Summary: Jack and Daniel are confronted with an ornery situation at their company and are surprised by the solution and its source.
Author Email: email@example.com (Feedback welcome)
Author Website: http://orrymain.com
Category: Slash, Drama, Romance, Established Relationship
Pairing: Jack/Daniel ... and it's all J/D
Season: Beyond the Series - March 3-21, 2016
Written: April 4,6,9-13,15,22-27, 2016
Summary: Jack and Daniel are confronted with an ornery situation at their company and are surprised by the solution and its source.
Disclaimer: Usual disclaimers -- not mine, wish they were, especially Daniel, and Jack, too, but they aren't. A gal can dream though!
1) Sometimes, Jack and Daniel speak almost telepathically. Their "silent" words to each other are indicated by asterisks instead of quotes, such as **Jack, we can't.**
2) Silent, unspoken thoughts by various characters are indicated with ~ in front and behind them, such as ~Where am I?~
It was early March and on this cloudy day, as had been the case for the last two weeks, both Jack and Daniel were working at J-O Enterprises. It was one of those times when the archaeology firm was up to its rafters in client deadlines.
The brood loved the situation because with both their parents at work, there had been no homeschooling at all. All the kids were enjoying the break, spending time on their hobbies of choice. Jonny actually referred to it as one giant recess, while Jenny considered the time away from academics as a chance to hone both her cheerleading and mechanical skills. The latter was courtesy of Lou Ferretti, who with Jack and Daniel's permission, was letting the Spitfire assist him in restoring an older vehicle that was ultimately for his daughter, Trina. Chenoa and Lulu focused their energies on a new dance routine and doing exercises to help Lulu with her dyslexia. For Little Danny, the break meant studying several hours a day, along with extra playtime. Doing both made him happy. As for Jennifer, she just smiled, not having any words for what was happening. She hadn't been the all-day, every day babysitter for the entire brood in a while. She utilized the family's caregivers to accommodate her college courses as necessary, but also skipped some classes. In addition, she curtailed most of her social engagements to take care of the children.
Today, though, Jennifer had a busy school day that she could not miss, so most of the brood were with caregivers, playing and otherwise having a good time. One of them, however, was having his own version of a good time at the office with his parents.
"What do you think?" Daniel asked as he sat at the worktable in his office at J-O Enterprises.
"I'd look here and ... here," Little Danny answered decisively as he pointed to two spots on the picture. "Can we go, Daddy?"
"Not this time, Little Danny," Daniel responded. "We have family plans."
"We do," the father affirmed.
The nine-year-old smiled in response, though he felt mixed. One part of him was curious about the fun that would certainly be had with his family, while the other part of him was jumping in eager anticipation of what might be found on the upcoming archaeological dig in Peru.
"Daddy, does the ..."
Little Danny's query was cut off by a sudden fling of Daniel's office door. The boy turned around in his seat to see his older father walking in, followed by three currently very loud employees.
"Daniel, we have a problem," Jack advised his lover.
"Well, uh ..." the archaeologist began as he stood up and joined the adults.
Daniel's response was cut off by Karissa Lewis, Little Danny's special friend and the woman who kept the firm operating with high efficiency.
"He won't listen to me, Daniel," Karissa spoke with desperation in her tone.
The archaeologist's head was already spinning. He saw frowns and sensed there was a large amount of unhappiness in the room. He also wasn't sure who Karissa was referring to, Jack or one of the other employees standing near her.
Shifting her focus to Daniel's partner in all things, Karissa argued, "Jack, I told you about this last week."
Jack opened his mouth to respond when Donald Burton, who was actually the employee Karissa was referring to, jumped in with an accusatory, "And I told you, Karissa, that it would be impossible to create a plan for this job without a visit to the actual site. There are too many variables. If you'd listened ..."
"Okay, let's calm down," Daniel interjected. "Karissa, what exactly is ..."
Yet another voice entered the fray when Ty Harper, one of J-O's original employees whose specialty was dealing in all aspects of the company's equipment, stormed in and ranted, "What was the big idea of taking an entire box of plumb bobs without checking with me first?"
"Plumb bobs?" Jack mouthed in disbelief. "Whoa! We're arguing about plums?" The glare his husband gave him caused Jack to back down from his ignorant stance as fast as he could. "Just trying to inject some humor, Daniel. I know what they are and that we need them for use in mapping."
"That's my point," Ty spoke harshly. "There are four sites where we need those plumb bobs and now we're short. The supplier ..."
Before Ty could finish his comment, two more employees entered the office at full bicker. It was impossible for anyone to get a word in as everyone was talking over one another. It was shocking behavior for the J-O staff that rarely sounded off in this disruptive manner.
From the table, Little Danny noticed certain characteristics in the arguing adults. He'd already observed it in Karissa and he knew it was the case with his parents. As he continued to listen and make mental notes about the unusual behavior, an idea formed in his mind.
~That's it. I ... I'm sure of it,~ the child prodigy told himself. He continued to watch the intolerant display for a few more minutes in order to verify his opinion. ~I'm doubly sure of it now.~ Little Danny now felt a need to interrupt the quarrelling. He walked over and tried touching his younger father's arm while politely interjecting. Not succeeding in his goal, he spoke up more loudly. "Daddy, can I use your computer?" the boy called out, not fidgeting or feeling embarrassed at all for interrupting the chorus of negativity.
"Wha...what?" Daniel asked, looking at his son. Not needing a replay of the request, he answered, "Yes, go ahead."
"Don't you want to ask him why?" Jack curtly asked his husband as he himself was caught up in the disparaging un-meeting of the minds that was happening.
"Would you like to rethink that question?" Daniel inquired sharply.
Jack knew he'd snapped and he wasn't happy about it. Unfortunately, he didn't have a chance to apologize because Karissa and Donald were arguing with great intensity about the scheduling and who was to blame about that particular misstep.
Quietly and with great focus, Little Danny sat down in his father's comfortable office chair. As he settled in and put his fingers on the keyboard, he looked over at the small group and saw their shaking heads and pointed fingers. Their accusing tones with one another meant no one was really listening to anyone else. It made Little Danny feel sad. He could not recall a time when he'd even heard company workers argue, let alone shout as they were now. Determined to find the support he needed for his findings, he quickly began searching the Internet.
"Whoa!" Jack exclaimed minutes later. "What the heck is going on?" he growled. "This is *not* how we operate around here!"
"Okay," Daniel responded, his head bowed, his word a self-encouragement to calm down and get to the real bottom of the issues at hand. "Jack's right. This isn't how we conduct ourselves at J-O. Let's, uh, let's take a few minutes to cool off."
"You're right, Daniel. I'm so sorry," Karissa sincerely expressed to the entire group. "This was inexcusable."
More apologies followed and, per Daniel's request, the workers left the room to settle themselves, leaving Jack and Daniel to figure out where communication broke down and to find a solution for the urgent matters at the center of the uproar.
"Everyone came unglued, Danny, me, included. I'm sorry about what I said."
Daniel looked over at his soulmate for a few seconds and replied, "It's okay, Jack. We both got caught up in the fray. The question is why."
"Why we joined in?"
"No. Why it reached that point in the first place. I've never heard Karissa raise her voice like that."
"Ty's been a steady one, too, and we both know how professional Don is," Jack noted.
"Okay, so let's find an answer," Daniel stated.
"Let's start with the plums," Jack suggested. He saw Daniel's unpleased expression that included a stabbing glare. "Just kidding, Danny. Humor, remember." He sighed, "I'm thinking we can start with some of the small stuff and then tackle the bigger issue."
"Okay," Daniel agreed. Keeping his voice low, he added with a deep sigh, "I'm sorry, too, Jack. I'm on edge like everyone else is."
The couple walked around as they discussed and solved a few of the more minor problems at hand. They then turned their attention to the unacceptable outpouring of emotions, tempers, and reactions that had occurred in the past hour. Neither understood why so many staff members had unexpectedly sounded off in such a gruff manner.
Suddenly, while in mid-thought, Daniel felt a tug on his arm. It was Little Danny, beckoning for his attention.
"Son, Dad and I are talking right now."
"I know," the boy acknowledged. "This will help." Little Danny put on the table two file folders, each full of information he had printed out just minutes before and just collated inside the folders. "Dad, Daddy, sit down, please."
The parents weren't sure what to make of the request, but there was something formal and firm in Little Danny's demeanor. His inflection was confident and even formidable. As a result, Jack and Daniel both sat down without saying a word, while their son remained standing.
