Butting In

Author:  Orrymain
Category:  Slash, Drama, Romance, Established Relationship
Pairing:  Jack/Daniel ... and it's all J/D
Rating:  PG-13
Season:  Beyond the Series - February 23 - March 26, 2011
Spoilers:  None
Size:  68kb
Written:  August 7, 2005, January 11-12,14-15,23,28-29, 2006  Tweaked for rank only:  August 25, 2006  Revised for consistency:  September 5, 2007
Summary:  Daniel butts in, Jack goes along, Mr. Jealousy surfaces, and life goes on for the Jackson-O'Neills.
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) This fic stands alone, but it does reference my other fics, “Egyptian Erotica: Another Ten Months,” “Blowout,” “Life Really Sucks,” “Be My Valentine”
4) Thanks to my betas who always make my fics better:  Claudia, Heather, Allexandrya, Robert, Linda, QuinGem!

Butting In
by Orrymain

“Doctor Lam,” Jack called out as he entered the infirmary.

“General,” Carolyn Lam responded, turning around, holding a chart in her hands.  “How can I help you?”

“Have you seen Doctor Fraiser?” Jack asked as he glanced around the near-empty room.

“She's in her office,” the black-haired physician responded.

“Thank you.”  Jack turned and headed out, brushing by Casey Hemmings in the doorway.  “Hemmings,” he greeted casually.

“Yeah, whatever,” Casey Hemmings, a male nurse at the SGC responded dryly as he walked by.

Jack kept going for two or three more steps before stopping and glancing back at the man he'd just passed.  He'd known Casey for several years now and had once been highly jealous of him, until Casey had helped to save Daniel's life.  After that, he'd had a healthy dose of respect for the medical man, which helped to keep his Mr. Jealousy subdued, although he still lurked deep inside the general.

Since then, the two had had some cordial chats, shared a few breaks, and joked now and then whenever their paths crossed at the SGC.  It wasn't as if they were friends, but they weren't enemies, either.  Daniel was closer to Casey, as he was to many of their work colleagues, but it was pretty much a casual work-time friendship.  The only times they really socialized outside of work were at functions like Janet's Valentine's Day party the previous week or during an occasional dinner at the Ferretti's, since Casey and Lou had known each other since they were kids.

Still, as Jack turned back to look at Casey, he couldn't recall ever seeing the man in a foul mood.  Debating on whether or not to interfere, he shrugged and cocked his head to side for a second as he decided he might as well stick his nose in, even if he didn't really belong there.

“Casey, anything wrong?” the general questioned as he approached the nurse.

“Like it matters,” the man replied, his bad attitude still very much in evidence.

“That bad?” Jack inquired.

Shaking his head, Casey sighed, “ General, I'm sorry.  I'm in a mood.”

“No?” Jack teased flippantly.

Casey smiled for a moment and replied, “You're a lucky man, General.”

Jack looked around, making sure no one was too close to them.  Although Jack and Daniel no longer had to hide their relationship, Casey was still military and did have to hide his sexuality from those who might not understand his choices.

Janet had figured it out long ago and, of course, had no problems with it.  In fact, she'd been very supportive of Casey over the years, and the two were pretty good friends both on and off the base.

“Love life problems?” Jack queried quietly.

“What love life?” Casey retorted.  He added, “You know that designer buddy of yours sure looks good.”

Jack flinched slightly, his eyes squinting, as he quizzed, “Alex?”

“Yeah, he's one hot dude, but he's also clueless,” Casey announced.

“He's not the only one,” Jack replied.

“Oh, come on, General,” Casey begged lightheartedly.  “Are you going to tell me you don't know he's gay?”

“Casey, all I'm saying is that this is the first I've heard about it,” Jack said.

“And him, too.  That's the problem,” Casey groaned, shaking his head.

“Excuse me?”

“He doesn't know; he's playing the game,” Casey intoned.

~How'd I get myself into this discussion?~ Jack asked himself.  “I'm not sure Alex even knows about a social life, Casey.  He's pretty tied up in his work.”

“Good excuse,” Casey responded sarcastically.  “It doesn't matter.  I'm not looking for someone who's still wet behind the ears.  I've had my fill of that.  I'd just like to find someone ready to commit.”

“Yeah, well, good luck,” Jack said, giving Casey a smile.  “And don't be too hard on Alex,” he added.  “He has ... issues.”

Casey looked at the general with a quizzical expression.

Quietly, Jack stated, “I'm just saying people have reasons for being the way they are, and you might want to cut the guy a little slack.”

Nodding in agreement, the nurse stated, “Thanks.”  After Jack had walked away a few feet, he called out, “General?”  When the general turned, Casey nodded and said, “Seriously, thanks for the chat.”

“Anytime,” Jack acknowledged and then went on his way.

====

“Good morning, Daniel,” Alex greeted as he approached the table.

As usual, the six-foot-two designer with emerald eyes was impeccably dressed, complete with jacket and tie, as if he were going to a high-powered meeting instead of a casual breakfast.  Though it was a Sunday morning, specifically the second weekend after Valentine's Day, he was toting his briefcase with him.

“Morning,” Daniel greeted the workaholic younger man as he stood and shook hands.  As they sat down, he motioned to the menu and said, “Order anything you like.”

Alex gave the menu a cursory look and replied, “I think I'll just have some orange juice and toast.  I have a big day ahead.”  He glanced at his watch, saying, “I don't really have long, Daniel.  Is there something wrong with the house?”

“No, the house is perfect.  You and Byron did a magnificent job with it.  You'll never know how many times Jack and I have marveled at your foresight,” Daniel answered.  Then, looking at the younger man's attire, he remarked with a touch of exasperation, “Alex, it's Sunday.”

“Yes,” Alex sighed.  “That's why I only have three meetings, instead of four.  Mister Baxter of the plastics firm we're doing some work for refused to meet with me today, something about one day in seven.”

Daniel chuckled as Alex looked at him with no understanding of what he was trying to express.  Just then, the waitress came over and took their order.  The archaeologist ordered some waffles with eggs and sausage, along with orange juice and plenty of coffee.  True to his word, Alex ordered orange juice and two slices of toast.

“So how can I help you?” Alex asked, eager to find out why Daniel had called and insisted on the breakfast meeting.

“Get a life,” Daniel ordered, tapping his spoon against the table as he stared downward.

“What?”

Daniel sighed, “Sorry, uh, Alex.  Jack and I really appreciate the work you did on the house, but every time we call and ask you to come over, you always ask about the house, like you're expecting there to be something wrong.”

“We used only the finest materials and ...”

“Alex, you're missing my point,” Daniel interrupted.  He sighed, “Jack and I think of you as a friend.”

“Thank you, Daniel.  It's nice to have clients who ...”

“Alex, *friends*, not clients,” Daniel gently corrected, leaving Alex feeling somewhat at a loss.  “Look,” he began, leaning in across the table slightly.  “The thing is that we like you, and our children like you, and sometimes, Alex, we'd just like for you to come over for ice cream.”

“That's ... very nice of you,” Alex stated, sitting up straight and not really sure what to say.

Daniel smiled and shook his head as he glanced over at the counter.  He could see the waitresses scurrying about, delivering the full-meal orders to the tables.

“Toast,” Daniel said softly.

“Daniel, I apologize, but I don't know what you're trying to say,” Alex responded politely.

“You're me fifteen years ago,” Daniel revealed as he struggled to find the words that would get through to Alex.  “I tried to explain this to you on Valentine's Day. I know this isn't any of my business, but knowing what I know now, it's not easy to sit back and watch a friend make the same mistakes that I did.”

“I'm not following you,” Alex stated.

