Tripping the Light Fantastic - The Reality
Category: Slash, Drama, Romance, Established Relationship
Pairing: Jack/Daniel ... and it's all J/D
Season: Beyond the Series - July 3-4, 2013
Written: December 29-30, 2008, January 1-5, June 7-8, 22-23,25-27, July 12-14,18, 2009
Summary: The lovers' Minnesota sanctuary is ready to be revealed. How will the brood react?
Disclaimer: Usual disclaimers -- not mine, wish they were, especially Daniel, and Jack, too, but they aren't. A gal can dream though!
1) Sometimes, Jack and Daniel speak almost telepathically. Their “silent” words to each other are indicated by asterisks instead of quotes, such as **Jack, we can't.**
2) Silent, unspoken thoughts by various characters are indicated with ~ in front and behind them, such as ~Where am I?~
3) This fic stands alone, but it does reference my other fic(s), Tripping the Light Fantastic - The Concept
4) Thanks to my betas who always make my fics better: Tammy, Robert, Ali, Navi, Becca!
Tripping the Light Fantastic - The Reality
“Eyes closed!” Jack reminded sternly.
“Daaaaad!” Jonny called out anxiously.
The oldest Munchkin just couldn't stand it anymore. For the last twenty-four hours, he and his siblings had been taunted with the news about a special re-do of the family's cabin in Minnesota. All they'd been told is that it was something magical, and they'd find out when they got there.
This was the Fourth of July weekend, and the Jackson-O'Neills had traveled in Betsy, their motor home, to the secluded retreat. Jack had joked the entire way about how much more convenient it was to take the RV. In the past, they had traveled by caravan. This time, they were all together, just like they'd been on their big road trip the year before.
While their parents had seen the finished product, the children had only learned about the work done at the cabin just before leaving Colorado Springs. The last time they'd been to the cabin was a year ago, when they'd cruised through the Panama Canal and the St. Lawrence Seaway in their yacht, Homer, docking it at the cabin.
The brood had thought it funny that no one had been to the special retreat in more recent times, but it had been a full year, with the good and the bad occupying their time. They were, of course, totally unaware that their parents had been to the cabin covertly to check things out from time to time. Now, though, the family had several days to enjoy their new playground.
Just before driving up the dirt lane to the cabin, Jack ensured that every child had their eyes shut. He was insisting on it. As Daniel drove over the dirt road to their haven, the general watched intently, making sure not one single eyelid opened. The archaeologist parked the RV so that the children wouldn't be able to see out, especially with the shades drawn, something Jack had done to help keep the surprise hidden.
“Good things, Jonny,” Jack replied to his eager namesake.
The parents helped their brood out of the RV and faced them towards the most special part of their new compound.
“Shhh,” Daniel urged JD as he held him in his arms. “Secret.”
“Se'ret,” JD giggled, placing a finger in front of his mouth. “Shhh.”
Jack and Daniel looked at each other and smiled. Their kids were about to be over the moon with excitement.
“Okay, open 'em,” the older man instructed.
Eleven gasps and eleven sets of wide eyes took in the new playhouse that was part of the boathouse where Homer was docked.
“It's a pirate ship!” Jonny exclaimed, running towards the structure immediately.
“It's a castle!” Lulu exclaimed. “Noa, we can be princesses.”
“You're already princesses,” Daniel corrected, grinning as the girls followed their brother.
“David, no one goes in yet,” Jack called out. “Keep 'em at the door until we get there.”
“Okay, Dad,” David responded, reaching Jonny just in time to keep him from trying to get inside.
“Wow, Dad, Daddy, that's ... wow,” Jennifer began, not having words. “Uh, what's that?”
While the younger children were fixated on the boathouse that no longer looked like a boathouse and were running towards it, Jennifer, Jeff, and Brianna had locked onto a brand new structure.
“That's the ... the, uh, well ...” Daniel began, uncertain what name they were going to use for the new building.
“It's where we eat,” a cheerful Jack answered for his husband.
“That's one way of putting it,” Daniel answered.
“C'mon, Kids. Let's start with the playhouse. You three are crucial to this plan,” Jack stated as he encouraged the trio to follow him to where the rest of the brood were anxiously waiting.
“Crucial?” Brianna questioned curiously.
“We're placing a great deal of trust in the three of you while we're here,” Daniel advised the older children. “You three and David will have special responsibilities.”
“I'm up for that,” Brianna responded, though she had no clue what it meant.
“What kind of special responsibilities?” Jeff questioned searchingly as he glanced back at the center structure, admiring its architecture.
“We'll discuss that shortly,” Daniel answered while making a funny face that caused JD to giggle some more.
