could go.  She stood on her tippy-toes, bouncing, and her fingers made little motions as she tried to make her wishes known.

Jack and Daniel exchanged a look, both smiling, but it was Sam who told Teal'c, “She wants you to pick her up.”

“Indeed,” Teal'c replied dryly, causing Chenoa to giggle a little.

Hearing the small laugh as he watched the fidgeting child, Teal'c considered what to do.  He glanced quickly at Jack and Daniel and then bent down and picked up the young girl.

Chenoa laughed again, her face bright and clearly happy.  Her hands went to Teal'c's face and then up to the hat, knocking it off.  She again noticed the gold tattoo the Jaffa bore on his forehead.

“That?” Chenoa asked in abbreviated toddler-speak, pointing at the emblem on Teal'c's forehead, tapping it gently and quickly pulling her hand back.

“It is a symbol.”

“Sym...ball?” the toddler asked, totally clueless what 'symbol' meant and not able to speak the word, either.

“Yes.  It is a symbol of slavery.”

“Snake,” Chenoa observed, tracing the emblem with her fingers.  “What's slav'y?”

“Slavery is when one person forces another to do something,” Teal'c answered.

“Noa,” Daniel began as he moved to make sure she could see him.  “Remember yesterday when you decided you wanted to play with Katie in her play yard?”

“Katie funny.  Dig.”

“Right.  Well, if you were a slave, then whoever owned you wouldn't let you play with Katie, or dig in her play yard.  In fact, they might not ever let you play with Katie.”

“Love Katie,” the little girl said, a frown on her face from the thought of not being allowed to play with her.

“I know, and don't worry, you can play with her all you want because you're free, but if someone owned you, they might not let you.  You'd have to do whatever they said,” Daniel explained as simply as he could.

“You would be a slave,” Teal'c added.

“No.  Slav'y bad.”

“That is correct.”

“Slave?” the curly-haired girl asked innocently as she jabbed her finger against Teal'c's chin.

“I was once, but now I am free and fight to make sure all Jaffa are free,” Teal'c stated with force.

“Jafall?”

“I am a Jaffa.”

“Oh,” Chenoa said, not understanding.

“It is a name for my people,” Teal'c paused, “just as you are a Tau'ri.”

“Story?” Chenoa asked, perking at the word, thinking her new friend was about to read her a story.

“Tau'ri, Noa,” Daniel corrected as he listened to the conversation.  “It's just another name for human beings.”

“It is what much of the universe call the people who live on Earth,” Teal'c said.

“Earth?” the confused girl asked.

While she was following some parts of the conversation, other parts didn't make any sense to her.

Jack stepped in, explaining, “Chenoa, where we live, all of us, is on a planet -- big round thing, like the sun and the moon.  It's called Earth.”

“Oh.”

“Indeed, there are many planets, Chenoa, and perhaps ...”

“Uh, Murray, I don't think she's ready for that,” Jack interjected as he stood next to Daniel.

Teal'c thought for a moment and then said, “It is a big universe.  No doubt somewhere there is life.  Would you not agree?”

“What's a unihurse?”

Jack burst into laughter, and Daniel chided him with a shushing noise, gently slapping Jack's arm in retribution.

“Universe,” Jack corrected.  Desperately trying to hide his snort, he instructed Teal'c to, “Go ahead.  Answer her question, Big Guy.”

Ignoring Jack's snorts, Teal'c looked at the toddler and replied, “The universe is ... where the Earth is”

“Oh.”  Chenoa was deep in thought.  “Why?”

“Why what?” Teal'c inquired.

“Why unihurse?”

Seeing his friend looking thoroughly confused, Jack leaned forward and whispered, “I think she wants to know why the Earth is in the universe.”

Teal'c's eyes widened, as if to say, 'why didn't she say so?', but what he said next was, “Because that is the way it is.”

Though he had answered the inquiry, Teal'c found it difficult to answer the question without talking about other worlds.

“Why?” Chenoa asked.

“Oh, gawd,” Daniel laughed as he envisioned at least three more minutes worth of “Why” questions.

“Because we cannot change it.”

“Why?”

Teal'c thought for a moment.  He heard Jack snickering and had already observed Daniel trying not to laugh.

With a determined cock of his head, Teal'c answered, “Because your fathers said so.  You must ask them, and they can tell you why.”  He looked over at the couple, a smug expression on his face.  ~Let us see O'Neill answer her questions.~

Chenoa looked to her fathers and asked, “Why?”

Sam, still seated on the sofa and petting the two beagles, bowed her head, trying unsuccessfully to suppress her own laughter.

“All yours, Love,” Jack said as he walked away.

“Thanks,” Daniel snarked as he walked a few steps closer to Teal'c and Chenoa.  “Um, Noa, it's that way because ... well, because ...” He looked over at the mantle at the photo of Charlie.  His mind went back to a Christmas when Charlie had made a miracle happen and then to yet another miracle that had occurred at another time, when Jack and Daniel had planned to retire.  He'd almost died that time.  He took a breath and exchanged a look with Jack, after which he refocused on their daughter.  “It's that way, Noa, because God made it that way, and sometimes, we just have to accept that.  There's no answer.  It's just ... the way He made it.”

“'Kay,” the young girl smiled, happy with the response.  She looked at Teal'c and asked, “Tea party?”

Teal'c raised his eyebrows, having no idea what she meant.

Chenoa asked again, “Tea with me?”

“She wants you to have tea with her,” Sam said as calmly as she could, wondering if the Jaffa had any idea at all what a toddler tea party was like.

“I am aware of what I have been asked, ColonelCarter,” the Jaffa stated.

Jack was desperate to roll on the floor laughing.  He turned to face the fireplace, determined not to let his precious daughter see him, but the thought of Teal'c at one of Chenoa's tea parties was just too much for him to handle.  Suddenly, he gasped out an “Excuse me” and ran out of the room towards the study.

Daniel was self-hugging, not for the old protective and defensive reasons, but also to try and keep from laughing.  Even Sam had turned to face the back of the sofa, trying to hide her face and the sounds of repressed laughter.

Teal'c saw the reactions and looked into Chenoa's eyes as he answered, “I would be honored.”

Chenoa lit up like a Christmas tree.  She motioned for Teal'c to put her down, and once he did, she ran to Daniel.

“Dan'l, tea?  Pleeeeeeeeease?”

Daniel knelt down and smiled.  Usually, their tea parties were all pretend, but this is obviously a special occasion.  He knew exactly what his daughter was asking.  She wanted real tea.

“Sure, Noa.  Why don't you take Murray to your tea room, and I'll bring it up in a minute,” Daniel quickly agreed.

“Thank you, Dan'l!”

Chenoa reached out for Teal'c's hand.  He looked at her for a moment and then let her take hold of his hand and lead him up the stairs to her room.

====

“I've just got to see this,” Sam said, following Daniel up the stairs once the tea was done.

Jack, too, had rejoined them and trailed Sam up the steps.  When they got there, Teal'c was seated, lightly, very lightly, on one of the small chairs.  Chenoa had her tea set out.

“Jack?  What's going on?” Jennifer asked as they made their way upstairs to see the unusual sight of a Jaffa at a tea party.

“Noa invited Murray for tea.  Why don't you and David go downstairs for a while?”

Jack looked over at the crib and checked on the Munchkins, who were still asleep and undisturbed by the current happenings.  They'd had their quota of sleep, so if they woke up, he figured it would be okay.

“Here you go, Noa,” Daniel said as he placed the small pitcher of tea on the table. “Would you like me to pour?”

Chenoa shook her head and requested, “Go, Dan'l.”

“Oh,” Daniel expressed.

The archaeologist looked stunned as he stood up and backed away a couple of steps.

Chenoa got up and went to her younger father, tugging on his pants.

Once Daniel leaned over, the toddler whispered in his ear, “Love you, Dan'l.”

“I love you, too, Noa.”

“Tea party -- Mur'y.”

Daniel knew what she meant.  This was a private tea party, just Chenoa, Teal'c, and the sleeping triplets.

“Oh, okay.  You have fun with your guest,” Daniel responded.

Daniel smiled at Teal'c, a silent thanks in Daniel's eyes, and then he walked out, Sam right behind him.  He sighed as he realized they were missing someone.

“Jack!”

“What?”  Seeing his husband's glare, he relented.  “Oh, all right, I'm coming,” he said as he reluctantly followed Daniel and Sam back downstairs.

“That was cute.  Looks like your daughter has a crush on Teal'c,” Sam commented.

“Think Teal'c is good enough for our daughter, Danny?”

Daniel just shook his head as his lover's question.

Jack and Daniel didn't know what their future held, but they knew life would only get more interesting with each and every day.  Chenoa's special tea party with a Jaffa was proof of that.

====

As the Morgans settled in, Bijou and Katie were having a field day being spoiled rotten, just as Jack had promised them.  Jack and Daniel were allowing them to sleep in the house whenever they wanted, a by-product of the brief time when the couple had grossly neglected their loving beagles.  Besides, the girls were very protective of the triplets, and that made Jack and Daniel feel even more secure.

Another reason for the dogs being allowed to stay inside whenever they wanted is that Katie and Little Danny had bonded tremendously.  Sometimes, if Little Danny woke up, he was easier to get back to sleep if Katie snuggled up to him in the crib.

“Jonny and Katie, Little Danny's security blankets,” Jack had teased once, as it seemed Little Danny had a strong need to both be around his older brother and to have the youngest beagle nearby.

With their new freedom of choice, the two dogs had a great time going from bed to bed.  Sometimes, Daniel would wake up with Katie next to his arm on Jack's chest.  At other times, he'd find her snuggled up next to Chenoa or Little Danny.  Bijou was often at the edge of Jack and Daniel's bed or 'on watch' in her beanbag downstairs.

The couple had noticed that at the sound of any unusual noise, Bijou would instantly run upstairs to the nursery to check on the triplets.  She was also acutely aware of anything that went on outside the house.  Of course, she always had been, having kept watch over Daniel for the past few years.

The lovers had also laughed one morning when they woke up and went downstairs to find David curled up next to Bijou in the beanbag.  It seems he had a special attachment to the mama beagle.  Bijou didn't seem to mind; she just smiled at Jack and Daniel and rolled back over next to David.

Jack and Daniel were also working on adjusting to a house full of children.  This wasn't a situation they had planned on, just yet.

One night, the couple walked up the stairs to Jennifer's room and saw her staring at something.  She seemed to be crying softly, and they heard her sniffling.

“Jen?”  Jack approached while Daniel held back a few steps.  “Are they your parents?” he asked, seeing a photo of a couple in front of suburban home.

“Yes, I'm sorry.  I was just putting things away and I ...”

“Jennifer, don't apologize for loving your parents.  We, Jack and I, we want you to remember them,” Daniel spoke.

“You do?”

“Jen, they're your folks,” Jack said strongly.  “They loved you, and I'm sure they are up there somewhere watching over you, David, and Noa.  Don't hold back talking about them, especially with Noa.”

“She doesn't remember them,” Jennifer said sadly.

“Then ... we should help her to remember,” Daniel said.

“Ho...how?” the very surprised girl questioned.

“Well, for starters, how about we add that photo to the family pictures on the mantle in the living room, or we could get a copy made if you want to keep it here, or ...”

“Or,” Jack interjected, “Do you have others?  Home movies or anything?”

Jennifer nodded, a smile beginning to form on her hopeful face, and asked, “You really don't mind?”

“Jen, Sweetheart,” Jack knelt down in front of the girl who was sitting on her bed.  “Danny and I love you, and ... we want to finish what your parents started, but we don't want you to forget them.  We'd be disappointed if you did.”

Jennifer was unable to hold back her grin as she informed, “There's a bigger photo, of all of us.  It would be nice to have it out, especially for David and Noa.”

“Let's see it,” Daniel requested.

Jennifer went to her backpack and pulled out a collection of photos.  After a few moments, she found the one she wanted, handing it to Daniel.

“It ... it was taken just a month before they died,” Jennifer said.

“You all look very happy,” Daniel said.

“We were.”

“And we hope, Jen, that the three of you will be happy with us; but, Jen, talk about your folks with the younger kids, because you're right, it'll be harder for them to remember, but if you tell them stories ...”

“If you tell them stories,” Daniel stared at Jack, love radiating from him, “if you let yourself remember, and don't hide from all the good, then you will remember, and so will they.”

Jack got up and went to Daniel and embraced him.

“Why do I think I just missed something important?” the girl asked.

“It's just ... I once thought I wouldn't remember my parents.  I had forgotten, even what they looked like.  My memories of them were dying, and all I could focus on was how they died, but Jack,” Daniel smiled at his lover, “helped me.  He made me talk about them and what they were like, and anytime I started to forget,” he leaned lovingly against his soulmate, “he'd tell me a story about my childhood and my parents that I had told him.  Gawd, I love you.  That was such a wonderful gift, Jack.”

“I love you, too, Danny,” Jack said as he kissed Daniel's temple.

Jennifer was smiling as she watched her new parents and observed, “Mom and Dad kissed and cuddled all the time, too.  It's positively ... ewwww,” she expressed with a cringe, but also exhibiting a smile on her face.

“Let's go add the newest family photo to the mantle,” Jack urged.

--

Once in the living room, Jennifer picked out a place for the photo on the mantel and spoke, “Thank you.”

“Thank you,” Daniel said.

“For what?” Jennifer asked.

“For enriching our lives,” Daniel answered.

====

“Danny, Mark called earlier,” Jack said about their lawyer during what was now an even more rare moment of privacy with his husband.

“And?”

“And ... we're facing a battle.”

“No chance for that loophole battle now?” Daniel asked hopefully.

“He doesn't think it would get anywhere.  The law is pretty clear, and there's another thing,” Jack stated.

“Publicity,” the younger man surmised.

“Lots of it, Danny, and we can't afford that,” Jack stated.  “Whoever pushes this law, they'll be plastered all over the news, not just here, but all over the country.  We can't do that.”

“I know,” Daniel acknowledged softly.

Walking a step closer, Jack spoke, “Angel, if I thought we would actually win, I'd risk it.”

“I know, Jack.  I would, too, but I've read the law, and it is pretty specific,” Daniel sighed.  He turned around for just a moment, reclaiming his resolve. Turning back to face his husband, he spoke sternly, “Jack, I won't give them up, not now.  I ... I love them.”

“So do I, and we're not giving up anyone, but it's like we said the night we brought them home, the laws work against us.”

“So what do we do?”

“Pull those strings we talked about.  I've never done that to this extent before, but I'm going to, and I need to know you're in agreement with me,” Jack stated.

“Strings,” Daniel sighed as he walked to their dresser, reaching down for his white pajama top.  He slowly slipped it on and then turned around, saying, “They're our children.  We fight for them any way we have to.”

“You sure?”

“Yes.”  Daniel was all too aware of the stakes involved.  ~No way are my children going to have the childhood I did.  I love them, and they *are* mine, mine and Jack's.  I'm not letting them go; not now, not ever.~

Daniel hadn't hesitated, and Jack saw the determined look in his eyes.  This was the man who had stood up to System Lords and spit in their eye.  There was no fear in his lover's eyes, not when he had faced Apophis, and not now as he faced government bureaucracy.

“Okay,” Jack acknowledged.  “Tomorrow, I'm going to make some calls.  It could get sticky, Love.”

“We do what we have to.”

“Agreed.”

====
-- Chapter Nine:  Doing What We Have To
====

“You have *got* to be kidding.  Who do you think you're messing with, you ...” Jack began angrily.

“Careful, General.  You're the one calling in favors,” Robert Kinsey pointed out.

“Not from you!” Jack barked at Kinsey as they stood in Hammond's office at the SGC.

“Yes, from me.  The President is willing to help you bend the rules in return for a little favor.”

“Favor?  I'm retired, you lunatic,” Jack snapped as his blood began to boil.

“You want those kids?” Kinsey threatened.

Jack walked into Kinsey's personal space, his eyes on fire with rage, as he warned, “Don't threaten me with my children.”

“They aren't your children yet, General.  I can either help you, or hurt you.  The choice is yours.”

“You know, Kinsey, the laws are changing,” Jack stated.

With an evil snort, the senator responded, “Who are you kidding?  You want to drag those children through court?  I know that law, General, and it won't help you here.  You battle it out, and I can throw enough dirt in your path that you not only won't get those kids, you'll *lose* the ones you have!”

“Why, you ...”  Jack grabbed Kinsey by the collar and backed him into the door.  “NEVER THREATEN MY KIDS!”

“Get your hands off me!” Kinsey ordered.

“Jack,” Hammond called out calmly.  “This won't help.”

Staring threateningly at Kinsey, Jack let go, backed away, and stated, “Don't touch my kids, or you'll regret the day you were born.”

As Jack headed out the door, Kinsey called out, “Your choice, General!”

====

“Of all the idiotic, lunatic, ill-conceived, moronic notions that ... that ...”

“Jack, slow down, and tell me what happened,” Daniel requested of his very irate husband.

“That ... that *moron* ...”

“Jack, we have children who can hear you,” Daniel warned firmly.

“Danny, he wants us to go on another mission, on Wednesday, for crying out loud,” the retired brigadier general revealed.

“What?  Why?”

“Some mess with the Hedronix and the Nox ... *again*.  Something apparently only we can sort out.  I don't know,” Jack said as he threw his brown leather jacket onto the bed.

Daniel shook his head and folded his arms as he questioned, “How can we do that?  I mean, even if we wanted to ...”

“Danny, he's threatening to take away our kids.  You should have heard him.  Not one caring look in his eyes.  He's going to take Jen, David, and Noa away from us if we don't do what he wants.”  Jack put his head in his hands and turned his head sideways for a moment.  Vulnerably, he continued, “I don't know how to fight him.  The President apparently feels we are the only ones who can solve this fiasco that the Pentagon has created, and Kinsey is having a field day shoving it down our throats.”

Daniel sat down next to Jack and took his hand.  When he spoke, his voice was strong and determined.

“We have to do whatever is necessary to protect our family ... all of them.”  Daniel frowned.  “If we do this, Jack, do you think that'll be the end of it?”

“I don't know.  If it was just the President, probably, but with Kinsey?  Who knows?  He's twisted, the no good ...”

“Okay,” Daniel interjected reluctantly, cutting off another tirade of name calling from his husband.  “We'll do this one mission, but that's it.”
 
Jack nodded and sighed, desperately trying to fend off his anger.  He stood again and paced the room, his voice full of a tempered rage.

“General Armstrong is coming in tomorrow.  They want us to meet in Hammond's office at 1000 hours to go over the mission.”

“1000 hours.  Gawd, I thought the general ...”

“Don't worry, Love.  It's only temporary.  We'll have to call Sara and Mark and see if they can babysit a house full of kids while we're on the mission,” Jack stated, sitting down on the bed again.

“You make it sound like we'll be gone awhile,” Daniel replied.

“I don't know all the details, but the inference was that it might take a couple of days; maybe longer,” Jack sighed.

“Is Sara available tomorrow?”

“No, I don't think so,” Jack responded.  “Mrs. V could look after the kids,” he said, smiling when suddenly found his hand enveloped in that of his lover and smiled.  ~Geez, I love him.~

“Poor Mark,” Daniel laughed lightly as he brought Jack's hand to his mouth and kissed it.  “I thought he was going to faint when we told him about our newest additions.”

“Yeah, he had just barely adjusted to ...” Jack suddenly decided to change gears for a moment.  “Danny, what about the baby?  Are we going to call her Jennifer, too?”

“My husband's grandmother once said that sometimes things just happen.  Why don't we wait and see what feels right?” Daniel responded.

“Jennifer, both of them,” the older man mused.  “Danny, we both had Jennifers, I mean in that weird reality.  I remember that now.”

“Maybe it's been our destiny all along, Jack.  Maybe ... maybe we need both Jennifers for our family to be complete,” Daniel put forth.

Jack shook his head in wonder.  The sudden shift in conversation had calmed him a little.  He loved their family, but it amazed him the way it was developing.

“This is a crazy universe.  Angel, do you think this has anything to do with that mess a few months ago?”

“You mean with that ... with Cummings?” the archaeologist asked.

“Yeah.”

“No.  I think if Kinsey had been involved with that, he wouldn't be doing this now.  We were pretty vocal with our options.  We have ...” Daniel's voice died out slowly.

“... dirt on the scumbag?  Is that what you're trying to say?”

Daniel answered, “Yeah.  Kinsey knows we could match him on the blackmail angle.  He also knows we have ... had ... limits on how dirty we'll fight to protect ourselves.”

~Had?~  Jack frowned.  He never liked it when Daniel had to use a darker side of his personality, a side that was mostly foreign to him, a side that only came out when there was no other choice.  It always meant the younger man was doing something against his nature, and whenever that occurred, it both angered and saddened Jack.  It was time for a change, something more lighthearted than the doom they were both feeling inside.  “I don't want to think about this anymore.  I'd rather ...” Jack raised his eyebrows.

“Jaaaaack.  Now?”

“We're alone, in case you haven't noticed.”

Daniel listened and figured they had about twenty minutes, if they were lucky, so he asked, “Then why are you just sitting there?”

Jack laughed as he got up and locked their bedroom door.  Twenty minutes was just long enough for a good make-out session.

“I love you, Jack,” Daniel said as he watched Jack's movements.

“I love you, too, Angel.”

====

The next day, with Mrs. Valissi staying at the Jackson-O'Neill homestead to be with the children, Jack and Daniel met with Kinsey and Armstrong in Hammond's office, as requested.  The lovers weren't happy, but they had been backed into a corner.  Having no choice, they agreed.

“I hate being boxed in a corner like this,” Jack groused as his lover drove them home in the Silver Fox.