"We have a problem at J-O," Little Danny began, his speech steady and his eyes forceful as he faced the two most important men in his young life.
"And what would that be?" an extremely curious Jack questioned.
Jack and Daniel looked at each other for two seconds and then both faced their son and echoed in unison, "Tired?"
"Yes, tired." Little Danny paused to allow his parents to consider his words. Then he elaborated, "It's why the brood always had to take naps. Remember?"
"I remember Jonny arguing all the time," Daniel admitted, shaking his head as he recalled some of the battles he and Jack had with the oldest Munchkin, who was oftentimes rebellious about settling down for a midday rest.
"Jonny never liked them, but then you let him sit quietly without making him go to sleep."
"Yes, we did," Daniel recalled. He looked over at his spouse and probed, "That was your idea, wasn't it, Babe?"
"It might have been Jonny's idea," Jack conceded.
"It's really neither here or there," Little Danny asserted, causing his parents to smile at the way the boy had just mimicked Daniel with an often used phrase of the archaeologist's. "They need naps."
"Our employees," Little Danny clarified, taking a leadership stance as he talked.
"Son, thanks for the input, but a nap won't solve squat," Jack groaned in disbelief.
Daniel put his hand on Jack's arm and responded, "Let's hear him out, Jack."
"Daniel, these are grown adults. We're not their parents who can tell them to go to their room and take a nappie-poo for a half hour."
Daniel's eyes remained focused on his namesake, who hadn't shifted at all. He saw certainty and strength in the boy's blue eyes. It caused Daniel to make a declaration that surprised him a tad.
"No, he's right, Jack. They do need a nap. In fact, so do we."
With incredulity, Jack challenged, "We? We need a nap?"
"Please open my report," the youngster requested as he cut off his parents' conversation.
Jack started to say something, but he stopped himself. He, too, saw what Daniel was seeing. Without argument, he opened the file and waited to see what would come next.
~This is going to be his company one day,~ Jack thought, knowing J-O Enterprises would be passed down to the brood and the odds were that Little Danny would be the one in charge. ~Okay, Son, give it to me.~
As if hearing his older father's command, Little Danny began, "On the first page, you'll see the employees who were here earlier and the number of hours they've worked in the past month. It includes references to the number of trips they've taken across the United States and out of the country. This is important because jet lag has to be considered due to time differences, especially if you look at someone like Mister Burton. In eight days, he was in four countries, all with different time zones. If you look at the total for all the employees and figure in average times for meals and necessities, you'll see that the amount available for sleep has been roughly five to six hours. Of course, this is somewhat subjective. We would need to do more in depth interviews and studies of their behavior to make the numbers more accurate, but the point is, they're working too much and they need sleep."
Jack and Daniel both reviewed their son's very detailed statistics and notes. It was amazing how quickly he did his research on the computer.
~Heck, I don't even know how to get this data off that dang PC,~ Jack noted. He was curious about something. "Son, let's just say you're right."
"I am right, Dad."
"Yeah, right, of course," Jack responded, not doubting his son but having flashbacks of similar types of discussion with Daniel, who had usually been right about whatever the debate was. "How? How do you know that we're all tired and not just grouchy, selfish, uncaring slobs?"
Daniel rolled his eyes at Jack's wording, but feeling the question was relevant, he remained silent.
"Well, Karissa yawned a lot this morning and she had dark lines and she wore extra eye shadow and eye liner to make up for it. She always does that when she's tired."
"She does?" both parents asked.
**Daniel, he's watching her makeup? Should we be worried about that?**
**He's aware of her make up, not watching her makeup,** Daniel clarified. **And there's nothing to worry about. He's being observant.**
**I'll buy that and that Florida bog,** Jack quipped as he worked to decipher his husband's response.
"Uh-huh," the boy acknowledged informally, temporarily slipping out of his leadership role as he talked about his first big love, even if he was a little boy. Then he said, "Mister Burton was temperamental and that doesn't match his character. Ty was having trouble concentrating. He was upset about the plumb bobs. A couple of times he started to say something else and once he had to stop to remember what he was talking about. Miss Devon looked like she was dizzy. She held onto a chair for a while and stopped arguing until she felt better again."
"Okay," Daniel interjected, holding up his hand. "Maybe a few people are tired, but that doesn't mean the entire office is tired."
"Not everyone is, Daddy, but I heard someone say they had a headache, and Bibi was doing chair exercises."
"We have a gym," Jack noted.
"She said she didn't have time to work out in the gym right now, that she had too much work to do. Besides, she said she was only doing the exercises to try to get energy so she could get her work done."
"What about us?" Daniel asked. "What makes you think we're tired?"
"That's easy," the boy answered.
"Well?" the silver-haired man prompted.
"Well, first, you both started arguing when I was in the room, and second, Daddy let me use the computer without asking me what I was going to do, and third, you both kept arguing and talking about private things, even though I was still here. You don't normally do that."
"Maybe we just got caught up in the ire," Jack suggested.
Little Danny sighed, "And last night, you and Daddy fell asleep on my bed while Jonny and I were telling you a story. You've never done that before."
"We, uh, did do that, Jack," Daniel reminded.
"Guilty," Jack acknowledged. "We won't fall asleep tonight. Daddy and I want to hear how things turned out with the skunk."
"Back to business," Little Danny commanded, knowing he had finally made his point on the tiredness issue. He continued, "On the next two pages, you'll see some notes regarding sleep deprivation and how it effects workers and companies. One study by Harvard estimated that lack of sleep has cost American businesses $63.2 billion annually in lost production."
"How did we survive SG-1," Daniel commented softly, getting a look from Jack who was about to respond when their son continued to give his report.
"The good news is that other studies, like one from Hiroshima University, have proven that performance levels improve when workers are rested." Little Danny walked around the table until he was between his parents. Then he reached out in both directions and pointed, his right finger touching Jack's file and his left finger making contact with Daniel's folder. "And this study asserted that even a short nap aids in increasing productivity. Cognitive functioning and alertness are higher."
"Okay, we're tired. We can't help that," Jack stated.
"Yes, we can, Dad."
"How?" both Jack and Daniel inquired.
"I told you. We take naps."
"Little Danny, this is a business. We can't take naps," Jack negated.
"Yes, we can. Google employees do. The Huffington Post employees do. A lot of companies do, like Cisco and big investment firms." Undeterred by his dad's resistance, Little Danny listed more nap-friendly companies. "Zappos has them. I think Nike does, but in full disclosure, the information I found about them was vague."
"Okay, okay," Daniel interrupted with a raised left hand. Since his son was making a business report and acting professionally, he asked his next question as if Little Danny had been in this position many times before. "Do you have a proposal?"
Little Danny beamed. He didn't realize he would feel like he did at the moment. He was proud and happy. He was contributing to the family business in a way he hadn't done before. He couldn't wait to talk with his siblings about it and get their input. First, though, he had a lot of supporting data for his proposal that he wanted to impart to his parents. When he spoke again, he was so excited that he spoke rapidly, his adrenaline spurring him onward.
"NASA did a study, too. They discovered that a twenty-six minute nap can increase productivity thirty-four percent and alertness by fifty-four percent. They ..."
"Son, get to the point," Jack requested in a tone he'd often used on Daniel whenever the scientist was prattling. ~Geez, he is just like Danny -- talk, talk, talk, prattle, prat...~
**Daniel, get out of my brain. Our son is prat... I mean, talking.**
"We need a nap room," Little Danny put forth. "Look at the fourth page," he instructed as he returned to his original spot. "There are several choices. I think we should have a brood meeting, let everyone make suggestions, and then figure out the design of our new nap room."
**A brood meeting?** Jack questioned via the special silent communication he and his husband shared.
**He doesn't want to take credit for this on his own, Jack. He realizes this is a big first. He wants them included.**
"We'll do it tonight," Jack spoke aloud as he smiled. "Good job, Son."
"Thanks, Dad." Little Danny looked around for a second before asking, "Can I go help Rissa now? I think she needs me."
"Of course, she does. Go ahead," Daniel replied as he gave his permission and watched his namesake exit his office.
"He's always gonna have it bad for her," Jack opined.
"Yeah," Daniel agreed as he flipped through the report. "I can't believe he did all this in twenty minutes."
"Was it that long?"
Daniel smiled and shrugged in response.
"You think he has a point with this sleep stuff?" Jack asked in earnest.
"Read the report," Daniel urged as he stood, tapped the file folder against the table a couple of times, and then walked to his desk.
"Who are you calling?" Jack queried.
"If we move forward, we're going to need him."
