Unexpected Miracle - Continued
Chapter Seven: Days to Remember
Jack and Daniel were looking forward to a lazy October weekend which they hoped would be a calm bridge between the excitement of the September birthdays and the October ones. It had been an eventful summer with only Bogey the lizard, Strawberry and Shortcake, the two new guinea pigs, and the fish escaping illness or injury of some kind.
In addition, J-O Enterprises had expanded and revamped their office space under the pressure of dire necessity, not to mention an emotionally distressed Megan like they had never seen before.
All in all, Jack and Daniel were grateful for every calm and quiet minute they could get.
The evening before, the couple had spent their date night in Denver, taking in an opera, after which they ate at a fine restaurant. They concluded their Friday with some tender lovemaking at a nearby hotel they frequented.
At their mid-morning breakfast on Saturday, the parents answered the usual questions about their night out. Their brood were always interested in what they did whenever Jack and Daniel went to a show or did something besides 'you knowing'.
“Dad, why do you like opera so much, anyway?” David inquired before stuffing a pile of hashed browns into his mouth.
“It's the beauty of it,” Jennifer answered while sprinkling her scrambled eggs with pepper. She sighed, “Everything is a Greek tragedy. How romantic.”
“I think it's because no one understands what anyone else is saying,” Brianna offered, almost knocking over her orange juice. “Oops,” she chuckled as she stopped the glass just before it fell.
“The singers are good,” Aislinn noted. The little girl had a beautiful voice and loved to sing herself. “Opera singers can sing really high.”
“He likes it because he can snore, and no one will hear him,” Jonny quipped.
“I do *not* snore,” Jack refuted, finally joining in on the debate as most everyone chuckled. After a moment, he said, “The stories are usually tragedies, and the singers are very talented. They touch your heart.”
Daniel smiled at his husband, staring across the table that sat in their hospitality room. He looked at his plate of food, about to take another bite of his scrambled eggs when he heard a low voice -- his husband's.
Jack held his fork in his fingers, but his hand rested against the rectangular table. He was looking at his children with a somber expression, and then he gazed into Daniel's eyes. All the children stared at their older father.
“Yeah, you heard right. At first, opera was something I used to hide behind,” Jack stated, repeating what he had said just a moment earlier.
Daniel blinked as he put down his fork and then wiped his mouth with his napkin.
“Dad?” Jennifer asked quietly.
“Growing up, I despised opera,” Jack began. “I didn't know what the performers were singing, and that made me not care. One of my mother's friends used to play it non-stop when we visited, which made me not like it even more. I tuned it out,” he noted. “I thought it was stupid. Why would anyone listen to singing they couldn't understand?”
“But you like it now,” Jenny stated.
“I *love* it now,” Jack corrected, his expression brighter than it had been a moment ago. He took a breath, elucidating, “The first time I went overseas on assignment for the Air Force, things didn't go well. I had a few run-ins with some types who thought they ruled the world. They wanted me to do things their way, but ...”
“You did it your way, huh, Dad?” Jonny interjected as he chewed his waffle, the words coming out a bit muffled.
Jack chuckled lightly, nodding his head as he answered, “Pretty much. These guys weren't my superiors; they were just bullies, but one night, in the middle of nowhere, they decided they'd try to force me to go along.”
“You didn't let them, did you, Dad?” Jonny asked again, his eyes focused and his words muffled again.
“Jonny, don't talk with your mouth full,” Daniel admonished. He smiled, though, at his husband's namesake, knowing how much Jonny worshiped Jack. The little boy was so like the older man. It was something Daniel treasured, usually. ~You have his bravado. That's good ... and bad.~
“Let's just say they tried, and I argued,” Jack answered. “They wanted me to cry 'uncle', to give in. I did.”
“Dad!” Jonny exclaimed, along with Ricky, Jenny, and David.
“It was lonely out there, but then I learned something,” Jack continued. “Those guys didn't like not knowing what was being said, which was interesting since we were in a country where English was barely spoken.”
“So, what did you do?” an intrigued Daniel inquired, both of his arms leaning against the table as all thought of eating had disappeared.
“Before I left, Mom had sent me a care package that included a tape recorder and a couple of tapes. One of them was from the neighbor. I almost threw it in the trash when I saw it, but Fate stopped me,” Jack remarked.
“It was opera,” Jeff surmised.
Jack nodded, replying, “So, I learned to love opera. I only knew a few words in Italian, so I learned the words phonetically at first. Whenever those guys were around, I would speak them. I never spoke to them in English except in the course of our duties. It drove them up the wall. They thought I was swearing at them in some foreign language. Eventually, they got tired of their own ignorance and left me alone.”
“Dad,” Jennifer chimed in. She looked at Daniel and then at Jack, hesitantly saying, “I understand what you just told us, but I don't understand why you say you hid behind opera.”
Jack nodded, swallowing as he explained, “After that, I picked up a couple of other operas on tape. One time, things went belly up on a mission, and I was captured. I retreated inside an opera I'd memorized. No matter what happened ...”
“What do you mean, Dad?” Jenny asked with widened eyes.
Jack smiled reassuringly as he answered, “Oh, you know, Princess. If they asked me a question I didn't want to answer or if they asked me to do something I didn't want to -- if those things happened, I pretended I was in the opera. Nothing I did or said made any sense to them.”
“It saved ...” Jennifer began, stopping quickly as she looked at the faces of the seven youngest Jackson-O'Neills. “It saved you from having to actually answer them, didn't it?” she asked, blowing out a breath of air at how she had covered up her real question.
“Yes, Jen, it did,” Jack answered pointedly, his eyes confirming the answer applied to her real, unspoken question.
“Dad confused them so much that he got away, huh, Dad?” Lulu inquired, reaching forward to get another banana muffin.
“You got it, Lil' Bit,” Jack affirmed. “After that, though, I really began to listen to the passion behind the opera. I learned to love it, especially once I discovered they weren't all tragedies.” He chuckled, “I came home one day with a pile of cassette tapes ...”
“What are those?” Aislinn asked.
“That's what we had before CDs,” Jack answered.
“Oh,” the little girl responded, shrugging at the same time.
“Must have been hard to live in the olden days, Dad,” Jonny observed.
“Yes,” Jack agreed, shaking his head. “Remind me not to tell you about eight-track tapes.”
“Huh?” several voices asked.
“Back in the pioneer days,” Jack joked. Seeing the strange looks, he instructed, “Eat your breakfast.” Smiling, the older man looked up and saw the loving eyes of his husband. **I never told you about that, did I?**
**No,** Daniel answered succinctly.
**Later,** Jack responded.
'Later' came roughly an hour after breakfast was completed when the children were involved in their studies. Daniel quietly took his husband by the hand and led him outside to their gazebo. They sat side by side, their fingers intertwined with the other's.
“It was obviously before Iraq,” Daniel intoned reverently.
“A long, long time before and, for the record, not nearly as bad,” Jack replied.
“But ... opera did save your life,” the younger man deduced as he turned his head to look at Jack.
“Yeah, it did. I hid in two ways, Danny,” Jack revealed as he stared straight ahead. “Some of it was just snarkiness, like with those idiots who thought they ran the Air Force. I wasn't always so good at intimidation,” he confided.
~Really? I thought you were born with general eyes,~ Daniel silently mused, though his own eyes were gently teasing. He raised their hands, kissing the knuckles of his lover as he waited. ~Take your time, Love.~
Jack sighed, “It really wasn't so bad, but that first time, I thought I was going to die, and I was still learning practical survival skills.”
“What does that mean, Jack?” Daniel inquired.
“It means I got lost in the music. I lived in it for days; made it my world. Danny, I almost forgot who I was,” Jack confessed.
In confusion, the younger man shook his head, admitting, “I, uh ... you retreated?”
“Yeah,” Jack confirmed. “I left Jack O'Neill behind and became Don Pasquale.”
“From that same opera ... by Gaetano Donizetti?” Daniel asked.
“That's the one,” Jack said, nodding.
“A comic opera,” Daniel mused.
“That was the one the neighbor liked, and it was the one I knew the best,” Jack laughed. “I didn't realize it was a comedy; I guess I never really listened to it until I was overseas. Anyway, I became *the don*,” he confessed lightly. “I was him ... for four, maybe five days.”
“I got so looney, they gave me up,” the older man admitted. “Took me two days to remember my real name.”
“You were lucky,” Daniel noted, almost in a whisper.
“I still am,” Jack remarked as he shifted his hand so that he was now holding Daniel's in his. “I have you, our brood, the girls, and a wonderful life.”
“All because of opera,” Daniel replied hesitantly.
“I'm not sure I'd go that far, Angel,” Jack rebutted slightly. “It might have had something to do with that MP-5 Don Pasquale found and threatened Ernesto with.”
“Oh, uh ... Ernesto?” Daniel asked.
“No clue what his name really was, but he was the guy running things, and he wanted to live. Don Pasquale thought he was Ernesto, and Ernesto wasn't in Don Pasquale's good graces at that point,” Jack stated.
“Jack, did all that really happen?” Daniel asked, suddenly wondering if his husband had been teasing him.
“Would I lie to you?” Jack teased. Seeing the glare, the older man answered, “Angel, it happened, but I guess I'm still hiding behind the opera. It was bad, but I survived thanks ...”
“Thanks to Don Pasquale,” Daniel completed for his husband.
“Dad, Daddy, I don't understand!” Chenoa called out to her parents from the patio deck. “How can Antarctica be a desert? It's cold there. Deserts are hot!”
“Back to work, Love,” Jack chuckled as the two men stood. They shared a brief kiss and then Jack headed towards their daughter, responding in a slightly raised voice, “Actually, Noa, deserts can be hot or cold.”
“You're teasing me!” the little girl said, a pout on her face.
Daniel chuckled as he continued to stand in the gazebo. He'd just learned something new about his husband.
~There will always be something new to learn about him,~ the archaeologist marveled. “Jack?”
“Yes, Love?” Jack asked, stopping just before entering the house.
“I love you!”
Jack smiled and called out, “Love you, too!”
As Saturday noon approached, the archaeologist found himself drawn to his den, needing to share his thoughts with their unborn child.
“This isn't easy, Bean Sprout,” Daniel told their unborn child. “There's a part of me that just wants to stay here and watch you grow. Gawd, Jack and I had a wonderful time together on our date night; we always do, and yet, I worry. It's my nature.”
“He's a worryaholic,” Jack teased as he entered the den to get his husband. “Angel, lunch is ready,” he explained, stealing a quick kiss.
“I'll be back, Bean Sprout,” Daniel spoke lovingly as he touched the womis, caressing it. “Jaaaaack!” he suddenly exclaimed excitedly as he reached out, jerking his lover's hand towards him.
“Daniel, what's that ...” Jack began, almost falling over when his hand was yanked towards the womis and placed flat against it. Then, he felt it. “Danny?”
The younger man let out a huge giggle, and that's what it was -- a giggle. Jack began to laugh, too, not boisterously, but joyfully.
“Our baby is kicking!” Daniel exclaimed.
“This brings back memories,” Jack observed.
“And new ones. Wow, Jack, this is our baby -- kicking. He or she is in there, and they're alive.” Daniel turned his head to look at Jack, his eyes shining as he said, “Our miracle just said hello.”
Jack let out a tiny sound and then spoke, “Hey, Bean Sprout. We hear ya!”
“We sure do,” Daniel agreed as his hand remained next to Jack's, both still feeling the tiny kicks of the unborn baby Jackson-O'Neill.
“Speel je een instrument?” Brianna asked in Dutch as they practiced their foreign language skills just before dinner.
“Nee, maar ik luister graag naar muziek,” Jennifer answered. ~Why am I doing this? Dad and Daddy told me I didn't have to.~ Inwardly, the teen mused, ~But I don't want to be left behind, either, by brothers and sisters who speak ten languages each.~
“Jen, you do, too, play an instrument,” Brianna challenged.
“I know, but I don't know the names of the instruments in Dutch,” Jennifer chuckled.
“Oh, okay.” Brianna thought back to Jennifer's answer that she didn't play an instrument, but liked to listen to music, so she decided to ask her sister who she liked to listen to. “Welke muziek hoor je het liefst?”
“Beyonce, of course!”
“That was quick,” the younger girl responded.
“Okay, Alicia, Miley, Hilary, and a lot of others,” Jennifer answered.
“In Dutch, Jen,” Brianna reprimanded lightly.
“Right, uh ... Ik hoor het liefst Beyonce, Alicia, Miley, Hilary,” the teenager began.
“Okay, okay. We don't have all day,” Brianna interrupted with a smile.
“You're just taste deprived,” Jennifer joked.
“No, I'm not. I'm just younger,” the tomboy chuckled. More seriously, she asked, “Jen, don't you like one of them better than the other?”
Jennifer's smile faded as she sighed, “No. I learned a hard lesson a few years ago. It's good to enjoy people's music, but it's not always a good idea to confuse the person with the music.”
“Maybe we can talk about it more sometime, but we'd better get back to our language study,” Jennifer suggested.
Brianna nodded, and the two sisters continued on with their practice session.
“Another half an inch, Danny,” Jack reported that night about the womis' latest growth spurt as they did their nightly rounds of the brood, ending with Toto and Bean Sprout.
“Keep growing, Toto,” Daniel encouraged. “Our dream is inside you.”
“Speaking of being inside,” Jack spoke with a leer.
“Jack, you're so bad,” the archaeologist responded.
“I hope so,” the older man replied, taking his soulmate's hand and leading him back to their bedroom for some intensive 'badness'.
Having unexpectedly awakened in the wee hours of the morning, Daniel slipped out of Jack's loving hold to do another check on their children. He found they were still happily sleeping, safe and sound. Yawning, but not ready to go back to bed, he entered his den to read an article in the latest issue of Anthropology News.
~This might be my only opportunity to ...~ Glancing to his left, Daniel's thoughts about the article ceased. “Wha...what is ...” He approached the womis, studying it with great alarm. “No. NO!” Breathing heavily, Daniel called out urgently, “JACK! JACK, COME IN HERE!”
Jack's eyelids opened in a flash. The volume and note of panic in Daniel's voice was enough to wake him instantly.
“Danny?” Jack called out anxiously without even grabbing a robe.
Daniel turned to look at Jack as the older man came running into the room. He already had the phone at his ear, and there were tears in his eyes.
Still not aware of what the crisis was, Jack gathered Daniel into his arms.
Unfortunately, Daniel's shout had also been loud and panic-stricken enough to wake several other family members. Concerned, those who had heard woke their still-sleeping siblings. Before long, the entire Jackson-O'Neill family was crowded around the doorway of the den.
“Dad, Daddy, what's wrong?” David asked urgently.
“To...Toto,” Daniel stammered just as he heard Janet's sleepy voice answer the phone.
Jack looked over at the womis, as did all the children, each of who remained at the doorway, sensing that their fathers needed a little space.
“Dad, are those spots on Toto?” Jennifer asked as she took two steps inside the den, hoping that her eyes were deceiving her.
Jack hurried towards the womis for a closer look. His eyes widened and his heart beat faster as concern welled up within him at what he saw. Dark brown spots had appeared on Toto, and he had no idea what that meant. He looked over at Jeff and Jennifer, giving them a nod and conveying a silent message.
The two teens nodded, understanding their father's wishes completely. Quietly, they began to usher the worried children downstairs to wait in the living room.
“Little ...” Jennifer sighed, helplessly watching as Little Danny dashed into the den and wrapped his little arms around Jack.
“Bean Sprout will be okay, Dad,” Little Daniel promised. He wanted to reassure Daniel, too, but since he was on the phone, he simply hugged his daddy, whispered, “I love you,” and then raced after his siblings.
Jack smiled tentatively at Bijou and Katie, who remained at the edge of the doorway.
“The kids,” Jack said softly.
Bijou looked at Katie and gave her a little nudge. The youngest beagle gave out a reluctant bark before turning and heading downstairs. Bijou, however, remained sitting in the doorway, her eyes fixed on Daniel.
Jack nodded at her, knowing the mama beagle's first priority had always been making sure Daniel was safe. She wouldn't budge until she was positive that the younger man was okay. Jack slid his arms around Daniel and rested his chin on Daniel's shoulder.
Tilting the phone so his lover could hear what Janet was saying, Daniel leaned into the embrace.
“Just sit tight, Daniel. I know it's hard, but I'll get back to you ASAP,” Janet assured.
A few seconds later, Daniel hung up the phone and turned to bury his face against Jack's shoulder.
“I take it we wait,” Jack surmised softly, his own voice a little choked.
Everything had been going so well with Bean Sprout. Only a few hours ago, Jack had checked on Toto, and the womis was fine. Whatever had happened, had happened fast.
“Jack, our baby,” Daniel sniffled.
“Our baby is fine. I pro...” Jack began, surprised when his words were cut off by his lover.
“Don't,” Daniel interrupted, backing away and putting his hand over Jack's mouth. “Please don't promise me something that you don't know for sure. This isn't in your control, so ... so ... so jus...just don't ... please.”
“Angel, I swear to you that this little life wasn't given to us so we'd lose him or her before they're born. I don't believe that, so whatever this is, it's a complication, but Bean Sprout will be okay,” Jack opined, his eyes boring into Daniel's. ~No way are we losing this baby. Not going to happen.~
For a moment, Daniel just stared back into his lover's deep brown eyes. He searched for doubt, but found none.
~Okay, he's sure. Gawd, I wish I was,~ Daniel silently lamented. Nodding, Daniel eased back into Jack's embrace. After a moment, they walked over to the womis. “We love you, Bean Sprout,” Daniel said.
“Don't you worry, Bean Sprout,” Jack added. “Toto won't let anything happen to you. We're Jackson-O'Neills, and Jackson-O'Neills are unbeatable when we're together.”
Jack and Daniel placed their hands on Toto, each sending their love to their unborn child.
“Jennnnn, maybe we should go check,” Chenoa whined as she held Mittens in her arms.
“Noa, we'd just be in the way,” Jennifer replied. “They'll let us know what's going on as soon as they can.”
“Bean Sprout is strong!” Jenny exclaimed from her spot next to Ricky in their older father's favorite chair.
Nodding, Ricky put his arm around his twin and assured, “Toto keeps Bean Sprout safe, too.”
Seeing a roomful of sad faces, Jeff leaned forward from his spot in the other armchair, clapped his hands twice, and advised, “Hey, Brood. We need to think positively. It works.”
“Jeff's right,” Little Danny confirmed. He closed his eyes, ~Think good things. Toto will keep Bean Sprout safe.~
Seconds later, Jonny and Aislinn joined their fellow triplet in meditation, and soon, the entire family was involved in some form or another of positive thinking.
Twenty minutes later, panic building inside them, Jack and Daniel were startled when Sam, Janet, and Thor appeared in a flash of light in the den.
“Sorry, Sir,” Sam said with a shy smile as she stared at the lovers who were still dressed in their pajamas, something neither man had even thought about yet.
“Woof!” Bijou said to Thor.
“Hello, Bijou,” Thor replied, nodding at the mama beagle who wagged her tail in response.
Jack thought the interaction between the alien and the dog was strange, seeing as he couldn't remember Thor having ever met the two beagles, but he didn't have time to think about it at the moment and thus, shook off the odd exchange.
“We need to take the womis to Pierola,” Janet announced, moving to take a closer look at Toto.
Sam interjected, “We called Thor; he seemed to know where we needed to be.”
Thor blinked. He was famous for unannounced visits to the Jackson-O'Neill household, and, in fact, had practically admitted to having some kind of 'bug' at the residence to monitor the family. The truth was, the little gray alien cared deeply for Jack, Daniel, and their brood, and when possible, he was always willing to help them, just like he was now.
“Uh, the children ...” Daniel began.
“Where do you want them to go, Doctor Jackson?” Thor asked.
Daniel looked at Jack, both coming up with the same answer.
“Sara,” both Jack and Daniel spoke in unison.
“Very well,” Thor said, programming a device he held in his hand. “Where are the children?”
“They're in the living room,” Jack answered. “Thor, maybe we should ...”
“It is done,” Thor announced, interrupting Jack.
“Woof!” Bijou reminded Thor, the beagle knowing her place now was with the children.
“Excuse me,” Thor apologized, pressing another button on the device, after which Bijou disappeared.
“We have to go -- now!” Janet barked as she witnessed another spot appear on the womis and grow at a startling rate.
While Jack and Daniel weren't comfortable with the instant transport of the children, and apparently their girls, they wondered how Sara and Mark would respond. Actually, they had a lot of questions about what Thor had just done, not to mention how he knew where Sara lived, but, in the end, they trusted the alien, and, right now, Bean Sprout's life was in jeopardy.
“Thor, are you sure the children are safe?” Daniel asked with haste.
“They are with Sara O'Neill Wilson. Is that not where you wanted them to be?” the alien asked bluntly.
“No, I mean, yes, that's where we want them,” Daniel replied nervously, self-hugging at the moment.
“Thor, let's go,” Jack ordered. “But dress us on the waaaaaaaaay ...” he added, finally remembering that he and his lover were clad only in pajamas.
“Aunt Sara! Aunt Sara!” a chorus of voices called out, the younger children running to the bed and beginning to shake both Sara and Mark, while the older ones exchanged startled glances at their sudden shift in location.
Sara and Mark awoke, shocked to see eleven children, two dogs, and two cats in their bedroom.
“Wha...what ... how?” Sara stammered, certain she was having a dream.
“Sara?” Mark automatically called in question as he turned on the lights.
“Thor!” several of the children answered at once, knowing that was the only explanation.
“Thor?” Sara asked as she and Mark sat up quickly.
“What's happened?” Mark questioned.
“Bean Sprout spotted,” Jenny cried as she climbed up on the bed and moved into Sara's arms.
“Our baby sick,” Ricky sniffled as he moved into Mark's hold.
“Daddy called Aunt Janet,” Aislinn told them, climbing up on the end of the bed and sitting on her knees. She started to cry, putting her face into her hands, prompting Jonny and Little Danny to climb up on the bed as well and surround her with their arms. “Don't want to lose Bean Sprout,” she sobbed.
“Bean Sprout's okay,” Jonny said confidently. “Aunt Janet is on the job!”
“Yeah,” Little Danny soothed, rubbing his sister's back. “And Thor, too!”
Chenoa and Lulu also climbed up onto the bed, squeezing in alongside their siblings, while the four oldest children continued to stand. Jennifer's arms surrounded David, while Jeff tugged Brianna close to him.
“Start from the beginning,” Sara requested of Jennifer and Jeff, who then told them the little they knew.
Upon hearing the tale, the Wilsons were grateful that their own children, Angela and Madeline, were staying at Sara's father's for the night, allowing the couple to focus all their attention on the upset Jackson-O'Neill brood.
The lovers turned to see Filip and Harad Adylphi racing towards them. They'd sent a message to the Pierolan couple shortly after arriving on Pierola. Now, they embraced Filip and Harad, whom they had come to think of as friends.
“What happened?” Filip asked gently.
“Toto developed spots,” Jack told them, hugging Daniel closer.
“The womis -- we, uh, call it Toto,” Daniel clarified.
Daniel glanced down the hall of the Helspasoa, the Pierolan equivalent of a hospital, in the direction the medical staff had taken Toto.
“Spots?” Harad asked in disbelief.
Jack gave a humorless snort, saying, “I take it that isn't normal.”
Filip shook his head sadly, admitting, “I have never heard of such a thing happening before.”
At hearing this, Jack and Daniel hugged each other more tightly, praying to whatever powers were listening to save the life of their child.
Jack and Daniel sat alone at the end of the corridor, Jack's arm around his lover, who was nestled into his tight hold.
“Maybe it wasn't meant to be,” Daniel whispered into Jack's neck.
“Danny, don't think like that,” Jack requested, his hand warming Daniel's arm as it rubbed up and down.
“We're playing a game, trying to get one over on Mother Nature,” Daniel spoke. “But, you know what they say, Jack -- you can't fool Mother Nature.”
“Daniel!” Jack pulled back, lightly shaking his distraught husband. “Listen to me, Daniel Jackson-O'Neill. We are not creating a freak of a child by trying to pull a fast one over nature. We're two people, in love, and it just so happens that we don't have all the parts necessary to create a life out of that love. Well, thankfully, a lot of years ago, on a much more foresighted planet than our own, some folks decided that Mama Nature needed a hand. Look around, Danny. It works; for decades, it's worked, and, by the grace of our good fortune and luck, we're getting a chance to share in that joy. No one is trying to give us payback for wanting a baby, made from both of us -- *no one*. You got that?”
“I didn't know you brought the general with you,” Daniel responded in a reverent tone.
“Neither did I,” Jack replied more softly, moving his right hand to caress his soulmate's wet cheek. “You okay?”
Swallowing hard, the younger man nodded just slightly and replied, “I just want him, or her, so bad, Jack, and I'm ... are you sure?”
“Angel, it's a piece of cake,” Jack assured.
“Spots are not pieces of cake,” Daniel responded with a bit more strength in his voice.
“Spots come and go,” Jack stated casually. “Bean Sprout just wanted to try a change of womis covering, that's all.”
“I promise,” Jack spoke, taking Daniel into his arms. ~Okay, that's a whopper of a promise, Big Guy; keep it for me, okay? I'll ... owe you one.~
From down the hall, Filip and Harad glanced for a moment at their alien friends, observing their sadness, fear, and love.
“Filip, the spots are strange,” Harad quietly commented.
“The womis is not used to their world, Snipola; perhaps, it needs to remain here,” Filip theorized, using his husband's pet nickname.
“They are in anguish,” Harad sighed.
“Would we not be if our Yusuta's womis had developed these spots?” Filip supposed.
“She is our latest joy, Leshia,” Harad confirmed about their recently born baby. “I pray the wise ones look upon our friend's womis with compassion.
“We should whisper a mantica,” Filip suggested.
“Yes, let's,” Harad agreed.
The two stood opposite each other and proceeded with a private ritual, a combination of whispered words and hand motions, that was the equivalent to a prayer.
After an agonizing three-quarters of an hour wait, Jack and Daniel's heartbreaking vigil was broken by the sight of Janet striding towards them. She'd been working with her Pierolan counterparts to work out what was wrong with the womis.
Looking at her concerned friends, Janet hoped the theory they had come up with was correct. After quick hellos to the Adylphis, she got down to business.
“Jack, Daniel, I need you to come with me,” the physician instructed, holding up a hand to stop their questions. She beckoned them to follow her, telling them, “We can talk as we go, and, yes, Jack, I'll try and talk in plain English. First of all, as of now, Bean Sprout is okay; it's only the womis that is affected. We've done some tests, and it seems that while the make up of our blood and semen is virtually identical to that of the Pierolans, the Pierolans is slightly more concentrated.”
Janet led the two men into the room where the doctors had been examining Toto and sat them down on two chairs. Two Pierolan medical staff immediately rushed over and began preparing to take blood. Janet cleared her throat to regain the couple's attention.
“The bottom line is that we know the womis, like a human uterus, gathers a lining for the fetus to grow in. We think that we haven't been giving Bean Sprout quite enough blood and semen to feed on, so the baby's been taking what it needs from the lining around the inside of the womis. The places where there are spots are where the womis is too thin. Hopefully, if we increase the dose of blood and semen you give Bean Sprout, the womis will return to its full integrity.”
“Hopefully?” Jack queried dully as he winced at the blood being removed from his arm.
“According to the physicians I've been consulting with, this has never happened before,” Janet informed them. “It's our best shot, Gentlemen. We need Toto to survive at least another month before Bean Sprout will have a viable chance at survival.”
Based on Pierolan history, it had been determined that Jack and Daniel's baby would be born in November. After analyzing the growth of the womis and comparing it to the known growth rate on Pierola, the doctors had theorized a late November birth was likely, although there was no set date. Premature births were unheard of on the planet; rather, babies born in the womis all occurred within a two-week window. There had been no exceptions in their history.
Thus, with the late November due date, the doctors determined that Toto would have to survive the entire month of October for Bean Sprout to even have a chance of being born alive and healthy.
As she spoke, Janet injected the blood the alien physicians had just taken into Toto. Then she turned towards the two men and said, “I'm afraid we need some semen from each of you. I know it's probably the last thing on your minds right now, but if you want Bean Sprout to survive, you'll find a way to, uh, deliver.”
“Can you give us Viagra or something?" Daniel asked, certain he wouldn't be able to do anything in these circumstances.
Janet sighed and shook her head, saying, “We can't risk having any foreign substance in your ... material.” The petite woman led them over to a small room they hadn't noticed before. “We'll leave you to it. When you're done, just give it to Bean Sprout the way you've been doing. Press this button to let us know when you're finished, and we'll come back and conduct some more tests.” Janet turned to leave, but then she hesitated. “I really don't want to add to the pressure, but the sooner Bean Sprout and the womis get that semen, the better.”
Jack and Daniel exchanged a look as they heard the door click from Janet leaving them alone in the small room. Their eyes were dull; there was nothing exciting or sexual about what they were about to do. Still, for the sake of their baby, they had to act now.
“For Bean Sprout, Danny,” Jack encouraged.
Daniel nodded, swallowing hard as he began to undo his belt buckle. Jack did the same, and, somehow, they worked each other to completion. There was no aftermath and no joy in the act. It was a bodily function that was required at the moment.
The lovers fed their sperm to Toto, as they had done several times before.
“Live,” Daniel pleaded softly, caressing the round object that was giving life to their child.
Jack pressed the designated button, and within a minute, Janet walked into the room.
“Thank you,” Janet said as she glanced quickly at the womis. “I know that wasn't easy,” she acknowledged, pausing to look at both Jack and Daniel.
“No, it wasn't,” Daniel replied softly, his saddened eyes affixed on the womis.
“You gave the sperm to Toto?” Janet questioned. Getting verifying nods from Jack and Daniel, she advised, “The Pierolan doctors said we should wait about fifteen minutes, and then they have several tests to conduct.”
“How long before we know anything for sure?” Daniel whispered.
“Well, if it worked, almost immediately. If not, it's on to Plan B,” Janet responded.
“What's Plan B?” Jack inquired.
Janet shook her head and gave them a tentative smile.
“No Plan B?” the general asked quietly.
Putting her hand on Jack's shoulder, Janet suggested, “Let's just see what happens with this.”
“Right,” Jack and Daniel said in unison, their voices devoid of emotion.
Thirty-five minutes later, the doctors were conferring as they awaited the latest test results. Nearby, Jack and Daniel were standing, staring at the womis, each silently sending up more silent prayers.
~Time is going by so slowly.~ Suddenly, Daniel's mouth opened, and his breathing hitched. “Jack, did you, uh, see ... that?” he asked. “There! Again!”
Jack began to smile. Right in front of their eyes, the spots were beginning to fade. One actually disappeared completely as they watched.
“Doc, come here!” Jack shouted, twisting his torso around to face her for a second. “The spots are disappearing.”
Janet and the local doctors hurried over and began to examine the womis.
“Okay, this is definitely a good sign!” Janet exclaimed, though she quickly added, “We need to wait for the results of the tests to be sure.”
Jack and Daniel smiled at each other as their eyes gazed into the other's. For the first time this morning, they felt hope in their hearts.
“How are you doing, Jen?” Sara asked as she placed the milk in the microwave and turned to the teenager.
It had taken a long time to settle down any of the younger children, but eventually most of them had fallen asleep, exhausted by the night's events. Only Little Danny and David had been unable to sleep, and so, at the moment, they were sitting on either side of Jeff, who was reading them stories of Greek myths.
“I'm scared, Aunt Sara,” Jennifer confided as she stood, self-hugging much like her younger father was known for doing.
The vulnerability in Jennifer's voice tugged at Sara's heart, and she drew the girl into a hug as she invited, “Come here, Honey.” As she felt her shoulder getting damp, she thought, ~You've been so busy trying to reassure your brothers and sisters that you haven't allowed yourself time to worry.~ Holding her charge tight, Sara urged, “Let it all out, Jen. Sometimes it just helps to have a good cry.”
A couple of minutes later, the teenager pulled back and gave Sara a tearful smile.
“Feel better?” Sara asked.
“Yes,” Jennifer said as she nodded. She really did feel better after having cried some of her worry out. “Thanks, Aunt Sara,” the teen said softly.
“No problem, Jen,” Sara assured. “You know, I haven't just been saying it to try and reassure the younger kids. I really do believe Bean Sprout will be okay.”
Jennifer nodded, then with certainty in her tone added, “Especially with Charlie watching over him or her.”
The obvious sincerity with which Jennifer spoke touched Sara, and she hugged the girl once more.
“I love you, Kiddo,” Sara said warmly.
“Love you, too, Aunt Sara,” Jennifer replied.
After a moment, they both pulled back, and Sara smiled at the teenager, asking, “Shall we make that hot chocolate now?”
Jennifer nodded and went to retrieve the milk from the microwave.
Two hours later, the children had all awakened again and dressed for the day. This was one of those times when everyone was glad that they had clothing and other items that were kept at the Wilsons. After a light breakfast, everyone had ventured into the living room, and their discussion had led to the sharing of family stories.
Sara was seated on the sofa in her living room, telling old stories about Jack and Charlie. Crowded around her were the Munchkins, Chenoa, and Brianna. Mark sat in the recliner, Ricky and Jenny snuggled into him. Between the recliner and the sofa, Jennifer and Jeff sat on a comforter, leaning against the wall, Cuddled up between them were David and Lulu. Bijou and Katie were in the backyard, while the cats were upstairs, hiding under the Wilson's bed.
“And then Jack just stood there, totally amazed that Charlie had gotten the best of him yet again,” Sara chuckled, as did Mark and the children.
As Sara had spoken, a flash of light reflected off the television, revealing Jack O'Neill.
“Hey, Kids!” Jack greeted cheerfully.
In seconds, all eleven children got up and ran to their father, each one asking frantic questions about Bean Sprout, creating a tumult of sound.
“Whoa! One at a time. No, wait! I'll tell you,” Jack said, a smile on his face.
Sara scooted forward and was now sitting on the edge of the sofa while Mark was standing.
“Bean Sprout is fine,” Jack assured, his hands reassuringly touching as many of the children as possible. “Aunt Janet and the doctors on Pierola figured out the problem, told Daddy and I how to fix it, and that's what we're doing,” he explained in a steady, even voice.
“Are the spots all gone?” Lulu asked, her voice tiny and hesitant.
“Most of them,” Jack answered, smiling down at her.
“Where's Daddy?” Little Danny asked.
“And where's Bean Sprout and Toto?” Brianna inquired.
“Aunt Janet and the doctors thought it would be best if Toto stayed on Pierola for another day. Daddy is going to stay with him, and I came home to stay with you,” Jack intoned, looking over at Sara.
“Jack, wouldn't you rather be with Daniel?” Sara asked, knowing in her heart that's what her ex-husband would want.
“We didn't mean to drop the kids off the way we did,” Jack apologized, looking over at Mark. “It was Thor, and we had to act quickly. I'm sorry we ...”
“Jack, you haven't answered Sara's question,” Mark interrupted, a nod and a smile indicating Jack's apologies were unnecessary.
Jack smiled at Sara's husband, answering, “Of course, I would, but ...”
“Go on, Jack. We'll take care of the kids. We'll have a great time, won't we, Brood?” Mark asked.
A chorus of happy yeses followed.
“Woof!” Bijou and Katie barked as well as wagged their tails.
“Hey, there you are!” Jack chimed after seeing the two beagles come running in through the dog door. Suddenly, Jack stared, realizing there hadn't been a dog door there before. “Sara, did you get a dog?”
Sara laughed, “No, Jack, but the girls are here as much as the children, so ...”
“Thank you,” Jack spoke appreciatively, looking at his ex-wife and then at Mark with gratitude. He faced his children, giving them all hugs, and said, “Daddy and I love you. We'll have Thor beam you home as soon as we're back.”
“Love you, Dad!” Aislinn said, followed by her siblings.
Jack reached into his pocket, touched the communication device, and said loudly, “Okay, Thor, one to go!”
As Jack beamed out, the children giggled.
Mark looked over at Sara and quipped, “I never would have believed it if I hadn't seen it.”
“Aunt Sara, tell us more about Dad and Charlie,” Chenoa requested as she settled back onto the sofa.
“Okay, let's sit down again, and I'll tell you about the Great Ice Cream Caper!” Sara exclaimed.
Daniel watched Toto anxiously, hoping that a few more spots had really faded, and it wasn't just his imagination.
~I hope a watched womis isn't like a watched pot,~ Daniel thought. Recalling the famous adage that 'a watched pot never boils', Daniel looked away from Toto and gazed at the wall opposite to it. ~I wonder where that saying comes from. I know Elizabeth Gaskell used it back in 1848 when she wrote 'Mary Barton', but I'm sure it was in use before then.~
Daniel fidgeted, determined to resist the temptation to look at Toto, just in case 'a watched womis keeps its spots'. Trying to distract himself, he thought of Jack and wondered how he was faring with the other children. He entered into his self-hug of old, wishing his lover was holding him instead. Moments later, he lost the battle and was once again looking at Toto.
“We love you, Bean Sprout,” Daniel spoke softly, deciding that since he couldn't resist watching Toto, he'd at least talk to Bean Sprout. “You know, you're already part of the family. The rest of the brood can't wait to meet you. I can't wait to meet you.” Daniel reached out and caressed the side of the womis. “I hope you look like Dad. He's so handsome, Bean Sprout, especially with his silver hair; and his eyes -- I hope you have his eyes. They're brown like melted chocolate. They light up when he's happy. Bean Sprout, be whoever you want to be; look however you want, because even if you have purple hair and orange eyes, we'll love you. I promise you that.”
“He's right, Beany,” Jack added, smiling brightly.
Daniel turned around so fast he nearly lost his footing and fell down.
“Jack? The children ... is everything all right? Did something happen?” Daniel asked, his voice starting to get panicky.
Jack was at his husband's side in an instant, saying, “Everyone's fine, Angel. I just needed to be here with you and Beany, which Sara could see, so she sent me back here.”
His panic alleviated, Daniel pulled his soulmate into an embrace. Then he remembered something and stepped back.
“Beany,” Jack confirmed with a grin. He turned to Toto and said, “Beany, we really will love you, no matter what. Personally, I hope you look like your Daddy. He has the most amazing and soulful blue eyes you've ever seen. The only other person with eyes that blue is your older brother, Little Danny. He's a little version of your Daddy.”
Daniel smiled, adding, “And one of your other older brothers, Jonny, is a miniature version of Dad, but, Bean Sprout, we don't care if you're like us or not. We already love you, so very, very much.”
“And we always will, Beany,” Jack said in an emotion-filled voice.
“Just like I'll always love your dad, despite the ridiculous nicknames he comes up with,” Daniel commented, shaking his head at this latest nickname.
Jack grinned, confiding, “He loves them, Beany. Don't you, Space Monkey?”
Daniel buried his face in Jack's shoulder, unable to deny it, and admitted, “With all my heart.”
Early the next morning, the lovers were anxiously awaiting the results of the latest tests. Their joined hands kept them focused, not allowing either to drift into negative thinking. Still, the morning waged on like a snail crossing the pavement.
“I feel like I'm in one of those old catsup commercials, Danny,” Jack whined.
“What do you mean,” the younger man queried.
“We're sitting here waiting for spots to disappear; it's like waiting for that darn Heinz catsup to run from the bottle,” Jack observed.
Daniel shrugged, unfamiliar with the once-famous commercial, but he surmised, “You mean it's like waiting for a clock to change, and you just stare at it.”
Jack chuckled, “Yeah, and you're sure it's been five minutes before the time changes again.
“Patience, Babe,” Daniel advised. “We ... we have to have patience.”
Pretending to talk in a stereotypical ethnic tone, Jack spoke, “Confucius say, 'One moment of patience may ward off great disaster. One moment of impatience may ruin a whole life'.”
“That's a Chinese proverb,” Daniel countered.
“But a good one, Danny,” Jack opined as they heard the door open to admit Janet.
“Thank you,” Janet spoke, nodding at the same time to the Pierolan doctors.
The lovers stood, waiting with nervous hearts, as Janet walked towards them, leaving her colleagues in another room.
“It looks very good,” Janet reported calmly. “You can take Toto home now.”
“Are you sure?” Daniel inquired, his concern still very evident. “I mean, uh, there are still spots.”
Over forty-percent of the spots had gone completely away, and another thirty percent had already begun to fade to varying degrees. The others were expected to follow suit within the next day.
“As sure as we can be, Daniel,” Janet answered. “For the next five days, you'll need to supply Toto with, uh, your stuff,” she smiled.
“Every day?” Jack asked.
“Is that a problem, General?” Janet smirked.
“Oh, no,” Jack said, shaking his head. “Not a problem.”
Daniel blushed as he smiled slightly, his head bowed somewhat.
Janet continued, “Sperm once a day, and you'll need to give blood every other day as well. So when you get home, give Toto some sperm. Start the blood infusion tomorrow.”
“And after five days?” Jack prompted.
“Well, as you know, we originally thought twice a month would be all that was needed, but obviously, that's not enough. We don't want to overdo it, either, so the doctors think that after the five days, we need to follow a twice a week regimen. Uh ...” Janet paused, looking down at her notes. “They want you to follow a four-three pattern, so that after the five days, then on the fourth day, you'd administer both sperm and blood, and then on the seventh day, you'd do it again. They've given me a test I can run on Earth to check the integrity of the womis. I'll need to do that at least once a week to be safe.”
“Doc, you drop by anytime you think you should,” Jack told their friend firmly.
“I thought you'd say that, so we'll see what happens. I'd like to come over every day this week for sure, if that's okay,” Janet suggested.
“Fine,” Daniel agreed, nodding.
“Okay, let's go home,” Janet said, a smile gracing her face.
Slightly more than one week later, the Jackson-O'Neills were back to their normal craziness. All of the spots on the womis had disappeared, and tests confirmed there were no other problems. Everyone was grateful that the nightmare had ended, and Bean Sprout was continuing to grow on schedule with no further complications.
Brianna was driving everyone bananas with her constant chatter about her upcoming trip with Megan to swim with the dolphins; the Munchkins were continuing to have fun at a day camp that focused on gymnastics; Jennifer was spending a lot of time at Mrs. Valissi's, learning all she could about sewing and weaving from the expert seamstress; and the rest of the family was busy with their normal routine.
Jeff was continuing to play basketball after school with several of his buddies, and, frequently, Peter Hamilton would show up, casually leaning against his sleek red Lamborghini as he watched them. Though he had once attempted to talk to Peter, his suspicions and anger had grown since the rich teen seemed to be watching him so often.
Finally, last Friday, the teenager approached the other boy, confronting him about his presence.
//Flashback// ~Not this time, Hamilton,~ Jeff thought, determined to do something about the near-stalking that was going on. “I'll be right back,” he told his friends, jogging over to the car in the parking lot. He stared at Peter and suggested sharply, “Why don't you go find something to do?”
“I like it here,” Peter retorted, his arms folded and refusing to meet Jeff's stare.
“You know, I tried to talk to you, and you just copped an attitude, just like you are now. Why are you watching me?” Jeff asked curiously.
“Why would I want to do that?” Peter snipped, finally looking at Jeff. “I'm just minding my own business. Go back and play your little game.”
Jeff shook his head incredulously, saying, “I don't even know why I ever tried talking you. What I should have done the very first time I saw you here was beat the crap out of you for what you did to my sister.”
“Yes, you should,” Peter agreed, hanging his head low and suddenly losing his sarcastic attitude.
“I don't get you, Hamilton. Why do you keep watching me?” Jeff asked again. “Oh, I get it. You're hoping Jen will come by one day. That's it, isn't it?”
Peter's brief humility made a quick exit as his arrogance returned, and he snapped, “It's a free country, and I like it here. I don't care what Jennifer does.”
“Right,” Jeff said, nodding in disbelief. He sighed, unsure what he wanted to do. “You don't deserve Jen.” Jeff moved closer to Peter and warned, “I'd better not ever see you anywhere near her, or I will beat you to a pulp.”
With his warning complete, Jeff jogged back to his friends.
In front of his car, Peter looked down, shuffling his right foot against the cement as he sighed and whispered, “You're right; I don't deserve her.” //End of Flashback//
On this October day, though, there was no sign of Peter Hamilton anywhere in the Jackson-O'Neill sphere of life.
Jack was at the ice hockey rink with Ricky and Jenny, Jonny was playing at a neighbor's house, David was at a homeschooling science function at another member's home, and Aislinn, Chenoa, and Lulu were with their Aunt Sam, enjoying some 'girl time'. The older members of the brood were either out with friends, in their rooms studying, or, in Brianna's case, going through her wardrobe, wondering what to pack for her upcoming trip.
~Only eleven more days. I can't believe this is happening,~ Brianna thought as she reviewed her checklist to make sure she had everything she'd need.
Meanwhile, Daniel sat down in his den with a fresh cup of coffee to work on archaeological and anthropological team assignments for the SGC. As the head of the department, he made it a practice to review the placement of his personnel at least twice a year. He also liked to rotate some of the 'in house' staff to give them some practical off-world experience from time to time, usually doing so when the assigned team personnel were on downtime, special assignments, or, worse case, injured.
Little Danny sat in a chair beside him, reading a book about the Mayflower and casting frequent looks in the direction of Toto. The little boy wasn't quite convinced that Toto's spots weren't going to come back and had asked if he could sit with Daniel for a while.
~Maybe Carpenter should ...~ Daniel's pondering over the staff assignments ceased when the phone rang.
“Can I answer it, Daddy? Min fadlak,” Little Danny begged in Arabic.
“Na'am,” Daniel answered affirmatively as he smiled at the boy's excitement. He picked the boy up so that he was sitting on his knee and nodded as he handed over the cordless phone. “In English,” he reminded.
“Hello, Jackson-O'Neill residence,” Little Danny greeted enthusiastically, followed by, “Grandpa!”
Daniel smiled as his namesake began chattering away to his Grandpa George, finally ending with, “Did you want to talk to Dad or Daddy, Grandpa, 'cause only Daddy's home. Dad took Ricky and Jenny to the ice hockey rink. I think Dad's hoping Ricky wants to be an ice hockey player. Love you, Grandpa.” With a wide grin Little Danny handed Daniel the phone saying unnecessarily, “It's Grandpa!”
Chuckling slightly, Daniel thanked his son, saying, “Shukran.” Jovially, he greeted the CO of the SGC with, “Hello, Grandpa.”
Hammond laughed, warmed by the affection this family always gave him. They chatted about inconsequential matters for a moment before getting down to the reason for the phone call.
“Daniel,” Hammond began. “Colonel Carter has gotten another hit with the cold dialing program.”
“Really?” Daniel asked, his interest piqued.
Sam had created the program years ago. Its purpose was to automatically redial Stargate addresses originally found in the Abydos Cartouche that had not succeeded in prior attempts to lock when dialed. The first success had come when the program engaged the Stargate on Bedrosia. Since then, there had only been three other hits, each accounting for new technology or an additional understanding of the universe. Thus, when this fourth hit came in, Hammond assumed Jack and Daniel would be interested in investigating.
“Of course, I realize this is a first recon, and that's outside of your normal bailiwick now,” Hammond noted. “But I had to ask.”
“Uh ...” Daniel paused, looking over at Toto. Part of him didn't want to leave the den until the baby was born. ~No, we can't do that. We have to live our lives.~ “Sir, let me call Jack, and we'll get back to you before dinnertime.”
“It sounds promising, Son,” Hammond remarked.
“We'll let you know,” Daniel said, saying goodbye and then disconnecting the call. He looked down at his namesake and considered asking him to go downstairs. ~No,~ he silently chuckled. ~He's got clearance.~
Hearing his cell phone, Jack skated up to the goal post and stopped, pulling out his phone and answering, “Angel!”
Daniel chuckled at the enthusiasm in his husband's voice and teased, “Is that for me, or did one of the twins score?”
“Both,” Jack chuckled. “What's up, Love?”
“General Hammond called, and there's been a development,” Daniel explained.
“I'm all ears and ...” Jack pulled the phone back a tad and shouted, “JENNY, PASS IT! YEAH, THAT'S MY GIRL!” Jack chuckled, “Sorry, point for our team.”
“Jack, you're on both teams,” Daniel reminded as he tapped his notepad with his pen.
“Oh, yeah. Isn't that great? I can't lose!” Jack laughed. “So what's the big development that has you not reorganizing your staff and me not skating?” Jack listened as Daniel filled him in and then stated an enthusiastic, “Gotcha!” Hanging up and then putting the phone away, Jack called out, “THAT'S IT. TIME TO GO, SPITFIRES!”
Back at the house, Daniel looked at his son and opined, “We'll be fine.”
“Promise?” the little boy asked vulnerably, his blue eyes a bit misty.
Squeezing Little Danny securely, Daniel responded, “Sproglet, I wish I could promise you that, but life never has a guarantee. Dad and I are doing the best we can to make sure that we all are together forever. You have to trust us and believe that we love you and your siblings so much that we'd never, ever do anything to risk that. At the same time, life is about exploring and learning. As much as we'd like to just sit here and watch Toto grow, that's not living. You have to go to day camp, visit friends, help sick and injured animals, play outside -- all the things that make life worthwhile for you, and Dad and I have to do the same thing. Do you understand what I'm trying to say?”
~Sometimes I get scared,~ Little Danny thought as he scrunched his nose while thinking about his father's words. ~Can't be scared all the time, though.~ Finally, he answered, “Can't live in a fish bowl?”
Daniel chuckled. He knew Jack had just told the children some fairytale about their favorite fish, Homer, and how Homer had gone on a great adventure once, way out into the ocean. He had left the safety of his fish bowl because he had to be free to see the world. In the end, though, he always came home to his bowl because that was home.
“Yeah, something like that,” Daniel answered.
The little boy sighed, but then his face lit up as he spoke, “I'll come, too. I love exploring, and I want to learn. Watching you and Dad is the best way to learn. I don't want to live in a fish bowl, either.”
~Oops!~ Daniel tried not to let the horror show on his face. ~How the heck do I get out of this one?~ He opened his mouth, determined to quash this idea of Little Danny's only to be stopped short by the pair of hopeful blue eyes looking at him. Little Danny had turned around and now sat in Daniel's lap, staring right at him. ~Why me? Why do I always get the impossible questions?~ With a sigh, he answered, “I know you love going through the Stargate, Little Danny, and we love taking you through it.”
“So I can come, too,” Little Danny stated, his decision made.
~Crap, that's not what I meant.~ Daniel gathered his thoughts and tried again. “Son, the places Dad and I have taken you and your brothers and sisters to are all places that we know are safe. When we go to a place we haven't been to before, we need to be on guard, to be ready for anything. It's just too dangerous to have to look out for all of you as well.”
“I'll be good, Daddy,” Little Danny promised fervently. “Please, Daddy, I want to be an arch'ologist and go through the Stargate like you and Dad.”
“You can, Son. Look, this is what we call a first contact mission. We don't know for sure what's out there, but once we've checked out this place and made sure it's safe, we can take you and ...” Daniel stopped short his promise as he took in his namesake's expression.
Little Danny shook his head, arguing, “That's not the same thing, Daddy.”
“Maybe not, but it's the best I can offer right now,” Daniel said softly but firmly.
Little Danny wiped away the tears of disappointment that had trickled down his cheeks, sniffling, “I don't want to live in a fish bowl. You got one rule for you and Dad, and another one for me. It's not fair.”
With that, the little boy scooted away from Daniel and ran out of the room, leaving a heartbroken Daniel behind him.
~Some linguist you are, Jackson. Gawd, hurry home, Jack, I need you. Little Danny needs you. Heck, we all need you.~
Letting out a sigh, Daniel stood up and walked towards the boys' room. He wanted to try and get Little Danny to feel better. As he reached the room, he noticed the door was ajar. His heart broke even more as he overheard Little Danny talking to Katie in a trembling voice.
“It's not fair, Katie,” Little Danny whined as he held the beagle closely. “I want to be a real arch'ologist. I want to see a first contact mission. I know I'm little, and Dad 'n' Daddy want to keep us safe, but anything could happen. I might die in a car accident like Mommy, and then I'd never get the chance to see Daddy 'meet'n'greet.'”
Daniel smiled at the 'meet'n'greet' term that Little Danny used, knowing it was one Jack had used when telling the children stories of their adventures as part of SG-1.
The disheartened child continued, “I hate being little, Katie. No one lets me do anything real. Daddy won't even let me do real translations. Don't tell anyone, but sometimes I sneak into Daddy's den and copy some of them. Look, this is one I copied the other day. It's called Gold or something and talks about these old people and some kind of circle of light or life.”
Outside the room, Daniel stood transfixed in a complete shock at what he had just heard.
~Crap, crap, crap. He's taught himself to read Goa'uld?~ Daniel supposed he shouldn't be that surprised. He remembered teaching himself different languages after his parents died. Then the rest of what his son had said sunk in. ~He copied my translations? Jack's going to kill me ... us. General Hammond is going to kill us.~
Daniel sighed. He and Jack had decided to keep the door to the den locked at all times since the womis was placed in there, and yet, they hadn't. Their children were trustworthy, and they had always shown such great restraint as far as Toto was concerned.
~We just didn't count on Little Danny wanting to learn so desperately. I should have known better. He's ... gawd, he's like me.~
“Hi, Dad,” Brianna greeted Jack when he walked through the door with the twins as well as Jonny and David whom he had picked up on the way home.
“Hey, Bri,” Jack greeted, placing a kiss on her cheek.
“Um,” Brianna began, looking at her siblings who were running around the living room. “Daddy is outside in the gazebo. He wants to talk to you.”
“Sure thing, Shortcake,” Jack said, smiling.
“Dad, that's Ash's guinea pig!” Brianna whined at the latest nickname Jack had given her.
Laughing, Jack said nothing as he headed outside, meeting up with his spouse in the gazebo that sat towards the fence in the backyard.
“Hey, Beautiful,” Jack greeted, leaning over to kiss his husband.
“We have a problem,” Daniel replied before Jack had even sat down.
“Is this about the mission?” Jack inquired.
“No. Yes. I mean, no,” Daniel responded, his eyes glued to his shoes.
“Daniel?” Jack said, trying to figure out the correct answer.
“Yes and no,” the younger man answered as he looked off into the distance.
“I'm getting older by the second,” Jack coaxed.
“LittleDannytaughthimselftoreadGoa'uldandhe'sbeensneakingintothedendoingtranslations,” Daniel explained in one long breathless sentence.
Jack stared at his lover, attempting to process the gibberish he'd just heard.
“I'm sorry. Could you repeat that?” Jack requested.
“Oursonthegeniuswantstogowithusonthemission,” Daniel revealed in one giant breath, closing his eyes afterwards and shaking his head.
“Daniel,” Jack began, having finally managed to decipher Daniel's words. “If I am understanding correctly, you're telling me that our five-year-old child prodigy has been going into your den, breaking the rules, finding translations, and ...”
“And teaching himself how to read Goa'uld. Jack, I've done the same thing. He probably found one of my translations with the symbols and ... and ... and he, uh, taught himself,” Daniel stuttered nervously.
“He's way smarter than me,” Jack whined.
“Uh, me, too ... I think,” Daniel added shyly, earning him a shocked look from Jack. “Well, he's only five. Jack, what are we going to do? I don't know whether to punish him for sneaking into the den or help him learn. Gawd, who knows how long he's been doing that.”
Jack let out a nervous chuckle as he intoned, “And some people think our kids are saints. We just don't know the half of what the little smarty pants are doing.”
“They're outsmarting us,” Daniel laughed with an air of hysteria around him.