“I never ate much,” Daniel admitted.  “Okay, I'm not a big, big eater now, either, not like Jack is, but I take time now for a good breakfast, lunch, and dinner, except when things get crazy.  Alex, it's early Sunday morning, and you're not even giving yourself an hour to sit back and enjoy the sunshine.  Gawd, I sound like Jack.”

Alex looked out the window alongside their booth and quipped, “The sun isn't showing.  It's cloudy.”

Daniel rolled his eyes, responding, “Alex, there *is* sunshine.  You just have to be willing to see it.”

The designer looked at the archaeologist blankly.

~He's not following me,~ Daniel silently lamented.  “Alex, all you do is work. Even when you're not working, you are.  We're supposed to be having breakfast, and you walk in with your briefcase.  Why didn't you leave it in the car?”

“One of my clients isn't sure what design they want for the foyer of their new building.  I was hoping to make a few last minute changes on the plans to help him come to a decision,” Alex explained.

“Over breakfast?” Daniel asked.  “With me?” he questioned, feeling just a trifle miffed.

Alex simply stared at Daniel, not saying a word.  He was a trifle miffed himself at the intrusion his life.  He really needed to make those last minute changes for the client and didn't have time for some therapy session that wasn't even necessary in the first place, in his mind, anyway.

Daniel continued, “Aside from Thanksgiving, the few times you've come to the house, you've been armed with information, which is great.  We, uh, certainly needed your help earlier this year with the central vac system, but even at Janet's party, Alex, you were trying to sell everyone on remodeling.  The thing is that you didn't have to.  Janet does want work done on her house; so does Casey, and Sam and Pete, but on Valentine's Day, neither of them wanted to discuss it.”

“In my business, Daniel, you have to take advantage of every opportunity whenever it's presented,” Alex intoned, his annoyance creeping through in his tone slightly.

“On Valentine's Day?” Daniel questioned with raised eyebrows.

Alex sighed, “Apparently, not everyone was open to it, as you know, but I did make excellent contacts that night.”

“And nothing I said in January when we walked to the car has made a difference?” Daniel asked.

Alex recalled the conversation as he pondered Daniel's question.

//Flashback//
“This was one crazy day, Daniel,” Alex commented as they walked.

“Yeah, but, uh, to be honest, it's kinda typical.  We call it a madhouse,” Daniel chuckled softly.

As they reached Alex's car, the designer said, “But you wouldn't want it any other way, would you?”

Daniel shook his head and pursed his lips in a small inward grin.

“Been there, and done that; being alone, that is.  Life really sucks when you don't have someone to love,” Daniel commented, adding, “and gawd, how good it feels to have not just that someone, but eleven beautiful little someones, not to mention the girls and the cats and the lizard and the rabbit and the fish,” Daniel completed, laughing quietly.  Sobering, he added, “And having them love you back -- priceless.”  With a breath of life, Daniel continued, “It feels good, really good.  But, uh, you know that, right?”

Naturally, Daniel assumed that coming from a large family, Alex knew all about love, despite the tragedy the designer's family had endured.  Plus, he was sure the good-looking, intelligent, and highly successful young man must be involved in a relationship.

“Of course.  Yes, right.  I'll give you a call the next time I'm in town,” Alex answered a bit formally.

“Yeah.  Next time we'll try not to put you to work,” Daniel said with a smile.

“Night,” Alex said as he started his yellow Ferrari sports coupe.

“Goodnight, Alex,” Daniel said, moving back and waving.
//End of Flashback//

Before Alex could respond, Daniel continued, “I mean, uh, Alex, that night I thought it was my imagination, but it wasn't.  You don't have a clue what I was talking about.”  He sat back, observing the silent designer.  “At Janet's party, I told you to get a freakin' life.  I apologize for my language, and I was a little inebriated at the time,” he admitted with a chuckle.  “I'm so happy now, Alex, and I guess that's why I'm butting in.  You're a good man, and I'd just like to see you do something besides work because I've been there, and all the excuses in the world won't take away the fact that you're burying yourself in your career so that you don't have to deal with life.”

“Life isn't always pretty, Daniel,” Alex replied harshly, thinking of his missing siblings, triplets he didn't even know if they were alive or dead.

“I know that.  My history isn't pretty, either, and if it wasn't for Jack, I'd still have my nose buried in books and artifacts twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, come rain or shine,” Daniel replied forcefully.

“I have a good life, Daniel,” Alex refuted as the waitress brought their food, setting the appropriate plates in front of them.

“More coffee, Sir?” the waitress asked Daniel.

“Yes, thank you,” Daniel responded.

When the waitress had finished and walked over to tend to another table, Alex aggressively spoke, “Thank you for your concern, Daniel, but I don't have time for a social life.  I'm trying to build a career, and I've done a pretty good job of that.”  He brought his briefcase up to the table, opening it, and pulling out a current issue of a popular architecture and interior design publication.  “See this? Notice the owner.  The political hierarchy doesn't get much higher.”  Flipping the magazine open to a photo layout of a lush interior, he pointed to the credits where his name was listed.  He pulled out another magazine.  “And here.  He's the hottest fashion designer on the planet today,” he pointed out about the owner of the home.

“Alex ...”

“In the past year,” Alex continued, not letting Daniel speak, “I've been picked up by someone's private jet and whisked off to a cocktail party because I designed the interior of the space.  I've ...”

“Alex,” Daniel interrupted, “That's all great.  I'm happy for you, but that's a career, not a life.”

Alex ranted on, as if not even hearing Daniel's words, saying, “I even did one of Donald Trump's buildings, and the new Supreme Court justice? ... I'm redoing her chambers and her private residence.”  Smugly as he put the magazines away, he said, “When I first met you, I was the new kid in town, and with a good portfolio, too, but I still had to prove myself to Byron.  This *new* kid is now supervising a staff of eight, and I've brought Byron enough business in the past year that he's thinking of making me a partner.”

Daniel sighed, thinking, ~I wish I could tell him that Jack and I have saved the whole freakin' planet over and over.  Okay, time to lighten the mood.~  Leaning in, with a tiny smile on his face, he quipped, “Alex, are you saying that when it comes to resumes, yours is bigger?”  He shook his head, chuckling as he leaned back.  He wasn't expecting an answer, nor did he get one.  Softly, he said, “Alex that's not what this is about.”

Tersely, Alex responded, “Okay, fine, then why are we here?”

Daniel answered, “With all the fame, the accomplishments, and the achievements you've had, who are you sharing it with?”

“I don't have time for a social life,” Alex reiterated.

“Yes, you've said that,” Daniel acknowledged.  “I've learned something in my lifetime, and, Alex, if you want to start comparing resumes, I'll meet you PhD to completed building.  All I'm saying is that all of the professional prestige and words in the world aren't worth one look from somebody who really loves you for who you are and not for what you've accomplished.”

“I'm not in a relationship,” Alex said nonchalantly.  “That's not something I have to worry about.”

“See!” Daniel exclaimed excitedly.  “That's exactly the point.  You aren't in a relationship.  Come on, Alex, wouldn't you like to be?” he asked pointedly.  Not getting a response, he noted, “I know it's not my business.”

“You said that several minutes ago, Daniel,” Alex said a bit angrily.

“Uh, yeah, I guess I did,” Daniel sighed.  “But, as Jack says, humor me,” he requested with a smile, though the smile faded when Alex stared back with a frown on his face.  ~Bite the bullet,~ the archaeologist told himself.  “When was the last time you were in a relationship?”

“When do you think?” Alex asked brusquely.  “I worked my butt off in high school to graduate at sixteen.  I won the Neuhauser Engineering Scholarship just before I graduated.  I got two bachelors degrees at twenty, wrote my first book ...”

“I know all of that, but have you ever been in a relationship?” Daniel asked quietly.