“It's not my idea of a good time, either, Jack,” Daniel replied a bit harshly.  After a moment, he sighed, “I'm sorry, Babe.  I'm just ...”

“Angry, like I am,” Jack interjected.

“I can't think of a way out,” Daniel stated.  “Jack, I think I should go back to the SGC this afternoon.”

“Why?”

“Because all we really know about what's been going on in recent months is what Armstrong said in the meeting.”

“And that was worth squat,” Jack spoke sarcastically.  “Danny, did Little Danny seem a little warm to you this morning?”

Daniel glanced at Jack, then sighed, “I was hoping it was my imagination, and I was trying hard not to be paranoid.”

“Let's check on him first thing when we get home.”

====

“I would have called you, but you indicated you'd be back about now, and his temperature only went up within the half-hour,” Mrs. Valissi told the concerned parents as they checked on their middle Munchkin upon arriving home.

“Thanks, Mrs. V.  We'll take it from here,” Jack said, smiling at their neighbor.  “Jen, will you walk Mrs. Valissi to the door, please.”

“Sure, Jack,” Jennifer said, turning around and walking down the stairs with the woman.

“Jack, if he's sick, we can't go off-world,” Daniel spoke as he held his namesake in his arms.

“No argument,” Jack agreed.

The younger man sighed, “I don't want to leave him, Jack, but we're still in that box.”

“He'll be fine; it's probably just a cold, but if he gets any worse, I'll give Syl a call, and I'll call you every hour or so, so you won't freak out,” Jack stated.

“Freak out?”

“Daniel, you're not usually at your best when our kids are sick,” Jack pointed out truthfully.  “My guess is you wouldn't get beyond the first page of a report before you'd start to worry.”

Daniel chuckled, “You know me so well.”

“I should after all these years.  Let's see if he'll eat and fix something for you, too, before you go back.”

====

“Daddy will be home soon, Little Danny,” Jennifer said reassuringly as she touched the baby's head.  “He's a little warmer than before.  Should I call Doctor Preston now?”

“Yeah, that sounds like a good idea, Jen,” the silver-haired man agreed.

Little Danny had gotten progressively worse as the afternoon had gone on, and Jack figured it was time to bring in the professionals.  As he held the baby in his arms, he watched as Jennifer placed the call to Sylvia's private line to ensure getting through to the physician.  He was impressed with their new daughter, but he was also determined that she enjoyed her youth.  He was pleased that she was beginning to let go a bit more, realizing that Jack and Daniel were there for David and Chenoa so she could just be their big sister, not their parent.

“Doctor Preston, please.  This is Jennifer Mor...” the pre-teen stopped and looked at Jack who gave her an encouraging smile, and she finished, “Morgan.  Um, I'm calling for Jack Jackson-O'Neill.”

“Syl, the family's grown,” Jack called out cheerfully.

“Uh, yes, that was Jack,” Jennifer said with a smile.

Jack listened as Jennifer explained a bit more about who she was and then got down to business, describing Little Danny's symptoms.

“His fever is 101.3, and his nose is runny.  He's coughing a little, too ... Uh huh ... okay ... hold on ... Jack, is he congested? ... He says a little bit ... no chills that we've seen ... okay ... okay ... okay.  Thank you, Doctor Preston ... yes, I'll tell him.  Goodbye.”

As Jennifer hung up the phone, Jack asked, “What's the verdict?”

The girl answered, “She said to watch the fever.  If it climbs any, she wants you to call, but she thinks it's just a cold.  She said you should turn on the humidifier and maybe bathe Little Danny using the eucalyptus oil she gave you.  Um, let's see, there was something else.  Oh, when he sleeps, she said to elevate his head a little bit.”

“Yeah, I remember doing that with Charlie,” Jack recalled.

“Charlie?” Jennifer spoke.

“Yeah.  He, uh, he died, Jen.  He was our son,” the general informed.

“He's the one you mentioned that day when I was being a jerk.”

“You had a reason, Jen.”

“Is Charlie the boy in the picture on the mantle?” Jennifer asked, having been too timid to ask the question before.

“Yes.”

“Um, Jack, what happened to Charlie?” Jennifer inquired curiously as she stood with her hands joined together in front of her.

“It's a long story.  Maybe later.”

Just then Aislinn woke from her nap, and Jennifer walked to the crib and picked her up.  While there, she checked on Jonny, smiling as he slept soundly.

About the same time,  Little Danny began to cry a little, so Jack rocked him a bit, while comforting, “I know, little one, you want Daddy.  He'll be home soon.  In the meantime, Dad will have to do.”  He laughed, kissing the babe's forehead.  Looking over at Jennifer, he spoke, “Whenever Little Danny is sick, he wants his daddy.”

“He doesn't seem so unhappy to have you around.”

“I keep the monsters away.  He knows that,” Jack explained.

“For him ... and for Daniel.”

Jack smiled and nodded, echoing, “And for Daniel.”

====

Later that night, Jack sat outside, watching David and Chenoa play with the beagles, while Daniel was upstairs with Jennifer tending to the Munchkins.

“Sara, it's Jack.”

“Oh, please.  No more!  I just got Mark breathing again,” Sara spoke with laughter in her voice.

“Sara, Daniel and I are serious.  You two don't have to ...”

“Oh, shush up, Jack.  We took a week to think about it, and like we told you last night, we decided it was the right thing to do.  We want to be there for you two, and Sam, if the need ever arises.  I don't want to hear another word about it, Jonathan!”

“Ouch!” Jack laughed.  “The last time you called me that I thought we'd never have Charlie.”

“Don't make me say it again.”

Jack smiled, an inward love for his ex-wife growing.  He was lucky to have her in his life, and he was more thankful than ever that they had turned into such a close extended family.

“Sara, Daniel and I need a babysitter.”

“Sure, what night?”

“It's short notice,” Jack stated abruptly.

“Tomorrow?”

Jack coughed, knowing he was pushing the limits of the Wilson's tolerance, and quickly answered, “Ah, yes, and maybe for three or four days.”

“Days?”

“It's ... Sara, the government ... they ... oh, crap, Sara, we don't want to go, but we're being forced into it,” the general confided.

“Forced?”

Jack sighed, knowing he should create a cover story, but he simply didn't care, so he answered, “Yes, forced.  They want us to go on a mission that for some friggin' reason they think only we can handle.  Sara, if we don't go, there are a couple of pompous ...” he struggled not to let out a long line of swear words over the phone to his ex-wife, “... people, who are using the Mouseketeers to get us to cooperate.”

“Mouseketeers?”

“Yeah.  David has a thing for Mickey Mouse.  According to Jen, when their folks died, she was able to keep him feeling more secure by adapting the Three Musketeers tale; you know, one for all, and all for one?”

“I know the story, Jack.”

“Sorry.  Anyway, Jen adapted that to David's love of Mickey and said that the three of them were the Three Mouseketeers, that they wouldn't be separated, yadda, yadda, so now Danny and I refer to them as the Mouseketeers.  David really seems to like that, and if it makes him feel more comfortable, then ...”

“Then you'll do it.”  Sara sighed, “You're an amazing man, Jack O'Neill, to take on those three when you've just had triplets.”

“What's so amazing about loving children, Sara?  Besides, they make it easy, and remember, I have Danny.  He makes everything worthwhile.”

“Jack, back to this situation you're in.  Do you mean the government might take them, the Mouseketeers,” she chuckled, “away?”

“That's exactly what I mean.  We don't have a choice.  I know you don't know them well, but they're our kids.  We love them, and no one, *no one*, is going to take them away from us, no matter what we have to do, including another trip ...” Jack stopped.

“Through the Stargate?”

Jack said nothing.

On the other end of the line, Sara smiled and said, “Don't worry, Jack.  We have plenty of room in the new house for all the children.  How about Bijou and Katie?”

“Would you mind?” Jack asked hopefully.

“Can't separate a family.”

“Thanks, Sara.  You're really incredible, and Mark?  Just ... try to tell him ... you know.”

“He knows, Jack.  Oh, how's Little Danny's cold?” Sara asked.

“A lot better, or we wouldn't be going anywhere.  If he's not completely healthy in the morning, we'll postpone.”

“Okay.  Keep me posted,” Sara replied.

====

“You mean you used to be married to Sara?” Jennifer asked her new older father as he made the nightly rounds.

“That's right,” Jack answered as he sat on the bed in Jennifer's room.  “She's a wonderful woman.  It took us a while, Jen, but after a few years, we realized that we were still great friends.”

“Sounds like it's more than that to me,” Jennifer opined.  “What does Daniel say?”

“What does Daniel say about what?” Daniel asked as he walked into Jennifer's room.

“Nothing.”

Jack smiled as he looked at Daniel and said, “Sara.  I was trying to explain our relationship with her.”

“Oh, gawd,” Daniel responded, smiling and then sitting down on a stylish bench that sat near a wall opposite the bed.  “Jen, Sara is fantastic.  I know it sounds crazy, but we love her, both of us.  It didn't happen over night, but it did happen, and now, she's part of a very small, very devoted circle of friends we depend on.”

“And trust,” Jack added emphatically.

“You mean I can let her in the house, like Sam and Murray.”

“Exactly,” Daniel answered.

“I don't get it.  She's Jack's ex-wife.  That's so ... weird,” the girl said, physically cringing at the thought.

“Trust me, Jen, you'll love Sara, and after a few days with her, you'll be a believer, too.”

“Ohhhhhkay, if you say so, but I still think it's weird with a capital W,” Jennifer opined.

====

“I can't believe we're really doing this,” Daniel said as he changed into his green BDUs.  “We even have the same lockers.”

“Somehow, I don't think they ever reassigned them.”

“What makes you think that?”

Jack held up an unopened box of Froot Loops.  It was one of the small breakfast size boxes he used to sneak into his pack to take on missions.

“Found this in the corner just now.”

Daniel laughed, and then the two closed their locker doors.  Jack buttoned his vest and walked over to Daniel who had just slipped his on.  The older man reached out and pulled the vest closed.

“Jack, I can dress myself.”

Jack laughed as he continued to close the vest, much to Daniel's chagrin.

“I know.  Danny ... for once, obey my orders.”

“I'll try, but ...”  Jack sighed and nodded, and then leaned in for a kiss.

“Jack, we shouldn't.  Not here.  Someone could ...” Daniel began.

“Let them.”

Jack took Daniel in his arms, deepening his kiss.  Daniel held on tightly and let out a soft sigh of love and peace.  He kissed a small spot where the skin on Jack's neck was showing, and then pulled back.

“And no heroics, Jack.  For once, follow my lead when we get to that point.”

Jack smiled.  With his fingers sticking through the black gloves he wore, he gently traced the golden wedding band Daniel wore.  The two had refused to take them off.  He nodded and whispered, “No heroics, Love, and that works both ways.”

“Both ways,” Daniel agreed.

After one final kiss, the two headed for the gate room to meet up with Sam and Teal'c.  Then, for the first time in quite a while, SG-1 walked through the Stargate.

====

“You're not so sure about me, are you, Jennifer?” Sara asked the teenager.

While David and Chenoa had been happily playing with Angela outside, Jennifer had been observing ... Sara.

“I ... I just think it's strange, that's all.”

Smiling, Sara inquired, “Why?  Jack is a good man; so is Daniel.  Why shouldn't we all be friends?”

“You were married to him.  I mean, a friendly divorce is one thing, but this is ... unnatural.”

“Well,” Sara moved to another piece of furniture to continue her dusting chore, “I know it's unusual, but I think Charlie wanted it this way.”

Jennifer let out a tiny gasp which drew Sara's attention.

“You do know about Charlie?”

“Jack's son.”

“And mine.  He was a beautiful child.  That's him,” Sara pointed to a photo on the wall.  “He sure loved baseball.”

“Jack said he shot himself.  I'm ... sorry.”

“Me, too,” Sara said solemnly.

“Mrs. Wilson ...”

Jennifer walked closer, but before she could continue, she was cut off.

“Sara.  We don't need to be formal.  My daughter calls Jack her uncle.”

“What does she call Daniel?”

Sara sighed.  Jennifer was a tough cookie to crack.  Her tone had been not only skeptical, but accusatory.

“She calls him 'Daniel'.  Jennifer, if Charlie hadn't died, Jack and I would still be married.  Now, we could live our entire lives in would haves, could haves, and should haves, thrown in with a plethora of what ifs, and be miserable.  In fact, we did, for a while.  Jack and I were still in love after the divorce.”  Sara saw confusion and even a bit of anger in the teenager's eyes.  “It's true.  You can ask him, but we couldn't make it together.  It hurt too much.  At that point, the memory of our son was more ... painful, especially for Jack.”

“You blame him.”

“No, I never blamed him, not ever.”

“It was his gun.”

“And I allowed him to keep it in the drawer sometimes.  I knew it was there.  So you see, Charlie's death, that accident, was as much my fault, as it was my husband's.”

“Ex-husband.”

“I will always love Jack, Jennifer.  Always.  He knows that.  Daniel knows that.  You know what else?  Mark knows it, too.”  Sara walked towards the long-haired girl.  “This may surprise you, but Jack still loves me.”

“You want him back.”

“No, Jennifer.  Love is ...” Sara paused, taking an audible breath and pausing to find just the right words, “Love comes in all kinds of ways, and there is a huge difference between loving someone and being in love with them.  What Jack and I have is very special.  It took us a long, long time to be able to be together in the same room and ... laugh.  For so long, it was all about pain.  Now,” she looked again at the photo on the wall, “it's about baseball, Monday night spaghetti feasts, and family picnics.  We laugh now.  We didn't at first.”

Jennifer didn't know what to say, and she wasn't sure whether or not to believe Sara.  Finally, she said, “I am sorry about Charlie.”

“I don't know why, but I do believe that everything happens for a reason.  I'm not the same person I was back then, and neither is Jack.  He's incredibly different now.”

“How?”

“I think that's a question for him to answer.”

“I still think it's weird.”

“You know what, Jennifer?  Me, too, but it's the way it is, and for the four of us, it works, so ... if you have questions, you can ask them.  You don't like me, Jennifer, and you don't have to understand, but you will be respectful in this house, or when I'm in yours.  Do we have an understanding?”  Jennifer nodded.  “Good.  Now, I'd better get this cleaning done.”

Jennifer watched the woman continue to clean.  Watching Sara is something she'd  be doing until her new parents came to get her.  She hoped that by then, she'd have a handle on Sara O'Neill Wilson because right now, she wasn't sure of anything.

====

Two hours after walking through the Stargate, the four members of SG-1 were at the edge of Hedry, the capital city of the Hedronix.  SG-3 was trailing the team by fifteen minutes, and SG-14 was guarding the Stargate.  They weren't expecting trouble, but the situation had been deemed critical.

“Daniel!” the leader of the Hedronix called out, pleased to see the archaeologist.

“We come with honor, Ardyl,” Daniel spoke, bowing his head briefly.  “You remember Jack, Teal'c, and Sam?”

“Of course.  Please ... come to my suprel.  We must commune quickly,” Ardyl spoke with urgency.

“Daniel?” Jack whispered expectantly as they walked behind Ardyl.

“Uh, suprel would be a ... a meeting place.”

“And exactly what does he mean by commune?” Jack asked suspiciously.

“Jack, get your mind out of the gutter.  Communing is their main word for negotiating,” the linguist informed.

“I knew that,” Jack said as he tapped on his P-90 rhythmically.

====

“Carter, how long do you think he'll be in there?” Jack asked impatiently from outside the suprel.  He hadn't been happy to learn that the communing process meant just Ardyl and Daniel, especially since forty-five minutes had passed.  ~So, I'm not a patient man.~

“It's hard to say, Sir.  We don't even know what the problem is for sure.”

“Have I mentioned I don't like surprises?  Haven't I made that oh so abundantly clear?” Jack asked with force.

“Yes, Sir.  I'll be sure to tell that to the Hedronix,” Sam responded.

Jack took a nervous breath and confided, “The problem, Carter, is that I'm not sure these people are to blame for whatever has happened.”

Just then Daniel walked out of the suprel and headed towards his teammates.

“Daniel?” Jack called out, motioning his teammates away from the suprel and anyone who might be close by.

Speaking quietly, the archaeologist informed, “Jack, the Pentagon has botched this up big time.  Either that, or the NID still has rogue operations going on.”

“Explain.”

“The Hedronix signed a preliminary treaty with Earth.  They honored their side of the agreement.”  Daniel looked at Sam, asking, “Have you seen or heard anything about something called Rolarx?”

“Rolarx?  No.  What is it?”

“Apparently, it's an energy source, stronger than anything else we've heard of, if you believe the Hedronix ... and I do.”

“Then I should know about this Rolarx,” Sam stated.

“Yes, you should,” Daniel agreed and then looked at Jack, conveying his fears.

“You think the Pentagon ran off with this stuff?  Daniel, wasn't the exchange done with SG teams?” Jack asked.

“No.  Jack, you remember what I told you about these people.  Honor and respect are extremely important here.  They do everything through the Commune,” Daniel pointed out.

“And ...?” Jack prompted.

“And according to Ardyl, he had a Commune with someone he had met before.  He said the man had accompanied SG-9 a few times, but for the Commune, the man came alone.  The Commune hadn't been planned for that day, but the man explained there had been a change of schedule because of some special event on Earth.  Again, you have to remember the Hedronix operate on a system of honor.  They believed him.  Ardyl had the Commune and gave the man the Rolarx.  In exchange, we were supposed to send four educators to stay here on the planet for several months to teach the Hedronix more about our ways.”

“Daniel,” Sam interrupted.  “Are you saying all they wanted for the energy source was to learn about us?”

“Yes, that's it.”

“So what's the problem?” Jack asked anxiously.

“When the educators didn't show up as promised two days later, Ardyl contacted the SGC.  The SGC knew nothing about the Commune.  General Hammond told them he'd check on it, only when a response came, it wasn't from Hammond, but again from this man who told them there'd been a delay.  Long story short, four days later SG-9 showed up for the Commune as scheduled.”

“Wait.  I thought you said Hammond was checking on it.”

“That's what Ardyl said he was told, but the next contact was from SG-9 acting as if nothing had happened.  Things got ... heated.  Ardyl and his people feel like we've accused them of dishonor.  They want to cut off all contact with Earth and have asked to have their gift returned,” Daniel stated.

“And that hasn't happened.”

“Apparently not,” Daniel answered, almost in a drawl.

“I do not believe the Hedronix are capable of lying, O'Neill,” Teal'c opined.

Jack paced around in a circle before he spoke, “But I don't get it.  If Hammond was looking into this, how could SG-9 waltz through the Stargate the way they did?”

The team exchanged a look.

“We need to go back to Earth, Jack.  We have to talk to the general,” the archaeologist stated.

“Daniel, what about the man who had the Commune.  Do you know who it was?” Sam asked.

Daniel nodded and folded his arms across his chest as he looked off into space for a minute.  He took a deep breath and reluctantly looked at Jack.

“They gave me the name he used, and from the description, it ... it matches.”

Daniel paused, not wanting to think the worst about a friend and also worried about Jack's reaction.

“Well?” Jack asked impatiently.  “Are you going to share, Daniel, or do we have to play Twenty Questions?”

“It's, uh, Paul.”

Jack stood, stunned.  Daniel couldn't possibly mean who he thought.

“Paul Davis?” Jack asked rhetorically and then let out a groan, turning around and heading back to the Stargate without saying a word.

“Ardyl, we'll be back,” Daniel called out.  “I promise.”

====

“Jack, the matter was resolved.  I made some initial inquiries and then received a message from Ardyl that there had been a mistake made.  He apologized,” Hammond stated, having been totally surprised by the news SG-1 had returned with.

“A message from Ardyl?  Directly?” Daniel asked.

The lieutenant general paused, then answered, “I assumed it was.  I didn't speak with him personally.  I had gone to a meeting, and the communique was on my desk when I returned.  It looked normal, like any communication we receive from an off-world dignitary.”

“Sir, we need to speak with Major Davis,” Daniel stated.

“Major Davis?  He hasn't been here in some time.”

“I'm not so sure about that, Sir,” Jack commented.  “According to Ardyl, Major Davis is the one he spoke to.”

“Do what you have to, Jack.  Dismissed,” Hammond ordered as he rose from the chair and left the briefing room.

====

“MOM ... M'MY ...”

Chenoa was having a nightmare.  Jennifer sprang up from her bed and rushed to Angela's bedroom where her sister was sleeping, but when she got there, Sara was already holding the curly-haired blonde.

“Your mommy loves you, Chenoa,” Sara soothed tenderly.

“Bye-bye,” Chenoa sniffled.

“She's right here.  Your mommy will always be in your heart.  She's watching you, loving you.  She'll always be with you,” Sara said calmly as she rocked Chenoa in her arms.

Angela, who was one year older than her new friend and had a greater grasp of language, asked, “Noa's mommy die?”

“Yes, Honey.  You go back to sleep.”  Sara turned her attention back to the young girl.  “You know what?  When I was a little girl, my mommy used to sing to me.  It always made me feel better.  Can I sing to you?”

Sara felt Chenoa nod, so she began to sing a tender lullaby.  Soon, the toddler fell asleep, though Sara continued to hold her.

“You poor thing, but I promise you, your mommy is here, and she will always love you and protect you.  I believe that, Chenoa.”  Still rocking the sleeping child, Sara whispered, “I know it's not the same, but Jack and Daniel love you.  Noa, they love you so much, and they'll do their best to keep you safe.  It may not seem like it now, and, goodness knows, growing up, it may not be easy on you or your siblings, but you're a lucky little girl to have Jack and Daniel as your adoptive parents.”

Chenoa was totally relaxed in Sara's hold.