With their parents in place, the brood were finally allowed inside their new playhouse. Daniel handed JD to Jennifer so he could assist with the highly enthusiastic younger members of the family.
For the next hour, the children explored the playhouse. It was a wonderful mix of pirate ship, complete with skull and crossbones flag on the mast, and castle with parapets and a balcony for the fair princesses to hold court. It was a very fun place.
Then the family toured the bunkhouse portion, which was reminiscent of a small barracks. It was simple, just beds and vertical lockers for each child. Nightstands would have taken up too much floor space, so there was a niche in the wall at the head of each bunk with space for a water bottle, a book, and battery operated reading lamp.
There were two small half-baths and, of special interest to the older children, a few doodads that looked like an alarm system of some kind. They were beginning to sense what their parents had meant by special responsibilities. With all these beds, that meant the children would be sleeping in the bunkhouse, and it would be up to the older kids to make sure no one went outside without permission.
A solar panel with battery backup powered the two toilets. The water was pumped up from the lake through a series of filters, with a reverse osmosis filter at the sinks. The three new cabins had been set up with the system. The water was perfectly safe to drink. In addition, the toilets didn't have any standing water, so there was nothing for the dogs to drink from, should that ever be a temptation for the critters.
This bathroom setup was different from what had originally been planned, which had been to use all-electric incinerating toilets. Alex had decided that this current arrangement was more conventional and didn't require extras, such as 120-volt current, inverters, wind generators, and the like. These were feasible in this application because the water was pumped up from a depth that was well below the ice that formed during the winter, and the pipes were run through the heated structure to the filtration system and on to the points of use. These just required periodical dumping of the waste bin contents after they'd been broken down completely, which shouldn't happen more than once a year, probably at the beginning of camping season.
“... and no one goes into the boathouse section without us,” Jack spoke, concluding the long list of instructions and guidelines.
“It could be dangerous. Homer is off-limits,” Daniel added with clarity and an unusual sternness that emphasized just how serious the parents were about this rule.
The playhouse and bunkhouse were actually the second floor of the brand new boathouse, which had been turned into this magical place for the kids to not only be able to play, but to sleep without being stepped on by their parents or one another.
“Where's JD's spot?” Ricky asked curiously.
“For now, JD stays with us,” Daniel answered. “He's too little for the, uh ...” as his hand waved all around the area in which they were standing.
“We need names,” Jack interrupted once his husband had stammered.
The family was used to having simple nicknames for just about everything they touched, and yet the compound and its components didn't have a single such moniker as yet.
“We'll have a meeting and see what grows,” the silver-haired man advised, a confident smile on his face that they'd come up with something that would work.
“We have more to see,” Daniel announced with a smile.
“Oh, yeah,” Little Danny responded “What was that big building, Daddy?”
“You'll see,” the archaeologist promised.
The chattering family headed over to what could best be described as a community area, but en route, David spotted something else and called out, “Hey, it's a campfire pit.”
“We can sing songs while we roast marshmallows,” Aislinn offered excitedly as she ran over to examine the area more closely.
With rocks in a circle for seats, a large pit for a fire was at the ready. There, the campers could enjoy the night sky and roast marshmallows to their hearts' delight. There was plenty of room for the Jackson-O'Neill brood, and behind it, there were a few more stones imbedded in the ground so that their extended family could also partake in the fun. It was like a double row campfire, which was the only way to keep the fire intimate enough for just the J-O's, but also allow for times when others would be there.
Then the family explored the unnamed community spot that hosted the laundry, the kitchen, and the entertainment area. There was room for everyone here. A large theater screen was present, and there was a fireplace for when being outdoors just wasn't possible. This was actually a tri-story structure, though the design was such that it looked only two stories. The bath, shower, and laundry area faced opposite the lake, halfway between the height of the lower level lounge and the upper level kitchen and dining area.
“How cool is this!” Jeff exclaimed, marveling at the inclusion of so many amenities without making them obvious. “I wish I could have been included while this was being planned and built. It ...”
“Jeff,” Jack interrupted. “Truthfully, Daddy and I never thought about that. We had Alex look at the camp a year ago, and it was months before we started construction. It's not that we didn't trust you or didn't want your input.”
“We've just have had so much going on with J-O expanding, getting Betsy, our trip, the ...” Daniel interjected, about to list more of the family's happenings from the past year.
“I understand,” Jeff interjected sincerely. “It's just that this is so awesome and ... well, it's amazing.”
Jack and Daniel shared a looked as they watched their eldest son. His mouth was open as he looked at the structure. He was taking in every inch of the place as if it were some magical delight, which, of course, it was.
