Category: Slash, Drama, Angst, H/C, Romance, Holiday, Established Relationship
Pairing: Jack/Daniel ... and it's all J/D
Season: Beyond the Series - October 26 - November 26, 2015
Written: November 11,15-20,24-30, December 1-7,10-11,13-14,18-20, 2008 Revised for consistency: December 26, 2009
Summary: Still adjusting and settling into their new lifestyle, Jack, Daniel, and their brood are surprised by a new twist that just may change their lives yet again.
Disclaimer: Usual disclaimers -- not mine, wish they were, especially Daniel, and Jack, too, but they aren't. A gal can dream though!
1) This story is complete, but it is the third of a three-story arc. Remember, my universe is the home of happy fic!
2) Hanky warning, so I've been told!
3) 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.**
4) Silent, unspoken thoughts by various characters are indicated with ~ in front and behind them, such as ~Where am I?~
5) Thanks to my betas who always make my fics better: Robert, Tammy, Ali, Keri, Lissa, Wolf Moldy, Irina, Jo, Claudia, Mama Bear! Also, thanks to the following who gave me advice and information for specific portions of this fic: Allusion!
Feeling almost like a stranger at his own place of business, Daniel
entered the offices of J-O Enterprises and headed for his office.
Along the way, he was greeted by numerous employees, all eager to hear
the latest on Jack and find out when the two men would be returning to
Since the accident that had left him a paraplegic, Jack hadn't performed any work for the company. Daniel had made a valiant effort, but putting his family first, he'd left the company's operation in the capable hands of Karissa Lewis.
The archaeologist approached Karissa's office and, seeing the brunette woman seated at the desk, spoke, “Megan, I need a rundown on everything that's happened since Jack's accident, and could you bring in the Sims file, please?”
“Sure thing, Daniel,” Megan answered, smiling brightly, just waiting for Daniel to realize who he was talking to.
“Thanks,” Daniel responded. He entered his office, taking off his coat and hanging it on the coat rack. He walked over to his desk; then suddenly stopped cold. Blinking a couple of times, he looked up and stared at the open doorway, positive the stress of the last few months had finally made him lose his mind. “Megan?” Hurriedly, he headed towards the door when Megan appeared, grinning as she held out a steaming cup of coffee. “Megan?”
“I figured you might need this,” Megan responded, walking past her employer and placing the coffee and a pastry on his desk. She looked back at the stunned man and called out, “Surprise!”
“Megan!” Daniel exclaimed, walking over and giving her a big hug. “Surprise is right. Geez, how are you?”
“Happy to be here,” Megan answered. “I hope you don't mind. I've been helping Karissa out for a couple of weeks.”
“Mind?” Daniel asked incredulously. “It's *great* to see you, and I'm sure Karissa's loved having you here,” he remarked with a slightly rueful smile, knowing how his neglect of the company had to have created a lot of extra work for Karissa. “How's Yazid?”
“He's good,” Megan answered, a slight pause preceding her response.
“It's a long story, but we'll be okay, just as soon as I can get a few things through that thick, overly protective head of his.”
“That I can empathize with,” Daniel replied with a knowing smile. Then he frowned as Megan's comment sank in fully. “Weeks?” he asked, full of concern.
“From what Karissa's told me, you've had it rough for a while. I didn't want to intrude, so I just laid low and did what I could to help J-O.”
“Thank you,” Daniel stated both appreciatively and a bit emotionally, hugging his friend once more. “Hey, why don't you and Karissa come over tonight so we can catch up?”
“Are you sure?”
“Yeah,” Daniel answered. “In fact ... uh, hold on a second,” he requested, hurrying to the phone and placing a call to his husband.
Megan watched as Daniel conversed with Jack, his smile reaching his eyes. She found herself smiling as her boss continued the discussion.
“Great idea, Babe,” the archaeologist praised before hanging up the phone.
Megan's smile widened as she observed, “Sounds like life is better.”
“Finally,” Daniel acknowledged, relief evident in his voice as he stared at the phone and gave a silent thanks for the positive changes happening at home. “It was close there for a while, but Jack has ... he's turned the corner. I should have come in last week, but we decided to concentrate on our family.” He smiled and confided, “Two weeks ago I wondered if we'd ever get back to where we were, both as a family and as a couple.”
“But you have.”
“We're workin' on it,” Daniel affirmed with a nod, getting lost in his thoughts about the suggestion his lover had made over the phone. ~Two weeks ago, I didn't know if you'd ever smile or want to do something like this again.~
“Oh, uh, sorry,” Daniel responded, smiling at the woman. “Jack suggested a little after-dinner party tonight; nothing fancy, just a time for all of us to catch up a little.”
“I'd love it,” Megan agreed cheerfully.
“You wouldn't have believed it,” Karissa giggled, a drink in one hand and her feet wiggling a bit from her happy frenzy. “There we were, at K-mart, and Megan puts on this outfit from the Jaclyn Smith Collection, and you would have thought it was a Diane Von Furstenberg.”
“I went to the register, tags in hand, and wore it out of the store,” Megan laughed, acknowledging her unusual behavior. “Once I got it on, it felt so good that I just couldn't take it off.”
“She made such a scene,” Karissa laughed, almost doubling over from the memory. “She actually stuffed that beautiful outfit she'd been wearing into the K-mart bag.”
“I would have liked to have seen that,” Bibreanay Appleton, one of the original hires for J-O Enterprises, replied with a grin. “But if it was anything like when we went to McDonalds ...”
“Oh, McD's,” Megan sighed, closing her eyes as if she were going into a blissful, euphoric state.
“Megan!” Jack exclaimed mockingly.
Laughing more, the woman expounded, “French fries -- heavenly, greasy French fries.”
“Megan, what's going on?” Sam asked curiously, wanting to know the reason behind the unusual behavior.
“I'm very blessed,” Megan began seriously, her smile fading and a tear threatening to escape. “I really am. For years, I couldn't afford a decent pair of shoes. There were so many responsibilities, and I worked hard to do what I needed to do, for my family.” Appearing lost in her thoughts, the brunette paused as she reflected back. Then she smiled as she spoke, “One magical day, I met Yazzy, and I fell in love, almost from the beginning.”
“We remember,” Jack interjected. “I think it was the beet red cheeks every time we mentioned his name that gave us a clue.”
“Jack!” Megan exclaimed.
“Okay, maybe not beet red. Cherry pink,” Jack amended, getting nods and giggles from the others who were seated in the Jackson-O'Neill recreation room as they remembered the enamored woman from years before.
“He changed my life,” Megan stated. “When we were courting, he treated me like a queen. Actually, he still treats me like a queen.”
“*Please* tell me you're not actually complaining about that,” Janet teased while reaching out for a pretzel.
“Oh, no, of course not,” Megan replied lightly. She sighed and waited a moment before continuing, “However, it's different when you're showered and pampered on dates and vacations than it is when it's every second of every day.”
“You *are* complaining,” Cassandra stated, surprised by what she was hearing.
“No,” Megan refuted. “Yes. Oh, geez, it's so out of control. My life doesn't even feel like *my* life anymore.”
“I don't know how being pampered can be out of control,” Grace Satterfield commented. “I'd give anything to have someone give me anything I wanted.”
“It sounds like a fairytale, doesn't it?” Megan asked her friend, who nodded in reply. “But it's not. I'm not kidding. I reach out my hand to get the remote control to change the channel, and the next thing I know, I'm getting a manicure. I put my feet up, and it's instant pedicure. I pause a movie and make a little comment about seeing what might be in the kitchen, and all of a sudden, here's a tray, loaded with perfectly prepared food. I say something to myself in the mirror about maybe trying a new hair style, and ten minutes later, I'm sitting there with combs and brushes running through my hair. I have no control. It's *out* of control.”
“It's what every girl dreams about,” Karissa remarked, though she really did understand what her friend was saying since they'd talked about it several times over the last few weeks.
“At first, it was a dream, a wonderful dream,” Megan agreed. “But like that old Chinese proverb says, 'Be careful what you wish for, you may get it'.”
“What do you mean, Megan?” Grace asked.
Speaking frankly, Megan expounded, “What was every girl's dream has become this woman's living, walking nightmare, and I just had to walk away in order to get Yazid to wake up and turn it off.” She sighed dreamily as she continued, “It wasn't so bad when I went everywhere with Yazzy. You know, he took me around the world for our honeymoon -- a whole year of seeing the world, and there's so much to see.”
“I'd love to travel the world some day,” Karissa interjected.
“I advise it to everyone who can,” Megan chuckled. Growing more serious, she looked at her hosts and stated, “Oh, and you were right about India. There's so much to learn about life there. I didn't realize just how much until Yazzy and I went there ourselves. It's not just seeing the sights, it's being exposed to an entirely different mindset about life, birth, death, marriage -- everything. Our world view in this country is pretty narrow.”
Jack and Daniel exchanged a knowing look. The trip the family had taken to India just a year ago had truly altered the way they and their children viewed daily living.
Megan continued, “After the honeymoon, I traveled with Yazzy as he did his work for Abayomi, but then I got tired of being on the go. I decided to stay home.”
“Nothing wrong with that,” Bibreanay opined.
Leaning forward in her chair, her drink dangling from the fingers of her right hand, Megan responded, “Not on the surface. I threw myself into the charities that Yazid and Passion Incorporated supported, as well as a few of my own. I've volunteered my head off, except at the same time, I haven't really done anything but let them use my name and pose for pictures with all the right people. Anytime I start to do something, someone else actually does it for me. I tried to lick envelopes once. That lasted about five minutes before Yazzy had a team of workers there to *volunteer* to do it for me.”
“Okay, the man showers you with love. What's the problem?” Jack asked in a typically naive male tone.
“This,” Megan said, taking off her shoes and wiggling her toes. “See? No one is bowing down to give me a pedicure. And this,” she tugged on the blouse she was wearing. It fits me, well, like an off- the-rack blouse fits, and no one is here insisting on altering it or replacing it with one that fits my curves purrrrrrfectly.” Standing, she asked, “Anyone want a refill?”
“Thank you,” Bibreanay responded, holding out her drink.
“This is what's wrong,” Megan said, taking the glass and refilling the woman's drink with more wine. “I haven't filled a glass, cooked or served a single morsel by myself, on my own, in two years; at least, not until I came here.”
“So what happened?” Daniel asked. “I mean, why now?”
Returning to her seat, still barefoot and enjoying the freedom to wiggle her toes, Megan answered, “I boiled over. I wanted to fix myself a sandwich, but the maid wouldn't let me. I wanted to relax in some old sweats, but I didn't have any. Everything, *everything* in my closet and drawers is a designer exclusive, right down to my bra and ...”
Jack coughed, a simple reminder that perhaps bras weren't an appropriate topic since two men were present.
Megan nodded, smirking a little in acknowledgement, and quickly reworded her comment by saying, “... right down to my underwear.” After another quick glance at Jack and receiving a grateful smile for her alteration, she continued, “I decided to write a letter, but when I reached for a pen, my secretary jumped in and insisted I dictate it to her.”
“Maid?” Cassandra asked longingly.
“Maids,” Megan replied, emphasizing the plural. She looked over at Jack and Daniel and elaborated, “You know how clean your house was while the brood was determined to win that bet of yours about your anniversary party?”
Daniel cringed as he recalled that time when walking inside his home had been like walking into a spanking-clean showroom with brand new, untouched merchandise. He smiled when he felt Jack's hand on his. The smile grew when Jack just shrugged and smirked at the recollection, one that was caused by a simple bet that turned into a blown-out-of-proportion event.
Seeing the lovers non-verbal reaction, Megan stated, “*That* is how clean our penthouse is -- times three.”
“That's not possible,” Jack refuted. “Daniel and I nearly went clean blind!”
“Wanna bet?” Megan challenged without blinking. “There are two people searching for dust almost every minute of the day through the week, and I swear, no kidding, the carpet has fresh vacuum tracks every time I walk in the door. It's like Architectural Digest or Betters Homes and Garden is going to show up any minute. It's suffocating.”
“Wish someone would suffocate me like that,” Sam joked and then took a hold of a handful of Chex mix.
“It's not that I don't like things to be cleaned, but I enjoy doing the basic things, and I'd actually prefer to do the cleaning myself than endure this endless cavalcade of people jumping in to fulfill my every wish before I can even finish my sentence. It doesn't stop there, either,” Megan spoke, taking a breath between her rants. “When I shower, there is someone to wash my back. When I dress, someone is there to hold the dress for me to step into, and to zip it up. There's even someone there to hold my shoe, like I'm Cinderella, *and* someone is always running to open and close the door when I come and go.” Pointedly, she asked, “Do you realize I haven't driven a car for the past two years?” Laughing, she mused, “I haven't even driven since I've been here. Karissa is chauffeuring me everywhere.”
“Wow!” both Sam and Cassandra exclaimed at the same time.
“I gotta go back,” Bibreanay interjected, unable to move on from something else Megan had said during her rant. “All of your clothes are from designers? *All* of them?” she queried, still impressed about the clothing since she'd never spent more than sixty-dollars on an outfit in her life.
“A secretary?” Jack asked, his query coming at the same time.
“Our penthouse is full of servants. Maids, cooks, secretaries, valets: that's what I mean. I can't do anything myself. I'm lucky I can go to the bathroom on my own.”
“I hear ya,” Jack quipped, though the comment caught everyone off guard. “I'm kidding!” he laughed, happy when the women all began to chuckle. “And how did this get to be a ladies party? Daniel?”
“I have no idea,” Daniel replied dryly and then smiling at the reality that, as a fluke, their entire compliment of after-dinner-party guests were all women.
“Pete had to work,” Sam volunteered.
“Teal'c's ... out of town,” Janet added about her husband who was off-world at the moment. “It's probably better they aren't here,” she mused.
“I take offense to that remark,” Jack teased in reply.
“Megan, what happened next?” Daniel asked curiously, not wanting to get into some kind of strange battle of the sexes conversation.
“Then the phone rang,” Megan said. “I reached over to answer it, and the secretary beat me to it.” With a sigh, she explained, “It was just the last straw, but I didn't know it yet. I stood up and stretched and said something about needing a drink. Sixty seconds later, someone is offering me coffee and someone else a brandy. I just exploded. I told them I was leaving, and I did. You should have seen them, chasing after me, calling out about packing and catching a chill without my coat.”
“Wow,” Daniel replied calmly, waiting to hear the rest of the story.
“And they didn't stop when I walked out. Oh no, they came downstairs, in the lobby,” Megan lamented. “I turned and shouted, 'Stop where you are. I'm leaving, so leave me alone'.” She laughed nervously and stated, “You should have seen them, wringing their hands, looking at me like I was going to behead one of them. Then my secretary asked, 'What about Mister Yazid'? 'What about him'? I asked back. 'He'll be unhappy'. 'Good for him', I replied. 'Where will you be? He'll want to know'. 'I don't care'! I shouted. 'Tell Mister Yazid he can take his penthouse, with all of you in it, and go fly to the moon'.” Seeing the odd expressions tossed in her direction, she explained, “Trust me, I still love him. I just wasn't thinking clearly. I just wanted, no, make that needed, to get away. I knew Karissa needed some help, and I couldn't think of anywhere I'd rather be but here -- home.”
~She really must be uncomfortable if she referred to Colorado Springs as home. Alex said Yazid dropped a bundle, even for him, to totally gut and rebuild that penthouse,~ Daniel mused privately.
“I'm sure glad you came,” Karissa responded, a huge smile on her face.
“Megan, have you talked to Yazid?” the archaeologist inquired.
“A few times. He's in South America on business, and I've told him to stay there and finish it; that we're okay.”
“But?” Daniel prodded.
“But we have to make some changes. Being here has confirmed that for me. We need to find a compromise because I don't want to be waited on hand and foot anymore. It was fun; it was a lovely dream; but I can't live like that, Daniel; I just can't.” Megan took an emotional breath before continuing. “It's not me. I need to breathe, and I need to work. I miss J-O. I know Yazzy needs to be in New York, but I ...” Shaking her head, she insisted, “There has to be an alternative to being a queen twenty-four hours a day.”
“You'll find it, Megan,” Bibreanay assured her friend, a hopeful note in her voice.
“We need another round,” Jack stated, wheeling his chair over to an unopened bottle of wine and beginning to refill his guests' drinks.
“And a change in subject,” Megan stated. “Cassie, is what I've heard true? The stork is making another visit?”
Beaming, Cassandra nodded as she confirmed, “Yes. I'm fifteen weeks along.”
“Dom must be thrilled,” Megan responded.
“Big time,” Cassandra laughed, her whole being radiating with happiness. “Mom's been pestering me for months; she wants another grandbaby,” she chuckled, looking at Janet, who was wearing an innocent 'who me' expression on her face. “And Tommaso is so excited about having a baby brother or sister,” she added happily.
“We know,” Jack sighed teasingly.
“What?” Karissa asked, curious as to the cause of Jack's expression and tone.
Sam laughed, “JD is after Jack and Daniel to have a baby.”
“That I'd pay good money to see,” Bibreanay laughed.
“Thirty day notice; you're fired,” Jack teased, smiling at the woman. “We thought we were beyond that problem.” He looked at Cassandra and glared, “It's your fault.”
“JD was content with Tommy as his unofficial sibling; you know, the little man who was his own size. Now you're preggers, and Tommy is chattering away about having a baby, so ...”
“So now JD wants a baby of his own,” Cassandra laughed unsympathetically.
“You're enjoying this way too much,” Jack teased.
“Yeahsureyoubetcha!” Cassandra affirmed with a gigantic grin on her face.
“Wow!” Karissa exclaimed, wondering about what she'd just heard. “How did you do it?”
“We rented two wheelchairs, and each day, two of the children were restricted to the wheelchair. By their own choice, they spent a full day in the chairs, from the moment they woke up in the morning until they went to sleep that night,” Daniel answered.
“How did they react to that?” Bibreanay asked curiously.
“It was their idea?” Grace questioned, looking over at Bibreanay and sharing a laugh at the queries having been asked at the same time.
“It was Little Danny's idea,” Daniel explained, seeing the nods and expressions of 'of course' on the women's faces.
“And they learned a lot,” Jack answered. “We couldn't think of a better way to answer all of their questions, and they had a lot of them.”
Sam interjected, “Susie did it for a day, too.” She paused and added, “It really affected her. She cried all night.”
“The poor thing,” Grace stated sadly.
“I was worried that maybe we shouldn't have let her, but the next day she was all smiles. She said her tears weren't for herself, but for her Uncle Jack and all the people who couldn't do what she'd done -- just get up the next morning and have everything be all right. She learned to appreciate her capabilities a lot more,” Sam spoke quietly.
“Tommaso did it, too,” Cassandra added with a proud smile. “He didn't want JD to go through it alone. It was more of a game to him.”
“But the brood got it,” Jack stated.
“Jack's gotten a lot of extra hugs since then,” Daniel added.
“I can imagine,” Megan responded with a smile. “I have missed all that babysitting we used to do,” she chuckled.
“It still happens from time to time,” Karissa informed her friend. “Oh, you know what happened the last time the Spitfires were in the office?” she began, laughing at the memory she was about to share.
The conversation turned towards the brood, leaving behind all talk of Megan's marital woes and Jack's paralysis.
The impromptu party continued for a while longer, but eventually all of the guests made their excuses and left the couple's home.
“Danny,” Jack called out as he finished gathering the glasses from the living room. “We should do this more often; just hang out with the troops and relax; catch up with their lives.”
With a nod, the younger man replied, “I agree, Babe. Don't get me wrong, I love our business, and the SGC, but the natural thing is to talk about work.” He sighed, “Even at the company picnics, we tend to let business become the primary focus of our friendships. It's too easy to forget that we're more than our jobs and our children.”
“How about we try and do this once a month,” Jack suggested. “We don't see the SGC folks much anymore; it would help us to keep in touch.”
