Summary: When someone close to them suffers a heart attack, the Jackson-O'Neill brood jump into action and rally round.
"Listen up!" Jack commanded. With the children still milling about, getting their things organized, and chattering excitedly, the general wasn't getting the attention he needed. He puckered up, letting out a loud whistle after which he shouted, "*I said, listen up!*"
The kids turned and immediately became silent as they gave their older father their full attention.
"Let's review. Daddy and I will be gone until next Wednesday," Jack reminded about the six-day trip to Ecuador where they would be conducting a dig near Tomebamba. "You'll be staying with Grandpa at his house. *Be good,*" he ordered.
"Aunt Sam and Mrs. Valissi will be taking care of the zoo, except for Mittens and Calico," Daniel put forth, seeing the smile on Lulu's face as she held her calico cat in her arms.
The girl had asked for permission to take Calico with her to General Hammond's home and since the general didn't have a problem with it, the parents gave their okay. Of course, right after that, Little Danny made the case of cat equality and demanded Mittens also be allowed to accompany the brood to Hammond's.
"The girls are coming with us," Jack stated, smiling at Bijou and Katie who sat with their tails wagging and eyes shining brightly.
The idea to take the beagles on the dig was Daniel's. The lovers were in bed one night discussing their upcoming trip. At the time, Daniel was cuddling with Katie while Bijou was atop Jack's chest getting her own rubdown.
"Babe, why don't we take the girls with us?"
Daniel had laughed as he corrected, "Tomebamba, and yes."
"It's been a while since we've had ... um, well ..."
"Dad/Daddy/dog time?" Jack had mused.
"Yes," the archaeologist had answered. "Jack, this isn't a tough dig. It's more for, uh ..."
"You can say it, Danny, my training," Jack had stated lightly as he played with Bijou's ears. "It was my idea, you know."
"Proud of you for making it, too," Daniel had replied.
Though Jack had become quite adequate in his archaeological skills, he still sometimes felt second-rate. He wanted to be better than average and one way to achieve that goal would be to participate in more hands-on, in-the-dirt digs. When a client requested the services of J-O Enterprises for an excavation, it was Jack who convinced his lover to make the trip themselves and use it as an advanced learning tool.
"So, what do you think?"
"Arf!" the older man had answered in dog language, causing both beagles to bark and begin to pass out happy kisses to their humans.
"I hope that arf was a yes because they're coming," Daniel had laughed as he played with an enthused Katie.
"Oh yeah!" the general had affirmed as he enjoyed the love of Bijou as she rolled over on his chest.
Pet travel to Ecuador was fairly simple in terms of legalities, so the decision had been finalized the next day. Now the excited dogs looked up at their humans with great anticipation of the trip as Jack and Daniel spoke with their children.
"Dad?" Chenoa called out with big eyes that communicated her question without asking it.
"I talked with Mike an hour ago, Noa, and he assured me that HC were having a great time with DD in the pasture. The ponies are naying it up, having a ball, pony style."
Chenoa giggled at her father, but was happy. It hadn't been that long that since she'd become the happy caregiver to two Shetland ponies, known as Hot and Chocolate. She wasn't thrilled about being separated from them so soon, but she knew they'd have fun with Dunkin and Donut, two other Shetlands owned by her best friend, Angela Wilson, the daughter of Jack's ex-wife, Sara. Those two ponies lived with Sara's dad on his spread outside of Colorado Springs where they had plenty of room to graze and play. Mike was pleased to allow HC, as the ponies were called collectively, to stay with him while the Jackson-O'Neills were away from home.
"We'll call when we can, but we've heard about some signal issues going on in the area, so don't worry if we can't get through."
"Did you check your lists?" Daniel questioned, referring to checklists he'd had the children make days ago in expectation of the trip, not wanting them to forget anything. "I don't want Grandpa having to make a trip to the house because you didn't take everything you need with you."
"Check them again now," Jack suggested strongly, watching as all of the children pulled out their lists and began to verify that everything they wanted to take with them was stowed in their gear.
"Good," Jack observed when the activity calmed again, indicating the brood was indeed ready to go.
"We love you. Be good for Grandpa," Daniel concluded.
Hugs and kisses were exchanged and then most of the children gathered up their backpacks and duffel bags and happily hurried out to the SUV.
"Jen ..." Jack began.
"I know, Dad. I'll make sure everyone minds Grandpa."
"We expect a lot from you, but it's because we have confidence in you to take care of your brothers and sisters."
"I know," Jennifer acknowledged brightly. "Everyone is really looking forward to spending more time with Grandpa at his house. It's like a vacation for us."
"Just remember Grandpa doesn't provide laundry and cleaning services. We expect the brood to do their trip chores as we discussed last night."
Daniel interjected, "Just keep on top of them, Jen. We don't want to take advantage of Grandpa."
"Okay, Daddy," Jennifer promised, walking forward to hug her younger father as part of her vow.
"Have fun in the dirt, Dad," the teen chuckled as she hugged him.
"Bij and Katie will be on guard duty," Jack joked.
"Yeah. No juggling in the pits, Babe, or they'll sound the growl alarm," Daniel teased.
"I don't juggle in the pits," the general claimed. "Okay, once, maybe twice." He sighed, "Three times." There was a pause as both Daniel and Jennifer stared at him, unconvinced. "I like to juggle, so sue me."
All three laughed and then the parents sent Jennifer on her way. She was tasked with driving the kids to Hammond's home. Once the brood was settled, she and Jeff would head for classes at their high school. They were missing their first couple of periods, but would be there for the rest of their classes and after school activities.
Jack and Daniel made one final round to check on the pets and say goodbye to them before heading to the airport in Jack's truck with Bijou and Katie.
What the children didn't know was that General Hammond had spoken with their parents about taking the brood on a special weekend outing. It was one of the reasons for having Sam and Mrs. Valissi take care of the pets. The children were thrilled once they found out.
The short trip began very early Saturday morning with a leisurely drive from Colorado Springs to Idaho. Hammond had a favorite area in Idaho where he often liked to disappear to for a while. The wilderness area was mostly devoid of people and was full of nature's beauty. His favorite spot was near a river where he could fish for trout and salmon to his heart's content. Being that his preferred spot was more woodsy and perhaps too remote, the grandfather had chosen a spot that still had the feeling of being in the wilderness but wasn't quite as deep as he normally went. Yet, it was close to the river and had plenty of room for the children to play safely.
To make things more comfortable, Hammond drove his own vehicle with several of the kids riding with him while Jennifer drove the SUV full of camping gear and the rest of the brood. Mittens and Calico remained at the general's home, their automatic food and water feeders, as well as an easily accessible litter box, at their disposal as they roamed the comfortable lakeside home.
The trip took several hours, but the travelers had a great time, singing songs, chatting, and playing road games. When they finally arrived, the kids were excited to take in the area. The only bad part in their estimation was that they had to carry their gear and hike down an incline from where they parked their cars. It was a minor inconvenience none of them minded.
The group set up their camp and set about to enjoy a wonderful day together in the wilderness.
That evening, Hammond and the kids had a campfire going. They'd enjoyed a wonderful meal that included trout and salmon Hammond had caught earlier. Naturally, any fish captured by the Jackson-O'Neill children, and there had been several, were released back into the river almost immediately. There'd been laughs over that, but try as they might, the kids just didn't feel right keeping the fish. They'd grown up watching their older father catch and release fish with great regularity. They felt honor bound to continue the tradition. Ricky especially loved it and was, in fact, keeping a running count of every fish he'd ever caught and then freed.
Hammond, however, had no such qualms about enjoying the fish and the kids had no objections to eating the swimmers, just as long as they weren't the ones personally responsible for the fish being on their dinner plates.
"Grandpa, tell us a scary story," Jenny requested.
"Hmmm," came the thoughtful response as the bald-headed man considered a regular spook story or something wrought from years of alien adventures. "Children, always heed warnings, even warnings from your mind."
Jonny gulped. He knew this was going to be a good story.
Instinctively, the children huddled closer together. Their eyes burned into Hammond's as they waited for the story to unfold.
"I'll never forget Willie. We were in boot camp together. He was a southern boy, from deep ... deep ... deeeep in the heart of the mountains. He didn't like the city much so when he had leave, he went to visit friends who lived in the country. He had a good time, but one night, a dark, moonless night, he couldn't sleep. He tossed and turned. He'd fall asleep and wake up no more than ten minutes later.
"Then he heard it, a noise. Thump ... ka thump ... ka thump," Hammond vocalized dramatically. "He thought he heard a horse, so he got up out of bed. He walked over to the window and he heard the sound getting closer and closer. It was a horse drawn carriage. He was confused. The night sky was suddenly bright with moonlight and he could see clearly. This made no sense to him, but soon, he saw the carriage right outside his window. He stared as the carriage came to a halt in front of the home.
"Willie, he didn't know what to think, especially when he saw what the carriage was hauling. It was ... a coffin."
The children gasped, their widening eyes and muttered whispers of what they'd just heard proof of their involvement in the tale.
The grandfather continued, "Willie looked at the driver, who turned his head and glared right at that southern boy. The driver's face was ghostly pale and thin as a noodle. Then Willie heard the driver beckon, 'All aboard.' Willie was startled. He backed away from the window and kept backing until he ran right into the night table. He barely prevented the lamp from falling and breaking from the jolt of the contact. He heard the voice taunting him, calling out 'All aboard' once again. Frightened, he laid back down on the bed, pulled the covers over his head, and finally went to sleep."
As he looked around, Hammond noticed several of the kids were holding hands. Jonny had his arms around Aislinn, while Chenoa and Lulu squished together. The Spitfires had their heads together as well as Ricky holding his twin closely to him. They were hooked, the younger ones at least. He gave a quick glance at Jennifer, Jeff, and Brianna, who were all listening and curious how the plot would proceed, but who weren't really drawn into the scariness of the story. Before continuing, he turned his head to get a good look at the tent where David was sitting next to a sleeping JD, the fourteen-month-old having fallen asleep earlier. Assured all was well with the baby, the general returned to his presentation.
"Now the next day when Willie told his friends about what he'd heard and seen, they laughed and told him he'd had a nightmare. Ole Willie wasn't so sure, but it beat believing he'd really seen the carriage hauling the coffin. That afternoon, Willie returned to the city. He still had a couple of days before he had to report back, so he went to stay with other friends. They lived on the tenth floor in a high rise apartment. He pushed the button to call the elevator. When the doors opened, Willie noticed three others were already inside. He glanced over at the elevator operator and stopped dead in his tracks. You see, the man operating the elevator for the apartment complex had that same pale, thin face that the carriage driver had. The operator looked straight into Willie's eyes and beckoned, 'All aboard.'
"Willie didn't budge. He stood there like a statue until he was startled several seconds later by a thunderous crash."
The children drew audible breaths by the story's denouement.
"The cable that held the elevator had broken, causing the elevator to plummet to the bottom, killing everyone on board. They found out later the elevator operator was a temp, hired for just that one day. Heed the warnings, children. Heed the warnings!"
There was deathly silence until Hammond finally laughed, "Time to hit the hay, kids. Let's get a good night's sleep and we'll do a little more fishing in the morning before heading home."
"Grandpa, that was scary," Ricky claimed, leaning in for a hug. "I wanna sleep by you, okay?"
"Sure thing, Son," the man replied, his arm securely around the child.
The next morning, Hammond and the children had breakfast and were still enjoying their experience. They were having so much fun that Hammond kept extending their leave time. Besides, as long as they were home by evening, all would be well. Jennifer had finished her homework Friday evening before the trip and Jeff had only a history chapter to read before school on Monday.
At the moment, Hammond was standing, talking with twelve-year-old Brianna. All of the others were in viewing distance, but not close enough to hear their conversation.
"You don't think I'm funny?" the girl asked.
"Bri, my wife was a tomboy."
Skeptically, the tween replied, "Really?"
"Judith grew up on a farm, never even wore a dress until she was sixteen."
"Grandpa, that's a fib," Brianna accused.
"That's what she used to tell our daughters," Hammond laughed, "but I suspect it was a tiny stretch. She was a beautiful woman, Bri, and I was proud to have her on my arm."
"Some of the kids give me a hard time," Brianna confided about others she knew from community classes and events. "I don't care."
"Don't ya now," Hammond probed with doubt. "The worst thing you can ever do, honey, is lie to yourself."
"I've been wandering around this earth for a long time now, Bri, and I've seen a lot about what they call human nature. We care; we always care about what people say and feel about us. That's fact. What you don't want to do is let those other people affect who you are. Hear them out and let it fall."
"Let it fall?"
"That's what Judith used to say, 'Georgie, never mind that so and so captain, just hear him out and let it fall, all the way to the crap bucket.'" The general laughed. "Our youngest was a little plump as a child; was teased a lot. 'Let it fall, baby, right into that crap bucket' she'd tell her. When the time was right and our girl was ready, my wife helped her and she lost that plumpness, but never who she was. Don't you lose yourself by pretending you don't care, Bri. Just let it fall, right into that crap bucket."
"I love you, Grandpa," Brianna responded, leaning into the man for a hug.
"You okay, Bri?" Jennifer asked as she approached the hugging kin.
"Yeah. Grandpa was just giving me some good advice." Brianna looked up at the man and uttered a sincere, "Thank you."
Thirty minutes later, around 9 a.m., most of the brood were hanging around Hammond. His remembrance of his wife had stirred more sweet memories and the children were asking lots of questions about her. It was making him feel warm inside, talking about the woman who had died prematurely due to cancer shortly before he took command of the Stargate Program. He loved, too, that the children were so interested in her and hearing the stories of their happy but cut-too-short life together. He was about to tell the brood about a funny event that happened on their honeymoon, when his chest grew tight and he began to sweat. A stabbing pain ran down his arm. He could hear his heart beating more forcefully than normal. Within seconds, he let out a sharp cry and collapsed to the ground.
"Oh my gosh!" Jennifer exclaimed, her reaction coming in synch with cries and undistinguishable words uttered by the brood.
Hammond's eyes were closed and his body was totally still.
"Grandpa!" Jennifer kneeled down, placed her head on the man's chest, and noted, "I don't hear anything."
"No pulse," Jeff added, his voice cracking with fear as he kneeled across from his sister, their grandfather in between them.
"CPR!" In a instant, Jennifer began the process in her mind. "Bri, with me. Jeff, you and David will alternate. Jeff, 9-1-1 now!"
The two females worked in perfect harmony to perform the emergency procedure while Jeff called out, "Jen, my cell's in the car. Yours?"
"SUV," Jennifer answered while Brianna did compressions against their grandfather's chest.
After she breathed air into Hammond's mouth, Jennifer gasped, "Sweater pocket."
Nodding, Jeff ran to the blanket on which he saw Jennifer's sweater. He reached in the pockets, searching for the keys to the SUV. Unfortunately, no one's mobile phone was on their person. Now Jeff raced to the car to retrieve his phone. As quick as the phone would connect, he reached the emergency service. Though grateful he was able to get a signal, the teen could tell it was a weak one and he worried that the call could disconnect at any moment.
"You're kidding! We need help here!" Jeff ranted to the dispatcher on the other end of the line even as he ran to relieve Jennifer for CPR.
Gasping, Jennifer instructed, "Finish the call and relax for a minute. I can keep going."
Jeff continued the conversation with the person working the emergency call. The signal was worsening, though, so he decided to end the conversation.
"We know what to do. We're trained in CPR. We're doing it now. Please ... <thick silence> hurry," he sighed realizing the call had been dropped. "Lost the signal," Jeff advised. "Jen, there's a problem. They're coming, but all of the life flight copters are on calls. It could be an hour or more before they're available and even then they aren't sure if there's a decent landing area nearby."