“Daniel, are you sure?” Jack asked, hoping the younger man was imagining things.
“Yes,” Daniel responded. “When General Hammond ...” he began, explaining everything that had happened, ending with, “His only problem is that he's never heard us say Goa'uld, so he called it Gold.”
After hearing the story, Jack sighed, “Yes, you're sure.”
“So, what do we do?” Daniel inquired of his lover.
“Deny, deny, deny. Danny, we can't let him know he's right,” Jack said.
“You want to lie to him?” Daniel asked incredulously, folding his arms across his chest.
“No, Daniel, I don't want to lie to him, but do you have a better idea?” Jack asked pointedly.
“So, we're not letting him go with us?” Daniel asked.
Jack stared at his husband in disbelief, his look clearly saying 'you have got to be kidding'.
“Daniel, no way is our *five*-year-old son going on a first contact mission with us,” Jack stated sternly.
Daniel nodded and scuffed the floor of the gazebo. A nasty feeling began taking root as Jack gazed at his lover.
“Daniel, tell me -- *tell me* that you don't seriously want to take Little Danny through the Stargate to an unknown world. Tell me that, Daniel!” Jack ordered.
As his lover shook his head, Jack was tempted to let things rest, but he couldn't. Jack's internal 'Danny Alarm' was telling him there was more to this. That was obvious as, no matter how ridiculous the notion was, it was apparent that Daniel had at least considered the idea of taking their son with them on this mission. It seemed crazy, even idiotic, and, yet, looking at his soulmate, Jack knew Daniel was, or, at least, had considered it.
“Daniel?” Jack questioned, not really needing to say more.
Daniel sighed, “No, Jack, I don't really *want* to take him with us.”
“But ...” Jack prompted impatiently. “I hear a but at the end of that sentence.”
“But, he's right. What right do we have to keep him in a fish bowl?” Daniel asked.
“I never should have told them that stupid story,” Jack groused, immediately recognizing the significance of the analogy.
Daniel smiled, saying, “It was a good story, and the story isn't the problem. The problem is that we have a little genius who feels life is really unfair because while his parents are spreading their wings, he's being confined to a padded cage with us as some sort of polite wardens. There's nothing worse than a child feeling that they aren't being taken seriously because they're a kid.” Seeing Jack's quizzical expression, Daniel sighed a reluctant admission. “Basically, I'd rather take him with us on this mission than have him go off on his own in a misguided attempt to prove himself.”
Jack shook his head, disagreeing, “He wouldn't do that.”
Daniel blushed and confided, “I did.”
The older man stared at the younger incredulously, asking, “You what?”
As he rubbed his upper arms with his hands nervously, Daniel explained, “We'd been working on a dig near the pyramids when Mom and Dad were invited to take part in a dig on the Gaza Strip. They really wanted to go. They hadn't been on any excavations that far north, but they didn't want to take me with them.”
“Understandable,” Jack commented.
“Maybe,” Daniel agreed in part. “The War of Attrition between Egypt and Israel had just begun, and although the area was supposed to be protected, Mom and Dad didn't want to risk me going along.” Daniel gave Jack a wry grin as he recalled, “They said pretty much the same things that I said earlier to Little Danny, and I said the same things back to them that our son said back to me. Anyway, I really wanted to go.”
“Maybe you should have just pouted and ...” Jack coughed as Daniel glared. “Sorry, Angel, I'm just trying to ... never mind. Go on.”
With a sigh, Daniel continued, “I'd never been on a dig there, either, and I figured if it was safe enough for them, then it was safe enough for me; and, if it wasn't safe, I'd rather die with them than have them die without me. I thought that for a long time after they died, Jack, that I would have rather died with them.”
“I love you, Danny,” Jack said quietly as he pulled his self-hugging lover into an embrace.
With Jack still holding him, the archaeologist continued his story, saying, “Obviously, they didn't see it the same way. They said they'd only be gone for a week, and there were plenty of other digs, safer digs, I could accompany them on.” Daniel shook his head against Jack's shoulder as he remembered the events as if it had been yesterday. “I watched Mom and Dad leave, thinking how unfair it was. I decided that since they weren't taking me seriously, I'd have to show them how capable I was.”
“You followed them?” an astounded Jack asked, eyebrows raised as Daniel moved back out of his hold so they could look at each other.
Daniel nodded, admitting, “I actually made it to the Egyptian border before I got caught.”
“So what happened?” Jack asked.
“The authorities brought Mom and Dad back. I think I can still feel the handprint from *that* spanking,” Daniel grimaced, shifting uncomfortably on his seat.
Jack chuckled, “I'll bet.”
“Mom hugged me a lot,” Daniel said, wishing he could remember the feel of those embraces at the moment.
“Did they take you with them?” Jack asked.
“No, but they didn't go, either. Gawd, I felt so guilty about that. They explained to me again why I couldn't go, but just like Little Danny, I kept arguing. Finally, Mom said none of us would go.” Daniel let out a tiny snort, opining, “I thought Dad was going to faint or something. He just stared at her, but then ... I don't know. He just smiled, like he understood.”
“I don't,” Jack commented.
“They decided that all digs would be family digs, and if there was a reason I couldn't go, then they wouldn't go, either. They had a lot of rules, but I was always with them at the digs -- always,” Daniel said softly.
“Danny, we can't take Little Danny on a recon mission, and unless you want us to get out again, we can't stop going,” Jack stated quietly.
“I don't want to lie to him, Jack,” Daniel responded.
“I have no idea,” Daniel sighed. “You should have heard him, Jack, crying into Katie's ears about how unfair it is. He knows more than he's told us. He's smarter than we think,” he commented.
“Daniel, he's a friggin' genius,” Jack espoused.
“No, Jack, he's ... he's a prodigy, but he's also a little boy. We have to think of something, Jack. I don't know what, but we have to,” Daniel said, leaning his head against his husband's shoulder again, desperately needing to be held at the moment.
“Do you want to quit?” Jack asked about their involvement in the Stargate program.
“I ... I don't know,” Daniel answered. “I just don't want him to hurt like he is right now.”
Jack sighed, deciding, “Let's go talk to him.”
“And ... say what?” the younger man asked quietly.
“For starters, how about that we love him?” the older man suggested.
“That's a good start, but that's not his problem,” Daniel noted. “He knows he's loved.”
“One step at a time, Angel. Let's go,” Jack responded, pausing a moment to give his lover a quick-but-needed kiss.
Little Danny was still snuggled up with Katie, the littlest beagle licking his tear tracks away and looking pleased with herself when she got a giggle for her efforts.
“Hey,” Daniel called out softly.
The small boy looked up at his parents as they came into the room, his flushed face still wet and yet, his eyes hopeful.
~Crap, Danny was right; this is heartbreaking.~ Jack sat down on the bed next to his son, smiling as Katie gave him a kiss of welcome. “Son, Daddy told me that you want to come with us on this new mission.”
“I can help, Dad,” the boy said earnestly as he rolled over onto his back. “And I'll be good, I promise. I really want to be an arch'ologist, and the best way to learn is to watch Daddy, because he's the bestest arch'ologist there is,” Little Danny rambled on excitedly.
Jack smiled at the effusive praise bestowed on his lover, and he brushed the hair back from Little Danny's face as he replied, “That's right, he is, but, Little Danny, you can't come on this mission.”
Jack shook his head and raised his hand slightly in a gesture indicating for Little Danny to listen.
“Sometimes,” Jack continued, “it's dangerous on these first contact missions, and, if you came along, Daddy and I would be worried about you the whole time. It might make us less effective at doing our jobs and lead to the failure of the whole mission.”
Little Danny looked at Jack and shook his head vehemently as he argued, “Na-huh. You're making excuses, Dad. You good at being a general. You and Daddy did lots of missions, and you love him, too!”
**Crap! Danny, want to help me out here?**
**If I knew how to, Jack, I would.**
Jack sighed, “Son, it's just too ...”
“Please, Dad. I don't care if it's dangerous as long as I'm with you and Daddy,” the small boy pleaded.
Jack gazed at the forlorn face of their middle Munchkin, taking in the reddened cheeks, the wobbling lips, and, most heartbreaking of all, the pleading eyes.
“Grandpa won't let you come with us on a first contact mission, Little Danny,” Jack argued weakly. ~Sorry, George. I need help here.~
“Yes, he will, Dad. You and Daddy can pretty much do whatever you want because the government doesn't want you to leave. You've said so lots of times,” the little genius argued.
~Geez, he is way too smart.~ Jack sighed. **We need to talk to Hammond, Danny.**
Daniel gave his namesake a small smile and intoned, “Dad and I need to talk about it some more, Sproglet.”
Little Danny nodded, a look of hope in his eyes as he watched his parents leave the room. He snuggled back with Katie, who made him giggle again with more kisses.
“Katie, I'm going on a first contact mission!” Little Danny said, smiling.
Jack followed Daniel into the den, wondering how they were going to get out of this predicament.
“He's right, Jack, and you know it,” Daniel stated, twisting a rubber band in his hands that he had picked up from the desk. “We don't have to take first contact missions. We made that clear when we went back, and General Hammond is well aware of that. He wasn't ordering us to do this recon mission; he asked us, thinking we might like to because of the special circumstances.”
Jack nodded and gave Daniel a wry grin as he responded, “I know, but I was kinda hoping Little Danny wouldn't be aware of that little fact.”
Daniel snorted, “I wasn't kidding, Jack. I'm sure Little Danny's IQ is the same as mine, if not higher.”
~I *so* don't want to think about that.~ Jack sighed, scratching his head with his right hand. “Any ideas?”
Sighing as he tossed the rubber band back down onto his desk, Daniel replied, “We either take him with us ...”
“Not going to happen, Daniel,” Jack insisted firmly as he stood with his hands in his pockets.
“Then we don't go,” Daniel quickly determined. “If the powers that be can't accept that we aren't doing any first contact missions, we leave.”
“I'm sorry, Danny,” Jack said, knowing how much Daniel loved making first contact with new civilizations, and this would potentially be their last opportunity to do so.
“I'm not, Jack. I wouldn't give up you or our children for anything.” Daniel opined empathetically, “I'm just saying I know exactly how he feels, and I think we have to put him first, just like my parents did with me.”
Daniel still felt a little guilty about the rescue mission he and Jack had been on a couple of months earlier. They hadn't had to participate in it, but both wanted to. Unfortunately, sensitive Little Danny had picked up on their worried mood before they left and spent the entire time they'd been gone worrying. Daniel had made a vow to himself then not to put his wishes above the interests of his children, and he was determined to stick to it.
“Maybe we can monitor the mission from the gate room; get them to take the MALP and use it to keep us updated,” Daniel pondered.
“Let's go talk to him again,” Jack suggested, shaking his head and raising his hands in total confusion.
“He won't be happy,” Daniel spoke, his awareness of his namesake's feelings running hand-in-hand with his vivid memories of his own childhood.
“It's the best we can do,” Jack responded, turning and walking out the door.
“Yes, but sometimes our best just isn't good enough,” Daniel murmured, glancing over at Toto for a moment before following his husband back to their son's bedroom.
“You're not going to go?” Little Danny asked after being told the news from Jack and Daniel.
“No, Sproglet, we're not,” Daniel stated, reaching over to pet Katie who was still 'one' with Little Danny. “You see, everything we do is as a family. It's too dangerous for you right now, so, we're going to wait until you're older.”
Little Danny studied the faces of his parents. He thought they were sincere, but he wasn't totally sure. He scrunched his nose as he thought about it.
“I'm going to call Grandpa right now,” Jack said, pulling out his cell phone.
“I'll dial,” the boy offered.
**I'm not sure he trusts us,** Jack communicated.
**And we're going to make sure this is the last time he doubts us. Let him press the buttons; he knows which ones.**
“Go ahead, Son. Call Grandpa,” Jack urged, handing the phone to the little boy.
Over the next couple of minutes, Little Danny listened as Jack explained the situation to his surrogate grandfather. He was surprised when Jack told Hammond that from now on, any first contact mission would be a family affair, and since their youngest 'team member' was too young, they'd be declining the mission.
“Okay, so how about we go make first contact with a new carton of chocolate ice cream?” Jack asked when he disconnected the call.
**Jack, we still have to talk about the Goa'uld,** Daniel reminded.
**Later, Love. Let's just get this one issue handled first.**
“Okay,” Little Danny agreed eagerly as he continued to watch his parents closely. “I'll check it first to make sure it's not dangerous.”
“You do that,” Jack mused.
Twenty minutes later, after their ice cream treats and having changed into workclothes, Daniel was outside cleaning the patio deck with their power wash sprayer. Jack was on the floor of the recreation room, lying on his back, playing with Ricky and Jenny.
Little Danny was watching his older father closely. Then he ran to the patio and watched Daniel working diligently at his task. He ran back to the rec room, seeing Jack romping cheerfully with the twins. He heard his father suggest a trip to the park when Daniel was done with his work outside. Quickly, Little Danny ran back to the window, watching as Daniel turned off the power wash and began to pick away some weeds against the patio's edge.
“DADDY, NO!” the little boy yelled as he opened the door and ran to his father. “NO, DADDY, NO!”
“Little Danny, what's wrong?” Daniel asked, kneeling down to try and calm his namesake.
“I believe you, Daddy, but you have to go. Grandpa needs you. I don't want you to stop because of me,” Little Danny stated as he breathed heavily.
“I love you, Son, so much,” Daniel responded. He hugged the little boy, then pulled back and looked him in the eyes. “Grandpa doesn't need me, though. He has plenty of other linguists that can do what I do.”
Little Danny shook his head, saying, “None as good as you, Daddy.”
Daniel smiled, inwardly proud of his son's belief in him, and replied, “They are perfectly capable of doing the job, Little Danny. No one is ever irreplaceable.”
The little boy shook his head defiantly and looked like he was steeling himself to say something difficult, finally blurting out, “IwantyoutogoDaddy.”
Before Daniel could decipher the words, his son had dashed back to the house.
~Okay, what did he just say?~ Daniel asked himself as he stood up. Wiping his brow, he suddenly realized, ~Oh.~
The linguist sighed and looked up at the clear blue sky wondering what he should do now. He remembered saying something similar to his parents, feeling guilty that he'd made them forfeit digs that they wanted to go on. Then when the opportunity had come for his parents to go on another dig, back in the Gaza Strip, he'd watched them pack, feeling all the old resentment coming back. His mother had read him well, and they'd abandoned the trip, managing to persuade Daniel that they really didn't mind not going.
“Unfortunately, I don't think Little Danny is going to buy that.” Daniel paused as an idea occurred to him. “No, I can't. It's not fair. I have no right to ask, but ... but I will.”
Striding back to the house, Daniel ran through the justifications for and against his intended course of action. He remembered the time just after he and Jack had become a couple, when he was diagnosed with a brain tumor. He'd refused to make use of their off-world connections to find a cure, believing it wasn't fair to take advantage of the Stargate and the SGC.
~We hadn't earned friendships by then, though, and, anyway, this is potentially a long-term investment. I can see Little Danny being a brilliant ambassador for a number of races someday.~
Once he'd reached his and Jack's bedroom, Daniel pulled out the communications device and called for Thor. A few seconds later, the little gray alien was standing in front of him.
“Daniel Jackson,” Thor greeted in his normal formal-sounding voice.
“Thor, how are you?” the archaeologist inquired.
“I am well, Doctor Jackson. How may I help you?” Thor asked.
Daniel looked embarrassed, but reminding himself that this was for his son, plunged ahead, beginning with, “I, uh, need a favor.” He described the situation with Little Danny and requested, “I wondered if you could scan the planet before we go and see if there is any hint of danger from the Goa'uld, the planet's inhabitants, or anyone.”
“That would be possible, Doctor Jackson,” Thor answered. He cocked his head to the side and then offered, “I could hold the ship in orbit over the planet while you carry out your mission. If there is any sign of danger, I could beam Jonny and Little Danny up to the ship.”
“Jonny?” Daniel asked, thrown by the sudden mention of the oldest Munchkin.
“Jonny Jackson-O'Neill will not allow his little brother to undertake a dangerous mission without him,” Thor stated, as if he were an expert on the family.
~Gawd, he's probably ... what probably? He *is* right,~ Daniel thought about their Asgard friend. “You're right. I hadn't thought about that,” he confessed. He looked at Thor with a worried expression and noted, “We're asking a lot of you, Thor. Are you sure you don't mind?”
The Asgard gave Daniel a solemn blink and then answered, “The Asgard believe Jonny and Little Danny Jackson-O'Neill will one day have a great role to play in preserving peace within the galaxy. We consider it an honor to aid in their learning.”
Daniel gaped at Thor for a second before replying, “Uh, Thor, we don't know what they want to be when they grow up. They may not want to have anything to do with the Stargate.”
Seeing Thor standing resolutely, doing nothing but blinking, Daniel sighed again, conceding, “You're right.” He knew down deep within his soul that their sons would follow their parents into the Stargate program. Little Danny's insatiable curiosity and quest for knowledge wouldn't allow him to do otherwise, while in Jonny's case, the allure of adventure cast by the Stargate was guaranteed to draw him in, along with wanting to make sure Little Danny didn't get into trouble without him. He looked at Thor and said, “I still have to talk to Jack and General Hammond about this, but if they agree, can I count on you to watch over Jonny and Little Danny and to make sure the planet is safe?”
Thor nodded, saying, “I will be waiting.”
The archaeologist elaborated, “Thor, I don't want you to interfere with the inhabitants, if there are any, or to tell us what's ... well, what we might find because that would detract from the mission. I ... I just need to know that our children ...”
“They will be safe, Daniel,” Thor assured, cutting off Daniel's stammering.
“Thank you, Thor,” Daniel spoke, after which the alien disappeared.
~This is crazy; insane even,~ Jack thought as he took a giant breath and walked to the window of their bedroom. He turned around and stared at his self-hugging lover. Jack blinked twice and then looked back out the window. Finally, he grunted as he turned around, raising both hands to his head as he let out the sound. “The little gray butt promised?” he asked.
“Yes. Look, we know he listens in on us, somehow. He says they're important to the future, and I ... I don't want to think about that, but I believe Thor. He'll keep Jonny and Little Danny safe,” Daniel opined calmly.
“Daniel, it's a first recon,” Jack stated skeptically.
“I know that,” the younger man replied, nodding his head slightly. “Jack, he's going to scan the planet first. I told him not to give us any details, just to make sure there's no danger to the children,” Daniel replied.
“Danny, do you know how crazy this is? For crying out loud, there is danger everywhere,” Jack argued.
“Yes, there is. Any one of us could fall down the stairs, get hit by a drunk driver, be mugged at the park, grow a brain tumor ...” Daniel stopped, seeing Jack's glare. “I only brought that up because I thought about it earlier.” He walked closer to Jack, entering into his personal space. Their eyes were locked as Daniel's thumb ran against his lover's strong chin for a moment before lowering his hand. “Jack, they are our children. They have our genes, and, like it or not, they love what we do. We have to face the fact that some of them, especially Jonny and Little Danny, might want to do this themselves someday. We ... we have to let them grow.”
“THEY'RE FIVE YEARS OLD!” Jack shouted in Daniel's face.
“Fine,” Daniel said softly, turning around. “Don't listen to me, but you're the one who's going to regret the decision,” he warned as he walked to the edge of the bed and sat down.
~WHAT?~ Jack radiated exasperation as he raised his hands to his head, yanking on his silver-gray hairs. He grunted and then, finally, he capitulated, saying, “I'll call Hammond.”
“No, Jack. I couldn't live with myself if something did happen, and this was something I had talked you into,” Daniel admitted regretfully as guilt began to overtake him.
“Oh, for crying out loud!” Jack exclaimed, though this was more tender than the first. He sat down next to his lover. He leaned forward, his hands clasped in front of him. “Daniel, I'd argue if they were thirty. You know that. This took me by surprise, that's all.”
“So, what do you really think?” Daniel inquired as he turned to look at his lover.
“I think we're crazy,” Jack admitted, “but I also think we've lived by our own drummer from the day we met. I don't think that should change now.”
“Which means the Space Family Jackson-O'Neill becomes more than just a funny line,” Jack replied softly, a small smile on his face.
“Is that so bad, Jack?” Daniel asked. “I mean, uh, I know it's crazy; maybe we're wrong, but our questions are a little different than the average family's. We *know* they're out there.”
“Another television reference, Love?” Jack mused.
“All I'm saying is that we know we're not alone in the universe, and ...” Daniel shook his head, ceasing his words.
“Maybe we have a responsibility, like it or not,” Jack finished for his husband.
Nodding briskly, Daniel answered, “Yes, maybe.”
“I'll call Hammond.” Jack leaned over and placed a gentle kiss on his lover's lips. Then he added, “We'll take SG-2 and SG-3 with us. Teal'c and Lou will both be on kid-watch. Reynolds can handle leading both units. Okay?”
“Okay,” Daniel agreed.
“Okay.” Smiling, Jack stood and walked to the phone on the nightstand. “He's not going to believe this,” he commented as he dialed.
“JACK, ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR MIND? YOU WANT TO TAKE *MY* GRANDCHILDREN ON A FIRST CONTACT MISSION?” Hammond yelled over the phone, his ire so evident that Sergeant Davis, who had just entered the lieutenant general's office, quickly turned around and retreated.
Jack held the phone out for Daniel to hear and whispered, “His grandchildren.”
“They are,” Daniel said quietly with a smile. “Remember that as you convince him. I'm going to call Sara and make sure she can watch the rest of the brood.”
“She's not going to be happy, either,” Jack whispered, holding the phone away from his ear to shield himself from Hammond's loud voice as the bald-headed man continued to bark negative responses to Jack's idea.
“Gawd, don't tell me that,” Daniel requested as he headed for the door.
“Mother complex. She thinks she's their mother,” Jack noted softly.
Daniel smiled and shrugged, saying, “She is ... one of them.”
“Daniel, I think you're insane to even consider this,” Sara stated. “Mark and I know so little from what you've told us, but I know enough to know when Jack's been hiding things from me. I remember his expression, Daniel. As fun as the Nox are, there's an evil side through that ... portal,” she said, choosing her words well.
“We're not really thrilled about it ourselves, Sara, but I know how Little Danny feels and ...”
“He's a child, Daniel, and you're putting him in harm's way. Please reconsider,” the blonde begged over the phone. Hearing silence, she said with resignation, “You've already made up your minds, haven't you?”
“Yes,” Daniel answered succinctly.
“Okay, Daniel, I'll watch the children, but ...”
Daniel grimaced as he listened to Sara's unpleasant reaction to the news he'd just shared.
~Definitely their mother,~ the explorer thought. Then he smiled. ~Yeah, definitely their mother.~
With their ears still ringing from the rather vocal conversations they'd just had with Hammond and Sara, Jack and Daniel made their way into the backyard where Little Danny was currently playing with Katie.
It had taken quite a bit of talking and explaining, but eventually both Hammond and Sara had come around. Hammond had made it quite clear, however, that this was not going to be an everyday occurrence and that before embarking on the mission he, too, wanted to speak with Thor.
“Sproglet,” Daniel called out to the middle Munchkin. “Can you come over here for a minute, please. Dad and I would like to talk to you.”
Little Danny made his way over to them, followed by Katie, and looked up, scrunching his nose in puzzlement. Jack and Daniel sat on one side of the gazebo with Little Danny standing in front of them.
“Little Danny, Dad and I have been talking about this first contact mission, and, since you want us to go, Dad and I are going to take the mission,” Daniel explained.
Little Danny nodded sadly, and although he kept his eyes averted, they could see the disappointment in his face.
**Okay, Danny, you were right. He's still miserable thinking that we're going without him,** Jack projected, unable to disregard the brave expression on the boy's face.
**I know. He needs this, Jack.**
Jack pulled their son onto his lap, and said, “But we've also decided that you had some good points earlier, so, just this once, and we mean just this one time, you can come with us,” he announced with only a trace of reluctance. It still went against the grain to put their children in what could be a dangerous situation. ~I don't like it, but we're going to do it.~
As soon as Little Danny heard Jack's words, his face lit up, and his eyes were filled with hope. “Really?” he asked eagerly but cautiously.
Nodding, Daniel smiled and replied, “Really, Sproglet, but we are going to get Thor to scan the planet before we go there, just to make sure there are no obvious dangers. He won't tell us anything about the inhabitants or what we might have to face, but he is going to make sure it's reasonably safe.”
“He's also going to wait above the planet, and, if anything goes wrong, he's going to zap you onto his ship,” Jack warned.
Little Danny nodded quickly, tears of happiness in his eyes as he threw his arms around both his parents, hugging them.
“I love you, Dad and Daddy,” the little boy said happily.
“We love you, too, Son,” Daniel said softly, Jack nodding his agreement.
Daniel caressed the boy's cheek, reminding, “Son, remember, this is a one-time only thing, and you need to understand that. Grandpa wasn't very happy. Dad had to do a lot of talking to convince him.”
“But I'll be a good help, Daddy,” Little Danny argued.
“I know you will,” Daniel responded. “You'll be part of our team, but after this, you'll have to wait until you're older to go another mission. In the meantime, you can learn. There's a lot for you to study if you want to keep going through the Gate,” he told his son.
“Aunt Sara will be here in a while to pick up your brothers and sisters, and then we have to go, so you better go inside and say goodbye,” Jack urged. “And, Son, ask Jonny to come outside, please.”
“Okay, Dad,” Little Danny said as he ran off.
“Well, that went ...”
“Jack,” Daniel interrupted, looking downward.
“What?” Jack asked.
“Uh, look,” Daniel pointed to Katie, who was now joined by Bijou.
“Oh,” Jack said.
The beagles were sitting with frowns on their faces, glaring at Jack and Daniel. Their unhappiness was evident.
“He wants to go,” Jack pleaded.
“Grrrrr!” Bijou responded.
“But ...” Jack began.
“Grrrrr,” times two was the response.
“Danny, help me out here,” Jack begged.
“I can't. I'm on their side,” Daniel said as he leaned his head against Jack.
“Sure, you are,” Jack replied and then placed a kiss atop Daniel's head as he put his arm around him.
“Dad, Daddy, Little Danny said you want me,” Jonny said as he ran to his parents. Seeing the staring beagles, he asked, “What's wrong with Bijou and Katie?”
“They, uh, are a little irritated with us,” Jack admitted, receiving a bark of agreement from Katie.
Jonny placed his hands on his hips and glared at his parents, asking, “What did you do?”
Daniel hid a smile at Jonny's attempt to be menacing and opted instead for explaining, “We've just told Little Danny that he can come on this recon mission with us. Has he told you about it?”
Jonny nodded and looked at his parents, his face full of determination as he stated, “Little Danny not going nowhere without me to protect him.”
**Thor was right, Jack.**
**Think we can persuade him he doesn't need to come?**
Jack heard the mental snort of disbelief from his husband, followed by a wry, **You're welcome to try, Babe.**
“Jonny, Little Danny will have Daddy and I, Teal'c, Uncle Lou and the rest of SG-2, Aunt Sam, and even Colonel Reynolds and his team to protect him,” Jack explained.
Jonny just glared harder, and Daniel had to turn away to hide a grin.
**He's giving you 'general eyes', Jack.**
“Where Little Danny goes, I go, too!” Jonny announced.
**Give it up, Babe. He's coming with us. You know it, I know it, and he knows it.**
With a sigh, Jack agreed, “Okay, Jonny, you can come with us and protect Little Danny, but you have to promise that you'll take orders from any SG member,” Jack warned. “They all outrank you,” he reminded.
Jonny puffed his chest out and gave his father an 'I know that' look as he responded, “I can take orders, Dad. I'll be the best soldier ever, just like you.”
Jack grinned and ruffled the little boy's hair, replying, “You'll be a way better soldier than me someday, Jonny.”
Jonny shook his head, arguing, “You're the best, but I'll be as good.”
“I'm sure you will be, Son,” Jack assured him with pride.
Jonny looked at Bijou and Katie, who were still looking disgruntled, and asked, “Bij and Katie come, too? They can help protect Little Danny.”
**He is so like you, Jack. Doesn't think he needs protecting.**
**Yeah, he is.**
Seeing Jack's grin, Daniel added, **We just don't admit we need protecting.**
At Jonny's words, Bijou and Katie stood, their tails wagging, and happy smiles on their faces.
“Girls, if you go with us, who will look after Jenny and Ash and the others?” Jack argued.
With growls of disdain, the beagles sat down, quickly giving up their battle.
**Close one, Babe,** Daniel relayed.
**Two kids is going to be bad enough.** Smiling, Jack looked at Jonny. “Okay, it's time to go. Go say goodbye to your brothers and sisters,” he instructed.
“I assure you, General Hammond, the Asgard have scanned the asteroid and ...”
“Asteroid?” Sam interjected in surprise.
SG-1, Lou Ferretti, Colonel Reynolds, and Thor were all in General Hammond's office, discussing the mission. Jonny and Little Danny were temporarily in the care of Nyan.
“The planet is a terraformed world, but that is all I am at liberty to say,” Thor explained. He added, “There are no known enemies of the universe on the asteroid.”
“Sir,” Sam stated, “Thor has provided us with a ... a sort of miniature communication device. It's a small patch that we'll sew into the children's attire before we leave.”
“I will be able to monitor Jonny and Little Danny at all times, General,” Thor promised. “If necessary, I can beam them aboard the Daniel Jackson,” he stated, referring to his spaceship.
With a big sigh and still shaking his head, Hammond said, “I don't like this, Jack, and it goes against every military rule in the book ...”
“But ...” Jack prodded.
“But ...” Hammond sighed. “SG-1, you have a go, and, General, you take darn good care of my grandkids. Now get the heck out of my office before I have you thrown in the brig for endangering the welfare of my grandchildren.” As Jack and Daniel exchanged a look, Hammond ordered loudly, “GO!”
“Yes, Sir,” Jack said, hurriedly leaving the man's office. **If it wouldn't mean giving his grandchildren's father a prison record, he'd court-martial me. I really think he would.**
**He loves his grandchildren, Jack.**
**What am I -- chopped liver?** the older man asked.
**Compared to our children, and when we are the ones putting them in jeopardy -- what do you think?** Daniel challenged
**That he'd have my liver removed, if he could.**
Daniel gave his lover a silent smirk as they went on their way. He was just glad David hadn't asked to come, too, especially since the youngster had made Little Danny promise to tell him everything that went on when they got back.
“Whoa!” Jack reacted in both amazement and amusement as he took in their two sons.
Jack and Daniel had just walked into the locker room where Nyan was waiting with the boys.
“Sharp! Very sharp!” Daniel exclaimed, giving his smiling children the thumbs up.
“We're really part of the team, Daddy!” Jonny exclaimed, turning to his profile to show his fathers the SG-1 patch that had been sewn onto his green BDU jacket.
“How, uh, I mean ... where did you get those?” Daniel inquired.
The children were wearing what looked like authentic military uniforms, complete with green jackets, green pants, black shirts, and black boots. Little Danny had a small green boonie hat while Jonny wore a brown baseball cap. Both had been given radios and instructed how to use them if the need arose.
The last time the two parents had witnessed anything like that was when Jennifer and David went through the Stargate initially, each of them having been given BDU outfits.
Little Danny beamed at his parents and answered, “Nyan made them for us, Daddy.”
Nyan shrugged, elaborating, “They were going to be Christmas presents, but when you called and told me what was happening, I thought they'd enjoy them now.”
“Thank you,” Daniel spoke, nodding his appreciation as well.
“Look, Dad, I'm a junior airman,” Jonny said proudly, pointing to his uniform.
As Jack doted over the boys, Nyan drew Daniel aside for a moment, saying, “Daniel, I also found a couple of realistic looking water pistols that would go with the outfits, but I wasn't sure what you and Jack thought about them. I know you don't like guns, but I see a lot of other kids playing with them a lot.”
~We've been through this one,~ Daniel thought as he glanced over at Jack. He knew they both agreed on this subject. Looking back at Nyan, he gave him a grateful but apologetic smile as he said, “Thank you, Nyan, so much for this. It means a lot to them, but, uh, you're right. Jack and I don't like guns. We're going to pass on the water pistols.”
“That's fine, Daniel,” Nyan said. “I don't really like them, either.”
“They love the outfits, Nyan. Jack and I will pay you back for them,” Daniel offered.
“No, please don't, Daniel. They're my gift for the new explorers,” Nyan stated, smiling at the little boys.
“Thank you,” Daniel said as he nodded and then turned towards Jonny and Little Danny, who were still enthusiastically showing off their new uniforms. He met Jack's gaze and grinned as he asked, **Ready for this, Babe?**
Jack snorted, **No.**
**Well, our two little Munchkins are.**
Jack looked down at their children, noting their two excited faces watching him, waiting for the command to move out.
“We're ready, General Dad, Sir!” Jonny spoke loudly.
Daniel looked down, trying not to laugh, but loving the adventuresome spirit in the two boys.
“Okay, let's move out,” Jack ordered.
Each taking their namesake by the hand, Jack and Daniel led their children to the gate room where they met up with the others. Sam and Lou grinned at the sight of the two boys while Teal'c's lips twitched upwards.
“Wow,” Sam exclaimed in admiration. “You two look great, every inch the soldier and archeologist.”
Jonny proudly stood taller and brought his hand up in a salute, stating, “Junior Airman Jackson-O'Neill reporting for duty, Aunt Colonel Sam.”
The whole room chuckled, and Lou grinned at the boy, complimenting, “Nice salute there, Jonny.”
Little Danny looked up at Daniel and asked, “We don't salute, do we, Daddy? 'Cause we're civilians.”
Daniel grinned, answering, “That's right, Little Danny.”
“It wouldn't kill you, you know,” Jack interjected.
“Give it up, Jack. If I didn't salute you on the first mission, I'm not about to do it now,” Daniel said lightheartedly.
“Scientists,” Jack mumbled in jest.
“Jonny,” Sam called out as she motioned for the youngster to come a bit closer. She leaned down and began to sew the Asgard communication patch onto his black shirt. “This will just take a minute.”
“Aunt Colonel Sam, that's not regulation,” Jonny whined.
Jack sternly replied, “It is for you and your brother.”
Jonny looked up and, seeing Jack's look, said simply, “Oh.”
When she was done, Sam sewed another patch onto Little Danny's shirt.
“All done, Sir,” Sam called out when the task was completed.
A minute after that, Hammond walked into the gate room.
“Grandpa, we're all ready to make first contact. I brought my notepad and pen to take notes, and, here,” Little Danny said, holding up a ring to show Hammond. “It's one of the claddagh rings. The hands represent friendship, the heart, love, and the crown, loyalty. It's Irish. Dad's Irish, too, so that means we're part Irish, too,” the little boy began to ramble. “Actually, the claddagh came from an old legend where a townsman was kidnapped and ...”
“Whoa, Son,” Hammond stated. “If you tell me the whole story, you won't have time to go through the Stargate.”
“Oh!” Little Danny gasped, taking the ring and putting it back into his pocket. “I thought if we meet new people, I could give them the ring to show we want to be friends.” He looked over at Daniel and said, “That's what we do, right, Daddy? We make friends?”
“Yeah, that's what we do,” Daniel confirmed.
“Is it okay I brought the claddagh?” the boy asked.
“It sure is,” Daniel replied.
“We have more at home,” Jack added. “That was a wonderful idea, Little Danny,” he praised, causing Little Danny to beam brighter than ever.
“Well,” Hammond sighed. Throwing image to the wind, he hugged the two boys closely and for longer than normal. Finally, he released them, saying, “SG-1 plus two, SG-2, and SG-3 -- you have a go. Good luck, and God speed.”
That said, the Gate activated, and SG-2 stepped through, followed by SG-3.
**Why did I agree to this, Danny?**
**Because our son needs it.** Daniel led Little Danny up to the Gate and just before he stepped through sent Jack another mental thought. **It could have been worse, Jack. Ash could have wanted to come, too.**
~I think my hair is turning gray all over again,~ Jack lamented as he and Jonny stepped through the Gate.
“Teal'c, Lou, you understand your primary focus on this mission?” Jack asked as they gathered together on the asteroid they'd designated PA2-242.
“You have nothing to fear, O'Neill,” Teal'c answered, looking over at the two boys who were getting a quick refresher from Sam about the radios and how to use them.
“Don't worry, Pal. We love those kids. You just make sure we don't fall into ditches while we're looking out for them,” Lou teased.
“Thanks.” Jack walked a few feet away and began to address the teams. “Okay, listen up. This is a standard recon mission. Reynolds, SG-3 takes point, and SG-2 has our six. Junior airman and junior archaeologist, you stay behind Aunt Colonel Sam and in front of Uncle Colonel Lou and Teal'c. You do *exactly* what they say when they say it, or you'll be grounded for life. Ice cream will be forgotten. No planes, no museums, no ...”
“Jack!” Daniel reprimanded. “They know.”
“I'm just making sure,” Jack barked. He sighed and took a deep breath. Looking at his precious sons, he asked, “Got it?”
“Got it,” both Jonny and Little Danny said.
Jack nodded and turned around as he gave the order to, “Move out!”
“It looks like Garden of the Gods,” Little Danny observed about their current surroundings.
“In some ways,” Daniel acknowledged.
“Carter, what do you make of this place?” Jack asked after they'd walked an hour or so.
“It's a paradise, Sir, at least today,” Sam observed about the eighty-degree weather.
So far, all they'd seen was forest, which wasn't unusual. SG-1 and forests were practically synonymous, or, at least, it felt that way to Jack.
“General O'Neill, we've found something you should see,” Reynolds called out over the radio. “To the northwest, about half a click.”
“We're on our way,” Jack said.
“Jackson-O'Neill,” Jonny muttered.
Hearing that, Daniel stopped and waited for his sons to reach him. He stopped them, knelt down, and admonished, “Listen, we *are* the Jackson-O'Neills, but we've explained before that sometimes people who knew Dad and I before we were married use our single names. We *know* who we are, and that's what's important. Now, we're on a mission, and we have to focus on what we find here, not about what name someone uses. Arguing over a name can cause a war, and what we're trying to do is make new friends, not new enemies. Do you understand?”
“Yes,” Jonny responded, adding, “but I don't like it.”
Daniel smiled, saying, “That's okay, but you're a soldier, so I don't want to hear anymore mutterings that aren't related to the mission. Understood?”
“Understood!” both Jonny and Little Danny replied.
“I love you; now, let's go,” Daniel ordered, getting up and starting to move ahead.
“That's *not* related to the mission!” Jonny shouted, a Jack-like smirk on his face.
~Oh, gawd.~ Daniel turned and warned, “Jonny!”
“But it's not!” Jonny insisted.
~He is *so* a recreation of Jack!~ Daniel turned to watch his husband, admiring Jack's six. ~Of course, it's not necessarily a bad thing.~
“Daddy, are all planets like Earth?” Little Danny inquired.
“No, of course not, but the ones we travel to usually are,” the archaeologist answered.
“Why?” the little boy asked as they continued their journey.
“Well, mainly because the people who used the Stargates most recently settled on worlds that humans could inhabit. They, uh, needed to be ... friends with humans,” Daniel explained, rolling his eyes at his own circumventing of the truth about the Goa'uld who had brought humans from Earth to act as their hosts and slaves on other worlds. “There are many worlds we can't live on. Maybe when we get home, I'll tell you about the Gadmeer.”
Jack turned, walking backwards as he stared at his husband, and said, “Did I hear you say something about the Gadmeer?”
“Daddy is going to tell me about them when we get home,” Little Danny clarified. “Daddy, were they human?”
“No, they weren't, and they needed an entirely different atmosphere to live on,” Daniel elucidated, his eyes telling his lover not to worry over nothing.
Jack coughed, then turned back to face forward as they walked.
The explorers walked for another ten minutes or so before they caught up to Colonel Reynolds. In the distance, they could see what had captured the man's attention.
“They must be farmers,” Little Danny said, making a note in his book.
Daniel smiled at his son and then looked out at the field of what looked like wheat, the crop thriving.
“Or maybe they just need food to eat, and wheat grows well here,” Daniel theorized.
“It might not be wheat. Don't touch it, Little Danny,” Jonny ordered. “It might be some alien secret weapon.”
Little Danny looked at his brother skeptically.
“It could be, couldn't it, Dad?” the sandy-blond youngster asked.
“Maybe. Let's see what's out there,” Jack said, taking out his field glasses. “Looks like a town -- pretty rudimentary,” he observed as he surveyed the faraway site.
“Any bad guys there, Dad?” Jonny asked.
“I hope not, Son,” Jack answered as he continued to scan the area.
Daniel grinned as Little Danny jumped up and down in excitement. Although Jonny was determined to 'be cool', his eyes showed excitement as well. Sam and Lou helped the two focus their field glasses, and immediately Little Danny began chattering away to Jonny.
“Jonny, look at the houses,” Little Danny said excitedly. “They're old, like we saw in that old west town, remember?”
Jonny nodded, recalling a family vacation that included a visit to Old Tucson.
Little Danny continued his ramble, saying, “I wonder if they have electr'city 'cause they didn't in the old west. Do you think they speak English?”
Daniel listened to the excitement in his namesake's voice and realized he was actually glad they'd arranged to bring him with them.
Jack put his field glasses away and ordered, “Okay, People, let's go meet some natives.”
As they walked, Little Danny continued his chatter, wondering about the wooden buildings and their technological status.
**Geez, Danny, he is like you.**
**Excuse me?** Daniel asked, staring intently at his lover as they proceeded towards their destination.
**Talk, talk, talk!**
**I have a couple more words for you, Jack,** Daniel retorted in their special way of talking.
**Self-gratification. Think about it,** the younger man challenged as he quickened his pace, leaving Jack several steps behind him.
“Daniel!” Jack whined, his sudden verbal outcry gaining attention from those around him. “He knows better than to take off like that,” Jack said, covering for his exclamation.
A minute later, while in mid-sentence, Little Danny suddenly stopped talking and walking. He pointed sideways and gasped in delight as he saw a young girl, about twelve or thirteen, was watching them from the trees.
“Daddy, first contact!”
Both Jack and Daniel stopped, turning around to face their children.
“There's a girl in the trees!” Little Danny called out.
They followed the direction of his outstretched arm until finally, they saw the girl as well.
Little Danny instinctively stepped towards the female, but before Teal'c or Lou could pull him back, Jonny moved in front of his brother, frowning.
“Little Danny, you know you can't just walk up to her. Dad told us the rules,” Jonny stated with his hands on his hips.
“But, Jonny, she's just a girl. I think she's Bri's age,” the middle Munchkin observed.
“No, you can't go!” Jonny stated.
Little Danny grumbled, but any thoughts he had of rebelling vanished when he saw Teal'c's intense glare.
“Okay, we'll wait for Daddy,” Little Danny agreed.
“Good job, Son,” Jack said, earning him a smile from Jonny.
Daniel walked towards the girl, smiling at her.
“Daaaaaddy, wait for me!” Little Danny complained.
“Sorry,” Daniel said as he twisted his torso around and smiled at his namesake. When Little Danny was at his side, he greeted, “Hello, my name is Daniel Jackson.” He raised his right hand, motioning back towards Jack and said, “That's General Jack O'Neill, Colonel Carter ...” he continued, introducing SG-1 as was his custom.
“I'm Little Danny Jackson-O'Neill, and that's my brother, Jonny,” Little Danny said, pointing back at Jonny as he stood beside Jack.
As the young girl just stared at the visitors from Earth without saying a word, Daniel gave his customary peaceful explorers spiel.
~I wonder if she understands English,~ the linguist thought as the silence continued.
Finally, Little Danny said, “We just want to be friends. Can we play with you?”
The girl giggled in response and replied, “I am Antoinette.”
Hearing her accent, Daniel asked, “D'où venez-vous?”
Even though her accent sounded French, Daniel was pretty sure it had to be a coincidence so he hadn't really expected an answer to his question of 'Where are you from?' Consequently, he was rather taken aback when she answered him in a stream of fluent French. His shock only grew as he registered what she was saying.
“Parlez plus lentement, s'il vous plaît,” Little Danny muttered unconsciously, using the French language as the girl was. He was paying avid attention to both Daniel and the girl. ~French is a pretty language.~
“Daniel, what did she say?” Jack asked, anxious to know what had surprised the archeologist so much.
Little Danny beat Daniel to it, answering, “She was born over there in the town, but her mother is French. I think she died last year. Daddy?”
Daniel nodded, affirming his son's translation, and smiled at the budding young linguist.
“Let's try keeping this to English,” Jack suggested. “Take us to your leader,” Jack joked.
Daniel shook his head and looked back at the girl, asking, “We'd like to visit your town. Would that be all right?”
“We've never had visitors before,” Antoinette responded. Looking at the boys, she asked, “Are you fast runners? We're going to play 'Tag' next.”
“We're very fast,” Jonny spoke up, his competitive nature showing through in his confident tone and demeanor.
“Good. This way!” Antoinette beckoned as she headed for the quaint town.
“Keep an eye out,” Jack reminded the teams. “Whoa!” he said, grabbing Little Danny by the shoulder. “Back by Jonny.”
“But ...” Seeing his father's glare, the boy reluctantly took a few steps back to stand with his brother, muttering, “She's our friend.”
Jack just shook his head in amazement and then glanced over at Lou and Teal'c to make sure they were focused on the boys, which they were. He then quickened his step to walk side-by-side with his husband, a few yards behind the young girl.
“It looks ... Amish,” Daniel observed as they drew nearer to the town. “I don't see any signs of technology, Jack, and look at their dress.”
“Yeah, if we weren't off-world, I'd say we were in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. That's what this place reminds me of,” Jack commented as he glanced back at the two women who had just passed them.
The women wore modest dresses, mostly in solid colors, and many of them had aprons in the front. There were few items of jewelry visible, and those that were, were relatively simple items.
The men wore either working attire or suits that were basic blue or black. Many wore broad-brimmed straw hats as well. All were clean-shaven.
As the group from Earth entered the town, the locals began to gather around, all with astonished looks on their faces.
“Daniel, I'm beginning to feel like an exhibit piece. Do something,” Jack requested.
Daniel again moved out front of the others and said, “Uh, hello. We're peaceful explorers from the planet Earth and ...”
“Excuse me?” a man said. “I don't understand.”
“Uh, I guess maybe that's a bit ... complex. We're from another planet and ...”
“No,” the man said. “We understand your words. Forgive our inhospitality, but we haven't had visitors in forty years.”
“Oh,” Daniel responded, looking around at the gawking villagers. “Well, we'd like to get to know you and exchange information about our cultures. We, uh, came through the Stargate.” He searched their eyes for recognition, but found none. “The Stargate -- the big, round ... circle,” he said, making a rapid circular motion with his right hand. “The ... chaapa'ai?”
The inhabitants all shook their heads as they muttered under their breaths.
“Well, the Stargate is a ... transportation device, and it brought us here from Earth; that's our home,” Daniel revealed.
“What are you talking about? Is this some kind of a joke?” another man said.
“No, the Stargate is ...”
“I'm not talking about some gate,” the man intoned, hostility brimming in his voice. “*This* is Earth. We live on Earth.”
“Uh ... no, no, you don't,” Daniel replied.
“This is an asteroid,” Jack announced.
The villagers shook their heads as more of them approached and joined in.
“I'm not sure who you are,” the first man said, “but we don't appreciate cruelness here. We live a simple life, by our own choosing. This is Earth.”
“No, no, it's not,” Daniel repeated. “Look, it's probable that your ... ancestors were taken from Earth to this place and ...”
“Daddy, could there be two Earths?” Little Danny surprised his younger father by asking.
Jack grunted, memories of alternate realities and dimensions filling his mind.
“That's ... not an easy answer, Little Danny,” Daniel responded.
“Where are Samuel and William?” the second man asked, drawing the archaeologist's attention away from his son.
“Here we are,” Samuel stated as the two men joined their brethren. “Visitors? To our humble village? Welcome!” he greeted warmly.
“Samuel, they are trying to play a trick on us,” the first man said.
“No, we're not,” Daniel refuted. “Please, can we sit down and talk?” he requested. “I'll explain.”
“Jonny,” Little Danny whispered, tugging on his brother's arm.
“What?” Jonny asked quietly.
“Look at that man,” Little Danny said, pointing to the six-foot-two, gray-haired man that stood next to Samuel.
“Do we know him?” Jonny asked. “He looks familiar.”
Little Danny scrunched his nose and shook his head, saying, “Not sure. We'd better keep an eye on him.”
“Yeah,” Jonny agreed.
“You are welcome here,” Samuel intoned graciously, dismissing the caution of the others. “Luisa, Greta, prepare for our company,” he requested to two of the women.
“Are you the leader?” Little Danny asked.
Samuel smiled at the young boy, answering, “I have been given that honor, though it is not one that I ever asked for.”
“He is a wise man,” the other man commented, smiling at his friend.
“Then this is for you,” Little Danny said, walking forward and holding out his hand, revealing the claddagh. “It's a ring of friendship. Can we be friends?”
“I am sure we could,” Samuel replied. “Thank you for your gift,” he added. Looking back at the SG teams, Samuel requested, “Please follow me.”
Little Danny returned to his previous spot, wanting to walk by his brother, but when he got there, he realized no was moving. He stared at his brother and shrugged, neither understanding why they weren't moving.
Daniel had begun to move, but stopped, realizing Jack hadn't taken a step. He turned, looking at his husband curiously.
The older man was staring at the villager who had been beside Samuel before the apparent leader of the citizenry had walked away.
**Jack, is something wrong?**
Trying to shake off an unexpected wariness, Jack replied, **I just have a weird feeling about that guy over there and about this place.**
“Is there something I can help you with?” the man in question asked, noticing Jack's intense stare in his direction.
“Um ... no,” Jack responded in a quiet voice. Inside, his stomach was churning, a restless uneasiness within him growing. There was something about this man that disturbed him, and yet, he couldn't put his finger on what it was. ~I don't like this.~
“Friend, why do you stare at me?” the man asked, looking a little uncomfortable at the unexpected scrutiny.
Slowly, Jack walked up to within two feet of the inhabitant. Since they were the same height, their brown eyes met on an even level. Both men appeared to be about the same age, each with strong features and an air of confidence around them.
“I GOT IT!” Little Danny exclaimed, running to where his parents and the stranger stood. “He looks like you, Dad!”
“Wha...what?” Daniel said, suddenly getting a strange feeling himself as he took a renewed look at the stranger.
Jack's heart flip-flopped, but he said nothing as his eyes examined the man across from him even more closely.
Nonplussed by the comment, the man gave Little Danny a grin and acknowledged, “It's said that everyone has a twin somewhere. Perhaps your father and I have met ours.”
Jonny stepped forward proudly and slung his arm around Little Danny, saying, “We're triplets. Our sister stayed at home.”
The man's grin broadened as he commented, “If she is as beautiful as you two are handsome, I'm sorry not to meet her.”
Jonny grinned, and Little Danny blushed. Jack had been following their conversation with an eerie feeling growing within him. The man's voice had a quality in it that tugged at Jack's heartstrings, and he didn't understand why. For a second, he wanted to grab his family and head back for home, leaving the inhabitants to their delusions about their asteroid home. Yet, he couldn't give the order.
Unable to stop himself, Jack interrupted, asking, “What's your name?” The man looked up at him, smiling, and when he did so, Jack felt like the blood was curdling inside his veins. He regretted the question for a reason he couldn't fathom. ~We should get out of here,~ he told himself, again without giving the order to leave.
“William,” the man answered politely.
Daniel stared and, unable to resist, asked, “William ... what?”
“O'Neill. I am William O'Neill. And you?” William queried, looking at the confused and stunned faces in front of him.
“Billy?” Jack whispered, searching for a sign of recognition that what his instincts were telling him was true. His heart was pounding, but logic was telling Jack that there was no way this man could be his brother. ~But ... the eyes ...~
Feeling his husband's distress, Daniel made his way over and placed a reassuring hand on Jack's shoulder.
Little Danny wasn't sure what was going on, but he had heard the name. He wasn't yet able to make the connection between his own observations and what he had just heard.
Looking up, Little Danny said, “We have an Uncle Billy; he's dead, though.”
“What?” William asked, confused by the entire discussion.
“Little Danny, this isn't your Uncle Billy,” Daniel explained gently.
Little Danny stared at his father, surprised by the comment. This man -- his uncle?
Daniel expounded, “A lot of people have the same names. Your Uncle Billy died in Vietnam a long time ago. The people on this asteroid must have been here for centuries, if not millennia.”
“He does look like Dad, though,” Little Danny commented. “Jonny?”
Jonny was studying the man from his current spot right in front of his father. He kept going back and forth between looking at the two men, both with similar physiques. He frowned, unwilling to voice a reply to his brother at the time. Right now, the little boy wanted to observe.
“Sam, whatcha' think?” Lou whispered from their position behind the group.
“I don't know, Lou,” Sam answered skeptically. “I think it's more likely some alternate existence, or maybe there's a gamekeeper here or something,” the blonde suggested.
William looked at Daniel in confusion, stating, “I think you've been in the sun too long, my friend,” He gave a hollow laugh and continued, “I can assure you that this is not an asteroid.” He paused, looking at Jack. As old memories filled him, William somberly noted, “I fought in 'Nam, and it wasn't so long ago.”
“You fought in the Vietnam war?” Jack questioned in disbelief as he took one step forward and tapped on his P-90.
William nodded, elucidating, “I served with honor for my country; saw things I couldn't imagine, things I don't ever want to see again.” He sighed, recalling, “It was near the end of my tour; nearly got killed by a land mine, trying to save some men from a shot down 'copter.” He shrugged and grinned at Daniel as he admitted, “I guess it was a long time ago. I just don't like to remember.”
“What happened?” Jonny asked, his eyes wide as he pictured the man in front of him heroically rescuing injured comrades from a flaming helicopter.
William gave Jonny a rueful grin as he answered, “I woke up in a military hospital in Saigon. I was amazed that I was still in one piece; it made me grateful to be alive. Still, I was tired, and I'd done my time for home and country, so I decided I wanted to make a new life for myself. It was the best decision I ever made.”
“Vietnam is on Earth. This is *not* Earth,” Jack argued as he began to grow angry. He shook his head, muttering, “This has to be some snakehead trick.”
Little Danny looked up at William and asked shyly, “Where is this place?”
William smiled down at the little boy, feeling sorry for the youngster as his father was obviously disturbed. Looking at the similarities between the two boys and the two men he'd been talking with, William was fairly certain that this one was the son of the man named Daniel, while the other boy had to be the son of the silver-haired man with the attitude. He figured their claim of being triplets was some kind of kid type blood brother bond, though obviously a girl was the other part of their little trio. He crouched down so he was eye level with Little Danny.
“Our town is called Plantacia. We're on a small island off the coast of New Zealand,” William explained.
“Oh, for crying out loud. Daniel, this is a load of crap, and you know it. Let's get out of here,” Jack demanded as he moved away, wanting to end the painful hope that was building up in his chest that his brain told him would only lead to heartbreak. ~Do not build up false hope, O'Neill. You know this isn't Billy. It's not possible. Billy is dead.~
“Jack, wait!” Daniel demanded, his hand reaching out to stop Jack's retreat. “Just ... wait.” He looked back at William and spoke, “Okay, um, we need to sit down and talk. We're, uh, all a little confused here.”
“Yes, I see that,” William responded, giving Jack a pitiful look. More calmly, he intoned, “Very well. This way.”
“Jack, let's go,” Daniel ordered, knowing he needed to take charge in this instance.
“Reynolds, search this town inside and out,” Jack ordered before following his husband. “I want to know if there is anything that seems out of the ordinary.”