“Great idea,” Daniel agreed.
“We can make it a BYOB and rotate it since we all live in different areas,” Jack suggested. “Of course, we've got the room to do it here, but ...”
“... but it's a long drive for some of them,” the archaeologist acknowledged. With a sudden seductive smirk, he continued, “I've got another great idea. What do you say we leave the rest of this for the morning and go upstairs and get in touch with each other?”
“I love the way you think. You're so in touch with your feelings, and mine,” Jack responded, exchanging a willing leer with his soulmate.
After one last round through the house to check on their brood, the couple retired to their bedroom and reconnected in the most basic, and most important, way they knew.
“What's this?” the general asked the next morning as he wheeled himself from the kitchen into the recreation room.
Spread throughout the large room, the children were busy putting the final touches on some special creations.
“It's for Magoo,” Jenny answered brightly.
“Yeah?” Jack asked, not quite getting as yet what the children were up to.
“Done!” Little Danny called out.
“Me, too,” Lulu added a second later.
“Uh, Dad, would you like to sit on the sofa for a few minutes?” David questioned, realizing that in order for them to accomplish their task, their father needed to be out of the wheelchair.
“Whatever you need,” Jack agreed, although there was a touch of suspicion in his voice as he was still unsure of what was about to happen.
After David and Brianna helped Jack onto the sofa, the children began to work on Magoo. Jack watched with fascination, smiling as he saw the transformation that was occurring.
“We may have to do some fine tuning and tweaking,” Jennifer stated as she slipped on the new cover for the back of the wheelchair. “Maybe an inch shorter,“ she mumbled, not really talking to anyone but herself.
A few minutes later, the transformation of Magoo had been completed. Jennifer and Chenoa had made a cover for the back of the wheelchair.
~Ingenious,~ Jack opined about the huge image of Homer Simpson that was on the front of the cover. He laughed out loud at the 'bumper sticker' that David had attached to the back of the new wheelchair slip cover. It read, 'I brake for Mary Steenburgen'. ~At least it doesn't say anything about twins.~
On both of the chair's arms were three stars, signifying Jack's military rank of lieutenant general, and attached to the metal siding were homemade decals. On the right side, there was an image of Homer, the family's favorite fish, while on the left side, Homer the yacht was pictured.
Magoo was no longer just a wheelchair; it was a customized vehicle that had Jack's name written all over it.
“Ash, forget the math for now,” Jack called out later that morning, nodding his head towards the projects room. “We have a date with the pottery wheel!”
“Yay!” the little girl called out, closing her math book. She looked at her siblings and smiled, “I'll be back later. Dad's gonna help me make a cup.”
“Have fun, Ash,” Little Danny responded with a happy smile.
“Ash, make Bogey a new rock or something,” Jonny requested.
“Okay,” the youngest Munchkin replied as she walked eagerly towards her older father. “I'm glad you remembered Dad.”
“I may have been a jerk of a father for a while, Ash, but I remember everything you kids say. I love you,” Jack responded.
“I love you, too, Dad,” Aislinn replied happily as she accompanied Jack to the projects room where the kiln and pottery materials were.
Sometime later, the little girl stated, “We should do this every day.”
With a smile, Jack responded, “That's the plan, thanks to Aunt Sam rigging up this voice-activated potters' wheel for your old man.”
Grinning, Aislinn put forth, “We can make a cup for everyone.”
“That'll work. I was thinking of making Daddy a thingy holder in the shape of a pyramid.”
“Daddy will like that,” Aislinn said, nodding as she finished up her work. “What's a thingy holder?”
Jack laughed, “Just something to put things in, Ash.”
“Oh,” the little girl giggled, thoroughly loving this special time with her father. “You're good, Dad.”
“Nah, but I'm glad you've kept after me about this. You were right, Princess. This gives me something to do with my hands.”
“But you *are* really good at it,” the little girl insisted, prompting her father to smile and lean over to kiss her on the forehead.
“Love you, Grandpa,” Ricky called out late that afternoon, waving back at the bald man as he hurried into the house.
“Sounds like he had a good time,” Daniel stated, smiling at Hammond as they stood on the front lawn.
“He's always a joy to spend an afternoon with,” the lieutenant general replied. “How's Jack?”
“Good. He's actually around back, playing catch with David. It's, uh ... like night and day. Of course, that's a cliché,” Daniel mused. “How are you, Sir? I mean, well ...”
“You don't have to worry about me, Son,” Hammond replied with a confident air about him. “I had some good times with Martha. Genuine or not, she helped this old dog remember there was more to life than the Air Force. I'm not looking back with regret; I'm looking forward with hope.”
“Sounds like us,” Daniel responded.
With a nod, Hammond tapped the archaeologist on the upper arm and then turned and headed towards his car.
~We've all come a long way,~ Daniel opined as he returned to his yard work, happy that things were settling down for them, as well as their extended family.
The next day, with several of the children at Mrs. Valissi's, leaving the house a bit on the quiet side, Jeff seized the opportunity to ask his older father if they could talk privately.
“Okay, Son. We've got the entire room to ourselves,” Jack stated, closing the door to the study to give the two some privacy.
“I wanted to talk to you sooner, but I didn't want to ruin things for the brood. Last week was so important for all of us,” the young man stated, showing wisdom beyond his young years.
“Hit me,” Jack invited, looking his son in the eye.
“It took me a while to figure this out,” Jeff began, sitting down on the sofa. “I didn't know what it was that was bothering me so much, or why.”
“A lot of changes going on here,” Jack interjected, pointing out the obvious.
“It's not the changes, Dad,” Jeff stated strongly. He sighed as he searched for the right words. “Dad, you and Daddy have set a high bar for all of us. From the moment I met you, I knew there was this, this *amazing* strength inside of you. It was like my Dad's.”
“Your father was a good man, one of the best,” Jack acknowledged about Jeff's birth father, who had died in the line of duty while serving at Stargate Command. Seeing some hesitation on his son's face, he urged, “Go ahead, Jeff. I can take it.”
“Dad, it's not the wheelchair or the why that changes things,” Jeff spoke cautiously, choosing his words carefully. “It's you.”
“You and Daddy have taught us that we can handle anything together, and I guess we have, but it took more work than it should have. I'm not criticizing you, exactly, but I am disappointed ... in you.”
Jack didn't blink as he looked his son in his eyes and took in the critique. It was hard to hear, but he knew he had to listen. More than that, he had to acknowledge the truth of the words and not become defensive about them. Letting his children down hit him like a bolt of lightning, shattering his heart.
“I'm sorry, Jeff,” the general replied sincerely. “I was messed up, and I let everyone down. Much as I'd like, I can't change that.”
“I know that,” Jeff responded. “It's just ... I know it feels like a long time, but it really hasn't been. Everything changed for me when Dad was killed. I thought he'd be here forever,” he confided honestly. “Then I thought *Uncle* George would be the one I'd look up to. The next thing I knew, *Uncle* George was my grandfather, and I had you and Daddy.”
“A lot of changes,” Jack agreed with a nod.
“It's more than that, Dad,” Jeff stated, looking down for a second before continuing. “Chris, Doctor Phillips, helped me sort through a lot of issues I didn't realize I had. You know I miss my dad terribly, but a part of me wonders, if I had the chance, would I choose to have him back, knowing it would mean having the life we had before, and not ... not this ... house and everything ...” the young man trailed off as he bowed his head, finding it difficult to think about the question.
“What did Doctor Phillips say?” the concerned father asked.
“Well, he asked me to call him by his first name -- Chris,” Jeff explained, seeing Jack nod in acknowledgement. “He said everyone has some conflicting feelings and that's normal. He said what I was feeling was a form of survivor's guilt; you know, Dad's gone, and here I am living a more comfortable life than I could ever have imagined.”
“We've talked about that before, a long time ago,” Jack interjected.
Jeff nodded and continued, “I know, and that helped, Dad, but I guess it's stayed with me all this time. I mean, I'm happy, and that's hard sometimes, especially when someone asks what I'd do if I could do *anything* in the world. I guess I always think my response should be to bring Dad back, but it isn't. It scares me, but Chris said I'd be pretty shallow if I wasn't asking myself these questions.”
“He's right,” Jack agreed.
With a nod, Jeff continued, “But life is what it is. We receive blessings and challenges, and sometimes some of both at once, but challenges aren't punishments, anymore than blessings are rewards.”
“They're just life,” Jack stated with understanding.
“Yeah,” Jeff responded, unable to stop the smile forming on his face. ~He's listening,~ he thought, feeling relieved and happy at the father and son chat thus far. “They're just what happens, and the true measure of adulthood, in his opinion, is being able to take things in stride, to live in the moment, and to embrace both grief and joy without hesitation or judgments. He said I'm doing remarkably well for someone my age.”
“You're doing *great*,” Jack praised while gesturing for his son to continue.
“I don't blame you,” Jeff reassured his older father. “I realize this is harder on you than us.”
“No,” the father refuted. “Son, you're right. I should have handled it better. I've always been a lousy patient.” He paused before saying, “I know that's not an excuse, but I wish I could make it up to you.”
“Just be my dad, the man I've believed in so much since taking your name,” Jeff begged. “You and Daddy are so strong. I admire that courage. It's what I'm striving for. I guess that's why it hit me the way it did. For the first time, I didn't see courage in you. All I saw was misery and selfishness, and it was that, not the wheelchair, that left me grieving for the dad you've always been.”
“He'd checked out,” Jack spoke softly, looking down with regret.
“He wasn't anywhere that I could see, that's for sure,” Jeff stated, deciding not to pull any punches. Poignantly, he added, “It was like I'd lost my dad all over again.” Pausing for just a second to let the strong emotions steady, he continued, “Chris helped me see that I had feelings of disloyalty to you, which brought up feelings of both guilt and self-righteousness, along with my wanting to step up to the plate and help us through it as a family.”
“That's a lot to deal with.”
“Yes, but Chris said that *all* of those feelings are normal. He said the biggest hurdle for a therapist is to get people to admit their feelings to themselves, and the rest is just cleanup.”
“That's never easy,” Jack sighed. “I've had some problems with that one myself.”
“Chris also said that not everything is resolved in one epiphany. The same issues can resurface as we approach each level of maturity, and the thing to do is acknowledge whatever it is we are feeling. Once you acknowledge those feelings, they lose their power over you, and you can choose what, if anything, to do about them. He said acknowledging your feelings, even if it's just to yourself, can be enough sometimes.”
“Being AWOL from my family is not something I'm proud of,” Jack responded. “I'd give anything to change it.”
Jeff smiled, replying, “I believe you, Dad. The cornerstone of being a Jackson-O'Neill is sharing and being honest, and that's why I wanted to tell you what I was feeling. If it's okay, I'd like to have a few more sessions with Chris.”
“Whatever you need, Son, and thank you, for giving me another chance.” With a tear in his eye, Jack added, “I'll try not to disappoint you ever again. I love you, Jeff. Never doubt that.”
Jeff stood and leaned over to hug his older father while saying, “I love you, Dad, and I am proud to be your son.”
Jack patted the boy's back and responded, “Not half as proud as I am that you're my son.” When his son pulled back, Jack grabbed hold of Jeff, cupping his face. It was an uncharacteristic move, but then Jack was known for not following the norm. “You're all grown up, Son. You're a man now, and you're a much better man than I ever was. You know in your heart what's real and what's not about this crazy world. You're an *amazing* person. Don't ever let anyone keep you from being yourself, not even your old man, especially if I disappoint you. Learn from it, and never make the same mistake.”
Jeff leaned forward for another hug and then responded, “It was just for a while. I'm not disappointed anymore, Dad. I see what you're doing for Kevin; how you're making that right for him; and you're spending so much time with the brood. They really need that.”
“I wasn't present for a while.”
“But you are now.” Jeff looked his father straight in the eyes and stated emphatically, “That's what counts, Dad. You're here now. Live in the moment. You've taught us to keep going, together; that we're unbeatable. You just forgot that for a little while.”
“What a son,” Jack responded emotionally, his hands now rubbing the boy's shoulders. “So proud,” he cracked out, resulting in one more hug before a tap on the door interrupted them.
“Jack, is everything ...” Daniel paused after having opened the door slightly. “I'm sorry. I didn't mean to interrupt.”
“It's okay, Daddy.” Jeff smiled at his father and then stood up. “I was just telling Dad how proud I am of him. He can tell you the rest.”
Daniel nodded as the young man walked past him and towards the door.
“Jeff,” Jack called out, wheeling his chair forward a tad. “Chris sounds like a great man.”
~I guess I did quote him a lot,~ Jeff acknowledged inwardly as he smiled and nodded. As his smile grew, he replied, “I've learned a lot about myself from him, but he's nowhere near as great as my three dads. They're the best, and you and Daddy are the ones I really need in my life. You're my role models and my heroes.”
Daniel now knew that without a doubt he'd interrupted something important. With Jeff out of the room, he walked over so that he was in front of the wheelchair and kneeled down. Tenderly, he tried to wipe away the tears that were running down his lover's cheeks.
“I don't deserve him, or any of our kids, Danny, but I sure as heck am glad we have them,” Jack responded, feeling his lover squeezing his hands supportively. “Just like I'm so grateful to have you.”
Jack's tears finally got the better of him, and he sobbed in his husband's arms for a few minutes, out of both sadness for shutting out his family and gratitude for the love and forgiveness of those he loved.
“You children are funny,” Mrs. Valissi chuckled at the antics of the Munchkins and the Spitfires as they worked in her backyard, the five children being silly and goofy as they went about their tasks.
“Dad says we're hams,” Aislinn chuckled.
“Uncle Lou calls us turkeys,” Jonny added.
“Hams and turkeys need some nourishment,” the senior citizen called out. “Come and get some lemonade and cookies.”
“Yes, Ma'am,” Ricky agreed eagerly, putting down the rake he was using and running over to the circular table where the woman had laid out the drinks and treats.
“Ricky, you know we have to wash our hands before we eat,” Jenny reminded her twin.
Mrs. Valissi smiled as she watched Ricky and the Munchkins follow Jenny into the house to wash their hands, all returning a few minutes later with clean hands and happy smiles.
For several minutes, the children enjoyed their refreshments while chatting with their neighbor. They'd grown up with Mrs. Valissi in their lives and loved her very much. She was one of the women in their lives who had taken on the grandmother role for them.
After a while, the kids returned to their work, stopping only when they were done. Having put away the yard tools, the five gave her hugs and began to head for the door to go home.
“Wait! You forgot your salaries,” Mrs. Valissi stated, handing each child a crisp, ten-dollar bill.
“You don't need to pay us, Mrs. Valissi,” Little Danny stated.
“You could get married and let your husband do all the work,” Jonny suggested, loving the money but not necessarily the chores.
“Jonny!” Aislinn admonished, jabbing her brother with her elbow.
“I've never met anyone as good and kind as my husband was. He was far from perfect, but he was the right one for me.”
“It's okay, Mrs. Valissi,” Little Danny responded. “We love you and want to help you just because you're you. We don't need money for doing it,” he reiterated.
“Yes, I know, but children have expenses,” the laughing neighbor replied. “You all worked hard today. Use it wisely.”
“Daddy'll make us put it in the bank,” Jonny bemoaned with a groan.
“You tell your daddy that I said you get to use this money any way you want to; it's for fun!”
“Yippee!” Aislinn exclaimed, knowing her parents would want to honor Mrs. Valissi's wishes.
Jenny pulled out the cell phone and dialed, waiting for the phone to be picked up. Then she told her younger father that the children were on the way home.
“You have a cell phone now?” Mrs. Valissi questioned in surprise.
“Not really,” Little Danny answered. “It's part of our compromise.”
“We're older now,” Jonny stated.
“He means Dad and Daddy bought us a community cell phone. When we go somewhere on the block now, as long as we call them, we can go there and come home without a babysitter,” Little Danny explained.
“But we'd better hurry,” Aislinn reminded her siblings.
“Yeah,” Jenny agreed. “If we dawdle, they'll take the cell phone away and go back to walking us everywhere,” she sighed, making it clear she had no desire to return to that level of protectiveness.
“Go on then!” Mrs. Valissi encouraged, opening the door and watching the children leave.
“Bye!” the children chorused, all waving and smiling as they walked out their neighbor's door.
Suddenly, Ricky turned around and ran back several steps while calling out, “Mrs. Valissi?”
“Did you forget something, Dear?”
“Do you like to square dance?”
“Square dance?” Mrs. Valissi answered thoughtfully. “In fact, I do, but I haven't done it in many, many years.”
“I'm glad,” Ricky answered. “I mean that you like it, not that you haven't done it in a long time. Bet you'd like to do it again.”
“It might be fun at that,” the woman responded cheerfully, though not really understanding the origin of the surprising topic. ~Those little dickens say the darndest things,~ she thought, having learned not to question where their often strange comments came from.
“Ricky, come on!” Jenny chastised. “We're on the clock!”
“I'm coming,” Ricky called out in reply. “Bye, Mrs. Valissi.”
“Bye bye now!” the woman called out, waving and chuckling as the children ran towards their home, unaware that she'd stepped out onto her lawn, watching the entire time to make sure they got home safely. ~On the clock,~ she mused, shaking her head in amusement once the children disappeared inside their home.
That night, the lovers were in their usual positions, with Daniel being the security blanket to his husband, his leg hooked in between Jack's and his head lying peacefully atop his Jack pillow, his back feeling the soothing sensation of Jack's hands massaging him.
“Gotta admit it hurt,” Jack confessed to his husband.
“I'm sure it did,” Daniel responded, placing a kiss on his husband's chest.
“He was disappointed in me, Danny. Crap, I was disappointed in me.”
“It took a lot for him to come to you and admit that,” Daniel pointed out. “It proves he's healing, too.”
“I just wish I hadn't been so wrapped up in my own sorrowful self that I let it go that far,” Jack sighed unhappily, still feeling guilty for putting his family through such difficulties.
For a moment, Jack's mind reflected back on his darkest moment, when he'd been in Cedar Hills, about to take his own life. He was so thankful that Teal'c had caught him before he'd taken that final irrevocable step of snuffing out his existence. At the time, he'd been unable to comprehend how his death could be anything but a good thing for his family. He'd known that his actions would give his loved ones some temporary grief, but he truly believed that in the long term, they would all have been better off.
~I definitely wasn't thinking straight,~ Jack lamented. Caressing his lover's back, he was now keenly aware of just how wrong he'd been. There was no doubt in his mind that had he taken that drastic course of action, Daniel would have soon followed him, and their children would have been emotionally scarred for life. ~What a mess I would have made,~ he sighed inwardly. ~I didn't even think about our pact; that's how screwed up I was.~
“You just needed time,” Daniel comforted. He looked up at his soulmate and stated, “It takes distance that can't be measured except by the passage of time to let go of the hope that some miracle will happen and restore us to what was and concentrate instead on who we are today; to realize that being alive is still a miracle and a gift in and of itself. That's what you finally did.”
“I didn't have any hope, Danny,” Jack refuted. “I never saw a miracle coming.”
“Maybe not, but I did, and so did our children. The more you fought living as we are now, the more they wanted the miracle. Whether they understood that themselves or not, I don't know. Now, though, they're living for today, every day like they should be.”
“Why'd it take so dang long for me to get with the program?” Jack asked, growing more frustrated by his actions over the last couple of months.
“Margo has been helping people adjust to living after life-changing events for over twenty years,” Daniel stated thoughtfully as he called up the quote from the enormous filing cabinet that was his mind. “She said, 'There comes a defining moment of grief where the reality of who they are today shatters the hope and the memory of who they will never be again',” he quoted. “For you, that moment was when you realized what had happened with Kevin.”
“I'll never forget it.”
“The way I see it, Jack, your denial was turning you into someone else, someone no one liked, including yourself. When you realized you had hurt Kevin, it shocked you into remembering what you were like before. You finally chose to reclaim your place on this Earth, choosing to live with your physical body as it had become. Good job, Babe.”
