Nine

Author:  Orrymain
Category:  Slash, Humor, Drama, Romance, Established Relationship
Pairing:  Jack/Daniel ... and it's all J/D
Rating:  PG-13
Season:  3 - June 15-18, 2000
Spoilers:  None
Size:  37kb, short story
Written:  April 19-22,24,26-28, May 14-15,17, 2007  Revised for Consistency: April 16-17, 2012
Summary:  Jack and the number nine:  what does the combination mean?
Disclaimer:  Usual disclaimers -- not mine, wish they were, especially Daniel, and Jack, too, but they aren't.  A gal can dream though!
Notes:  
1) This fic is for Mama Bear, who wanted a romance fic, before the kids, related to a number.  This is what she got!
2) 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.**
3) Silent, unspoken thoughts by various characters are indicated with ~ in front and behind them, such as ~Where am I?~
4) Thanks to my betas who always make my fics better:  Melissa, Linda, Pam, Ladan, Claudia, Sara!

Nine
by Orrymain

“Daniel, are you sure?” Jack asked pleadingly for the ninth time in nine minutes.

“Jack, you've asked me that nine times now, and the answer isn't going to change,” Daniel sighed in frustration.  “Go home; relax.”

“But ...”

“Babe,  I have to finish this tonight, and even if I get done in time, I still have  errands to run.  I told you that yesterday.”

“But ...”

“Look, you said your friend wanted to play poker, so go -- play poker.  Call me in the morning.”

“So, you're ...”

“Go!  Have fun,” Daniel urged as strongly as he could.  “I'll see you tomorrow morning, and don't forget my wake-up call.”

“But ...”

~He's driving me crazy,~ Daniel groaned inwardly, resigning himself to the fact that he'd have to make more of an effort to get rid of his insistent lover.  He put down his pen, took off his glasses, and looked up from his computer.  With an exasperated sigh, the archaeologist asked, “Have you heard of the curse of nine?”

“I don't do curses,” Jack quipped.

“I'm tempted,” Daniel stated strongly, leaning back slightly in his chair and crossing his arms.

“Okay, what's the curse of nine?” Jack inquired curiously.

Pulling out the big guns in terms of fictionalized mythology, Daniel threatened, “Anyone who asks the same question more than nine times in one conversation will suffer from severe erectile dysfunction for *nine* years.”

“Reptile what?”

“Erectile dysfunction, Jack.  It means im-po-ten-cy,” Daniel explained, elongating his pronunciation of the word.  “Nine years, Jack,” he repeated zealously.

“There's no such thing,” the older man asserted, dismissing his soulmate's vehement threat.  ~There can't be,~ he convinced himself.

With a smirk, Daniel admitted, “No, there isn't, but there should be.”  He put his glasses back on and turned back to his computer, adding, “Do *not* ask me again, Jack.  We've been going over this repeatedly for the last twenty-four hours.  You know the plan, and we're going to stick to it.”

“But are you ...”

~That's enough.~  Fearing his lover would never leave, Daniel stood up and held up his arm in a talk-to-the-hand type gesture.  ~I'll go check in with Sam, and maybe by the time I get back, my office will be free of irritating but handsome colonels.~  As he walked out the door, he spoke, “See you tomorrow, Jack.”

Jack grumbled.  He really had hoped to persuade Daniel to alter their plans, which called for the archaeologist to finish some research and then run errands, ranging from grocery shopping for the apartment to checking out some new book at the bookstore.  Those same plans had Jack playing poker with some friends, including Andy, who worked for the sheriff's department.

~Stubborn geek,~ Jack thought as he finally walked out of Daniel's office and headed for the locker room.

====

“You're bluffing,” Jack accused Kurt Leffler.

“I never bluff,” Kurt replied as he held his cards close to his chest.

“Of course, you don't,” Jack responded.  ~Oh, yes, you do.  I have a full house, but the problem is that you're crazy enough to draw to an inside straight.  Hmmm.~

“What's it gonna be, Jack?” Andy prodded, anxious to see how the hand unfolded, especially since it was for the biggest pot of the night.

“I call,” Jack announced, looking at his competitors briefly before adding more chips into the pile.

“Flush, ace high,” Kurt declared as he placed his cards face up on the table.