“Yes, General,” Reynolds said.
As they headed for a building that William said was their town hall, Daniel looked over at Jonny and Little Danny, who were chatting a mile-a-minute. He couldn't help smiling at the sight of an animated Little Danny pointing out various buildings to his brother and speculating as to what they might be. Daniel looked over at Teal'c, his eyes communicating a request to keep the boys close. Seeing Teal'c nod, Daniel smiled and refocused on Jack and William.
Introductions had been made when SG-1 entered the town hall. However, Jack and Daniel had used their professional names of O'Neill and Jackson, and the two boys, having been told by Daniel not to make an issue out of it, bit their lips to avoid commenting verbally on the incomplete last names.
Seated at a large, wooden table were William and his wife, Jilly. She was a well-figured woman with shapely proportions that made William the envy of any man, especially since her wit and warmth made her one of the most popular women in Plantacia. Jilly stood five-feet-eleven, had hazel eyes, and flaming red hair that had streaks of gray running through it. She seemed like a warm, kindly person, and Daniel took an instant liking to her. She had greeted them cheerfully, and Daniel hadn't missed the faint Australian accent she still had. It left him with even more questions that he wanted answers to.
“We have the same last name,” William commented, thinking that was odd.
“Yes, we do. I'm curious to know about your past,” Jack began.
“Wait,” Daniel urged his lover. He looked across the table at William O'Neill, observing the unmistakable physical similarities between this man and his husband. “William, tell us about this place. You said it's called, uh, Plantacia.”
“I can't believe you haven't heard of it. It's like Xanadu or Shangri-la,” William spoke with awe. “I've heard of Plantacia my entire life. It's always been a place where people could go to live a more simple life. After the war, I didn't want to live in the city anymore,” he sighed, shaking his head from his war recollections.
“What city?” Jack questioned.
William answered, “Chicago. I was born and raised there.”
Jack and Daniel exchanged another look, since that was Jack's birthplace as well.
“So you just came here? And what about your family?” Jack asked harshly. “You just turned your back on them and ...”
“Sir, I did no such thing,” William interrupted, not liking the tone in his adversary's voice. “My parents had died before the war, and I have no other family,” he stated with a slight glare at the accusation.
“You don't?” Jack queried, disbelieving the words. He didn't want to acknowledge the hurt that caused. Despite knowing it wasn't possible that this man in front of him was Billy, he had wanted it to be. He wanted his brother back. ~It's not Billy,~ he told himself again.
“No, I don't, so I have no guilt about who I left behind because there was no one to leave behind. I came here, needing a change from the political atmosphere of the world. I'm a patriotic man, but when I came back from Vietnam, the country was ... different. I came here and met Jilly.” William looked over at the graying woman next to him and smiled. “We've had a great life here; I'm grateful for this place.”
Daniel sighed, “I know this may be hard to believe, but, uh, this place -- it's not Earth, and what we need to do is find out exactly who you are and ... why you're here.”
“Look ...” William began angrily, stopping abruptly as his wife placed a hand on his arm.
“William,” Jilly spoke, her Aussie accent more noticeable now. “They seem sincere. Perhaps they are just confused. We must be patient.”
William nodded at the light admonishing from his wife.
Samuel spoke up, saying, “Everyone in our village came to Plantacia for a new beginning. We've led good lives, but ... I do have questions.”
Several of the townsfolk began to mutter, and William looked to Samuel with surprise as he asked, “Samuel, what do you mean?”
“William, when I first arrived here, there were ten people living here. In several months time, our number grew to fifty. After that, no one has come, not a soul. These people are the first visitors we've had in forty years. Why?” Samuel challenged.
“We'd like to help you answer that,” Daniel commented, inwardly happy that the leader was open to the fact that things weren't necessarily what they believed them to be. “If you'd come back to Earth with us, we can show you and ...”
“No, you are the ones who have something to prove,” William responded forcefully, unwilling to buy into Samuel's doubts as yet.
“Jack?” Daniel looked at Jack, who was transfixed on the stranger sitting across from him. With a sigh, Daniel clicked his radio and ordered, “Colonel Reynolds, go back to the Stargate. Ask General Hammond to send Doctor Fraiser and a full medical team here as soon as possible. Jackson out.”
William saw the frowns on Jonny's and Little Danny's faces as they fidgeted in their seats. He'd noticed it before and wondered what upset them so much about the names being used.
“What is this Stargate that you keep mentioning?” William asked when he turned his attention back to Daniel.
“As I said before, it's that round object with that ...” Daniel hesitated, seeing the same blank looks on all the locals' faces as he had the first time he had tried to explain the Stargate.
“It makes a big noise and looks like water when it's on,” Little Danny told them.
The townsfolk continued to murmur, shaking their heads, having no clue what the strangers to their town were talking about.
Changing his tactics, Daniel inquired, “How ... how did you arrive here?”
“I flew to New Zealand on TWA,” William answered. “I rented a boat and was dropped off on the coastline, and then I made my way here.”
“That is how we all got here,” Samuel affirmed. “We may have gotten to New Zealand differently, but once there, we acquired transportation and were brought to Plantacia.”
“But no one just visits?” Jack asked.
“Plantacia is not a vacation spot, General O'Neill,” William replied curtly. “Plantacia is a way of life. We've chosen it, and we have no regrets.”
“I can see that,” Jack replied dryly.
“Jack,” Daniel lightly reprimanded. Not really sure where to take the conversation, he asked, “Can we take a closer look at your town?”
“Of course,” Samuel answered. “Olga, gather the community together while William and I show our visitors around. Do you know where Hikaru is?”
“Nyet,” Olga answered simply before leaving the town hall to begin her task.
For the next two hours, SG-1 plus two were shown around Plantacia and introduced to its citizens. What had once been a very small community had grown as the original fifty inhabitants had married and had children. There was even a tiny graveyard, though it bore only seven gravestones.
“Lena Schmidt, Pierre Lefevre, Guiliano Bugiardini, and Thomas Howard were four of our older, original inhabitants of Plantacia,” Jilly told them. “It's incredible really. We all have very good health.” She grinned. “I guess it just goes to show the benefits of healthy living.”
They looked at the next gravestone, and Jilly sighed, “Frederick. He was only thirty when he died. He caught a fever, and we didn't have the resources to treat him. When someone is sick, the remoteness of this place works against us. We've had quite a few near misses over the years, but Frederick was only one of two with whom we lost the battle. He was another one of the original fifty to arrive here.” Jilly grinned as she recalled the man. “He was this skinny, bedraggled looking sixteen-year-old. We nearly sent him back, thinking he was too young to decide to come and live here. He managed to persuade us otherwise, though.”
“Donatienne Marceau,” Jilly whispered. “She was too young to die.”
“Antoinette's mother?” Daniel reverently inquired.
“Yes,” Jilly confirmed. “She had a sickness we could never identify, but over a few weeks, she lost all of her strength. Perhaps it was a cancer; we just don't know.”
Jilly looked at the last gravestone, and her smile faded. When Jack and Daniel read the name inscribed on it, they understood why. It read:
Mary Margaret O'Neill
Beloved daughter of William and Jillian
Born 6 May 1975
Died 6 May 1979
William placed an arm around his wife's shoulder and quietly spoke, “She was always such a lively spirit.” He looked down in surprise when a small hand took a hold of his larger one. ~The innocence of youth.~
Little Danny looked up at William with a sympathetic smile as he said, “Don't worry. She's with our brother Charlie now. He'll look after her. So will Grandma Claire and Grandpa Mel and Grandpa Bill and Grandma Elizabeth.”
William and Jilly looked at the earnest blue eyes looking up at them and found their hearts comforted by his sincerity. Watching them, Sam could have sworn she saw their hearts melt.
~It's those baby blues, as the general would say,~ Sam thought about the little boy's penetrating and soulful eyes that were so much like his younger father's.
“Thank you, Little Danny.” William smiled at the boy and asked, “Would you like to see some of the windmills that we've built to help irrigate the fields?”
After Jonny and Little Danny both nodded enthusiastically, the group left the graveyard to examine the rest of the town.
“Are there any kids around, Mister O'Neill?” Jonny asked, looking at all the adults curiously.
William laughed, “I hope not; if there are, it means they're truant.” He looked at the two boys, obviously assessing their approximate ages. “Actually, shouldn't you two be in school?”
Jonny grinned and answered, “We get homeschooled. Little Danny is a genius, just like Daddy,” he declared proudly.
Both Daniels blushed, causing Jilly to laugh. Neither she nor her husband had worked out why the two boys seemed to see both Jack and Daniel as their fathers, but they figured it didn't really matter. She was pleased that William had restrained his obvious curiosity and hadn't been rude by asking.
Both the little boys enjoyed the windmills and the horses and buggies that were scattered throughout the community. The view from the top of the windmills was amazing, although Jack and Daniel held onto their children tightly since neither boy had any fear of heights.
Daniel was a little worried that some of Little Danny's questions and comments might seem offensive, but the Plantacia O'Neills were very laid back and accepting of the myriad of comments and questions the child tossed out, such as, “It's like living in the nineteenth century” and “Do you have flushing toilets?”
Two hours later, the group returned to the town hall where most of the adults had been gathered. Janet and her team had just arrived as well. She had been briefed by Colonel Reynolds whose team continued to be on watch for any potential danger. Now, with the people's approval, she was beginning an examination of the entire township.
As they stood off to the side, Daniel told his lover, “Jack, this town is a hodgepodge ... a ... a melting pot of culture. Look around.”
“What?” a clueless Jack asked.
“From what we've learned, this entire community came together within one year, maybe less. Fifty people from all over the world, our world -- Earth. We've met Americans, Russians, Belgians, Japanese, Chinese, Canadians, French, Australians, Germans ...”
“Daniel, what's your point?” Jack inquired.
“Two by two, Noah's Ark,” Daniel mumbled. “Why fifty? Why do all these people have the same reason for coming here, and why do they all claim they don't have any family? Everyone has some sort of family, even if it's just a family of friends or colleagues.” His arms folded and eyes scrunched as he thought, Daniel noted, “Everyone we've talked to says they came here for a fresh start, wanting this ... simple life, and they all claim they left no one behind. Their reasons for being here, and their goals in living here are ... well, they're all similar.”
Jack sighed as he continued to observe the inhabitants, saying, “Look how they're living.”
“Yes!” Daniel replied. “All of these people, from completely different walks of life and ideologies now, suddenly, are residing in this Amish-like community, following through on a very simple existence. The odd thing is that it's not because of religious beliefs. There isn't anything binding them to this lifestyle except their choice to come here. Jack, the odds on this happening are almost nonexistent.”
“You're a math expert now?” Jack snapped. Then he sighed, “I'm sorry; I didn't mean that, Danny. I just don't understand what's going on.”
“Maybe Janet's tests will tell us something,” Daniel said.
“That they're human?” Jack retorted. He shook his head and sighed, finally looking off into the distance. Feeling his lover's hand on his for a moment, Jack faced Daniel, giving him a tiny smile. “He looks like Billy, Danny.”
Over in the corner, Jonny and Little Danny were talking over the situation as well.
“Jonny, William looks like Dad, and he has Uncle Billy's name,” Little Danny summarized.
“But Daddy says he's not Uncle Billy,” Jonny responded.
“Daddy can be wrong ... sometimes,” Little Danny sighed, shrugging at the same time.
“But William said he doesn't have a brother,” Jonny protested.
“Oh, I know!” Little Danny gasped. “I think he's been brainwashed,” he said, getting up and running over to his fathers. “Daddy, I know what's wrong.”
“You do?” Daniel asked quietly, waving off Lou who had followed the little boy over to his parents.
“Uncle Billy's been brainwashed. I read about that in the encyclopedia. I think everyone is brainwashed; that's why they all say the same thing about why they came here,” Little Danny explained.
“Maybe,” Daniel conceded. “You go back by Jonny, okay?” Little Danny sighed at what seemed like a dismissal of his idea. As he turned around, his shoulders slumped a little. Then he heard a voice call out. “Yes, Daddy?”
“Sproglet?” Daniel said with a smile. “Good thinking. You might be right. Let's see what Aunt Janet says.”
Now with a huge smile on his face, Little Danny looked up at Lou and said, “It's possible, Uncle Lou.”
“It sure is, Little Danny,” Lou acknowledged.
Daniel looked at his husband and said, “Little Danny could be right, Jack.”
“Of course, he's right. He's a pint-sized you,” Jack teased as he squeezed Daniel's shoulder.
“Maybe not brainwashing exactly but ...”
“... something,” both Jack and Daniel spoke in unison.
“General, Daniel,” Janet said, nodding with her head for them to follow her to a corner where she had set up some equipment.
“What did you find out?” Jack asked, watching as Janet closed the curtain they'd hung to create some privacy.
“Something we've seen before,” the physician answered. “Take a look,” Janet requested as she placed the X-ray on the portable screen.
“Doc, what I am supposed to be seeing?” Jack asked.
“Nanites,” Janet and Daniel answered within seconds of each other.
“Those things that ruined Merrin's childhood?” Jack asked sharply.
“Jack, Merrin is fine. She's married and teaching on Orban,” Daniel stated a bit gruffly, wanting his lover to stay focused on the current situation.
“We've only finished examining ten people so far,” Janet stated, “but all ten of them have this.” She paused. “The nanite in each of the inhabitants is located here, at the hippocampus portion of the temporal lobe.”
“That controls memory,” Daniel intoned.
“What does that mean, Doc?” Jack asked in an airy tone as he stared at the X-ray.
“Well, we know these things can be both good and bad. I have to wonder which is the case here,” Janet pondered. “Was someone trying to suppress a memory, or change it? It might not even be about memory. Mental illness is linked to the hippocampus, too.” She sighed and then asked, “Do you suppose we could talk a couple of them into returning with us to the SGC for more detailed tests?”
“I don't know,” Daniel answered. “I suppose we could try.”
“Well, I think it would be a good idea,” Janet stated. “Excuse me; I need to get back,” she said, drawing back the curtain and returning to the temporary exam rooms that had been set up within the large town hall.
“I don't know, Jack,” Daniel replied, turning and looking over at where William and Jilly were talking with some of their friends waiting to be examined. “But I have a funny feeling that he's ...”
“My brother? Daniel, it can't be. This is some friggin' dream. It has to be. Daniel, tell me it's a dream,” Jack demanded.
Daniel turned to face his husband and smiled. He wanted to do more, but knew they couldn't because of their current surroundings.
“Jack, that man over there may be a walking miracle, one of the most unexpected miracles we've ever received,” Daniel responded quietly.
“Or he's a lying fake,” Jack responded skeptically.
“Or that,” Daniel agreed, not yet ready to concede the miracle in lieu of some Goa'uld pretense.
“Dad, Daddy, what did Aunt Janet say?” Little Danny inquired as he and Jonny approached their parents, their Uncle Lou right on their tails.
“We don't know anything for sure,” Daniel responded.
Little Danny huffed, “We're part of the team.”
“You have to keep your team informed,” Jonny added emphatically.
Finding his sense of humor for a second, Jack smiled as he replied, “You're right, but Daddy wasn't lying. Aunt Janet has some suspicions, but she's only examined some of the townspeople. We need more information to be sure.”
“Little Danny was right, huh? They're brainwashed,” Jonny surmised.
“Not exactly, Jonny, but, maybe, something close to that. Lou,” Jack said, motioning for his friend to take the children back to the spot where they'd been waiting.
“Is that an order, Uncle Lou?” Jonny asked when told to return to their corner.
“Yes!” Lou smirked.
Jonny grimaced, spoke a reluctant, “Yes, Sir,” and pouted as he stomped his way back to their spot.
“I don't take orders, Uncle Lou,” Little Danny spoke informatively.
Seeing Lou's Italian monster face, the boy gasped and ran over to join his brother.
Lou laughed, exchanging a look of amusement with Jack, and then returned to watching the two Munchkins.
As sunset approached, the Plantacians invited the SGC personnel to stay the night. Janet's team had only gotten through one-third of the townspeople when told that evening was nigh, and the citizens insisted on returning to their homes and family duties. Though some had been willing to stay, Samuel reminded them that family came first, and there was also livestock to attend to.
“One of you is welcome to stay with us,” William told Jack and Daniel. “And the boys; we have room for them.”
“We only need one ...” Jack began.
“Thank you,” Daniel interrupted his lover. “I'd be honored to stay with you.”
As Jack glared at Daniel, Liam Sullivan smiled and said to Jack, “Then you are welcome to spend the night at my place.”
“Would you excuse us a minute?” Jack said as he grabbed Daniel's elbow and led him to the corner of the room. “Just what do you think you're doing?”
“Jack, you're not ready to be that close to William if he is Billy. If it is him, he doesn't know you. We need time *and* patience. Babe, you know as well as I do that patience isn't your best thing,” Daniel opined.
“Jack, we need to find out more information, and I think you'll be able to learn more from Liam than you would from William. Please,” Daniel passionately requested.
“And what about *our* sons?” Jack asked. “You think *they* are going to go along with this?”
Daniel hesitated, then gave his husband a wry grin as he answered, “If we phrase it right, they will.”
“I don't think so,” Jack replied, his skepticism obvious.
Daniel walked over to where the two boys were and told them, “Okay, Munchkins, we're still not quite sure what's going on here, so it's time for some covert ops.”
“Oh, good!” Jonny exclaimed.
The archaeologist smiled and said, “Okay, here's the plan. Dad is going to stay with that man over there, and you two and I will stay with William and Jilly.”
Jonny's eyes immediately lit up with enthusiasm at the prospect of conducting a covert ops mission, but Little Danny was uncertain about this turn of events.
**Cunning, Danny. Looks like you've won Jonny over, but Little Danny isn't looking that keen on the idea,** Jack communicated nonverbally.
**That's because I haven't whetted his appetite for learning yet.**
Jack watched as Daniel turned to his namesake. He didn't know whether or not to hope that Daniel was successful in persuading their son that this was a good idea. While his brain told Jack that this was a sensible course of action, his heart really didn't relish the idea of spending a night apart from his soulmate.
“Little Danny, if you want, you and Jonny can either split up as well, one of you going with Dad and one of you staying with me. That would give us even more opportunity to learn what we can.”
**Bad move, Love,** Jack immediately communicated.
**Look!** Jack advised.
At hearing Daniel's words, Jonny frowned and shook his head. He placed his arm around his brother, saying, “Little Danny stays with me. I hafta protect him.”
“I can protect myself,” Little Danny argued lightly.
“We *stay* together,” Jonny insisted.
Little Danny nodded and looked back at his parents as he stated, “And Dad hasta protect you, Daddy.”
“I can take care of myself, Munchkins," Daniel said firmly. **Where do they get this from?** He gave Jack a look, a look that grew with suspicion when his lover looked away evasively. **Jack, we're going to have a long talk when this is over.**
Jonny and Little Danny just looked at their younger father with eloquent expressions that said they didn't believe him.
Jack barely held back a grin, while Daniel could only sigh.
“Look, Teal'c can stay here with me,” Daniel suggested. “You know he'll protect me.”
Jonny nodded slowly, still not certain why Daniel had decided to split up 'his troops' the way he had, but clearly willing to accept it. Little Danny was not nearly so accepting.
“Teal'c's good at covert ops, and Aunt Sam is, too. They can spy, and Dad can stay with us.”
**He's definitely got your stubborn gene, Danny.**
**Hey, you've got your own stubborn gene, Jack. He could well have yours.**
**Nope. Arguing in the field is definitely your gene.**
Daniel shot Jack an unamused glance and then turned back to their stubborn archaeologist-in-the-making. Looking into his son's determined blue eyes, he decided nothing less than the truth would work.
“Sproglet, I know we'd all prefer to be together, but there's a very small chance that William is Uncle Billy ... a *very* small chance, so don't get your hopes up too much,” Daniel warned. He sighed, “I just think it might be too hard for Dad to be that close to William until we know, one way or the other.”
“But Dad needs you, Daddy,” Little Danny argued.
“He's right, Danny,” Jack said, sliding his arm around Daniel's shoulders. “I know you're trying to protect me, suggesting I stay with Liam, but it won't help. I'd just spend all night missing you and thinking about everything; and I wouldn't even have my favorite blanket to keep me warm.”
**If William is Billy, Jack, do you really want him to know about us before you actually tell him. That didn't come out right, but you know what I mean,** a concerned Daniel asked in their minds, not wanting to upset their children even more.
**I do, Danny, but you don't need to worry. William was in the military. He'll understand about sharing tents and beds in the field; and I don't care if he doesn't. I need you, Danny.** Jack grinned, saying, “Besides, I want to watch this character, see if I can recognize any of Billy's habits.”
Daniel nodded. He knew Jack was alternating between allowing himself to hope William was Billy and telling himself that he wasn't.
~Maybe I can help Jack more by just being with him.~ Daniel nodded and walked back over to where William and Liam were. “Uh, William, Jack and I are, uh, teammates. We've been in the same ... outfit together for years; used to tight quarters, and the boys don't want us to split up. If you have no objections, we'd like to share the room you've offered me.”
“If that's your wish, come with me,” William beckoned. “Jilly, Darlin', it's time to be off,” he called out to where Jilly was talking with another of the women.
Minutes later, after reviewing the orders for the night with Sam, Teal'c, Lou, and Reynolds, the Jackson-O'Neills followed William and Jilly O'Neill to their home, located two miles north of the town.
Back on Earth, General Hammond had received the latest message relayed through the MALP. It was a bit cryptic, but it informed him the SG teams would be staying overnight. He was requested to call Sara and apologize for the unexpected delay, but to assure her the boys were in no danger.
“George, do you think those two are as insane as I do for what they're doing?” Sara inquired over the phone.
“More. If you need any help with the brood, please let me know,” Hammond replied.
“We have everything under control, but thank you for the offer. Goodnight,” Sara said and then hung up the phone. ~Crazy, insane, stupid -- if anything happens to those boys, I'll give that man a real piece of my mind,~ she thought about Jack and the situation.
“Brood ...” Sara called out.
After passing on the message to the children, Sara suggested the younger ones get ready for bed. While they did that, she checked in on her youngest daughter, Madeline, who had returned home from their grandfather's with Angela a short while ago.
“Wow, Jonny and Little Danny must be on a real adventure,” David said dreamily. “I wish I could have gone.”
“Ask them to take you next time; that's what Little Danny did,” Brianna noted. “I wonder if they have dolphins on that planet.”
“I'd want to study the rock formations,” David replied.
“Maybe there aren't any rocks; what if it's nothing but an entire planet of dolphins?” Brianna asked with a grin.
David laughed, “Then they'd better dress in scuba gear before they go through the Stargate!”
“Angela,” Chenoa began thoughtfully. “Do you think ponies like us riding them?”
“Sure, they do,” Angela Wilson, Sara and Mark's oldest daughter and Chenoa's best friend, commented. “We love them and take care of them.”
“I wish we could go riding more.” Chenoa looked over at Lulu and said, “Lulu, you should come riding with us.”
Lulu shrugged and answered, “I've never been on a horse; they're too big.”
“Not a big horse,” Angela said, “but a pony; they're our size.”
“But they'll grow up and be too big one day,” Lulu remarked.
“We'll get bigger, too!” Chenoa added.
Just then Jeff walked in to check on the three girls and asked, “Have you girls ever seen a Shetland pony?”
The three youngsters looked at each other and then shook their heads as they faced Jeff.
“Let me ask Aunt Sara if we can use the computer for a few minutes, and if she says it's okay, I'll show you some pictures,” Jeff offered. “You'll love these horses; they're your size,” he chuckled.
“But they'll grow up, too,” Lulu replied.
“Not these,” Jeff replied. “Let's go downstairs. I'm sure Aunt Sara won't mind us looking for a few minutes before you go to bed,” the teenager stated, deciding it would be okay to bypass the request as long as they made it quick.
“Sooooo,” Sara said with a knowing smile as she took a seat at the edge of Jennifer's bed.
Sitting Indian-style, the teen closed the magazine she'd been reading and shrugged, saying, “Nothing.”
“Jen, your fathers may be buying this 'all is well in my world' performance of yours, but I'm not. You see, I'm a woman; it gives me an advantage over those two,” Sara mused. Nudging Jennifer's knee lightly and smiling expectantly, the woman urged, “Come on, Jen. What's going on?”
Jennifer sighed, cocked her head to the right, and then gave Sara a tiny smile before finally answering, “I made a mistake; I know that, Aunt Sara. Peter wasn't at all what I thought he was, but ...”
“But you cared about him a lot,” Sara deduced after the teenager hesitated.
Nodding, Jennifer confided, “A lot. I know we're very different. For a long time, he didn't even know I existed. When he finally asked me out, I couldn't breathe, I was so happy.”
“Has he called you?” Sara asked.
“No, and I don't want him to, Aunt Sara. He's a jerk, and I don't want him in my life; it's just I ... I ...”
“Miss him,” Sara surmised softly.
“Yeah, I miss him,” Jennifer acknowledged.
“Did I ever tell you about my first boyfriend? Robert Boynton,” Sara recalled, rolling her eyes upward and shaking her head. “Now there was a boy with an ego that was bigger than his head.”
“And you dated him?” Jennifer asked in surprise.
“Class president, the best baseball player in the school, and everyday he gave me a piece of bubble gum. I was the bubble gum queen of Clayton Elementary,” Sara asked.
“Elementary? How old were you?” an amused Jennifer asked.
“Seven,” Sara stated as the two females continued to talk and giggle their way through a conversation about boys and their good and bad points.
“I seeee you,” Mark warned as he peeked around the bed.
“Nooooooo” turned into giggles as Mark swooped up both Ricky and Jenny, tossing them onto the bed and continuing a tickle assault.
“Uncle Mark, tell us story,” Jenny requested in between her giggles.
“What's your pleasure?” Mark inquired, rolling over and lying on the bed.
The twins shifted positions, Jenny lying next to Mark and Ricky sitting up opposite her on the other side of Mark.
“Hmmm,” Jenny thought.
“I know!” Ricky exclaimed. “Tell us 'bout Super Beagle 'gain.”
“Ooookay,” Mark thought as he formulated the story. “This is the next adventure of Super Beagle and her trusty sidekick, Beagle Supreme.”
“Sounds like pizza,” Jenny laughed.
“And that's the mystery they had to solve,” Mark revealed.
“Huh?” Ricky asked with a scrunched nose.
“Super Beagle and Beagle Supreme had to find the extra cheese that had disappeared off the family-size sausage and pepperoni pizza, and it was not an easy thing to do,” Mark said as he began his tale.
“All asleep, at least for the moment,” Sara sighed as she leaned against her husband whose arm was around her. They were watching some of the children sleeping, all snuggled against each other in spite of having roomy beds to stretch out in. “They are adorable.”
“Sara?” Mark asked, a mischievousness in his eyes.
“Mark Wilson, get that thought right out of your head!” Sara scolded as she pulled away from him slightly.
“It's not a bad thought,” Mark replied with a charming smile. “Is it?” he asked, cocking his head to the side.
“Mark, you've got to be kidding,” the woman responded in disbelief. “Aren't you? I'm too old now.” Seeing her spouse's grin, Sara blushed, saying a very shy, “Mark!”
Mark kissed his wife and then led her to their bedroom. He wanted to make love to her, but settled for some light fondling since they had a full house and couldn't be sure what might happen next. Happily, and even a bit giddy from their talk of more children, the couple fell asleep in each other's arms.
“Tell me something, Billy,” Jack began as everyone sat in the O'Neill living room.
“William,” the man replied. “I'm sorry. I know you think I look like this Billy, but my name is William, and I prefer it.”
“Right,” Jack said dejectedly. “Tell me what's so great about this place?”
“It's simple,” William said.
Jack waited ... and waited, expecting more.
“Okay, so what's so great about this place?” Jack asked again.
William laughed, “I told you, Jack. This place is simple.”
“Oh,” Jack sighed, shaking his head at the answer.
“Back in Chicago, things were going too fast. This place,” William expounded, looking around his farmhouse, “keeps life real. We care about our land, our family, and our honor. Like I said, it keeps things simple.”
“No electricity?” Little Danny asked again.
William smiled, saying, “No, but we utilize gas. We're not primitive, Son.”
Little Danny scrunched his nose in thought and then looked inquisitively at William as he questioned, “Where do you get gas from?”
“That's a good question, Little Danny,” Jack praised as he smiled at the little boy.
Little Danny beamed and then turned back to William, waiting for an answer.
“Do you remember when we showed you the windmills, Little Danny?” William asked the boy, who nodded in response. “We don't have the resources to process the gas ourselves, so it's piped to us from New Zealand.”
“For crying out loud!” Jack burst out. “You are nowhere near New Zealand. You're not even on Earth!”
William sighed and snarked back, “I suppose you're going to tell us that we're living on Mars, and our surname is really the Robinsons. Maybe we're lost in space,” he said, referring to the television series he had only seen a couple of times while on leave from his tour of duty.
Jack was prevented from telling William how close to the mark he was by a glare from his husband.
**Now is not the time for this, Jack.** Daniel turned back to William and prompted him to resume his explanation, saying, “So the gas is piped over ...”
“From New Zealand,” William said glaring at Jack.
Inwardly, Daniel smiled as he thought, ~William is certainly snarky enough to be Jack's brother.~
“The pipe comes out about a mile or so from the windmills. There is an outlet there where we can fill up gas bottles,” William said, finishing his explanation.
While Daniel nodded, lost in thought, Jack just snorted in disbelief.
**Come on, Danny. You don't believe any of this do you?**
**No, not the gas coming from New Zealand bit, but it may be that whoever brought these people here left a device capable of producing gas. We'll have to get Sam to have a look at it.**
**I can already see her salivating at the thought of a new gizmo to play with,** Jack thought sarcastically.
“How do you pay for it? Is it free?” Jonny astutely inquired.
~That's my boy,~ Jack thought. ~He's using his old, er, young, noggin.~
“We trade for it, with our crops,” William answered.
“Barter? No one barters anymore,” Jack snapped.
“We do. We don't use currency here. Everything we do is out of being a good neighbor,” the man responded sharply.
“I saw a store and ...”
“We trade services and barter our goods. Surely, you can understand the value of such things?” William asked.
“Yes, we do,” Daniel affirmed with a smile. Then he caught sight of Little Danny trying to hide a yawn. “Excuse us,” he said to their hosts. “Jack ...” The two walked over to their tiny teammates and gently suggested, “I think it's time for junior team members to go to bed. It's been a long day.”
“No, Daddy,” Little Danny protested. “I'm not ... <yawn> ... tired.”
“Me, nei...<yawn>...ther,” Jonny added, issuing his own objection to it being bedtime.
“Well, I am,” Jack said, faking a yawn. He bent down and scooped up Jonny, placing the boy on his feet, then leading him to the bedroom where all four of them were planning on sleeping. Although there was no sign of danger, neither he nor Daniel felt comfortable leaving the boys sleeping in a different room. “Bed,” he ordered simply.
“Daddy,” Little Danny murmured sleepily as Daniel finished telling the two a bedtime story. “Why haven't we asked Thor if William is Uncle Billy?”
Daniel smiled at his namesake, kissed the tip of his nose, and answered, “Because Dad and I promised you that Thor was there for your safety and that this would be a normal mission.”
Little Danny smiled, but shook his head, arguing, “More 'portant ... <yawn> ... Dad knows. Call Thor, please Daddy?”
“I love you, Sproglet,” Daniel said before giving him a goodnight kiss. He turned to where Jonny was already asleep. He kissed the sleeping boy on the forehead and whispered, “Love you, too, our little soldier boy.”
Jack and Daniel returned to the living room, catching William and Jilly in the middle of a tender kiss.
“Whoops,” Daniel reacted shyly.
“My husband is not shy,” Jilly teased as she patted William on the hand.
“And my Jilly is the reason why,” William said lovingly.
“Are the children asleep?” Jilly asked.
“Yes,” Daniel said as he took a seat in one of the chairs, watching as Jack sat down in another, placing the two across from the couple who were on the sofa. “Can I ask you a question?”
“Of course,” William said.
“Don't you think it's a little unusual that no one else has come here since that first year when all of you arrived?” Daniel inquired calmly.
William sighed, “It's not something I've thought about.”
“Think about it,” Jack suggested a bit brusquely.
William looked at his wife, who gave him a nod. He nodded in return and then looked back over at the two men.
“All right. I concede that it seems strange, but Plantacia is an unusual place; it's not for everyone,” William argued defensively.
“But doesn't it also seem odd that everyone who did come here came within a single year? I mean, uh, there were no stragglers. Your whole town literally developed within twelve months,” Daniel remarked, trying to use logic with the couple.
Jilly leaned forward and replied, “We're happy here. All of us wanted nothing more than a new start.”
“And how convenient is it that none of you have family outside of this *paradise*?” Jack quipped harshly.
“That is what drew us to this place,” Jilly argued.
“But just ... just, uh, think a minute,” Daniel requested as he scooted forward, raising his right hand into the air, one finger pointed upward. “What are the odds that fifty people would migrate here, on their own, all wanting to come here for the same reasons, all having no family at all, all leaving their old lives behind completely, and, think about it, all staying here? According to what Samuel told us earlier, no one has ever left Plantacia, and perhaps even more interesting, no one else has ever come. What are the odds on that?” he asked the intelligent couple.
“We *are* on Earth,” William insisted, dismissing the archaeologist's logic.
“My brother's middle name is Carrigan,” Jack suddenly interjected, going for the shock method and getting exactly the reaction he thought he would.
In shock, William stared at Jack in disbelief. Jilly put her arm through her husband's and said, “William ...”
“Hush,” the man gently silenced his wife.
“It was our mother's maiden name. Our parents are Irish. We have a horde of ancestors in the County Tipperary. Carrigans are everywhere there,” Jack stated, talking quickly and accusingly. “Your middle name is Carrigan, right? What are those odds?”
“I ... I don't have a brother,” William said, a little less convinced than he had been.
“I do, and his name is Billy. Why aren't you called Billy?” Jack questioned curiously.
The couple were now on the edge of their seats, Jilly's hand firmly on her husband's. Their hearts were beating faster, and there was an urgency in their voices when they talked.
“William, remember when you first came here? Remember the nightmares?” Jilly prodded, suddenly feeling that there was something more they needed to find out about their paradise and these strangers among them.
William looked at his wife, concern and perhaps even fear etched on his brow. He nodded, but said nothing.
“What nightmares?” Daniel asked.
Jilly answered, “For the first few weeks after he arrived, William had some nightmares.” She paused, seeing Jack and Daniel exchange a quick look. “At first, we didn't have our homes. When newcomers arrived, we shared space in the town hall. We had only the hall and a couple of other buildings.”
“You never questioned that this paradise was a bit limiting?” Jack challenged.
“Jack!” Daniel admonished.
“Sorry,” Jack half-heartedly apologized.
“No, General, we didn't question it. Paradise isn't given; it's earned,” Jilly answered.
“About the nightmares ...” Daniel prodded, wanting to get back on task.
“Yes. I arrived just a week or two before William, so our quarters were next to each other. His nightmares caused him a great anguish that tugged at my heart,” the woman explained, her eyes sparkling with love and yet despair at the long-ago pain.
“May I ask what the nightmares were about?” Daniel inquired.
“It was nothing, silly even,” William responded, not wanting to talk about it.
“Nessie,” Jack answered softly, earning him three stares. “Billy wasn't afraid of anything ...” He paused, letting out a tiny snort and then continuing, “except for the Loch Ness Monster. Crazy, isn't it? Remember, Billy? Mom and Dad took us to Europe during the summer of '63. We hit a lot of the usual places, but we spent most of our time in Ireland and Scotland, and,” Jack paused, “we took a trip to the Loch.”
“I saw it,” William admitted a bit quietly.
“We sneaked away from the folks and went swimming. You looked over and screamed. I never saw you swim so fast in my life,” Jack commented.
“It was real,” William argued. “It was long, and I saw the hump, but I don't have a brother. I was there with my parents. I ... I do *not* have a brother.”
“I think you might,” Daniel noted softly, looking over at Jack. “Look, Doctor Fraiser wants to run more detailed tests back on Earth. Actually, uh, we just need to do a DNA test and ...”
“DNA? What is that?” William asked about the strange-sounding lingo.
Daniel replied, “It's a way of matching your, uh, Doctor Fraiser can explain it in the morning, but with a simple test, we'll know for sure if you are Jack's brother.”
Jilly sighed and returned to the nightmare, saying, “William dreamed of the monster every night.”
“It was calling to me,” William admitted.
“One day, I started calling him William. It was a way to try and help him separate from whatever it was that was causing him pain,” Jilly stated.
“The nightmares went away,” William stated. “So I stopped being called Billy; and the nightmares stopped,” he said, sounding panicky for the first time since the arrival of the Tau'ri contingent.
Daniel looked at his husband and commented, “Some kind of psychological hold or recall on the past.”
“It's been a long day,” Jilly said, sensing the confusion and weariness on her husband's face.
“Goodnight,” William said, quietly leading his wife into their bedroom.
“Daniel ...” Jack began.
“Let's see what Janet says,” Daniel suggested.
“Billy was afraid of Nessie because he thought he wouldn't be able to protect his little brother from the monster,” Jack said.
“Maybe leaving Billy behind,” Daniel supposed, “was the only way he could really forget his past. Let's get some sleep, Jack.”
“Right. Sleep. Piece of cake,” Jack intoned sarcastically, knowing he wouldn't sleep for even a minute.
Little Danny turned over and looked at his brother. Jonny was still asleep although Little Danny wasn't surprised, seeing as how it was the middle of the night.
~I should be asleep, too.~ Little Danny rolled over, staring at his parents, not sure if they were asleep or not. As he watched, he saw his dad start to move a little restlessly in his sleep until his daddy pulled the older man closer. The little boy rolled onto his back and stared at the rough wooden ceiling. ~I wonder if Daddy talked to Thor yet? Does Thor sleep?~
“Billy ... don't go,” Jack mumbled, apparently on the verge of a nightmare.
Little Danny watched his dad closely, wondering if either of his parents would wake up fully now. He had awakened twenty minutes earlier and was bored, and he didn't feel like going back to sleep. Too many thoughts were racing through his head, and he really wanted to help his dad.
~If William is Uncle Billy, I wonder if we have cousins. Did William build this house? I forgot to ask him. Should make a list; have lots of questions. I'm bored! Wish we had a computer here.~
Raising his hands in the air, Little Danny began trying to make shadow animals in the moonlight. However, as the light was far too diffuse, he was completely unsuccessful.
~Drat! Hey, the Thor gizmo.~ Little Danny lightly ran his fingers over the communication device affixed to his shirt. It was a direct link to Thor, and although it was only for emergencies, Little Danny figured Thor wouldn't mind being disturbed to help his father. ~'Sides, Thor and Aunt Sam did blow up Dad's spaceship that one time.~
Little Danny sat up and looked at Jonny, chewing his bottom lip as he debated whether or not to wake his sibling.
~He'll kill me if I don't. Besides, he's good at creeping, and we need to get to the living room without waking Dad or Daddy.~
Gently, Little Danny shook his brother awake and, using hand gestures, indicated that he wanted to leave the room. He pointed to himself and Jonny, then the door.
Quickly waking when he scented adventure on the horizon, Jonny grinned and began leading the way out of the room. Stealthily, they crept past their parents and, with bated breaths, opened the bedroom door, hoping the hinges didn't squeak. Fortunately, they didn't, and a minute later, the two boys were standing in the living room.
“What are we doing, Little Danny?” Jonny whispered.
“Calling Thor. Maybe he can tell us if William is really Uncle Billy,” Little Danny whispered back.
“Wouldn't Dad or Daddy have done that already?” Jonny asked. When Little Danny shrugged, he grinned and leaned forward into the communication device affixed to Little Danny's shirt. “Thor, you 'wake? We need to talk to you,” Jonny whispered.
A flash of light briefly illuminated the room, and Thor looked around, his large eyes blinking slowly. His gaze finally landed on the two small boys in front of him.
“Jonny Jackson-O'Neill. Little Danny Jack...”
Thor's greeting was interrupted by two frantic boys whispering, “Shhh!” and looking around nervously, hoping they hadn't woken any one.
“WHAT THE HECK!” William stood transfixed in the doorway, staring at Thor. He moved further into the room to examine the tiny alien more closely. Reaching out a finger and poking Thor gently in the abdomen, William whispered, “Looks like a Roswell alien, but it's not made of rubber.”
Thor blinked at him and requested, “Please refrain from touching my person.”
At actually being spoken to by what he assumed was a sophisticated children's toy, William jumped back before murmuring to himself again, “Wow, technology must really have improved over the last forty years. It's so life-like.”
Jack and Daniel arrived in time to hear this last statement, and they both groaned. The two boys cringed as they realized they had not only woken someone up, they seemed to have woken everyone up. As he looked at his parents' stunned faces, Little Danny was certain he'd just ruined any future chance to come along on a SG mission, a thought which resulted in several fat tears rolling down his cheeks.
Daniel took in the scene and sighed, ~What the heck! Maybe if William knows there really are aliens, he'll take it better when we prove he really has been living on an asteroid all this time.~
“William, this is Thor, a friend of ours that belongs to a race called the Asgard, and, yes, he really is an alien,” Daniel announced.
**Danny, whatcha doing?** Jack asked.
**Helping him accept that we've been telling him the truth, that this isn't Earth.**
William's response was to faint, and the two children looked on him with wide eyes.
“Did we kill him?” Little Danny asked tearfully.
“William!” Jilly gasped, having just entered the room. She ran to her husband's side, kneeling down and desperately asking, “Are you all right, Dear?”
“I am afraid my appearance has alarmed him,” Thor spoke.
Jilly's eyes opened wider than ever, but in a flash, she responded, “Nonsense. He just hasn't eaten. My William has a condition; he must eat regularly. That is why he left our bed,” Jilly explained. “Please, get some drink from the kitchen,” she requested as she tended to her spouse.
After coming to and drinking some juice that made him feel better, William sighed, “I was going to get something to eat.” He stared at the incredible figure in front of him. “You're a creature from outer space!”
“I am Thor of the Asgard,” Thor responded.
“We're really not on Earth, are we?” William asked, finally ready to hear the truth.
Thor blinked, and William nodded, not needing the words.
“I see,” Thor said after having heard the entire story.
Jilly fixed everyone a late night snack, though in reality, it was now more of an early morning snack, as Jack and Daniel filled their alien friend in on all the happenings.
“Janet can run the tests, Thor,” Daniel said. “She'll need to anyway.”
“But you'd be quicker,” Jack stated hopefully.
“As you wish, O'Neill,” Thor responded.
In a flash, Jack, Daniel, Jonny, Little Danny, William, and Jilly were all transported aboard the Daniel Jackson.
“Uncle Billy, this is Daddy's ship!” Jonny stated proudly.
“Uh, Jonny, it's not *my* ship,” Daniel replied, embarrassed as always by the Asgard vessel that bore his name.
“It's named after you,” Jonny argued.
“The Daniel Jackson has been a valiant vessel for many years,” Thor announced.
“We're in space?” Jilly asked incredulously.
“We are,” Thor advised.
“Thor ...” Jack began anxiously.
The alien nodded and prepared to conduct his examinations of both William and Jilly O'Neill.
“This is normal?” William asked as he roamed the bridge of the Asgard vessel, both Jack and Jilly nearby while Daniel was talking with their sons about the ship for a couple of minutes.
“If you're an Asgard,” Jack answered. “Look, on Earth, things aren't quite up to this standard.”
“But we're flying in a ... a spaceship,” Jilly replied in awe.
“Most of the people on Earth don't know about the Asgard,” Jack answered.
“Or the Stargate,” Jonny added as he, Little Danny, and Daniel walked over to join Jack and the O'Neills. “It's a secret.”
“Yeah, we can't tell anyone,” Little Danny added definitively.
“This is some secret,” William said with awe in his voice.
“Interesting,” Thor stated as he reviewed the readings. William was in the chamber, resting comfortably, Jilly standing by the chamber's side, facing Jack and the others. “There is a nanite in his brain.”
“We know,” Daniel said. “Janet found it, but we're not totally sure what its function is.”
“It is not necessary to human function. It is impeding the natural signals of the brain,” Thor announced. “I recommend removing it.”
“What are you talking about?” Jilly asked urgently, moving from behind the chamber to within a few feet of the alien and his control panel.
William sat up, causing the holographic images above Thor's control panel to cease. He climbed out of the chamber to stand next to his wife.
“There's a ... a ... well, it's like a ... Jack?” Daniel asked, not really sure how to describe a nanite.
“You're asking me?” Jack queried, surprised by the question.
“Jack, now is not the time to play dumb,” Daniel rebuked his lover.
Jack knew as much about nanites as Daniel did, and the younger man was pretty sure he would be better at explaining it to both William and Jilly.
Fortunately, Jack caught the warning gleam in his husband's eye and decided perhaps now was not the time for pretense.
“Ah, okay,” Jack agreed. He thought for a minute, deciding how best to educate the couple. He'd been about to use a computer analogy, but then realized that if William and Jilly had left Earth in the late 1960s, computers were still the size of a small room. “Okay, think of the nanite as a kind of filter. Depending on what it's programmed to do, it can affect memory, ability, age -- basically everything. It's like a tiny, smaller than microscopic computer.”
William and Jilly still looked confused, and William admitted, “I still don't understand what it does.”
Jack sighed, “Your turn,” as he waved at Daniel.
“Okay, the nanites interact with the brain's synapses ...”
“Daddy,” Little Danny spoke up hesitantly. “I can tell him.”
Daniel looked at his son in shock and asked, “You ... can?”
Little Danny nodded, saying, “Uh-huh. Aunt Sam told David and me. I can explain it to Uncle Billy and Jilly.”
William noticed that the two children had taken to calling him Uncle Billy and thought, ~I hope I am who you think I am, Kid, or you're in for one major disappointment.~
“Okay, Son, give it your best shot,” Jack said as he ruffled Little Danny's hair.
“Jonny, you stand there, I'll stand here, and, Daddy, you stand in between us,” Little Danny instructed, lining them up in a straight line. “See, Jonny and I are parts of your brain. Daddy is the nanite. From where he is, Daddy can control everything. Maybe my nose is the part of the brain that controls age. If Daddy wants me to age faster, he can press my nose in a certain way; or if I want to remember something stored in Jonny's part of the brain, I can only get it if Daddy lets me.”
Jack shook his head one time as he smiled and thought, ~That's my boy -- pure genius.~
“So, the nanite in your brain is making you do something, or not do something, or maybe remember something, or not remember something. See?” Little Danny asked hopefully.
William and Jilly exchanged a look, and it was Jilly who asked, “How did it get there?”
“That's what we need to find out,” Daniel responded softly.
“Yes,” the stately woman quietly responded. She turned and paced a few feet aboard the ship. Quietly, she asked, “Are you saying I could have a family out there that I don't remember?”
“It's possible,” Daniel replied. He looked over at Thor, the question in his eyes. Seeing Thor's nod, he smiled. “Billy has family.”
William looked up, surprised.
“There is no doubt,” Thor stated assuredly. “You are of the same genetic makeup as O'Neill.”
“JAC...” Jonny and Little Danny began.
“Don't!” Daniel warned, not wanting to shock William and Jilly just yet with the truth about the Jackson-O'Neill family.
“General eyes, Jonny,” Little Danny mumbled.
Softening, Daniel reminded their children, “Remember what we talked about at the beginning of the mission.”
“Can you ... remove it?” William asked Thor. Seeing his nod, William requested, “Please do so.”
“Billy, we don't know what it will do,” Jack stated a bit nervously.
“I don't know you, and, yet, you say we're brothers. If this nanite machine has stolen my life, I want to know it,” William stated firmly. “Jilly, do you agree?”
“Yes, Dear, I do. Please, remove our ... nanites,” Jilly requested.
“Please, get into the chambers,” Thor requested. “We shall begin.”
Billy blinked and began to breathe more heavily. Slowly, he climbed out of the chamber and walked over towards Jack.
“I was in 'Nam, Jack. I ... Jack, I thought I stepped on a land mine or something. Caxon was ... he was ... Jack?” Billy asked, his emotions overwhelming him.
“Hey, Bro,” Jack spoke in a cracked voice. “I missed you,” he said as he fell into Billy's arms.
Billy closed his eyes, but his sobs could not be missed.
“We thought you were dead,” Jack said. “You are a hero, Billy.”
The brother's reunion was interrupted by the sound of Jilly climbing out of her chamber. Her face was pale, and she had tears in her eyes. Billy quickly moved to her, drawing her into an embrace while Daniel placed a comforting hand on Jack's shoulder.
After a minute, Jilly looked up at them and shook her head, saying, “I don't understand. I was dying. There is no way anyone could have found me.”
“Jilly?” Billy asked, his concern for her evident.
“I'd been out checking the north boundary fences,” Jilly explained. She looked at Jack and Daniel for a moment before continuing. “My family owns a cattle station in Western Australia. It's over four-hundred-thousand hectares of land.”
“Daddy, how big is that?” Little Danny asked.
“Ah, it's very big, Little Danny,” Daniel answered, trying to imagine it himself since by his calculation that was just shy of a million acres.
“On horseback, Little Danny, it can sometimes take four or five days to travel from one end of the property to another,” Jilly explained, smiling at the little boy. Then her smile faded, and she sighed. “There was a break in the fence along Stringy Bark Creek, and one of the calves had gotten herself tangled up in some branches. I went down to help her and managed to get her free, but by then the water level had risen, and my foot got caught. I remember drowning, William.”
~William.~ Billy winced at the use of his full first name. “Jilly, my dear? Can you start calling me Billy? Hearing 'William' now reminds me of being in trouble with Mom and Dad.”
Jack grinned as he said, “It was the only time you were ever called William.”
“You got that right, Bro,” Billy laughed. He looked at Jack and shook his head. “Look at you, Jack. My little brother, all grown up ... and gray.”
Jack smirked, “I'm not the only one with gray in my hair, Billy.”
“And Dad's hair's silver, not gray,” Jonny said firmly. Then he looked at Daniel and asked, “Right, Daddy?”
Billy chuckled, “Okay, Bro. Now I know you're my kid brother, I don't have to be polite anymore, so what's the deal here? Why do these kids call you Dad and Daniel Daddy?”
“Uh,” Jack said hesitantly.
“Jack, maybe I should take the boys on another tour of the ship,” Daniel suggested.
“No,” Jack said, turning to Thor. “Thor, would you show the boys some of your gizmos?”
~How strangely archaic.~ Thor stared at his earthling friend, remembering the strange laws of the Tau'ri, laws he didn't understand. He could sense Jack's request was tied into those laws. Nodding, he replied, “As you wish.”
“But ...” two little voices rang out, though they fainted into the distance as Thor beamed them to another part of the ship.
“I don't know that I'll ever be able to get used to that,” Jilly said. “Is that ... common?”
Having missed most of the earlier discussion, Daniel chuckled, saying, “No. Well, it is for Thor, but most people on Earth don't know about him ... exactly.”
“Bro, what's the big mystery?” Billy asked.
“You know, uh, it's time to put my money in your mouth,” Jack said cryptically.
“Jack, you're not making any sense,” Billy stated.
“I know.” Jack smiled at Daniel and then took a breath. “I've believed in my heart that you'd understand. I've lived by that, and I believe that, Billy. I do believe that,” Jack repeated more quietly, bobbing his head up and down a couple of times.
“What are you talking about?” a very confused Billy inquired.
“I joined the ROTC, Billy. I wanted to serve my country just like you did,” Jack began. “I went to college and met the greatest gal in the world. Her name is Sara.”
“Your wife?” Billy assumed.
“She was,” Jack answered quickly.
“Is she dead?” Jilly asked, concerned.
“No, but she is a great woman,” Jack spoke with conviction. “We had a son, a beautiful, perfect boy I loved with all my heart.”
Jack's eyes grew misty. Nearby, Daniel was self-hugging, not for himself, but for the emotional ache his soulmate was going through. Daniel knew Jack wasn't ashamed of him or their marriage, but he knew the uncertainty the older man was feeling. How many times had each of them told the other that their parents would understand, that they *do* understand the choices they'd made? Too many to count, but rarely was anyone called upon to support those statements. Jack was afraid Billy would disappoint him, and that their reunion would turn sour if Billy reacted negatively to the news Jack was about to share.
**I'm here, Jack. It'll be okay.**
**I love you; you know that,** Jack replied.
**Yes, I know. He might need time; we can give him that,** Daniel promised.
“Jack?” Billy prompted.
“I loved her; I still do, and we had a good life,” Jack said. “That is until I got in a hurry and didn't lock up my gun like I should have.”
“Your gun?” Jilly asked.
“I joined the Air Force, Jilly, and I,” Jack cocked his head. “I've learned a lot about weapons, and because of what I've done, what I was doing at the time ...”
“Black Ops,” Billy guessed. “I was approached for that. You're Black Ops,” he added.
“I've done some of it, but more Special Ops, than the other,” Jack clarified. “I have a weapons collection out of necessity. I always kept a gun in our bedroom, but it was usually locked up, but not that night. I wanted to be with Sara, and I was in a hurry. I put the gun in our nightstand, and Heaven help me, I forgot about it.”
“Saints be,” Jilly said, placing her right hand across her chest as she silently braced herself for what was to come.
“The next day, I came home. Sara was outside. We were,” Jack smiled, “in love and happy, and then we heard the shot. Charlie had found my gun. He died in my arms.”
“How old was he?” Billy asked quietly.
“Ten. He was only ten,” Jack sighed. He took another breath and continued, “My life was over in that moment, Billy. I shut Sara out; no, I shut the world out, and there was nothing.” Jack turned around and walked over to Thor's control panel, staring at it blankly. “One day I got the gun, and I walked into Charlie's room. I sat down on his bed, and I prepared to say goodbye.”
Billy and Jilly exchanged a look of utter horror. After glancing downward, Billy looked over at Daniel, noticing the younger man's tentative stance and the moistness in his eyes. His chest was heaving in and out at the despair of the other man.
“Go on, Bro,” Billy urged, slowly facing his brother once again, though all he could see was Jack's profile at the moment.
“I had retired, but they came and got me for some crazy suicide mission. What the heck, Billy. Killing myself in my son's room or killing myself in some desolate place in the name of country -- whichever; at the time, it didn't matter. I took the mission,” Jack explained, turning back to face Billy. “Except the mission wasn't on Earth. If you hadn't met Thor, you might not believe this, but there were these bad guys with glowing eyes, mechanical voices, and snakes in their heads.”
Seeing Billy's confused expression, Jack looked at Daniel.
“Um,” Daniel interjected. “It was an alien race called the Goa'uld. They're parasitical in nature, in that everything they obtain is done by force or by enslaving others. The Goa'uld are about a foot long; they resemble snakes which is why Jack calls them snakeheads, and they actually invade a body and affix themselves to the person's spine. The person they invade is called the host, and essentially, the host is suppressed, and the Goa'uld lives in the host's body. They have a power to heal that allows them to live a very long time in their host's body.”
“Sounds spooky,” Billy answered.
“Yes, well, the Goa'uld were a threat to Earth. It's a really long story,” Daniel sighed. “Um, it's just once they knew there was a danger, the military wanted to do what they ... I mean ...”
“Once Daniel got the Stargate to work, I was ordered to blow up the planet on the other side, thereby removing any threat to Earth,” Jack interrupted, taking over again, desperately wishing Thor had a trinket he could play with while he talked.