**Angel, he reminds me a little of you when you dial the Gate.**
**It never gets old, Jack. I know we take it for granted a little now, but watching the event horizon form and knowing the discoveries that are out there and waiting for exploration, it ...**
In his mind, Jack laughed. The thunderous kawoosh was nowhere in sight, but Daniel had gotten lost in the wonder of it. Just envisioning it in his mind had transported that archaeologist to a silent and unseen adventure.
**Don't change, Love.**
**Wha....what?** Daniel questioned. Suddenly, he realized he'd become distracted. With a smile and a shrug, he clapped his hands together and stated enthusiastically, “On with the tour.”
“There's more?” Aislinn asked in surprise, believing the full tour had already been given.
“Well, we've talked about how big this community area is, and that's because Dad and I would like to invite Aunt Sam or Aunt Janet or ...”
“... cabins?” Little Danny jumped in.
“Are there more cabins?” Jeff asked inquisitively, eager to see what else Alex had done. “Uh, Alex did all of this, right?”
“No, it was all us,” Jack answered with a straight face, not budging even when seeing his lover's guppy and gaping expressing. “Of course, it was Alex,” he groaned, making a funny face and laughing. “He did great, as usual.”
“Let's go see the other cabins,” Daniel suggested.
“What's this thing?” Lulu asked curiously about the odd, white object that set next to the sink in the first cabin the family had come to look through.
“That's a wonder wash,” Jack answered, a proud smile and snap to his demeanor as he'd answered.
Immediately, Daniel stared at his lover, full of surprise at the expression on the man's face.
“A wonder wash?” Brianna asked, walking over and examining the 12”x12”x16” object. “I don't think I'm gonna like this.”
Chenoa tugged on her older sister's arm, causing Brianna to lean down for a second and listen carefully. Suddenly, the tomboy rose up, laughing.
“Care to share?” Jack queried, his question more of a patriarchal command than a request.
“Well ...” Brianna hesitated.
“I just said if it does what it sounds like it does because of the name you said it was that it's okay because we don't sleep here,” Chenoa stated proudly, even though her older father was frowning as he worked on deciphering the remark.
“Good one, Noa,” Lulu praised, exchanging a fist pump with her sister.
“I'm sure you'll all be happy to help out your family when they're here,” Daniel interjected, his response a slight reprimand not to make assumptions.
As the young dancers deflated, Jack added perkily, “Never fear. It's a cinch; a piece of cake.”
Again, Daniel stared at his husband with skepticism, only this time Jack rebelled against the glares and asked, “What?”
“As I recall, Babe, you weren't this cheerful about the wonder wash when Alex first mentioned it to us.”
“How'd he react, Daddy?” Jenny asked curiously.
As Daniel began to relay the story, Jack scowled.
“Jack, we've been through this,” Daniel reminded tersely after his lover had blown his stack in front of designer Alex Dennison. “We told Alex at our original lunch meeting that we were okay with having a laundry at the cabin.” He paused and snarked, “Or is Alzheimer's kicking in?”
“Very funny,” the older man responded in frustration. He stared at the rough sketch Alex had made and was seeking approval for. The problem was that the mere thought of actually having a laundry room irked the general. “Look, I know it's necessary. All I'm saying is that when we go to the cabin, it's to get away from it all, not take it all with us.”
“General, if you prefer to sleep on dirty sheets in your nudist camp, hey, that's up to you,” Alex returned in frustration.
“Nudist camp? What are you talking about?”
“Remember when we did the math?” Alex prodded.
Nodding with an almost painful recollection, Daniel acknowledged, “Us, the brood, their spouses, and a pair of children for each. The big ...”
“Sixty,” Daniel, Jack, and Alex all chorused.
“That's correct,” Alex continued. “With the way the floor plans worked out in the final construction, if every bunk, mattress, bed, crib, sofa bed, Murphy bed, and folding cot is used, you can sleep *seventy* people, not just sixty, and that's still not counting sleeping bags on the floor or potential occupancies in your yacht and RV.”
“Seventy?” Daniel asked, his voice high pitched.
Reaching out to rub his lover's back, Jack soothed, “Easy there, Danny. Those extra ten are for the neighbors.”
“Neighbors?” Daniel echoed weakly and then swiftly nodding a few times as he tried to digest the increase. He took a big breath and then sighed, “Right.”
Continuing, Alex spoke, “Jack, Daniel, It's either go naked or have all those children wearing dirty underwear, muddy socks, and food-stained shirts. Which would you prefer?”
After a moment of thought, Jack responded, “Okay. I concede the need for the laundry to be done.”
“Progress at last,” Daniel observed quietly.