“Should I take a bow?” the older man quipped.
“I'll even pat you on the back,” Daniel replied cheerfully. Thinking back on his conversation with the rehab specialist, he stated, “Margo told me that some people never do regain their lives, refusing to accept and adapt to the changes in their lives. Instead, they just shrivel up in their wheelchairs, snapping at anyone who comes near them until they get what they asked for -- to be left alone with their bitterness and self-pity. It makes me think of the person as choosing a living death.”
“Not a good way to live,” Jack opined quietly. With a shudder, he lamented, “Hurting a child.”
“And with what Billy and Sara said ...”
“And Carter, you, and our daughter,” Jack sighed, referring to Jennifer. “She's a woman, and she let it shine right then. Danny, we have adults for children.”
Daniel chuckled at the oxymoron and agreed, “Yes, we do.” After a moment, he stated, “You're making a new identity for yourself, Jack. That's a very commendable and necessary thing to do.”
“Letting go of ...” Jack paused in sad reflection, but then he caught himself and continued, “You know, Danny. It was a good ride, being the gung-ho soldier, taking down the Goa'uld, beating the crap out of the bad guys, but there's more to life than being ...”
“... G.I. Jack?” Daniel interjected.
“Yeah. Ash really wants me to focus on the pottery thing. She says I'm good.”
Jack chuckled, “It's working with my hands. That's important.” He paused for a moment, thinking about his old self, comparing it with the new self he was becoming. “New identity, huh?”
“In a sense, yes,” Daniel affirmed, after which he became lost in his thoughts for what turned out to be almost three minutes of silence, but one occupied by tender touches and warming caresses.
“Quarter for your thoughts,” Jack offered lightly, curious about his lover's thoughts.
“A whole quarter, huh?”
“The big stuff's in the bank,” the older man responded playfully.
“That's not the only place.”
“Daniel, unless you want to follow through on that ...”
“You can pay me later,” Daniel teased. As his smile faded, replaced by a serious expression that matched his thoughts, he explained, “I was trying to remember where I heard this, but I can't. It was a marriage counselor on one of those talk shows that Teal'c watches all the time.”
“Her belief was that there are only two choices about how we conduct our martial relationships. Either we choose the same relationship with a series of different people, or we choose a series of different relationships with the same person. I never realized how true that was until now. The truth is that we're both very different men than we were when we met.”
“Yeah, in some ways,” Jack agreed in part.
“Okay, not our essence, but what actively defines us from year to year. We've gone from ... action heroes to changing diapers.”
“From killing Goa'uld to teaching math,” the older man chuckled.
“From hiding our emotions so far inside that no one ever really knew who we were to ...”
“... to having a family that was bigger than either of us ever imagined,” Jack completed for his Love.
“Yeah. Remember how all we ever wanted was our privacy?” the archaeologist questioned.
“Danny, we'd still be happy on Xanadu.”
“I know, but our lives are ... bigger now. Xanadu was a haven once, at a time when all we could was hide from the rest of the world. “Now it's ...”
“... a happy memory.”
Looking up at his husband, Daniel declared, “I'd go back there any day, Jack. I loved it there, and I know all we ever need is each other. That's never changed.”
Jack nodded, swallowing as he acknowledged now what he knew was the truth. The pact was still in tact. Had he made that horrible decision to take his own life back on that fateful day at Cedar Hills, he would have ruined so many lives. Daniel would have followed, and their beautiful children would have suffered tremendously from their loss.
~Gawd, I'm a selfish S.O.B.,~ the general bewailed emotionally.
“I'm just glad I came to my senses before I lost what's most important: you,” Jack responded emotionally, choosing not to bring up their pact, which was adding to the emotions he was feeling from the conversation with Jeff. “I know we've talked about it before, but you truly are the air I breathe and the force that keeps my heart beating. You *are* my heart, Danny. I love you more now than ever before, La Mio Bello Stella Cadente.”
All Daniel could get out was a choked “I love you,” before surrendering to the tears, overcome yet again by the words of his soulmate.
For a moment, neither man was able to speak, preferring to let their eyes talk for them, and they did. They spoke volumes.
“One more thing's the same,” Jack finally spoke with a small groan, wiping away the tears on both their faces.
“Pain. For years, it was my knees, and I swear, it's still my knees. I know I'm not really feeling them, but I'm tellin' ya, I'm feeling their pain.”
Daniel rubbed his lover's chest soothingly and replied, “We need to do some more visualization.”
“You know I'm not good at that stuff.”
“Jack, every time we've done it in the past, it's worked. You just like to gripe about it because it goes against what you think your image is.”
“There's that,” the older man admitted with a slight chuckle. “Okay, you win.”
“We both win, Babe, and so do our children,” Daniel corrected.
“Thank you, Angel,” Jack replied, feeling blessed that he was loved by the younger man.
“For everything, but most of all, for not leaving me behind. I love you so much.”
“Leaving someone behind is against the rules,” Daniel mused. More seriously, he proclaimed, “Forever and always, my Silver Fox.”
The next morning, Ricky was staring at his laptop computer, a vacant look in his eyes.
“Son, you're going to break the screen if you look at it any harder,” Jack teased.
“Dad, can we invite Grandpa over for dinner tonight? I miss him.”
Jack chuckled, fully aware that Hammond had dropped by several times since the attempted abduction, but that the children still needed to reassure themselves that their grandpa was okay. He supposed that was the reason for the invitation request.
“I don't see why not.”
Ricky smiled brightly as he responded with another question: “Can we invite Mrs. Valissi, too? I miss her, too.”
~He misses her?~ Confused but not seeing a problem with it, Jack repeated his prior answer. “I don't see why not.”
“Why not what?” Daniel questioned, walking over to where his husband and son were talking.
“Ricky would like us to invite Grandpa and Mrs. V to dinner tonight. How do you feel about that?” Jack asked his lover, a bit of a smirk on his face.
“Sure. I'll give them a call. Uh, any special reason?”
“He misses them,” Jack said and then smiled nonchalantly.
“I miss them,” Ricky claimed at the same time.
“Oh,” Daniel responded, his eyes darting to the right in a bit of confusion. “I'll go call them ... right now.”
As Daniel walked away, he heard Ricky make a strange comment.
“Dad, Mrs. Valissi likes to square dance.”
“That doesn't surprise me a bit. She likes to do a lot of things,” Jack replied.
As he slowly approached the living room where he was planning on making the phone calls, Daniel looked back at where he'd been, trying to process the conversation.
~Oh!~ the archaeologist chuckled inwardly as he made the connection. Finally picking up the phone, he pondered, ~Maybe we shouldn't ...~ He paused, staring back towards the sound of faint chatting between Jack and Ricky. ~Then again, why not?~
“I think it went well,” Daniel called out from the bathroom late that evening.
“That last bit was ingenious,” Jack responded from the bed.
“What?” the archaeologist asked, the running water blocking him from hearing his husband's comment.
“I said, that last bit was ingenious -- asking Hammond to walk Mrs. V home,” Jack expounded in a raised voice.
“Sorry, Babe, I couldn't hear you,” Daniel stated, appearing in the bathroom doorway, wearing nothing but a light blue towel around his neck. His hands were raised, rubbing the towel loosely against his neck. “What did you say?”
Dragging his concentration back to the conversation at hand and away from the magnificent picture that his husband made, Jack let out a frustrated growl and responded, “It was ingenious what you did at the ... Danny, why are you looking at me like that?”
The archaeologist's expression had changed dramatically in a matter of two seconds.
“Uh, well, there's ... that,” Daniel answered lightly, his left hand waving a couple of times in the direction of his lover's body.
Jack was lying in the bed and while he'd undressed, he was still in the process of putting on his pajamas. His top was on, though unbuttoned, but the bottoms were still lying flat on the bed, waiting for him to maneuver himself into the necessary position to slide them on.
The paralyzed man was stunned to realize he was erect; or, to be precise, his most private part was at half mast. With a little work, it would be looking like the proverbial flag pole.
Walking a little closer, Daniel commented, “Um, I could be wrong, but I didn't think you could ... do ... that; by yourself, unless you, uh, gave yourself a hand, I mean.”
Grinning at his erection, Jack replied, “I can't. That's what they said, unless I was thinking about you really hard, pardon the pun.”
“Babe, were you ... thinking about ... me?”
“Sorry, Love. I was talking about the dinner tonight, but then you came out and ...” Jack smiled softly, saying, “Your eyes, the blue towel -- you look incredible.”
“Well, well, it's looking ... inviting,” Daniel observed huskily, feeling his own length hardening.
“Then, let's not waste it,” Jack suggested, grabbing the pajama bottoms and tossing them to the carpet. “Daniel, move it! Literally!”
“Oh, yeah, yes, I mean, gawd,” the stunned archaeologist stammered as he let the towel fall to the floor and joined his soulmate on the bed. He ran his fingers along Jack's length, making touches and caresses while staring into Jack's eyes. “I love you.”
“Then stop treating this like an experiment, and make love to me,” Jack demanded, not feeling Daniel's touches but sensing the tentativeness of his actions.
“Sorry.” Daniel sighed and responded, “I am sorry, Love. I want you, Jack, so much.”
“So, what was I saying?” Daniel chuckled as the couple relaxed in their bed after their lovemaking.
Still naked, the soulmates were lying on their backs, their heads touching slightly as Jack caressed Daniel's arm and shoulder while the younger man nestled in close to him.
“You weren't,” Jack corrected. “I was saying that having Hammond walk Mrs. V home was an excellent idea.”
“Jack, how'd we miss it? All these years, and suddenly our son plays matchmaker, and it seems so obvious.”
“Timing, Love,” Jack responded. “It just wasn't the right time before.”
Turning over onto his side, Daniel inquired with a hint of amusement, “When did you get so wise?”
“Not even close,” Jack responded, a hint of sadness in his voice. “Who knew Hammond could yodel?”
Daniel grinned at the recollection of Mrs. Valissi teaching the lieutenant general how to yodel, something she'd learned years ago while living in Switzerland.
“Who knew *Mrs. Valissi* could yodel?” the younger man mused, deciding to place his head on his lover's shoulder, his left hand massaging his Heart's chest. Life felt so normal on this evening, as it had been for a while. Inside, the archaeologist felt a tender warmth that was making each day a joy. It felt good to feel good. Deciding to share his feeling, he confided, “Babe, I'm so happy.”
“I am, too, Angel,” Jack replied, placing a kiss atop Daniel's head. “Geez, I am, too.”
“You ready for this?” Daniel questioned the following Monday.
“Piece of cake,” Jack declared confidently. “Driving, I know how to do.”
“They said this first part is just an evaluation, to verify what exactly you need,” Daniel reminded.
“A vehicle,” Jack responded, rolling his eyes. “Just roll me in.”
“There's a little more to it than that, Babe.”
Conceding that fact, the older man nodded and replied, “Let's just get it over with. I want to ace this thing, get my new license, and figure out how to get Magoo into a truck. I gotta have a truck, Danny.”
“Working on it,” the archaeologist assured with a smile. “I'm expecting a phone call from a company today or tomorrow with some specifics. You're going to drive a truck, Jack, but we need to get another SUV, too, and have it converted.”
“A lot of expenses, Danny.”
“We're doing okay,” Daniel reminded his Love. “Here comes the evaluator,” he said, seeing the man he'd talked to earlier when finding out the process for getting Jack back on the road. Sensing just a bit of nerves from his lover, he patted Jack on the shoulder and said, “Piece of cake, right?”
“Right,” Jack affirmed appreciatively, drawing a big breath and readying himself for the required driver evaluation.
That evening, Jack and Daniel were again in their bed, not quite sound asleep, but getting there. A tap on the door roused the couple.
“Can't sleep?” Jack called out, motioning for Little Danny to get up on the bed.
Squeezing in between his parents and lying down between them, the child prodigy revealed, “Dad, Daddy, I have something on my mind.”
“Hope it's not heavy,” Jack teased, feeling the glare of his Love's blue eyes on him.
Jack tried to give Daniel an innocent face that asked 'What'?, but it was obvious from Daniel's continued glare that he wasn't buying it for one minute.
“We're listening,” Daniel told his namesake.
Staring up at the ceiling, Little Danny fidgeted with his hands a bit while saying, “You never punished me.”
“For what?” Daniel questioned curiously, not able to recall anything the boy had done wrong recently.
“I used the computer to contact all those doctors.”
“Oh, yes. Yes, you did,” Daniel acknowledged quietly, looking over at his husband to see which one of them was going to take the lead.
The question was answered before Daniel could even ask it as Jack jumped in quickly, saying, “Son, all you did was try and help your old man, and I appreciate that.”
“I broke the rules.”
“The rules have been changed,” Daniel reminded.
“I know, Daddy, but that was after I broke them.”
“Hey,” Jack called out, tugging on his son's arm to get the boy to look at him. “Okay, you broke the rules. In this family, there are two kinds of rules -- ones that protect us from danger and ones that are a guide to help us grow and learn. I don't know about you, but I've learned a heck of a lot over the last couple of months.”
“What you did, Sproglet, you did out of love, pure love, and there's no way that Dad and I are going to punish you for that. The truth is that Dad and I have both broken the rules in the past, for the right reasons,” Daniel commented, grimacing at the way his remark sounded. “Look, you did what you thought was right. That's okay.”
“Little Danny, you know what you did. No one can put more guilt on you than yourself. Are you getting online now and going to places you aren't supposed to?” Jack asked.
“No, Dad,” the boy answered, sounding almost offended by the question.
“Because it's against the rules to go anywhere not on the list,” Little Danny stated strongly.
“Then Daddy and I have no reason to worry or punish you, do we?”
The little genius sighed. In a way, he could see where his parents were coming from, but it still felt wrong. In the end, it came down to the fact that he had knowingly broken the rules without any consequences whatsoever.
“Okay,” Daniel stated, realizing the boy's need to pay a price for going against the rules. “Here's your punishment.” He saw Jack's look of surprise. After all, it had been Daniel who had absolutely refused to punish his namesake when the infractions had actually occurred. “I want you to contact those doctors and tell them 'thank you' for all the work they've done in trying to help those suffering from paralysis. You can tell them your dad appreciates their interest, but that we're going to be okay. Then you can say that you want to contribute to their cause, and we'll enclose a check to each one to help further their research.”
Little Danny grinned and replied, “I'll send each of them ten dollars, okay?”
“Whoa!” Jack exclaimed. “That's sixty bucks.” He smiled to himself as he thought, ~That's our boy. He practically convinced six hotshot doctors that I was worth being part of their research. He's nine-years-old, and they didn't have a clue! Yeah, that's our boy!~
“I have the money, don't I?”
“Yes, you do,” Daniel confirmed. “That's your punishment.”
“Thaaaaanks,” the boy said, finally feeling sleepy. He hadn't felt this peaceful in weeks. “I'mmm ...”
Jack interrupted, “Okay, off to ...” He looked over at his husband and said, “He's asleep.”
“I love your powers of observation,” Daniel smirked as he turned off the light on his side of the bed. “Night, Babe. I love you.”
Jack reached over and pushed the touch-button that turned off his light, too. He closed his eyes, feeling the peacefulness that the little boy had felt seconds earlier.
“Love you, Danny. Night.”
“I'll get it,” Brianna called out the next evening, checking the security system after hearing the knock at the door. Pausing at the monitor, she observed, “Hey, it's Megan and Yazid, and they don't look happy.”
Jack and Daniel exchanged a look and then headed for the front door as well.
“Hi, come on in,” Brianna greeted, shrugging when the two adults virtually stormed by her and headed for the living room, not aware that Jack and Daniel were coming down the hallway from the recreation room.
“Yazid, you are the second most stubborn man I've met in the world,” Megan called out as she turned around to face him.
“Who's number one?” Brianna asked with a giggle.
“Bri!” Daniel chastised at the same time that Megan surprised everyone by answering.
“Your father,” Megan answered exasperatingly. “Him!” she clarified, pointing at the general.
“Bri,” Jack called out, cocking his head to the side, indicating she should leave. ~I have a hunch this is one conversation kids don't need to hear.~
“It'd love to be a fly on the wall for this one,” the teenager mused quietly as she headed upstairs for a while.
“Megan, my sweet.”
“Don't 'my sweet' me, Yazid. I love you, but I'm *not* a queen, and I *don't* want to be treated like one twenty-four hours a day!”
“What is it you want?” the Egyptian inquired earnestly, not understanding why his wife was so angry. “I have treated you like a queen. It is the way all the men in my family have treated their women, as cherished and honored wives. It has been this way for generations.”
“I'm not a queen, Yazzy. I'm just me,” Megan replied softly. Staring thoughtfully at her husband for a minute, she asked pointedly, “Yazzy, why me? Why did you marry me?”
With a warm smile and not a moment's hesitation, Yazid answered, “You are the first woman who excited me with her mind. You are interested in archaeology and world affairs. You have so much spirit. Every moment I'm with you, you are so full of life ...”
“But I'm not with you all the time, Yazid, and while you're gone, your entourage is suffocating me.”
Seeing his wife take on a thoughtful and questioning look, Yazid asked, “Yes, Megan, my love?”
“I just realized the kind of life I've been living,” Megan stated, a look of surprise on her face. “It's like I've been watching a special on the Discovery Channel about syndicates, only I'm one of the stars.”
“Syndicates?” Jack whispered curiously, noticing that neither Awad had even turned to look at him. “I was just curious,” he mumbled, feeling the light swat on his upper arm by his husband. “Hey, careful! Don't damage the merchandise.”
“Never,” Daniel replied softly. “I have use for the ... merchandise later,” he said with a smile, though not even looking at his lover.
“For the last year, I've had a close up view of what these pampered queens do. Do you have any idea what they do?”
“They spend time together, My Love.”
“Yes, they do, but what are they doing?” Megan questioned urgently.
“They do what women do. They ...”
Megan put her hand to stop her husband's vague and struggling response, saying, “I know what the problem is. You're the man, and you have no clue what those women do. Well, let me tell you. They take turns playing cards at each other's houses; they go shopping for things they don't really need or want; they gossip while getting pedicures; and they *visit* with their children.” Full of force and seeing the stunned expression on Yazid's face, she continued, “That disgusts me, Yazzy. Those women have nursemaids and nannies all over the place to help them, and it is those strangers who are raising the children.”
“Surely, you exaggerate, My Megan. The servants make life easier. They are part of our world so that the women may focus on more pleasing things.”
“Like getting their hair done every other day and a new designer gown every week?” Megan asked. Taking on an expression of horror, she sank down onto the sofa as she made a realization. “A bird in a gilded cage: that's what you've made me.”
“I do not understand.”
“Yazzy, I've heard talk. Tell me. How many of those men have mistresses?”
“A great many, I'm afraid, but Megan, my qu...my love, I would never, never cheapen our love. You *are* my queen, and I am your devoted slave.”
“I know you really mean that Yazzy, at least now you do, but if I give in to this life you keep pushing at me, what about in five years? You said you like that I'm interested in current events and that I have spirit. Every part of our life nowadays destroys more of that in me.” With a sad smile, she asked, “Will there be any of the Megan you fell in love with and married left in five years, or ten? Or will I so utterly bore you then with talk of Bridge and Hearts that you couldn't bear to hear my voice?”
Yazid looked at the love of his life and asked again, “What is it you want, Megan? I truly want to make you happy.”
“Change!” the woman exclaimed. “I can't take it anymore. I want to make my own coffee.” She looked at her friends and asked, “Is that asking for too much, to make my own darn cup of coffee?”
“Well ...” the archaeologist began.
“Of course not. See, Yazid, they agree,” Megan asserted, staring at her husband while pointing at Jack and Daniel.
“But we have Yosa.”
“Yosa can make her own coffee, if she wants. Better yet, *you* make it for her,” the woman countered. “Doesn't that sound like a great idea, Daniel?”
