The Night Before Christmas

Author:  Orrymain
Category:  Slash, Drama, Romance, Holiday, Established Relationship
Pairing:  Jack/Daniel ... and it's all J/D
Rating:  PG-13
Season:  Beyond the Series - December 24, 2016
Spoilers:  None
Size:  19kb, ficlet
Written:  December 22-23, 2016
Summary:  The Jackson-O'Neills celebrate Christmas Eve with a favorite tradition.
Disclaimer:  Usual disclaimers -- not mine, wish they were, especially Daniel, and Jack, too, but they aren't.  A gal can dream though!
1) Silent, unspoken thoughts by various characters are indicated with ~ in front and behind them, such as ~Where am I?~
2) This fic stands alone, but it does reference my other fic(s):  “Hernando's Hideaway” and “The Great Santa Claus Caper”

The Night Before Christmas
by Orrymain

As was the entire homestead, the recreation room of the Jackson-O'Neill home was a festive place.  Holiday tunes played over the stereo system, instilling the family with seasonal spirit and prompting frequent sing-alongs.  A multitude of decorations, including snowflake-clad paper streamers in green, red, and white that hung from the ceiling, made it obvious that it was Christmastime.

A life-size Frosty and Mrs. Frosty was part of a North Pole scene designed by nine-year-old Ricky and brought to fruition by his siblings.  The snowy scene, complete with penguins, elves, and the home of the Clauses, assisted in making every part of the room a winter wonderland.

The centerpiece, however, was a large tree, its shiny tinsel draping the silvery-blue blades and highlighting the myriad of bulbs, beads, and bangles that adorned the branches.  Much of the decor was handmade by the brood, giving them a sense of pride and connection to the overall look and feeling of the room.  Well-placed laser lights could turn the tree, and the room, into a magical light show in a moment's notice.

A beautiful angel with glowing wings watched over the Colorado Blue Spruce, which would be planted in the ground after the holidays were over, and the family of Jack and Daniel.  Aislinn, now ten years old, was certain the angel was part of her mother's spirit.  She'd thought that the instant she'd first seen the angel in a seasonal Christmas store where she used her own money to buy the tree topper. The youngest triplet had perhaps the closest connection to the birth mother or the Munchkins and the Spitfires, so her belief about the angel was never questioned, especially when everyone realized how unusual the angel was in appearance.  Like Kayla Armentrout, the angel was a brunette, her hair flowing down her back.  Her brown eyes were bright and full of both mystery and curiosity.  Even Jack and Daniel had a sense of Kayla when they looked at the angel.  To them, it felt like Kayla found another way to watch over her children.

Christmas Eve activities filled the day.  Jack and Daniel held a special gift race for the brood that featured a surprising and fulfilling ending.  Afterward, each member of the family, zoo included, opened a single present that brought a lot of smiles and thrills to all.  Even the guinea pigs got into the act when the children put together some of the smaller gift boxes and built a makeshift obstacle course for them to play in. Strawberry and Shortcake had a blast moving about the boxes, jumping from box to box, hiding and/or napping, depending upon their mood.  After a while, Jonny took the lead and helped to put a smaller version of the box-course inside the critters' cage so the guinea pigs could have fun in the boxes every day.

The parents received a special gift when oldest son Jeff opened a letter that had been delivered earlier in the day by messenger.  It told the architect major that he would be spending the next semester working for Archonics Ltd. in Colorado Springs, building his parents' new Man Cave.  Having Jeff home for a few more months meant the world to Jack and Daniel, who were extremely grateful to Alex Dennison for arranging the work assignment with Jeff's college, the University of Cincinnati.

The celebration was quieting now as the family snuggled together, some on the floor pillows, some on the ottomans, and some on the sofa.  Hot cocoa and remnants of S'mores were with the family as they settled down for a special treat, Jack's reading of “'Twas the Night Before Christmas.”  With the music turned down low and tuned to instrumental songs, the silver-haired father began to read, giving each word emphasis and using both his tone of voice and facial expressions to read the traditional tale to his children.