"This has been one crazy morning." Jack saw Daniel's nod of agreement. "Angel?"
"You forgot that ..." Jack stopped before completing his thought that related to Alex's availability. Something else needed to be answered first. "Why'd you bring Little Danny to work with us today?"
"What?" Suddenly distracted, Daniel blinked as his finger left the dial pad of the phone and he hung up. "Me? I thought you brought him for some reason."
Jack laughed, "Are you telling me our son got into the car and neither one of us decided to question why he was there?"
"Apparently," Daniel mused in reply. "It must be your military influence."
"What makes you say that?"
"Jack, you bluff. You walk in, act like you belong, and see what happens." Daniel shook his head in wonderment. "How many times did we bluff like that on missions?"
"Apparently, because that's exactly what our son did this morning."
"He wanted to come to work with us, so he did," a bemused Jack agreed.
"He wants to be more involved. I guess he was trying to tell us that the best way he knew how."
"Or maybe he just wanted to spend some time with us."
"Or Karissa," Daniel chuckled, thinking that was probably the more likely scenario.
Daniel started to pick up the phone again to call Alex Dennison, their designer for all things Jackson-O'Neill, business or personal, when Ty knocked on his office door.
"Maybe we should take care of those issues first and call Alex after lunch," Daniel stated.
"Danny, about Alex ..."
Ignoring Jack, Daniel waved Ty in and stated, "Ty, Jack's figured out a workaround for the plumb bob shortage."
~Oh, well,~ Jack thought. ~He'll remember about Alex soon enough.~ Inwardly, he laughed, ~Geez, Little Danny *is* right. Danny's so tired he's forgotten about Alex.~
"I wouldn't want to sleep in that thing," Lulu stated as she looked at a picture of the sleep pods.
"How do you know what you'd want?" Jenny asked.
"I just know. I want something comfy."
"The pods would be super cool," Jonny put forth enthusiastically. ~They're like something from the future.~
The brood meeting was in full force and, for the most part, Jack and Daniel just sat and listened. This brainstorming session was completely in the chaotic control of their twelve children.
"Blue should be the color," Aislinn opined.
"I like blue," Little Danny agreed.
"I think there should be green," Chenoa put forth for no particular reason.
"A rainbow!" Ricky exclaimed. "Everyone loves rainbows."
"Maybe there should be a morning sun," David suggested, thinking that early hours were peaceful and uplifting.
"I prefer clouds," Jennifer stated with a shrug that indicated she was actually on board with any choice.
"If I'm trying to sleep, why would I want the sun to keep me awake?" Ricky asked the group. "I like the sun, but not when I'm sleeping," he added.
"Mountains are peaceful, to me anyway," Jeff expressed, wanting to contribute an alternate idea.
Though Jeff was away at college, Little Danny insisted he participate in the brood meeting and so the webcam on Daniel's laptop was put into use.
"Me, too," Ricky agreed as he looked at the laptop computer on which Jeff's picture appeared. "Rainbows and mountains," the Spitfire echoed as he reaffirmed his choices.
"I have the perfect idea," Brianna interjected with a smile. "Dolphins!"
That line got a laugh from the entire family since everyone knew just how important dolphins were to the budding marine biologist.
Brianna laughed, too, and admitted, "I couldn't resist, but I still say dolphins on the walls would be awesome."
Both Jack and Daniel were taking notes. Even though it was their children debating on the solution to the need for sleep, much of what they were talking about was valid.
"I think it should be classical," Aislinn stated about the choice of music genre.
"They should have a choice," Little Danny suggested. "Not everyone likes every genre."
"What about cleaning?" Jennifer queried. Seeing a variety of uncertain expressions on her siblings' faces, she explained, "Kids, someone has to clean, and I don't mean the room, but whatever is used for sleeping, especially if pillows or sheets are involved."
The conversation kept going which amazed Jack and Daniel. Their children were creating a room to solve a problem, and every one of them were taking it seriously, as if the problem really was theirs.
"You guys, we need a name," Brianna asserted.
"The Nap Room," Ricky responded.
"That's too basic. Adults will think it's something for babies," the tomboy discounted.
Through the webcam connection, Jeff spoke up, saying, "Bri's probably right. Adults will get used to it, but it couldn't hurt to have something creative to help them through the transition. Ultimately, it is a nap room and that's the sole intention for its creation, but if there are those who associate with it negatively, why not give them a kick by having a fun name for the room?"
"Any ideas?" Little Danny asked.
Jack and Daniel exchanged a look, each saying with their eyes that they never would have thought about a name for the room other than referring to it as a nap room. Their fascination only grew as they listened to ideas being tossed about by their kids.
Finally, as the meeting approached an hour in length, Jack and Daniel decided it was time for ice cream. They thanked the brood for their help, said goodnight to Jeff, enjoyed their desserts with the kids, and then encouraged them to turn their attention to other matters, including homework and chores.
"Whew!" Jack gasped as his wild-beating heart ebbed to a more steady beat.
"Metube," Daniel replied, adding several more sounds to his response.
Jack laughed. He couldn't help it. There was little more joyful to him than a bout of lustful lovemaking that ended with his husband unable to speak coherently. Over the years, he'd learned to interpret his Love's mumbles, but he had to admit that on this night, he didn't have a clue. He didn't care, though. It was more important to caress Daniel's sweating back and kiss the wet-soaked hair that was nestled against his chin.
Minutes passed as the satiated lovers rested, Daniel's body atop his soulmate's, his left leg hooked in between Jack's legs. The archaeologist's left hand automatically rubbed the hairy chest of his general. It was an unconscious but soothing action for him, one that brought Daniel peace, as did the ability to hear Jack's heart beating. From their first time to now, hearing Jack's heart and feeling his strong arms around him had always been of vital importance to Daniel.
Just as Jack was drifting off into slumber, he was pulled into wakefulness by a sudden verbal barrage of a totally coherent Daniel.
"We should just let him do what he needs to," the younger stated out of the blue, though his position did not shift at all.
"Let who do what?"
"Alex?" Jack repeated strongly. "Daniel, why are you thinking about Alex?"
"Not," Daniel spoke quietly after placing a kiss on Jack's chest. "Nap room," he explained.
~He's still not quite back,~ Jack mused happily, even though he was not happy that Daniel's first words had been about the good-looking designer. "Danny, more words." Silently, he chuckled, ~I can't believe I said that. He might just talk my ear off.~
Daniel let out a yawn and then expounded, "We're adding a nap room. We agreed on that. We have the space, so that's not an issue. We're also very busy right now and I don't think we need to bug Alex like we normally do."
"Bug? We don't bug Alex."
"Jack, we drive him crazy. We make changes, ridiculous requests, and we always want it done a month ago. Let's simplify this time. It's a small job. We can have one meeting with him, tell him what we decided, and give him the children's ideas."
"And then what?" Jack asked.
"We trust him. He's always given us more than we expected, Jack. Let's just ... just ... well, you know ..."
"Trust him?" the older man interjected.
"Let him do his job without interfering," Daniel stated.
"He wouldn't believe it," Jack stated. He waited for a response that didn't come. "Danny?" Nothing but silence rang in the general's ears. "Angel?" There was a pause before Jack spoke again, saying, "Danny, about Alex. Danny?" Jack knew it was hopeless. Daniel's return to a cognizant state was over. He smiled. "I love you, Danny, forever and always."
Jack grinned. He understood that mumble, a declaration of love for always and forever.
~As long as I have that, I have everything.~
A minute later, Jack joined Daniel in a sound, lasting sleep.
The next morning, Jack and Daniel had taken their morning showers and were in the process of dressing for the day. The older man decided to take the opportunity to point out an issue with their post-sex discussion the evening before.
"Definitely did," Jack maintained.
"I couldn't have."
"Babe, I know full well that Alex is on a prolonged honeymoon with Soncirria," Daniel put forth.
"You know that now, but last night you didn't, *and* you forgot yesterday at the office."
"I couldn't have," Daniel sighed, not wanting to believe he had forgotten something so basic. "Gawd, I did," Daniel acknowledged, shaking his head. "Little Danny really did hit it on the head. We are tired," he conceded. Then he sighed, "And after we ... you know, like that, I forget everything."
Jack pulled his soulmate into his arms and softly corrected, "Everything but how much you love me."
"I do, don't I?"
"Oh yeah, you do, and I love you."
The lovers kissed and then broke apart to finish dressing.
"It'll be strange," Daniel opined as he buttoned his shirt.
"Byron has a lot of designers working for him," Jack asserted.
"Should we wait?"
