But It's Armani

Author:  Orrymain
Category:  Slash, Humor, Drama, Romance, Established Relationship
Pairing:  Jack/Daniel ... and it's all J/D
Rating:  PG-13
Season:  Beyond the Series - January 19, 2013 - October 28, 2016
Spoilers:  None
Size:  48kb
Written:  September 10-12,14,18,21,25-26, 2009
Summary:  Alex is all discombobulated over an unexplainable circumstance and ends up going to Bijou and Katie for advice.
Disclaimer:  Usual disclaimers -- not mine, wish they were, especially Daniel, and Jack, too, but they aren't.  A gal can dream though!
Notes:  
1) Sometimes, Jack and Daniel speak almost telepathically.  Their “silent” words to each other are indicated by asterisks instead of quotes, such as **Jack, we can't.**
2) Silent, unspoken thoughts by various characters are indicated with ~ in front and behind them, such as ~Where am I?~
3) Thanks to my betas who always make my fics better:  Ali, Irina, Robert, Navi, Becca!

But It's Armani
by Orrymain

====
--January 19, 2013
====

Alex Dennison, designer extraordinaire, knocked on the door of his favorite, if not most exasperating clients, the Jackson-O'Neills.  He had on his latest Armani suit, one he'd personally picked up on his recent business trip to Italy.  It was pure white and looked very snappy when coordinated with his black and white pinstripe shirt.  His black tie had tiny diagonal flecks of white, ruby, and lapis, which alternated with a very fine stripe of deep emerald.  Topping it off was his pair of Gucci white leather loafers.

“Hi, Alex,” Jennifer greeted as she gently swung the door open.  ~Wow, that suit really makes his eyes mesmerizing,~ she thought to herself.  “Come on in,” she beckoned, opening the door wider and waving the designer in.

“Thank you, Jennifer,” Alex greeted cordially, walking inside and smiling down at Bijou and Katie, who had accompanied the young woman to the entranceway.  “Bijou, Katie.”

“Woof!” came the two replies.

The beagles stared at each other disappointedly when Alex walked on by without even a pat on their always-itchy behinds.

“That's not very nice of him, Mama,” Katie told her mother.

“Alex isn't a dog person, Little One,” Bijou sighed.

“He's the only friend of Jack's and Daniel's who doesn't love us,” the youngest beagle lamented with droopy eyes.

“He likes the children, though.  Come, Katie.  Let's go keep an eye on him, just in case,” Bijou suggested with a small 'woof' that all could hear.

“Dad and Daddy are chauffeuring some of the kids around, but they'll be back in a half-hour or so,” Jennifer informed the visitor.

“Hi, Alex!” Jonny greeted as he bounded into the living room enthusiastically.  “We're playing hide and seek outside.  Wanna play?”

Alex stared down at his Armani suit, surprised the young boy would ask him such a thing.

“I'm wearing Armani,” the suave man replied.

“Oh, okay,” Jonny replied with a shrug.  “What's an Armani?”

Full of disbelief, Alex looked blankly at Jonny for a moment.  He was about to respond to the oldest Munchkin's question when he was swiftly cut off by Jennifer.

“Jonny, go outside.  I'll be there in a minute,” Jennifer instructed.  She laughed nervously as her brother disappeared and explained, “He's not into fashion.”

“So I see,” Alex replied.  “Jen, I have a new assignment for you,” he stated as he sat down and opened his briefcase.”

“Cool,” Jennifer acknowledged, eager to earn some more money from her consultant's position with Archonics Ltd.

====

It might have been Saturday, but the highly reputable designer had a long list of things on his schedule for the day.  Giving Jennifer her task was only number three of twelve on Alex's to-do list.  Now he was on number six: a meeting at Archonics with Stafford Weston, who was also a workaholic.  Alex was much calmer now than he'd once been, but he still had days like this one when he was on the go from sunup to sundown.

The meeting with Weston was successful and now Alex was locking up the doors of the office and was about to head for his next meeting, which was at the home of Francesca Downing, one of the wealthiest families in Colorado Springs.  In fact, she lived just a few estates over from Peter Hamilton and his parents, a family the Jackson-O'Neills knew because of Jennifer's relationship with the wealthy Peter Hamilton.  Downing was eager to re-do her living and dining areas.  After all, it was a new year.

Full of confidence, Alex walked purposefully towards his red Jaguar, only as he caught sight of something odd, he began to slow until finally he came to a dead stop.

~I'm hallucinating.~  Alex blinked incredulously at the sight.  ~I wonder if rubbing my eyes would change this.  Please let this be a dream; scratch that, a nightmare.~  He walked a few steps closer.  ~Maybe I fell asleep in the office; it has been a long day.~

The designer came to within two feet of his prized vehicle.  His focus was crystal clear, but he still didn't believe it.

~It's that cheap Kentucky Deluxe whiskey Casey keeps making me drink.  I hate that stuff.  Why do even I imbibe that so-called drink?~  Alex sighed in lamentation.  ~Because Casey likes it, that's why.~

Out of habit of photographing strange sightings, Alex pulled out his cell phone and took a picture of what he was seeing.

~Proof!~  The man's smile turned to a frown.  ~Proof that I've gone insane perhaps?~

Finally, Alex took the last few steps to his car.  He'd left the window down, but the car alarm on.  He couldn't figure out how this could have happened.  How could an English bulldog have climbed inside his car?  Yet, there he, or she, was, looking very staunch.

“Excuse me ... ah, Dog, but ... you can't drive my car.”

Alex realized he sounded insane by his comment, but he was stunned and didn't know what to say or how to react to this illusion.  He knew what he was about to say next would make him sound even more crazy.

