Summary: Little Danny strikes again when he visits J-O Enterprises and discovers a need that resonates deep within him. Can he convince Jack and Daniel to go along?
All About the Love
Author Email: firstname.lastname@example.org (Feedback welcome)
Author Website: http://orrymain.com
Category: Slash, Drama, Romance, Established Relationship
Pairing: Jack/Daniel ... and it's all J/D
Season: Beyond the Series - August 3, 2016
Written: May 4-9, 2015
Summary: Little Danny strikes again when he visits J-O Enterprises and discovers a need that resonates deep within him. Can he convince Jack and Daniel to go along?
Disclaimer: Usual disclaimers -- not mine, wish they were, especially Daniel, and Jack, too, but they aren't. A gal can dream though!
1) Sometimes, Jack and Daniel speak almost telepathically. Their "silent" words to each other are indicated by asterisks instead of quotes, such as **Jack, we can't.**
2) Silent, unspoken thoughts by various characters are indicated with ~ in front and behind them, such as ~Where am I?~
3) This fic stands alone, but it does reference my other fic(s): "Email Education," "Thor's Gift," and "The Oasis"
All About the Love
"I don't know, Bij," Jack sighed as he kneeled down on his haunches. He was in the backyard on the grass near the doghouse. "It's not that bad yet, but it's bulging."
Bijou let out a whimper as Jack tried as gently as he could to examine her ear without hurting her.
Jack and Daniel regularly checked the family zoo for potential issues. Each one of the animals had certain health risks as part of their lineage that prevention and/or early detection could hopefully negate. An example of this were the beagles. Because of their breed, Bijou and Katie required routine examinations of their floppy ears. Ear infections, mites, or simply the act of shaking their heads too much or too violently could result in injury, primarily blood clots. They'd been fortunate thus far as neither beagle had ever had any severe ear issues.
"I'm sorry, girl."
Jack picked up the mama beagle and carried her inside the house. His hand constantly caressed her as he sought out his husband.
"What are you doing in here?" Jack asked when he found Daniel in the upstairs library.
"What does it look like I'm doing?" the younger man retorted from his chair as he held out a book in his hands. "Reading, Babe."
"Bij has a little hematoma."
Daniel quickly put down his book, stood, and hurried over to the door where his husband was with the dog. He could see the build up that had slightly enlarged the dog's ear.
"Bij, does that hurt?"
A small whimper was the answer.
"It's still small, Danny," Jack observed about the bump in Bijou's right ear.
"Okay, this can't wait," Daniel spoke about the book he was reading. "What's the plan?"
"I can take her, but I'd have to take the entire at-home brood," Jack advised. "Jen's already gone."
"No," Daniel refuted. "I'll have Karissa push back the conference call with the Klein Industries representatives by a half-hour. If I leave now, I can get Bij to the vet and bring her back home before the call."
"You could always do the call from here."
"I could, but it wouldn't be as complete. Bibi texted that she wanted to speak with me before the call. I need to go to the office."
"Maybe you should take some backup," Jack offered.
With a smile, Daniel concurred. Backup would mean having someone else in the car who could soothe Bijou during the drive. Of course, it really was an acknowledgement that the middle triplet would never forgive them if he wasn't advised of what was happening, and once he knew, he would insist on going with Daniel.
"You secure the backup and I'll notify Pam you're on your way. Do you want me to make the call to the Karissa?"
"Uh, yeah, sure," Daniel replied. "Thanks. I love you."
"I love you, too," Jack said before the two men kissed. "Here you go," he added as he gently transferred the beagle to Daniel's arms.
"It'll be okay, Bij," Daniel assured as he left the library. "Uh, wait. Where's Katie?"
"With your backup." As an afterthought, Jack suggested, "Danny, take my truck. Bij will be more comfortable in it than in your little hotrod."
"It's not a hotrod."
"You remember that," Jack warned, though he let out a smile at the end.
With a nod, Daniel went on his way. He smiled inwardly at Jack's concern. Even though Jack was the one who purchased the 1999 Shelby-American two-seater sports car, his colonel was always cautionary about driving too fast.
"He worries," Daniel told Bijou, who had a sad look on her face. "Pam will take good care of the problem, Bij. Don't worry."
"I know it hurts, Bijou, but your family caught it early. I think we can avoid surgery," Pam Lawrence, the family vet, told the worried canine. Turning her attention to the humans in the room, she opined, "It's a good thing you examine the dogs regularly. Usually by the time owners bring in their dogs, a huge blood clot has developed and I have no choice but to do surgery."
"It wasn't there last night, Pam," Little Danny stated. "Bijou was on my bed and we played until I fell asleep. Her ears were fine." The boy realized his father was looking at him. "Oops," the child expressed with a smile.
"What?" Pam asked.
"I'm not supposed to play after lights out," Little Danny confessed.
"It's a good thing you did," Pam claimed. "Now we know for sure that whatever happened was late at night or early this morning."
"Do you need help, Doctor?" an assistant asked after opening the door and stepping inside.
"Yes, Ciara," Pam responded. "We're going to remove the fluid and see if there is any indication of a clot or infection."
Ciara nodded and went about getting the needed supplies.
"I assume you two are staying."
Daniel looked at Little Danny and knew his son wouldn't leave the dog. Of course, he had no intention of leaving either. That was not the Jackson-O'Neill way.
"That's what I thought," the smiling vet stated, seeing the two owners remaining in place. "Stay calm, Bijou. You're going to take a morning nap."
"Woof," the dog acknowledged, wincing just slightly at the tingling she felt upon the anesthesia being injected.
"Doctor Lawrence, a hit and run just came in. It's a Pomeranian. We need you right now," a vet technician advised urgently.
"Excuse me, Daniel. I'll be back as soon as I can. Ciara," Pam called out before leaving the Jackson-O'Neills in the examination room.