The one word response told the archaeologist that his question was a silly one. While Alex had done wonders for them over the years, it was ridiculous to expect him to always be around. It would also be unfair to expect their friend to always be on call for them.
"Besides, if whoever it is screws up, Alex will fix it when he gets back," Jack added, causing both men to chuckle.
A week later, Jack had just checked in with the Archonics Ltd. architect who was overseeing the new space at J-O Enterprises. After reviewing the process, he headed toward his Love's location.
"How's it coming?" Daniel asked when Jack entered his office.
"I hate to admit this, Danny, but I feel like a traitor."
Daniel chuckled, "Me, too, but we didn't have a choice." He noticed Jack's hesitation and sense of uncertainty. "Are we doing too much?"
"Do you think we are?"
"I think ... I'm not sure."
Jack crossed the room and stood in front of his Love's desk as he responded, "Do you think it's because we let the kids choose?"
Daniel laughed, tossing down the pen he was holding in his hand, and answered, "We passed the buck, Jack."
"Why'd we do that?"
"Because we're tired. We've put in more time at J-O in the past month than we have in a while. I mean, both of us, almost full time because of the clients. I think we didn't want to think about it, so ..."
Seeing Daniel's smile, Jack interjected, "... so we let the kids make the decisions."
"Because we're tired."
With a bit of a smirk, Jack challenged, "And because it was Little Danny's first proposal. We let him lead the kids and run with it."
"It wasn't what I'd thought it would be."
"Why? Because he handled a personnel situation instead of inventing a new way of digging through dirt?" Jack sat down in one of the chairs in front of the desk. He leaned forward slightly, rubbing his hands around each other. "Danny, that boy loves the dirt as much as you do. He's going to uncover a ton of history one day."
Daniel smiled and nodded his head before replying, "I am proud of him. He saw a problem, found a solution, and even brought his brothers and sisters in on it."
"Time's moving forward," Jack sighed. "In the next few years, we're going to have to let the kids get more involved, the ones that want to be."
"That, uh, that's going to be exciting."
"Very," Jack agreed. "To be honest, Daniel, I'm looking forward to that."
"Playing in the dirt with Jonny?"
"All of 'em."
"Me, too." Daniel sighed as his mind flooded with many trips to archaeological sites taken with his children over the years. "We've created a lot of memories, Jack."
"And a lot more to come, Angel." Patting his knees twice, Jack stood up and declared, "Okay, enough with the melancholy."
"The blahs?" Jack asked, wondering if that was a better term.
"Being tired," Daniel replied. "We should have figured it out ourselves."
"Dibs?" the younger man questioned uncertainly, having no idea how Jack's expression tied into their conversation.
"Once that sci-fi lookin' thing gets plugged in, I'm first in line" Jack clarified.
"You think so?" Daniel asked, standing and walking over to his husband.
Daniel gave his lover a deep, sensuous kiss, one that had Jack reeling and longing for more.
With a bit of a seductive smirk, Daniel stated, "You can be second."
With a large grin, Jack offered, "How about we share?"
"We haven't done a check on the suite lately," Jack reminded, referring to the hotel-quality room that was part of the building and used when needed for clients and even staff.
"You're right, Babe. We're overdue in inspecting it."
"After you," Daniel replied. "Wait," he called out, stopping his soulmate.
"Danny, let's go."
"Is this, uh, for ... sleep, or ... you know?"
"Oh for ... Daniel, we can sleep anytime."
With a huge smile, the archaeologist ordered, "Well, then ... get it gear, O'Neill. Move it!"
"Yes, Sir, Doctor Jackson," Jack teased, giving his husband a sloping salute before exiting the office and heading for the office suite and a spontaneous romantic rendezvous with Daniel.
~Gawd, I love him,~ Daniel thought as he followed Jack for a loving union of their hearts and bodies.
Early in the evening several days later, the Jackson-O'Neills stood inside the offices of J-O Enterprises. They were standing in front of a new room that would be available for employee use starting the next week. The room was located away from the center hub of the large building where a lot of space remained vacant. Having extra, unused space for additions over time was something Jack and Daniel planned on when they purchased and renovated the building.
"Okay, kids, check it out," Jack instructed.
"Ash, make a note," Little Danny directed before he even reached the door to the new area.
"About what?" the girl asked, even as she pulled out a pen to write in her notebook.
"We need a sign up sheet so employees can reserve a time for their naps," Little Danny told his sister.
"That's a good idea," Chenoa agreed. "Wow, look at the bed!"
At the center of the room was a large circular bed. It had a rise in the center that could act as a pillow. The bed was not sheeted as its plush exterior was meant to be laid on with an individual blanket, if desired. There was room for several employees to relax on the bed at the same time.
Chenoa climbed onto the bed and looked up at the white clouds that filled the otherwise light blue coloring on the ceiling. The scheme filled the rest of the room as well.
"It's like looking up at the sky," the Curly Top opined with a smile.
Several of the kids joined Chenoa and enjoyed the bed for a few minutes, while others ran around it playfully. The cloudy atmosphere was a bit hit.
"That one looks like an orange," Lulu chuckled.
"And that one looks like a big Froot Loop," Jonny commented, causing quite a bit of laughter by the kids.
"I'm glad they chose the plush carpet," Daniel said to his soulmate as he walked around the room.
"The employees won't be running around like this," Jack pointed out as he walked beside his Love.
"I hope not," Daniel agreed somewhat jokingly.
From across the room, Jennifer was having fun watching her siblings review the new setup. She was drawn to the oldest Munchkin and chuckled when she saw him reading the rules.
"Little Danny, we need a different word," the little general stated with some consternation. "These are fun naps. There shouldn't be rules."
Directly upon entering the new nap area, a sign was placed to remind users of the rules for the nap room. There was a mention to be courteous and mindful of other workers who might be waiting the use the facilities, a note that pillows and blankets should be put in a specific area after use for cleaning, and a statement that music should be listened to via headphones or ear plugs at all times and never so loudly that it might interfere with others. A few other rules were also included.
"Ideas?" Little Danny asked the others.
"Why call it anything?" Brianna put forth.
"We have to call it something, don't we?" Lulu replied.
"No, we don't," Jonny answered with a smile.
"J-O is a family, like we're a family," Little Danny stated. "Dad and Daddy always tell us to be considerate of one another, so why don't we put at the top, 'Family Considerations' and then use bullet points for the list?"
"Butterflies," Jenny suggested.
"Huh?" Jonny asked.
"Butterflies are nicer than bullet points," the redhead stated.
"Ash, put that down," Little Danny requested.
"Okay," the youngest Munchkin agreed.
Aside from the bed, the only other furniture in the room was shelving that contained spaces for used and unused pillows and blankets. The nap area had only one purpose, naps, so among the rules, or family considerations as the rules would be amended to read, was no food or drink.
"Hey, look at this," David called out enthusiastically. He was standing next to an open, doorless archway that led to another part of the nap area. "Ricky, get over here!"
Ricky ran to see what David was looking at and then literally jumped onto one of the two hammocks that hung from the ceiling.
"Not for me," Aislinn said as she took in the outdoorsy motif of the hammock area where the color scheme was mostly jungle green and sunny yellow. "Only when we're camping out."
"I like it," Ricky spoke with authority.
"Well, this works for the ones who want to feel like they're out in the woods somewhere," Brianna noted.
"Or just in their backyard," Jack interjected with a smile.
"What's in there?" Jenny wondered as she pointed at another open archway.
"The space pods," Jonny assumed excitedly as he led the children into the final section of the nap area. "Way cool!"
There were two of the expensive sleeping pods in this final section. The pods had headrests for those who did not want to use pillows. Blankets were available, as were a variety of accessories to aid in sleeping. These included headphones, ear plugs, and uni-socks.
The pods had a cover piece that could be closed, partially or completely, for privacy. The pod functioned ergonomically with the feet elevated to lessen pressure on the cardiac system. In addition, the user sat with a slight bend of the knees which allowed the muscles of their lower back to relax.
"JD, let's check out the music program," Jonny suggested, reaching up for the four-year-old who was in his dad's arms at the moment.
Jack released the child to the Munchkin's arms and watched as Jonny lifted his little brother onto the seat.
"Don't move, JD," Jonny warned. Seeing the youngest member of the brood squirming, the Munchkin turned and called out, "Dad, can you watch him while I get up. He might fall."
The parents appreciated Jonny's awareness of the potential danger and Jack did not hesitate to walk over and give JD a forceful stare. He didn't want to, but he smiled when JD giggled in response to the general's stare.