"What?" David called out in disbelief.
"An ambulance is coming."
"It could be hours," Brianna noted frantically just before starting more compressions.
The children were well aware that they were in a well secluded area. They hadn't seen one person during their stay or even heard the sound of a car passing by on the distant road.
"Switch!" Jennifer ordered, indicating it was time for Jeff and David to return to the emergency procedure.
Seconds later, a gurgling sound was heard.
"Jen, he has a pulse now."
"Jeff!" David called out as the general had already stopped breathing again.
As the boys worked on CPR again, the other children were clearly upset, crying and huddled together. Jennifer was in her zone, though, her mind blocking out most everything but her fear and worry about her grandfather. Then it was her turn to work with Brianna again and finally, it was once again time for the boys to take over.
Scooting to the side, Jennifer's breathing was heavy. She sat on her knees and wiped her brow.
~Think!~ the oldest daughter of Jack and Daniel Jackson-O'Neill ordered herself. She looked at the brood, some of their cries only now becoming audible to her once again. ~No time to sit here.~
Jennifer rose, her mind working a mile a minute to figure out what to do next. Her parents expected her to be able to handle situations like this and she was determined not to let them down.
"Okay, listen up," Jennifer ordered commandingly, mimicking the tone of her father, the general. She had to be strong, but it was hard, especially with Jonny crying along with the others. Quickly, she took the boy's shoulders firmly in her hands and shook lightly. "Are you Little General Jonny?"
"Yes!" the Munchkin sniffled even as he straightened slightly.
"Then are you going to suck it up or stand here and cry?"
"Suck it up," Jonny responded sternly as his body became totally upright in a near-attention stance.
"Good. Here's what I need you to do. Jonny, we have to be ready to go. When help arrives, I'm going with Grandpa in the ambulance. I need the Munchkins and the Spitfires to get all our stuff together and pack it up in the SUV. That's going to take a lot of trips up and down the incline. Can you handle that?"
"Yes!" the boy replied, only slightly able to hide his sniffle.
"Good. Go to it!" Jennifer looked around and called out, "Curly Tops, I need you, too." She sprinted to where the two sisters were clinging to each other. Chenoa, especially, was upset. Her tears already dampened her blouse. "Lulu, I want you to go to the SUV and keep a look out for the ambulance. They may have a hard time finding us, so listen and shout when you hear anything." Calming herself, Jennifer knelt and took the brunette's hands in hers. "It could be a long time before the ambulance comes. If you hear a car, we need it to stop. Shout, dance, wave your arms; do anything you can think of it to make that car stop *except* standing in front of it, and if you do hear a car, yell and make sure we hear you. That's really important. You're our flagman, okay?"
"Go!" Jennifer ordered. With Lulu headed for the car, the teen reached out and took Chenoa's hands in her. "Little Dove, you have to stay strong. Grandpa will be okay, but we have to focus right now."
"I need you, Noa, to look after JD, okay? We all have something important to do. You need to hold him and make sure he's safe."
Chenoa nodded and ran over to the youngest member of the brood, taking him protectively into her hold.
"Jen!" Jeff shouted, signaling it was time to switch teams again.
Minutes passed as the kids gave it all they had to keep Hammond alive. In between her turn at the life-saving skill, Jennifer struggled to make sure she was prepared for the ambulance's arrival and the aftermath. She wanted to rest, but she couldn't. She was sure her parents had felt this way many times in their careers, wanting to relax and just breathe, but being forced to step up, take charge, and get the job done.
"Listen, guys," Jennifer spoke to her siblings, "when the ambulance arrives, I'm going with Grandpa. Jeff will drive the SUV with you back to the Springs. You'll go home ..."
"Jen, get real," Brianna interrupted.
Jennifer looked around at her siblings and nodded at the reality of the situation, saying, "He'll drive you to the hospital. We'll have to confirm where they'll take Grandpa."
"What if they take him to a hospital here in Idaho?" Little Danny queried.
"Oh, I hadn't thought of that," Jennifer responded, bowing her head. Her mind was flooded with questions without answers. The one thing she knew for sure, however, was that the brood had to be protected. That is what her parents would expect her to do. "If they tell us they're taking Grandpa some place outside of the Springs, you'll have to go home."
"But ..." several voices rang out.
"Don't argue with me," Jennifer insisted. "Dad and Daddy would never forgive me if I let you guys go all over a strange state."
"Idaho isn't Colorado, but it's not strange, Jen," Ricky opined. "I like it."
"That's not exactly what I meant, Ricky. You'll have to go home. No arguments," she concluded, using a frequently heard phrase by her parents to close out discussions like this one.
"What about Grandpa's car?" Aislinn asked, resigned to perhaps not being able to go to the hospital with Hammond.
"We'll have to get it later."
"I can drive it," Brianna offered.
"Bri, you don't have your license. Dad and Daddy would be very upset if we made a bad situation worse. Please, we'll figure out how to get the car later."
"Switch!" David called out.
After a minute, Jeff asked, "Shouldn't we call one of General Hammond's daughters?"
There was silence as Jennifer focused on doing her emergency skills. When the next switch was made, she finally answered that they should contact Clarice, Hammond's oldest daughter who lived the closest to Colorado Springs. She suggested Brianna make that call once the ambulance arrived and they confirmed to what hospital Hammond would be transported.
Then Jonny, who was helping Aislinn to fold up a blanket, shouted out, "General Landry!"
Jennifer looked over and saw her brother's intense stare and nodded.
"Oh, for crying out loud," Jennifer bemoaned as she practically dove to the ground where the cell phone and other personal items were placed at the moment. She started to call, but it was her turn to take over. She considered having Jeff or David make the call, but they were all getting tired. They needed to focus on the CPR. "Jonny, come here!"
As fast as he could, Jonny ran over to his sister, taking the phone she handed to him.
"Call General Landry. Do *not* let them give you the runaround. We need SGC help. Tell him everything. Don't give up!"
Seeing Jennifer motion for him to walk away from where the older kids were working on his grandfather, Jonny sprinted a few yards away and tried to make the call.
"No signal," the little general shouted.
"Keep going," Jennifer instructed, still sitting on the ground. Only then another thought popped into her mind. "Jeff, is your GPS on or off?"
The moment he could, the other teen answered, "Wha...what do you think?"
"Geez," Jennifer sighed, urgently waving Jonny back over. While Jeff had been able to inform the 9-1-1 operator of their proximity, she felt Jonny would have a more difficult time of it. As soon as Jonny was within her reach, Jennifer grabbed the phone and rushed to enable the location software. Returning the phone to her brother, she said, "Jonny, when you call the Mountain, they'll know where you are from the signal."
"I know that," the Munchkin whined, having learned about GPS a long time ago.
"Right, but make sure they know that's what you need them to do."
"Jen, I couldn't get a signal."
"Keep going, Jonny. You may have to go quite a ways, but you have to, or ... Jonny, you have to find a place where the signal is strong enough."
Determined to accomplish his mission, Jonny turned and ran, going further than he had gone before.
Suddenly, Jennifer sat up straight and called out to the younger children, "Jonny: keep an eye on him." Emotionally, she was getting strung out. The responsibility she felt was huge. She already had Lulu, who was only eight, standing alone on the road, barely visible. Now she was asking her six-year-old brother to wander out on his own to find a signal for the cell phone. "We have to look out for each other. Relay!"
The kids understood the message and helped each other to create a line. The further Jonny went, there was always a member of the brood who could see him, and when that member turned to face the direction from which they'd come, another sibling was in the distance, watching them.
Jonny was frustrated, but undeterred. Finally, he literally stared down the phone and ordered, "Work." Amazingly, be it by luck or some unknown intervention, there was a signal. He made the call. Just his bad luck, the person answering the call was unknown to him.
"General Landry, please. It's urgent!" Jonny requested.
"I'm sorry, he's unavailable."
"How'd you get this number?" Not waiting for a response, the man spat, "Kid, you're going to be in hot water when whoever your father is finds out you're playing on the phone. He's not going to be feeling too well himself when I report this."
Jonny hung up and re-dialed. To his annoyance, he heard the same voice on the receiving end. He took a breath and prepared himself.
Using the lowest voice he could, Jonny barked, "This is General O'Neill. Get me Landry now!"
There was a pause on the other end and then an uncertain, "Excuse me, but ..."
Jonny didn't let the man finish as he barked, "Now or I'll have you sitting on ice at Elmendorf!"
"Problem?" a man asked upon entering the small office where the man was on the phone with Jonny.
"Some kid is pretending to be some guy named General O'Neill and says he needs to talk to Landry."
Before the man could say anything else, the phone was ripped out of his hand.
"This is Sergeant Siler."
"Sergeant Siler, it's me, Jonny, and we need help fast!"
"I'll get General Landry," Siler responded. He put the phone down and ordered, "Don't lose this call." The man hurried across the hallway where he knocked on Landry's door and entered. "Sir, sorry to interrupt, but Jonny Jackson-O'Neill is on the phone; says there's trouble. He's asking for help." Seeing a nod from the current SGC commander, he advised, "Line two."
"Jonny, it's General Landry." Hank Landry heard the sniffle of the little general. He knew how to stop that. "Jonny, report!"
Standing up in attention, Jonny responded, "Grandpa took us for a trip in the woods in Idaho. He collapsed. He's not breathing. Jen, Jeff, David, and Bri are doing CPR. We called for help, but the copters can't come. We're way far out, General Hank, and Dad and Daddy are out of the country."
Knowing the boy's parents, Landry asked, "Jonny, is your GPS enabled?"
"Hold one, and Jonny, don't hang up," Landry ordered. He called for Siler to handle his orders. When the responses he wanted came, the general returned to the phone. "Jonny, help is on the way. Is there anything else you need?"
"Hold one," Jonny commanded, repeating the same lingo he'd heard Landry use a minute before. He waved at Little Danny and shouted at the top of his lungs, "The Air Force is coming. General Hank wants to know if there's anything else we need."
Little Danny turned and, seeing, Jenny, repeated the shout. She turned and yelled the message to Ricky, who turned and shouted it to Chenoa. Holding JD firmly, the young girl had to go only a few yards for Jennifer to hear her.
Jennifer thought for a moment and then answered, "Um, well, yes. Ask him if someone can drive Grandpa's car home for us."
Chenoa nodded, ran carefully back to where'd she been, though with JD by her side, it was more of a walk than a run, and began the relay response process that returned to Jonny, one kid at a time.
"Got it!" Jonny shouted to his brother. Then he gave Landry the message. He waited a minute for the reply, after which he called out, "Anything else?"
Once again, the children used their relay system until the message reached the oldest sibling.
"Thank you," Jennifer called out softly.
"Jen says thank you," Jonny told the SGC leader when the message was shouted to him.
"Okay, Jonny, stay ..."
"Wait, General Hank. Little Danny is shouting something else." Jonny yelled, "I didn't hear you. Repeat!"
Little Danny shouted, "Ask him to call Aunt Janet ... and Clarice!"
Jonny nodded and made the request.
"Jonny, tell me about the area where you are. Is there a clearing for the chopper?"
"Where I am now, there is, but that's not very close, General Hank, and it's not that big. Maybe they can't land," Jonny said sadly, starting to get overwhelmed by that thought.
"Don't worry, Jonny. My men will reach out, even if they can't land," Landry replied.
"I promise," Landry pledged.
Though he was on the verge of crying again, Jonny felt a huge responsibility, much as Jennifer did. He knew about danger. His parents had shared things with the brood about bad people and situations. Not only that, but the children themselves had all survived danger as a result of being the brood of Jack and Daniel. Even now, in this dire situation, precautions had to be taken.
"General, we need a code."
"A code?" came the stunned reply.
"Maybe bad men are listening. Dad and Daddy always have a code for us," Jonny noted.
"Alright, we'll use ..."
"No." Jonny thought for a minute. Maybe someone was listening. He had to be cautious, just like his parents had taught him. He had to think of something that wasn't common knowledge but that Landry would know. "Do you know the name of the place where my Uncle Billy lived before he came home?"
"I do," Landry replied, having heard the story from Jack himself.
"Did Dad tell you the bad thing I did in that place?"
Landry knew exactly what the boy was talking about and answered accordingly.
"Tell the copter people to say the name of the place and the thing I did and that will be our code, okay?"
"Okay, Jonny. It'll be soon. We'll get your grandfather medical attention as soon as we can."
"My grandfather is the bestest grandfather in the whole universe," the Munchkin spoke, his voice vulnerable but assured.
"No doubt about that, Jonny."
The conversation ended, Jonny disconnected the call and ran to Little Danny. They continued running, adding another sibling as they reached the key relay areas until the entire brood was reunited at their camp site.
"Good job, Bro!" Jeff praised, exchanging a high-five with each of the younger kids. "Better get back to packing up the SUV."
"He has a pulse again," Brianna noted.
Nodding, Jennifer sighed in relief, "He's breathing. It's shallow, but it's there. Come on, Grandpa!"
The SUV was fully packed so now it was just a matter of waiting. With Hammond not requiring CPR, at least at the moment, Jennifer had David spell Lulu as lookout for the ambulance. They just didn't know for sure who would arrive first, the 9-1-1 dispatched aid or the military, so they needed to be on the look out for both, watching for ambulances and helicopters.
"Should we give him some aspirin or something?" Brianna asked.
"I don't know. I've read something about aspirin being good, but I can't remember what it said," Jennifer returned.
"I think aspirin is supposed to help," Jeff added.
"Okay, I think we have some in the kit," Brianna pointed out, opening the first aid box that the children had nearby.
Hearing the conversation, Little Danny stood up and shouted, "No, don't!" He ran over to the siblings, freezing when he looked down at his grandfather's too-still body. "Aspirin is good if he's awake, but if he's asleep, it will block his airway. Aunt Janet told me that when I helped in the infirmary once."
"Glad you were listening, little brother," Brianna sighed, letting out a gust of air at the close 'bad' call she'd almost made.
Sixty-five nervous, anxious minutes passed during which the brood huddled together. They shared a prayer, sang a few hymns, and talked to their grandfather encouragingly, hoping he could hear them. At one point, they'd tried to call their parents, but the signal wasn't strong enough from where they were located. Jennifer wasn't comfortable with sending one of her siblings away to make the call, so decided it was okay to wait.
"We have to do something," Ricky whined as he worried about his grandfather.
"All we can do is wait, Ricky," Jennifer replied softly.
"Uh-huh," Little Danny disagreed. "Everyone get around Grandpa," he instructed.
Most of the children were already circling the unconscious man, but now everyone squeezed in as they were told to do.
"Put your hands on Grandpa," Little Danny told his siblings.
"Gently, guys," Jeff advised the others.
"Close your eyes," the little genius instructed.
"What are we doing?" Jonny asked.
"It's called visualization. Daddy taught me."
"He did?" Aislinn questioned.
"Yeah, when I hurt my arm in Fiji last year, remember?" the boy responded, referring to a trip he'd taken with his younger father. As the other kids nodded, Little Danny continued by repeating, "Close your eyes and imagine Grandpa's heart beating strong, like ours. Think about how it sounds when Aunt Janet or Doctor Sylvia lets us listen to our hearts. Our hearts beat steadily and strong, and so does Grandpa's. Hear the helicopter. See it coming. See them taking Grandpa to the hospital. His heart beats strong. Imagine us with Grandpa again, playing by the lake at his house. He holds us and tells us a story, maybe a story about Grandma. Feel Grandpa's hands on ours. Think about Grandpa and sitting in his ice cream parlor, eating lots and lots and lots of ice cream. Grandpa's heart beats strong. Our hearts beat with his."