“No,” Alex finally admitted.

~Progress, I think,~ Daniel thought.  “Do you want to be?”

“I don't have time,” Alex responded yet again.

“Gawd, poor Jack,” the archaeologist heard himself say.

“What?” a surprised Alex asked.

“I told you a little of our story.  Jack never let me off the hook, Alex.  When I first met him, I had exactly the life that you have today.  Like a fool, I thought it was enough.  No, that's wrong,” Daniel spoke emphatically.  “Alex, I *made* it be enough.  I had a shell that no one could crack -- ten-foot-high fences, barbed wire -- you name it, I had it.  It wasn't until someone loved me enough to barge his way in and show me just what I was missing that I realized I'd been deluding myself.”  He laughed a tiny, disbelieving laugh and said, “Seeing me in you, I realize just how tough I made it on him.”

“I remember you talking about Jack,” Alex acknowledged, ignoring Daniel's other words.

“If you could live my life for just one day, you'd know what I'm talking about.  I want you to be me today, not with Jack, of course, but with someone you love.  That's all I'm trying to say,” Daniel opined.

At that moment, Alex's cell phone rang, and Daniel had lost the brief chance to make any headway.  Without even touching his toast, Alex left the restaurant, leaving Daniel alone to review the situation.

~Well, butting in didn't work; at least, not the direct approach.  Maybe the indirect approach is worth a try,~ Daniel pondered.

With a smile on his face, Daniel ate his breakfast, grateful for the love and determination of his husband who had somehow managed to show him there was a better alternative to being a devout workaholic.

====

When his breakfast done, Daniel had intended to go J-O Enterprises to study some proposals for new equipment Megan had suggested they purchase.  However, the more he thought about his husband and how he had 'saved' him from a life of scholarly pursuits, the more he wanted him.

Determining that the proposals could wait, the archaeologist headed for home.

====

“Jack?” Daniel called out repeatedly as he hurried through the house, haphazardly greeting any of the children he happened to pass along the way.

Daniel finally found his husband in the small library upstairs, headphones on as he was listening to something on the computer.

Realizing his soulmate was home early, Jack stood up, taking off the headphones, and asked, “Danny, whaaaaammmph.”

Daniel grabbed his lover by his shirt and pulled him in for another passionate kiss, probing Jack's mouth with his tongue, melding their lips together.

When he let Jack up for air, Daniel instructed, “You -- me -- bed  -- *Now!*” and then headed towards their bedroom.

~Okay, I can follow orders!~  Jack looked around, having no clue what had made his soulmate so amorous, but not caring, either.  As he emerged from the library, he called out, “Jennifer, you're in charge.”

“Yes, Dad.  Dad, what ...” Jennifer began to ask.

“I said *now*, Cowboy!” Daniel seductively ordered, pulling Jack into their bedroom and slamming the door, opening it again just briefly to shout down, “Jennifer, we don't want to be disturbed for thirty minutes.  No, an hour.  Make that two!”

From the foot of the stairs, Jennifer heard the door close and the lock engage.

“On Sunday morning?” the teenager asked out loud.

“Jen, what are Dad and Daddy doing?” Jenny asked as she looked up at her big sister.

“Not in a million years,” Jennifer answered.

“What?”

“Nothing for you to worry about, Jenny.  Go play,” Jennifer instructed, shaking her body in revulsion of what she knew was happening upstairs.  ~Parents shouldn't ... in the morning?  Ewww!~

====

“Angel, it's been three hours.  Don't you think we should rescue Jen?” Jack asked after a superb and wondrous ravishing by his husband.

“Soon,” Daniel sighed contently from his spot on his Jack pillow.  “Babe, thank you for rescuing me from being the supreme geek of archaeology.”

“You're welcome, but you're still a geeky archaeologist,” Jack quipped as he rubbed Daniel's back.

“Yes,” Daniel agreed.  “But thanks to you, I'm so much more, and that makes all the difference in the world.”

“I take it the breakfast with Alex didn't go so well,” Jack deduced, his fingertips lightly scratching against Daniel's left upper arm and elbow.

Looking up into his lover's eyes, Daniel asked, “Was I that bad?”

“You were a challenge,” Jack conceded.

“Jen can baby-sit for another hour,” Daniel decided as he leaned in for another kiss, starting a new round of lovemaking, taxing both men to the edge of their endurance, though neither was complaining.  ~Thank you, thank you, thank you!~ he thought before becoming lost in his Love one more time.

====

As the second Tuesday of March rolled around, Alex found himself feeling guilty about having been so harsh with Daniel; that is, when he gave himself a minute or two to think about it.  Adding to his guilt was the fact he had avoided Daniel's three apologetic phone messages for having butted into his personal life.

Sitting in his Florida condominium, the designer made a few final notations on some plans for the senior citizen's complex he was working on and then poured himself a martini.  After a few minutes, he tried to move on to a project he needed to complete for his degree in architecture, but he couldn't concentrate.

Deciding he needed to make amends, Alex sat back in his chair and placed a call to Daniel's cell phone.

At home, Daniel flipped open the cell, answering, “Daniel Jackson-O'Neill.”

“Daniel, it's Alex Dennison, and before you say anything, I must apologize for my attitude at breakfast last month.”

“No problem, Alex.  I butted in, something Jack told me was a bad idea,” Daniel replied.  ~However, now that you're listening again.~

“Everything is fine then?” Alex asked.

“Uh ...” Daniel expressed.  ~Think, Jackson, think~  “Bingo!”

“Bingo?” Alex asked, surprised.

“Children's game,” Daniel answered, evading the question.  “Alex, when are you in town next?”

“I have some meetings coming up,” Alex replied, pulling out his electronic day planner.  “I should be there Friday afternoon through Tuesday afternoon.”

~That's doable,~ Daniel silently thought.  “Good.  You have to let me apologize by attending a small get-together Jack and I are having this weekend.”

“Daniel ...”

“No cell phones or briefcases allowed, though.  I insist,” Daniel stated.

“Daniel ...”

The archaeologist talked a mile-a-minute, all about a get-together that hadn't really been planned.  He talked so fast and for so long that Alex's head was spinning.

“I'll be there,” Alex finally agreed, if only so he could answer his second call beeping in.

~Gawd, I can be annoying sometimes,~ Daniel thought.  “Good.  It's a swim party.  We're going to put the igloo to use.”

When he ended the conversation, Daniel hurried up to the den to prepare a very special list.

====

“Grace Satterfield, John Carpenter, Dora King, Casey Hemmings, Carolyn Lam, and Gary Clement.”  Having read the names out loud, Jack put the paper down and asked, “Danny, what are you doing?”

“Planning a swim party,” Daniel answered.

“In March?” Jack asked incredulously.

“We have the igloo; that makes it just like July,” Daniel noted.  “I'm thinking a regular barbecue.  You can burn the steaks, just like always.”

“Very funny,” Jack responded dryly.

“Danny, why these people?” Jack asked, pointing at the carefully-selected names.  “I don't even like John Carpenter,” he whined about the civilian scientist who had shown an interest in his boss, something Daniel might have been oblivious, but not the older man.

Daniel laughed, “You're just jealous.”

“Ya think?” Jack quipped.

Daniel stood up and put his arms around his lover's neck, saying, “Please tell me you're not jealous of John Carpenter or anyone else in the universe.”

Jack smiled as he gazed into Daniel's cerulean blue eyes, eyes that spoke of nothing but love and joy.

“No, I'm not jealous, Danny,” Jack answered softly.

“No one but you, Babe,” Daniel professed as his lips brushed Jack's.

“So why are we having a swim party in March?” Jack inquired as he slapped Daniel's butt.

“Gawd, you love to do that,” Daniel noted, rubbing his buttocks.