“See!” Megan exclaimed. “There isn't anyone more reasonable on this planet than Daniel, and he agrees with me.”
“My Megan ...”
“Yazid, it's me or them.”
“Me or ... or, or that ... that penthouse full of servants. Fire them, all of them, now, today, I mean, tonight,” Megan ordered. She looked at Jack and asked, “That's what you'd do, right? You'd fire the world if it meant keeping Daniel happy, right?”
“There's ...” Jack began, making a funny face when Megan began talking again. ~For crying out loud, if you're going to ask me a question, at least let me get a full sentence out before cutting me off.~
“He's a general, and he agrees with me, too, Yazzy. It's not a hard decision,” Megan put forth ardently.
Jack put his thumb and forefinger in his mouth and gave a loud, sharp, whistle, drawing everyone's attention.
“Time out!” the general ordered. "You two mind explaining why you are having this *conversation* in our living room?”
The sparring couple looked at their host and said at the same time, “We have nowhere else to go.”
“I've been staying with Karissa,” Megan offered as an explanation. “I wouldn't want to argue in front of her.”
“But you'd argue in front of us?” Jack questioned lightly, though no one really heard him, or maybe it's just that everyone chose to ignore him.
“And I have just landed barely an hour ago,” an embarrassed Yazid noted nervously as an added explanation for why he and his wife had shown up at the Jackson-O'Neills.
“I was sure you two would agree with me,” Megan continued, her fury subsiding in her realization that she and her quarreling husband had barged in on her employers and subjected them to an argument that was none of their business.
“And I had hoped you would agree with me, since you are both men who had wives,” Yazid offered, feeling just as embarrassed as his wife, realizing they were airing laundry best kept private.
Megan started to giggle as she spoke, “Yazzy and I were so busy arguing that neither one of us noticed we were headed for your house, Jack, Daniel. We had to go somewhere, and well, here we are. I'm sorry, really I am.”
The woman began to laugh in earnest at the craziness of the situation.
Yazid laughed, too, and took his wife in his arms, kissing her passionately. He embraced her with passion, and she was returning every ounce of the affection, want, and need being tossed in her direction.
“Hey, you two, get a room!” Jack smirked.
The couple stopped and apologized in unison -- “We're sorry.”
“I mean it, get a room,” Jack offered. “Danny, what's the code this week for the suite at the office?”
“Great idea, Babe,” Daniel said. “I'll be right back.”
“You'll have the place to yourselves,” Jack stated. “We keep it well stocked -- food, towels -- it's all there. Enjoy yourselves.”
“Thank you,” Megan responded with a smile.
A minute later, Daniel returned, a keycard in his hand, and advised, “I've written down the security code for you. You can use the direct entrance and bypass the lobby; might be less conspicuous.”
“Thank you, Daniel,” Yazid replied, nodding in gratitude as he began to escort his queen towards the front door.
“Uh, one thing,” Daniel stated, waiting for the couple to turn back and face him. “The cultural differences you two were arguing about aren't insurmountable. It's just a matter of facing them and realizing they're there. Maybe just a little ... compromise will help.”
“We'll figure it out,” Megan responded, smiling and moving forward to hug the archaeologist. “Thank you again.”
After Daniel had locked the door and returned to his lover's side, Jack stated, “Maybe we should have let them use the guestroom.”
“Maybe,” Daniel agreed. “But this way, they don't have deadlines, Babe. They can stay in the suite as long as they want and they'll have all the privacy they need.”
Jack thought about the suite for a moment and then said, “We'd better order more food for them,” before wheeling over to the phone while his lover let out a chuckle.
“You think this one's better?” Jack asked a couple of hours later as the lovers reviewed some literature they'd gathered on exercise machines that Jack could use to strengthen those muscles which were at risk of atrophying now that he was confined to a wheelchair.
“Yes,” Daniel answered. “I like the reviews we've read, and it's mentioned on the Reeve Foundation website. I think we should go with this one.”
“I could just go to Cedar Hills more.”
“Babe, we've talked about how important exercise is. It helps. With this model, you don't even have to transfer yourself onto it. You can just wheel your chair in place and connect to it. Total independence, and it will exercise your leg muscles. It's worth the investment.”
“Sold,” Jack agreed with a smile. “That independence thing? It *is* a big deal.”
“I know it is, Jack,” Daniel replied, leaning over to kiss his husband. “There may be a waiting list, but I'll check into it first thing tomorrow.”
“Dad, don't make it so silly,” Aislinn chastised her older father the next morning during their daily pottery hour.
“What do you mean 'silly'?” Jack questioned as he reviewed the vase he'd just completed.
The vase had a lovely shape to it, with a long, beautiful neck, but Jack had added two side pieces that made it look like a vase with two pig snouts protruding.
“You're being funny on purpose, but if you didn't, that would be really pretty. Do it for real, Dad,” Aislinn instructed while she continued the work on her latest cup. “It's a vase, not a pig.”
“For real, huh?” the general echoed thoughtfully, getting a nod from his daughter. “Okay, no more silly.”
Later that afternoon, Chenoa skipped her way into the projects room and stared at the completed vase.
“That bad?” Jack asked after a moment of watching the Mouseketeer.
“Na-huh. It looks just like that one on the cover of Mrs. Payne's house magazine. I bet your vase could be on the cover, too, Dad.”
“I don't think so, Princess,” Jack laughed.
“It could so!” Chenoa maintained. “I'll prove it.”
Jack chuckled as the little girl disappeared from sight. He only just now realized that he'd spent the entire day in the projects room, working on the vase and other pieces.
~Where did the time go?~
“Okay, Noa, what is it?” Jennifer asked after practically being dragged into the projects room.
“This. Take a picture of it with your cell phone, okay?”
Jennifer shrugged her shoulders at Jack, having no clue what was going on. Upon getting a slightly embarrassed grin and a 'don't ask’ shake of his head from her father, she decided to just go along with things. She took her time and made sure to get a properly lighted picture of the vase, since that's what her sister was insisting on.
“Send it to Alex, but don't tell him who did it,” the conniving youngster suggested.
“Let's not ...”
“Dad, I told you I could prove it, so I am!” Chenoa interrupted sternly.
“Pardon me, Princess,” Jack replied teasingly.
Turning to her older sister, the youngest Mouseketeer instructed, “Just tell Alex that you saw it and want to know what he thinks about it.”
With a smile, Jennifer proceeded with her orders.
The next morning, Chenoa entered the rec room where Jack was giving an English lesson to Aislinn and Jenny.
Mittens was fast asleep in the retired general's lap. It hadn't taken the family's animals long to realize that one advantage of Jack's wheelchair was that it provided them with a permanent lap to sleep on.
Chenoa stood quietly, though her smug expression spoke volumes to anyone who could see her.
“Noa?” Jack questioned.
“Na na na na na,” the little girl laughed. “I was right, Dad!”
“Okay. What about?”
“Your vase!” Chenoa answered excitedly.
“Did Alex call?” Aislinn inquired eagerly, having been told about the photograph that Jennifer had sent to the designer.
“Yeah,” Chenoa answered. More loudly, she called out, “Jen, come tell Dad. He's not teaching right this minute.”
~How could I with one of the Curly Tops staring me down like my fly was open, which would be hard to do in my current position, but ...~
“Dad, Alex just replied to the text message,” Jennifer announced after joining the group. “He says it looks great and would like to see it when he's in town next. He said he has a project coming up for a home in New Mexico and thinks it might fit with the scheme he has in mind.”
“I told you so,” Chenoa stated coyly.
“Dad, you have to make more vases and cups and plates and ...”
“Whoa, Ash, let's not go overboard,” Jack requested, not sure how to respond to the apparent compliment Alex had just delivered.
“But you're good, Dad. If you tried not to be silly and focus, like you tell us to do with singing and dancing and stuff, then maybe you could sell pottery to Alex like Jen does with her weaving.”
“That's quite an idea,” Jack replied skeptically.
“Actually, Dad, I think Ash and Noa are right on,” Jennifer stated.
“We'll see, but for now it's back to sentence structure,” Jack ordered, ready for the spotlight to be off of him. ~They're exaggerating. Saying a picture is nice is not the same as buying it. The picture made it look good; that's all.~
As they cleaned up after dinner, the lovers discussed their most recent communication from Alex and Jack's ability with the potters' wheel.
“Babe, you've loved pottery for years. You've spent a lot of time on it and you enjoy it, which is why we had Sam alter the potter's wheel for you. Why is it so impossible to believe that you're actually talented at it?”
“Danny, it's just ...”
“I never thought I could play basketball, and I think I'm pretty good at it now. I mean, I've beaten you, Jeff, and Lou in one-on-one matches several times. It wasn't really that long ago that David couldn't get a hit in baseball, no matter how hard he tried. He hit five home runs last season, three of which won the games for his team. I studied that piece earlier, and it is good,” Daniel stated confidently.
“Yeah, I think,” Daniel confirmed with a smile.
“Maybe I could tinker around a bit more,” Jack responded, letting the possibilities flow freely through his mind.
“That was great!” David exclaimed as he disembarked the snowmobile.
“Awesome!” Daniel added with a smile.
The two were on a Saturday outing to Boulder, Colorado with the Adventure Guides, the YMCA group David had signed up with a few years earlier. This was actually the first major event that either parent had gone on since Jack's accident.
“Daddy, isn't that Casey?” David asked, pointing out a man in the distance.
Daniel turned and focused in the direction his son was pointing.
“Yes, it is, with Donald Burton.”
“He works for you, doesn't he?”
“Yes, he does,” Daniel confirmed, smiling. ~That looks ... promising.~
“They see us,” David observed, seeing the two men waving and hurrying forward.
“Hey, we thought that was you!” Casey exclaimed with a big smile on his face.
“Hello,” Daniel greeted, shaking both men's hands. “Uh, Donald, this is my son, David. David, this is Mister Burton.”
“Hi,” David replied, shaking Donald's hand. “Were you snowmobiling just now?”
“Yeah. We're going back out after lunch,” Donald answered. “Why don't you two join us for the next run?”
“I'm sorry, we can't,” Daniel answered. “We're here with a group, and after lunch, we have to head back.”
“Next time,” Casey stated, a smile on his face.
“David!” a voice called out.
“Go,” Daniel stated, seeing a friend of the teenager calling out. ~Definitely promising,~ he thought as he observed the smiling faces now looking at him.
“Wipe that smirk off your face, Daniel,” Casey laughed. “But, yeah, you scored.”
“You know what I mean,” Casey teased jovially. “I gotta say thanks for the tip on the Donster here.”
“That's what he calls me. He thinks it's cute,” Donald chuckled, giving his lover a pat on the rear end to accent his remark.
“Hey, Mister Muscles here deserves a title of honor,” Casey claimed. “Actually, I have another one for him, but we're in public.”
Casey and Donald looked at each other with a grin.
“Um, sounds like things are going well,” Daniel opined.
“Daniel, thanks for hooking us up,” Donald spoke. “Casey's a great guy.”
“And the Donster makes it easy,” Casey added. “You know, you were right, and don't look nervous, Daniel. Don knows all about Alex and my hang ups.”
“Oh,” Daniel acknowledged with a nod. “That's good, I suppose.”
“Look, we're not ready to say it's forever or send out wedding invites,” Casey began, “but this is the first relationship I've had in a long time where it feels right, where the work is equal, if you know what I mean.”
“I think I do.”
“I've been waiting for someone like Casey to come along since, well since Goofy met a couple of pretty special guys. I've always wanted that special someone with whom I could be part of a couple like that,” Donald stated, smiling.
“Yeah, do you believe that? I'm with a man who loves Disney at heart,” Casey laughed, still unaware that Donald was talking about Jack and Daniel and his encounter with them many years earlier.
“Yeah, that's a...amazing,” Daniel replied, smiling in reply.
“Casey, I'm gonna get the snowmobile in place. I'll meet you inside,” Donald said, nodding at Daniel before heading back towards the apparatus.
“See? He knows me already. He knows I wanted to talk to you,” Casey stated.
“It really does sound like it's going ... well.”
“Daniel, it is. I can't explain it, but it doesn't feel hard. There's no pretending,” Casey stated. “Donald's a street guy, like me. We're gel'in.”
“I'm really glad, Casey.”
“I'll never forget Alex. We were only together a couple of months, but I learned a lot from him about relationships and not forcing them. That's the thing: with Alex, so much of it was forced. We had to consciously try to make it work when it wasn't, and to give Alex his just due, he really tried, harder than I did. You were right about that, too. Look, it's not about being the perfect couple; I know that now. Donald and I don't agree on everything, but it works. He doesn't mind getting his hands dirty, and he doesn't mind if my hands are right there with him.”
“You look happy,” Daniel noted about the nurse's expression.
“I am, for the first time in a long time. I don't know if it will last, but I know I'm on the right track now,” Casey put forth. “And you know what else? I really, *really* wish Alex and Sunny well from the bottom of my heart.”
“I'm glad,” Daniel responded with a smile.
“You tell him that, if you see him.”
“I will, but it would mean more if you could tell him yourself,” Daniel put forth, feeling pleased when the nurse nodded in acknowledgement.
“I'd better go.” Laughing happily, Casey said, “I don't want to keep the Donster waiting.”
“No, wouldn't want to do that,” Daniel replied thoughtfully, watching as Casey hurried off. ~Okay, maybe butting in works.~
“Dad! Daddy!” Little Danny called out, running into the study the next afternoon.
“Running?” Jack chastised with a stern expression.
“I'm sorry, but look what I found,” the little boy stated excitedly.
“Okay, what?” Daniel asked, not seeing anything in the boy's hands.
“Oh, sorry,” the prodigy laughed with sweet dimples that reminded Jack of his soulmate.
“Can I show you on your computer, Dad?”
“Come on,” Jack invited, wheeling away sufficiently to give the boy access.
Typing in the URL, Little Danny pointed and ordered excitedly, “Look at what it can do!”
Daniel walked closer as Little Danny played the first online video. He stared at Jack, smiling when the second demonstration video played. He put his hand on his Love's shoulder as the third short movie began.
“We have to get this for you, Dad.”
“We sure do,” Daniel agreed. “Where's the phone number?”
“It's ...” Little Danny began, reciting the number without seeing it.
Daniel picked up the phone, dialing as he asked, “Not that it matters, but how much is this iBOT wheelchair?”
“About thirty-thousand dollars,” Little Danny answered. “We have that, right?”
“Right,” Daniel answered, clearing his throat just as the automated system advised a customer service representative would be with him in less than ten seconds.
“Daniel ...” Jack interjected, concerned that perhaps the cost was something they should discuss.
“Babe, you're priceless, and that makes this worth any cost. Just then, the CSR came onto the line. “Hello, my name is Daniel Jackson-O'Neill, and I'd like some information about the ... iBOT.”
“That's right, Alex,” Jack stated over the phone two days later. “That thing is like the monster wheelchair. It goes up and down. Heck, it even climbs curbs.”
“So we don't need the ramps in the living room,” the designer surmised from his hotel room in Madrid.
“Not if this thing works like it's supposed to. We've got an appointment for them to bring one out for a test run this week,” Jack stated.
Daniel called out over the speakerphone, “This should really lessen what we have to do to the house, Alex.”
“That's great! Let me know the results. We're slightly ahead of schedule here, so I should be back in Colorado Springs the week of the sixteenth, if not before.”
When the conversation ended, Jack and Daniel kissed. The iBOT wheelchair was phenomenal. It was able to rise so that the user could be eye level with someone they were talking to or retrieve items from shelves. It adjusted to various heights, and it would even climb stairs, as long as there was at least one railing available for the user to grab onto.
“Danny, I hope this thing works as well as it did on the video.”
“Me, too. I see how excited you are about it,” the archaeologist responded, kissing his lover again.
“It's freedom, Angel. I could really play catch with the kids in this thing. It's great,” Jack stated. Smiling with love, he pointed out, “We can go for walks together at the cabin, holding hands like always. I want that.”
“Me, too, Babe,” Daniel replied softly.
“It doesn't hurt that the VA is gonna cover part of the bill,” Jack stated lightly.
“The VA ended up helping with a lot of the bills. I guess the military does have a few good points,” Daniel teased.
“Just a few?” Jack questioned.
“You're the best point,” Daniel replied, kissing his soulmate again. “It's a good thing we lightened up on the internet rules with the brood,” he added.
“Angel, we both know the truth. Nothing could keep our son from looking for things to help me. He's special like that.”
“You're special, Babe. I love so much,” Daniel declared emotionally as the couple kissed again, and again, and again.
“Are you sure you'll be okay?” Daniel asked worriedly as Jennifer prepared to assist her older father in running a couple of errands at the other end of the mall.
“Danny, we agreed. It's not Alaska; it's just a mall, and Jen's gonna help me.”
“Daddy, stop worrying,” Jennifer urged with a smile as she began to push the wheelchair.
“Onward! Mush!” Jack exclaimed cheerfully.
“Dad, you're so funny,” Jennifer laughed as she walked forward.
Daniel rolled his eyes and smiled, fully aware that he was being overprotective, the very thing the family had decided no one should be right now. Things were going well. The family was getting back into a routine and doing separate activities again.
JD wasn't clingy at all anymore, and the uncharacteristic fighting among the children had ceased. Jennifer had actually gone out with Peter a few times, and Jeff was making a lot of headway with his online studies. Jack was on the phone daily with Billy, trying to convince him and Jilly to come back for Thanksgiving so they could spend some quality time together without the hindrance of Jack's bad attitude.
~You've really pulled yourself together, Love,~ Daniel thought as he remembered the conversation Jack had had with Billy very early this morning.
“Billy, I want some quality bro time. I don't want your most recent memories of me being a butt-head.”
Laughing on the other end of the phone, Billy replied, “Little Brother, you've always been a butt-head; so have I, and so was Dad. It's an O'Neill trait. You just carried it a bit further south until you were an a-uh, a donkey cavity.”
Chuckling, Jack asked once more, “Please.”
“I'll talk to Jilly, I promise.”
//End of Flashback//
~Good job, Babe,~ the archaeologist praised as he did some people watching and wondered why he hadn't brought his laptop with him so that he could review a report or two while waiting for the shoppers.
Daniel was putting in some half-days at J-O, while Jack was catching up at home. Once he acquired the new truck that was being specially made, he'd start to put in time at the office as well. Naturally, he'd aced the driver's test he'd undertaken at the beginning of the month.
Megan and Yazid were still in town, having made up but still not having come up with a resolution for their problem. Until they did, Megan was refusing to leave. The two were now situated in a hotel as they tried to come to an agreement on how to move forward as a married couple in a way that would fulfill both of their needs.
The plans had been finalized for the house as well. Alex had met with Jack and Daniel the day before to review the new plans, and on Monday, the work would begin in earnest. Much to their delight, the iBOT wheelchair had delivered on all it had promised and so with the mobility device on order, the required remodeling was much less than originally determined and would only require two days to complete.
The archaeologist turned, smiling as he greeted, “Sunny, how are you?”
“Well, thank you,” the blonde replied, leaning in to receive a kiss on the cheek from her friend.
“I didn't know you were in town, but I guess I shouldn't be surprised, either.”
Sunny laughed and replied, “Alex and I try to unite as much of our schedules as possible. In fact, Byron has made me a job offer.”
“Yes, as a marketing executive for Archonics. Alex and I are still talking it over, deciding if it's a smart thing or not for us to actually work together professionally. You know, Archonics is international now, and it's all because of Alex.”
“Of course,” Daniel replied, seeing the pride in Sunny's expression and knowing that that pride was not misplaced. “Is Alex here?”
“Yes, he's inside,” Sunny answered, looking back at the mall restaurant she'd just exited.
“How did your negotiation go?” the linguist asked as he motioned towards a bench, sitting down just after the one time beauty pageant contestant did.
“I aced it!” Sunny exclaimed. “Did you get my note?”
