Area 52 HKH

The J-o Norm

by Orrymain

URL: http://area52hkh.net/aso/orrymain4/jonorm.php
Summary: It's just another Saturday at the home of Jack and Daniel Jackson-O'Neill and their brood plus zoo.

The J-O Norm
Author: Orrymain
Author Email: marciastudley1@comcast.net (Feedback welcome)
Author Website: http://orrymain.com
Category: Slash, Humor, Drama, Romance, Established Relationship
Pairing: Jack/Daniel ... and it's all J/D
Rating: PG-13
Season: Beyond the Series - September 7, 2013
Spoilers: None
Size: 63kb
Written: May 15-17, June 24-28, July 11, 2016
Summary: It's just another Saturday at the home of Jack and Daniel Jackson-O'Neill and their brood plus zoo.
Disclaimer: Usual disclaimers -- not mine, wish they were, especially Daniel, and Jack, too, but they aren't. A gal can dream though!
Notes:
1) Sometimes, Jack and Daniel speak almost telepathically. Their "silent" words to each other are indicated by asterisks instead of quotes, such as **Jack, we can't.**
2) Silent, unspoken thoughts by various characters are indicated with ~ in front and behind them, such as ~Where am I?~

The J-O Norm
by Orrymain

====
--12:45 a.m.
====

"Geez, Danny, what you do to me," Jack gasped as happiness filled his body and soul.

"Yab...dab," an incoherent Daniel responded, his head resting on Jack's chest and his fingers playing with his Love's chest hair.

Jack grinned as he chuckled, "It never gets old. I love doing that to you."

"... doo," Daniel responded.

Jack laughed and thought, ~Maybe instead of watching "The Flintstones" before bed, I should see what happens if we watch "The Roadrunner." He laughed again. "Meep Meep."

"Wha...what?"

"Nothing, Love. Go to sleep."

"Sleeee..."

"...p," Jack completed before closing his eyes and letting sleep overtake him as well.

====
--3:27 a.m.
====

Jack and Daniel were sound asleep when cries erupted over the baby monitor. Their youngest child, JD, was twenty-one-months old and suffering from an ear infection. The parents were used to that, especially with their daughter, Jenny, who had the hardest time dealing with ear issues. On the plus side, this was actually JD's first bout with the problem.

"I'll check on him," Daniel whispered, getting out of bed and heading for the door.

"Daniel."

"What?"

"Clothes!"

"What?" Daniel looked down and realized he was completely naked. "Oh, yeah," he said with a yawn as he quickly retrieved his blue sweats. "Jack?"

"Yeah?"

"No more babies, right?" Daniel asked as he pulled his sweatshirt over his head.

Jack laughed, "Not unless the stork messes up and delivers to the wrong home."

"The stork?" Daniel repeated, bobbing his head up and down in between yawns.

"Danny?"

"What?"

"Our son: he's crying. Ear infection, remember?"

"Oh, gawd ..."

Jack laughed as his lover practically tripped over his sweat bottoms on his way out of the room.

"Daniel?" Jack watched as Daniel stumbled in a half turn. "The medicine: it's in the bathroom."

"Right," the archaeologist acknowledged, walking to the bathroom now that he was fully attired in his sweats.

"Life has sure changed since that first Munchkin popped out," Jack chuckled as he closed his eyes and waited for Daniel to return. ~JD's fine, but I want to hear it from Danny before going back to sleep.~

====
--5:45 a.m.
====

Five-year-old Ricky sprang up from a deep sleep and grinned. Not paying attention to any of the house rules, he got out of bed and ran downstairs to where the main landline telephone was location. Carefully, he dialed one of his favorite numbers in the entire world. Full of excitement, he waited for it to be answered.

"Grandpa, I'm going to come stay with you, okay? You pick me up in an hour, okay?"

Retired Lieutenant General S. Hammond wondered if he was dreaming, but then he thought back to previous phone calls of the same nature.

~I wonder why he never thinks of this during normal hours?~ the general pondered while still struggling to wake up. "Let me talk to your parents."

"Okay," Ricky agreed, holding the cordless phone as he ran up the stairs. "Hold on, Grandpa. I hafta make sure it's okay to go in. I'll listen for noise."

Hammond nearly choked at the implication of the Spitfire's remarks. Quickly, he put the thoughts and images brought on by the comment out of his mind, replacing them with the sounds and images of an Air Force drill.

Not hearing any noises, Ricky slowly opened the door and peeked inside. He smiled upon determining that his parents were asleep. The boy ran into the room and shoved the phone into Jack's ear.

"Dad, it's Grandpa," Ricky announced. "Daaaaad! Grandpa's on the phone."

Jack and Daniel slowly roused and processed the news that their young son was speaking to them.

"Dad, the phone," Ricky repeated strongly.

"Helllllll...o," Jack finally groaned into the phone. "Sir?"

"Your son wants to come for a visit," Hammond informed his fellow general.

"He's yours. Take him," Jack responded.

"Only for a few days, Jack."

"Oh, yeah, I guess," the silver-haired man responded. "When do you want him?"

"I have something to handle first thing. I'll pick him at 1000 hours."

"Yes, Sir."

The two generals ended their call, leaving the two parents staring at their son.

"Ricky, are you sure about this?" a still sleepy Daniel asked. "Your birthday is tomorrow."

"Grandpa's coming to the party, so he can bring me," the boy responded cheerfully. "I have to go pack my backpack. I don't wanna forget Etchy."

"Hey!" Jack called out, stopping the speeding Spitfire. "Grandpa has some things to do. He'll pick you up at ten."

"Oh, okay," the boy sighed as if the extra few hours would be torturous. He quickly put the gloom behind him and smiled. "Gotta pack."

"You do that," Jack groaned as his head bounced back against his pillow.

"Etchy," Daniel repeated. "Is that a new nickname for his Etch-a-Sketch?"

"Sounds right," Jack answered with a yawn.

"He got it from you, didn't he?"

"Daniel, this one was all the kid's."

"Right," Daniel replied with a yawn before settling back down to sleep.

"Angel?"

"Go to sleep, Jack."

Jack shrugged, his attempt at an early morning tryst cut off in an instant. Resigned to not having a make-out session, the general followed his husband's lead and returned to sleep.

====
--7:00 a.m.
====

Emerging from the shower, Jack noted it was 0700 hours. He dressed, putting on a maroon-colored T-shirt that his soulmate gave him earlier in the year as part of their Valentine's celebration. He paired it with gray jeans and his favorite black slippers, also a gift from his Love in February.

For a few minutes, Jack stood at the edge of the bed and watched Daniel sleep. He could stay there for hours.

~La Mio Bello Stella Cadente,~ Jack thought tenderly. ~You'll never know how much I love you, Angel.~

Finally, sappy Jack, as he thought of himself, went downstairs to the kitchen. He microwaved a large bag of popcorn, grabbed a bag of chips, and then opened the refrigerator. He desperately wanted a beer, but if he opted for one, he just knew he'd be at the mercy of twelve kids and an irate husband. Even so, the general pulled out the beer.

"What are the odds?"

The kids were being allowed to sleep in. They'd all stayed up extra late on Friday, having gone to a party at the Shanahan home. They were zonked, so Jack didn't anticipate any of the kids being up soon. As for his husband, Daniel was lost in pillowy dreams, so Jack felt safe with his choice of beverage.