“The Stargate is a large, circular object that is, uh, well, it's a device that takes you places. You dial up an address, walk through, and you're there, like when we came to Plantacia. We uncovered the address for the asteroid, put it in the computer, and then walked through, and we were on your world,” Daniel explained.
“Computer?” Jilly asked.
“It's another long story,” Daniel responded quietly, quickly adding, “But a good one that is part of everyday life now.”
“And we're getting away from my question. Jack, what do these snakeheads,” Billy said, making a funny face at the same time, “have to do with your wife and son, or those two boys with Thor?”
“Daniel figured out how to open the Stargate. He's an archaeologist, anthropologist, linguist, negotiator, peacemaker, ...”
“Jack,” an embarrassed Daniel said shyly.
“He figured out my mission,” Jack revealed. “He figured me out, and somehow,” Jack smiled as he remembered, “somehow that sneezing, shaggy-haired geek talked me into trying to live again.” Jack looked at his lover and smiled. “I'm still not sure how you did that, Danny.”
“I didn't, Jack; you did it. You just needed to be reminded that life was worth living; that's all, and, uh, that innocent people shouldn't be killed for essentially no reason, especially when there was another way,” Daniel replied lovingly.
Jack nodded and looked again at his brother, saying, “Longer story short. I decided to kill the bad guys, but not destroy the planet. Daniel ...” Jack began, looking at his lover.
“I had met a woman on Abydos. Uh, that's the planet we were on,” Daniel stated informatively. “She was a ... a gift,” he admitted, shrugging. “But I loved her ... as much as I could. I stayed on Abydos while Jack returned to Earth, and he, uh ... he ...”
“Lied,” Jack completed for Daniel. “I told the higher ups that I'd done the mission as ordered and that Daniel had perished on Abydos. I retired again, but it was too late for Sara. I wanted her back, but I still couldn't give her what she needed. I knew that. I knew I'd just hurt her again, and I loved her too much for that.”
“What did you do?” Jilly asked curiously.
Jack chuckled, answering, “I watched the stars. I did that a lot, and then one day, the military came for me again. It seems they figured out that my report hadn't been totally accurate. I admitted I lied and that Daniel was still alive. I had to,” Jack explained. “The Goa'uld had found Earth anyway. In our ignorance, we thought that by killing the one Goa'uld ruling Abydos that the threat was gone. We really didn't know there was more than one of them. We'd only killed a country,” he said.
“Bro, this is a great science fiction movie, but I still don't understand how this answers my original question,” Billy said.
Daniel silently mused, ~They are brothers. Billy has Jack's impatience.~
“I went back to Abydos,” Jack responded.
“And during that visit, the Goa'uld took my wife, and she became a host to the mate of the most powerful System Lord the Goa'uld had at the time,” Daniel added, having regained the seriousness of the current situation.
“System Lord?” Jilly questioned.
“Uh, leader, dictator, ruler -- the most powerful of the Goa'uld are the System Lords,” Daniel answered, getting understanding nods from Billy and Jilly afterwards. “His name was Apophis, and his mate, the one who enslaved Sha're, was named Amaunet.”
“Daniel came back to Earth and joined my team. I promised him we'd get Sha're back,” Jack said.
“Sha're was my wife,” Daniel clarified.
“I understand,” Billy said, jumping to the wrong conclusion. “You're raising the boys together. Little Danny is your son, Daniel, and Jonny is yours. You got married again, right, Bro?”
“Only partially,” Jack answered with a sigh. “Daniel drove me crazy. Geez, he was a geek, a babbling, infuriating, sneezing, tripping over his own feet, annoying ...”
“Jack! He gets the idea,” Daniel warned, raising his eyebrows.
“And I fell in love with him,” Jack said, his eyes gazing at Daniel's. “We went on a mission several months later, and I thought he was dead. I wanted to die again, and then I thought, I'd lost my mind, but I hadn't. I hadn't lost anything, but it sure scared the crap out of me,” he admitted.
Jack looked back at the stunned Billy and Jilly, neither of whom had said a word. He knew they were probably thinking they hadn't heard him right.
“I thought there was something wrong with me, that I was some kind of degenerate, but then I got used to the idea. Obviously, Daniel wasn't dead, though he made a habit of letting us think he was,” Jack quipped.
“Jack, this is confusing enough for them,” Daniel chastised lightly.
Jack nodded and continued, “I wasn't going to tell him. For crying out loud, Billy, I was a colonel in the Air Force, the leader of the flagship team that explored other worlds and kept saving Earth. It never got old, but it did get to be habit,” Jack opined. “I thought he'd hate me. We'd grown close; were best friends. Strange as that was ...”
“The colonel and the geek,” Daniel spoke softly with a smile. “It wasn't hard on me, but it was on Jack.”
“Crap, Danny, stop that. How many times did you get beat up, physically or mentally, because of what those jarheads thought?” Jack challenged. “Don't answer,” he ordered. “Billy, I got hurt awhile later, and I talked too much in my delirium. Daniel learned the truth, that I was in love with him.”
“It scared me,” Daniel revealed. “But after some soul searching, I realized that he was still my best friend, and I didn't want to lose that.”
“So, we kept on being best friends, until he died again, but didn't,” Jack said.
“Long, long story,” Daniel interjected, adding, “But that time, it was me who realized that somehow, somewhere along the line, I had fallen in love with Jack,” he said, looking straight into Billy's eyes. “When that crisis was over, I, uh, hinted ... a lot.”
“He was cold,” Jack chuckled.
“And he knew how to ... never mind,” Daniel replied shyly, bowing his head, thinking about how Jack had warmed him up.
“We've been together ever since,” Jack explained.
“Sha're died about a year and a half later; she never had a chance,” Daniel observed sadly.
“We played the 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' game until 2005,” Jack added, “and then I'd had enough.”
“The children?” Jilly asked, confused.
“Danny and I got married ...”
“It's, uh, not ... gawd, it's not legal really. I mean ... gawd,” Daniel said, feeling more frustrated than he had in years as he stared at the floor of the spaceship that was named after him.
Jack walked to his lover and, with his hand, lifted Daniel's chin so that they were looking into each other's eyes.
“Danny and I got married,” Jack said. “It is a marriage that is as real and valid as any marriage in any land. What we have and what we feel is as strong and as true as anyone else.” He smiled, turning back to face the Plantacia O'Neills. “We actually got married before we quit, and when we did leave, we had decided to adopt, then we changed our minds and decided to use a surrogate. Eventually, we met three incredible kids and decided to adopt them, too.” He smiled, saying, “And then eight wasn't enough.”
“Jack, they don't understand,” Daniel explained, knowing Jack was trying to make him feel more comfortable.
“I don't friggin' care about the law,” Jack stated strongly.
“I know,” Daniel replied softly.
Jack sighed and looked back at his brother, saying, “Long, long, long story, but we got married in 2003; we've renewed our vows twice since then. We found a wonderful woman to be the surrogate mother to our children. We were expecting two, and we got five.”
“Five?” Billy asked, taken aback.
“Triplets the first time,” Daniel acknowledged. “Then she had twins.”
“And we adopted three siblings who were orphaned and about to be separated when the shelter they were living in was closing,” Jack added.
“And then we were going to adopt another child, Brianna, but then Jeff's father died, and Jonny and Little Danny brought home a stray, Lulu, and we loved her, too. Gawd, what I just said sounds crazy,” Daniel intoned.
“We have eleven children, and ...”
“Jack, don't,” Daniel said, shaking his head, knowing how strange it would sound.
Undaunted, Jack continued, “And we have a twelfth on the way, but that's *really* a long story.”
“I don't know what to say,” Billy said, staring at Jack and Daniel. “So, what you're telling me is that you are a homosexual?”
“No,” Jack answered, adding, “Not in the sense that I prefer men to women. What I'm saying is that my soulmate is a man, and I'm not afraid or ashamed to love him. If that makes me a homosexual in your eyes, well, so be it.”
“Look, uh, I know it's a shock,” Daniel said. “It'll take time,” he added as calmly as he could.
“Where are the rest of your children?” Jilly asked.
“With Sara,” Jack answered.
“Your ex-wife?” Billy asked incredulously.
“She loves them,” Jack answered. “She loves Daniel.”
“I don't know what to say,” Billy stated again.
Jack nodded sadly and blindly reached for Daniel's hand.
**It'll be okay, Jack,** Daniel assured. **He's reacting with shock, not disgust. Time. Remember, he's basically coming from a completely different era -- the sixties. We have all the time in the world for him to adjust.**
**I love you, Danny.**
**I love you, too, Jack Jackson-O'Neill. More than anything.**
Just as the silence was about to become uncomfortable, two little whirlwinds came running towards them.
Jonny reached them first, and they could see him practically bouncing up and down in excitement as he exclaimed, “Dad, Daddy, Thor has this really cool room where you can fly!”
Little Danny nodded enthusiastically, adding, “It's fun, feels like swimming in air.”
“It's really flying, Dad,” Jonny maintained.
“Yeah?” Jack looked at Thor who had just joined them and raised an eyebrow. The Asgard blinked, “You are not yet capable of understanding, O'Neill.”
Billy and Jilly's eyes opened wider at the apparently insulting remark, and Daniel hastened to explain, saying, “The Asgard are a very technologically advanced race. Earth has nowhere near their level of technology, and to the Asgard, we are ...”
“Simple,” Jack offered. “When they can't think dumb enough, they come to us,” he said with a wry smile.
“Jack,” Daniel reprimanded quietly.
“Uncle Billy, do you remember you're Uncle Billy now?” Jonny asked the man after he had turned to face him.
“Hey, Jonny, Jilly is our Aunt,” Little Danny said happily. “We have lots of aunts. Aunt Sara, Aunt Janet, Aunt Suz ...”
Jonny grinned and asked hopefully, “Do we have cousins?”
Jilly nodded, and both boys beamed.
“How many?” Jonny eagerly inquired.
“How old are they? Can we play with them?” Little Danny added as his excitement emanated from his small body.
Jonny butted in with, “When can we meet them?”
“Dad, Daddy, when can Uncle Billy and Aunt Jilly meet everyone?” Little Danny asked, without waiting for the answers to the other questions.
~They are curious little ones.~ The questions came tumbling out one after the other, and Billy couldn't help but grin. He looked at Jack and Daniel and sighed. “Jack,” he sighed again. “Bro, look, this is all so overwhelming. It's so weird to think of you being with another man. You do understand that?”
Jack nodded and stiffened, already anticipating rejection.
Noticing his brother's reaction, Billy hastily reached out to grasp Jack's shoulder and said, “Hey, I'm not rejecting you, Bro. I'm just saying it may take a while to get used to. You have to give me that.”
“You don't like Daddy?” Little Danny asked in surprise as he looked at Billy. His expression was one of utter hurt and disbelief that anyone could not like his father. “Daddy great daddy!”
Billy looked at the boy in surprise. He didn't think he'd said enough for him to understand what he was talking about.
Jack grinned with pride, explaining, “Our children are ... very intelligent.”
“You can say it, Dad,” Jonny said, glaring at his father. He put his arm around his brother's shoulder and grinned. “Little Danny is a genius! He knows lots of stuff.” Looking back at Jack, Jonny asked, “Why don't you just say Little Danny is a genius?”
Jack smiled and ruffled his namesake's hair, proud of him for not being bothered by Little Danny's child prodigy status.
“Because you're both very smart,” Jack answered. ~And you're playing dumb like me.~
“But Little Danny a genius genius,” Jonny clarified, using genius twice to emphasize the difference in intelligence between the two. He still wasn't sure what had upset his brother, but knew it was something Billy had said. Jonny glared at his new uncle and asked, “Why don't you like our daddy?”
Billy looked at Daniel who was clearly uncomfortable, fidgeting where he stood. Then he looked at his brother and asked one question, “Are you honest with your children?”
“Yes, very, and, understandably, they've gone through a lot,” Jack answered.
Nodding, Billy knelt down. He opened his arms and beckoned the two boys to come to him, which they did. Billy took one of Little Danny's hands and one of Jonny's. He stared at their hands in his and smiled.
“Do you feel this?” Billy asked.
“You're holding our hands,” Jonny answered simply.
“But do you feel it, not with your body, but with your heart?” Billy asked.
“Oh,” Little Danny gasped. “You mean that we're family.”
“Yes, we're family. Families are forever, good or bad. Nothing interferes with family,” Billy said.
“But why don't you like Daddy?” Jonny asked impatiently.
Billy smiled in response and said, “I do like your daddy. He's a very nice man, and, apparently, he's done a lot to help my brother.”
~Not make sense,~ Jonny thought as he looked warily at Billy. Then a thought occurred to him. He looked over at his parents and asked, “Is Uncle Billy ignorant like Mister Lapierre was?”
Little Danny beamed at his brother for making the connection and said, “See, Jonny, you're a genius, too!” He looked over at his parents for confirmation. “Is he, Dad? Daddy?”
Billy frowned, trying to make sense of the boys' comments.
“Uh,” Daniel answered, nodding hesitantly. “Yes. He hasn't seen a relationship like ours before,” he answered. “This is new to Uncle Billy.”
Little Danny brightened again as he turned back to his uncle and said, “It'll be okay. Dad and Daddy love each other. You'll see! We love you, too, Uncle Billy, and it's okay to be ignorant. We teach you not to be, just like Mister Lapierre. He's lots of fun. He shows Jonny and me how to build things now. They're coming for Thanksgiving this year, aren't they, Dad?”
Jack nodded, “Yes, they are.”
Stuart Lapierre and his family had been befriended by the Jackson-O'Neills a couple of years earlier when Jack and Daniel were renovating their home. Stuart was a builder and had initially had some problems accepting the fact that Jack and Daniel were simply two normal people who happened to be in love. These were exacerbated by some of his co-workers who were quick to challenge his own masculinity and sexuality. After some frank talks with Jack and Daniel and witnessing them with their family, Stu had overcome his prejudice. The Lapierres were now good friends with the Jackson-O'Neills.
“Don't worry, Uncle Billy, you'll be okay,” Little Danny reassured the older man.
“We'll make sure of it,” Jonny added.
“O'Neill,” Thor spoke up, drawing all eyes to him. “Colonel Carter and Teal'c are on their way to O'Neill's house.”
Jack nodded and said, “We better get back.”
Little Danny darted forward and hugged the little gray alien saying, “Love you, Thor. Thanks for fixing Uncle Billy and Aunt Jilly.” He released the startled alien and stepped back to stand next to Jonny. “See you later, Thor!”
Jack asked, “Thor, do you think you can do some digging around and maybe find out more about this planet? Someone had to have brought Billy and the others here from Earth.”
Daniel interjected, “The races we know of that are technologically capable of doing this wouldn't bother.” He paused and got a funny look on his face. Hesitantly, he suggested, “Uh, Loki wouldn't ...” Daniel trailed off, waving his right hand in front of him.
“No, I do not believe he would.” Seeing two sets of raised eyebrows from Jack and Daniel, the alien added, “But I will check on it.”
After a nod and with a flash of light, the humans found themselves back in the living room of Billy and Jilly's house.
Billy looked out at the rising sun and yawned, “I can't believe it's morning already.”
Daniel nodded, saying, “It's certainly been an eventful night.”
“And it's going to be an even longer day,” Jack noted as he ran his hand through his hair. “We have to tell the rest of the people here the truth, and let Janet finish her testing.”
“What about the nanites? In the others,” Jilly clarified.
“We can remove them,” Daniel promised.
“Can we meet our cousins today?” Jonny asked excitedly.
“Ah, that reminds me Billyboy, just how many nieces and nephews have I got? You two haven't told us much about your family,” Jack said.
“Well, Jackieboy,” Billy retaliated. He chuckled, “We haven't been as busy as you two obviously have.”
Daniel blushed, and Jack just looked smug. Jilly suggested they all sit down, and then she prepared some coffee for the adults and hot chocolate for the children. Once situated, they began their family catch up again.
Billy shook his head and said sadly, “You already know about Mary.”
“We're so sorry,” Daniel spoke softly, his empathy obvious to the couple.
All of a sudden, Billy chuckled, prompting everyone to look at him in question.
“Bro, I guess I didn't forget all the way,” Billy said.
“Why?” Jack asked.
“Our oldest,” Billy explained, smiling at Jilly who suddenly chuckled, too.
“His name is Jonathan,” Jilly answered. “That's your name, isn't it?”
“Yes,” Jack answered.
“Mine, too!” Jonny perked up.
Over the next several minutes, Billy and Jilly told them about their children. They may not be working on an even dozen, but there were still six living O'Neill children on Plantacia. Jonathan Anthony, born in 1970, was the oldest. Next came their set of twins, Gerald Austin and Genevieve Austina, in 1972. They were followed by Mary in 1975, who had died in 1979, breaking all of their hearts. In 1978, the couple welcomed Brynn Janae to their family. Their next child was Madison Amarina in 1982. She was followed by their surprise child, Jessica Eileen in 1986.
“We have the largest family in Plantacia,” Billy noted. “Most others have no more than two, maybe three children.”
Jilly noticed Jonny making funny noises, and his face was contorted. Worried, she asked, “Child, are you all right?”
Jonny answered, “They're too old to play with.”
Everyone laughed, and then Jilly answered, “But they have children, too.”
Jonny brightened at that, and Little Danny asked eagerly, “How old are they?”
Jilly smiled and answered, “Jonathan's eldest son, William Jonathan, is sixteen. He also has two daughters, Araminta is twelve, and Julia is ten.”
Little Danny and Jonny were looking disappointed again so Billy quickly continued, “Gerald has three children as well. Harry is fourteen, Ally is eleven, and Cat is ten.”
“Lucky they didn't have another kid, they might have named it Dog,” Jack teased.
Daniel thumped him, saying, “Don't be a ...” He paused, smiling and reworded his original thought to, “Jack, don't be rude.”
“I knew I liked you, Daniel,” Billy said, grinning at the archeologist. Giving his brother a mock glare, he told him, “I'd forgotten you were a smarty pants, Jack.”
Jilly laughed, “It must run in the family then.”
Billy turned his glare on his wife and decided to ignore both his brother and his wife, turning back to the children, informing them that, “Cat is short for Catherine. Also ten are Genevieve's terrible twins, George and Georgina.”
“They're terrible?” Little Danny asked, looking confused.
Jilly smiled at him, explaining, “No, Sweetheart, we just call them that because they like to play tricks on people. Harmless things like putting salt in the sugar pot, things like that.”
**I think we're in trouble, Jack. Look at Jonny.**
Daniel had noticed a devilish look entering Jonny's eyes at the mention of the twins.
Jack turned to look at his son and gave a mental groan, communicating, **We're going to have a covert ops mischief maker soon.**
**I hate to break it to you, Babe, but we already do -- and more than one.**
“As well as the twins, Genevieve has an eight-year-old daughter, Isabella. Brynn has three boys,” Jilly continued, then hesitated as if unsure how to continue.
“His eldest is Charles, but we call him Charlie,” Billy said quietly, looking at his brother in concern.
Daniel moved closer to his husband, placing a hand on the older man's back in support.
“That's good. Charlie is a good name,” Jack said with an emotional smile on his face. Hearing a knock on the door and knowing that it must be Sam and Teal’c, he looked at his watch and sighed, “We need to get to the town hall to talk with the Doc.”
Nodding, everyone stood and prepared for their day, Billy and Jilly finally changing out of their pajamas into day wear.
Jack and Daniel relayed what they learned to Janet, and while they were doing that, Billy and Jilly met with the townspeople, informing them of the strange turn of events. Many were doubtful, but Samuel, sensing the truth was exactly what the couple had told them, urged the people to be tolerant and open-minded.
While all that was going on, Jonny and Little Danny spent the day meeting their new cousins, relishing all the new playmates that would be in their future. They had been told, however, not to talk about their family in detail. The two boys didn't understand why, but Jack had told them this was their first undercover assignment. They were to play and mingle with their new family members, but the test was to see if they could do it without divulging much about their own family, especially their parents. Taking it on as a challenge and their first covert ops mission, Jonny and Little Danny headed a bit reluctantly for their play session.
Janet made notes of what Jack and Daniel told her and then continued with her examinations of the original fifty inhabitants. The offspring were being examined by other SGC personnel. The SGC physician had also increased the number of her staff brought to Plantacia to help with the examinations.
Seeing everything was running smoothly, Jack and Daniel then sent another message back to General Hammond, asking him to personally check in on their children at Sara's. It would be at least another day before they could return to Earth.
The rest of the day was spent learning as much about Plantacia as possible and trying to figure out how fifty Tau'ri were manipulated and brought to live on an asteroid for no apparent reason.
“There has to be a reason,” Jack pointed out as he and Daniel walked the town.
“I agree, but there hasn't been one sign of any alien influence. There's no trace of the Goa'uld or any other enemy of Earth. Everything we've seen fits in place, well, except for that gas-producing machine,” Daniel noted.
“Carter hasn't a clue how that thing works,” Jack observed.
“Give her time,” Daniel requested as he twisted his body around to look closer at one of the buildings. A moment later, he added, “Why? Why bring those people here? It's like ... like some kind of experiment.”
“Daniel, so help me if we're rats in a maze again, I'll ...”
“All I'm saying is that someone went to a lot of trouble to terraform an asteroid and bring a diverse sampling of cultures from Earth here to populate it. Why?” Daniel wondered.
“I don't know, Daniel,” Jack snapped.
“And another thing,” Daniel continued. “What about the crops they said they used to barter for the gas? They delivered it, every season, right on schedule. Where did it go to? Who took it? And ...”
“Why?” the archaeologist asked.
Jack stopped his lover and said, “Daniel, if you ask why one more time, I'll ...”
“You'll what, Babe?” the younger man smirked.
“I'll ...” Jack grunted and continued walking.
Daniel laughed and looked around a moment before jogging to catch up with his soulmate.
That night, the O'Neill family celebrated with a feast. Stories were told, songs were sung, and bonds were formed. A few close friends were present as well.
“Jilly, Darlin',” Billy whispered to his wife as they stood sipping their wine. “How do you feel about my brother being married to a man?”
“It's strange, Dear. I've never heard of such a thing, but look at those little boys. They are so happy. How could anything that creates such happiness be wrong?” Jilly sipped her drink and sighed. “It made me a little nervous at first.”
“Me, too,” Billy admitted. “Jack was so popular with the girls, Jilly.”
“Sounds like he still is,” the woman commented.
“His ex-wife is part of their family,” Billy stated thoughtfully.
“I know,” Jilly said. She put down her drink and turned her husband to face her. She put her hands on his chest and smiled as she opined, “Your brother has much strength and courage. He put all of his faith in you when he told you about Daniel. Are you going to let him down, Husband?”
Billy kissed his wife, and then he chuckled for a moment before replying, “He could commit murder, and he'd still be my brother.”
“But he did not commit murder, Dear. He ... fell in love.” Jilly let out another sigh as she shook her head. “I cannot imagine that, but I can't deny what I sense between them. They're family.”
Billy nodded and kissed his wife again. He took another sip of his wine as he watched Jack and Daniel exchange a loving look. He could tell they were working at 'not' being together, and, looking at the two little boys, he knew they weren't happy about the game they were all playing.
Towards the end of the festivities, Billy turned around just in time to see Jack and Daniel each picking up one of their children. All were laughing, and the men were clearly teasing the youngsters. The love was undeniable.
“Well, I'll be a monkey's uncle,” Billy said to no one in particular. He chuckled and said quietly, “Or the uncle to eleven, soon to be twelve, little live wires. So be it!” Billy looked around for Jilly, and seeing her, motioned for his wife to join him. “Darlin,” he said when she approached. “The O'Neill family is a proud bunch, and we never leave an O'Neill hanging in the lurch.”
“All right then,” Jilly replied, smiling.
Billy refilled his drink and that of his wife, and then kissed her for good luck. Standing on the porch, he rang the bell that hung over the post to get everyone's attention.
“William, uh, sorry, Billy, you old bag of wind, are you going to lecture us tonight?” Samuel called out.
“You be silent, Samuel,” Jilly teased. “My Billy has something important to say.”
“Family, you've all met my brother, Jack, and his two children, Jonny and Little Danny.” Billy saw the boys beaming at the sound of their names. “And you've met Daniel, and I regret I've been vague and less than honest about who Daniel is.” He saw the boys' smiles turn to frowns. “Come here, Boys,” Billy beckoned as he handed his glass to Jilly. He picked them up, holding one in each arm. “I was told I was ignorant. When I came here, the world on Earth was a different place than it is today. I'm told that while it's still not perfect, that it's better.”
“Ignorant isn't a bad thing, Uncle Billy,” Little Danny told him.
Nodding, Billy responded, “No, it's not. My eyes have been opened, and I hope Jilly and I have raised all of you that are of our blood to be as accepting and loving as I know you can be. My children, Jack and Daniel are married. They are a couple, just like your mother and I are, and these two boys belong to both of them.”
Murmurs were heard, and Daniel quickly became nervous and uncomfortable. Jack spontaneously looked around, seeing the inquisitive looks. He instinctively put his arm around Daniel's waist.
“They are our family,” Billy continued, looking out at the curious faces in front of him. “Children, who are we to judge where love is born and nurtured? I will not lie; it is a life I would never have chosen, but it is my brother's life, and I love him, and I love these boys, and as much as Daniel is a part of my brother and these two boys, I love him.”
“That's not right.”
“Dad must have mis-spoke.”
“I need to have my hearing checked.”
The whispers were audible for everyone to hear.
~Am I wrong about them?~ Billy looked out at his children and his grandchildren, wondering if he had been incorrect about how they'd raised them to be. ~No, you old goat. You needed time, too.~ He smiled and made his request calmly. “All of you are way beyond your mother and me telling you what to do or how to feel or what to think, but I ask that you honor the O'Neill family tradition of loving and honoring all of our kin.”
Billy nodded and then placed a kiss on the cheeks of each of the two boys before walking down off the porch to the ground. He approached Jack and Daniel, smiling.
“I'm proud, Bro. I may still need some time to get used to ... touching and things, but give me a chance,” Billy requested.
“You have as long as you need,” Jack replied, his voice cracking. He put his arms around his brother and two sons, who both participated in the hug. “Thanks, Billy.”
Billy put the boys down and looked at Daniel. Smiling, he held out his arms.
Daniel blinked and hesitated, but with a small smile, he moved forward, into the arms of Jack's brother.
“Welcome to the family, Daniel,” Billy greeted warmly.
“Thank you,” Daniel said softly, desperately trying not to lose control, especially since he knew how Billy's words and actions would affect his lover.
The two boys cheered, jumping up and down, and slowly, the O'Neill children came over to properly be introduced to Daniel. All day they had thought Daniel was another relative. They didn't realize his exact connection as all the questions along that line had been evaded.
The murmurs lessened as the words took root.
“He seems nice.”
“It's ... odd, but ...”
“Dad wants us to give him a chance.”
“We have no right to judge others.”
“Remember the good book. Judge not, lest ye be judged.”
“Welcome to the family, Daniel,” the children greeted with smiles and hugs.
**They just need some time to soak it in, Danny.**
**You remember that, too, Babe.**
At the town hall early the next morning, Janet met with SG-1 to give them her report. The two youngest members of the SGC were outside under the watchful eye of Lou Ferretti.
“First of all, Jack, as you know, I gave Will...Billy a complete examination, and what I discovered is that he's hypoglycemic.”
“Low blood sugar,” Jack spoke up.
“Essentially, yes,” Janet confirmed. “The normal range for blood sugar is between sixty and one-hundred-twenty milligrams of glucose per deciliter of blood, depending on the last time a person ate. Billy's is in the high-forties, so his case isn't as severe as some, but still requires some attention.”
“What kind of attention?” the general inquired anxiously.
“Relax, Jack,” Janet advised with a calming smile after sensing Jack becoming overly distressed about the illness. “Most of the time, hypoglycemia is related to diabetes. This isn't the case for Billy. Rather, after a detailed interview with him, he appears to be one hard worker.”
“Hypoglycemia occurs on its own rarely, but when it does, it's usually because of pregnancy, prolonged fasting, or long periods of strenuous exercise. In other words, Billy's a very good neighbor. He told me several stories of how he's worked from sunup to sundown on the farms and in the fields, many times going without nourishment except for water and maybe an apple. Jack, he worked long and hard, and his body just couldn't keep up with him.”
“So, how do you treat it?” Daniel inquired.
“Diet,” the doctor answered. “He just needs to maintain a healthy diet. It's a good idea to keep fruit juices on hand for episodes, if he has any more like last night. I'll make sure he gets a glucose meter so he can monitor himself. Jack, stop looking like it's the end of the world. His case is mild, and as long as he reminds himself to eat in between working sixteen hours a day, he'll be okay.”
“You're sure?” Jack asked.
“I'm sure,” Janet explained. She looked down at the papers she was holding in her hands, ruffling them slightly. “Now, I've examined all fifty of the original populace, and, uh, there's something strange.”
“The nanites,” Jack said. “We told you ...”
“That's not it, Jack,” Janet refuted, cutting him off. “Two members of the original fifty inhabitants have no such nanite.”
“Two?” Jack and Daniel questioned in unison.
“What does that mean, Janet?” Sam asked curiously.
“At first, I thought it just meant they weren't one of the fifty; then I thought maybe we were wrong about all of the original people being implanted with the nanites,” Janet stated.
“But ...” Jack prodded.
“But this,” Janet said, slapping two X-rays onto the screen.
“That's not their brains,” Jack observed.
“No, General, these are chest X-rays that I had taken after I noted a few, shall we say, abnormalities in these two ... people,” Janet stated informatively.
“Ab...abnormalities?” Daniel questioned.
“Their pulse rates were faster than normal humans, their pupil reactions were unusual, and their heartbeats were oddly ... off-beat.”
“Off-beat?” Sam queried, looking over at Teal'c for a moment.
Janet shook her head, quickly alleviating their fears by saying, “Don't worry; they aren't Goa'uld. They just aren't human, either. Their heartbeats don't have the two beats we have; they have three. Look at their hearts,” she instructed, pointing to the organ. “They are larger than the average human heart, and the shape is slightly different.”
“Uh, what are you saying, Janet?” Daniel asked.
“To put it simply, they're alien, not human,” Janet elucidated.
“The aliens that brought these people here?” Jack inquired curiously.
Janet just shrugged. Although she couldn't be certain of that, it was certainly the most logical conclusion.
Jack sighed, “Who are they?”
Looking at her notes, Janet answered, “Their names are Anthony and Terri Calken. They are married, but have no children.”
“We should ask Billy about them; after all, he's known them for years,” Daniel suggested.
Jack nodded and requested, “Will you go get him, Danny?”
Once Daniel had left, Janet turned to Jack and grinned, saying, “Cassie will like having a new uncle.”
Jack grinned, almost radiating happiness as he responded, “It's a miracle, Janet. I still can't believe it's real.”
Sam scowled, “It's real, all right, Sir. I have the cricks in my back to prove it. Honestly, the ground is more comfortable than the beds here.”
Jack laughed, and Sam broke into a grin, feeling good at seeing her CO so happy.
Janet looked at Jack with a trace of concern as she asked, “Does he know about Daniel?”
Jack's grin widened, and he answered, “Yep, and as long as Danny and I don't start making out in front of him, I think he'll cope.”
“Fat chance,” Sam muttered under her breath.
“What?” Jack asked.
“Come on, Sir. You and Daniel have been together for how many years, and you still can't keep your hands off of each other,” the blonde mused.
Jack looked offended and whined, “We can, too.”
“Speak for yourself, Babe,” Daniel retorted as he strolled into the room with Billy. As soon as he'd said the words, he shot Billy a mortified look muttering, “Gawd, I'm sorry, Billy. That was thoughtless and ...”
“Danny,” Jack interrupted, ceasing his husband's stammered apology. “It's okay. Billy, I ...”
“Billy wants you two to be yourselves.” This time it was Billy who interrupted Jack. He looked at his brother and then Daniel. “It's weird, Daniel, I don't deny that, but, honestly, it's just weird seeing Jack all grown up. He's my baby brother. I still keep imagining him as this scrawny teenager all nervous about going on his first date. I'm still having trouble picturing him as an adult.”
“We all have that trouble,” Janet couldn't resist teasing. Extending her hand out, she said, “Janet Fraiser, otherwise known as Little Napoleon.”
“Nice to meet you, Napoleon,” Billy chuckled as he shook her hand.
“We would have met sooner, but Thor provided me with the examination he did, so ...”
Billy shook his head, interrupting Janet by saying, “Funny looking little guy, isn't he?”
“You'll get used to him,” Jack promised.
“That's a funny thought, too, Bro,” Billy replied.
Introductions concluded, the group filled Billy in on what they had learned about the Calkens.
“Aliens?” Billy asked incredulously. “You think they're aliens ... like Thor?”
“Not like Thor,” Jack replied. “Billy, there are all kinds of aliens in the universe, and they all look a little different.”
“I'll take your word for it, Jack,” Billy responded. “But you really think Tony and Terri are aliens?”
“Let me show you why,” Janet said, using her medical readouts and X-rays to show Billy the results.
“Billy, think hard. Have these two acted out of the ordinary in any way?” Jack asked.
Billy blinked. He got up from his chair and walked around the small room, clearly thinking over the past.
“They were the very first to arrive here,” Billy finally spoke. “They've always been part of the core of Plantacia.”
“But ...” Daniel prodded, sensing there was something Billy was considering.
“But,” Billy began, turning around to face everyone again. “There have been two occasions when I've thought their actions to be strange; at least, strange enough that I still recall the incidents.”
“Tell us, Billy; this is important,” Jack urged.
“Early on, Gerald, my son, talked of leaving here. I couldn't imagine why anyone would ever want to leave,” Billy stated. “Gerald was determined, though. He was eighteen and eager to prove his worth as a man, and he didn't feel his life was here. He spoke up during the town council. Afterwards, Tony took him to his home, and Gerald stayed the night. The next day, when he came home, I asked him if he still wanted to leave Plantacia. He looked at me as if I were off my rocker. He said he didn't want to leave here. He had no memory of his outburst, claimed I must have misinterpreted his comments. He wanted to stay, so I let it go, but the next time I saw Tony, I inquired how he had changed Gerald's mind. He simply smiled, told me that Plantacia was paradise, and that he had done nothing more than remind Gerald of that.”
“He implanted a nanite,” Sam deduced. “Janet, what about the other people here, the offspring. Do they have nanites?”
“So far, no. We haven't examined Gerald, yet, either. Excuse me,” Janet spoke, leaving the room to arrange for Gerald's exam right away.
“What's the second thing?” Daniel asked Billy.
“It was about twenty-five years ago, maybe more,” Billy recalled, looking faraway as he tried to remember the exact details. “Tony and Terri started to become really nervous, and they seemed a little excitable. They kept talking together, but stopping suddenly and changing the subject whenever anyone was around.” He shook his head and continued, “It wasn't even that noticeable. I guess it only made an impression because a while later they both seemed to sink into a kind of depression and seemed really worried about something. We all tried getting them to open up about whatever was worrying them, but they kept on assuring us nothing was wrong.”
Jack looked at Daniel and asked, “What do you think?”
“I have no idea, Uh, it sounds like they were expecting something to happen, and it didn't,” Daniel surmised.
“I wonder ... I think it was around then,” Billy muttered to himself.
“Ah, Billy?” Jack prodded his brother. “Care to share?”
“Oh, sorry. I just remembered. When she was a little girl, Genevieve once told me that she'd heard Tony telling Terri something like, 'they should have arrived by now.' Genevieve was all excited about newcomers to our town, but no one ever arrived, and I just assumed she misunderstood.”
Jack sighed and said, “I think it's time we had a talk with Tony and Terri, or whoever they are.”
“I still can't believe they aren't human,” Billy muttered as he followed Jack and Daniel out the door.
SG-1, Janet, and Billy were in the living room of Tony and Terri's home, having just confronted the pair with their suspicions.
Tony and Terri exchanged a surprised look that turned into one of resignation and even relief.
It was Terri who spoke up first, saying, “We have no reason to hide it from them anymore. We owe them the truth, Niktor.”
“Niktor?” Daniel echoed in surprise.
“Niktor is my real name. Terri is Nomolyx,” Tony announced.
“Niktor and Nomolyx,” Jack mumbled slightly. “Let's stick with Tony and Terri,” he suggested, receiving accepting nods from the aliens.
“We're from the planet Axlyxtomox,” Tony stated.
“Axlewhat?” Jack quizzed.
“Our language can be difficult for outsiders. You can call it Alto,” Tony offered.
“I can handle that. So, you're from Alto. Where is that?” Jack asked.
“Far from here, if it is still there,” Terri answered, her head drooping with the sadness she felt.
Tony walked over to the window and stared up into the sky.
“We meant no harm to anyone. Our planet was overcrowded, and we needed to expand. We found some possible worlds to inhabit, but they were actually bigger than what we needed. We decided we would like to share our new world with another people that might also be in need,” Tony explained.
“But we needed to be sure we were compatible in all ways, especially this thing called love,” Terri added.
“This thing called love?” Jack asked, looking around at his teammates with questioning eyes.
“Our people are joined by ritual,” Tony explained. “We have friendship and respect, but the deep caring, the ... passion that we heard about from the people on Earth and a few other worlds was unknown to us.”
“We were curious,” Terri continued. “We set up an experiment. We took only those who were dead, but we took them before their death was permanent.”
“The land mine,” Billy whispered. “I went back to get ... I ... remember sound ... and ...”
“You died, Billy,” Jack said solemnly. Looking at Tony and Terri, he asked pointedly, “Didn't he?”
Terri nodded and answered, “Yes, he did, but it was not a land mine. You were shot several times by your enemy. Had it been a land mine, there ...”
“Wouldn't have been anything left to fix,” Jack supposed.
“You are correct, General. We don't work magic. William ... Billy,” Tony acknowledged, “was killed by those shots. A land mine did go off nearby at the same time, however.”
“So that explains the stories and what survivors saw,” Jack deduced.
“Yes, General,” Tony answered. “The land mine exploded amid the gunfire. Survivors would have thought he was blown up by the device, but when we saw Will...Billy fall from the bullets, we immediately beamed him aboard our vessel and placed him in a sarcophagus.”
“We know about those,” Daniel sighed.
“Well, I don't,” Billy stated a bit snarkily.
“Long, coffin-like thing that sustains life,” Jack explained.
“And, uh, is addictive. Don't ask,” Daniel said as he began to self-hug and looked away.
**I'm okay, Babe. It was a long time ago,** Daniel assured.
“We adapted the sarcophagi in our possession to heal and then to put the person into a deep sleep. When the healing was complete, our vessel carried the person to a staging outpost we had set up on another terraformed asteroid. We called it Lxtalop. This place, Plantacia, is an asteroid that we terraformed for inhabitation. On Lxtalop, the person was completely examined and recorded,” Tony said.
“Recorded?” Daniel asked. “What does that mean?”
“We meant no harm. We wanted to make sure that when our experiment was done, all people would be returned as we found them. A recording was made of their bodies so that in case of damage, we could repair it,” Tony answered.
“So you recorded the people you took and inserted the nanite at the same time,” Daniel summarized.
“Yes,” Terri confirmed. “We set up a Stargate on Lxtalop ...”
“Set up?” Jack asked.
“Yes,” Terri answered, wondering what was so odd.
“Just where did you get yourselves a Stargate?” the general inquired.
“We built one,” Tony answered as if building the Stargate were no more difficult than breathing.
“Way smarter than we are,” Daniel whispered quietly.
**Reminds me of the Tollan,** Jack silently communicated.
**We don't know that, yet, and, Jack, the Tollan aren't that bad,** Daniel replied.
**Right,** an unconvinced Jack responded. “You were saying,” he prodded.
Terri continued, “Yes, we set up our Stargate, and once the person was prepared, we sent them through. They would wake up, walking through the forest, searching for Plantacia.”
“And what exactly did this nanite do?” Janet inquired.
“Doctor, I assure you, it simply overrode certain recollections. We altered all the memories so that residents believed they had no family, that this place was a peaceful paradise where they had always desired to live, and we inserted the wish never to leave,” Terri said.
“And exactly how long was this experiment supposed to last?” Jack asked.
“Ten years, perhaps less, perhaps a little more,” Tony answered. “We took forty-eight people from all parts of the planet Earth. We needed to see how they interacted together, in a new place, and with us. Terri and I agreed to stay, to mix in. The only way the experiment could be pure was to have us live among the Earthlings, and we hoped that we could learn about this love, too.”
“And then what? You simply remove the nanites, and that's it?” Jack asked angrily.
“Jack, Billy's alive; he'd be dead without them,” Daniel noted quietly.
Jack looked at Daniel, and his anger deflated. The younger man was right; he had to focus on the fact that these aliens had given him his brother back, rather than concentrating on the lost years they'd missed.
“We meant no harm,” Tony repeated yet again. “We were careful in our selections. We took only those who were already lost. The experiment was not supposed to last so long. We were certain that the joy created by returning the lost family members to Earth would diminish the grief over their absence.”
“We seem to have been wrong,” Terri said sadly.
Jack sighed, “No ... I'm sorry. I shouldn't be angry; you saved my brother's life. I thank you for that.”
“Do you think ...” Tony's voice was hopeful, although he seemed to lack the confidence to make his request. “Would it be possible ... is there any way you could find out what has happened to Axlyxtomox?”
**Thor could probably find out, Jack,** Daniel reminded his husband.
**I guess I owe them. After all, they did save Billy.**
**It's not a matter of owing them. It's just that if we can help them find out what happened to their planet ...**
Jack couldn't help but smile at the humanitarian side of his soulmate, so he quickly responded, **Okay, Danny. In the spirit of human friendship, we'll ask Thor to see if he can find out what happened to Alto.**
**I love you, Smarty Pants,** Daniel communicated.
**Love you, too, Space Monkey.**
“Forgive me,” Janet intoned. “I'm curious. Have you learned about love?”
Tony and Terri exchanged a hesitant look, but then both smiled.
Tony spoke, “I can speak only for myself.”
“We've celebrated all those occasions we've learned are special to couples, and we've lived with a focus on each other for these many years,” Tony expounded. He then looked back at Janet, saying, “In our world, where couples are joined by planning and not emotion, our daily lives are centered on the collective good of our people. Activities, pleasures, except for the most intimate, are done as a group. Here, Terri has been my center.”
Daniel smiled, seeing the softness in the alien man's eyes, and said, “You love her.”
Tony looked at Daniel and then at Terri, opining, “Were you not to be in my presence, I would be lost. Yes, I know this thing called love. I ... yes, I love you, Terri.”
Terri felt tears running down her face as she emotionally replied, “My heart beats faster when I know you'll be home. Life was not like this on Axlyxtomox. There was warmth, respect, but not need and longing as I feel for you. I, too, love you.”
For the first time, Tony and Terri joined their hands and kissed as two people admittedly in love. It wasn't an act or an experiment. Rather, it was simply the passion of their hearts and unity.
“Okay, Cupid is happy now,” Jack said. “His arrows worked.”
As the couple looked at him strangely, Billy approached them, putting his hands on their shoulders as he spoke, “I am glad you know the meaning of love.”
“We meant no harm, Will...Billy,” Terri stated emotionally.
“I know,” Billy tenderly acknowledged.
“We'd better get back,” Jack suggested.
Tony and Terri accompanied the group back to the town hall where several side rooms had been set up as temporary medical areas for Janet's teams. They had a method for quickly and painlessly removing the nanites and had agreed to explain the procedure to Janet, after which they volunteered to assist with the task.
“They will hate us, Tony,” Terri lamented about their friends of many years.
“I cannot say I'd blame them, Terri.” Tony glanced over at the others. “We did what we believed we had to do for the survival of our people. Looking back, I do not believe we did wrong. Terri and I learned quickly that the Earthlings would be compatible. We were convinced of that early on, but the communications between our world and us became difficult. I fear the worse for Axlyxtomox,” he said, looking down.
“Okay, well, this looks like it should work,” Janet announced when she rejoined the others, test results and analysis of the nanite removal procedure in her hands. “With Tony's and Terri's help, I believe we can have the entire population back to ... normal by tomorrow evening.”
Jack nodded and called out, “Lou, I need you to take another message back to the Stargate.”
“Sure thing, Jack. Teal'c's got the boys' six right now, anyway,” Lou responded quickly.
“Jack ...” Daniel began.
“I agree,” Jack said quickly, certain of what his soulmate had been about to suggest.
Nodding, Daniel headed off to get their two sons while Jack made his request of Lou. Things could get a bit dicey once the nanites were removed, and the parents believed it was time for Jonny and Little Danny's adventure to conclude for now.
“Jonny, I don't think we should,” Little Danny commented. “Remember Charlie.”
“But I'm not going to use it, Little Danny. I just want to look at it. It's not fair. I've never seen one up close,” Jonny said in his own defense.
The two boys had been playing Hide and Seek down the street from the town hall, in front of the general store with Teal'c keeping an eye on them. Some of the townspeople were nearby as well, going about their business and occasionally stopping and chatting with the Jaffa, curious to know more about him and the strange emblem on his forehead.
“Dad won't like it. It might go off,” Little Danny said, biting his lip and looking around nervously almost hoping someone would discover them. ~That lady's still talking to Teal'c. He'll be really mad, too.~ “Jonny ...”
“Shhh,” Jonny replied. “Dad worries too much.”
Little Danny really didn't think this was a good idea, but he also knew how Jonny felt. He'd hate it if their parents had never let him have a close look at any artifacts.
“Teal'c might see,” Little Danny warned, looking off at the Jaffa as he chatted with the woman by the building next to the town hall, his view of the boys temporarily obstructed as they supposedly played Hide and Seek behind some stacked crates.
“Just keep watch, Little Danny. Make sure T doesn't look over here,” Jonny requested.
Jonny crept closer to the SGC backpack that a Marine had temporarily left on the wooden walkway outside the building next to the store. That building was normally used as a storage facility for Plantacia, but right now was being used as a break area for the SGC personnel. What Jonny was interested in wasn't the backpack, but rather the P-90 he could see lying beside it.
~Just another minute,~ Jonny thought. He held his breath when he reached out and touched weapon. “Got it!” he exclaimed quietly as he picked up the P-90.
“JONNYJACKSONO'NEILL!” a deep voice yelled forcefully.
Teal'c's loud voice drew the attention of everyone in the vicinity.
Daniel, who had been walking towards the general store, broke into a run at the sound of Teal'c's shout, a spike of terror running through him. He could hear a hint of fear and anxiousness in Teal'c's voice and was terrified at what could frighten the brave Jaffa.
**Jack, Teal'c just ...**
**I heard; I'm on my way,** Jack communicated, leaving the medical area and sprinting down the street.
“I was just ...” Jonny began, nervously looking around him as Teal'c took the weapon from him, making sure the safety was on.
“What have your fathers told you about Tau'ri weapons?” Teal'c scolded, now picking up the backpack, taking a quick second to identify the name on the pack.
“Teal'c, what's ... wrong?” Daniel asked, coming to a halt. He took in the scene, eventually focusing on the weapon in Teal'c's hands. He paled as the reality of what Jonny had apparently done set in. “Oh, gawd.”
“We weren't going to do anything, Daddy, but ...” Little Danny began.
“Daniel Michael, be quiet,” Daniel responded sharply.
Little Danny gulped. He could count on his fingers and toes the number of times he'd been called by his full name in that tone. He knew he and Jonny were in huge trouble.
“Daniel, what happened?” Jack called out as he approached on a full run. Seeing Daniel's panicked yet calm demeanor, he focused on their surroundings. Clearly, the boys were fine. Jack looked over at Teal'c, seeing the items he held in his hand. ~No! Please, no!~ he begged, suddenly feeling life draining from him. “T?”
Teal'c didn't miss the pleading note in Jack's voice, the hope that the other man would reassure him his son hadn't done what Jack thought he'd done. The Jaffa stared down intently at the young boy, his eyes commanding Jonny to answer the question.
“I wanted to look at the gun, Dad,” Jonny admitted guiltily.
Jack was still trying to catch his breath, and his son's admission chilled his soul.
~No, no, nooooo! I will not lose another son like that.~
It didn't take long for Jack's fear to become anger, and quickly, he moved down by Jonny, grabbing the weapon from Teal'c and removing the safety. Though his own P-90 was strapped behind his back, he wanted to use the same gun Jonny had touched to make his point.
Shouting harshly, Jack yelled, “YOU WANT TO SEE WHAT THIS CAN DO?” He looked around and picked the closest object without people near it -- a basket full of potatoes that sat just outside the general store. He fired round after round into the potatoes until the spuds were vaporized. “THAT COULD BE YOU, OR YOUR BROTHER! I TOLD YOU NEVER, EVER GO NEAR A GUN! YOU'RE GROUNDED FOR LIFE!”
Handing Teal'c the gun as he knelt down on one knee, Jack grabbed Jonny, turning him over onto his knee, and spanked his young son several times, until both of them were audibly crying.
Little Danny hugged Daniel's pant leg tightly as they watched. Tears were running down his cheeks. He'd never seen his father like this, and it scared him.
Daniel said nothing, but kept his hand atop Little Danny's head. They'd come too close to re-experiencing Jack's personal nightmare.
“DON'T ... EVER ... DO THAT AGAIN!” Jack yelled as he spanked his son one last time. Then he stood the sobbing boy up and shook him gently. “I'D DIE IF YOU DIED. DON'T YOU UNDERSTAND THAT? I LOVE YOU, JONNY. Gawd, I love ... I love you,” Jack cried, pulling his son to his chest and holding him close.
Fighting back his own tears, Daniel knelt down and put his hands on his crying namesake's shoulders as he said, “You know better. You should have told us, Little Danny.”
“I...I kn...ooooow, Daaaaddy, butttt I ... Jonny lik...likes guns, and I got...got to play with art'facts and ...”
“Danny, you can't let him do things you know are wrong,” Daniel said. “You *have* to protect your brother every bit as much as he needs to protect you. You have to learn to speak up and not just go along with whatever he says. That's *very* important if you ever expect to be a good team member.” He sighed, saying with a cracked voice, “I love you, Son, so much.”
“But he .... just ... wan...ted ... to look,” Little Danny sobbed. “Not fair ... my fault.”
Standing up, Daniel looked over to see Jack still clinging to Jonny. Even from here, he could see the fine tremors running through Jack's body. He lifted Little Danny into his arms and walked over to his husband.
Jack stood, keeping his hold of Jonny, and immediately drew Little Danny into his arms so that he was holding both boys. He needed to reassure himself that both were safe and unharmed. He didn't notice Little Danny's slight flinch, although Daniel did.
Daniel hoped they hadn't scared the little boy too badly with their reaction. He joined his family, essentially forming a four-way hug. The four of them stayed huddled together for a few minutes, Daniel rubbing soothing circles on his children's back.
**They're okay, Jack.**
**I hit him, Danny. I hit our son,** the older man bewailed via their special way of communicating.
Daniel closed his eyes, his heart aching for his soulmate. He'd wondered how Jack would react when the adrenaline rush had faded, and it looked like his lover was going with guilt.
**How could he? He knows what happened to Charlie. They all do.**
~Guilt and anger.~ Daniel moved his hand so that it was rubbing the base of Jack's neck. **First of all, Jack, you didn't hit him. You spanked him. Second, we need to have a long talk with both of them, but not here and not now.**
At last, Jack released the boys from the hug. He and Daniel put their children back on the ground and both kneeled down to talk with them some more.
Jonny looked at Jack with red-rimmed eyes and said apologetically, “I ... I soooorry, Dad.” The little boy was still giving hiccuping little sobs as he spoke. “My fault.”
Jack felt like his heart was breaking, and he nodded as he rubbed his hand along Jonny's left arm.
“I know, Son. Me, too,” Jack sighed. “We're going to have a long talk about all of this, but just remember that I love you. I couldn't bear it if anything happened to you, either of you,” he said, looking at Little Danny who was once again clinging to Daniel. He held an arm out to the little boy, and, unfortunately, this time he did notice the slight hesitation from Little Danny before the boy moved into his arms.
**He's scared of me, Danny,** Jack spoke, heartbroken.
**He just needs time to process all this, Jack. He'll be fine,** Daniel assured.
“Teal'c, whose weapon is that?” Lou asked, barely hiding his anger at a weapon being placed in the open.
“It is Lieutenant Huruki's,” Teal'c responded.
Lou bristled. Huruki was on his team. He was glad Jack hadn't finished giving him the message, and he hadn't yet left for the Stargate.
“Give me that,” Lou demanded, taking the weapon and heading off in search of the man.
“Okay, everyone, let's, uh, get back to work,” Sam ordered, dispersing not only the military personnel in the area, but the inhabitants who had been watching. She walked over to Teal'c and whispered, “Did Jonny actually pick it up?”
“Yes, ColonelCarter,” Teal'c replied. “He had taken a hold of the end when I became aware of his actions.” The Jaffa sighed, “I was remiss in my duties.”
“Teal'c, it could have happened to any of us,” Sam responded.
“The boys were my responsibility.”
“Nothing happened, Teal'c,” Sam said, sensing Teal'c's heartfelt regret at letting Jonny actually get so close as to have picked up the P-90.
Teal'c cocked his head, but when he spoke, it wasn't to relieve himself of responsibility, but to say, “I will be having several discussions with JonnyJacksonO'Neill and LittleDannyJacksonO'Neill about honor once we return to Earth. It will not be pleasant,” he stated firmly.
“No, I don't imagine things are going to be ... pleasant for them for a while,” Sam responded quietly.
“Okay, uh, listen, Dad and I love you both very, very much, but we're very unhappy right now. We're disappointed in you, very, very disappointed that you'd do something like this, especially now when we've rewarded you by bringing you along on this mission. There are going to be some consequences to this, lots of them, and neither one of you are going to like them,” Daniel promised sternly but softly. “But right now, I want you to, uh ...” he paused, looking around to make sure Sam was there. “I want you to go with Aunt Sam while Dad and I talk for a few minutes.”
“Daddy, I ...” Little Danny began.
“I know. Go on,” Daniel instructed, hugging both boys.
Jack leaned over and hugged them as well, but he was still so filled with guilt and anger that all he could say was, “I love you” without wanting to scream.
“Sam,” Daniel beckoned. “Watch them, please.”
Sam nodded, and she knew that this time, those words meant the boys were on absolute restriction and watch.
~Nope, not going to be pleasant for a long time,~ Sam thought as she walked off, holding the hands of the boys, both of whom looked back over their shoulders at their fathers, tears still streaming down their cheeks.
“Come here, Jack,” Daniel said as he took his husband's hand and led him behind the general store. Once away from prying and concerned eyes, he drew his soulmate into his arms. Jack remained rigid, trying desperately to hold all his emotions in, until Daniel said softly, “Let go, Babe. You can let go now. You need to let go.”
Hearing those words, and knowing his husband would keep everyone else away, Jack gave in and cried, letting out as much of his pain as he could. He felt raw and sick.
Hearing the heart-wrenching sobs, Daniel murmured reassurances to his lover. While he, himself, was wanting to let go, right now, he had to be strong. This was Jack's worst nightmare, happening at a time when they were on the verge of their most blessed miracle. The injustice of it swelled within the younger man as he comforted his lover.
When the sobs eventually subsided, Daniel could feel that Jack was still shaking. Shock was setting in.
“Danny, I ... I can't live through ... through that again. I ... I ...” Jack stammered as he struggled to speak, sounding more like Daniel when he was upset than himself.