“I am a very busy man, and I have an appointment with Francesca Downing.  Please, get out of my vehicle.”

There was no movement, except for a tiny bit of drool hanging precariously off the dog's mouth, a small wet mound already forming on his pristine car seat.

“You're drooling in my Jag!” Alex exclaimed in displeasure.

Still, the canine that had somehow found its way inside the Jaguar wasn't moving.  The dog's paws were on the steering wheel, and the animal looked like it was prepared to drive off at any moment.

~Byron will think I've had a nervous breakdown,~ Alex thought about his boss, Byron Stone, the owner of Archonics Ltd.  ~So much for making partner.~

Alex looked around, hoping to find someone who might claim ownership of the driving dog, but there was neither vehicle traffic nor any pedestrians within his line of sight.  Stirring up all of his resolve, he opened the front door.

“Please do *not* drool.  Out!”  When the dog didn't move, Alex sighed and remarked, “Okay.  Who is your owner?”  Unfortunately, it was now very obvious to Alex that the bulldog wasn't wearing a collar, which meant there were no identifiable tags on him.  “I don't blame them,” he stated a bit harshly, though the dog just looked at him with expectation.  “If you wish, I'll take you as far as the local pound.  I'm sure there will be someone there who can find you a person to bug for life.”

The designer was frustrated that the drooling dog refused to move.

“Those are genuine soft grain leather seats you're dripping all over,” Alex complained.  “I don't do dogs.”  Becoming flustered, he relented, “Fine, Dog.  Move over.”

The sturdy canine looked at Alex more softly, but wasn't yet willing to move.

“I'll take you home with me after my appointment with Mrs. Downing, okay?  Now move over!”

Obediently, the dog shifted into the passenger seat, leaving Alex room to enter the Jaguar.  Still bewildered, Alex groaned when he realized he'd sat down without drying the car seat first.

“Why is this happening to me?”

Looking skyward in hopes that a higher being would answer, Alex resisted the urge to bang his head on his leather steering wheel.

“Arf!” the dog barked.

“That isn't helping,” Alex droned, glaring at the dog that was perpetuating his daytime nightmare.

====

Alex entered his condominium, the dog with the wagging tail happily trailing along right behind him.

“Slab, whazzup?” Casey greeted, surprised to see his lover back at the condo so soon.

“Casey, how many times have I asked you not to use that nickname?” an exasperated Alex questioned, though he knew his objection was a lost cause.

Casey laughed, “Humor, Alex.  Lighten up.”

“Being called a slab is not humorous,” Alex insisted, every ounce of comedy removed by the sudden halt of his busy schedule due to the dog's refusal to be removed from the Jaguar.

“Okay, whazzup my super luscious abs and bum lover?” Casey asked, giving his partner a pat on the backside as he passed.

“Let's just stick with Alex.”

“For now,” Casey agreed, seeing he wasn't going to get anywhere with his Italian stud on this day.

The nurse cocked his head and let out a sound that could best be called a laughing grunt.  He just couldn't believe his eyes.  There in Alex's super clean, everything always in its place, and never even a hair in the sink condominium was a canine.  He thought for a moment of Winston Churchill as he looked at the dog, which he assumed was a bulldog from its appearance.

The mostly brown with some white tossed in dog was about fourteen inches in height and weighed approximately fifty pounds.  The stocky-legged animal was trotting all around, its tongue hanging out of its mouth, saliva dripping down slowly.

“Where'd the dog come from?” Casey inquired curiously, nodding towards the roaming dog.

Alex sat down on the snow white sofa and sighed, “You'd never be...lieve it.”  He sighed, finding himself with a full lap of dog.  “You're on my new suit,” he whined, though the dog simply plopped down on the man's lap to get more comfortable.  “But it's Armani!” he exclaimed feeling totally distraught.  With a sigh, he bewailed, ~It's ruined.~

“He loves ya, Slab,” Casey observed, sitting down next to the designer.  “How'd you find him?”

“Correction, Casey.  This dog found me, or my Jag to be more precise.”

Casey listened with fascination as Alex told him about finding the dog on the driver's seat inside his valuable vehicle in the parking lot of Archonics Ltd.  The dog had refused to move until Alex agreed to bring him home.  While Alex took care of his obligations with Mrs. Downing, the bulldog had rested peacefully inside the car.

Afterwards, Alex attempted to take the dog to the shelter, but the stubborn creature remained grounded to the expensive leather seating of the car.  In fact, the canine had reminded the designer of an anchor that had been cast.  The dog was unmovable; that is, until they'd arrived at the condo.  Without hesitation, the bulldog had exited the Jaguar, loyally following Alex to the door.

“You've been adopted,” Casey laughed, thinking the whole thing was totally hysterical.

“Why don't you take him?”

“Two problems with that, Slab,” Casey began.  “In the first place, he's a she,” he corrected, looking down at the dog who had partially rolled over, its drool further wetting Alex's pants.  “In the second place, in case you've forgotten, we're a couple, and where you are, I am, and so is your friend.”

Casey saw how much this was affecting his partner.  He began to massage Alex's neck until the designer let out a groan that released much of his tension.  With the dog still on his lap, Alex and Casey began to kiss.

Apparently understanding what was going to happen next, the English bulldog maneuvered herself off Alex and the sofa and sought other comfort.

Things exploded for the two men as they embraced each other and the love shared between them.

====

“Casey, I can't have a dog,” Alex droned an hour later, flailing his hands out in front of him in a response to what he'd just found upon going to the bedroom to shower and change.

