Tripping the Light Fantastic - The Concept

Author:  Orrymain
Category:  Slash, Humor, Drama, Romance, Established Relationship
Pairing:  Jack/Daniel ... and it's all J/D
Rating:  PG-13
Season:  Beyond the Series - April 18-June 8, 2012
Spoilers:  None
Size:  70kb
Written:  December 29-30, 2008, January 1-5, June 7-8,16-18, July 16,18,20-22, 2009
Summary:  The lovers' Minnesota sanctuary suffers growing pains, and it's up to Alex to find the cure.
Disclaimer:  Usual disclaimers -- not mine, wish they were, especially Daniel, and Jack, too, but they aren't.  A gal can dream though!
Notes:  
1) Part of the inspiration for the root beer segment comes from a lovely article by Annmarie Tait in the June/July 2009 issue of Reminisce.
2) 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.**
3) Silent, unspoken thoughts by various characters are indicated with ~ in front and behind them, such as ~Where am I?~
4) Thanks to my betas who always make my fics better:  Tammy, Ali, Navi, Robert, Becca!

Tripping the Light Fantastic - The Concept
by Orrymain

====
--April 18, 2012
====

The weary Jackson-O'Neill family were sound asleep in the small cabin that Jack had inherited from his grandfather.  The Minnesota cabin had long been a place of peace and comfort for the general.  He'd gone there when troubled, sad, and in despair, and he'd romped there in times of joy, happiness, and tranquility.

When Jack and Daniel became best friends, it was here where Jack had brought his archaeologist, introducing the younger man to the joys of Christmas.  Daniel had learned all the classic holiday tunes and, in spite of himself, had met Santa Claus in a way he'd never forgotten.  When the two men became lovers, the cabin was a retreat, a place where they could be in love without worry of being overheard or spied on.  It was one of their safe havens.

When the Munchkins were born, the cabin was a place for Jack to begin handing down one of his favorite joys, fishing.  Fishing was a big part of the silver-haired man's essence, and it was important to him to pass that on to his children.

As the brood grew, the cabin was always a fun retreat for them.  It was nature and fresh air, and it was away from most of the trappings of their daily lives.  In fact, the only television was a small one that operated with an antenna, which made it useless since analog reception had faded away from existence back in 2009.  Occasionally, they used it to play a videotape.  To the brood's chagrin, there wasn't even a DVD to hook up to it, just an old VCR that had been there for decades.  The parents had purchased a converter box for the set, but it was still sitting, unopened, in the closet with the TV.

Tonight was the family's first night at the cabin after docking their new yacht, Homer, having finally sailed the vessel from its temporary home in Marina Del Rey to its permanent one in Minnesota.  Thanks to their friend and designer, Alex Dennison, a new boathouse with dry dock had been built, one large enough for the 72' yacht.  It was now stowed there, a secure alarm system in place, thanks to their friend and teammate, Samantha Carter-Shanahan.  In fact, any activity at the boathouse would alert the Jackson-O'Neills at their home in Colorado Springs.

Though it was only a few minutes after nine o'clock in the evening, the entire family, beagles included, were sound asleep.  Waking up unexpectedly, Jack yawned.  Though exhausted, he was hungry and decided to get up and grab a snack from the kitchen.  Having worn his sweats to bed, he didn't need to worry about a robe.  Standing, he scratched his back and left buttocks while yawning once again.  Then he looked over at his sleeping husband.  Nothing would wake up Daniel; he was sure of it.

~Geez, you're beautiful, Angel,~ Jack thought while smiling.  He walked over to the crib that was just barely squeezed into the main bedroom of the cabin between the bed and the small dresser.  ~Our new miracle,~ he sighed happily at JD, the youngest Jackson-O'Neill at just four months old.

With his stomach rumbling, Jack opened the door and went on his way, only he had a little problem, or ten.

“Ouch!” David called out.

“Who stepped on me?” Brianna questioned, sitting up to rub her ankle.

“Daaaaaaad!” Little Danny exclaimed, rolling over to try and avoid his older father's big feet.

“Sorry, whoa, oh ... whooooooooooa!” Jack exclaimed, falling and landing on his derriere, a result of tripping over at least three, if not more, of his children.  “Oh, for crying out loud!”

The lights went on, and JD began to cry, having been awakened from his peaceful dreams of playing with the Winnie-the-Pooh in the Thousand-Acre Woods.  Bijou began to growl, and Katie actually barked, running to the door before she realized that it was just Jack who had caused the disturbance.

“Dad, watch where you're going,” David snarked.  “You stepped on my foot.”

“I gotta go to the bathroom,” Chenoa stated, standing up and heading for the bathroom until she heard an 'Ow' from her sister.  “Sorry, Lulu.”

“It's okay,” the ballet dancer replied understandingly.

“I want a drink of water,” Ricky demanded while rubbing his eyes.

“Jonny, you're stepping on me,” Aislinn complained.

“And you're elbow is on me, Ash,” Jenny whined, reaching over and pushing her sister's arm away.

“Thanks, I'm just fine,” Jack said sarcastically as he stood up, rubbing his sore butt and looking to see what he'd landed on.  “Crap!” he bellowed, full of frustration at seeing his one and only box of Froot Loops crushed from the weight of his body.  ~Not a total loss.  I'll use the crumbs as topping on my ice cream.~

“What the ... uh, heck is going on?” Daniel called out, holding the still-crying JD in his arms as he stood in the doorway of the bedroom.

“Is everyone okay?” a yawning Jennifer queried as she opened the door of the only other bedroom at the cabin, one that was full of storage items and barely had room for a single bed.

“What'd you do, Dad?” Jeff questioned, still half asleep.  “We were sleeping.”

“No kidding?” Jack snarked.  He looked over and saw his lover's glare.  There was no sympathy for the general on this night.  The family was simply too tired from their big adventure and too cranky from the resulting lack of sleep over the last couple of days.  Shrugging his shoulders, he explained, “I was hungry.”

A chorus of groans, “Ows”, and “Watch its” were heard as the children made their way for either water or the bathroom, unintentionally stepping on one another as they walked towards their destinations.

“Daniel, one of us is going to break our neck if we don't figure something out here,” Jack barked, cursing as he then stubbed his toe against a chair and began hopping up and down.

“Jack!”

“Dad!” at least eight of the brood shouted in shock.

“I cursed.  Get over it,” Jack snapped.  Seeing the stares, he took a breath and apologized.  “I'm sorry.  Heaven forbid your little ears hear a cuss word.”

“Jack, get in here -- *now*!” Daniel ordered his very perturbed husband.

“Dad's in trouble,” an amused Jenny muttered to Aislinn as they waited for their turn in the bathroom.

Jack just glared, not just at Jenny but at JD, who had stopped crying and seemed to be laughing at him, though he tried to tell himself that wasn't possible.

“Hurry!” Ricky urged, his call of nature doubled now that he'd had some water to drink.

“I'm first!” Jenny told her twin.

“But I *really* gotta go,” the other Spitfire spoke anxiously.

“Jack,” Daniel spoke, his eyes communicating a solution to the problem.

“It's *cold* out there.”

“Hurry!” Ricky exclaimed, jumping up and down.

“Unless you want to do the clean up,” Daniel smirked, turning around and preparing to put a calmed-down JD back into his crib.

“Ricky, let's go,” Jack ordered.

The anxious youngster hurried for the front door, watching eagerly as his father unlocked the door.  As soon as Jack opened it, the little boy hurried outside to the natural out house created by nature.

Seeing their father about to follow, both Little Danny and Jonny called out, “Dad!”

“It can wait until I get back,” Jack began, ignoring the boys' calls until he stepped on a pebble, resulting in a shout, that prompted JD to wake up again and begin wailing like any healthy baby with great lung power could.

“But ...” the male Munchkins refuted simultaneously, both of them stopping and looking at each other, shrugging at the same time.