“Good. Now ...” Alex began.
“But!” Jack exclaimed, raising up hand with one finger extended. “I don't want laundry detail to be such a big part of the agenda when we're here.”
When his husband didn't say anything for several seconds, Daniel prompted, “Jack?”
“I want an 'or',” the general demanded stubbornly.
“An oar?” Alex questioned in confusion. “For your rowboat?”
“There's always an 'or',” Jack insisted without clarifying his response.
“I don't know what you're suggesting,” Alex replied.
“Daniel,” Jack stated with expectation.
Staring at his spouse for a moment, Daniel dropped his head, shaking it from side to side a couple of times.
“Okay, okay, okay,” the archaeologist muttered. Looking over at his still-confused friend, he asked, “Alex, is there an alternative, something else other than a central laundry area that might work for us here, like coolers instead of refrigerators?”
“Your RV should be equipped ...”
“They'd be in and out of the thing all day,” Jack interrupted negatively. “No one is going to use the RV for laundry, except maybe us.”
“Alex, isn't there something else that we might be able to do?” Daniel implored.
“Potentially,” Alex responded, resigned to the task. “I can research that, since you don't want this done by yesterday,” he added blandly.
“Thank you,” Daniel acknowledged. He looked at his husband and added, “And for the record, Jack, no matter what we end up with, laundry *is* going to have to be done, and there won't be any bribing of our children to do your share for you.”
“Danny, they'd love it. I'll make one of them laundry king, and they'll get ...”
“Nothing because you aren't going to bribe them,” Daniel interrupted. Then he smiled and added, “And if you *do* bribe them, I'll beat your bribe two to one for them *not*to do it.”
“Guys, can we get back to this?” Alex entreated, pleased when he saw two complacent nods in reply.
**Spoil sport,** Jack groused mentally.
**Don't you know it,** Daniel smirked, confident he had the upper hand.
~I could swear Daniel just stuck his tongue out at Jack, but neither of them has moved a muscle,~ the designer thought as he observed his clients while preparing to move on to the next item on his agenda. ~At times, these guys are a bit weird.~
//End of Flashback//
“You could bribe me, Dad,” David volunteered.
“I want Daddy to bribe me,” Jonny offered with a smile. “I want a bigger drum set.”
“Bigger?” both Jack and Daniel asked with slightly raised and alarmed voices while their eyes widened in horror.
**Bigger earmuffs,** Daniel thought loud enough for his husband to hear.
**I was thinking we soundproof the music room and lock him in when he plays,** Jack countered.
**That has ... possibilities.**
“Daniel, tell them what Alex found,” Jack requested verbally, happy more than ever that the very successful and innovative designer had come up with the wonder wash solution.
“Right,” Daniel agreed quickly, wanting to divert the conversation away from the oldest triplet's musical desire. “Well, sometime later ...”
“Jack, here is your laundry,” Alex stated.
Looking at the unusual object, Jack replied, “That thing that looks like a Barbie doll cement mixer?”
“That would be it. Here, I'll show you.”
Setting the device in the sink, the designer removed the large lid, poured a gallon of warm water into the opening, and shoved in a shirt that was lying on the counter. After adding a teaspoon of detergent and screwing the lid back on, he grabbed a handle on one side and turned it for about a minute. Placing the unit on the counter, he then inserted a piece of plastic tubing into an opening at the bottom.
At that moment, water started draining into the sink. Alex removed the lid and added a bit of water before re-affixing the lid. After tumbling the device a few times, he repeated the draining process and then pulled out a clean, wet shirt.
Next, the shirt was placed into a small plastic standing drum on the floor. It spun for a minute after a lever was flipped. Opening the lid, the man pulled out a nearly dry shirt.
“Ready to dry on a rack, or iron,” Alex stated with pride.
“Kinda small, isn't it?” Jack quipped.
“Every building will have one. You can do one queen-size sheet in at a time. It only takes a few minutes.”
“But we have a king size bed,” Jack rebutted.
“I know,” Alex acknowledged patiently. “Plus there are blankets that need to be washed, and in case there might be, oh, I don't know, a mass mud slinging fight involving sixty people, I included one basic stack set. I can cross it out if you say so.”
Jack began to snark, really just to be snarky and not because he objected to anything Alex had presented. However, he caught a glimpse of his soulmate's face, and it seemed to be reminding him of one thing.
**By the hour, Babe,** Daniel communicated mentally while he crossed his arms and subtly tapped his foot.
~That man charges an arm and a leg, and we get the half-body discount as it is,~ Jack thought to himself. “We'll go with your plan, Alex.”
“Good decision, Jack,” Daniel praised dryly while rolling his eyes.