His shirt still off, Casey entered Alex's bedroom.  As he zipped up his pants, he laughed.  The whole thing really tickled the nurse.  He knew he should probably be more sensitive to his partner's despair, but in his view, the bulldog was great.

~Alex needs to learn how to live more.  She just might help with that,~ Casey opined silently.  “Relax, Alex.  She's just a dog.”

“My comforter is ruined!” Alex responded argumentatively, pointing to the damage.  “And look at the pillow.”

“She's a dog.  The comforter will dry, Alex.  As for the pillow, just put on a new sham, and you'll be set to go.”

Alex sighed deeper than he'd ever sighed before.  He sat down on his bed feeling totally lost.  To add insult to injury, the next thing he heard was a snore.

“She snores,” Alex nearly cried.

“So do I,” Casey challenged.

“That's ... different.”

“It'll be great having a dog,” Casey put forth.

“Good.  You can keep her at your house,” Alex stated.

“Sure, I'll take her,” Casey agreed, happy to have a dog in his life.

Perking up, a relieved Alex headed for the shower.

====

That evening in a delightful suburb of Colorado Springs, several members of the Jackson-O'Neill family were settling in to watch an old classic film called 'Since You Went Away' which starred Claudette Colbert, Jennifer Jones, Shirley Temple, Joseph Cotton, and Monty Woolley.

“When was this movie produced, Dad?” David asked as he adjusted his floor pillow.

“1944,” Jack answered.

“It's a war movie,” Jonny interjected excitedly.

“Don't get your hopes up, Son,” Jack responded.  “It takes place during the Second World War, but it's not about the fighting.”

“It's not?” the sandy-haired boy sighed, suddenly thinking homework might be more fun than watching some old black and white film.

“It's romantic,” Jennifer crooned.

“Romantic?” Jonny questioned in horror, jumping up from his spot on the recreation room floor.  “Daaaaad!”

“Jen!”

Jennifer was rolling in laughter until she calmed herself to clarify, “Just part of it, Jonny, but it is about home life.”

“Everyone settle down,” Daniel stated, walking in from the hospitality room with bowls full of popcorn and being followed by Brianna who was carrying the beverages on a tray.

Soon, the DVD began to play, and the Oscar-nominated picture was on the large screen television.

--

“That's not Shirley Temple,” Ricky whined, pointing towards the girl on the TV that he'd heard his oldest sister say was the actress.  “She's too old.”

“She grew up, Ricky,” Jennifer responded.  “She was a teenager when she made this movie.”

“Oh,” Ricky sighed.  “I like her better when she looks like Noa.”

Chenoa chuckled, pleased by the comment.  Because of her blonde, curly locks and ability to tap dance, she'd often been compared to the adorable Temple.

“I still like her,” Lulu interjected.  “She's not blonde anymore,” she giggled having noticed Temple's once blonde childhood locks were black and curly in the movie.  ~She looks more like me now.~

“Shhh,” Daniel warned at the continued conversation, successfully silencing the children.

--

“Yuck,” Jonny groaned during one of the love story segments.

“It won't last long,” Jennifer chuckled.

“I think it's so romantic,” Aislinn sighed dreamily.

“Who wants to kiss a girl?” Ricky refuted.  “Eww!”

Some of the family laughed, especially when Ricky used his old, tattered blue blanket to cover his face, leaving it there until the scene was over.

“Love scenes -- phew!” Jonny snarked after the current romantic interlude on screen was over.

“I'm going to tell Tootie you said that,” Jenny teased.

“You better not!” Jonny retaliated.  ~She might hit me,~ he thought, though he didn't really believe that.  He just knew that the girl wasn't afraid to stand up to him and somehow, he liked that.  ~I don't want her to not like me, and she likes silly movies like this one.~

“I'm gonna tell Tooootie,” Jenny taunted in a sing-song manner.

“Daddy!” the oldest Munchkin complained.

“She's only kidding, Jonny,” Daniel assured.  “Aren't you, Jenny?”

The mischievous redhead thought about her answer and decided it was best to answer, “Sure; just kidding,” even if she still thought it would be fun to tell Jonny's potential new girlfriend that he didn't like romance.

“You'd better be kidding, Jenny,” Jonny warned.

“Watch the movie,” Jack stated strongly, ending the distracting conversation.

--

Several of the children chuckled when they saw how much Woolley's upright British character of Colonel Smollett had adapted to his landlord's bulldog.  The dog, named Soda, had taken to Smollett from the beginning, following the military man around and insisting on sleeping with him.  Although he'd objected initially, the colonel had come to accept and care for the loyal canine.

“Woof!” Bijou called out.  “Look at that, Dear,” she said to her baby.

“He's a funny looking dog, Mama, but I like him,” Katie replied as she placed her head down on her front paws.

“The colonel is a good man.  Soda chose wisely,” Bijou asserted.

“We did, too, Mama.”


Bijou rolled over and jumped up, shaking her head and allowing her floppy hears to make a sound as they flapped through the air.

“We sure did,” Bijou agreed, trotting over to the sofa, jumping up, and surprising Jack with a kiss.  “Thank you for choosing us,” the beagle related, hoping her eyes were communicating properly.  “Woof!”

“I love you, too, you crazy mutt,” Jack responded with a happy tone, laughing at the kisses he was receiving and continuing to pat the mama beagle as she settled in against his thigh.

--

“The dog was the best thing,” Jonny asserted as he put his floor pillow away when the movie ended.

“I liked Jane and Bill when they were in the barn,” Aislinn remarked dreamily with a faraway look in her eye.