Sara smiled and continued, “You're a beautiful little girl.  Heaven knows I don't ever want this to become necessary, but I promise you, Darling, that if the worst ever happens to those two wonderful parents of yours, I'll do my best to raise you right.  You'll be loved.  You and David and Jennifer ... and the Munchkins ... and the girls ... oh, and the fish.  Can't forget the fish.  You have a home here, Chenoa.  No matter what, so you're safe.”

Sara began to sing again as she continued to rock the toddler.

Jennifer quietly backed away and returned to her temporary room. When she did, she looked around and noticed for the first time that the room was appropriate for a teenager. In fact, though she had seen the teen magazines, DVD movies like 'High School Musical', and CDs of popular artists like Miley Cyrus, Beyonce, Alicia Keys, and Robin Thicke, she hadn't questioned their presence until now.

~Why would you have these?  Angela's your only daughter.~  Jennifer sat on the bed and then remembered David's room.  ~There's a Mickey Mouse stuffed animal in there and ...~  Suddenly, she realized David's room was full of things her brother loved -- a microscope, a spinning globe, and lots of books.

There was something else Jennifer became aware of now.  The Munchkins had their own room, completely furnished.  It was a nursery, but Angela was three years old, way too old for the items in the brightly-decorated room.

~And the girls.  There's a beanbag ... oh no, now that I think about it, there's four different beanbags that I've seen.  I don't understand.  The Wilsons don't have any pets.  Why has Sara done all of this?~

Jennifer leaned over on her side, grabbing her pillow.  She was confused.  Deep in thought, it was over an hour before she returned to sleep.

====

“Jack, I don't think we should do this,” Daniel whispered.

The archaeologist was standing with Jack, Sam, and Teal'c outside the townhouse where Paul Davis lived, just outside of Washington D.C.  It was in the wee hours of the morning, about 2 a.m.

“Daniel, do you think Davis is a traitor?”

“No.”

“So if he knows something, do you think he's going to be able to talk freely in his office at the Pentagon?” Jack questioned forcefully, getting a nod of realization from his lover.

Daniel motioned for Jack to lead on.  Jack told Sam and Teal'c to maintain surveillance around the residence.  Then, he jimmied open a ground floor window and climbed through.  Daniel followed immediately behind him.

“Can't believe the guy doesn't have an alarm system,” Jack whispered as soon as Daniel had climbed through.

The general motioned for them to go upstairs where they assumed Paul would be asleep, which he was; that is, until he was startled awake by the feel of a pistol at his temple.

Daniel wasn't happy with Jack's choice on how to wake the sleeping man, but this wasn't the time to debate it.  He watched as Paul looked up at the two intruders.

“General O'Neill?  Daniel?” Paul asked, still somewhat in shock, though he tried to get up.

Jack, however, still hadn't moved and stated, “That's Doctor Jackson-O'Neill to you, Major.”

“Jack, give it a rest,” Daniel requested as he pointed his flashlight towards Paul.

“Sit up, Major, but don't move any more than that, and keep your hands where I can see them,” Jack ordered.

“What's going on?” Paul asked as he slowly moved into an upright position.

“That's what you're going to tell us.”

Paul sat up against the headboard.  He was clearly nervous, his eyes darting all over the room.  He started to turn on a light until he saw Jack's pistol right in front of his face.

“Let's just stay in the dark, shall we?” Jack stated, arching his eyebrows and then pulling back the weapon.

From the foot of the bed, Daniel asked, “Paul, do you know anything about the Hedronix?”

Paul's breathing was heavier than normal.  He looked over towards his window and then he closed his eyes.  When he opened them, he made direct eye contact with Jack.  He looked at his phone and then at a picture on the wall.  He looked back at Jack and nodded, praying Jack understood his silent message.

“Never heard of them, General,” but instead of shaking his head as he spoke, Paul nodded and motioned towards the picture.

“We don't believe you, Davis.”

Jack walked over to the picture and examined it and then the area behind it.  He saw the small listening device that Davis had indicated, planted on the back of the frame.

“I don't care what you believe.  You can't just barge in here,” Paul argued.

“I can do whatever I want.  I'm retired.  No more rules,” Jack smirked as he returned to stand by the bed.

“I can have you arrested,” Paul spoke as he reached over for a notepad and pen and jotted down a note, handing it to Jack.

The note read:

“Please.  Hit me.  Do something.  They won't believe me otherwise.”

Jack looked at Daniel for a moment and then with a furious anger in his voice called out, “You're a lying fool, Davis.  I always knew you were a brown-nosing little weasel.  Had you pegged from day one.”

Daniel moved to stand behind Jack's shoulder and read the note.  Paul handed over a second note which both Jack and Daniel read:  “Wash Mon 0530.”

“You're just an insubordinate queer, General!” Paul spat.

“Okay, that's it,” Jack said, grabbing Paul by the collar of his pajama top and hitting him.

Daniel looked away.  Paul may have requested Jack do it, but it didn't make it any easier to witness.

“Jack, just leave him.  He's not worth it,” Daniel said pleadingly, aware that anyone watching or listening would expect him to try and stop Jack from beating someone up.

“We're going to hound you, Davis.  Anywhere you go, we'll be there, starting now!”

Paul ran his hand across his lip to stop the trickling blood that ran from the corner of his mouth, and then Jack and Daniel left.

When the lovers climbed back out the window, Sam informed them, “Sir, we're being watched.”

“Yes, I know.  Let's go.”

====

By 5:15 a.m. that morning, SG-1 was in position near the Washington Monument. Minutes later, Paul jogged by, acting surprised to see the team.

“I told you, Davis, we're your worst nightmare,” Jack stated.

“Just act ... intimidating.  I'm being watched.”

“We figured that out,” Jack said, giving Paul a small shove back.  “Danny ... act ... you know, how you act.”

Daniel rolled his eyes then approached Jack, as if he were arguing.

“Make it fast, Davis,” Jack ordered.

“It's a cell from the old NID operation,” Paul began.

“The Trust?” Daniel asked.

“No, this is another faction.  They're still out there, General, and they're less concerned about hurting people than they ever were.  They want power.  They don't believe we're doing enough to ...”

“Yadda, yadda, Davis.  We know that.  The Hedronix,” Jack again ordered.

“This operation ... they want to use the Rolarx to make sure that America has control of the Stargate.”

“Make sure?  How?” Daniel asked.

“The Rolarx is more powerful than naquadah or anything we've ever seen.  They want to harness that power and prevent other countries from acquiring it,” Paul revealed.

“They don't want to share,” Jack clarified.

“We already have Russian teams as part of the SGC; negotiations are proceeding for a Chinese team to be in place by the end of the year, and more international teams are in the works.  No, General, they don't want to share.”

“Major Davis, how are you involved?” Sam questioned.

Jack saw the flinch, the hesitation, the shift of the major's eyes.  He knew exactly what that meant.

“They have something on you, don't they?” Jack smirked.

“Jack.”

“Daniel, why else would he go along with them?  Why would he sell out the world unless he had something to lose ... something personal.”  Jack grabbed Paul and shook him “just for appearances, you realize.”

A part of Jack was enjoying this.  He had never really liked Paul.  He'd been jealous of him from the day they had met.  Daniel considered the major a friend, however, and Jack had to admit that Paul had come through for them in the past when needed.  He certainly didn't believe the major was a traitor; still, his old Mr. Jealousy was enjoying the show being put on for the people watching them.

“They ... they've ...” Paul stuttered.

“Out with it, Davis.”

Paul swallowed hard and confessed, “They have Colonel Reynolds, Sir.  Everyone thinks he's on assignment, but he's not.  They kidnapped him, and they, uh, they ...”

Daniel watched his friend having such a hard time explaining what was happening.  His sixth sense was beginning to kick in, but he hadn't quite yet put together all the pieces of the puzzle.

“They *what*?” Jack said with a raised voice, but not loud enough for his voice to carry.

“They're threatening to kill him, slowly.  Torture him first is what they said they'd do,” Paul answered.

“Major, why not report this?” Jack asked.

“I couldn't.  They took him, Sir.”

“How do you know the colonel isn't on the assignment he's supposed to be on?” Sam queried.

“Because ... I was with him when they took him, and I'm the one who made sure everyone thought he was on a covert op.”

“Oh, for crying out loud, why would you do that?  What in Netu is Reynolds to you?” Jack asked, tired of the games.

“Oh, gawd,” Daniel heard himself say, the proverbial light bulb having gone off in his head.  “Jack,” he said, looking away while gently touching his husband's arm and trying to pull him along with him.

“Wait, I want an answer.”

“Jack ...”

“Daniel, will you ...”

“Jack, what would you have done if they took me?” Daniel interrupted, staring his lover down.

“I'd ...” Jack looked at a nervous Paul Davis, a very nervous and heavily perspiring Paul Davis.  “I don't believe it.”

“Daniel is correct, General.  Colonel Reynolds and I ... we've ... well, for a ... long time, Sir.”

“A long time?” Jack asked incredulously.

Jack wasn't sure whether he wanted to kill Paul or not.  If Paul was dating a man, then maybe Jack had been right all along, and Paul really wanted Daniel for himself.  On the other hand, if he and Reynolds were a couple, part of him felt sorry for the major for having to endure “Don't Ask, Don't Tell.”

“Years, Sir, before he was a colonel.  We met when he was stationed at Area 51, and we began working together on potential uses for some of the devices the SG teams were bringing back from missions,” Paul explained.

“The ring.  He's the one you were talking to?”  Both Daniel and Paul looked at Jack with inquisitive eyes.  “I thought you were ... I mean ... I heard you on the phone ... and ...” Jack's voice trailed off as he looked at Daniel.  “I'm sorry, Danny.  I ... you remember a few years back?”

“Jack, you're an idiot.  Do you know that?” Daniel asked, shaking his head as he realized what his lover was referring to.

“Good thing you ...” Jack suddenly remembered they weren't home alone and let the discussion drop.  “We'll discuss it at home, okay?  Right now, we need details.  Don't leave anything out, Major.”

====

Using information supplied by Paul, SG-1 devised a plan.  They had learned that there were at least two members of the NID cell operating inside the SGC.  One was Technician Laura Cunningham.  She usually had the night shift in the control room.  She was an expert at manipulating computer records.  The other was someone high up in the chain of command, but Paul didn't know who it was.  He was sure that it was this man who had left Hammond the note about the incident with the Hedronix having been resolved.

The team set up surveillance on Cunningham, and, at the same time, Sam and Teal'c reviewed weeks worth of security tapes in her lab.

“Colonel Carter, I believe we know the identity of the traitor,” Teal'c said calmly after having watched the tapes for a while.

“I'll call the general and Daniel,” Sam said as she moved to her phone.

====

“Colonel Damron, reporting as ordered, General.”

Kyle Damron saluted as he stood at attention in Hammond's office.

“At ease, Colonel.  You know General Jack O'Neill,” Hammond said as he nodded at Jack, who was leaning against the wall, arms folded across his chest.

“Haven't had the privilege, but you're reputation precedes you, General,” Damron replied.

“Believe it,” Jack responded.

Looking at the colonel, Hammond stated, “Colonel Damron, SG-1 is about to embark on a top secret recon.  Your expertise is required.  You leave immediately.”

“Leave?  To where, Sir.”

“Through the Stargate,” Jack informed him, smiling deceptively.

“But to where ... exactly?” Damron inquired about his mission.

“You'll see.  Let's go,” Jack ordered.

By the time Jack and Damron reached the gate room, the kawoosh of the Stargate had blasted through the airwaves.  Sam, Teal'c, and Daniel were waiting at the base of the ramp.

“Glad you could join us, Colonel,” Sam said as she headed up the ramp.

“You want to tell me what's going on, Colonel Carter?” Damron asked.

“Hey,” Jack stepped in front of the man.  “I said you'll find out soon enough.  Let's go.”

====

Once through the Gate, the five travelers looked quickly around the smoggy swampland of PR2-991.  They wasted no time getting down to business.

“Okay, Colonel,” Jack spoke.  “You have exactly sixty seconds to start talking.”

Jack held his P-90 so that it was aimed at his adversary's chest.

“What's going on here?” Damron asked agitatedly.

“I want to know where Colonel Reynolds is, and we want to know where you've stashed the Rolarx,” Jack answered.

“I don't know what you're talking about.”

Teal'c moved into Damron's personal space.  The Jaffa towered over the five-foot, eleven-inch military man.

“We believe you do know,” Teal'c stated unflinchingly.

“I, uh ...” Damron stuttered.

“Listen, Damron,” Jack said standing about a foot away.  “We don't have time to do this the long way, so you have a choice.  You either cooperate and tell us what we want to know, in which case, Teal'c here will simply escort you back to the SGC where you'll be arrested and spend the rest of your miserable life in jail, or ...”

“You have to love Jack's 'or's',” Daniel taunted.  “He is the master of the 'or.'  Trust me, I know.”

“Or,” Jack continued.  “Teal'c here inflicts you with some nice bodily harm, and then we leave you here on this fine paradise.  You'll notice there's not much in way of food or shelter, and there's no such thing as a GDO here.

“And don't forget, Sir ... the lockout?” Sam reminded.

“Oh, yes,” Jack smirked.  “This paradise will be yours forever.  Hammond will be locking it out of the computer program the minute we get back.  You're choice, Damron.  Sixty seconds.”

Damron was convinced Jack was bluffing.  He stood his ground, smiling cockily, even as Jack was staring at his watch, timing out the seconds.

“Okay, Daniel.  Dial it up,” Jack ordered.

Daniel walked to the DHD and dialed Earth.  When the Stargate activated, Sam walked through, followed by Daniel.

“Teal'c, have fun,” Jack said as he walked to the Stargate.

Damron processed all the stories he had heard about Jack O'Neill.  He believed every single one of them.

“Wait!”

Jack turned, smiled, and listened as the now-very-cooperative Damron told them everything they needed to know.

====

“Sara, you said I could ask you questions,” Jennifer said after breakfast as she helped clear the table.

“Yes, I did.  Ask away.”

Jennifer gave a summary of her observations about the bedrooms and asked, “Why, Sara?  Why do you have all this stuff out?”

As she pressed the power button that turned on the dishwasher, Sara sighed, “I think that's another question for Jack and Daniel.“

“That's another thing.  I heard you last night, with Chenoa, when she had that nightmare.  I don't understand why you'd say that.”

“Say what?” Sara asked, grabbing a cloth to wipe down the table.

“That we have a home here.  We don't even know you,” Jennifer stated, her tone wary and cautious.

“You need to talk to Jack and Daniel,” Sara responded, trying to be reassuring though she was a bit nervous about this line of questioning.  She gave a soft smile and then walked into the living room.  ~Maybe she'll let it go.~

“I'm asking you.”

~I guess she's not going to let it go,~ Sara sighed internally.  Looking at the girl, she said, “But I'm not your parents.”

“You talk like you are.  I mean, you did with Chenoa.  I want to know why.”

Sara approached and spoke, “Jennifer, I know you do, but I also know that you're old enough to respect that some things need to be answered by your parents.  It isn't my place to ...”

“You said if something bad happened ... that ...”  Jennifer backed away several feet and folded her arms in front of her replaying the conversation.  “Oh wow.  You're going to take us if something happens to them.  All of us?  All six of us?”

There was no point in being evasive any longer, so Sara admitted, “Actually, it's nine: the triplets, you and your brother and sister, the new baby, Bijou and Katie ...”

“And the fish.”

“And the fish.  I promised Daniel,” Sara said, smiling.

“Oh wow.  Oh wow!”  Jennifer put her hands to her head as she walked. “Oh wow,” she said yet again, and then she looked back at Sara.  “Seriously?  All of us?”

“Look, Jennifer ...”

“Jen.  They ... call me Jen.”

Sara smiled.  It was the first real tone of friendship she'd heard from the almost teenager.

“Jen, you really need to let Jack and Daniel explain, but, yes, if the worst happens, Mark and I are part of their plan.  Please ask them about it.  It's really not my place.”

“And you've done all this?  You've decorated your house, given us rooms ... just ... I mean ...”

“You'll be here a lot, when they have work to do.  I want you to feel comfortable.  We have a big house, with plenty of room,” Sara stated.

“Wow.  Oh wow.”

The phone rang, and Sara excused herself to answer it.  Jennifer listened.  She could tell it was a friend of Sara's wanting her to go shopping.  Politely, Sara refused.  Jennifer knew it was because of her and the other five children, but as she listened, she didn't hear any resentment or sorrow in Sara's tone.

“Oh wow,” Jennifer said again.  ~I ... I think maybe I was wrong about her.~

====

“Okay, let's synchronize our watches.  On my mark, it'll be 1010 ... mark.”  Jack instructed the SG teams present -- SG-1, SG-3, SG-13, and SG-14.  “We can't afford mistakes.  Stay focused.  Move out.”

With that, the teams stepped through the Stargate to the coordinates Damron had provided -- PX5-283.  It had been in the SGC computers as a “no visit/lockout” planet, though no one could recall even having discussed the planet before.  Damron had confessed that Cunningham had been ordered to enter the lockout information.

Once on the planet, the teams spread out, heading for an encampment five miles south of the Stargate.  According to Damron, that was where the Rolarx was being studied and experimented with.

The trips through the Gate by the rogue unit were infrequent, always done when Cunningham was on duty and when manpower was reduced to skeleton shifts only.  The klaxons were disengaged for the activations, and the handful of Marines on duty were simply ordered not to discuss those specific “top secret” missions.  The technician would then use her skills to delete any record of the Stargate activation.  It was a procedure that had worked remarkably well for the six months it had been in use.

Just outside the encampment, Jack marveled at the number of guards, both human and alien, protecting the site.

“Go figure.  The Pentagon fights us for every dollar and some lunatic foots the bill for this?  It doesn't make sense,” the general put forth.

“They just want the power, Jack.”

“That might be, Daniel, but they sure have picked a funny way to go about it.  Secure this stuff for Earth and then turn around and make a deal with the Tobans.  Those goons are more weapon crazy than the Pentagon.”

“And if they determine how to manufacture Rolarx on their own, they'll probably go to the Hedronix home world and try to take it by force if they can't get more any other way,” Sam said.

Jack checked his watch.  They still had a few minutes before proceeding with their plan.  Timing was very important.  Damron had said that the cell possessed a Goa'uld communication device which they were using to send messages from the planet to Earth, to the site where Reynolds was being held.

The rescue team didn't want to tip their hand by going in too early.  As the SG teams on the planet moved in, so would Marines on Earth with the goal of capturing as many of the rogue agents as possible and freeing Reynolds.

Jack was worried about the presence of the Tobans.  They were a callous race, extremely self-involved.  Their main goal seemed to be the acquisition of more and better weapons with which to conquer the worlds around them.

“They remind me of the Borg,” Jack had said when they had first run across the Toban three years ago.

“Jack, does everything remind you of a TV show or movie?” Daniel had asked in frustration.

“Everything but you, Love.  You're my one in a bazillion.  Unique.”

Jack had ended that discussion by starting a new round of lovemaking, and to be honest, Daniel hadn't resisted in the slightest.  Now, though, they both waited for time to march on.

“One minute.  Get ready,” Jack ordered.

**Jack.  I love you.**

Jack looked at Daniel, wishing he could kiss his lover, or just hold him.  If they had more time, he might just do that since “Don't Ask, Don't Tell” wasn't an issue for them anymore, but the seconds were counting down.  He smiled.

**Love you, too, Angel.  Stay close.**

**I'll watch your six.**

Jack took a breath.  They were about to do battle, and when that happened, the outcome was never guaranteed.  They had so much to live for.  He wished Kinsey was here.

~I'd shove him in the path of these Borg and watch them eat him for breakfast.  Of course, they'd choke on him,~ Jack opined.  He checked his watch, and then motioned the teams forward to proceed with their plan.  “Don't move,” he ordered the rogue agents and the Toban when they entered the encampment.  “Don't do it,” he aimed his weapon at a young man about to reach down for a weapon.

Without warning, a member of SG-13 was fired upon from behind, and a battle began.  It was a bloody crossfire that had the SG teams scrambling for cover.  Jack moved behind a column, continuing to empty round after round from his P-90.  He looked briefly for Daniel.

**Daniel?  Where are you?**

**Over here ... by the crates.  To your right, Jack.**

Jack fired off more rounds and glanced over his shoulder.  He saw Daniel firing from behind a four-foot high stack of crates.

“Sir!” Sam shouted, looking to the far end of the building where a wave of Toban were filtering in.

~Just what we need.  More Borg.~

The Earth teams made some headway, but a grenade-like device had taken them by surprise and was taking a toll.  Two members of SG-14 were down, and Sam had been knocked out briefly from the remnants of a blast.  Daniel heard another blast, and saw Teal'c engaged in battle with the leader of the Toban.  A moment later, the leader was dead.  At last, the SG teams were gaining an advantage.

With their leader gone, the Toban became disorganized in their fighting strategy.  Though they were aggressive beings, they were used to following the orders of their leaders, and when that procedure was disturbed, they had a hard time functioning.

At last, the fighting was coming to an end.  Jack aimed his P-90 at the last man standing between him and what he assumed was the Rolarx.

“That wouldn't be a smart idea,” Jack stated as the man stood his ground.

“Neither would moving too fast, General,” a man said from a few feet behind him.  “Slowly, General.  Wouldn't want me to get jittery, would you.  It might have nasty consequences for your boyfriend here.”

Cautiously, Jack turned.  One of the rogue NID agents held a pistol to Daniel's temple.

“You hurt him, and you're dead,” Jack promised.

“Put your weapon down, General, and order everyone else to do the same,” the man spoke.

“O'Neill, we cannot allow the Toban to ...” the Jaffa began.

“I know that, Teal'c ...” Jack cut off his friend's words, not needing or wanting to hear the obvious.