"One beer," Jack told Ptolemy as he opened her cage door. "Care to join me, Polly?"

Jack settled into a comfortable position on the sofa. He put his feet up on the ottoman and used the remote to lower the large TV screen. He already had the DVD in the player. With the screen in position, Jack pressed play and started laughing within seconds as an episode of "The Simpsons" began.

After a couple of scenes, Jack felt an expected presence. With a smile, he took a popped corn and held it out in front of the family's beautiful hyacinth macaw bird as she made a perch of his right shoulder.

"Polly want some popcorn?" Jack asked.

"D'oh!" Ptolemy answered, happily taking the popcorn being offered.

"It's a good thing Little Danny isn't up or he'd have my hide," Jack told the magnificent bird.

Jack and Ptolemy had a great time watching Homer and his family engage in their usual silliness. At the end of the episode, Jack put away all evidence of his food and beer binge and returned to the sofa to hopefully catch one more episode before the brood began to emerge.

As he watched a second episode, Jack felt Ptolemy flutter from his shoulder to his knee.

"I see ya," Jack told the bird. "I'm trying to watch Bart."

"Jack love," Ptolemy responded as she flew in as close as she could, her beak actually pressing forward against Jack's left shoulder.

Not actually realizing what he was doing, Jack responded by petting the bird softly. He stroked her gently, even as he laughed at the show.

"Love Jack," Ptolemy squawked eight minutes later.

"Okay, okay, I love you, too," Jack replied. The words stunned the general, causing his head to jut back a second. Then he looked to his left at the stunning creature that he was still caressing. "No one would ever believe this. Look at you, acting like a baby."

"Look at you, Dad, acting as if Ptolemy was a baby," Jeff chuckled as he held up his smartphone. "I have it on video."

"That's blackmail, me boy." Seeing Jeff's smug grin, Jack sighed heavily. "What's it going to cost me?"

"I'll think about it and let you know," the teenager mused.

"Dang bird," Jack groused, though he continued to stroke Ptolemy lovingly.

====
--8:00 a.m.
====

The children were slowly coming together, saying hello, doing early morning chores, playing with their zoo, and simply hanging out. A few were still asleep.

"You wanna come to Grandpa's with me?" Ricky asked his twin as they walked downstairs. "We could have twin fun."

"I can't."

"How come?"

"Dad's gonna let me help him oil the truck on Monday," Jenny responded.

"You could come with me tonight."

"You want me to?"

Ricky gave his sister a big hug and answered, "Yeah. We're Spitfires. We should stick together."

"Okay," Jenny eagerly agreed, turning and hurrying back upstairs to pack a few things.

Ricky entered the kitchen where Jack and Daniel were sitting at the table in the kitchen nook, chatting. Aislinn was in the process of climbing on Daniel's lap, while Jack had his hands full of Calico, one of the family's two cats.

"Why do these things like me so mu...much," Jack asked, getting a mouthful of cat tail as he spoke.

"Mittens and Calico know you love them, Dad," Aislinn answered.

"That's why I like dogs."

Daniel's eyes darted to his right and then back to look at his husband, after which he asked, "Which means what exactly?"

"Dogs are smarter," Jack responded.

"Oh," an unconvinced Daniel replied.

"Ricky, do you have your things packed?" Jack asked when he saw the boy approaching.

"Yeppers," Ricky answered as he pressed both arms on the table and attempted to lift himself.

"Ricky."

"Sorry, Daddy," the boy sighed as he removed his arms from the table. "Jenny's coming, too."

Jack and Daniel exchanged a look and both asked in unison, "Does Grandpa know?"

As Aislinn giggled, Ricky answered, "No. He won't mind. Jenny's only coming for tonight 'cause you're going to let her oil your truck."

Jack nodded, fully aware of his mechanical date with the redhead.

"Ricky, why are you wearing different shoes?" Aislinn asked curiously.

Ricky stared down at his feet and answered, "Because I couldn't decide which pair I wanted to wear, so I wore one of each."

"That's a great idea," Aislinn complimented.

Jack and Daniel looked down and around to get a look at what their son was wearing. Just as Ricky said, his right shoe was from his special Underdog shoes and his left shoe was a solid bright orange one.

"Daddy, are we going to have cake at our party tomorrow?" Ricky asked.

"A cake for his birthday," Jack stated thoughtfully. "I don't know, Danny. What do you think?"

"The twins are getting a party. That's a lot, Jack."

"Maybe pie would be better."

"Daaaaad! We want cake," Ricky whined. "Chocolate cake with lots of butter cream -- lots!"

Jack and Daniel chuckled.

"Daddy," Ricky called out in a pleading tone.

"Don't worry, Son," Daniel soothed. "I'm sure we'll have some cake."

"We get to be six together," Aislinn interjected.

"But only for ..." Ricky's eyes rolled up into his head. "How many days?" he asked, taking the easy way out.

"Don't look at me," Jack said, refusing to answer.

"You can do the math," Daniel reminded.

Ricky held out his fingers and began to count, but after he reached ten, he whined, "I'm out of fingers." He looked at his sister and asked, "Can I use your fingers?"

"Sure," Aislinn agreed, holding out her hands.

"Now I forgot where I was," Ricky whined, beginning his count again. "Oh, yeah, I was ten." He kept counting, saying the dates as well until he'd counted all the fingers on Aislinn's right hand and then her thumb on her left hand. "That's it. Sixteen days. We get to six together for sixteen days."

"And then we're seven," the Munchkin said about the triplets.

"Let's go see if Bri needs help with breakfast," Ricky suggested.

"Oops," Aislinn giggled. "I'm supposed to be helping her."

"Then maybe you'd better scoot," Jack ordered.

"One shoe from each pair," Daniel put forth with a smile.

"Works for me," Jack responded. "You have a problem with it?"

"Me?" Daniel asked, shaking his head. "It's, uh, actually a wonderful compromise to a clothing dilemma."

Jack stood and started to walk away.

"Where are you going?"

"To warn Hammond. I don't think he knows about Jenny."

"Babe, make sure he knows that Ricky needs to be back Tuesday morning for homeschooling."

Jack gave his husband a little point and nod of agreement and headed to the study to make his call.

Meanwhile, Daniel leaned back and took a sip of coffee. Then he chuckled at Ricky's creativity. Jennifer may be a fashion maven and Aislinn a miniature clothing icon, but Ricky was the adventurous one for sure.

====
--8:15 a.m.
====

"Bri, sorry I wasn't here to help sooner," Aislinn called out when she entered the hospitality room. "What are you doing?"

"Chopping salmon."

"For breakfast?"

"Uh huh," the competent twelve-year-old responded.

"We eat salmon for dinner," Ricky interjected.

"Not today," Brianna insisted.

"Jenny's packing, so I'm taking her place with kitchen duty," Ricky told the blonde.

"Okay," Brianna acknowledged. "Ricky, we need thirty eggs. Ash, can you chop up the chives for me, please? They're right over there."