“They're just so inviting,” Jack replied with a seductive grin.

“Down, Jack,” Daniel warned.

“That's on the schedule,” Jack quipped.

Daniel shook his head as he reluctantly chuckled and got back to the plans for the impromptu party.

“Alex called, and I invited him to a party.  The names on the paper are the people we're inviting,” Daniel explained.

“It's an interesting group,” Jack wisely observed.

“All good people, Babe, and all single.  I figure one of them should get Alex's attention,” Daniel commented.

“I thought you were through butting in after the fiasco in the restaurant,” Jack remarked.

“I thought so, too, but when Alex called, I ...”

“Couldn't help yourself?” Jack asked.

“Something like that.  I called Sara, and she'll take Noa and the twins, General Hammond signed up for Jeff, David, Brianna, and Lulu, and Mrs. Valissi is going to watch the Munchkins,” Daniel reported.

“We're kicking our children out?” Jack asked, only slightly surprised considering the party's objective.

“I thought it might be best to have the children away for the day,” Daniel answered.

“You left out one,” Jack pointed out.

“I did?”  Daniel reviewed his paper, chuckling, “Oh, Jen is going to the Ferretti's.”

“Daniel, we should stay out of this,” the older man opined.

“You're right,” Daniel agreed.  “We should.”

“Alex is a grown man.  When he's ready, he'll find someone,” Jack observed.

“That makes sense,” the younger man agreed once again.

“We don't even know his preference,” Jack stated.  He sighed, “But that's why the three and three guest list, isn't it?”

“Just covering my bases.  You know what you always say,” Daniel noted.  “There's always an 'or'.  Male or female, we're giving Alex six excellent choices.  Okay, maybe five,” he countered, “considering who one of them is.”

“None of our business, Daniel,” Jack said again.

“I totally agree,” the younger man replied.

“So, what do you want me to do?” the silver fox asked, knowing further discussion was pointless.

“I made you a list,” Daniel responded, reaching into his pocket and handing Jack a piece of paper.  “Thanks, Love,” he added, sealing the party plans with a kiss before attending to the next item on his own list of things to do.

====

“This igloo is great,” Carolyn commented.  “I've never seen one before.”

“I'd never heard of it before Alex told us about it,” Daniel commented.  “He's very sharp.”

~The good-looking designer.~  Carolyn turned and glanced over at the pool where Alex was doing the breaststroke.  “And a lot of other things,” she elucidated, taking a sip of her wine.

“Why don't you ask him about it,” Daniel suggested.

“I think I'll do that,” Carolyn replied with a smile as she put down her wineglass and dived into the pool.

====

“Gary, what are you doing here?” John asked the anthropology professor.

“I know Jack and Daniel from internships they set up between their company and some of our students at the university,” Gary answered.  He looked at John with a bit of a leer and said, “It's been a long time.”

“And that's for the best, Gary,” John said about his one-time lover.

With a sigh, Gary nodded and asked, “So, how do you know them?”

“You know I work at Cheyenne Mountain,” John answered.

“I never have understood what an archaeologist is doing at a military facility,” Gary stated quietly.

“Research.  Daniel's still a consultant there.  He runs the department actually.  He's hot,” John unnecessarily pointed out.

“He was the one you ...”

“No, Gary.  I never got that close to Daniel.  No one knew it at the time, but he and one of the big wigs were doing it,” John said in amazement.  “Turns out the 'he' was Jack.  I'm still not sure how they've managed to stay in the good graces of the military all these years.”

“Jack's a general,” Gary commented, a bit confused.

“I think officially he's listed as a consultant now.  Frankly, Gary, I'm not sure how they do it, but no one asks, and no one tells,” John replied.

“So, you're friends now?”

“No!  I'm not sure why I was invited to this fling, but when an Air Force general hand delivers an invitation to a party, you don't say, 'no',” John stated with a nervous chuckle.

====

“Your home is terrific, General,” Dora commented.  The young woman had met Jack and Daniel, at different times, while working at a shop in the mall.  She was a dance major at the University of Denver and had been ultimately hired to be a gopher for J-O Enterprises.  Working around her schedule as a student, they'd found ways for her to continue as a research assistant.  “Thank you for the invitation.”

“Just make sure you have fun,” Jack told her.  “If you want to give us a show, we have a dance studio in the house.”

“Um, no,” Dora laughed, her cheeks reddening from embarrassment.

“Have you met everyone?” Jack asked.

“Not yet,” Dora said, looking at the guests, settling her focus on Alex, who was talking with Carolyn.  “Who is that?” she asked, just as Carolyn headed away from the designer.

“Let me introduce you,” Jack offered, leading the young woman over to Alex and getting them started in a conversation.

====

“Jack, we're out of beer,” Daniel informed as the party progressed.  “Don't get mad, Love, just go get some more.  Go!” he urged, seeing the grizzly bear about to emerge.

Several minutes later, Dora called out, “Daniel, I think I hear the door.”

“The door?  Wonder who that could be,” the archaeologist questioned, climbing out of the pool.  Grabbing a towel, he quickly dabbed himself as dry as he could, then picked up a thin navy blue pullover shirt and tiptoed through the house towards the front door.  As he hurried, he put on his shirt that just went to his waistline, not even coming close to covering up his swimsuit.  “Yazid?” he called out.

Surprised to see Yazid Awad, a friend and the assistant for J-O's number one client, Passion Incorporated, Daniel opened the door and let the man inside.

“Am I interrupting something?” Yazid asked with his usual warm and endearing smile.

“Oh, ah, well,” Daniel said, wishing he was dressed.  “We're having a swim party.

“Then I *am* interrupting,” Yazid surmised, turning around to leave.

“No, Yazid, please stay,” Daniel called out, stopping the man.  “It's a small group, and it's very casual.”

“I'm in town for a few days to visit Megan, but she's having a, what did she call it, 'girls' day out' with some friends,” the businessman mused.  He stretched out his hands in a wide, sweeping fashion and sighed, “What is a poor man to do?”

“Visit friends,” Daniel answered.  “We have a changing room and extra swim trunks, if you'd like to get into the swim of things.”

Yazid chuckled and started to follow Daniel when John suddenly walked into the living room, saying, “Daniel, I was wondering if there was ... oh, hello.”

John eyed Yazid up and down, something both Yazid and Daniel noticed.

Quickly, Daniel said, “John, this is Yazid Awad.  His girlfriend has plans for the day, so he's going to join us.  You remember Megan?”

“Megan?  Megan Williams?” John asked.  Seeing Daniel's nod and expression, his eyes widened.  “Oh, you're dating Megan?”

“Yes,” Yazid confirmed.

~Another sad waste of good material,~ John thought as he let out a sigh.

“Has the party moved in here?” Casey asked, joining the group.  Like John, both men were in very tight, barely fitting swimsuits, their 'assets' obvious.

“No,” Daniel chuckled.  “We have a new guest.  Yazid, I'd like you to meet ...”  Daniel's words were cut off by yet another knock at the door.  “Paul?” he exclaimed moments later as he opened the door, shocked to see Major Paul Davis.

The major was in casual attire, jeans and a cream-colored shirt, four buttons open.

“Daniel, I'm sorry to intrude.  I forgot my cell phone, and my car broke down not far from here,” Paul revealed.  “I was ...” He paused, seeing the males in the living room.  “I was hoping I could use your phone.”

“Come on in.  Let me make the introductions,” Daniel offered.

After the men in the living room were introduced, Bijou came running in, garnering all kinds of attention.

Daniel chuckled as he bent over, picking up the mama beagle, and saying, “This is Bijou.”  He petted her ears and said gratefully, “Believe it or not, this little beagle, and her little runt of the liter, changed my life in more ways than any one person could have.”