**Danny?  Remember lesson nine?**

**Ready when you are,** Daniel replied.

**Angel, I ...**

**You're the best, Jack.  I trust you.  Forever and Always.**

**Forever and Always,** Jack reaffirmed.  **Count of three, Love .. okay?**

**Okay.  One ... Two ... Three!**

In a split second, Daniel jabbed the man with his right elbow and dropped to the ground while, simultaneously, Jack aimed his weapon and shot the man right between his eyes, killing him instantly.  Daniel saw the bloodied body fall next to him and stared.

“Danny ...”  Jack ran to his lover and bent over to help him up, drawing him into a tight embrace.  “Are you all right?”

Daniel nodded against his husband's left shoulder as he breathed in the reassuring scent of his lover and asked, “You?”

“Just peachy.”

Jack pulled back to look at his lover.  He needed to see the cerulean blue eyes, to see their crystal clarity, to know that Daniel was truly all right.  The young man smiled, and a second later, both nodded and pulled apart to attend to the clean up.

“Sam, are you okay?” Daniel asked.

“It's just a scratch, Daniel.  I'm fine,” Sam said, smiling.  “I'm going to check on the Rolarx.”

While Sam ensured that the powerful energy source was contained, Teal'c made sure the prisoners were secured.

====

A few hours later, SG-1 returned through the Stargate.  General Hammond and Paul Davis were both waiting at the bottom of the ramp.

“Colonel Reynolds?” Daniel asked as soon as he reached the foot of the ramp.

“He's fine, Doctor Jackson,” the major responded.

Jack and Daniel saw the gratitude in Paul's face, but they couldn't say anything more at the moment.

“General, we need to return to Hedry and try to regain their trust again,” Daniel stated.

“Daniel!” Jack said harshly.

“Jack, we have to finish this.  The Toban might go after the Hedronix.  We have to warn them, and even more importantly, try to convince them that what happened was a ... a ...”

“Mistake?”

“It wasn't a mistake exactly.  It was the fault of misguided individuals. We have to get them to understand that those people are the minority; convince them to give us another chance,” Daniel insisted.

“SG-9 can go,” Jack argued.

“Jack, Ardyl won't listen to ...”

“... to anyone but you.”

Daniel sighed as he repeated, “We have to go to the Hedronix planet, to their capital city of Hedry.”

Jack wanted to scream.  He wanted this interruption of their lives to be over, but it just kept going on.

“Fine.  Dial the planet,” Jack shouted up to Sergeant Davis in the control room.

“General, perhaps it would be better to have Doctor Fraiser ...” General Hammond interjected.

“No, Sir, it wouldn't.  We're getting this over with now.”

Seconds later, the Stargate event horizon appeared, and SG-1, accompanied by fresh backup in SG-2, returned to the Hedronix planet.

====

Once again making contact with Ardyl, Daniel spoke, “Please, Ardyl.  We need to talk.”

“Come, Daniel.  We will Commune.”

“Yes, we will,” Jack stated as he closed the distance between him and Ardyl.

“Jack.”

“General, the Commune is ...” Ardyl began.

“Sacred.  Yes, I know.  I also know that you claim honor and respect are your highest ideals,” Jack replied.

“They are,” Ardyl said, nodding.  “We live by it.  We trust.”

“Then I am asking you to honor me.  We just survived a nightmare, one in which Daniel almost got killed ... again.  I love him.  I have no intention of letting him out of my sight for at least a week, maybe a month, or a year ... maybe never,” Jack declared.

“Jaaaack!”

“Show some trust in Daniel and in me,” Jack requested.  “Bend the rules, Ardyl, or change them.  Create something new.  We'll even meet you half way.”  The general removed his P-90 and handed it to his 2IC, and then returned to Daniel's side.  He took Daniel's hand in his.  “Where he goes, I'm going.”

“So it shall be.  This way.”

**You are so going to pay, Jack.**

**It worked, didn't it?** Jack responded happily.

**And what if he had said no?**

**Plan B.**

**Which was?** the archaeologist asked.

**Don't have a clue,** Jack admitted.

**Jack, let go of my hand.  We're negotiating here, not going to a party,** Daniel requested as he attempted to pull his hand free.

**Not letting go.**

**Jack!**

**Not letting go.**

**You can be so aggravating sometimes.**

**Thank you,** Jack smirked, his grip on Daniel's hand firm but loving.

**You aren't helping your case.**

**So yell at me when we get home, and that's the ultimate goal, Danny -- to get home, safe.**

**Stubborn general.**

Daniel gave up the battle, letting Jack hold his hand during the entire Commune, though he was sure Ardyl must think they were being overly paranoid.

Finally, Ardyl spoke, “We are agreed.  We will give the Tau'ri another chance.  The educators will come in three days?”

“Yes,” Daniel said as he nodded his affirmation.  He added, “And we are glad that you understand about the incident, that it was an error caused by individuals who don't represent the majority.  It was  ...”

“We care only of honor.  It is not your apologies, Doctor Jackson, that have convinced us, nor is it your assurances that nothing like it will happen again.  You see, promises are only as good as the people who fulfill them.  You can promise for yourself, but not for an entire nation.”

Daniel wasn't sure how to respond to that, so he asked, “Then if you aren't convinced, why have you agreed to continue the exchange with us?”

“Honor and respect are highly valued, but above all else, that which means the most to us, is family.  You, General O'Neill, have convinced us.  Your refusal to let the one you love go without you when you felt uncomfortable moved us.  And you, Doctor Jackson, though clearly displeased with the general's wishes, you went along.”

“Yes, I did.”

“Because you honor him, yes?” Ardyl queried.

Daniel smiled shyly, freely admitting, “Yes.”

“Honor.  In the end, the way one honors and respects their family speaks louder than most anything else.  The general's protectiveness and your acquiescence showed a higher level of evolution for your people.  We wish to learn more, and are honored you, too, wish to learn about us as well.”

Jack had said nothing, but had a smirk on his face.

**Jack, you are still in trouble.**

**And I can't wait for you to make me quake in my boots.**

**When I make you quake, Jack, you will not be wearing your boots.**

Jack chuckled as he squeezed his lover's hand.

SG-1 said their good-byes and returned to Earth.  This time, Kinsey was present, and Jack and Daniel were forcefully reminded of the reason they'd taken on the mission in the first place, not that they had forgotten for a millisecond.

The team headed for the conference room, and when the debriefing was over, Jack, Daniel, Hammond, and Kinsey walked into Hammond's office for a private meeting.

====

“Okay, we've done what you wanted, and almost got killed for it.  Now, I expect you to honor your agreement,” Jack stated.

“The President is willing to intervene,” Kinsey smirked, “*after* your next mission.”

“Excuse me?” Daniel asked.  He walked into Kinsey's personal space, looking him eyeball to eyeball with not an ounce of sympathy in his eyes.  ~We're not going through this again.~

“Your next mission, Doctor Jackson.”

“That's Doctor Jackson-O'Neill to you, and there isn't going to be another mission.”

“Then say goodbye to those orphans you want so badly,” Kinsey threatened.

“I'm going to break your neck,” Jack said firmly, the veins in his neck bulging as his rage grew.

Kinsey sneered, “I don't take threats casually, General.  It's your choice.  I'll expect to see both of you here tomorrow morning.  General Armstrong will be here to brief you.  General Hammond,” Kinsey acknowledged as he headed for the door.

Suddenly, Jack grabbed Kinsey's navy blue blazer, spun the man around, and shoved him against the door.

“General O'Neill!” Hammond called out.

“You listen to me, you are *not* using my kids as blackmail, and I don't make threats!”

“Jack!”  Daniel reached out, grabbing Jack's left arm, and tugging him back towards the center of the room.  “He's not worth it.”

Kinsey regrouped, making sure his suit was in place, and said, “Tomorrow morning, General,” before walking out.

“I'm sorry, Jack,” Hammond sighed, sitting back down in his chair.  “Kinsey has a lot of pull with the Pentagon right now, even though the President isn't a fan of his.  I didn't know he was going to do this.”

“He isn't.”

“Jack ...” Daniel said in warning tone.  Facing Hammond, he said, “We'll be in touch, General.  Let's go, Jack.”

Jack stood, angry and sulking.

“Jack, let's go,” Daniel repeated.  “The children are waiting for us.”

“Our kids,” Jack said to anyone listening, following Daniel out of the SGC.

====

Jack drove his truck with precision.  His look was intense.  He hadn't spoken a word.  Then again, neither had Daniel until he noticed his lover hadn't taken the usual route to their home.

“Jack?  Aren't we going home?”

The older man shook his head, but said nothing.  Daniel looked out the window, letting his mind wander.  He wanted to go home and hug their children, but he also wanted, no, he needed something else, and he suspected that Jack was feeling the same thing.

====

When the couple arrived at their destination, Jack quietly got out of the truck and headed for the door of their Colorado cabin.  Daniel followed, a step or two behind.  The older man unlocked the door and entered.  Daniel stepped inside, closing the door behind him, and then locking it.  The moment he turned around, he was lovingly attacked by his husband.

“I sort of thought this is what you had in mind,” Daniel gasped at the first possible moment.

“Arguments?”

“Only that we're talking.”

“Oh, I can stop that.”

Jack didn't utter another sound for an hour, except for grunts and groans.  Daniel's sounds were limited to moans and cries of “Yes” and “There.”  This was one of their more intense sessions, as had often occurred after a mission when their lives were at stake.  Both usually felt a need to reconnect in the strongest physical way possible, and this time was no exception.

Afterwards, Jack held Daniel securely in his arms and sighed, “Geez, Danny.  When he had that gun to your head ...”

“Don't think about it, Love.  It's over.”

“Timing had to be perfect, and even then, if that gun had gone off ...”

“Jack,” Daniel looked up into his spouse's eyes.  “I love you.  We're both safe, so let's concentrate on that.”  He kissed his lover, then requested, “Now, explain to me about Paul and that ring conversation.”

“Do I have to?”

“Yes, Babe, you do,” Daniel answered.

Jack sighed and explained how during the Paul Duncan nightmare he had overheard Paul on a phone call.  Davis was talking with someone about a ring, and he was holding a gold wedding band.  Jack's Mr. Jealousy had been in full bloom, totally convinced the major had been talking to Daniel.

“I almost forgot about that nightmare,” Daniel said softly.

“Me, too.  I'm sorry, Angel, for bringing it up, but when he said how long he and Reynolds had been together, I realized that must have been who he was talking to.  I never would have guessed about those two.”

“I had no clue, either.  Just think, Jack.  All the years you've been so jealous of him ... all for nothing ... and I'm not trying to throw that in your face, I just ... I wish ...”

“I know, Love.  I was an idiot because we belong to each other, and no one could ever come between us,” Jack replied.

“I hope you never forget that.”

“We should probably get home to our family.”

Daniel knew he should agree.  He was desperate to see their children, but he also knew that once they walked in the door, the demands on their time would forbid any quality snuggling time with his lover for quite a while.

“Jack, would you be angry if I ...”

“If you what?”

“I want to stay tonight.  The children are fine, even Little Danny's cold is all gone.  I need you, Jack.  I was ... scared, too,” Daniel admitted softly.

“Sara isn't expecting us until tomorrow, so ...” Jack pointed out.

“So we have tonight,” Daniel completed.

“It is Friday, and that's our night,” the older man said mischievously.

The lovers needed the night, so they took it, believing in their hearts that Sara would wholeheartedly approve.  Sometimes, it was okay to be selfish, and they prayed this was one of those times.

====

“Ash, you're getting so big,” Sylvia said.  “I'm so proud of you.”  The doctor turned to the proud parents.  “Perfection; simply perfection.  Outside of the occasional ear infections for Ash and Little Danny's tendency towards being overly quiet, your triplets are doing beautifully.”

“Yes!  I knew it.  We have the most perfect babies in the entire world,” Jack boasted.

“You're a little prejudiced, Jack,” Daniel responded, his eyebrows going down to punctuate his comment.

“What?  You don't think our Munchkins are perfect?” Jack asked incredulously.

“I didn't say that,” Daniel refuted.  ~Of course they're perfect.~

**I heard that, Danny.**

Daniel smiled as did Sylvia, who then concentrated on making a few notations in her file.  The triplets were undergoing their eleven-month checkup at Sylvia's private office in her home.  She had just recently opened the medical office, having remodeled her family room.  It was not only more convenient, but also allowed her to enjoy a bit more of a hands-on general practice, turning away somewhat from the specializing that so dominated the medical profession.  It was something she had wanted to do for a long time.

At the moment, the triplets were on the carpeted floor in a sectioned off play area so they couldn't get into too much trouble.  The play area had flexible railings and a soft canvas material as its walls.  As the adults talked, the babies crawled around, happily investing their little world.  Jonny especially seemed to be examining the constraints of his confines.

“Okay, let's just check a few more things for fun's sake, shall we?  Ash, how about a little game of patty-cake?” Sylvia asked, picking up the baby again and placing her on a table.

“Patty-cake?” Daniel asked.

“Sure,” Sylvia said as she began the game, and soon the youngest Jackson-O'Neill was playing along with her.  “Good girl, Ash!”

“Danny, look,” Jack grabbed his husband's arm forcefully.

Daniel was about to object at the tight hold until he saw Jack's face.  He turned and saw Jonny.  The boy had always been ahead in the motor skills department.  As a newborn, he had been moving on his abdomen long before most newborns moved much at all.  They watched quietly as Jonny pulled himself up at the corner of the play area.  He'd stood alone before, for brief seconds, but now, he stood confidently, a smirky smile on his face.

“I swear, Jack.  He's planning a break out,” Daniel spoke quietly.

Almost on cue, Jonny stooped down slightly.

“My, he is ahead of the game.  That's definitely an advanced skill,” Sylvia commented.

Jonny stood back up and seemed to eye the play area confines again, and as before, he stooped down, but this time he also attempted to move his body through a patch in the canvas.  The patch was where the canvas was bound together, using Velcro strips, only no one had noticed that part of the Velcro hadn't affixed to the other, so there was an opening.

“Oh, gawd, he found an opening,” Daniel said, hurrying to the play area and scooping Jonny up.  “Son, you can't do that.”  He turned to face his husband and warned, “Jack!”

“What?” the older man answered defensively.

“You're teaching our son covert maneuvers, and he's not even a year old yet,” Daniel admonished.

“I haven't done *anything*.  I swear!”

“Right.”

“Daniel, he's eleven months.  How ... tell me *how* I could have taught him that, or anything for that matter?”

“I don't know, but you did!” Daniel insisted.

“Did not!”

“Did, too!”

“Not!”

“Too!”

“Da ... Dada ... no,” Aislinn spoke, pointing up to her each of her fathers.

“I think she's trying to tell you two something,” Sylvia said, a slight warning in her voice.

“Aw, Ash,” Jack went to his daughter and picked her up.  “That wasn't a fight.  Daddy and I don't fight.”

“Jack, don't lie.”

“Well, not in front of you.  It's okay,” Jack assured as he bounced her in his arms. Then he walked over to Daniel and smiled.  “Watch.”  He kissed his husband, the two babies slightly squished together as the kiss blossomed.  Then the babies giggled.  “See, Ash.  Piece of cake.”  He placed a kiss on her cheek.  Looking at Daniel, he said, “I love you.”

“I love you, too, but I know what you're doing with Jonny.”

“Danny!”

“What?” Daniel laughed and put Jonny down in the play area again.  He whispered, “Dad is so easy to frustrate.”

“Daniel!”

“Gentlemen, if you don't mind,” Sylvia interceded.  “One more test for Little Danny, and we'll be through.”

“He's not really talking, Sylvia.  That's not a problem, is it?” Daniel asked.

“No, babies develop at their own speeds.  These charts we use are guidelines, Daniel, not set-in-stone rules.  They help us to know where the average baby should be, and if they're too far behind, we can start looking to see if there's a reason behind the delay, but look at Jonny.  He's far advanced in motor skills, and Ash is a little ahead of the game on vocabulary.  Little Danny here is just taking his time.  He's quite the observer, isn't he?”

“Yeah, he is.  I swear, Syl, this little guy doesn't miss a thing,” Jack stated proudly.  “He's a bit of an imitator, too, especially with the girls.”

“Bij and Katie?”

Daniel laughed as he answered, “He loves to do whatever they are, especially Katie.  He mimics them, like in Katie's play yard, he tries to dig like she does.  It's really cute to watch.”

“So stop worrying.  When he's ready to talk, he will.”

“And if he's anything like his Daddy, and I know he is, once he starts talking, he'll never shut up.”

“Jaaaaaack!”

Sylvia laughed and finished her examination, a joy in her heart that she had been a tiny part of the happiness that now filled her friend's lives.

====

Two days later, Jack walked outside to the patio steps and sat down next to Daniel. The younger man was watching David, Chenoa, Aislinn, and the beagles playing happily in Katie's play yard.

“Jennifer is reading to Jonny and Little Danny,” Jack informed.

“What book?”

“The Lord of the Rings,” the older man answered.

“You're kidding?” Daniel said, reaching over and pulling out a tiny blade of grass that was growing up through the deck.  “Uh, time to cut the grass under the deck, Babe.”

“We've been a little busy,” Jack pointed out.

“Yeah, I guess so.  It was just a straggler, anyway,” the archaeologist said as he took a closer look to see if more blades of grass where battling with the wooden deck.  “Anyway, isn't 'Lord of the Rings' a little over their heads?”

“They don't seem to care, Danny.  The Munchkins are loving it, even if they don't understand a word of what she's reading.”

“They love her already.”

Jack nodded his agreement, loving the way their family was coming together.  However, on the negative side, things with the government weren't going so smoothly.

During the past week, the couple had done everything they could to get out of Kinsey's tightening hold on them.  They had finally gotten through to the President, who had told them that he was happy to help them, but that Kinsey had made it clear that only Jack and Daniel could solve the latest dilemma.  He had asked for their help as “a personal favor” and then he would talk to Kinsey.

There was just one problem with that: the couple knew Kinsey would keep coming up with excuses, and even though the man had long ago fallen out of favor with President Hayes, he had since managed to regain his hold over powerful Senate and Pentagon officials.  As such, he couldn't easily be ignored.

Jack and Daniel were well aware that the President was in a difficult position.  As a man, Hayes disliked Kinsey, but as a politician, Hayes would more than likely have to heed Kinsey's desires in order not to rock the boat with his political party.

The lovers also knew there would always be some crisis that only they could handle.  The irony of it was that they also believed Kinsey was forcing the issue only because it was making them miserable, not because the politician truly believed the couple were invaluable to the SGC.  It was the man's revenge for years of lost battles and for his having had to resign his vice-presidency, though neither Jack nor Daniel had had anything at all to do with that.

Jack sat nervously beside his husband.  He had been contemplating something for the last couple of days, but he didn't know how to say it.  He was a bit surprised to discover he really didn't need to say much at all.

“Jack, we're not giving up our family, and we're not going back to work for Stargate Command,” the younger spoke strongly, yet calmly.

Jack studied Daniel.  He almost didn't recognize him.  This wasn't the compassionate, loving, understanding, “we have to negotiate” man he usually saw.  Instead, there was a focused protector, a defender, a man Jack recognized as a mirror of himself.  He hated Kinsey for forcing Daniel to get in touch with this side of himself.

“Daniel?”

“I called Sam and told her we needed her to take a few days leave and stay with the children.  I didn't tell her why, Jack, but I think she has an idea.”

“Danny, what are you thinking?” Jack questioned hesitantly.

The archaeologist looked deep into Jack's eyes as he answered, “The same thing you are.  No one is taking the Mouseketeers away from us, especially not Kinsey.”

Without saying anything further, Daniel stood up and walked over to the play yard.  He got down on his knees and led his children on an impromptu family dig to excavate some of Katie's toys.

~I agree with you, Angel, but I hate that you've reached this point.  I ... I can live with the aftermath, but can you?  I know you've had to do a lot of things that go against your beliefs, but this ... I don't think you realize how hard it's going to be to ... forget.~

====

Over the next two nights, Jack and Daniel determined their plan of action, which they did behind the locked door of their master bedroom after all the children were asleep.

Initially, Jack had been sure that his husband would waffle in his stance, but he hadn't.  Frankly, he wasn't sure how to deal with that.  It was rare for Daniel to be the aggressor in something like this, but he also knew that when it came to family, people were capable of much more than most gave credence to.

By Thursday night, the couple had made all the necessary arrangements, leaving the children with Sam under the guise of spending a couple of days alone at the Minnesota cabin, returning just in time to celebrate Labor Day with the children.  

With the children in Sam's care, Jack and Daniel started out before dawn on Friday towards their destination in Vermont where Kinsey owned a second home. Their intel had reported that the senator would be arriving in the state early Friday morning to spend an extended holiday weekend at that location.  He wouldn't be returning to Washington, D.C. until Wednesday.

En route, Jack sighed, glancing at his lover as he sat in the passenger seat of the F-350 truck, and asked, “Danny, are you sure about this?”

“We tried everything, Jack.  We used all the arguments we had used on Cummings, but Kinsey doesn't care about being ... outed because, well, he's an inept moron who doesn't care about national security.  Our contacts weren't able to help, and the President can't, not right now.  We both know Kinsey won't stop; he'll keep finding a way to interfere in our lives.  He'll always want something because he's enjoying this, holding our children over our heads.  So, unless you really want Thor to take us to a galaxy far, far away, we don't have a choice.”

“We could do that.  Leave here.”

“Yes, and you and I would be in paradise because we don't need anything except for each other.  We've proven that, but what about our children?  Don't they have a right to make their own choices?  They'd be loved and cared for, but what would they have to look forward to as they grew up?  Jack, you and I ... I don't ... we're not normal at all.  I've thought a lot about this, and as much as we care about people, and as much as we love our children to the ends of time, we ... gawd, we only need each other.”

