Summary: When some of their new friends make fun of Jack, the brood fights back the only way they know how.
Author Email: firstname.lastname@example.org (Feedback welcome)
Author Website: http://orrymain.com
Category: Slash, Drama, Romance, Established Relationship
Pairing: Jack/Daniel ... and it's all J/D
Season: Beyond the Series - May 3-4, 2015
Written: May 1-2, 2012, September 9-10, October 7, 2014, March 16-17,19-23,26-31, April 1,3, 2016
Summary: When some of their new friends make fun of Jack, the brood fights back the only way they know how.
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 a lovely albeit cloudy spring Sunday for Colorado Springs, something the Jackson-O'Neill clan was grateful for since yesterday had been filled with thunderstorms. Today, the family, canines included, were among many neighbors attending a party at a centrally located park. The all-day event was a community affair that included several neighborhoods in near proximity to where Jack and Daniel resided. It was designed to help families get to know one another better.
Agreeing that the get-together was worthwhile, Jack and Daniel brought their brood to the park early, arriving around ten in the morning. The lovers wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to scope out several new families that had moved into their part of town over the past year or two. While they knew most everyone in the immediate vicinity of their house, there were families around the block and further down their street they just hadn't had a chance to become acquainted with beyond a passing wave or quick greeting. They felt this gathering might help to correct that situation, assuming some of those newer residents opted to attend the event as well.
The first hour passed by quickly as the Jackson-O'Neill children played and their parents mingled with others. When they were alone, the couple compared notes.
"What did you think of the Monroes?" Jack asked as he bit into a hot dog.
"Huh?" Daniel responded, unable to detect the words formulated.
Jack swallowed and said, "Sorry. The Monroes?"
"Nice," the polite archaeologist replied.
With a chuckle, the general agreed, "Yeah, a bit stuffy."
"But their children seem to be having fun with the brood," Daniel pointed out as he observed the playful interaction of the kids.
"Affirm," Jack agreed militarily.
The parents talked a bit more before there they returned to mingling. There were others they wanted to talk with, including the Ventureni, Huang, and Stark families.
A couple of hours later, Jack approached his husband, who was very focused on some of their younger children.
The name was all Jack needed to say. It properly conveyed his concern and query.
"Something's going on," Daniel answered, his focal attention unswayed by the arrival of his husband.
Jack looked over at a large group of children and noticed only that the kids were playing. There was some laughter and apparent camaraderie between several of the children. He did note that the large group seemed to have a few smaller sub-groups that he figured was just a common division of age and interest. Beyond that, he wasn't picking up any negative vibes.
"What's on your radar?"
"I don't know exactly, but ... something."
"Wanna go get them?"
"No," the archaeologist answered. "I just ... I don't know. I have a feeling something is off. It's probably just me."
Daniel's last comment did more to concern the older man than anything. Where his Love's intuition was concerned, there was usually merit. Though the two men continued on, visiting with others at the park, Jack kept an even closer eye on the brood than normal.
At one point, noticing that Daniel was still looking over at the children with concern, Jack called out to Bijou and Katie, the family's beloved beagles, who had been tagging along with JD.
"Girls, Danny's a little concerned about those kids with the brood. Why don't you two stick close to the twins and triplets for a while, just in case. Let me know if you sense anything overly wacko."
Understanding, Bijou and Katie headed toward their objectives.
~Next to Danny, those girls have the best intuition I've ever seen,~ Jack thought as he watched the dogs.
"You're wrong, Joe Bean," Aislinn spoke to one of the newest additions to the neighborhood.
Seven-year-old Joe argued, "No, I'm not. I saw him put carrots in his ears at the store."
"We were just playing," Chenoa sighed. "It's how we have fun at the store."
"He's not very smart," Jodie Ventureni claimed.
"He's very smart," Jonny objected strongly.
"Then why did he tell Missy Carpenter's daddy that aliens live at Area 51?" Jodie challenged.
"Plausible deniability," Jonny mumbled under his breath, using a phrase he'd heard his parents use more than once. Speaking more audibly and louder, he replied to Jodie by using one of his dad's tactics. He turned the tables on her. "Don't you believe aliens have visited Earth?"
"I'm not stupid."
"What about E.T.?" Jenny asked, knowing what her brother was doing and having learned that Jodie's favorite movie was "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial."
Jodie just stared, not giving any verbal response.
"He acts like Homer Simpson," another child chided, ending the science fiction portion of the discussion.
"He's a Homer wannabe," Calvin Miller chimed in. The boy, who was nearing his thirteenth birthday, just happened in on the discussion as he was walking by. His chuckling ended when the younger Jackson-O'Neill kids gave him a glare. "Sorry. You know I love your dad." He smiled and added, "I'm gonna go find David. See ya."
As Calvin walked away, Little Danny decided it was time to end the conflict with an olive branch, even if he did not believe his family had any reason to be apologizing.
"You should come over and play at our house," Little Danny suggested as he sat on his knees to pet Katie who was at his side.
"Yeah," Aislinn agreed.
"Dad can burn us some hot dogs," Jonny laughed, his smile big and bright, until he realized the neighborhood kids weren't laughing. "He doesn't really burn the hot dogs."
"Yes, he does, but it's fun," Jenny put forth enthusiastically.
"My mommy thinks he's crazy," one girl confessed offhandedly.
"Dad is not crazy," Chenoa responded with a stern bob of her head.
"He's looney," another girl insisted. "My daddy said so," she added with force.
"Even if you think he's looney, which he's not, you should always respect your elders," Little Danny proclaimed.
"Respect your dad?" Kyle Washington asked curtly. "Don't think so."
"Yes, respect," Jenny argued, the goodness she was feeling completely gone now. "R-E-S-P-E-C-T," the redhead spelled out with attitude.
"Na-huh," the first girl responded, shaking her head ardently.
Another child, a boy named Clinton McAdams, chided accusingly, "My dad doesn't believe he was really in the Air Force. He doesn't think anyone who was a real general would act like your dad does."