“Sweet!”  Jack smiled as he laid out his hand.  “Full house; gotta love those nines.”

“Well played, Jack,” Andy praised, observing his friend's hand of three nine cards and two deuces.

“Just lucky,” the colonel quipped.  ~But not lucky enough.  I'm here and Danny's not.  Worse, Danny's there and I'm not.~  Jack frowned, finding his thoughts strangely worded.  Still, they were the truth.  ~If Danny were here, we'd be playing poker, but if I were there, we'd ... oh la la ... yeah!~

====

On his way home, Jack decided to stop at a twenty-four hour gas station and convenience store to pick up some food items he'd run out of -- bread, chips, soup, and catsup.  As he turned the corner of one of the short aisles, he accidentally bumped into a woman with frizzy black hair.

“Sorry, Ma'am,” Jack apologized as he bent over to pick up a couple of canned food items that she'd dropped.

“No problem.  I wasn't looking where I was going.”

“I guess I wasn't, either.  Good thing we weren't driving,” Jack joked.

The woman laughed as she reviewed her grocery items and then said, “Oh, I'm missing ... where are they?”

Jack looked around, spying two small cans of cat food a few feet away.  He walked over and picked them up, holding the items out so the woman could see them.

“Nine Lives?” Jack questioned as he read the label on the can.

“My cat insists on it,” the woman responded with a smile.

~Can't have an unhappy cat,~ Jack thought as he nodded.

The two went on their ways with Jack still searching out his grocery items while the woman headed for the register to pay for her items.

About five minutes later, Jack was paying for his grocery items, too.  He handed the clerk a twenty dollar bill and received back nine pennies.

“Sorry about the pennies.  I ran out of nickels,“ the cashier apologized.

“It all spends the same,” Jack remarked as he played with the pennies in his hand.

Seeing the canister for a local charity, Jack immediately deposited the change into the plastic container and then returned to his truck.  Since he was at the gas station, he figured he might as well fill up his gas tank.

~Just nine gallons?  Not as thirsty as I thought,~ the colonel chuckled as he removed the nozzle from the tank and then headed for home.

====

~It's all his fault; I'm used to my Danny blanket now.  Stubborn geek,~ Jack bemoaned as he struggled to fall asleep.  Having failed with everything else and as cliché as it sounded, he imagined sheep jumping over his bed.  “One sheep,” he counted aloud.  ~This is stupid.~

“Two,” the weary man sighed, his eyelids firmly open as he stared up at the ceiling.  ~Dumb colonel, for real.~

“Three.”  Jack faked a yawn, hoping the act would trigger some internal sensor that might help him fall asleep.  Unfortunately, it didn't work, and he refocused on the creatures of his mind.  ~They should be bigger.~

“Four.”  The colonel frowned at his imaginary bigger sheep.  ~Fluffier, like clouds,~ he declared as he reshaped his dreamy sleep makers.

“Five.”  Jack groused internally, ~I'm a grown man, and I'm counting sheep?  I'm out of my friggin' mind.~

“Six,” the man continued while also thinking about his lover's sweet six that he loved to watch.  ~Don't think, O'Neill, especially about that or you'll never get to sleep.~

“Seven,” the silver-haired man groaned, his frustration mounting.  ~Danny, this is *all* your fault.~

“Eight,” Jack yawned, smacking his lips audibly afterwards.  ~Sheeep.  Frig...friggin' ri...diculous.~

“Niiiii...”

Amazingly, Jack fell asleep just as he counted the ninth sheep jumping over the king-sized bed.

====

“Rise and shine, Dannyboy,” Jack chirped over the phone as he stood in his kitchen, looking out into the dark of the morning.

“Wh...hu...wha...t?” Daniel mumbled, licking his lips as he fell back to sleep, the phone dropping down from its perch against his ear to land on the carpet.

Daniel was lying on his right side, his bedspread pulled up to his waist and his body curved slightly.

“Daniel?” Jack called out.  “Oh, for crying out loud,” he muttered.  “*Daniel, wake up!*” he shouted into the phone.

Miles away, the archaeologist smiled as he snuggled into his fluffy white pillow.