“What?” Jack called out.

“You don't have your shoes on,” Little Danny pointed out.

“Thanks.  I hadn't noticed,” Jack sighed, hobbling forward to make sure Ricky was okay.

“I feel better now,” the Spitfire declared with a smile as he ambled leisurely past his father and back into the cabin.

“Make sure you wash your hands,” the father called out in warning.  Sighing, he returned inside and plopped down onto the momentarily vacant sofa.  He looked up to see Daniel glaring at him, just before putting their upset infant in Jack's arms.  “Are you trying to tell me something, Angel?” he asked innocently.

“Yes,” Daniel replied bleary-eyed.  “I'm going back to bed.”

As an exhausted Daniel returned to the warmth of his bed, Little Danny climbed up the sofa and gave his older father a hug and a kiss.

Jack smiled warmly in response.

“We love you, Dad,” the middle Munchkin spoke for the entire brood.

“Daddy will again, too, in the morning,” Jeff chuckled evilly.

“Right,” Jack replied, bouncing JD in his arms in an effort to stop the crying.  “What a night.  All I wanted was a snack.”

“Dad?” Jeff called out.

“What?”

“Um, well, you're sitting on my bed.”

“Hmmm?” the general responded, slowly realizing what his son was saying.  “Oh, yeah, right,” he sputtered as JD let out another wail.

The teenager laughed, “Don't worry about it, Dad.  I'll find a spot on the floor,” he looked around for a vacancy, “... somewhere until you get JD settled.”

“You do that,” Jack acknowledged as he smiled down at the baby, unsure how long it would take.

“Sing him a song, Dad,” Little Danny suggested.  “We always liked it when you sang to us when we were sleeping in our crib.”

“You mean you like it now.”

“That, too,” Little Danny affirmed as he moved off the couch and headed back to his spot on the floor.

“Sproglet, are  you saying you remember me singing to you when you were a baby?”

“Yeah,” the child replied nonchalantly.  “Night, Dad.”

~Probably remembers being in the womb; don't think I want to even go there,~ Jack told himself as his family began to settle back down.  “Night, Noa,” he responded when the little girl spoke to him.  ~We sound like The Waltons.  Heck, we're bigger than the Wal...~  “Okay, JD, how about a bottle?”

“Watch your step, Dad,” Jennifer urged, finishing off her goodnights and then closing the door to her small room.

“Watch my step,” Jack echoed quietly while carefully maneuvering through the crowd of children to get a bottle for the baby.

“Daaaad!” Jonny whined.

“Sorry, Son,” Jack apologized.  ~We've got to do something about this.  Enough already.~

====

The next morning, Jennifer and Jeff were watching the brood at the cabin while Jack and Daniel went for a walk along their favorite trail in the woods.  They had about an hour before it would be time to head to the airport for the flight home.

Walking hand in hand, the lovers said nothing for quite a while.  They were just enjoying their time together.  The last several days had been such a crazy, chaotic time, even though it had also been filled with wondrous moments.  Still, Homer wasn't built for a family of fourteen, plus two beagles, so the family had been cramped during their watery trek.  It would most likely be the only time that the entire family went on an outing where they slept overnight aboard the luxury yacht.

“Babe, I'm sorry I was a little, uh, short with you last night.”

“Nah, don't worry about it, Love.  I was cranky.”

“Cranky?” Daniel asked, an amused expression on his face.  ~That's an understatement.~

“It's been a long week,” Jack responded, a plea for forgiveness in his voice as he heard his husband's unvoiced jibe.

“Yes, it has,” the younger man sighed, unaware Jack had just eavesdropped on his mind.

“Danny, we have to do something.  The cabin was meant for two, not a zoo,” Jack stated.

“That's obvious,” Daniel replied with a slight tease in his voice.

In a near growl of frustration, Jack spoke rhetorically, “You know how I feel about these trees.”  There was a pause as Jack looked around the wooded area and shook his head.  “As much as I hate to cut away any of this, we need more space.”

“I wish there was an 'or',” the archaeologist sighed.

The couple wasn't feeling very upbeat as they continued their slow-paced walk. Both were deep in thought, hugely aware they were facing a major problem that would only get worse as their children aged.

“This place is my family, Danny,” Jack stated quietly.  “It's our retreat from all that craziness that exists in this world,” he stopped walking, his motion to stop swift and almost violent in its movement.  “Dang it, Daniel.  I want our kids to feel about this place the way I do.”

“They do,” Daniel assured, reaching out to caress his soulmate's cheek.  With a confident smile, he reminded, “Jonny says it's roughing it, and he likes it.”

“Better than camping,” Jack acknowledged with a nod, having heard his namesake say that many times.  As the lovers continued their stroll once again, he confessed, “The truth is that one of these days I'd like for us to share this place with the rest of our family.”

This time it was Daniel who stopped walking, causing his lover to cease his movements as well.  He stared at his silver-haired fox in surprise.  Privacy was highly valued by the couple, especially now when they had so little of it in their lives.

“You really want others here?”

At first, Jack was worried about Daniel's question, but he nodded his affirmation and then felt relieved to see a smile on Daniel's face.

“Cassie's got a kid now,” Jack explained.  “Carter and Shanahan might enjoy a weekend sometimes.  The doc must have a boyfriend out there somewhere.”

“Teal'c ...”

“Not his favorite place, Angel,” Jack rebutted, grimacing as he recalled the Jaffa's reluctance to relax at the Minnesota paradise.

The lovers began to walk again, both thinking about the possibilities.

“Jack, what about ...”

“Sara?” the general questioned.  “I don't know, Danny.  I don't mind, but ...”

“You brought Charlie here.”

“Even now it might be too much for her,” Jack put forth, though he wasn't certain how his ex-wife might feel about coming to the cabin retreat again.

Daniel nodded as the couple went further down the path.  By silent, unspoken agreement both had already decided to play it by ear with Sara.  They loved her and wouldn't ever want to hurt her, either by excluding her or making her feel obligated to come.  Of course, the whole subject was silly at this point since there was no place for visitors, except in tents.

The peaceful silence was golden to the couple as they felt the sun seeping through the branches of the trees.  They did love it here, and it really would be nice to be able to invite their loved ones here sometimes.

“Jack, what if we look at this as a ... a place for the future, our children's future?”

“You've lost me,” Jack responded, not understanding where his husband was headed.

“We have twelve children.  As they get older, they'll have friends they might want to bring here, maybe even girlfriends and boyfriends.”

“Let's not go there,” Jack begged.  “It's too early in the morning.”

“Nevertheless, this might be the time to prepare for that future.  We can set it up so that there's space for everyone, without crushing your Froot Loops,” Daniel teased lightly.

“Daniel, this place is a sanctuary.  I don't want to turn it into a park with cabins everywhere.”

“All I'm saying is that maybe we could add a couple of a cabins,” Daniel suggested.  “It's worth thinking about, isn't it?”

“Ya got a point there, Mister,” Jack replied in a drawl, trying to sound like John Wayne.

“Sleep deprivation,” Daniel responded dryly.

Jack chuckled and then put forth, “Maybe Alex can wave a magic wand and give us more room without killing too many trees.”

“We have to do something, Jack.  We can't have you injuring body parts because you're hungry,” Daniel joked, watching as his husband patted a tree as they walked past it.

“Very funny.”

“I love you, Jack.”

Jack stopped walking and tugged his Love in close for a long, lingering kiss of passion.  He didn't need to speak the words back.  He'd just let his body do the talking.

“We'd better start back,” Daniel sighed reluctantly.

“We'll call Alex the first chance we get,” Jack stated, giving Daniel another kiss before heading back to the cabin to gather up the children and their belongings and then begin the journey home to Colorado Springs.

====

“Careful,” Daniel advised as Aislinn poured in some baker's yeast to the tub.