Both of the younger children went to work, following Brianna's orders to the T. The tweener continued her cooking task, but glanced over at Aislinn to ensure she wasn't having any problems with the chopping. Except for JD, all of the Jackson-O'Neill kids knew how to handle knives for chopping and cutting food. Still, as a rule of thumb, the older kids kept watch to make sure their parents' very strict rules about kitchen cutlery were followed.

With the salmon chopped, Brianna put some butter and oil into a large, deep skillet.

"Thanks, Ash," Brianna stated when the girl finished her task. "We need some fruit. You know the routine."

Aislinn laughed and began the frequent task of pulling out lots of fruits to enjoy with family meals.

"Start cracking, Ricky," Brianna instructed when the boy had the eggs.

The youngster loved cracking open eggs. It was one of his most favorite meal chores. He always made a game out of it, imagining he was a super hero destroying those who threatened harm to the family meal with every downbeat he made with an egg.

"You're good at cooking, Bri," Aislinn noted as she continued her task.

"Nah. I'm just playing at it," Brianna laughed. "But, wow, we have such a great room to cook in. Besides, it makes me feel ... at home, I guess."

"What do you mean?" Ricky asked.

Seriously, the girl responded, "Sometimes, when I close my eyes, I still wonder if this is all a dream."

Aislinn looked over curiously. She felt disturbed by the remark and left her fruit gathering to hug her sister. Ricky also joined in the hug.

"It's okay, guys. It's only sometimes and it's just because I feel so lucky. We have amazing parents and live in an amazing home with an amazing hospitality room and kitchen," Brianna chimed happily.

"We don't want you to be sad, Bri," Ricky stated just before he released his hold in the hug.

"I'm not," the girl assured. "Okay, well, I saw some smart-mouthed kid the other day and he reminded me of me a few years ago. I pinched myself when I got home and it hurt, so I knew it was real," she chuckled. "Enough mush. We need to finish breakfast."

Aislinn still felt uneasy, but she did as her sister wished and asked, "Why are you chopping the salmon?"

"I'm going to put in the eggs," the girl answered.

Aislinn and Ricky exchanged a look, uncertain about the food combination.

"I've never had salmon in my eggs before," Ricky finally noted.

"Me, either," Brianna mused. "Maybe it will be a flop."

"We'll eat it anyway," Ricky responded. "Can we have bacon, too?"

Brianna thought for a few seconds and shrugged as she responded, "Let's use bacon bits."

The trio continued their efforts until everything was stirred together and cooked properly.

"Guys, take a bite and tell me what you think," Brianna requested.

"Yum," Ricky expressed, rubbing his stomach happily.

"Wow, Bri. I didn't think I'd ever want salmon for breakfast, especially with everything else you put in with the eggs," Aislinn remarked.

"I guess it's okay to experiment then," Brianna replied.

"I think you're a great cook, Bri," Aislinn opined, repeating her earlier comment.

"Seriously, Ash, I'm just goofing off. This was a fluke. Cooking is not really my thing."

"You should goof off more at cooking," Ricky suggested.

"Well, it's one of my chores, so I figure I might as well make it as fun as possible. It would be nice if we had more equipment, though."

"Like what?" Aislinn asked.

"Oh, I don't know. Maybe a really good pressure cooker, a professional chef's knife, or just a microplan. Those don't cost much. Maybe I'll get one the next time I go to shopping."

Aislinn and Ricky listened, though neither actually knew what a microplan was. They weren't sure what the difference was between a regular knife and a chef's knife, either.

"Wouldn't it be fun to have a pasta roller and make our own pasta?" Brianna questioned, not expecting an answer. "Mama probably didn't even know what a pasta roller was," she sighed. "The pressure cooker would be cool, especially for our family. Then again, I don't really know what I'm talking about. I'm just doing my chores. Hey, we'd better get breakfast on the table before there's a riot."

With that, the trio served breakfast, to the approval of the rest of the family.

====
--9:30 a.m.
====

"Daddy," Aislinn called out as she walked inside the den. "Are you busy?"

"No, Sweetie," Daniel responded, putting down his pen and closing his laptop. He twisted his chair around and asked, "What do you need?"

"A hug!"

"I have lots of those," Daniel responded, leaning forward and picking up his daughter. He held her tight and then settled her upon his lap. "What's up?"

"How much money do I have?"

"Uh, well, why?"

"I need to know."

"Well, you have your money in your piggy bank, and you have some money in your savings account, and there are bonds and ..."

"Daddy!"

Daniel heard the frustrated tone and saw the grimacing facial expression.

"Sweetie, why don't you tell me why you're asking."

"It's not fair, Daddy. We're not little babies anymore. Sometimes we need more than our piggy bank money. I need to know."

Gently, Daniel rubbed on his daughter's arm as he replied, "Ash, you can always ask Dad and me, and we'll ..."

"But it's money I earned, Daddy, or money someone gave me for my birthday or something. Isn't that my money?"

"Yes, it is, but ..."

"Sometimes we don't want to tell you what it's for. Sometimes it's because it's a secret."

"What's a secret, Ash?"

"I can't tell you," Aislinn sighed. "It's a secret."

"Okay, let's try this," Daniel sought in compromise. "How much money do you need?"

"I need," Aislinn took out a piece of paper from her pocket, "One-hundred, sixty-five dollars and seventy-six cents." Looking up at her father, she asked, "Do I have that much money, Daddy?"

"Ash, that's a lot of money. I need to know what it's for."

"I want to buy a pressure cooker, a really good one like Bri told me. I looked it up on my computer and found the one she talked about."

"A ... pressure cooker?" Daniel asked, completely surprised by the revelation. "Uh, why?"

"Daddy, it's a secret."

"Who's the pressure cooker for?"

"Bri."

~That's interesting.~ Daniel thought for a moment before pressing forward. "Why?"

"Because she wants one."

"She does?" Seeing Aislinn nod, Daniel responded, "Well, if it's for the household, then maybe that's something Dad and I should ..."

"Noooooo," Aislinn cried, fidgeting and climbing off her daddy's lap.

"Ash ..."

"If it's my money, and it's for something good, why can't *I* buy it? You don't understand, Daddy. It's not fair."

Aislinn ran out of the den, in full sniffling mode.

"Okay, I've missed something."

====

"She's upset because she wants to buy Bri a pressure cooker?" Jack asked after hearing about the conversation between his husband and their original miracle.

"Exactly."

"Daniel, that doesn't make any sense."

"Maybe not to us, but it does to Ash."

"Why would Bri want a pressure cooker?"

"I have no idea."

"Neither do I, but we're going to find out. Let's go," Jack urged, getting up from his seat in the study where Daniel had found him. "She really doesn't want us to buy the thing?"

"Nope. She wants to buy it herself, but I think it's more about this secret that she can't tell us about."

"A secret ... about a pressure cooker?" Jack asked incredulously as the couple began the climb up the stairs on their way to Aislinn's bedroom.

"Apparently. I don't know, Babe. Maybe we should let her buy it."

"That's a big chunk out of the piggy bank."

"She doesn't want it to be from her piggy bank. She did make one good point," Daniel stated at the top of the stairs.

"Which was?"

"It's her money, and it's for something good. What right do we have to stop her from using money she's earned in any way she sees fit? I mean, uh, she's not using it carelessly, Jack."

"There's that," the older man agreed. "I'm more worried about the secret."