“I did. I was glad I could help.”
“It really made the difference, Daniel,” Sunny began. “They were very impressed, and so was my boss.” After a beat, she beamed and added, “And so was Alex.”
“You two are pretty happy together,” Daniel observed. ~Gawd, I'm butting in again.~
“Daniel, I'm hoping for a very special present for Christmas. I've never wanted anything so bad in my life,” Sunny stated, her fingers twisting an imaginary engagement band on her ring finger. “We've known each for a long time now, and we've had our rough patches, but I love him. I'm not sure why we haven't moved forward yet. There's some ... something, some ... I don't know what it is.”
“No,” Sunny refuted emphatically. “I love him in ways that I've never loved anyone else. It was so funny, the way we met. It was more, well, dating by convenience. There was instant attraction, but we also got along so well. I wanted to do nothing but enjoy myself for a year, and Alex was perfect for that. If I needed a date, I called, and if he needed an escort, he called. It was a great arrangement.”
“But I fell in love, head over heels, magically in love,” Sunny confessed, her face alight with happiness. “It was heaven, but then, I kept seeing things that ... bothered me, and I got scared.” She looked at Daniel and smiled tremulously as she lamented the past for a moment. “I'm not sure now if I pushed him away for his benefit, or mine.”
“Pushed him away?”
“I guess he never told you,” Sunny surmised. “After your anniversary party, we broke up; well, I broke up with him. It was one of the most painful moments of my life, but I really believed I was doing it for his own good. I believed in our love, but I didn't think it was the right love.” There wasn't a response to her statement, and the silence was a little deafening for the beautiful woman. She turned her head and studied Daniel's face. “You know?”
Sunny nodded in understanding and continued, “It was little things. We'd be at some exotic beach somewhere and I'd see him studying something. It would be some jock running along the water. We'd be at dinner and he'd ask for the check. He might stare a little longer than normal at the very handsome waiter. I knew, but he didn't. How is that possible, Daniel?”
“Alex's life was his work. It was like that for a long, long time.”
“Yes, you're right, of course,” Sunny replied. “You know about Casey?” Daniel's slightly nervous smile was her answer. “Casey would call. It was nothing but business for Alex, but I could tell that Casey was interested in Alex, very interested. He tried to hide it behind work he had Alex do on his house. He kept doing one project after another until his entire house was totally redone, and he really couldn't afford to do all of that work. It was obvious to me; I knew what he was after.”
“So, you broke up with Alex because you thought ...”
“Because I love him, and I thought he was gay,” Sunny confided truthfully. “Actually, Daniel, he is gay. Does that surprise you?”
“No,” Daniel answered truthfully.
“I can see it your eyes,” Sunny spoke, staring at the archaeologist. “You do know that Alex and Casey were together for a while, after Alex and I broke up.”
“I haven't talked to Alex about it, but, yes, I know.”
“I dated someone, too. He was the perfect man for me, according to my friends. He certainly looked the part, and he really tried to sweep me off my feet, but ...”
“He wasn't Alex,” Daniel deduced.
Shaking her head, Sunny sighed, “I realized then that I'd made a mistake. I'd thrown away the man I loved; but, at the same time, he was gay. I wasn't right for him, so I kept dating Mister Wonderful, hoping I might somehow forget Alex.”
“One day, I opened my door, and my real Mister Wonderful was standing there, looking so dapper. He had a dozen red roses in one hand and a two-pound box of chocolates in the other.” Suddenly, Sunny burst into laughter as she continued, “And he had a great big red bow wrapped around his neck. Can you see that picture?”
“No, not really,” Daniel chuckled, trying to imagine Alex doing something like that.
“He said, 'Sunny, I love you. Please take me back'.” Sunny closed her eyes and wrapped her arms around herself as she took in a deep breath. She was smiling as she said, “I literally jumped into his arms. The flowers and candy went sprawling all over the floor. I knew we were right, that we belonged together.”
“But you haven't gotten married yet.”
Sunny grew serious as she replied, “We keep trying to figure it out. We want to be together, but we're both confused. Alex says he's definitely homosexual; there's no doubt in his mind about that, but he wants to be with me. We keep trying to make sense of it, and I guess that's held us back.”
Nodding, Daniel responded, “Sunny, I don't know how much you know about Jack and me, but we've both been married before, to women.”
Nodding again, Daniel expounded, “I was married to a ... a very beautiful Egyptian woman. Her name was Sha're. She was ... amazing -- very brave and able to keep me in line. Jack, he was married to Sara.”
“Sara? Sara Wilson?”
“I had no idea. I've only met her a few times, but ... wow!”
“They were very much in love, and they had a son, Charlie.”
“Charlie,” Sunny echoed softly. “The boy with the baseball cap and bat, in the picture, on the mantle?”
“You're very observant,” Daniel acknowledged. “Uh, one day, though, Charlie accidentally ... shot himself with Jack's gun.”
“They never recovered from Charlie's loss. Jack shut himself off from the world, and Sara ... she tried, but ... it was a forgive and forget thing. They were at different places at different times.”
“My wife was kidnapped, and she died,” Daniel informed the blonde, moving forward with his story and its objective.
“Daniel, I'm so sorry,” Sunny responded sympathetically, reaching over to touch the man's arm.
“Thank you. Uh, Sha're's picture is on the mantle, too.”
“That beautiful woman, the portrait shot ...?
“Yes, that's Sha're,” Daniel confirmed. “What I'm saying is that neither Jack nor I are gay. We were best friends, and over time, that grew. One day, I looked at him and saw love. I think we both went through our own denials, but there came a point when we couldn't. Sunny, we're two heterosexual men who just happened to fall in love with another man.”
“But doesn't that mean that you ... are gay?” Sunny asked genuinely, perplexed as she sought to understand the message being relayed.
“No, it doesn't. This is why I hate labels so much and why Jack and I have both worked so hard to avoid them,” Daniel responded. “Look, we're not blind. Jack still notices a good looking woman. He always has, and I think he always will. I'm a little different in how I respond to people, but I'll notice a beautiful woman before seeing a handsome man. I don't look at men with any kind of ... sexual or romantic undertones.”
“I'm not sure what to make of that,” Sunny stated thoughtfully.
“It's not as complicated as you and Alex are apparently trying to make it,” Daniel advised. “Jack and I are soulmates: one heart and one soul. We need to be together, and we want to be together. It's on another level, beyond just loving. I mean, I loved Sha're, but not like this, and Jack still loves Sara, but not how he loves me. Love at this level is more than a feeling, it's an ability. Not everyone is capable of understanding that. It's our souls, Sunny; they *demand* we be together, no matter what.”
“You think ... Daniel, Alex and I are soulmates. That's why we couldn't stay apart. He's gay, but it doesn't matter, because our souls are uniting us. Is that what you're saying?”
“Something like that, but only you and Alex can know that for sure.”
Sunny looked forward, processing the conversation. All of sudden, she stood up, laughing and twirling around in a circle. She laughed more brightly as Daniel stood up.
“Oh, Daniel, thank you. Thank you so very much,” Sunny spoke gaily as she embraced the archaeologist, happy to have him as a friend in her life.
As Daniel and Sunny began their conversation outside the restaurant, inside, Alex and Casey shook hands.
“Alex, this is Donald Burton. He works for J-O. Don, this is him, Alex Dennison.”
“The tanned sun god,” Donald stated with a smile on his face.
“Excuse me?” Alex questioned, unaware of the reference.
“Don't worry about it, Alex,” Casey began. “It's all good. Hey, do you have a minute?”
“Sunny's waiting for me outside, but I don't think she'd mind,” Alex answered.
“Don, do you mind?”
“No problem, Cas,” Donald responded, patting his lover on the arm and then nodding at Alex. “I'll be at the table.”
“I'll be there in a sec,” Casey called out and then motioned towards the bar. “I'm glad to see you.”
“You're looking happy,” Alex stated as he took a seat on the barstool and shook his head at the bartender, indicating he didn't want a drink.
“Miller,” Casey requested of the bartender as he sat down. “You know something, I am happy, finally, and I have you to thank for it.”
“Alex, all my life, I've wanted the perfect fantasy lover. That turned out to be you, and we were good.”
“Yes, we were,” Alex concurred, caution in his voice since he wasn't sure where this conversation was going.
“But it was a fantasy, and it was impossible to make it work. You can't be happy in something that isn't anything but a dream,” Casey pointed out. Seeing Alex's impressed look, the nurse laughed, “Don't give me the credit for all the self-analysis. You know that's not my thing. Daniel helped me to see that I was too focused on that fantasy. I want something real, Alex. You were too much work.”
“I'm ... sorry.”
“Nah, I didn't mean it like that. You and me, we were great in bed. That's where we shined. The rest? We tried to pretend; at least, I did. You gave it your all, while I worked my duff off trying to like those fancy things you do. The truth is that I don't like that stuff. It's not my style, Alex, and it's not just that, it's just ... us. We were a steamy interlude, but that was it.”
Alex nodded and said, “I tried, Casey, but every night before I closed my eyes, I saw Sunny. In the mornings, the first thing I thought about was Sunny, even when we'd just ... enjoyed ourselves, afterwards, I would think about her.”
“See, look at that. You can't even say it.”
“We were *hot*, Alex. Heck, we scorched the bed, but that's not how you talk. I think we did great to get through two months like we did.”
“I did enjoy our time together.”
“Don't get me wrong, Alex, I did, too, and without you being there when you were, I wouldn't be here, with Don. I think he and I might be the real deal.”
“He seems like a very nice man, and if he works for Jack and Daniel ...”
“Yeah, he's a winner. He has a goofy personality like I do, and he's a man of the Earth. Yeah, we both like to do all that outdoor stuff, but it's more than that. He's a guy who cares about the Earth, not that you don't, because I know you do. Heck, you wrote a book about it, but he's really into making this planet a better place. We get down, we get down and dirty, and we just ... it's not work, you know? It feels right. He's not a tanned sun god like you, but he's for real.”
“You sound like a man in love,” Alex observed, smiling.
“In love?” Casey repeated. He looked ahead, into the mirror. Then he took a drink of his beer. “In love, you say?” With a grin, Casey reached into his pocket and plopped down a ten spot to pay for his drink. “Alex, thank you. You know, Daniel said he thought you and Sunny were soulmates, like he and the general are. I hope so. I hope you make it work, and that you're happy. You know what else? I'm gonna find my soulmate, too, and I think he just might be waiting for me over at that table. I'm not bitter anymore, Alex. Thanks.”
With a smile on his face, Casey patted Alex on the arm and walked over to join his date.
Alex watched, feeling truly happy for his one-time lover. He paused, thinking about something Casey had said.
~Soulmates? Aristotle once said that 'love is composed of a single soul inhabiting two bodies'. Sunny is my soul. So what if she's a woman? She's my soul!~
Getting up, Alex headed for Casey and Donald's table. He reached out and shook Casey's hand.
“Thanks, Casey. You just helped more than you know,” Alex spoke with sincerity. He looked at Donald and said, “Treat him right. Good luck to you both. Maybe we can all get together for dinner or drinks or something sometime.”
“You know somethin', Alex?” Casey responded. “I think we'd like that. You've got my number.”
“You're welcome,” Daniel responded to Sunny's energetic thanks. “Uh, I'm glad I could help.”
“What's a man to think when he walks out and sees his girlfriend hugging another man?” Alex asked, not the least bit seriously.
“That she's very happy,” Sunny responded, immediately hugging her boyfriend. “Alex, I need to tell you something.”
“I was just going to say the same thing, but I think I'd rather show you,” Alex suggested, stunning the blonde, and Daniel, by kissing her passionately right there in the middle of the mall.
Daniel looked around nervously and slowly backed away, as if that would somehow give the happy couple some magical privacy.
“It makes sense now, Sunny. I get it.”
“I do, too,” Sunny replied. “Do you really?”
“Yeah. Would you mind if we finished our shopping later?”
“Not at all,” Sunny replied, still smiling from the inside out and anxious to continue the discussion elsewhere where it truly was more private.
“Nice to see you, Daniel,” Alex greeted while at the same time hurrying his Love towards the exit.
“You ... too,” Daniel chuckled as the couple turned a corner. ~Butting in works, not that I'd want to do it again. Well, there is General Hammond and Mrs. Valissi. I know they both really loved their spouses, but there's nothing wrong with living in the moment. You don't have to be soulmates to be happy together.~ Resolving his conflict, he decided, ~Butting in isn't necessarily a bad thing. Besides, the way Ricky is going, I won't be butting in, I’ll just be the butt-in supervisor.~
“So Alex is gay?” Jack asked that night as the lovers relaxed on their bed.
“Apparently,” Daniel affirmed.
“But he and Sunny are soulmates?”
“Apparently,” Daniel confirmed.
“So, wedding bells?”
“Soon, I think,” the younger man opined.
“And Casey and Donald?”
“You saw them when we left the mall. They looked happy to me,” Daniel answered.
“Yeah,” Jack affirmed.
“And you and me?”
“Forever and always,” Daniel immediately replied.
“All talk and no action,” Jack whined.
“You want action?”
As Jack grinned, Daniel began an action that words could never adequately describe.
A few minutes after their lovemaking, Daniel sighed happily, “I think we're getting better. I thought I sensed something in you this time. It was better, for you, I mean, 'cause it was ... good for me.”
Hearing something strange in Jack's tone, Daniel looked up into his eyes and asked, “Jack, what is it? Am I wrong?”
“No, it was definitely better. That visualization stuff works, not to mention when you ...” Jack smiled, but it faded quickly. “Danny, I could swear I felt you.”
“That's just the techniques,” Daniel responded, torn between happiness that they were working so well and a longing for Jack to be right. As much as he wanted to believe his husband, he knew it wasn't a smart idea to get his hopes up. Instead, he focused on comforting Jack through what must have been a very frustrating experience. ~We can't be misled and start hoping for miracles that will never come; we have to live in the now. We agreed on that.~
“No, it was ... you,” Jack maintained solemnly. “It's not just that.”
“My right leg hurts,” the older man advised admitted hesitantly.
“Hurts? Jack, they said ...”
“I know what they said, Daniel, but I'm telling you that the dang thing hurts,” Jack bellowed.
Not sure what to think, Daniel slid out of the covers and sat back. He reached over and touched Jack's leg, squeezing it slightly. Not getting a reaction, he then pressed the leg progressively harder until his lover let out a loud, “Ow!”
“Danny, it's not that it's painful,” Jack stated, trying to hone in on the correct words to describe what he was feeling. “It's more like a burning sensation when you touch it, or sometimes like pins and needles.”
“Like when your leg is falling asleep?” Daniel asked.
“Yeah,” Jack confirmed. “I've been feeling it all along.”
“I told you, when I was still at the hospital and again at the prison,” Jack spoke, referring to Cedar Hills. “It hurt, but they said ...”
“... it was normal,” both men stated in unison.
Horrified, Daniel scooted forward and asked, “Jack, are you telling me that you've been in pain the entire time? That you've ... felt things from the beginning?”
“They said it was normal,” Jack reiterated. “Every time I said something, they told me it was nothing, so I just stopped mentioning it. I mean, Danny, I'm wacko enough without talking about pain that I'm not supposed to be feeling.”
“Jack, you're sure? You're absolutely ...”
“Ow!” Jack exclaimed in surprise. “What did you do that for?”
Wanting his motion to be completely undetected, Daniel had unexpectedly slapped his lover in a place where the older man had said it hurt.
“Gawd!” Daniel exclaimed, reaching over for the phone.
“What are you doing?”
“Hello,” a sleepy voice answered.
“Janet, it's Daniel.”
“Daniel, is something wrong? Is the brood okay?” Janet asked, now wide awake and sitting up in bed, her husband following suit. She listened intently as her late-night caller reported the situation. “As we've discussed before, it's highly possible to have pain in areas where there is little or no sensation. A certain amount of pain is actually normal, but not quite in the way you're describing it. Are you certain?”
“Positive, Janet,” Daniel stated.
“I'll call Doctor Creepingbear first thing in the morning. Daniel, don't make assumptions. A lot of people have had false symptoms of recovery.”
“I understand. Thanks, Janet,” Daniel replied, disconnecting the call.
“What'd she say?”
“Not to jump to conclusions, but she wants to see us in the morning,” Daniel stated.
“But don't jump,” Jack assumed.
“Babe, your erections have been firmer,” Daniel pointed out.
“There's that,” the older man agreed. “Danny, there's something else. I thought maybe I was being delusional; you know, making myself believe it.”
“Look,” Jack ordered, motioning towards the lower end of his body.
Daniel practically jumped and crawled to the end of the bed.
“Babe, your toe is moving. Your big toe is ...”
“Back, forth, back, forth, stop,” Jack stated. He waited a few seconds and continued, “Forth, back, forth, stop.”
“Your beautiful toe,” Daniel responded emotionally, bowing down to kiss the big toe in question. “I love you, Toe.”
“Hey, how about the mouth?”
Smiling, Daniel shifted and leaned in for a long, lingering kiss.
“Danny, we can't overreact. The Doc's right. It might just be a fluke or something,” Jack warned.
“I love you, Jack.”
“I love you, Angel.”
“I thought I was through with all of these tests,” Jack griped at the end of long morning full of testing. “It's Sunday. That's supposed to be a day of rest.“
“Tests that were needed if you wanted to find out what was going on with your body,” Janet interjected as she walked in with Doctor Creepingbear behind her. “And you're not the only one giving up a Sunday, General. You might want to make your complaints to my husband,” she dared with a smirk.
“Point taken,” Jack responded, thinking about the lecture he would receive from Teal'c for complaining.
“We have an interesting situation,” the redheaded physician announced, sitting down in a chair, while the Native American doctor sat down behind his desk.
“I've never had a case like this before,” Doctor Creepingbear interjected.
“Jack, Daniel, it looks like we made a little mistake,” Janet stated, the file open on her lap.
His mouth open, a stunned Daniel questioned, “You mean, he's ... he's going to be able to walk again?”
“I think so,” Janet responded.
“Doc, you said this was permanent. I'm glad it's not, but why isn't it?” Jack asked hopefully, trying to understand why his life could potentially be turned right-side-up after its supposedly permanent upside-down status.
“Let me put it as simply as I can,” Janet began. “Normally, damage to the spinal cord is permanent. I'm sure you're aware of several examples of this, including people like Christopher Reeve. One of the reasons for this permanence is that the spinal column itself produces a growth inhibitor that prevents sensory nerves from regenerating and reattaching to the spinal cord itself. The other is that the motor nerves in that area also do not regenerate, unlike the sensory nerves in your fingers might, if you had a deep cut.”
“I'm getting a headache,” Jack interjected, becoming frustrated with the long explanation.
“Stay with me,” Janet implored. “Since Jack's symptoms indicated that both sensory and motor nerves were damaged -- he couldn't feel his legs or move them -- and since the symptoms didn't resolve after the normal time period for the resolution of spinal shock, we assumed that there had been permanent damage to those nerves.”
“Hold it!” Jack exclaimed. “Are you telling me that I diagnosed myself? That because of what I said and did or didn't feel, that you based your prognosis on that? What were all those years of medical school for?” he ranted.
“General, it's more complicated than that,” Doctor Creepingbear answered as he tried to calm his patient down.
“Uncomplicate it,” Jack ordered. ~I've been an idiotic jerk to my family and my friends, all because of this. I don't want to hear crap about me being responsible for the prognosis.~
“Jack, look at this,” Janet demanded, pulling out the MRI film and holding it up. “That looks like a hole, a small puncture wound. That's what we assumed it was. In medicine, we use everything at our disposal -- X-rays, CT scans, MRIs -- to get the answers to our questions.”
“I *told* you I felt pain,” Jack argued.
“Babe, we need to hear what they have to say,” Daniel soothed, reaching over and patting his lover's thigh.
“I just don't want this blamed on me,” the general stated forcefully.