“When can we drink it, Daddy?” Chenoa asked curiously as she help Lulu and the Spitfires to line up empty soda bottles that had been washed and saved just for this special occasion.

Daniel deferred to his lover, who was the so-called expert in this latest so-called calamity, as the archaeologist thought of it.

“It'll take a week,” Jack informed the children.

“Couldn't we just go buy some root beer at the store?” Jenny questioned, not wanting to wait an entire week to enjoy a root beer soda.

“We have to let these babies fizz up,” Jack responded as he mixed the ingredients together.

“Where'd you get that tub, Dad?” Jennifer asked, thinking that the old metal baby bathtub was an odd item to be brewing soda in.

“Grandpa cleaned my bottom in this thing,” Jack noted about the object he'd brought back with him from the latest trip to the cabin.

“Ewww!” several of the children squealed, making faces at the thought.

“We're gonna drink soda out of a tub that you took a bath in?” Jonny asked in surprise.

As his father nodded in the affirmative, Little Danny just grinned and stated, “It's been washed since then, guys.”  It didn't seem odd to him at all.  ~It's just multi-tasking, bathtub style,~ the young genius chuckled silently.

“Where's the extract?”

“Here it is,” David called out, picking up the root beer extract and handing it to his older father.

“Thank you, Son,” Jack stated as he continued to mix the soda ingredients.  “Up your nose with a rubber hose,” he laughed as he reached for the special funnel that would drain the freshly made liquid into the waiting bottles.

“Jack!”

“Hey, it's just Vinnie Barbarino.”

“Who?” a chorus shouted out.

“Never mind,” Jack sighed, realizing that 'Welcome Back, Kotter' had never been a part of the Jackson-O'Neill viewing habit.  “Where are the special ingredients?” he called out, looking around to see who had them.  “Ricky!”

Ricky laughed, not hiding that he'd been snacking on the raisins.

“Get over here with those, you!” Jack commanded.  “Okay, after I pinch off the hose, drop *one* raisin inside the bottle just before Daddy caps the bottles.”

“The raisins make the root beer really good,” David commented, smiling.

“Yeah, awesome!” Jonny agreed.

David and Jonny were the only two members of the brood who had tasted Jack's homemade root beer before.  It was during one of their special times, when Jack had taken the boys to the cabin outside of Colorado Springs for the weekend.  They hadn't used the tub method, but had made the most out of what they had at the cabin and had picked up on the way.  In fact, they'd done the overnight version of homemade root beer, something that was good, but not as good as Jack's grandfather's recipe.  Both boys knew that the raisins were the secret to root beer success.

“What does the raisin do, Dad?” Ricky asked.

“It gives the root beer a mellow flavor and one terrific aroma that says, 'Drink me, drink me',” Jack described, hopping around animatedly and waving his arms, causing the children to laugh.

As the Jackson-O'Neills processed the root beer, filling the bottles, adding a raisin to each one, capping it, and then putting each one into a crate, Jonny covertly added one, two, and sometimes even a third raisin to each bottle.  He was proud of himself for not being caught.  He was certain that the extra raisins would make the homemade brew even better than before.

“Danny,” Jack called out when the batch was done.

Daniel moved into position, helping his husband to move the soda crates to the patio, lining them up against the patio window.  There, the root beer would mature and gain its fizz.

“No one opens any of these,” Jack warned.

“We won't, Dad,” Jonny promised on behalf of his siblings.

Their root beer made, the family moved on to other activities for the day.

====

“So, we definitely want three more cabins, but we want to save as many trees as possible and be environmentally conscious,” Daniel reiterated to his husband in the comfort of his den that evening.  “How exactly do we do that?”

“That's what we have Alex for,” Jack smirked.  “He'll figure it out.”

“Right,” Daniel stated skeptically.  “How big?”

“Daniel, you've seen it,” Jack answered huskily, seduction in his eyes as he arched his eyebrows.

“Down, boy!” Daniel responded.  “How big do we want the cabins?”

“No bigger than the original,” Jack returned.  “Look, just like we want JD with us, Cass is gonna want Tommy nearby, if not in the same room, but when he gets older ...”

“They definitely need a room for Tomasso,” Daniel agreed.

“From there, the kids can camp out in the living room.  Our brood has done just fine until now.”

Daniel laughed.  After all, it was tripping over the children that was serving as the catalyst for the additions they were discussing.

“Danny, we want privacy.”

Again, Daniel laughed, amused by his husband's forlorn expression.

“Babe, when we have company or the brood with us, I don't think we'll be looking for ... privacy all that much.”

Cocking his head to the right slightly, Jack hesitantly agreed, “You're right.”

“So, three two-room cabins with a small kitchen and living area, pretty much the same size as what is already there.”

“They'll have to live without an outdoor patio,” Jack added.  “No room.”

“No one will miss it,” Daniel replied.  “The point is for all of us to spend some time together.”

Suddenly, the lovers stared at each other.

“How do we ...” Jack began.

“... get together?” Daniel completed.  “We've done it before, Jack.  SG-1 has been there.  We have room to eat a good meal and visit.”

“That's four people.”

After a contemplative pause, Daniel opined, “Alex will figure it out,” though he wasn't even sure what they were discussing at this point.  ~Why do I have the feeling this is going to get *way* out of control?  I know: been there, done that.~

====

A few nights later, the family was gathered in the recreation room; that is, everyone but JD, who was already sound asleep in the nursery.  It was late, and Jack and Daniel were about to send their brood to bed when out of the blue a pop was heard.  The couple ducked behind the sofa for cover, bringing many of their kids with them.  Heads began to turn and look around for the noise.

Another pop sounded, and then another.

“It's the living room,” Jack stated, slowly heading in the direction of the sound and being followed by the entire family.

Soon, Bijou and Katie were barking at the continuous popping of the root beer bottles.

Jack opened the patio door, immediately tossing up his arms to deflect a cap.

“Sounds like Lawrence Welk and his champagne bubbles,” Jack quipped.

“Lawrence who?” at least half of the children asked.

“Never mind,” Jack growled.  “Stay back!” he ordered the children as the last few caps went sailing.

The general simply stared at the oozing root beer.  It was everywhere, all over the windows and all along the deck.

With a curious scowl, Jack picked up one of the bottles and held it up to the light.  He shook his head and began to study the brood.  He was looking for one face, the one that said 'guilty' all over it.

“Jack, what happened?” Daniel asked, holding a confused Katie in his arms and petting her ears.

“It was a raisin attack,” Jack answered, not looking at Daniel, but still studying the faces for a reaction.  “You see, Danny, one raisin is magic, but two or more, is like dynamite.”

“So I see,” Daniel responded, putting the youngest beagle down and picking up a bottle to look for himself.

With a nod, Jack observed, ~There it is.~  With a stoic expression, he requested calmly, “David, would you get the mop, please.”

“The mop?”

“Yeah, the thing with all those squiggles on it, and get a pail of water while you're at it.”

With all of the fancy gadgets the Jackson-O'Neills had in their home, they hadn't really used a mop in a while, but apparently they would now.

“Kids, time for bed,” Jack ordered.  He watched as the children began to move away.  “Not you.”

Jack didn't need to call out the name.  The oldest Munchkin turned back to his father and just smiled.

“How'd you get those raisins in there?” Jack questioned as if interrogating a recruit.

“I do covert, too,” Jonny answered with pride with not the least bit of remorse about how successful his activity had been.

“Obviously,” Jack replied.  Taking the mop from David, who had just returned, he handed it to Jonny and smiled.  “I had that same idea when I was your age.” As his namesake grinned happily, Jack advised, “Don't miss any spots.”

With everyone out of sight, except for Bijou, who was keeping watch, Jonny began to mop in earnest.  He was going to have a long night of cleaning ahead of him.  Still, his parents weren't really mad at him, and he'd had fun.  After five minutes, though, he wasn't feeling that thrilled.