"Me, too," Daniel concurred as the two men now stood at the closed door to the girls' bedroom. He tapped gently on the door. "Ash?"

"I hear crying," Jack sighed before opening the door. "Princess, Daddy and I want to talk to you."

Still sniffling, the little girl sat up in her bed, her arms around Bobo, the large stuffed animal that belonged to her birth mother.

**She's got Bobo,** Jack noticed.

**So this is something serious,** Daniel pointed out. "Sweetie, I didn't mean to upset you when we talked," he said quietly as he sat down on the bed.

"Daddy filled me in," Jack stated, sitting down on the opposite end. "But I'd like to hear it from you."

Maintaining her grip on the large stuffed monkey, Aislinn sniffled the same details she told Daniel earlier, that she wanted to buy a pressure cooker for Brianna. She maintained she'd earned her money and had a right to spend it how she wanted, especially since it was for a good reason.

"Why can't you tell us why you want to buy it for Bri?" Jack asked.

"It's a secret," the girl sighed, sniffling afterward.

"It's a secret, Jack," Daniel echoed, wearing a tiny smirk on his face.

"And you can't tell us?"

"Secrets are supposed to be secrets," the Munchkin insisted.

"Bri told you something she said not to tell us?" Jack questioned.

"No, she didn't tell me not to, but I think it's a secret," Aislinn answered.

**There's your hole, Angel. Give it a shot,** Jack requested, thinking Daniel might be able to handle the sensitive loophole better than he.

"Ash, you're right about secrets. They're ... sacred in a lot of ways. Sometimes, secrets can do more harm. I guess you have to follow your heart. Would it be better for Bri if we knew whatever this secret is? Is she in danger? I don't know. You have to decide."

The almost-seven-year old let out one huge sniffle and replied, "I want to use my money to buy Bri a pressure cooker."

Jack and Daniel exchanged a look and then Jack cocked his head, hit the bed hard with his left hand, and announced, "Then you will."

"I will?" the little girl asked in surprise, her hold on Bobo lessened somewhat.

"Do you want to give the cooker to Bri for on her birthday next month or ..." Jack asked, leaving the question open ended.

"I want it to be a just because gift," the Munchkin responded. "It's important."

"You got it," the older man assured.

"When do you want to go shopping?" Daniel asked.

"Well, I don't want my gift to interfere with Ricky and Jenny's birthday party tomorrow, so can we go shopping on Monday?"

"Absolutely," Daniel agreed. "Who do you want to take you shopping?"

"Both of you."

With a smile, Jack avowed, "You have a date, Princess."

"Yippee!" the girl exclaimed, releasing Bobo and jumping into Jack's arms. She reached for her daddy, too, so Daniel moved over and engaged in the three-way hug. "I love you so much."

"We love you, too, Sweetheart," Daniel replied, kissing his daughter on the cheek.

Aislinn jumped up and ran to her computer, saying, "I want to make doubly triple sure the one I saw is the right one. Okay?"

"Okay," Daniel agreed. "Let us know if you need help."

As Aislinn returned to her search, Jack and Daniel left the room and walked leisurely down the hallway.

"You do realize Ash broke a computer rule," Daniel remarked.

"Yep."

"Minor indiscretion?"

"Yep," Jack responded. He sighed and then questioned, "Do we talk to Bri?"

"That's not an easy answer, but I don't think so," Daniel opined.

"And why aren't we butting in?"

"My feeling is that if it were serious, Ash would tell us, but, uh, I have another reason for believing we should leave it alone, at least for now."

"Do tell," Jack requested.

"Just a gut feeling. Jack, I haven't seen anything odd in Bri's behavior. I don't have any of those alarm bells, as you call them, going off. Have you?"

"No, but that doesn't mean there isn't something wrong."

"True." Still walking, Jack suggested, "How about we keep watching and ask a few key questions during our rounds. If anything seems amiss, we can press it then."

"If not?"

"Like you said, Angel, we trust Ash and our gut. This secret may not be that big of a deal."

"Maybe it's just something Ash sees."

"But why a pressure cooker?" Jack asked, still not understanding.

"I don't know, but ..."

"It's our Munchkin's money," the older man completed for his lover.

"Where the heck am I going?" Daniel chuckled, realizing he was halfway down the stairs. "I have work to do."

"Go to it, Love," Jack replied, enjoying a short kiss before Daniel reversed his course to return to his den and Jack headed off to his next task for the day.

====
--10:05 a.m.
====

"Spitfires!" Jack called out.

"Is Grandpa here?" Ricky called out as he hurried down the stairs with his backpack.

"I'm ready," Jenny announced as she followed her brother.

"Grandpa has been delayed," Jack told the sad-looking twins. "Hey, he didn't have much warning about your stay over," the father reminded. With a smile, he advised, "Grandpa's very excited that you want to spend time with him, but he had an obligation he wasn't able to push back. He'll be here before dinnertime, but he's not sure when."

"Oh, snap!" Jenny exclaimed.

"In the meantime, you can play and do your Saturday chores." With a grin, Jack added, "Grandpa said he's bought your favorite flavors and you can have giant ice cream sundaes with him tonight after dinner."

"Oh boy!" Ricky exclaimed happily.

The twins, once sad, were now elated and happy to spend more of their day at home, even if it meant doing their regularly scheduled chores, too.

====
--11:00 a.m.
====

Jack left his study to seek out some of the brood for some Dad playtime. Looking at his watch, though, he was surprised to see JD playing with Jonny in the living room. The littlest Jackson-O'Neill's ear infection hadn't been an issue since that wee hours awakening of his parents, so the boy was doing whatever he would be normally, which included helping one of his big brothers with the laundry.

Because of his age, JD's help was essentially that of handing items to be put into the washer and/or dryer or just watching. He really wasn't expected to be doing anything. He was still at the stage of learning from watching without actually having to do a thing. For the primary laundry detail person, they ultimately had two tasks: the laundry and babysitting their little brother.

~Something's not quite right.~ Jack walked into the garage and took a check of the laundry. He wasn't happy with what he saw. Returning inside the house, he shouted, "*David, front and center.*"

"Ut oh," Chenoa giggled as she sat on a chair at the game table in the recreational room.

"I think he's in trouble," Lulu opined amid her own chuckles.

Though Jack wasn't a big user of the home's intercom system, he opted to use it when there was no response from the eleven-year-old boy.

"David, this is your father speaking. My advice is to move your butt to the living room *now!* This is General Dad, over and out."

Jonny looked up and smiled.

"What are you smiling at?" Jack asked his namesake.

"David's in trouble," Jonny mused.

"And that's worth a smile?"

"When you're General Dad, it is," Jonny replied.

"Just stay out of trouble."

"I am. I'm teaching JD how to do covert."

Jack blinked and looked around the room in confusion, seeing no sign of his youngest child.

"See! He's gonna be good," Jonny giggled. "Show Dad, JD."

"JD here!" the toddler announced as he sprang up from behind the sofa. "Cove't fun."

"Co-vert, JD, not cove't," Jonny corrected.