Little Danny patted Bijou tenderly, his eyes watering as he swallowed.
Daniel put his hand on his son's back, rubbing soothingly as he opined, "Bijou will be okay."
"What about the hit and run, Daddy?"
"Pam's a great veterinarian. She'll do her best."
After a few minutes, Ciara returned to the room to advise Daniel that Pam would be about a half-hour with the injured Pomeranian. Daniel was welcome to wait or reschedule, but Ciara pointed out that the longer the wait, the worse it could be for Bijou. The ear's expanse was still small, but it would certainly grow and become more serious if not handled this morning.
"Will the Pomeranian be okay?" Little Danny asked Ciara.
"We think so, but he's going to require some care after Pam gets him through the initial trauma."
"Is his family here?" the boy questioned, feeling that no dog should be without his or her human at such a time.
"They're on their way." Sensing how concerned the boy was, Ciara added, "They sounded very concerned on the phone. The dog got out from their backyard through a damaged fence slat. They've been looking for him for two days. They told us to do anything necessary for Spider's health."
"Spider?" Daniel questioned.
"That's his name," Ciara chuckled. She looked again at Little Danny and said as reassuringly as she could, "Spider's going to be fine."
"You're welcome, Little Danny," Ciara replied. "I have to get back. I'll try to keep you posted." She started to back out and shut the door when she stopped and added, "Bijou will be asleep for a while. No need to worry about her."
Little Danny needed to use the restroom, so the father and son left Bijou alone in the examination room. With the boy taking care of nature's call, Daniel took the opportunity to check in with Jack and then Karissa.
Meanwhile, the sleeping Bijou had an unexpected visitor.
"Bijou, you are hurt?"
The sleeping dog was unresponsive, so the visitor ran a handheld scanner over her entire body. Afterwards, he looked around at the veterinarian equipment and shook his head at its primitive nature. In a flash of light, the visitor and the beagle disappeared from the building and reappeared in a research lab. The lab was not on Earth, however. It was aboard the visitor's ship.
"One minute, Bijou."
An eerie, somewhat airy sound was heard and then the dog was examined again. During the process, she began to wake, her eyelids blinking a few times as she tried to acclimate herself to the strange surroundings.
~I'm having a crazy dream,~ Bijou thought. ~I'll close my eyes and when I wake up, Daniel and Little Danny will be here.~
"Good dog, Bijou. You are doing well."
Pressing a button, Bijou was returned to the examination room in Pam's pet clinic. She was far from being totally awake and continued to believe she had just had a strange dream. When she saw Daniel and Little Danny walking back in, she smiled as best she could.
"Woof," the beagle called out. ~I'm happy to see you.~
"Bij, you're awake," Little Danny said as he ran to her side. "Daddy, look."
"What is it?"
"Her ear: it's okay."
"What?" Daniel asked in surprise. He hurried over to see for himself. "Bij, what, uh, happened to you?"
~Don't ask me, Daniel. I was asleep ... I think,~ the beagle thought in reply.
Daniel carefully examined the dog's ear, noting that there was no sign of the hematoma. Bijou's ear was perfectly normal, and there was no indication of drainage or any other procedure that he knew of to explain the sudden change.
"This doesn't make sense," the archaeologist stated.
Feeling more awake, Bijou rolled over so that her belly was touching the cold slab of the long, rectangular examination table.
"What happened to her ear, Daddy?"
"I have no idea."
"Daniel, I'm sorry it took so long," Pam stated upon entering the room.
"How's Spider?" Little Danny inquired.
"He's doing well," Pam answered. "His family is with him. He's getting a lot of love."
"I'm glad," Little Danny returned while still placing loving strokes on Bijou.
"Okay, so ..." Stunned, Pam stared at the beagle incredulously. "I don't understand. Daniel?"
"I don't know, Pam. We, uh, stepped out for a few minutes and when we came back, she was ... um ..."
Daniel did not know what to think and he especially did not know how to explain the phenomena to Pam.
"Hematomas do not just go away," Pam asserted nervously while still examining Bijou.
"Maybe it wasn't a hematoma?" Daniel offered. ~There's only one possibility, and there's no explaining it to Pam.~
"Daniel, forty minutes ago, this dog had a fluid buildup. Granted, it was small, but it was there. We all felt it and we saw it. Bijou whimpered when we touched it. Now," Pam stroked the ear gently, "she's not reacting to it at all."
"Yes, she is, Pam," Little Danny refuted. "See, she wants to you keep petting her," he pointed out even as Bijou nudged Pam's hand with her nose.
"I don't know what to think," Pam admitted. "I've never seen anything like this in my life."
"So, what now?" Daniel questioned.
Pam shook her head. Her years of working with animals told her that what she was seeing was impossible. She racked her brain, searching for an explanation, but she could find none.
~Bijou and Katie are not normal; they aren't, but I can't explain why,~ Pam thought silently, her face taut as she looked at the dog. With a breath of acceptance, she suggested, "Maybe we should focus on how she got the hematoma, even though it's ... gone now." Pam examined both of Bijou's ears again. "I don't see anything abnormal. Has she been shaking her head a lot or rubbing her ears against the carpet?"
"No, nothing unusual," Daniel answered.
A gasp was heard which drew Pam's and Daniel's attention.
"When Bij woke up this morning, she fell of the bed. I think her ear hit the rehab cage."
"Rehab cage?" Pam questioned. With bright eyes, she realized what it was. "Oh, that's the cage you use for your injured pets."
"Yes, but since Isabel flew away, it's been empty. I was cleaning it last night before we went to bed. I always clean it, even without an animal in it because it needs to be clean in case someone needs it." Little Danny drew a much needed breath before continuing. "I left it on the side of the bed. Daddy, I think Bijou hit it 'cause I heard a noise when she fell. Was it my fault?"