Everyone laughed when Bijou acknowledged the comment with several licks.

“That's a girl,” John said, reaching over to pet the dog.

Bijou basked in the attention, drawing all the men in to pat her so that both she and Daniel were surrounded, John standing behind Daniel and leaning over his shoulder, Casey and Yazid on his left and right respectively, and Paul in front.  All of them began laughing at the expression of utter bliss that came over Bijou's face as eight hands busily petted her.

“Daniel, Dora would like ... Yazid, what are you doing here?” Alex asked in surprise.

“Petting the beagle,” Yazid answered, scratching under Bijou's chin.

Alex laughed and joined in, taking a spot next to Casey, much to Casey's delight.

It was at this precise moment that Jack entered the house, a bag of goodies in one hand and a moderate-sized keg of beer in the other.

“*What the* ...”

“Jack, you're back!” Daniel happily chimed from the midst of the group.

~It's a friggin' nightmare.  I WANT TO WAKE UP NOW!~ Jack demanded silently.

Time froze for major general.  There, right in front of him, was his husband, his lover, his soulmate, his Space Monkey, his sexy, geeky, beautiful archaeologist; and surrounding him were all of Jack's worst nightmares.

John Carpenter had lusted after Daniel for years, held off only by Jack's constant scowls and a desire to keep his job.

Alex Dennison had no clue that Jack had even for a moment been jealous of him.  Of course, Jack's jealousy had only flared for a fleeting moment.  After all, Alex barely knew what a social life was.

Yazid Awad had never had any interest in Daniel beyond friendship and a working relationship, but a trip to New York, a slight injury, and the Egyptian working his magic chiropractic fingers on Daniel's back had sent Jack into a tizzy, calmed only by a crisis involving Chenoa.

Then there was Casey Hemmings, the male nurse who in the course of his job had seen way too much of Daniel's delectable body for Jack's liking.  The man had always lusted after the archaeologist, but had backed off years ago, knowing that Jack and Daniel's love was strong.  He'd also grown to respect Jack, as well as Daniel.  Still, Jack was all-too-aware that Casey admired Daniel, and not just for the man's intelligence.

Finally, but definitely not the least on Jack's list of nightmares, there was Paul Davis, the major that Jack's Mr. Jealousy had virtually no tolerance for.

For years, Jack had viewed Paul as an enemy, a villain, and a two-faced lover stealer in the making.  Once, he'd even had Paul transferred to a base in Alaska just to keep him away from the younger man.  His blood had always boiled quickly whenever the major's name was mentioned, let alone whenever Paul had cause to be near Daniel.

Of course, Jack's green-eyed monster had taken a big hit the day he found out that Paul was involved with Colonel Mark Reynolds, the two men having met at Area 51.  They'd been lovers almost as long as Jack and Daniel.  Jack had been floored by the revelation.  Since then, he'd managed to tolerate Paul, perhaps even like him, to some degree.  At this moment, though, Mr. Jealousy had flown back in time.

In the middle of Mr. Jealousy's nightmare of suitors was Daniel -- barefoot, water trickling down his body, wearing his own tight-fitting swimsuit and a thin shirt over his muscular, well-shaped body, with his moderately long hair wet and dangling adorably in front of his eyes.

There was Daniel, Jack's Love, and next to Jack's Love was Casey, John, Alex, Yazid, and Paul -- every man Jack had been jealous of at one point or another.  It was almost too much for the silver-haired man to bear.  He literally dropped the bag of goodies onto the floor, its contents spilling out.  Fortunately, the keg was sealed tight, so when it fell, the beer was safe.

“Jack, what's wrong with you?” Daniel asked, putting Bijou down and hurrying to pick up the items that were now scattered on the floor.

Yazid and Casey walked over to help, which a stunned Jack appreciated, until he realized John was admiring the view -- Daniel's rear.

“Carpenter, shouldn't you be swimming?” Jack barked.

“Yes, Sir,” an intimidated John quickly agreed, turning and heading back towards the pool.  ~Why *did* they invite me to this little horror show anyway?~

“Hello, General,” Paul greeted.  “My car broke down.”

“Right,” Mr. Jealousy replied.

“Jack, it is good to see you again,” Yazid greeted warmly.

“Backatcha,” Mr. Jealousy sarcastically snarked.  ~I feel like I'm in a bad porno movie.~

“Daniel, I'll take these poolside,” Casey said about the goodies, shaking his head.

“Thanks, Casey,” Daniel replied.

“Hang in there, General,” Casey teased, laughing as he walked away, something which perplexed everyone but Jack.

“Yazid, I'd like to talk to you about an idea I had,” Alex chirped, leading Yazid to the pool

“I'll just be a minute,” Paul announced, picking up the phone and arranging for a tow truck before making a quick exit.  ~I know that look on the general, and I don't think I want to stick around for the fallout.  Besides, I have my colonel to get home to.~

“Jack, what happened to you?” Daniel inquired a bit frustratingly when they were alone.

“I think I had a heart attack,” Jack spoke, shaking his head, trying to wake himself up.

“What?” a very concerned Daniel said, taking hold of his lover's arm.

“No, Danny, I'm fine,” Jack assured, putting his hand on Daniel's.  “I'm sorry.  I walked in here just now and saw you, so beautiful, surrounded by men that I've ...”

Daniel suddenly caught on, shaking his head and looking very frustrated.

“I still wonder sometimes,” Jack whispered.

“Jack, you're an idiot,” Daniel sighed, putting his hands on Jack's face and kissing him soundly until he was forced to stop in order to breathe.  “I love you.”

“I'm the luckiest idiot in the universe, Danny.  Everyday, I count my blessings, and they're all you,” Jack stated softly.

“Forever and always, I love you,” Daniel whispered, his right hand now tracing the wedding ring Jack wore.

“Forever and always, Angel, I love you,” Jack said from the depths of his soul.

“We have guests,” Daniel reminded as they shared another kiss.  “Are you okay now?”

Jack nodded and took a giant breath of relief that his nightmare had simply been a byproduct of his suppressed Mr. Jealousy, the monster having not had a reason to come out for quite a while now.  As he followed the younger man back to the igloo, he again thanked the heavens for the wonder that was his husband.

~He's my Angel, and I don't deserve him, but I sure am glad he's mine.~  At the same time, Jack decided finding a lover for Alex wasn't such a bad idea.  ~I don't need Danny in his path when Alex figures out what gender he prefers.  With my luck, Danny will be the reason he figures it out!~

Jack also wondered if maybe Reynolds didn't need a push in the marriage direction.

~You two must have the record for the world's longest engagement.  Okay, so you're military and have to be careful, but all's fair in love and marriage.~ In addition, he decided it wouldn't hurt to get Casey off the market.  ~He understands, but he's sharp, and he still ... O'Neill, shut up,~ Jack ordered, making sure Mr. Jealousy crawled back into his hole.

As for Yazid, Jack wondered, ~Isn't it time you made an honest woman out of Megan?  How long do you expect her to wait?~  All of a sudden, he stopped walking.  ~What are you saying?  If Megan marries Yazid, J-O is in big trouble.  We need her!~  Resuming his pace, his final concern was John Carpenter.  He chuckled, ~Who cares?  He's so shallow, Danny wouldn't give him the time of day.  He's just here to round out the field for Alex.~

“Beer!” the party-goers cheered when the keg was set up.

Jack simply smiled, his brain now fully engaged in how to go about eliminating the possible contenders for Daniel's affections.  Apparently, Mr. Jealousy wasn't dead after all, and now that the major general had joined forces with him, the two began to plan.

~We just want them all to be happy, right?  Right!~

====

“Come and get 'em!” Jack called out as the steaks, hamburgers, and hot dogs reached their charcoal fruition.  “Help yourself,” he told Dora, who was the first comer.

