Summary: It's burning hot in the kitchen. Will someone get burned as a result?
Author Email: email@example.com (Feedback welcome)
Author Website: http://orrymain.com
Category: Slash, Drama, Established Relationship
Pairing: Jack/Daniel ... and it's all J/D
Season: Beyond the Series - January 3, 2017
Spoilers: Stargate the movie
Size: 40kb, short story
Written: June 28-30, July 7-9, 2016
Summary: It's burning hot in the kitchen. Will someone get burned as a result?
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): "The Bet"
Twelve-year-old Lulu reviewed the recipe for the tenth time in the past three days. This was, after all, a very important date to her. For the first time, she was the in-charge person for a meal detail. Like all the children, she had been a sous chef and helper from the get-go.
Even the youngest children participated in meal time preparation as one of their chores, even if the extent of their help was to put an apple on the table or get the milk out of the refrigerator. Most of the time, three children were assigned, the chef and two helpers. The chef oftentimes decided on what to prepare or sometimes cooked where their parents dictated.
It wasn't a firm rule, but the meal assignment tended to be one of the older children, one of the youngest, and one in the middle. The parents had an unwritten rule that the main chef was one of the oldest children. Jennifer and Jeff had often been the main chef. Eventually, Brianna was given the duty as well. David, too, was sometimes assigned. He lacked the cooking gene, though, so the parents didn't assign him as the main chef too often. That decision always came with the applause of the children, including David himself, who was more than happy to be a helper.
Lulu turned twelve three weeks ago and was given her main chef chore this week for the first time. She was thrilled and excited and was taking the responsibility very seriously. She perused the Internet for ideas, consulted with her Aunt Sara, and prayed to the cooking gods, figuring if there was a universe with the Goa'uld in it then there must also be cooking gods out there somewhere.
The cook decided on a modified version of a grilled chicken taco recipe she'd found. She actually wanted to turn it into a pizza, but that would have been more appropriate for a dinner meal and it would take way too long to prepare for a noontime feed.
Lulu's helpers were Chenoa and Ricky and she immediately put both to work. Chenoa was mixing together the ingredients for the seasoning and Ricky was having a blast pounding the chicken to the desired thickness. He had no clue what that was, but pounded heartily until Lulu told him to stop.
Eventually, Lulu put the chicken into a hot, oiled pan. Her intent was to fully cook the chicken and then cut it into bite-size pieces.
"Noa, do you see the mozzarella?" Lulu asked, certain she'd had it on her shopping list and therefore knowing it should be in the hospitality room refrigerator.
"It's probably in the kitchen," Chenoa responded. "I'll go get it."
"Got it, Lulu," Ricky announced, having finished his next task of retrieving the silverware.
"Thank you," Lulu responded. "Ricky, the plates are on the table. Will you set the table for me?"
"Off I go," the nine-year-old called out, pretending to fly away and causing his sister to laugh.
~I'm glad he didn't drop the silverware in his flyaway,~ the cook mused.
Lulu checked on the chicken and was happy with its progress. When fully cooked, she cut it into pieces and added her other ingredients to the pan. It looked like a colorful delight. As it warmed, the chef retrieved the tortilla shells, intending to warm them lightly. She was feeling very positive about her dish, certain her family would enjoy the finished product.
With a handful of tortillas in her hands, Lulu turned around and gasped.
"*Nooooo*!" Lulu dropped the shells to the floor and sprinted forward as fast as she could. She grabbed hold of the little girl and barely pulled her free of the falling skillet from the stovetop. As the two fell to the carpeted floor, Lulu heard the giggles of the two-and-half-year-old twin and sighed. "Are you okay, Sammy Jo?"
"Fun. We do again?" the long-haired blonde toddler asked.
"I don't think so, Sammy Jo," Lulu sniffled. ~They're gonna hate me,~ she thought as she sat up and saw the ingredients sprawled all over the hospitality room floor. Lulu took a good look at Sammy Jo and checked her over for cuts or any signs of injury. ~I hope she didn't break anything.~
"Lulu, what happened?" Ricky asked, having heard the noise and running over. He saw the food on the floor and began to walk towards it. "I'll ..."
"Ricky, don't. It's really hot. You might slip," Lulu called out before wiping a tear from her eye.
"Here's the mozz..." Chenoa began. "Lulu, Sammy Jo, why are you on the floor?"
"Went for ride," Sammy Jo answered with a grin and a few claps.