Jonny was seething and ready to pounce, but he was silenced by Aislinn's hand that instinctively went in front of his mouth.
"Let them talk, Jonny. We'll get in trouble if we start a fight," the youngest Munchkin whispered, thinking it was a lost cause to argue much further. "And then Dad will get in trouble with their parents," she sighed.
Removing his sister's hand, Jonny argued, "But listen to them, Ash."
Aislinn looked over at the children as they laughed and mimicked Jack. This was different than anything she'd seen before. The brood had dealt with prejudice against their parents for being a same-sex couple, but they had never before been confronted by kids who were mocking their parents, and specifically their dad, for being funny, attentive, playful, and caring. She just did not understand what she was hearing. As she and her siblings watched in confusion, time passed slowly. It felt like hours before the original miracle could speak again, and when she did, her words were a plea.
"Little Danny?" Aislinn called out emotionally, torn between wanting to argue and believing they should remain peaceful.
The child prodigy stood silently as he stared at the other children. His mind raced with all that he'd learned over his young years. He remembered stories of his parents' encounters with aliens off-world and how they often had to remain silent when faced with adversaries. His daddy had told him it wasn't always easy, but he always reminded Little Danny that there was rarely any reward in fighting. There were other ways to make a point.
It was a cliché learned from his parents, but realizing there was a time and a place for everything, Little Danny advised, "We should just walk away." He heard the grumbles from his brothers and sisters, but he maintained, "They have a right to think what they want, even if they're wrong."
"Why don't they like Dad?" Ricky asked.
"Dad and Daddy taught us to respect the parents of our friends, so why don't they respect our parents?" a confused Chenoa questioned on the heels of Ricky's query.
"I don't know," Little Danny sighed.
"I do," Jenny stated. "He's different from their dads."
The Jackson-O'Neill kids kept gathered together in quiet, not sure what to do, but wanting more than anything for the other kids to know what they did, that their dad was the best.
Jack and Daniel were just about to refill their drinks when several of their youngest children appeared in front of them. Their somewhat sour and sad expressions were unmistakable.
"Can we go home now?" eight-year-old Aislinn requested on behalf of her siblings.
The request caught the parents off guard. Wanting to leave an event like this so early was highly unusual.
"Someone sick?" Jack inquired with concern, glancing down at the beagles and getting a 'let's go home' vibe from them.
"No. We just want to go home," Aislinn answered as the rest of the children remained quiet.
**Danny?** Jack called out via the lovers' very unique brand of private communication.
**I guess if they want to leave ...**
Exchanging a brief glance, the couple agreed with the brood's request.
"Lulu, go get Jen; Noa, find Jeff. I think I saw him last by the hoops. Jonny," the older father said as he looked at his namesake, "Bri and David are with the Millers over by the popcorn machine." With the children remaining idle, he ordered, "Go."
"The rest of you can start to pack up our gear," Daniel instructed, referring to a few lawn chairs, picnic items, and dog supplies the family had brought with them to the park.
With the children now following instructions, Jack asked, "What do you think?"
"I think I was right when I said something was off," Daniel replied.
"Daniel, I didn't see one fight, hear one raised voice, or even witness a playful slap. They were all talking and playing."
"All I know is that our children just asked to leave a party and, Jack?"
"The ice cream hasn't been served yet." With raised eyebrows and a probing look from his blue eyes, Daniel began to walk away. Jack grumbled internally with his Love's ice cream comment causing his stomach to swirl with uncertainty. "I'll get JD," he told his husband about the youngest member of the brood. JD was playing with a couple of other toddlers in one of the park's sandboxes under the watchful eye of Mrs. Valissi and another parent. Jack sighed, looked down at the beagles, and asked, "Well?"
"Woof!" Bijou replied firmly before sprinting after Jonny.
"Wooooof!" Katie added with a slightly more vulnerable tone.
"Yeah, that's what I thought," Jack responded, knowing that his lover, and the beagles, was right. Something was amiss with their brood and he needed to get to the bottom of it as soon as possible. "We'll figure it out," he promised Katie, leaning over and picking her up. "It can't be that bad, can it?"
Katie licked Jack on the cheek, causing him to smile. Whatever the problem was, he knew they'd get through it. They always did.
"Any luck?" Jack asked his husband as he sat down next to him on the living room sofa that night.
Daniel, who had just sat down himself after making his nighttime rounds with the youngest children, responded, "No. Whatever's wrong, they are keeping it to themselves."
"I thought we had a no secrets agreement with the kids."
"Then why do I think it would be easier to get a clam to talk than one of them?"
As Daniel shook his head, Jennifer walked in, intending to grab a snack.
The college student smiled upon seeing her parents and then lowered her head, hoping not to be stopped.
~Just let me get to the kitchen,~ Jennifer prayed.
"Whoa!" Jack commanded.
~Oh, crap! I knew I shouldn't have come down for that last piece of cake. Dad probably ate it already anyway.~ With a less-than-confident smile, Jennifer turned around. "Did you need something, Dad?"
Jennifer knew what her dad wanted, and she could see her daddy's hopeful eyes as well. They were obviously aware that something was bothering the brood.
"Okay, look," Jennifer sighed, opting to be as truthful as she could be. "Nothing is wrong wrong. I mean, you know, they're fine, and they'll be finer." She groaned, "You know what I mean. It's not a big deal."
"Jen ..." Daniel began.
"Daddy, please. It's a temporary thing. They'll get over it."
"Over what?" Jack questioned astutely.
"Sticks and stones," Jennifer answered with great simplicity. "Can I go get my cake now?" She saw Daniel immediately look at Jack. "Dad!"
"I was hungry."
"You're always hungry," both Daniel and Jennifer responded together.
Jennifer giggled, "I guess I didn't need it anyway."
"Sorry, Princess," Jack spoke in earnest.
"It's okay. I'll go grab an apple or something," Jennifer said as she turned and headed for the kitchen. She stopped and turned back. "Really, they're okay."