The visualization continued for ten minutes, after which the children remained silent, remaining in their spots surrounding Hammond.
Jeff looked at his watch and opined, "Jen, it should be anytime."
"Okay, you take over for David on the road. Grandpa's been breathing on his own just fine. Kids, I think we should do that relay line again, looking for the helicopter. They might not be able to see us very easily here with all these trees. Jonny, how big was that clearing where the signal made it through?"
"Big, but not real big. General Hank said not to worry about it, though."
Jennifer nodded and instructed most of her siblings to get in line as they had before. She considered using a flare, but was too afraid of starting a fire. Once again, Chenoa tended to JD. The curly-haired blonde found comfort in doing so, and Jennifer didn't want to interfere with that. Only she and Brianna remained by Hammond's side.
"Stay with us, Grandpa. Help will be here soon."
Not long thereafter, Aislinn began to jump about excitedly. She waved her arms and did everything she could to be noticed by the bird in the sky. She was off to the right of where most of her siblings were and it wasn't as easy for Little Danny to see her from where she was currently standing.
"*There! It's here!" the youngest triplet shouted at the top of her lungs.
From his vantage point, Little Danny felt more than heard his sister's shout. He turned and began the relay. Soon, several of the kids were all around Aislinn, all of them jumping and yelling at the nearing military helicopter.
"It's from General Hank!" Jonny exclaimed.
The helicopter circled a couple of times and then a man came over the speaker and asked, "Jonny Jackson-O'Neill, are you down there?"
The Munchkin jumped up and ran a few feet away, separating himself from his siblings.
"Code Plantacia Picked Up Rifle," the voice declared. Then came the ad lib, "For which you were properly spanked."
Jonny groaned, but it was the confirmation he needed. He nodded and waved at the men in the helicopter.
"Location of General Hammond?" the speaker rang out.
Jonny pointed and then he and the brood began to run toward their camp, all taking occasional looks up at the helicopter to make sure it was following them.
It was obscured, but the men in the chopper were able to see where the camp was.
"We can't land; we'll send men and equipment down at the clearing," the voice advised.
"Jeff, David, you two go," Jennifer ordered.
"And me!" Jonny insisted.
"Go on," the teen permitted.
A line was lowered allowing three men, a rescue net, and other medical gear to reach the ground and assist in aiding General Hammond. Two of the men did a quick check before putting the general inside the secure rescue net. With the children following, they carried the equipment to the small landing where it would be easier to safely raise Hammond up to the helicopter.
"We're taking him to the Air Force Academy Hospital," the rescue leader stated, after which he started to give instructions as to what the children should do next.
"Wait," Jennifer spoke haltingly. "We know what to do. I'm going with you in the helicopter, and my brothers and sisters are going home in our SUV. Did General Landry ask one of you to drive my grandfather's car back to the Springs?"
"I'll be doing that," the third man acknowledged.
"Great. Jeff has the keys," Jennifer advised as she motioned at her brother.
"Miss, we can't allow you to go with us."
"You have the room, and I *am* going with you. Do you want to stand here and argue, wasting time and risking your military careers, or do you want to strap me in and raise me up to be with my grandfather."
The three men exchanged looks. They were clear on Jennifer's connections and they'd heard plenty of stories of vanishing personnel due to General O'Neill's actions over the years. True or not, neither wanted to risk it.
"Okay," the man in charge agreed. Into his radio, he ordered, "Send down a rescue vest." He looked at Jennifer and advised, "We'll strap you into the vest and raise you up."
"Thank you." A couple of minutes later, Jennifer was in the air, being lifted upwards. "Do what I said," Jennifer called out to the others while looking down at them. "I love you. Grandpa will be okay."
Once the helicopter disappeared from sight, Jeff sighed, "Okay, let's get moving. Double-check the camp and make sure we have everything." He looked at the military man who stayed behind and said, "I'll take you to Grandpa's car and tell you where to take it."
The man acknowledged the words and walked with the children back to the camp, helping them to check the area before everyone finally left the wilderness of Idaho behind.
Arriving at the hospital, Jennifer was happy to see a team waiting to tend to her grandfather. She was even more pleased to see Janet Fraiser at the door.
The petite redhead acknowledged Jennifer, but went right to work, requesting the man's vitals.
Jennifer followed the hurried group as far as she could before being stopped and told to wait.
"I'll give you an update as soon as I have one," Janet told the teen before Jennifer was pushed back to the hallway.
Jennifer looked around nervously. She wanted to be with her grandfather, but knew she couldn't. All she could do now is wait. As she paced the cold hallway outside the room where Hammond was being treated, she realized she should call her parents. She didn't have her cell phone with her, though. It was still in the SUV. The teen approached the nurses' desk and asked to make a phone call.
"Local?" the nurse inquired.
"No, long distance, Ecuador."
"We can't accommodate that; I'm sorry," the woman responded.
"My grandfather is General Hammond, and my aunt is Janet Fraiser. She's here, taking care of him. We'll pay for the call."
"I wish I could help you."
"You have to, please."
"It's against the rules. Maybe when Doctor Fraiser is free."
"I want to make a local call, to General Landry at Cheyenne Mountain."
The nurse was impressed with the people Jennifer seemed to know, but rules were rules, and she wasn't about to get a reprimand in her jacket for allowing the long distance call. She handed the teen the phone to make her call, though she wondered if Jennifer could really get through. On the sly, she watched and listened, surprised when the teen was apparently connected to Landry within one minute of her call being answered. She could hear Jennifer giving Landry information on Hammond's condition and explaining that she needed to contact her parents but didn't have her smartphone available.
"General Landry wants to speak with you," Jennifer told the nurse, handing her the phone.
Hesitantly, the nurse accepted the phone and brought it to her ear.
"General Landry? ... my name? It's Robin Kinon ... It's against policy ... Yes ... Yes ... I see ... Yes, Sir ... Of course ... No, it's not a problem ... thank you ... goodbye."
With a small smile that spoke of what she'd just been ordered to do, the nurse handed Jennifer the phone and told her to make her call.
"Thank you," Jennifer responded. As she dialed Jack's phone number, she wondered if he'd answer. Ecuador was only two hours ahead of Colorado time and it was possible her parents would be heavily involved in their work and may not even have their phones with them. Hearing the voicemail recording, she sighed. "Dad, it's Jennifer. The brood is fine, but Grandpa has had a heart attack or something. I'll try Daddy's phone and leave more details on his voicemail, if he doesn't answer. Oh, I don't have my phone so if you get this, call the Air Force Academy Hospital. Bye." She hung up and smiled at the nurse. "Um, he didn't answer so I have to call my daddy."
The woman blinked and asked, "Your daddy? Didn't you just call him?"
"No, I called my dad. Now I'm calling my daddy." Jennifer didn't bother to explain. She had much on her mind and just didn't want to get into a discussion about her parents. Carefully, she dialed Daniel's mobile number. ~Come on, Daddy, answer.~
"Hello," the teenager heard.
Obviously, Daniel had his cell phone on him.
"Daddy, it's Jen."
"Jen? Where are you?" Daniel asked, having not recognized the incoming number.
"The Air Force Academy Hospital," Jennifer answered. "Daddy, Grandpa's had a heart attack I think. I mean, I think that's what it was. Maybe it's something else, but he collapsed this morning when we were in Idaho."
Jennifer heard Daniel calling out for Jack, who apparently was in a hole, digging for artifacts.
"Is everyone with you?"
"No, Jeff is driving the brood here in the SUV. Daddy, we called General Landry and he sent a rescue team in. Oh gosh! Daddy, we never called 9-1-1 back to tell them."
"Jen, it's okay. When we hang up, call 9-1-1 and make sure they know you received help from the military. It's okay to refer them to the Mountain, if necessary."
"Okay," the teen acknowledged. "Anyway, we're all fine. I flew here in the helicopter with Grandpa. Aunt Janet is here. She's still in with him. I ... Daddy, I don't know what's going on."
Daniel heard the cracking of his daughter's voice. He could tell she'd been through a lot.
"Sweetie, Dad and I will be home as fast as we can. Call Aunt Sam and Aunt Sara and see if one of them can meet you at the hospital. Ah, Jeff is taking the children ..."
"Here, Daddy. They insisted. They should be here anytime now."
"Okay, call your aunts."
"I can handle everything."
"Jen, call your aunts."
"Okay," the girl agreed.
"Do you have your phone with you?"
"Not yet. I ... Daddy, I didn't think to bring it with me. I just wanted to stay with Grandpa."
"That was a good decision, Jen. When Jeff gets there, make sure he brings you your phone. Does he have his?"
"Yes, but I'm not sure it's charged."
"We'll call one or both of you when we're in the air. Jen, if you need us, call."
"Yes. You've done everything you could for Grandpa. I love you."
"I love you, too." Jennifer then heard the loud echoing of her older father. She laughed lightly, "I love Dad, too."
"I'll tell him. Jen?"
"Are you okay?"
Jennifer thought for a moment and then responded with, "I'm fine."
In Ecuador, Daniel sighed and responded, "We'll be there soon."
"Hurry, Daddy, okay?"
"Promise," Daniel answered before disconnecting the call.
"Thank you again," Jennifer told the nurse as she fought to retain her composure. "Um, my parents are Major General Jack Jackson-O'Neill and Doctor Daniel Jackson-O'Neill. They may call here. If they do, please make sure you find me."
The nurse nodded and watched the struggling girl walk away. She felt sorry for the teen, who had clearly gone through a very rough time. Not only that, but now hearing who her parents were, the woman gave thanks that she'd allowed Jennifer to make the local call.
~I've heard stories about General O'Neill. I don't want to get on his bad side,~ she thought as she made a note to all personnel to notify Jennifer immediately should she receive any calls to the hospital.
In Ecuador, Daniel put his phone in his pocket and told his lover, "She's had a day, Jack. She's barely holding on."
"Let's go," Jack replied. "You can fill me in on the details as we move."
A couple of hours later, Jennifer's phone played a few lines from the musical song, "I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major-General."
"It's Dad," the teen told her brothers and sisters, who were now all gathered together at the hospital.
The father and daughter exchanged hellos and Jennifer quickly gave her parent the update on Hammond: she knew virtually nothing except that he was being closely watched.
"Aunt Janet said she's bringing in a specialist. They may operate after he ... hold on, Dad."
There was a minute or two of silence before Jennifer returned to her phone.
"Sorry, Dad, but Aunt Janet just told me Grandpa is being prepped for surgery. The specialist is probably going to insert one of those stent things, but he won't know for sure until he operates. Dad ..."
"Jen, we're about five hours out now. We'll have to take care of Jo before we can leave the airport," Jack informed his daughter about their private airplane. "Who's with you?"
"Aunt Sara is here. Aunt Sam is ... um, you know."
Jack responded, "Gotcha! Princess, stay strong. Can you let me talk to Sara for a minute?"
"Okay, thanks, Dad."
A few seconds later, Jack heard the voice of his ex-wife over the phone.
"Sara, thanks for being there for the kids," Jack spoke from his heart.
"Where else would I be at a time like this," Sara stated as she walked away from the brood to have a bit of privacy in her conversation. "Jack, the kids really worked hard to keep General Hammond alive. You're going to be amazed ... again."
"How are they doing?"
"Noa's scared, very scared, Jack. Apparently, Jen put her in charge of JD at the campsite where they were when the general collapsed. She's clung to the baby ever since, except for times of necessity, if you know what I mean."
"I get it."
"Jonny's a little upset, but I'm not sure why exactly."
"Sara, what do you think?" Jack asked, having recognized a certain inflection in his one-time wife's voice that indicated her intuition was telling her something that should definitely merit attention.
"I think the little boy was in conflict with the little general," Sara answered. "He tries so hard to be just like you, tough and strong, but he's still a boy, Jack, and his grandfather almost died right in front of his eyes."
Sara smiled briefly and then advised, "The rest of them are doing okay, except ..."
"From what they've said, she really took charge, but I think in the aftermath, it's hitting her hard about what happened. She made some tough choices out there, and not just for her grandfather, but with the brood. She's scared, nervous, worried, anxious ... doubting herself a bit, too. She needs her fathers."
"As long as Daniel doesn't land us in Denver by mistake," Jack teased, feeling the poke to his left arm from his husband who was piloting the aircraft, "we'll be at the hospital in less than six hours. Did the Doc say how long this medical procedure should take?"
As she observed the children from down the hallway, Sara replied, "It depends on the complexities of the arteries and how narrow they are. Janet speculated it would take two hours from what they've seen, but once they open him up, that time frame could change."
"Sara, odds?" Jack asked, his tone recognizable to the blonde.
Sara had heard that tone only a few times in their relationship. It was one of reality mixed with hope and of fear and hesitation mixed with guilt. It was the same tone she'd heard Jack use when talking with the doctors when their son Charlie was dying in the hospital. It frightened her and brought back the nightmare of her son's death.
"I'm sorry, Jack." Taking a breath, she answered, "He was without care for a long time while they were in Idaho. He wasn't breathing on his own for quite a while." She sighed and took a few seconds before she continued, "Janet said it's sixty-forty right now. They had some issues and debate on what treatment they wanted to do. They're hoping the stent will do the job. They really don't want to do a bypass."
"What the heck does that mean?"
"There's a narrowing of one artery for sure. That would indicate that a stent should be effective, but there might be more. Jack, I'm not sure why they can't determine whether or not there are more obstructed vessels or not. Janet's been with Hammond most of the time."
"Can you stay with the kids until we get there?"
"Of course. I called Mark and he came home early so he's with Angela and Maddie," Sara spoke about her own children. "I left him a frozen dinner."
Jack laughed lightly, remembering a private joke the couple shared from their married days about frozen dinners.
"Thanks, Sara. I appreciate it."
"Speak with you soon, Jack. Give my love to Daniel."
"Will do," Jack said and then disconnected the call.
"Well?" Daniel asked his husband.
"We need to get there fast," Jack answered succinctly.
Daniel nodded and listened as his lover told him what Sara had said on the phone.
An hour later, Daniel asked his unusually quiet husband, "What are you thinking about?"
"He's gotta make it, Danny. I'm not ready to live in a world without him." There was a pause before Jack added, "Remember when he was a little ... pudgy? He really trimmed down. Geez, he's gotten healthier over the years."
"Which is a good thing because it makes him better able to fight this."
Looking out at the clouds, the older man responded, "I respect that man, Danny. Even when we butted heads, I always respected him."
There was a chuckle, a lighthearted one that broke the melancholy tone of the conversation.
"Okay, what's so funny?" Jack asked.
"Sorry, it probably shouldn't be, but I was remembering a ... conversation with General Hammond when we, uh, butted heads."
"What's so funny about it?"
"It really wasn't a funny time." Daniel looked away and then revealed, "It was during the mission to Euronda."
Jack shook his head. That wasn't his favorite mission in the world. In fact, it was a painful one that he preferred never to think about.
"Before or after I told you to shut up?"
"After, when you ordered me back to Earth. General Hammond and I were ... discussing the moral implications of Earth providing the heavy water to Euronda. I questioned its wisdom by asking if the trade off we were contemplating by providing the heavy water made the moral issue evaporate."
"Water ... evaporates ... yeah," Jack acknowledged.
"It was one of the worst puns of my life, and I really wish I hadn't said it."
"It worked; couldn't have been that bad."
"I still think I could have found a better word to use, but maybe not." Daniel glanced over at his reflective soulmate. "He'll come through this, Jack."