"Noa, take Sammy Jo, okay?" Lulu requested as she continued to sniffle.
The tweener stood up and paused a brief second to look at her middle finger, but then she pushed on. She began to clean up the mess and was working especially hared to be sure to get all the oil and greasy residue off the floor. Lulu didn't allow her sister and brother to help. Instead, the two watched quietly, each disturbed that Lulu wouldn't let them assist in the clean up.
"There she is!" Jonny called out to his siblings who were all looking for Sammy Jo Shanahan. ~Something's wrong,~ he accessed from the stance of Chenoa and Ricky. He walked over and asked, "Hey, what's going on?"
"We're not sure," Chenoa answered.
"Is that for Bij and Katie," the Munchkin chuckled about some of the food still remaining on the floor.
"Jonny, it's not funny," Chenoa chastised.
A few more of the kids were now gathered around.
"Lulu, I'll help you," Aislinn offered, not understanding why Chenoa and Ricky weren't already helping their sister.
"No!" Lulu called out sternly. "I don't want anyone to get hurt."
Though they didn't like what they saw, the children did as Lulu requested, mainly because she was obviously upset and no one wanted to do anything to make it worse. Throughout it all, Sammy Jo giggled, even as Chenoa kept a firm hold on her hand.
Finally, Lulu took a good look around and made sure the mess was totally cleaned up. The dark-haired Curly Top continued to cry lightly, even as she walked to the cupboard and pulled out two loaves of bread.
"Lulu, please let us help you," Chenoa pleaded, seeing a shaking head in reply.
Quickly and efficiently, Lulu prepared twenty sandwiches and a simple garden salad. She put ten sandwiches on two platters and placed one on each end of the table. She did the same with the salad, separating it into two large bowls.
"Lunch is served," Lulu announced in a whisper.
After that, Lulu took Sammy Jo's hand and walked quietly away, leaving her siblings to their lunch.
"Should we follow her?" Aislinn asked.
"We should get Dad and Daddy," Jonny stated.
"That's what she's doing, Jonny," Chenoa sighed. "We need to eat."
"I'm not sure I'm hungry now," Aislinn opined.
"If we don't eat the sandwiches, Lulu will be more upset, and I don't want her to feel bad. We have to eat, even if we're not hungry now."
"Okay, I'll find everyone," Jonny agreed.
Jack and Daniel had left strict instructions with the children that they would be on a business call in Daniel's den and they should not be interrupted unless it was a legitimate emergency. All of the children, except maybe JD, had a clear understanding of what that meant.
Still sniffling and feeling as bad as she'd ever felt in her life, Lulu knocked lightly on the door.
"Daniel ..." Jack called out, interrupting the conference call.
Daniel was speaking to J-O Enterprises staff when he paused and heard the knock on the door.
"Hold on, please," Daniel told the staff, engaging the mute button. "Come in," he called out to whoever was at the door.
Lulu opened the door and immediately broke out into full-fledged sobs. She couldn't even take a step inside the den, knowing she was interrupting her parents at work.
Family came first to Jack and Daniel, so Jack immediately rushed over to the girl while Daniel returned to the conversation to advise the staff they would continue later. He terminated the connection as fast as he could and joined his husband.
Lulu cried on Jack's shoulder, her hand still gripping Sam's daughter.
"Li'l Bit, take a breath and tell us what's wrong," Jack instructed.
Daniel focused on Sammy Jo, prying his daughter's hand off of the toddler. He looked the girl over carefully and nothing seemed amiss. In fact, Sammy Jo's giggling didn't match Lulu's emotional state at all.
Convinced that Sammy Jo was unharmed, Daniel advised, **Sammy Jo seems fine, Jack. I don't see any injuries and she's giggling up a storm.**
**Yeah, but there's definitely something wrong with our daughter.** Still hugging the distraught youngster, Jack soothed, "Hey, it's okay."
"Sweetie, we're here," Daniel added.
"I did bad," Lulu finally confessed.
Jack rubbed his daughter's tears away and requested, "Tell us what happened."
Slowly, amid more tears, Lulu told her parents about the incident in the kitchen, although what she said was limited to what she'd seen and how she felt. She ended by saying lunch was done. She'd made sandwiches and a salad.
"I don't want to eat anything. I hate me, too," Lulu sobbed, breaking away from Jack and running out of the den.
"Jack!" Daniel nodded for his Love to follow, not that he had to since Jack was already following after the Curly Top. "Sammy Jo, you sure sound happy."