“Our nation of two,” Jack whispered in response as he drove.

Nodding the younger man spoke, “Thor could leave us on the muggy swamp planet, and as long as we had a shelter and food, we'd be ridiculously happy.”

Jack laughed, knowing that was the truth. “Yeah, we would; and you're right.  Our kids have a life to live.  If we're lucky, they'll all find what we have one day.”

“I hope so.”

“Still, Danny, this is pretty extreme.  You've never had to do anything like this before.”

“I won't let him take our children.  It's not as though some other family is waiting to take the Mouseketeers.  They'd be split up.  Noa might be okay, but I'm not letting David and Jen be shuffled around foster homes until they turn eighteen.  You know what would happen to them Jack.”  Daniel's voice cracked a little and then grew very strong once again.  “We have to do whatever is necessary to protect our family.”

“We could have Thor zap Kinsey someplace,” the older man suggested.

“And there would be an investigation.  Jack, we've both threatened him.  It won't work.  He's too visible.”

Jack continued to drive, still searching his mind.  He was really worried about his husband and what was about to happen.  He tried suggesting that Daniel leave this to him, but his husband was having none of it.

With a cold distance necessitated by what they were about to do, Daniel firmly stated, “No way in Netu am I letting you do this alone, Jack.  Like you always say, it's not going to happen, not this time.”

====

The couple was traveling along I-71 toward Cleveland when they stopped to eat at a truck stop.  A radio played country music in the background as they quietly ate their food.  It was the top of the hour, and headline news began.

“Senator Robert Kinsey, the former Vice-President who resigned in disgrace only to regain his seat in the Senate, was found dead at his home in Manchester, Vermont this morning by his wife.  The senator was shot through the back of the head, and local authorities have called in the F.B.I.  At this time, however, there is no known motive for the murder and no suspects.”

Jack and Daniel stared at each other in complete shock.

“He's dead?” Daniel asked.

“Sounds like it,” Jack answered, looking all around the diner.  **Let's not talk about this here.  Finish your food.**

“Jack?”

**Eat, Daniel.  Don't react.  It's just another news story,** the Special Ops expert advised.

**Jack.**

**Don't argue with me, Daniel.**

The ballgame had just changed, and until he knew exactly what was going on, Jack had just entered undercover mode, and the first order of business was making sure they said or did nothing to stand out or attract attention.

====

Thirty minutes later, Jack and Daniel pulled over at a rest stop.  They hadn't talked since the revelation in the truck stop, both needing to process the information.  They got out of the Ford vehicle and walked for a minute, just stretching.  Each noted they were alone at the stop, no other vehicles present.  They walked into the field at the rear of the stop, the lovers finally needing to discuss what they'd heard.

“Jack, do you think he's really dead?”

“This may sound harsh, but I friggin' hope so.”

“What do we do?  He faked his death once before ... that time when you were framed by that rogue NID agent that stole the mimic devices.”  Daniel suddenly grew alarmed.  “Jack, what if he knew we ...”

“He couldn't.  No one knows, except maybe Carter.”  Jack walked forward a few feet, his left hand running through his hair, his right on his hip.  He turned to face his soulmate.  “We have to be sure.”

“We keep going?” Daniel questioned.

“We don't have a choice,” Jack responded.

Daniel crossed his arms in front of him, twisting his body slightly as he looked around the open space they stood in.

“Jack, if someone sees us, they may make a connection,” Daniel remarked with concern.

At that moment, the couple heard a car.  Both men turned and watched as a man got out and went to the restroom.  They were nowhere near the casually dressed person, but the timing of the car's arrival highlighted what Daniel had just said.

Jack took a deep breath.  He appeared to look away from the restroom, but Daniel knew his lover was still focused on the car.  He was covertly watching, too.  This wasn't a time to take chances or make assumptions.

“We didn't do anything,” Jack stated.

“We know that, but they might not,” Daniel put forth.

“I'm open to suggestions.”

Daniel took a deep breath.  He thought about having Sam do a complete check, but he didn't want to involve her.  After several minutes of pacing, he couldn't think of a viable alternative to covertly verifying Kinsey's death themselves.  They'd have to continue their journey to Vermont, and, no matter what, they'd have to make sure they weren't seen.

“Okay, well ...” Daniel began.

At that point, Jack's cell phone rang, the tones heard from the truck.  The lovers hurried for the truck, fearing there was something wrong with one of their children.  Just as they reached it, the stranger exited the bathroom, got into his car, and drove off, never even looking at Jack and Daniel.

Jack picked up his cell.

“Jack, what is it?” Daniel asked, seeing Jack stare at the phone in shock.

“It's a text message,” the general answered.

“Jack!”

“It says, 'Starsky.  Problem solved.  Handled personally.  Hutch'.”

Daniel was stunned, so much so that he stuttered his response, “May...Maybourne?  Harry Maybourne killed Kinsey?”

Jack swallowed and quipped casually, “I guess he got tired of being king.”

“I didn't think he'd ever leave that planet.  He seemed ... happy there,” Daniel replied.

“You know Harry.  He needs ... spice.”  Jack paused as he looked around the area for a moment.  The last time Harry had been seen, he was on a planet where he was adored by the natives who had made him their king.  Harry had seemed at home there, content to be their leader.  Apparently, though, something had changed.  Jack wondered how Harry had managed to get back to Earth.  Then again, he wasn't sure he wanted to know.  ~Maybe he just ... took a vacation.~  With a sigh that was a combination of worry and relief, Jack said, “Let's go home, Danny.”

“But, Jack, how would he know that we needed Kinsey ... uh ...?” Daniel trailed off, nodding and not wanting to say the word 'dead'.

“How does Harry ever know anything?” Jack asked.

“Jack ...”

Daniel turned away from the truck and began to vomit, suddenly feeling the reality of what they themselves had been on the verge of doing.  The couple needed Kinsey dead, and they were on the verge of murdering the man themselves.  Committing murder was a difficult concept for the passionate explorer to grasp.  Now that he knew they'd been spared having to do the deed, his tough exterior faded, and the moral issues began to return.

Jack rushed to his spouse and pulled him into his arms, holding on firmly until Daniel stopped shaking.  He moved away for a brief minute, grabbed a bottle of water from the truck, and passed it to Daniel so he could rinse his mouth out.

“Better?” the older man asked.

Daniel nodded as he dried his mouth and walked away for a second, but Jack was on his heels.  He reached out and touched his lover's right arm, spinning him around.  The younger man looked so vulnerable at that second that Jack's heart broke.  Quickly, he pulled Daniel to him.

“It's okay now, Danny.”  Jack's left hand went to his lover's moderately shaggy brown hair, clinching part of it.  He kissed Daniel on the mouth, then on his cheek, and finally, on his neck, nuzzling into the space as he hugged his husband even tighter.  “Everything is okay.”

“We...we were ... we were ... going to ...”

Jack hated Kinsey, dead or not.  The man had forced the gentle soul that was Daniel to a dark place that no one should ever have to go to.  He was glad Harry had intervened.

~I owe you one, Harry.  I don't know how you knew, but I don't friggin' care.  Wherever you are, thank you.~

Daniel would have hated himself had they gone ahead with their plans.  This was difficult enough -- the realization of what they had almost done.

Jack held his Angel as tight as he could, wanting to comfort him, and said, “Daniel, it doesn't matter.  We didn't do anything.”

“I love our children, Jack.  I can't let anyone hurt them.”

“And no one ever will,” Jack promised.

“Jack, forgetting all the questions about how and why Harry left the planet and got back here; forgetting all of that, why ... why would Harry do this ... I mean, for ... us?  I don't understand.”

“I don't know.  Harry's ... he's crazy.  He marches to his own drummer and his own sense of right and wrong.  He's always done that.”

“Jack, um ...”

“What, Love?”

“You didn't ... I mean, you wouldn't have asked Harry to ...”

“Danny, I didn't even know the man was back on Earth, so, no, I didn't ask him to do anything.  I *swear* to you that I don't know how he knew.  I'm guessing he's still keeping tabs on the NID and everyone associated with it.  Maybe he just found out on his own and ...”

“Why would he do it, though?”

“I don't know, and to be honest, I don't really care,” Jack answered, still keeping an eye on the area around them to make sure they were alone.  “No matter how it sounds, I'm just glad he did it.”

Daniel nodded and took another look around.  He was tired, emotionally drained, and he just plain and simply felt sick.

“I want to go home, Jack.  I want to see our babies.  I want Bij and Katie to curl up next to us and ... and I want to hold Jen, David, and Noa and never let them go.  I just ... I want to go home.”

The soulmates kissed and then headed back towards Colorado Springs.

====

“He's supposed to be a traitor,” Daniel said about Maybourne as the couple headed home.

“What?” Jack asked, glancing at Daniel and then instantly knowing the topic of conversation.  “He had his moments.”

“You let him off the hook when you were stranded on that planet together,” Daniel spoke.

Jack sighed, “Danny, I should hate the man.  He's pulled some boneheaded stunts in his time, and we know the danger the NID and that rogue offshoot caused to the SGC and our allies.”

“But?” Daniel asked.

“But,” Jack sighed.  “I can't hate him.  His methods with the NID were wrong and dangerous, though.”

“But?” Daniel repeated.

“He's always come through for me, Danny, and I can't forget that,” Jack stated, shaking his head even as he'd spoken the words.  “He really wanted the same thing we did.”

“He just did it the wrong way,” Daniel spoke.

“And then he decided to pad the package,” Jack stated.

“He had nothing to lose,” Daniel replied.  “He was a traitor.  He could never go back to just being in the Air Force.”

Jack snorted, “Forget a promotion, he'd be cleaning the hallways and standing guard.”

“So, we give him a break,” Daniel said softly, looking away, afraid to say that this same man they were talking about had just committed murder.

“Danny, we don't know that Harry didn't have a beef with Kinsey that had nothing to do with us.  Harry was with me when we busted the big plan to oust Hammond.  There was no love lost between those two.”

“So, we give him a break,” Daniel repeated, this time staring at his husband.

“We give him the break and assume the best because that's what we have to do to move forward and put this behind us.”

Daniel smiled and said, “Sam will believe we just changed our minds about the cabin.”

“I'd rather have to convince Sara,” Jack responded.

“Sara?” Daniel asked.

Jack nodded and said, “She knows we're saps with the kids.  She might react for a second, but she's a pushover for my Irish brogue, so all I'd have to do is just charm her for a few minutes.”

“Pushover?” Daniel chuckled.

“She'd be silly putty in no time,” Jack spoke confidently.

“Did you and Sara ever fight?”

Jack looked at his husband and answered with a question -- “Do we?”

“Dumb question,” Daniel chuckled.  Returning to the subject at hand, “The point is, Sam will believe us.”

“She'd never question what I tell her,” the older man stated.  Seeing his lover's stare, he cocked his head, explaining, “I just meant there's still that command thing going, Danny.  It is Carter, and you said that you think she's suspicious of what we were doing, anyway.”

Daniel sighed, “She'd probably be glad we were ... I mean, getting back early would mean ...”

“I know, Angel,” Jack said, knowing that their early return would probably indicate to Sam that they hadn't done anything to worry about.  ~I have a headache thinking about this.~  After a moment, he suggested, “We could stop at that little motel outside of town, say we couldn't wait.  It is Friday, Danny.”

Jack and Daniel shared a look and then both laughed, their first real laugh in a while.  Smiling, Daniel took a deep breath, leaving Vermont and Harry Maybourne both behind him.  It was time to go home and concentrate, not on what might have happened, or what did happen out of their sight, but on their family and their nation of two.

~I hope I can do that,~ the archaeologist prayed, even as he smiled.

====

“Hey, they're all fine.”

Jack's arms wrapped around Daniel's waist.  Labor Day had come and gone, and the Jackson-O'Neill family had celebrated their first holiday together.  Daniel, however, hadn't taken his eyes off their children, nor had he forgiven himself for what they'd been about to do, though he had tried.  It was a difficult reality for the caring and compassionate Daniel Jackson-O'Neill to contemplate, no matter how much he hated Robert Kinsey.

Both Jack and Daniel knew the truth: if Maybourne hadn't intervened, Daniel would have gone ahead and done the thing he now couldn't even bear to think about.  Jack had never felt so grateful for Harry Maybourne in his life.

~You wouldn't have been able to live with it, Danny.  Geez, it would have torn you into pieces.  How could I have even let you get in that truck?  Crap, how was I going to stop you?  Still, thank you, Harry, wherever you are,~ the retired general thought for probably the fiftieth time since receiving Harry's text message.

“I know.”

“Danny, you have to let go.  We have a lot to do,” Jack reminded.

“I know that, too.  The funeral is tomorrow, and then it will really be over,” Daniel sighed.

“It's already over.  The President just called.  He said he'd push the right buttons.  They're ours, Danny.  The Mouseketeers: they're ours,” Jack said, seeing his lover look at him in both surprise and hope.  “We need to focus on them, not some moron that the world is better off without.”

Daniel nodded, leaning his head back against his husband's shoulder, and said, “Jack, this will sound crazy, but I need ...”

“I know just the thing, Angel,” Jack said.  “Go give the kids a kiss,” he instructed as he got up to make a phone call.

====

Jack once again corralled Sam into babysitting and then scooped his lover into arms for a kiss before spiriting him away to their Colorado cabin for a quick two night stay.  Daniel needed to regroup, to find himself again, and, truthfully, so did Jack.  At their cabin hideaway, they would let nature refresh their souls.

This time, though, the couple brought Bijou and Katie with them.  It was Jack's idea, ostensibly to ease the burden on Sam, but in reality, he just wanted the extra sets of eyes on his husband.

As the men relaxed by the lake that afternoon, Jack noted that the beagles understood their role.  Whenever he was away from Daniel, the two dogs were glued to him.  Fortunately, the brief retreat was exactly what Daniel needed, a refueling of his oneness with Jack, that they were still unbeatable when together, and that their future was untarnished by the act they had almost performed, but had been saved from doing by a traitor who had an odd affection for Jack O'Neill.

By the time they returned home early Thursday morning, Daniel's smiles were genuine, and the Jackson-O'Neills moved forward with their adoption of the Mouseketeers, now on a fast track thanks to President Hayes.  They were once again taking joy in the simple living of their lives.

“I had a great time at the cabin.  Thank you, Love,” Daniel spoke appreciatively, sealing his thanks with a kiss.

“My pleasure, Angel.”

“And you two,” Daniel knelt to the floor to pet Bijou and Katie, “you did a great job of watching me.  Thank you.  I needed you two there.  I love you.”

“Didn't buy my act, huh?” Jack asked.

“Jack, Bij and Katie are helpers with the children, not burdens.  You wanted them with us to make sure I was never alone, a reminder that our family was secure and full of love.”  Daniel looked back at the dogs, declaring, “And it is.  It really is.”

With the Kinsey affair now completely behind the lovers, things would quickly be returning to the 'new normal' for the family.  There were plenty of transitions and adjustments still being made as everyone learned more about each other, a process that was sure to continue with the impending birth of one more Jackson-O'Neill.
 
====
-- Chapter Ten:  Seven is Enough?
====

With all that had happened over the last couple of weeks and since they'd just returned from spending some alone time at their Colorado cabin, Jack and Daniel weren't planning on going out on their usual date night.  Instead, on this Friday, they decided to just enjoy their family as the day progressed.

At the moment, Jack and Jennifer were with the Munchkins in the nursery, while Daniel had taken David and Chenoa, along with the beagles, to the park.

“Jack?”

“You rang?” the general asked, sounding very much like 'Lurch' on the old 'The Addams Family' TV show.

“No, Lurch, I talked,” Jennifer chuckled.  ~Good thing Mommy and Daddy liked to watch TV Land.  Jack's really in to these ancient television shows.~

“Smarty pants,” Jack teased.

“Anyway, there's a crafts fair this weekend,” the pre-teen informed.

“And you want to go?”

“I ... I wanted to call ... Sara, and ask her if she'd take me.  Would that be okay?” the girl asked, smiling shyly.

“Sara?”

“I noticed she had a lot of crafts in her house, and we talked a lot about creating keepsakes and things, so I ...” the girl shrugged.  “Could I ask her?”

Jack smiled and nodded, saying, “Yes, it's okay.”

“I'm going to give her a call.”  Jennifer started to walk out, but she stopped at the doorway.  “Sara's nice, Jack.”

“Yes, she is.”

Jennifer had never asked Jack or Daniel about what she had overheard.  She didn't really need to, and the specifics didn't matter yet.  What was important was that she knew this wonderful woman, whom she barely knew, was willing to change her entire life just to keep the Jackson-O'Neills together.  Once she'd understood that, her doubts had lessened, and she had remembered Jack's words about not making assumptions or judgments.

The girl's other concern had been quickly dispelled as well.  After watching Jack, Daniel, and Sara together a few times, she was reassured that Sara was no threat to Jack and Daniel's relationship.  There was love there, but it wasn't the same between Jack and Sara as it was between her new parents.  In the end, Jennifer had gained a friend, maybe even a mentor, and she was happy about that.

Again, Jennifer started to walk away, but she turned back one more time.  She spoke a bit hesitantly.

“Jack?”

“Mmm?” Jack questioned as he looked up from the rocker where he now sat rocking Jonny.

“I think the Munchkins are super lucky because they have you and Daniel as their parents, and I think David, Noa, and I are lucky because you're our new parents.  And ... well, I think Charlie was lucky, too, because he had you ... and Sara as his parents.  I'll be back.”

Jack smiled as he held Jonny in his arms and said, “Actually, Son, I'm the lucky one.  Who would have thought I could have this paradise here with your daddy, and your siblings, and great friends like ... Sara?”  He kissed the eldest Munchkin, feeling peaceful in side.  ~That's progress!  Now, if I could only get her to wear blouses that actually cover her belly button.~

====

As early evening rolled around, Jack and Daniel took a few minutes to themselves, standing outside on the roof deck.  Their children were either playing, watching TV, or sleeping.

“Jack, I've been thinking.”

“When are you ever not thinking?” Jack teased as his lover leaned back into his hold.

“Do you think we should reconsider the baby's name?  I mean, I wouldn't want Jennifer to feel displaced or anything.”

“I've thought a lot about that, too,” the older man admitted.

“I love Jen.  I don't want her to feel like she's playing second fiddle to our baby,” Daniel spoke quietly.

“She won't be.  Danny, I think it'll be okay.  We know baby Jennifer will complete our family.  She's who we've been missing; or maybe it is Jen.  I don't know anymore,” Jack replied, having gone from confident to confused, all in the space of the time it had taken him to reply to his husband.

“Hi!” Jennifer greeted as she walked out onto the deck, holding Aislinn in her arms.  “I'm sorry, I didn't mean to interrupt.”

“No problem, Sweetheart,” Jack said as he walked over and took his baby daughter.  “Are you feeling better, Ash?”

“Her temperature is down, and I think she's hungry, but I didn't want to go ahead and feed her without you saying it was okay.”

Aislinn had been suffering from a slight cold.  Actually, all of the Munchkins had been sick, a vicious cycle that had begun with Little Danny's cold a week or two earlier.  Though his cold had gone away, it had been passed on to Jonny, who had apparently returned the favor by giving it back to Little Danny, and now it was Aislinn who had fallen victim to the colds that so often plague babies.

“Thanks, Jennifer,” Daniel said.  “How'd you do with that essay?”

“I'm not really sure about it,” Jennifer sighed.

“Would you like me to take a look?” Daniel asked.

“Would you, Daniel?  History just isn't my thing,” the girl replied.

“I'd love to.”

“Oh, um, I heard what you were talking about.  Daniel told me about the baby a long time ago.  I think you should follow your hearts.  There' are a lot of Jennifers in the world, and I certainly wouldn't mind sharing my name with my little sister.”

“You sure?” Daniel questioned.

“Yep.  I'd feel horrible if you changed your plans because you thought I'd be upset.  I promise, I'm not, and I won't be.  Oh, you know what I mean.”

“Thanks, Jen.  We do,” Jack replied gratefully.

Aislinn let out a whine, so the group headed downstairs, Jack to prepare dinner for the family, and Daniel to help Jennifer with her homework.

====

“Breakfast is done,” Jack announced the next morning.

David said something that sounded like mumbo jumbo to Jack.  Daniel laughed and responded in more mumbo jumbo, prompting David to laugh.

“Here you go,” Jack said, trying to ignore the exchange.  “It's great stuff.”

David said something else that made Daniel snicker, and, again, Daniel replied back.  Both Daniel and David laughed loudly at the comment, making Jack extremely paranoid and frustrated, especially with the little glances he was getting from the two.

“Oh, for crying out loud, *English*, people!  Can't we speak *English* in this house?”

“Sorry, Love,” Daniel laughed.  “David was just saying that your Froot Loop pancakes looked a bit ... uninviting.”

“I'll have you know Froot Loops goes great with anything,” Jack responded, taking mock offense to the comment.

“But *in* pancakes?” David asked skeptically.

“In *anything*!” Jack insisted, seeing Daniel shaking his head.

“You eat it, Jack.  David and I are sticking with waffles.”

“Traitors,” Jack complained as he sat down in his chair and reached over to ruffle David's hair.

====

“Carter, how are things in Neverland? ... Good, good!  Listen, I was wondering.  Jen needs some things for school and, well, just things, girl things.  Danny and I aren't good at that stuff, and I was wondering if ... Thanks, Carter.”

====

“This is nice of you, Sam,” Jennifer said as she got into the car.  “Everything has been so crazy since coming here.”  She paused, then sighed, “Actually, I'm really excited about getting some new things.”

“Well, it was the general's idea,” Sam informed, smiling.

“Jack is funny.”