“Who cares about blame?” Daniel asked pointedly. “Jack, if you can walk again, isn't that what matters?”
Jack swallowed hard and nodded, realizing this wasn't the time for anger.
“Sorry, Doc,” Jack apologized.
“Okay, well, as I was saying, because of the tests and Jack's reactions and responses, we assumed that he wouldn't be able to regain those functions. Now originally, we thought the damage came from the hematoma in his spine.”
“The spinal shock?” Daniel asked.
“Correct, but after I saw the pictures of the swans and their positions after the accident, we suspected that the rebar in the one swan's broken neck had caused the damage and that it was permanent.”
“The puncture,” Daniel surmised, getting a nod in reply.
“From the new MRI, you can see how the hole is much less pronounced,” Janet stated, holding up the latest MRI film for them to see. “Since Jack is now improving, we can only assume that the damage to the nerves was not complete and that the wire merely bruised, for lack of a better term, the nerves, and the swelling of the nerves caused the loss of function. Since the nerves were never completely severed, as best we can determine, they are recovering, though the growth inhibitor is likely slowing the process.”
“I'm gonna be fine?” Jack questioned with a strained voice.
“Keep wiggling those toes,” Janet encouraged. “However, we don't know how much of the feeling will come back. It may be all, a part, or just your toes. Whatever functions are going to return, should return fairly rapidly now.”
“We want to step up your exercise program,” Doctor Creepingbear added. “It's crucial to make sure your muscles strengthen. I've already been in touch with Cedar Hills. They're expecting you in an hour to go over a revised program.”
Janet saw the two stunned and very emotional faces in front of her. She smiled and reached out with her hand to take one of Jack's in hers.
“Somehow, Jack, you always find the miracle. This is a one in a *billion* thing; no, make that one in a trillion, or even something bigger. It just doesn't happen, but it's happening for you. As a physician, I have to caution you against being too hopeful, but as your friend, as someone who has seen you overcome adversity after adversity, I'm thrilled. Do exactly what the PTs at Cedar Hills tell you. This time, right now, is crucial.” Janet looked over at Daniel and, still smiling, stated with a cracking voice, “I couldn't be happier for you both,” Regaining her composure, the physician instructed, “Make sure you're at Cedar Hills on time. Retraining your muscles is important.”
Janet stood up and motioned for her fellow physician to follow her, silently requesting the lovers be allowed to stay for a few minutes.
Daniel took hold of Jack's hands and gazed into his soulmate's eyes while trying to speak, but nothing came out. Jack could only shake his head. He didn't have words, either. Finally, the couple leaned their foreheads together, their hands still joined.
“Miracles, Jack,” Daniel finally whispered.
“A bruise,” Jack replied quietly.
“I'll take it,” Daniel spoke as he leaned back. “Jack, the brood ...”
“Let's make sure first,” Jack insisted. “Danny, they've been hurt enough. I don't want them believing and then being disappointed.”
“Okay, well, they know we're working hard on moving forward. What if we tell them that ...”
At the same time, both men called the other's name.
“We can't,” both of the lovers stated together.
“We promised them the truth,” Daniel stated.
“I swore I wouldn't lie to them about this,” Jack added. “We have to tell them, but ...”
“We need to make sure they understand.”
“Let's have the Doc and the Big Guy over for dinner.”
“I love you, Jack.”
“You're my heart and soul, Danny. Geez, I love you,” Jack declared before the lovers kissed.
“No, Airman, more!” Jonny ordered, having demoted his father and becoming the 'little general' that his siblings were always accusing him of being.
~If this is what he was like for those few days when I was being a jerk, the rest of the brood deserves three days at Disneyland,~ Jack opined silently. Outwardly, he growled at the 'torture'. ~Haven't sweated this much since ... don't go there,~ he urged himself as the beads of perspiration rolled off his body. His children were overseeing his exercise sessions, much to the amusement of Margo McLeod, who was telling them exactly what needed to be done.
“You know, I am entitled to a break.”
Jonny looked over at Margo, who shook her head.
“Toughen up, Dad. Move that wheel!” the oldest Munchkin ordered, determined to help his dad improve.
Over where the therapist was standing, Aislinn asked, “What's next, Ms. McLeod?”
“I'll show you,” Margo offered, wondering if the children should have been there when Jack had first been admitted to Cedar Hills. ~They say I'm tough. These kids aren't letting up on the general.~
The rehabilitation nurse smiled inwardly as she recalled her conversation with Daniel a few days ago.
“Margo, you were so helpful when you talked to me before,” Daniel stated. “Jack's been a bit ... snappish and cranky lately. I was just wondering ...”
Understanding where the archaeologist was going with his question, Margo interrupted, "Daniel, it's the same issue in reverse. He just made a huge adjustment, committed himself to doing, being, and living the best he could from the wheelchair, and now he is presented with the possibility of his old life back, the one he'd said goodbye to in his 'defining moment'.”
“He has to readjust,” Daniel deduced.
“Yes, especially since there is no guarantee it will be permanent. If it isn't, then he has to do everything he's done all over again. It's a lot of hopeful uncertainty to deal with.”
Nodding, the archaeologist thanked Margo and returned to see how Jack was holding up under the regimen their children were putting him through.
//End of Flashback//
~This is definitely why Jack's shown so much improvement over the last three days,~ Margo opined. ~He couldn't stay cranky for long; those kids wouldn't let him,~ she mused and then continued with her work.
“Babe, you called?”
Daniel let out an audible smile as he walked into the living room and took in the sight of his lover, who was dressed in a burgundy shirt and his favorite pair of gray pants. In Jack's hands was a bouquet of roses.
“Nah, for the cats,” Jack teased, extending out the bouquet, which Daniel took, inhaling the sweet scent.
“Thank you, Jack. They're beautiful.”
“I have a present for you, Angel,” Jack stated. “Brood!”
On cue, the children entered, ushering their younger father to a predetermined spot next to the fireplace. Then they divided themselves, making a protective and precautionary path.
“Shhh! This requires some concentration,” Jack stated seriously. Then he mused, “You know how hard that is for me.”
Daniel rolled his eyes at the quip as the children giggled. Then his breathing became more rapid as he realized what was being attempted. He watched with both fear and hope as Jack gripped the end of his wheelchair.
“Okay, Magoo. We're parting ways,” Jack spoke softly, his concentration very focused now. Slowly, he stood, stumbling slightly before Jeff and Jennifer both took hold of an arm. “Thanks, Kids,” he said as he regrouped. Taking a breath, Jack focused about as hard as he knew how or had ever done before. “One small step for me,” he said, lifting his leg up and setting it down again. “One giant leap for the brood.” He repeated the process until he was standing in front of his Love. “One huge miracle for my Angel.”
“Jack ...” Daniel whispered, his eyes tearing.
“Don't let me fall,” Jack called out to the brood while he took his husband in his arms. “Been practicing this all week. Wasn't sure I could do it.”
It was all Daniel could say. He was standing, being held by his Heart, by the man whose strength and love meant everything.
“I love you, Danny,” Jack declared softly, his hands warming Daniel's back while his Love's tears were freely falling. “So friggin' much.”
Aislinn leaned over and whispered to Jenny, “Dad and Daddy need romantic time now.”
“Right after Thanksgiving,” Jenny concurred, aware that there just wasn't time for their fathers to go anywhere until after the holiday.
“We'll get Aunt Sam to help us,” the youngest Munchkin schemed.
“The cabin,” both girls giggled simultaneously.
It was a happy evening for the Jackson-O'Neills. There was more work to be done, but now they knew -- Jack would walk again.
“Babe, I have an idea,” Daniel stated the following Monday afternoon as he walked into the projects room. “How's it going?” he asked with a smile as he looked at Kevin.
“Pyramids are a triangle. Clay can be made into a triangle,” Kevin responded.
Jack smiled. Kevin was continuing to make progress, and as part of the time he was spending with the boy every day to educate him on Egypt, he'd decided to see if Kevin would be responsive to working on pottery as some patients with autism were. Apparently, the boy was indeed one of those people.
**Call Carter when you get a chance. She might want to sneak at peek at Kevin working.**
**I'll do that in a second,** Daniel stated.
“What's your idea?” Jack questioned as he continued to help Kevin feel the wet clay in his hands.
“Well, Vinton Bodine isn't going to be able to come here to meet with Megan about the work he needs done.”
“Yeah. He's located in New Jersey, isn't he?”
“Yes, he is,” Daniel confirmed, smiling again at Kevin as he experimented with the substance that was new to him.
“Jack, we've had this problem before. A lot of our clients are back east. Now, we have videoconferencing and all the ... doohickeys,” Daniel paused, sharing a smile at the use of the word that was so familiar to his husband, “but clients still like to meet face to face. The reality is, we've chosen not to travel as much as we should, given how large the business has grown.”
“You have a solution?”
“Another satellite office, this one back East.”
Jack stared at his lover, a bit skeptical at the response, not that it wasn't a valid suggestion. Still, he felt there was something more his lover hadn't yet said.
“Daniel, out with it.”
With his dimples showing, the pleased archaeologist announced, “Megan runs it. Who else would we trust? Who else do our regular clients already know will do the job right, in our behalf? Jack, she has a solid history with us, and it solves her problem.”
“I don't want an office in New York, Daniel. Noa's getting better, but I don't ...”
“I'm not suggesting New York.”
“Love, I know you're trying to solve a problem, but Yazid's a New York type of guy.”
“Correction, Babe. He *was* a New York type of guy. Now he's a husband with an independent wife who is refusing to leave Colorado Springs. Why is that?”
Thoughtfully, Jack answered, “Because the moment she does, she's stuck back in that luxury playhouse that she ran away from.”
“Exactly! So you know what this means?”
“Not a clue,” Jack smirked.
“We've just done half the job, Jack. We're willing to open a satellite office, someplace to be determined back east that *isn't* New York. Megan has to do the rest.”
“Convince *Yazzy* to move.”
With a nod, Jack responded, “Piece of cake. That lady knows how to wiggle those hips.”
“What are you doing looking at those hips?” Daniel joked. “And, uh, actually, Jack, I don't think that's the part of her that Yazid was looking at when they were here that night.”
“Ears!” Jack teased, putting his hands over Kevin's ears, though the boy didn't respond at all.
“Triangles, Kevin,” Daniel called out.
“Pyramids,” Kevin replied.
Jack and Daniel exchanged another smile. Kevin hadn't often responded to Daniel, but he had twice in the last five minutes. There was definitely hope for the future.
**I'm going to call Sam, Jack. She does need to see this.**
**Pete, too, if he's home.**
**Yeah,** Daniel agreed, walking out of the room to make the important phone call.
Meanwhile at Cheyenne Mountain, Colonel Paul Davis was anxiously waiting for General Hank Landry to get off the phone. Along with Janet, the colonel had just been beamed back to the SGC by Thor, who was aboard his ship, The Daniel Jackson, awaiting word from Davis to proceed with their plan.
“Colonel, you wanted to see me?” Landry called out, motioning for Davis to enter. “I take it this is about Thor's summons,” he stated as the colonel walked in but chose not to sit down when invited to do so. ~The Asgard must think we don't do anything around here except wait for them to need us, popping in and demanding Colonels Davis and Frasier drop everything to go on some little trip around the galaxy with them.~
“Yes, Sir, it is,” Davis confirmed. “General, on behalf of General O'Neill, the Asgard contacted one of their allies.”
“On Jack's behalf?” Landry quizzed.
“General, the Asgard have a deep regard for the general,” Davis answered, flinching just slightly at his wording. “They continue to believe that he is key to the future of their race.” Davis paused for a moment before elaborating, “The truth is, Thor himself feels a special connection to General O'Neill. I think he'd do almost anything to help him.”
Landry nodded, unable to deny the truth of the statement, and motioned for the colonel to continue his report.
“The Asgard contacted an extremely private race called the Narmgolites.”
“Why haven't we heard about them before?”
“Sir, you've read about the Tollan?” Davis asked, getting an affirmative nod in reply. “The Narmgolites make the Tollan look generous. They keep to themselves -- *extremely* to themselves. The only reason they even allowed Doctor Frasier and me to set foot on their planet was because Thor and Ardyl insisted. It was a rare favor.”
“How did Ardyl get into this?” Landry questioned, becoming interested in the topic.
“I'm not sure, General, but apparently the Hedronix have old ties to the Narmgolites.”
The colonel continued to fill Landry in. The Narmgolites lived in what the Tau'ri might term a secluded part of the galaxy. They were highly advanced in all areas, from space transportation to architecture and, more importantly at the moment, medicine.
While Davis couldn't confirm the history of the race, he believed they had, as did thousands across the universe, originated from Earth. This is what made the find he was reporting about so incredible. The Narmgolites were very close to human. Visually, no one could tell a difference between the two races. More importantly, their biochemistry was nearly identical, which meant the aliens' medicines should work on the people of Earth.
“That's incredible,” Landry stated after being told about the medical discovery. “Millions will benefit.”
“No, Sir,” Davis interrupted. “General, like the Tollan, the Narmgolites have reasons for their reclusiveness, though they wouldn't expound on it. They only agreed to give us one injection, and that's all.”
“Have it analyzed.”
“It's a small amount, General, and if we use it for testing, we won't be able to help General O'Neill.”
“Colonel, it's my understanding that General O'Neill is walking again.”
“I know that, Sir, but can he go through the Stargate? Maybe the real question is, is the recovery permanent?” Davis questioned pointedly.
“There's no way of knowing the answer to that,” Janet interjected as she joined the two men. “General O'Neill's recovery is unusual to the point of nearly being beyond medical explanation. We made an assumption based on the best of our knowledge that his paralysis was permanent. We've now made another assumption based on his recovery that his spinal cord is fine, but be clear on this, General, there is no guarantee. We really don't know why Jack is walking again.”
Landry looked at the two for a moment and then responded, “You're really suggesting we forego testing a substance that could cure millions of people, all over the globe, for one man?” Looking at Janet, he asked, “Isn't that against your code of ethics, Doctor?”
“Don't throw the Oath at me, General Landry,” Janet responded sharply. “The Narmgolites are light years ahead of us. There is a tremendous chance that even if we did test this material that we still wouldn't understand it or have the specific medicines that make it what it is. It's a gamble, no matter how you look at it.”
“Then what makes you think it would work on Jack?” Landry queried calmly.
“While on their planet, they allowed me to do a limited amount of testing. I could tell that they are human. In fact, the differences between them and us are miniscule. The odds favor a successful result,” Janet stated authoritatively.
“We have an obligation to the people of Earth ...” Landry began.
Walking forward, Davis interrupted, “People who would be dead if not for General O'Neill. With all due respect, Sir, I'm sure you've read the reports. If not for General O'Neill, Doctor Jackson, and the rest of SG-1, this planet would be toast. They've saved us, Sir, all of us, on more than one occasion. I haven't always agreed with the general, but if not for him, we wouldn't be standing here, arguing. We *owe* him, General.”
Landry looked hard at Davis and then at Janet, seeing both were in strong agreement.
“I can't make the decision on this one, but I'll call the President.”
“Remind him, Sir, that it was General O'Neill who kept one of his main rivals in check,” Janet suggested.
“Kinsey,” Landry acknowledged.
“The President wasn't a fan of the late Vice President,” Davis stated. “It might help to remind him of how hard SG-1 fought Kinsey.”
The two colonels exchanged a look. There was one more thing they knew about the situation, but they weren't free to discuss it. Silently, as they walked out of the general's office, both hoped they wouldn't have to follow through on the secret pact they'd made with the Narmgolites, should Jack be denied the treatment.
Two days later, Sam had brought her children over to play with some of the brood. At the moment, Aislinn and Jenny were playing mommy to the twins, Susie was being given a dancing lesson from Chenoa and Lulu, and Kevin was playing with Little Danny and Jonny. This gave Sam a few minutes to relax with her friends. They were walking from the boys' room where they'd just checked on Kevin and were now heading downstairs.
“He's making such progress,” Sam stated happily as the three entered the living room. “The time you're spending with him, Sir, has made a huge difference. Tha...”
“Don't thank me, Car...Shanahan,” Jack interrupted, walking slowly and gingerly towards the sofa. He wasn't ready for a race yet, but he was making steady progress being ambulatory. “I don't want thanks for rebuilding something that I tore down myself.”
Sam smiled and then said, “Ah, Sir, Carter is fine. I was just very angry that day.”
“You had a right to be,” Jack acknowledged as he sat down.
“Yes, I did, and I am proud of being a Shanahan, but old habits and such,” Sam replied with a smile as she, too, sat down.
“Thanks ... Carter,” Jack stated.
“Sam, how about some cof...” Daniel began as he suddenly disappeared, as did Jack.
Sam sprang up onto her feet, her eyes fluttering a few times as she looked all around.
“Okay, where they'd go?” the blonde asked the thin air, now that the two men had vanished. ~Asgard technology. I guess Thor needs them in a hurry. You'd think after all this time I'd be used to that.~
“...fee,” Daniel completed, looking all around as he realized he and his husband were obviously aboard the spaceship named after him.
“Thor, Buddy, how are ya?” Jack greeted cheerfully. “We have kids, remember?”
“Colonel Carter is still at your home, O'Neill.”
“How do you know that?” Jack questioned.
“She still has the tracking device implanted,” Thor answered.
“Right,” Jack acknowledged, the explanation making sense since Sam was still actively working at the Mountain.
“Uh, excuse me,” Daniel stated. “Sam does have a family and a life of her own. Do you mind if we make sure she's okay with ... babysitting for a while?”
Thor nodded and opened a holographic link to the Jackson-O'Neill home, during which Daniel assured Sam that he and Jack were fine and shouldn't be gone too long, or at least he didn't think they would be. Sam affirmed that she could stay with the brood for a while. She didn't need to be at the Mountain until later in the day, so her calendar was clear, and her children were already playing with Jack and Daniel's brood.
When the message ended, Jack began to question Thor, asking, “So what's ... Davis, Doc?” He exchanged a look of surprise with his lover upon seeing Paul Davis and Janet being beamed aboard. “Are we having a party?”
“Actually, Sir, Thor beamed all of us up to his ship at our request,” Janet responded while holding a small case in her hand. “We just felt it was better to do this here for privacy reasons.”
“That and we aren't making any record of this conversation,” Davis added as he gave a nod of greeting to Thor. “If we were at the SGC, it would be too difficult to ...”
“I know the drill, Davis,” Jack interrupted, knowing full well why something that wouldn't and couldn't be one-hundred percent off the record wouldn't be transacted on base.
“Hello, Paul, Janet,” Daniel greeted, anxious to find out the reason for the unplanned summit. “What's going on?”
“How are you feeling, General?” Davis inquired politely, genuinely wanting to know how Jack was doing.
“Peachy. Why am I here?” the general responded impatiently.
Pleased that the President had finally given his approval, though it had taken two days for that to come about, and that they wouldn't have to follow through on their secret promise to the aliens, Davis and Janet proceeded to tell Jack and Daniel about the Narmgolites.
“From Earth? You sure?” Daniel quizzed, his natural curiosity aroused. “Did you see much of their environment?”
“Not much, Daniel,” Davis answered. “There was a symbol on one of the walls,” he said, glancing at Janet to see if she recalled it.
“A fish, I think,” Janet stated.
“And a chisel,” Davis added.
“Catfish?” Daniel stated, getting a nod in reply. Putting together the information he'd just been given, he muttered, “Narmgolite.”
“Care to share?” Jack asked, knowing his husband had just made some kind of connection to the alien race being discussed.
“Uh, Narmer ruled Egypt in the thirty-second century B.C. We're still not sure if it was he or Menes who united Upper and Lower Egypt, but he is acknowledged as possibly being the one who unified the two kingdoms.”
“And he loved catfish,” Jack surmised.
“He's usually represented by a catfish, yes, and a chisel. Narmer, Narmgolites: it fits,” Daniel opined.