All Jack did was nod. He was too lost in his own thoughts again to say anything verbally.
"Thanks, Doc," Jack spoke. He put down his smartphone and remarked, "The surgery is taking a little longer than they expected."
"She couldn't elaborate. She just came out to give us an update," Jack responded. "She's headed back in to observe."
"Jack, I heard you say something about General Hammond's daughters."
"They're not there yet. Clarice is having a problem getting a flight, so Landry is sending a plane for her."
"Angel, I've been thinking, and no funny jokes."
"Never," the pilot replied with a soft smile.
"When Hammond is up and around again," Jack began, thinking positively about the outcome of the surgery, "we need to go on another excavation dig."
"Hammond needs to take the kids on another trip."
"Good idea." Daniel smiled. He hadn't thought of that yet himself, but it made sense to him. "He'll probably be a little hesitant."
"We need to leave him with no choice and convince him he'll be letting the kids down, if he doesn't. Danny, Hammond was looking forward to this little adventure for a long time. I don't want him having doubts about his ability to take care of the brood. I trust him."
"Me, too. You can't predict a heart attack or any illness," the archaeologist stated. "He might be a hard sell."
Jack looked at his Love and put forward, "Maybe we should let the kids bring it up."
"Dirty pool, Babe."
"Yeah," Jack agreed with a mischievous chuckle, though it lasted only a second before the seriousness of the situation prevailed once again.
That evening, the Jackson-O'Neills were reunited at the Air Force Academy Hospital. Hammond was out of surgery, having successfully had a stent implanted and was resting comfortably in the coronary care unit of the hospital. The prognosis was very good. The parents weren't quite ready to leave, though. They hadn't yet seen Hammond and they both felt a need to do so before going home. With Hammond's children and grandkids with him at the moment, the parents decided to handle some sensitive subjects while everyone waited for a chance to see the general themselves.
Staring over at the children, Daniel suggested, "You take Jonny, and I'll talk to Noa. We can both talk to Jen later."
"That might be best handled at home," Jack suggested.
Daniel nodded his head in agreement and then queried, "What do you think if we ask Sara to take JD home with her tonight?"
"Yeah, he's tired. He shouldn't be here, but I don't know, Danny. Noa's affixed herself to him like a stamp to an envelop."
"I'll see if I can steam off the stamp."
"A bad one, but yes," Daniel sighed.
"Good luck," Jack wished to his soulmate before walking over to his namesake. He smiled at the boy as he saw sensitive brown eyes looking up at him with such love and need. Putting his hand on Jonny's head and caressing lightly, Jack said, "Sport, why don't we go over there and have a little talk."
"Okay, Dad," Jonny agreed, getting up and letting himself be guided by Jack's firm hand that now was on his upper back, gently pushing him onward.
Meanwhile, Daniel approached Chenoa, who was still glued to JD. He kneeled down in front of the two, his hands going to JD.
"Princess, JD needs to sleep. Aunt Sara's going to take him home with her now."
"I'm taking care of him, Daddy," Chenoa responded softly.
"And you're doing a great, but I need some attention from you. Think you have a minute or two to let me hold you and talk?"
That was the magic that finally allowed Chenoa to let go of JD. It was a subtle shift from caring for a loved one to being cared for by a loved one.
"Thank you," Daniel spoke quietly. He stood, picking up his son, who leaned against his shoulder, wanting to sleep. He approached Sara, who smiled at him. "Sara, would you mind taking JD home with you? I think Jack and I need to focus on rest of the brood, and he's tired and doesn't really even know what's going on."
"How'd you pry him away from Noa?" Sara inquired as she took hold of the baby.
"Call me if you need me."
"We really appreciate you're being here, and thank Mark for coming home early so you could be here."
"That's what family's all about, Daniel. I'll check in with you and Jack in the morning."
"Thanks," Daniel replied, leaning over and kissing Sara on the cheek. "Night, JD. Love you," he said as he took a few seconds to just look at the boy and give him a kiss goodnight.
Jack and Jonny sat down on a bench in hospital corridor. The father put his arm around the boy and just let the feeling of comfort and safety sink in.
"Son, how was it out there?"
Jonny looked into his father's eyes. He wanted to be just like Jack, tall, strong, confident, and a leader. It was the most important thing he wanted in his young life. He trusted those eyes, brown eyes, just like his.
"Scary," the Munchkin finally answered. "I tried to be good, Dad, and stay strong, like you would."
"I didn't mean to cry," the boy sighed as his head lowered.
"Jonny, there's nothing wrong with crying. You did your job out there, right?" Seeing the boy's nod, Jack put forth, "Then there's nothing wrong with a few tears. You love Grandpa, right?"
Jack thought for a moment about what he wanted to say, so he decided to be straight up and use the current experience as the centerpiece of the discussion.
"Love is one strong power punch of an emotion, Son. You can acknowledge it and let it take over, or you can deny it and let your bravado rule the day." Jack grinned and added, "Or you can take the best of both and live to see another day."
"What do you mean, Dad?"
"Tell me what happened today," Jack returned. "Blow by blow, all of it: report!"
Jonny gave his father every detail he could recall, all of the facts of the day from the moment Hammond collapsed until the general was lifted up to the helicopter and flown away.
"Now tell me again, from your heart and not your head."
"Take me through it, blow by blow, but tell me how you felt and not what you did," Jack requested.
"I was real happy. Grandpa was telling us about his wife. He was smiling a lot," Jonny recalled. "I was hoping we could stay by the river all day, but then he screamed, and I got scared. He fell down, Dad, and he didn't move. I shook him, but he didn't move. Jen started CPR and I couldn't breathe. That's it how felt. My chest hurt. Then Jen told me to call General Hank. My heart was beating really fast and I ran. I just kept running. The phone wouldn't work for a long time. I was more scared. I thought Grandpa was dead," the boy spoke sadly, wiping away a tear that was falling.
"Go on," Jack urged.
"It finally worked and I was trying to get that man to let me talk to General Hank, but he wouldn't let me. I was mad. He wouldn't even listen, Dad. I hung up. Then I was afraid that I wouldn't be able to make another call, but it worked, and I felt good about that. I pretended to be you, but he didn't believe me. I got scared again. It was important to talk to General Hank. Then Sergeant Siler came on the phone, and I felt good, real good, cause I knew he was gonna help us."
"Siler's reliable," Jack interjected calmly, just to give his son a break from the emotions he knew was swelling inside the boy.
"General Hank got help right away. I ran back as fast as I could to tell Jen. Grandpa was breathing okay, but he wasn't awake. He wouldn't wake up, Dad. Grandpa's strong, like you, but he wouldn't wake up," Jonny cried, leaning against his father who held him tight.
"Let it out, Jonny," Jack encouraged. This is what it was about, for Jonny to release the emotions he'd tried so hard all day to keep contained. "You did everything right. You got help and when you had the time, you worried, you cared, and you cried. That's how it's done, Sport. When you can't afford to waste time, you do your job. You find a clearing, you make the call, you relay the messages, you help your brothers and sisters; you do whatever you have to do to get to the endgame. When you have time, when there's a moment to breathe, that's when you acknowledge your feelings. You let out your love, your fears, your insecurities: you feel whatever it is you feel and you deal with it." The father gently pulled apart from his son, wanting the boy to see him as he spoke. "Jonny, you were a hero out there. All of you were, but when you had to, you did what was necessary. You followed orders from Jen and you led the charge with the younger kids when it was needed. When you could, you told Grandpa how much you love him by crying and feeling sad and being afraid. That's all anyone can do; it's all I've ever tried to, and it's all you could have done out there. Daddy and I are both very proud of you and the others. You saved Grandpa's life, Jonny. You kept your head."
"Did you cry, Dad? On missions, did you cry?"
"Sometimes, when I was alone or after, when it was done. When you're in the heat of battle, you don't have time. After, between the jobs, that's when it's time; that's when it's okay, but then you have to suck it up and be ready to do your job again. It's not easy, Son, but that's you have to do." Jack smiled at his son and decided to try one more thing. "Jonny, Daddy's a warrior. Did you know that?"
"Do you *really* know that?" Jack queried, seeing a confused look on the boy's face. "Your daddy is my hero. You know why?"
Jonny shook his head.
"Because how you were today is how Daddy was everyday, out there, on missions where we were tested constantly. You know, you and Little Danny keep telling us how much you have both of us in your hearts, that you're like both of us. Daddy wasn't raised to be a soldier. He never wanted to be one, but when he joined SG-1, he became one. Even so, he never, ever abandoned his quest for the truth, for cultural understanding, and for humanity to win out over politics. Jonny, Daddy is as good of a soldier as me; maybe better. I taught him a lot, but he always had the heart of the world working for him. He killed when he had to. He certainly saved my skin multiple times, but then he cried. Taking a life, lying, betraying a world for our own ends was not something he wanted to do. He did if he had to, but he fought, and he fought hard, to make it so he didn't have to do it very often. Daddy cried a lot. It never mattered to him if someone saw or whether it was in the middle of a mission or after. He was the heart and soul of SG-1, Son. I was the fire power. Now you tell me, which was more important?"
Jonny stared at his father, confused about how to answer.
"Daddy taught me so much. I finally found the heart again, thanks to him. What I'm trying to say is that it's okay to cry, to feel, and to care, and to be honest, I don't care two cents if you cried even while talking to General Landry. You did your job, Jonny, that's all that counts, and if you could show your humanity while doing it, like Daddy always did, then, wow, that ... that makes me proud," Jack spoke with a cracked voice, his right hand now patting his chest over his heart.
"I can cry, even if I'm a general?"
"*Especially* if you are a general," Jack confirmed. "Feel, Jonny. Be smart, do your job, but never stop feeling," he encouraged. "Be brave but be just, just like Daddy taught me. Be like Daddy, Son, be just like Daddy."
Jonny leaned in for a huge embrace. He had a lot to think about. He was proud of both his parents, but he'd always thought that being like Jack was the way to go. Now he wondered if maybe what he and Little Danny had said all along was really the ultimate truth, that they were the best of both their fathers.
~I knew that,~ Jonny finally thought. ~I'm the little general, and I have heart, like my daddy ... and my dad!~
Once Sara left the hospital with JD, Daniel approached Chenoa. At first, he reached out for the seven-year-old's hand, but when she looked up at him, he saw such vulnerability that he leaned over and picked her up. Immediately, her arms flung around him and her face nuzzled tightly into his neck. The father held his little girl tight as he walked down the hallway, looking for a place where they could sit. Spying an empty room, he opted to go inside, shutting the door behind him, and sitting down on a rolling stool.
Before Daniel could say anything, Chenoa cried, "I don't want Grandpa to die."
"He's not going to die, Sweetie. He came through the surgery and, you know what? He's going to better than ever now."
"Well, you could say the doctors cleaned out his arteries. See, in our bodies we have paths, like little tunnels, that carry blood where we need it, especially to the heart," Daniel explained. "Sometimes, those paths get blocked. They're ... dirty and develop clogs that prevent the blood from flowing. That's what happened to Grandpa. During the surgery, they did a little cleaning which is why the operation took a little longer than expected. Grandpa will have to take it easy for a little while, but once he's back on his feet, he'll be healthier than he's been in a very long time."
"Are you sure?"
"Yes," Daniel responded positively.
"Daddy, why do people die?"
Daniel's heart broke with the sadness he saw in the little dove's eyes. It was clear she was thinking about her birth parents as well as Hammond.
"Grandpa is the only grandparent I have. My friends have two, three, or four. All I have is Grandpa." Chenoa sniffled, "Why do they die?"
"It's, uh, part of the cycle of life, Honey. I know that can be hard to understand, but it is. We live our lives as best we can and then at some point, we move on."
Daniel paused, let out an uncertain sigh, and ultimately responded, "Hopefully, if we live good lives."
"But why do I only have one grandparent? Is it my fault? Did I do something bad?"
"Oh no, Sweetheart. It has nothing to do with you at all," Daniel assured. Then he made the choice to proceed as he and his husband had virtually decided upon years ago when the Munchkins were born. "Noa, who lives and dies is up to God. Sometimes we don't know why and we don't understand it. I mean, uh, I was eight when my parents died. I've never understood why that had to happen, either." His mind drifted back to that moment when he'd witnessed his parents' deaths. The ache and shock was still inside him. "I ... I didn't have grandparents living, either, except for Nick."
"He was a bad man."
"Well, he was a man who had a dream and that dream was the most important thing in his life. It ... it made him make choices that maybe he shouldn't have."
"You didn't have other grandparents, Daddy?"
"No, not really. My dad's parents died before I was born, and my mother's mom died when I was little, too little to remember her, except ..."
Daniel became silent, his mind drifting far away. With the exception of Nicholas Ballard, he hadn't thought about his own grandparents in literally decades.
"Daddy, are you okay?"
Daniel looked at his innocent daughter and smiled before answering, "I was thinking about my grandmother. She smelled of lavender. I ... I remember my mother saying Grandma loved everything lavender. She had lavender plants, wore perfume with lavender scents; she just loved it." Smiling sweetly, he laughed lightly. "Noa, I don't think I ever remembered that until this moment."
"I wish I could remember my grandparents, my mommy's and daddy's parents."
"Me, too, but maybe we can pick Jen's brain. You know, she might remember a lot about them. Maybe, uh, Aunt Sam can do a little research. Would you like that?"
Chenoa bobbed her head up and down and said, "I wish Grandpa had a wife so she could be my grandma."
"You never know, Princess. You've met Mrs. Crenshaw. Maybe one day, she'll be your grandma."
"Daddy, can I see Grandpa now?"
Running his hand through his daughter's curly hair, the father answered, "Why don't we go see what Aunt Janet has to say, and we'll go from there."
"I love you, Noa."
"I love you, too, Daddy," the Curly Top said, giving Daniel a kiss and again throwing her arms around him.
Both father and daughter stood up and, taking her hand in his, Daniel led Chenoa out of the room, down the hallway, and back to where the rest of the family was gathered.
Minutes later, Janet appeared and suggested that Jack and Daniel take their children home for the night. That idea didn't set well with the brood.
"Not until we see Grandpa," Jonny spoke up defiantly.
"Have to see Grandpa," Chenoa added with a fairly strong air about her.
"Janet, it's important for the children to see General Hammond. Just a few minutes, please," Daniel requested.
"His daughters are still there. He needs to rest," Janet maintained. Then she looked over at the eleven children, all standing with or behind Jonny. She wanted to give in, but her medical ethics didn't allow it. "Tomorrow."
At that moment, Hammond's daughters appeared. They came over and joined Jack, Daniel, and Janet. The group chatted for a minute, after which Janet walked away.
Still standing, Jonny had overheard his aunt say she was going to do a last check on General Hammond before heading home.
"Everyone," the little general called out quietly. Pointing at the physician, he nodded at Jenny who didn't need verbal instruction to understand what the Munchkin wanted her to do. As the Spitfire moved out, Jonny ordered, "Jen, Jeff, Bri, make a wall."
Jennifer wanted to laugh, but she couldn't. Though fairly certain she was about to lose phone privileges for a week if not more, she helped to develop the older brood wall. The three oldest stood tightly together. David was on the edge, slightly behind the three but filling a needed gap. The younger children all stood behind the oldest ones.
"Better act like we're talking," Brianna suggested.
In no time at all, Jenny stuck her head around the corridor and nodded. She'd accomplished her mission.
"Little Danny, go!" Jonny whispered. Then he touched Ricky's shoulder. After glancing over at where his parents were still engaged in conversation with Hammond's children, he touched Lulu's arm and motioned for her to quickly walk away, joining the others. "I go now, then David."