"No," Daniel responded quickly. "The rehab cage wasn't completely out of place, or I would have said something when we said goodnight. If Bijou fell, it's only because she ..."
"Woof, woof!" a more alert Bijou interjected. ~I wasn't paying attention. I was *so* comfy this morning that I didn't even want to wake up. I rolled over, not realizing how close to the bed's edge I was. It's not your fault, Little Danny.~
The beagle crawled closer to her young charge and gave him a slew of kisses, causing him to giggle.
"I think Bijou is telling you that it wasn't fault, that it was an accident," Daniel told his son.
"Thanks, Bij, but I'll always feel a little guilty."
Daniel thought about arguing, but it wouldn't do any good. He knew his son would carry a piece of the responsibility with him forever. He was certain of that, if only because of one other reality that was running through his mind and heart.
~I should have moved the cage. I knew it was slightly out of place, but I didn't think it would matter. Sorry, Bij. It won't happen again,~ Daniel avowed.
As if sensing Daniel's thoughts, the beagle looked at the archaeologist and let out three 'stop that, Daniel' type of barks.
Daniel smiled as his hand reached over to pat the beloved beagle.
"Alright, I'm behind schedule. Keep an eye on her," an amazed Pam instructed. "I'm stumped, mystified, and ..." She ceased speaking, shrugging instead. "Call me, if you need anything."
"Thanks, Pam," Little Danny called out.
"Thank you, Pam," Daniel said as his words overlapped those of his son. "Okay, Bij, let's go."
Daniel, Little Danny, and Bijou headed outside and walked toward Jack's truck. Checking his watch, the archaeologist let out a sigh.
"What's wrong, Daddy?"
"I have a conference call at J-O that's scheduled to start in fifteen minutes."
"Do we get to go to J-O with you?" the boy asked hopefully. He looked at Bijou and asked, "Are you okay, Bij? Do you want to go the office with us? I bet Karissa has some biscuits."
"Woooof!" Bijou responded in her most lively bark since waking up. ~Karissa makes great homemade biscuits for my baby and me,~ she happily opined while licking her lips, her tongue hanging out slightly to indicate her desire.
"She wants to go, Daddy."
"I can see that," Daniel chuckled.
Once Little Danny and Bijou were secure in their spots, the archaeologist settled into the driver's seat and headed for J-O Enterprises.
Nine-year-old Little Danny Jackson-O'Neill smiled happily as he walked through the offices of J-O Enterprises. He loved spending time at his parents' company, especially when he was able to help out and spend time with Karissa. Of course, on this day, Bijou was with him, the two walking around and saying hello to various staff members.
"Hi, Dora," Little Danny greeted.
Dora King twisted her chair around and grinned. She jumped up and gave the boy a hug, after which she kneeled down to say hello to the beagle.
"I'm getting a beagle soon," Dora announced.
"Beagles are great!" Little Danny replied. "Are you getting a puppy?"
"I am," Dora confirmed. "A friend of mine's beagle had a litter six weeks ago. I'm counting the days except ..."
"I'm a little worried about leaving the puppy at home alone," Dora admitted.
"You can buy a crate."
"Absolutely," Dora agreed, adding, "but you know, it's just, she'll be lonesome. I'm only going to have one day with her before I have to come back to work. Dang it."
Dora stood up and returned to her chair.
"What, Dora?" Little Danny asked as he walked forward to stand by the woman's desk.
"I used all my vacation already. My parents wanted me to go to Paris with them, and I did, for three weeks. If I had known I'd be getting Charisse, I wouldn't have gone. I could have taken a whole week to help get her adjusted, maybe even two. Well, there's no crying over spilled milk. We'll get by."
"You're naming her Charisse?"
"After one of my favorite dancers, Cyd Charisse. She was so beautiful and she had long, gorgeous legs. She danced with some of the greats, like Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly." Dora laughed, "You don't know who I'm talking about, do you?"
"Sure, I do. We watch really ancient movies all the time. Some of them are in black and white."
The dance graduate chuckled. It was the first time she'd ever felt old, and she was only twenty-seven.
"Hey, I need to get back to work, but I'm glad you dropped by to say hi," Dora spoke with happy eyes.
"Do you need any help?"
"Not right now, but if you're still here this afternoon, drop on by."
"If we are, I will," Little Danny promised. "See you later, Dora."
"Bye! Bye, Bijou!"
"Woof," Bijou responded, though it was a quiet bark since she knew she needed to not make a lot of noise in the office.
At noon time, Daniel approached the firm's bone expert, Bibreanay Appleton, and asked if she would watch Bijou while he took Little Danny out to lunch as a treat. She agreed, being a dog lover herself. When the father and son returned, Little Danny went to get Bijou so Bibi could go to lunch herself.
"We're back," Little Danny announced, automatically patting Bijou, who had been curled up in a ball, sleeping. "Whatcha' doing, Bibi?"
"I'm making a card for Ty," Bibi answered quietly.
Little Danny read the card and gulped, "Lincoln died?"
"Yes," Bibi told the boy.
"Because of his kidneys?" the boy questioned, aware that Ty's Siamese cat had been suffering from kidney issues. He saw the nod and grew sadder. "Lincoln was a good cat. I'll miss him." After a moment, he asked, "When did he die?"
"Yesterday. Ty misses him so much."
"Maybe I'll go say hi."
"I'm not sure he'll open his door."
"Is he crying?"
"I don't know, but he's very sad. He and Lincoln have been together for seventeen years. That's a very long time, Little Danny."
"He should go home."
"You know how Ty is, he's very honest. He won't take a sick day," Bibi sighed. "Would you like the sign the card?" she asked as she sent her creation to the printer.
"Hey there, Little Danny. Hi ya, Bijou," the peppy Cindy Johannsen greeted as she was passing the two in the main corridor.