Then the mischievous child heard a laugh.  Soon, he was surrounded by family, all pitching in to help clean up the mess.

“Thank you,” Jonny said gratefully.

Jack messed his son's hair and replied, “You're welcome.”

“You missed some, Jonny,” Little Danny called out, seeing some of the root beer bottles were still intact.

“Uh ...” Daniel spoke up quickly, pushing the children back.  “Jen, Jeff ...”

With Jennifer and Jeff holding up each bottle to ensure that there was only one raisin in the still-capped bottle, the family worked together to clean up the mess.  When they were done, they still had enough root beer to enjoy in a few more days when they had properly fizzed.  All in all, it really had been a fun night, popping bottles and all.

====

“Please don't tell me you want this done yesterday, guys,” Alex whined four days later, holding his hands to his head as he sat in his office at Archonics Ltd.

The lovers had finally found a date and time that worked for them, as well as the busy designer, to meet and discuss their latest plans.  They'd hoped to do it sooner, but an ongoing family crisis and their own hectic schedules had prevented it.

“Well, we would like to start as soon as possible,” Jack volunteered.

“We are a long way from even digging the first footer,” the designer stated.  He saw his two clients look at each other and then back at him in confusion.  “I can't design structures for ground I've never even seen.”

“You've been there,” Jack pointed out, having no clue what really went into the design world and not really caring all that much, either.

“Jack, I flew in and looked over the immediate area where the boathouse is.  You're talking about something that is much more expansive.  The entire area has to be surveyed.  I'll need to research the weather, average seasonal temperatures, precipitation, and wind velocity.”

“Too much for you?” Jack quipped, his smile fading as the  designer's stern expression made him feel like a kid with his hand caught in the cookie jar.

“I'll have to go back there for a weekend, with a surveyor, a meteorologist, and a geologist.”

“Just make sure to clean up after yourselves,” the general joked, once again getting a stare in reply.  ~Okay, he doesn't have a sense of humor today.~

“Just let us know when you want to go, Alex,” Daniel interjected, ignoring his playful husband.

With a bit of a groan, Alex elaborated, “I'm hoping to avoid doing a lot of onsite supervision by getting as much in as possible at the outset.”

“There's no problem with you staying at the cabin whenever you need, Alex,” Daniel replied.  “Please don't feel like you have to rush everything in one weekend.”

“I don't think you understand,” Alex responded.  “One weekend is all I want to put in there, and if I didn't absolutely have to go, I wouldn't.”

With a smirk, Jack teased, “Don't like roughing it, Alex?”

“Jack, to me roughing it means the room service is slow and the hot tub is lukewarm,” Alex quipped.

Having observed their architectural savior's demeanor, both Jack and Daniel looked at each other and stated in unison, “He's not kidding.”

“No, I'm not,” Alex admitted with a small smile.

“Alex, you wrote a book on green buildings long before it was a catch-phrase. What about communing with nature?” Daniel queried curiously.

“Jack, Daniel, I do care about the environment, it's nature I don't like.  To be honest, about all I really want to see of nature is what's on the National Geographic Channel.”
 
“Whatever you say,” Jack responded.

“There's one more thing.  I hate to ask you, but when we go to the cabin, I have to ask you to leave the brood at home.”  Holding up both hands in a plea for being heard, the designer explained, “We'll be surveying, mapping, and collecting data to facilitate construction.  With strings at a convenient tripping height, do you really want your children running around, falling and hurting themselves, to say nothing of holding up progress?”  Alex paused briefly and then smiled with a pointed expression as he intoned, “May I remind you of the gravel incident?”

The designer waited patiently for a response, and by the way the spouses were looking at each other, he had the distinct impression the two men were talking without moving their lips at all.

**Babe, he's right.  Jonny would have his nose right in the middle of it,** Daniel communicated privately.

**Ricky would want to see everything.  Danny, he could have died from that mishap at Hammond's,** Jack reminded, cringing at the recollection of how the Spitfire had nearly been electrocuted a couple of years earlier.

**They stay home,** both men agreed at the same time.  “You're right,” the couple verbalized together.

Alex just nodded.  There was just something strange about the way his clients seemed to talk without actually talking.

~None of your business, Alex.  You've got what you needed, so let's move forward,~ the designer told himself.  He pulled up his calendar on his PDA and asked, “When's good for you?”  He looked up when an answer wasn't forthcoming.  “Is something wrong?”

“We can't leave town right now,” Daniel sighed.

“Is that why you insisted on meeting here, instead of at J-O?” the curious designer inquired.

“Touchdown,” Jack acknowledged, using a sports euphemism.  “We've got some overzealous maniac causing some problems.”

“He started a fire at the office a few days ago,” Daniel elaborated.  “We just can't leave our children alone right now.”

“Call me when you're ready,” Alex responded with a sympathetic nod, standing up and shaking his friends' hands.

====
--June 1, 2012
====

“I thought maybe you guys had changed your minds,” Alex spoke as he greeted his clients at the Minnesota cabin.  “You brought your dogs?” he asked, surprised to see Bijou and Katie.

“Grrrr,” Katie responded at the apparent disapproval she heard in the suave man's tone.

“Katie!” Daniel admonished.  He looked at Alex and responded, “We should have told you, but it was the only way.”

“We figured you had enough to do with the RV,” Jack added, avoiding the real reason for the delay.

“The truth, Alex, is that we've had a couple of situations to deal with.”

“You caught that arsonist, right?” Alex questioned.

“Uh ...” Daniel began, looking at his husband.

“He's taken care of,” Jack acknowledged cryptically.

“Another crisis?” Alex added, sensing there was more from the two men's demeanors.

“Long, long story,” Daniel confirmed.

“But we're here now, and you have our attention for the next twenty-four hours,” Jack informed the well-dressed professional.  ~Why is it guys like Alex wear shoes like that in places like this?~

“Twenty-four hours?”

“By nine tomorrow morning, we have to be on our way to Bryce Canyon,” Daniel explained.  “We promised the girls.”

“Woof!” Bijou and Katie both added, their barks as enthusiastic as their smiles.

“It's special time,” Jack pointed out with a grin.  ~He doesn't have a clue what we're talking about.~

“Where would you like to start?” Daniel asked.

~Didn't I make it clear I needed them for *at least* thirty-six hours?~ Alex asked himself.  ~Why do they always do this to me~  He looked down and saw Katie's stare.  ~Not her fault that her dads are a little eccentric,~ he thought.  He smiled, bent down, and began to pat both dogs.  “Hello, Ladies.  Sorry for the rough start; it's not you.”

**Danny, did he just insult us?**

**Probably,** Daniel acknowledged.  After a beat, he added, **It's also probably well deserved.**

Jack considered the reply and then agreed, **We pay well, though.**

**Which is probably why he isn't walking away.**

**There is one more thing, Love,** Jack communicated.

**What's that?**

**He likes us.**

Daniel laughed out loud, causing Alex to look up quizzically.

“It's a beautiful day out,” the archaeologist stated.  “Alex, we are sorry we can't stay as long as you'd like us to, but we just can't.  We're lucky we have this time.”

“Had to farm out the kids to their Uncle Lou's for the day.”

“And tomorrow, they're staying with Aunt Sam.”

“She's really looking forward to it,” Jack smirked.

**I don't know that I'd say that, considering that she and Pete cancelled their Memorial holiday trip just to babysit the brood for us.**

**Alex may like us, Danny, but Carter loves us,** Jack proclaimed.  He saw his Love's stare and then corrected, **Well, she loves the brood.**

Standing again after having appeased the beagles, Alex began, “Okay, what we need to do first is take a tour.  Let's walk and talk.”  Again, he noticed odd looks from the couple, both men staring at his outfit.  “What's wrong?”

“You look sharp,” Daniel responding, giving him the thumbs up gesture.