"Not fooling you, eh?" Jack asked the boy.
"I'm a good boy," JD pointed out.
"You just stay put while Jonny gets settled," Jack ordered.
"This is so outer space," David observed about the black with white stars paint scheme. "It needs a fake telescope for aesthetics."
"Ash ..." Little Danny began.
"Got it," Aislinn interrupted as she wrote down the idea.
"How come there aren't any constellations?" Chenoa asked.
"Got it, Little Danny," Aislinn interrupted again.
"Ah, guys, remember, the purpose of this room is to sleep. No one is going to be looking through telescopes or ..." Jennifer stopped talking when she noticed the unhappy stares in her direction. "Well, maybe they will." She looked over at her parents and wondered why they weren't making many comments. ~They're letting us call the shots. How about that.~
In one of the pods, Jonny set the timer for a five-minute nap. He put the headset over his ears and adjusted the volume downward. Then he put the headset over JD's ears.
**Did you see that, Babe?** Daniel asked his husband, who had returned to his side.
**Yeah. He did good,** Jack replied about his namesake's actions that ensured the music would be at an appropriate level for JD's younger ears.
The brood continued to examine all three sections of the nap room. A few more suggestions were made, which Aislinn wrote down. Then they heard giggles.
"This thing works great," Jonny praised about the pod timer.
"Shakes," JD added while still giggling.
The pods were set with a pre-programmed twenty-minute nap time, but the timing could be adjusted upward or downward, as Jonny had done when he set the timer for just five minutes. The program including a wake cycle that set off a combination of music, lights, and vibration, which was what caused both children to giggle when the timer went off. Music could play throughout the nap, if desired. Also available were various sounds, such as ocean waves, chirping birds, or a gentle breeze.
"I still think there should be dolphins," Brianna sighed.
Little Danny also let out a big sigh. He didn't want his sister to be disappointed. Then he brightened as an idea came to him.
"Bri, maybe we could had dolphin sounds to the pods," the child prodigy suggested.
"Yeah, that would be good," Brianna replied happily.
"Done," Aislinn said with a grin, having written down the suggestion as soon as her fellow triplet had said it.
"Daddy, how much do these costs?" Ricky asked out of the blue.
"Uh, well, these were around thirteen-thousand each," Daniel answered.
~The deluxe version,~ Jack reminded himself.
"Do I have enough money in my piggy bank to get one for my room?"
Jack let out a huge cough as he turned around so as to not be seen trying to block the huge laugh that was fighting to come out.
"Not this year," Daniel replied.
"Darn," Ricky responded as some of the other children chuckled.
Thirty minutes later, the brood headed out of the nap room area and walked toward the exit of the office building. Jack and Daniel trailed behind.
"I'll print out our amendments when we get home," Aislinn called out to her parents.
The two men smiled and nodded at their little girl.
**I'll flip you to see who calls Lyle,** Jack offered about the architect handling the project.
**Me? A coward?**
**Jack, Lyle isn't Alex.**
**I know that.**
**Lyle doesn't do things on our schedule, nor does he understand the need of our children to have things just to their liking.**
**He's competent,** Jack sighed.
**He's not Alex,** Daniel repeated.
**And he's not going to agree to get the changes done by Monday.**
**That's because he doesn't prepare ahead like Alex does.**
With a bit of a sideways twist to his head, Jack opined, **Alex is like a mind reader.**
**He thinks ahead, and that's what puts him at the head of his game,** Daniel responded. **Lyle's not used to us and he doesn't know how to read between our family lines.**
Jack agreed, **Alex would have met with the kids.**
**Probably, but the point is, we're clients to Lyle, Jack, and friends with Alex, not to mention that Alex has years more experience than Lyle.**
**You're being polite.**
**Face it, Danny. Alex is world class. He's among the best in the world at what he does. He has a sixth sense. He plans for the unexpected and he knows how to get a job done yesterday.**
**Yes, he does, but he's not here, so we have to deal with Lyle, who is ...**
**... competent,** both men agreed simultaneously.
**I'll call,** Jack acquiesced. He heard Daniel laugh out loud. **What?**
**I know you, Babe. You'll call, but you'll call Byron,** Daniel noted, referring to the founder and senior partner of Archonics Ltd.
With a smile, Jack acknowledged, **It's his company. He'll make sure Lyle gets it done.**
Daniel nodded at the truthful statement. The changes the brood wanted included several smaller things, but there were also four or five major alterations and/or improvements to the room, and they needed to be done in just four days, two of which were over the weekend and included Palm Sunday.
~I'm glad Alex has a life now, but ...~
**Yeah, I wish he were here, too,** Jack interrupted his Love.
**And now who's in whose mind?**
**Love you, Angel.**
**Love you, too, My Silver Fox.**
"Should we postpone?" Jack wondered as he talked with his lover Sunday evening.
It was nighttime in Colorado Springs, and the soulmates were in Daniel's den as they dealt with an unexpected reality.
Daniel sighed as he pondered the situation. Tomorrow was scheduled to be a big day for J-O Enterprises, largely due to the actions of the brood. Unfortunately, several of the kids were sick with the flu.
"We can't risk spreading the flu around the office," the archaeologist replied.
"No way. Remember what happened a couple of years ago?" Jack asked, whistling in a shivering trail of air as his head reared back and his eyes went upward. "Danny, it took two months and forcing half the staff to stay home to get that dang bug out of there."
With a nod, Daniel affirmed his partner's words and with a tinge of sadness stated, "We have to go forward. We can still take the others and we can record it for the ones who have to stay home."
"I'll check with Jen and see if she's clear to stay home."
"Just in case, I'll take a look at the list of usual caregivers and start coming up with a plan."
"It's getting late to call," Jack noted. Seeing Daniel's stare that stated they lacked alternatives, Jack queried rhetorically, "Choiceless?"
"Hopefully, Jen's available."
Jack looked at his watch and quipped, "She should be done with her weekly gabfest with Sheila."
"Good luck," Daniel said as he turned his chair to face his desk.
"Why are you wishing me good luck?"
"Jen and Sheila missed their scheduled call last week. They've probably only just begun."
"Geez," Jack groaned. He again looked at his watch. ~Choiceless.~
"You'd better get going. Janet's one of the few choices."
"Doc?" Jack echoed with a grimace.
Smiling, though his husband couldn't see him, Daniel responded, "Janet. I believe she owes you a needle."
"I *hate* flu shots."
Daniel couldn't hide his chuckle, a noise that sounded evil to Jack.
"Jen will be available," Jack insisted as he walked out the door.
The archaeologist laughed, **Sorry, Babe, but you should have known better than to skip out on Janet. That needle's going to be twice the normal size.**
**Jen will be watching the brood. You can make book on it.**
**Anything you say, Babe.**
**I say,** the general communicated in absolute certainty. ~Where there's a will, there's a way, cliché or not.~
Twenty-five minutes later, Jack returned to Daniel's den and sat down in the recliner next to the desk.
"Well?" Daniel asked.
"I told you," Jack replied smugly. "Jen's going to stay home."
"Oh, I see." Daniel waited several seconds before asking, "What did it cost you?"
"Cost you," Daniel repeated with a low, suspicious tone.
"I'm her father. I told her we needed her."
"She's a good kid. She always comes through for us."
"Oh, for crying out loud!" Jack snapped. He sighed and then confessed, "A new dress, some fru fru thing she wants for a party."
After a laugh, Daniel reached over and caressed his husband's left thigh as he quietly asserted, "You're right about Jen, Jack. You could have just asked her. Why the ... fru fru dress?"
Jack grumbled for a second as he looked off to the right, but then he looked into Daniel's eyes and explained, "She's a woman now, Danny, whether or not we want her to be. Yeah, she'd do whatever we asked simply because we needed her." He paused for a minute and revealed, "She was talking to Sheila about that party and this dress she saw in a store. She fell in love with it."
"She usually creates one herself when she sees something expensive that she likes." Daniel saw a look in his husband's eyes and startled slightly as the truth began to swell within him. "She doesn't have time." At first, he was surprised by his own words and growing realization, but then it became perfectly clear in his mind. "She has her studies and ..."
"... the brood because for the last few weeks ..."
"... we've been at J-O mostly full time." Daniel looked down as he conceded, "Old habits, Jack. We've been relying on Jen to tend to the children to ..."
"... cover for us being not as available at home as we normally are."
"We have to stop this," Daniel stated. "How'd we get into this?"
"New clients, more deadlines ..."
"Well, we need to get out of it," Daniel responded seriously.
"You know what, Angel?"