Daniel held a tired Katie in his arms as he reclined against the sofa while sitting on the floor.  He could see the enchanted faces of each of his children as he patted the youngest beagle, who yawned as she rested her snout on Daniel's arm just as Jack read the opening line.

~We're still stirring,~ Daniel thought as his lover continued the poem, though he chuckled to himself as he saw the yawns spreading from child to child.  It wasn't from boredom or lack of interest, but their little bodies were about worn out from all the holiday activities during the month.  He smiled at the bright eyes he saw.  ~We do this every year and every year is like the first year, as if they'd never heard the story before.~

On one of the floor pillows, JD was in Jennifer's arms.  Though weary, he was full of anticipation.  He couldn't wait for Santa Claus to come.

~Not St. Nicholas, Santa Claus,~ the youngest member of the brood argued silently.  Before he could think much more about the nomenclature, he heard his dad talk about the stockings that were hung with care by the chimney.  ~My stocking is in the middle.  Santa can't miss it.  It's so big.  I hope Santa comes soon.  I'll stay up to see him.  I wanna see Santa Claus.~

Over at the end of the large sofa, Chenoa leaned against Jeff as she listened to her dad's colorful reading.  She giggled slightly when she heard the familiar line about sugar plums that danced in the heads of sleeping children.

The youthful dancer's mind took the visions of sugar plums and choreographed a happy jazz routine with them.  She gave the lavender candies arms, legs, and a head that let them move rhythmically to the music.  Then her mouth began to water a bit as she thought about the oval confectioneries.  Her imagination slowly snapped away the heads and appendages of the hard candy until her eyes widened.  She felt like a confectionery cannibal.

~Sorry, Sugar Plums,~ Chenoa's mind spoke to the now crippled sugar plum images in her head.  ~But you sure were sweet,~ she giggled.

David was sprawled out on the floor, his head and torso on the pillow when he did his best not to react to his dad's alteration of the poem.  He knew his dad was representing the standard father in the piece which left Mama and her 'kerchief out in the cold, replaced in the telling by, “Daddy and his boonie.”

~Why would Daddy wear a boonie to bed?  I get the change, Dad, but try something more realistic.~

The teenager shook his head and looked over at Lulu, who was sprawled out beside him.

~She thinks it's funny, too,~ David opined just as Lulu gave him an understanding glance.

Lulu focused again on the Christmas story.  Something always bothered her about it, even though it was a favorite of hers.

~Why would Santa be in a miniature sleigh and have miniature reindeer?  Santa's a big guy, with a big round belly and a great big beard.  He can't be that small, and he especially can't ride in a mini-sleigh.  Maybe he just looks tiny far away.  There's a word for that in literature, but I don't remember it.  I'll ask Daddy later.~

There was a small groan heard by the child who sat on Jack's right.  That was his namesake, the sandy-haired Jonny.  Jonny had his own quarrel with the oft-told story, and it was one everyone knew.  In fact, right on cue, the entire family, Jack and Daniel included, all shouted out in unison.

“*Nine* reindeer” was the corrective cry heard in the room, followed by lots of laughter.

“Rudy has his own story, Jonny,” Aislinn reminded.

“It's the principle of the thing,” the oldest Munchkin reminded.  “Rudolph shouldn't be excluded.”

“Jonny, Rudolph wasn't even created until two years after this poem was written,” Little Danny reminded.  “It's an impossibility for Rudolph to be part of this story.”

“Misters May and Moore, or Livingston, should have written it together,” the little general argued as he referenced Robert May, author of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” as well as Clement C. Moore, the acknowledged author of “A Visit from St. Nicholas,” and Henry Livingston, Jr., who some believe wrote the poem instead of Moore.

“Give it a rest, Jonny, so Dad can finish the story,” Aislinn ordered.

Jonny grumbled and sighed as he obeyed his sister, but inside, he griped, ~Bad story alignment.  They should have collaborated so Rudy could lead the team.~

Jack continued his oratory, calling off the name of the reindeer.  When he spoke the last name, Blitzen, he simultaneously moved his right hand to cover Jonny's objecting mouth.  He didn't remove his hand until Santa called out for his reindeer to “dash away all.”