"Okay, this is going to be the hard part," Jeff said quietly to Jennifer and Brianna once all of the other kids were around the corner and out of sight.
"Maybe we should just run for it," Brianna suggested.
"How about we walk very slowly. If they look over, they might not notice we're further away," the oldest Jackson-O'Neill offered.
The three followed Jennifer's suggestion until Jeff took a look over his shoulder and felt like his parents were about to turn around.
"Move out!" the teen exclaimed in an intense but whispered voice.
"Dad told us to stay at his house, so we're headed there now," Clarice, who was the oldest of the two daughters, told the others.
"Did he give you the codes?" Jack questioned.
"He has a security system now," Daniel answered.
"We didn't know that," Beverly, who was the youngest of the Hammond girls, replied.
"Hey, if you stick around for a minute, we can drive you to Hammond's, show you the system, and make sure you know the codes," Jack suggested.
"Thank you, Jack," Clairice returned.
"We'll just get the ..." Daniel stopped his sentence as he turned and realized the brood had disappeared. "... children."
"Yeah," Jack responded, knowing exactly what had occurred.
Clairice laughed, "To be honest, Jack, Dad asked to them and wasn't happy when Doctor Fraiser told him it would have to wait until tomorrow. Frankly, I think he'll sleep better if he does see them."
"Be right back," Jack stated as he and Daniel headed for Hammond's room.
Having waited for Janet to leave the room they knew their grandfather was in, the children entered, happily surprising the general. One by one, they gave their love, ending with a kiss of goodnight.
"Careful," Jennifer warned Jenny while helping the Spitfire to climb up onto Hammond's hospital bed.
"I love you, Grandpa. Sweet dreams," Jenny spoke, following it up with a gentle kiss and loose hug.
~Door.~ Hearing the door, Jonny turned and saw his parents entering. He stood up straight as can be, crossed his arms together, and strongly stated, "No care if I don't get ice cream for a month, two months even; have to say goodnight to Grandpa."
Jack smiled at his namesake and walked forward, as did Daniel, until both were standing side by side at the front of the man's bed.
"How are you doing, General?" Jack asked.
"Thanks to this bunch, I'm still kicking," the soft, somewhat weak reply came. "Great kids you have here, Jack."
"Actually, Sir, our children have a great grandpa," Daniel corrected.
"Don't be too hard on them for breaking the rules," Hammond requested. "You two have broken a few rules in your day. Still have your jacket, Jack. Kept it as a memento," the man joked.
"We'll be back tomorrow," Jack responded lightly. "Rest well, Sir."
"Thank you, Son, both of you, for my grandkids."
"We love you ... Grandpa," Daniel expressed with a loving smile.
Hammond nodded and almost fell asleep on the spot.
"Wait! I didn't get to hug Grandpa," Chenoa objected.
"Come right up here," Hammond called out, guardedly moving his right hand to motion for her to come forward.
With help from Jeff, Chenoa was soon sprawled out next to Hammond, hugging him more firmly than the other children had.
"I love you so much, Grandpa."
"And I love you, Noa. Don't you forget to come back tomorrow."
"I won't," Chenoa replied with a smile and sharing a goodnight kiss with Hammond.
"Out!" Jack ordered, his head nodding towards the door. The children filed out and Daniel gave one more smile and bob of his head to the recovering man. Jack walked to the door, his hand on its edge. He looked back. "Goodnight, Grandpa."
Hammond swallowed, smiling and finally feeling like he could rest. He closed his eyes and entered the realm of sleep.
The next afternoon, the entire Jackson-O'Neill family, sans JD who was being cared for Mitzi Miller, one of the neighbors trusted by Jack and Daniel, was gathered in Hammond's room. The retired general looked better, but was still weak from his ordeal. Even so, he was enjoying the attention of the brood. Janet had waived normal hospital rules preventing the admittance of young children.
"Why fight nature?" the doctor had told Jack and Daniel on the phone. "One way or the other, you know they'll get in."
"They can be resourceful," Daniel had replied.
"It's in their genes," Janet had corrected with a hint of resigned frustration in her voice.
The visit also gave a break to Hammond's daughters and granddaughters, all of whom had spent the morning with the man.
"It's all uphill from here," Jack teased.
"You're a comfort, Jack," Hammond mused with a twinge of sarcasm.
"Did you have any clue this might happen?" Daniel inquired.
"Now that I think about it, I imagine so, Son," the general admitted. He went on to elaborate that for the days just prior to his heart attack, he'd had some shortness of breath and felt weaker than normal. He'd even felt a bit uneasy, but he'd attributed all of this to having been more inactive in recent days. It was one of the reasons he'd looked forward to the weekend trip with the brood. "I knew they'd wake me up, charge my batteries, but I didn't know they'd keep me alive."
"We need you, Grandpa," Jennifer interjected with a loving smile.
Hammond returned the smile and sighed, "I ignored the warnings." He chuckled lightly, "Should have listened to my own story."
"Story?" Daniel questioned.
"Grandpa told us about his friend Willie who almost fell down the elevator shaft," Lulu explained.
"Oh," the still-confused archaeologist responded.
"Sir, we need to go," Jack stated, aware that Mitzi had an appointment to get to so they needed to collect JD from her in time for her to keep her schedule.
"Thanks for coming by."
"We'll be back," Jonny declared before climbing on the bed to give his grandfather a kiss and hug, a move that was repeated by the rest of the younger kids.
"See you tomorrow, Grandpa," Jeff spoke.
Once all the farewells were done, the family left Hammond alone in his hospital room.
~That brood; great bunch of kids.~
The following Saturday, Hammond was released from the hospital. His oldest grandchildren, Tessa and Kayla, returned to their college studies, while his youngest granddaughter, Vanessa, was sent home to be with her dad so she, too, could go back to school. Hammond's daughters remained in the Springs to care for their father. However, on the morning of Washington's Birthday a few days later, both women needed to return to their out-of-state homes and regretfully left their father's house. Hammond told them not to worry, that he could fend for himself. Not only that, but his lady friend, Martha Crenshaw, would be by from time to time to check on him.
Across town, Jack and Daniel prepared a late morning breakfast for their brood, having allowed the children to sleep in since it was a holiday. They'd fed JD, who was happily playing in his crib in the nursery under the watch gaze of both Bijou and Katie, the family's trusted canines.
"Yeah, it's a little quiet around here, even for 10 a.m.," Daniel agreed, not having needed his husband to express the observation outright.
Making sure the burners were off, the couple exited the hospitality room where they'd been cooking and headed into the living room. Their intent was to head upstairs to check on the kids. They never made it that far as the moment they entered the living room, they were greeted by six very determined members of the brood, all clearly on a mission.
**Trouble,** Jack noted to his lover.
**For us or General Hammond?** Daniel returned.
Daniel's comment was based partially on the attire of Lulu, Aislinn, and Jenny, all of whom were wearing traditional white nursing outfits, complete with caps atop their heads. Then there were Jonny and Little Danny wearing white hospital jackets. Little Danny even had a real stethoscope around his neck, the item acquired during one of his visits to the infirmary to spend time with Janet. Finally, Ricky was draped in blue surgical scrubs that included a mask and gloves.
The getups were courtesy of one of the skits the children had done not long ago. They'd performed a spoof of "Dr. Kildare," a classic medical series from the 1960's that they'd seen a few episodes of while spending the night with Janet. The physician had received a couple of DVDs full of episodes from the TV show as a Christmas gift one year.
The other basis for the archaeologist's comment was that next to each child was his or hers suitcase, which both parents assumed were fully packed.
"Are we having an operation?" Jack questioned. "Maybe a medical seminar?"
"We have to take care of Grandpa," Aislinn informed her parents.
"Grandpa can take care of himself," the silver-haired man assured.
"He needs us," Jonny argued, fully aware that Hammond's immediate family had all departed the Springs by now.
"What's going on?" Jennifer asked as she entered the living room.
"We're going to help Grandpa," Jenny answered.
"Hey, are we having a meeting?" Jeff called out as he joined the family. "Oh, wow," he expressed as he reacted to the younger kids. "What's going on?"
"Your brothers and sisters seem to think Grandpa can't get along with them," Jack responded.
"He can't!" Ricky exclaimed strongly.
Just then, Brianna and David came bounding down the stairs, both laughing at something they'd been discussing. They, too, stopped when they saw the rest of the family. In short order, they were brought up to date with the demands of the children.
"Kids, I know you want to help Grandpa, but he'll be fine," Jack told the six kids.
"We're going!" Jonny refuted with little general eyes that threatened to one day be equal to the glaring general eyes of his older father.
"Um, if it helps, I'll go, too," Brianna volunteered. "I can watch them while they watch Grandpa."
"Yah, Bri!" the kids cheered.
"I wish I could," Jennifer sighed. "I have three tests this week."
"And I have two tests and an essay due," Jeff added. "Sorry."
"It's okay, Jeff, we can do it on our own," Aislinn insisted.
"I guess I can help Bri watch them," David pointed out.
"Bri, David, thank you, but neither of you are old enough to be responsible for these ... doctors and nurses day and night," Daniel responded, thinking about the tweens' ages of twelve- and eleven-years-old.
"Grandpa needs us!" Jonny maintained, though his little general eyes softened to those of a child who needed to be with his grandpa.
**Danny, we have today off, but you know our schedule for the rest of the week.**
**They're the brood, Babe.**
**Look at them. They'll find a way.**
Jack observed the younger children and sighed, **You know something? You're right. I don't know how, but they'd get there.**
**Like Janet said, they have our genes, even when they don't.**
The parents shared an internal chuckle as their brood waited to see what was going happen.
**It's great that Bri and David want to help out, but we both have a lot of work to do this week,** Daniel communicated. **We can't give them our full attention like we could normally.**
**Then there are the visitors,** Jack noted. **Hammond has a lot of friends and associates, Danny. They're going to visit. Bri and David won't know who they are. Hammond's security system isn't enough. Like it or not, if we let them go, one of us has to be there, too.**
"Dad, Daddy!" Ricky whined.
The kids were weary of waiting for their parents to stop looking like mannequins as they resolved the situation.
"Flip?" Jack put forward to his husband.
Pulling out a coin, Daniel announced, "Call it."
Daniel flipped the coin and revealed it to Jack.
"Listen up, kids," Jack began. "The Jackson-O'Neill Care Unit departs right after breakfast for Grandpa's." As the cheers went up, he continued, "Daddy and I will alternate nights staying with you. I get the first shift."
The parents covered a few more bases with the kids and then instructed them to go into the hospitality room for breakfast.
"Lulu," Jack called out, waving for the girl to join him once she had turned and seen the motion. "What about Noa?"
With a sad breath, Lulu answered, "She's still in bed. She doesn't want to come, Dad. She just wants to take care of her ponies."
"Thanks, Little Bit," Jack replied and sent her to eat with the rest of the children.
Jack looked at Daniel, who shared his concern. Chenoa had been hit with a tough dose of reality a few days ago when Janet and Teal'c announced their engagement. The little girl felt betrayed by her aunt and lied to by the Jaffa she'd loved for years. Chenoa was despondent, sticking to herself and doing only what was required of her by her parents. Not even her great love for her grandfather could make her feel better.
"Whoever is here will have their hands full with Noa; she needs to be a main focus," Daniel suggested.
"Jen being here should help with that," Jack responded. "We'll make it work."
"Should we try to get Noa to come down for breakfast?"
"Let's give her one more day, Danny."
In agreement about what they needed to do, Jack and Daniel joined their children to enjoy the first meal of the day.
With the alarm system off, Jack used his key and unlocked the door to Hammond's house. Before he could give his permission, the younger brood members hurried past him, looking all around for their patient.
"Grandpa!" a choir of voices rang out as they ran to Hammond, who was reading a book while sitting in his favorite chair in the sunroom.
"Hey, careful!" Jack warned the children.
"Dad's right. One at a time," Jonny ordered, taking the opportunity to get in the first hug. "We're going to take care of you."
"You are?" Hammond questioned curiously.
Once all the greetings were taken care of, Jack told the children, "Kids, I need a few minutes to talk to Grandpa. Bri, David."
The two older children had been instructed on their roles in the Care Unit. Their names were all they needed to know that their current job was to keep their younger siblings away until Jack said otherwise.
When the room was clear, Jack sat down in the matching recliner and explained, "Sir, they insisted on coming."
"They can be persistent," Hammond agreed.
"Look, I'll try to keep them out of your hair as much as possible," Jack stated.
"Son, I haven't had hair since you went back to 1969."
Jack laughed and filled the man in on the game plan that he and Daniel had created. Hammond's house was large enough to hold the entire Jackson-O'Neill family as they'd all moved in with the general when their house was being renovated years earlier. Having just half the bunch would be simple. Of course, the kids often stayed overnight at the home anyway.
With Hammond's agreement, everyone settled in and went about their business.
After a while, Jack set up shop in Hammond's study. He had plenty to do related to J-O Enterprises. Brianna and David were tasked with keeping the eager doctors and nurses out of trouble while also allowing them to help Hammond as much as possible.
"Ah, Dad?" Brianna called out from the doorway.
"The kids are insisting on giving Grandpa his medicine."
"Whoa," Jack responded, bolting out of his chair and following Brianna into the kitchen were he discovered Nurse Jenny with a small tray. He was well aware that the medications ranged from aspirin to a beta-blocker. He didn't even like the thought of his children opening up one of the pill bottles. "Hold up," he called out. "What are you doing?"
"We're giving Grandpa his medicine," Jonny answered as he stood behind the Spitfire.
"Kids, I know you have plans to help Grandpa, but handling his medicine is something he should do himself."
"He needs us," Little Danny negated.
Jack approached Jenny, intending to take the tray from her, and said, "Medicine is serious business. It's not something you should be playing around with. Grandpa's taking several different pills right now. Giving him the wrong one or in the wrong dosage could do a lot of damage."
Jenny sniffled, "We aren't hurting Grandpa. Little Danny checked it, and then Jonny did, and then I did. We wo...wo..."
"Hey, it's okay, Princess," Jack sighed, taking a look at the medication and ensuring it was correct. "Dry those tears and give Grandpa his pills."
Carefully, the Spitfire walked away, the medicine tray in her hands. She was followed by the rest of the medical staff.
"Close call, Dad," Brianna stated quietly.
Jack nodded and then both caught up with the others to give Hammond his medicine.
"Danny, you should have seen her," Jack spoke over the webcam to his husband that night.
"We can't let them dispense the medicine."
"They need a system," the older man put forth.
"You mean, we need a system."
"Right now our system is Bri and David," Jack responded. "If they thought this was going to be a breeze, they were proven wrong."
"Anything else I should know about?"
"Yeah, exercise," Jack sighed. "The kids are determined to keep Hammond on his feet and mobile. I had that conference call with O'Keefe but managed to keep it under control. If you can reign the little drill sergeants in a bit tomorrow, it might be a good idea."
The next morning, Jack and Daniel changed places. It didn't take long until Daniel had to deal with the medicine situation himself.
"Daddy, medicine time, and the kids are doing it again," Brianna told her father who was seated at Hammond's desk in the study.
"Okay," Daniel sighed and headed for the kitchen.
"We're ready for you, Daddy," Jenny stated, the tray in her hand.
Daniel blinked once as he took in the system the children had put into place.
Picking up the plastic container, Daniel asked, "Color coding?"
"We don't know all the words," Jonny replied.
"Smart," Daniel praised as he took a closer look at the other bottles still on the counter.
"It was Little Danny's idea," Jonny informed his father. "I picked the colors, though," he said about the patriotic red, white, and blue colors.