"Go play covert someplace else," Jack ordered, wondering why he hadn't yet heard from the Mouseketeer. ~For a young genius, he's being very dumb.~

Jack decided to check out a few of the places where the family intercom did not reach. He felt lucky when his first spot was the right one. The family had a quiet room, also known as the kids' sanctuary where they could go to do homework, listen to music, or just have a moment of peace and quiet. There were strict rules about the room, primary of which was no interruptions. Only in the case of true emergencies was anyone allowed to knock on the door. For protection, the kids had to indicate who was inside so that the parents could always identify the room's occupant. At the moment, the sign pointed to the tweener.

Jack knocked soundly on the door and called out, "David, open this door *now!*"

Instantly, the door opened and Jack's ire rose, although he didn't let on just yet.

"Say 'good-bye', Son," the father ordered.

"I have to go, Cory. I'll call you later."

The general snatched the cell phone out his son's hand and spoke into it, "Maybe in a week, or two," and then disconnected the call. "Come with me," he instructed, turning around and heading toward the laundry area. Once there, he asked a question. "Who's in charge of the laundry this week?"

"Me," David answered.

With a nod toward the machines that were still engaged, Jack demanded, "Tell me what you see."

Hesitantly, David looked at the two front-load washers and dryers and sighed.

"Well?"

"They're not very full."

"Where's the laundry?"

David looked around and saw most of the dirty items were still in their baskets, while some were actually on the floor.

"Explain," Jack ordered.

"JD wanted to help, so I ... let him."

"Son, if you ever want to hold this," Jack held out the boy's new smartphone in his hand, "again, you're going to give it to me straight and now. Your choice."

David let out a huge gust of air as he knew he was toast no matter what he did. However, honesty was always the best policy with his family, so he went with the truth.

"JD did want to help, so he picked up a few things, and I picked him up and let him put a few items in both of the dryers. I put him down and then Cory called. I told JD to put more items in the washers. I," David sighed, "I'm not really sure what he put in because ..."

"... you were on the phone with Cory?"

"Yes, Sir," David admitted. "JD kept saying something about pressing the buttons, so I let him."

"And then you went to the quiet room to have a chat with your girlfriend."

"She's not really my girlfriend." Seeing Jack's stare, David clarified, "She's a girl and she's a friend, and I like her, but she's not really my girlfriend."

"And I have two left feet," Jack retorted. He paused and then leveled the parental hammer. "Grounded for one week, no phone for two weeks, and let me tell you why." Jack pointed to the large capacity units and said, "You weren't paying attention. There are maybe five pieces of clothing in each of these. You don't know what JD put in there. Your sisters all have clothing that could be ruined if not washed and dried correctly. For that matter, so do both your parents, and your brothers, *and* you. If anything was ruined or done correctly, you'll be paying for the replacement. Understood?"

"Yes, Sir."

"You also let JD press who knows what button. Not good, Son." Jack continued, "It was also your responsibility to watch your little brother this morning, not Jonny's or anyone else's, *yours.*"

"I'm sorry."

"I believe you. David, I know the girl thing is new and exciting. I've been there. I get it, but your responsibility to your family is always first, until you move out and are on your own. We gave you this phone last year, and we did it not because all your friends had one, but because you'd shown us that you were responsible. Today, you showed us that like most boys your age, you make mistakes. I want you to think about that. In fact, you have homework. I want at least five-hundred words on all the things that could have gone wrong by the choices you made today. Think doom and gloom and turn it in by bedtime tonight. Then tomorrow, I want another five-hundred word essay on how you should have handled the situation today. I want to know what you learned."

"Okay, Dad."

"Do your chores and do them right this time. JD is playing covert with Jonny. Get him and watch him the right way."

"Yes, Sir."

Jack started to walk away, but then turned back and reminded, "Don't forget to check the clothes that are inside. If you aren't one-hundred percent sure, find the owner and let them tell you if any damage has been done. I don't want any after-the-fact complaints, so get it right the first time."

David nodded and sighed as he turned to stare at the laundry area.

"Dad?"

Jack was on the top stair, about to reenter the house when he heard his name. He turned and faced the boy.

"Can I call Cory later?"

Jack groaned, but calmly answered, "Maybe tonight, on the landline, for five minutes -- *maybe!*

Leaving the garage, Jack headed for Daniel's den to fill his husband in on what had transpired.

====
--11:40 a.m.
====

"Mittens, it's not easy to read with you walking all over me," Jack complained as the family cat disturbed his attempt to read an aviation magazine while sitting in his favorite chair in the living room.

"Meow," the cat responded while rolling over in the man's lap, successfully pushing the magazine out of Jack's hand.

"In other words, live with it?" Jack asked the feline.

"Mew," Mittens responded.

Jack laughed as he picked up the cat and tossed it upward slightly.

"Meeeeeeeeeeeeeeow," Mittens whined as she landed back on Jack's lap and then scampered off the man and ran upstairs.

"Yep," Jack said as he picked up his magazine. "There's more than one way to skin a cat."

====
--1:19 p.m.
====

After an enjoyable family lunch, some of the children were outside in the front as they were assigned to the car clean detail. They were tasked with cleaning Jack's truck, Daniel's sports car, and the family SUV. Jennifer and Jeff were also out front, washing their vehicles and keeping an eye on the younger children.

The car clean detail on this day included David, Lulu, Aislinn, and Ricky.

Diligently, the children washed the vehicles, even assisting Jennifer with her car and Jeff with his truck.

Daniel walked outside at one point, just to see how they were doing. Standing on the porch, he quietly watched as Lulu took the hose and fired it in David's direction. David quickly retaliated and added Jennifer to the mix. Soon, all of the children were tossing water at the other, either with hoses or buckets of water.

Then the father saw the water fight end and the children start to dry the cars. He shook his head as Ricky wiped off Jack's truck with his shirt, while Lulu wiped his sports car with her back end, giggling as she made a dance out it.

"You missed a spot," Ricky told Aislinn, pointing to a speck of dirt on the SUV.

The next thing Daniel knew, the children were fully engaged in a soap fight. He walked back into the house and into the kitchen to get a cup of coffee. Jack happened to be in the kitchen, too, sipping on a soda.

"Everything okay out front?" Jack asked.

"Perfectly normal," Daniel replied.

"Water fight?"

"Check."

"Using their clothes to clean the cars?"

"Check."

"Soap fight?"

"That's when I came back inside," Daniel reported. "Like I said, Babe, perfectly normal," he stated as he left the kitchen to go upstairs.

"Check," Jack repeated, leaning back in his chair and enjoying his drink.

====
--2:20 p.m.
====

As the afternoon continued, many of the kids were in the backyard, doing chores, playing, or studying, depending upon the child.

Chenoa and Little Danny were riding the Shetland ponies, with Chenoa on Hot and her brother on Chocolate. Meanwhile, Jonny and Jenny were engaged in their primary chore of the day, mucking the stable.

Aislinn was playing on the swings with Lulu and the beagles, while Brianna was on the patio deck playing with the family guinea pigs, Strawberry and Shortcake.

The peaceful tranquility continued for quite a while.

"Thank you for the ride, Hot," Chenoa told her horse as she dismounted.

Hot whinnied and then sat down on the grass. She rolled over onto her back and whinnied again.

Laughing, the little girl sat down next to her pony and rubbed her belly.

"Bet that feels good, Hot," Chenoa chuckled.

Hot enjoyed her belly rub and then got back onto her feet.