Cindy leaned over to give Bijou a proper hello, the dog delighting in the scratching of her rear end.
The woman giggled, "I sure wish I could bring my fella to work with me." She whispered, "You're a lucky girl, Bijou." With a laugh, she added, "Maybe we're the lucky ones to have you come visit us."
"Woof," the beagle responded appreciatively.
"Do you need any help, Cindy?"
"I do. Are you offering your services?"
Little Danny grinned and happily followed the researcher to her workstation.
Two hours later, Daniel was finished with his business. Little Danny had spent the last forty minutes in his daddy's office, helping him make some decisions about what needed to be done and by whom at a site in Arkansas. Bijou was there, too, relaxing by watching the doorway and observing any staff members who happened to walk by.
"Okay, son, we're done. Time to go home."
"Can I go see Jody for a minute? When I went to see her earlier, she was in The Oasis."
"Sure, but we need to get going, so don't take too long," Daniel requested.
"Thanks, Daddy. I'll be right back," Little Danny promised. "Come on, Bij," he urged, happy when the beagle sprang up to accompany him.
Little Danny and Bijou found Jody, visited for a few minutes, and then started back for Daniel's office. As they walked, Bijou heard a disturbing noise. She stopped for a second and then she took a right turn.
A moment later, Little Danny realized the beagle was no longer at his side.
"Bij? Bij, where'd you go?" the boy called out. He turned a corner and called out, "There you are. What are you ..."
At that point, the child prodigy heard what Bijou was hearing. He walked closer and listened carefully. His eyes widened, even as they began to fill with tears.
"I don't know what to do, Karissa," Kelly Tatem admitted with a sniffle. "I feel so darn guilty. She needs me. I need to be there, but I can't. I have ... deadlines."
"Forget the deadlines, Kelly. I'll reassign the project."
"And tell Jack and Daniel what?" Kelly groaned, "If I use a sick day, what happens if my children get sick, or my parents. You know they aren't doing well."
"Kelly, let me talk to them."
"They walk around here all the time with those dogs. Bibi baby-sat Bijou today. It's not fair."
Kelly broke out into a full sob before slumping down in her chair.
"No, no, I don't mean that. Those beagles are adorable, Karissa. Bijou is a beautiful dog and so's Katie, but Andromeda is so sick. She needs pills every few hours for at least a week and the vet said she's at risk if ..."
Little Danny didn't need to hear any more. He tapped on Bijou's side and motioned for her to go with him. They didn't walk, but they ran to Daniel's office. With each step, the boy's angst grew.
"Daddy, we have to do something," the emotional child stated. "It's not fair. Animals need us. You know they do. Look at Bij today. She was sick this morning, and ... and ... we ..."
"Okay, slow down," Daniel urged as he walked over to his namesake and knelt down. "Take a slow, deep breath. I'm here, and I'm not going anywhere."
Daniel had no idea what was upsetting his son, but whatever it was had to be important. Little Danny was crying and in full passionate mode, so much that he was talking a mile a minute and starting to hyperventilate.
"Good," Daniel praised. "Now tell me what's wrong."
"Equal rights," the boy stated simply.
"More words, Son," Daniel requested.
Little Danny replied in rapid fire English, explaining, "Dora's getting a puppy, and the puppy needs her to help her feel good about her new home. It's a little puppy, Daddy. She'll be scared in that big apartment all day without Dora, and Dora is going to worry about her. And Ty is in mourning. Lincoln died. Did you know that, Daddy, that Lincoln died? Ty doesn't want to be at work, but he thinks he has to, and ... and ... and," he let out a huge sob, "Andromeda is sick. Kelly can't even think about work. Andromeda needs medicine and really good care, but Kelly has deadlines and things. Daddy, it's not fair. If Bijou and Katie, and Calico and Mittens, and Ptolemy ..."
"Okay, Son, I know, the zoo," Daniel interjected. "Go ahead."
"If they were sick, we'd do anything for them. We don't need to worry about sick days and vacations and what people think. Like today, you asked Bibi to take care of Bij, and you moved back your conference call to take Bij to see Pam. Daddy, Dora and Ty and Kelly and Bibi and ... everyone here, they all love their pets as much as we love ours. Why can't they have time off like we do when they need it for their pets? Why, Daddy? Kelly needs time off. Please, Daddy ... whyyyy ..."
Little Danny sobbed as he fell into his younger father's embrace. Bijou let out with two emotional woofs as she stayed close to her humans.
"It's all right, Little Danny," Daniel responded as he rubbed his back to soothe the boy. "We'll get it figured out, okay? We'll go home and talk to Dad."
Little Danny nodded as he pulled apart, but he asked, "But Andromeda is sick now, and Ty is sad now, and ..."
"Okay, hold on."
Daniel stood up and went to the phone to track down Karissa. Once he did, he asked her to come to his office.
"Yes, Daniel?" Karissa asked when she walked into the office two minutes later. "Oh my goodness, what's wrong with you?" she asked Little Danny, seeing his red face.
Little Danny ran into the woman's arms and let her embrace him.
"It's not fair, Rissa," the Munchkin cried.
"We have an animal situation," Daniel responded. "What can you tell me about Dora's puppy, Ty's cat, and Kelly's dog?"
"Oh," Karissa sighed, looking down at Little Danny with full understanding. She didn't know how, but she was certain the sensitive child had heard something about the various animal crisis going on in the office. "Well, I don't know anything about Dora and a puppy ..."
"She's getting a puppy, a little baby, Rissa."
"I didn't know that," Karissa replied, somewhat uncertain why that was a cause for tears. "I do know that Ty's cat suffered chronic kidney failure last night. He's been sick for a while, but medication and diet has been handling it okay enough, but there's no cure for that, and Lincoln passed. Ty's very upset, but he doesn't feel like he can ask for time off because of Lincoln."