“Be calm,” Daniel warned his lover, who was about to growl at his little girl's constant love of romantic fiction.

“Kids, time for bed,” Jack called out, earning him a pleased smile from his Love.

====

“This will be your new home,” Alex told the dog as he stood in front of Casey's house.  “Come.”

The dog didn't budge from the Jaguar.

“Look, Casey's better equipped to take care of you.  He *likes* animals,” Alex argued as the dog just stared at him.

“I'll feed you steak,” Casey promised, hoping to bribe the dog.

For twenty minutes, the two lovers attempted to get the bulldog out of the Jaguar, but nothing worked.  The one time they managed to push and pull her out of the seat and onto the grass, she just plopped down and wouldn't move an inch; at least not until Alex turned his back in frustration, which gave her the chance to jump back into the classy foreign car.

“Give it up, Slab,” Casey chuckled, giving Alex a pat on the butt.  “She chose you.” He walked to the Jaguar and instructed, “Move on over.  We need to go shopping.”

“Shopping?” Alex questioned as he reluctantly walked to the driver's side of the vehicle.

“Food, treats, a bed, a crate, collars, leashes -- stuff, Slab -- lots and lots of stuff.”

Slumping into his seat and leaning his head back, the tormented new pet owner was about to whine some more about his situation when the dog slobbered all over his Gucci top.

Looking down at the now-ruined expensive piece of clothing, Alex groused, “I'll have to buy my clothes at some dump like Macy's now.”

“Macy's is a dump?” Casey laughed incredulously.

Alex glared at his partner and responded, “How many pieces of clothing have you seen me wear that's off the rack?”

“Loosen up, Slab.  Start the car,” Casey instructed.  ~Sheesh!~

Not wanting to argue and fearing he'd never be able to dress well again, Alex put on his seatbelt and then followed Casey's directions to the nearest pet store.

====

“Do we really need all of these accessories?” Alex asked as he and Casey stood in line after a long evening of pet shopping.

“We sure do,” Casey agreed as he adjusted the dog's new collar and leash, though they had yet to pay for the merchandise.

“This place is just for animals?” Alex asked, looking back at the aisles and aisles of products.

“Alex, there are times I do wonder if you're from another planet,” Casey commented in disbelief.  “I can't believe you've never heard of PetSmart.”

“I've heard of it, Casey.  I've just never been inside one before.”

“It just proves there is always something to learn, Slab,” Casey teased.  He immediately noticed the unhappy look on his partner's face and decided to change the subject.  “She's yours, Alex, like it or not.  We had her checked when we first walked in, and she's not microchipped.”

“Aren't I lucky,” the other man sighed sarcastically.

Alex couldn't believe what he was doing, but sure enough, several minutes later, he, Casey, and the unnamed bulldog exited the store with $400 worth of equipment, accessories, food, and other supplies.

~I have genuinely lost my mind.~

====

“Why did I buy all of this?” Alex asked as he gazed in surprise at the bags and boxes of pet items that were in his living room.

“For the dog,” Casey answered simply.

“Nooooo!” Alex called out, his body drooping and practically falling onto the sofa in despair.

“Relax, Alex,” Casey responded, going over to the bulldog, telling the dog 'no', and removing her paws from the furniture.  “It's just furniture.”

“*Just* furniture?” Alex countered forcefully.  Leaning forward, he stated tersely, “Casey, for your information, those corner cabinets that that ... that ... that beast just put her paws all over are genuine eighteenth century pieces from France.  They're hand carved, and they are worth more than you make in two years, maybe three.”

“Okay, so they aren't cheap,” Casey responded, having his hands up in order to placate his lover.

“No, I'd say not,” Alex sighed, leaning back.  “I have a headache.”

Undeterred by his lover's frustration, Casey went to the bar and prepared a drink, taking it over to his partner.

“Here, Alex, have a drink.”

~If ever I needed one, now is the time.~  Alex began to take the brew until he realized what it was.  “No, thank you,” he responded, giving the glass back forcefully, barely avoiding sloshing the amber liquid out of the tumbler.

“Hey, KD will make you forget what ails you,” Casey insisted about the Kentucky Deluxe whiskey.  “I'm a nurse, trust me.”

“Cas, I know you love this stuff, but KD is not a drink.   It's a ... an industrial strength floor cleaner.  A drink is a vodka martini, and that's what I'd like to have,” the designer stated, getting up to fix his preferred liquor.

“Alex, you're on edge.  Chill a little.  She's a dog, and she doesn't know your fru fru furniture costs more than her dog food.”

Pouring his shaken drink into the martini glass, Alex sighed, “I don't know how to have a dog.”

“Take it a day at a time.”

Having downed his first drink, the designer poured himself a second, drank it, and then confessed, “This is why I don't have pets or children, and never will.”

“Tell that to her,” Casey returned, nodding over at the bulldog, who was sitting obediently at Alex's feet.

Alex simply closed his eyes and hung his head over the bar, letting the alcohol hit his system.

====

A couple of hours later, Alex and Casey were in bed, deeply involved in some progressive fondling which both hoped would relax the designer.  All of a sudden they were separated by four paws and a wet mouth.

“Get down!” Alex ordered, throwing his head back when the bulldog got down, right on top of him.  “You weigh a ton,” he complained, exaggerating in his misery.

“This isn't how I planned this night to go,” Casey laughed as the female dog scooted off Alex but settled right up against him.

“What did I do to deserve this?”

“I don't know, Slab, but it's too bad you don't speak dog.”

A second later, Alex's eyes grew wide.  Something the other man had said was resonating within him.