"Every now and then, we need craziness like this," Jack contended.
"To remind us why we've set up J-O to operate without us both there every day."
"We do," Daniel repeated, his query now a declaration of agreement. "Sometimes you're pretty smart, O'Neill."
"I like how you're doing that," Jack spoke in a more raspy voice as he felt Daniel's hand continuing to rub his thigh. "Yeah, like that," he added when he felt the hand shift to his thigh's interior, prompting him to slide down a bit in the chair.
With Jennifer set to take care of her ailing siblings, Jack and Daniel now focused on their personal needs, something they succeeded in doing to the delight of both men.
Mid-morning on Monday, most J-O Enterprises employees were present for a required staff meeting. Those who were excused because they were not in the city were participating via computer hook-ups. Even the Jackson-O'Neill kids who were at home were allowed to watch live, thanks to the conference link Alex had set up previously in Daniel's den.
Ultimately, it was up to Jennifer to make the decision on whether or not the children who were feeling up to it could gather together and watch the proceedings. Naturally, she was unable to resist the pleas of the brood to watch, so in spite of stuffy noses, nagging coughs, and slight fevers, the kids were happily tuning into the meeting.
"I'm sure you are all curious about the last item on the agenda," Daniel stated as he addressed the staff. "Earlier this month, some of you witnessed first hand a shortage of tempers and understanding among us. It was a flare-up that was, uh, well, shocking to all of us. That negative behavior is something we cannot let continue, not here."
Daniel paused and looked out and around at the employees, his eyes making contact with many of theirs.
"Jack and I are proud of the company we've developed, and we care about all of you, too much not to respond to the lack of tolerance and wave of negativity we've experienced recently. There's no blame to be placed on any of you. The fault is ours, Jack's and mine, for not recognizing sooner how our increased business demands have caused many of you to sacrifice personal time and your health. Without complaint, each of you has done whatever was needed to build J-O to where it is today, a place far beyond what our wildest dreams were when we began; but it's come at a cost, a health cost related to the amount of sleep you get each night, especially when the schedule is as tight as it has been this year. Sleep can and does weigh heavily on our health, physically and mentally."
"I bet they laugh," Chenoa remarked, coughing afterwards and pulling her robe a bit tighter to warm her.
"Not at Daddy," Jonny refuted.
"At The Oasis," the little dove clarified.
"Jack and I believe there is a solution. We're starting a new office policy that encourages sleep. It's as simple as that: sleep."
"I heard a laugh," Ricky said as he leaned his head against Chenoa, who instinctively put her arm around his shoulders to comfort him.
"Daddy will get 'em!" the little general insisted in command tone. ~If he doesn't, Dad will!~
Daniel paused, giving out a small sigh before continuing, "I, uh, know my husband over there was trying not to laugh a minute ago. It's a little ironic to listen to me talk about the importance of sleep. Jack knows that I have a history of doing all-nighters. It was pretty routine for me. Sleep," Daniel continued to look at the staff, the sincerity of his expression touching the employees, "was sometimes more of a haunting." The archaeologist got lost for a minute in his thoughts and as much as he'd felt Jack wanting to laugh moments before, he now felt great love and support. "I understand the reasons for my lack of sleep and how it effected me, and that's why I understand why it really is necessary for all of us to feel rested. It's still ironic, but it's my truth."
"Oh, wow," Jennifer expressed in surprised. "He went for the emotional card. That's why they'll buy into it. He's being so honest with them right now."
"It's not good to laugh at Daddy," Jonny stated as he nodded his head. "Ahhhhhhh choo!"
"Bless you," a chorus of sick voices spoke in response to the sneeze.
"Thank you," the Munchkin replied.
The archaeologist explained, "Research shows that while some people can fully function with five or six hours sleep at night, others need, eight, nine, or even ten hours. Our brain needs to relax. It needs a break, some off-time. We've learned from our own research and experiences that human beings function better when they're rested, and that includes short spurts throughout the day. Sometimes, you may need more, such as when you're pregnant or going through an emotional time at home. The problem is that it's not always possible to get the sleep we need with a traditional schedule. Some other cultures have long understood this and incorporated it into their societal rituals."
As she rubbed JD's back soothingly, Jennifer heard a round of giggles from her siblings and asked, "What? What did I miss?"
"Look at Dad," Jonny told his sister while pointing at the screen.
"He has his eyes closed," Jennifer observed.
"He closed them when Daddy said that about other cultures," Chenoa giggled.
"He's afraid Daddy is going to start giving examples," Jennifer acknowledged, letting out a few giggles herself."
"Maybe we should order pizza," Jonny mused, though he was partially serious. "Daddy can talk for hours about cultures."
"Without eating," Ricky added.
"How do you know that?" Chenoa questioned.
With a shrug, Ricky answered, "Dad says so."
Not wanting to miss anything, Jennifer cautioned, "Settle down, guys. Let's listen."
"Jack," Daniel called out, turning over the meeting to his general as scheduled.
"Me? Now?" Jack whispered in shock after opening his eyes. ~I was certain he was going to keep going.~
His back to the staff, Daniel quietly replied, "Unless you'd like me to continue with ..."
"No, no," Jack softly interjected as he moved forward. ~Close call,~ he told himself, feeling a sense of relief in the process. ~We'd be here all day.~
**Jack, get to it.**
The silver-haired fox was always amazed how the love of his life could tell what he was thinking. He considered it to be mental eavesdropping. He loved it and hated it at the same time. Mostly, he loved it.
"Here's the deal, folks," Jack said as he cut to the chase. "Over the last two weeks, we've constructed what is essentially a nap room. Yes, you heard right, a nap room, and we expect all of you to make use of this room as needed."
As Jack heard a few giggles and a couple of scoffs, so did the brood at home.
"They're laughing again," Ricky pointed out.
"Not for long," Jonny insisted.
The giggles spread amongst the staff and, along with them, a variety of embarrassed smiles.
"It may sound like it's a joke, but this new area is one of the most important places you can spend time while at work," Jack stated calmly.
"Aw shucks!" Jonny complained.
"What's wrong?" Jennifer asked.
"He's taking the high road," Jonny sighed. "Ah choo," he sneezed, the act sounding as downcast as he felt.
"Bless you," the family called out.
"Thanks," the youngest responded, plopping his chin into his hands as if it were an anvil landing on Wile E. Coyote.
"You sound disappointed, Jonny," Jennifer noted. Hearing nothing but a groan in reply, she asked, "Jonny, you aren't really upset because Dad isn't being a general with the staff?"
"Nah, Daddy likes the high road and <cough, cough> ... dang it ... 'sides, they weren't really laughing at Dad or Daddy or anything," the Munchkin answered, showing off the truth he knew in his inner self. Then he let out a big sigh and admitted, "I'm just sick and feel yucky. I'm angry at the flu." Feeling agitated because of the illness, he gruffly sounded off, "I want to kick it to Hades."
"I'll let you squeeze some lemons for me later," the oldest Jackson-O'Neill sibling offered. "How's that?"
"Can I?" Jonny brightened as he lifted his head up, knowing he could take his anger at being sick out on the lemons.
"You can squeeze to your heart's content."
The exited exclamation prompted a round of laughs from the sickly brood.
Jack continued, "Daniel and I do not take credit for this room. That goes to our son, Little Danny, who came up with the idea and to the rest of our brood, each one of whom contributed to the design and development of the area.
Cheers erupted in Daniel's den as the sick children suddenly felt better than they had in the last two days.
"A few of our bunch are here today," Jack told the employees. He faced the kids as he called out their names: "Brianna, David, Lulu, Aislinn, Jenny, and Little Danny." The group applauded, as did the parents. Then Jack looked at Little Danny and called out simply, "Son."
Karissa looked to her right at the seated child and praised, "You look so handsome in your suit." She saw his eyes light up. She smiled and gave him a supportive pat on his shoulder while encouraging, "Go get 'em, Little Danny."
Smiling brightly, Little Danny stood up and walked to stand between his parents, who both backed away to give their son the center stage.
Jonny stood up and excitedly called out, "Tell 'em, Little Danny. You can do it!"
Chenoa cheered, "You'll be great, Little Danny."
Ricky jumped up and down as he exclaimed, "He's my brother!"
Even JD got into the act as he slid out of Jennifer's hold and ran up to the screen where he told the Munchkin, "Do good, Little Danny!"
Jennifer smiled at the outbreak of encouragements and, every bit as excited as her charges were, added, "Stay focused, Little Danny. You're in charge."