Daniel moved back and looked into Jack's eyes, promising, “You won't have to, Jack.” Seeing Jack shaking his head, Daniel placed his hands on his cheeks. He looked into the frightened chocolate brown eyes he loved so much and said, “Listen to me. This will *not* happen again. We'll learn from it. I know you don't want the kids near guns. I don't either, but maybe that's a mistake. Maybe we should be teaching them about them. Showing them an unloaded gun, teaching them the mechanics of it, the history of it, and the consequences of it. That may or may not be the answer, but we *will* find an answer, and our children will *not* be hurt by weaponry. I promise you. Together, Jack,” he urged. “Say it,” Daniel instructed again. “Because together ...”
Jack smiled at the reversal of their usual roles. It was usually Jack urging Daniel to finish that sentiment, but now, he was the one being prodded.
“Together we can do anything. We're unbeatable,” Jack sighed, feeling slightly calmer. He took a deep breath and pulled himself together. Nodding, he said simply, “Okay.”
“Here,” Daniel announced, pulling out a bottle of water as well as his bandana that had been in his pocket. He wet the bandana and handed it to his lover so that Jack could wash his face, refreshing him just a bit. When that was done, he smiled warmly and asked, “Ready to be the general again?”
Jack gave his soulmate a wry grin and answered, “After I do this,” drawing Daniel into his arms and kissing him thoroughly. “I love you, Angel.”
“I love you, too, Babe,” Daniel echoed, kissing his husband once more before they both straightened up and walked back toward the town hall.
Lou walked back into the medical area, shaking his head. Sam walked over to him, sternly telling the two contrite boys not to budge from their seats on a bench.
“Not one inch. Capiché?” Sam asked them pointedly.
“Yes, Ma'am,” both boys sniffled.
“Lou ...” Sam began, expectantly waiting for him to tell her the latest on the situation.
“I want that idiot off my team,” Lou groused gruffly.
“Huruki? What was his excuse?” Sam asked curiously.
“Some pretty thing needed help with her fruit basket. I almost broke his neck, Sam,” Ferretti admitted, shaking his head. “My team is better than that. That was a ...” Lou paused, afraid of being overheard. Instead of swearing, which he wanted to do, he continued simply, “stupid thing to do.”
“I need to get back to the boys,” Sam said.
“How are they doing?” Lou asked, glancing over Sam's shoulder and seeing both boys, huddled as close together as they could get, running their fingers under their noses as they continued to let out occasional sniffles and sobs.
“Scared. They know they messed up,” Sam said. “My heart is breaking for them, Lou.”
“Jack's never spanked Jonny before, has he?” Lou inquired.
“No, I don't think so, and not just Jonny. To my knowledge, he's never spanked any of the children. I don't think he's ever gotten that upset before,” the blonde commented. “Of course, I don't know for sure but ...”
“Think I should talk to them?” Lou asked.
When Sam shrugged, Lou knew she was feeling as helpless as he was at the moment. He walked over to the boys and kneeled down.
“How's it going?” Lou asked.
“Not ... <sniffle> ... good,” Jonny answered. “I didn't ... <sob> ... mean it, Uncle Lou,” he cried.
“I know you didn't, Jonny. You know we love you, right? Both of you,” Lou responded, making sure to include Little Danny in the conversation.
“Dad's very mad at us,” Little Danny said dejectedly.
“Your dad and your daddy would lose their minds if either one of you got hurt for any reason. Guns are cruel things. You stay away from them until you're grown up, or I'll tan your hides. Got that?”
“Yes, ... <sniffle> ... Uncle Lou,” Jonny cried.
“I love you, Rugrats. Who's gonna help me with the MonsterMobile if you aren't around?” Lou gently teased Jonny, reaching out to tickle his abdomen slightly. “And, do you know what Carolyn would do to me, Little Danny, if I told her you got hurt on my watch? She'd bust my butt. You wouldn't want your old Uncle Lou to be in the doghouse, would ya?” He chuckled, “Remember, we don't have a deluxe doghouse like Bij and Katie do.”
“No, Uncle Lou,” Little Danny answered.
“Come here,” the Italian colonel requested, hugging both the boys tightly.
Little Danny looked up over Lou's shoulder and asked, “Aunt Sam, do you still love us?”
“Oh, gosh, yes,” Sam responded, unable to keep her composure. She joined Lou in what turned out to be their own four-way hug since Lou still had the boys in his embrace as well. “You two scared us, that's all. I love you both so darn much.”
Billy had heard the Jaffa shout as well and witnessed the spectacle in front of the general store. The story of Charlie was fresh in his mind, and the day before, Jack had confided in him that he was always afraid one of the children would somehow get their hands on a gun.
“Billy, what has happened?” Jilly asked, entering the town hall on the run, having just heard from friends about the scene on the street minutes earlier.
“Little Jonny over there wanted to test out a weapon that some inept soldier left lying around,” Billy answered.
“A gun? Charlie,” Jilly whispered. “Where are Jack and Daniel?”
Billy gave a closed-mouth smile, answering, “I believe Daniel is tending to him.” He sighed, “My brother must be a mess right now.”
The couple watched as Lou and Sam walked away to talk to Janet, assumedly to fill her in on the details of the incident. They noticed all three keeping a close eye on the two Munchkins.
“Jilly, I'll be right back,” Billy said, giving her a chaste kiss and then heading over to his nephews. “Your fathers aren't very happy with you, are they?” Billy asked as he kneeled down in front of them. Two very sad faces shook their heads. “Jonny, tell me about Charlie. I don't know very much about him, and I heard Jack mention him outside. Why don't you tell me about him?”
Jonny sniffled and wiped his eyes before answering, “Charlie's our big brother.” He took a big breath. “Dad and Aunt Sara made him. They loved him very much. I do, too,” Jonny said.
“What was he like?” Billy asked.
Jonny blinked as he thought, finally answering, “He liked baseball and airplanes and wanted to be just like Dad. He had Aunt Sara's smile, and he loved to play games and go on picnics and watch war movies and ...”
Billy smiled, listening to Jonny go on about his big brother. Little Danny listened, too, sniffling off and on.
When Jonny was done, Billy asked, “How did Charlie die?”
Jonny bowed his head, answering in a whisper, “He shot himself in the head with Dad's gun.”
“That was a long time ago, wasn't it?” Billy asked quietly.
“Before we were born,” Jonny answered.
Billy nodded and said, “Your dad must have felt pretty bad.”
Jonny nodded, saying, “He feel awful. He hated the world. He even yelled at Aunt Sara when they were still married.”
“Oh, I see.”
“Dad say he wasn't nice to her anymore because he was mad,” Jonny added.
“Mad at Aunt Sara?” Billy inquired.
Both boys shook their heads and said together, “Mad at himself.”
“So after Charlie died, and he got mad, everything was okay?” Billy prodded.
“No!” Jonny exclaimed. “He and Aunt Sara got divorced. Dad was unhappy for a long time.”
“Till he met Daddy,” Little Danny explained.
“I see,” Billy responded. He nodded and smacked his lips one time. Then he asked, “So, your dad is happy now, right? And he doesn't miss Charlie?”
“Yes, he does!” Jonny refuted. “He talks about Charlie all the time, doesn't he, Little Danny?”
Nodding, the middle Munchkin replied, “And we love Charlie, too. I wish we could have met him.”
Billy smiled as he placed one hand on each of the boy's waists and said, “Don't you two see? Your dad wishes with all his heart that you could see Charlie just like we're looking at one another right this second. He prays in his soul that you could feel him, just like you feel my hand right now,” Billy said as he gripped one hand of each boy. “Jonny, you scared him. Losing a child is the worst thing that can happen to a person. I know.”
“Mary,” Little Danny said quietly, remembering the grave they had seen on their first day on Plantacia.
“Our beautiful Mary,” Billy commented. “Jonny, does your dad let you play with guns?”
“No. We used to have water guns, but we gave them back,” Jonny confided.
“Water guns,” Billy echoed. “We used to have a lot of fun with those when we were kids.”
Jonny fidgeted and said, “I just wanted to see one up close.”
Billy ran his hand along Jonny's cheek and with a cracked voice said, “I wonder if that's what Charlie thought that day when he took your dad's gun out of the nightstand and pulled the trigger.”
Both boys' eyes widened, and they exchanged a guilty look.
“We didn't think of that,” Jonny mumbled.
“Poor Dad,” Little Danny whispered, yet another tear making its way down his face.
Just then, both boys saw their parents entering the town hall. Little Danny took off running, closely followed by Jonny.
“We need to make sure that...oooph,” Jack stammered, stumbling backwards as a little missile hurled itself at him.
Instinctively, Jack's arms went down and picked up the small body that he realized belonged to Little Danny. Then he registered that Jonny was clinging to his legs tightly as well.
“We're sorry, Dad,” Little Danny said as he buried his head against Jack's shoulder, audibly crying.
“We love you, Dad,” Jonny echoed. “We're really, really sorry.”
**You didn't need to worry about Little Danny being scared of you, Babe.**
**I guess not.**
Looking at their boys, Jack smiled, grateful they were alive and well, and said, “No more apologies. From now on, we move forward.”
“Although we will discuss a suitable punishment when we get home,” Daniel added, not wanting the two to think this was all over yet. He noticed Jonny rubbing his backside. Evidently, Jack had, too. ~Ouch!~
“Jonny,” Jack said as he looked into his namesake's eyes and sighed. “I also owe you an apology.”
Jonny was shaking his head, and Little Danny had his nose scrunched up in confusion. Daniel placed his hand on Jack's shoulder offering his husband silent support.
“I'm sorry for spanking you like that, Jonny,” Jack spoke softly. Then he added more sternness to his voice, saying, “That isn't to say that you didn't deserve to be spanked.”
Jonny nodded, tears welling up in his eyes.
“But I shouldn't have spanked you in anger like that, and I probably should have done it in private,” Jack sighed. He looked at Little Danny. “And I'm ... kinda sorry I scared you, Munchkin. I don't ever want you to be afraid of me.”
“Kinda sorry?” Little Danny looked confused.
“I'm sorry I scared you because I never want to scare you, but I'm not sorry I scared you, if it stops you doing anything so stupid again,” Jack clarified. He paused. “You know I don't like the word 'stupid', but it's just I ... I know you know better, and I trust you both to make better decisions. In the future, I hope you do,” he chastised.
“Dad, I'm not scared of you,” Little Danny replied.
“Good,” Jack said, smiling for a split second before he continued. “Daddy and I are *very* disappointed in the both of you. You assured us you were old enough to come along. You promised to obey and follow the rules, and what did you do the very first time you were left on your own for two minutes?”
Jack paused, watching as the two boys looked at each other as they realized their dad was right.
“It was my fault,” Jonny said, taking all the blame now.
“No, Jonny, it's ...”
“It doesn't matter whose fault it is,” Jack interjected. “You *both* made bad decisions and broke your promises to Daddy and me. As a result, it will be a long, long time before you are on another first contact mission, and worse, you'll have to start from ground zero in building our trust in you again.”
Daniel interrupted, saying, “Even before this little incident, Dad and I had decided you should go home this afternoon. You've already been here longer than we anticipated, and the interesting part of the mission, the first contact part, is over.”
Little Danny opened his mouth to object, saw the look in his parents' eyes, and closed it again, deciding for the moment that silence and acceptance was the smart choice.
“Okay, Daddy,” Jonny sighed, scuffing the ground with his shoe.
“What about Uncle Billy?” Little Danny asked.
“I don't know, Son,” Jack answered. “Go say goodbye,” he urged, giving both boys a gentle push towards Billy.
“Sir,” Sam said as she approached, looking briefly at the boys as they ran past her. “Just thought you might want to know that your brother really got through to them about what happened.”
“He did?” Jack asked.
“Lou and I talked to them, too, but I think Billy had the most success,” Sam opined before walking away after Jack had acknowledged her comment.
“Danny, we can't let them off the hook,” Jack stated hesitantly.
“And we won't,” the younger man agreed. “But, Jack, maybe before we go, you can show Jonny the P-90. I don't really think Little Danny cares.”
Jack stared intently into his husband's eyes, and then sighed as he nodded.
“I know what to do, Jack,” Daniel proclaimed, adding a mental, **I love you** to their conversation.
**Love you, too.** Slowly, Jack left his husband to fetch his sons. Before he reached their position, he saw Lou, looking very uncomfortable. He detoured to talk to his friend. “Lou, something wrong?” Jack asked.
“It was one of my team, Jack, and I ...” Lou let out several obscenities as he explained to Jack about Huruki. “I want his butt kicked to Elmendorf, Jack. He doesn't belong at the SGC making mistakes like that.”
Jack nodded and wet his lips once before asking, “Lou, how'd he respond when you read him the riot act?”
“How do you think? He was sorry,” Lou said. “He was also paler than a ghost.”
“You kicked his butt,” Jack surmised.
“I reprimanded him, among other things,” Lou smirked.
“Literally?” Jack inquired.
“Is that an official question, General?” Lou asked.
Lou's question was all the answer Jack needed. Lou's reprimand had been more than verbal.
Jack began, “What if he ...”
“General O'Neill,” a voice called out.
Jack turned to see Huruki staring at him. The man was still pale, and the evidence of Lou's 'reprimand' was subtly evident on his face.
“Sir, I'd like a moment of your time,” Huruki requested nervously.
The general noticed Huruki's anxiety, but he hadn't looked at Lou at all. Jack nodded to his friend to leave them alone.
“You have a moment,” Jack said flatly. “After that, I just may finish what your team leader started,” he threatened with his best intimidating stare.
“Sir, I want to apologize for my actions. It was inexcusable,” Huruki stated while still standing at attention.
“You're right about that,” the general agreed quietly.
“Colonel Ferretti is a great leader, Sir. I know he wants me off his team, but ...”
“But what?” Jack asked sharply.
“But I'd like to stay with SG-2, Sir,” Huruki bravely requested.
“And why should I let you do that?” Jack questioned, taking one step into the man's personal space.
“Because I learn from my mistakes, Sir, and I will never make a mistake like that again,” Huruki responded.
“Colonel Ferretti wants you drummed out of the Marine Corps. You realize that by requesting to remain on his team, he is likely to make your life one living hell,” Jack stated in question.
“Yes, Sir, and he has a right to, Sir,” Huruki affirmed without flinching.
“He'll have my blessing, Huruki,” Jack warned in a light yet sarcastic voice.
“I realize that, General. What I did was unforgivable, but I am a good soldier, and I want a chance to make it up, Sir,” Huruki spoke, sincerity in his eyes.
“Are you sure about that, Marine?” Jack asked as he moved nose-to-nose with the man.
“Sir, yes, Sir!” the Marine snapped in crisp reply, not budging one inch.
“Huruki,” Jack said as he stared directly into the man's eyes. “Had my son fired that gun and hurt himself or someone else, I would have used it next ... on you. Are we clear?”
Huruki gulped, but held his ground as he nodded and again replied with snap, “Sir, yes, Sir!”
Jack stepped back and responded, “I'll consider it. However, the final decision isn't mine or Colonel Ferretti's. It's General Hammond's.”
At these words, Huruki went even paler. Everyone at the SGC knew that General Hammond viewed the Jackson-O'Neill brood as being his own grandchildren. Huruki began praying that he'd still be in the United States Marines by the time Hammond was through with him. He nodded, gave Jack a salute, and moved away to join his teammates.
Jack shook his head and stalked over to where Jonny and Little Danny were saying goodbye to Billy and Jilly.
As he walked past Lou, he saw his friend raise an eyebrow in question. Jack turned and looked back at Huruki, who was now white as a ghost. He grinned at Lou.
“So?” Lou prompted, anxious to know what Jack had told the man, especially since Jack was looking rather pleased with himself.
Jack's grin turned into a satisfied smirk as he explained, “I told him the decision wasn't ours. It's up to Hammond.”
“Ouch!” Lou grinned, knowing that had probably scared the man more than anything either he or Jack could have said. “Good one.”
“Thank you,” Jack acknowledged, accepting the compliment. “Oh, Lou, I want you to get a head start and go to the Gate. Give Hammond a quick overview, and tell him the boys are coming through. Then come on back.”
“Sure thing, General,” Lou said, starting to move out.
“Ferretti,” Jack called out. He rolled his eyes, having almost forgotten about the situation with the Plantacia inhabitants, and added, “Tell him what we found out about the aliens.”
After Lou nodded, Jack approached his family, asking, “Are you ready to leave now?” He looked at the two miserable faces of his sons and gave them a smile. “Thanks, Carter, I'll take them. Tell Reynolds to keep things going here, then you and Teal'c cover our six to the Gate.”
After Sam nodded, Jack motioned for his sons to come with him. Giving Billy and Jilly a parting smile, Jonny and Little Danny did as requested, beginning the trek to the Stargate with their father. Jack made sure his weapon was secured taut against his back.
“Where's Daddy?” Little Danny asked, slipping his hand into Jack's, just seconds before Jonny did the same.
“He's gone ahead; we'll meet up with him at the Gate,” Jack responded.
Halfway to the Stargate, Jack looked down at Jonny who was unusually quiet. He just couldn't bear sending them home with things like they were.
“Okay, Munchkins, let's stop for a minute,” Jack intoned. Sitting the two boys on a nearby log, he said, “There's something I need to say. Your daddy and I are both very curious people, so it's not surprising that you two are curious, too. There's nothing wrong with that, but it's been leading you to do things lately that you know you shouldn't be doing. Little Danny, you've been sneaking into Daddy's den, and you know that's wrong.”
The little boy's eyes widened with shock. He didn't know that his parents had found out about his illicit translating. Sadly, he nodded, fully aware he was wrong to have disobeyed his parents and broken the rules.
“And Jonny, you knew that you shouldn't have touched that gun,” Jack added calmly.
Jonny nodded as well, a little sniffle escaping him as he listened to his father.
Jack ruffled their hair before continuing, “Now, if you are that curious about something, rather than sneaking around doing things you know you shouldn't, Daddy and I want you to come and ask us if we'll show you these things.”
“But, Dad, we knew you'd say no,” Jonny argued lightly.
Jack nodded, well aware the comment was a true one.
“You're right,” Jack answered. “But rather than simply disobeying us, Daddy and I would like you to keep asking. You have to trust us to do what is best for you and your brothers and sisters. If you're honest with us and earn our trust, we'll try and work out a middle ground, a way that we can all be happy and make sure you're safe, too.”
“Like this mission?” Little Danny asked.
Jack smiled as he replied, “That's right, Son.” He paused for a moment, saying, “We had Thor as a backup, but he wasn't monitoring your every move while you were playing. He had no reason to think you'd disobey me like that or try to hide from Teal'c.”
“We're sorry,” Little Danny said again.
“Hey, no more sorries,” Jack said lightly. “I don't want you to be sorry, either of you. What Daddy and I want is for the two of you to make better choices and to trust us.”
“We trust you,” Little Danny replied.
“No, you don't, or you would have asked Daddy before going into the den, and you,” Jack said, looking at Jonny, “wouldn't have tried to covertly get the P-90. You don't trust us,” he concluded.
“Do, too!” Jonny argued. “We were just bad.”
Jack smiled and replied, “You're not bad boys; you're good boys, but sometimes, like we all do, you make poor choices. We're going to talk a lot more about this at home. Come on; Daddy will be worried if we're late.”
Jonny's face squinted, while Little Danny looked puzzled as they reached the Stargate and recognized an object located several yards to the left of the Stargate. It was a round shooting target.
“Daddy!” the two boys called out as they ran up to Daniel.
“Hey!” Daniel greeted the two boys, hunching over to hug them. He looked up at Jack who nodded. **Do you want me to do this, Jack? You could go back to the town.**
**No. I ... I have to do this, Danny.**
Daniel nodded, giving his husband a look of complete support.
“Jonny, Little Danny, come here,” Jack requested, moving over to stand in front of the target, which was still fifty yards away. He swung around his P-90 and unsnapped it as he took a deep breath. ~I can't believe I'm doing this.~
One thing Jack had always been certain of was that his children would never touch a gun. Due to the nature of their work, they had to keep guns in the house, but Jack wouldn't even clean them while the children were around. The weapons were also secured in such a fashion that the children didn't even know they were there, hidden behind a masterful work of art. Right now, Jack knew that decision and all the efforts to make that happen had been the right ones. He just hoped this one was as well.
**It's to keep them safe, Jack. We're doing this to keep them safe,** Daniel assured, seeing the tension in his husband and wishing there was a way to make this easier for him.
“Dad?” Jonny asked uncertainly.
Apprehensive, Little Danny moved over to Daniel and clung to his leg.
“Just watch, and cover your ears,” Jack instructed, after which he took aim and blasted the target dead center.
“Wow!” Jonny exclaimed excitedly.
The eldest Munchkin's eyes were large and interested. Jack winced inside at his son's reaction. Then he looked at Little Danny, seeing the distaste on his face.
**Why can't he be like you and Little Danny in this?** Jack silently asked his husband about Jonny.
Daniel gave his soulmate a rueful smile and responded, **Sorry, Love, but Jonny wants to be just like his dad, our protector.**
**Right,** Jack sighed, wishing at the moment he was an insurance salesman or something a lot more tame than his true occupation.
Jack unslung his P-90 from his shoulder. He removed the clip, handing it to Daniel. After clearing the chamber, he sat down on the grass, motioning for the two boys to do the same. Jonny sat down immediately, though Little Danny was slightly more hesitant.
Taking a big breath, Jack explained, “The P-90 is a submachine gun that was developed in the late 1980's in Belgium. It's ...”
Daniel crossed his arms across his chest as he listened. His heart was thundering within him, and his body ached, knowing how hard it was for Jack to be doing what he was. Carefully, over the next twenty minutes, Jack talked in detail about his weapon of choice. He explained all the parts and how the pieces fit together.
~Gawd!~ Daniel was sure his heart stopped the moment when Jack handed the empty weapon to Jonny and let him hold it for a minute. ~I didn't think it would be that hard to see. If it is this hard for me ... oh, Babe, I know you're hurting, but we have to do this.~
Jack looked at Little Danny and asked, “Do you want to hold it, Little Danny?”
The boy shook his head, got up, and resumed his prior position of clinging to Daniel's leg.
Jack took the empty weapon back from Jonny and looked up at Daniel. Staring into his husband's eyes gave Jack the strength he needed for the next part of his self-appointed task.
The younger man knew for sure his heartbeats were nonexistent during the thirty seconds when, after loading a cartridge of blanks into the magazine, Jack stood Jonny up and let him place his hands on the weapon as he fired blanks into the faraway target.
“Wow!” Jonny exclaimed again as his body automatically moved back into his father's chest.
“That's it,” Jack stated firmly, handing the P-90 to Daniel as quickly as possible. Then he stood with arms around both boys and said, “That's the one and only time until you're all grown up. Jonny, so help me, you ever pull another stunt like you did in town, and you *will* be grounded for life. And you, Little Danny, will be, too. Anything else you want to know about the P-90?” Jack asked, his voice a bit forced.
The military man was barely holding on, and he hoped he had done enough to quell Jonny's curiosity about the weapon.
Little Danny nodded, and when Jonny looked as though he was about to ask something else, he got an elbow in the side from his brother.
Little Danny looked at Jack and said, “We'll look in books or on the computer and then come ask you questions.”
Jonny glared at his brother until Little Danny leaned over and whispered something in his ear. He looked at Jack, then back at Little Danny and nodded.
“I'll look in books first, Dad. If I have questions, I'll ask you or T,” Jonny agreed.
Just then, a loud, deep voice called out from the opposite side of the Stargate, saying, “O'Neill, you must continue the demonstration.”
Stunned, Jack turned, his mouth opened as he realized what Teal'c had set up. Using supplies acquired in the town, the Jaffa had created a figure that resembled a human. A large melon was atop the figure, serving as the head. Gourds had been used for the arms and legs, while a hodgepodge of tomatoes, red peppers, and radishes were bunched together to form the torso of the object.
~That's a ... person,~ Daniel realized. Gaping as well, he blinked as he stared at the crudely created representation of a human being. ~No, that's going too far,~ he thought. Then he looked over at his sons. Jonny had enjoyed firing the weapon and had only reluctantly agreed to ask before touching. He wasn't worried about his namesake, but Jonny, while sympathetic to Charlie's death, wasn't making the connection. ~Oh, gawd. What if we don't have another chance to make him understand?~
Jack cocked his head slightly, letting his eyes veer off to the right for just a moment.
**Do it, Jack,** Daniel urged with a reluctant heart. **Jonny needs to see it.**
Not responding, Jack took the P-90 back from Daniel, immediately removing the safety. He was suffocating inside as he stared at the makeshift lifeform in the distance. With a nod, he aimed his weapon.
**Wait,** Daniel stated. “Jonny, Little Danny, I want you to watch that ... wha...what Teal'c made. Keep your eyes focused there,” he instructed, realizing the two were watching Jack and not the human figure. Once the boys' eyes were centered on Teal'c's crude creation, Daniel advised, **Go ahead, Jack.**
Jack again took aim, his heart thundering inside him. He closed his eyes for one brief moment, and then he fired. The melon exploded, flinging slime that jumped out for yards. Then, piece by piece, limb by limb, Jack shot the arms and legs off the effigy. Each shot resulted in more spurting red juice and flying green goo.
Pausing for a second, and lowering the weapon slightly, Jack considered stopping the demonstration.
Sensing this, Daniel used their near-telepathic communication to express, **No, Babe. You have to finish it. They have to see what can happen. Even Little Danny could become curious in a few years. Do it for our children.**
Lifting the weapon again, and sighting in on the bottom of the torso, Jack fired once: white and pink ooze ran out of the form. The second shot shattered something like a cucumber, all white and pulpy. After the third shot rang out, the final ragged piece of the mock human form vanished in a cloud of red raindrops that sped furiously through the air.
Breathing laboriously, Jack lowered the weapon. He felt ill, nauseous even.
Daniel looked at the two boys. Jonny was wide-eyed, looking horrified in stunned silence at the dangling wire while Little Danny was wiping away a tear. Sometimes, being a parent was almost too hard to take. For Daniel, one of those moments was right now.
“If that had been a person,” Daniel said quietly, “there would be nothing left -- nothing. And ... look how far away we are. Imagine what would happen if we were closer.” He sighed, knowing he needed to say one more thing, but saying it was about to kill him. “Imagine ... if you held a gun and fired it point-blank like ... like Charlie did.”
The two boys were sobbing as Daniel bent over to hold them close. This day was surely the worst day of his life. For a moment, he thought about witnessing the death of his parents. He just didn't know which anguish was worst.
~I just hope this got through to them; I really hope it did,~ Daniel silently begged, closing his eyes in a meditative moment. Then he looked over where his teammates were and whispered, “Sam.”
As requested, their good friend came over and bent down to hold the boys close after their younger father walked away.
Barely holding onto his own emotions, Daniel walked over and stood in front of his husband, who was still staring at the devastation he'd just created. To Daniel, the normally strong and in control man he cherished looked like a still statue, a zombie even. Jack was a motionless lifeform with a blank expression on his face as he stared off into the distance.
“You had to do it, Jack,” Daniel spoke quietly, staring into his lover's anguished eyes. “You had to.”
Jack remained still, not reacting to his lover at all except to swallow in his efforts not to break down.
Lost in his own strange void as he attempted to keep a tight rein on his emotions, Daniel reclaimed the P-90 and walked away a few paces. Everyone needed a few moments to gather their thoughts and decide what to do or say next.
When Teal'c joined Daniel a moment later, he quietly took the weapon from him. He bowed his head, seeing the grateful smile from the archaeologist who had no desire to hold the powerful gun at the moment.
Daniel noticed curious looks on the boys' wet faces as they saw him holding the gun. He deduced that it was because he was known for being the mediator, while Jack was the fighter.
Moments later, Jack approached his lover. They said nothing, at least, not with words, or even silent words. Their eyes, however, were locked onto each other's. Finally, they walked over the few feet that separated them from Sam, Teal'c, and their sons.
Jack sat down on his haunches and pulled the children into his embrace, saying for the thirtieth time in the last hour, “I love you two, so much.” He placed kisses on each of their necks and said again, “I'd die if anything happened to either one of you. I hope you understand finally why Daddy and I will not tolerate your playing with guns, any kind of guns. I'll tan your behind again, Jonny, if you disobey us again. Geez, I love you,” his emotionally strained voice barely got out.
Daniel could feel Jack's pain; it was tearing into him, but like his husband, he was holding on as best he could until the boys departed Plantacia.
“It was necessary, DanielJackson,” Teal'c stated, aware of his friend's distress.
“I know,” Daniel agreed quietly.
“Teal'c, we're sorry,” Jonny sniffled as he bent his back to look up at the Jaffa who stood behind the boys.
“Sorry is only a word, JonnyJacksonO'Neill. You have dishonored me,” Teal'c stated as unemotionally as he could.
“But ...” Jonny began.
“We shall discuss this at a later time. I am ... disappointed,” Teal'c expressed pointedly, staring ahead and not at the youngsters, causing them to sniffle even more.
Lost in the depths of his emotions a couple of minutes later, Jack heard the kawoosh of the Stargate, Daniel talking, and then the sound of the Gate closing down. He looked over at his husband, but before he could question him, the Stargate was activated again, and General Hammond and Lou Ferretti stepped through.
“How are my boys?” the lieutenant general inquired, holding his arms open wide.
Two excited boys threw themselves at the three-star general as the Stargate disengaged, and Daniel began dialing out once more.
The brief respite gave Jack the extra time he needed to regroup. His general persona was definitely controlling the man. He couldn't lose his grip in front of Hammond.
~Okay, deal with it how you always do,~ Jack told himself. Seeing the boys were occupied with Hammond, Jack walked over to Daniel and said, “I thought you were taking them back to the SGC, Danny.” He paused and attempted to humorously add, “Did I miss a memo?”
“Do you really think I would leave you here after that? I don't think so,” the archaeologist responded, knowing the attempt at levity was a complete act.
“So, you called in a three-star babysitter?” Jack tried to tease again.
“No,” Daniel answered seriously. “I called their grandfather.”
Jack nodded, and then with his arm around Daniel's waist, turned and listened as Hammond talked with the boys.
“I understand you two have gotten yourselves into a bit of trouble,” Hammond said.
“Yes, Sir,” Jonny admitted with a bowed head.
“Is it bad enough to warrant an official reprimand in your files?” Hammond asked.
Jonny looked up and gasped, acting like he was going to answer 'no', but then he sighed and nodded, saying, “Yes, Sir. I broke the rules big time.”
“Me, too,” Little Danny confided. “Never get to go on first recon again,” he sighed.
Hammond chuckled and said, “Boys, let me tell you about your fathers, especially that one over there, the general.”
Jack coughed nervously and queried, “Sir?”
“Just thought I'd let them see the size of your file, Jack. You don't have any objections, do you?” Hammond asked pointedly.
“No, Sir,” Jack responded, looking away evasively.
“Jack,” Hammond called out more seriously. “I want a full report about this, in detail, as soon as you get back.”
“Yes, Sir,” Jack acknowledged.
“Don't worry about the brood; they're taken care of,” the bald man assured. “Jonny, Little Danny, let's go home.”
“Grandpa, see what Dad's gun did?” Jonny asked, pointing to the glob on the ground.
Hammond frowned, seeing nothing but mushy food in the distance.
“Jonny, you stay away from guns,” Little Danny ordered. “We're not old 'nuff yet.”
“Boys, we're going to have a long, long meeting of the minds when we get home,” Hammond intoned forcefully. He surmised what the glob of yuck must have been. Looking at Jack, he asked, “Are you okay, Son?”
The question hit Jack like a ton of bricks, and he turned very pale quickly.
“He will be, Sir,” Daniel answered for his husband.
“Yeah, fine,” Jack whispered.
After more hugs and words of love, the two boys disappeared through the Stargate with Hammond. As soon as they were out of sight, Jack felt his body rebel. He made a quick run for the nearest cover.
“Daniel?” Sam called out in concern.
The archaeologist said nothing, but he motioned for the others to head back to town while he hurriedly went after Jack, finding him kneeling on the ground with his hands holding his abdomen. He had just thrown up everything in his stomach.
“It's all right now, Jack,” Daniel soothed as he drew his lover to his chest and rocked him gently. “Everything's okay now.”
“I never ... *never* thought I'd have to do that, Danny,” Jack gasped. “Teal'c ... geez,” he cried out.
“It was for the best. I was watching their eyes, Babe. I think Jonny got it when that melon squished into liquid. The target excited him, and it ... it was still a game. He, uh, didn't understand what hitting the target equated to. Gawd, I hope he does now,” Daniel said as he held Jack in his arms.
“Danny, maybe I should have done this with Charlie,” Jack pondered. “If I had, maybe ...”
“Jack, don't. Don't do that,” Daniel lovingly ordered. “You can't live with what ifs.”
“Live for today,” Jack tried to convince himself.
“And today, I think we've done all we could to convince Jonny and Little Danny not to tempt fate,” Daniel opined with hope in his heart.
“I'm not worried about Little Danny. He's like you, but Jonny, he ...”
“We'll talk to him again, to both of them, when we get home,” Daniel assured. “Are you feeling any better?”
Suddenly, Jack pushed himself out of Daniel's protective hold and leaned over again, retching once more.
“No, but we'd better get back,” Jack intoned as he stood up and steadied himself on Daniel's shoulder. “Geez, I can't remember the last time I puked on a mission.”
“It wasn't the mission,” Daniel observed, taking Jack's hand and leading him away from the area.
The lovers took their time as they headed back to town. It was a quiet walk, but that was okay. Both needed time to process the morning's events.
“It was hard, Danny,” Jack admitted when they were about halfway back. “But it was the right thing to do.”
“I wish it wasn't, but it was,” Daniel agreed, knowing they both needed to say the words out loud.
“No ice cream for a month,” Jack said.
“No anything for a month, Jack. This was serious, and they have to learn consequences. Our children are good, but they're still children, and they need to learn,” Daniel said sadly.
“Okay, well, you don't want to pull them out of their day camp, do you?” Jack asked.
“No, but we have to punish them by taking things away they really value,” Daniel observed.
“No television for Jonny, and I was going to take him to the air show next weekend. He's been looking forward to that,” Jack said.
“No air show, and no computer time for Little Danny. Oh, and we were going to buy him that new book on mythology. That will have to wait now,” Daniel said.
“Ouch! He won't like that,” Jack observed.
“No, but he'll remember why he didn't get it when it first came out,” Daniel noted.
“Extra chores, too,” Jack said.
Quietly, the two parents continued to discuss the punishment for the two boys as they headed towards the town.
“Bro, you don't look so good,” Billy commented when Jack and Daniel reached the township.
“I'm okay, Billy. Uh, Carter mentioned you talked to the boys. Thank you,” Jack stated earnestly.
“They're my nephews,” Billy responded with a smile.
Wanting to move forward and not think anymore about the gun incident, Jack replied, “We have a lot to do.”
“Jack,” Billy said quietly. “We've talked about a lot of things, and I'm sure this is a dumb question, but what about the folks?”
Jack smiled as he answered, “They had a good life together, Billy, and they never missed a day sending up a prayer for you.”
Billy nodded, noting the past tense. Details would come later, but at least now he had the answer to the question he'd been too emotional to ask for the last couple of days.
“Jack,” Daniel whispered as he they lay side by side that night, trying to sleep.
“I don't want to talk about it, not here,” Jack replied, squeezing Daniel's hand slightly as he held it. “We have plenty to do tomorrow.”
“I know, but I just thought ...” Daniel began. He paused, turning his head to face his lover. “I don't know what I thought.”
Jack turned his head to look at Daniel. He leaned over and gave him a kiss.
“Danny, until we get home, we concentrate on the mission. Let's get some sleep,” Jack suggested.
Restless with their minds full of worry about their children, Jack and Daniel feigned sleep, neither getting more than a cursory couple of hours of relaxation.
“WHERE ARE THEY? TONY, TERRI! I'M GOING TO KILL YOU!”
The shout came from the room where Janet was removing the nanites from various Plantacians. It was followed by a door slamming against the wall, and an angry man knocking things over.
From their spot near the front door, Jack and Daniel exchanged a nervous look and then headed over.
It was mid-morning the next day, and Janet's team had removed the nanites from about half of the original inhabitants. All in all, the people had taken things fairly well. Some, like this citizen, however, weren't reacting so well.
By the time the lovers got there, Billy and some other people from the town had taken the man in hand and managed to calm him a little.
“I actually thought we'd have had someone in a murderous rage before now,” Jack commented softly to Daniel.
Daniel shrugged, saying, “We've told people what to expect so it's not like it's coming as a total surprise.”
Jack grimaced as he recalled the meeting from the night before. They'd explained as much as they knew. To say the townspeople had been unhappy with the news was an understatement.
“It's interesting that no one chose to keep the nanites,” Daniel stated thoughtfully as he scrunched his nose.
“People have an insatiable curiosity, Daniel,” Jack commented, resisting the urge to kiss his husband. “They don't like knowing that they don't know something.”
“Mmm, how is the SGC going to deal with the potential security breach these people pose if they return to Earth?” the archaeologist inquired.
Daniel knew it would be hard enough to relocate these people if they were all Americans, but, in fact, only Billy, a couple from Arizona, and a woman from Ohio were from the United States. Everyone else came from other countries. This made things difficult since not all governments knew of the Stargate program. It was going to make for some fairly awkward negotiations and explanations in the upcoming weeks.
“They may not be allowed to come to Earth,” Jack softly noted, grimacing at Daniel's horrified and annoyed look. “Hammond's working on it, but ...”
“Jack, we don't have the moral right to keep these people from going home,” Daniel argued.
“Daniel, I agree with you, but national security ...”
“Don't quote that stuff to me,” Daniel began.
“Stuff?” Jack asked incredulously.
“I've been hanging around you too long; my linguistic skills have been turned to Jell-O,” Daniel snapped.
“Like your knees when I do this ...”
“Oh, no, you don't, O'Neill,” Daniel said, putting his hands up to stop his husband from placing the O'Neill Special on him. “No kissing off-world.”
“Since now. Jack, this is serious,” Daniel argued.
“And I said I'm not arguing with you, but, Danny, what do you propose we do?” Jack asked.
“I have no idea,” the younger man sighed. Then he smiled slightly, as did his husband. “We're just playing the game, aren't we?”
Jack nodded, saying, “It's called survival, Danny. My stomach is still in knots.”
Daniel looked away, letting out a whiff of air as he did so. He knew Jack was right. Until they left Plantacia, they couldn't really do anything.
“This wasn't what I was expecting for our last first contact mission,” Daniel noted.
Jack somberly mused, “Just like always, Daniel; nothing goes as planned when we're off-world.”
“I guess we should have known better,” the archaeologist spoke in a bittersweet tone.
“Next time,” Jack responded.
Daniel smiled, saying, “Yeah, next time.”
“You'll stay with us,” Jack told his brother later that day.
It was late afternoon on the planet, and it was time for Jack and Daniel to return to Earth.
“Thank you, Bro, and we want to come and get to know your family, but then ... Jilly, she wants to go home,” Billy announced.
“Australia,” Daniel stated lightheartedly. “We, uh, went on our honeymoon there.”
“Then you'll come to visit,” Billy invited warmly, patting Jack on the arm for a few seconds.
“Billy ...” Jack began.
“Jack, we'll have lots of time. Let's take one day at a time,” Billy suggested wisely.
“Listen, Daniel and I have to get back. We're ...” Jack trailed off, chuckling. “You won't believe this.”
“Jack, after all of this, there's something you think I wouldn't believe?” Billy asked.
“It's pretty incredible,” Daniel commented.
“What?” Billy asked curiously.
“We're having a baby,” Jack said, a smile brighter than the sun on his face. “That's the one on the way I mentioned on Thor's ship.”
“I'd almost forgotten about that with everything that's happened,” Billy responded.
“And we, uh, have to, uh, I mean we have to get back so we can ... gawd,” Daniel stuttered, feeling a bit embarrassed.
“Walk us to the Stargate, Bro, and My Danny and I are going to tell you about why you're not our only unexpected miracle in this universe,” Jack suggested.
“You're on,” Billy agreed.
Daniel walked to Jilly and spoke, “It's been a pleasure meeting you, Jilly.”
“You, too, Daniel,” the woman said, leaning forward to hug her new relative.
“We'll see you soon,” Daniel replied as he pulled back.
Jack hugged Jilly next, saying, “Thank you for taking such good care of my brother all these years.”
“Now, Jack O'Neill, that was my pleasure,” Jilly chuckled.
Hugs completed, Jack, Daniel, and Billy headed for the Stargate, accompanied by some of the SGC personnel.
“That sounds like science fiction,” Billy commented just as the Stargate kawooshed. “Everything you've told me in the last few days sounds incredible.”
“It is incredible,” Jack said. “And I can't wait to show you our world.”
Daniel sighed, adding, “I'm not sure exactly what's going to happen, but we'll let you know as soon as we do, and, in the meantime, Lou over there will help you with anything you need. He's a personal friend.”
“Jack ...” Billy began.
“Yeah,” Jack echoed as the two brothers hugged, patting the other's back and not wanting to let go. “You'll be home soon.”
Their good-byes completed, Jack called out, “Reynolds!”
“Yes, Sir,” the colonel said as he came running.
“Report in at 0700 tomorrow, and, if there are any problems, contact the SGC right away,” Jack ordered.
“Yes, Sir,” Reynolds replied, saluting.
Jack and Daniel walked up to the shimmering wormhole. They paused, gazing into each other's eyes.
“Back to the madhouse?” Jack asked with a grin.
Daniel nodded and laughed, “Traveling through the Stargate is nothing compared to parenting.”
The two took one more look at Plantacia, each waving at Billy, and then they stepped through the Gate. Within seconds, the lovers were standing on the ramp in the SGC.
After the compulsory visit to the infirmary, Jack and Daniel found themselves in Hammond's office, giving a full report of the 'Jonny incident'.
His face expressionless, Jack relayed everything that had happened. Both Hammond and Daniel exchanged a glance, knowing that Jack had retreated behind his general persona to give the report.
As Jack finished by describing his demonstration of the P-90 to Jonny, Hammond stood and walked over to his long-time friend, placing a hand on Jack's shoulder and saying, “Well done, Son.”
That was the last thing Jack had expected Hammond to say, and he looked up to see the concerned expression in the older man's eyes.
“For what it's worth,” Hammond began, “I think you did the right thing. Jonny's lucky, heck, they're all lucky to have you as a father.”
“And Daniel,” Jack said, his response automatic.
Hammond smiled at Daniel, and his eyes twinkled a little as he sought to lighten the mood, saying, “Of course. After all, they need someone to balance out that quirky O'Neill sense of humor, not to mention the irreverence, the sneakiness ...”
“I'm not sneaky,” Jack protested.
Hammond chuckled, “Of course not. That's why you worked so hard to cultivate ... what did Daniel call it?”
“The dumb colonel, now the dumb general persona,” Daniel piped up with a grin.
Jack gave them an indignant scowl before giving in and grinning.
“Now, I think you two have a deposit to make,” Hammond said, smiling as Daniel blushed.
“Yes, Sir, we do,” Daniel noted.
“And we don't want any penalties for being late, so we'll be going,” Jack teased as he stood and then nodded at Hammond as he and his lover left the general's office.
On their way home, Daniel's eyes grew wide, and he exclaimed, “Thor!” Looking at his husband, he said, “Jack, we forgot to tell Thor we were leaving.”
“I took care of it,” Jack noted.
“You did?” Daniel questioned with surprise.
“Yeah, when you were in the bathroom,” Jack intoned.
“Oh. Did you thank him?”
“Of course, I did,” Jack replied. “Can't have the Asgard thinking we're ungrateful.” ~Note to self: send Thor daisies.~ Jack frowned. ~Make that pansies.~
“Megan, we can't,” Daniel spoke into his cell phone.
Halfway home, the cell had rung, revealing the caller to be Megan Williams, who was working late at the office of J-O Enterprises. Daniel had switched on the speaker phone feature so that Jack could listen in. At the moment, Megan was explaining a rush job that Abayomi Sharif, owner of Passion Incorporated, was requesting.
“We, uh, have a lot going on this month,” Daniel explained.
“I suppose I could cancel the trip to ...” Megan offered, her words cut off by her employer.
“No,” Daniel stated. “You've earned that vacation, and Bri is looking forward to it. I'll call Abayomi myself and explain. Uh, Megan, I want you to clear Jack's schedule and mine for the rest of the month. Have Karissa handle as much as she feels comfortable with; in fact, let's give her a promotion.” He looked over at Jack to get his consent. After Jack nodded his agreement, Daniel added, “I don't know what to yet, but tell her she's being promoted, and ask Ty to pitch in as much as possible, too. How's Dora been doing?”
Jack chuckled to himself as he drove while listening to the conversation. Promoting someone to an unknown job title was new for their archaeological company, but he was game. Of course, Karissa had been a key player in their organization from the beginning. She was one of their original hires and had quickly proved herself to be a hard-working and dedicated employee. Unofficially, she had become Megan's assistant, a title they had finally given her some time back. Her recent involvement in their efforts to remodel the J-O offices was also a testament to her status within the organization. She'd been given one of the big offices after the remodel, too, taking over Megan's original office since she had moved into a larger room.
“Pretty good; she's always been a quick learner,” Megan commented about the college student they'd hired into a summertime job the year before and who had continued on in a part-time capacity ever since.
“Ask Dora if she'd like to consider a full time position as a research assistant. Offer her the base salary plus ten percent extra if she can start right away,” Daniel stated. “We can still work around her classes if she has a way to put in the time, either on weekends, early mornings, or late nights. We need the manpower.”
“Okay, I'll talk to her. What do you want me to do with your appointments that can't be moved?” Megan inquired.
“Make me a list, and we'll evaluate them on a case by case basis. Oh, and give Karissa a six-percent raise effective immediately,” Daniel commented.
“She'll like that,” Megan chuckled. “And her new job title: Karissa Lewis, Title To Be Determined,” she joked.
“Just make sure she understands the weight falls on her when you're gone. Jack and I may not be available at all later this month, so she needs to be able to handle anything that comes up,” Daniel stated.
“Do you want me to give her the security codes and access to the sensitive materials?” Megan inquired.
“Yes,” the archaeologist responded, again glancing over at his husband for an affirming nod. “She needs to know what you know and be able to deal with all situations without referring to Jack and me. The pressure could be pretty stressful, Megan,” he supposed pointedly.
“She can handle it,” Megan stated confidently.
“If we didn't think she could, well ...”
“Anything else?” the woman asked.
Hearing the question, Jack shouted, “How's your love life?”
“Gawd!” Daniel exclaimed.
“He's grown, Jack,” Daniel noted, caressing the womis that contained Bean Sprout.
“He? When did we decide Bean Sprout was a he, Danny?” Jack asked with amusement as he finished adding their 'contributions'.
Daniel shrugged and gave his husband a sheepish grin, saying, “Just a feeling.”
“Little Danny will be disappointed,” Jack opined. “He's expecting a girl, regardless of what we tried to tell him about his genetics project.”
Daniel mused, “He worked so hard on that.”
“Our little genius,” Jack said with a smile. “At least we know it's not twins,” Jack chuckled a moment later, only to be stopped short by Daniel's raised eyebrow. “What? Didn't Janet say Toto isn't big enough for it to be twins?”
“She said it's not *likely* to be twins based on the size of the womis, Jack. The key word there is *likely*,” Daniel pointed out.
Jack shrugged, lightly joking that, “At least we're experts with multiples.”
After spending some time catching Bean Sprout up on the news, namely that he or she had an Uncle Billy after all, the two men headed for Sara's.
Though it was early evening, Sara was out in the front of her house, working on her car, when Jack and Daniel drove up. As soon as she saw them, she wiped her hands clean with a rag and hurried over, enveloping Jack in a tight hug. When she stepped back, there were tears in her eyes.
“I heard Jonny and Little Danny telling Jen what happened. I think you're an amazing man, Jack,” Sara remarked as she wiped tears from her eyes and smiled at Daniel. “You're amazing, too, Daniel, but that goes without saying.”
“Hey, what is this, pick on Jack day?” Jack quipped indignantly.
“Babe, every day is pick on Jack day,” Daniel retorted with a grin before turning to Sara and asking, “Are you okay?”
Sara nodded and gave them a rueful grin, answering, “The boys were asking Jen whether they should confess to me what had happened. They didn't want to bring up bad memories for me, but thought I should know so I wouldn't offer them special treats like ice cream or extra helpings of dessert.” The blonde sighed as she looked at Jack and Daniel. “They really are good kids.”
“Yes, they are. In spite of our best intentions, we still tend to forget they're just kids, Sara,” Jack said.
Daniel added, “They act so grown up sometimes, and they're ... uh, well, they're ...”
“Smart -- very, very smart,” Sara acknowledged, her eyes still a bit misty. A tad hesitantly, she added, “Jack, I've never done this before, but I took a bit of a liberty, and, um, I didn't realize something.”
“What?” Jack asked curiously, sensing a bit of apprehension in his ex-wife as well.
“Well, when the boys did tell me, I took them upstairs to the attic,” Sara commented.
“What's in the attic?” the general asked.
“Old furniture. Our, uh, nightstand is there,” Sara revealed, clarifying, “Yours and mine. I almost chopped it up with an axe after you left. I mean, years ago, when you ... left.” She paused, waiting for Jack's acknowledgement that he was on the same page. “But I kept it, because I wanted it as a reminder should I ever have children again not to make that same mistake. I showed Jonny and Little Danny the nightstand, and I opened the drawer. My intent was just to have them feel it a little more, to feel Charlie's loss. Do you know what I mean?”
“Yes, I do,” Jack answered, glancing at Daniel, who nodded as well.
“Well, I hadn't looked at the furniture that closely in ... maybe never,” Sara admitted in a hushed tone. “Jonny saw it first, and his eyes got so big.”
“Oh, gawd,” Daniel said, figuring it out before his husband.
“I almost said it was red crayon, but then I ...”
“Blood ... Charlie's blood?” Jack asked, his eyes suddenly losing their focus as his mind took him back in time.
“Yes. It's not a big spot, but that's what it is,” Sara admitted.
“How did they react?” Daniel asked.
With a tiny smile, Sara answered, “Very bravely. I was stunned, and they could see that. They held me, and Jonny promised me that he would never ever pick up a gun unless one of you two were there to make sure he didn't do anything wrong. Oh, heavens, I started bawling like a baby. I hadn't cried like that in a long, long time, but those two boys, they were so strong. They embraced me in this big hug of love. Little Danny said he'd make sure Jonny kept his promise, that neither of them would make me cry like that, like I had for Charlie.”
“Are you okay, Sara?” Jack asked tenderly, seeing the tears rolling down her face and placing his hands on her arms and rubbing up and down in small motions.
“I love those boys so much, Jack,” Sara sighed, losing control and falling into Jack's waiting arms. “They told me about that fruit and veggie figure that Teal'c made, and you shot to crap. That must have been so hard for you to do.”
Jack's answer was to bury his chin into Sara's neck and hold her tightly as the two parents remembered their son in a way that only they could.
When they pulled apart, Sara said, “I hope you aren't mad at me for ...”
“No,” Jack responded, shaking his head. He looked over at Daniel, who smiled and shook his head as well, indicating he wasn't upset about Sara's actions either. “I think it was good for them to see that. We've been worried about them not understanding.”
“I'm thinking that it drove it home for them, Sara,” Daniel commented. “That's what we've been trying to figure out how to do.”
Sara nodded in gratitude for their understanding, and then she said, “They weren't afraid of the blood. In fact, as we were leaving, Little Danny ran back and opened the drawer one more time. He studied the spot for a full minute, and then he closed it and ran back to Jonny and me. Jack, that sweet little boy said, 'I made a promise to Charlie, Jonny. You're the oldest, but I won't let you do that again.'” Sara sniffled, then explained that Jonny ran over and repeated his brother's actions. “When he came back, he told us he had made a promise, too, and he was a big boy and didn't break his promises.”
“Sara,” Daniel said with a quietly emotional voice, “I think maybe you've saved us. Thank you.”
“Jack, she made him real,” Daniel explained. “We talk about him all the time, and we tell stories and show them pictures, but ... they know they bleed; that it hurts. Maybe ... I think maybe seeing his blood made that connection for them and made Charlie even more real to them today, especially after all that happened.”
“Yeah, maybe,” Jack replied, biting his lip as he looked away for a moment, struggling to maintain his composure.
“And I think 'killing' that produce 'man' helped them to visualize it. You didn't see Jonny's eyes, Jack. They popped right out of his head, and he frowned. Maybe, just maybe, seeing that blood not long after the ... melon's 'blood' connected the dots for him,” an emotional Daniel speculated.
“For what it's worth,” Sara interjected. “I think they did connect it. Like I said, they talked about that figure and the juice going all over the place. Little Danny said the melon was the head. He, uh ... I didn't understand it when he said this because they hadn't yet told me about the human figure, but Little Danny reached over to touch the dried blood stain, and I heard him whisper, 'the melon'.”
Moving closer to his husband, Daniel took Jack's hand and squeezed it, giving silent support to his soulmate.
“Where are the little terrors anyway?” Daniel lovingly asked, amazed that they hadn't been swamped by children yet.
“They're in the backyard with Mark, playing the modern version of Cowboys and Indians.”
Jack and Daniel exchanged a confused glance.
“And that is ...?” Jack prodded, wary of the smirk that was now gracing his ex-wife's lips.
“SG-1 meets hostile natives,” Sara chuckled.
“You're kidding?” Jack asked as he stared at Sara in disbelief.
“From what I understand, the scenario goes something like this,” Sara began, clearing her voice. “SG-1 meets the natives. Little Danny as the linguist of SG-1 chatters away with David, who always seems to be a native, and in what I think is Arabic,” she chuckled.
“Gawd,” Daniel responded, shaking his head.
“It gets better,” Sara laughed. “There is then a misunderstanding, and the natives take SG-1 prisoner. SG-1 then has to escape and make their way back to the place that has been designated as the Stargate.”
“So much for getting it out of their system,” Jack muttered.
“You'll never accomplish that Jack,” Sara said softly. “Jonny and Little Danny are determined to follow in your footsteps.” She smiled and observed, “And I think both Ash and Chenoa are very interested, too.” With a knowing smile, she added, “Don't dismiss those two girls as having a future with the Stargate.”
Daniel nodded to acknowledge Sara's comment, but his lover's thoughts were still on the game the children were playing in the backyard.
“Are they using pretend weapons?” Jack asked nervously, unsure whether he wanted to hear the answer or not.
“No.” Sara shook her head and smiled as relief swept over her ex-husband's face. “Apparently, if you get close enough to your opponent to 'tag' them that counts as knocking them unconscious.”
“They have very good imaginations, don't they?” Daniel asked rhetorically.
“Hold on,” Sara said as she returned to her car and quickly put away her tools and rags.
Jack laughed as he watched her.
“What?” Sara questioned.
“Sara, you're still one sexy woman, even covered in oil,” Jack mused.
“Why, thank you, General O'Neill. I'll be sure to tell my husband you said that,” Sara teased with a twinkle in her eye.
Jack laughed, “Should I get my boxing gloves?”
“No, but I think all men need a reminder sometimes. A little wiggle of the hips maybe,” Sara joked as she moved her derriere seductively.
“Danny has that down pat!”
“Jack!” Daniel exclaimed.
“But you do, Love. You just wiggle that six of yours and I come ...”
“Yes, Jack, I'm sure you do,” Sara interjected, shocking both men.
“Are you pregnant again, Sara?” Jack asked.
“Jack O'Neill, whatever put an idea like that in my, I mean your, head?” Sara quipped without answering the question.