Jeff took the final sip of his hot chocolate, now more of a mildly warm chocolate, as he heard his dad read about the sleigh that was full of toys.  He took a moment to look at his youngest siblings.  They were totally engaged in the tale, each, he assumed, thinking about the toys Santa would bring them this Christmas.  For a moment, he thought back on his childhood with his birth father, Nelson Hunter.  A widower when Jeff was only five, Jeff's dad tried his best to make Christmas as positive as it could be for his young son.  Thus, one thing Jeff never lacked for was presents.

~The real present was the time we spent together at Christmas, Dad,~ Jeff thought about his father.  Being an Air Force family, that time was sometimes cut short, which made Jeff treasure those Christmases of his boyhood even more.  ~I wish we could have made one more rocket together,~ he lamented, thinking back on a tradition that filled him with happiness.  Father and son built a rocket every year.  It was a special time that forged a unique bond between them.  ~That last rocket had to go up a thousand feet easy.~  He smiled and whispered in his mind, ~No, it was like you said.  It went up to Heaven, carrying our love to Mom.  She has it, and you, too, because now you're with her.~

Jeff was pulled back to his adoptive father's magical reading.  St. Nick had bounded down the chimney and was naturally covered in ashes and soot.

~Lucky he didn't come an hour ago,~ Brianna mused from her spot, an ottoman situated inbetween David and Lulu's floor pillow and another one shared by Aislinn, Bijou, and Mittens.  The tomboy was holding Cream Cheese, one of the family's rabbits, while the other, Bagel, was held by Little Danny.  ~Our fireplace was full of pokers and prongs of marshmallows, not ashes and soot.  Hey, the fire is still going a little.  A burnt Santa does not a welcome make,~ she laughed to herself.

Jennifer heard Santa's belly be compared to a bowl of jelly, which turned her attention to a new treat she'd made for the family earlier in the week.  Cooking wasn't her passion, but she enjoyed making new foods, especially desserts, from time to time.  She'd run across a recipe for a finger food that was essentially a Jell-O shot, or more directly vodka-infused Jell-O.  She revised the recipe to include 7-Up instead of liquor and called it a Shirley Temple Jell-O Surprise, something that amused her parents greatly.

~The kids didn't get it, but Dad and Daddy did, and Jeff, Bri, and David, of course.  They liked it, and that's the important thing, though I'm not sure Dad and Daddy were crazy about having to binge watch all those Shirley Temple movies afterward.~  The oldest Jackson-O'Neill laughed out loud, disturbing the spoken words for a second or two.  After she shrugged an apology, she grinned with pride at the prank she played on her parents.  ~Aunt Sam was such a peach for helping me,~ she recalled happily.

Samantha Carter-Shanahan secretly supplied Jennifer with just enough vodka to allow the young woman to make a smaller pan of the Jell-O shots.  Thinking they were getting the 7-Up infused product, both Jack's and Daniel's eyes lit up like wildfire as they coughed from eating the heavily vodka-ized Jell-O shots made just for them.

~Dumb.  I should have taken a picture,~ Jennifer laughed inwardly as she remembered the stunned expressions on her parents' faces.  ~Priceless!~

From their spot on an ottoman that they'd pushed to be next to the sofa where Jeff and Chenoa were, the Spitfires were both picturing Santa Claus filling up the stockings until they were stuffed and about ready to burst.  The twins were sharing this vision, both of them independently watching Santa load present upon present into the stockings as the stockings magically grew in size.  In their minds, both were eager for morning when they could take down their stockings and see what was left for them.

As Jack reached the end stages of the poem, several of the children sat up and, as the final line came, all shouted out, “Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”

Now it was time for the children to go to bed.  Together, they made sure their zoo was safe and in their own homes for the night.  Little Danny gave Ptolemy, the majestic hyacinth macaw, a special treat before he headed upstairs, while Lulu grabbed a toy and played a short game of “Catch It If You Can” with her cat, Calico, before going to her room.