Jack stared at his lover and reminded, “Danny, the last time we went through this, the guy died.”

“Died?” Alex questioned, looking around nervously.  ~And they love being here?~

“Long story, and a long time ago,” Daniel responded as he thought back to Earth's ambassador, Joseph Faxon, who died at the hands of the Aschen Confederation.

“It's the shoes, Alex.  You're in the woods, and those things are gonna be goners,” Jack explained.

“Have a pair of Nikes?” Daniel asked hopefully.

“No,” Alex sighed, slowly reconciling himself to ruining a pair of three-hundred dollar Gucci shoes.  “Let's go,” he ordered, plowing forward and trying not to cringe as he realized just how right Jack and Daniel were.

“What's your team doing?” Jack questioned, unable to resist knowing what the other workers in the area were doing.

While the meteorologist was taking wind velocity reading from three widely spaced points, he was simultaneously streaming the readings with overall averages on his laptop which was resting at waist level on a shelf suspended from a shoulder harness.

The geologist and his two helpers were using an earth auger with long extensions to procure soil samples, while the surveyor and her assistant were laying lines of sight to measure distances and ground slope.

After explaining in detail about the various actions taking place, the designer assured, “And, yes, they've all been checked out.  I still don't know how she does it, but I called Colonel Shanahan two days ago and gave her the names.  She cleared them.”

“Way to go, Sam,” Daniel mused as the group moved forward.

“Guys, let me take the girls, and you two go ahead.  We'll follow,” Alex suggested.

Jack and Daniel both flinched, but they did as their friend requested, something the girls didn't object to now that Alex had sought and received their forgiveness for his slightly rude greeting.

For the next hour, Alex took in the forested area in detail.  Occasionally, he asked questions about the boundary and just how much land belonged to the couple, or where the nearest neighbors were situated.  Mostly, though, he just trailed the lovers, his mind processing what he was observing while his shoes turned to dirty mush.

The designer couldn't help but smile at the happy couple, who just naturally joined hands and ended up nestled in to each other as they walked, reminiscing, sharing memories of tender moments, and occasionally giggling at some mutual recollection.  They even kissed a time or two, as if having forgotten they weren't alone.  He saw Jack breakaway to study a tree, and he noticed Daniel studying the foliage.

Alex had the feeling there was a non-verbal exchange going on with the couple as they finished their inspection and moved as one to continue their forest trek.  He'd sensed it before, but still couldn't quite put his finger on whatever was going on.  Perhaps it was something intrinsic to being in a forever relationship.  He just wasn't sure.

Along the way, Alex also overheard a few conversations, such as one about the age of the trees and another about Jack never wasting a single piece of wood if he could help it. He even took in a couple of stories the general was telling his lover about growing up in the woods.

The trek was all that Alex needed it to be.

====

Back at the cabin, the group was standing by the dock, chatting about the project.

“Sorry,” Daniel said, looking at the no-longer-pristine Gucci shoes.

“My fault,” Alex sighed.  Deciding to move on and never again return to nature if he could help it, he continued with his quest for information.  “Thanks for the tour.  It was very revealing.”

“We didn't do anything but walk,” Daniel replied.

“Thank you,” Alex responded cryptically.  “But now what we need to do is discuss what you see as the benefits of the finished compound.”

“Compound?” Alex heard in stereo.

“I'm certain you two will come up with some cute nickname for the place, but several buildings scattered throughout these trees constitute a compound.  Now, what are you going to do here, how long will you stay at a time, and how many people will be here?”

“Most of our trips are for weekends,” Jack began.

“Long weekends, three or four days,” Daniel clarified.

“Danny and I used to come and stay a week or so, but the kids have so much going on that it's hard to do now,” Jack elaborated.

“Maybe someday the children will want to stay longer,” Daniel opined.

“Actually,” Jack interjected perkily, smiling at his husband, “at some point, Danny and I want to stay here again for longer periods.  I don't know when that'll happen ...”

“... but that's the plan,” both men said together, the lovers exchanging a tender look about a leisurely future in their peaceful paradise when they just might stay at the cabin permanently.

“Alex, when we're here, the goal is just to ... to ...” Daniel began.

“... live with nature.  Look, we have all the trappings in the Springs.  This,” Jack looked around, motioning towards the cabin, “is my grandfather's place.  He built it with his own hands, with love.  It's the earth, and when we're here, that's what we want it to be.”

“It's a chance to breathe,” Daniel added, pausing only a split second, “and to remember what's important in life -- us, one another, and the earth.”

“We *don't* want a fancy design and a lot of modern conveniences,” Jack stated firmly.  “Just keep us one step above sleeping on the ground, a meal above MREs, and a little warmer than we'd be in tents, and we'll be happy.”

“Very,” Daniel agreed.  “Uh, with the brood, though, we definitely would like flush toilets.”

“No,” the designer stated flatly.

“Why not?” Daniel questioned with a bit of consternation.

“Guys, I'm not suggesting outhouses,” Alex laughed.  “There are incinerating toilets which simply reduce the contents to ash.  No plumbing, no stopped up pipes, no soil stacks, *and* they can withstand cold without freezing.  Trust me, it's the way to go, here.”

“Do you, uh, 'go' the same way?” Daniel asked in a slightly embarrassed tone, though he was no stranger to doing what Mother Nature necessitated in a variety of settings over the years.

“Guys, it's the toilet's plumbing that's lacking, not yours,” Alex chuckled.  “There are various forms of composting toilets, but they function better with continual, rather than sporadic use.  They also require maintenance.  Electric is the way to go, without a doubt.  It totally eliminates the sewage problem.”

Jack shrugged, responding, “It beats leaning up against a tree.  Okay, we're in.  Just one problem.”

“What's that?” Alex questioned.

“There's no electricity,” Jack smirked, pointing upwards and around at the open sky, one free of anything but treetops and clouds.

Shaking his head, Alex replied, “I'm getting to that, but one step at a time, Jack.”

“We're *not* ruining this scenery, Alex,” Jack advised in command tone.

“I'm not suggesting that, but as I said, one step at a time.”

“Okay, what's next then?” Jack asked, willing to go by on the designer's order of topics to discuss.  ~I can be patient, but we're *not* adding those ugly poles.  I'll die first before I let him talk us into ruining this place.~

**Jack, calm down.**

**Sorry, Love.  So many places are being destroyed.  Maybe this is a bad idea,** Jack suggested.

“Guys, stay with me, okay?” Alex requested, sensing another one of those strange moments when he was sure his clients were talking, though he knew that was impossible.  “And how about a little trust here, after all the work I've done for you?”

“You got it,” Jack replied.  ~Just don't mention electrical poles to me.~

“What's next, Alex?” Daniel queried curiously.

The group walked forward a few steps, something necessitated by the beagles' inquiring noses, the two having gotten a whiff of something curious.

“Water purification,” Alex answered.  “There are solar powered, self-contained water purifiers that take rainwater and ground water and convert it to drinking water.  It's not cheap, but it means we don't have to dig up the ground, which would actually take out more trees than what we will need to cut down to place the cabins.”  Looking at his clients he stated excitedly, “Guys, we can do this with solar heating and solar power.”

“What about heat in the winter?” Daniel asked curiously.

“The woods could use some thinning, and we will have to remove some trees, but not too many.  All of that wood can be used as heating fuel.  Swedish stoves made of soapstone burn very efficiently, using just an armload of wood every twenty-four hours.  The outside gets warm, not hot enough to burn skin, and it releases the heat slowly.  So, no electric lines and no pipes underground.”  A bit smugly, Alex asked, “What do you say?”

“When can you start, when can it be finished, and how much will it cost?” Jack questioned in reply.

“Soon, soon, and I don't know until I crunch the numbers,” Alex answered.  “What kind of timeframe are you looking at?” he asked.