Each plastic bottle now had a color affixed to it. Little Danny also made a chart that listed all the medication time slots for the week. Each slot had the same color tag affixed to it, helping the kids to ensure that the blue medication was given at the blue times on the chart.
"And then we sign it, so we know who gave it to Grandpa and when," Little Danny further explained.
"You and Dad can check it first, too," Jenny stated, though she wasn't thrilled at the monitoring.
"You all did a great job," Daniel told the children. "Go give Grandpa his medicine."
The younger kids marched out, pleased to have gotten Daniel's permission to carry on, but still not happy about the oversight.
"They don't like you and Daddy looking over their shoulder," Brianna told her daddy.
"No, but it's necessary, Bri," Daniel replied. "But they're making it easier."
Daniel followed the children, but he held back, watching from the doorway as they administered the appropriate medication to their grandfather.
Another challenge emerged midday when Aislinn and Ricky informed their grandfather that it was time for his first exercise period. Even though he'd been walking around a bit, the children insisted he needed to do more.
"Daddy, the exercise team is going at it," David hurriedly informed the archaeologist.
"Thanks," Daniel replied, getting up and following his son to where the others were initiating the exercise regime.
"What exercises should we do?" Aislinn asked Ricky.
"We need weights; that's what the computer says."
"Hey," Daniel called out. "Are they bothering you, Sir?"
"Of course not," Hammond negated. "Not sure I'm up to exercising though."
"Daddy, the computer says exercise is important," Aislinn countered. "Little Danny said so."
~Little Danny: the authority on everything apparently,~ Daniel mused. It was a negative response, but all he'd heard since the beginning of the Jackson-O'Neill Care Unit was that Little Danny had read this or read that. Daniel was actually quite proud of the boy's diligence in checking things out. Still, every case was different, something Daniel was definitely aware of. "Um, it's just that patients are unique, and the kind of exercise they need is different. We haven't talked to Aunt Janet about what Grandpa needs. Just like with medication, the wrong type or duration of exercise could be more bad than good."
"*Little Danny,*" Aislinn shouted.
"Ash, don't shout."
Fortunately for the youngest Munchkin, Little Danny heard her command and joined the family in Hammond's living room. Once he'd been advised of what his daddy had said, the boy took action by walking to the telephone.
"Son, what are you doing?"
"Calling Aunt Janet."
"Of course, you are," Daniel returned in an 'oh well' tone. Still, he felt the need to intercede a bit. Taking the phone from his namesake, he smiled when the physician answered the phone. "Janet, it's Daniel."
"How are you, Daniel?"
"Any change with Noa?" the concerned doctor asked.
"No, and I'm not calling about that," the archaeologist noted. "I'm not sure if you're aware or not, but some of the children are here with General Hammond, taking care of him."
"Daniel, what are they up to?"
"Well, the current situation concerns exercise. They ..."
"I'll be right over," Janet interrupted, hanging up the phone.
"Aunt Janet is on her way, so until she gets here, no exercise for Grandpa," Daniel ordered.
"Okay," Aislinn reluctantly agreed.
"Ash, come sit with your grandpa," Hammond beckoned, loving the smile that he saw in response. "How about I tell you all a story."
"Another scary story?" Little Danny asked.
"Maybe not so scary this time."
Daniel listened for a couple of minutes and then whispered to David, "Let me know if you need me."
"Okay, Daddy," David responded, tuning back into the story after Daniel left the room.
"I love that you all want to help General Hammond in his recovery," Janet began, "but it's very important that he takes it a step at a time. First rule: he can't lift anything heavy, including Munchkins and Spitfires."
"Can we still sit on his lap?" Jenny asked softly.
"Of course, Sweetie. You climb up and you can sit on the general as long as you like, but you have get on his lap all by yourself. Deal?"
"Deal," came the choir of six young voices as Daniel, Brianna, and David smiled at the lesson being delivered to the younger kids by the doctor.
"Neither should General Hammond do any pulling, so none of those see-saw games you like to play. He already knows that he can't do much of the cleaning around here."
"We'll do it," Lulu spoke for the group.
"That includes the sweeping and vacuuming; the dishes, too, if there's any hard scrubbing to be done. He can do basic dishwashing, though. If you want to help him get back into the swing of things, let him do some cooking, a bit of light gardening, and the light stuff around the house, like dusting."
Daniel watched his children, all so focused on what their aunt was saying. Each child was taking detailed notes.
"Walking: that's the best activity your grandfather can do right now. Based on what he's been doing already, starting tomorrow, he should walk once per day for twenty minutes. This should be a slow, leisurely walk around the yard, maybe along the lake. For now, a flat surface is best. If all goes well, in three days we'll ask him to walk a bit faster."
"How do we do that?" Nurse Aislinn inquired.
"Have him start slowly and gradually increase his speed. I'd say let him walk more leisurely for about five minutes before picking it up. Be prepared because he'll probably breathe heavier than he had been. Have him walk this way for ten minutes and then slow it down again for the last five. General Hammond should never be short of breath while walking or after. If he is, call me immediately. Do you understand the difference between heavier breathing and being short of breath?"
"I'm not sure," Ricky admitted.
Janet gave a demonstration to the satisfaction of the kids and then asked, "You all know how to take a pulse on the wrist, but have any of you taken a pulse on your neck? No, okay, and do you know how to figure out a heart rate?" Seeing more shaking heads, she requested, "Ash, will you come here, please."
The redhead demonstrated taking Aislinn's pulse, placing the girl's fingers on her carotid artery.
"Everyone find your carotid artery. It's right by your throat, on either side. Good. Look over at the clock on the wall and count the beats for fifteen seconds. It doesn't matter what time it is or where you start, just make sure you're counting the beats for the entire fifteen seconds."
Janet walked around, making sure each child knew how to take their pulse correctly. She also had them practice on one another a few times.
"Okay, once you have the beats, you multiply that number by four. We call that your resting heart rate."
"What's normal, Aunt Janet?" Jonny asked.
"The better question is how does the resting heart rate change as your activity changes?"
"Okay, than that," Jonny responded, earning a few chuckles.
"We'll back up a tick first. Actually, Jonny, what you need to know is that after you multiply the beats by four, that number should always be within ten or fifteen beats of one another. Anything out of that range, and I need to be notified. Got it?"
"Got it," came several scattered responses.
"Before General Hammond starts his walk tomorrow, have him take his resting heart rate, or you take it for him, but take it. Do the walk as we've discussed and then take the resting heart rate again. That will give us a norm, something that is expected. Now, when he increases his walking to forty minutes in a few days, we'll talk about what you need to look for and what range is considered okay and safe."
"Aunt Janet, do you want us to write down Grandpa's resting rate every time?" Little Danny asked.
"Yes, keep a log." Janet smiled and continued, "Earlier, Little Danny mentioned weights. Eventually, that will be good, but not just yet." She looked at the kids and did a quick evaluation of their understanding. "I brought a little video for you to watch. It's short, but it will be a good review of the things we've talked about."
As the children watched attentively, Janet walked over to stand with Daniel and the older kids.
"I think we've covered all the bases, Daniel," the physician advised.
"I have a hunch they took better notes than when we have school," the archaeologist mused.
"Stakes are higher," came the reply from the petite woman. "If anything else comes up, give me a call, but I think they can handle it. The big thing is to get the general up and doing things around the house and taking those walks. Just make sure they remember the no lifting and pulling rule."
"Thanks for coming by."
"Now we know how to get their undivided attention during their studies, have a heart attack," Jack teased over the phone that night after hearing about Janet's visit with the kids.
"They made another chart so they can keep track of General Hammond's activities and resting heart rate. They're pretty organized."
"How'd the pill popping go?"
Daniel sighed at his lover's choice of words, but answered simply, "Well. They still don't like being watched. Jenny has a hard time with it. I'm not sure why."
With a sigh, Jack returned, "Yeah, I noticed that, too. No clues, though. The others?"
"They want to be trusted to handle everything, but they understand ... I think."
"Maybe what?" Jack questioned.
"Janet mentioned something about the general cooking as being a suggested activity. Bri's been cooking most of the meals, but I've heard rumblings."
"Hammond likes to cook, we know that," Jack noted.
"True, but I'm not sure he's going to be, uh, allowed, to cook the meals of his choice; something about nutrition."
"We'll see what happens in the morning," Jack responded. "Angel?"
"Our bed is very cold without you in it."
"This one's not so hot, either, without you."
The conversation turned more intimate at the point as the lovers lamented their temporary separation.
When the call with his husband ended, Jack sat back in his chair, holding the phone under his chin. He thought about how emotional the children were being regarding their care of Hammond. They were all deeply invested in the recovering man's care.
~Hard dose of reality, seeing Hammond fall to the ground,~ the general thought.
After a couple of minutes, Jack raised his phone and dialed his trusty second-in-command.
"Hello, Sir," Sam replied. "I have a few minutes. Is Noa okay?"
"If you'd like me to come over for a few, I can."
"Yeah, she could probably use her mother," Jack spoke endearingly.
"That still makes me nervous."
"Tough. You're a mother; deal with it."
"That's not why I called," Jack advised. "I'm in need of eyes."
"Eyes," Jack affirmed. "I'll explain when you get here."
"Right," Sam responded.
The call ended, leaving Jack still pensive about both the handling of Hammond's medication and Chenoa's downtrodden attitude.
"Daddy, I'm leaving now," Jennifer called out. She'd dropped by to visit a while with her grandfather and younger siblings. "Do you need me to do anything before I go?"
"No, Sweetie, but thank you for asking," Daniel returned as he walked over to his daughter and gave her a kiss on the cheek.
"Okay, see you ..." the teen spoke as she headed outside to leave.
"Jen, wait!" Lulu called out, interrupting her sister's comment. The brunette looked at her father and asked, "Daddy, can I go home with Jen and then come back in the morning with Dad?"
"Well, sure, Little Bit, if that's what you want to do."
"Lulu, if you need something from home, I can get it for you and have Dad bring it with him tomorrow," Jennifer told the Curly Top.
"No, but thanks, Jen. Daddy, I need to see Noa. It's important," the girl stated.
"Okay," Daniel permitted. "Do you need to take anything home with you?"
"No, I have everything there," Lulu answered. "Will you tell everyone I'll be back?"
"Sure. Have a good night, Sweetie," Daniel said, leaning over to exchange a hug and kiss with the girl. "I love you."
"I love you, too, Daddy. Goodnight."
"Goodnight." Daniel smiled at Lulu and then looked over at Jennifer. "Did you drive Dad's truck?"
"Yeah. It's fun. I like it," Jennifer responded. "I think it's the first time he's let me drive it so far from home."
Daniel nodded, saying nothing verbally but wearing a look that talked a lot about the trust Jennifer had been given by her older father.
"I know," Jennifer acknowledged warmly. "Bye, Daddy."
The archaeologist walked behind his daughters, ensuring they safely entered Jack's truck and drove away. Closing the door, he enabled the outer security system. He was curious about Lulu's desire to see Chenoa and hoped whatever Lulu had in mind would help make her sister feel better.
At home, Lulu was disappointed that her sister didn't seem interested in anything she had to say. The two girls were always so close, but right now, Chenoa was in too much pain to even realize how she was effecting her siblings.
At bedtime, Chenoa quickly got into bed and pulled the covers up. She closed her eyes, though she wasn't sure she could sleep. She didn't want to anyway because when she did she saw images of Teal'c and right now that wasn't what she wanted.
Lulu sat on the edge of her sister's bed and spoke quietly while hoping for a response of some kind.
"Noa, Grandpa misses you. He really wants you to come help take care of him. He told me to tell you that he can't sleep very well at night because his pillow isn't fluffed right. He says no one knows how to fluff his pillow just right like you do. Please come tomorrow. Grandpa needs to sleep so he can recover; it's not good for him to be restless." Lulu sighed, "I want you to come, too."
Silence was the only thing filling the air after Lulu spoke. Chenoa simply stared up at the ceiling.
Lulu got up and climbed into her own bed. She felt so sad and lost without the comfort of her best friend, who was also the silent sister lying so close to her and yet who was so far from her emotionally.
"Night, Lulu," Chenoa whispered before turning on her side.
Lulu smiled, grated for the acknowledgement, though she still hoped for more.
The next morning, Jack and Lulu stood at the front door, waiting. While Jennifer was on her way to school already, Jeff was in the living room, seated on the sofa as he reviewed notes for his history exam. Occasionally, he looked over at JD, who was playing quietly in his playpen.
After another glance at his watch, Jack looked down at the curly-haired girl and sighed, "We can't wait anymore, Lil' Bit."
"I thought she'd come," Lulu responded in a near whisper about her sister, Chenoa.
"Maybe tomorrow," Jack responded, trying to sound hopeful while not really believing it. "Jeff!" he exclaimed loudly.
"Coming," the youth responded as he gathered his backpack.
"Son, it ..." Jack paused as he caught sight of a new nurse in the Jackson-O'Neill Care Unit.
Slowly, Chenoa walked down the long entranceway and joined Lulu.
"You look like a nurse in search of a patient," Jack observed with a smile.
"Just today," Chenoa spoke without a hint of cheerfulness. "I don't want Grandpa to get worse because of me. I have to fluff his pillow for him."
"Sure," Jack replied. ~Fluff his pillow? Okay, well, whatever works.~ He kept his positive demeanor as he added, "Grandpa will be very happy to see you, Noa, and I'm happy you're going to be there to help your brothers and sisters."
There was a slight smile Jack thought from his princess. It was brief and just a glimmer of light in her eyes. Still, it was more than had been seen from his horse-loving little girl since the news of Teal's engagement to Janet was announced.
"Jeff," Jack continued. "I need you to stay here with JD. I'll call the school when I get to Hammond's and explain. You should make it there by third period. When's your test?"
"Second period," the boy answered.
"Be prepared to take it," Jack advised.
"If I'm late, Mister Lamar won't let me start the test," Jeff refuted. "He has a policy."
"You tell *Mister* Lamar that *I* have a policy," the general countered. He thought for a moment and corrected, "I'll call him."
"Take your test," Jack ordered. "Lamar will make an exception."
"He's not military anymore, Dad."
"Son, the day a two-star general, active or retired, doesn't have pull over a captain, active or not, is a day when I'll eat my hat."
"You don't have a hat."
"Stop sounding like your daddy," Jack retorted with a smile. "You'll take the test. *Trust* me on this."
"Let's go, girls," Jack said eagerly.
~He looks too happy,~ Jeff thought as he watched his father leave with the Curly Tops. ~I feel sorry for Mister Lamar. Dad's only been retired a few weeks. He misses frightening recruits.~
Jack made sure the girls were properly secured in their seats and drove off, whistling.
"Why are you whistling, Dad?" Lulu inquired.
"It's a good day, Lil' Bit," Jack answered. ~I'm about to see my Danny, Chenoa finally got out of bed to help out her grandpa, and I get to scare the crap out of Otis Lamar. Sure hope he's a better teacher than he was a captain.~
"Hi, Babe," Daniel greeted happily, sharing an all-too-quick kiss with his husband. "Noa, you look so pretty in your nurse's uniform," he complimented with a smile. "I'm glad you're here." Daniel hugged the quiet girl and then said hello to Lulu, giving her a hug as well. "The children are in the sunroom with Grandpa."
"Come on, Noa," Lulu encouraged brightly.
"Bye, Dad," Chenoa stated without much emotion as she plodded after her sister.
"Well, she's here," Daniel sighed.
"How's he doing?"
"Good." Daniel stared at his husband and inquired, "Why is there that gleam in your eye?"
"The gleam that says we're about to ..."