"I didn't think horses did that," Aislinn called out.

"They do it when they sleep and they do it when they feel really comfy, like Hot and Chocolate feel with us," Chenoa said as she hugged her horse.

"Noa's right," Little Danny agreed as he good off Chocolate and patted her gently. "Horses and ponies sleep on their feet a lot, but they get their best sleep when they can lie down. It's not as much as humans, though: only a few hours every day."

The exchange of information was disrupted by a mini-war in the stable. The sound of young voices was hard to miss.

"Ash," Brianna called out. "Take Strawberry and Shortcake back to their cage, okay?"

"Okay, Bri," the Munchkin acknowledged as she took possession of the animals.

As the oldest child outdoors, Brianna ran out to the barn to see what was causing the argument. As she approached the stable doors, the other children were already there, laughing.

"Oh my gosh," Brianna expressed at seeing the action.

Jonny and Jenny were in the middle of a nasty manure fight, throwing the nasty stuff at each other.

"I'll get you, Jonny Jackson-O'Neill," Jenny lashed out and tossed a nasty brown ball that made contact with the boy's right leg.

"All I said was that boys were better than girls at mucking."

"I can muck just as good as you can. See!" Jenny responded, pointing on her side of the stable.

The argument persisted, with each child landing hits on the other.

"Ewe," Aislinn expressed as she observed Jonny making a splash on Jenny's right arm.

"I can clean more than you," Jonny asserted.

"Can not!"

"Jonny's in trouble now," Little Danny opined.

"How come?" Lulu asked.

"He challenged Jenny and Jenny never backs down," the middle Munchkin pointed out, getting nods of agreement from his siblings.

"Cut it out, you two," Brianna called out as she tried to stop the war.

"But ..." both kids argued.

"Stop, now, before Dad and Daddy have to come out to settle this mess," Brianna reminded. She looked around and saw that the majority of the work was done. "Jenny, finish the mucking. Jonny, go clean up."

"Huh?" Jenny asked in surprised at being ordered to finish the work.

"You are woman, remember? You're strong. You can do more work than Jonny and faster, too? So do it," Brianna ordered, ignoring Jenny's strong stare of disapproval in her direction. "Jonny, move."

"Ooookay," the sandy-haired boy reluctantly agreed, putting down his rake and walking outside the stable.

"Jonny, don't go in the house. Use the cabana," Brianna instructed, referring to the room essentially built to accommodate those using the indoor pool that included a full bath, two changing rooms, and a double shower.

The Munchkin nodded and went on his way.

"Kids, back to whatever you were doing," Brianna instructed her siblings.

"Little Danny, we need to brush Hot and Chocolate," Chenoa stated, walking over with her brother to get the brushes.

"Jenny, when you're done, clean up in the cabana and then you and Jonny need to tell Dad and Daddy what happened, okay?"

Then a shout was heard from the patio doors.

"Jenny, Grandpa is here," Daniel called out.

"Oh crap," Jenny groaned.

After a pause, Brianna assured, "It'll be okay, Jenny. Here, I'll finish mucking. Go clean up."

"Thanks, Bri, you're the best," Jenny responded and then hurried out of the stable.

Brianna took the rake and began the chore, while musing to herself, ~Now this is real. Never in my life could I dream of mucking out a stable for a couple of Shetland ponies.~

====
--3:35 p.m.
====

Most of the Jackson-O'Neill children were homeschooled, which meant that classes happened all the time. Even when not in session, the kids often ended up talking about their studies. They were a smart group and education was important to all of them, though at their young ages, they might not word in that way.

Jack and Daniel did not have a lesson planned for Saturday, but even so, in the lull of the afternoon, several of the children were in the rec room, relaxing and chatting when a general remark sparked an English debate.

"Say your prayers, JD, just like I taught you," Jonny instructed.

The toddler got down on his knees and put the palms of his hands together and began, "Now I lay me down to sleep ..."

"I know that's our prayer, but shouldn't it be lie and not lay?" Chenoa asked.

"It's lay," Little Danny assured.

"Why?" Chenoa asked.

The question began a whole slew of confusion as the kids all chimed in with their opinions.

"I laid down my book," Lulu stated.

"When did you lay it down?" Jonny asked.

"Does it matter?" Lulu asked.

"Yeah, because maybe you wanted to say you lay down you book," Aislinn suggested.

"I'm confused," Chenoa admitted.

"I think I want to lay down," Jonny laughed.

"No, you don't," Little Danny put forth.

"Yes, I do."

"No, you don't. You want to lie down, not lay down," the middle Munchkin corrected.

"Why is it so confusing?" Lulu questioned.

Little Danny shrugged and no one else had the answer to that query.

"Why don't I want to lay down?" Jonny asked his brother.

"When you want to move yourself, you lie down. When you want to move something else, like your book or Bogey, then you want to lay it down."

"Oh," Lulu piped up. "Yesterday, I lie down and went to sleep."

"Na huh," Little Danny sighed.

"What did I do wrong now?" the Curly Top asked. "You said if I want to lie me down, then I lie down."

"But you said it was yesterday and that's past tense, so yesterday you lay down, but today you lie down," the genius Munchkin explained.

"Is he making this up?" Jonny asked Aislinn.

"I don't think so," Aislinn responded.

"How about when I see Dad and he's lying down," Chenoa stated. "Is lying wrong? I mean, lying with an L-Y, or is it with an L-I-E, or are they both wrong? I'm so confused."

"No, you were right the first time. Dad is lying down, L-Y," Little Danny answered. He sighed, thinking of a way to make it simple, but there really wasn't a good way that he could think of. "If you want to rest yourself, you lie down today or yesterday you lay down or right now, you are lying down," the boy stated. "If you want to move something or set it down, then you lay it down now or you laid it down yesterday."

"What about if it's doing it right now?" Lulu asked.

"You are laying it down," Little Danny responded.

"Little Danny had laid down the book."

All of the kids looked over at their littlest brother and just stared.

"What did he say?" Aislinn queried about JD's statement.

"He used the past participle," Little Danny stated. "JD, you know about past participles?"

The toddler shrugged and asked, "Is my prayer right?"

"Of course, it is," Jonny responded. "I taught it to you so you know it's right." The sandy-haired boy looked at his fellow triplet and asked, "Isn't it? That's how we say our prayers."

"It can't be because Little Danny said that if we rest, then we lie," Aislinn asserted.

"Think about it harder, Ash," Little Danny urged. "You can figure it out. I know you can."

Accepting the challenge, the youngest Munchkin spoke, "Okay. I lie down because I'm resting. I lay it down because I'm putting someth... I got it! I'm putting me down!"

Little Danny applauded and grinned as he affirmed, "I knew you could do it. In the prayer, we lay ourselves down so that's why it's correct."

"Okay, JD, do it all now," Jonny instructed.

"Now I lay me down to sleep ..."

====
--4:00 p.m.
====

"Kids, gather round," Jack called out. "Take a seat."

All of the homeschooled children took a seat around the hospitality table.

"Sorry to throw this at you last minute, but I've been looking over our last lesson on English," Jack began.

"Ah, Dad, we just had an English lesson," Jonny whined.

"On Thursday," Jack stated.