The child prodigy looked at Karissa, seeing her nod as she urged him on. He gave her a nod back and then focused on the others in the room. He could sense the good will of his brothers and sisters and saw the happy faces of the ones who were in the room with him. Taking a deep breath, with his heart beating faster than normal, for the first time ever, Little Danny addressed the staff on official business. His first words were a command.
"Follow us, and we'll show you The Oasis."
"What's The Oasis?" Ty asked with an abundance of curiosity.
"Well, it's what Dad said, a nap room, but The Oasis is much more than that. It is your new refuge, a place to relax and close your eyes. Come on, and you'll see." Little Danny walked out of the meeting room and continued, "We think you'll love The Oasis. It was Jonny's idea to ..."
Jack and Daniel watched as their large staff followed. The owners took up the rear. Daniel looked over at the company's bone expert, Bibi, to ensure she had her laptop operating. She had been tasked with remaining up front, using the device to communicate with the out-of-office employees and the ill brood at home.
Halfway to the newly constructed room, Jack groaned, "Danny, this meeting is going to run overtime."
"Listen to him. He's explaining what each of the kids did, in detail."
Daniel just shrugged. He was proud of Little Danny for not taking the sole credit and wanting the staff to understand how the nap area was created.
"He's talking about me," Chenoa cooed happily, even as she coughed.
Jennifer observed his siblings carefully. They were so excited, but they were also tired and suffering from their flu symptoms. Her parents had told her to use her judgment on whether or not to let the kids watch the live feed and when to cut it off, if they did watch.
"Little Danny's talking about me now," Ricky pointed out with a smile.
"He didn't have to talk about us," Jonny stated. "The room was his idea. We just helped a little."
Jennifer smiled as she thought, ~I need to tell Dad and Daddy what Jonny said. They'll be proud of him.~ As JD returned to her hold, the young woman continued to look at the Munchkin. ~Proud, but not surprised. He's a humble little kid. You just have to wait for it sometimes.~
Just as the staff began to reach the entry area, Little Danny stopped walking and waited for everyone to catch up before continuing his presentation. As he waited, he observed how the adults reacted to the door.
It wasn't a normal looking wooden door. Instead, Aislinn had suggested they paint an ocean on it, and that's what was done. The kids would have liked to have painted it themselves, but there wasn't time. Since Alex's 'replacement' had trouble finding anything the brood approved of, Jennifer used one of her contacts, a woman she'd met through her surrogate grandmother, Mrs. Valissi, to paint the canvas that was permanently affixed to the door.
The canvas was a beautiful piece of art, with different hues of blue shining vibrantly in the background, highlighted by a surf-worthy set of ocean waves. Off in the distance, away from the waves, were three dolphins jumping upward. The hues became more calming at the lower region of the canvas as the water connected with the light brown sand. A hint of a barefoot was in the corner, as if the person were about to walk into the frame.
For a time, the kids considered using a child's footprint, but they decided against it when they remembered the nap room was for the adults. Thus, the used foot was Jennifer's, something they did not advertise. They also included tiny paw prints at the outer edge. Naturally, they were the paws belonging to their beagles, Bijou and Katie. The kids believed the staff would acquire a peaceful aura by the presence of the paws.
With most everyone gathered near the door, Little Danny continued his story, eventually explaining, "So, we decided that it wasn't fair to make everyone use the same type of sleeping apparatus. We asked Dad and Daddy if we could do different things, and they said we could. So, you have a choice, and you can use whichever sleep area you want. We have a bed, hammocks, and sleep pods. Oh, and Dad and Daddy agreed that you can use the nap room whenever you want, for as long as you want, as long as you get your work done and your job performance doesn't suffer. They know you're great and that no one would take advantage. Dad and Daddy are good like that. They don't really like rules. We don't like rules. Oh, and Jonny especially doesn't like rules. One time ..."
"Daniel, if you don't stop him, we won't get back to work until after lunch," Jack whispered.
"You want to stop him, then you stop him. I'm not."
"Proud as punch?" Jack guessed, figuring it was a safe bet since he felt that way, too.
"I remember that," Jonny said amid a coughing outbreak.
"It was funny," a yawning Ricky agreed, a quick sneeze following his comment.
"Dad didn't think it was fun...fun...funnyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy-choo," Chenoa added, raising her hand that was full of tissues to wipe her nose.
"Okay, kids, back to bed," Jennifer ordered.
"But ..." Jonny began.
"He's not through," Ricky whined, a loud sneeze following his words.
"I know, but it's being recorded and we can all watch the rest of it later," Jennifer assured.
"I want to stay and watch," Jonny demanded.
"And now you're cranky," Jennifer pointed out. "Everyone back to bed." She noticed JD hadn't joined the debate and that's when she realized he'd fallen asleep. "No arguments. JD's asleep. We don't want to wake him up, right?"
Chenoa, Jonny, and Ricky exchanged looks. They didn't want to wake their youngest brother. Plus, the truth was that they all felt awful.
"You've seen most of it. We'll watch the rest later. I promise," Jennifer soothed in a loving voice.
"Keep it up, Little Danny," Chenoa said, waving goodbye at the screen.
Jonny closed his eyes, his mind concentrating as hard as it could about how good Little Danny was doing and how he regretted having to go back to bed. The oldest Munchkin was proud and confident that the rest of the meeting would go as good as the first part had.
"Jonny," Jennifer beckoned as she stood and disconnected the link. She looked in confusion at the boy who was practically squinting. "What are you doing?"
"Telling Little Danny he's doing good," Jonny answered as his eyelids popped open.
"Oh, okay," Jennifer acknowledged with a confused shrug. "Bed. Go!"
"Sometimes you sound just like Dad," the boy responded as he rubbed his eyes and exited the den.
"Thanks, I think," Jennifer mused as she followed the triplet with JD still sleeping in her arms.
Little Danny was still talking and the staff was chuckling at his stories about how the Jackson-O'Neills had a thing about rules. The employees were clearly enjoying the youngster's presentation. For a moment, though, the boy paused. He felt a wave of goodness, making him extra happy and causing him to beam even more brightly than before. Then Little Danny thought of a new story and started to tell it to the receptive staff.
"Why don't I order pizza?"
"Good idea, Babe. I figure he'll open the door by the time the pizzas arrive," Daniel spoke lightheartedly.
Looking at his watch, Jack responded, "I'll make the order for ninety minutes."
"Sounds about right, I think."
Jack stared at his husband incredulously while also second guessing the proper time for the delivery.
Aware of Jack's debate, Daniel whispered, "Babe, we have a kitchen here, remember. We can warm up the pizza, if necessary."
Two-and-a-half hours later, some of the staff had returned to work, but a large majority were still enjoying their pizza. The nap area went over very well, making Little Danny the center of attention all through the lunch hour. The other children had their share of the spotlight as well.
When another thirty minutes ticked by, the presentation euphoria settled down and the crowd in the lunchroom lessened considerably. Most employees were back at work and a couple of them were already using the nap room to catch a few winks.
"And I'm going to join them," Ty stated as he started to excuse himself from the lunchroom chatter. "Jack, Daniel," he began. He looked around the room where the Jackson-O'Neill kids were scattered and added, "Brood, thank you for creating The Oasis. A power nap is just what I need today." Looking at his bosses, he noted, "I'll get the revised inventory finished before I leave."
Jack and Daniel gave Ty a smile and acknowledging nod and watched him exit the room.
"Dad?" Little Danny asked quietly.
"Did I talk too much?"
"*You* talk too much?" Jack laughed for a moment. Then he smiled as he reached out and caressed his son's cheek. Looking straight into the boy's eyes, Jack answered straight from his heart with a firm, "No."
"Are you sure? You ordered pizza. You said we'd go out for lunch, so I think you thought the meeting would be done. I think I talked too much."
"Son, everything you did and said was perfect," Jack assured.
The boy's grin was huge as he turned his attention to his daddy and asked, "Do you think I talked too much?"
"No," Daniel answered, adding to his namesake's grin.
The boy hurried away, seeking out Karissa.
"She's going to answer the same way," Jack put forth confidently.
"Yes, she will," Daniel concurred with a certain smile.
It was mid-afternoon at J-O Enterprises. The kids were still there with Jack and Daniel. For a while, the children separated to hang out with some of their favorite employees. They also answered more questions about The Oasis. Some of them helped out with office tasks, as they often did. They also spent time in the playroom, an area designed for the brood whenever they needed to spend time with one or both of their parents at work or be left in the care of one or more of the J-O employees.