“Danny?  Are you there?”  Groaning, Jack hung up the phone.  “For Pete's sake,” he grumbled, glancing at his watch.  ~Okay, it's nine minutes till.  I can get there in twenty, wake him up, and then hustle it to the Mountain in time for my meeting with Hammond, barely.  Traffic: 'Sorry, Sir, it was just that 0500 hours traffic.'~  Jack rolled his eyes, revising his anticipated response to, ~Sorry, Sir, but Doctor Jackson needed a wake-up call.~  He sighed again and revised his excuse for being late.  ~'Sorry, Sir, I overslept.'~

As Jack headed for the door, he thought, ~I'm taking one for the team.  You can thank me later, Danny.~

====

As he drove, Jack realized a favorite location was on the horizon.

~What the heck.  I'm gonna be late, anyway.~

Bringing his truck to a stop in a parking space outside the donut shop, he got out and walked inside, slipping his keys into his pocket.  He came to a standstill when he noticed the shockingly bare window displays.

When the Asian shop owner walked out, Jack queried, “Sugar shortage?”

“Oven problem.  I apologize, but all we have right now are the maple bars and a few donut holes.”

~Danny isn't a big maple bar eater, but I like 'em,~ the colonel thought as he continued inside.  Seeing the clerk smiling and waiting for his order, he instructed, “Give me one maple bar and ten donut holes.”

After the lady clerk selected a fresh maple bar, she counted the donut holes and advised her customer that, “We only have nine left.”

“Nine?  That seems to be my number lately.  I'll take 'em all.”

Apologizing, the woman gave Jack ten percent off his total for the inconvenience of not having much to choose from.

“Thank you, Ma'am,” Jack responded politely before exiting the store.

Back in his truck, the colonel went directly to Daniel's apartment.  Using his key to go inside, he immediately put on the coffee, selecting his Love's favorite variety to kick start the day.

“Danny!” Jack called out, seeing a sloppy smile on the younger man's face.  “This isn't going to be easy.”

In fact, it took the colonel nine minutes to fully awaken his archaeologist.  It was the ninth kiss that finally did the trick in rousing the scientist.

With Daniel awake but not fully functioning, Jack left him the chocolate donut holes for a quick sugar infusion that was bound to help the younger man get going.  Then he got going himself, already hearing General Hammond's reprimand in his mind.

====

Seeing the second-in-command of Cheyenne Mountain walking into his office, Hammond looked at the clock and bristled, “Colonel, you're nine minutes late.”

“Sorry, Sir.  Traffic was murder,” Jack lied.  ~What is it with me and this nine stuff all of a sudden?~

“Sit,” Hammond ordered with a glare.

In fact, for almost a minute, the major general continued to stare scoldingly at the colonel.  It was one of those moments that reminded Jack of why the bald-headed man was in charge of the Mountain.  He sat quietly, except for one nervous clearing of his throat.

“SG-1 has a standard recon at 0130 hours that is anticipated to last no more than three hours.  Barring complications, and, Colonel, I would advise that there be none,” Hammond warned with a stern look, “I want your backlog of reports completed either by the beginning of your recon or by the end of this day.”

“Backlog ... Sir?” Jack asked with wide eyes that feigned innocence.  ~Me?  A backlog?  Now that's ... never mind.~

“Colonel, you have failed to submit your report for SG-1's last three missions, as well as your analysis of six missions combined from SG teams 2, 3, and 9.  That is a total of *nine* reports you owe this command.”

“Nine?” Jack echoed.  ~I could have sworn it was only four.~

“Nine complete reports, by the end of the day, Jack, even if that means your day ends when tomorrow begins.  Understood?” Hammond questioned, though there was no doubt that the question was an order.

“Understood, Sir,” Jack acknowledged, standing and then walking out,  repressing the urge to shudder at the idea of doing so much paperwork in just one day.

====

Walking down the long corridor on the twenty-third floor of the SGC, Jack was deep in thought, a serious expression on his face.

“Colonel!  Hey, Jack, hold up!” Lou Ferretti called out, smirking at his friend's lack of response.  Once Jack stopped and turned around, Lou asked, “Developing a new strategy for defeating the Goa'uld?”

“What?”

“Your expression, Colonel,” Lou explained, reverting to his friend's rank since other personnel were passing by.

“Oh, strategy, yes, Goa'uld no,” Jack answered.

“For our next hockey match?”

“You don't stand a chance, Ferretti,” the colonel teased as the two started to walk together down the corridor.