Jack and Daniel nodded, encouraged but not really convinced. Still, there was nothing they could do at the moment, so they cuddled together and watched a bit of TV before going upstairs for the night.
On Monday, Jack and Daniel had full agendas. Both had errands to run and were in and out of the house. None of the younger children had plans or obligations away from home. With no homeschooling scheduled, they were free to play or do whatever they wanted, within the normal family rules.
As the younger kids gathered in the play room, Jenny plopped down in front of Muffin, the giant stuffed dinosaur, and insisted, "We have to do something."
"Yeah, they're wrong," Ricky agreed as he sat down next to his twin.
"What can we do?" Chenoa asked as she stood by the air hockey game.
"We told them they were wrong," Lulu reminded.
"They didn't listen," Chenoa sighed.
"We have to show them," Little Danny put forth even as his mind was trying to find a workable solution to the problem.
"How?" Jenny inquired.
"It's impossible," Lulu interjected. "We don't see most of them."
It was true that most of the kids who had teased the brood about Jack were either relative newcomers or from families who had never taken the time to get to know the Jackson-O'Neills. There had occasionally been some light teasing from others, but it was always good-natured joking from kids who frequently played at the brood home and liked Jack and Daniel both quite a bit. Most of the children who lived nearby considered the pair to be strict but fun parents.
"Yes, we do," Jonny stated excitedly as he sprang up from sitting on the floor. Seeing looks of skepticism in his direction, he clarified, "Well, we see their cars when they drive by."
"Yeah!" Little Danny eagerly agreed as an idea began to form. "Jonny, what if ..."
"Exactly!" Jonny exclaimed, his plan already formed in his bright mind. "This is what we'll do."
Now smiling, the kids huddled closer together to listen to the little general's plan.
That afternoon, Jack and Daniel were utilizing the den to participate in a conference call with employees at J-O Enterprises and a new client in Pennsylvania. The client had the potential to be the North American equivalent of their first and best client, Abayomi Sharif. Thus, it was vital that the parents not be interrupted during the session that was expected to be at least three hours.
In an unusual bit of reality, neither Jennifer, Jeff, or Brianna were at home. It was finals week for the oldest Jackson-O'Neill, so Jennifer was studying with others in a study group. Jeff, who was on summer break from his architectural and design studies at the University of Cincinnati, was visiting with friends. Meanwhile, Brianna was with a few fellow homeschoolers, just hanging out for a while. That left David in charge of overseeing the rest of the brood. It wasn't a position he often found himself in, to be the sole leader of his eight younger siblings.
"Dad and Daddy are gonna kill me," fourteen-year-old David lamented even as he opened the front door for Jonny. "They may not let me be in charge again."
"Yes, they will," Jonny disagreed confidently.
"What makes you so sure?"
"Jen's got lots to do in college and Jeff isn't here very much anymore. Bri's got more stuff to do, too. They're out of older kids to watch us."
"Choiceless?" David asked, unconsciously mimicking Jack's facial expression when he tended to ask that same question during a face off with Daniel.
With a grin as his answer, Jonny took the materials he held in his hand and walked outside. As time passed, he was joined by his fellow Munchkins, the Spitfires, and the Curly Tops.
"Ready," JD announced as he lagged behind Lulu and Chenoa by just a minute or so.
"Maybe you'd rather take a nap?" David asked.
"Gotta put up my sign," JD insisted.
David simply nodded. His stomach had never churned as much as it was right now. Still feeling uncertain, but also agreeing with the emotion behind the actions, the current leader of the brood took his place with the others while also bracing himself for the certain punishment that would follow.
As neighbors drove by the Jackson-O'Neill home that afternoon, they saw more than just a green lawn and a driveway. Not only that, but if they opted to object to the sight, they were ardently but politely told by the Jackson-O'Neills that their beliefs were based on misconceptions.
At issue, Jack Jackson-O'Neill and his behavior, be it in public or at his home. Some newcomers were insisting that Jack was a mixture of crazy and a fake, with at least one neighbor in doubt about the man's military history. The kids were dead set on setting those folks straight. Their dad was a general and regardless of how he acted, he was worthy of respect.
"And we can prove it," Jonny called out as Mrs. Edison slowed in her Buick, her two children staring at the oldest Munchkin with disdain. "See!" he called out, turning and showing off the kids in action.
"Daddy doesn't do that with me," little Mary Edison whined as she zeroed in on Jenny, who was doing a cheer.
With her pom poms flashing and her blue eyes aflame with passion, Jenny finished her cheer and then lashed out at the passing gawkers by asking, "When's the last time your dad did cheers with in front of your house like my dad does with me?"
Jenny knew that Mary was a cheerleader, too. She really didn't know if her father supported her endeavor or not, but she had a hunch he didn't.
"Mommy, why doesn't Daddy help me with my cheers?" Mary asked from the backseat of the car, her eyes focused on the sign next to Jenny that had several pictures on it of Jack doing cheers with the redhead.
"Be quiet, Mary. Stop looking at those kids. Faces forward!" the mother ordered her children as she sped up and drove away. ~Stan wouldn't be caught dead cheering with Mary, let alone in the front yard,~ she thought in frustration. ~Maybe we've been wrong,~ the mother pondered, though not yet fully sold on that reality.
"What's going on?" Brianna asked, having heard the cheer as she returned home from her afternoon outing.
"We're proving it, Bri," Ricky responded.
"That Dad deserves respect," Jonny declared forcefully.
"I've missed something," Brianna spoke softly. She knew there had been some sort of issue at the park on Sunday, and she knew it had been about her dad, but she had no idea it had been so bad that her siblings were taking such strong actions. "Guys, why did you let those kids get to you like this? It doesn't matter what they think. We know the truth."
Little Danny had a strong grip on the leash that kept Bijou and Katie by his side. He walked with the beagles over to his older sister and stared at her with intensity.
"Bri, they said Dad was a joke; that he was silly. Even when we told them that he took good care of us, protected us, and loved us, they just laughed. I know it's sticks and stones, but he's our dad, and he's not a joke. He's silly, but he's not a joke. He deserves respect, but they just laughed. He's our dad," the impassioned youngster repeated.