~Speak dog?  Maybe this dog needs a psychiatrist,~ Alex pondered as the night ticked onward.  ~Maybe *I* need a psychiatrist.~

====

Daniel had been in his lover's study discussing some J-O Enterprises business when he walked down the hallway, heading for the projects room where several of the children were involved in some activities.  Only half of the brood was home at the moment, the others being out with friends and enjoying their Sunday away from the house.  The archaeologist glanced casually to his right out the slender window as he passed, only something unusual garnered his attention.  Stopping, he turned back and took a better look.

~Alex?~

Alex's car was parked in the driveway and the designer, dressed in casual attire that appeared to be more rugged than was normal for him, was pacing the length of his car.

Watching this for a couple of minutes, Daniel finally decided to go outside and see what was going on.

“Alex?”

“Daniel.”

“Did you need to talk to Jen about her new assignment?” Daniel questioned.  “She's, uh, really excited and pleased that you have so much faith in her abilities.”

“She's very good,” Alex replied.  “Actually, Daniel, I was wondering if I could talk to, I mean, see, ah ...”

“Alex, are you okay?”

“Of course,” Alex responded quickly.  “Can I see Bijou and Katie?  I know that's a strange request, but ...”  He had to think fast.  Surely a little white lie wouldn't hurt, he hoped.  “Someone I know is thinking about getting a dog and I just wanted to observe Bijou and Katie for a minute or two.”

~Odd, but I've done stranger things,~ Daniel thought.  “Sure.  They're in the backyard, sunning,” he mused while leading Alex into the house and then to the spacious yard.

~How do I get Daniel out of here?~ Alex wondered frantically, certain that he was on the verge of having a nervous breakdown.

“Alex, do you mind if I ...” Daniel pointed back towards the house.  “The children are in the projects room and I need to check on them.”

“No, of course,” Alex responded, trying not to show his relief.

At the designer's feet, the two beagles were staring at each other questioningly.

“Mama, what's wrong with Alex?”

“I'm not sure, Katie, but stay on your paws,” Bijou answered as Daniel nodded and entered the house.

“Okay, what am I doing out here?” Alex asked aloud.  He knelt down and stared at Bijou and Katie.  ~Just talk.  They're just dogs.~  He cleared his throat and then stood up, walking over to the gazebo.  ~No one can hear me from here,~ he decided.  “Bijou, Katie,” he called out, though it wasn't necessary since both dogs were keeping their eyes on the man.  “I'd like to speak with you.”

“Mama?”

“Let's see what the man wants, Dear,” Bijou suggested, leading her daughter into the gazebo where both beagles jumped up onto the seat opposite Alex.

“I have a problem,” Alex began.  “This mega-monster, I think it's a bulldog, stole my car, with me in it.  I know it sounds strange, but that's what happened.  She came out of nowhere, and she's affixed herself to me.  I can't get rid of her.”  He told the girls the entire story, ending with his query.  “Bijou, Katie, you both know that I'm not a dog person.  What am I supposed to do?”

“Mama?”

“It sounds like one of us sees something good and special in Alex, Katie,” Bijou replied.

“He is a good person, Mama, even if he's never really taken time to play with us,” Katie returned.

“Yes, he is.  He's just a busy sort, except when that lovely blonde woman is with him.  Then he pays attention to us.”

“We haven't seen her in a long time.”

“I know, Katie,” Bijou replied.

Not having received a response, Alex begged, “I don't know what to do.  She drools over everything, and last night she slept on my bed, on my *silk* sheets. It was disgusting.”

“He keeps complaining, Mama, but he still has our canine cousin,” Katie remarked.

“Yes, doesn't he?” Bijou laughed, standing up and making the long jump over to Alex.  She began to give him lots of kisses and pushed her nose against his hand until he patted her.  “That's right, Alex.  Kisses and love; that's the answer.”

Following her mother's lead, Katie bounded over to the opposite side of the gazebo, taking the position on the other side of the designer.  She, too, gave him kisses and gently nudged his elbow until his arm rose up, allowing her to nestle into him and receive a nice massage.

“He can do it, Mama.  He just needs encouragement,” Katie opined.

“That's what we're doing, Little One,” Bijou sighed contentedly.  “That's it, Alex. Oh, a little more to the left, please.  That's it. Get those fingers into it.  Good!”

A moment later, a concerned Daniel reappeared in the backyard and asked, “Alex, are you sure you're okay?”

Contemplatively, Alex looked at the beagles and nodded while saying, “Thanks, girls.  I understand.”  Standing and seeing Daniel's confused expression, he remarked, “Thank you for your time.  I'll be in touch.”

“Sure,” Daniel replied, not having a clue what was going on.  He looked at the beagles and asked, “Do you two have any idea what that was all about?”

“Woof?” Bijou responded.  “Who us?  We're just minding our own business.”  She ran from the gazebo, calling out, “Woof!  Katie, let's see Alex out.”

“Okay, Mama,” Katie agreed, running swiftly to their dog door to gain access to the house.

Perplexed, Daniel sighed, “I'm missing something, but that's probably a good thing.”

====
--May 2, 2013
====

“Jack, Daniel, this is Eleanor,” Alex introduced as he walked into the entranceway with the bulldog.

“Eleanor?” Daniel echoed.

“After Eleanor of Aquitaine.”

“Eleanor?” Jack questioned from his bowed-down spot in front of the guest canine he was petting.  “Ah!  She was the dame who married one of the kings, Henry, George, or John the first, or fourth, or fifth, or something.”

Daniel rolled his eyes at his lover's attempt at ignorance and then noted, “She lived in the Middle Ages and was very wealthy and powerful.”