Daniel listened as Karissa explained more about Ty's situation. He'd met Lincoln a few times over the years and witnessed how close Ty was to the feline. He also knew that Ty was devoted to his work. He dated only occasionally and was happy to be a homebody with his beloved cat, a cat Daniel knew had been by Ty's side through his adolescence and early manhood. It was a tight bond.
The archaeologist was also acquainted with Andromeda, the Alaska Husky owned by Kelly Tatem. Kelly was one of the original six employees hired by J-O Enterprises. Since coming to work for the firm, she had gotten married and given birth to three children. Her home life did not interfere with her love and dedication to archaeology. Her husband was as supportive of her career as she was of his as a firefighter. Their schedules sometimes clashed, but they made it work.
"The vet said Andromeda should be okay, she thinks, but there's a risk of infection if she isn't watched closely, and she needs medication several times a day, probably for a couple of weeks. Randy tried, but couldn't get released from his duties. Kelly's beside herself, Daniel." Kelly sighed, "Do you remember when she got Andromeda?"
"Yes, I do," Daniel replied. "Andromeda was her reward for being hired."
"Ten years, Daniel. She loves that dog as much as she loves her children," Karissa pointed out.
Daniel looked down at his son, who was still holding on to the woman who meant so much to him.
"Karissa, I need to discuss a few things with Jack, but for now, I'd like you to tell Ty to go home and tell him to take a couple of days off. Can you find someone to handle the equipment?"
"I already have someone in mind," Karissa replied, noticing that Little Danny had stopped crying and was now beginning to slowly pull away.
"And let Dora know that we're working something out for her. When does she get the puppy?"
Karissa reminded her boss that she didn't know.
"Next week or the week after," Little Danny responded. "She's not sure yet because they want to make sure she's old enough. It's hard to loose your mommy."
Bijou brushed up against the child,and Daniel turned away for a minute. He knew Little Danny was primarily thinking about the puppy, but he couldn't help but think about Little Danny's birth mother. Kayla Armentrout had been dead for years, but to the Jackson-O'Neills, she was alive in their hearts.
"Find out, Karissa, and we'll make arrangements later."
"Will do. What about Kelly?"
"Tell her ... tell ..." Daniel let out a frustrated sigh. "Let's go, Little Danny. Bijou."
Karissa wasn't sure what was happening, so she followed the family and soon realized Daniel was headed for Kelly's office.
The archaeologist stood at the doorway and heard Kelly sniffling. She was holding a handkerchief in her right hand while trying to type.
"Darn it," Kelly sniffled, bowing her head and then looking up at a photo she had on her desk. She reached out and ran her finger across it. "How can I leave you alone, Meda?" she asked, using her nickname for the fifty-pound dog.
"You're not going to," Daniel interjected.
"Daniel!" a stunned Kelly replied, standing up in surprise.
"Kelly, go home and take care of Andromeda for as long as you need to. Don't worry about your pay or sick days. You're covered."
"Daniel," the woman cried, leaning into him.
Daniel embraced her, something he couldn't have done upon hiring her ten years earlier.
"I love Bijou and Katie," Kelly heard herself saying.
"I didn't mean to say anything bad about them," Kelly cried. She saw the mama beagle and leaned over to pick her up. "You know I love you, you beagle love you. I'm so worried about Meda."
Bijou lavished several kisses of understanding upon Kelly, getting her to laugh for a minute.
Still holding Bijou, Kelly looked at Daniel and stated, "I have the Danton report to finish and then there's ..."
"And then there's nothing, not for you, not until Andromeda can get through the day alone. Karissa will reassign your projects until you get back."
"Maybe I can do some work from home," Kelly suggested.
"I'll let you and Karissa work that out, but the important thing is that Andromeda gets the help she needs and that you are there to give her support. Everything else is secondary."
"Thank you, Daniel. Thank you very, very, very much."
"You're welcome. Get your stuff and go home."
Kelly nodded, feeling extremely grateful that she had such a wonderful employer.
"I'll be right back, Kelly," Karissa stated before following the Jackson-O'Neills out of the office.
"Thank you, Daddy," Little Danny spoke sincerely.
"You're welcome." Seeing Karissa approach, Daniel advised, "I'm going back up for my briefcase and then we're going home."
"I can get it for you, Daddy."
"Okay, go ahead." As he watched his son and Bijou running through the office, Daniel shook his head at the sight and then told Karissa, "I'll let you know what Jack and I come up for the future, but for right now, make sure Ty and Dora know we're on it."
"I'll speak with Ty after I get a status report from Kelly on where she stands with her projects."
"Good," Daniel replied. "Good," he repeated. "Equal rights."
"That's what Little Danny said when he burst into my office a few minutes ago. He said it was about equal rights for the animals."
"I wonder if he heard me talking with Kelly."
"Karissa, go the extra mile with Kelly. I don't want her thinking she has anything to worry about. She's an original and she's worked hard for us. She deserves this time, and, uh, Bijou and Katie are very understanding beagles."
"Nothing dogsonal," Karissa mused, using a canine variation of the word 'personal'.
"Something like that," Daniel agreed. "Bye."
"I'll keep you posted," the woman promised as she turned and returned to Kelly's office.
"Equal rights," Daniel mumbled. "What are we going to do about this one?"
Hours later, with the brood in bed and their goodnight rounds finished, the owners of J-O Enterprises walked outside. It was Daniel's idea, although he was silent as they walked. Jack briefly thought his Love had romantic intentions, but he quickly deduced that was not the case, at least not this second.
Still surrounded by the quiet of the evening, the lovers sat down. More silence encompassed the two as minutes passed. Both Jack and Daniel were leaning forward as they sat, Daniel with his hands entwined and his thumbs rubbing against each other, and Jack rapidly tapping the tips of his fingers together as he waited to find out the reason for outdoor sojourn.