Jack walked into the igloo to make sure everyone heard his call, and it seemed everyone had.  Most of the guests were walking towards the indoor grill.

Casey, however, was still sitting on one of the chaise lounges, wanting to finish the last paragraph of an article he was reading.  He happened to look up just in time to see Alex explode up from the water, his tanned olive skin captivating the male nurse.

Alex tossed his hair back and climbed up out of the pool using the steps with the silver handles.  His firm abdomen shone as he moved.

Casey's mouth had fallen open, and his tongue was practically lolling out as he drooled over the sight of the other man.  To him, Alex Dennison was perfection; at least on the physical front.  Watching Alex, the nurse felt like life was going by in slow motion, and seeing Alex get out of the indoor pool was the equivalent of seeing Ursula Andress rising out of the sea in 'Dr. No' or Bo Derek strutting her stuff in 'Ten'.

~Hot daddy, he's a twenty!~ Casey mentally drooled in thought.

Water dripping from his lean body, Alex looked for a towel, asking the nurse, “Can I use that towel?”

“Uh,” Casey mumbled in a panic, quickly looking around and pulling the towel that was against the chaise lounge out to hand to the designer.

Alex brought the towel to his face, drying it, and then slowly began to dry his body, right there within inches of the nearly 'in heat' Casey.

His eyes looking towards his own mid-section, Casey gently readjusted his towel.

“Hey, Casey, get it while it's hot!” John called out.

~Flaming hot, and I want a taste of that,~ Casey thought yearningly.

~No doubt about which way his flagpole goes,~ Jack chuckled, noticing the rearranged towel and the distinctive 'bulge'.  It would be a while, he suspected, before Casey got up to get his food.  ~We have to find out Alex's sexual preference, and soon,~ he opined, convinced that Casey was a great candidate for the designer, if Alex did prefer men to women romantically.  The fact that it would kill two birds with one stone, or rather two Daniel contenders with one match, didn't escape Jack's notice.  ~In the meantime, let's give Casey a little encouragement.~

====

Not long thereafter, Casey ambled up to Alex, placing his hand's on the man's back, and asked, “We really have to get together.”

“Yes, I recall you want some work done,” Alex answered.

“You have no idea,” Casey smirked.  “How about you come over for drinks one night this week, and I'll show you my ... house.”

“Daniel wouldn't allow me to bring my day planner,” Alex replied.  “Can you call me tomorrow to set up an appointment?”

~Appointment?~  Casey smiled, answered,“Yes,” and thought, ~And I'm going to make you forget a day planner ever existed.~

====

“Thanks for coming,” Daniel said to Grace after walking her to her car.  When he turned around, Alex was just reaching his car.  “Alex?”

“I had a nice time, Daniel,” Alex stated.  “I have a lot of work to catch up on tonight, but ...”

“Alex, get a life ... please,” the archaeologist pleaded.

With a tiny smile, Alex got into his car and drove away, leaving Daniel to wonder if the party had helped any or not.  Alex had socialized with just about everyone, and as far as he knew, had not discussed design business to any great extent.

~Well, I tried,~ Daniel thought as he walked back into the house, eager to relax for a while with his husband before the task of cleaning up began.

====

Casey smiled as he puttered around his house.  It was a nice little place -- three bedrooms, two baths, a study, a game room with a pool table, kitchen, and a large combination living and dining area that featured a large-screen television and deluxe bar.  The backyard was medium-sized and had been landscaped years ago in a desert motif.

The lighting was dim, soft music was playing, and the ambiance was perfect for two people, male or female, to spend a quiet night getting to know each other, which was exactly what Casey had in mind -- some intimate 'let's get together' physical conversation.  It was only two days after Daniel's party, and his body still reacted when he thought of the image of Alex climbing up out of the water in the pool.

Hearing a car, Casey looked out the window, salivating in anticipation when he saw Alex emerging from his yellow Ferrari.

~He's wearing a suit?~ Casey bemoaned, looking at the clock and seeing it was 7:30 p.m.  ~We'll pay that no mind, Alex, my man.  I'll have that off of you in no time.~  Nodding when Alex noticed he was watching from the window, Casey opened the door, inviting the designer in.  ~No way you could look that fresh after working all day.  You showered, shaved, and changed before you got here,~ he thought as he inhaled the younger man's crisp clean after shave.

“I hope I'm not early,” Alex spoke politely.

“No, you're right on time,” Casey answered.  “Can I get you a drink?”

“Vodka on the rocks,” the designer requested.

Casey whistled as he prepared their drinks.  When he brought the drinks over, he sat down on the sofa next to Alex, making sure their legs touched and then letting his hand touch against his guest's.

~Hot, hot, hot!~ Casey exclaimed as he prepared to get even hotter.

====

“Doc, how's Spencer?” Jack asked, checking up on an airman who had been injured off-world the day before in a freak accident.

“He'll be fine,” Janet answered with a smile.  “The worst thing ...”

“OH, THESE STUPID, IDIOT MACHINES!” a man growled loudly.

“Excuse me, General,” Janet requested, her smile now a frown as she walked into the general infirmary.  “Casey, may I see you for a moment please?”

Tossing down the bedpans he had just picked up, Casey joined Janet and Jack in one of the smaller examining areas.

Giving the two some privacy, Jack hovered in the doorway.

“Casey, I don't normally have to do this,” Janet began, “but you've had a bad attitude all day.  I don't want to know what's wrong, but if you can't act professionally, I don't want you here.  Got it?”

“I'm sorry, Doctor Fraiser,” the medical man apologized.

“Casey, we're friends, and I know something's bothering you, but you have to keep it off the floor,” the doctor advised.  After Casey nodded, she looked over at Jack and said, “I have some test results to check on, General.  Spencer should be back on his feet in a day or so.”

“Thanks, Doc,” Jack acknowledged.  When Janet was gone, he walked over to Casey and inquired, “Bad night?”

“General, if you'll forgive me for being honest, but that Alex Dennison is one clueless dumbbell for a man with so many brains,” Casey opined in disgust.

“Uh ...”

“He came over to discuss the remodeling,” Casey continued.  “Remodeling!  I had some specific decorating in mind, but he never even got the hint.  I used my best lines, my best moves -- he never even flinched.  He just kept pulling out floor plans and drawings.  Still, he did shower and change before he came over, but that's the only positive indication I've had from him.  Do you think he would have done that for anyone?”

Jack shrugged as he responded, “I don't know.  He's always dressed like he's going to a business meeting, and he's *very* devoted to his work.”

“Alex is living a lie,” Casey pronounced.  “He's hiding from everyone and everything, including himself.”

“I know you think he's ...” Jack paused, looking around, and then whispering, “gay, but ...”

Casey laughed loudly, replying, “Oh, he's in the closet; it's a very large, very plush closet, but it's still a closet.”

“And you still like him,” Jack surmised.

“Look, General, I'm going to let the guy redesign my house because I've seen what he's done on your place, and he's good,” Casey noted.  “But I've worked too hard to get where I am.  I don't have the time, the energy, or the inclination to be a therapist, parent, or mentor, especially for someone who is totally clueless.  Excuse me, I have bedpans to clean,” he said, his frustration still guiding him as he nearly stormed out of the room.

~Danny better stay out of the matchmaker business; it's just not working out well at all,~ Jack opined as he continued on his way.

====

“Welcome back, SG-3.  We'll debrief in one hour,” Hammond called out over the tannoy from the briefing room.

Colonel Reynolds gave an acknowledging nod and followed his team out of the gate room.

“Any problems?” Jack asked, moving up to walk with the colonel.