“Funny?  Yeah, I guess so,” Sam agreed.  “We'll stop by and get Kayla and then the afternoon is yours.”

“Is Kayla coming shopping with us?” Jennifer asked eagerly, hoping for a chance to get to know better the young woman she'd only met a couple of times.

“She's going stir crazy,” Sam chuckled.  “Do you mind?”

“Oh, I'm glad she's coming with us.  She's about ready, isn't she?”

“Soon,” Sam responded.  “And that's just fine, just as long as she remembers that soon isn't today.”

====

Later that afternoon, Sam, Jennifer, and a very pregnant Kayla sat down for a leisurely treat in the mall's food court.

“They are so funny.  I just don't understand,” Jennifer commented.

“Understand what, Jen?” Kayla asked.

“My parents couldn't keep their hands off of each other, and neither can Jack and Daniel.”

Sam and Kayla exchanged a look, but it was Kayla who dared to ask, “Does it bother you?”

“Bother me?  Oh, you mean because they're both ... Nah, I think it's cool.  Some of the kids at school don't get it, but I don't care, not really.”

“Have you had problems with your classmates?” Sam asked.

“No, not really.  They're ... curious when I tell them that I live with two men for parents, but I don't talk about it that much.  It's no one's business.  Besides, I don't care what they think.  Jack, he ... he made me feel like a kid again, and like I'm worth something, and Daniel.  Geez, David is just like he used to be now, and I know that's because of Daniel.  And ... well, they've kept us together.  It's nice living with them.  Besides, it's so cool to tease them,” the girl giggled.

“Tease?” both Sam and Kayla asked.

“They're so hot for each other, just like my parents were.  Ewwww, I mean it's embarrassing sometimes ... but, oh, not because they're both guys, just because they do it all the time.  I mean *all the time!*

“It?” Sam questioned nervously.

“You know, make out,” Jennifer answered.  “They should own a motel,” she laughed.  Seeing the unsure look of the two women she was with, she assured, “Really, I'm fine with who they are.  Mom and Dad taught us that love is the single most important thing in the world, and everything will fall into place, if we just keep focusing on the love.  When I catch them kissing, the looks on their faces are, well, wow.  It's not just then.  If they weren't married, I'd want to marry Jack myself, well not him, but someone like him,” she said, her eyes widening, wondering if she'd put her foot in her mouth.

“The general?”

“He's so romantic.  He's always doing little things for Daniel, to surprise him.  We haven't even been living with them that long, but I've seen him come home with red roses or just some dandelions he picked at a field or something.  He'll make Daniel his favorite coffee before doing anything for himself.  He'll walk by headed for the kitchen or the study, and he'll just stop and kiss him, saying something like 'just because' or 'just looking' or something really silly.  Daniel smiles so big when he does stuff like that.  I want someone like that one day.”

“I wish I had one of those, too,” Sam laughed.  “Oh, I do.  Pete's my fella.  Maybe one of these days we'll actually have that wedding.”

“I've always thought Daniel would have been the romantic one,” Kayla said as she sipped her water.

“Oh, he is.  He does stuff, too; he's just a bit more, I don't know, reserved or quiet about it.  Honestly, they're embarrassing, and I wouldn't change them for anything; but you know what I like the best?”  Jennifer smiled and confided, “It's the quiet times.  Daniel will just lean against Jack, or he'll rub Jack's shoulders, and ... I don't know, it's sweet.”

====

“I think we bought out the stores, but I'm not sure the general is going to approve of a couple of those outfits, Jen,” Sam remarked.

Kayla laughed as she agreed, adding, “Don't say we didn't warn you.”

“Don't worry.  I can handle Jack,” Jennifer said confidently.

“Oh no!”

“No, really, Kayla, I can,” Jennifer assured.

“No, that's not what I mean.  Sam ... it's time!” Kayla said, grabbing her belly.

“Time?  You mean?”

“Oh, yeah ... big time, that's what I mean.  I've been having contractions for an hour or so,” the young woman admitted.

“Why didn't you say something?”

“I've had them before, but this time ... it feels different.  This is definitely it,” Kayla stated.

“Holy Hannah!,” Sam exclaimed, moving closer to her friend.  “Jen, grab my cell out of my purse, please.”

“What's going on?”

“I'm having a baby!” Kayla spoke anxiously.

“I know, but ... Oh!”

“Where's Daniel when you need him?” Sam asked frantically.

“Daniel?” Jennifer asked as she found the cell phone.

“He's delivered a baby before,” Sam explained.

“Sam, nothing against Daniel, but can we try for the hospital,” Kayla requested with a nervous smile.

“Good idea,” Sam agreed.

====

Jack was spending a few minutes actually reading his latest copy of Flight Journal.  There was an article in there he'd been anxious to read since the magazine had arrived in the mail five days ago.  He eased into his favorite spot on the sofa in the study.  He took a sip of his Coke and then read two paragraphs when Daniel walked in.

“Jack?”

“Yes, Love?”

“We're having a baby,” Daniel said nervously, his arms folded.

“I know that.”

“Now, Jack.”

Jack's eyes darted up to meet Daniel's.  Seeing the pale face of his spouse, he leaped up off the sofa and hurried over to him, placing his arms on Daniel's shoulders.

“Now?  As in *now*?” Jack questioned anxiously.

“That was Sam on the phone.  It's really fast.  Sylvia told her to go straight to the hospital.  Jack, we don't have anyone to babysit.  Gawd, I shouldn't be so nervous.”

Jack smiled confidently and assured, “It's okay, Love.  This one will be easy as pie.”

“Jack, we're stuck here!  Sara and Mark are out of town, the general is in Washington, Teal'c's on Chulak, Cassie is out of town for that debate thing, Mrs. Valissi is in Europe, Christa and Jacob are playing bridge at the Johannsens in Denver, Lou is off-world, Carolyn has the flu, Janet is ... I don't know where Janet is, but she's not home.  JACK, NO ONE IS HOME!”

“Danny, it's okay.  We'll ... we'll take them with us.”

Daniel's eyes grew wide as he asked incredulously, “ALL OF THEM?”

“Sure.  Why not?”

“Oh, gawd.”

Not knowing what else they could do, Daniel turned and headed upstairs to get the triplets, while Jack rushed up to the bedroom that was above the garage.

“Jen, we're having a baby.  Get a move on!”  Then Jack remembered Jennifer was with Sam and Kayla.  “Geez, get a grip, O'Neill.  Hold it together.  Whoa!”

Jack shook his head and went to the nursery.

--

“Where were you?” Daniel asked.

“You don't want to know.  I'll get David and Noa,” the older man said, heading for the room that was essentially at the rear of the home where the two children were playing.  ~I thought I was supposed to be calm in a crisis.~

====

It took a while, but soon the Jackson-O'Neills were headed for the hospital in their SUV.  David and Chenoa were wearing headphones as they watched a Disney movie on the DVD player in the third row of seats, while the Munchkins were in their baby seats in the second row of seats.  Daniel smiled at them, then looked at his husband.  

“Jack, this is insane.  What do we do when we get there?” the archaeologist questioned.

“I don't know.  I'm taking this one step at a time,” the older man admitted.

“But no one is here.  Sam will be at the hospital, but we can't leave the children ...”

“How about Molly?” David suggested, having temporarily removed the headset to get a more comfortable fit.

“Molly?” Jack repeated without much thought.

“MOLLY!” Jack and Daniel said at the same time, Daniel reaching for the cell phone.

“Good idea, David,” Daniel praised, but when he looked back, the boy's attention was back on the movie, his headset again in place.

Daniel grinned; their son was definitely gaining in confidence.

Molly O'Hanlon hadn't moved to Ireland yet.  She'd gone for a visit to make arrangements for housing with her family, but she still had some loose ends to tie up in America before moving permanently.  After calling their friend, who agreed to meet them at the hospital, the couple tried to remain calm.

“Jack, Septembers are going to be crazy from now on.  Do you believe it?  The Munchkins are almost a year old,” Daniel stated in amazement.

“Yeah, what a year.”

Jack reached over and touched his husband's hand for a moment as they quietly celebrated their precious babies, soon to be toddlers.

“They're walking around, falling down a lot, but getting back up.  Saying words, learning about the world.  Our babies ... a year old, and now we're about to have another one.  It seems like a dream,” Daniel sighed contentedly.

“A wonderful dream, Angel.  Hey, I was thinking about David,” Jack said with a quick glance back to make sure the boy was still engrossed in the Disney movie.

“What about him?”

“Well, Danny the Mouseketeers were homeschooled.  I know he's just in first grade, but it's only been a couple of weeks, and he's already bored stiff,” Jack stated.

“I noticed that.  He says the teacher repeats a lot.  He gets whatever she says on the first try.  Besides, he already knows most of what they're teaching.”

“Angel, what about private school?” Jack suggested.

“I'll bet Sara would know a place,” Daniel replied.

“I think so, too.  I sent her an email and asked her to send us some recommendations when she gets back,” Jack informed.

“You *emailed* Sara?” Daniel smirked, knowing his lover's lack of affinity for computer mail.

“We're talking about our son, and since they're out of town, I thought it was the best idea.”

“Good.  What about Jen and Noa?”

“Nnnnaaah,” Jack slowly grunted.  “Danny, Jen needs to be a teenager, and right now, making sure she is one is more important than learning about the cultural significance of Greece, or whatever it is they teach these days.  I have a hunch being in a regular school is best for her right now.  What do you think?”

“I think you're right again, and I also think we should let Noa stay home.  Jack, when I took her to that kinder camp thing, she liked the children, and she had fun, but she kept looking at me.”

“To see if you were still there?” Jack surmised, glancing at his soulmate.

“That's how I felt.  She's too young.  I know some of our friends have said it's never too early, but I disagree.  Gawd, how much have I changed?”

“Plenty.  Danny, you learned that there's more to life than books.  Books are great, but you just don't want them to overshadow everything else.  Noa stays home ... at least for a while.”

“Until she knows she's home,” Daniel said.  “Babe, we'll know when she's ready, and right now, she's not ready.”

“Agreed.”  Jack sighed anxiously, “Almost there.  You ready for this?”

“Are you?”

“Of course.”

“You're so full of it, Jack.”

The older man laughed as he pulled within two blocks of the medical facility.

====

By the time the Jackson-O'Neills reached the hospital, Molly was there to meet them, with Jennifer by her side.  As it happened, she lived only five minutes from the facility so had quickly gotten there to be with Jennifer while she waited for the rest of the family to arrive.

“Aw, me darlin's.  You look so well loved,” Molly said hugging the newest additions to the Jackson-O'Neill family.

After giving quick hugs to the parents, Molly shooed the two away.

====

“I wasn't sure you two were going to make it,” Sylvia said as she sat on the stool at the end of the bed.

“Neither were we,” Daniel sighed as he and his lover entered the delivery room.

The two men smiled at Sam and walked over to Kayla, giving her kisses on the cheek.

“Sam, Molly is outside with the children,” Daniel informed.

“The children?  All of them?”

“We didn't have a choice.  No one's home,” Daniel explained.

“I'll go help.  Good luck, Kayla!”

Sam smiled as she left the room, placing her hand supportively on Daniel's shoulder as she passed by.

“We're ready.”  Sylvia made sure everything was ready as she prepared.  “It shouldn't be long now,” she told the expectant fathers.

“Tell me ... again ... why I ... agreed ... to do ... this again?” Kayla asked as she experienced another contraction.

Jack chuckled, “Because you're a wonderful woman.”

“Right now ... General ... this ... wonderful ... wooooooooooooooooo ... oh my gawd ... woman ... wants to ... KILL YOU!”

“Sorry,” Jack gulped, moving to a safer distance behind Sylvia.

Daniel grinned at Jack's behavior and communicated, **Thought you were supposed to be a big, brave general.**

**One with a good sense of self preservation.**

====

Eight hours later, the latest Jackson-O'Neill entered the world, screaming at the top of her lungs.

“It's a girl!” Sylvia exclaimed.

“We knew it would be,” Jack said, leaning over to kiss Daniel.

“Daniel,” Sylvia called out for him to come and hold their newborn.

“No, this time you go first.  No arguments, Jack.”

Jack smiled and took his baby daughter into his arms, saying, “We're complete now, Angel.  Look at her, Danny.  Our little Jenny.”

“Jenny?” Sylvia asked.  “You already have a Jennifer.”

“Jennifer Samantha Jackson-O'Neill,” Daniel crooned.  “Jenny and Jennifer.  It'll work, won't it?”

“Sure, it will,” Jack said confidently.  “Jenny and Jen.”

Daniel chuckled.  Nickname Jack was already prepared, and this time, Daniel wouldn't be arguing.

“Here, Angel, hold our daughter,” Jack said, carefully handing the infant to his soulmate.

“She's perfect, not that I'm prejudiced or anything,” Daniel mused happily.

“No, not at all, Love!” Jack laughed.

“How ya doin', Kayla?” Jack asked.

“Oh, just ... peachy, Jack.”

“She's so precious.  Another girl, just like we knew it would be.  How crazy is that, Jack?” Daniel asked as he leaned forward and kissed Jack.

“Crazy as all get out, but I'm definitely not complaining!  Love you so much, Danny,” Jack said as he gazed at their newborn daughter.

“Oh, geez, ne...ver ... *never* ... again,” Kayla shouted.

“We're almost done.  One more,” Sylvia spoke calmly.

Jack and Daniel stared at each other, and at the same time, they turned to face Sylvia, calling out in unison, “ONE MORE?”

Sylvia laughed, looking up for just a moment, and answered, “I didn't even try to tell you this time.  You're having twins.”

“Twins?” Jack and Daniel said together.

“Oh, gawd.  Eight?” Daniel asked, not only looking panicked, but his voice screeching the words.

Jack roared with laughter, then teased, “Just like the TV show, Love.  Eight is Enough!”

“Eight.”  Daniel still held their daughter in his arms.  He stared down at her and said, “With perfection like this, I don't think the word 'enough' should exist.”

A cry interrupted Jack's response.  He turned and watched Sylvia cleaning the newest member of the Jackson-O'Neill family.

Sylvia handed the baby to Jack, announcing, “It's a boy.”

Jack beamed.  Both he and Daniel stood facing each other, their babies in their arms.

“I love you,” the lovers expressed emotionally as they kissed and then looked at their babies some more.

The nurses came and took the babies for their first post-natal checkup, and Jack and Daniel looked at Kayla, gratitude and love on their faces.  They would never be able to thank her enough.  There were no words nor any deed they could ever do to repay her for what she had given them.

Kayla didn't need words or reciprocation, though.  All she needed was to see the total look of love on the two faces that peered down at her now.  She may never give birth again, but she would never regret having been the surrogate mother for these two men.

“Apparently,” Kayla began with a smile, “there's a history of multiple births in my family.  Maybe that's why Janet never got pregnant,” she laughed.

After a few moments, Jack and Daniel walked over to see their little babies again.  The nurses were putting the twins through the usual screening tests, checking their heart rates, muscle tone, reflexes, skin color, and breathing.

“Passing grades for both,” one of the nurses said as she logged the results on a chart.  “We already gave them their Vitamin K shots.”

“That's for the blood clotting thing, right?” Jack asked.

“That's right,” the nurses answered.  “Babies can't make Vitamin K, and it's essential they have it for a few days.  Carol, do you have the eye drops?”

Jack and Daniel watched as the twins were each treated with medicated drops that would protect them from bacterial infections, and then the newborns were put through a quick hearing test, and again, passed easily.

The baby boy let out a funny sound that made Jack laugh, reminding him that he and Daniel had another piece of business to settle.

“It's funny,” Daniel said softly.

“What is?” Jack asked, looking at his lover, who was staring down at their babies.

“The things you think of when you have children,” the younger man answered.

“Care to be a little more specific,” Jack questioned, having no clue what his husband was thinking.

“The SUV, Babe,” Daniel chuckled.  “It won't be big enough for all of us now,” he said, laughing a bit louder.

Jack groaned, but then replied, “I'll bet we can have it modified.  If not, we'll go car shopping again.”

“Funny what you think about,” Daniel reiterated.

“Yeah,” Jack agreed.  After a moment, he laughed again.  “Danny, what about the little guy?  We need another name.”

“No clue,” Daniel responded as he leaned his ahead against Jack's shoulder.

“Patrick Henry or Patrick Scott or Patrick ...” Jack suggested, using his husband's middle name.

“No, Jack.”

“But he's our son, and he should be named after you,” Jack rationalized.

“Little Danny is named after me, and Jonny after you.”

“Right, so we're back to you, and Patrick is your middle name,” the older man responded.

“No, it wouldn't be ... even.  Gawd that sounds horrible, but no,” the younger man maintained.

~Stubborn,~ Jack sighed.  He knew he was about to get into trouble, but this was their son.  With an evasive cough, Jack suggested, “Okay, Patrick Richard.”

“If we were going to use that, it would be Richard Patrick because it sounds better, but like I ...”

“That's my middle name ... Richard,” Jack confessed guiltily.  ~Yep; he's not happy.~

Daniel pulled away, wanting to scream, thinking, ~Gawd, he didn't do this to me again ... did he?~

~Why didn't I tell him before?~  Jack saw the look and gulped, knowing he was in big trouble.  “Long story short, Love.  I just never think about it.  I've been Jack since I was a baby.  Because of that, whenever anyone introduced me, even in a formal situation ...”

“LIKE OUR WEDDING?” Daniel screamed in whispered voice.

“Yes, sort of like that, but they'd say Jonathan Jack and so, the old middle name just got ignored.”

“Jack ... JACK ... I ...” Daniel grunted, walking out of the room and into the lobby where their other children were being looked after by Molly and Sam.

“I am in such big trouble,” Jack muttered as he followed his husband out, giving the nurses and Sylvia a shrug and a half-hearted smile.

====

“Daniel?  What's wrong?”

Sam had seen Daniel standing outside the delivery area.  She excused herself, leaving the rest of the children with Molly, fearing something had gone wrong with the birth since her friend looked upset.

“Oh, nothing.  I'm sorry.  Jack just threw another surprise at me, that's all.  I'm getting a little used to it.”

“Okay.”  Sam smiled as she reached out to rub Daniel's arm with her hand.  She asked, “What about the baby?”

“Baby?  Oh gawd!  Sam, we have twins!”

“Tw...twins?” Sam stuttered, her eyes wider than Daniel had ever seen them before.

Sighing, Daniel spoke, “I'm sorry, Sam.”

“Deal with it, Carter.  What's one more?” Jack questioned.

“Right ... Sir,” Sam responded as she smiled weakly at her former CO who had just joined the two.  “That pound just keeps getting ... heavier,” she chuckled nervously.

“If it helps, we named her after you,” Jack informed, smiling.

“Wha...what?”

Daniel grinned at their name for their new daughter as he explained, “Jennifer Samantha.  We'll call her Jenny, but she'll know she was named after you.  You're a terrific friend, Sam.  Gawd, you're family, and you've done so much for us.  We can never thank you enough.”

“Aw, geez, guys, that was sweet.  Thank you,” Sam responded.  “The general is right; she's just one more to love,” she said as Daniel embraced her.

After the hug, Daniel looked at Jack expectantly and exclaimed, “Richard!”

Sam did a double take as Jack coughed and moved forward to give Sam a hug, too.

“Uh, Richard?” Sam asked quietly.

“Middle name.  Didn't tell him.  He's a little upset,” Jack explained.

Sam looked into Daniel's eyes, saying, “I don't think 'little' is the right word, Sir.”

“Don't remind me.”

“Hey, twins.  Who?  Number two?” the blonde asked eagerly.

“Our son,” Daniel spoke softly.  “Richard Patrick.”

“Danny, you aren't really mad at me, are you, Love?” Jack asked, trying to smile as charmingly as he could.

“Excuse me.  I have to go tell our children about our ... children,” Daniel stated, turning and walking away.

“Ouch.  Doghouse time.”

Sam just laughed.  It was just another day in the life of the Jackson-O'Neills.

====

“Oh my gosh!” Jennifer said, staring at the words in front of her.

The pre-teen went into the study where Jack was listening to Opera and reading the newspaper.  On his lap was Aislinn.

“Thank you for the help, Ash, but I'd really like to finish the story before I turn the page,” Jack stated.

The baby laughed as she flung her hands forward, swatting at the newsprint and pushing it downward.

“Yeah, I guess your right, Princess.  I don't much agree with that guy's opinions anyway,” Jack said as he kissed the top of his daughter's head.

“Jack?”

“Hey, Jen?  How's the homework?”

“All done.  Daniel said I could spend some time on the internet, so I've been doing that for a while.”

“No chat rooms, Jen,” Jack reminded sternly.

The girl gave an “Oh, please, like I'd do that” expression and then admitted, “Daniel already gave me that lecture.”

“Well, consider it doubled!”

Jennifer rolled her eyes, but decided to forge ahead with the reason she'd approached Jack in the first place.

“Jack, you were born in Chicago, weren't you?”

“Sure was,” Jack acknowledged, playing with Aislinn's arms as if she were a puppet.  The little baby loved it, cooing and laughing the entire time.

“And your middle name is Richard?” Jennifer questioned.

“Yes, as you may recall, I was in the doghouse for a few days when that came out.”

Jennifer laughed, shaking her head as she responded, “I can't believe you never told Daniel your full name.”

“Yes.  Well, I never really thought about it.”

“That seems a little weird,” Jennifer replied honestly.

“It's small fries, Jen.  Some things are so trivial to me, I just don't think about them, including a name I've never used.”

The smiling girl nodded as she bit on her lower lip, reaching out to wave to her little sister.

“And ... your mom's name was Elizabeth?”

“Jen, why the twenty questions?” the general asked curiously.