“We have no idea,” Daniel answered.  “Alex, there's no rush on this.  We're going on the road trip soon, and as you know, we don't plan on doing any business, personal or otherwise, while we're gone.”

“So, no 'it has to be done by August' business?” a relieved Alex queried.

“No, not at all,” Daniel confirmed.

“Good.  It's a big project, and it's going to take some time, but it will take less time and cost about the same as digging to bury pipes, stringing wires, and removing a whole lot of trees.”

“*String* wires?” Jack questioned.  “Alex, I don't want this beauty destroyed by poles and wires through trees,” he stated firmly.  “If what you're suggesting requires that, four walls will do.”

“Relax, Jack”, Alex reassured his client.  “You weren't listening.  I said we'll be using solar power *instead* of burying pipes and stringing wires.”  Seeing Jack had calmed, he continued, “Now, as a backup to the photovoltaic panels, in case the sky is really overcast for several days, I propose to place a wind generator at each cabin.  They are rather small and can be placed atop a single pole mounted on the roof.  The power generated is 12-volt DC.  Inverters, which can convert to 120-volt AC, waste a lot of power, so the only place they will be used is to 'flush' the incinerating toilets. The trade off is worth it because of the limited use and the benefit of being maintenance free.  The small electric appliances, like hairdryers, will all have to be 12-volt DC.”

“What about storms and tornadoes?” Daniel asked.

“A wind generator that will withstand a tornado requires a much larger tripod tower, and if a tornado does take out the cabins, do you have a need for electricity?  The turbines will work in winds up to speeds of 134 mph.  I think you're pretty safe with these things or I wouldn't be recommending them.”

“We do have a generator,” Jack offered.

“Put it in the boathouse in case of a dire emergency.  I know you don't want to change the appearance of the cabin, but what would you say to a propane on demand water heater?  All of your guests will be enjoying long, hot steamy showers after a long day of hard play, while you two are still taking military showers -- get wet, shut the water off, soap up, rinse off, get out.  You can do that without adding any pipes.  In fact, you'll gain space in the kitchen with that behemoth gone.”

**He's right, Jack.  Think about the possibilities,** Daniel communicated privately.

With a playful smirk, **Oh, yeah, I'm thinkin'.  Long, hot shower romps.  Yep, I'm thinkin' about it.**

“Guys?”

“We're in,” Daniel agreed, smiling inexplicably, as was his soulmate.

====

As the day continued, Alex returned to his observer role, the thing that was his best tool in truly determining what a job required.  He listened as Jack and Daniel talked more about how much fun they'd had here over the years, and how much they wanted their children to treasure it, just as they did.

That conversation gave way to an acknowledgement that it would be nice to share this place with their extended family of friends from time to time, but that they didn't want the cabin to lose its feeling of being a sanctuary.

Talk of intimate Thanksgiving and Christmas gatherings were woven into the couple's sometimes verbal, sometimes silent communication.  Jack's reminiscences of stories around the campfire, making s'mores, toasting marshmallows, and roasting hot dogs, all found their way into Alex's notebook.

Daniel had mentioned his foster sister and how she'd never been to the cabin.  He knew she'd feel uncomfortable in the all-too-tight quarters of their cabin.  She wasn't against roughing it, but everyone knew the cabin was a special place, and aside from the children, most of their family and friends had made little references to feeling like intruders when camping out on the sofa or on the floor.

With each change of conversation, the one uniting thread was that Jack and Daniel treasured their cabin.  They didn't want the serenity of the locale to change, and they loved every inch of the area.  They hoped as one that their brood would grow up to treasure it, too.  Ultimately, the couple dreamed of one day retreating to their cabin for the end of their mortal forever.  Here, they'd be together, having all they needed for the happiness of their nation of two -- each other.
 
As Alex closed his eyes that night, he was too excited to sleep right away, dimensions, calculations, and specifications all dancing across the inside of his eyelids.  After quite a while, he finally fell into a deep sleep, dreaming of the concept he knew his clients would love, if he could get them to agree to his plan.

====

“It's Alex!” Brianna called out, after checking the security screen.

“Just because Dad doesn't use the intercom is no reason for you not to use it,” Daniel chastised dryly.  “Bri, go upstairs, please, and keep the brood with you, okay.”

“Oh, a secret?” Brianna chuckled.

“Business,” Daniel responded since the couple had yet to mention the cabin upgrade nor the road trip to the children.

“Okay, Daddy.  We'll play charades or something.”

“Thank you.”  With Brianna out of sight, Daniel made his way to the door and opened it.  “Come in, Alex,” he invited.  “How are you?”

“Fine, thank you,” the designer answered as he entered.

“How's the RV coming?”

“Don't worry, Daniel, it'll be done in plenty of time,” Alex assured about the family's new RV that he was remodeling.

“Uh, and you know Jack and I are headed for the Bahamas with Jen and Jeff next week, right?”

“Stop worrying, Daniel,” Alex chuckled.  “Is Jack around?”

“He's in the garage.  I'll ...”

“No, don't disturb him,” Alex interrupted.  “I just have a request.”

“A request?  Uh, sure.  What is it?”

“Play this on the big plasma screen and watch it with Jack, will you?” the designer asked, handing a DVD to his client.

“What's on it?”

Grinning like a Cheshire cat, Alex answered, “I'm hoping it will be my next commissioned project for you two.”

“Oh, okay, well, did you want to watch it with us?”

“No, just watch it before you leave for the Bahamas and make note of what your questions are.  I would like a reaction before you go, especially if you have any questions, which I'm sure you will.”

“Of course,” Daniel agreed.  “Are you sure you don't want to stay and ...”

“Daniel, I'm sure.  The real question is, are you and Jack?” the man queried cryptically before turning around and leaving.

Closing the door behind the departing Alex, Daniel stared at the DVD, lost in his curiosity about what could be on it.

“Dollar for your thoughts?” Jack asked, having just returned from the garage.

“A dollar?  I think I'll need to start adding interest at this rate,” Daniel chuckled.

“Okay, Love.  What do you have there?” Jack diverted vocally while pointing to the disk.

“Alex said we should watch this and call him with our reaction.”

“Now's good,” Jack responded, checking his watch.  “Where's the brood?”

“Upstairs.”

“Now's good,” Jack repeated with a grin.

====

The lovers settled into their places and began the DVD, noting the title, which was 'The Jackson-O'Neill Dream Continues'.

The opening scene was the family home the way it was when Alex first had seen it, before the renovation.  The picture grew transparent, and through it one could see building permits, blueprints, plot plans, and the sketch on a napkin of the cabana drawn hurriedly after Jack and Daniel had informed their designer and architect of the pool that was being put in, something he'd known nothing about almost until it was happening.  Pictures of the progression of the renovation faded in and out, marking time until the finished home in its present form stood solid and surrounded by all the landscaping.

“What the heck?” Jack asked.

“Shhh,” Daniel admonished, curious to see what would come next on the DVD.

The screen was filled with an aerial map of the ground at the cabin.  Pictures of the cabin and the original, practically just a heap of lumber, boathouse faded in and out.

The boathouse grew taller and projected outward from its second level.  It was enchanting as it took shape until it finally produced an image that was half pirate ship, half castle, with parapets, balconies, turrets, and ladders.

“A pirate ship?” Jack questioned.  ~Thar she blows,~ he mused inwardly.  He began to imagine himself wearing an eye patch and brandishing a sword against his foe.  In this villainous role, he saw a huge stack of reports, all demanding his attention.  ~Walk the plank, matey,~ he ordered illogically, not caring that telling inanimate objects to walk was ridiculous.

“And a castle,” Daniel added quietly.  ~Once upon a time, magic happened,~ he thought contentedly, his mind wandering to all the possible happily ever afters that were out there in the world.

“His and hers,” the older man jested.

“Or hers and his, Babe.”

Jack just stared at Daniel for a moment, but was drawn back to the images on the screen.