"Fun ride," the toddler responded.
"I'm glad it was fun," Daniel sighed. Picking up the Shanahan girl, he went downstairs to see what he could learn. He immediately saw Chenoa, Ricky, and a few others sitting quietly at the hospitality table. ~That's not their usual behavior when food is in front of them.~
Looking around, the archaeologist spotted Jeff. The college student was working for Archonics Ltd. during this college semester with his main responsibility being to assist with the designing and building of his parents new man cave.
"Jeff," Daniel called out.
"Daddy, I'm in the middle of ..."
"... and I'm in the middle of a crisis. I need you to watch Sammy Jo for a few minutes."
Jeff knew his father wouldn't make that kind of request while he was working unless it was an emergency of some type, so he took hold of Sammy Jo and decided to introduce her to the world of architecture.
"Thanks," Daniel stated. He entered the hospitality room to review its condition. Everything was clean and in order. He walked over to the large rectangular table and noticed the sandwiches, all stacked neatly on the two platters the family often used for light meals. The large salad bowls were in place and looked to have a proper mix of the usual garden salad ingredients. ~This doesn't make sense.~ None of what he observed explained Lulu's upset. She'd prepared a wonderful lunch for the children. ~I'm missing something.~
"Daddy, when's lunch?" Jennifer called out as she walked into the room. "I'm starved." She observed her father's look of concern. "Is something wrong?"
"I'm not sure," Daniel answered.
Looking at the table with the sandwich platters and salad bowls, Jennifer commented, "That's funny."
"I thought Lulu was making some chicken dish. She talked about it all morning."
"She was," Chenoa affirmed.
~Progress,~ Daniel opined about the little dove's remark. Just then, Jonny appeared and said, "I told everyone lunch was ready. They're coming."
"You didn't tell me," Jennifer teased.
"You're right here, so I don't need to," Jonny smirked in return.
"Noa, Ricky, let's talk for a minute," Daniel requested, motioning for the children to follow him into the kitchen.
"Daddy ..." Jennifer began.
"I don't know what happened, Jen. Just ... just start lunch and keep everyone downstairs." Daniel turned his attention to Chenoa and Ricky. ~Let's see what they have to say.~
Several minutes later, after sending Chenoa and Ricky to join their brothers and sisters for lunch, Daniel reached Lulu's bedroom at the same time Jack was exiting.
"Danny, I haven't seen her this upset in a long time," the older man sighed.
"Did she explain?"
"Well, I have a few pieces of my own. Let's see if we can put them together."
Jack nodded and the two men headed for the den and closed the door. As best they could, they aligned the puzzle pieces until they formed a whole. When that was done, they developed an action plan on what to do next.
"Thanks for babysitting," Sam spoke as soon as she entered the Jackson-O'Neill home to pick up her twins. She hugged Petey and Sammy Jo and, as she stood back up, had the feeling something was up. "I know that expression, Sir."
Jack and Daniel exchanged a look and then Daniel said, "Sam, we need to let you know that ..."
All of a sudden, Lulu entered the entryway where the adults and twins were standing. Her red eyes were obvious.
"I'm ... I'm really sorry, Aunt Sam," Lulu cried, running into Sam's arms. "I didn't mean to mess up. I'm so bad."
"Bad?" an astonished Sam echoed. "No, you're not," she assured as she hugged the girl.
"There was a little incident today," Daniel sighed.
Sam looked at her children and noted they were perfectly okay. They were laughing and smiling and she couldn't see as much as a band-aid on them.
"Honey, why are crying?" Sam asked.
"I don't blame you if you hate me. I hate me. I'm sorrrrry," Lulu cried, breaking away and running upstairs.
The couple told Sam what they'd pieced together about the incident during the lunch meal, noting that Lulu's version was mostly about how bad she was. It was unfortunate that neither Chenoa nor Ricky saw the incident, but they both had a couple of pieces to the puzzle that helped the adults to get a broader picture of the event.
"All she's done this afternoon is cry," Jack concluded.
"From what you've said, it sounds to me like Lulu saved Sammy Jo, not hurt her," Sam opined. "I'm really in a rush, but do you want me to talk to her?"
"No, Sam, you go ahead," Daniel responded.
"Listen, uh, if you get a chance to come over tonight during our family meeting, it might help," Jack suggested.
"I'll do my best," Sam replied before leaving the house with her twins.
"Jack, I have an idea," Daniel said as he turned to go upstairs.