Unable to remain quiet any further, Jack asked pointedly and with great suspicion, "Daniel, why are we sitting out in the gazebo, and why is Little Danny staring at us through the window when he's supposed to be in bed?"
Daniel smiled at the remark about Little Danny. He, too, noticed that the middle Munchkin had slipped out of bed and was eyeing them.
The younger man answered in part truth and part jest, "Well, if we're out here, you'll keep your voice down."
"Why are you worried about me raising my voice?"
"Because Little Danny developed a new proposal for J-O this afternoon," Daniel advised.
"Is that why he was glued to his computer after dinner tonight?"
"Maybe. Well, I guess so. Okay, yes."
"How bad can it be?" Jack asked as he leaned back against the bench seat.
"It's not bad; it's just ... different."
"Possibly the first of its kind in the United States."
"Daniel, what are you talking about?" Jack asked.
"We know Australia was the first and we've learned that some companies in the UK do it, too."
"And so do the birds and the bees?" the older man quipped. "Daniel, get on with it."
"I need to let you know something I did today at the office," Daniel began.
"Get to it."
"I gave Ty a couple of days off, with pay."
"Okay," Jack responded, certain he'd find out why sometime in the next hour, or two, or maybe three.
"I, uh, also gave Kelly a week off, or it could be two weeks. It's more of a, a to be determined type of situation."
"Okay," Jack replied, waiting for the punch line that he knew was coming.
"What about Dora?"
"She's going to need a week off soon, too," Daniel answered.
"Daniel, you have something to say, so say it."
"It was really Little Danny's idea."
"You mean the little genius who is still glued to the patio window, the one who is practically your clone, the one who ..."
"Jack," Daniel interrupted, "It's important to him, and I have to admit that ... well, I guess I agree with him."
Jack studied his husband carefully. Whatever was up, was important. He saw it in Daniel's cerulean blue eyes and he heard it in his tender voice. This was business, or was it?
Leaning in again, Jack responded, "Danny, I take it you think this proposal of our son's is a little wacky?"
"Off the wall."
"Wonky," Daniel added.
"And it's going to cost us money. That's why you're acting like this. You think I'm gonna go all nuts with upset over it, whatever it is. Right?"
"Now that we've cleared the air, let's get it over with. Spill," the general ordered.
Daniel provided Jack with more information about the three employees and their need for time off. What he knew, he relayed to the older man.
"Geez. I'm sorry about the cat and Kelly's dog. She's a great dog," Jack noted. "Why did you think I'd object to you giving them time off? I get it. We have a few animals around here, in case you haven't noticed."
"And that goes to the point, Jack. Little Danny called it equal rights."
Jack cocked his head back, trying to interpret the line. He sat back again, staring at his lover.
Daniel looked over toward the house. Little Danny was practically glued to the glass.
"Jack, please keep in mind that Little Danny is watching."
"It's in my mind," Jack acknowledged calmly. "Lay it on me, Angel. Give it to me with both barrels."
"It's being called Pet-ernity."
Jack didn't move, nor did he say a word or make a noise in response.
"Like I said earlier, an Australian business was the first to start it. I don't remember the year, 2006 or 2007, somewhere in that era." The archaeologist wondered if his husband was like champagne in a bottle, all fizzy and just waiting for the cork to be pulled so it can explode outward in a sudden burst. "Some companies in the UK followed. It's not the common thing. I couldn't find any record of a company here, in the United States, providing it, so, I think we'd be the first."
"You mentioned equal rights."
"Jack, I pushed back an important conference today so I could take Bijou to the vet. We've both done similar things in the past. I asked Bibi to keep an eye on Bij while I took Little Danny to lunch. Babe, how many times have we taken the dogs to the office and ended up having Megan or Karissa, or Bibi, or whomever we trusted that day to take care of them for us? The point is, we'd do anything for our zoo and we've been in a position during the last decade to do whatever we needed to in order to get them the care they deserve. Our employees have taken care of, not only our children, but our pets. Aren't we being hypocritical if we say that we can take off the time we need to help our zoo, but they can't?"
"You want us to offer Pet-ernity?"
Daniel reached over and picked up the file he'd placed on the gazebo bench when they'd first walked outside. Holding it in front of him, Daniel sighed. He looked over at the house and, with a wave, beckoned his namesake to join him.
Jack shook his head, though he was not surprised. He watched as the Munchkin ran swiftly outside, his house slippers resulting in a few stumbles as the boy hurried to his parents.
"Did you tell him, Daddy?" Little Danny asked.
"I told him we want to offer Pet-ernity, but that's all. Why don't you tell Dad about your idea," Daniel suggested, handing his son the file that held the boy's idea.
Little Danny turned around. He felt Daniel's supportive hand at his side. He leaned back against his father's knees, gaining strength from the contact.
"Dad, I have another proposal for our company."
Jack couldn't help it. He smiled. How could he not when the youngster was putting his heart and soul into the business that everyone knew Little Danny would someday spearhead.
"I'm listening," Jack stated.
"Daddy, did you tell him about Kelly and Ty and Dora?"
"Yes, I did. Dad knows all about their pet issues and that I gave them paid time off, or will, in Dora's case."
"'Kay," Little Danny acknowledged. The child took a moment to gather his thoughts before beginning. "Dad, how did you feel this morning when you found out Bijou had a hematoma?"
"Rotten, which you know," Jack answered truthfully.
"When you worked for Grandpa and Bijou or Katie were sick, what did you do?"
"To be honest, Son, it didn't happen."
Daniel was about to object to the response when Jack suddenly continued.
"It didn't happen exactly like that. They were sometimes in harm's way, and I didn't like that one bit. I did what I could and what I had to do to keep them, and your daddy, safe."