“Of course, she was.  She was a queen,” Jack responded with a mixture of nonchalance and apathy and then choosing not to think about it anymore.  Surprised, he asked, “Alex, you have a dog?”

The question was double-edged, and Alex knew it, but he was okay with that.

“She adopted me earlier this year.”

“I know the feeling,” Jack groaned, thinking about multiple members of the family's animal kingdom.  “English bulldog.”

“Actually, she's part English and part American bulldog, according to her veterinarian.”

“Who did you take her to see?” Jack asked, while still playing with Eleanor.

“Pam Lawrence,” Alex answered with a smile.

“You remembered,” Daniel mused about the Jackson-O'Neill vet.

“Yes, and she's been terrific with Eleanor, and with me as a first time, somewhat reluctant pet parent,” Alex chuckled.  “Based on her examination, Ms. Lawrence believes that while Eleanor has the facial features and build of an English bulldog that she's at least half American bulldog.”

“How old is your new owner?” Jack questioned, grinning at his phraseology.

“Ms. Lawrence advised us that Eleanor was about ten-months when she found me,” Alex answered.  He sighed, “I don't know if someone abandoned her or if she began exploring on her own.  Bulldogs go through a stage where they ignore their own...people,” he mused as he corrected his words.  “I tried everything to find her people, but no one responded.”

“She picked a good person,” Jack replied, his tone sincere as he spoke.

“Does Eleanor travel with you?” Daniel queried curiously, wondering about the dog's care with the designer being away so much of the time.

“Occasionally,” Alex answered.  “Kiki takes her sometimes, and Sunny, too, of course,” he elaborated, referring to his sister and girlfriend, respectively.

“Of course,” Jack chuckled.

“How is she?” Daniel asked about Sunny, who he hadn't seen since his and Jack's anniversary party last November.

“She's great; beautiful as ever,” Alex answered with a grin.

“Good,” Daniel acknowledged.  “Tell her 'hello' for us when you talk to her.”

“I'll do that,” Alex replied.

Standing, Jack asked, “Would you and Miss Ellie like something to eat or drink?  We were about to make lunch.”

“You could join us,” Daniel interjected.

“Thank you for the offer, but *Eleanor* needs my attention today.  I have business in Italy this week, and she gets cranky if I don't take her for a good long walk before I go.”

“Woof!” Bijou announced as she and Katie approached.

“That must be the dog, Mama,” Katie told her mother.

“Wooooof!” Bijou called out to Eleanor.

“Ruff,” Eleanor replied back.

“She says he's a great human pet,” Bijou mused to her daughter.  “Let's play catch.”

Just that fast, Bijou and Katie turned and began to scamper away.

“Bijou, Katie, thanks!” Alex called out.

Two woofs came as the reply from the exiting dogs.

“Thanks?” Jack questioned.

“They gave me some advice a while back,” Alex admitted, having come to terms with the crazy conversation he'd had with the beagles in January.

Jack didn't know quite what to make of that, but he decided to ignore it.

“The reason we dropped by was to give Jennifer this,” Alex stated, handing over an envelope.  “It has the client's dimensions and color preferences inside.”

“Jen's out at the moment, but we'll see she gets it,” Daniel stated as he took possession of the information for the young woman's latest project for Archonics Ltd.

“Thank you.”  Alex smiled and opened the door, calling out, “Eleanor, it's time to go.”

“Come back again, Miss Ellie.  We'll feed you a bone.”

“Miss Ellie?” Alex questioned, having hoped that if he'd let Jack's continued use of the nickname go that the general would drop it, but now realizing his hope was for naught.  “Please, Jack, her name is Eleanor.”

“Look at that expression, Alex,” Jack requested.  “She's a Miss Ellie if ever I saw one.”

Alex sighed in defeat as he tugged lightly on Eleanor's chain and commanded, “Eleanor, let's flee.”

Jack and Daniel chuckled as they watched Alex and the dog depart.

“Babe, did you notice?” Daniel questioned.

“Notice what?”

Daniel tugged lightly at his husband's denim belt loop and answered, “Alex was wearing jeans.”

“With that drooling beast, I'm not surprised,” Jack joked as he headed towards the kitchen.

====
--October 28, 2016
====

“They make a cute couple,” Soncirria 'Sunny' Suvulpo Dennison observed as she and Alex looked down lovingly at their two babies.  Granted, one of those babies was an English bulldog, but the other was their precious little girl, born on Labor Day not too long ago.  “Eleanor will protect her.”

“Sunny, I never thought I'd say this, but Eleanor is the best thing that ever happened to me, aside from you and our baby,” Alex declared.  He laughed, “Look at me,” he requested lightly, swinging his arms wide and doing a little twirl in front of his wife.

Sunny turned around in time to see the playful spin and smiled as she took in her suave, sophisticated husband wearing a pair of faded jeans with a common plaid shirt.  She had to admit that when she'd first met Alex Dennison, she never thought she'd see him dressed like this.  In fact, he hadn't even shaved this morning.  That made her smile.  The sexy kitten in her liked a bit of that rugged, stubbly look every now and then.

“We've both learned a lot over the years, Alex,” Sunny stated as her arms wrapped around her husband's waist.

“I never knew this was possible, Sunny,” Alex replied before kissing his wife.  Then he moved from her embrace and sat down on the edge of the bed.  He smiled when Eleanor opened her eyes for a brief moment before closing them again.  “I'm a father.  We made this life, Sunny, you and me.”

Sunny walked over, smiling down at the little baby and her protector.  She placed her arms around Alex's shoulders, leaning her head against the top of his head.  Her smile was happy and serene.