Inside the virtual structure, the view panned through two bunk rooms, each with three built-in bunks, sleeping one in each upper and lower bed.  There were vertical lockers for storage, each with room for a few hangers, a shallow drawer for socks and underwear, a deeper drawer for a couple of sweatshirts, and a shoe rack to hold two pair of shoes.

There was no wasted space.  It was all very spare, yet homey.  The floor space was just enough for a game of marbles or checkers, but the main play spaces were outside.  It was  every child's dream playhouse.  There were two very tiny half baths, each with a toilet and a sink.

Moving to the left of the site and back a ways, where there was a slight slope uphill, seven trees disappeared from sight, and a building shimmered into solidity.  It had two levels of glass facing the lake.

Entering at the middle of one end of the lower level, there was a large room full of comfortable couches, chairs, and ottomans.  A plasma screen hung on the other end wall.  The space said, 'Welcome home'.

Taking stairs up half a flight led to a landing and another door, but the view turned 180 degrees and continued up another half-flight into a room equally the size of the one below.  This was a communal kitchen and dining area.  The tables could be pulled together for one big table.  It looked like it could seat quite a few people; more than just the Jackson-O'Neill clan, in fact.

The kitchen looked very simple, with a six-burner cooktop in the counter, a large cast-iron door, which probably was an oven, in a wall of stone, and a small refrigerator.  The capacious double sink was made out of the same material as the countertop and the oven wall.

“It looks like Fred Flintstone's kitchen,” Jack remarked.  “Yabba dabba do!” he laughed, letting out an 'Ow' when he felt Daniel's hand swat him on his thigh.  “Where's your humor?”

“Trying to watch the DVD,” Daniel intoned without deflecting his eyes from the screen.  Then he smiled as he observed, “The cabinets look more like what you'd find on the Ponderosa.”

Jack leaned over and kissed his husband, after which he stated, “I love it when you compare something to a TV show.”

“I'm an expert on classic television because I have a child for a husband,” the archaeologist cracked.

“Takes one to know one,” Jack retorted.

“Who knew?” Daniel replied, still smiling though there was a lot of emotion behind the lighthearted repartee.

The lovers paused for a sweet kiss and then resumed watching the DVD.  The Ponderosa remark had been prompted by the visuals of the cabinetry, which was rough hewn lumber with large black cast iron hinges and handles that looked like they were forged by a blacksmith.

The view panned around the large open space, back to the stairwell, and down to the landing, this time continuing forward through the door.  Beyond the door was a hallway with five doors.  The first two were to the far left.  They were half baths, large enough to have a fold down changing table.  The door ahead on the left was a laundry with two washer dryer stacks, a large utility sink, and open shelves.

“*No way,*” Jack rebelled forcefully.  “No friggin' laundry room!”

“Jack, chill!  We don't have to do anything we don't want to do, but did seeing our home materialize at the beginning bring back any memories?”

Jack looked at his husband a befuddled and bewildered look on his face.

Daniel paused the DVD and asked, ”Jack, remember what we were going to do before we met Alex?”

“You mean the doc who remov... uh, the lawyer who represents himself in court?” Jack said, remembering the sketches he had drawn, and the inadequate, poorly designed structure they were going to build.

“Jack, I can't fathom our day-to-day lives without the quiet room, the guest room, the Aerie, the hospitality room -- Alex pushed and prodded and poked, and reworked and gave us the Bird's Nest and the cabana.  What he is saying, 'Guys, if I did this for you, won't you trust me now?'”
 
Jack nodded in agreement, but insisted, “I just don't want to lose the feel of the place, Danny.”

“Neither do I, but let's see the rest before we make any judgments.”

The DVD resumed and the view panned down the hallway.  A door to the left opened into a small locker room area with two stalls, two sinks, a shower room with six shower heads, body sprays on the wall, and a drying area that connected to a sauna.  Going out the door and continuing through the door at the end of the hall, there was an identically equipped bath suite.

The remainder of the DVD was a tour of three cabins, the first of which was very small.  It had a sitting area by the fireplace and a bedroom that was practically wall-to-wall bed.  In fact, there was just enough room to walk around and make the standard-size bed.  The room also contained a large, wood grained locker for clothing and accessories.  Floor space was minimal, but there was a bit of room that could be left vacant.  A chair or other piece of furniture could be placed there, if the user desired.

There was an even smaller bedroom inside this first cabin that held a junior bed, a crib, a changing table with storage underneath.  Above the bedrooms were railings around platforms which held mattresses that could be accessed by ladders.  The bath had a full size tub shower, a strange looking toilet, and a sink.  The kitchen area was not fully detailed, but it looked tiny.

The second cabin was larger.  It had two bedrooms and a sitting area, all of which were more spacious than the ones in the first cabin.  There was a kitchen and also a sizable loft, accessed by a compact spiral staircase.

The third cabin was even larger.  Its kitchen and sitting areas were bigger than either of the other two buildings.  It also included two normal-size bedrooms and a full bath.  The upper level was a completely finished half-story with a bedroom, a half-bath, and a loft open to the lower sitting area.

The image panned backward out over the lake, and only the cabin and the boathouse/bunkhouse were visible.  That was the final, prolonged picture on the DVD.

“What do you think?” Jack asked his lover.

“I think it's ... good.”

The two men looked at each other, smiled, and suggested in unison, “Lunch?”

With a chuckle, Jack rose and went to the phone, dialing the designer's direct line.

“Alex Dennison,” the formal-sounding voice answered.

“Your commission wishes to discuss that which will earn you ... it,” Jack spoke with a grimace at his odd phrasing.  “How about lunch tomorrow?”

“I'm free at one,” Alex responded.

“Daniel, he's free,” Jack excitedly teased.

“Order a dozen, Babe.  Twelve of Alex should be able to get this done yesterday,” Daniel offered as seriously as he could.

“My rates just went up,” Alex advised upon hearing the remarks.

“Ouch,” Jack groaned.

With the arrangements made and the phone call completed, Jack and Daniel headed upstairs to let the brood know that they were free to roam the home once again.  They felt good about what they'd seen.

“Daniel?”

“Yes, Love?”

“You do know this is going to get crazy out of hand,” Jack declared calmly as the couple reached the top of the stairs.

“I think it already has,” the younger man laughed.

“You have a point there.”

====

Eating at O'Malley's the next afternoon, Jack, Daniel, and Alex placed their orders and then began discussing the proposed project.

Jack began, “We like it; in fact, we like it a lot, but we do have some questions.”

“Really?” Alex quipped.  Grinning, he challenged, “Okay, bring it on.”

“What is with the laundry room?” Jack groused while Daniel rolled his eyes at the query.

“Jack, did you actually count how many the camp can sleep if it's filled to capacity?”
 
“Thirty...ish,” Jack answered, totally guessing and assuming that if he just doubled their family size and added a few that he should be somewhere in the ballpark.

“Counting you, figuring all cribs, youth beds, and sofa beds, with no one sleeping on the floor, sixty.”

“Sixty as in six-oh?” Jack questioned.  “Really?”  He looked at his lover and quipped, “I didn't know we knew that many people.”

Alex chuckled and continued, “Yes, Jack, sixty.  The tables in the lodge can seat a maximum of forty, but I didn't think you wanted to go any larger on the building.  To expand seating capacity to sixty would mean another ten trees.”

“Alex, we weren't thinking of something this large,” Daniel admitted.

“We wanted room for Carter, the doc;” Jack paused as he gave Alex a funny look, “you know, a few of the family, not the entire population of Colorado Springs.”

“Guys, do the math with me.  Take each of your brood, add a spouse, and then add two children per couple.  There's forty-eight people, and you two make fifty.  That means there will have to be a few sleeping bags on the floor.  There is room to put two dormers in the bunkhouse that will each hold a standard size mattress.  That's four more, but that's it, I'm afraid, unless you want to add another cabin.  That does not even consider that by the time JD has children, Jeff and Jennifer will probably start having grandchildren.”