"Can I come in?" Daniel asked his daughter, who only cried in response. He walked over to the bed and sat down next to Lulu, who was lying on her stomach, her head buried in her pillow. Gently, he rubbed her back. "Sweetie, come here," he beckoned softly.
Lulu sat up and leaned into her daddy, her head on his chest as she continued to sniffle.
Daniel pulled her close as he spoke, "I love you, Lulu." For a minute, he held her, hoping she would soak in the love and let it settle her. Then he moved forward. "Lulu, I know you were scared today, but I'm very proud of you."
"You shouldn't be. I messed up."
"You didn't mess up, Lulu. The truth is that you saved Sammy Jo from being hurt."
"It's my fault. I had the handle in the ... the wr...wrong place," Lulu claimed. ~I must have had it in the wrong place. It was sticking out. It's my fault.~
~That explains it.~ With a gentle sweep of Lulu's head, Daniel responded, "If that's true, it's good that you understand what happened, but it's also true that we all make mistakes. The most important thing here is that you saw what was happening and you prevented Sammy Jo from possibly being burned." He sighed, sensing his words were going on deaf ears. "Sweetie, in our family, everyone knows the rules. We take that for granted sometimes. Sammy Jo and Petey are toddlers. It's been a while since we've had a toddler to worry about. They don't know our rules and it's easy to forget that we need be a little more focused when they're around."
"See, I mess...messsssssss..."
Lulu's tears didn't allow her to finish her sentence.
"No, I don't believe that," Daniel negated. "Noa said you had everything in control, and Ricky agreed. Here's what I think. You were preparing the meal. Noa went to get some cheese and Ricky was setting the table. Noa took longer because she couldn't find the right cheese. She actually called Mrs. Valissi and borrowed some from her. That's why she wasn't in place like she normally would have been."
Daniel let Lulu process what he'd just said. It was his belief that she wasn't aware of why Chenoa was gone for so long. In fact, one of the reasons there were normally three children assigned to a meal was so that at least one would be able to be a lookout of sorts in case younger children ventured into the cooking area.
"You had the food cooking on the skillet and you turned to do something," the father continued.
"I was getting the tortillas and when I turned around, Sammy Jo was there. She was pulling the handle towards her."
"I see," Daniel acknowledged. "And then you ..."
Sniffling, Lulu answered, "I dropped the tortillas and ran to Sammy Jo. I pulled her away and everything fell on the floor."
"Lulu, I know you're upset about what happened, but you know I would never lie to you. The only mistake you made today was not putting the handle of the skillet inward. That's it."
"I shouldn't have turned my back to the stove, Daddy."
Daniel sighed, but he held his ground, saying, "Sweetie, chefs turn their backs to their equipment all the time. If we had the cheese like we should have, Noa would have been in place to stop Sammy Jo. For that matter, Sammy Jo was supposed to be the Munchkins like Petey was. They were playing a game and Sammy Jo ran off for a minute. Should we blame the Munchkins for Sammy Jo being out of their sight?"
Lulu wasn't sure how to respond, but she quietly said, "We're supposed to watch them."
"And it's not easy, is it? Remember when JD was a toddler? He'd run off and bump right into to someone else. Trust me, it's not easy with children, of any age. We all ... mess up, but what you have to look at is intent and if someone was truly being inattentive. Aislinn ran after Sammy Jo, but couldn't find her. Should we punish Ash?"
"No." The voice was tiny and small. "Aunt Sam hates me."
"That's totally wrong. Aunt Sam loves you, and she trusts you," Daniel asserted. "We all make mistakes, Lulu. Hey, remember how Dad and I met?"
"Opening the Stargate."
"That's right. Did you know I lied to Dad?"
For the first time, Lulu looked up at her father. She shook her head in total disbelief.
"I did. I didn't mean to; I didn't want to, but I did. I rationalized it as a fib, a little white lie that wouldn't mean anything. See, that very first time we thought about going through the Gate, I let everyone believe that I knew the Gate address that could get us home."
"No," Daniel admitted as he shook his head. "I made an assumption that turned out to be false, to an extent. What I mean is that when we arrived on the planet, I couldn't find what I needed. I gambled that the Cartouche that would help me find the Gate address would be right there by the Stargate."
"No, it wasn't. I knew it had to be someplace. I hoped it was somewhere around the Gate, but it wasn't in sight. Dad wanted to send the team home, and then I had to tell him that I didn't know how."