"And Dad wouldn't let people make fun of us, not like those kids were making fun of him," Aislinn insisted as she supported Jonny's plan.
Brianna smiled and headed for the house. She thought about Jenny's cheer and how their dad, an officer in the Air Force, a man who had literally helped to save the planet, often practiced with Jenny, even in the front yard of the family home. He jumped up and down, used pom poms, and did whatever Jenny asked him to do, and it didn't matter who was watching. What mattered was Jenny.
~And me,~ the teenager thought as she remembered how her dad had recently joined her in a spontaneous round of the robot dance that spawned from, of all things, a psychology study she was doing as part of her schoolwork. ~You looked ridiculous, Dad, but then, so did I.~ Entering the house, Brianna laughed out loud as she recalled doing the dance on a busy street of downtown Colorado Springs. She had no idea how many people drove or walked by the pair that morning, but she did know one thing for sure. ~That was fun.~
Brianna turned and looked out the window, observing her brothers and sisters asserting their rights of free speech on their front lawn.
"Yeah, he's our dad."
Her decision made, the maturing teenager hurried to the projects' room to make her own sign. Soon thereafter, she joined the other kids on the front lawn.
Jennifer's fingers were tapping along to music while holding the steering wheel of her 2008 green Mini-Cooper as she headed for home. Her fingers ceased their happy dance as her head jutted forward and her eyes widened.
"What now?" the young woman queried as she saw neighbors and strangers in front of her home, some on the sidewalk and others in their vehicles. ~What are they doing?~
Slowly, Jennifer pulled into the long driveway and parked her car. When she got out, she walked to the sidewalk and stared at the signs. They answered her question.
~Geez, guys, I get it, but Dad and Da...~ Suddenly, Jennifer gasped. "Where are Dad and Daddy?" she heard herself ask aloud.
"Hi, Jen!" Chenoa called out. "They're in the den."
"But you can't bother them," Jonny stated.
"Big business conference," Ricky affirmed.
"Big trouble if we interrupt them," Jonny added with a grin, a grin that said he knew full well that the brood was taking advantage of an unusual situation to make their point.
For a couple of minutes, Jennifer tried to coax the kids inside the house, but they refused, tossing out reason after reason why it was important for them to continue. She sighed, conflicted about the role she now had to play. She knew her parents would expect her to take control over the situation. Her internal debate was unexpectedly interrupted by a stranger who had parked her car in front of the driveway entrance.
"Are you related to these ... children?" a woman called out angrily.
"Yes," Jennifer replied without hesitation. "Is there a problem?"
"Isn't that obvious? It's bad enough that their dad is a nut, but this mockery is shameful."
~Mockery?~ Jennifer questioned about the accusation. "I'm sorry, but who are you?"
"I'm Mrs. McAdams."
Unlike Brianna, Jennifer was well aware of everything that had occurred at the park. She'd heard the full story from an upset Jonny Sunday evening.
~Her husband doesn't believe Dad is a general, and I guess she thinks Dad is a nut case. Oh boy, is she wrong.~ Jennifer let out an unintentional chuckle as she thought, ~Well, Dad is a little nutty, but it's his game plan. With all he's seen and done, he needs to play a little.~
"Well?" the woman questioned as if she were a general.
"Mrs. McAdams, all my brothers and sisters are doing is telling the truth about our dad. He's a highly respected Air Force general who has saved the," Jennifer stopped for a moment and smiled as she redirected her original thought about the universe, "country many times over. Your son was one of several children yesterday who made fun of our dad."
"No doubt it's well deserved. Get these kids inside."
"Mrs. McAdams, they aren't hurting you. Your name is not on any of these signs. If you're offended, I can't help that. If you'd like a chance to get to know my parents, you're welcome to come by for lunch or dinner at your convenience. I understand Jonny and Little Danny extended an invitation to that effect yesterday."
"I wouldn't be caught dead inside your home."
"That's your right, and it's your loss." As an afterthought, Jennifer suggested, "You might want to move your car. It's illegally parked." Ignoring the woman, she looked over at her siblings and called out, "Don't get too carried away, kids." Jennifer headed toward the house, but paused when she reached David, who was positioned behind the younger children so he could keep a constant eye on them. She whispered, "You do know Dad and Daddy are going to be real unhappy about this."
"Do you think you could have stopped them?" David asked in earnest.
Looking at the others, Jennifer sighed, "No, probably not." Turning back at her younger brother, she mused, "Glad you're in charge and not me."
"Jen, you don't think we should be doing this?" Lulu asked, having overheard the conversation, as did a few of the others.
"Are we wrong, Jen?" Aislinn asked, her beautiful eyes full of hope that her eldest sister approved of what was being done.
Jennifer's eyes spanned the lawn. She saw each of the children turn to her, now all aware of the discussion. She could shoot them down with one word and then not have to worry about her parents' wrath.
~If you can't beat 'em, join 'em, and there's no way I'm gonna beat up on these guys, not for protecting Dad,~ Jennifer decided. "Are you kidding? Give me a few minutes, and I'll join you."
Cheers erupted and before Jennifer could take a step towards the house, the brood's focus was back on the passersby and making their voices heard.
The kids were still at it forty-five minutes later when Jeff pulled into the driveway and parked his truck. Like Brianna, he had only heard snippets about the incident at the park, so he had to be filled in, something Jennifer was happy to do.
"You decided to join them, Sis?"
"We're a family," Jennifer answered succinctly as her eyes challenged the oldest male Jackson-O'Neill child.
Jeff looked around, not unlike Jennifer had when she arrived home, and responded, "It's really important to them, isn't it?"
"They feel like Dad was attacked," Jennifer explained. "You know, Jonny actually backed down at the park. He was really upset, but he stepped back, and he invited all of those kids to come over and get to know Dad."
"No one accepted?"