Jack and Daniel stared at each other as Sara stepped onto her front porch.
Quickly, Jack hurried after her, calling out, “Sara?”
Sara laughed, “No, Jack, I'm not -- that I know of. Come inside. Your kids are going to be so happy that you two are home.”
The next day, General Hammond sent for Lieutenant Huruki, staring the Marine into an utter state of sweat as he stood at attention for over five minutes without a single word having been spoken.
Finally, from his seat behind his desk, Hammond said, “You have three minutes to convince me not to have you shot.”
Huruki closed his eyes, answering a few moments later with a simple, “No reason, Sir.”
“I see,” Hammond responded. “What you did was a clear dereliction of duty, Marine.”
“Yes, Sir,” Huruki acknowledged, his eyes looking straight ahead.
Hammond's right hand tapped lightly against the desktop as he nodded.
“Sir, permission to speak freely?” Huruki questioned.
“Since you're about to be shot, I see no reason to deny that request. Permission granted,” Hammond stated.
“Had General O'Neill's son, or any of the inhabitants on Plantacia, been hurt, Sir, I would pull the trigger myself. I accept full responsibility for my poor decision-making,” Huruki stated with a strong voice.
“Apologies only go so far, Lieutenant,” Hammond interjected.
“I realize that, Sir,” Huruki replied, still at attention. “Sir, I'm asking for a second chance. I expect to be punished. No, I demand to be punished to the extent the regulations allow. I ... I learned a valuable lesson, General Hammond,” Huruki spoke, his voice sounding more vulnerable at the moment than it had earlier.
“That lesson could have come at a high price, Lieutenant,” Hammond responded.
“Which is why I am demanding the punishment I deserve,” the unwavering man said as he stood. “Sir, being assigned to the SGC was a dream come true. I'm a Marine, one of the best, but I had a lapse of judgement. I'd like the privilege of atoning for that lapse, if possible. I believe I have a contribution to make here, but before I can do that, I have to prove to you, General O'Neill, Colonel Ferretti, and my fellow comrades-in-arms that I am capable of honoring the Marine Corps and the United States of America. I respectfully request you give me that chance, General.”
Hammond sighed, “Your team leader is going to make you wish you'd never been born, Lieutenant, and General O'Neill is going to make you wish you'd never grown up.” Standing, he walked in front of the Marine and added, “But believe me, Lieutenant, what those two do to you will be nothing compared to what I will do, if you make another mistake like this again. Do you understand me?”
“Sir, yes, Sir!” Huruki stated.
“I will take your request under advisement,” Hammond stated. Without moving, he shouted, “Sergeant Davis!”
“Yes, General?” Walter Davis inquired from the doorway.
“Take this man to the brig until I decide what to do with him,” Hammond ordered. He looked at Huruki and ordered, “Dismissed!”
“Thank you, Sir,” Huruki replied, saluting, and then exiting the office under the escort of Sergeant Davis and one other Marine.
Hammond sat back down at his desk, pulling out his wallet and shuffling through the small color photographs until he reached one of the Munchkins. He smiled at the sight of the grinning youngsters, then shook his head and returned to work.
“Thanks for coming in, Jack,” Hammond said the next day when Jack arrived in his office at the SGC.
“No problem, Sir, well, not much of one, anyway,” Jack said, looking into the briefing room where Ricky and Jenny were standing on chairs and pointing to the star map as they played Twenty Questions with Sergeant Davis and recently promoted Sergeant Tracey O'Connor.
“Sorry, but this couldn't wait,” Hammond replied.
“That's okay, Sir. The Spitfires are due for their checkups. I pushed it back a half-hour,” Jack commented, his facial expression asking if that would be long enough.
Hammond nodded as he motioned for Jack to sit down and did so himself.
“So, what's up, General?” Jack inquired.
“I'd like to discuss the disposition of Lieutenant Huruki's dereliction of duty,” Hammond stated. “What are your feelings on the matter?”
“Is there a P-90 I could borrow?” Jack mused, although his face didn't reveal any humor. Then again, he wasn't sure he was being funny. Looking down as he took a breath, he clasped his hands together. A few seconds later, he leaned forward and stared into Hammond's eyes. “General, if Jonny or Little Danny had been hurt, I would have killed him on the spot, but they weren't, and the truth is, what Huruki did, has done some good.”
“He wants to be punished, Jack,” Hammond commented.
“Oh, I can help with that, and so can Ferretti,” Jack crisply replied.
“I've had requests from several people to assist in the lieutenant's punishment,” Hammond revealed. “Jack, the question is, do you want him here?”
“If he is man enough to take what's coming, yeah, he can stay,” Jack answered. “Daniel and I have talked about it a little. We figured you'd ask us, and based on Huruki's behavior after the incident on Plantacia, we decided he deserved a shot.”
“So Doctor Jackson is in agreement?” Hammond inquired.
“Yes, Sir,” Jack answered. “But, if there is a next time, he'll be in the same fix as Jimmy Hoffa, and no one will have a clue.”
Hammond nodded and proceeded to discuss a few specifics of the potential punishment with Jack.
Since the explorers' return from Plantacia, life had been the usual madhouse. Jonny and Little Danny had willingly accepted their punishment, including the loss of their allowance for the remainder of the year. Upon their request, their parents did, however, promise to help them with their Christmas 'shopping', if they ran short, especially for their traditional gift to the children's shelter.
The other children felt a bit guilty about indulging in the nightly ice cream fest, something else the boys were banned from temporarily. The parents were proud, though, when both male Munchkins stayed downstairs of their own volition to talk with their siblings, telling them not to feel bad because they both knew they had broken the rules.
One thing Aislinn wasn't feeling guilty about, though, was not having to make her bed. She couldn't help but giggle every morning when Jonny and Little Danny walked in to make both her bed and Jenny's. The task was just one of several additional chores the boys were taking over from their siblings for two weeks as part of their punishment.
All of the Jackson-O'Neill children were told that their Uncle Billy would be arriving soon to stay with them for a little while. He and his wife, Jilly, would be using the guestroom downstairs. Of course, officially, none of that had been decided. The Pentagon was still debating on how to handle the situation.
At the moment, Jack and Daniel were involved in the latest, heated discussion at the SGC over the handling of the Plantacia residents. Daniel was just pleased that representatives from Washington were present so that he could argue with them directly, rather than having to place General Hammond in the difficult position of being a go-between.
“The President feels that it's just too risky to allow these people to return,” General Hammond stated apologetically.
“And there are some risks that *have* to be taken if we are to retain our humanity. Some things are more important than secrecy, General, and it's about time our government started to recognize that,” Daniel refuted ardently.
“I'm sorry, Doctor Jackson. I've argued until I'm blue in the face,” Hammond confided openly.
“No, Sir, I cannot and will not accept that,” Daniel stated passionately, standing up and pounding his fist against the table. It was a moment of deja vu for the scientist as he flashed back to his first year at the SGC when he had to constantly fight for the right to study the cultural aspects of a society on a mission. “These people are from Earth. Many of them still have families and homes here, and they were taken from their homes against their will.” He paused, taking a breath and adding, “They are human beings, and they have a right to return home now.”
“Doctor Jackson,” Major Davis interrupted. While working full time for the SGC nowadays, Davis still acted as an informal liaison between the Mountain and the higher ups in Washington D.C. “I agree with you. However, there are major issues involved here. The Pentagon is concerned about the residents exposing this program.”
“Make them sign confidentiality agreements,” Jack quietly suggested, desperately trying to keep his inner rage under control. ~My brother is coming home, and none of those donkeys in D.C. are going to stop him.~
“We're concerned that won't stop them from talking,” Major Niles Pendergast stated. As Davis' replacement at the Pentagon, Pendergast was representing Washington in the meetings. “There are too many of them to do damage control, if they start talking.”
Losing his battle for restraint, Jack kicked his chair back, standing up and leaning forward, facing his current adversary as he said, “If you think you're going to exile those people on an 'if', you have another think coming, Pendergast.”
“General!” Hammond chastised.
“Jack!” Daniel spoke within a split second of Hammond. **Sit down, Jack.**
**Why? You aren't,** Jack angrily pointed out.
“Jack ...” Daniel intoned verbally, not wanting to get into a non-verbal argument with his currently stressed out lover.
Jack let out a grunt, glared at Pendergast, and sat down while mumbling, “Not a chance in *your* lifetime that those people are staying on some asteroid. Trust me on this.”
Daniel rolled his eyes as Pendergast looked nervously at Hammond. The major knew of Jack's reputation. It was bigger than life, and while some dismissed the tales of intimidation and thought the major general was just a bag of hot air, too many swore that the stories were true. Pendergast wasn't eager to have personal verification that the latter was the truth. He gulped, hoping to get through the meeting without being punched by the man who was still glaring at him from across the table.
“General O'Neill, your concern for those on Plantacia is admirable, but the security concerns are justified,” Pendergast claimed.
“That may be a price we have to pay,” Daniel commented. “The inhabitants of that world didn't have a choice when they were taken from their homes. We have a moral and ethical obligation to allow them to come home now.”
“Do you really think that signing a piece of paper will stop them from talking?” Pendergast inquired.
“As much as it stops anyone else from doing so. Look, I'm not saying this is an easy situation, but nothing you've said changes the fact that the Planticians are people, not faceless chess pieces.” Daniel paused for a moment and then pointedly asked, “What if they were your family, Major?”
“I thought all of these people were 'only kids', without family,” Pendergast stated.
“*These* people have families, Major. The aliens made sure that parents and young children weren't separated, but many of them have brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, cousins. Their families are still out there,” Daniel responded, glancing at Jack.
“Doctor, we can't have two hundred people running loose, talking about the Stargate Program. You have to remember that most of the governments of the people involved don't even know the Stargate exists,” Pendergast argued loudly.
“Then maybe it's time they did,” Daniel snapped. “You seem to think that the Plantacians are going to go around blabbing about the Stargate to anyone and everyone they come into contact with. Who are they going to tell that would believe them? In any case, it doesn't change the moral directive that we're talking about human beings with families. We can't keep them from returning to Earth,” Daniel replied forcefully. “They have rights,” he repeated.
“Give them a cover story; the government is good at making up things,” Jack proposed with a tad of sarcasm in his tone.
“We can't take the chance,” Pendergast maintained, closing a file that was in front of him.
“We can't afford not to,” Daniel retaliated.
“What is that supposed to mean, Doctor?” the major asked.
“We're explorers, and we make promises to people that our world represents certain ideals, the highest of which is our freedom. If we take away a basic freedom like mobility, like being able to return to our homes, then we've removed one of the primary cornerstones of our civilization, and, uh, I, for one, could not continue to support the Program, if that was the case.”
**They have to let them come home, Jack.**
Jack nodded, adding verbally to those in the room, “Neither could I.”
“Great,” Pendergast responded sarcastically, thinking, ~I've heard about these two not taking 'no' for an answer before. Who do they think they are?~ With an arrogant demeanor, he accused, “So basically you're blackmailing us, the ole threat about doing what you two want or else.”
Daniel gazed steadily at the major as he responded, “Need I remind you that you and the United States government placed us in this position? Jack and I wouldn't be nearly as crucial to the Stargate Program *if* Washington had kept its word. So, no, I wouldn't say we're blackmailing you. I'm simply making sure that I can continue to represent our government and our planet to our off-world allies.” He took a breath and continued on, speaking quickly, “Look, we've been arguing about this for three days, and that's three days too long. The residents of Plantacia want to come home so that they can make a decision about their future. How can we deny them the chance to come to terms with the truth about their existence? How?”
“And what about the aliens, Doctor Jackson?” Pendergast asked.
“Let them go home,” Daniel requested strongly.
Davis sighed, responding, “They don't have a home, Daniel.”
All eyes focused on Davis who opened a report he had just received before the meeting began.
Davis continued, “We received a report from Thor about thirty minutes ago. All life on Axlyxtomox ceased approximately thirty years ago. Apparently, a plague was brought to their world by another race. Thor didn't know too much about it, but it wiped out the entire population in less than three weeks.”
“What kind of plague?” Sam asked curiously.
“Thor said it was an air-borne contagion. He reports that traces of the plague are still within the planet's atmosphere,” Davis answered.
“They can't go home,” Daniel surmised softly about Tony and Terri.
“They won't need to worry about it,” Pendergast said. “The NID wants ...”
Daniel just stared at the man in disbelief and was spared having to say anything when Jack spoke up.
“I don't friggin' care what the Pentagon wants,” Jack argued in a raised voice. “They are *not* making puppets out of those two.”
“Or what, General? More blackmail?” Pendergast snorted.
“Call it what you want, Major,” Jack accused, standing up again as his blood pressure rose, making him feel like he was about to explode inside. “But I suggest you go back to *your* people, and tell them this. If the United States government does one thing to interfere with the return of the Plantacians to Earth, Daniel and I are through, and we're taking the Asgard, the Nox, and the Hedronix with us. If they don't believe us, you go off-world and check with them. Daniel, let's go.”
Without hesitation, Daniel followed Jack to the door, turning in the doorway to look back at Majors Davis and Pendergast as he added, “It's time the government realized that we need our off-world allies a lot more than they need us, and that there are some things these allies value above all else. Surprise -- secrecy and weapons are *not* among them. Tell Washington it's time to walk the walk, and not just talk until we all fall asleep.”
The peaceful and compassionate explorer gave Hammond a quick nod and then joined his husband, the two of them walking down the gray corridor, moving quickly as they conversed.
“Daniel, do you think one word of what you said got through to those idiots?” Jack asked.
“You mean will they have an epiphany and realize the Asgard and the Nox are who they are because of their beliefs and not because of their fire power?” Daniel questioned, getting a look of 'yeah' from his soulmate. “No, but there is one thing I do know.”
“What's that?” Jack asked as they rounded a corner.
“It's not in their control, or the Pentagon's,” Daniel revealed.
“It's not?” Jack asked surprised.
Daniel smiled, saying, “I have this friend with a ... a cute little gray butt. I suspect that, if necessary, he'd be willing to make sure the people of Plantacia are returned to their homes regardless of what Washington says.”
Jack took a breath, saying, “It would mean severing ties with Earth.”
“Jack, I believe everything I said in there. We, that is, Earth, need them a lot more than they need us,” Daniel replied as they entered Jack's office.
“I know that, Daniel, but they have learned from us,” Jack commented.
“They have?” the younger man questioned.
“Yeah, how to be dumber,” Jack smirked.
Daniel chuckled, then added, “Jack, Paul's on our side; he'll help as much as he can with the Brass.”
“Maybe,” Jack conceded, “But he'd better battle hard before Pendergast and his types ruin it for all of us.”
The archaeologist nodded, exchanging a hopeful look with his husband before they continued on with their obligations for the day.
“Sam, do you have it?” Daniel asked later that day as he walked into her lab. He felt a little guilty about including her in on their Plan B, but then again, Sam was family, even during acts of mutiny. ~I still feel guilty, though.~
“Everything is on here,” Sam replied, handing Daniel a tiny memory chip. “Everything we know about them, their supposed deaths, their living family members -- everything. Have you talked to Thor?” she asked quietly.
“Not yet, but we're pretty confident he'll agree with us,” Daniel responded. “I, uh ...”
“What is it, Daniel?” the blonde inquired.
“Part of me wonders if we have a right to ask Thor to help us, even though I am sure he'd go along,” the concerned man wondered.
Sam nodded an acknowledgement, but replied, “The Asgard operate on principle. We've known that from the beginning, Daniel. Thor won't sacrifice the alliance unless he feels what we're doing undermines the treaty.”
“So, uh, no matter how much he likes Jack and me, he won't throw Earth away unless we are doing the right thing,” Daniel spoke, a little smile on his face.
“Hmm-mmm,” Sam confirmed with a closed smile.
Feeling a bit better, Daniel replied, “Sometimes the male ego gets in the way of logic.”
“Just sometimes?” Sam teased. As they chuckled, she asked, “How's Jack doing?” purposely using the general's first name.
“He's hanging in there. It's hard for him because he knows he'll do whatever he has to in order to bring Billy home, but he's trying hard not to let his personal feelings enter into it,” Daniel commented.
“He, um, seems unusually quiet,” Sam noted. “He's scared, isn't he?” she dared to ask.
“He's scared it's all been a dream. He and Billy were very close, Sam. He gets him back, and Billy's already said that he and Jilly want to return to Australia, so the reunion will be limited as it is. He's afraid he's going to wake up and ...” Daniel trailed off, shrugging.
Sam nodded, saying, “I can't even begin to imagine how he feels.”
Daniel's words were cut off by the telephone ringing. He began to leave, indicating he'd leave her to her work, but was stopped by a hand on his arm.
“Yes, Sir. I'll tell him. Yes, General,” Sam said. She hung up the phone and gave Daniel an anxious look. “That was General Hammond. He wants to see you and the general in his office in thirty minutes.”
“I guess I'd better go find Jack. Last time I saw him was at lunch. He was drowning his sorrows in Froot Loops and Jell-O,” the archaeologist lamented.
“Together?” Sam quizzed. Seeing Daniel's nod, she scrunched her face and went, “Ewww.”
“Yeah,” Daniel chuckled. “Wish us luck,” he requested as he exited the room.
Armed with well wishes from Sam, Daniel set off to find his husband. He decided to begin his search in the gymnasium, knowing that Jack had wanted to let off some steam after the meeting with Majors Davis and Pendergast.
An hour later, Jack and Daniel were in General Hammond's office in the midst of a conference call with the President. Formality had been dispensed with, and the two sides seemed to be at an impasse.
“Gentlemen, maybe we can reach a compromise,” the President finally suggested. “Some of the countries these people were taken from are our allies. We can probably take the risk of returning them to those countries. At least if the Stargate is exposed to the governments of those nations, we can negotiate their silence. But some of these others ... I'm sorry, we just can't take the chance. What we can do is relocate them in the US,” he said, his tone hopeful.
“And what about their families, Sir?” Jack asked bitterly.
“It's the best I can do, Jack,” President Hayes responded.
Daniel sighed, “That, uh, is still unacceptable, Sir.”
“And I can't authorize anything more, Daniel,” the President replied. “The security of our nation has to be considered here.”
“Yes, it does ... as part of Earth,” Daniel stated. “You have to understand, Mister President, that when it comes to the Stargate Program, you are not the President of the United States, but the representative of our planet. If you cannot put aside national concerns when there are greater principles at stake, then I, for one, will not be able to recommend that our off-world allies trust us.”
“Blackmail, Doctor Jackson?” Hayes stated curtly.
“No, I'm trying to protect you from yourself,” Daniel answered calmly. “Sir, you really don't understand what's at stake here. Our off-world allies will not accept those reasons for refusing to return these people to Earth. They don't understand our political obstacles as it stands now; once they hear about this, they won't be happy.”
“Doctor Jackson,” the President began.
“Sir,” the archaeologist interrupted. “We're not blackmailing you, and if you don't believe us, then I suggest you contact Thor, Lya, and Ardyl and ask them directly,” he said of their three contacts for their Asgard, Nox, and Hedronix allies.
Silence filled the room. Jack and Daniel shared anxious looks, and General Hammond breathed a heavy sigh.
“You believe in this that strongly, Daniel?” President Hayes asked.
“The people on Plantacia are refugees, Sir. From our very first mission, before we even had designated SG teams, we've taken in refugees. We've promised them freedom. How can we deny that to our own people?” Daniel paused, glancing at Jack and Hammond before answering, “Yes, Sir, I believe it that strongly.”
“George, I'll get back to you,” Hayes abruptly announced, after which a dial tone was heard over the speaker.
Hammond leaned forward to disconnect the call. He clasped his hands together and commented, “This is a difficult dilemma.”
“Yes, General, it is,” Daniel affirmed.
“Daniel, we need to go,” Jack stated, checking his watch. Seeing Hammond's inquisitive look, he added, “Tonight's Open House at the high school, and we're meeting with one of Jen's teachers before it starts.”
“Problems?” Hammond asked.
“I hope not,” Daniel responded dryly. He smiled, then added, “She's a little concerned about Jen being a bit distracted.”
“I think it's the teacher,” Jack opined sarcastically.
“Why do you think that?” Daniel inquired, looking at his lover.
“Home Economics?” Jack expressed in disbelief. “Daniel, Jennifer has her ear attached to a cell phone all day long.” He sighed and then continued, “She knows how to cook and sew and do all that girlie stuff. Why is she even in that class?”
Daniel rolled his eyes and thought in exasperation, ~Maybe you can't teach an old dog new tricks.~
**What is that supposed to mean?** Jack communicated.
**Mind-dropper, and it's all about that sexist comment of yours. Cooking and sewing are not 'girlie stuff', Jack. Does 'Danielle' need to make an encore appearance?** the archaeologist asked, referring to a dress-up alter ego he had used a couple years back to stop his lover from using generalizations.
**Nope. Noooo thanks, sorry, just a little slip of the tongue, I mean brain. Cooking and sewing are gender neutral activities,** Jack replied.
**Good Boy. I'll give you a bone, later.**
“If she already knows the subject matter, that could be the issue,” Hammond noted, oblivious to the non-verbal banter that had been ensuing between the two men seated in chairs in front of him.
Daniel pursed his lips as he pondered both Hammond's and his husband's comments about Jennifer's capabilities.
“You could be right, Sir,” Daniel agreed. With a coy smile, he stood up and said to the three-star general, “Let us know what the President says.”
“Jack, I'm going to talk to Jen for a minute, and then we can go,” Daniel said as he walked out of their bedroom, nearly bumping into Jeff who was about to tap on the door. “Sorry, Son, did you need something?”
“Not really,” Jeff replied, moving back so Daniel could go by him. “Dad?”
“Yeah?” Jack asked, adjusting his watch as he put it on again after having taken a shower and dressing for the evening.
“I'm not sure I should bring this up,” Jeff said hesitantly.
“What's up?” Jack inquired, his eyes locking on to his son's.
Jeff sighed as he walked to within a foot of his father, and then he said, “Peter Hamilton keeps showing up at the basketball court.”
“It's a free country,” Jack responded, trying to shield his anger at the boy.
“Yeah, but he's not playing. He just watches us, all the time. It feels a little weird,” Jeff confided.
Jack put on his jacket as he asked, “How often has this happened?”
“Maybe two or three times a week. He drives up in that fancy car of his, gets out, and watches. He never comes over. I almost punched him once.” Jeff had been hesitant to admit that, but when he saw Jack trying to suppress a smile, he felt safe at having made his admission. “Then, um, I told him he wasn't good enough for Jen. He agreed with me.”
“I guess he has some brains after all,” Jack opined, placing his hands at his hips as he listened.
“I guess,” Jeff said. “Dad, there's something weird about him; um, not him, really, but he has this look.”
“What kind of look?” Jack asked suspiciously.
“Lonely. He's such a jerk, but I can't help but feel like he's lonely. Sometimes, he reminds me of Bri. You know how defensive she used to be,” Jeff prodded.
“Still is sometimes. Jeff, do you feel threatened by this kid?” Jack inquired protectively.
“No,” the teenager responded firmly. “It's just ... it's weird, that's all.”
“Thanks for telling me.” Jack patted Jeff on the upper arm and said, “Gotta go. We'll be back later. You and Jen be ready.”
“Sure,” Jeff answered.
“What timing!” Jack had just opened the door in time to see Sam and Janet drive up. The two women were going to baby-sit the younger members of the brood for the evening while Jack and Daniel saw Jennifer's teacher and then attended the Open House. The plan was for Sam to take the Munchkins, the Spitfires, and Lulu to the latest Disney film while Janet took David, Brianna, and Chenoa to see a blockbuster about Ramses II.
“Where's Daniel, Sir?” Sam asked after the three had exchanged greetings.
“Good question,” Jack sighed, looking at his watch. “DANIEL, IF YOU DON'T GET YOUR CUTE BACKSIDE DOWN HERE SOON, WE'RE GOING TO BE LATE!”
“MY BACKSIDE AND I ARE COMING,” Daniel shouted back, coming to an abrupt stop when he saw Sam and Janet standing in the living room. A slight blush crept up his cheeks, and he grinned sheepishly. “Sorry, Sam, Janet.”
“Daniel, what are you holding?” Jack asked, looking at the items that were in his husband's hand. “Why are you taking bandanas to a meeting with Jen's teacher?”
Daniel looked at them and tossed them onto the sofa as he explained, “I just confiscated them from Jonny and Little Danny.”
Sam laughed and asked, “What were the two devils doing with them, or don't I want to know?”
Daniel sighed, “They didn't think they should be treated to a film when they're still being punished. They thought we were only letting them go because there wouldn't be anyone around to baby-sit them.”
“I still don't get what they were doing with the bandanas,” Jack replied as he ran his hand through his hair, conscious of the time.
“They were going to blindfold themselves so they couldn't see the movie,” Daniel reported with a wry grin. He could just see the two boys sitting in the movie theatre, wearing blindfolds. ~Where do they get these ideas?~
“What did you tell them?” Janet asked with interest.
“That Jack and I had given them their punishments, and they didn't need to impose extra ones on themselves,” Daniel answered, still amazed at what the boys had done.
“Poor little guys,” Sam said sympathetically.
“That's certainly how they're feeling at the moment,” Daniel commented as he and Jack moved towards the door. “I reminded them that even if they didn't feel they'd been punished enough yet, they might feel differently after tomorrow.”
Jack chuckled while Sam grinned.
Janet was aware that she was missing something and gave into her curiosity asking, “What's happening tomorrow?”
“Sam can explain,” Jack intoned as he ushered Daniel out the door. “We've gotta go. Remind Jen and Jeff to be down here, waiting, in an hour for us to pick them up. See you two later.”
When the front door closed behind them, Janet turned to Sam, her 'tell me or else' expression on.
Sam chuckled, “Teal'c is coming over tomorrow.”
“Oh,” Janet responded. “Will that be the first time since the little 'gun incident' off-world?” the physician inquired. After Sam nodded, Janet grimaced, “Poor boys.”
“Indeed!” Sam chuckled, as did Janet.
“Did you find out what we needed to know?” Jack asked, glancing over at Daniel who was looking out the window of the truck.
“Yes; it's exactly what we thought. Jen wanted to take another elective. She tried to get into Music Appreciation, but it was full. By the time she selected another choice, it was full, too. It came to Home Economics, Weight Training, or Creative Writing.”
“She didn't mention this,” Jack noted.
Daniel chuckled, “She was avoiding the lecture.”
“The 'why were you on the cell phone all day instead of getting your classes situated' lecture,” Daniel chuckled.
Jack groaned, silently pondering if the cell phone was becoming part of their daughter's ear. Jennifer had lost her cell phone privileges for a time earlier in the year, but having proved she could live without it, her cell privileges had been reinstated. He was beginning to wonder if that had been a bad decision on their part.
“Anyway, think about it, Babe. Jen was hoping to learn something in this Home Ec class, but as it's turned out, she says she's bored. I mean, uh, she knows how to cook and sew, and as the oldest of eleven, she's had her share of ... of ... well ...”
“Running a household?” Jack queried. Seeing Daniel's nod, he opined, “I guess I can see her point, but she's there, so ...”
“I think we should try to get her into another class, Jack, even if it's Creative Writing,” Daniel suggested.
“I'm sure she'd love that,” Jack mused.
“I warned her that was on our agenda for the meeting,” Daniel reported.
“What was her reaction?” Jack asked curiously.
“She groaned and threw herself onto her bed,” Daniel chuckled. “Then Sheila called, and you bellowed.”
“I do *not* bellow,” Jack argued.
“Do not!” Jack insisted, slamming on the breaks to avoid a squirrel running across the road.
“Do, too!” Daniel quickly snapped back, adding, “Nice save.”
“Not!” Jack refuted, adding, “I like squirrels.”
“Too!” the younger man replied with a grin, adding, “You're an ole softie.”
“Danny, I love you,” Jack chuckled.
“It never gets old, does it, Jack?” Daniel asked about their bantering.
“Never,” Jack said as he reached over and patted his husband's thigh.
“AUTO SHOP?” Jennifer shouted in shock when Jack and Daniel returned from their meeting.
Jeff laughed, nudged his sister, and teased, “I can see you now, dressed up in your best makeup -- lipstick and motor oil.”
“Watch it, Jeff!” Jennifer responded harshly.
“It was that or Weight Training,” Daniel explained. “You're lucky Creative Writing was full now.”
“But, Daddy ...” Jennifer whined in despair.
“Sorry, Jen, but you can learn a lot in Auto Shop,” Jack told her.
“Yes, right, okay,” the teenager complained sarcastically.
Jack added, “Mister Higgens agreed to help you catch up with a few after-school sessions, and, Jeff, I want you to help your sister out by tutoring her until she's caught up.”
“Yes, Sir,” Jeff agreed.
“Thank you,” Jack said, patting Jeff on the back. “Okay, let's go. Open House awaits.”
Jeff and Jennifer headed for the truck when Jeff whispered, “Jen, you do realize this is a girl's dream, don't you?”
“Jeff, you're insane. Who wants to get all messy with a car?” Jennifer asked.
“Oh, nobody important; just teenage boys,” Jeff said, smiling and winking as he jogged ahead to the truck.
“Well, who cares about ...” Jennifer paused, then smiled back and said, “Oh.” She paused again and uttered, “Oh!”. Then, as the light finally dawned, she even more enthusiastically said, “Ooooooh.”
The concept of taking Auto Shop suddenly gained a strong appeal for the teenage girl.
~Besides, I can always get help from Aunt Sara,~ Jennifer mused, recalling that Sara was a pretty good auto mechanic, better even than her fathers were at working on vehicles. ~Yeah, I'll study the boys in class, and then get Aunt Sara to help me actually know what I'm doing. That'll work,~ the girl decided happily.
“So, you guys,” Sam said as they came out of the movie theater. “Did you like that movie?”
The group had just seen an animated remake of the story of King Arthur. While it had contained the usual love triangle between Arthur, Guinevere, and Lancelot, it also contained a number of battle scenes which Sam had believed would appeal to the boys.
“It was great, Aunt Sam,” Lulu replied, grinning.
~That's one vote on the plus side.~ Jenny, Aislinn, and Chenoa nodded enthusiastically. ~Three more. Good.~ Ricky also nodded, but shrugged his shoulders at the same time which Sam took to mean he thought it was okay, but not brilliant. ~Well, can't win them all.~ She turned to Jonny and Little Danny and asked, “What did you two think of the film?”
The two boys exchanged a glance and then Little Danny replied earnestly, “It was very nice of you to bring us, Aunt Sam.”
“Yeah,” Jonny echoed.
“But?” Sam prodded with a smile, curious to hear what they thought of the film.
Little Danny shook his head, saying, “We had fun with you, Aunt Sam.”
~Oops!~ Sam bent down so she was eye level with them. She smiled warmly and coaxed, “Out with it, and no holding back. I really want to know what you thought about the movie. Didn't you like it?”
The two boys remained silent for a moment, then Little Danny burst out, talking rapidly as he explained, “It was all wrong. They didn't wear that type of armor then. The costumes were wrong, too, and we don't know that Arthur was a Roman. He might not even be real.”
Jonny nodded as he added, “They made the Saxons really stupid. Arthur shoulda won because he was a better general, not because the other side was too dumb to fight right.”
“But it was really nice of you to bring us, Aunt Sam,” Little Danny reiterated.
Sam hid a grin and responded, “You're very welcome.” Standing back up, she said, “We have thirty minutes before Bri, David, Lulu, and Janet's film finishes, so how about we have some ice cream?”
~Oops again!~ Excited cheers greeted this suggestion, with two obvious exceptions. Sam fixed the two male Munchkins with a mock glare as she told them, “Hey, this is a punishment-free night, so you *are* having ice cream; no arguments.”
The two boys broke into grins and each hugged one of her legs as they exclaimed, “We love you, Aunt Sam!”
With the Open House successfully concluded the night before, Jack and Daniel went on with their routine, only there was nothing routine about this day, the twentieth of October -- Jack's birthday.
“Dan...Dan...Da...mmm...” Jack moaned, lost in a series of wake up kisses from his lover. When the kisses ceased, Jack's sappy sounding voice asked, “What were all of those for, not that I'm objecting or anything?”
“Fifty-nine kisses for each year of your life,” Daniel answered. “Happy Birthday, My Love.”
“Ah, Danny,” Jack responded, adding another kiss to the many that had just come.
“I love you so much,” Daniel intoned, kissing his soulmate yet again.
“You're wrong, Angel,” Jack spoke.
“Wrong?” Daniel asked in surprise. “About what?”
“I'm not fifty-nine,” the older man answered. Seeing Daniel shake his head in confusion, he explained, “I'm fifteen.”
“The day I met you is the day I was born,” Jack spoke softly as his hands ran up Daniel's bare arms. “That was fifteen years ago.”
“Happy ... fifteenth birthday, Jack,” Daniel replied, leaning in for fifteen more tender kisses.
Jack's birthday was an all-day celebration. It began with his wake up kisses and continued with breakfast in bed. He smiled in gratitude to learn that Jeff and Jennifer had overseen the food preparation, resulting in a tasty and properly cooked meal of his favorite foods.
Once he showered and dressed, the family insisted he relax via his Neo-Ritual, taking a couple of hours to himself in his study to read the latest issue of the National Geographic while listening to opera.
When Jack emerged from his study, he was surprised to see a house full of guests as their family of friends celebrated his birthday. The guests chatted, played games, ate cake, and then enjoyed a short surprise program the children had prepared. It wasn't as elaborate as their play in August had been, but each child contributed, be it Jonny's drum solo, Aislinn's Gaelic-song lullaby, David's recitation on the birthday celebrations throughout town and around the world, or Jeff and Brianna's reenactment of Abbott and Costello's famous 'Who's on First?' skit. At the end, all of the children stood together and sang their special song, “Celebrate Me Home” in honor of their father, leaving Jack a bit misty-eyed in the process.
The party concluded with Jack opening a variety of birthday presents, some of which were gag gifts.
After the guests left, the family enjoyed a dinner of Jack's favorite foods and then watched one of Jack's favorite movies, “The Day the Earth Stood Still.” Then they enjoyed their nightly ice cream ritual, Jonny and Little Danny excused from their punishments for the night. Throughout the evening, though, Daniel noticed Jack kept staring at him.
“Okay, Jack, you've been staring at me all afternoon, all through dinner, and now, too. Why?” the younger man asked.
“Where's my present?” Jack asked as the children giggled.
“Your ... present?” Daniel hesitantly asked, quickly eating his final bite of orange sherbet.
“He's nervous,” Jonny laughed.
“Do you know what Daddy got me for my birthday?” Jack probed.
“Nope, but he's nervous,” Jonny answered.
Jack looked at the roomful of children, all of whom were giggling. No one seemed to know anything specific, but all eleven were positive Daniel was nervous about his gift.
“May...maybe I'm not getting you anything,” Daniel suggested.
The children all laughed. No birthday was ever ignored in their household.
“Maybe, uh, it's, uh ... private,” Daniel stammered, blushing slightly.
“Daniel!” Jack stated smugly.
Daniel sighed as he set his bowl onto a TV tray in the recreation room. He looked at his lover, studying his face and loving every inch of it. For a moment, he got lost in the memory of secret plans from the past year. Was he right to have kept his secret? Would Jack approve? Right now, Daniel was more apprehensive than he'd been in a very long time.
~Gawd, he's going to kill me.~
“Daniel, this is highly unusual,” Brent Keegan spoke.
“Un...unusual? Are you saying it's a bad move?” the archaeologist asked.
“No, not at all,” the six-foot-three blond man spoke as he sat at his desk, his eyes momentarily focused on the current price of the stock Daniel was inquiring about. “This is a normal move for risk takers in the market, but you and Jack have never taken this much of a gamble on your stocks before.”
“Not Jack and me,” Daniel clarified. “This is just me, and Jack isn't to know anything about it.”
Brent sat back in his expensive brown leather chair, studying the man standing in front of him. Daniel had begun their meeting seated, but before stating his desires, he'd risen and started a pacing pattern that had only ceased for the length of time it took for him to ask a question. He didn't understand the archaeologist's motives. Of course, it wasn't any of his business, either. Still, for the past five years, he'd served as their stock advisor and analyst, and in all that time, neither Jack nor Daniel had risked the amount Daniel was wanting to today. The fact that Daniel was nervous just added to the mystery.
“Look,” Daniel said. “We've been very lucky playing the market. Jack and I have done it for years, and the result has assisted us in living a pretty good life. We have a big family, though, and we have to think about their futures.”
“You have bonds for all of them,” Brent noted.
“Yes, we've gone to great lengths to try and protect their education and quality of life financially, which is why I'm not sure about this,” Daniel sighed.
“First of all, you're risking a larger amount of money than is normal for you, but it's not even close to what the big rollers play on a daily basis,” Brent explained. “Secondly, if you lose this, it's not going to change anything about your lifestyle. Is it?”
“Ah, well, no,” Daniel admitted. “I'm ... just using part of my consultant salary.”
“Daniel, there's a reason for this investment, I assume,” Brent prodded.
Nodding, the archaeologist explained, “There's a ... a luxury item that I'm interested in getting ... for Jack ... uh, for his birthday ... in October,” he rambled on in slow spurts.
“That's months from now,” Brent commented. “It must be some luxury item.”
“Yes, it is, and that's why I'm ... uh ...”
“Hesitating?” Brent inquired.
“Exactly,” Daniel agreed with one firm nod of his head. He moved quickly to sit down in the chair. Leaning forward he spoke, “If I could raise the money by playing the stock market, I wouldn't feel like I was cheating our children out of their inheritance or something.”
Brent smiled, letting out a tiny snicker as he replied, “Daniel, I'm not privy to your finances, but my gut tells me that your children are going to be just fine.” He looked at his computer and pressed a few buttons. Then he ran some figures through his calculator and said, “Do you want my advice, or do you want me to talk you out of it?”
Leaning back in his chair, Daniel sighed, biting his lip for a moment before answering, “I want the truth, Brent. Is this a dumb move?”
“The truth, Daniel, is that it is a risky choice, but it's a healthy choice. The people behind this electronic gadget have a good history of success. There are a few failures in there, but no company has a perfect track record. Let me lay this out for you,” he said, clasping his hands together as he leaned forward and slightly over his desk. “You have the money. Losing it wouldn't even cause you to blink, and if this gadget explodes, you'll earn a hefty profit. If you don't mind my asking, how much of a return are you hoping for?”
Daniel blinked a few times. Saying it out loud was something he couldn't handle, so he moved forward, picking up a post it pad and pen from Brent's desk. After writing down the figure, he slid it in front of the stock market expert.
“That much?” Brent asked. Seeing a nod, he asked, “By October?”
“Well, actually, I'd need it sooner. There would be arrangements to make and ...”
“I see,” Brent said, returning to his calculator. “Okay ... yes ... and if we bought ... hmm-mmm ... yes, okay.” He looked over at Daniel, stating, “If the gadget explodes, and you buy an additional twenty shares than you initially planned on, you could do it.”
“And ... if it doesn't explode, but just ... sputters?” Daniel hesitantly asked.
“Make that forty more shares instead of twenty, and a sputter would serve you just as well,” Brent chuckled.
“How long would it take to find out?”
“You know the electronics biz, Daniel. The company's plan is to get it out on the street within two months. They have a strong advertising campaign planned. Gadgets like this one tend to either pick up speed relatively quickly or fade from sight before the commercial is over,” Brent answered.
“It just seems like a lot of money,” Daniel spoke softly as he sat in the chair, his hands gripping the arms of the chairs tightly. He closed his eyes and took a big breath, saying, “I want this for Jack, and it would be a fun thing for the children, too. It's just ... it's too expensive to just invest in.”
“Is it too much to risk this on?” Brent asked, holding up the check Daniel had brought in.
“One check,” the archaeologist observed quietly. “You're right; we wouldn't miss it. Brent, if I do this, I need you to watch it closely. What if it starts to sell and then ... then ...”
“Dries up like a pet rock?” Brent chuckled. “I'll keep close tabs on it. If it slides to where it's going to risk whatever return you've already made, I'll sell. We can discuss specifics if you're sure you want to go ahead.”
Nodding very slowly, Daniel stood up and walked over to the office window. He looked out over the bright sky and sighed. He wanted this surprise. It was luxurious and frivolous, so much so that the only way he could justify purchasing it would be if he was able to get it from stock market winnings. His one-time risk of his consultant salary would be minimal in the big picture.
Turning to face Brent, Daniel stated, “Buy it.”
//End of Flashback//
Daniel's decision made months ago had worked out beautifully. The electronic gadget had proved a success, at least temporarily. In fact, Jeff, Jennifer, and Brianna all had purchased the item. On the down side, all three had tired of the item after a few months and given them away. On the up side, Brent followed through with his promise, selling Daniel's shares of the fad as soon as the numbers began to drop. The end result: Daniel's return had given him enough to purchase the item, storage facilities for it, and a few fun extras. Still, he was anxious about his lover's reaction.
“Daniel, we're waiting,” Jack sing-songed.
“Come on, Daddy, give Dad his present,” Chenoa urged. “We want to see it.”
“Yeah!” several children chattered at the same time.
Daniel got up and walked over to a cabinet, surprising everyone when he opened it and pulled out a small package, roughly the size of a Kleenex box, wrapped in birthday paper featuring Popeye the Sailor Man with a big blue bow at the top.
“Happy Birthday, Jack,” Daniel said softly as he handed over the package, then retreated backwards, sitting down on a sectional piece that was across from his lover.
Jack gazed into his lover's eyes for a few seconds and then began his slow process of opening the curious gift. He shook it, turned it over, and stared at each angle before taking off the bow. He laughed at the wrapping paper as David did a Popeye impression, causing everyone to laugh, except for a still-nervous Daniel who could only manage a smile as he sat with his hands clasped tightly together.
Pulling the red tissue paper up and back, Jack got his first glimpse of his gift. He chuckled as he lifted it out and displayed it for all the children, some of who were still eating their ice cream.
“Danny, you got me a boat for our bathtub!” Jack exclaimed, smiling at the white boat he held.
“Dad, TMI,” Jennifer warned with raised eyebrows.
“Not ... exactly,” Daniel answered. “There's, uh, more.”
Jack looked in the package and pulled out a DVD. At Daniel's behest, Jeff took the DVD and put it in the DVD player. He lowered their sixty-inch big screen television and pressed 'play'.
“That's a neat boat,” Jonny observed.
“It's a yacht!” Brianna exclaimed.
The family watched as a seventy-foot yacht took to the open seas. A camera then snapped pictures of the lower deck, revealing three staterooms -- the master stateroom at the port, one starboard, and one guestroom that was located to the port.
The family saw the galley and the crew's quarters, which was essentially two bunk beds, drawers, and a DVD system as well as a bath with shower.
There was a salon equipped with a leather sofa, loveseat, cabinets, and entertainment center.
“Hey, it's a central vac,” Lulu giggled, recognizing one of the outlets.
“That's right, Little Bit,” Daniel quietly confirmed.
On the upper deck, the camera revealed a lovely salon with a complete entertainment center and wet bar. Next to it was another bathroom, easily accessible for day use. The portside galley included a refrigerator, microwave/convection oven, and four-burner stove. The camera shifted to reveal the navigation area and helm center.
Then the camera went back out on deck, taking a closer look at the swimming platform and skiff.
“Bet it's got a lot of power,” Jeff commented.
“Uh, fifteen hundred horsepower,” Daniel answered with a bit of an edge in his voice.
As the children continued to marvel at the yacht, Jack looked at Daniel, the light beginning to dawn.
“Oh my gosh!” Jennifer exclaimed. “It's Homer!”
The very last shot of the vessel revealed the yacht's name -- Homer. The children gasped, many of them connecting the dots as well.
“Happy birthday, Jack. I hope you don't think I went ... overboard,” Daniel intoned nervously, a small smile on his face from his pun.
“WE OWN A BOAT!” Jonny cheered.
“Not a boat, Jonny,” Little Danny corrected. “It's a yacht! Daddy, when do we get to go on our yacht?”
“You love the sea,” Daniel practically whispered. “I thought ... I mean, it's a great family ... I wanted you to ... you love the sea,” he stammered.
Jack's eyes returned to the large screen TV and Homer. He cocked his head slightly and smiled. Getting up, he walked over to his husband, pulling him up and into his arms.
“You bought us a yacht?” Jack asked softly. When Daniel answered with several short, quick nods of his head, Jack kissed him tenderly. “You never cease to amaze me, Danny.”
“It's uh ... you like it?” Daniel asked.
“I love it. I love *you*,” Jack said, caressing his Love's cheek. “Where's our yacht?”
“Well, right now, it's in Marina Del Rey,” Daniel answered.
“In California?” Jennifer asked.
“In California,” Daniel acknowledged, briefly looking at the teenager. “Jack, we'll have a lot to do. I mean, I figured we'd keep it at the cabin in Minnesota, but ...”
“We need a dry dock,” Jack surmised.
“We should rebuild the boat house, too, so ... it's an even bigger expense,” Daniel stated, still feeling a bit nervous about his present.
Daniel's concerns were silenced by more kisses, accompanied by even more kisses, and Aislinn joking, “Pa et Papa s'embrassent dans la maison.”
Jennifer responded in the same language, saying, “Pa et Papa s'embrassent tout le temps.” She shook her head, sighing, “*All* the time.”
Jack chuckled, saying, “Dad and Daddy kissing will never stop.”
Smiling, Daniel replied, “In the house, outside the house -- like Jennifer said, all the time.”
“Never gets old,” Jack intoned.
“It better not,” Daniel lovingly admonished.
“The Homer! Perfect name,” Jack opined.
“You can change it,” Daniel stated.
“It's perfect, absolutely perfect,” Jack said before kissing his lover again.
Daniel walked out of the master bathroom, buttoning his pajama top and saying, “It was a risk, but I decided to chance it.”
Jack slipped on his pajamas, replying, “It wasn't a bad decision, Danny. I know you were nervous about it, but Brent gave you good advice.”
“You don't think I was irresponsible and putting our future at stake?” a nervous Daniel inquired.
“Angel, it was one paycheck,” Jack reasoned, dismissing his lover's anxiety. “We make good money from the government, we're doing great with J-O, and we've been lucky with the stock market.” He chuckled, marveling, “I can't believe those crazy gadgets the kids had paid for Homer.”
Daniel mused, “They stayed a fad just long enough to bring in what I needed.” When Jack let out a snort and stared at his lover with amusement, the younger man asked, “What?”
“You're as good at covert as I am now, Danny. Geez, you kept the whole thing a secret for months,” Jack opined with amazement.
“Well, we've had a lot going on this year,” Daniel noted. “We were, uh, distracted ... a lot.”
“There's that,” Jack agreed.
Daniel added, “Jack, I made enough to cover the dry dock.”
“Are you sure?” Jack asked.
As he got under the covers, Daniel smiled shyly, confessing, “I already talked to Alex, but I didn't think about the boat house. That might dip into our personal funds; I'm not sure.”
“We'll do what we have to,” Jack intoned, joining his soulmate under the sheets. “The brood will love this.”
“The yacht is big enough that we can take them all out for day cruises or sometimes we can take a few of them for overnight trips,” Daniel suggested.
“Special trips with Dad and Daddy,” Jack agreed as Daniel settled on his chest becoming Jack's warm blanket just as the older man was Daniel's comforting pillow. He chuckled, “Homer is gonna stick out a little on the ole lake.”
Daniel nodded against his soulmate's chest, his fingers toying with the gray chest hairs he found so sexy, and replied, “Some others closer to the river have some forty-footers; we're definitely the largest, but we have plenty of room to navigate.”
“I can't wait to try Homer out,” Jack stated happily.
After a minute of quiet, Daniel hesitantly sighed, “Jack ...”
“Angel, we normally don't go crazy like this with money without conferring with each other, but I bought you a car once. The yacht is like that car. It's okay to be crazy every now and then,” Jack asserted.
“Every now and then,” Daniel chuckled. ~Oh, why not. No one will hear -- I don't think.~ He placed a kiss on Jack's chest and then got up, surprising his lover. “I'll be right back.”
“Hey, where are you going?” Jack groused as he sat up.
“To make sure the children are asleep,” Daniel answered as he slipped his bare feet into his slippers.
“Don't, uh, go anywhere,” the archaeologist said, extending out his right hand, motioning for his lover to stay put.
“Where would I go?” Jack whined.
“Just ... stay!” Daniel ordered, walking out the door.
“Woof!” Jack obediently responded, making a face as he plopped back down on the bed.
“Uh, Jack, I do have another present for you, but I was so nervous about the yacht, and ... well, let's just wait until our next date night.”
Quietly, Daniel made his way throughout the long corridor, making sure the youngest children were asleep. He really wasn't worried about Jennifer and Jeff, so didn't do a check of their second floor bedrooms. However, he watched over David for a couple of minutes and then stood in the doorway of Chenoa and Lulu's bedroom, watching them sleep.
~Please don't wake up,~ the wary man begged in silence. Determining that he either had to risk it or give it up, Daniel returned to the master bedroom, locking the door behind him, something Jack immediately noted.
“What's up, Doc?” Jack asked seductively, arching his eyebrows as he sensed some hanky panky coming his way.
“I ... have to go to the bathroom,” Daniel answered flatly, disappearing into the room.
Jack groaned, pulling the covers over his head. Peeking out the bathroom door, Daniel smiled.
~He thinks he's not getting any on his birthday! Good!~ Daniel thought as he proceeded with his plan.
Daniel crossed over to the walk-in closet, stealthily pulling an item off the rack and then returning to the bathroom undetected by his husband, who was making all kinds of grizzly bear noises underneath the covers.
Finally, Daniel emerged from the bathroom, stunning his lover who was now sitting up against the headboard.
His eyes nearly popping out of his head, Jack asked, “Danny, a little overdressed for bed, aren't you?” Silently, though, he thought, ~Oh, yeah, that's one hot tamale, and I'm ready to taste him.~
The younger man was dressed in a tuxedo, looking quite dapper and handsome. With a confident smile, Daniel made a shushing motion with his fingers, after which he used their remote control to set the lighting of the room to his desires. When that was done, he turned on the CD player, hoping the volume wasn't loud enough to disturb the children in the nearby bedrooms.
As Daniel began to play with his cufflinks, the CD remix he had secretly been working on for the past couple of months began. Wiggling his hips once, he sang along with the music.
I get no kick from champagne.
Mere alcohol doesn't thrill me at all,
So tell me why should it be true
That I get a kick out of you?
Daniel popped off his links, tossing them to his lover who had scooted to the midpoint of their large bed. He continued his musical rambling, working the studs out of their holes in his pleated-front shirt in synch with the beat of the music.
I get a kick ev'rytime I see
You standing there before me.
I get a kick though it's clear to me
You obviously don't adore me.
I get no kick in a plane,
Flying too high with some guy in the sky
Is my idea of nothing to do,
Yet I get a kick out of you.
Keeping his movements in time with the music, Daniel worked his way over to the nightstand to drop the studs one-by-one with his right hand while playing now-you-see-it-now-you-don't with the left front of his shirt. On the next 'kick' in the song, Daniel kicked his shoes in Jack's direction.
As he sang the last 'kick', Daniel's pelvis thrust toward Jack, the older man beginning to salivate at the sight of his lover, who had just removed his cummerbund, running it over Jack's silver-gray hair before dropping it into the man's lap. Jack sat in bed, open-mouthed as Daniel moved back to 'center stage' and posed, seductively, for a second, as a familiar opening drum rhythm played. The stripping man snapped his fingers in time with the beat until the lyrics started, and his movements became more erotic as he sang:
Never know how much I love you (Daniel pointed to himself and then at Jack.)
Never know how much I care (He turned his back to his husband.)
When you put your arms around me (Self-hugging, Daniel pulled his jacket over his head.)
I get a fever that's so hard to bear (The erotic dancer turned and tossed his jacket to Jack, while thrusting his pelvis with the drum beat.)
You give me fever (you give me fever) when you kiss me (Daniel thrusted, pulled the braces off his shoulders, and then moved as if he were bending Jack back to kiss him while he hooked his big toe in the top of the opposite sock and deftly removed them.)
Fever when you hold me tight (you give me fever) (Daniel undid his bow tie, twirled it as he arched his eyebrows, and tossed it to Jack.)
Fever ... in the mornin' (The sexy male stripper did the same thing with his shirt as he had done with his jacket a minute earlier.)
Fever all through the night
As the song faded and Daniel resumed his position at 'center stage', Jack said non-verbally, **I hope you paid my life insurance and put 911 on speed dial.**
The strains of the next song started, and though Daniel blushed, he never missed a beat. He reached behind his neck and peeled his tight-fitting undershirt off in one smooth motion, and tossed it over onto the bed with his jacket and shirt.
“Pardon me, Boy, is that the Chatanooga Choo Choo?” Daniel sang, unzipping his trousers and stepping out of them. He danced with them like a towel seductively covering his rump, as if he were naked, though in reality, he still had on boxer shorts. These weren't just any boxers, though. They were sexy boxers, cut very short in the leg, obviously tenting in the front.
“I'm gonna board, the Chattanooga Choo-Choo, I've got my fare, and just a little to spare.” (Daniel tossed down his trousers, leaving him with nothing on but the sexy boxers.)
“Danny, you're killin' me here. You're gonna have to explain why I'm lying in my coffin, grinnin' like the Cheshire cat. 'We're sorry, Doctor Jackson-O-Neill, but we just couldn't get that smile off his face',” Jack mused as the song played on.
“Wait for it, Babe, wait for it. Just a couple minutes more,” Daniel urged, staying right in character as his strip tease was about to reach its climax. As the song reached its crescendo, he stood with his left side to Jack and thrust his pelvis in synch with the music, turning to the front as he sang, “So Chattanooga Choo-Choo, won't you bring me on home. Bring it on home. Bring it on home.”
Just before the last “Bring it on home”, Daniel pulled the snaps on his fly open and let his length pop out. Before Jack could get a good look, he turned his back, bent over, and wiggled his butt.
Jack started to laugh upon hearing this last phrase of the song because across the back of those sexy red and white striped boxers, in large navy blue letters, was the word 'caboose'.
“No fair!” Jack laughed. “No fair to get me all excited and then make me laugh like that!”
“So, I take that means you don't want the finale?” Daniel smirked.
“I'll take your finale, Angel, and a couple of encores, too. Get your sweet caboose over here,” the older man lovingly ordered.
Echoing his lover's laughter, Daniel removed the final article of clothing, and, wearing only a smile, joined him in bed for a very fast, but very satisfying ride on the Lover's Express, followed by two much more leisurely, scenic, trips.
Jack's birthday was one for the books, a special day he'd never forget, thanks in large part to his sexy archaeologist and his lovely caboose.
Two days later, Jack and Daniel were still anxiously awaiting word from the President, both a bit nervous as more time passed without a decision, something the lovers found to be very disturbing. While they hadn't talked about it much, both knew they couldn't abide by a decision that would prevent the residents of Plantacia from returning to Earth. They also knew if they had to act on their own, it would cause a major upheaval at the SGC as well.
On this day, Jack was out running some errands, Jeff and Jennifer were in school, the Munchkins were at their day camp, and Daniel was home with the rest of the children. At the moment, the archaeologist was in the garage, sorting the laundry. Chenoa and Lulu were helping him while David was in the living room, playing chess with Jenny while Ricky was making pictures on his Etch-A-Sketch. Brianna was upstairs in her room, reading a book about dolphins.
When the phone rang, Lulu looked up with anticipation in her eyes and, seeing her father's nod, picked up the cordless phone Daniel had brought out with them.