"Was he mad?"
"I, uh, think that's safe to say. The team was madder, if that's possible, especially Kawalsky," Daniel sighed, rubbing his chin.
"Oh, uh, he was a good man, Lulu, a good soldier. He knew Dad before the Stargate Program came about, but ... he died."
"The point is that I gambled on the information I needed to be there. It was, but I put some good men's lives in jeopardy because of my need to be part of the team. The story is more involved, but I messed up, Lulu. It worked out okay, but I made a mistake. I lied to Dad. I messed up."
"But you got home."
"Yeah, we all made it home," Daniel agreed. "And you're okay and so is Sammy Jo. She had a great time and doesn't even realize she was in danger. Afterward, you cleaned up the mess and you even made another lunch for everyone. I saw it myself, Lulu. No one would have known anything happened in the hospitality room if they hadn't heard the story. You didn't even let Noa and Ricky help you, and they wanted to help you."
"I didn't want them to slip and get hurt."
"You kept them safe, too."
"I wanted to do such a good job with lunch," Lulu admitted amid a few sniffles.
"You did a great job."
"Sandwiches," Lulu sighed, wiping away a few tears with her hands.
"That was today. Tomorrow, you'll make whatever it was you were making today, and we'll go shopping first and make sure we don't mess up again." Daniel saw the questioning eyes. "Remember, Dad and I did the shopping yesterday. We had your list, and somehow we forgot the mozzarella cheese. We messed up."
"Yes, you did," Lulu agreed, her head bobbing up and down.
Daniel took out a handkerchief and dried his daughter's wet face. He smiled at her, his blue eyes calm and peaceful.
"We're going to have a family meeting tonight and we're going to remind everyone that when we have company, like Sammy Jo and Petey, that we have to be extra careful. You know, Aunt Sam trusted Dad and me to keep her children safe. We messed up because we didn't remember or think to remind our brood to be extra cautious."
"I guess we all messed up."
"Yes, we did, but we all came out just fine, and I can't wait to eat your surprise meal. Are you okay to try again tomorrow? We'll do the same detail, you, Noa, and Ricky."
"Are you sure, Daddy?"
"I'm positive, and so is Dad. You go ask him."
Hesitantly, Lulu scooted off her bed and slowly headed downstairs to find her father.
**Jack, Lulu's on her way to you. I told her she could cook her meal tomorrow. She needs her confidence back.**
**Got it,** Jack acknowledged as he sat in his favorite chair in the living room. He waited patiently for his precious daughter and pretended to read the newspaper when she appeared in the living room. ~I bet she's had flashbacks. She's scared stiff.~
"Hey, Princess," Jack greeted, putting down the newspaper. "Come sit with me."
Lulu was growing up, but she never wanted to be so old that she couldn't sit on her dad's lap, which was the position she took now.
The young girl nodded against her father's chest.
"Been there, done that ... a lot," Jack noted. "Princess, let it go, huh. You didn't do anything wrong. Hey, Sammy Jo didn't get hurt, and that was because you acted quick. You didn't freeze, and believe me, I've seen a lot of adults freeze and do nothing when faced with similar circumstances."
"Dad, have you messed up?"
"More than I want to admit." Jack rubbed Lulu's back and spoke in a quiet tone. He sighed and decided to utilize something he knew Lulu would remember. "Li'l Bit, a few years back you kids threw Daddy and me a big huge honkin' anniversary party."
"That was fun," Lulu replied.
"It was, but do you remember that the brood had to win a bet first?"
"We worked hard."
"You did, and I wasn't exactly the fairest dad in the world during that time." Jack noticed that Lulu didn't respond. ~She remembers, some of it anyway.~ He continued, "I was an awful dad. I didn't want you guys to win the bet, so I tried to bend the rules. I tried blackmail, even. I did things I'm ashamed of, but to me it was a big game and I didn't want to lose. I put that ahead of being a dad to all of you."
"You said you were sorry."
"I did, and I still am. I made bad choices, Lulu. I remember trying to get Bri and Jenny to break their promises; I hid a shoe in the guest room; I don't want to remember all I did. Daddy and I fought, too, because he knew I was wrong. The ironic part is that the anniversary party turned out to be one of the best nights of my life."
"You don't need to feel bad, Dad. We know you're just competitive."
"You kids are so much better than I am, or ever will be," Jack declared, enjoying the hug Lulu gave him next. "I love you, Lulu. Look, sometimes things go wrong. That's life. What's important is how you respond to it."