“I'm so glad we made it, Darling.”

“I need to thank Daniel again,” Alex opined.  “He butted in and interfered in my life when all I wanted was to be left alone with my designs and architectural studies.”

“Back then, I was knee deep in beauty pageants, making Mother proud,” Sunny sighed.  “It was fun.  I did enjoy it, but now when I look back, I see how shallow it all was.  Nothing was real.  It was all makeup and poses.”

“You took my breath away, Sunny, that first time I saw you,” Alex declared as he reached out and gently massaged the hand of their baby girl.  “It was hard when you left.”

“For both of us, Alex, but I honestly thought it was the best thing,” Sunny replied, giving the shoulders her arms were still wrapped around a squeeze.  “It was, you know.”

Alex twisted around and stared into the eyes he loved so much and nodded as he acknowledged, “You had to do it, or we wouldn't be here now.”

Sunny walked around and sat in front of her soulmate.  She paused to adjust the baby's blanket and then smiled lovingly at her husband.

“We both needed to realize the truth, Darling,” Sunny stated quietly.  “Casey was good for you.”

Alex nodded contemplatively and sighed, “I hurt him back then, and he'd done so much for me.”

Sunny reached forward, supportively taking the designer's smooth hands in hers.

“He taught me that it was okay to be who I am.”  Alex chuckled, “However, I don't believe he thought that who I was, was a homosexual male eternally in love with the runner-up to the Miss Florida Pageant.”

The couple laughed and shared a kiss, and then they kissed again.

“Not every woman would be okay with this,” Alex opined appreciatively.

“Their loss,” Sunny replied sweetly.  “Alex, you love me and you've given me everything in the world.  I honestly don't care that your natural instinct is to like men.  We're soulmates, and I know that with every beat of my heart.”

Alex ran his hand down Sunny's long, flowing blonde hair and pulled her in for another kiss.

“I needed that time with Casey to acknowledge the truth about myself and admit that it was okay.  He gave me that.”  Alex paused and looked reflectively into his wife's eyes, seeing love, support, compassion, and so much more.  “Every day I was with him, Sunny, I learned something about myself.  At the same time, I couldn't get you out of my mind.  Even when I made love with Casey, you were there.”  He smiled and let out a little sound of amazement.  “This is one of the reasons why I love you so much.”

“What is?”

“We can talk like this, openly and with unfailing honesty, and what I tell you about Casey and me doesn't even phase you.”

“I know the truth, Alex,” Sunny responded.  “I'm very secure in our love and our life together.”  She laughed as she added, “That's why we're having dinner with Casey and Donald next week.”

Alex grinned at the woman in front of him.  He felt so lucky that she'd let him back into her life once he'd realized just how much he desired and needed her.  He laughed a little louder, shaking his head as something occurred to him.

“No holding out on your wife,” Sunny prodded in laughter.

“Daniel,” Alex spoke, still laughing a little.  “He's responsible for it all.”

Sunny thought for a moment and then giggled, “You're right, Alex.  He centered us both.”

“He managed to convince me to turn off my cell phone and get a life,” Alex stated, intending to list more.  Suddenly, he frowned and looked all around.  “Hmmm.”

“What now?”

“I'm not sure where I left my cell phone,” Alex answered, shrugging afterwards as a sign that it didn't really matter.  “I know it's off.”  With a mischievous smile, he teased, “We'll have to work together to find it later.”

Sunny wiggled her body teasingly and replied, “I love playing hide and seek with you.”

“That's why she's here,” Alex mused, looking over at the baby.  He grew serious again as he pointed out, “And it was Daniel who helped us to realize we're soulmates.”

With a smile, the woman nodded and added, “Casey told us that without Daniel's intervention that he'd still be bitter.”  Earnestly and from her soul, she continued, “I wouldn't want Casey to be so unhappy.”

“I wasn't the one for him, Sunny.  Donald's perfect for Casey.  They laugh together, with each other, and not at the other.  I think that's what Casey and I did.”

“Laughed at each other?”

Alex nodded, noting, “Even the day Eleanor appeared out of nowhere, there was a tension in the air.  Casey thought the whole thing was comical.”

“And you were just beside yourself,” Sunny surmised.

“She drooled over a brand new Armani suit, not to mention the silk sheets, *and* the furniture.”  Alex noticed that Eleanor was staring at him.  He leaned over and gave her a kiss on her head.  “Drool all you want, Eleanor.  I love you.”

Peaceful again, Eleanor closed her eyes, her paw still protectively over the baby.


“To use Jack's and Daniel's term for it, Casey and I were snarky with each other.  I knew by then, but I wasn't brave enough to leave just yet.  I was going through motions with him.”

“We're so lucky,” Sunny acknowledged.  “You know it was Daniel who set Casey up with Donald, too.”

“I really have to thank Daniel.”

Sunny looked at their baby and returned, “I think he'll know when he meets her.”

“I'd better start on dinner.  They'll be here in a couple of hours,” Alex stated.  “Why don't you take a nap?”

“I'm not tired.”

“Humor me, Honey.  You were up with the baby almost all night.”

“Alright.  I'll take a short nap, but wake me up so I can at least make the salad,” Sunny demanded.

“I love you,” Alex declared, kissing his wife, who then settled in next to the baby and Eleanor.  He stood up and walked to the doorway, looking back.  ~Thanks for butting in, Daniel.  You were right; there's so much more to life than briefcases and business meetings.~

====

“I wasn't sure they'd ever finish their honeymoon,” Jack laughed as he pulled taut his seatbelt in Daniel's sleek racing car.  “How long has it been?”