//End of Flashback//
“So, this lets everyone do their laundry,” Daniel concluded.
“Do we *have* to?” Jonny whined.
“Look, we don't come here to do chores,” Daniel began as he connected visually with each of his children, “but sometimes we may have to.”
The kids were full of gloomy looks until Jack spoke up and added with pep, “We'll let Aunt Sam be in charge of the laundry detail.”
As cheers went up, Daniel slowly turned to face his husband while putting his hands on his hips.
“Aunt Sam?” the archaeologist asked disapprovingly.
“She's my second, so ...” Jack paused, smiling when he saw that, 'Oh, is she?' expression in his lover's eyes. “Time to go to the next cabin.”
“I'll say,” Daniel sighed, smiling down at Aislinn, who was smiling up at him. “What, Ash?”
“You and Dad are funny, Daddy,” Aislinn opined.
Daniel thought for a moment and then leaned down to kiss his princess and agree, “Yeah, we are.”
“They were all different sizes,” Jeff noted as the family headed back to the main cabin after exploring all three of the new buildings.
“Our friends all have different size needs,” Jack responded. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw a silly grin on his eldest daughter's face. “What?”
“Oh, I was just thinking that the little one would be perfect for ... you know,” Jennifer answered cryptically.
“No, I don't know,” Jack responded, knowing perfectly well what his oldest daughter meant.
“In five or ten years, maybe,” the older man responded, ignoring his daughter's 'oh, yeah?' expression.
“No, I thought it was great,” Jeff spoke over his cell phone to Alex Dennison. He just couldn't wait any longer, so while the family was inside the main cabin, he'd gone outside and was sitting on the porch while talking to the designer. “So, what's on 12-volt?”
“The only generated current is for the toilets, the water pump, and the three outlet-like cigarette lighters in the kitchen,” Alex responded. “Oh, and the one in the bathroom.”
“The bathroom? Why there?” Jeff questioned, looking over when he heard a sound. He smiled at the toddling youngster, picking him up and nodding over at Jennifer, who disappeared back inside the cabin. “Hey, Bro,” he whispered to JD while Alex was answering his query.
“Jeff, think about your clients,” Alex tutored. Hearing silence, he knew the budding architect still had a way to go before he'd be able to take on a task like this. “You have sisters, Jeff, and they'll probably be bringing more females with them in the future, and that's not to mention your aunts.”
“Curling irons,” Jeff sighed, nodding and playing Tic-Tac-Toe with JD on an imaginary board in the air.
“And hair blowers, whether or not your parents want them,” Alex chuckled. “Women have this inane desire to look their best, even in the jungle.”
“Aunt Sam,” Jeff chuckled.
“Pretty,” JD responded.
“Jeff? Jeff, you sound ... different.”
Jeff laughed, “That's JD, Alex.”
From his office, the designer nodded and then asked curiously, “What about your Aunt Sam?”
“Um, nothing, really,” Jeff responded, knowing he couldn't say what he was thinking. It was something his younger father had mentioned to him once, that even on missions, Sam wore lipstick and would take time to keep her gloss intact. Getting back on task and wanting to show off a little, he pointed out, “The battery drain for any heating element appliance is pretty big. The solar panels you installed can do the job much easier.”
“Correct,” a pleased Alex responded. “The panels won't have a problem in keeping the batteries at full charge, but the batteries will not be needed unless there is neither sun nor wind, not a likely scenario near the lake except for the wee hours when everyone is asleep anyway. Of course, those batteries will need to be checked periodically to make sure none of the cells has failed.”
“Ah, man, JD. You beat me,” Jeff whined playfully while his youngest brother giggled and clapped his hands.
“Oh, uh, I'm sorry, Alex. JD beats me every time.”
“I'm sure he does,” the busy man spoke as he glanced at the clock on the wall.
“What were you saying?” Jeff asked while tickling his brother at the same time.
“Let me tell you about ...” Alex began.
As the two talked, Alex filled in his potential protege on more aspects of the job. He knew Jeff had a keen interest in the project, but from all the laughter and imaginary game playing going on, he had to wonder if maybe this wasn't the ideal time to be having this conversation. Still, every time he asked the young student a question, Jeff was right there with the answer or appropriate comment.
“I convinced your parents that propane on demand water heaters were the way to go. Why would I do that?”
~Everything's a quiz,~ Jeff joked to himself. “I don't know much about that, Alex, but I'll ...” he pulled JD's hand away from the phone and addressed the boy, “JD, I need the phone ... J...J...JD!”
After a slew of giggles that Alex could only guess about, Jeff finally returned to the discussion.