"No, the one that says you've been having a good time with recruits. Jack!"
"Relax, Angel, I didn't un-retire ... again."
"Good," Daniel responded, "but, uh ..."
"Jeff has a history test. He should get there in the middle of his second class -- history."
With a happy cackle, Jack rubbed his hands together and expanded, "I could see Lamar sweating bullets over the phone. I had him thinking he was about to be recalled for two years. Once I assured him that his teaching was more needed ... Danny, I sinned. I lied."
"He's a good teacher, Jack."
"Yes, I'm sure."
"Super, no sin then," Jack joked.
"Ah, well, he was in fear of leaving the comfortable life of ordering students around to being ordered around himself again, so he's bending one of his 'policies' and allowing Jeff to take the test, even though he won't be there at the start of class."
"You could have just asked him to let Jeff take it after school," Daniel pointed out.
"Nah, too easy. Let's see how he explains the change in policy to the other kids."
"That's not fair to Jeff. His classmates may accuse him ..."
Jack raised his hands to chest level and shook his head as he interrupted, "Nope. He's not just bending the policy, Danny, he's ending it. Jeff's gonna be a hero to the others."
"You're so bad."
"So bad I'm good," the older man claimed.
"I have to go. I love you," Daniel declared.
After a couple more kisses, Jack sighed, "I miss you in my bed, Angel."
"We'll make up for it soon. Right now, the brood needs to be here and that means ..."
"Status quo for a few more days," Jack agreed with understanding. "I love you."
The lovers lingered and had a short discussion to bring each other up to date on the latest happenings with each other and their children before the archaeologist departed for their home. Two more kisses and a long embrace after that, Daniel left.
"Quality check," Jenny called out after preparing Hammond's morning pill regimen.
Little Danny and Jonny approached their sister, both studiously reviewing the official med chart and the pills on the tray. With each pill the general was scheduled to take having a different size, color, and shape, it assisted them in ensuring the right meds were present. When done, the brothers gave Jenny the thumbs up sign.
"Thank you." The Spitfire took the tray and turned to Brianna. She let out a huge sigh. "Better find Dad."
"Wonder why he's not here," Brianna pondered. "I told him." She looked around and called out, "Dad?"
"Right here," Jack responded, walking into the kitchen. "What's up?"
"Pill check," Jenny bemoaned without looking at her father.
"If it's time for Grandpa's pills, you better go give them to him," Jack told the youngsters.
Jenny looked up and questioned, "Aren't you going to check it?"
"Did you do it wrong?"
"No! It's right, but you said ..."
"I said that you should give Grandpa his pills if it's time. Why are you standing around here? Or do you want me to double-check it?"
"We checked it," Jonny interjected, pointing at Little Danny and himself.
A huge grin appeared on Jenny's face as she hurried out of the room, followed by Little Danny and Jonny.
"Dad?" Brianna prompted skeptically.
"Not buying it?"
"Aunt Sam covertly installed a couple of cameras in just the right places. I can get a close up view of the kids as they prepare the medicines. You're here, watching them as well, and Grandpa knows what medicines he needs and when, so we're covered. The key, Bri, is to make sure they remain serious and focused when preparing the pills. If they start to horse around, that's when we go back to the original system, but for now, they can proceed."
"Are you going to tell them?" Jack asked, fully aware that the children kept few secrets from one another.
"They'll figure it out on their own," Brianna asserted. She added, "It might not be this week, but sooner or later, they'll figure it out. We know you, Dad."
"I know you, too. That makes us almost even."
"I'm the dad; I always know more."
Brianna laughed loudly, turned, and walked away.
~That was an awfully big laugh.~ Jack's face scrunched up as he tried to dissect his daughter's reaction to his comment. The more he thought about it, the more unsettling it was. "Bri! Brianna!" he called out as he chased after the tomboy.
Sitting in a chair in his bedroom, General Hammond watched as Chenoa prepared the pillows on his bed. His smile faded, though, as he thought about the pain the girl was in. He wished he could help, but she wasn't responding to anything he said.
"Grandpa, they're all fluffed, just the way you like them," Chenoa told her grandfather as she walked over to him from the bed.
"Thank you, Noa. I haven't had a proper night's rest since I got home," Hammond responded. He extended his arms with a smile. "Join me."
"You can't pull me," Chenoa reminded as she sat down on Hammond's lap and immediately rested her head against his shoulder.
"Sweet Noa. I wish I could make you smile again."
"I don't feel like smiling, but I love you, Grandpa, and I don't want you to be uncomfortable. That's why I came today, so your pillows will be right."
"I appreciate that. You'll need to fluff them again for me tomorrow."
"I did a really good job with them. They'll be proper fluffed for a week. I can teach Lulu how to do it, too."
"Lulu's my food preparer."
"I need you to fluff my pillows right."
Chenoa didn't say anything.
Hammond sat quietly, just holding the suffering child. If words didn't help, perhaps the love communicated in his hold would do something positive. All he could do was hope.
"She's right, Jack. They will figure it out, if they haven't already," Daniel told his lover that night when they chatted on the phone.
"Was I wrong?"
"No, I don't think so. It's important to them to have some autonomy with the general's care. I trust them."
"Me, too, so the cameras are a go," Jack affirmed.
"Anything new on the food front?"
"Nope. They fed Hammond on schedule. At least, it looked like food."
"Looked like food?"
"I ordered pizza."
"Jack, you didn't?"
"Daniel, I'm working over here. The kids are too busy making sure Hammond's comfy to worry about me."
Daniel laughed as the conversation moved forward and he inquired about Chenoa.
"She fell asleep in his lap," Jack stated. "I don't think she's going to stay, but she should."
"We can't force her."
"Yeah, well, she has those dang ponies to take care of anyway. She seems happiest when she's doing that."
There was no solution to be found for their daughter at the moment, so the couple moved on to talk about how the rest of their children were doing.
"Babe, Jeff got his history test results today."
"And?" Jack prodded with a shine in his eyes.
"That's our boy!"
The next day, Daniel was once again the supervising parent of the Care Unit. He was considering a new project for J-O Enterprises when a surprising voice interrupted his review.
"Daniel, a word," General Hammond whispered as he slipped inside his study and took refuge on the other side of the open door.
"Ah, Sir?" the archaeologist asked, rising from the chair and starting to move away in case Hammond wanted to sit at his desk.
"No, stay," the retired lieutenant general insisted, his hands motioning for Daniel to remain where he was.
"General, are you ... hiding?"
"Daniel, I love your children, but I need your help."
"Of course," came the confused reply.
"Do you know what they're feeding me?" Hammond inquired. Not waiting for a response, he expounded, "An endless supply of fruits and vegetables. I'm from Texas, Daniel. I require meat. Now I am fully aware that my diet may need to change a bit more than I'd like, but at this age, I'm not about to eat nothing but plant food. Do something, Doctor."
Hammond peeked around the door and then walked out of the study, leaving the archaeologist to ponder the situation.
After making a phone call that couldn't wait, Daniel called a meeting of the Jackson-O'Neill Care Unit.
"Daddy, we don't have time for a meeting," Jonny stated.
"Grandpa needs us," Ricky added.
"Grandpa will be fine alone for a few minute," Daniel refuted. "Let's talk about food."
"Food?" Aislinn asked. "Are you hungry, Daddy? We can ..."
"No, no, I'm not hungry," the father stated. "Um, listen, who has been cooking Grandpa's meals?"
"Me and Ash and Bri," Lulu answered proudly.
~Tread with care, Jackson,~ Daniel told himself. "Okay, well, first, the meals are wonderful. They're very ... nutritious."
"That's what Grandpa needs," Little Danny put forth. "I read all about on the Internet."
"Okay, what did you read?"
Little Danny proceeded to give a detailed response to his father, talking all about the need to eat low-salt meals with the emphasis on fruits and vegetables. He specifically mentioned that any red meat should be avoided and praised the positive attributes of wheat germ, broccoli, and chard.
~I'm getting the picture,~ Daniel thought to himself. ~That also explains the funny look Jen gave me after she delivered the groceries last night.~
The boy genius continued to talk, pointing out the benefits of salads, lots of them. He even put forth that kelp was desirable.
~Kelp?~ the archaeologist echoed. ~No wonder General Hammond was hiding.~
"Sea veggies are real important, too," Little Danny told his daddy. "Oh, and sesame seeds."
"Okay, thank you. I understand what you're trying to do for Grandpa, but, too much of anything isn't always a good thing."
"But the experts say it's good," Jenny argued bravely.
"It's good, but not all the time, Jenny."
"Daddy, we want Grandpa to live forever," Aislinn replied. "He has to eat the good foods."
Daniel walked over to the Munchkin, kneeled down, and while taking her hand spoke, "Ash, I want all of us to live forever, but food is part of our comfort. Grandpa wants to be healthier and he knows he needs to eat more salads and vegetables, but for him, he needs to have some of that old-style comfort food, too, or he won't be happy."
"What food, Daddy?" Lulu asked.
"Well, hamburgers and steak mostly. He needs a little bit of that to be happy."
"But red meat is a big no-no," Lulu insisted.
~They aren't going to let this go.~ As the children concurred vocally with Lulu's statement, Daniel realized he needed to call in a specialist. "We'll talk more about this later."
Confident they'd made their case for the healthier foods, the brood, sans David, cheerfully walked away.
"Try, try again?" the tween asked.
"They need a bigger authority than me," Daniel purported.
"You could call a nutritionist," David suggested.
"Yes, but they wouldn't know him, or her."
Daniel didn't say what he was thinking, but David knew and said it indirectly for him, "Noa's here."
"Yeah," the father acknowledged. ~A visit from Janet today might cause more trouble than help,~ he lamented. "Maybe I'll see if Doctor Lam is available."
"I like her, Daddy."
"Me, too," Daniel agreed about the SGC physician.
"Hello, kids," Carolyn Lam greeted over the smart-TV's webcam.
The children waved and said hello and then the doctor went about trying to ease their overly nutritious ways.
"It's true that avoiding red meat altogether is a good idea, but most people don't want to do that. There are alternatives that are considered acceptable."
"Like what?" Lulu called out.
"Use only the leanest meat, the leaner the better," the doctor answered.
"Grandpa loves his meat," Brianna noted.
"So does my father," Carolyn noted. "Cut back. How many meals per week did your grandfather used to eat red meat?" She saw the kids shrug as none of them knew the answer. "Whatever it is, cut it into three-quarters. The key is to reduce how much red meat he eats. If he used to eat it five times per week, take it down to two. That can make a huge difference."
"But why let him eat any meat?" Aislinn asked. "We want Grandpa healthy."
"Mental health is as important as physical health, Ash," the doctor responded. "It's not always about being perfect, it's about being better. Let him be better and maybe down the road, you can better even better."
"So do a little bit at a time," Little Danny surmised.
"Yes. It's all about moderation," Carolyn pointed out. "Studies have shown that reducing the total amount of red meat in a diet helps a lot. Encourage your grandfather to cut back as much as he can, but like any addiction or passion, it is something he must decide to do for himself, so any substantial reduction is a victory."
"Thanks for your time, Carolyn," Daniel spoke with an appreciative nod.
"My pleasure. Please tell General Hammond hello. See you all soon, I hope."
After turning off the webcam and TV, Daniel asked, "Okay, so are we agreed that Grandpa can have some meat of his choice with his meals now?"
"Yes ... sometimes," Little Danny stated. "Is the meeting over now, Daddy? I need to do more research. I think I missed something."
"Sure. Meeting adjourned." Daniel watched the children file out with one exception. He walked over and sat down on a chair opposite the thoughtful girl. "Lulu, problem?"
"Daddy, I like cooking for Grandpa. Bri's let me do a lot," Lulu said about her sister, who in spite of being a tomboy really enjoyed cooking.
"You've done a great job, too."
"Are you sure? Maybe Grandpa doesn't like it. Is that why you had Doctor Lam talk to us?"
"Lulu, Grandpa loves your cooking. He loves you. He just wants a hamburger every now and then. It's uh, salad and vegetable overload. Does that make sense?"
"Like when you and Dad make us watch documentaries every day?"
Daniel gave a slow, reluctant nod and sigh as he agreed, "Yeah, I guess so. Too much, huh?"
"Maybe just a couple of times per week might be better," Lulu suggested with a little smile.
"I'll talk to Dad about making a change in our lesson plans."
"Thanks, Daddy," Lulu responded, giving her father a big hug before hurrying out of the room.
~Well, at least I know she understands what we were talking about: all things in moderation, even documentaries.~
The next afternoon, Jack was on the phone when Ricky ran into Hammond's study and shouted out, "Dad!"
"Whoa, Sport! I'm on the phone."
"It's important," the boy returned.
The Jackson-O'Neill kids knew better than to interrupt their parents when on the phone. Since they very rarely violated that rule and considering the boy's current out-of-breath state, Jack decided to end the phone call and find out what was disturbing his son.
"What is it, Son?"
"We can't find Grandpa, Dad. We've looked everywhere. He's not here."
Jack hurried out of the study and gathered the children together. Aislinn was the last to see the man. He'd gone into his bedroom for a nap. When she went to check on him later, he was gone.
"No one panic. Grandpa has to be here somewhere," Jack stated calmly, though he was a bit concerned at the unexplained absence. "We'll split up and search."
"We already did that," Jenny replied.
"We're going to do it again, calmly and efficiently," the father insisted, after which he divided the children into four teams of two and directed each where to search.
Jack's search took him to the sunroom. He looked around for any sign that his friend had been in the room. Nothing was amiss. He started to back out of the room when he noticed one thing was missing. That's when he remembered something Janet had warned he and his husband to be on the look out for in the days following the heart attack.
"It's very common for those developing cardiovascular disease or having suffered a heart attack to become depressed," Janet had told the men. "If you notice any change in General Hammond's behavior -- loss of interest in his hobbies, refusing to visit with friends, or not wanting to get out of bed -- let me know."
While Hammond hadn't shown any obvious signs of depression, Jack was concerned. He realized at that point he hadn't checked the sunroom door that opened to the exterior. Walking over, he saw the door was unlocked.
Jack walked out onto the grass and began to walk around. His stride was casual yet purposeful and his eyes alert for any signs of the one-time SGC leader. He paused, looking out over the lake for a minute. That's when he felt a presence. Turning around, he felt relief when he saw General Hammond standing among the trees.
"Sir," Jack called out while walking to join the other man.
Hammond nodded, but his focus was still on the object he held in his hand.
As Jack stood beside the three-star general, he verified the item was the missing accessory from the sunroom. He considered speaking, but opted to remain silent for a minute or two.
"She was a beautiful woman, Jack," Hammond spoke softly.
"Yes, she was."
"I wish you could have met her. She would have liked you," the bald-headed man opined. He chuckled, "Judith had a thing for sarcastic wit."
Jack looked at Hammond innocently and retorted, "Is that why she married you, Sir?"
Hammond laughed and continued to look out over the lake, the picture of his late wife secure in his hands.
"She would have been sixty-five today."
~Ah, he's just missing his wife,~ Jack thought in relief, feeling fairly certain that Hammond wasn't suffering from depression due to his medical issues.
"This is the type of place we dreamed of having all those years: nice, quiet, a lake in the backyard. I couldn't give her that when I was working my up and now ..."
The sad silence was deafening. Jack's soul couldn't help but drift to his son, Charlie. He'd had dreams about raising his firstborn, dreams that died in a loud burst of a gunshot.
"I miss her, Jack," Hammond confided. He rarely talked in such a way to anyone, keeping his mourning deep within his heart. "In Idaho, I was telling the brood about her, relishing the opportunity to bring her to life for them." He glanced at Jack and told him, "Every now and then, one of your bunch calls her Grandma."