“No, Sir.  We were just backing up SG-9, but they didn't need us.  They're staying for another day,” Reynolds reported.

“Good,” Jack replied, continuing to keep pace with Reynolds.

Feeling a bit odd, Reynolds stopped and asked, “General, was there something you needed?”

Jack motioned over towards one of the small corridor offshoots where a phone was.  While his conversation with Casey had caused him to briefly reconsider the matchmaking business, he decided to venture forward.  After all, this wasn't matchmaking.  This was two men, in love and in a long-term relationship.  He was just going to give them a little nudge, that's all.

Reynolds followed, still clutching his weapon which he needed to turn into the armory before proceeding to the infirmary for the standard post-mission exam.

The general opened his mouth to begin talking, but had to stop as Sergeant Siler passed by.

“Sir?” Reynolds asked curiously.

“Meet me in my office after you turn in your weapon; it'll only take a minute,” Jack ordered as he walked away.

====

“Colonel Reynolds reporting as ordered,” Reynolds said, saluting.

Jack rolled his eyes and shook his head as he stood and closed the door to his office.

“Reynolds, didn't we cover this when I was running this outfit?” Jack asked.

“Sorry, Sir,” Reynolds said, relaxing his posture.

“Besides, this is off-the-record,” Jack announced.  “You may or may not be aware that that little beauty over there only works when we're at DEFCON 3 or a higher level of alert,” he stated about the camera.

Reynolds glanced over at the camera.  He looked downward and then back at Jack.

“No recordings, either,” Jack pointed out.

“What's going on, General?” Reynolds asked.

“Jack; definitely Jack for the duration of this discussion,” the silver-haired man stated.  “Sit down.”

A bit unsure of what was happening, Reynolds took a seat, nervously rubbing his hands together.

“How goes it with Davis?” Jack inquired.

“Fine, just fine,” Reynolds answered uneasily, looking longingly over at the exit.

“Last I heard you hadn't taken the big plunge,” Jack stated quietly.

“We're not in the same position that you are ... Jack,” Reynolds answered truthfully.

“I know that, but it's been a while,” Jack responded.  He sighed, leaning across his desktop.  “Look ... Marc, lately Daniel's been playing matchmaker.  It's gotten me thinking.”  ~That I want Davis out of the way more permanently.~

“Thinking?” Reynolds asked with widened eyes.

“Yes,” Jack snapped.  ~Doesn't anyone besides Daniel think that I think?  If they don't, I think they should rethink their thinking.~  He shook his head quickly, thinking, ~I'm giving myself a headache.~

“Sir?”  Seeing Jack's stare, Reynolds restated his one-word question, “Jack?”

“As I said, I've been thinking.  Oh, let's cut out the crap,” Jack suggested.  “Reynolds, you need to figure out what's important in your life.  Sure, Daniel and I have some extra clout -- now, but that wasn't always the case.  I was prepared years ago to give up the military.”

“I didn't know that,” Reynolds replied.

“It was Daniel,” Jack informed, sitting back, a smile on his face.  “I would have quit the day we ...”  He cleared his throat.  “If you love him, you need to be prepared to lose everything.  Crap, Reynolds, you should want it, and Davis should feel the same way.  If you don't, if he doesn't, you two are just playing.  How many years ago has it been since you gave him that ring?  Don't answer.  It's more than it should be.  I had the man transferred here, for a lot of reasons, and, believe me, it wasn't easy.”

“I'm sure it wasn't, Jack,” Reynolds thoughtfully replied, grateful that the general had heeded his request to have Paul transferred from the Pentagon to the SGC.

“Make me glad I did it,” Jack said, staring Reynolds in the eye.  “I'm not saying you should run off to Vegas and elope, but whatever the stumbling block is, don't you think it's time to climb it?”

Reynolds didn't have an answer for Jack, not that Jack expected one.

“Go on; Fraiser hates to be kept waiting,” Jack quipped.

“Thank you, Sir,” Reynolds requested, standing.  He walked to the door, and, with his hand on the knob, turned and said, “Thank you ... Jack.”

~Just show me the marriage license one of these days,~ Jack silently smirked while simply nodding at the other man in acknowledgement.  

====

“Daniel, I brought you a present,” Jack announced that night.

“What?” Daniel asked, looking up with anticipation, but then frowning when he saw the gift.  “Jack!”

“The next time we have a pool party, Babe, you're wearing these,” Jack proclaimed, holding up a pair of very baggy, very conservative blue swim trunks.  “The only one drooling over your 'bulge' is going to be me.”

Daniel chuckled, shaking his head as he replied, “Anything you say, Love.”

Jack laughed, too, tossing the trunks on the dresser as he sat down on the edge of the bed, facing his lover, who was sitting up against the headboard.

“Small world with Yazid and Alex, wasn't it?” Jack mentioned about the two men knowing each other, something that had come as a total surprise to Jack and Daniel.  It had also been a surprise to Yazid and Alex that both of them were friends with the Jackson-O'Neills.  “I had no idea they'd met before.”

“I'm not surprised, though,” Daniel replied.  “Abayomi is involved in more ventures than we can imagine,” he said about Yazid's boss and the owner of Passion Incorporated.

“I like what they did, Danny, taking a simple nursing home and turning it into a really high class independent living facility,” Jack stated.

“Yeah, but the best idea Alex had was putting the children's shelter right next to it,” Daniel replied.

“Didn't he say it's all one big complex, seniors on the left, kiddies on the right?” Jack mused in appreciation of the concept.  “I especially like the common courtyard in between and the separate ones at each end.”

“It's very unique, but what a great idea to provide loving grandparents for children in need of a family, and grandchildren, someone to love and remember them for people who have been forgotten by their own, if they have any,” the younger man spoke softly.

“Alex is a good thinker,” Jack acknowledged.

“I just wish ...”

“Danny, there's only so much we can do,” Jack advised.  “If he's not ready to listen ...”

“I think it's his siblings,” Daniel supposed.  “He's hurting ... really deep ... deep inside.”

“I can't blame him, Angel,” the older man said in sympathy.  “To lose three siblings, thanks to a monster of a stepfather and a mother who loses her mind, is unimaginable.”

“It's the not knowing, Jack.  He doesn't really know if they're alive or dead, and to stop the pain, he throws himself into his work,” Daniel observed.

“He needs someone to let him know that pain doesn't have to be the controlling emotion,” Jack suggested intellectually.

Daniel smiled, saying, “Like I had.  I hope he finds someone who can make him feel even an eighth of what I feel for you, Jack, because even an eighth is beyond this world.”

With their children all happily occupied with activities, the lovers kissed and spent the rest of the evening snuggling, cuddling, and laughing, consciously choosing to let their love and happiness rule them.

====

Towards the end of the week, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Alex and Byron had just finished up the plans for their latest project.  It had been an intense session with the owners who were employing them, three people who all wanted different things, and each of those things was nearly impossible for Byron's firm to deliver without major changes to the existing plans.

Byron Stone was the owner of Archonics Ltd., the firm that had taken a chance on the young designer, hiring him in 2009 just before the Jackson-O'Neill renovation had begun.  From the beginning, Byron had seen a spark and desire in Alex to succeed that was hard to ignore.  Of course, the designer's talent and education were unparalleled by almost anyone else, but it was his ability to understand his clients' needs that had really made Byron take notice of him.

Over the last couple of years, Alex had surpassed all of Byron's expectations, so much so that Byron had thought of him as partnership material almost immediately.  In fact, Byron was keenly looking forward to teaming up with the younger Alex Dennison and would have already made Alex a partner, if not for one concern.

All things considered, Byron knew very little about the man he was giving so much trust to.  Whenever he'd invited Alex to a social event, the social aspect of the event had gone out the door, replaced by talks of business.