“Where was I? Oh, yeah. It's not something I know a lot about, but my guess, Alex, is that it has to be easier in some way.”
“More convenient,” the designer responded succinctly. “With the specific demands of the compound, the only use for propane the tanks will be small. They'll be easy to swap out, probably just once a year should be sufficient.”
“My job,” Jeff groused humorously.
“The privileges of being a parent,” Alex laughed.
Jeff looked at JD and semi-groused, semi-laughed, “The last of the line, JD. Boy, are you lucky.” He knew the youngest Jackson-O'Neill would have the least amount of chores to do, at least until he was a teenager. “Then watch out!” he teased, giving his brother a kiss on the cheek at the same time.
“Jeff, are you there?”
Ignoring the question, Jeff queried, “Alex, couldn't you have used geothermal heat? It's tremendously energy efficient.”
~This boy is getting more like Jack and Daniel every day,~ Alex opined silently. “Yes, yes, it is, but why wouldn't I have chosen it? Think, Jeff. What are the questions you need to ask to lead you to the answer?”
The young architecture student thought and then replied, “First, who will occupy the project? That's obvious. Second, what is the budget? Uh, I'm guessing with Dad and Daddy that wasn't an issue.” Hearing the affirmative chuckle on the opposite end of the phone, Jeff smiled to himself as he continued. “Third, what are the climatic liabilities? Fourth, how often is the project going to be used, and fifth, what are the maintenance issues?”
Jeff's eyes lit up as he silently pondered the answers to the last three questions.
“Jeff, I can't hear you,” Alex pointed out.
The young man laughed and replied, “I'm getting more like Daddy every day.”
“Yes, he does that a lot.” With a bit of a smug smile, he thought quietly, ~Didn't I just think that?~
When he refocused again, Jeff answered the question, saying, “There probably won't be anyone here for months at a time. Without a ducted air-handing system and consistent 120-volt current, there is a possibility of freezing pipes, and it would mean buildings that looked more like conventional houses than cabins.”
“Go to the head of the class, young man,” a pleased Alex instructed over the phone. “Excellent design is not about knowing all the answers, Jeff, it's about asking the right questions. Your parents wanted to keep this as outdoorsy as possible. That's why I went with the floating foundations for the three cabins. We didn't have to dig as much and there weren't any worries about the footers cracking because of the ground shifting.”
Hearing Alex laugh, Jeff inquired, “What's funny?”
“I was thinking about Jack when I tried to explain the shifting ground premise.”
Jeff smiled and surmised, “Dad made a joke?”
“Dad fun,” JD interjected, a huge grin on his face.
“He sure is,” Jeff agreed quietly as he continued to hold his sibling.
“No, he huffed, and I quote, 'We *don't* have earthquakes in Minnesota!'” Alex explained, trying to ignore JD's interruptions.
“I'll bet Daddy had to step in.”
“Daddy fun,” JD again agreed while playing patty-cake with his brother, who was only using one hand, making the game a little more difficult than normal.
“Always,” Alex responded in mock frustration, still ignoring JD's opinions. “I had to explain it about three times before Jack would be serious enough to listen. It wasn't that complicated. I simply told him that foundations dug in the ground where the water table is high runs the risk of cracking because the ground near the top, say twenty feet or so, moves more.” He paused and then prodded in a teaching tone, “And that's why?”
~Another quiz,~ Jeff mused. “The water makes it less solid than areas with a lower water table.”
“Very good,” Alex praised. “That's why houses near the water generally do not have basements, unless it's on sloping ground that exposes at least one wall of the foundation, like I designed for the lodge.”
“We're just calling that the community area for now,” Jeff interjected. “Everyone's arguing over nicknames for the compound and everything in it. You should be here. It's like a verbal food fight.”
“No, thank you,” Alex responded fervently while keeping it polite, of course. His mind briefly flashed to the ruined pair of designer shoes he'd worn when this whole project started. “As I was saying, the purposes I had in mind for the lo...community area was three fold: to give more indoor space a lakefront view, to reduce the footprint of the building, and to conserve trees.”
“Dad and Daddy were very happy about how you saved the trees, Alex. To be honest, we are, too. It's a big difference, but not as much as I would have thought.”
“Your parents were very insistent on keeping the ecosystem in the compound as much the same as possible.”
“Good job,” Jeff praised while smiling. “Thanks for talking to me, Alex.”
“My pleasure, Jeff.”
Disconnecting the call and putting his cell phone away, Jeff repositioned himself slightly and then challenged, “Okay, JD. This time I'm focused. I'm gonna take ya down.”
“JD win,” the boy claimed confidently.