"Nope. We just had a real confusing one about lying down," the oldest Munchkin insisted.

"We were just talking," Aislinn explained.

"Good, so now we're going to talk about this for a few minutes."

Jack proceeded to discuss homophones, something he'd introduced to the children on Thursday, only after reviewing his notes and the children's homework, he realized there were a few misunderstandings on exactly what a homophone was.

"I hope that makes more sense to you," Jack concluded after a review and added explanation with more examples. "Make sure you do the homework I've assigned you today. It's due Monday at noon. Questions? Good. Dismissed."

With a bit of a growl, Jonny took the papers he'd received and began the walk to his bedroom. As he did so, he passed Daniel on the stairs.

Daniel knew about his lover's spontaneous educational session and asked the Munchkin, "How'd you do with your school lesson?"

"Not good enough. I have to go back on Monday."

The archaeologist chuckled at his humorous son who kept going up the stairs.

====
--4:20 p.m.
====

Brianna was headed for her bedroom when she noticed both her parents were in Daniel's den.

"Can I barge in?"

"Sure," Daniel responded.

"I just want to make sure Jenny and Jonny told you about what happened earlier."

"The fight during the muck raking?" Jack asked.

"Yep."

"They made a full confession," Jack chuckled.

"Okay, good," Brianna replied, turning around and walking towards the door. She stopped and turned around. "Can I tell you something else?"

"The door's always open," Daniel assured.

"I don't know that I've said it lately, but I'm really happy that I'm part of this family. It's hard to believe sometimes."

"Bri, you were part of us long before we adopted you," Daniel stated firmly.

With a nod, the tomboy expounded, "Everything's good, but, well, you know, I was thinking about it this morning, too. It's hard to explain, though, but there are times when I wonder if I'm going to wake up and the last three years would turn out to be a dream. It sounds silly, doesn't it?"

"No," Daniel negated. "But it is very real. You're our daughter, and we love you very much."

"I love you, too. Told you it's silly. Later!"

"Dinner's in an hour," Daniel reminded. When Brianna left the room, Daniel stood up and closed the den door. Still standing, he asked, "What do you think?"

Leaning forward in the recliner, Jack interlocked the fingers of his hands as he thought before responding, "I keep thinking about what that woman said on our trip last year."

"About Bri being happy with us, but maybe still having issues about her upbringing."

"We said then we'd watch and see what happens."

The younger man paced around his den and proposed, "Maybe we should consider counseling, if Bri wants it."

"We can't force it on her, Danny. We don't want to create a situation that isn't there."

"And we don't want to ignore a possible issue because we don't want to acknowledge it exists, either."

"Okay, how about we have a chat with Corrinne, see what she thinks, and maybe get a recommendation for a psychologist," Jack suggested, referring to Lulu's psychologist, Doctor Corinne Cooper.

"That works," Daniel agreed as he sat down, now that he was feeling more relaxed. "Jack, do you think this has something to do with why Ash was so upset earlier?"

"Could be, Angel. Bri mentioned feeling that way this morning. Maybe she said something to Ash while they were making breakfast."

"Okay, where were we?"

Jack picked up the puzzle magazine and stated, "Four letter word for crazy."

"Jack," Daniel smirked.

"What?"

"Jack: J-A-C-K."

"Very funny," Jack groused.

"I know," Daniel laughed. "Zany."

"Yes, you are," Jack teased.

The lovers both laughed as they continued with some private playtime of their own.

====
--7:00 p.m.
====

Most of the children were in the game room, having been given an hour of playtime. Since the big party was planned for tomorrow, the parents insisted on the children getting to bed on time. They still had twenty minutes left to play before the nightly ice cream ritual.

"Danny, let's race."

The grin on his husband's face told the archaeologist that Jack wasn't talking about a foot race. With a nod, he quickly headed for their train room.

"The Egyptian Express will kick your caboose, Babe," Daniel threatened jovially.

"Lucky 97 refutes that. You're gonna find yourself expressed all the way to China," Jack quipped.

"Not so, O'Neill," Daniel refuted as he prepped his train.

"You are so wrong, Jackson," Jack accused as his train let out a toot.

====

Looking at her watch, Jennifer wondered where her parents were. She'd been happily playing table hockey with Jeff and hadn't even thought about time.

"Jeff, it's after eight."

"I wonder what they're doing," Jeff replied.

"Watch the kids, and I'll go find them," Jennifer stated.

"I can go."

"No, uh, um ... I'll go."

"Jen, why do you sound so funny?"

"Well, they usually don't forget about us, and one of the reasons they might forget about us, is if they're ... geez, you know."

"Jen!"

"Well, I've se... never mind. You just stay here. I'll be right back."

Jeff chuckled, actually quite happy to hone his table hockey skills while his sister was gone.

====

"I'm on your six," Jack called out.

"Not for long," Daniel said, his train letting off some speed.

"Having fun?" Jennifer interjected from the doorway.

"Oh gawd," Daniel responded. "What time is it?"

"Let's just say the kids are going to be really hard to settle down. They're wired."

Jack laughed as he looked at his watch and quipped, "That's our norm. Things rarely go as planned."

"That's true," Daniel agreed.

"Round 'em up, Jen. Ice cream in ten."

"Okay, Dad," Jennifer acknowledged before leaving her parents and returning to the game room.

"I'll get you next time," Jack claimed as he took his train off the track to check its wheels.

"That's what you always say," Daniel laughed.

"One of these days," Jack sighed. "I have faith in you, 97."

====
--8:37 p.m.
====

Jack was making his nightly rounds and was currently talking with his namesake, who simply did not want to go to sleep.

"Tell me a joke, Dad," the boy requested.

"Let's make it a bit of homework."

Jonny groaned, but listened.

"How about this," Jack began. "Name two pronouns."

"Who, me?"

"That's my boy," Jack replied.

"I don't even know what a prodnoun is," Jonny whined.

"Pronoun, and we'll talk about it next week."

"I'm too young for those things."

"No, you're not, Jonny," Little Danny called out from his bed. "A pronoun is ..."

"Little Danny, one lesson a Saturday is good enough, so now I'm going to lie down or lay me down so that I'm lying down. Goodnight."

Feeling clueless, Jack opted to let it go. He was afraid if he inquired, the kids wouldn't go asleep for another hour. He and Daniel were already behind schedule due to their getting caught up in their train competition.

"Sweet dreams, Son," Jack wished before kissing his son goodnight. "Sleep," he instructed, pointing over at Little Danny with whom he had already chatted and tucked into bed.

"Night, Dad," both boys called out.

====
--9:00 p.m.
====

Jack and Daniel were in the middle of baking goodies for the birthday party when the older man was drawn to back patio deck.

"It's a clear night," Daniel observed as he walked over to stand next to his lover.

"Yep."

Daniel smile and reached out to touch Jack's arm as he suggested, "Do it."

"What?" Jack asked innocently.

"Babe, I know this look. You're in outer space and you're eager to share that with ... David maybe? Or Noa? Jeff even?"

"David and Noa are probably asleep already," Jack sighed.

"So?"

Jack looked at his husband with a peculiar expression and responded, "Are you an alien? Are you telling me to wake up our children after they've just gone to sleep with a huge honkin' party happening tomorrow?"