"Not one, and I think that's why he's so upset. He tried, Jeff. He really tried to do what Dad and especially Daddy have taught us. He reached out and had the door slammed in his face. That hurt, and it hurt doubly because he knows how wrong those kids are about Dad."
"What irritates me is the respect thing, or maybe it's just being polite and not making judgments."
"True. These kids are repeating things they've heard from their parents. I get the brood wanting them to respect Dad, but I also know that Dad says respect has to be earned."
"But either way, Jen, they should at least be polite."
"Exactly, Bro. The older I get, the more I realize how lucky we've all been. I hope someday that I'm half the parent our parents are to us."
"I know what you mean."
"So?" Jennifer asked with a grin. "Are you going to join us in the penalty box?"
Jeff laughed and then nodded while answering, "Of course! Be back in a jiffy."
"That went pretty well, Danny," Jack said as he disconnected the conference call.
"I agree, but it won't work if we can't get all the equipment we need." Leaning forward, Daniel pointed out, "Jack, he wants us to do three big jobs concurrently in order to meet his timeline. We can't take anything away from our current clients."
Checking his watch, Jack suggested, "Why don't you check on the kids and I'll give Ty a call and get a better idea of where we stand with the equipment."
"Good idea, Babe," the archaeologist agreed as he stood up and stretched, causing his husband to grin seductively. "Don't even think about it, Jack. We still have work to do."
"Yep," was the luring response that was accompanied by a seductive leer.
"Jack, behave," Daniel warned. "I'll be right back."
Daniel started to walk away, but found himself pulled toward his lover and on the older man's lap.
It was a super quickie, but ten minutes later, both Jack and Daniel felt extremely happy and contented. It was enough to relieve some work stress and tide them over until they could have a more romantic liaison in the evening.
"Hi, Calvin," David greeted when his friend walked up to the grass. Most of the there children also greeted the pre-teen. "What's that?"
"Well, your parents have always been fair with me. You know I like your parents. I just ..." the boy sighed and gave a shrug.
"Are you gonna join us, Calvin?" Jonny inquired.
"That's why I brought this."
Calvin's sign noted how Jack helped his mother safeguard the Miller home during a time when there had been several break-ins in the neighborhood, including the home next to the Miller's. With Calvin's father away for a few days, Jack added some special locks and gear to the Miller home. Mitzi Miller had been unusually frightened, believing she'd seen a man watching her home one evening. She especially feared for the safety of her children.
That prompted Jack to arrange a relay of friends to watch the Miller home in shifts. Both he and Daniel took a turn. Calvin's father was extremely grateful for how Jack and Daniel cared for his family, especially when the culprit was captured the next week, having upped his game to a home invasion where the father was stabbed and that family was held hostage for a few hours. When Mitzi saw the picture of the criminal on the news, she was certain he was the man she'd seen watching her home one night.
"Your dad made us feel safe. He didn't have to take care of us like he did," Calvin stated sincerely. "I'll go over there and start a neighborhood support section," he mused. "Okay?"
Calvin was not the only neighborhood kid who decided to support the brood. Before long, many of the children who played often at the Jackson-O'Neill home were standing by Calvin. They didn't all have signs, but some did,and those that didn't offered their vocal support when appropriate. They all felt good in backing up their friends and their friends' parents.
Daniel found himself in the kitchen, eager for a fresh batch of coffee. He was waiting on the brew when he suddenly noticed how quiet it was.
Wary of the silence, the younger father checked out several rooms on the downstairs level of the home. As he stood in the recreation room after checking out the game room, he wasn't yet worried, but he was concerned. He stared at the family's beautiful hyacinth macaw.
"Trouble," Ptolemy squawked cryptically.
"I hope not," Daniel responded, walking out of the room and eventually onto the wooden deck in the backyard. He scanned the large area and saw no sign of human life. That's when he heard the faint sounds of his children. He quickly detected that the noises were coming from the front yard. Knowing the brood should not be out front and that the kids had not followed the very specific rules handed out after breakfast, he was a mix of curiosity, bewilderment, and just a tinge of ire.
When he opened the front door, Daniel was agape at what he saw and heard. He moved slowly and cautiously outside and down the steps.
"You know what this reminds me of, Sis?" Jeff questioned.
"What? Jennifer asked.
"A political campaign," Jeff opined with some amusement. "There are signs everywhere."
Daniel stood in place, taking it all in. He hadn't yet been noticed by any of his children. He blinked as he realized that several local kids were also present.
~What the heck is going on?~ Daniel wondered. He was curious about the signs that were embedded into the lawn. ~Intel,~ he ordered himself, wanting to get a look at the signs before the brood realized he was outside.
Covertly, Daniel slid silently to the far side of the cars parked in the driveway. He bent over somewhat, his mind questioning his choice. Part of him was a bit amused. For a brief moment, it felt like he was on a mission with SG-1 where stealth was the key to survival.
Reaching the bumper of the last car parked in the drive, Daniel crouched down even more and leaned forward to get a glimpse of the signs.
~Okay, this is interesting.~ Daniel was about to retreat and consider his next move when he saw a car slow. He heard a child call out and accuse the brood of being as crazy as their father. With amazing restraint, the accused simply stood by their signs and waited. As the car sped off, the father could sense his children's upset. ~Now I understand what this is about.~
As quietly as he knew how, Daniel went to the side of the house and through the backyard to re-enter the home. He didn't want to take the chance of being detected by using the front entry.
**Jack, you need to see this,** Daniel communicated via the couple's very unique and private method of talking.
**Daniel, I'm still talking with Ty. You wouldn't ...**
**This is important. Tell Ty you'll call him later.**
Jack shook his head in disbelief, but he did as his husband requested and ended the call as quickly as he could. He hurried down the stairs and paused, seeing Daniel standing in front of the window with the blinds partially drawn.
"Danny, what are you doing?"
"Spying on our children."
"Didn't see that coming," Jack retorted.
Sensing his lover's approach, Daniel turned around suddenly and put out his hands, making contact with Jack's chest. He didn't want Jack to see what was transpiring just yet.