"Sammy Jo could have been hurt, Dad."
"But she wasn't. Princess, you have to be smart and try your best. Once you do that, you let the chips fall where they may. Tell me happened. No tears," Jack instructed.
Lulu told her father everything that happened while lunch was being prepared, concluding with, "Noa went to the get cheese. I mixed all the ingredients in the skillet, and I thought I had the handle facing inward, but I guess I didn't. I didn't need Ricky to do anything, so I asked him to set the table. I had the tortillas on a platter and I was going to heat them up. When I turned around, I saw Sammy Jo reaching for the handle."
Lulu finished her story, doing so for the first time without crying.
"Sounds to me like you acted like a grownup would," Jack opined. "You took action to protect Sammy Jo. Then you made sure Ricky and Noa wouldn't get hurt. To top it all off, you still made lunch."
"Sandwiches and a salad. Anyone can do that," Lulu sighed.
"Princess, it was a good lunch. The sandwiches were great. We devour sandwiches like that around here all the time."
"Daddy said I could make my real lunch again tomorrow."
"That's why Daddy's a genius," Jack responded with a smile.
"What about Aunt Sam?"
"She knows what happened. She's not mad at you, Lulu. I'm not sure what her schedule is, but why don't we see if the Shanahans can join us for lunch tomorrow?"
**Danny, have you been listening?**
**Yeah, I'm on the stairs,** Daniel confided.
**You're right about her confidence.**
**She didn't do anything wrong, Jack, but I think the only she's going to figure that out is to have a successful run.**
**Danny, I'm not even sure she left that pan with the handle out. She's uncertain about it herself. Do you think Sammy Jo could have pulled it?**
**Maybe, but it's not really important, is it? I mean, uh, it was a freak accident, and I doubt that could happen around her again. We have too many safeguards in place.**
**Don't tempt the fates, Danny, but I'm on board with that concept.**
**Okay, so we have the family meeting to go over the basics ...**
**No,** Jack interrupted.
**No. Danny, what did we just agree on?**
**It was an accident.**
**Bingo! We have the meeting to remind *all* the kids that we now have a couple of very active toddlers in our midst again. It's been a few years so ...**
**... so we use the angle that they've forgotten what's it like. Everyone gets the reminder ...**
**... and Li'l Bit doesn't feel singled out. Danny, she's been on cooking detail from the beginning. She's a great little cook. It was a fluke, and her actions were all the right ones. Let's let it go.**
**I knew there was a reason why I love you so much,** Daniel teased as he stood and headed back upstairs. **What about Sam?**
**If she makes it, she's here to tell us about the quirks of her twins that maybe we aren't used to living with regularly.**
Daniel returned to his den to finally finish up the J-O business that had been constantly pushed back all day while Jack continued to hold Lulu and reassure her. The dinner detail would be starting their meal soon and then the family meeting would follow.
The family gathered for their nightly family meeting. The kids mentioned a few concerns that were quickly handled. Then Sam showed up with Sammy Jo and Petey. She'd used the gate that separated her backyard from that of the Jackson-O'Neill's, something easily done since Jack turned off the security lock from their side before the meeting began.
After greetings and hugs were made, Daniel continued, "We still have a few more items to talk about for our meeting."
"Can we stay?" Sam asked brightly.
"Any objections?" Daniel asked the brood. Hearing none, he responded, "Sure. It shouldn't be too long."
Sam sat down and immediately had a lap full of her son, while her daughter toddled over to sit next to Lulu, who smiled.
Jennifer looked over at her parents. As the oldest, she may have been the most savvy as to what was happening. At least, that's what she thought.
After two more items of business, Jonny tired of the pretense and stood up, saying, "I want to be recognized."
"We get that," Jack mused. "What's on your mind?"
Jonny walked over to Lulu and advised, "Lulu, you're our sister, and we love you."
"We trust you, too," Jenny added, standing and walking over to her brother's position. "You always take good care of us."
"And that's not easy," Jonny sighed with a nod. "So you oopsied, but it's okay. We all oops sometimes." He twisted around for a second and asked his siblings, "Don't we?"
"All the time," Brianna agreed.
"Remember when ..." Jonny's tale led to another one by Aislinn, which was followed by a funny incident from Chenoa.
The oops moments continued until all of the children and even each one of the adults had all relayed at least one moment when they messed up. Some were more lighthearted, but others included times when what was done was either dangerous or harmful to them or others nearby.