“So, spill!” the major requested.

“I don't have any milk,” Jack quipped, apparently unwilling to divulge his thoughts.

As the two friends and co-workers reached the elevator, Lou took out his wallet, opened it, and withdrew some dollar bills.

After he used his key card to call the elevator, Jack inquired, “What's that?” when he saw Lou offer him the money.

“I owe you, remember?”

“Ah, yes,” Jack recalled, taking the money and counting it.  “The bet about ...”

“Colonel, let's not go there,” Lou suggested as a Marine walked by, saluting Jack and getting a nod in return.  ~You'd think they'd learn by now he doesn't want to be saluted.~

“Good idea,” Jack agreed, though he frowned.  “Hey, pal, this is only nine dollars.  You owe me ten.”

“I need a buck for coffee,” Lou replied as the elevator doors opened.

Entering the traffic conveyer, Jack nodded at his friend and teased, “Traveling a little light?”

“Yeah, well, Carolyn ...” the major began somewhat seriously, referring to his wife who was battling an illness.

The doors were about to shut when Jack slammed it back with his hand and inquired, “How she's doing?”

“Hanging in there.  Hey, I've gotta go.  Catch ya later,” Lou spoke.

“Yeah,” Jack sighed, watching his friend walk away.  Slowly, he dropped his hand, backing away into the elevator.  As the doors closed, he stared at the money he still held in his other hand.  With a bob of his head, he slipped the money into his pocket.  ~Shouldn't have made the bet.  Lou can't afford to lose 'em.  I'll have to work on that.~

====

SG-1 walked into the briefing room within seconds of one another for their 0900 briefing regarding their mission that afternoon.

“So, where are we off to today?” Jack asked his second-in-command.

Sam turned off the lights and displayed the first slide in her presentation as she answered, “PR1-999.”

“Figures,” Jack responded, shaking his head.

“Sir?” Sam asked, confused by the comment.

“Nothing, Carter.  Go on with your ... whatever,” the colonel ordered, motioning with his hand for her to continue.

“Um, well, PR1-999 appears to be ....”

====

Still on the base early that evening, Jack was taking a few minutes to ingest his dinner.  He wasn't calling it eating since he didn't think what he was consuming could be counted as food.  He had stared at the protein choices being offered and determined that they must have a new cook.  He'd have to check into that because this was just not acceptable.

“Colonel!” Sergeant Walter Davis called out.

“Whatever it is, Sergeant, the answer is 'no'.  I'm up to my wazoo in reports,” Jack stated.

“No, Sir, but do you have your raffle ticket?”

“Raffle ticket?” Jack asked blankly.

“From the Cheyenne Mountain Day raffle last month,” Davis elaborated.  “Colonel, we've been trying to locate the winner for two weeks, but we lost the information on who bought the ticket.  Well, Sir, it's just ...”

“What?” Jack interjected, thinking he couldn't possibly be the winner.  ~Not the way my luck has gone today.~

“We've sent out four memos on the subject, and we've heard from just about everyone, but no one has had the winning ticket number.  Ah, knowing how you are with reading ...” Davis trailed off sheepishly.

Jack glared at the accusation which he knew was true and reached into his pocket to pull out his wallet.  He thumbed through some miscellaneous papers, finally locating the raffle ticket.

“What's the winning number?” the colonel asked.

“Nine,” Davis answered.

~You've *got* to be kidding me?~  Jack stared at Davis for a second and then at the ticket for several more.  Finally, he mumbled, “I should have read my memos.”  Handing the ticket to the sergeant, the colonel affirmed, “You've found your winner.  What did I win?”

====

“Danny, pack your bags,” Jack instructed as he walked into the living room of his lover's loft apartment later that night after having finally completed the nine reports Hammond had demanded.

“Huh?”

After a quick kiss, the colonel explained, “I won.  I would have preferred second prize, but we'll make the best of it.”

“Jack, what are you talking about?” Daniel asked, letting the novel he'd been reading drop to his lap.

“That raffle we had at the Mountain a few weeks ago -- I'm the winner!”

“You always are with me, Babe,” Daniel remarked, leaning over for another kiss.

“Geez, I love you.”

“I love you, too.  What did you win?”

Smiling, Jack answered, “A weekend getaway.”

“Great!  When?”