There was some silence as Little Danny processed the response. Inside, he knew there was a story there, one in which the beagles and Daniel were both in danger. One day, he'd ask for the details, but not tonight.
Quietly, Jack added, "Little Danny, I know where you're going. What's your recommendation?"
"We love our employees, right?"
"Right," Jack affirmed.
"We love animals, right?"
"Affirm," Jack responded quickly.
"Is it really any different, to us, if I'm sick or if Katie's sick?" the boy challenged.
Jack looked at his husband and knew he had to answer as truthfully as he could. To the couple, their beagles were their children when they thought they would never have kids. In fact, marriage wasn't even in the cards when Jack first brought home the beagles as a surprise for his soulmate.
"I noted you clarified your question with the 'for us' specification," Jack began. "Not everyone cares about their pets the same way we do." He smiled as he continued, "To your daddy and me, Bij and Katie were our kids at a time when having kids wasn't even a consideration. We love them. No, Son, there's no difference, not to us."
"Kelly feels that way about Andromeda. She found doggie love before she got married and had her kids. Dad, if one of her kids was sick, you wouldn't hold it against her if she needed time off. You'd give it to her, even if she didn't have sick leave, wouldn't you?"
"Daddy and I are pushovers," Jack sighed. He leaned forward and caressed the side of his son's face. "No more questions. Tell me what you want Daddy and I to do?"
"I wrote it all down," the child responded as he handed the folder to his older father. "I just want Dora to be able to take care of her puppy. That's like taking care of a baby. The puppy might be scared in a new place, without her mommy ..."
Little Danny kept talking, but at that moment Daniel interjected a comment to his husband via their special communication link.
**Jack, remind me to talk to you about that.**
**That what exactly?** Jack questioned.
Jack looked over Daniel, shifting his attention. He'd missed something, but he would ensure that he'd find out the problem later. He refocused on Little Danny, who was still talking.
"... and grieving for a pet isn't any different than grieving for a person. It's all about love, isn't it? That's what you and Daddy have taught us, that love is what matters? Ty loved his cat. That's more important that working on equipment. Someone else can do it, just for a couple days, can't they?"
"Yes, they can," Jack agreed.
With a smile, Little Danny continued, "I didn't have any real data to use, Dad, but I talked with Daddy and I researched what I could. This is all I could come up with."
Jack opened the folder. Unlike the child's multi-page proposal for The Oasis, the nap room created earlier in the year at the company, this proposal was just one page.
At the top of the page was written, "It's not about equal rights, it's all about the love."
Jack's eyes looked up at his son for a moment and then returned to the page. The first section of the page listed in bullet points a few statistics the child prodigy had found from a 2015 study. These included:
Four of ten pet owners have called in sick because of a pet
A study of 2,000 pet owners revealed that an average of five days per year were taken away from work due to pet issues
Half of those in the study whose pets had died had to take time off to grieve
Sixty-five percent of pet owners have taken time from work to go to the vet
Twenty-six percent of polled pet owners did not feel like they could reveal the real reason that they needed time away was because of their pets
There was a single paragraph that talked about how some employees were afraid their boss and co-workers would not understand the loss they felt when a pet died. It mentioned how some were able to work at home for a couple of hours, but that they were hesitant to explain the reason for being away from the office. Employees were fearful of potential consequences if it were discovered they had taken time off because of animals and/or that they would be laughed at.
Finally, the recommendation came in a straightforward listing of possible events.
First, new pet owners would be given paid time off from J-O Enterprises, provided they had been with the company for at least one year. For a puppy under four months, employees could take five days off. For an older dog that was new to the household, employees could use two paid days off.
Second, pet owners needing time off for vet appointments would be treated the same as any employee needing time for their own doctor appointments or those for their children. The firm already gave their employees three days annually of personal time for medical and other personal appointments. A fourth day would be added to account for the potential extra pet appointments.
Third, in the case of the death of a pet, employees would be given up to three paid days leave. In most cases, the employees could arrange to work at home or come in during closed hours, if they so desired. Pet bereavement counseling would also be added to the health benefits package. Appropriate limitations on the length of counseling would be made.
Jack found himself smiling when there was a notation in parenthesis wherein Little Danny wrote that he didn't know enough about health care benefits to suggest how that would work, but that he knew his parents would know.
The fourth situation addressed pet illness. All pet owners could have up to five paid days to attend to their pets. Exceptions or more advanced situations could be discussed with Jack and Daniel, as needed.
Daniel heard Jack laughing under his breath and asked, "What's funny?"
"Item four," the general answered. "Exceptions for the paid pet illness clause," he stated.
"And it says that the staff gets five days, but that we'll talk about it if more time is needed."
"Kelly needs more time, Dad. Sometimes five days isn't enough. Would you leave ..."
"Whoa!" Jack interrupted. "No more sick Bij or Katie questions."
Little Danny teased, "I was going to use Mittens and Calico this time."
Jack let out a little growl while Daniel tried not to laugh. The joke around the family for years was that Jack wasn't really a cat person, and yet, everyone knew how much he loved both of the family cats.
"So?" Daniel prompted.
Jack reviewed the page one more time, and then he closed the file. He looked into Little Danny's eyes and smiled.
"It looks like J-O Enterprises is about to break new ground. We might be laughed at and criticized, but our employees are a family, a family with pets. Son, I'd do anything in the world for Bij and Katie and for the rest of the zoo." Jack looked over at Daniel and stated, "It's a go for me. You?"
"It's a go," Daniel agreed with a smile of his own.
"Yea Dad and Daddy!" Little Danny exclaimed, jumping up and down and then hugging both parents excitedly.
"Back to bed," Jack ordered before hugging the boy again. "I love you."
"I love you, too, Dad." Little Danny turned and hugged his younger father again as well. "I love you, Daddy."
"I love you, Sproglet. You did a great job."