“So these folks are important to us, right now, why?” Jack asked.
Janet took the lead on answering the question, explaining the situation and concluding with, “If I didn't believe this was necessary and important to your personal wellbeing, I wouldn't be here.”
“They only gave you a sample?” Daniel asked.
“They gave me enough to give to Jack,” Janet answered, opening a small container to show what she'd been given.
“You want me to believe that a little drop of liquid is going to cure me? Janet, I'm already walking.”
“Sir, you are, but we still don't fully understand why, and I don't want you collapsing one day in front of your children. Do you?”
“Janet, you don't really think that's possible?” Daniel asked a bit emotionally, just having gotten used to the idea that Jack was on his way to recovering at least some of his mobility.
Shaking her head, the physician answered, “I just don't know, Daniel. Spinal injuries are still such a mystery to us, in spite of the tremendous progress we've made in the last two decades. We're guessing here; you both know that.”
“And there's the Stargate, Sir,” Davis interjected.
“Jack, I can't clear you to go through the Gate again unless I believe that you are, for lack of a better word, cured. From what I've learned about the Narmgolites and this medicine, I believe it will do some good.”
“Enough?” Daniel asked.
“Yes,” Janet answered. “General, let me give you this serum, and in a couple of days, if the tests show what I think they will, I *will* clear you to go through the Gate.”
Jack didn't say anything. He wasn't sure what to think. He could see the small amount of liquid in the vial Janet had shown him a minute ago, but he wasn't sure if it was a miracle cure, or if it would only lead to heartbreak later.
“Is it safe?” Daniel inquired, concerned about serious side effects from the alien drug.
“I believe so,” Janet answered, also providing the couple with additional information acquired from her brief time with the Narmgolites.
“What do you think?” Jack asked his lover after the physician had concluded her remarks.
“Janet's sure,” Daniel answered, shrugging slightly.
Jack thought about it a moment and then looked at Thor and asked, “How come you're just coming up with this now?” He reared back slightly as he added, “And why?”
“I do not wish to let Little Thor down. He needs his fathers to be whole, O'Neill, and the Asgard are grateful for SG-1's help in ridding the galaxy of the Goa'uld, the Replicators, the Or...”
“Stop right there,” Jack interrupted. “Let's not dwell on the past.”
“I think what Jack really wants to know, Thor, is why you didn't contact them sooner?” Daniel clarified.
“The Asgard respect the rights of the Narmgolites to exist as they choose,” Thor began. “I could not contact them without the permission of the Council. Once that was given, I made contact. They said 'no'. It was then that I contacted Ardyl. He, too, has had contact with the Narmgolites in the past. With his assistance, we obtained permission to speak with one of their leaders.”
“And that would be?” Jack asked curiously.
“I am sorry, O'Neill. They do not wish you to know their names or any more information than is necessary,” the alien answered.
“You don't know their names?” Jack asked incredulously as he looked at Davis and Janet.
“I know the names of the two representatives I spoke with,” Davis responded.
“As do I,” Janet added. “But they insisted we not repeat them. Sir, they are so far ahead of us technologically that we have to trust them. While they didn't allow us outside of the compound where we negotiated, they did allow us access to some of their medical history, and they showed me what we would call video of how the serum works.”
“What we would call video?” the archaeologist wondered aloud.
“Daniel, you wouldn't believe it. I don't even know how to explain it. It wasn't a hologram or an image exactly,” Davis attempted to explain.
“Just believe us,” Janet requested. “I examined the case report they showed me. I wish with all my heart we could get more of this. It would mean the end of all spinal cord injuries resulting in paralysis. I wish ...” She paused, becoming emotional for a moment. Then she drew a breath, collecting herself in the process. “They would only give us enough for one man, for you, General.”
“And, Sir, without both Thor and Ardyl pleading with the representatives, we would not have gotten even that much,” Davis added.
“Look, I'm walking. Maybe you should just test ...”
“We cannot do that, O'Neill. The Narmgolites are like the Hedronix,” Thor stated.
“Which means?” Jack asked, becoming slightly frustrated with the conversation.
“Uh,” Daniel began. “I think I know what he means. He means honor is highly valued, above all else. The Narmgolites gave us this medicine for you, Jack, and for us to use it in any other way would be offensive to them.”
“Well stated, Daniel Jackson,” Thor acknowledged.
“If General Landry hadn't been able to convince the President to go along, I would have had to destroy the vial,” Janet advised, revealing the secret promise made to the Narmgolites.
“Flush it down the drain?”
“No, it's more complicated than that, and I'm sure it would have been hard to explain in my report,” Janet said a bit quietly.
“You couldn't explain, even if you wanted to,” Daniel surmised. “You would have had to lie.”
“Close,” Janet affirmed. “Ardyl vouched for us.”
“His word is respected above all others to the Narmgolites,” Thor informed the couple.
“Even above yours?” Jack asked skeptically, giving the alien commander a look that clearly expressed his doubts. “Thor, the Asgard are one of the great races. Who wouldn't believe you?” Not getting an answer, the general cleared his throat and then queried, “So, you think I should do it?”
“Yes, Jack, I do,” Janet answered. She added, “And this doesn't mean you can just go back to playing football with the kids.”
“Why not? I thought it was instant okay,” Jack responded.
“Because I said so,” Janet smirked.
“Oh!” Jack growled, shaking his head and shrugging in uncertainty, but knowing full well that Janet would get her revenge if he did.
“Actually, the serum takes about forty hours to fully penetrate the spinal cord and nerves and do its job. That's just an estimate based on how we calculate time, which is slightly different from the Narmgolites, as best we could determine,” Janet stated.
“How will you know if it's worked?”
“Another MRI test,” Janet answered. “The next one should be absolutely clear. In fact, that small fracture shouldn't be noticeable at all. That's how we'll know for sure.”
“If it's that's quick, why fuss about my moving around?” the general questioned, not liking his actions being limited since tomorrow was their big Thanksgiving feast.
“Caution, Jack, that's all I'm asking. You're standing and walking, and this is going to make sure that lasts, but I still want you to be careful for a while,” Janet requested somewhat softly, telling the two men that she was speaking more from her heart as their friend than from her head as their doctor.
“What if I say 'no'? You can say you tried, but ...” the general sighed, seeing Janet shaking her head.
“Either you let me give you the injection, or I have to destroy this here, now, before we return to Earth,” the physician advised with conviction.
Jack let out another sigh as he considered all that had been discussed in the last few minutes. Then he turned to face his lover.
“Do it,” the younger man answered.
“Butt?” Jack asked Janet, readying to unfasten his pants.
“Actually, no,” Janet responded a bit nervously.
“Doc, where do you want to inject me?”
“That's the only negative part, Jack. Come over here,” Janet requested, walking over to another part of the bridge.
Paul Davis began to whistle, causing Daniel to look at him quizzically. Thor, too, turned and began to review his ship's status.
“*What?*” Jack bellowed, causing Daniel to look over at his lover in alarm, ready to run over in a second if he was needed. “*You want to stick that in my ...*”
“It will be over in one second,” Janet assured, trying to calm her patient.
“You've got to be kidding!”
“Drop 'em!” Janet ordered in her best 'don't mess with me' tone of voice.
“You're *so* lucky you're a woman and not a man,” Jack threatened lightly.
“Or what, Jack?” Janet chuckled.
“I don't know, but I'd think of some...*thing*! That ... ouch ... crap, oh geez.”
“Jack, you're supposed to be taking it easy,” Daniel chastised as his lover did some light cleaning in the recreation room that night.
“Danny, I feel like I've been sitting down forever. I'm just dusting, for crying out loud.”
In the background, an old TV show was playing, 'The Dick Van Dyke Show'. Jack had been whistling off and on as he watched this particular episode while enjoying the freedom of being ambulatory. He began to dance along with the character of 'Laura', who was doing the twizzle, a made up dance that was a combination of the twist and the sizzle, which was the new element that made this dance special.
Seeing his husband watching him, Jack began to twizzle, shaking his hips and gyrating appropriately while the TV song played. He was loving every second of it. Not only was Daniel watching his every move, but the dance was fun.
Parodying the scene on TV, his hips twizzling at full blast, Jack twizzled his way over to Daniel and called out, “Daniel, stop me!”
Laughing, Daniel, too, parodied the scene on the classic comedy series and reached out, placing his hands on Jack's hips to stop him from moving. Like on TV, when the archaeologist let go, the older man twizzled a few more times, prompting Daniel to put his hands on his Love's hips again.
“Tell me this isn't fun,” Jack dared, his head turned slightly so he could see Daniel's face.
“It's the best fun, Babe,” Daniel agreed. “But humor me for now. We can twizzle all you want next week, once this serum has really had a chance to do its job.”
“Okay, Angel,” Jack agreed, turning around and taking Daniel into his arms. “Do you happen to know that you're my heart and soul; my entire reason for living on this Earth?”
“I love you, Jack.”
With 'The Twizzle' episode still on, Jack and Daniel did their own unique variation of the dance, their lips sizzling while their hands twisted around the other to grope and fondle lovingly, taking full advantage of the fact that their children were all either asleep or occupied in other parts of the house.
“Jack, don't overdo,” Sara chastised as the Thanksgiving festivities continued the next day.
“Sara ...” Jack laughed and then grew serious. “Funny Face,” he said as he took Sara's hands in his, “thanks for everything you've done over the last few months, for the brood, and for me.”
“I'm glad I could help out a little.”
“You kicked my butt,” Jack teased. “And sometimes you didn't. You're a special lady, Sara Wilson,” he said, kissing his ex-wife on the cheek.
“I'm also the boss of this kitchen today,” Sara reminded.
“Hospitality room,” Jack corrected.
“Is he giving you a hard time, Sara?” Janet asked as she entered the room with Teal'c right behind her.
“He's pretending to,” Sara responded. “But he should know by now that I'm not fooled by his bellowing. I've put up with it for too many years for it to still have an effect.”
“Jack, you're doing great, but you're still healing. You and Daniel wanted to throw this elaborate shindig for all of us: okay, we're here, but I will kick everyone out right this second, if you don't go relax with your guests. Now!”
“I thought you threw out that whip a long time ago,” Jack complained with a mock shudder.
“Don't you believe it.”
“Little Napoleon lives,” Jack grumbled out of the side of his mouth.
“You'd better believe it,” Janet stated firmly.
“I believe it would be wise to do as Sim'ka requests,” Teal'c warned calmly.
The Jaffa's message was clear. He'd obviously already received his orders from his physician wife. If Jack didn't walk out, he'd be carried out.
~Nah, he'd never do it,~ Jack thought. Confidently, he said, “I just thought I'd check on the ...”
“Teal'c,” Janet stated, still staring Jack in the eye.
Jack backed up as Teal'c advanced until he couldn't back up any further.
“Now, Big Guy, we can ...”
“Sim'ka has made her wishes known, O'Neill. You will not argue with her,” the Jaffa said to the general, who was now over his shoulder. “And neither will I,” he said quietly once they were safely out of earshot.
“Make sure he doesn't overdo,” Janet called out as Teal'c carried Jack outside, where the backyard had been set up to accommodate a large number of guests on this Thanksgiving Day.
Jack and Daniel had rented outdoor furniture to make sure they could handle the large group. Tables were set up everywhere, and they were thankful it was another pleasant November day, one without rain or other adverse weather conditions.
The guest list included their extended family of friends -- the Lucas, Shanahans, and Wilsons, General Hammond, who was officially escorting Mrs. Valissi to the gathering. Mrs. Valissi's son, Evan, and his long-time partner, Robert, were also in town. Not only was Evan in deep lust for a traditional American turkey meal, but he wanted to meet the man his mother had suddenly started chattering about so much in the past few weeks.
Other friends were also there, including three of the last to eventually arrive -- Alex, Sunny, and Kiki, Alex's younger sister, who had flown in to spend the long weekend with her brother.
“Glad you made it,” Jack greeted the designer upon his arrival.
“Thank you for the gracious invitation,” Alex replied, one arm around Sunny's waist.
“Kiki, you're looking gorgeous,” the general complimented.
“Thank you. I've healed a lot over the last few years. I'm not there yet, but I'm getting there,” Kiki responded with a smile. “I'm so eager to see Daniel and your children again, Jack.”
“They're all here. Sunny, you cold?” Jack chuckled, since the blonde was wrapped in a faux fur coat and was wearing gloves.
“I'm from Florida, remember?” Sunny laughed. “I actually just arrived in the Springs from spending some time with my mother. I need a while to get used to this weather.”
“This is hot, for the Springs,” Jack mused. With a nod, he led the three towards the hub of the festivities. “By the way, Alex, I don't think Daniel and I ever properly said thanks for finally saying 'no' to us.”
“Saying 'no'?” the confused designer queried.
“For the first time, you didn't come running the second we demanded something,” Jack stated. “That saved us from altering this house,” he said, looking at the back of the beloved home. “The changes we did were minor. Had you given in, we'd have a lot of changes we don't need ... thankfully.”
“You're welcome,” Alex responded. “I had to make a difficult choice, Jack. It wasn't easy for me.” Smiling slyly, he added, “Just remember that the next time you have a project that needs to be done yesterday.”
“Maybe the Fates played a hand in that decision, Alex,” Jack suggested.
“Remember that, too, when you get Archonics' bill for my consultation fee,” the designer mused.
“Ow!” Jack exclaimed, grinning. He continued chatting with the newcomers for a few minutes more before Teal'c ordered him back to his chair. He'd considered arguing with the Jaffa, but he saw 'that look' in his friend's eyes. It was go relax for a bit or be carried back. ~I could take him, but I wouldn't want to show the Big Guy up on Thanksgiving.~
Casey and Donald were also in attendance, having arrived long before Alex and his party.
“Don, there's Alex and Sunny,” Casey pointed out.
“Let's go say 'hi',” Donald suggested.
“It won't bother you?” Casey questioned, not wanting his lover to feel uncomfortable in any way.
“Only if it bothers you,” Donald replied.
Happily, the couple walked over to Alex, Sunny, and Kiki and said 'hello'. This was the first time Casey had met Kiki, though he'd heard a lot about her.
After some preliminary chatter, Sunny asked, “Are you two settled somewhere, or would you like to sit with us?”
Casey looked at the blonde and smiled, seeing a confidence in her eyes that he now recognized as being in himself. He looked at Donald, who nodded, so the two sat down.
“How are things?” Sunny asked, smiling brightly.
“They are incredible,” Casey answered, looking over at Donald and taking his hand. “Gotta tell ya, I'm feeling darn good these days.”
“Hey, is this allowed?” Donald asked earnestly, since this was his first time at the Jackson-O'Neill home.
“I have to get permission to hold your hand?” Casey asked, feeling a little confused about the question.
“No, I mean Jack and Daniel said something about their guests' children and choices. I didn't hear all they said, remember -- all that noise that was going on,” Donald reminded Casey about the surroundings they were in when they'd discussed coming over for Thanksgiving.
With a laugh, Casey nodded and explained, “There are other kids here besides the brood. It's their home, but they always try and be respectful to the other parents and their choices about what they tell their kiddies and when.”
“Holding hands is okay then, or not?” Donald questioned.
“Yeah, it's fine, but this,” Casey said, looking around to ensure no children were looking and then giving his boyfriend a very quick, chaste kiss, “is probably not a good idea.”
“Then why'd you do it?” Donald asked, chuckling.
“I wanted to,” Casey answered truthfully. Then he grew serious and said, “I shouldn't have, though. I feel like I just disrespected Jack and Daniel.”
“Choices,” Sunny acknowledged. “That was far from a public display, Casey. I don't think they're as concerned about that as they are more, hmmm, prolonged displays.”
All five of the adults laughed at the expression on Sunny's face and the tone of her playful voice.
“I've wasted years lying to myself about what I wanted in a mate,” Casey stated with some somberness. “Now that I've got it right, it's hard not to show it. Maybe I'm going a little overboard.”
“I understand that,” Alex responded.
“You're thinking about that kiss,” Sunny giggled, thinking back about their obvious overt display in the mall.
“Long and hard,” Alex stated, smiling at his love.
“I'll go for that,” Casey interjected, causing the five to roar in laughter, drawing the attention of several other guests. “Hi!” he exclaimed, waving wildly at their new audience as the five laughed even louder.
Even Paul Davis and Marc Reynolds had agreed to join in the fun. They'd made the rounds, visiting with various guests, and were currently settled down into a conversation with Lou and Carolyn Ferretti. The Ferretti's daughter, Trina, was actually at Cassandra's house, helping her with some of the special meal preparations.
Billy and Jilly had arrived the day before, but were only staying through the weekend. Jack was making the most of it. He had a lot to apologize for with his big brother, and he wasn't going to waste any of it on inconsequential things like arguing over the short amount of time they were able to be together.
Then there were the brood romances, something Jack was trying hard not to interfere with. Peter was fussing all over Jennifer, while Conway was sticking to Brianna like glue. If that weren't bad enough, there was K'hang, Teal'c's grandson who was bringing out the cutest and prettiest expressions on Chenoa's face, which was something else Jack couldn't help but notice. Chely Tillison was a surprise addition to the group. Jeff had thought she'd be spending Thanksgiving with her parents, but she'd shown up at the doorstep an hour ago, and he was still beaming as a result.
An assortment of others were also in attendance: Megan and Yazid; Karissa (whose boyfriend was out of town on business, much to Little Danny's delight); Margo McLeod, whose husband had come down with the flu so she was attending solo; the Lapierre family; and Solomon O'Shea, the man who had taken care of Jonny and Little Danny when they'd been lost several years earlier. In fact, it had been Solomon who, along with Peter, Lou, and Jeff Cornell, had built the low grill for Jack to use in barbecuing lunch at the Jackson-O'Neills the day Jack had been transferred from the hospital to Cedar Hills.
“I'm so glad you came,” Jennifer said to Royce and Miriam Hamilton, Peter's parents, who were fitting in just as if they'd always been just another down-home family.
“Thank you for inviting us,” Miriam responded.
“Dad, I don't want to talk a lot of business today, but Jennifer and I have discussed it, and I've made a decision,” Peter announced.
“Lay it on me,” Royce requested, open to anything his son had to say.
“Well, first, I know it's probably silly, but you're certain you want to sell Hamilton Industries?”
“Son, we're done with it,” Royce stated emphatically. “We've got generations' load of money that we'll never be able to spend. We don't want the headache.” He looked lovingly at his wife and declared, “The rest of my years are going to be enjoying your mom's company; that's all I crave now.”
“And, Son, remember, when you turn twenty-five, you'll get your trust fund, and that's just a ridiculously huge amount of money,” Miriam stated, almost apologetically.
“Well, then, what Jennifer and I have decided is that we want to keep those two divisions that we have a true interest in. We want to merge them into a separate company and then sell the rest. Not that we need the money, but those divisions are highly successful, and we'd like to see if we can expand on that in the coming years,” Peter stated.
“Do you need me to stay a few days and go over a plan with you?” Royce offered graciously.
“I'd like that, Dad. You're an expert businessman, and I respect your opinion,” Peter replied.
“And that's all the business we're going to talk about today,” Jennifer interjected, “especially now that you'll be staying for a few days. Oh, look,” she giggled, watching one of her sisters in another part of the backyard trying to give out dance lessons on the grass.
“You have to be up on your toes more,” Lulu instructed Angela on a ballet position.
“I don't think I'm cut out to be a dancer,” Angela sighed.
“You can do it, Angela,” Lulu encouraged strongly. “There! That's great!”
“It hurts my toes,” Angela complained, getting out of the position. “I think I prefer tap.”
The two girls were sharing a laugh when the sound of more arrivals caused them to look over towards the corner of the house.
“Noa, it's Aunt Catherine and Uncle Ernest!” Lulu exclaimed excitedly.
Chenoa led the charge, running over as fast as she could to the elderly couple and giving Catherine a huge hug.