"Okay, talk to me."
Daniel sighed and then he explained, "Babe, I know what happened with the brood at the park."
"Listening," the older man reminded.
"It's about us. Well, more about you."
"More about me?"
"Maybe all about you," Daniel admitted.
"What did I do now?"
"What you do everyday." The younger man saw confusion in the brown eyes staring at him. "You put our children first."
"Daniel, what are you talking about?"
"We're on a mission, Jack. Think stealth," Daniel mused while taking Jack's hand and leading him to the backyard. He explained that he wanted Jack to see for himself what was happening without the kids knowing they were watching. "Keep low and be quiet."
"Daniel, I taught you this stuff, remember?"
"I forgot," Daniel teasingly lied just before the two walked through the gate and proceeded to the rear of the last car parked in their driveway. **Read the signs, Babe,** he urged when the couple were in position.
Jack could only see some of the signs, but the ones he could made his eyes water. He saw Little Danny's sign that mentioned a time when Jack stayed up all night, holding Katie when she was sick. Then there was Chenoa's sign that proudly boasted that her dad had been her dummy, being a live mannequin when she made her first dress as a surprise for big sister Jennifer's birthday. Ricky's sign asked if the reader's dad would take you to the bank dressed up as Captain Nice like Jack did.
The silver-haired man's heart beat with pride and love and his soul beamed with warmth. His kids were obviously defending him.
As he watched, Daniel silently told Jack what he had seen earlier and how he believed it all tied in to what they were seeing now.
After watching for a bit, the lovers agreed to return to the interior of their home to discuss the situation more freely. Before they could make their undetected getaway, a car stopped near the furthest edge of their property. A woman and a young girl got out and approached the front of the lawn, taking a position in the middle of the sign display.
~I remember her. Mrs. ... Mrs. ...~ Daniel sought to recall the name.
"I'm Mrs. Huang."
~Yes, Mrs. Huang,~ Daniel echoed in his mind.
"This is my daughter, Mei," the woman spoke as her daughter stood in front of her.
"Hi, Mei," Little Danny greeted with a smile. Politely, he added, "Hello, Mrs. Huang."
"We were at the park yesterday," the well-groomed Chinese woman spoke. "My daughter told me the things she said to you. She has more to say to you now."
The woman spoke in Chinese for a moment, her hand on her daughter's shoulder supportively even though her words were spoken sternly.
"I wish to apologize for what I said about your father. I would be unhappy if someone said rude things about my bàba as I said about yours."
"It's okay, Mei," Aislinn replied as she ran forward to stand in front of the girl and her mother. She smiled and wondered if Mei loved dolls as she did. "I hope we can be friends."
Mrs. Huang responded with a smile and nod of her head before saying, "Mei told me and my husband that you invited us over to get to know your family. She opened her purse and pulled out a card. She offered the card to Aislinn while stating, "We wish to accept your kind invitation, if your parents wish it also. Please have them call us."
Mrs. Huang motioned for her daughter to start walking to the car. After going a few feet, Mei turned and ran back halfway, stopping in front of Aislinn's sign.
"Please pardon me. I was jealous." Pointing at the sign, she confided, "Bàba loves me, but he would not do this. He says dolls are for girls. He will not touch them." Mei lowered her head as she repeated, "I was jealous."
Aislinn gave the girl, who was two inches taller than she, a hug while replying, "I bet my dad can get him to hold your dolly."
As she pulled back from the embrace, Mei's eyes were bright as she asked, "Do you think so?"
"Dad's pretty good at getting other people to be a kid." Aislinn laughed, "Dad says adults forget about being a kid too much."
"Mei," Mrs. Huang beckoned.
As Mei waved at the brood and rejoined her mother, Little Danny called out, "Zàijiàn. Wô de fùmû huì jînkuài gei nín dâ diànhuà."
Surprised to hear the goodbye and promise that the boy's parents would be calling in her native language, Mrs. Huang responded, "Nî shuo zhongguó huà?"
"We speak a lot of languages," Ricky responded brightly.
"We learned from our parents. They homeschool us," Jonny elaborated.
Duly impressed, Mrs. Huang gave a nod and then returned to her car with her daughter.
"Someone listened," an elated Aislinn gasped happily.
"That's all we wanted," Jenny noted.
The children, including the neighbor kids, hugged, all delighted by the Huang visit.
"We can talk to the others, too," ten-year-old Melinda Stevens put forth to her friends about the disrespectful children. She'd known Jack and Daniel for as long as she could remember and couldn't imagine any child not liking them. "I bet we can change their minds about your dad."
"Thanks," several of the brood responded.
"Gosh, I have to go," Calvin advised as he looked at his watch.
"Me, too," another child added.
"Thanks for helping us," Aislinn spoke to the neighborhood kids as they left.
The brood felt good. They really did have some wonderful friends. Plus, Mrs. Huang and her daughter had heard their plea and would certainly be new friends to the entire family.
As her siblings chattered away, Aislinn grinned, having complete faith in her father's ability to convince Mei's father to hold one of the girl's dollies.
Jonny suddenly grew silent. He grinned as he turned around to face the cars in the driveway. There was nothing suspicious in his line of sight, but his military instincts were screaming and had been for a few minutes.
"You can come out now, Dad," Jonny called out, surprising both his parents and his siblings. "I know you're there."
Jack chuckled, thrilled that his namesake's senses were working full force, even if he was outed in the process.
"Hey, kids," Jack called out.
"Are you mad at us?" Chenoa inquired, uncertain what her parents were feeling.
Daniel was deferring to his husband, something that was obvious to the children since he stood back and was focused more on Jack than them.
Jack smiled without answering. He wanted to see all the signs before saying anything. He walked the length of the sidewalk in front of his home, taking time to review each sign. Now he could see Jenny's message about cheerleading and Brianna's sign that recalled their robot dance.