“Let's not go there,” Jack requested, holding his hands up.

“No matter how big the camp gets, your family will grow to the point that they cannot all be here at the same time.  Build this now and enjoy sharing it with your extended family while you can.  By now, the reason for the laundry should be obvious.”

There was a pause in the conversation as Alex waited from some kind of response from the couple.  The problem was that while Jack just look panicked, Daniel was amazingly quiet.  In fact, he was leaning back, almost as if he were trying to disappear.

“Guys, will you excuse me for a moment.  I have a call I have to make,” an astute Alex explained as he stood up and walked away from the table.

“Danny?” Jack queried quietly.

“Sixty people, all of them ... ours, in one way or another,” Daniel spoke reservedly, not even looking at his husband.  “It's a strange feeling, Jack, thinking about how large our family is.  The brood, the zoo:  I'm ... used to that. I *love* that, but I never put the numbers together like Alex is doing.  It's, uh, overwhelming ... a little.”

“That's what happens when they start getting married.  They'll have kids, too.”

“Maybe not Jenny,” Daniel joked, though in a subdued tone.

Jack let out a small chuckle, nodding as he agreed, “She's never forgotten that birds and the bees lecture that Carter and the Doc gave.”

“No, she hasn't,” the younger man acknowledged.  “Sixty.”

“Maybe more,” Jack suggested.  “Jen's mentioned liking being a part of a big family.”

Daniel looked at his lover and retorted, “And you didn't confine her to her room?”

“I had a weak moment,” Jack explained, while at the same time communicating a message with his eyes.

“I guess I did, too, just now,” Daniel sighed as he looked down.

“Daniel, by the time the number hits sixty, we'll probably be ...”

“Now that's a pleasant thought,” the younger man interrupted admonishingly.  “We're talking about our family's future, and you bring up ...”

“I was just saying ...”

“I know what you were saying.”

“We don't have to do this,” Jack pointed out, smiling as he realized he'd finally been able to get in an entire sentence.

“You just don't want to do the laundry.”

“It's the separating,” the older man explicated.

“It's not that hard.”

“Is that why laundry is the first punishment chore we dole out to the kids?”

“Good point,” Daniel replied reluctantly.

“It happens.”

“Alex is right about the laundry,” Daniel stated thoughtfully.  “We've been lugging it back and forth.  With sixty, it's only going to get worse.”

“Daniel, we're a long way off from sixty,” Jack responded.  “They're not dating until they're 21.  New rule.  My P-90's the enforcer.”

Daniel broke out into laughter and when the laughter ebbed, he smiled at his spouse and stated, “Momentary re-realization that my dreams are real.”

With his own smile, Jack opined, “I love that excuse.  Mine is a momentary panic attack that our kids might ...”

“They will one day.”

“Too soon,” Jack spoke with a soft and loving tone, one that said their young family was growing up much too fast.

“We sound like they're all ready to move out.”

“Not yet, Love.”

“Not yet,” Daniel agreed, feeling better after consorting in banter with his husband for the last couple of minutes.  “Uh, better wave Alex over so he can stop pretending he's talking to someone on the phone.”

“He said he had a call to make.”

“That's what he said,” the archaeologist said in a disbelieving tone.

“You doubt our wonder man?”

“Jack, his phone is right there,” Daniel observed while motioning towards Alex's spot.  “He had that call when we first sat down, remember?”

“Soncirria Suvulpo,” Jack chuckled with appreciation as he recalled whose call it was that Alex had taken.  He twisted around slightly and waved to the designer.  When Alex returned, the general asked, “Must have been some phone call.”

“Ahhhh,” Alex spoke, his prolonged expression turning into a groan before it was done, as he picked up his phone and put it into his shirt pocket.

“Thank you,” Daniel said with appreciation for the break.  “We understand and agree about the laundry,” he continued.  “We do have a question about the cabin sizing.”

“Yeah,” Jack interjected.  “How come they come in Three Bear sizing?”

“Three Bear sizing?” Alex echoed, confused.

“One's for the papa, one's for the mama, and one just has enough room for the baby bear,” Jack explained in his own special way.

“Ignore him.  I do,” Daniel advised the designer while teasing his husband at the same time.

Choosing to follow the archaeologist's advice, Alex explained, “The reason for the different size cabins is to conserve trees, as well as to give each one more privacy and their own unique character.”

“We'll call them Mickey, Minnie, and Donald,” Jack teased.

Daniel stared at his soulmate and responded dryly, “I don't think so.”

“Critic,” Jack snarked.

“I thought you just decided on the Three Bears,” Alex interjected.  Looking at the general, he added with conviction, “You'd be in the baby bear cabin, of course.”

As Daniel snickered, Jack growled like a grizzly while praising mockingly, “Good one.”

A moment later, Daniel pleaded, “Alex,” as he motioned for him to continue.

“The cabins all have several things in common.  First, they don't have a heating system except for the soapstone fireplace/furnace.  I have amplified its effectiveness with a small number of air ducts and small 12-volt fans.”

“Soapstone is good,” Jack acknowledged.

“In addition,” Alex continued, “all of the electricity used in the cabins is 12-volt.”

“Which is good ... why?” the general prompted curiously.

“It's good because it's *much* easier to generate 12-volt direct current than it is 120-volt alternating current.  We can do it with two or three solar panels on the back side of the roofs.  I'd like to include some solar light tubes, like you have at home, again on the back side of the roofs to preserve the rustic look, but still provide some daylight.  We can do wired 12-volt lighting fixtures, if you want.”  Seeing Jack's frown, Alex went with Plan B.  “Or, we can go entirely with 12-volt battery operated fixtures that can be moved at will.”

“Better,” Jack praised, pleased with the alternate plan.  “What about the kitchens?”

“My suggestion is that each of the three cabins each have a cooler type fridge, a small sink, a microwave, and a coffeemaker.  You can't expect people to go a weekend without caffeine, unless you have room to bury a few bodies.” the designer finished.
 
“They have to have coffee,” Daniel agreed, nodding emphatically, earning him a stare from his husband that caused him to shrug and smile innocently.  “Jack, it's that middle ground we wanted in the first place.  We're not pioneers; we're just ...”

“... happy campers,” Jack joked.

“Exactly,” Daniel replied with a smile.

“Okay, let's discuss the bunkhouse,” Alex suggested.

“Pirates and a castle: way cool,” Jack praised as the conversation continued.

====

“That went well,” Jack opined as the lovers drove home in Daniel's shiny sports car.

“The children are going to love that playhouse.”

“Danny?”

“I know, Babe,” Daniel sighed in amusement.  “We did it again.”

“Overboard,” both men said at the same time.

Suddenly, Daniel started to smirk, then to giggle, and finally to laugh.

“Mind letting your husband in on the joke?” Jack requested curiously.

“We're going overboard, Babe, on a pirate ship!”

Jack stared for a moment and then reared back in laughter.

“We'll walk da plank together, matey,” Jack responded, speaking in the style of the pirate.

“Just as long as you go first,” the younger man teased, causing both of them to laugh some more.

Neither man was certain how the plans for the compound would work out, but they were excited.  They decided to keep it all a big surprise for the children.  After all, it would take months to complete, and they had a lot of plans coming up for the summer.  There really wasn't any point to getting the children curious and focused on the transformation of the cabin and the surrounding woods, especially since they weren't totally sure how it would turn out.

“We could call it off,” Jack remarked.

“We could,” Daniel agreed.

“But we're not going to.”

“No, no, we're not,” Daniel chuckled, glancing over at his husband.

“I love you, Angel.”

“Love you, too, Babe.”

The future was bright, and their most special safe haven was about to become an even more special place.  Life was good for Jack and Daniel and their loving family.

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