Jonny sighed as he concluded, "And remember when I was on Plantacia and picked up the rifle. That was my biggest oops. I could have hurt myself, or Little Danny, or Dad and Daddy, or ... anyone. I didn't mean to hurt anyone, and I was lucky that I didn't, but it was an oops, a big oops, bigger than your oops, that's for sure."
"Ya gotta let it go," Little Danny insisted. "You're okay and Sammy Jo okay and, well, we're all okay."
Sam removed Petey from her lap and walked over to kneel down in front of the uncertain tweener.
"Lulu, you prevented Sammy Jo from being hurt, and I'm so grateful for that. Pete and I are so happy that we have wonderful babysitters in you and the brood. In fact, we're going out for dinner tomorrow night, and we were hoping that you would come over and take care of them for us."
"All of them?" Lulu asked, referring not just to the Shanahan twins, but also to their older children, Kevin and Susie.
"Well, maybe you can ask a couple of siblings to give you hand," Sam suggested. "By the way, this is for pay."
"For pay? You want to pay me to baby-sit?"
"Absolutely, just like I pay all our sitters for the kids."
"How much?" Jonny asked with big eyes.
"Well, I figure we'll be gone for about three hours. We normally pay twenty dollars an hour for all four kids."
"Wow!" several of the children exclaimed.
**Danny, are we going to let her do that?**
**Jack, I can count on one hand how many times we've paid anyone to baby-sit our children.**
**I've got ya beat, Angel.** Seeing Daniel turn to look at him, Jack explained, **We don't need a hand, Danny. We've never paid anyone a dime to watch the kids.**
**That's because we have family.**
**Ain't it great!** Jack chuckled inwardly. Growing serious, he repeated, **Are we going to let her pay the kids?**
**Just ... keep listening,** Daniel suggested.
**Jack, they're talking.**
**I know that, but are we going to let our kids baby-sit at the Shanahans?**
**One issue at a time, Babe.**
"We got it," Jonny said in an attempt to silence his siblings. "Lulu's babysitting and Noa, Jenny, and me are gonna help. That's ..." his eyes looked upward, "fifteen dollars for each of us."
"You guys need to be fair," Jennifer warned with pointed eyes.
"We are. We're splitting it four ways," Jonny insisted.
"Jonny, Lulu's babysitting and you're helping her," Jeff reminded. "She's in charge, not you, and that means ..."
"Oh, okay," Jonny groused. He looked up again as he recalculated. "That's fifty percent of the total take for Lulu, which is thirty dollars. The three of us split the other thirty, so that's ten dollars for each of us."
"Better," Jennifer acknowledged.
"I'll make sure I have ten dollar bills so you can do your split easily," Sam chuckled.
"Aunt Sam," Lulu stated tentatively. "I'd love to baby-sit for you, but you're my aunt, and Sammy Jo and the kids are my nieces and nephews." Shaking her head, the maturing youngster asserted, "You don't take money for taking care of family."
"But you're earning it," Sam maintained.
"Did Dad and Daddy pay your for taking care of us?"
"Well, that's different. I'm a grown up."
"But I'm almost a teenager, and I won't take money for taking care of my family," Lulu stated with certainty. "Thank you, though." She looked at Sammy Jo and suggested, "I can teach you how to make my special sub sandwich."
"I like subs," Petey spoke up from across the room. "We blow them up?"
Lulu laughed, "We can play Battleship, too."
Jonny had a grim expression on his face, and just when his parents thought their son might fight for being paid, the oldest Munchkin let out a sigh and interjected, "Petey, I'll show you covert. We'll have fun. Kevin will like that, too."
Lulu and her helpers continued to develop an agenda for the big babysitting night.
**Daniel, what just happened?**
**Sam took care of our problem,** Daniel responded, watching as Lulu's natural smile returned and she took control of the upcoming babysitting adventure.
**I hear that, but how are we going to handle our next problem?**
**I'm not sure. We can't let them baby-sit at Sam's without an adult,** Daniel acknowledged.
As if hearing his parents, Jeff interjected, "Aunt Sam, Uncle Pete mentioned some work he wanted to do at your house, upgrades to the garage and upstairs."
"Yes," Sam acknowledged, knowing full well where the architect-in-training was going.
"I'm free tomorrow night, would you mind if I walked around, took some measurements, and see if I could come up with some ideas?"
"I don't mind and Pete will be ecstatic," Sam acknowledged.