“I knew you'd come!” Chenoa exclaimed happily.
“I've missed you, Noa,” Catherine greeted warmly.
“Catherine!” Jack called out with arms open wide. “Give me a hug!”
“Jack, you say that every time I see you,” Catherine mused as she walked into the embrace.
“Why mess with tradition,” Jack explained.
“Ernest, it's good to see you,” Daniel greeted, shaking the man's hand.
“We wanted to see the children again,” Ernest stated. “And you, too, of course.”
“Of course,” Daniel chuckled.
“Aunt Catherine, come see Ptolemy. She misses you.”
“And I miss her,” the white-haired woman acknowledged as Chenoa took hold of her hand and eagerly led the way into the recreation room, though the rest of the brood and several others had come over to greet the Littlefields and that was making their progress slow.
Finally, Jack, Noa, Lulu, Little Danny, Catherine, and Ernest were all gathered in the rec room.
Little Danny opened Ptolemy's cage, saying, “Look, Ptolemy. Mommy Catherine is here to see you.”
Ptolemy let out with a huge squawk of excitement. In fact, she let go with several bird noises of delight.
“I love you, Ptolemy,” Catherine declared.
“Ptolemy love Catherine. Go cruise.”
“We had a great time on our cruise. As much as Ernest and I miss you, you're happy here. Admit it.”
“Ptolemy happy. Ptolemy miss Catherine,” the majestic bird replied.
After visiting a bit, Little Danny was putting Ptolemy back in her cage, and Chenoa and Lulu had gone to their dance studio to prepare. They had decided to do a special number for Catherine and Ernest and needed a few minutes to go over the routine privately.
While they waited, Jack and Catherine were standing side by side, facing the hyacinth macaw's cage.
“Catherine, I knew I was close to hitting bottom when even that dang bird stopped talking to me. She wouldn't even look at me. I kept tossing seed into the cage, but she ignored every bite.”
“Ptolemy's a very intelligent bird, Jack. She knows you love her.”
“Let's not go that far,” Jack responded, facing the woman and getting a 'don't you?' expression in response. “Okay, but don't let it get around.”
Catherine laughed, “You'll never change, Jack.”
“Probably not,” Jack agreed. “Geez, it's good to see you,” he said, hugging the woman again.
“We're ready!” Chenoa exclaimed as she and her sister proceeded to perform for their aunt and uncle.
Over by the garage, four deep fryers were cooking turkeys to succulent perfection. Lou, Paul, Pete, and Mark had been attending to the fryers off and on, which meant they had plenty of time to swap fishing stories and enjoy a beer, since the fryers did not require all that much attention; that is, whenever their spouses hadn't called them over to socialize with the other guests.
Sara Wilson had graciously volunteered to supervise all the food preparation, which meant she'd planned on doing all of it herself until several of the women insisted on helping. The problem was how to prepare all the side dishes and pies along with enough turkeys to feed everyone and get it all to the table at the same time.
It was Lou Ferretti who had suggested deep frying the turkeys.
Carolyn had agreed that deep fried turkey was the best turkey she had ever eaten and added excitedly, “It cooks so fast, less than an hour for a twenty-five pound bird!”
Pete Shanahan's eyes had lit up at the comment, and he'd immediately gone out and purchased a fryer for his family. Paul Davis already had one, as did Mark Wilson. Thus, it'd been decided that the men folk would cook the turkeys.
“It'll make them think they're doing something worthwhile,” Sara had chuckled to the ladies in attendance at the big 'how shall we do it' meeting.
“Watch! They'll swear we couldn't have done the entire meal without them,” Sam had chuckled.
“I bet they end up gossiping like chatty canaries,” Cassandra had stated dryly. “Manly men,” she'd spoken mockingly in a deep voice, causing all the women to laugh loudly, much to the suspicious consternation of the men who were present.
The four birds had been marinating in a garlic and citrus brine for two days prior. Every time the lids were lifted to check on the status of the birds, the aroma would elicit deep inhales and sighs of anticipation.
“I want a leg,” Jonny announced to several of the children as he rejoined them to play on the swings, his mouth watering from having just checked on the cooking turkeys for a couple of minutes. “*Two* legs,” he corrected.
“I don't care what piece I have, as long as there's lots of gravy,” Carrie Lapierre stated.
“What piece do you want?” Susie Shanahan signed to Little Danny.
“I'm a turkvegan,” Little Danny announced.
“What does that mean?” the little girl asked in sign language.
“I don't eat turkey,” Little Danny explained. “I own a turkey sanctuary. How can I promise my turkeys to keep them safe if I'm eating them?”
“Oh,” Susie spoke in a raspy voice. “What are you going to eat then?” the little girl signed.
“Cassie said she was going to make me something special, but I don't know what it is,” Little Danny answered.
“Can I have that, too?” Carrie asked, wanting to support her friend. “I'll bet whatever it is goes with gravy,” she added hopefully.
“Let's go ask if she made enough,” Little Danny suggested, jumping off his swing and then helping Carrie's swing to slow until it stopped. “Even if she didn't make a lot, you can have half of mine.”
“Thanks,” the young girl responded brightly.
About a half-hour before the dinner would be ready to eat, Jack let out with a huge whistle that attracted everyone's attention.
“Folks, listen up. We have a tradition of pausing before we eat our Thanksgiving meal to say out loud at least one thing that we're grateful for. We'd like you to join us in that tradition,” Jack requested, starting the ritual early to ensure that everyone at the large gathering had a chance to participate.
One by one, adult and children alike, blessings were spoken and given thanks for.
“I have so much to be happy about today,” Megan began when it was her turn. “As many of you know, I loved working for J-O Enterprises, and now that Jack and Daniel have decided to open an office in back East, I am just thrilled at being part of that family again. More than that, I am blessed by my husband who has agreed to move to wherever the new office ends up being. Yazzy, you've sacrificed so much.”
“Send those maids my way,” Sam laughed, already knowing that the Awads were downsizing to just one maid, who would come in to clean once a week. All of the other servants were being let go as part of the couple's new arrangement. “And don't forget to send your designer over, too,” she said, getting laughs from the group.
Laughing herself, Megan continued, “Yes, we are letting them go, but I'm so much happier now. I'm taking my car out of storage, too!”
The group laughed again, though not all in attendance knew the whole story, including that the woman's car had been in a warehouse from the moment she'd married Yazid two years ago.
The rounds continued and finally Alex stood up and spoke, “I'm a happy man today myself and the reason for that is this beautiful woman at my side. This morning, Sunny agreed to be my wife.”
Cheers and applause broke out. The couple had been late in arriving and Sunny had only just removed her coat and gloves, having finally adjusted a little to the cooler climate; thus, no one had yet noticed the huge diamond on her finger. They did now, though, and it was several minutes before people were seated again after coming over to congratulate the couple and look at Sunny's ring.
Finally, the thanks continued.
“Becoming a partner in Archonics, having Sunny by my side, being able to spend some time this Thanksgiving with Kiki,” Alex said, smiling at his sister, “and, I even have a new artist for our clients,” he boasted, looking over at Jack, referring to the general having agreed to make some pottery pieces for the designer, “all of this has made this an incredible holiday season. I'm grateful, very grateful.”
“I'm a happy guy, too,” Casey stated as he began. “It took me a while to get it through my thick head what I wanted and needed, but I finally figured it out.” He looked at Alex and smiled, feeling truly happy for the man and his wife-to-be. Then he looked at Donald and said, “You're my magic, Donster. I love you.”
Donald was grinning widely at the proclamation, the first for the new couple. He, too, gave his thanks, not just for Daniel having butted in, but for Jack and Daniel hiring him and welcoming him into their lives. As his lover had, he wrapped up his remarks by expressing his love for Casey.
When Angela Wilson, Sara and Mark's daughter and Chenoa's best friend, stood to give her thanks, she said, “I'm happy that Noa is my BFF and that K is here to celebrate Thanksgiving with us.”
Sara looked over at Jack and shook her head. Angela had picked up the 'nickname game' from him and had started calling K'hang 'K', something that was growing in popularity as people met the Chulakian, who was publicly considered to be from Mozambique, the same place that Teal'c's cover story had him living before coming to the United States to work for Daniel.
“I do have a question, though,” Angela spoke. Looking at K'hang, she asked, “Do you have any brothers?”
Suddenly, Mark began coughing, and immediately, Sara put one hand on her husband's arm and the other on his back, patting it slightly.
“Are you okay, Mark?”
“Did you *hear* what she just asked?” Mark whispered to his wife.
“Yes, I did. We'll discuss it later, *at home*,” Sara answered quietly but sternly, turning to smile at the many faces looking in their direction. “Angela, sit,” Sara ordered her older daughter.
“He's cute, Mom. Maybe if he has a brother, he can be *my* boyfriend,” Angela proclaimed, suddenly feeling herself being pulled down to her seat.
“Maddie's turn,” Sara called out with a smile, urging her younger daughter to give her thanks.
“I want one of K's brothers, too,” Madeline Wilson declared, causing Mark to lean forward and bow his head on the table and Sara to wince somewhat.
Those in attendance laughed, most believing the parents' consternation were simply aimed at their daughters' fascination with wanting a boyfriend of their own. Only those from the SGC or who had clearance knew the real chuckle, that the girls were unknowingly asking to date an alien.
Billy stood up and stared Jack straight in the eye when he spoke, “What I'm most grateful for this minute is my brother, a brave and courageous man. Yeah, most of us know he was an,” he paused, smiling at some of the children and quickly altering his words, “he was a pain in the neck for a while there. I called him a coward at the worst of those times, but my brother's no coward. He's faced his demon and won, but the reason I say he's brave is that he took full responsibility for his mistakes. He's owning them, each and every one. I know firsthand that he's not just giving lip service, though I assume Daniel likes lip service of one kind ...”
The adults laughed wildly, Daniel blushed, and Jack smirked proudly, while the children either shrugged from being clueless or giggled at what they assumed the comment meant.
**I love that after all these years together you still blush, Danny,** Jack communicated privately to his soulmate.
Daniel only sweetly smiled at his husband, having decided many years ago not to fight his own shy nature.
Continuing, Billy spoke, “... but seriously, he's doing things to acknowledge his mistakes and is trying to fix them. It's not easy to look another person in the eye and admit you screwed up and then work your butt off trying to figure out what you can do to try and make up for that, especially when that other person is family, or as good as family. He's doing it. I love ya, Bro, and I'm proud of you.”
Jack stood and met his brother halfway, the two men hugging and patting each other on the back, both fighting back the tears.
“I love you, too, Billy. Geez, I'm glad you came.”
The thanks tradition moved forward until it was JD's turn. The little boy stood up on the picnic table bench, so that everyone could see him, something that caused several guests to chuckle.
“I'm thankful that my heart is back in my chest and not in my toes, 'cause that hurt lots, and I'm thankful for Dad and Daddy and my brothers and my sisters, and I'm thankful for Tommy and his parents ...”
**Danny, JD's been hanging around Little Danny too much. If he keeps this up, we'll be here until Christmas,** Jack communicated privately.
“Son, remember what we talked about?” Daniel reminded gently, smiling at the happy youngster.
“Oh, yeah,” JD giggled. “I'm thankful for all of you,” he said, spreading out his arms wide. Then he added, “Daddy told me if I thanked everyone, it would be my birthday already.” As some of the guests laughed in amusement, the youngster stated, “I'm thankful Aunt Cassie is having another baby and I want one, too! Dad, Daddy, when are we gonna have a baby? I don't want to be the baby anymore. I want another baby!”
This time, it was Jack who leaned down, burying his head in his hands on the table. Daniel gave a closed, tentative smile, while the brood all cheered, some verbally and physically praising JD for the question, while others, the older kids especially, were egging on their parents. The guests were laughing more wildly than ever. Lou whistled, standing up and shouting for them to 'go for it', a mantra that was shared audibly from others who stood up.
Some of group even stood up and chanted, “More kids, more kids, more kids!”
“You paying for him or her?” Jack finally called out, stunning the group into silence and then causing them to laugh again as they settled down. “Thank you, JD,” he said with a strained voice. “Who's next?”
“I'll take a shot at it,” Royce Hamilton spoke up, standing. “I don't know most of you, but I hope that in the future, that'll change. This has been an incredible year for my wife and me. I'm grateful most for my Mirie, our son, Peter, and for his Jennifer. I wish I could tell you how drastically life has changed. At the beginning of this year, I didn't have a family. They were names on legal documents. Now they are my joy. I'm a happy man, and it's because of them, and that's ... that's what I'm grateful for.”
More people spoke and then Carrie Lapierre stood up and listed her top four 'reasons to be happy this Thanksgiving', as she worded it, and then concluded by saying, “And I'm happy that Little Danny is my friend and my hero. He told off those boys who were picking on me last week. I love you, Little Danny.”
Little Danny blushed, while Karissa clapped and grinned at the youngster. Lots of little whisperings about young love spread among the guests as they saw Carrie's smile and Little Danny's shy reaction.
Finally, it was Jack's turn. He smiled as he looked out at the many people who filled up the large backyard. Before even beginning, he felt overwhelmed. Then he felt his lover's hand squeezing his. Strength had been passed on, and now Jack could say what he needed to.
“Folks, y'all know I'm not good at words, and I really hate public speaking, unless I can do cool things like promoting people and stuff, but I have to say a couple of things now, and I hope you'll bear with me because I have a lot of blessings to acknowledge.”
All of a sudden, a noise went off, indicating someone was ringing the bell at the new security gate. Jeff hurried to answer it, returning with a woman and six children.
“It's Maureen,” Daniel informed his husband as he stood up and walked swiftly to greet her, with Jack following. “Maureen, I'm glad you came.”
“I'm not sure if I should have or not, but you sounded so sincere about wanting us here, and Reese insisted that Bri's father wouldn't have asked, if he hadn't meant it.”
“I did,” Daniel replied warmly. “Jack, this is Maureen Pflug.”
“Ma'am, I'm very sorry for your loss.”
Maureen bowed her head, tears beginning to fall, shaking her head as she replied, “My husband was a good man. He would rather have died than cause anyone else harm.”
“I believe that,” Jack replied gently, taking the woman into his arms. “It was an accident.”
With a nervous nod, Maureen introduced her children and then followed her hosts as they led them over to a particular spot.
“Lou, Carolyn, this is Maureen Pflug,” Jack spoke, his look requesting that the couple take good care of her and her children during the feast.
“Nice to meet ya, Maureen,” Lou began, talking a mile a minute as he sought to make the woman feel at ease.
“Reese, would you like to sit by Bri?” Daniel asked.
“Mom, is it okay?”
“Sure, Dear. I'm fine here,” Maureen responded, smiling at the Ferrettis and the rest of her children.
Then JD ran over to the twins and asked, “Remember me? I'm JD. You can come and sit with us, okay?”
The twins looked up at their mother, who again nodded. Soon, the Pflug family was seated, the two older children sticking close to their mother, while the younger ones mixed in with the other children.
“Where was I?” Jack asked himself as he and Daniel returned to their places.
“Blessings, Dad,” Little Danny called out, his special tofurkey roast and dumplings looking very appetizing on his plate. ~I hope Carrie likes hers, too,~ he thought silently, happy that Cassandra had prepared a big enough meal to serve more than one person.
“Blessings,” Jack echoed, smiling at the boy. “You know, screw it. We're alive. We're all here, together, because we're a family, maybe not by blood or marriage, but of the human spirit. One man physically died on his way home to wish his teenage daughter a happy birthday, and another man died spiritually because he couldn't walk. Ma'am, we have some family that has passed before us, and we believe they're together. I promise you, our family greeted your husband with respect and understanding, and I betcha today, they're together, like we've come together now. The past doesn't matter. We're about love, and that is what matters.”
“Amen,” a few of the guests called out vocally in support of the sentiment.
On the verge of being overcome with emotion again, Jack's voice was cracking as he continued, “There's love gathered here, and that love gave me a miracle. I'm standing. That's a miracle. Look, folks, I was an A-1 jerk for almost two months, and all of you know it. Words aren't gonna cut it, but you watch me, because every day of the rest of my life is going to include making up for the harm I caused and the disrespect that I doled out to many of you. If you're here, you're friends, good friends -- family.”
“Live in the moment, Dad, remember?” Jonny called out.
“You're right, but actions mean more than words, and I'm a man of action, so watch out for me. I have a lot of action brewing.”
Cheers, whoops, and applause broke out from the guests.
“Lou Gehrig was wrong. The truth, I'm the luckiest man on the face of this earth; heck, in the universe. Enjoy your meal!”
“Oh, wait!” Daniel called out, standing up. “Just one more thing. Um, we've purchased some equipment; actually, quite a lot of ... things, including a vehicle, exercise equipment, ramps; well, it's a long list. We want to donate it to the best place possible or maybe even to someone specific, so if you happen to know of a place, or a person, let us know.” Seeing Margo's hand going up, he smiled and stated, “Of course, some of it is going to Cedar Hills. Thanks. Go ahead -- eat!”
At last, the thank yous were done, and Jack and Daniel sat down next to each other and, rules or no rules, shared a brief kiss.
“We're sizzling, Angel,” Jack told his lover.
“Sizzlin' more than the twizzle,” Daniel teased.
“Geez, I love you.”
“And I love you, so much, Jack.”
The lovers' eyes were focused on each other, and they wanted to kiss desperately, but they had to follow their own rules. Yes, they were home, but they had guests, and they would hold back from the physical symbol of their nation of two. Still, they did have something.
Tenderly, Jack and Daniel leaned their foreheads together, both closing their eyes as their hands caressed the other's cheek. For several seconds, they communed privately, giving their thanks for having the love of the other, words unnecessary as their hearts spoke to each other. Then they opened their eyes and smiled.
“So freakin' much,” Daniel whispered.
“Forever and always, Danny, you're my heart and soul; my life, even. You hung in there with me, no matter how much I tried to push you away.”
“You said it, Babe. We're inside each other, part of our bodies. You can't get rid of something that's inside you. You'd do it for me, too. You *have* done it for me.”
“My Angel,” Jack spoke quietly.
Giving out a huge groan, Jonny whined, “Oh, for crying out loud,” as he stood up and then shouted, “Brood, cover!”
Jennifer and Jeff chuckled as they joined their siblings. The two young adults faced the group of curious faces while their ten siblings made a wall around their parents.
“Kiss already, so we can eat!” Jonny ordered.
“Yeah,” Jenny agreed. “Everyone's watching you instead of eating, and I'm hungry.”
“Kiss Dad, Daddy!” Aislinn ordered.
“Food's getting cold!” Lou Ferretti shouted, getting laughs from most of the adults, who had a hunch what was happening.
“Um, Kids,” Jennifer began. “We just all wanted to say 'Happy Thanksgiving' again, and that, well, we all love each other, and we're so glad to have you here. Right, Bro?” she asked, tapping her brother's arm with her elbow.
“Right, Sis. There's a lot of food, so help yourselves to as much as you want. Uh, Bij and Katie are happy to play vacuum cleaners for you, too.”
“Woof!” both dogs affirmed, their tails wagging from their spots over by the patio steps.
“Which reminds me. All of your pooches will have turkey treats for you to take home to them, once the turkeys are carved,” Sara called out. “Bij and Katie insisted,” she chuckled, seeing the wagging tails of agreement.
“Are they done yet?” Jeff whispered out of the side of his mouth while still looking and smiling at the guests.
“Finally!” Jonny whined. “Now we can eat!” he said, running back to his spot as the rest of the brood rolled their eyes and returned to their seats, too.
Aislinn was giggling, though, and singing quietly, “Dad and Daddy kissing all the time!”
“Hey, who are we to argue with our brood?” Jack joked to the children who were close enough to hear.
It was a happy day and a Thanksgiving to remember for Jack and Daniel, their brood, and their guests, all of whom knew they'd never forget this special celebration of twizzlin' love in Colorado Springs.
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