"Thanks for listening to me today."
"Dad and I will always listen to you. Go to bed," Daniel instructed.
The boy ran a few feet, but made a sudden stop. He turned around and pursed his lips nervously.
"What?" Jack inquired with some degree of anxiety-based caution.
"Have you ever thought about having 'Bring Your Pet to Work' days? We bring Bij and Katie all the time, so why can't ..."
"We'll think about it," Jack interjected. "Bed!"
It still took a couple of minutes to actually get the happy youngster to go inside, but finally he did.
"Bring Your Pet to Work days?" Jack echoed in disbelief.
"It's not a bad idea, and we do bring the girls with us, Jack."
"Equal rights?" Jack questioned.
"Something like that," Daniel confirmed. "We should consider it."
"Peachy." Jack nodded and then sought to verify the origin of the latest proposal. "All of this was Little Danny's doing?"
"Well, I told you what was happening with Ty, Kelly, and Dora, but I didn't tell you how I found out," Daniel stated. He proceeded to tell his husband about their son's emotional state at the office and how that spurred Daniel to make the decision he did. "You would have done the same thing."
"Yeah, yeah, I would have," Jack responded. "I take it we do this effective immediately."
"Well, we already have three employees using it. Babe, Kelly was a mess. She was visibly shaking. She had no business trying to work and worrying about deadlines."
Agreeing with a bob of his head, Jack pointed out, "We need to continue to make sure we have backup for projects. We can't overstretch."
"Agreed. We might need to hold off on accepting some jobs if we're too busy. Karissa called earlier. There was an urgent appointment Kelly was worried about."
"The Stringer evaluation," Jack replied as he recalled the importance of a pre-site review of a questionable project the company was considering. "Did she handle it?"
"Of course," Daniel assured. "That's why I agree that we need to have the backup policy in place and active."
"I'll work out an extra layer of protection with Karissa the next time I'm in the office."
"Are you going to use your strategy expertise?"
"All those years of military service come in handy at times like this," Jack mused. "Angel, Kayla."
"Oh, yeah. Jack, I think we need to pay a little more attention to how much the children miss Kayla."
Jack listened as Daniel told him about Little Danny's comment that referred to missing a mother.
"Babe, it was how he said it, the emotion in his voice, and the look in his eyes. His focus was on the situation, but there was more. He misses her."
"All the kids miss her. Heck, Daniel, I miss her. I was thinking about her this afternoon," Jack revealed. "I had PBS on and there was some show about Africa. I started thinking about those silly emails we exchanged early on, when we were first getting to know her."
"The emails," Daniel muttered as he became lost in thought.
"That mutter must mean something."
"Maybe," the younger man acknowledged while his mind ran wild, an idea trying to form. "Jack, they love the videotapes. They've helped the brood to remember Kayla. Maybe we should share the emails."
"I don't know. Maybe, maybe because it would show them a little about how we grew to love her."
Jack thought for a moment and asked, "You think they might like reading about the interaction between the three of us?"
"We'd need to review what we wrote, but those emails," Daniel paused as the idea gelled even more, "those emails are full of Kayla's personality, and it's about our children. Ultimately, everything is about them. The children might like to see that side of her, and us, getting to know her."
With a smile, Jack replied, "I like that, but you're right. We'd better review them first."
"We're two fathers, Jack, and our children need their mother. We've done great, but we can't replace her."
"They aren't telling us, that's what you're saying."
"We talk about Kayla all the time, but I'm not sure they really know how to express that emptiness they feel. They aren't unhappy, but they do miss her not being here in a physical form. Sometimes, we need to be open about that and help them to remember, or maybe it's not even remembering, but they need to have a real sense of who Kayla was."
"The tapes help, and so does her book, but I know what you mean, Danny."
"Maybe we can make some time and start reviewing those emails this week."
"Hey, let's make our own book," Jack suggested as his own idea formed.
"You mean ..."
"Print them out. We might need to delete a few things so we can make the back and forth more readable. If we can get it done in time, we can surprise the kids with the emails the next time we have a balloon day."
"That's perfect, Jack."
The lovers chatted about the project for a couple more minutes and then discussed some other family matters for a few before getting up and sharing a kiss at the center of the gazebo. Leisurely, the two headed for the house.
"Jack, do you think it was Thor?"
"You've changed subjects on me, Love."
"Bijou's hematoma disappearance," Daniel explained.
"I checked that ear myself, Danny. There's no way that fluid build up just went poof."
"Thor then," Daniel surmised.
"The little eavesdropper must have followed you all the way to Pam's clinic," the older man suggested.
"It wasn't life threatening or anything, but I think Bij was grateful. She's never had a surgery, except for when we spayed her."
"Thor did that thing to the girls," Jack noted as he referred to the beagles and how Thor used Asgard knowledge to help keep them young and healthy. "The little gray butt watches over them."
"Thank you, Thor," Daniel whispered.
"Yeah, thanks, good buddy, wherever you are," Jack added. As the couple began to step up to the wood deck, he queried, "Danny, do you realize what this Pet-ernity policy is going to cost us?"
"Remember what our son said, Jack. It's all about the love."
"Speaking of love, have I told you today how much I love you?" Jack asked.
"How about showing me?" Daniel returned in a soft tone.
"My pleasure," Jack agreed.
Tonight, Jack and Daniel would share their love in the most intimate of ways. It wasn't going to be the hot and bothered variety, but a slow and tender unison, one where passion and forever would come together. It really was all about the love and for Jack and Daniel, love was forever and always. Happiness reigned on this night and every night for the soulmates in Colorado Springs.
~~Finis - Finished - Done - The End - But is it ever Really?~~
Author's Note: Please feel free to email me with your comments or suggestions; constructive criticism, things you'd like to see, etc. A chronological listing of my universe is at http://orrymain.com