“Now.”  Seeing the archaeologist's surprised look, Jack explained, “They had trouble finding me.”

“Trouble finding you?” Daniel questioned incredulously.

“Some notion about reading ...”

“Memos?” the archaeologist completed for his Love.  “I saw them, Jack.  There were at least three.”

“Four, but who's counting,” Jack corrected, shrugging innocently.  “The bad news is the reservations can't be changed; it has to be now.  The good news is I finished all the reports, so Hammond's giving me the time, and you already have the weekend clear, so ... we're off!”

“You still haven't told me where,” Daniel pointed out as his curiosity mounted.

“Oregon, some place called The Resort at the Mountain,” Jack responded.

“Oh,” Daniel said, not having heard of the place.  “What part of Oregon?”

“It's near Mt. Hood.  Come on,” Jack encouraged, patting his lover's thigh as he stood up. “We have things to do.”

“Uh, Jack, the reservations ...”

“For two!  Let's go, Danny.”

====

“The bathroom is right here on the left,” the bellman advised as he carried in the luggage.

Jack shook his head as he realized what the room number was: twenty-nine.

The bellman walked forward into the main portion of the fireside suite and continued, “The kitchenette is fully equipped, as you can see.  Everyone loves the fireplace.  It makes this room one of my favorites.”

Jack nodded, walking forward.  The king-size bed was very inviting.  It sat between the kitchenette and the fireplace, which immediately brought to mind images of a cozy feast with his soulmate.

The bellman continued, “The balcony has a nice view.”  He unlocked the door, extending his arm outward.  Then he walked back into the main part of the room, going by the small table that sat by the glass balcony doors to the sofa.  “The sofa extends out, makes a pretty comfortable bed.  If you need help on that this evening, just give us a call.”

“I think we can handle it,” Jack smirked without letting on that they had no intention of utilizing the sofa as a bed.

“And, of course, the TV and desk.  All the information on the resort is here, too.  Would you like me to verify your tee-off time this afternoon?”

“Tee-off time?” Daniel queried, his eyebrows raising.

“Your weekend package gives you a priority.  Just call downstairs when you're ready.  The details are in here,” the man told the men, handing Jack a folder filled with information about his unique weekend package.

Jack handed the man five dollars and then made sure the door was closed.

“Tee-off time?” Daniel repeated, his eyebrows moving upward yet again.

“That's what the man said.  As he perused the information in the folder, Jack sat down at the edge of the bed.  With a cock of his head, he noted, “It seems we're at a golf resort, Love.”

“Golf?  I've never played golf in my life.”

“Me, neither.”

“Oh, that's, uh, great,” Daniel snarked, wondering how the two had missed that little piece of information.

“There's always a first time.”

====

That evening, the two amateur golfers walked into their room, both laughing at their antics.

“Gawd, Jack,” Daniel continued to laugh as he plopped down on the bed.  “I just about died when my ball whizzed by that guy and knocked off his toupee.”

“At least your clubs stayed in your hands.  I don't think it's normal for the golf club to beat the ball onto the green,” Jack mused as he sat down next to his lover.

“The pros thought we were nuts,” Daniel opined.

“They just have a good sense of humor,” Jack put forth.

“The worst part was not realizing it was a joke,” the archaeologist lamented while his lover laughed at the memory.

//Flashback//
Jack and Daniel were totally out of their element on the golf course.  Seeing this, one of the pros left his colleagues and stepped forward to offer assistance.

“Take my advice,” the pro told Daniel.  “Go inside the pro shop there and buy yourself a ball marker.”

“A ball marker?”

“Yeah.  Trust me.”

Not having any reason not to trust the man, Daniel went inside the pro shop and smiled at the salesman.

“Ah, how much for a ... a ball marker?”

“One dollar,” the man answered.

“One, please,” Daniel requested, handing over a dollar bill.

“Thank you,” the clerk responded, opening the register and then handing his customer a penny in return.

For a moment, Daniel just stood there, completely stunned.  He stared at the penny for a few seconds and then walked back outside to rejoin Jack and the golf pro.

“Did you get it?” Jack asked.

“Um, well ...”

“I want to make sure you got the right one,” the pro stated.  “Show it to me.”

Feeling a little confused, but not knowing any better, Daniel held up the bronze item.