The general noticed David's sign that recalled Jack's patience in teaching the nerdy youngster baseball. During one of their early sessions, David had swung and missed one-hundred times before connecting his bat with a ball. Not once that day did Jack get upset. Instead, he remained positive and constantly encouraged his son to believe he could do play baseball as well as any other child.
Lulu's sign told the world how Jack played Twister with her at the home of a stranger while Aislinn's centered on a day when Jack held Aislinn's favorite dolly for most of their time at the grocery store. There was no reason for it, other than Aislinn had asked him to hold the doll because she was tired. To top it off, the Munchkin asked her dad to sing to her dolly. It seemed the doll was tired, too. Jack sang a little lullaby, not caring about the strange looks he received from some of the shoppers.
~A few of them thought I was a fruitcake, but some of those gals thought this old man was hot stuff for doing that, too,~ Jack mused to himself.
**Stay focused, Hot Stuff,** Daniel warned his soulmate.
**Daniel, get out of my head.**
**Anything you say, Babe.**
Jack grimaced and then shook off the communication. He did need to focus, so he moved forward, focusing on JD's sign. It simply said that his dad loved them and that was the most important thing ever.
The next sign was Jonny's. Jack couldn't help it. He laughed out loud. The boy's sign noted in giant print that his dad knew the president. In smaller print was a mention that Jack had saved the country, too.
~That's my boy!~
Two signs took up the rear. These belonged to Jennifer and Jeff. Jeff's sign noted how his dad loved him enough to let him follow his own dream, no matter how much Jack may have silently wished he had joined the Air Force. The general sighed and looked at his son, giving him an affirmative nod.
"I couldn't be prouder," Jack told Jeff.
Next, Jack looked at Jennifer's sign that said the obvious, that without Jack's big heart, she would have been separated from her birth siblings.
"It's the biggest truth I know, Dad. You and Daddy weren't looking to adopt kids then. You had your hands full with the Munchkins. If you both didn't open your hearts, David, Noa, and I wouldn't be together. I don't know of anything greater either of you could have ever done."
"I love you," Jack whispered as emotion filled his throat, nearly preventing him from speaking much. Stretching out his arms, his fingers wiggling in request, he echoed, "I love you all."
In seconds, the entire family was engaged in a big hug. They didn't realize, or care, that a few other parents and kids were watching.
"Let's pull up the stakes and go inside," Daniel suggested.
"You've made your point," Jack agreed.
That's when the family noticed their watchers. It felt like they were on TV, which gave the general an idea.
"Brood, take a bow."
The kids were surprised for a moment, but then they caught on to what Jack was saying. Obediently, the children all bowed in exuberant fashion.
"That's our dad," Jenny stated. "He's silly, and we're grateful."
The Jackson-O'Neill kids all high-fived one another and then pulled up their signs.
Recognizing the watchers, Jonny called out, "And you're still invited to get to know us, as long as you like being silly, too."
Most of the onlookers started to walk away and were gone by the time the family headed inside. Little Danny noted one boy was still watching, though he was further down the block now. There was something about the boy that captured Little Danny's continued attention. He made a mental note to remember the boy, in case he saw him again.
~Maybe he needs a friend,~ the child prodigy pondered. ~A lot of people lash out when all they really want is to be friends. I'll remember him.~
All of a sudden, there was a clap of thunder and rain began to fall.
"Inside," Daniel ordered the stragglers that included his namesake.
Though they wanted to take time to talk with the brood, Jack and Daniel left their kids in the recreation room while they finished up their business. It was vital to ensure the needed equipment would be available for the three site projects the potential new client required. They needed to talk further with Ty and also with their two of their site managers whose schedules might need to be juggled. It just could not wait or the new client would go elsewhere.
"Do you think we'll be punished?" Ricky finally asked the other eleven children as they wait for their parents.
Opinions varied on the answer with no one being more worried than David, who sighed, "Even JD was out front. They're gonna slay me."
The discussion continued for several minutes as the brood put forth all types of potential punishments that could be coming their way. As the over exaggerations of how Jack and Daniel would handle the disobedience continued, David walked away quietly. He ended up just staring at Ptolemy as she played in her large cage.
"It's gonna be bad, Ptolemy," the teen said softly to the majestic bird.
"Trouble," Ptolemy squawked, much as she had done earlier when Daniel had talked with her.
The boy's absence was from the center of the room was quickly noticed.
"Excuse me, Jeff," Jennifer stated as she stood up and joined the quiet teen. "Hey," she called out softly while gently bumping into David's shoulder.
"I don't care how they punish me, Jen, but I feel like I let them down. They won't trust me anymore."
"Yes, they will." Jennifer put her arm around her brother and pulled him closer for a bit of an embrace. "David, think about all the times we've had to make in-the-moment decisions. Because of who we are, who Dad and Daddy are, we've been in some critical situations."
"This wasn't one of those, Jen," David refuted, knowing that his sister was trying to make him feel better by connecting her past decisions with the one he'd made today.
"No, it wasn't, but you know the brood. We're a forceful bunch, especially when someone gets a bright idea and everyone else gets super excited about it. That's what today was. The kids were unhappy. They thought it was important for their friends to respect Dad."
"Isn't it important?"
Thoughtfully, Jennifer responded, "It's important to be nice until it's time not to be nice."
"Jen, that's 'Road House,'" David spoke somewhat critically.
"Because that's a big part of who Dad is. David, who does he respect? Seriously, who does Dad openly respect?"
"No brainer," Jennifer remarked. "Who else?"
"Grandpa. President Hayes. Um, Uncle Lou?"
Jennifer chuckled, "You aren't even sure about Uncle Lou." She continued, "Respect to Dad is ultra important. He doesn't pass out respect very much. What he does believe in for the everyday world is a certain amount of politeness, tolerance, and fairness. Be nice; play fair. Don't take advantage of others. Do your own thing and if you aren't hurting anyone else, then go ahead, live how you want."
"Okay, that's Dad, but everyone wants to be respected."
"I'm guessing that if you asked Dad who he wanted to respect him, he would say Daddy, Grandpa, President Hayes, and us."
"What about his men?"