Meanwhile, Jack and Daniel went to work on the second phase of their plan, the part designed to free up the amount of time they were currently spending at the office. They made the decision to hire three new employees, while also increasing the work scope for their five college interns. In addition, they started the process of promoting two current employees to leadership roles as principal investigators. This would require some restructuring of the current teams, which is why the couple needed to take a few days to mull over the absolute best way to accomplish the task. The couple reviewed their schedules and agreed that they would continue to work daily at J-O through Thursday, after which they would be able to get back to a plan where they both did not need to be there every day.
With the required tasks done for the day and all but one of the children rounded up, Daniel walked into Karissa's office and smiled as he watched his namesake reading a report of some kind. The boy was making notes, so focused on his task that he wasn't aware of his daddy's presence.
"Little Danny, it's time to go," Daniel announced.
"Okay, Daddy," the boy responded without looking up. "Can I just finish this for Rissa? I only have a few more notes to make." Little Danny looked up at his father and added a sincerely spoken, "Please?"
"Sure. We're in Dad's office when you're done, okay?"
"I'll be right back, Little Danny," Karissa informed the youth as she walked out with her boss. "He's such a help," she told Daniel as they walked down the hallway.
"What is he working on?"
"Dale's report on what they've found so far in Achupallas. He, Little Danny, that is, has a hunch that the volcanoes are part of the equation."
"Volcanoes? There is a history," Daniel acknowledged. "Is that what he's doing, making note of the possible cause and effect."
"I think so," Karissa answered, nodding her head. "By the way, I've already had some feedback on the sleep aids."
Daniel chuckled lightly and asked, "Do they like it?"
"They love it," Karissa replied. "Bibi says it's the cutest desktop display she's seen in a decade."
"Ricky will loved that."
"He designed it on his Etch-a-Sketch," Daniel explained.
"How does he do that?" Karissa inquired in amazement.
"I have no idea. I can't even draw a house on it. Jack's pretty good at it, though," Daniel mused.
"I'll bet he is," Karissa responded. As they reached Jack's office, she added, "I just wanted you to know that everyone's being very responsive to the presentation and the sleep aid is going over like gangbusters. It's a good reminder for the staff, Daniel. No one wants to see a repeat of what happened a few weeks ago. I know I don't. I ... I still feel bad."
Daniel put his hand on Karissa's upper arm and rubbed it gently as he assured, "Don't think about it anymore, Karissa. We all had a bad day, and with reason. That's why we have The Oasis, to make sure we don't have another bad day like that one."
With a grateful smile, Karissa replied, "You and Jack are the best, Daniel. My friends are so envious of the way you take care of the employees here."
Karissa gave Daniel a little hug and then laughed.
"What?" the archaeologist inquired curiously.
"A couple of my friends work at places where a hug would be considered sexual harassment."
"We live in a crazy world, don't we, Daniel?"
"Thanks for making J-O a family workplace," Karissa stated. As she started to walk away, she added, "I'll make sure Little Danny finishes up in the next five minutes."
"Give him ten, if he needs it. He might be on to something."
"Might?" Karissa questioned as she laughed and turned around to continue on her way.
~Yeah. That was silly of me. Might?~
Daniel took out his phone to make a note to himself. He wanted to do some more research on his own before doing what he suspected he'd end up doing, sending extra personnel to the region to explore Little Danny's suggestions.
That night, Jack and Daniel nestled together in the comfort of their large bed. Their comforter was pulled taut to provide extra warmth. They were far from asleep when they heard a tap on their door.
"Come in," Jack called out.
"Everything okay, Sproglet?" Daniel asked when he saw the middle Munchkin walk in.
"Can I come up?"
Jack and Daniel both sat up, separating a bit to provide space for their son. Both patted the vacant spot, permitting the boy to climb up onto the bed, which he did.
Little Danny settled in between his parents, though he sat on his knees and faced them.
"That was fun today," Little Danny told his parents.
"Big time fun," Jack agreed.
"We're very proud of you. You and your brothers and sisters worked very hard. Dad and I appreciate that so much," Daniel praised as he reached out and took hold of his son's hand. "What are you feeling?"
"Happy," the boy answered. "I wanted to make a difference at J-O."
**He's so much like you, Angel,** Jack communicated to his husband.
"You did," Daniel assured. "Do you, uh ... Son, do you want to do more?"
Little Danny bowed his head in thought as he answered, "I like helping at J-O a lot, but I wanna be a kid, Daddy."
**And he's a lot like you, too, Jack,** Daniel asserted privately.
"Is that okay?"
"Yes, it is," Daniel responded, squeezing his son's hand gently in support.
"Stay a kid as long as you can," Jack urged, patting Little Danny gently on the cheek.
Little Danny hugged his dad and daddy and then climbed off the bed. He confidently headed for the door. When he reached it, he turned around, a question on his lips.
"Dad, Daddy, can I help sometimes, though, like I did today with Rissa?"
"Anytime," Jack agreed with a firm expression.
"You let us know when you're ready," Daniel added.
With another smile on his face, the future CEO of J-O Enterprises started to leave the room. He paused and then smiled.
"What is it?" Daniel asked.
"Well, I think we should expand the playroom more and have someone always there to watch the kids, like when we play there."
"That's something to think about," Daniel responded thoughtfully as he took in the suggestion.
"We could all help with that, too," a smiling Little Danny said before turning and finally leaving his parents to themselves.
Daniel started to say something, but before he could, Little Danny ran back into the room. He seemed to realize his error. The kids were never to enter their parent's bedroom without knocking.
"Sorry, but are we still going on the dig next month?" Little Danny asked eagerly. His eyes were anxious and pleading. "I can still be a kid and go on digs all the time, right? Can't I? I mean, I really like digs. I learn a lot and ..."
"Whoa!" Jack called out, raising his right hand, palm open and facing the boy, as he interrupted the fast-paced speech of the Munchkin. "Digging privileges are permanent."
"That won't change as long as you want to participate," Daniel pointed out.
"Thanks." Little Danny turned toward the door. Then he quickly turned back. "Night!" Again, he turned and sprinted to the door, his hand on the knob when he stopped. Twisting around, the boy ran forward to the edge of the bed. "I love you, both of you," the eager youngster declared as he again turned around and excitedly finally ran out of the room.
"Close call in his mind," Jack laughed.
"So ... what do you think?" Daniel inquired, his eyes on the just-closed door.
"About J-O going into the childcare biz?"
"No, but we have been heading that way lately. It's not a bad idea, Jack, and considering how often we bring the children there and ask Karissa or Bibi to watch over them, it would be ... well ..."
"Hypocritical?" Jack offered.
"Unfair," Daniel said, "to not allow others to have the same benefits. Do you have issues with that?"
"Okay, so, what do you think?" Daniel repeated as he returned to his original query.
"I just told you."
"About our son."
"It was a dry run," Jack offered in reply.
"He wanted to see if he could do it?"
"You have a better rationale?"
"No, not really. I, uh, I think at first, he just saw the problem and somehow knew the solution," Daniel expounded.
"Then it grew, inside of him. We gave him a challenge and put him in charge, Jack. I don't believe we meant to, but it just grew outside of us, too."
"And he ran with it, got the rest of the kids involved, and proved that he could do the job."
"But he wants to be a ... a kid," Daniel added as his emotions began to overtake him. He felt Jack's arm around him, offering the protection that had transformed his life. "Gawd, I was so messed up in my youth. I was never a kid after my parents died. He wants to be a kid."
Jack pulled Daniel in close and whispered, "You taught him well, Love. You showed him it was okay to be a kid, even with that magnificent brain of his."
"We taught him," Daniel corrected.
"He's gonna be okay. All the kids are successes because they're good kids, kids who care."
"J-O will be in good hands when the time comes."
"We are *not* retiring for a long, long time."
Daniel laughed, "I am making it sound like the children are going to take over tomorrow, aren't I?"
"You still love it?"
"You know I do, as much as ever, and more because it's our company," the archaeologist answered. "Jack, what about you? This was never your thing. You did it for me."
"You're wrong, Angel. I did this for us. It may not be flying fighter jets, but it's been exciting. I can play in the dirt with the best of 'em now," Jack teased. "I wouldn't change it, and that's why I want us to continue until the cows come home and tell us it's time to go."
"The cows?" Daniel echoed. "Okay, we'll wait for the cows, and in the meantime, we'll keep going as we have been."
"It works," Daniel agreed.
The soulmates kissed and laid back down. Nestled together once again, they closed their eyes and headed for the land of slumber. All was well for the Jackson-O'Neills as life moved on in their beloved home 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