Seeing it, the pro and his nearby colleagues all broke out into an immediate outpouring of laughter.

“I knew it,” Daniel sighed.  “It's a joke.”

“We improvise a lot,” the pro jested as he continued his fit of jocularity.
//End of Flashback//

“It was pretty funny, Danny,” a smiley-faced Jack commented.

“Not as funny as hitting your ball into the dining area,” Daniel countered with a smile.

“It ricocheted,” Jack rationalized.  “Who knew a golf ball could do that?” he mused about his ball on the eighteenth hole that had bounced off a tree, then rolled forcefully to an outdoor vending machine, hitting it hard enough that it bounced through an open window into the dining area.  “At least I got the last laugh.”

“Yeah, it was a good line,” Daniel agreed.

“You're right,” the amused colonel acknowledged as he recalled how he'd made his way into the dining room, feeling the eyes of the diners on him as he walked to the motionless ball at the center of the room.  Picking it up, he'd looked over at the pros standing in the doorway and asked, “So, what's the rule about playing through now?”

“Golf is not our thing,” Daniel surmised from this initial foray into the sport.

“Wasn't that couple a hoot, Danny?”

“Oh, gawd!” an embarrassed Daniel expressed, lying back on the bed and bringing his left hand to rub against his forehead.  “I thought I had killed them.”

“They were definitely good sports,” Jack chuckled as he leaned back, twisting over to rest on his side as he looked down at his lover.

“It was so embarrassing,” Daniel voiced in lamentation as he reflect upon the event.  He'd hit his ball, cutting it to the right.  As a result, it had gone so far off its path that it headed  onto another green.  The problem occurred when a golf cart in motion, apparently headed from the tee to the hole, appeared.  The archaeologist had feared his ball would hit whomever was driving it.  “But at least it missed them.”

“Alive and cooperative,” Jack mused about the couple, who had been laughing heartily even as the amateur golfers approached.  “That was a great shot, Love.”

“Yeah, had I been aiming to hit the top of their golf cart,” Daniel mocked, his fingers still massaging his forehead as he shook his head.  “You didn't help.”

“Danny, it was funny,” Jack claimed.  Then, mimicking the senior citizen driver of the white golf cart, he pretended to trace a bushy moustache and said in a Cockney accent, “Didn't have a lotta Donald there, me old china.  Looks like your ball's on our cart.  All went a bit Pete Tong, hey?  Well, it’s pretty Mork out here, Mate.  You can use that as an excuse.”

“Gawd,” Daniel expressed with regret, covering his face with both of his palms.  “And then you had to stand there and just stare at him and say what you said.  I can't believe you said that.”

“I couldn't believe you understood him, Danny.  There you were, saying 'Yeah, I guess', at this guy who'd just spoken a load of gibberish.”

“Cockney Rhyming Slang is a language all of its own, Jack, and I studied it a bit at college,” Daniel admitted as he thought about the conversation.  “All he said was that we didn't have a lot of luck, the ball was on his cart, and things had gone wrong.”

“*That's* what he said?” the colonel questioned.

“And that it was windy, and we could always use that as an excuse for being idiot golfers,” Daniel translated.

“He called us idiot golfers?”

“No, that was me,” the linguist admitted with a nervous chuckle.

“Can't argue with the truth,” Jack remarked as he cocked his head slightly.  “All I can say is that I didn't have a clue what he'd said, so I said the only thing that came to mind.”

Daniel slid his hands down only slightly, revealing his eyes as he looked at the older man and replied, “'I don't wear thongs',” was the only thing you could think of to say?  Geez, Jack,” he laughed, horrified at the memory.

Jack leaned forward, kissing the backs of his Heart's hands.  He pulled the hands back, one by one, to reveal the rest of Daniel's handsome face, which now sported a small smile.

“Did you have ... something in mind, Colonel?”

The older man grinned playfully before placing a tender kiss on the other man's lips.

“I'll assume that's a ... a 'yes',” Daniel commented, his blue eyes smiling even brighter than his lips.

“I was thinking ... this,” Jack suggested, placing another kiss on his lover's lips and then slipping his tongue inside Daniel's mouth.

The couple's passion quickly exploded into a loving fusion of their bodies, after which the satiated men fell into a happy sleep, their arms wrapped around each other as they did so.