"Jack, you don't do this all the time," Daniel replied. He looked up at the night sky and continued, "Sometimes, it calls to you, like it is now, and when that happens, it's like a special occasion. Let the children decide."

"You're a peach," Jack declared as he kissed his lover. "I'll be back before you get to the cake."

"Hey, don't forget David's telescope," Daniel reminded, pointing to the object that was on the backyard deck.

"Good idea," Jack agreed, retrieving the telescope and taking it up to the Aerie in the hopes his son would want to get up and enjoy some astronomical fun.

====

As Jack hoped, Daniel was right. David was eager to look at the stars with his dad and, in fact, he was still awake, lying in bed while reading a book. Little Chenoa was yawning, but she loved stargazing with Jack. He always had a good story to tell and to the youngster, it was very special time with her dad. Jeff was still up, doing homework for school. As an amateur photographer, he was happy to join in and capture some nighttime photos, not just of the sky, but of his family.

Jeff kneeled down in a corner and framed his latest picture. His dad was pointing upward at the sky with Chenoa on his knee. She was looking upward following her father's hand as it moved to support his words.

~Perfect,~ Jeff opined, certain he'd captured the magic of the moment.

"The stars are legendary, Noa. They light up our world and can even show us the way home," Jack told his daughter.

"Do they have GPS?" Chenoa asked.

Everyone laughed lightly, and it was David who answered, "He means ships at sea."

"Huh?"

"If you're on a ship, you can find your way by watching the stars," Jeff explained.

"Too bad we weren't out here for nautical twilight," David mentioned. "You could have gotten some great shots, Jeff."

"I can get some good pictures now, too," Jeff responded. "It all depends on what you're after."

"I thought nautical twilight was better than astronomical twilight for photography," David returned.

"I'm confused," Chenoa admitted.

"What about, Princess?"

"I thought twilight was when the sun went down."

"I understand your confusion," Jack acknowledged. "Lesson time," he said as he continued to hold his daughter. "There are three twilights."

"Three?"

"Three," Jack repeated. "The first twilight is called civil twilight. That's what you're used to thinking about."

"When the sun sets?" the girl asked.

"You got it," Jack affirmed. "We call that dusk. If you look out straight over the horizon, civil twilight lasts until the sun is six inches below the horizon."

"How do you know how much is six inches?"

"Experience," Jack laughed. "David, take the next."

"Nautical twilight is the second twilight of the night," David began. "It lasts from the time the sun is between six- and twelve inches below the horizon. When you hear people talk about nightfall, that's what they mean."

"Jeff, you're on," Jack instructed.

"Right now, it's astronomical twilight. Naturally, it's the darkest of the twilights and kicks in when the sun is eighteen degrees below the horizon. David's right. It's not the favorite time for photographers because of the darkness. If it's a full moon, though, that changes things. Hey, let me show you something."

Jeff picked up a portfolio folder where he had a variety of photographs he'd taken recently.

"Look at this one, Noa. When do you think it was taken?"

"It's a full moon," Chenoa observed. "Astro twilight," she answered, abbreviating the name which caused a couple of chuckles.

"Right on, Sis," Jeff praised, exchanging a high five with his sister. "It's so dark out except for the moonlight that you know it has to astronomical twilight. What about this one?"

"How am I supposed to tell?" the confused girl asked.

"What's in the picture?" Jeff asked.

"It's a leaf."

"Right. What can you tell about it."

"It's a pretty leaf."

"Yeah, but how would you describe this picture? Think about what made the astronomical twilight picture special."

"Oh, it's daylight."

"Actually, it's twilight, but that's how you can tell. Up close pictures or photos with a lot of detail on the subject, the leaf, are only able to be taken in civil twilight."

"Is that your favorite picture, Jeff?" Chenoa asked.

"Nah. I'll show you my favorite one later," Jeff stated as he planned on surprising his sister with the picture he'd taken of her with their dad minutes earlier. ~I think that's going to be my favorite for a while.~

"Dad, where's the dog constellation? You showed it to me once, but I can't see it."

"Wrong time of the year for us to see it clearly, Princess. We'll be able to see it in a couple of months."

"Is the dog running around Earth?"

Jack decided to go with that, due to the lateness of the hour, and said, "He's chasing a big ball."

Chenoa giggled, "Bet Orion threw it too far."

"Kids, time for bed," Jack informed the trio.

"Again," David chuckled.

Now standing, Chenoa asked, "Isn't there another doggie?"

"Canis Minor, the lesser dog," David acknowledged.

"Why is he a lesser dog?" the girl asked as Jack secured his telescope at the same time David was tending to his smaller telescope.

"It's not as big as the greater dog," Jack commented.

"I think it's a bad nickname. I'm gonna ask Little Danny about it," Chenoa stated.

"Maybe he'll start a petition to have the name changed," David mused. "Ready, Dad."

"I'll sign it," Chenoa piped up. Hearing her brother chuckle, she asked, "Are you laughing at me?"

"No," David responded. He walked over to his sister and hugged her. "I didn't mean to laugh at you, Noa. I agree with you about the name, but we're both kids and our names on a petition don't carry any weight."

"They should."

"You're right. Kids have rights, too."

"You do," Jack agreed, securing his telescope in its insulated box, "beginning with a solid night's sleep. Bed. Let's go. Jeff, take point."

"Once a general, always a general," the teenager laughed.

"It makes things simple," Jack rationalized with a smile.

Once back inside the home, Chenoa hugged her dad and said, "Thanks for waking me up, Dad. I love looking at the stars with you."

"The pleasure is all mine, sweet Dove," Jack responded, giving his daughter a kiss, and then sending her on to the nursery where she still chose to sleep.

"Thanks, Dad," David stated. "Am I still grounded?"

"Yeahsureyabetcha," Jack returned.

"Had to ask."

"No harm in that," Jack smirked.

"Night all," Jeff called out, already heading for his room.

~Better go help Danny,~ Jack told himself. ~Great kids: we have great kids.~

====
--12:03 a.m.
====

"I think we're ready to go," Jack noted as he reviewed the baked goods, decorations, and gift list.

"We'd better get some rest," Daniel suggested. Before he could react, he felt himself being snatched up by his husband and soundly kissed. "Wow," he chuckled. "What was that for?"

"Letting me spend time with some of the kids on the Aerie tonight. That was special. Thank you, Love."

"Our children matter the most, Jack. They love that time with you. It wasn't an issue."

"Geez, I love you."

"That's good. You get to make breakfast," Daniel advised, kissing his husband and heading upstairs.

Jack shrugged in acceptance and sprinted a few steps to catch up with Daniel.

"Angel?"

"Yes?"

"When you said we needed to get some rest ..."

"We do, absolutely ... after."

With a grin, Jack pinched his lover's buttocks and responded, "I love how you think."

Happy and ready to close out their day the same way they started it, Jack and Daniel raced to their bedroom. It had been just another day, full of the usual unpredictability that made the J-O norm perfection. Life was awesome for the Jackson-O'Neills in Colorado Springs.

~~Finis - Finished - Done - The End - But is it ever Really?~~

Author's Note: Please feel free to email me with your comments or suggestions; constructive criticism, things you'd like to see, etc. A chronological listing of my universe is at http://orrymain.com

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