Jeff just chuckled as the two began another game of imaginary Tic-Tac-Toe.
“It's a simple alarm system,” Jack told Jennifer, Jeff, Brianna, and David a bit later that day.
The rest of the children were in the main cabin. Chenoa and Lulu had been placed in charge of all of their younger siblings, with Bijou and Katie assisting. It was the first time the two girls had been officially left in charge of so many of their brothers and sisters, and they were having a ball, much to the chagrin of the Munckins and Spitfires. As for JD, he was just laughing at all of them.
Holding the walkie talkie in his hand that was the couple's link to the main cabin, Jack continued, “We trust you, but we need to hear you say that you realize what's at risk here.”
“Dad's right,” Daniel interjected, his arms folded across his chest. “Maybe we're overprotective ...”
“Maybe?” Jennifer accused with a tiny, knowing smile.
“Okay, we *are* overprotective, but you all have seen enough to know why we have the rules, but this really doesn't have anything to do with that,” Daniel responded. He looked down for a moment and then let out a sigh. “Look, all we're saying is that no matter how much your younger siblings know the rules intellectually, they're still ...”
“... our younger siblings,” Brianna completed for her younger father. “Daddy, we know. We want them to be safe, too.”
“It's like you said,” Jeff began. “We've been through enough to know the consequences, and I'm not talking about that military stuff, either.”
“We know they're excited, so if they want to stay up a little later than normal tonight, that's okay, but everyone stays together,” Jack instructed.
“We also meant what we told everyone earlier,” Daniel added, his demeanor as serious as the four oldest children had ever heard. “The boathouse portion of this building is off-limits at *all* times unless we're here or we've given permission. There will be *no* second chances. One can ruin it for everyone.”
“Daddy's right. We're trusting the entire brood, and you're going to have to look out for one another,” Jack stated sternly. “One transgression, and we'll go back to tripping over one another in our cabin. Is that understood?”
“Yes, General,” Jennifer answered with a giggle and a mock salute. Seeing the unhappy glares from her parents, she sighed, “I understand. We all do.”
“What about the girls?” Brianna asked about the beagles.
“They'll stay with us,” Daniel answered, surprising the children, who had individually assumed that the dogs would be guardians of a sort. He sighed as he admitted, “Katie gets a little too curious. She likes to explore.”
“And once she goes on an expedition ...” Jack continued.
“The brood would follow,” David chuckled.
Jennifer let out a sigh of realization that prompted curious looks from her folks. She knew they wanted to know what had just occurred to her.
“Well, I was just thinking that as much as we humanize them, the girls are still dogs, and beagles, yet. Their natural instinct is to hunt and explore, so that no matter how protectively they watch over us, when they think we're safe, they would go ... exploring.”
“Just like we'd follow, either out of curiosity of what they were trailing or just to keep them safe,” David admitted.
“Great analogy, the girls and your younger siblings,” Daniel acknowledged, pleased that the elder children now truly understood their point.
“We get it ... now,” Brianna interjected, bobbing her head up and down for a minute.
“Stay,” Jack ordered Bijou and Katie as he opened the front door of the cabin. “Go with JD,” he added a second later, smiling as the beagles headed back to the bedroom to watch over their young charge.
Jack walked outside onto the wooden porch and stretched. The darkened sky was alight with sparkling stars. He looked up, studying the arrangements of the stars and finding a few constellations that he recognized. After a minute, he turned to his right and walked to the end of the long porch where his lover was standing, facing the new combination boathouse/bunkhouse/pirate and castle playground. He put his hands around his Love's waist and placed a kiss on his nape.
Daniel smiled and leaned his head back against his husband while his hands took hold of Jack's, quietly enjoying the safe haven Jack always gave him.
“It's just so different,” the younger man offered quietly.
“They're okay, Danny.”
“I know. It's just ...”
“... different,” Jack completed.
“Jack, I think we should go ahead and have Alex put in the RV hook up at the side of the cabin,” the archaeologist remarked while bringing up Jack's hands and kissing them gently.
“We don't really need it,” Jack replied, his cheek caressing against his lover's silky hair.
“I know, but I've been thinking, and, yes, I know, that's dangerous,” Daniel chuckled. “But Grandpa might like that spot when he joins us.”
Looking straight ahead thoughtfully, Jack realized his husband was right. It might even allow some of the kids to sleep with General Hammond whenever he joined them at their special haven. The kids loved spending special time with their grandfather.
“Alex said he could do it without having anything sticking up from the ground, didn't he?”
Still focusing on the bunkhouse, Daniel answered, “Yes. Uh, he said we'd just need a larger capacity purification system and a few solar panels on the side of the ca...bin.”