With a nod, Jeff looked at Lulu and asked, "Sis, would it bug you too much if I did my work while you're watching Aunt Sam's kids?"
Smiling, Lulu answered, "Sure, you can come over with us."
**Does she know?** Daniel asked his lover.
**Yep, and she's okay with it,** Jack opined.
"Hey, you want to have ice cream with us?" Aislinn queried.
"Can we, Mommy?" both of the Shanahan twins asked eagerly.
"Okay, I'm game."
"Carter, why don't you get the rest of your bunch over here. We'll have an ice cream party," Jack suggested.
"Thank you, Sir. I'll give Pete a quick call."
"Oops!" Chenoa giggled. "Dad, Daddy, meeting adjourned?"
The parents laughed and Daniel answered, "Meeting adjourned."
"Ice cream!" Jack exclaimed.
Cheers rang out as all of the kids hurried toward the hospitality room, leaving the three adults. Sam made her call, which lasted less than a minute, and indicated that her husband and other children were on their way over.
"Sam, thanks," Daniel spoke softly.
"I didn't do anything."
"You refocused Lulu's thought process," Jack asserted. "We owe you one."
"Sir, I've made more mistakes in my life than I'd care to admit. Besides, I had Sammy Jo tell Pete what happened. This was a shared liability."
"Explain," Jack semi-ordered, causing all three of them to react. Even Jack rolled his eyes and shook his head with a groan. "Sam, what makes you say that?"
"Well done, Love," Daniel praised at the rewording and less military response.
Sam lowered her head, amused for a moment, and then explained, "We've all assumed that Lulu had the pan handle out of place. She's feeling guilty so in her mind, she's convinced herself that she was in the wrong, but Sammy Jo told Pete she jumped up and hit the pan. I think it's highly possible when Lulu turned around, she thought she saw Sammy Jo reaching up. In her mind, she thought Sammy Jo had grabbed the handle and pulled the pan down. In reality, that's not exactly what happened."
"You think Sammy Jo jumped up, hit the skillet, and ..." Daniel interjected.
"... and what Lulu actually saw was my daughter already back on the floor, but still trying to play with the skillet. Sammy Jo's a good jumper. You've seen her on the trampoline."
"Yeah, she's great for a toddler," Jack acknowledged.
"I'm pretty sure Sammy Jo turned that pan handle herself, not once, but twice, first when she jumped and then by reaching up on her tippy toes and using her full extension. I, uh, measured at home. She can do it." Sam smiled and opined, "We could explain all of this to Lulu, and I do think you should, but later."
Daniel smiled and concluded, "Because right now, she's going to feel guilty no matter what."
"Yes," Sam agreed. "Let it settle for a while and have a talk with her later, when it's not so fresh. Maybe we can even do a demonstration to show how it happened."
"Carter, dang, you're a good mom," Jack praised.
"Who would have thunk it?" Sam teased with a laugh. "Pete reminded our kids of the rules. In my opinion, your kids don't need a reminder."
"They did let Sammy Jo get out of their sight," Jack reminded.
"Sir, really, you didn't always know where the Munchkins and Spitfires were, and JD was all over the place. The brood does great. Besides, I have a hunch the incident reminded them without a word being said. Why make a big deal of it?"
"Like I said, you're a dang good mom," the general repeated.
With a giggle, Sam added, "I hope you don't mind me asking Lulu to baby-sit."
"That worked out well," Daniel responded.
"I couldn't have a better babysitter for tomorrow night than Lulu. Who's going to be as cautious as she?"
"That brain of yours never stops," Jack stated in another lightly veiled compliment.
"Thank you. Oh, there's Pete," Sam said, walking away to open the patio door for her family.
"Move on?" Jack asked his husband.
"Everyone else has."
"Moving on," the older man agreed. He turned and called out, "Pete!"
Daniel laughed quietly while thinking, ~Gawd, sometimes we make mountains out of molehills.~
The ice cream party played out in a totally festive way. All of the Jackson-O'Neill and Shanahan children had fun and interacted as the family they considered themselves to be. Lulu was smiling, her confidence almost completely restored. Tomorrow would be a big day for her, making lunch for the family and then babysitting her extended family. Seeing all the faith everyone had for her, her own belief in herself grew. Gone were the burning hot doubts, now replaced with a quiet assurance that she could handle anything and that always at her side were her siblings and her parents. Life was good for the extended family as they laughed over their ice cream 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