====

“You know, I think my shoulder is sore,” Daniel remarked, reaching around with his left hand to rub behind his right shoulder as best as he could.

Jack and Daniel had been awake for about an hour.  It was still nighttime, and they had gotten up and taken a shower together.  Now, both wore just their pajama bottoms as they searched the kitchenette for something quick and easy to eat.

“Anything?” Jack questioned.

“I think, uh, it was our responsibility to stock the shelves, Babe,” Daniel lamented upon finding the cabinets empty.

Jack walked over to stand behind his lover, placing his hands around Daniel's waist.  He tilted his head slightly to place a series of loving kisses all around the other man's shoulder.

“Better?”

“Yes, much,” Daniel chuckled.  “Biofeedback.”

“What?” Jack asked in a half-laugh.

“Uh, sort of like mind over matter.  It's all psychological, the concept that kissing makes pain go away, or lessens it.  Biofeedback is essentially the process of learning to voluntarily control body functions that are normally assumed to be automatic, uh, to tell the pain to go away.  They actually use it a lot to treat asthma, migraines, diabetes, alcoholism, epilepsy ...”

“What are you talking about?” Jack queried, staring into his lover's eyes, not sure if he should be amused or frustrated by the current lecture.

“Kissing making it feel better,” Daniel answered with a smile.  “See, first, you have to locate the physical aspect.  In this case, my shoulder hurt.  Then, you use biofeedback, and that can be visual, auditory, or sensory.  How open our minds are determines the validity of the treatment.  Awareness can lead to control, like ... mind over matter.  A child falls, his mother kisses the hurt and says it will make the child feel better.  The child believes it.  One kiss later, the pain is gone.  There's no medical reason according to western beliefs, but it ... works,” the younger man communicated with a smile.  “The child essentially modified the response in his brain to create a different, more desired, output.  The pain was replaced with ... well, with love.”

“Daniel, why are you prattling about bioBack?” Jack questioned.

Daniel shook his head, chuckling as he corrected, “Biofeedback.”  He put his arms around his lover's neck and shared a quick kiss.  “The answer to your question is because you kissed my shoulder and now it feels much better.  When you touch me, Jack, I always feel better.  There's no logic to it.  There's nothing in the medical books to explain it, bu...but it's the truth.  My ... body is learning about the ... biofeedback of my lover.”

Jack grinned, feeling his temporary frustration leave his body.  His soulmate was relating science to their relationship.  Granted, it wasn't something he would have done, but Jack liked the connection, the concept that he was making the younger man feel better.

“I love you, Danny.”

“I love you, too,” Daniel responded as the two kissed.

“Come lay down, and I'll see if I can make sure that ache stays gone,” Jack suggested, leading Daniel over to the bed and beginning a gentle massage on the man's shoulder and back.

“Mmmm.  Feels ... sooooo, uh ... gawd, good,” Daniel sighed as contentment flowed through his body.  His eyes closed as he enjoyed the touch of his lover's fingers against his skin.  “Love that.”

Jack added a few kisses to his efforts, leaving Daniel happy and smiling.  Unfortunately, it also left the archaeologist sound asleep.  He glanced over at the clock and chuckled.  It was nine minutes after the hour.

~Of course.~

====

“No more golf,” Jack teased as the lovers dressed on Sunday morning.

“I'm not arguing,” Daniel chuckled.

“How about we just enjoy the fresh air?” Jack suggested.

“I like the sound of that,” Daniel agreed softly as he kissed his Love.

====

“It's so nice here,” Daniel opined, smiling when Jack took his hand.

The lovers always felt freer to show their love when outside of Colorado Springs and military environments; still, they were cognizant of young children and families.  At the moment, though, they were pretty much by themselves, with just a few adults wandering in their vicinity.

“Hey, Danny, look!” Jack exclaimed as they approached an open area.  There were people lounging beneath a canopy, while others were playing croquet.  “Let's play!”

“Croquet?”

“I love croquet.  Have you ever played?” Jack asked.

“Um ...”

“There's a first time for everything, Love,” the older man asserted with a smile.

“Yeah, golf, and that was yesterday,” Daniel replied.

The couple's croquet experience was totally unlike their golf round the day before.  Daniel quickly caught on to the sport as the two met and chatted with others while they played on, making their morning quite enjoyable.