“Daniel, are you thinking what I'm thinking?”
“Knowing Alex, I'm guessing so.”
The lovers both let out knowing laughs. In their history with Alex Dennison, whenever he brought up something visionary in their minds, while the couple hemmed and hawed in procrastination or uncertainty, Alex had usually gone ahead and either done it or had it ready to go within hours. This particular suggestion had come some time back, and though the lovers had considered it, they'd thought it to be an unnecessary extra.
“So, do you think he has the solar panels hidden around here somewhere?”
“Actually, I'm thinking we already have a larger purification system and just don't know it,” Daniel replied in an amused fashion.
“That means we'll be getting a second billing once we tell him we want it.”
“I'm betting it's on his desk, waiting for us to call so he can mail it.” Daniel paused and put forth, “We could go count solar panels.”
“Or we could just go inside,” the older man said, placing multiple kisses on his soulmate's neck and shoulders.
“I love it when you come up with an 'or'.”
“Come on, Angel,” Jack beckoned gently, giving the boathouse a final look himself.
“They'll be okay, right?” Daniel couldn't help but ask.
“Yeah. They're the brood.”
Daniel nodded, and the two lovers retreated inside their cabin, leaving their children, except for JD, in the confines of the new bunkhouse.
“We need costumes,” Aislinn insisted early the next day. “Pretty dresses and shoes.”
“And swords!” Jonny added.
Jack and Daniel were sitting on chairs on the dock. The archaeologist had a book on his lap, while Jack had a fishing pole in his hands, the other end in the water hoping for a tug that wouldn't come. Their plans for a quiet half-hour together had gone kaput when seven of the children had shown up to make their requests. There were so many that Lulu had made a list of the most important 'must-haves'. The children were seated in front of their parents, a couple of them with their bare feet splashing with the water below, while the others were in various sitting stances facing their fathers.
“Noa and I think there should be a dancing plank,” Lulu put forth.
“We need a treasure chest,” Little Danny suggested.
“With lots of treasure,” Ricky added.
Fifteen minutes later, Jack and Daniel were still looking straight ahead, neither one of them having said a word. It's not like they'd had a chance; the children were spewing out thought after thought about their new playground. When the toy topic was completed, the parents thought they might finally have a chance to respond when all of a sudden the subject switched over to bedding.
“I want doubloons on my comforter,” Jonny stated.
“And I want Prince Charming on mine,” Aislinn sighed dreamily.
Ten more minutes passed with the children chattering away, only the rest of the brood had made their way over to add their two cents to the party. Even JD, being attended to by Brianna at the moment, was smiling and saying, “Want gold.”
**Now he's the smart one,** Jack communicated to his lover.
Daniel simply chuckled internally. After all, the children were still giving their input about how to accessorize the new compound. It seemed there might be no end to their suggestions.
Jack and Daniel were busy on their yacht, Homer. They were about to take their brood out for an afternoon cruise before returning for an evening of barbecuing and a few sparklers, which were the only fireworks they allowed, being located in the woods.
“They love it,” Daniel remarked.
“That's good because it's a non-refundable compound,” Jack teased.
“We should invite General Hammond here soon,” Daniel offered.
“We'll get Carter and T; make it an SG-1 reunion.”
“We'll have to find a time when ev...” Daniel began, pausing as an idea began to form in his mind. “Jack,” he continued while still processing his thoughts, though his face gave away his suggestion.
Jack stared at his lover and shook his head while responding, “Danny, they've all got plans.”
“Do they?” Daniel challenged. “We can ask them to join us tomorrow. The children would love it.”
“You keep prepping Homer,” Jack replied. “I'll go make some calls.” As he walked passed his lover, he paused for a quick kiss. “I love you, you know.”
“That's it?” Jack balked. “Just 'I know'? Nothing more?”
“Don't forget to coordinate the times,” the younger man suggested. “Maybe they can caravan.” Then, just as lover was about to jump off Homer, Daniel called out, “Babe?”
Pausing, Jack asked, “What?”
“I love you, Jack, with all my heart,” Daniel declared with tenderness in his voice and adoration in his eyes.
With a huge grin, Jack replied, “Now that's more like it.”
“That's it?” Daniel mocked. “Just 'Now ...'”
Not even able to finish his tease, the archaeologist broke out into laughter, as did his husband. There was no denying their love.
The next few days were going to be exciting and wondrous as they introduced some of their family of friends to the new compound. They didn't have all the supplies they needed, but these were people used to camping out. What mattered most was just being together.
Independence Day would be for them, but then the Jackson-O'Neills would celebrate with those they loved and cared for so much. It would be a grand holiday for all.
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