“Well, I was goofing around on the internet, and I went to one of those unclaimed money sites, just for the heck of it.  I put in my name because I could sure use some extra money.”

“Jen, you're twelve.  You've got as much as you're going to get right now,” Jack spoke.

“But I have expenses!” the girl claimed.  When Jack glared at her, she sighed, “Anyway, I put in your name and ... a claim popped up.”

“Nah, not me.”

“How many Jonathan Richard O'Neills, born in Chicago, with moms named Elizabeth are there?”

“Probably more than you think.”

“Well, I think you should look at it.  It's ... very old like ...”

“Don't say it, not if you want to go to that school dance on Friday,” Jack warned.

“Don't be such a prude!  Anyway, come look ... please.”

~She's still spunky, and snarky, too.  Love it.~  “The things I do for my children,” Jack smirked as he stood and, with Aislinn still in his arms, walked up the stairs to Jennifer's bedroom.  “Here, hold the Munchkin,” he requested, handing the baby to her sister, and then sitting down in front of the computer.

“Bet I'm right,” Jennifer said as she made a face at Aislinn, causing the baby to laugh.

“Hmmm,” Jack followed the instructions, reading the details.  “Holy Hannah, it is me!” he exclaimed as he reviewed the information.

“How much?”

“Probably nothing.  It was ...” Jack's eyes bulged, he sat stunned.  He flipped down the lid of the laptop and stood.  “Jennifer Renee, do not, I repeat, do *not* open that computer under threat of never having a life outside of this room.  Do you understand?”

“Yes, Sir.”

Jack walked to the doorway, then increased his pace.  He walked, then jogged to the other stairway, and took them two at a time.  He ran into the nursery, looking desperately for Daniel.  He checked the den but Daniel wasn't there.

Jack groaned, “Where is that man when I need him?  DANIEL!  DANNNNNNNNNNNNNIEL!” he shouted as he ran back down the stairs.

“Jack?  Jack, what's wrong?” Daniel called out as he ran in from the backyard, Jonny in his arms, and Chenoa on his tail.

“Danny, you have to see this ... NOW!  Follow me.”

“Jack, we're not at ...”

“NOW, DANIEL!”

Daniel flinched, looking at Chenoa as he shook his head and said, “He just thinks he can get away with this, but ...”

“DANIELLLLLLL!”

“All right ... General!” Daniel went back outside.  “David, I'll be upstairs ... with the general.  Can you watch these two Munchkins for just a minute?”

David's smile was huge.  It was the first time that either Jack or Daniel had left two of the babies with him alone.

“Okay, I'm taking Noa with me, and I have the monitor, so you just yell if you need me.  Okay?”

“I promise.  I won't take my eyes off of them.  I promise, Daniel!” David said excitedly.

Daniel smiled.  This wasn't easy, but at some point, he knew he had to start being a little less protective.  The Mouseketeers had more than proven themselves.

Still, when he got to the patio door and looked back, Daniel leaned down and whispered to Bijou and Katie, “Your dog door is open.  You come get me if you think David needs help, okay?”

“Woof!” both dogs responded.

“Thanks.”  Daniel picked up Chenoa and headed upstairs.  “Okay, Jack, what's the crisis?”

“Danny ...” Jack looked up at Jennifer, “Uh, Honey, would you mind?  And take Noa, too.  Please.”

“Whatever,” Jennifer said reluctantly, taking her sister from Daniel.  “Just remember, I'm the one who found it.”

“Yeah! Yeah!  You're in my will already.” Jack smirked.

Jennifer laughed, leaving Daniel still totally perplexed.

“Okay, Jack, what's going on?”

“Danny, look at this.  Tell me if I'm seeing what I think I'm seeing.”

Jack got up out of the chair and Daniel slid into his place, asking, “Unclaimed money?”

“Yeah, Jen found it.”

“What's she doing on this site?” the younger man questioned.

“I don't know.  She said you gave her permission to surf.  You did, didn't you?”

“Of course, I did.  It's just an interesting choice.  I mean of all the sites a teenager could go to ...”

“Daniel ...” Jack interrupted as he nodded towards the screen.

“Sorry, let's see ... it's you, and it shows you have a claim for ... wow!  Jack, where did this come from?”

“Mom,” Jack answered, “I think.  Or ... maybe my grandmother.”

“There's not a lot of information here,” Daniel said, hitting the keys as he searched for more clues about the funds.

“Danny, that's a nice hunk of change.”

“I know that.  I'd just like to know where it came from ... but ... that information isn't here.”  Daniel spun his chair around, his hands hanging between his legs.  He pursed his lips as he thought.  “Jack, do you have any idea what this is for, or when it began, or ... or anything?”

“No, none.”

“Okay,” Daniel said as he turned and hit some more buttons on the keyboard, and then hit the print key.

“What are you doing?” Jack asked.

“Printing out the form.  It has all the information that the site has, and then we can do some checking ... in, uh, the den.”

====

“Really?” Jack spoke over the phone to the manager of a bank in Chicago.  “So what do I need to do? ... Got it.  Thank you.”

“What did he say?”

“It was my grandmother.  She set up an account back in 1957, kept adding to it, but I never knew about it.  I'm not sure my parents knew about it, either.  When she died, this account must have been lost in the shuffle.  No one knew to look for it.”

“So ... like a trust?”

“Just a nice big savings account, Danny.”

“How do you claim it?”

“Just have to prove my identity.  Easy enough,” Jack spoke as he stood and walked over near the recliner in Daniel's den.

Daniel walked over, taking his lover's hands in his, and kissed them.  Then, he put his arms around Jack's neck.

“I love you,” the younger man spoke softly.

“Me or my money?” Jack teased.

“Jaaaack!”

“I love you, too, Angel.  This is really going to help with the kids,” Jack spoke.

“Jack, why don't we divide it up.  I mean, we already have little accounts that we started a couple of years ago.”

“The bonds ...”

“Yes, so, let's set up real trust funds.  By the time they're ready for college, it'll pay their way and more,” Daniel stated.

“No worries.”

“Not as long as you keep that winning streak going with the stock market, and J-O Enterprises keeps its head above the water.”

“What a blessing.”

“Hmm-mmm,” Daniel expressed as he leaned forward to kiss his husband.

“Geez, I wish we could ...”

“Me, too,” Daniel said as he fiddled the collar of Jack's shirt.  “Soon.  Tomorrow is Friday night.”

“Ut oh.  Who's covering with the brood?” Jack questioned since Daniel had been the one to make the arrangements.

“Janet, Cassie, and Sam ... girls' night.”

“They're going to corrupt our daughters,” Jack whined lightly.

“In all the best ways.”

Jack kissed Daniel soundly, each reveling in their passionate union.

“Oh geez, not again,” Jennifer laughed, tapping lightly on the door.  “I swear, you two need a room.”

“We have one,” Jack stated.

“We also have eight children,” Daniel said, as he pulled away and walked towards the oldest girl, “And I assume you're here for a reason?”

“Um, yeah.”

“Um, yeah, what?” Jack asked.

“My friend Michelle asked if I could go to the movies with her tonight,” Jennifer answered.

“It's a school night, Jen,” Daniel answered.

“That's what I thought you'd say,” the girl sighed and turned to walk away.

Jack and Daniel exchanged a quick look and then Daniel added, “But ... what's the movie?  Where's it playing?  When does it start and end?  How are you getting there and back?  And most importantly, is your homework done?”

“You sure you don't have more questions?” Jennifer replied.  Seeing two piercing glares, she threw her hands in front of her as if shielding herself.  “Just kidding,” she said, and then she answered all of their questions, making sure they were aware that she had finished her essay for English class and had read the assignment for history.

The parents exchanged another look and then Jack asked, “Michelle is the cute blonde with the mom who belongs in Playboy and the Dad who looks like the Terminator, right?”

Jennifer rolled her eyes as she answered, “Yes, that's her.”

“Okay.  You take your cell, and you keep it on, but you don't use it.  I want to be able to get through if I want to,” Jack instructed.

“And no detours on the way home, and if you or Michelle have a problem, we expect you to call us, and we'll come and get you,” Daniel stated.

“Really?  You're going to let me go?” a shocked and surprised Jennifer asked.

“Reluctantly, yes.” Jack said.

“Jennifer, you've earned our trust.  Make good choices, and you'll keep it,” Daniel informed calmly.

Jennifer hugged her new fathers, saying, “Thank you.”

====

A few minutes after Jennifer left the house, Jack stood and stretched, saying, “Think I'll ...”

“No, Jack, you won't.”

“But ...”

“But nothing, Babe,” Daniel warned.  “We have to trust her.  We said we did, so unless or until she does something to show us we were wrong to trust her, then we're sticking to our word.”

“I trust her, Danny, but she's only twelve, and I don't trust those wackos out there.”

“Did you talk to Mister Evans?” Daniel questioned about Michelle's father.

“You know I did; you were right there listening to every word,” Jack answered snarkily.

“And he's picking them up at the mall, right?”

Jack fidgeted, rationalizing, “She's our daughter, Daniel.”

“I know, and I'm not saying it's easy, or that I'm not going to worry until she walks in the front door, but we can't follow her around, Jack.  Now, sit down and read your magazine.  Better yet,” Daniel said hearing the cry in the monitor, “go see who wants what.”

“Dictator!”

Daniel laughed as Jack headed up the stairs to tend to their babies.

====

Jack sauntered into the house, not sure what he'd find.  Now that there were six children running around the place, plus the two newborns, he never knew what to expect.  He loved that, but still, he sometimes missed the intimacy and freedom that he and Daniel used to have.  He was determined not to let their love affair become secondary, pushed back by a house full of responsibilities, no matter how much he loved and wanted those same responsibilities.

The general smiled, seeing Daniel asleep on the sofa.  He went upstairs and found Jennifer just walking out of the nursery.

“They're taking their nap,” the girl stated, not waiting for the question she knew her older father would be asking.

“All of them?”

“All five,” Jennifer confirmed.

“I'll just sneak a peak,” Jack said as he walked in to check on his precious babies.  He shook his head at his cherished miracles, sometimes still questioning the wonder of their birth, that it had really happened, and that he and Daniel were finally living their dream.  “Where's David and Noa?”

“In David's room.  He's teaching her about pharaoh's or something.  Bij and Katie are in there, too.”

“Why do I have a feeling I have another archaeologist in the family?”

The girl chuckled, “He's always liked that kind of thing, and with Daniel as a role model now ...”

Jack nodded, letting out a mock sigh, and asked, “Hey, do me a favor, will ya?”

“Such as?”

“Such as keep them occupied in David's room for a while,” the silver-haired man requested.

“Why?”

“Um, well, I ... ”

Jennifer smiled, knowingly, and surmised, “You want to make out with Daniel!”

“Jennifer Renee!”

“That's my name.  Don't wear it out, Jack,” Jennifer laughed as she walked towards David's room.  “Don't worry.  I've got your six.”

Jack raised his eyebrows and then laughed, “Geez, I love those kids.”

====

Back downstairs, Jack saw that his husband hadn't moved.

Daniel had on casual attire -- old, worn out blue jeans that had a hole over the left knee and a short sleeve gray tee-shirt that had a few blue paint stains on it from when he'd helped to paint David's room to the colors he liked.  The young man was also barefoot.  He had his right hand behind his head and the left resting on his abdomen.  His glasses were at the top of his forehead, as if he had lifted them to rub his eyes and simply fallen asleep in the process.

Then, Jack noticed the archaeological magazine on the floor.  He could tell it must have slipped out of Daniel's hand.  He knew Daniel had been wanting to read it for days.

~Bet you never even made it through one article.~

Jack carefully picked up the magazine and placed it on the coffee table, and then he sat down on the side of sofa.  Gently, he removed the glasses from Daniel's head, putting them atop the magazine on the table.  He leaned over and kissed Daniel's left eyelid, prompting his lover to sigh contently.

When Jack kissed the right eyelid, Daniel moaned happily, moving his body slightly as he began to wake.

Next, Jack placed a series of tiny kisses from the edge of Daniel's right earlobe, across his cheeks all the way to the left earlobe.

Suddenly, Daniel chuckled.

“This isn't supposed to be funny,” Jack whined as he kissed Daniel's nose.

“Tickled.”

Daniel smiled just as Jack's lips touched his.  Soon, their tongues were dancing together as their kiss took on a passionate edge.

“Hmmm.  Miss you, Jack.”

“Miss you, Angel.  Geez, so much,” Jack said before ravishing Daniel's mouth again.  “Brought you something.”

“You did?”

Jack reached over and placed a tiny bouquet of red roses on Daniel's chest as he spoke tenderly, “Just to remind you how much I love you.”

“Jack, they're beautiful,” Daniel responded happily.  He sniffed the roses, taking in their aroma.  Still holding the flowers in his right hand, he moved his arms around Jack's shoulders, and the two kissed some more.  Suddenly, he startled.  “Jack, the children?”

“All taken care of.  The Munchkins and the twins are taking their nap, and Jen is riding herd over the other two in David's room.  The girls are in there, too.”

“Oh.”  Daniel smiled, pulling his husband down to him for more kissing.  “Gawd, I want you.”

“The feeling is mutual, Love.  Come on,” Jack urged as he stood up and then reached down and grabbed Daniel's left hand, pulling him up.

“Jack, what are you doing?”

“Giving us what we both want while we have time to do something about it.”

“Jack, we can't.  The children.”

“The children are fine.  Let's go,” the older man encouraged strongly.

“Jaaaack,” Daniel tried to argue, but his lover was insistent, literally pulled him up stairs.  “Jack!”

Daniel finally got a foothold at the top of the stairs.

“Ground rules,” Jack said.

“What?”

“Ground rules.  Follow me,” the older man ordered.

Jack headed for David's room, leaving Daniel feeling totally clueless.

“Wait!  What are you going to do?” Daniel asked as he hurriedly ran after Jack.

“Hey Kids!”  After a couple of minutes of chit chat about what David was teaching Chenoa and what they'd be having for dinner, he said, “We need to talk about a couple more very important ground rules.”

“Jack,” Daniel warned.

“Number one ground rule.  No one leaves the house without permission,” Jack stated.

“We already know that one,” David said, smiling as he spoke.

“Yeah, I know.”  Jack went through a few other rules, usually with the same result.  Of course, it was all a smokescreen for the whopper rule.  Finally, he got to the point.  “Okay, one really, really, really important ground rule.  When Daniel and I are in our bedroom, and the door is closed, no one comes in for any reason without knocking *and* waiting for us to say it's okay.”

“Unless it's an emergency,” Daniel hastily added, not really pleased with Jack's actions at the moment, and at the same time, dying to try it out.

“And let's define 'emergency',” Jack stated.

Jack went on in great detail, discussing the definition of what was and wasn't an emergency, Daniel adding his own thoughts every now and then.

“General Jack, I think we got it,” Jennifer stated a bit dryly ten minutes later.

“General?” the older man questioned, curious why Jennifer would use that moniker again.

“Yes, right now you're giving orders ... over and over.  Aye, aye, Sir,” Jennifer teased mockingly.

Daniel tried to hide his laughter, but wasn't very successful.

Jack ignored the snickers coming from his spouse and continued, “Okay, well, the Munchkins and the twins should be asleep for a little while longer.  You guys doing okay here?”

“Pharows.  Gold,” Chenoa said as she laughed and pointed at the pictures.

“We're fine,” Jennifer said again.  “I'll watch them.  I promise.”

Jack leaned over and placed a peck on Jennifer's cheek, saying, “Thanks, Jen.”

Jack turned, taking Daniel by the hand, and led his Love back to their bedroom.  Once inside, he locked the door and began to kiss his soulmate again.

“Jack, it feels ... funny.  I mean ... they're just ... outside.”

“Get used to it, Angel. They're going to be just outside for the next twenty years.”

“Oh, gawd.  Come here,” the younger man ordered.

Daniel suctioned his mouth to Jack's.  He wasn't about to wait for their next date night.  He wanted Jack now, and all of a sudden, he knew he had to get used to the idea of making love with Jack with the children in the house.

The two made their way to the bed, Daniel walking backwards, their mouths still connected to the other's.

Jack reached under Daniel's shirt and felt the soft skin, moaning, “Geez, what you do to me.”

Daniel's hands ran under Jack's shirt.  He felt Jack shiver, and then he realized he was trembling from Jack's touch, too.  Their need was taking over.  Daniel pulled Jack's black tee shirt over his head, and then Jack lifted Daniel's dingy tee off, throwing it onto the floor.  Jack pushed them onto the bed.

Soon, their bodies were united as one, as if the two were a magnificent artwork, their legs, groins, and torsos seemingly glued to the other's.  They'd been as quiet as their muffled cries would allow, but their hearts were screaming with ecstasy at their togetherness.  As their orgasms overtook their minds, their bodies convulsed in the aftermath.

Jack placed his head on Daniel's sweat-soaked chest as they struggled to regain control of their breathing.

“Oh, that was good,” Jack gasped between breaths.

“Good?  Gawd, Jack.  I saw stars.”

“Not bad for love in the afternoon,” Jack chuckled before placing more kisses on Daniel's chest.

Daniel's fingers ran through Jack's silver-gray strands of hair and then massaged the back of Jack's head.

“Did I thank you for the flowers?”

“Oh, yeah.  Big time,” Jack mused until Daniel laid a gentle slap on his upper back.

“I wish we could just lay here awhile,” Daniel sighed.

“We can.  Jen has the kids under control.”

“I feel guilty,” the archaeologist confided.

Jack lifted his head so he could look into Daniel's eyes and responded, “Don't.  Our life is never going to be how it was when it was just the two of us, but we're not going to lose this.  I won't let us, Danny.  I need this.  I need you.  I want our love affair to keep growing.”

Daniel smiled as he cupped Jack's face and said, “Love you, my Silver Fox.”

“Space Monkey,” Jack chuckled.

After a few more minutes, the two took a shower, where more cuddling, fondling, and kissing occurred, much to the pleasure of both; then they made their bed and went out to check on their brood, finding them as content and peaceful as they had been when they'd escaped for their afternoon rendezvous.

“Have fun?” Jennifer teased.

“Oh, gawd,” Daniel blushed, turning away from his daughter.

“We had a great time.  Thanks for asking,” Jack answered smugly, actually clapping his hands a couple of times.

“Gawd, Jack,” Daniel expressed, leaning his head against his husband's shoulder.

Jennifer laughed as she headed for her own bedroom to read a book.

====

“Gra'pa,” Aislinn cooed, reaching her hands up after toddling over to Lieutenant General George Hammond, who had just arrived for the triplet's first birthday party.

“How's my girl?” Hammond asked as he leaned over and picked her up.

“Gra'pa.  Cake!” Aislinn exclaimed.

“I see you've learned all the important things about life from your Dad,” Hammond mused.

“Loops,” the middle Munchkin said.

Sam chuckled, as did Daniel.

“What's so funny?” Jack asked, as if insulted.

“Nothing, Sir,” Sam bravely answered.

The birthday party for the Munchkins was in two parts, beginning with a big blast with their extended family.  Anyone who was anyone in the Jackson-O'Neill circle of family friends was there, much like their weddings.

“Daniel, I can't believe how big they are, and now you have the twins, too?  Geez, Bro, you're putting me to shame,” Suzanna said.

Suzanna Simpson was the only foster sibling Daniel remained in contact with over the years, and she was still single, but anxious to have a family.

All the guests fussed over the triplets, including the Ferrettis, Cornells, Rancolinis, and Svensons.  The twins had their share of attention, too, especially from Mrs. Valissi and, curiously Jack thought, Dominic.

~I really need to have another talk with that young man.~

Jack and Daniel noticed that everyone was eager to befriend the Mouseketeers as well.  For some of their guests, like the sisters they'd met at Disneyland -- Frances and Crystal, this was the first time they'd met the older children and seen the twins.  They were happy that so many seemed to be taking time out to get to know the older children.

“Danny, look at Teal'c.”

Daniel did as Jack had requested and saw the Jaffa didn't look happy.  Then he realized why.  From the first moment she'd seen him, Chenoa had taken a liking to the Jaffa, and it seemed to be mutual, Teal'c showing he had infinite patience where the young toddler was concerned.

Chenoa hadn't met Teal'c at the shelter during his many visits there, being too young for the history lessons he'd taught, but the day Jack and Daniel had brought the Mouseketeers home to stay, Chenoa had been in awe of the tall, strong man.  That particular day, though, had been full of emotion, and she had needed to be with her siblings and new parents, so while she had stared at Teal'c for quite a while, she hadn't said much of anything to him.

Upon their next meeting, however, everything had changed.  As soon as the tiny blonde had caught sight of Teal'c at her new home, it was, well, love at first, or maybe second, toddler sight.  She'd invited Teal'c to a tea party, and he had surprised Jack, Daniel, and Sam, all of whom had been present to witness the invitation, by accepting.

At the end of their tea party, Chenoa had asked Teal'c if he would come back again the following Saturday.  He had agreed, and once again, the two sat down for tea, only this time Jack had surprised his friend by having a more sturdy chair for the warrior to sit on.

Teal'c acknowledged the new chair with a nod, and Jack had said, “It is the least I could do for my daughter's new beau.”

Currently, however, Chenoa was being fussed over by Erik Wilcox, a friend of Jack's from Chicago.

“He's jealous.  Look at the brow and the scowl.  He's so not happy,” Jack chuckled.

Daniel saw Jack was right and chuckled as well.  He was silently glad they had all the weapons locked up and out of reach.

When things settled down, Kayla, Janet, and Cassandra volunteered to stay and clean up, and also to babysit the Mouseketeers and twins while Jack and Daniel spent some private time with their miracles.

====

Bundling the toddlers into the truck, and with Bijou and Katie in tow, Jack and Daniel went to their Colorado cabin for the night.  They'd have breakfast and lunch there before returning to the Springs in time for dinner.