Starting the silver vehicle, the archaeologist answered, “They were married last Christmas, and we saw them at the reception they held here on New Year's Eve.” He thought for a minute and pointed out, “That was it.  That's the last time we saw them.”

“A couple of text messages, a few postcards, and that's all the news that was news,” Jack noted as his lover pulled out of the driveway and began to ride to the Dennison's condominium.  He chuckled, “I never thought I'd live to see the day that Alex Dennison put work second.”

“Not just second, Babe.  He took a one-year leave of absence from Archonics so he and Sunny could honeymoon around the world.”

Indeed, though Alex had just been made a partner in the architectural and design firm, Byron Stone had been Alex's number one supporter in his decision to step back for a year.  Byron, like Daniel, had butted in a few times himself in his efforts to get Alex to have a more fulfilling life.  In fact, the number one reason Alex hadn't been made partner sooner was because Byron feared Alex would work himself to death if given that increased responsibility.

Also, since Sunny was transitioning in her marketing career, she'd simply quit her job after getting an assurance from Byron that a position would be hers as soon as she was ready to return to work.

After the holiday wedding in Florida, the couple had enjoyed celebratory receptions in Sunny's hometown and then in Colorado Springs.  With the coming of the new year, they, along with Eleanor, had flown to Paris and continued exploring the world and their marriage at will.  For the first time in his life, Alex hadn't planned a thing.  He and Sunny made their plans spontaneously, staying only at places that welcomed Eleanor with open arms and dog treats.

Now the Dennisons were back home in the Springs and their first guests were the Jackson-O'Neills.

Having arrived at the condo, Jack and Daniel knocked on the door.  In his hands, Jack had a bottle of wine and a DVD.

“Jack, Daniel, please come in,” Alex greeted warmly.

As the men said hello, Sunny walked in, a radiant smile on her face.

“Hello,” the blonde greeted, hugging the visitors.

“Sunny, you look beautiful,” Jack praised.

“We've missed you around here,” Daniel added.

“That's so sweet,” Sunny acknowledged.  “Thank you.”

“Hey, where's Miss Ellie?” Jack asked, looking around.

“Eleanor!” Alex called, smiling when the dog entered.

“This is for you, from Bij and Katie,” Daniel stated, handing Eleanor a nice-size rawhide bone.

With her tail wagging, Eleanor took possession of the gift and plodded over to her designer beanbag.

After a few minutes of chitchat as the group sat on the roomy sofa, Alex and Sunny grinned at each other.

“Okay, what's going on?” Jack questioned, sensing there was a secret milling around.

“Jack, Daniel,” Alex began.  “Sunny and I are very grateful for all you've done us, and you in particular, Daniel.  You were right.  Everything you ever told me about having a life and putting work in its place, it was true.”

“It took me a long time to learn that myself,” Daniel returned, smiling at his lover while responding.

“We can't you thank you enough,” Alex stated, perhaps a bit redundantly.

“You don't need to thank me,” Daniel responded.

“We have a little surprise, someone we'd like you to meet,” Sunny teased cryptically as she stood up and left the room.

“Some*one*?” Jack asked suspiciously.  **Danny?**

**No idea, Babe.**

**Alex a dad?**

**Stranger things have happened, Jack.  Look at us.**

**That is strange,** Jack teased.

Daniel suddenly turned his head and glared at his husband, something that Alex noticed but couldn't explain.

~They're doing that thing they do, again,~ the designer told himself.

“Jack, Daniel, here she is,” Sunny announced, walking in with her baby.

“Wow,” Daniel replied as he and Jack both stood up and walked over, each admiring the baby.  “She's beautiful,” the archaeologist opined, taking the little girl's hand.

“Please, hold her,” Sunny requested, gently handing over the baby to Daniel.

“How old is she?” Jack asked.

“Seven-and-a-half weeks,” Sunny answered.  “She was born on Labor Day, and believe me, it was laborious.”  Much softer, she sighed, “It was the best day of my life, and I want nothing more than to labor like that again.”

Alex and Sunny shared a devoted look and one that vowed they would have more children.  One just wasn't enough.

As Daniel smiled at the infant, Alex announced, “Daniella is the perfect baby.”

Daniel looked up, totally surprised by what he assumed was the gift of the baby having been named for him.

“As I stated earlier, Daniel, we can't thank you enough.  We wouldn't be here, together, with our baby and Eleanor, if it weren't for you,” Alex stated firmly.

The archaeologist swallowed hard and just nodded, not knowing what to say except for a heartfelt, “Thank you.”  Then he made a face and smiled, “Uh, I think Daniella needs a change.”

Everyone laughed as Sunny took the newborn and said, “I'll be right back.”

“Want some help?” Jack called out, waving between his husband and himself.  “We're experts.”

More laughter ensued as Sunny acknowledged Jack's tease and proceeded to the bedroom to change her daughter's diapers.

“I'm glad everything has worked out,” Daniel told Alex.

“You've changed my life.”

“Not me, Alex.  You made the choice to listen,” the archaeologist asserted.

“Let's have some of that wine,” Alex suggested, nodding his head towards the gift.

“I'm ready for that,” Jack agreed.

“A DVD?” the designer questioned, looking at the 'Since You Went Away' media.

“Great movie,” Jack stated.

“A classic worth watching, especially with Eleanor,” Daniel claimed.

“Okay,” Alex agreed with a nod before turning his attention to the wine bottle.

With Eleanor, aka: Miss Ellie, looking on, the Jackson-O'Neills and the Dennisons enjoyed their first evening together where both were married couples.  It would be the first of many entertaining times together.

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