“Jackson-O'Neill residence, Lulu speaking. How are you today?” the curly-haired girl greeted enthusiastically.
Daniel smiled at the long greeting that ended with a question as he continued to fold a sheet. He looked up again when he heard Lulu say, “Hi, Aunt Catherine ... Fine ... Jonny says his butt still hurts.” Lulu turned her back on Daniel and whispered, “But Aunt Sam gave them ice cream the other night anyway.”
Daniel barely managed to suppress the chuckle within him. He and Jack had told Sam to use her own judgement with Jonny and Little Danny that night, and, of course, both boys had told their parents they had eaten the ice cream before going to bed.
“Yay! When are you coming? ... Okay ... Love you, Aunt Catherine,” Lulu said, turning back around and reaching out towards Daniel with the phone. “It's Aunt Catherine,” she told him.
“It is?” Daniel asked as if totally surprised, taking the phone. “Thank you, Lulu.” Putting the phone to his ear, he greeted, “Catherine, it's good to hear from you.”
“Daniel, how are you?” Catherine asked jovially.
“Fine -- uh, all things considered, I guess,” Daniel lamented a bit quietly.
“Still no word from President Hayes?” the white-haired woman asked, feeling sympathetic for her friends' current situation, and having previously been advised of the situation by Daniel.
“No, not yet, but he'd ... I mean, I hope he gets back to us soon,” Daniel told the woman who was both a mentor and a mother-figure to him.
“You've changed, Daniel,” Catherine smirked, adding, “I like it.”
“I'm not sure what that means,” Daniel responded. ~Is that good or bad?~
“It means you not only fight for what you believe in, but you won't let anyone push you around, either.” Catherine laughed, “Maybe you haven't changed so much after all. You and Jack do what you know is right.”
“We will. Lulu said something about you coming for a visit? Are you?” Daniel asked cheerfully.
“I realize it might not be the best time, but Ernest and I would like to discuss something very important with you, Jack, and the children,” Catherine stated.
“Important?” Daniel queried.
“Yes, very,” the stately woman replied. “We're still working out our plans, but we'd like to come at the end of the month, or the first week in November, whichever is better for you.”
“Until we know what's happening with Billy, things are a bit tentative around here,” Daniel responded, quickly adding, “But, please, come and see us whenever you like.”
“Thank you, Daniel,” Catherine responded, smiling. “We'll aim for the first week in November. Would you mind if we brought Ptolemy with us? She hates to be alone when we're both gone.”
“Noa will be in heaven,” Daniel chuckled. “Bring her along. Do we need to do anything special for Ptolemy?”
“No, not really,” Catherine responded. “Except we'll need a place to put her cage. Would it be possible to place it by the window that looks out at the pod, right inside the recreation room?”
“Uh, yeah, sure, we can do that. There's just a small table there, but we can move it. Sure, no problem,” Daniel stated. “Do we get a hint about whatever it is you want to discuss?”
“Daniel, you *love* mysteries. Think of this as a mystery,” the woman teased. “We'll give you a call before coming, unless, of course, you'd rather we'd postpone indefinitely because of Billy or ...”
“Catherine, don't be silly. You're always welcome here; you know that,” Daniel intoned lovingly.
The two finished their conversation, and Daniel hung up the phone.
“When are they coming?” Lulu asked eagerly.
“And what will make me happy?” Chenoa asked.
“Aunt Catherine and Uncle Ernest are coming here the first week in November, and they are bringing Ptolemy with them for a short visit,” Daniel announced.
Chenoa's eyes grew wide, and then she and Lulu clapped each other's hands and did a little happy dance.
Daniel laughed, but, after a minute, he reined in the girls, saying, “Okay, Girls, we have a lot to do. Let's finish the laundry.”
Settling into the truck after picking up some dry cleaning, Jack checked the messages on his cell phone, finding one from General Hammond. Since the Mountain wasn't too far away, he decided to drop by, rather than call.
Once inside the Cheyenne Mountain Complex, Jack made his way to Hammond's office. He tapped on the doorway lightly, noticing the bald-headed man was on the phone.
Hammond held up his hand, signaling for Jack to enter and take a seat, which he did. Hammond laughed and made some casual comments, so Jack surmised it was probably a personal call.
Hanging up, Hammond announced, “That was Tessa.”
“How's she doing?” Jack asked about Hammond's granddaughter.
“Very well,” Hammond answered. “Jack, I'm glad you came by.”
“Have you heard from the President?” Jack asked anxiously.
“Not yet, but I wanted to fill you in on the outcome of Lieutenant Huruki's review,” Hammond stated. Seeing Jack nod, the man continued, “He's been reduced in rank from First to Second Lieutenant. For two months, he'll receive only half pay. He's been restricted to the base for sixty days, but will be allowed visits from his family, if he requests it.”
“Is he married, Sir?”
“No, but he his parents are living, and he has a sister who lives in Colorado Springs,” Hammond answered. Then he continued, “For forty-five days, he'll be given extended duties.”
“One day in seven?” Jack quipped, knowing that meant that in addition to Huruki's regular duties, he would be assigned extra tasks and, subsequently, would be working from roughly four in the morning until ten o'clock at night.
“Half a day on Sunday,” Hammond acknowledged. “Colonel Ferretti has agreed to keep him as a probationary member of SG-2, and I've granted Teal'c's request to oversee the lieutenant's extra duties.”
“Teal'c?” Jack asked, raising his eyebrows. “That should be entertaining,” he added.
“Jack, if Lieutenant Huruki survives the next two months, he should make a great Marine,” Hammond opined.
“If he survives,” Jack commented.
After helping Daniel with the laundry, Chenoa and Lulu were about to practice their dancing when Jack walked in the door. He was promptly swamped by excited chatter from Chenoa.
“Dad, Ptolemy is coming to visit,” Chenoa informed him, grinning. “I can't wait to see her in person. Aunt Catherine says she's really smart. She talks!”
Jack gave Daniel a confused look, but waited until he'd kissed his husband before teasingly asking, “Ptolemy is flying in for a visit -- on what, Macaw Airways?”
“I don't know if they're flying or not, but, Catherine and Ernest are coming, too,” Daniel explained, “but not until the first of November. I think they wanted to come sooner, but with everything going on ...”
“Yeah,” Jack acknowledged, nodding his head slightly.
“Dad, Daddy, can we go get some bird food for Ptolemy? We have to make her feel welcome. Pleeeeeeease!” Chenoa begged enthusiastically.
Hearing the telephone ring, Daniel was saved from having to answer and left Jack to deal with Chenoa's energy. He smiled as he otherwise ignored his lover's shout of 'coward.'
“Hello, Jackson-O'Neill residence,” the archaeologist answered, watching as Jack slowly crumbled under the force of Chenoa's puppy dog eyes and pout. “General ... he does? ... We'll have to bring Bri, David, the twins, Noa, and Lulu ... Okay, see you in an hour.” He hung up the phone and decided to save Jack from having to capitulate. “Okay, Girls, Grandpa George needs to see us at the Mountain. Go get your coats, and on the way home, we'll stop in at Petco and see what they have. Then later when Catherine calls again, we can find out what kind of food to get for Ptolemy.”
“Yay,” Noa cheered.
“Noa, let's get the others,” Lulu urged as she pulled her sister towards the game room to round up their siblings.
“I was just with Hammond,” Jack informed his husband.
“Yeah, Huruki is in for a nightmare, but he'll come out of it a true Marine and a better man if he gets through it in one piece,” the older man commented.
“That bad?” Daniel asked.
“Teal'c is in charge of his extra duties,” Jack announced.
“That bad,” Daniel repeated, certainty in his words.
“So, did the President call?” Jack questioned, taking the opportunity to slide his arms around his soulmate.
As he leaned into the embrace, Daniel answered, “Yes, President Hayes has made his decision. Apparently, he won't tell Hammond what it is without us being present.”
The two stood there for a few moments taking comfort from each other, knowing that the time had come when they may have to walk away from the SGC.
“Danny, you know Catherine is bound to bring her own pet food for the dang bird,” Jack stated.
“Probably, but it will make the girls happy to have some here. Aren't their smiles worth a trip to the store?” Daniel asked, kissing his lover.
“Yeah, their smiles are worth ... just about anything,” Jack agreed, taking another moment to share yet another kiss, one that caused both to wish they could 'play' awhile.
“Mmmm ... Hammond ... bird ... we have to go,” Daniel said regretfully.
Jack nodded and started to round up the children for their trip to the Mountain.
With the children in the infirmary under the watchful eye of Janet, Jack and Daniel sat impatiently in Hammond's office, waiting for the anticipated phone call from the White House.
“I hate waiting,” Jack commented as he rubbed his hands together.
“Me, too,” Daniel agreed, standing and moving to stand behind his chair. He folded his arms across his chest and asked, “Did he give you any idea what his decision was, Sir?” he asked.
“None,” Hammond answered.
A few minutes later, the call came through, and, after a few preliminaries, Hammond reached over and pressed a button, following the President's instructions.
“Mister President, I've placed you on speaker. Both General O'Neill and Doctor Jackson are here,” Hammond stated matter-of-factly.
“Jack, Daniel,” Hayes greeted.
“Mister President,” Daniel replied.
“Sir,” Jack acknowledged.
“As I'm sure George told you, I've reached a decision, and I want you to know, it wasn't an easy one,” Hayes began. Hearing silence over the phone, Hayes continued, “The issues of morality and ethics are complex, as are the very valid concerns of national security. I have serious doubts about what we're about to do, but, in the end, it comes down to doing what's right. We're going to require the inhabitants of Plantacia to sign a confidentiality statement that will include forgetting about the existence of the Stargate.”
Jack looked over at Daniel, hope in his eyes.
Hayes continued, “If they agree to sign the statement, we'll bring them home and help them develop a cover story they can tell, if necessary. I may regret this, but that's my decision. George, Major Pendergast will be in touch with more details tomorrow. We'll start bringing our people home on Friday.”
“Yes, Mister President,” Hammond acknowledged.
“Thank you, Sir,” Jack spoke.
“We appreciate it, Sir,” Daniel added.
Hayes disconnected the call, and Hammond opined, “I suppose you know how big of a risk this is.”
“There's risk in everything, General,” Daniel replied.
“We'll have to hope for the best with these people,” Hammond added.
Jack nodded again as he said, “At least we won't lose our off-world allies over this. It was a real possibility, General.”
“I know, Jack,” Hammond sighed. He knew the right decision had been made, but still worried about the risk to the Stargate program. ~It only takes one person to set off a potentially disastrous chain of events.~
“I heard from Catherine earlier today,” Daniel stated, hoping to lighten the mood. “She and Ernest are coming to visit in a couple of weeks.”
Hammond smiled. He knew how much the Jackson-O'Neill brood loved the elderly couple.
“I'm sure the brood are happy about that,” Hammond replied.
Jack chuckled, “Noa's over the moon. They're bringing Ptolemy.”
“She loves that bird, and she hasn't even met her yet,” Daniel commented, shaking his head in wonder.
“I'd like to meet that bird myself,” Hammond admitted. “I've heard she's a precocious thing.”
“I can't believe all the fuss everyone is making over a friggin' bird,” Jack whined.
“Jack, Ptolemy isn't just any bird,” Daniel replied.
Suddenly, Jack's eyes widened. He turned to his husband, speculating that, “Crap, Danny, after meeting the thing, Noa's going to want one.”
Daniel grinned and said, “Probably, but she's too young to have a pet like Ptolemy, Babe.”
“We're *not* adding to the zoo, Daniel,” Jack warned unnecessarily, quickly adding, “We already have two dogs, two cats, a lizard, a rabbit, two guinea pigs, a tank full of fish, and, temporarily, a pigeon. We don't need a permanent bird in our madhouse.”
“When did you get a pigeon?” Hammond asked curiously.
“Little Danny found it yesterday. It has a broken wing,” Daniel explained before turning back to his husband. “Jack, maybe we can get her a canary or something if she's that insistent. We could put a cage on her dresser.”
“Only as a last resort,” Jack reluctantly agreed. ~Geez, I see it coming. Dang canary will sing all day and night,~ he lamented silently. Then, shaking his head, he intoned, “Maybe she'll be over the wretched bird by Christmas.”
The two men said goodbye to Hammond and left his office. Hammond laughed as he heard Jack muttering about living in a madhouse and how the last thing their menagerie needed was “a talking ball of feathers.”
“Megan, how's Karissa doing?” Daniel asked over the phone.
“Good. She's prepared, Daniel, and, um, she's thrilled with her new salary, too,” Megan chuckled.
“She's going to earn it. Megan, while you're gone, she's going to have to keep the office running. She can call us, but our priority right now is Billy and getting him settled in.”
“The world has changed a lot since 1967,” Megan commented. She sighed, “I'm not sure I could handle it. Just think of the technology alone -- it'll be like 'Future Shock' to them.”
“Yeah, that's what we're worried about. Tell Karissa that we have all the faith in the world in her, and tell her it's okay to call us if she has to, but we really need her to step up to the plate and ...”
“Hit a home run,” Megan laughed. “Don't worry. We have a well-trained staff, Daniel. They'll do well.”
“Bags all packed?” Daniel asked.
“Three weeks ago,” Megan answered. “I'll be by at seven tonight to pick up Bri.”
“Megan, thank you for doing this. Bri's just been ... well, I think she's afraid something will happen to call off the trip.”
“Not a chance, Daniel. Oh, make sure you show me that communication patch of Thor's so I know what it is,” Megan requested.
“It's waterproof, Megan, and he gave us three of them. I, uh, hope you don't think we don't trust you or ...” Daniel stuttered, realizing their precautions may seem extreme.
“Daniel, no one should ever be criticized for taking care of their family. I have another call. See you soon,” Megan intoned, disconnecting the call.
“Hey, Sweetheart,” Jack called out as he entered Brianna's room. “All packed and ready to go?”
“Dad, I'm so nervous, but I'm excited, too. Thank you so much for letting me go,” Brianna said appreciatively.
As he looked down at his daughter, he smiled and said, “Make us proud.”
Looking a bit taken aback, Brianna frowned and said, “I don't understand.”
“Follow the rules; do whatever Megan says, and show Daddy and me that we made the right choice,” Jack explained.
Smiling, the young girl said, “I can do that.”
“I still think we should have gotten you another swimsuit, Bri,” Jack sighed.
“Dad, one is plenty and ...”
“Hey!” a familiar voice rang out, causing Jack to twist around. After smiling at Brianna, Sam said, “Hello, Sir.”
“Carter, what brings you here tonight? Wanna baby-sit?” Jack asked with a twinkle in his eye.
“Actually, Sir, Pete and I have plans, but I just had to bring this for Bri,” the blonde colonel said, handing the tomboy a bag.
Shyly, Brianna opened the bag, revealing the simple blue one-piece bathing suit with a dolphin pictured on it.
“I hope you like it,” Sam stated.
“It's perfect, Aunt Sam. Thank you,” Brianna said, hugging her surrogate aunt.
Sam placed a kiss on the girl's head and smiled down at her as she said, “I really do have to go, but I want to hear all about your trip and the dolphins when you ...”
“Daniel said you were up here, Sam,” Janet interrupted as she entered Brianna's bedroom.
“Not for long. Have fun, Bri. Janet, I'll call you tomorrow,” Sam spoke, making a quick exit as Brianna tossed the bag with the new suit on the bed.
“Hi, Aunt Janet,” Brianna greeted with a grin.
“Hi, Bri. All packed?” Janet asked.
Brianna looked at her bags and nodded as she took a big breath.
“Sweetie, just enjoy every moment of your trip. There'll be a lot more in your future. I'm sure of it,” Janet said, hugging her as she continued to hold a plastic bag in her hand.
“What's that, Doc?” Jack asked.
“Oh, just a little something. I know you don't like frilly things, Bri, and I promise, this isn't frilly, but when you are going to be in the water as much as you and Megan are, you can't have too many of these,” Janet opined, opening the bag and pulling out a rainbow-colored swimsuit.
“Um, thank you, Aunt Janet,” Brianna said appreciatively, though hiding an amused smile.
“I'm meeting someone for drinks, so I need to run,” Janet stated. She hugged Brianna and said, “Take care, Sweetie, and have fun!”
“I will,” Brianna asserted.
A few minutes later, Brianna's two new swimsuits were in her luggage that Jack had carried downstairs for her.
“Bri!” Jennifer called out anxiously. “I'm so sorry. I meant to make you more, but I ran out of time. I hope you like this, though,” the teenager said as she held up the swimsuit she'd sewn for her sister.
“I love it, Jen,” Brianna said, taking the purple attire that had three diagonal white stripes across the front.
“Is Bri leaving now?” David asked.
“Almost,” Jack answered. He then whistled loudly, shouting, “ATTENTION FAMILY -- TIME TO SAY GOODBYE TO BRI!”
“Dad!” Brianna admonished, feeling embarrassed by all the attention, and yet, basking in it at the same time.
Soon, the entire family was in the living room, giving Brianna hugs and encouraging words.
“Bri, Aunt Sara brought this by earlier when you and Dad were out. She's really sorry she missed you,” Daniel stated, handing over a bag to the girl.
Letting out a nervous laugh, Brianna looked inside. Sure enough, it was another swimsuit which she quickly put into her luggage.
Two minutes later, Megan arrived, every bit as excited and eager to get going as Brianna was.
“Oh, Bri, I have something for you in my bag,” Megan said.
“I know you only wanted one, but I couldn't resist, and I think you'll need it,” the woman said about the gold-colored swimsuit she described to her traveling companion.
Jack barely suppressed his chuckle as he and Brianna shared a look at how in the space of thirty minutes, the girl had gone from one swimsuit to six.
“Dad, Daddy, I am sorry about one thing,” Brianna confided.
“What, Bri?” Daniel asked.
“Not being here to meet Uncle Billy and Aunt Jilly. Maybe I should ...”
“No,” Jack quickly interjected, reaching out and taking his daughter's hands in his. “Bri, I can't wait for you to meet Billy and his wife, but this is a very special opportunity for you. Billy and Jilly will still be here when you get back, and I promise that you'll have a chance to get to know them before they leave for Australia.”
“Are you sure, Dad? I feel a little like a ... a traitor for not being here,” Brianna admitted.
Jack kissed her hand and shook his head, saying, “I'm so proud of you for even thinking about it. I want you to go, have fun, take lots of pictures, and most of all, make a lifetime of memories. I love you, Bri,” he added as he pulled her in for a hug.
“Um, we need to get going,” Karissa announced, looking at her watch. “I'm driving them to the airport; thought it might be easier.” She smiled at Little Danny who was looking at her with a sweet smile. It was so enticing, she couldn't resist, “Little Danny, would you like to come to the airport with us?” Suddenly, Karissa gasped. “Oh, I should have asked you two first. It's just ...”
Daniel laughed, looking over at his namesake who was now practically jumping up and down with joy at the thought.
“You'll mind Karissa?” Daniel asked sternly.
“Yes, Daddy. Please can I go?” the little boy requested.
“Okay, Son, but you know the rules about being out without us,” Jack reminded.
“Yes, Daddy. I'll be good,” Little Danny promised, sliding his hand into Karissa's.
**Gawd, he may never get over this crush.**
Jack laughed and communicated his agreement, and then everyone walked Megan and Brianna out to the car, waving and cheering as they drove off. It would be a brave adventure for their daughter, who had just turned eleven.
“Danny, maybe we should wait,” Jack anxiously suggested. “Bri's not here and ...”
“Jack, if we don't do it now, we won't ever do it. The only reason Bri isn't here is because we've created excuses from the day we got back from Plantacia. Oh, they're all logical and rational reasons why we've put it off, but I know us, Babe, and the more time that goes by, the more we'll convince ourselves not to follow through.”
“I don't like it,” Jack muttered, burying his head in his hands as he sat on the corner of their large bed.
Daniel walked over from the dresser, kneeling down to take Jack's hands in his. He smiled as he held the strong hands, noting that they were cold from fear at the moment. Fear? Jack Jackson-O'Neill had no fear -- except of one thing, Daniel knew -- fear of losing his family.
“Danny, we've talked to them,” Jack pointed out.
“Yes, we have, but we need to go one more step. Children are curious, and because of what we do for a living, everything about our jobs fascinates them. Jack, it's a compliment. Our children love us and, gawd, they want to be like us. Jonny finally doesn't quite have that lust for guns in his eyes that he did before Plantacia, but he's still curious. All of them are to a degree. Let's ...” Daniel ran his tongue along his lower lip, almost biting it as he struggled to convince himself again. He took a breath and continued, “Let's take the mystery out of it. One session -- one hour -- one ... squeeze of the trigger, and maybe then, we can sleep again.”
As Jack gave a reluctant nod, Daniel smiled and then kissed his anguished husband. Then they rose and hugged each other tightly.
“I'll get the brood,” Daniel said.
Several minutes later, Jack walked into the rec room, stopping to stare into the faces of his adored children. All ten were present, Aislinn sitting in Daniel's lap on one of the sectionals.
Jack drew a deep breath as he sat down on a sectional to the far right of his lover.
“Dad, is something wrong?” David asked.
“Yes and no,” Jack answered. “Jonny, come here,” he invited, holding out his arms.
Obediently, the little boy walked to his father and was lifted onto his lap. “Son, I want you to tell your brothers and sisters about what happened on Plantacia, with the P-90. I know you've told them before, but I want you to tell them again, in detail.”
“Dad, they already know,” Jonny whined.
“Jackson-O'Neill, report,” Jack ordered.
Jonny physically sat up straighter and retold his tale, not leaving anything out that he could remember. The few things he did forget, Little Danny interjected appropriately.
Jack and Daniel watched their children closely, noting a few tearing eyes and Jonny's cracked voice. When the boy was done, Jack squeezed him tightly and kissed him on his temple.
“Good report, Jonny,” Daniel whispered.
“Thank you, Soldier. Go back and sit down by your sister again,” Jack instructed, waiting for for the boy to retake his original position before continuing. “I don't like guns; yet, I do like them,” the general spoke. “As a kid, I thought they were better than ice cream.”
“No way!” Chenoa interjected, making a motion with her right hand to wave off her older father's crazy comment.
Jack smiled, saying, “Yeah, well, I liked them. Guns can make a person feel very powerful, but guns are only as good as the people who use them. We have to make intelligent choices.”
“Jonny and I made bad choices,” Little Danny commented.
“That's right,” Jack agreed. “Rules are very important, but so is not making something so mysterious and scary that wanting to touch one becomes more important than using common sense.”
“I don't understand,” Ricky said.
David leaned forward to look at his younger brother and clarified, “He means that always telling us guns are bad and to stay away from them just makes us more curious, like with Jonny. Jonny and Little Danny knew the rules, but they were too curious.”
“That's good, David,” Jack praised.
“They broke Dad and Daddy's rules because they were curious,” Ricky stated as a question of sort.
“That's affirmative,” Jack responded. “Because of that, today, we're going to do something we probably won't do again. You see, I'm ...” He paused, looking again into their faces. He shook his head, whispering, “Danny ...”
“Dad's scared,” Daniel completed. “Who knows why?”
“Charlie,” Aislinn answered, wiping away a tear. “Jonny scared him. He reminded Dad of Charlie.”
“That's correct, Ash, and now Dad is scared again because ... well, he's afraid and ... so am I ... that maybe our words aren't enough to keep you safe, so today, we're going on a field trip, and then for our homeschooling, we're all going to study the same thing for the next couple of days. You'll be assigned homework that is, uh, unusual for us.”
Jennifer gave her fathers a sympathetic smile as she deduced, “We're going to study guns, aren't we?”
“And gun safety,” Daniel noted.
“Where are we going?” Jenny asked.
“Dad called in a favor from a friend of his at the Academy. We're going to use the gun range there. We're going to see some demonstrations, and we're going to hear some stories that aren't very pretty, and, uh, then we're ... then we're going to let each of you fire a gun.”
“I don't want to,” Chenoa spoke up. “I don't like guns.”
“If you don't want to, you don't have to,” Daniel told the children. “But, and this is important, if you are the slightest bit curious, we *want* you to fire it. Dad and I want you to ... to ...”
“Not be curious,” David surmised.
Daniel nodded in affirmation, then looked at his lover and inquired, “Jack, are you ready?”
“I'll *never* be ready for this,” Jack answered truthfully. Getting up, he instructed, “Let's go.”
Jack led the way, followed by nine of the children. Daniel waited, noting Jonny was hesitating. The little boy was shuffling his feet and self-hugging a little.
“Jonny?” Daniel asked.
“Daddy, I like guns, but I don't want to make Dad so sad, and I made a promise to Charlie. I won't break my promise, but ... I like guns, Daddy,” the little boy spoke emotionally.
Daniel picked Jonny up, the little boy's hands wrapping around his neck as a few sniffles and sobs escaped.
“Shhh, it's okay, Jonny. You're just like your dad, and that's a good thing. Dad and I are so proud of you. We just want you to be responsible in the future, like we know you can be,” Daniel replied, rubbing his son's back.
Jonny sniffled lightly, “Is it okay to like guns?”
“Yes, Jonny, it's okay, as long as you obey the rules. When you're all grown up, you can do whatever you want, but right now, we need you to be a big boy and go along with what we say,” Daniel requested.
Jonny pulled back, rubbing his wet eyes, and said, “I want to be like Dad.”
“You *are*, Jonny. You are just like him,” Daniel stated.
“Little Danny wants to be just like you, Daddy,” Jonny stated with a little smile.
Daniel nodded, saying, “I think he is, but what's important is that both of you be yourselves, whoever that may be. Jonny, do you know how much of a leader you are to your siblings?”
Jonny thought, his eyes going back and forth a bit, until finally he said, “I'm the oldest Munchkin.”
“Yes, and Little Danny, Ash, Jenny, and Ricky all look up to you. You *are* their leader. What you do, how you act, the choices you make -- you set the example for them. You have a responsibility to be your best and teach them well. Son, how would you feel if Ash picked up a gun and ...”
“No, Daddy, Ash shouldn't play with guns. She doesn't know anything about them. She might get hurt,” Jonny suggested.
“But ... if you play with guns ...”
“I don't play with guns, Daddy. I want to know how to use them, when I grow up. I made a promise to Charlie. I keep my promises,” the little boy said emphatically.
“Hey, what's the hold up?” Jack asked, walking back into the rec room.
“Dad,” Jonny called out while still in Daniel's hold.
“You okay?” Jack asked, noticing the wet face and misty eyes.
“I'm a leader. We'll show Ash and the Spitfires a gun and teach them they aren't toys. I don't want to play with guns, and they won't, either. I promised Charlie!” Jonny stated. More vulnerably, he added, “I don't want to make you scared, Dad. It makes me feel bad.”
“Oh, Sport,” Jack called out, hurrying in and taking his namesake from Daniel. Holding him close, Jack spoke, “I love you so much. You make me smile, Jonny, and you fill me up with so much goodness.”
“We'll go teach them, Dad. I'll be the leader,” Jonny said, squirming out of Jack's hold until Jack put him down onto the floor. The little boy began to head for the door, saying, “We don't play with guns, Charlie!”
Jack looked over at Daniel, who smiled.
“He feels guilty,” Jack said.
“A little,” Daniel agreed. “Sometimes, Jack, a little guilt is a good thing. He's learning. He doesn't understand it all, and his logic is a little fuzzy, but he knows his siblings look up to him, and that's making a difference.”
“Two days of intensive gun study,” Jack bemoaned.
“It'll be worth it, Jack. Watch,” Daniel urged.
Jack nodded, and then the two went outside to take their children on their field trip to the Air Force Academy. It wasn't Jack's first choice on how to spend a Sunday, but, in the end, he knew they'd made the right decision, especially after watching Jonny become an advocate for not playing with guns.
“Lou, what's the scoop?” Jack asked eagerly two days later, the gun homeschooling program completed and now, thankfully, a part of the past.
Lou had just returned from Plantacia to give General Hammond a report. After Hayes had given his decision, a confidentiality agreement was devised. It took two days to settle on the language. Jack had wanted to go back to the planet with the decision, but he and Daniel both had to remain on Earth to give the womis its required nutrients.
Janet had checked on the womis several times and determined that things looked fine. Still, after conferring with the physicians on Pierola, the doctors felt that Jack and Daniel needed to provide extra nutrients a bit longer than originally thought. Since this was nutrient giving day, Jack was on a schedule. In fact, he only had a few minutes to hear Lou's report before returning home.
“It looks good, Jack,” Lou reported informally. “The folks just want to come home. Major Davis is staying behind to answer their questions.”
“What about Billy?” Jack asked anxiously.
“He and the Mrs. are excited about meeting the rest of the brood,” Lou answered. “They'll be in the first group.”
Jack wanted to ask if that was the way it should be, but he stopped himself.
~No, this time, I'm putting my family first. I want Billy and Jilly home,~ Jack privately admitted.
“He's excited, Jack,” Lou spoke as the two headed for Hammond's office.
“He's not the only one, Lou,” Jack responded.
“It sure would be strange to wake up one day and find out that your life wasn't what you thought,” the colonel commented.
“Twilight Zone for real,” Jack said, walking up the steps to the next level. “It's supposed to be a TV show, not real life.”
“Maybe, Pal, but this real-life Twilight Zone just got you one very alive once-thought-dead brother and a lot of nieces, nephews, and cousins. Your Christmas budget just quadrupled,” Lou chuckled.
Jack rolled his eyes, joking, “I need a third job.”
The two had tiny smiles on their faces as they entered Hammond's office. The lieutenant general was just ending a call and motioned for them to sit down, which they did. A few moments later, he finished his call.
“That was Major Pendergast. The Pentagon is scrambling to reestablish personal papers for the original inhabitants taken from Earth, and to create identity records for all the residents of Plantacia.” Hammond shook his head one time, saying, “This is not an easy task. Birth certificates, wedding licenses, social security cards, school records, ID cards for the minors, passports, insurance papers ...”
“A paper trail,” Jack deduced.
“Exactly. All of the inhabitants have to have a believable history, including a work history,” Hammond noted.
“We're going to help them with that, right?” Jack inquired pointedly, his eyes wide.
“That's the goal, Jack, but they have their hands full. We're sending through a few more personnel to assist Major Davis in acquiring more information about the individuals,” Hammond stated. Looking at Lou, he instructed, “Report, Colonel.”
For the next several minutes, Lou passed on the required information from his just-concluded visit to Plantacia, while Jack listened.
“Jonny, we gotta include 'Star Wars',” Aislinn said, placing the 'Star Wars' DVD in the pile of 'must see' movies for Billy and Jilly. The two Munchkins were sorting through the family's collection of DVDs, working out which programs Billy and Jilly had to see in order to assimilate into the twenty-first century and the Jackson-O'Neill family.
Jonny nodded and added another Simpson's DVD to the pile stating, “They gotta see Sideshow Bob.”
Upstairs, David and Little Danny were compiling a list of key events that they needed to teach Billy and Jilly about. They'd decided to work back from the present day and had just reached 2001.
“Everything changed that day, didn't it, David?” Little Danny asked sadly as his brother typed into their mini history: 'September 11, 2001 - four airplanes hijacked, two crash into the World Trade Center, one crashes into the Pentagon, and the fourth crash lands in Pennsylvania when passengers try to take back control'.”
“Yes, it did,” David answered, smiling sadly at his younger brother. Not wanting to let the little boy dwell on the sorry state of the world, he quickly moved on. “What else can we include for that year?”
The two kept on working, both boys learning new facts themselves.
“David, how did they construct the Chunnel?” Little Danny asked, referring to the Channel Tunnel, also known as the Chunnel, that now connected Britain and France. His nose was scrunched up in thought as he tried to imagine how you could build a tunnel under the sea. ~I don't understand.~
“I'm not sure,” David admitted. “Let's finish our history and then we can look it up.”
David smiled at his brother's insatiable curiosity as he finished typing in his entry for 1991: 'Channel Tunnel between France and Great Britain completed.'
“How it's going?” Daniel inquired sometime later as he poked his nose in the door of David's room and smiled at the seriousness of the two faces staring at the computer screen. His smile faded as he realized that Little Danny was looking upset. “Sproglet, what's wrong?”
Little Danny turned teary eyes on his father, answering, “They built a wall down the middle of the city?”
Confused Daniel looked at David who explained, “We just reached the fall of the Berlin Wall.”
Daniel sighed and picked up his namesake, sitting him on his lap. Teary blue eyes looked at him with a heartbreaking expression of incomprehension.
“They killed people, Daddy, people who just wanted to be free. Why wouldn't they just let them go? They divided families,” the little genius stated.
“I know, Son,” Daniel said softly, hugging the boy as he wondered how he could explain the Cold War to a five year old.
“Why doesn't anything change, Daddy? People just keep being horrible to each other. I don't understand,” Little Danny stated.
“I think we need to keep remembering what the Asgard keeping telling us, Little Danny. As a race, we are very young. I believe that with time, we really will learn to be nicer to each other,” Daniel answered, hoping it would be enough.
“Really?” Little Danny asked, looking uncertain and glancing quickly at David for an indication that he believed their father's words.
“I'm sure of it,” Daniel reassured both boys. “Now, can I make a suggestion?” When both boys nodded, he said, “Why don't you put this aside for a while and work some more on the binder of 'How To's' for Uncle Billy and Aunt Jilly? They're going to need that.”
“Okay, Daddy,” Little Danny agreed, tired of being saddened by things he still didn't understand.
David nodded his affirmation and pulled out the binder they'd been working on for several days. The 'How To's' would be a much calmer task for the two.
Daniel looked across the gate room at his husband and hid a smile. Jack was bouncing up and down on the heels of his shoes with excitement as they watched the Stargate engage. It was finally Friday, and, in a few minutes, Billy and Jilly would be back on Earth. The soulmates watched the wormhole stabilize, and as they walked towards the bottom of the ramp, Lou stepped through the shimmering event horizon, closely followed by the first group of Plantacians.
“Billy!” Throwing image and restraint to the wind, Jack stepped forward and hugged his brother. ~Hot diggity dog, he's really here.~
As SGC personnel took care of the rest of the group that had come through the Gate, Jack stepped back and led Billy and Jilly over to his CO.
“General Hammond, I'd like you to meet my brother, Billy. Billy, this is General Hammond, otherwise known as Grandpa George,” Jack introduced, beaming with pride at both men.
Billy snapped off a salute, the gesture instinctive, even though it had been well over forty years since he'd been a serving member of the Air Force.
Hammond returned the salute and then stretched out his hand, greeting, “It's good to meet you, Mister O'Neill. Welcome home.”
“Thank you, Sir. It's hard to believe we're really here,” Billy confided, craning his neck around to review the strange room.
“Jack has told me a lot about you,” Hammond stated with a smile.
“Nothing too bad, I hope,” Billy mused, shooting over an amused look at his brother, who simply shrugged.
Hammond replied, “It would take a lot to surpass General O'Neill. He has a *colorful* history.”
Jack coughed, changing the subject by saying, “General Hammond, this is my sister-in-law.”
“Yes, this is my Jilly,” Billy acknowledged with a huge smile, placing his arm around Jilly's shoulders and tugging her to him.
“Mrs. O'Neill,” Hammond greeted. Looking at everyone, he pointed towards the exit and said, “If you would follow me to my office, we have a few things to discuss.” As they walked, he added, “I'm sure this is an obvious statement, but there have been a lot of changes over the last four decades.”
Looking over at Jack, Billy teased, “Yeah, my kid brother grew up.”
Daniel sniggered, “Jack grew up? When? I must've missed it.”
“Ha, ha, Snigger Boy,” Jack retaliated snarkily as he gently elbowed his husband.
“Billy, has Jack always had a penchant for ridiculous nicknames?” Daniel asked.
Jack smirked, “Who do you think I got it from?”
Jilly and Daniel exchanged sympathetic looks before a wicked grin crossed Daniel's face.
“Do you remember any of your old nicknames for Jack, Billy?” the archaeologist inquired eagerly just as his shoulder brushed the wall while rounding a corner.
Billy grinned at his brother, loving the cringe Jack gave, and began, “String Bean, Burger Boy, Chow Face ...”
“Billy, Darling, I think you're embarrassing your brother,” Jilly intervened, much to Jack's pleasure.
“That's the idea, Jilly, and I've only just begun,” Billy replied cheerfully.
“Not here, Billy,” Jilly chastised, patting her husband's arm slightly as they entered the lieutenant general's office.
As everyone laughed, Billy simply shrugged, reaching over to tap the top of Jilly's hand in acknowledgement of her words.
“Billy, what about your family?” Hammond asked as he sat down in his chair, leaning back comfortably.
“They're still packing, General,” Billy reported as he adjusted a chair for Jilly and then sat down in another chair next to her. “They've signed the papers.”
Hammond nodded, noting, “I'm aware of that.” He looked at Jack and Daniel standing by the credenza and informed them that, “The original pioneers to Plantacia are being brought back to Earth first.”
“What about their families?” Daniel queried, his hands in his pants' pockets.
“They'll be coming through a week or so later. The Pentagon felt it was best to give the older folks a chance to adapt first and maybe help with the questions when the younger ones come through,” Hammond explained.
“Now I do feel old,” Billy chimed.
“Billy, let me give you the grand tour,” Jack suggested. “You've got clearance.”
“I'm anxious to see it, Bro,” Billy responded.
“General, can we put off the official what-fors and why-nots for a little while?” Jack asked hopefully.
Hammond glanced quickly at his calendar, noting he had nothing urgent on the horizon, and answered, “It can wait until you've shown your family around.”
“Thank you, Sir,” Jack responded. As his brother stood up, Jack said, “We'll start in the most important room, the mess hall.” He put his arm around Billy's shoulder, saying, “Billy, they have the most incredible blue Jell-O here.”
Watching Jack leading his brother out of the general's office, Daniel and Jilly both shared a smile.
“He's on Cloud Nine,” Jilly commented as she, too, stood up.
“Yes, he is. Jack's really missed having his big brother around,” Daniel responded, walking a step or two towards his sister-in-law.
“I meant Billy,” Jilly chuckled. “They're a pair,” she added.
“Jilly, I hope to get to know you better soon,” Hammond intoned graciously. “Right now ...”
“Oh,” Daniel interjected, seeing the lieutenant general staring at a stack of folders he needed to review. “Jilly, let's catch up. Jack's probably hogging all the blue Jell-O.”
“Jell-O?” the woman asked, having no clue what Daniel was talking about. “Jack just mentioned that. What is ... Jell-O?”
Daniel looked at Jilly in surprise, sure that Australians had the gelled substance. Then he realized his error and clarified, “Sorry, you probably call it jelly.”
“Goodness. Blue jelly?” the woman exclaimed. “You're kidding. They actually like that stuff?”
Nodding his head, Daniel led Jilly towards the commissary to meet up with their happy spouses.
“Sir!” Sam called out, jogging down the corridor to catch up with Jack and the others. After quick greetings were exchanged, she pulled Jack aside, revealing, “We haven't solved the problem.”
“Which problem is that, Carter?”
“Why we were suddenly able to dial the Stargate on Plantacia,” Sam answered. “It doesn't make any sense.”
“What about all that moving around stuff for planets?” Jack asked.
Nodding, Sam said, “Planetary shift, but the asteroid isn't moving that quickly. Tony and Terri told us that their people were able to slow the natural movement of the asteroid when they terraformed it, giving it a more stable and fixed location.”
“How?” Jack asked, then suddenly raised his hands in fear of a prattling lecture and added, “Never mind.”
Smiling, Sam continued, “We don't really understand how they were able to do that. Frankly, it's beyond our knowledge, but if what they said is true, I doubt that Plantacia could have moved that far from its original position. There's another problem, General.”
“Carter, you're just full of sunshine today, aren't you?” Jack snarked.
Ignoring her C.O.'s retort, Sam continued, “If they built this Stargate like they said they did, we couldn't have made the hit in the first place.”
“What are you saying?”
“I don't know, but the cold dialing program uses addresses coming from the Abydos Cartouche and the ones you put there when ...”
“Yes, I know, Carter -- when they sucked my brain and downloaded all that prattle stuff,” Jack quipped, wanting to get back to his brother and sister-in-law. “What's your point?”
“I think maybe Tony and Terri know more than they've admitted to,” Sam theorized. “There's no way the address to Plantacia could be in the cold dialing program if the Stargate on Plantacia was built by Tony and Terri's race.”
“So, they stole it,” Jack responded with a shrug. “Who cares?”
Sam cocked her head, answering, “I don't know, Sir, but there are questions to be asked.”
“And, I'm sure you'll ask them,” Jack replied, giving her a wry smile before walking away to rejoin his family.
“Is everything okay, Jack?” Daniel asked when his lover returned.
“Just peachy, Daniel,” Jack responded, leading the group to their next intended destination.
Daniel smiled over at Sam who smiled in return. When he gave her a questioning look, she simply shrugged off his unasked question, waved, and walked back from where she came.
**Everything's fine, Danny. I'll fill you in later,** Jack commented as they continued their tour.
“Are you ready to see the outside world?” Jack asked as they approached the security gate.
Having completed the grand tour of the SGC and passed the required physical examinations, Billy and Jilly were cleared to leave the Mountain with Jack and Daniel. The other 'refugees' would be remaining on the base for two days of intensive lessons on the world today. They'd then be taken to their former homes, accompanied by military personnel, using cover stories of being friends of the refugees. What happened next would depend on the refugees and their desires.
“I'm not sure,” Billy admitted. “Jack, this is like a fairy tale. Gizmos and gadgets I could never even imagine. This goes beyond Jules Verne. I don't know this world,” he commented a bit despairingly.
“It'll take some time, Billy,” Daniel opined. “Trust me; you'll have lots of help catching up. David and Little Danny have spent days working on courses,” he chuckled.
“Courses?” Billy questioned.
Jack laughed, “Everything from how to use the DVD player to how to nuke an egg.”
“Nuke an egg?” Jilly asked with widened eyes. “Is that English?”
“DVD?” Billy queried at the same time.
“You'll see,” Jack promised as he checked his family out of the facility.
Daniel chuckled and added, “More than you want to. Jonny has been picking out episodes of 'The Simpsons' to show you.”
Jilly looked back at the gate they left behind, staring wondrously at the scanners and devices she couldn't comprehend. Shaking her head at this fantasy future world she was now a part of, she returned her focus to the conversation at hand.
“The Simpsons?” Billy asked. “Is that like 'Father Knows Best'?” he asked.
Jack laughed loudly, replying, “I'm not sure how to answer that.”
Daniel elaborated, “It all depends on your point of view. Culturally, things have changed dramatically since you've been on Earth. Our mores as a society are in many ways fundamentally different from the fifties. The television shows that once represented society with warmth, family values, and ... and ...”
“Sap,” Jack offered.
The linguist nodded, saying, “Sap -- they've changed as our society has changed. Home isn't Mom, Dad, and two children anymore. Dad isn't necessarily the breadwinner, Mom doesn't stay home and do all the cooking, cleaning, and running of the household, and the children do things that aren't always able to be resolved in a thirty-minute television show.”
“He means the times have changed,” Jack interpreted a bit sadly.
“I'm not sure I'll like this world, Bro,” Billy replied.
“Don't judge it too harshly,” Daniel advised. “In some ways, the changes have been good. Uh, the point is, shows don't always have happy endings anymore, and the content isn't always family oriented.”
“But you'll love 'The Simpsons',” Jack insisted.
Confused, Billy and Jilly joined their hands, more certain than before that they really weren't very prepared for the Earth of 2011.
~Oh, my!~ When they arrived at Jack's truck, Jilly laughed. Seeing their funny expressions, she explained, “The steering wheel is on the wrong side.”
Daniel gave her a sympathetic grin as he inquired, “You've never been to the States before?”
“Daniel, I'd never left Australia before. This is so surreal,” Jilly responded as she climbed into the truck and laughed again as Jack drove off. “You drive on the other side of the road, too. This is so strange.”
The trip to the Jackson-O'Neill residence was a source of amazement for both Billy and Jilly. Since it was Jilly's first time in the United States, she noticed cultural differences as well as time ones. She kept calling gas stations 'petrol stations' and drug stores 'chemists'. She was also finding it odd being in a large city. While most people may not have considered Colorado Springs a large city, to a girl who had lived most of her younger years in the outback, it certainly rated as a large city.
“Cars have definitely changed since the sixties,” Billy commented.
“So has fashion,” Jilly observed. ~I wouldn't be caught dead in those get-ups.~ “Where is their modesty?”
“Back in the fifties,” Jack answered.
“They show so much skin,” Jilly spoke with alarm. “It's not proper.”
As Jack and Daniel exchanged a look, Billy smirked, “Oh, I don't know, Darling. I could get used to this.”
Jilly shot her husband a glare, after which he recanted, “No, I couldn't get used to this. I wouldn't even want to. Shame on those ... hussies.”
“Better late than never, Billy,” Jack mused.
“Yes, maybe,” Jilly added, still staring at her husband.
“We're almost there,” Jack informed their passengers as they came to a stop at a stop sign.
Just then, another truck pulled up in the next lane, its music blaring loudly as two young men conversed.
“My goodness, what is that?” Jilly asked, covering her ears.
“Rude people,” Jack answered, grateful for the light turning green and the other truck quickly passing him.
“Isn't that against the law?” Billy asked.
“There's never a cop around when you need one,” Jack quipped.
“Actually, I meant that ... was that music?” the woman queried. “I've never heard anything like that in my life.”
“It's Rapz,” Daniel answered.
“Rapz?” Jilly echoed.
Jack spoke up, elucidating, “The latest craze -- Rap Jazz, shortened to Rapz.”
The younger man elaborated, “Rap music is essentially talking to music but with a beat. Traditionally, it was very edgy and harsh, but this current extension of it has rapper vocals to a Jazz style composition.”
“Rappers with soul,” Jack mused.
“And, people like this?” Jilly asked.
“They do this month,” Daniel answered.
“Next month, it'll be something new,” Jack opined.
“I'll stick with my harp,” Jilly responded.
“You play the harp?” Daniel inquired curiously.
“Yes, I do,” Jilly sighed. “Well, I did. I didn't have one on ... Plantacia,” she sighed, suddenly a bit saddened that she'd spent decades on an asteroid she had always thought was Earth.
The conversation continued with Jack and Daniel telling the other couple about their children's musical interests.
In what seemed like no time at all, Jack was turning into the driveway of their home. Apparently, the children were watching out for them because as soon as the truck came to a stop, Sara opened the door, and a horde of children tumbled out, running excitedly to greet their relatives.
“Uncle Billy! Aunt Jilly!”
Jonny and Little Danny threw themselves at the stunned couple, hugging them enthusiastically before dragging them over to their siblings.
“Uncle Billy, Aunt Jilly, this is Jen, David, Ash ...” Little Danny happily said as he introduced his brothers and sisters with Jonny's help.
Jack smiled at the boys enthusiasm and walked up to Sara, saying, “Thanks for watching them, Sara.”
“You're welcome, Jack.” Sara looked across at Billy, who already seemed at home with the children. She smiled and let out a happy sigh. “He's definitely your brother, Jack. His features are just like yours.”
Placing an arm around her shoulder, Jack led his ex-wife over to Billy and Jilly and announced, “Billy, Jilly, this beautiful woman is Sara Wilson.”
“It's a pleasure to meet you both,” Sara greeted, smiling.
Billy looked at Sara, a dumbstruck expression on his face as he thought, ~My brother was married to this beauty, and he let her go? He's crazy.~ He was brought out of his shock by a firm elbow in the ribs. He glared at the owner of the elbow and smiled. ~My Jilly is too smart.~
Jilly gestured towards Jack, who together with Daniel, was ushering their children inside. Neither one of them missed the gentle hand that rested briefly in the small of Daniel's back and the loving glance the two men shared.
Billy shook his head and turned back to Sara, asking bluntly, “You're really all right with their relationship?”
“It took a little getting used to, but, yes, I am,” Sara professed. Giving him a serious look, she added, “They belong together. Jack and I had a good marriage, but even so ...”
Jilly gave her a sympathetic smile, surmising, “Daniel's his soulmate.”
Sara nodded just as Jack came to the front door and chimed, “We do have a house, you know; you don't need to stand in the driveway all day.”
“Maybe we were waiting for an invitation,” Billy teased. Taking a good look at the house, he exclaimed, “Look at this place! Did you buy an inn, Bro? It's huge!”
Jack snorted, “Yeah, right,” as he looked over at his ex-wife.
“Uncle Billy, Aunt Jilly!” Little Danny came running out the door, followed by Jonny. Each began pulling the grown ups towards the house. “Come on, we've got lots to show and teach you.”
Laughing, Billy and Jilly entered the house, leaving Jack and Sara on the front porch.
“Ah, are you okay?” Jack asked sensitively.
“They're going to have lots of questions, Jack, tough questions,” Sara deduced.
“Look, you don't have to ...” Jack began, knowing many of those questions would be probing and extremely personal.
“Yes, I do. Jack, it's all right. We're both happier now than we ever were together, but ...” Sara trailed off, her right hand reaching up to brush against his left cheek.
“But,” Jack said, taking Sara's hand with his left and squeezing it. “If it gets too tough, you just signal.”
“You remember?” Sara asked about the old code they had used when they were married, one that covertly told her husband when she needed to be rescued from any given conversation or situation.
“Of course, I do,” Jack replied, grinning. “It was my idea.” After a passage of seconds and an exchange of warm remembrances, Jack asked, “Mrs. Wilson, can I buy you a drink?”
“I'd like that, General Jackson-O'Neill,” Sara replied with a sweet smile on her face.
Still holding her hand, Jack escorted Sara inside the house.
“Geez, where'd they all go?” Jack asked, realizing no one was in sight. “Danny?” Jack shouted.
“Upstairs -- grand tour,” Daniel shouted down from the hallway.
“I guess that drink will have to wait,” Sara joked, glancing at her watch. “Jack, this is really a time for you, Daniel, and the brood. Why don't I leave you alone with your brother and his wife?”
“You're family, Sara,” Jack spoke earnestly.
“Jack, how on Earth are we going to be able to explain to Billy and Jilly about us? I didn't even understand us,” the woman said, shaking her head with an amused expression.
“Maybe ...” Jack smiled. “Sara, it's all about love, and when Billy and Jilly realize how incredible you are, they're going to fall in love with you, just like Danny has, like I am. Then the questions, the whys, they just won't matter. It's all about family.”
“You're an amazing man, Jack. I'll come over tomorrow, if you like,” Sara offered.
“I'll look for the signal,” Jack promised.
Laughing, Sara gave her ex-husband a chaste kiss good-bye and joked sincerely that, “I won't need it, Jack. Billy is family, and our family is nothing if not honest with each other.”
Nodding, Jack waved as Sara disappeared out the front door.
~He's going to grill you, Sara, but you'll have him eating out of your hand in five minutes, just like you had me,~ Jack mused as he headed for the stairs to join up with the rest of the family.
“This is Bogey,” Jonny said proudly as the grand tour continued. He lovingly stroked his lizard and then held him out to Jilly, a mischievous look in his eye, as he asked, “Want to hold him?”
“Sure,” Jilly answered, not the least bit phased by the creature, as she took the lizard and stroked his back admiringly. “He's great, Jonny. What do you feed him?” She looked up at the sound of muffled laughter coming from the doorway, then noticed Jonny's crestfallen expression. “What's wrong? Did I say something wrong?”
Billy grinned at his wife and shook his head as he explained, “I'm guessing that Jonny tries this on most people, Dear, and their usual reaction is to shriek and back away, not take hold of Bogey and try to get a closer look.”
Jonny scuffed the carpet with his shoe, saying, “They don't always shriek.”
Jilly gave him an apologetic smile, explaining, “I'm sorry, Jonny, I grew up in the Australian outback where spiders, snakes, and lizards were common. They don't scare me nearly as much as all this new technology Billy and I need to get used to.”
Little Danny grinned as he interjected, “It'll be easy, Aunt Jilly. We'll all help you.”
Billy ruffled the little boy's hair, responding, “So when are we going to see Toto and Bean Sprout?”
Jack had come up just in time to hear his brother's request and proudly led the way to the den. As they walked he explained about the monitor they kept downstairs normally and how the children would talk to Bean Sprout. Reluctantly, they had again put the devices away, not wanting to risk the youngest Plantacia O'Neills not understanding the need for secrecy about the new Jackson-O'Neill baby. The monitor and equipment wouldn't be returned until the group eventually departed for Australia.
“Still sounds like science fiction, Bro, and I ...” Billy stopped upon following Jack and Daniel into the den. He had been surrounded by ten loud children, but now, he felt nothing but air around him. Looking back, he saw all the brood just staring as they stood in the doorway. “Jack?”
Jack and Daniel turned around at the same time.
“Brood, come on in,” Daniel invited, after which the children eagerly came in, smiles on their faces.
“With Toto here, they've been told not to come in uninvited,” Jack added.
“We're not supposed to come in anyway unless Daddy says it's okay,” Little Danny said guiltily, knowing he'd been breaking the rules for a long time.
Daniel walked over and knelt down in front of his namesake and said, “And from now on, we're *all* going to follow that rule, right?”
Little Danny nodded, and Daniel sighed, standing up straight and picking up his son in the process.
“I love you,” Daniel stated. “You're just so curious, and you want to learn. I understand that, but ...” Daniel stopped purposefully, his eyes and tone indicating he wanted a response from the young boy.
“But I should ask you, and trust you to teach me when it's okay for you to teach me,” the little boy answered.
“Let's go over here, and you can teach Billy and Jilly all about the womis, okay?” Daniel suggested, sure that would make his son happy.
“I can?” the child prodigy asked.
“Yes, you can,” Daniel replied, smiling.
As they stood by the shelf, Little Danny began his oration, telling his new relatives everything he had learned about the womis.
“There's a baby, a human baby, in there?” Jilly asked, wanting to believe them, but just not understanding how it was possible, even with all she had heard.
“It's a miracle, Jack,” Billy observed.
“I'm their miracle,” Aislinn spoke up from the back of the room.
Jack grinned as he moved through the others, picking the little girl up, and saying, “You sure are, Ash. We had no clue, none at all, that we'd be so lucky to have a little miracle like you.” He kissed his blushing daughter, adding, “Our first miracle.”
Aislinn thought for a minute and nodded, then hugged her father closely. A deal had just been made. Bean Sprout was a miracle, but Aislinn would always be their first miracle.
“Dad, you look like me!” a grinning Jonny observed.
The family was looking at slides of Jack and Billy from when they were children. Although they'd planned to begin from the time when Billy had gone missing, the children and Jilly had been eager to see the two O'Neill men as boys, so they had started further back. The current slide in the projector showed a five-year-old Jack playing with his older brother at the cabin in Minnesota.
“Dad's older so you look like him,” Little Danny corrected.
Jonny simply shrugged and grinned at his father as he commented, “We're cute, aren't we, Dad?”
There were snorts of laughter from the older members of the family at that, prompting Jack to shake his head as he answered, “Yes, we are, Son, but let's try to be modest as well.”
“Okay, Dad,” Jonny agreed.
The next slide showed Jack and Billy with their grandfather, who was obviously trying to teach Jack how to fish. Billy started laughing, causing Jack to scowl.
“Ah, Jack, it was funny. You have to admit that,” Billy cajoled.
“Shut up, Billy,” an unamused Jack replied.
Daniel grinned and prodded, “I sense a story here. Billy?”
“Grandpa was trying to teach Jack how to cast a line. I think we can safely say Jack was not a natural,” Billy answered.
“Really?” Ricky said, amazed at this information, having watched his father effortlessly cast his fishing line into the water many times.