It was a special twenty-four hours at the cabin, Daniel reading stories to the toddlers, Jack teaching them how to fish (well, as best as he could), and just romping on the grass.  They were glad the snow hadn't fallen yet, and while there was a slight chill, it was still pleasant outside.

The family had eaten lunch, and the triplets had all three fallen asleep, the two beagles relaxing on the bed with them.  After finishing the dishes, Jack found his husband standing in the doorway watching the sleeping Munchkins.

Jack put his arm around Daniel's waist, kissed his forehead, and crooned softly, “La mio bello stella cadente, I love you.”

“You haven't called me that in a long time,” Daniel said softly as he leaned his head against Jack's shoulder.

“Danny, no matter how hectic our life gets, you'll always be my beautiful falling star.”

“I love you, Jack.  I can't believe how this feels.  I ... I swear I'm going to explode,” Daniel spoke in a mixture of excitement and enthusiasm.

“I know what you mean.  A child changes everything, and we have eight of those now,” the older man acknowledged.

“Happy birthday, Munchkins,” Daniel said softly.  Then he turned to his spouse.  “Dance with me, Babe.”

“We don't have any music.”

“Yes, we do.  We have the music of our hearts,” Daniel said with sparkling eyes.

Jack smiled, reached out to take Daniel's hands, and leaned over to kiss them.  The couple moved into the living area and joined their bodies together as they danced for thirty minutes to the rhythmic music of their hearts.

====

“Are we agreed?” Jennifer asked her siblings as they sat on the bed in her bedroom.  After David and Chenoa nodded, she took a breath and said, “Okay, then.  This is a big step, so you have to be sure.  No going back.”

“I love them, Jen,” David proclaimed.

“Love them,” Chenoa laughed in agreement.

“So do I.  I've thought a lot about this, and I think Mommy and Daddy would be okay with it, too.  Let's go!”

Jennifer took Chenoa by the hand and helped her down the stairs that led from the pre-teen's garage room to the first story of the house, near the study.  They walked slowly as they looked for Jack and Daniel, finding them snuggling on the sofa.

“Oops, sorry,” Jennifer laughed.

“That's okay.  We were just sitting,” Jack said, his arm securely around Daniel's shoulders.

The triplets and the twins were all in the downstairs cribs, and the beagles were in their beanbag.  A fire was blazing in the fireplace, and Jack had one of his favorite opera CDs on quietly in the background.

“What's up?” Jack asked, sensing there was a purpose to the sudden appearance of the three children.

“Well, we've had a Mouseketeers meeting, and now we want to have a family meeting,” Jennifer spoke.

“Oh?” Daniel asked, sitting up straighter.  ~This is the first time the Mouseketeers have asked for a meeting.~

Jennifer and her biological siblings walked so that they stood in front of the coffee table that sat by the sofa.  She positioned David and Chenoa in front of her, keeping one hand on David's right shoulder and another atop Chenoa's curly hair.

“We love our parents.  We miss them tremendously, and no one will ever replace them,” Jennifer said firmly, a quiver in her voice.

Jack and Daniel both started to respond, but the young girl continued, “But they're in Heaven now, and they'd want us to have a family, and we want to have a family.  We, the three of us,” Jennifer said as she looked down at David and Chenoa, “love you both, and we want to be a part of this family.”

“You are, Jen,” Jack said.

“No, I mean, we ... we want the Munchkins and the twins to be our brothers and sisters, totally.  We want a dad and a daddy, too, and we want to change our names.  That is, I mean, if you really want us,” the girl said, blinking once and taking a deep, emotional breath as she waited for a response.

“Oh, gawd,” Daniel expressed as he shot up like a cannon and went around to the children, beating Jack by a fraction of a second.  He put his hands on the three siblings, going back and forth as he said, “We love you so much.  We can't replace your parents, your mother and father.  We don't want you to forget them, but we'd be honored to be your fathers now.”

“So, it's okay?” David asked softly.  “I can call you Daddy?”

Daniel nodded as a tear fell from his eye.

“And ... Dad?” Jennifer questioned as she looked to Jack, who couldn't stop his own tears as he held his daughter in his arms.

Chenoa laughed, loving all the happiness and love in the room, and then found herself scooped up by Jack.

“Love you, Noa!” her new older father declared happily.

“Dad?” Chenoa asked.

“That would be me,” Jack confirmed with pride.

====

“Daddy, can I come in?”

Daniel turned his chair around from his desk and smiled, greeting, “Hey, David.  Come on in.  How's the website going?”

David entered Daniel's den, a sheaf of papers clutched in his hands.  He had a very intense look on his face.  Clearly, he'd been studying hard, trying to figure out some puzzle.  Now that he was in a private school, getting one-on-one instruction, the boy was thriving as he pursued his education.

“Do you think Stonehenge was supposed to be a temple?  If it was a temple, then why are there no hieroglyphs or drawings?  I read that a temple almost always has something about whomever they are made for, but I don't see anything like that at Stonehenge.”

“Are you sure?”

“Well, there are some shards, but not enough to tell us anything,” the boy answered thoughtfully.

“Okay, uh, do you have any ideas?” Daniel asked.  “Remember, you don't have to agree with accepted theories.”  ~I sure didn't.~

The father and son had talked about Stonehenge before.  David didn't understand all of it, but from his talks with his younger father, he'd learned quite a bit.

David theorized, “It could be a calendar because the stones mark the midsummer and midwinter solstices, but that's a lot of work for a calendar, and they had way too many stones.”

“Let's rule that out for now then.  Do you remember we discussed the bluestones?” the archaeologist asked.

“Yes.  It was the moving thing.”

Daniel smiled.  There were so many theories.  It was a lot for a six-year-old boy to learn.  He was so impressed with the child's knowledge and ability to learn quickly.

“Right.  Some people believe that the stones were hauled over a great distance from Wales to Salisbury where Stonehenge is.”

“I don't think they'd do that.  Sure would be a lot of work just to move some stones.”

“Well, what about the glacier theory?” Daniel questioned.

“Wouldn't they have been found in other places, too, then?” David answered.

“It makes sense,” Daniel responded, nodding his head a couple of times.  “Have you read about bluestones being found anywhere else?”

“No, just at Stonehenge.”

“So, what conclusions are you coming to?” the scholar queried.  He noticed his son looked nervous about revealing his thoughts, so he smiled encouragingly at him and said, “Remember, David, you don't have to have all the answers.  In fact, if you think you do have all the answers, you wouldn't be a very good archaeologist.”

David took a big breath, then replied, “I don't think we'll ever know who built it, but I think they were smart and knew how to do a lot more than we do.  I don't believe it was a calendar or a temple, but ... I don't know what it was built for, Daddy.”

“Okay.  Does it matter that you don't know?”  As David considered the answer to the question, Daniel continued, “Now that you've asked some questions, you can search for the answers.  If you just accepted the traditional views of archaeologists even when you didn't believe them to be right, no one would ever look for new possibilities.”

“Daddy, would you look at my website for me?  It's on Dad's computer in the study.  I'm just not sure if the layout is okay.  Mrs. Arnold is really finicky about the appearance of the website and how it's set up,” the boy requested.

“Let's go check it out.”

As Daniel and David walked to the study, they discussed the boy's project.  Silently, the archaeologist wondered if David's IQ was higher than his.  He couldn't remember doing anything quite this involved at David's age.  Of course, computers didn't exactly exist on digs in Egypt.  He smiled at the memory of his parents encouraging his explorations and wondered if they'd enjoyed it as much as he was enjoying helping David.

Jack and Daniel loved the school they'd selected for David.  The programs were individually designed to help nourish and encourage a child's natural desire to learn.  David had a keen interest in ancient cultures, and he learned how to use a computer practically before he could talk and walk, so his main instructor, Mrs. Arnold, had developed a plan to utilize both interests, getting him to create a website to display what he had learned about Stonehenge, including its history and potential purpose.

Daniel smiled at Jack as he entered the study, but didn't break off his discussion with David.  He was determined to make sure that David always felt encouraged by his parents and never that they were just humoring him.  He looked at David's project and felt a surge of pride at the boy's accomplishment.

“This is great, David, but don't be afraid to doubt the accepted opinions of the experts.  It's necessary to acknowledge the various opinions that are around, but always have the confidence to challenge them,” Daniel advised.

“So I should add something down here about what I think?” David questioned.

“Sounds like a good idea to me.”

“So, I can say what I told you, about the calendar being possible, but that I don't think it's right?” the boy genius inquired.

“Is that all you'd say?”

“No, I'd explain why.  Is that what you mean?” David asked.

“Exactly,” Daniel responded.  “Never just criticize.  Speak your mind, but explain it as best you can.”

Jack listened as Daniel worked with David on his homework.  He loved it, the look in his husband's eye, the sound of his voice; and he loved David's broad smile and the intensity with which he listened and discussed the topic at hand.

Sitting at Jack's feet as he sat on the sofa, Chenoa played quietly with some Lincoln Logs.  Jack smiled seeing the unusual cabin she was building.  It was missing a wall and was a bit lopsided, but to Jack, it was perfect.

Bijou was seated by Jack's side, his left hand massaging her ears as he pretended to read an aviation magazine.

Upstairs, Jennifer was sitting with the Munchkins and the twins as she read a book.  Katie was with her, sitting on her lap, keeping a firm eye on the cribs.

As Daniel concluded his sentence, he glanced towards Jack.  He wasn't focusing on anything in particular, caught up as he was in the mysteries of Stonehenge, when his eye caught hold of one of the photos on the wall.  Surrounded by various degrees and diplomas of both men, this particular photo was purposely placed in the middle, as a sort of centerpiece.

The five by seven photo of a young Jack and Daniel was a reminder that all work and no play was not only dull, but unhealthy.  The picture had been taken by Janet a couple years earlier when the couple had been turned into children for a week.  They had thought they were brothers, and during that week, Jack had worked hard to teach Daniel the value of play.

Now, Daniel stared at that photo.  He and David had been hard at it for over ninety minutes, and there was no end in sight.

Jack saw Daniel's stare.  He followed the eye trail to see what had captured his attention.  He smiled, knowing what was going through his husband's mind.

“Daddy, are you listening to me?” David inquired, seeing his daddy's distraction.

“Yes, Son, I am.  David, do you like trains?”

“Trains?” the boy echoed.

“Yeah.  Dad and I have the best train set.  How about we set it up and let you be the engineer?” Daniel suggested with a smile.

“But what about my homework?  We have to finish it, or it won't be perfect,” David responded.

“David,” Daniel began as he put a hand on David's shaggy hair.  It almost matched his own.  He shook his head, saying, “Your homework doesn't need to be perfect.  In fact, most things will never be perfect.  You only need to do your best, and you need to balance learning with playing.”

“I like to play,” David said enthusiastically.

“So do I, so what do you say?”

“Is it a Lionel train set?  My friend Barry had a Lionel train set, and it was so cool.”

Daniel laughed at David's exuberance and then looked over at his lover, asking, “Jack?  How about we break out the train sets?  It's been a while.”

“Too long!”  Jack leaned over and picked up Chenoa, saying, “Hey, Noa.  Want to play trains?”

“Choo chooooooo,” the toddler answered.

“I think that's a yes, Love.”

====

Twenty minutes later, Jennifer walked downstairs and saw her siblings and parents playing with the two train sets.

“I thought you guys were studying?  Geez, if I knew you were playing, I would have told you that I have things to do,” Jennifer whined.

“Wanna run the engine?” Jack asked, a big smile on his face.

“Me?” Jennifer questioned.

“Come on.  This is the Jackson-O'Neill Express Train.  You're a Jackson-O'Neill, right?”

Jennifer's smile was bigger than ever as she ran down the stairs.

“Oh, the babies?” the girl asked suddenly, coming to a stop just at the bottom of the stairs.

Daniel said, “The monitors are on, right?”  When the girl nodded, he said, “Okay, then it won't hurt to run the Express for a few minutes.  Come on, Jen.  Join the family.”

Bijou shook her floppy ears, a smile on her face.  The beagle was happy, and she knew her family was, too.  After watching the trains run the tracks for a couple of minutes, she went up the stairs and joined her daughter, keeping watch over the sleeping babies, a job she loved and cherished.

====

“The twins are doing just great, guys.  Healthy as can be,” Sylvia said, making a last notation in her file as they sat in her office for the infant's one-month checkup.

Actually, it was a three-week checkup, but Sylvia was going out of town the following week, so Jack and Daniel had brought the babies in a week early.

Baby Jenny and baby Ricky were measured, checked to make sure their cords had completely fallen off and that their belly buttons were healing properly, and examined again for hearing as well as sight.  Sylvia had finished up by giving the newborns their first hepatitis B shots.  Now the physician was making her final notations on a chart.

Jack and Daniel were each holding one of the newborns -- Jack held Jenny, and Danny had Ricky in his arms.  The stroller was near Sylvia's desk.

The doctor continued, “So, Jack, Daniel, same rules as before?”

“Rules?”

“The DNA tests?  They're back,” Sylvia explained.

Jack and Daniel looked at each other, both smiling broadly, and both with bright, shiny eyes.

In unison, the couple said, “We don't want to know.”

Sylvia laughed, “I didn't think so.”

“Syl, these kids.  The Munchkins, the twins -- geez, they're perfect, and I don't need to know which ones have my crazy genes,” Jack responded.

“Or mine.  We love our children, regardless of who has whose genes, or even if they have our DNA at all,” Daniel said, thinking not only of the Munchkins, but of Jennifer, David, and Chenoa.

“My word, who would have believed this just five years ago?” Sylvia mused.

“Five?  Syl, three years ago, I never thought, never could have imagined this,” Jack said.  “Paradise.  This is paradise.”

“Sometimes, I still don't believe it either,” Daniel interjected.  “Then I look at one of our miracles, and it's hard to remember when we didn't have them.  Our miracles,” he repeated, placing a kiss on Ricky's head, which earned him a giggle and smile from the boy.  ~Or was that just gas?~

“Okay, then just like before.  I've logged the results and will seal the file, and I assume you want the same provisos?”

“When they're eighteen, if they want to know, they can,” Jack stated firmly.

“Maybe earlier.  Jack, I don't think we should hide it from them, but ... if we raise them right, they're not going to care either,” Daniel opined.

“As always, Love, you're right.”

Sylvia smiled, stating, “Guys, I'm going to tell you the same thing I did before.  You both connected.  I don't know what it is about this ... bond between you two, but one of these little bundles contains each of your DNAs so, well done.”

“It doesn't matter,” Daniel said.

Before he had even gotten out the word “It” Jack had begun his own comment, “We don't care which one of us did it.”

Then Sylvia's words actually sank in, and the two men shared another look, breaking into simultaneous grins.  Sylvia felt joy just watching them.  There was so much love in the room, and the doctor just wished half of her patients had as much love of life the way these two did.

“Mark will be in touch for the adoption angle,” Jack said, referring to their lawyer.  “It should be easier this time around.”

“I hope so,” Daniel lamented, remembering back to how long it took to get the court's to understand they personally didn't want to know the DNA results.

“Oh, that's right,” Sylvia said.  “You'll need to sign another release, but I'm sure Mark's already thought of that.”

“Probably,” Daniel acknowledged.

The couple bid goodbye to Sylvia, who smiled as she watched them leave her office.  As she had done a year earlier, she took a final look at her file, and smiled.

Baby Jackson-O'Neill, Girl, first born -- father: Jack Jackson-O'Neill
Baby Jackson-O'Neill, Boy, second born -- father: Daniel Jackson-O'Neill

====

The Jackson-O'Neills continued to settle into their new life, meeting the daily challenges of their new family.  J-O Enterprises was finding its way and doing well under Megan's guidance.  The Munchkins were healthy and thriving, each doing something new every day that made Jack and Daniel burst from pride.  Now toddlers, they kept their parents plenty busy as they chased the babies around the house.

Bijou and Katie were happier than ever, seeing Jack and Daniel so happy and themselves being spoiled rotten by the entire family.  Little Danny and Katie seemed to have their own special connection, and the Mouseketeers adored the two beagles.

Jennifer had confided to Jack and Daniel that David had always wanted a dog, and he couldn't believe his luck that now they had two.

While, for a time, the beagles had feared being excluded again, Jack and Daniel were very careful not to repeat their earlier mistakes.  In fact, more than ever, the couple allowed their precious beagles to sleep in their room with them.  They had quality beagle cuddling time just before going to sleep almost every night, their vow to never let their four-legged children be ignored or feel unloved always in their minds.

The newest additions to the clan, little Jennifer Samantha and Richard Patrick, were everyone's pride and joy.  Neither baby had a clue at their young age what a caring and delightful family they'd been born into.  Both, however, had made the family complete.  Though Jack and Daniel weren't sure anymore which 'Jennifer' had been their 'missing' child, both were cherished and thoroughly loved.  Ricky had evened out the clan -- four boys and four girls.  The parents felt blessed beyond words.

Kayla was doing well, her novel close to being ready for a publisher.  She was more excited than ever about it, and now that her baby obligations were over, she had begun to travel again, her first stop having been a quick trip to the Grand Canyon “just because it's so grand,” she had laughed.  Then, in a month or so, the young woman would be heading to the Caribbean for two months, after which she promised she'd return and check up on the Jackson-O'Neills.

Chenoa had adapted well to her new life.  In fact, she was making lots of new friends, especially Sara's daughter, Angela, and one very handsome alien she had taken a liking to almost instantly.  She was totally devoted to Teal'c, and had adapted Jack's nickname for him of 'T'.

Though Teal'c had been introduced to the Mouseketeers as Murray, soon after Chenoa had begun her tea parties with the Jaffa, Jack and Daniel had decided that using Teal'c's cover name would be too confusing.  It's not like this was a temporary situation.  Jennifer, David, and Chenoa were their children now, and Teal'c was part of their extended family, so the couple had sat the three children down and explained that for business reasons, Teal'c used the name 'Murray', but that his real name was Teal'c.  While the children thought it was an unusual name, they accepted Daniel's answer that it was a family name, one of honor in Teal'c's heritage.  From then on, they called Teal'c by his true name.

“Teal'ccccccc,” Chenoa had laughed.  “Like Teal'c,” she had said at the end of the discussion.

As for David, he was coming into his own.  He wasn't afraid any longer.  His new parents had shared so much about themselves, and he saw that being different, being intelligent, and even geekish, wasn't a terminal disease.  His genius was being carefully encouraged by both parents, especially Daniel, while at the same time, they were making sure he never lost sight of the value of playtime.  David not only felt loved again, but he had the self-esteem and respect for himself that he had begun to lose after his parents had died.

As for Jennifer, the pre-teen was driving her parents insane, as any normal girl her age would.  No longer feeling the need to be the parent, no longer feeling the pressure of having to take care of everything herself, and no longer doubting that she had a home, the young girl felt free to be just as aggravating as any normal teen of the times, as evidenced by her attire on this day, her first day back to school after a short family vacation in which they celebrated Chenoa's second birthday.

“You are *not* wearing that!” Jack said sternly to Jennifer as she appeared in the kitchen for breakfast.

“Why not?”

“Well, well, well ... where's the *rest* of it?” Jack stammered.

“Rest of what?” Jennifer asked in frustration.

“Rest of *it* -- *it*,” Jack repeated.  “That, that, that ... whatever that's supposed to be!” His hands flung out at his daughter's scantily clad attire, “... and black lipstick?  You're too young for lipstick, *period*!  And who on Earth wears black lipstick anyway, especially to school?  No way, Jennifer!”

“Jack, calm down,” Daniel urged as he walked into the living room to see what the ruckus was all about.

“Calm down?  Calm down?” Jack asked incredulously.  Pointing at their daughter, he asked, “Do you see what she's wearing?”

“Yes, I see what she's wearing.”

“Well, Well ...  where's the *reset* of it?” Jack repeated.

~Gawd, he sounds like me, stammering like that,~ Daniel chuckled.  “Calm down before you burst a blood vessel.”

“Calm down?  Daniel, she's not wearing that out of this house!” the older man ordered.

“Daddy, do something!  Dad is being such an old prude.”

Acting as a voice of reason in the desert of irrationality, Daniel suggested Jennifer wear red lipstick and a jacket over her dress.  Jack hesitantly accepted the proposal, walking into the kitchen to get a much-needed drink.

~I wish I hadn't promised myself not to drink beer during the day in front of the kids,~ Jack lamented.  ~BLACK LIPSTICK?~

Meanwhile, feeling the need to be honest, Jennifer whispered, “Daddy, you know I'm going to take this off as soon as I walk out the door, don't you?”

Daniel had a bit of a smug smile on his face.  While he may have acted like a voice of reason to prevent a major argument, it didn't exactly mean that he was that okay with Jennifer's look himself.  Now that Jack was out of the room, it was his turn.

“Yes, but if I were you and wanted to leave the house ever again, you won't do it until you are at least ten miles away, and even then, I'd watch my back.  Of course, I'd think about the consequences of being caught doing something my fathers disapproved of and had specifically told you not to do.”

“He's going to follow me, isn't he?” Jennifer sighed.

“Probably.”

“Can't you do something?” the girl asked with hope in her eyes.

“Like what?” Daniel asked in reply.

“I don't know.  He's your husband.”

“Yes, and he's your father.”

“So are you,” the girl pointed out.

“Exactly,” Daniel said, his smug look getting smugger as he was about to go in for the kill.

“What is that supposed to mean?” a clueless Jennifer questioned.

“Where's the rest of it?” Daniel asked, smiling.  He added quickly, “You have five minutes to change your clothes to something more appropriate and to redo your lipstick, and, yes, we love you too.”

“But Daaaaaaaaaaddddddddddddddddddy!”

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