Amid the animal goodnights, Jennifer and Brianna supervised as the kids made sure there was a large, cold glass of milk and a plate of cookies left on the coffee table for Santa and the reindeer, as was family tradition.  Snickerdoodles were the cookies of choice, and they'd been made fresh that afternoon.  The children also insisted their parents extinguish the last signs of the burning logs in the fireplace.

“Santa might get hurt if the fire isn't out,” Jenny said.

“Yeah,” Ricky agreed.  “But leave the ashes and soot so he can get dirty, like in the poem.”

Everyone shared a moment of goodness and, convinced the fire was safely out, went on their way.

Cleaned up and in their pajamas, the younger children settled into their beds and most began to nod off right away with, sure enough, visions of sugar plums, Santa Claus, and eight little reindeer, plus Rudolph, dancing in their dreams.  The older children retired for the night as well, knowing that it was Christmas Eve and it was their sibling duty to go to sleep so they could be as spry and joyful as their brothers and sisters when morning came and their house was full of Santa's presents.

Little Danny blinked, not yet asleep.  The poem echoed in his mind, and he remembered when he was younger how he saw his Daddy kissing Santa Claus.  That still was upsetting, but it was Santa, so it had to be okay.

~Okay, well, logically, I know what I'm supposed to think.  I know some of my friends think Santa isn't real, and I've read volumes about Santa and the North Pole being a myth, well, the North Pole exists, but not as Santa's home; at least, that's what the books claim, and I've heard lots about the commercialization and marketing of Christmas to sell toys and things, but I don't care what they say.  I'm like Virginia and the newspaper editor.  I believe in Santa Claus, and I always will, just like I believe in Dad and Daddy, and the brood, and the zoo, and Grandpa, and Aunt Sam, and ...~

The child prodigy's mind shut down for the night as sleep came.  A smile on his face, the youngster began to dream of Santa and the presents he would bring.  Even more than that, he felt the love and joy of another Christmas with his family. He couldn't yet conceive of holidays apart from them.  He was still a little boy, lost in the magic of Christmas, and he was happy.

Jack and Daniel peeked in on their children one last time before beginning a long night of present assembly, packaging, and distribution throughout the living room and, in some cases, the rec room.  Their hearts were full of wonder and hope that their family would make more memories that would stay with them forever.

“Merry Christmas, Babe,” Daniel spoke to his lover after checking in on the final roomful of kids.

“Merry Christmas, Angel.”  The soulmates kissed and shared a warm embrace, before the general urged, “Let's get to work.”

As the parents began to walk away from girls' room, Daniel asked, “How long do you think it will be before JD gets up?”

“We have a little time.  Where's the Santa suit?”

“In the study,” Daniel answered.  “What if we're wrong?  What if JD doesn't get up?”

“We haven't been wrong yet,” Jack replied.  “We had it timed perfectly for the Munchkins and the Spitfires were downstairs within ten minutes of our estimated time.  It's JD's year.  I feel it in my bones.”

“Another Santa caper,” Daniel said with an amused and hopeful smile.  He and Jack took turns being Santa and this year, it was his turn.  ~Gawd, who thought I'd be so excited to put on padding and a red suit?~

“Have fun, Santa,” Jack wished, kissing his husband one more time as they stopped under some mistletoe that was pinned to the study's doorway.  “I'm jealous.”

“Jack, you can share a cookie with me.  Call it a gift from Santa to his favorite elf,” the younger father mused while entering the study and getting his costume out of its hiding spot.

“Geez, I love you.”

“Me, or my cookies,” Daniel challenged as he began to change into the Santa outfit.

“Both,” Jack responded with a seductive leer.

“Jack, don't look at me like that when I'm about to become Santa Claus.”

“Have I mentioned lately that I love you, Santa?”

“Not since we left the North Pole,” Daniel answered playfully.

“I'll make up for that tomorrow night.”

With the romantic promise made for the night after Christmas, the lovers set their attention on what would probably be their last Santa Caper.  They already had ideas for new fun with their aging children during holidays of the future, but on this night before Christmas, they focused on the present and the joy it brought them.  It was another merry of the merriest Christmases, and for Jack and Daniel, that's what mattered most.

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

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