"They need to respect his authority," Jeff interjected, opting to join the conversation. "They respect the military line of command, or maybe they just deal with it."
By now, the rest of the children had stopped vocalizing their concerns on punishment and were also listening to the debate.
"They just have to know that Dad's in charge and what he says goes," Jonny offered. "A general is a general."
"Command authority isn't the same as respect," David replied.
"... which is why I don't care squat if my men respect me, but they sure as heck better follow my orders."
"You gave orders?" Daniel joked, earning him a slight stare of rebuke from his husband.
"*Most* people knew how to take an order," Jack told the brood, though his eyes were clearly accusing soulmate of not being one to take orders well.
"Daddy's not most people," Brianna mused.
"Listen, kids," Jack began, not hiding the fact that he and Daniel had overheard some of the conversation over the past few minutes, "Jen's right. Respect is great, but it has to be earned. I haven't met a lot of people who have earned my respect, especially in the military, but I know a lot of great folks. We have family, friends, neighbors, colleagues, who have all proven themselves to be great people. I care about them; I like them; some I even love. Yeah, I'd like to think those people return the sentiments, but at the end of the day, the ones who matter, the ones I want, and need, to care are you, Daddy, Grandpa, and yes, President Hayes."
"Uncle Lou?" Jenny asked with wondrous eyes.
"Uncle Lou, too," Jack admitted about his longtime friend and military brother. He quickly added, "And Aunt Sam." He paused, his mind thinking of another important person in his life. "And Aunt Sara," he admitted softly. Then he pepped up and asserted, "But those folks at the park? They're just people passing through. They deserve a nice word and to be allowed to live their lives as they see fit."
"You don't care that they made fun of you?" Aislinn asked.
"Princess, I care that you care," Jack responded, leaning over to give the girl a kiss on the cheek. "Do you think your old man is silly?"
Aislinn stared into her father's eyes and then giggled, "Yes."
"Good girl," Jack responded, tickling her for a second. Standing up erect again, he asked his kids, "Do you respect me?"
"Yes, Sir," was the immediate response of the brood.
"There have been moments," Daniel replied with honesty before continuing, "but there is no one I know who has grown as much as you, Jack. I respect you. I may not like you all the time ..."
"Daddy!" Jenny gasped.
"He's just kidding, Red," Jack assured the Spitfire. "Aren't you, Danny?" He waited for his Love to continued. "Daniel?"
Daniel laughed, "Yes, I'm kidding."
"Dad's really rubbed off on you, Daddy," Jennifer mused.
"And vice versa," Daniel pointed out as he looked at Jack.
"You all respect me, and Daddy respects me. I'd say that's all that's important to this fellow," Jack expressed with confident eyes and a firm jaw.
"Are we going to be punished?" Jonny inquired bravely.
"You should just punish me," David offered. "I let them go outside. I let them break the rules."
"Yes, you did," Jack concurred.
"I let you down," the boy opined, bowing his head sadly.
"You're wrong there, Son," Jack corrected, smiling when David's head rose to look at him directly. "You stuck with your brothers and sisters. You kept JD in front of you. No, I'm not let down; I'm proud. Thank you, Son." Jack pulled David in for a supportive hug and added, "I love you."
"I love you, too, Dad, but ..."
"What's the robot?" David asked as everyone started to laugh.
"He was awesome," Brianna asserted.
"Let's see it, Dad," Lulu requested with a chuckle.
"Once was enough," Jack claimed, his hands outward as he waved off the thought and walked toward the long sofa.
"Ah, Dad, we want to see you be a robot," Jenny said pleadingly.
"I'll do it with you," Brianna offered with a smile.
Outnumbered, Jack agreed and began by making very sharp movements, each ending with abrupt stops. Brianna accompanied him and mimicked her dad's actions.
"Just like being a mime," the general quipped in between motions. "Come on, kids. Robot-it."
That was all it took to get almost all of the Jackson-O'Neill family doing the robot dance.
"Daniel, get your butt and hands moving," Jack ordered.
Daniel blinked and then, with a shrug, walked forward a couple of feet and began to do his version of the dance.
"There you go, Angel."
"You said it was like a mime. Mimes don't talk."
The kids chuckled as Jack acted shocked by the rebuke. He considered returning the barb, but he was having too much fun, so he simply continued making moves.
"Can we do this to music?" Aislinn queried.
"Dad?" Brianna asked in response.
"Go for it," Jack permitted.
"Dad, will you invite the Huangs over next week?" Aislinn asked as the music began to play.
"Yeahsureyabetya," came the cheerful response.
"Good," Aislinn responded. "You have get to Mei's daddy to hold her dolly. It's important to her."
"I know, Princess," Jack acknowledged, his tone serious as he thought about the situation. "We'll all work on him when they come over." He looked at his husband and lightheartedly added, "Daddy will convince him."
"What makes you think that?" Daniel asked, still doing the dance as were the rest of the family.
"Daniel, you could outtalk a mule."
Daniel paused for a moment and then replied, "I'd guess you'd know."
Jack also paused his movement, staring at his Love uncertainly. He heard the children snicker and saw Daniel's smirk as the younger man returned to his dance.
"Cute, Danny, real cute."
"Thank you, Babe. You're not bad yourself."
Laughter filled the large room as the parents and their brood hip hopped their robotic moves. Big smiles were all around as a bad start to their day was now fully transition to a happy ending. It was the start of an evening to remember for all of them.
Dinner ended up being more of a snackfest of family favorites, followed by ice cream. Conversation often turned to the memories stirred by the kids in what they'd written on their signs. Some moments were full of giggles and others had a more poignant tone. Even Bijou and Katie got into the act, giving Jack extra love and kisses for all the times he'd taken care of them. Through it all, the brood learned more about their older father and his feelings on respect.
In the end, the brood realized that it didn't really matter what others thought. All that was important was how they felt. They knew the truth and that was enough.
As the rain continued to fall, love blossomed even more for the Jackson-O'Neill family in their beloved Colorado Springs home.
~~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