====

Eager to enjoy lunch, Jack and Daniel went inside the Tartans Pub and Steakhouse.

“This is ...”

“... neat,” Jack completed for his lover.

“Please, take a seat anywhere here,” a hostess invited, pointing to the very comfortable armchairs and sofas.  “Take your time to review our menu, and let us know when you're ready to place your order.  Would you like a drink?”

“Sure, um, just whatever ale you'd recommend,” Daniel responded, smiling at the woman.

“Beer, for me, please,” Jack requested.  “Any will do.”

As the lovers took their seats, Daniel quoted Dean Aldrich:

“If all be true that I do think,
There are five reasons we should drink:
Good wine -– a friend –- or being dry –-
Or lest we should be by and by –-
Or any other reason why.”

Jack chuckled, “'Or any other reason why' -- works for me.”  He looked around, observing, “Nice.”

The roomy area was adorned with prints of the eight British Open golf courses and great views of the golf course, the Salmon River Valley, and the Mt. Hood National Forest.  It was airy and peaceful, giving visitors room to breathe and just enjoy living.

Jack and Daniel chatted until the hostess returned and took their order.

When the hostess next returned, she asked, “Gentlemen, would you prefer to eat in the Cellar Room or the Tartans Room?  The Cellar Room is more intimate, and you'd be surrounded by displays of some of the finest wines in the Northwest.  Our Tartans Room, on the other hand, is very light and features some great views of the golf course and forest.”

Jack and Daniel shared a momentary glance and then both answered in unison, “Cellar Room.”

“Follow me, please,” the cordial female invited, leading her guests to their table in the Cellar Room.

Sure enough, the small room was definitely more intimate.  At the moment, only three other couples were present and all had their own corners with plenty of privacy.  The lovers were pleased when the woman led them to the next most intimate area which would allow them to have the feeling of being alone.

“This is definitely ...” Daniel began.

“... nice,” both men agreed together as they held hands across the open table.

“You're beautiful, Danny,” Jack complimented softly.

While his first thoughts were to remind his lover that a man was not beautiful, Daniel smiled instead, unable to stop the inward glow the words had given him.

“And you're so ... gawd, you're sexy,” Daniel praised, his eyes alight with hunger unrelated to the food they were waiting for.

“If I am, it's only because you make me want to be, for you,” Jack responded in earnest.  “You're my prize.”

“Prize?” Daniel questioned.

“For living,” Jack answered.

“I don't know that I'm ...”

“You are, Danny.  You make the craziness we live through worth it,” Jack insisted softly.  “It's all for you.”

“Jack ...”

“Here you go, Sirs,” the woman interrupted, not batting an eyelash at the two male hands that remained clasped together.  She placed the food on the table, arranging it appropriately.  With a smile, she told her customers, “If you need anything, please don't hesitate to let me know.”

“Thank you,” Jack and Daniel spoke at the same time.

====

The lovers were again walking the large area the resort occupied, holding hands and just enjoying being together.

“Jack, did you see the information about ... fishing?”

Jack grinned.  He'd seen it the moment they'd arrived at the Oregon facility.  Obviously, he'd ignored it, knowing that fishing wasn't his soulmate's favorite activity.

“I hooked my fish,” Jack responded, glancing at his life partner and pulling him closer, letting his arm go around the younger man's waist.

Daniel grinned, putting his arm around Jack as the lovers continued their leisurely stroll.

====

“I almost wish we didn't have to leave,” Daniel lamented as he packed his suitcase.

“We got the latest checkout we could, Danny,” Jack acknowledged while packing his own luggage.  “Duty calls.”

“A cliché?” Daniel laughed.

“A slip of the tongue,” Jack quipped.

“That goes without saying,” Daniel teased.

“I'd say that's it, in a nutshell,” the older man retorted, trying not to laugh.

“As luck would have it, I agree.”

“Enough already,” Jack laughed, ending the cliché nonsense with a cliché.

Combined laughter led into a loving kiss between the two men.  They closed their suitcases, opting to carry them down to the lobby themselves.  Once there, the couple approached the bellman and requested a cab for the airport.

“It'll be about nine minutes,” the bellman responded.

Looking at his lover, Jack laughed, “That's okay.  Nine's my lucky number this week.”

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

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