Before making Alex a partner, Byron felt like he had to know the man better, and that hadn't proved to be easy to do.  A part of him was concerned that even if he put aside that issue, one day Alex might burn himself out, and the effect on Archonics Ltd. could potentially be devastating.

Right now, though, all the architect cared about was leaving their new Florida office behind.

“I am so glad that is over with,” Byron commented as he packed his briefcase with reports and notes.

“They needed a guiding hand,” Alex responded.

“Guiding hand?  They needed more than that,” Byron spoke with admiration.  “You handled them with your usual finesse, Alex.  I'm very pleased.”

“Thank you, Byron,” Alex replied, smiling.  “That means a great deal.”

Byron let out a huge sigh and exclaimed, “I can't wait to get on the plane and fly home to Denver.  My wife is picking me up.”  He smiled.  “I can smell the turkey, the potatoes baking -- my mouth is watering just thinking about it.”  He looked out the window overlooking the ocean and said, “Whenever I come home, she has my favorite meal waiting.  We kiss and make out like kids,” he chuckled.  “And she'll have a luscious fudge chocolate layer cake and plenty of homemade ice cream prepared, too.”

“Sounds nice,” Alex responded politely.

Byron looked at his watch and said, “It feels good to go home to her.”  Looking over at Alex, he added, “We're going to cuddle, relax, and watch the TV, and you know something else?  I'm taking the day off tomorrow.  I think I'll surprise her with a picnic somewhere.  Yeah, I think I'll do that.  What about you, Alex?  What are you going to do?”

Having totally missed the sentimentality of his employer's comments, Alex answered, “I'm going to start with some preliminaries for the Martin job, and our notes from today need some tweaking.”

Byron gave the younger man a look of pity, not really surprised, but having hoped just once that Alex would say he was doing something simple, even if it was just reading a novel or going to a movie.  As he locked his briefcase, he looked over at the workaholic man, who was still sitting.

“Alex, this is absolutely none of my business.  You're an employee, but I had hoped we could be friends,” Byron lamented.

“We are,” Alex responded.  “I hope we are.”

“You can't live and breathe our clients twenty-four hours a day.  I do like you, Alex, and I have an enormous amount of respect for your talent and abilities, so I hope you'll forgive me for not minding my own business and telling you ... Alex, get a life!”

Alex was stunned.  He had heard this from Daniel a lot lately, and come to think of it, Casey had seemed a bit perturbed during their meeting and had mumbled something about Alex living in a fishbowl and having no idea what life was about. Now, though, here was Byron, his employer, echoing those words.

Byron smiled lightly, adding, “If I didn't have my wife and kids to go home to, I think I'd go insane.  Don't miss out on a family, Alex.  Recognition is nice, and I'm proud of my firm and what I've accomplished, but, Alex, I'm doing this for my family.  Who are you doing it for?  Who shares in your achievements?  At the end of the day, who holds you and makes you feel like the king of the world for closing a deal?”

Alex swallowed hard and fought back tears, finding the words painful to hear, and he definitely did not want to think about it.  Daniel had told him the same thing, but he had refused to listen.  Maybe that's what Casey was saying, too.  He wasn't sure, but being so surprised by Byron's comments, his normal defenses had taken a direct hit.

“Excuse me, Mister Stone,” one of the administrative assistants interrupted.  “Your car is here.”

“Thanks, Marjorie,” Byron replied, watching as she backed out of the room.  “I'll see you in a few weeks.”

“Byron, before you go,” Alex called out, having regrouped for the moment.  “I really need a few minutes to talk to you about the Jeffers proposal and ...”

“Alex, did you hear anything I just said?”

“Of course, I did,” Alex answered.  “You're working hard and being a success for your family.  Now, about the construction that Mrs. Jeffers wants for the ...”

Byron shook his head, feeling sorry for the young man.  He couldn't even bear to stay around him any longer.

“Alex, you can handle it.  I'm going home to my wife.  I hope someday you can say the same to me.  Call me if you need me, just as long as it's not until the day after tomorrow,” Byron ordered, walking out of the room, leaving a very disquieted Alex alone in a now too big and empty conference room.

====

The next day, Alex attended a formal function at the convention center.  There were dignitaries and celebrities in attendance, and, for the first time, Alex felt a bit uneasy at not having an escort, since almost everyone else did.

“Alex,” Carl Malking greeted.  “Have you met Soncirria Suvulpo?”

Alex smiled at the tall, shapely, and definitely beautiful blonde woman.

“Hello, I'm Alex Dennision,” Alex greeted, reaching out and taking her hand.  He kissed her hand and said, “It's a pleasure to meet you, Soncirria.”

“Just call me Sunny,” the woman requested sweetly, smiling and loving the attention.  ~How gallant,~ she thought.

“Sunny is the reigning runner-up to Miss Florida,” Carl announced.

“I'm surprised,” Alex stated, staring at the blue-eyed woman.

Sunny and Carl looked at the designer as if he had committed some social gaffe.

“The judges must have been blind to have awarded first place to another,” Alex commented, his eyes still drinking in the sight of the beautiful woman.

====

“Everyone ready?” Jack asked, standing by the light switch.

It was Saturday night, the last week in March, and the Jackson-O'Neills were having a  movie night.  The popcorn was popped, the sodas dispensed, and the children were all seated in the recreation room with comfortable cuddlewraps and blankets.  An assortment of the family pets were also in the room.

Just as Jack was about to turn out the light and hit the 'play' button to start the movie on the large, drop-down television screen, he heard a knock on the door.

“Everyone stay where you are,” Jack ordered, heading for the door.

====

“Danny, will you come in here?” Jack called out, standing in the living room just visible through the kitchen to the rec room.

“Leave some of those Snickers,” Daniel told Aislinn as she scooted off his lap so he could see what his husband needed.  He crossed through the kitchen, entering the living room.  “Jack, what's ... Alex, hi.”

“Daniel, I'd like you to meet someone,” Alex said, grinning.

The archaeologist smiled at the woman at Alex's side.

“Sunny, this is Daniel Jackson-O'Neill.  He's a friend of mine,” Alex acknowledged, for the first time introducing both of the lovers as friends instead of clients.

“Sunny, hello,” Daniel greeted, shaking hands with her as he gave out a shy smile.

“I know we're interrupting ...” Alex began.

“We're about to watch a classic,” Jack stated.  “Join us.  The Munchkins have been asking about you.”

“Those are the triplets,” Sunny clarified, her arm in Alex's.  “Alex has mentioned them to me.”

Daniel noted how she rubbed supportively against Alex's arm, and he couldn't help but wonder if he had told her about his missing siblings.

“Come in the rec room and meet the family,” Daniel invited, a smile on his face.

“How'd you two meet?” Jack asked curiously.

“Some stuffy affair,” Sunny answered.  “Oh, my, what a lovely room.  I just adore the high ceiling,” she said about the rec room ceiling.

“Yes, it's ...” Alex began.  He stopped, looked over at Jack and Daniel and smiled.  “It is very nice.  Munchkins!” he called out.

**Danny?**

**There's hope for him yet, Babe.**

**I guess butting in has paid off,** Jack noted.

**It's too early to tell, but for the first time, Jack, I see Alex Dennison, the man, instead of Alex, the designer.**

“Alex, we having movie night,” Jonny said enthusiastically.

“You stay, Alex?” Aislinn asked, crawling up onto his lap.

~Oh, well,~ Daniel chuckled at the loss of his lap warmer.~

The archaeologist settled in next to his general as they began the movie.  For Daniel, though, his fun was in watching Alex and Sunny.  He didn't know how involved they were, but it was clear that the designer had opened a door, and Sunny had come through.

~That's all it takes -- a little back and forth, a little compromise.  It's progress!~

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