“Really,” Billy confirmed. “On his first attempt, Jackie Boy got himself tangled up in the line, tripped, and fell into the lake.”
“Okay, time to move on,” Jack huffed over the giggles and laughter that met Billy's tale. He moved the next slide into the projector only to discover that no one was paying attention. They were all looking at Billy. ~When did I lose control?~
“On his second attempt, Jack swung the fishing rod backwards so hard that it flew out of his hand and ended up in a nearby tree,” Billy told the family.
Jack groaned and shook his head, looking at Billy sorrowfully as he said, “You know, they already think I stink at catching fish, and you're not helping to change that opinion.”
Still grinning, Little Danny climbed onto his father's lap and hugged him as he said, “You're good at catching fish, Dad ...”
“But there are no fish in the lake,” the rest of the children chorused with a laugh.
Daniel looked at Billy with a raised eyebrow and asked, “Was that the end of fishing disasters?”
Billy shook his head, adding, “My favorite was when he got the back swing right, swung the fishing rod forward, and it kept going into the lake. You should have seen his face.”
“I can't believe Grandpa made me go dive for it,” Jack grumbled.
Billy laughed, “He knew if you had to spend the afternoon looking for it, you'd always remember fishing requires finesse, not brute strength.”
“Did you find the fishing rod, Dad?” Jenny asked.
Jack shook his head, answering, “Nope. It's probably still down there.”
“There's lots to learn,” Little Danny said later in the evening. “David and I made this for you.”
“What is it?” Billy asked, taking the binder in his hand.
“It's a 'How To Do Everything' manual,” David answered with pride. “Can I show you?”
“Of course, David,” Billy replied.
David sat down in between Billy and Jilly while Little Danny sat on the other side of Billy on the sofa so that he could see the binder pages, too.
“We wrote down everything we could think of that you need to know. Daddy said even the littlest thing would be new to you,” David explained. “See, here's a page on how to use the microwave, the ...”
“Microwave?” Jilly asked. “What is that?”
“It's a small oven; cooks really fast,” Little Danny answered.
“Oh,” Jilly said, still confused.
“And there are 'how to use' pages for VCRs, DVDs, vacuum cleaners, digital cameras, dishwashers, ...” David said, continuing with a long list.
Laughing, Jilly interjected, “I'm not that old, boys. There were vacuum cleaners before I left. I think I still remember how to use one, and while dishwashers were a rarity, I had heard of them.”
“We have three dishwashers,” David spoke up. “One in the kitchen, and two in the hospitality room.”
“Three?” Billy queried in surprise.
“Yes,” David replied, adding, “And two stoves, plus an indoor grill and two microwaves.”
Billy and Jilly were too amazed to speak, finding it hard to imagine having so many appliances in one house.
“And we have three frig'raters,” Little Danny added.
“Where do you put three fridges?” Billy asked incredulously.
“One in the kitchen, one in the hospitality room, and one in the garage, but that one is mainly for extra soda and milk, and we put the watermelons in there,” the young Jackson-O'Neill explained.
“There are thirteen of us, counting Dad and Daddy, and Bean Sprout will make fourteen, plus we have Aunt Sam, Aunt Janet, Megan, Uncle Lou, Teal'c, Aunt Sara and Uncle Mark, and Grandpa George ...” David rattled on.
“Okay, David, I get the picture, you have a large family,” Billy laughed. “I guess you need all of that.”
“With all the traffic in and out of this big house, how many vacuum cleaners do you have?” Jilly asked curiously.
“Oh, just one,” David replied, “but four of us can use it at one time. It's built into the house. We'll show you that later. Now here's the name index ...”
“We made a photo index. That was Daddy's idea,” Little Danny cheerfully interrupted, signaling for Billy to turn the page. “See, if you don't know what something is, you can look for the picture. Here's a microwave, Aunt Jilly,” the boy pointed out.
“So, I see. Thank you, Little Danny,” the woman said, smiling. “I remember that now from the tour of the kitchen when we first arrived.”
“This is overwhelming,” Billy responded. “We've come back to a strange world, Darling.”
There was a touch of melancholy in the statement. Billy and Jilly had been amazed at the flashing signs and stores they had seen on their way to Jack's house. For that matter, even the SUV was very strange to them. They were feeling very out of place.
“Aunt Jilly,” Jennifer said, entering the room. “I can't imagine what it must be like to walk into this, but I've been really lucky to see some other worlds.”
“You have?” Billy questioned, looking at Jack for confirmation.
“Jen came up with a great idea for an exchange program for teens between different planets and ours,” Jack expounded. “It's been a great success, and she's done a superb job with it.”
“Thanks, Dad. My point is that every time I go somewhere new, where everything is different, it takes a while to adapt. I want my hair dryer and MP3 player and ...”
“MP what?” Jilly asked.
“It's a ... a music device, like a small record player,” Daniel explained.
“We're all here for you, Aunt Jilly,” David said. “We'll help you and Uncle Billy to learn. That's why Little Danny and I made the binder for you.”
“Thank you, David,” Jilly said.
“And you, too, Little Danny,” Billy added appreciatively, putting his arm around the boy and rubbing his back for a few moments.
“Anyone hungry?” Jack inquired, knowing it was actually past their dinnertime.
“Billy, Jilly, wait until you see our hospitality room in use,” Daniel said. “Our designer, Alex Dennison, convinced us that we would love this room, and he was right.”
“I insist on helping,” Jilly said, standing up. “That is, if you'll show me which magic buttons to push,” she laughed.
“Megan, is something wrong?” Daniel asked at the unexpected phone call from the woman.
“No, not at all. Actually, the trip has been wonderful, and Daniel, you would be amazed at Brianna's finesse with the dolphins. It's like she's one with them. I wish you could see her,” Megan exclaimed.
“Me, too,” Daniel said. “We're all set to ...”
“Daniel, can you get Jack and put him on the line? I'd like to ask you two something while Brianna's in her room. Hurry, it's important, and I don't want her to overhear,” Megan requested.
A minute later, Jack came on, using the line in his study, inquiring, “Megan, what's up?”
“Jack, it's like I told Daniel, Brianna has a connection with these dolphins that is unreal. In fact, there are a couple of marine biologists here who study dolphins specifically, and they are really impressed with her,” Megan explained.
“Uh, that would be Doctors Katalski and Majovavich, right?” Daniel inquired.
Megan had wired the information about the two men that she and Brianna had met halfway through their trip. Sam had quickly verified their credentials and done a level-one clearance check on them, finding nothing of concern.
“That's right,” Megan confirmed. “Anyway, they asked me if Brianna and I could stay another week. They'd like to have Brianna help them with the dolphins. It's not like the regular tour we've done; she'd actually be helping them with their studies. Jack, Daniel, it's a wonderful opportunity. I know it places more of a burden on Karissa at the office ...”
“Karissa's doing great,” Daniel commented.
“That she is,” Jack agreed. “Nothing to worry about there. When do you need an answer?”
“Before our plane leaves,” Megan laughed.
“Jack, I think we should let her,” Daniel said.
Jack sighed, nodding as he said, “Me, too. Megan, we're going to check those two out a little further. If Carter doesn't find anything checkered, plan on staying.”
“Maybe I'll record me telling her about it. If you could see her face when she's talking about swimming and playing with the dolphins, it would melt your hearts,” Megan told them.
“Thanks, Megan,” Daniel intoned. “Jack, I'm going to call Sam. You tell Bri I love her.”
Daniel disconnected his part of the call, leaving Jack to talk to their daughter while he used his cell phone to ask Sam to do a level-two check on the two scientists.
“Here you go, Bijou,” Billy said, giving her a biscuit, having already given one to Katie. “They're great dogs, Jack.”
“They're more than dogs,” Jack answered, a serious look on his face. “Long story, but they're our girls, and that's how we think of them,” he added lovingly as he watched the two beagles enjoying their treats.
“Sorry, David, so what happened?” Billy asked, returning to the conversation that had been going on before the dogs had interrupted the family meal.
“Aunt Sam told me some neat stuff about microwaves, and I got a little carried away,” David admitted.
“A little?” Daniel asked. “He destroyed the kitchen.”
“I didn't have an allowance for a year,” David exaggerated.
“We had to get a new microwave; David paid for it,” Jack clarified, adding, “but it didn't take him a year.”
“Almost,” the boy maintained.
“I didn't trust her at first,” Jennifer admitted. She saw Jack's surprise and stated, “I didn't, Dad. I couldn't understand why your ex-wife would want to be so involved with your life now. I didn't understand that she ... well, she loves you, and all of us. It's real, Uncle Billy. I know it seems strange, but Aunt Sara and Uncle Mark, they *are* family.”
“We love them,” Chenoa added. “Angela is my best friend.”
“And Angela is?” Billy asked.
Jack answered, “Sara and Mark's oldest daughter. They have a new baby, Maddy.”
“Uncle Mark's boss has horses. He takes us there sometimes,” Chenoa said excitedly.
“Uncle Mark good storyteller,” Ricky added. “He makes fun forts, too.”
“Hmm, he does, does he? I'm looking forward to meeting him,” Billy responded. Something occurred to him, and he looked at Jack curiously. “How did Sara take it when you first told her about Daniel?”
Jack and Daniel both blushed, and the older children giggled.
“He didn't tell her,” David sniggered. “She caught them red-handed, or is that red-faced, Dad?”
“Yeah, yeah, very funny,” Jack spoke as he gently cuffed the back of his son's head.
“You're just lucky Aunt Sara showed herself when she did,” Jennifer laughed. “One more minute, and it would have been really embarrassing.” Looking at her new relatives, she explained, “She saw them kissing and ...”
“Jennifer!” Daniel warned, his face growing redder. ~Gawd, why did we ever tell them that story?~
“They were going to ...”
“Jennifer Renee!” Jack chastised. ~Geez, it was embarrassing enough when it happened.~
“They were about to ...”
“Jennifer!” both men shouted in unison, causing the entire family to laugh.
“I think we get the idea, Dear,” Jilly told her.
“Well, they were, up at Pike's peak, but Aunt Sara interrupted them,” the teenage girl finally explained.
“That would have been embarrassing,” Jilly said sympathetically.
Billy just shook his head, saying, “Air Force? Discretion? Ring any bells, Bro?”
“Hey, no one ever goes there,” Jack protested.
“Except for Sara,” Daniel reminded with a grin.
“I can do discreet,” Jack huffed. ~We did discreet a lot. A LOT!~
Billy looked at the two men incredulously, asking, “Did you two really manage to keep your relationship under wraps for eight years?”
“Yes and no,” Daniel answered with a grin.
“Aunt Sam found out the first year, didn't she, Dad,” Jonny piped up, having heard the story several times over the years of his young life.
“Yes, and she helped us a lot,” Daniel admitted. Billy and Jilly were surprised by Little Danny's reaction. The young boy scowled, muttering, “They stupid rules. Stupid game. Poor Daddy.”
Done with his meal, the little boy got off his chair and walked over to Daniel, who quickly picked him up. Little Danny gave his father a big hug, then turned around, sitting on his father's lap.
The children didn't really understand the game that their fathers had needed to play to protect Jack's career. They believed it really had been a game, that Jack, Daniel, and Sam had all enjoyed playing. Of the younger children, only Little Danny with his perceptiveness and intelligence had put things together and realized that it had been something hard on them all, but particularly his Daddy.
“Are you sure you know how to be discreet, Dad? Riding through the SGC on a bicycle built for two doesn't sound very discreet to me,” Jeff asked, grinning at the amazed looks on Billy's and Jilly's faces.
“I can't believe you made General, Jack,” Billy said, sure this would be a great story to hear, too.
“Neither could he,” Daniel responded with a smirk.
“You could, though, couldn't you, Daniel?” Jilly inquired, sensing a hint of admiration in the younger man for his lover.
Daniel nodded, and Jilly saw the pride Daniel had for his lover. It warmed her heart to know that her husband's brother would be in good hands when they left for Australia. She felt guilty about splitting the two brothers up, but Billy had been adamant that he wanted to see Australia and live in the outback that he'd always heard her talk about. She was reassured by his promise that he and Jack would visit each other at least a couple of times a year.
“Dad, Daddy, can we show Billy and Jilly an episode of 'The Simpsons' now? They need to see who Homer's named after,” Jenny asked.
“Homer?” Billy inquired.
“He's our best fish,” Jenny answered, pointing towards the living room, though from their spot in the hospitality room the deluxe fish tank couldn't be seen.
“He's our new boat, too,” David added enthusiastically.
“Yacht, David,” Jennifer corrected quietly.
“And we can show them how to work the DVD player,” Little Danny said excitedly.
“Let's clean up first,” Jack suggested, standing now that everyone was through with their meal.
“I can't believe they're still watching that show,” Jilly remarked as she walked into the kitchen, shaking her head.
Daniel grinned at her. They'd already watched one episode of the animated show and, while Jilly had simply found it entertaining, Billy had become an instant addict.
“Believe it,” Daniel stated emphatically. “Jack can sit there for hours watching Homer and company.”
“We're doomed,” Jilly sighed dramatically. Chuckling, she asked, “Is there anything more I can do to help?”
“No, everything's done. I just wanted to make sure we put everything away. Sometimes, with all the distractions, a carton of milk or worse gets left out,” Daniel said. “Want to sit down?” he asked, pointing to the table in the kitchen nook.
“Yes, thank you,” Jilly replied, taking a seat. “I feel so overwhelmed by everything. I hope I can get used to this world.”
“One day at a time, Jilly, and like the brood said, we're here to help, and when you and Billy go to Australia, we're only a phone call away,” Daniel assured with a smile.
“Thank you, Daniel,” Jilly said softly. “Will you give Billy and I time to get used to all of this?”
“Oh, of course. The technology ...”
“No, I mean the idea of you and Jack. It's going to take a while to let it all sink in. I must have lived with my head in the ground, but I've never heard of such a thing as two people of the same sex falling in love and ... goodness, Daniel, even the stories the children are telling us. I ...”
Daniel smiled and replied, “We're very honest with our children. Trust me, they don't know all the details, but we're not ashamed, either, Jilly. Neither Jack nor I looked for this; it just ... it just happened one day. I, uh ...” Daniel stopped, trying to explain their love. “We have a videotape of our wedding; maybe you'd like to see it. I think it might help.”
“I'd like that,” Jilly responded warmly. “And Sara?”
“Gawd, that day at Pike's Peak, I thought I'd die. Jack and I had already decided to get married. Sara was ... well, she'd been out of our lives, but it was like Fate intervened. She, uh, wanted to hate me,” Daniel laughed lightly.
“But she couldn't?” Jilly deduced, smiling brightly. “I can understand why she had a problem.”
Daniel shrugged, trying to dismiss the compliment, and continued, “At first, Sara thought it was an affront to her. Why wasn't she good enough? Had Jack lied to her the entire time they'd been married? A funny thing happened, though -- she and Jack made peace that day. Then Sara called and said she had a friend in Canada who was a licensed minister and would we like her to perform our wedding.”
“You got married in Canada?”
The archaeologist nodded, saying, “It's legal there, and we still had to be careful here, in order to protect Jack's career. Well, we invited Sara and Mark to the wedding, and they came. I don't know, Jilly, but from that moment on, Sara and Mark they've ... they've been family.”
“Mark must be pretty incredible himself,” Jilly supposed.
“He's a great guy. He's, uh, given up a lot actually, for us, and I think that does say a lot about him,” Daniel spoke softly. “Our children are very lucky, Jilly. Jack and I have always been very, very private, but, somehow, we still have this wonderful group of friends that are family.”
“Aunt Sam, Aunt Janet, Aunt Sara ...” Jilly said about the names she'd heard several times.
“Yes, and Teal'c and Cassie,” Daniel noted. “And General Hammond.”
“General Hammond?” Jilly asked. “I remember how Jack introduced him; so ... he's a friend?”
“He's our grandfather -- mine, Jack's, and our children's, and that's a really, really long story, a good one, but very long,” Daniel stated.
“I hope you'll tell it to me before Billy and I leave,” Jilly said.
“Jilly, I know you and Billy are planning on leaving next week, but I was wondering if you'd consider extending your stay. Thanksgiving is towards the end of November, and Brianna is going to be so upset if she doesn't get to meet you. Please consider staying for a few more weeks,” Daniel requested.
“I'll talk to Billy, and we'll think about it,” Jilly promised.
“I also hope that you'll all come and visit us in Australia,” Jilly said hopefully. “From what I understand, you and Jack didn't actually make it into the outback on your last trip. Understandable, given that it was your honeymoon, but I think you'd love it.”
“I think we would, too,” Daniel agreed. He shook his head, saying, “I still can't imagine the size of your sheep and cattle stations.”
Jilly laughed, “I know it sounds huge, but you have to remember that a lot of the land isn't very fertile so you can't have that many cattle per acre. You can have higher stocking densities of cattle ...”
“More cattle per acre?” Daniel interrupted, clarifying what she meant by 'stocking densities'.
Jilly nodded and continued, “In the south where there tends to be more rainfall, you can run more cattle on less land, but I like the dryer climate of the north.”
“You really miss it, don't you?”
With a sigh of longing, Jilly fidgeted with her clasped hands as she recalled, “The colors of the outback -- well, there's nothing like it -- the red of the earth, the Aussie bush, the wildlife. While we had the nanite things in our heads I missed home, but it was like I was disconnected from feeling it. Now I just ... I need to go home.”
Daniel looked crestfallen, and Jilly reached out to squeeze his hand, saying, “But that doesn't mean we have to go next week. I promise that I'll talk to Billy about staying a bit longer. I love my husband, and I know he wants to spend more time with Jack. He was being rather self-sacrificing in planning to leave so soon. Besides,” she grinned, “I've never had a real Thanksgiving holiday before.”
“I guess it is a distinctively American holiday,” Daniel replied.
“Billy tried celebrating it the first few years, but it really didn't mean anything to most of us and so it pretty much lapsed.”
“What holidays did you celebrate on Plantacia?” Daniel asked curiously.
“The summer and winter solstice, the first day of the harvest, birthdays, and anniversaries. Then we all celebrated our own religious holidays as well.”
Daniel gave a pleasant sigh as he responded, “It sounds peaceful.”
“It was,” Jilly confirmed warmly.
It was an exhausted but happy bunch of Jackson-O'Neills that fell into bed that night. After looking through more photo albums, watching 'Star Wars', and planning the next day's activities, the younger children were virtually asleep on their feet. Jack and Daniel had gotten the 'all clear' from Sam and placed a call to Megan, giving her the okay to stay for another week. Then, after saying goodnight to their brood, including Bean Sprout, Jack and Daniel climbed into their own bed and snuggled together in their usual positions.
“Billy likes 'The Simpsons',” Daniel commented with a grin as he played with his soulmate's sexy chest hairs.
“Of course, he does; he's an O'Neill, and therefore, has good taste,” Jack smirked as he rubbed his lover's back in a circular motion.
“He seems a little more relaxed around us now,” Daniel commented, his head nuzzling up against Jack.
“Until we said goodnight,” Jack sighed. “I don't think he likes the idea of us in bed together.”
“Jack, do you like thinking about Billy and Jilly in bed together?” Daniel queried as he looked up at his lover.
“I'd rather not think about it at all, thank you, Danny,” Jack instantly replied.
Daniel smiled and said, “Exactly, Babe. Billy's only thinking about it because it's new to him. Once he gets used to it, he won't think about it any more than you think about he and Jilly.”
“You know, I'd rather not think at all. In fact, I'd rather not talk at all. Perhaps you could help me out with that?” Jack asked seductively.
Daniel was a little surprised by the question. He'd thought Jack would probably be too uncomfortable to do anything with Billy in the house, but he was more than happy to acquiesce to his lover's request.
“I think that could be arranged,” Daniel murmured, leaning over to kiss his husband. “But can I make all kinds of noises?”
Jack saying, “I was counting on it,” were the last coherent words either of them uttered before saying, “Goodnight” some time later.
For some odd reason, Jack awoke in the middle of the night and was unable to go back to sleep. He placed a tender kiss on his lover's shaggy hair, smiling at the contented moan that escaped Daniel's lips. Covertly, he slid out from beneath the younger man.
Putting on his sweats, Jack headed downstairs. He ambled into the kitchen and opened the refrigerator door, finally opting to snack on a piece of cold garlic cheese bread. When he was three-quarters of the way done with it, a noise drew his attention.
Leaving the remaining portion of bread on the counter, Jack followed the sound, quickly realizing it was coming from his study. Standing in the doorway, he smiled.
“Can't anyone sleep around here?” Jack teased, seeing his brother standing in front of the north wall.
“I slept for a while, but this kept nagging at me,” Billy commented, motioning towards a seven by nine inch frame that was on the wall. The glass protected a small photo of Jack and Billy as children, their beloved German Shepherd standing between them, on the lawn of their backyard. Next to it, was the etching of Billy's name that Jack had made upon visiting the Vietnam Memorial several years earlier. “I didn't want to talk about it during the grand tour with the kids around.”
Jack walked over to stand next to his older brother, the two of them facing the remembrance on the wall.
“Was it bad, Billy?” Jack asked.
Nodding, Billy answered, “It was a nightmare, but I don't regret going.”
Jack looked at his brother and asked, “So, you'd do it again.”
“I still believe what I told you before I left. Do you remember?” the older O'Neill inquired.
Jack smiled, answering, “How could I forget? You told me, 'We have to fight for our liberty, even if we don't always agree with the methods. Be proud, Jack. Stand up for our freedoms.' That's what you said, Bro, word for word.”
“It's the absolute truth. Nam wasn't what I thought it would be, but I wasn't wrong for going, and you weren't wrong for joining the Air Force, either,” Billy asserted. “I ... I'm glad you weren't old enough to go in country, though.”
“I've seen ... more than I care to admit,” Jack stated.
“I know, Jack. We are who we are,” Billy insisted.
Jack chuckled, “Patriotic troublemakers?”
“Whatever works, Squirt,” Billy responded.
“Squirt?” Jack questioned.
“You're still a kid to me, Jack,” Billy quickly explained. Sighing, he looked again at the framed photo and rubbing. He noticed the words “Always loved and never forgotten” written in calligraphy underneath his name. “This is a nice tribute.”
“Daniel did it,” Jack revealed, his love for his husband shining in his eyes. “He helped me through this just like he has so many other nightmares.”
“Helped you through what?” a clueless Billy inquired.
“Oh, geez, Bro, I forgot to tell you,” Jack said, twisting his body around and bringing his right hand to his head, running his fingers through his silver-gray hair.
“Forgot what?” the older O'Neill asked.
“Back in 1998, a couple of Pentagon types showed up here, telling me what I already knew, that you were a hero. They pulled out a box. Inside it was the Air Force Cross. Seems the paperwork had been lost. They found it and me,” Jack explained. “Your C.O. put in for it in September of '67.”
“Where is it?” Billy asked.
“At the Smithsonian,” Jack answered. Seeing Billy's questioning look, he told him about the visit to the Vietnam Memorial that he and Daniel had taken shortly after having been given the medal. “I stood there and stared at your name on the Wall. The medal was yours, Bro, not mine. I left it for you.” He sighed, leaning back against his desk. Facing down, he said, “They collect all the things people leave there and place them in exhibits at the Smithsonian. I checked on it during a trip to D.C. before I retired the second time. It was there. It seemed like a good place for it, for people to remember. We can get it back,” he stated.
“No, but maybe we'll go see it,” Billy responded.
Jack walked over to the wall, removed the frame, and handed it to his brother, saying, “Take this.”
For a moment, Billy considered it, but then he shook his head, replying, “Bro, Daniel did this for you, and there's just so much love here that I wouldn't feel right about it. Keep it.”
Nodding, Jack replaced the item on the wall and stood again next to his brother.
“What's with these cut-outs of two kids that look amazingly like you and Daniel as children?” Billy asked with a smile.
“You're very observant,” Jack answered. “As my husband would say, it's a long story, but a good one. Sit down, and I'll tell you all about when you first met Daniel.”
“It wasn't this month?” Billy asked.
“We were kids,” Jack chuckled as they took a seat on the old but comfortable sofa in the study. “It started on this crazy planet. We were just sitting there, minding our business, wishing for calmer and happier times when ...”
Bright and early the next morning, the door knocker banged loudly against the front door, prompting five children to immediately run to door to answer it.
At Jack's yell, the five youngest Jackson-O'Neills stopped their headlong dash for the door and, with a put upon sigh, turned to look at their father.
“Dad, we know it's Aunt Sara and Uncle Mark,” Jonny protested.
“You also know the rules, Son,” Jack reminded sternly.
Jonny gave an exasperated sigh while Billy chuckled from his spot on the sofa.
“Check the window,” Jack instructed.
“Don't need to check the window,” Jonny muttered under his breath, earning the boy more laughter from his uncle.
“He's as stubborn as you, Bro,” Billy quipped.
“I resemble that remark,” Jack responded. He hurried to the window to verify their guests, and then opened the door, inviting them inside. “Sara, Mark, Angie, and there's the little bambina! Maddy, come to Uncle Jack,” he said eagerly, taking the baby into his arms and walking into the living room.
Just then, Chenoa hurried in from the dance room and greeted, “Angela, wanna come and see my new dance?”
“Sure, Noa,” Angela responded. “Mommy?”
“In a minute, Angela. There's someone I want you to meet first,” Sara announced, smiling at Billy. “Mark, Angela, this is Jack's brother, Billy. Billy, this is my husband, Mark, and this little one is Angela.”
“And she's a pretty thing, too,” Billy said, smiling at her. “Nice to meet you, Mark,” Billy stated, rising and extending out his hand to shake Mark's.
“Pleasure to meet you, Uncle Jack's brother. Mommy, can I go now?” the little girl asked anxiously.
“Go on, Silly,” Sara said.
“And who's this?” Billy asked as he walked over to his brother.
“This is Maddy. She has Sara's nose,” Jack said with pride.
“Her name is Madeline,” Sara corrected, only to get a look of 'give it up' from her ex-husband. With a sigh, she said, “Maddy. This is one nickname of Jack's that seems to be sticking,” the blonde admitted. Looking around, she inquired, “Where's Jilly?”
“Right here. Good morning, Sara,” Jilly greeted warmly as she walked down the stairs.
“Bro, I thought you said 'new baby',” Billy mused.
Sara laughed, “He says that all the time. Maddy is eighteen months old.”
“Maddy, say it isn't so!” Jack humorously requested.
“Unca Jack funny,” the youngest Wilson giggled, causing everyone to laugh.
With the introductions made, the Wilsons followed Jack and his ever-growing family into the recreation room where they were joined a few minutes later by Daniel and some of the other children.
Billy and Jilly watched in amazement as Jack's ex-wife and her husband interacted so casually with the children. The love between them all was undeniable, and the children obeyed Sara and Mark just as they did Jack and Daniel.
“Sara, your turn. Bottom,” Jack said with a grin.
“Jack, you'll be taking care of that again very soon,” Sara reminded as she took her daughter.
“Yeah, give her back,” Jack said, deciding a refresher course wouldn't be a bad thing.
“Jack, my daughter isn't a test subject,” Sara quipped.
Jack laughed as he picked up the diaper bag and said, “Maddy trusts me, don't ya?” After the resulting giggle, he quipped, “See!”
Sara and Jilly were walking in the backyard as several of the children played outside. It was chilly, so they were bundled up in their coats.
“I keep trying to make sense of you, Sara,” Jilly stated honestly.
Sara chuckled, replying, “We hadn't spoken in years, Jack and I. I sent him an invitation to my wedding, though I didn't think he'd come, and he didn't. Then, out of the blue one day, I had this overwhelming urge to go up to this place where Jack and I used to take Charlie. It's beyond the Mountain, called Pike's Peak. It's a beautiful place, and when we first got married, Jack took me to a very secluded part of it. I guess it became ... our place.”
“Had you gone there since the divorce?” Jilly asked inquisitively.
“No, it was too painful, but on that day, Jilly, I felt possessed. I had just found out I was pregnant, and the next thing I know, I'm there, at Pike's Peak, and in front of me is my ex-husband, kissing a man,” Sara said softly.
“That must have been a shock,” Jilly surmised.
“That's putting it lightly,” Sara stated. “My whole body was numb, but once the anger passed, I saw a Jack I didn't know.”
“What do you mean, Sara?” Jilly asked as they walked the back fence area.
“He was a different man with Daniel. He was alive again, more alive than he ever was with me. Jack loved me, I don't doubt that; he still does, but he never let me in, not really. I saw enough to give Daniel a chance, and I'm glad I did,” Sara confided. “I think ... Jilly, I think Charlie wanted Jack and I to make peace. We had both moved on, but I honestly believe he wanted his parents to be close, and as strange as I know it is to people on the outside, we are.”
“I don't mean to sound presumptuous, but what about your husband?” Jilly questioned.
Sara chuckled, “He and Jack bonded. It took a while, Jilly. We shocked the bajeebies out of Jack and Daniel by accepting their invitation to their wedding, and then we invited them over for dinner after Angela was born. Jack and Mark discovered they shared more in common than ...”
“A wife?” Jilly completed for Sara.
“Yes. It still took time, but now, they are very good friends, and we trust each other with our children completely,” Sara noted.
“That I can see,” Jilly said with a smile.
“Man to man, Mark,” Billy said quietly when he and Mark were alone in the corner of the living room. “Doesn't it bother you to take care of your wife's ex-husband's children?”
Mark smiled, knowing he was in the process of being checked out by Jack's brother. It had been going on for twenty minutes, and as he had done from the beginning, he simply shook his head and maintained his love for the Jackson-O'Neill brood.
“I trust Jack and Daniel with my own children. In fact, Sara and I recently changed our wills, and should anything happen to us, we've asked Jack and Daniel to take in our girls,” Mark confided.
“Really?” a stunned Billy asked.
“That's how much I trust them. I respect your brother, Billy,” Mark professed. He sighed, “In the beginning, I admit I was leery. I went to their wedding to keep an eye on my wife, but that didn't last long. Jack's one of the good guys, and Daniel keeps him that way.”
“So, you didn't have much of a problem with their ... gender issues?” the man inquired.
Mark answered, “It took some getting used to, not because they are both men, but more that their relationship doesn't fit any stereotypes, and to be honest, that's about all I was used to. Neither one of them had been in love with a man before, and they both had good marriages to women in their history. Their 'coming out', as it were, had nothing to do with coming to terms with an attraction to men, Billy.”
“It was just love,” Billy deduced.
Nodding, Mark continued, “It was a realization that they had fallen in love with someone so deeply that the fact that they were both men didn't matter. Even gay people have difficulty comprehending their relationship, again because it goes against all stereotypes, even those that defy convention.”
Mark paused again, becoming a bit far off in his look and stance, prompting Billy to prod, “Mark, are you okay?”
Smiling, Mark answered, “I guess if I can explain it in a few sentences, I do finally understand. It's been a long time coming.”
Nodding thoughtfully, Billy replied, “Thanks, Mark. Jack has discussed his and Daniel's relationship with me several times, but the fact that you can understand and explain it so clearly helps, more than you know.”
“I still get funny looks from friends when they find out how close we are to Sara's ex,” Mark snorted. “Believe me, no one is more surprised than us, but I wouldn't change it. I went from hating the jerk to wanting to make Sara happy by indulging her desires for closure. Then, Jack and I realized we were on common ground.”
“Common ground?” Billy asked.
“We both love Sara, and we have some hobbies in common. Once I let go of what society said our relationship should be, we became family, and it's all been good,” Mark stated. He smiled, adding, “Once, I would have said you were crazy to even think I'd say this, but, Billy, I'd trust your brother with my life, and more than that, with the lives of my family. He is family, so screw the rule book.”
Billy chuckled, “That's why you two get along.”
“Excuse me?” Mark queried.
“Neither one of you likes to play by the rules,” Billy answered.
Laughing, Mark nodded and agreed, “You may be right, Billy. Maybe that's the real bond after all!”
“Boo boo ga goo chi,” Jack crooned at Maddy who laughed excitedly, her tiny arms and legs flailing about. “Yeah, I love you,” he said, leaning over and giving her a kiss on the forehead. With a reluctant sigh, he handed over the toddler to her mother, saying, “Here she is.”
“Thank you, Jack. I was beginning to think I'd never get her back,” Sara teased.
“Unca Jack!” Madeline laughed, reaching out for the man. “Hold!”
“Maddy, it's time to go home,” Sara responded. Ignoring Jack's smug expression, Sara shook her head and turned around to walk out of the room. As she did, she mumbled, “Lady killer!”
Laughing, Jack followed the two out of the room.
It was the end of their visit. The Wilsons had stayed for lunch and enjoyed getting to know Billy and Jilly, and perhaps more importantly, letting the O'Neills get to know them a bit. Jack had held Madeline just about the entire time, except for when David insisted on feeding her and then the Spitfires requested 'practice time' for when Bean Sprout was born.
“Thursday night we'll be expecting you,” Mark said graciously to Billy and Jilly who had accepted a dinner invitation to the Wilsons.
“We'll be there,” Billy acknowledged.
“Lord willing,” Jilly added, still wondering how they'd survive in the maze of Colorado Springs.
Their good-byes concluded, the Wilsons departed, and the Jackson-O'Neills returned to their activities.
Later in the day, Jennifer returned home from school and was chatting in the living room with Billy and Jilly, telling them more about her exchange program that she'd begun. All of a sudden, a noise disturbed the O'Neills.
“What is that?” Jilly asked.
“Oh, it's just Beyonce,” Jennifer replied, taking out her cell phone and seeing the caller ID. “Sheila, I'm talking with my uncle and aunt right now so I'll get back to you later. Bye.” With that, Jennifer flipped her cell phone closed and slipped it into her pocket. “So anyway, the program ...”
Twenty minutes later, Billy and Jilly were in the guest room, trying to figure out what the device was that Jennifer had.
“She said it was Beyonce. Who's Beyonce?” Jilly asked her husband.
“I don't know, Sweetheart, but if it was Beyonce, why'd she call her Sheila?” Billy asked.
Jilly began to flip through the binder that David and Little Danny had made, saying, “It doesn't look like the telephones we've seen, not even that,” she looked up, “What did they call it, Billy?”
“Less something?” Billy answered uncertainly.
“Cordless. They have a cordless phone, but it's much bigger than that whatever it was,” Jilly observed. Flipping through pages, “I just don't see it.” She sighed. “I hate this, William,” the woman sighed, reverting briefly to the formality of her husband's name.
With a smile, Billy sat down, put his arms around Jilly, and gave her a kiss on the cheek.
The husband squeezed his wife to him and said, “Now, now, Jilly. Keep hearty. We have to learn about this strange new world we're a part of. We mustn't be afraid to ask questions.”
“But that's all we do, Billy, and the more we ask, the more I don't understand,” Jilly said, letting out a sniffle.
“Shhh, Darling. We're going to be just fine. We're O'Neills, and O'Neills are survivors,” Billy assured.
Just then, peeking through the slightly open door, Little Danny saw his aunt's sadness.
“Jack's kiddies put a lot of effort into this book. I'm sure whatever that thing Jennifer had is in here somewhere. We can find it,” Billy stated. “It's small, so let's look for something small.”
“That plays a Beyonce, whatever that is,” Jilly teased.
“Beyonce is a singer,” Little Danny explained while still peeking in, surprising his relatives. Seeing his smiling uncle wave him in, the little boy explained, “Jen likes her singing.”
“Do you know what that thing was that your sister keeps in her pocket and ...” Billy began.
“It's her cell phone.” Suddenly, Little Danny gasped. “I'm sorry. I forgot to put a cell phone in the manual. Be right back,” he said, running out of the room and shouting, “DAVID, NEED YOU!”
“He is rather excitable, isn't he, Billy?” Jilly asked.
“Jack says he's a genius; I believe him,” Billy stated.
“Uncle Billy, Aunt Jilly, we're sorry. We forgot about the cell phone,” David explained about a half-hour later when he and Little Danny found their relatives in the recreation room. “Can I see that?” he asked about the binder the two were reviewing.
“Jen ... JEN!” Little Danny shouted.
“Sorry, I was distracted,” the teenager said, upon entering the room.
“Jen, show them your cell phone,” the little boy requested.
Having held the phone and reviewing the newest page to their binder, Billy and Jilly smiled. They still didn't comprehend how the device worked, but at least now they understood what had happened.
“Imagine, a telephone that has no cord, that can play music and games, take messages, wake you up ... I'm gobsmacked,” Jilly said, using Australian slang for flabbergasted.
“All right, gang! Anyone who wants to help with the Halloween decorations -- living room NOW!” Jack yelled bright and early Sunday morning.
Jack grinned at Billy, who was helping unpack boxes of decorations.
“Watch out for the stampede,” Billy laughed as all the children descended upon them, sounding a little like a horde of rhinos.
“Cutting it a bit fine this year, aren't we, Dad?” Jeff commented.
“Hey, it's been a busy year,” Jack responded defensively about his tardiness.
Jilly was peering into the boxes in amazement and asked, “What do you do with all this stuff?”
The woman looked up to see twelve stunned faces looking at her, Billy and Jack, included. Daniel sniggered until Jack thwacked him on the arm.
“D'oh!” Billy exclaimed as he imitated Homer Simpson, which triggered more sniggers from Daniel.
“You've corrupted him already, Jack!” Daniel laughed.
“I'm sorry, Darling,” Billy said, looking apologetically at his wife. “I forgot that Australians don't really celebrate Halloween.”
The twins looked aghast at this statement, and Jenny gasped in horror, “No Halloween?”
“You never trick or treat?” Ricky asked in disbelief.
Jilly shook her head, then shrugged as she explained, “Even if it was a custom followed in the city, it wouldn't be something that would work in the outback. I think you need neighbors who are closer than a four day horse ride.”
Jeff chuckled, “I think you might be right about that.”
“You come trick or treating with us on Monday, Aunt Jilly,” Jenny declared.
Jilly smiled and replied, “I'd love to, Jenny.”
This was met by delighted squeals until Lulu piped up, saying, “We have to make Aunt Jilly a costume.”
As suggestions for possible costumes began flying about, Daniel looked at Jilly, who looked a little taken aback by the whole costume idea. He suspected she knew enough about the holiday to know that adults didn't usually dress up along with the kids.
“Uh, Brood, Aunt Jilly might not want to wear a costume. She can still accompany you on your trick or treating though,” Daniel advised.
The children's disappointment was obvious, despite their attempts to hide it, causing Jilly to sigh as she looked at their sad faces and relented, saying, “I'd be happy to dress up with you all.”
Having sensed Jilly's uncertainty about dressing up, Daniel smiled and declared firmly, “We'll all dress up.”
Cheers greeted this statement, and Jack exchanged a loving glance with his husband, both marveling at the ways Daniel had changed. In the early years of their relationship, Daniel would never have suggested they dress up and go trick or treating. If fact, the first few holidays they'd celebrated together, Jack had used a mixture or coercion, bribery, and persuasion to get his lover to participate in 'kid stuff'.
“I think we've created a monster, Daniel,” Billy chuckled as he watched Jilly stalking Chenoa and Lulu with a fake skeleton, the little girls running away from 'Boney', emitting shrieks of laughter as Jonny and Little Danny joined in the fun carrying fake skeletons of their own.
It hadn't taken Jilly long to get into the holiday decorating spirit, and she had been happily helping install glowing ghouls, hanging cobwebs, and other decorations as well as enthusiastically making suggestions. The newcomer to the Jackson-O'Neill extended family was content to try anything and everything.
Sixty minutes later the house was completely decorated, and it was time for the pumpkin carving to begin. After the children recovered from their initial shock and horror that Jilly had never carved a pumpkin before, either, the carving began. As she cut the top of her pumpkin, Jilly's mouth fell open in surprise.
Jilly looked up to see confused faces looking at her and explained, “At home, pumpkins aren't like this. Only a tiny section in the center is seed and gunk, most of it is flesh. It would be really, really hard to carve anything into them. We must have a different variety of pumpkins in Australia.” She grinned and looked around, asking, “So how does one carve a pumpkin?”
With that, the Jackson-O'Neills commenced Jilly's first pumpkin carving lesson.
“Do we let them go?” Daniel asked his husband when the two were alone a bit later.
Jack groaned as he plopped down onto the edge of their bed, lying down and shaking his head back and forth.
“When did being a parent become so complicated?” the older man asked.
“Probably from the moment of conception,” Daniel answered as he sat down on his side of the bed about a foot above where Jack's head was.
“Danny, I hate the idea of them not going,” Jack confessed as the two parents discussed whether or not they should allow Jonny and Little Danny to go trick or treating with their siblings.
“We probably shouldn't take them,” Daniel said, his head bowed.
“Probably not. They broke big rules, Daniel, and if we keep letting them off the hook, they're never going to learn,” Jack remarked.
“It's their first Halloween with their Uncle Billy and Aunt Jilly,” Daniel noted.
“And probably the last since they're going to live in Oz,” Jack replied, looking over at his husband. “What do you think?”
“I asked you first,” Daniel answered.
“I hate it when you do that,” Jack grunted as he put his hands on his face, covering his eyes for a moment.
“Learned it from you,” the younger man chuckled just slightly.
“That doesn't help,” Jack said, standing back up and beginning to pace the room. “We have to be tough.”
“Yes, I guess so,” Daniel quietly agreed.
“So ...” Jack said.
“So ...” Daniel stated, standing up and approaching his lover.
“So,” both men said together.
Jack slid his arms around Daniel's waist while the younger man rested his head on his husband's shoulder. They stood there absorbing strength from each other, neither wanting to move and face the unpleasant task ahead. Knowing it wouldn't get any easier the longer they put it off, Jack reluctantly stepped back.
“Ready to go break the news to them?” Jack asked tenderly.
“No,” Daniel sighed, “but we need to do it.”
The two walked down to the rec room where the children were planning costumes for the adults to wear. The current pattern of thinking was that Jilly would go as Dorothy from “The Wizard of Oz” since Oz could also stand for Australia. Billy was to be dressed up as the scarecrow, Jack as the tin man, and Daniel as the cowardly lion.
“Sorry, Broodkins, we need to speak to Jonny and Little Danny,” Jack interrupted.
The two boys looked up and, seeing the serious expression on their fathers' faces, their own faces fell.
As he followed the two Munchkins and Daniel into the living room, Jack turned back to inform the rest of their children that, “The tin man doesn't need to be dressed in actual tin. Jeff, Jen, and David are right. Silver cardboard will do the job perfectly.”
Little Danny and Jonny followed Daniel, sitting down together on the couch. Little Danny looked up at his father, his blue eyes looking suspiciously wet.
“Jonny and I aren't going trick or treating, are we?” the child prodigy deduced.
A tear escaped Little Danny's left eye, and he brushed it away hurriedly, although not before Jonny, Daniel, and Jack, who had just come into the room, saw it.
Jonny hugged his brother and said softly, “It's okay, Little Danny. We'll go next year.”
Although Little Danny nodded, neither Jack nor Daniel missed the quick glance he gave the photo of Billy and Jilly that had now joined the other family photos on the mantle.
**Jack, I can't do it. If it was any other year, it would be different, but ...**
**I know,** Jack sighed.
**I need an 'or' Jack,** Daniel silently pleaded, knowing they needed to maintain discipline, but also needing to make an allowance.
Jack sat down beside his husband and looked at his two sons. He let silence fill the air while he desperately sought an out within his mind.
**I think I may have one, Danny. We give them a choice. Either they miss trick or treating, and their allowance and normal chores, etc. resume when we said they would, or they come trick or treating, but we extend their punishment an extra week,** Jack suggested.
**You've done it again, my fix-it man,** Daniel replied gratefully.
The two explained their proposal to the two boys, and while Little Danny immediately opted for the extension of punishment if it meant he could go trick or treating, Jonny thought about it a little more deeply before agreeing to the 'or'.
Jack and Daniel watched as the two scampered back to the rec room to finish designing the adults costumes and once they were alone again, Daniel sank into Jack's embrace with a relieved sigh.
“I will be glad when their punishment's over,” Daniel admitted. “Gawd, I hate it. I hate it, hate it, hate it, hate it, hate it!” he exclaimed, sounding more like a child than their children did.
Jack chuckled, “I have a whole new sympathy for Mom and Dad. I never realized until now that when they punished me, they were punishing themselves as well.”
Shortly after lunch, Jack took a call in his study. He smiled as he hung up the phone and headed outside
“Hey, Love,” Jack greeted his soulmate, who had just affixed a new nozzle to their hose.
“Hey. You look ... what?” Daniel questioned, knowing something was up.
“Score one for the good guys,” Jack responded. “The NID struck out.”
With a nod, Jack said, “Hayes has closed the door on Plantacia and wants the focus to be on helping the inhabitants to adjust to life back on Earth. He said where Tony and Terri end up is inconsequential and not worth the dollars it would take to locate them.”
“Well, what do you know?” Daniel said with a sly smile. He walked by his lover, patting him on the arm and saying, “I love it when the good guys win.”
“Me, too,” Jack agreed as his husband disappeared inside the house.
As he reviewed recent events, in which the aliens had inexplicably disappeared from Plantacia, which just happened to occur on the same day as the lovers visited Pike's Peak, Jack smiled, knowing their secret was safe, as were the Calkens. Of course, he and Daniel did have some unfinished business at the Peak.
~Time to plan a little surprise,~ Jack thought, deciding to surprise his lover with an afternoon of love at one of their favorite rendezvous locations.
Monday afternoon, Jeff was playing basketball with some of his friends at the school campus. There was a game later that evening, but he was opting to stay home and participate in the family Halloween festivities after spending a couple of hours with his buddies.
The teenager was too involved in his game to notice that once again, Peter Hamilton was nearby, leaning against his expensive 'toy' of a car, watching.
Peter himself was so intent on watching Jeff that he didn't notice it when an adult approached him, taking up a position about two feet away and also leaning against the red car.
“So,” Jack began. “You find it fascinating watching my son play basketball?” he asked, his eyes focused ostensibly on Jeff.
Since Jack was wearing his sunglasses, Peter wasn't really sure what the man was looking at, and it unnerved him a little bit.
“It's a free country,” the rich teenager snapped back.
“Attitude,” Jack replied.
“You're not my father,” Peter responded, not looking at Jack.
“Isn't that a blessing,” Jack replied snarkily. “If I was, you'd be in some kids' boot camp somewhere learning how to show some respect.”
“I'm not bothering anyone,” Peter stated.
~I can't believe I'm going to ask this,~ Jack thought. Still looking in the direction of the basketball players, and even though he knew the answer to the question, he asked, “Talked to my daughter recently?”
Peter glanced at Jack in disbelief, finally answering, “She won't talk to me.”
“So you've tried?” Jack asked. ~Tried to buy her, you little twerp.~
“No,” Peter answered, suddenly staring down at the cement.
“I heard she landed you on your six,” Jack commented.
“My what?” a clueless Peter asked, looking at the adult now.
Jack looked at Peter and clarified, “Your butt.”
“Oh.” Peter looked over towards Jeff and the other boys and admitted, “Yes, she did.”
“How do you feel about that?” Jack questioned.
“I deserved it,” Peter confessed, surprising Jack with the sincerity in the boy's voice.
~I don't get this kid. Geez, I should belt him all the way to ...~ Jack let out a grunt, suddenly walking two feet away from the car and then turning to face the one-time recipient of his daughter's affection. “You're lucky she didn't knock you out; she's been well-trained. For that matter, you're lucky I didn't pay you a visit. I would have, except she asked me not to, something about her not having anything black to wear,” the protective father said, letting his voice trail off.
“Maybe you should have,” Peter said, looking away. “I hurt her, and I had no right to do that, but it's just ... all the other girls ...”
“Let's get this straight,” Jack said, walking into Peter's personal space. “None of my daughters are like any other girls. None of them.”
“I know that -- now,” Peter answered.
“You do?” Jack questioned.
“Look, Mister O'Neill ...” the boy said, still letting a bit of his rebellious and arrogant attitude shine through.
“Jackson-O'Neill, and it's General,” Jack stated formally as he stared down the child who had virtually tried to attack his teenage daughter.
~Cut the bull, Peter,~ the teen told himself. Peter straightened up, nodded, and began again, saying, “General Jackson-O'Neill, it wasn't Jen knocking me down that got my attention.”
“No. It was when Doctor Jackson-O'Neill came to pick her up. I was watching from the window, and Jen walked away with such class. She held her head up high and had such poise and confidence. I knew then that I'd made a huge mistake,” Peter confided softly, his voice catching a little.
“And exactly what was your mistake?” Jack asked pointedly, not a hint of gentleness in his voice.
“I assumed she was like all the other girls. The truth is that Jen was probably the only one who really knew me at all,” Peter revealed. “She's something else, totally hot.” He stood up straighter at Jack's more heated look and explained, “I mean hot in a good way, Sir. She's ... special.” The boy slumped his shoulders as he leaned against his car and said, “I don't deserve her anyway.”
“No, you don't,” Jack agreed, turning back to watch the basketball players. “Did you apologize?”
“There didn't seem to be a reason to,” Peter answered. “She hates me.”
~I wish,~ Jack silently thought. ~Why am I saying this crap?~ “Maybe you should apologize.”
“She won't talk to me,” Peter reiterated.
“You know this *how*?” Jack inquired.
“Well, she ... I just know,” Peter answered.
“Hamilton, anyone worth having is worth fighting for. If you think my daughter is special, you have to be willing to do anything to get her, including groveling,” Jack stated with certainty.
“Groveling?” the teen questioned.
Removing his sunglasses, Jack turned to face the teen and said, “If you can't say 'you're sorry' in person and perform all kinds of silly, apologetic acts in order to gain her forgiveness, you're right, you *don't* deserve her. I don't want a boy for *my* Jennifer; I want her to find a man, someone who will stand up for her and against her when necessary.”
“I don't understand,” Peter stated.
“Someday, you will, I hope,” Jack answered, putting his sunglasses back on. “Stop watching my son playing basketball. He doesn't mind if you want to join in and play with them, but stop being a lurker. Do we understand each other?”
“Yes, Sir,” Peter answered.
“Don't use Jeff as a go-between. If you care about Jennifer, have the guts to face her in person. Have the cojones to bow down and beg her forgiveness,” Jack advised. More forcefully, he added, “Have the balls to look her square in the eye and risk being told to get lost forever. If you don't, I don't want to see or hear from you ever again,” he stated. Jack turned to face the boy and asked, “Do we understand each other?”
“Yes, General,” Peter responded.
“Good.” As he began to walk away, Jack looked at the red Lamborghini and said appreciatively, “Nice car.”
“Yeah, I guess so,” Peter sighed in response, though Jack was already gone. He looked off at Jeff and the others for a minute. Then he got into his car and started the engine. “I hate this car.”
“They are so cute!” Jilly exclaimed on Halloween night.
Dressed in her Dorothy outfit, Jilly looked at the Jackson-O'Neill brood, who, with the exception of Jennifer, were all downstairs in their Halloween costumes.
Aislinn had decided on her costume before any of her brothers and sisters and was dressed as a princess. Little Danny and Jonny were dressed up as sailors, specifically, Horatio Hornblower and his ever faithful lieutenant, William Bush. There had been some dispute about who would take the role of Hornblower, but Jonny had insisted it be Little Danny.
Ricky had decided to be Charlie from “Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,” which Jack and Daniel suspected was a subtle ploy by their son to get more chocolate among his treats. Jenny was dressed as a chess piece queen, while Chenoa and Lulu were both appropriately dressed as dancers, Lulu as a ballerina and Chenoa in a Shirley Temple-like tap dancing tuxedo.
David and Jeff had opted for the more traditional costumes, the younger boy dressed up as a mummy, while Jeff was costumed as a ghost.
“Where are you, Jen? It's time to go!” Daniel called out, smiling at the excited looks on the faces of his children.
Since he was facing away from the stairs, Daniel missed seeing Jennifer coming down them, only becoming aware of her arrival when his husband exploded into a roar.
“*Jennifer Renee Jackson-O'Neill, you are NOT wearing that out in public!*”
“Dad, I'm Christina Aguilera at the Grammy Awards when ...”
“I don't care if you're the King of England at his coronation, you are *not* wearing that!” Jack yelled.
Jennifer pouted and turned to the one whom she hoped would be more reasonable, pleading, “Daddy, Christina is a fashion leader!”
Daniel took in the outfit his teenage daughter was wearing and shook his head. It showed entirely too much cleavage, leg, and midriff for his liking, and he was definitely with Jack on this one.
“Jennifer!” Jack shouted again.
“Jack, stop shouting,” Daniel insisted as he squeezed his husband's shoulder. He turned to a now-hopeful Jennifer and stated, “I wouldn't look so optimistic, Jen. You're not going to some red carpet event, you're going trick-or-treating with your brothers and sisters. Go upstairs and change into ... Christina taking her children to the park, or something.”
“But no one will know who I am. I won't be dressed as anyone,” Jennifer argued.
“We can make you into another ghost, Jen,” Jeff suggested, secretly glad at their parents' decision. ~I don't want to have to protect her honor at school tomorrow.~
“I don't want to be a stupid ghost,” Jennifer scowled.
“Jennifer,” Jack repeated, a note of warning in his voice that the teenager didn't miss.
Quickly, the girl lost her scowl and resumed her pout while inwardly muttering about overly prudish parents.
“Jen, you can go as Christina's ghost. Just wear a sheet over that,” Little Danny suggested as he waved at his sister's outfit.
Jack and Daniel communicated their silent agreement to each other.
“That sounds reasonable,” Daniel stated. “Jack?”
“Fine,” Jack acquiesced, but quickly adding, “But if you take that sheet off, Jennifer, you'll be grounded until Christmas!”
Knowing she wasn't going to win the argument, Jennifer sighed and went with Jeff to don the extra ghost outfit he admitted he'd made. Apparently, when he'd heard about his sister's intended costume, the boy deduced she might be in need of an alternate outfit.
~Always have an 'or', as Dad says,~ Jeff silently smirked.
“Do you always go to the Mountain for Halloween?” Billy asked, surprised to find where they were headed after a long night of trick or treating throughout various neighborhoods.
“We have to, Uncle Billy,” David announced. “Aunt Janet or someone in the medical department run the candy through all their machines and make sure it's okay.”
“I no believe bad people hurt kids,” Ricky said, shaking his head, wishing he could have a bite of the candy.
“But it happens, Ricky,” Lulu stated quietly.
“Yeah,” Aislinn added. “So we have to be safe.”
“It's just a precaution,” Jennifer noted. “There's never been any incidents in our part of the Springs, but it's better to make sure.”
“Halloween isn't supposed to be a war zone, Bro,” Billy remarked.
“It shouldn't be, but there are some insane people out there, Billy,” Jack responded. “This way, we're protected, and the brood can start to enjoy their snacks on the way home.”
“We never worried about tainted candy,” Billy replied, shaking his head.
“Sometimes, we only go to homes we know,” David commented.
“Not this year,” Jonny said enthusiastically, grinning at his huge accumulation of treats.
“Yeah!” Ricky said, licking his lips as he salivated over all the chocolate.
It had been a long, long month for the Jackson-O'Neills, and November was promising to be even crazier. Still, Jack was eternally grateful for the unexpected miracle he'd been given -- the return of his older brother, Billy. He wondered what he'd done so right to have been given the wonderful life he now had, with an adorable husband, eleven superb children, two perfect dogs and an assortment of critters (even those that annoyed him), and soon, the arrival of a biological child with Daniel. To Jack, everyone was a miracle, and as October came to a close, his heart was full.
... On to Chapter Eight