"If that's a problem ..."
"Problem?" Hammond laughed dismissively as he shook his head. "Jack, it makes her alive for me, every time one of those kids asks about her. She would have held all of them close. It's not a problem, it's a blessing." He let out a sigh, his mind so full of loving memories and sad lamentations that Judith was no longer alive. "Time goes by so fast. I lost her twenty years ago, *twenty*, but I still feel her, miss her crazy ways. Did I tell you she was a tomboy in her younger days?"
"No, Sir," the listening general answered.
"Brianna has a tougher exterior due to her upbringing before you adopted her, but she has those same sporting qualities that my wife did." The lieutenant general faced his friend and advised, "Jack, you may think Ash is your biggest worry with boys, but don't assume Brianna won't give her a run for her money. My wife went from tomboy to debutante in a year. I had to work hard to win her heart. The competition was stiff."
"She made a smart choice," Jack replied, keeping his comments sparse.
The quiet was calm for a couple of minutes as the two men stood and enjoyed the view of the lake.
"Did I scare the kids?" Hammond finally asked.
"They're a little worried," Jack responded truthfully.
"Jack, I'm glad they're here. Without them, I might be contemplating another path," Hammond confessed. "My daughters and my granddaughters don't need me like they used to, but your bunch ..."
Hearing Hammond trail off, Jack completed the truthful thought by saying, "They need you, Sir. You're the only living grandparent they have, the only one they've known. They love you."
"The feeling is mutual." Hammond sighed, "I just needed a moment alone to say happy birthday."
"Understandable, George," Jack replied, using the other man's first name which he rarely did. "The kids have good intentions, but maybe it's time to take them home."
"Don't you dare, *Colonel*. I can still have you court-martialed, and I'll think of some way to do it if you take my grandkids from me now."
Jack laughed at his demotion and the threat. He nodded as the laughter settled.
"I'm not depressed, Son," Hammond stated suddenly. "I'm sure Doctor Fraiser told you to look out for that. She read me that riot act before releasing me from the hospital. I just needed a moment."
"There they are!" Jonny cried out, leading the charge of the children who had come outside in search of both their grandfather and their dad.
"Looks like the moment is over," Jack remarked. "Do you need more time?"
Seeing the running children and their smiles, Hammond replied, "What I need, Jack, are those kids. Thank you for letting them be here."
"My pleasure, and Danny's."
Hammond nodded and walked toward the oncoming brood while shouting, "Have you all been hiding from your grandpa?"
"Grandpa, we were worried," Jenny told the man as she threw her arms around him.
"I'm sorry," Hammond returned. "Walk me back to the house. I have a story to tell you about ... Grandma."
The children were all smiles as they encircled their grandfather, following his leisurely lead as they returned to the home.
Jack blew out a breath as he looked out over the lake again. He gave himself a moment of his own to remember Charlie and what could have been with the son he had with Sara. The sound of laughter drew him out of his wonderment. With a smile, he sprinted to catch up with his family. There was a lot of living left to do for all of them.
Over the next couple of days, Hammond's exercise routine was increased to forty-minute walks and some in-home light weightlifting. The kids monitored their grandfather closely and began to let him do more of the housekeeping and cooking, as Janet advised them to do.
Full recovery would take a few weeks and plans were made for the children to return to spend more time with Hammond and make sure he wasn't overdoing, but on Monday, Jack and Daniel wondered if it was appropriate for the kids to give their grandfather some space and return home.
The two fathers stood outside on the porch in the early morning hours. Daniel had just arrived for his day with the children at Hammond's, but he'd coaxed his Love outside to discuss the situation.
"Jack, if we don't make them come home now, they're going to stay there for weeks."
"He wouldn't mind, Danny."
"No, I'm sure he wouldn't," Daniel returned as he looked deep into his soulmate's eyes, sending a message that was without words.
"Yeah, I agree," Jack responded to the unspoken other half of his lover's statement. "He needs his home back, but he still wants them here."
"What he needs is to know he can get through a day by himself," Daniel asserted. "Babe, I know what he told you last week, but maybe he's a little scared, too, and as long as our children are here, he's not going to progress through that fear."
"Yeah, I thought of that."
"He loves the brood, we know that, but he's hanging on to them, too," Daniel asserted as he continued to make his case for ending the Jackson-O'Neill Care Unit.
"Time to cut the cord?"
"More like time to extend the cord, back to normal," the younger man corrected.
"So we bring them home," Jack stated although it was also a question.
"Babe, General Hammond is a strong man who has survived a ... a frightening heart attack. Nothing in the military could stop him. This is different. He needs to get his confidence back. It's the same reason you insisted we reschedule our archaeology trip," Daniel reminded.
"That's my genius," Jack opined with a smile. "Okay, let's go tell the kids, but you know they aren't going to be happy."
"No, but they need to get back to their lives, too, Jack, and Noa needs them around. You know, ah, life after a heart attack isn't just about the survivor but the survivor's family. The truth is, we've turned our lives upside down for General Hammond, not for our children, but for us." Daniel looked away for a moment as emotion threatened to overtake him. "Jack, that's the truth and you know it. *We* wanted to be here because General Hammond is as much our grandfather as he is the grandfather to our children, and we need him, and if we don't go now, we won't for a long time, either. We have to think of the brood. We have to show them that life goes on and after an illness or sickness, you have to continue your life, even when your heart tells you that want to just ... hold on and never let go. It's not for the children, Jack, it's for us that we were here, and it's for us that we need to go home and give ... Grandpa some space to breathe on his own again."
Jack reached out with his right hand and caressed his Angel's cheek. He smiled as he looked into the blue eyes that bore the man's soul.
"My genius," the general uttered in a soft, somewhat cracked voice of his own.
"Let's go home, Jack."
The older man leaned in for a kiss, one that grew in scope as the seconds passed. It was followed by a tender embrace of a full minute. Finally, as each had gathered strength from the other, the couple pulled apart, smiled, and entered Hammond's home. It was time to go home.
A couple of days later, Jack was in the living room, sitting in his favorite chair while reading the newspaper. A few feet away, Brianna was seated on the sofa, her legs outstretched with her feet playing with the legs of the coffee table. She was on phone, chatting with Conway Bell. Conway was the thirteen-year-old boy she'd met last year when the Jackson-O'Neills went on a summer road trip. They'd become great friends and while Brianna insisted they were only friends, Conway made it no secret that he liked Brianna and wanted her as his girlfriend.
Since Brianna and Conway hit it off in Conway's hometown of McBee, South Carolina, they communicated on the phone and Internet quite a bit. Jack and Daniel, however, being the cautious parents they were, tended to hover a bit whenever there was a conversation between the two youths, just to ensure everything was on the up and up.
"Really? That would be cool. Hold on and I'll ask," Brianna told the boy. She looked over at Jack and asked, "Dad, Con's parents said he could come out for a visit for a few days over Easter vacation. Would that be okay?"
Jack lowered his newspaper and looked at his daughter. She was wearing a shirt with broad red and white horizontal stripes that hung over her faded denim jeans. She was barefoot and her hair was pulled back into a small ponytail with several hairs hanging loose around her forehead and the side of her head.
The general blinked as time stopped. Suddenly, the tween was wearing a beautiful strapless lavender dress. Her matching sandal shoes brought attention to her slender feet which in turn allowed onlookers to notice her shapely legs. The girl's blonde hair was a little longer than in reality and was pulled back with a dainty diamond hair comb. She was the very image of a real life princess.
"Dad?" the girl called out.
Jack blinked again and saw his daughter had twisted around a tad on the sofa to face him more.
"Dad, is it okay?"
Nodding, Jack responded, "I'm not sure if we'll be home or not, Princess, but if we are, he's welcome."
Brianna returned to her phone call, apparently responding to something Conway had said.
"Yes, he called me Princess. Daddy does it, too, sometimes," Brianna spoke. After a pause, she laughed, "I know, but it's okay. I kinda like it every now and then," she admitted as she looked over at her dad and smiled.
As the conversation between the girl and boy continued, Jack stared at his newspaper again, only he suddenly felt out of place. He stood up, taking the newspaper with him, and crossed the distance that separated him from his daughter. He leaned over and kissed Brianna on the forehead.
"I love you, Bri," Jack stated. "Tell Con we'd love to have him for Easter and if we do end up traveling, he's welcome to join us, if his parents are okay with it."
"Thanks," Brianna responded. She grew curious when her father started to climb the stairs which would leave her alone with her phone call. "Dad, where are you going?"
Jack smiled as he responded, "You don't need your old man hovering when you're on the phone. Besides, I have things to do. Oh, tell Con we'll give his folks a call soon to make arrangements."
"Okay, thanks." Brianna fidgeted a bit in confusion, but then she smiled at her apparent new reality. She raised her feet to the cushions, repositioning herself so that she was virtually sitting Indian-style on the sofa. "Con, how did the midget race go?"
From atop the stairs, Jack glanced downward, though he couldn't see Brianna from his position. He took a breath and then entered the den where Daniel was working. He walked over to the stereo and turned it on.
"What? Jack, what are you doing?" Daniel asked, spinning around in his chair, a pen in his hand.
"I'm about to dance with my husband," the older man said while removing the pen from Daniel's hand and tossing it onto the desk. He took his Love's hand in his, pulling the archaeologist up out of his chair. "Dance with me, Angel."
Daniel allowed the interruption to his work. After all, he loved dancing with Jack. It had always been something very special to him.
"Is everything okay?" Daniel asked as he looked into his lover's eyes.
"It's super duper, but I do need to tell you that I just made a decision," Jack responded.
"Uh-huh," Daniel responded knowingly.
"It's not bad," Jack began. "In fact, I'm betting you were there long before me."
"There? Where's there?"
"I just left Bri alone to ... chat with Conway."
"Oh, that there," Daniel acknowledged. "It's just a phone call and we trust our daughter, right?"
"Told ya you were already there."
"What, uh, motivated your awakening?"
"That conversation I had with Hammond. I swear, Danny, I was looking at Bri and one second she was our tomboy and the next, a man killer, all in the blink of an eye."
"She has a way to go, Babe."
"Let's make sure Conway remembers that."
Daniel laughed, "That's my overprotective Silver Fox."
"I love you, Angel."
"I love you, Jack, so much."
The lovers continued to dance, enjoying the serenity and closeness of it. Quiet times like these were sometimes few and far between with a brood like theirs around.
"What did she say?" Daniel asked his lover.
Putting down the phone, Jack answered, "Danny, we're a go for Ecuador."
"Great! Now to convince General Hammond."
"Piece of cake," Jack opined as he headed out of his study.
"Or peaches and cream," Daniel retorted, earning him a stare from his husband.
Having received the okay for their idea from Janet, the lovers headed for Hammond's home. It was early March and the lieutenant general had made a steady recovery, so much so that the physician had no issues with their plans as long as a couple of extra precautions were met.
Once at the man's home, Jack and Daniel chatted lightheartedly about current events and the family, until Hammond saw through their visit and probed, "Jack, Daniel, why did you really stop by today?"
"Can't your older kids come by just to say hi," Jack teased, referring to he and his husband as Hammond's children.
"Surely, but there's something more."
"It's that rodeo thing, isn't it?" Jack joked.
"Been to a few in my day," Hammond retorted. "Let's get to the point."
"Yes, Sir," Jack agreed. "Danny and I have to return to Ecuador to finish our archaeology study. We need you to take care of the brood."
"All of them," Daniel clarified.
"I know what you're trying to do, but I've just had a heart attack. I think it's best for you to get one of your other resources to help you out."
"No can do, General," Jack responded, almost sounding chipper.
"Mrs. Wilson?" Hammond suggested.
"Sara's doing a lot of substituting work right now," Daniel told the man. "We wouldn't feel right asking her to give up the opportunities that are coming her way."
"Colonel Shanahan?" Hammond put forth.
"She's going to be tending the zoo for us," Jack advised. "I checked with Landry and she has some off-world obligations during that time." He felt Daniel's stare, even though the archaeologist really wasn't looking at him. ~Okay, that's a stretch, but I'll call Hank later and un-stretch it.~
"Doctor Fraiser?" The bald-headed man sighed, knowing the answer there. "Little Chenoa hasn't budged."
"Not an inch, General," Jack verified about Chenoa's 'that lady' attitude about Janet.
"You're it, General," Daniel asserted. "We trust you with our children and they want to spend more time with you."
"They've been here quite a bit."
"General, get back on the horse," Jack urged. "We want you to take the kids while we're gone and give them a new memory. Take them someplace."
"We've talked with Janet and she gave her okay. She just wants to make sure wherever you go that you have extra medication and are in cell phone range." With calm and reassurance, Daniel added, "We have every confidence in you and our children in handling any emergency that might pop up, but we don't anticipate there being one."
"General, the sooner you take our kids somewhere, the sooner you'll know you can do it. Danny and I already know you can. You know us. No way would we let our kids out of our sight for a nanosecond if we believed there was any risk to them in doing so."
Hammond nodded as he contemplated the notion. He wasn't as afraid for himself as he was for the children. He had to be cautious in his lifting still and worried how that could affect things in a crisis.
Sensing the man's doubt, Daniel decided to make one more point and added, "Sir, remember when we first asked you to take care of the children for us? You told us that you had already planned a fishing trip, a solo one. Had you stuck with your original plans and gone fishing without the brood, you would have been alone that weekend."
The poignancy of the statement didn't need to be expounded on. Had Hammond been alone, he would have died and it could have been days or even weeks before he was found.
Finally, Hammond let out a whiff of air and agreed to take care of the children for the couple.
"Great!" Jack exclaimed.
"You can tell them about it when you come over for Jeff's birthday this weekend," Daniel suggested.
"Hey, Jeff will have his driver's license and can help you and Jen with the driving," Jack pointed out.
After a few minutes more of discussion, Jack and Daniel were on there way out when Hammond called out, "There's a little fishing hole I know in Montana. It's quiet, peaceful, with the best golden trout in the state. I'd like to take them there."
"That's fine, Sir," Daniel responded.
"It's a longer trip."
"Not a problem, General. Danny and I could use a couple more days digging in dirt," Jack assured.
"Just let us know the timing and we'll make it happen."
"Thank you, Sons."
Both Jack and Daniel smiled before turning and leaving Hammond. They took their seats in the Silver Fox, but Daniel didn't start the car right away.
"We're doing the right thing, right?"
"You know it, Angel. Danny, he needs to know he's capable of taking care of the kids. I know he can. Do you have any doubts?"
"Then we do what we always do. We trust our guts."
"You know, Jack, I was, uh, really scared there for a while when the general had his heart attack."
"He's stronger and healthier than he's ever been, the Doc said," Jack asserted. "Hammond's gonna be around for a long time."
"How'd we get so lucky?"
"How lucky, or what lucky, or when lucky?" Jack chuckled.
"To have a grandfather, even if our grandfather is the same as our children's grandfather."
"Let a genealogist worry about the technicalities," Jack responded. "We are who we are."
"And it is what it is."
"What it is is good."
"If you ever decide to start this thing, we could get home in time for a little lucky action before the kids get back."
"Oh!" Daniel expressed as he immediately started the ignition.
The Jackson-O'Neills always lived life with zest. There were valleys along the way, such as Hammond's heart attack and Chenoa's broken heart, but just as the man who was their grandfather rebounded from near-death, they knew with time that Chenoa would find a new love for life as well. All it would take is love and time, and Jack and Daniel had plenty of that. For them, life in Colorado Springs was perfect even in its imperfections.
~~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