Maternal Instinct / Crystal Skull
Jack exited the back door to his house and as he descended the stairs, he winced from the pain in his knees. He should’ve put the medicine patches on them but he’d been in too much of a hurry to find out what Daniel was doing in his backyard. He pulled at the crotch of his jeans and debated whether to turn around and change into the baggy khakis. Dismissing the inner argument, he padded barefoot onto the grass. Daniel was near the far corner of the house, dressed in cutoffs and an Air Force tee—which made Jack grin because Daniel hated government-issue anything—and was digging in the fresh earth with a trowel.
The man’s back was to him and the cutoff jeans hugged his ass rather well. It was pleasantly distracting. After Jack was no more than three feet away, he asked, “Whatcha doin’?”
Jack’s voice startled Daniel and he spun on his knees. The trowel in his hand flung the dirt on it over Jack’s jeans at the crotch. Daniel resisted the urge to spit out a new cliché. “What’s it look like? And don’t sneak up on me.”
“I wasn’t sneaking,” Jack objected. Not very convincingly.
“My back was turned. You made no sound until you were a yard away. What would you call it?”
Jack fidgeted and unnecessarily wiped his hands on his hips. “Right. Well. Again, what’re you doing? I thought you were busy spring cleaning the apartment.”
Daniel gestured at a couple of nursery boxes. “I told you I’d put in the tulips, daffodils, and pansies after the equinox. So here I am.”
“So I see. But you said you needed time at home. Spring cleaning was your excuse, yet you’re here. So what gives? You gave me the very clear impression that you wanted alone time.”
Daniel sighed and turned enough to plant his butt on the grass, knees raised and feet flat on the ground. He looked up at Jack and frowned. “Sit down. You’re making me feel loomed over.”
Jack cracked a crooked smile. “I’m pretty much standing over you. I think that’s the textbook definition of ‘loomed over.’ Point?”
“Sit the eff down?” Daniel offered as he stabbed at the grass with the pointy end of the trowel.
“Only if you stop using that as a weapon.”
Jack eyed him with a mock scowl and shook his head. “Can’t.” He gestured at the overcast sky. “Knees are telling me it’s gonna rain. I’m not aggravating them by sitting on the ground.”
“Jeez,” Daniel said as he twisted at the waist while pushing off the ground with his hands. He winced.
Jack caught it. “Your knees?”
Daniel shook his head. “Headache.”
“You take your allergy meds?” Jack asked, stifling a grin.
Daniel blinked a few times as he stared at Jack, then he rolled his eyes. “No.” He looked up at the sky, then bent and grabbed a sack of soil. “Might as well put this back in the shed. Wait for the sun to return.”
Jack followed Daniel—mostly to admire his ass in the cutoff shorts—and after Daniel returned the items and closed the shed door, Jack touched his shoulder and pulled him around. “Hey.” Daniel looked into his eyes and sighed. “What’s up with you?”
Daniel shook his head. He turned away and headed for his car. Jack watched him retrieve his wallet and remove a packet of pills. “Water,” Daniel said.
Jack tilted his head at the front door and they went inside and into the kitchen. Jack opened the fridge and removed a bottle of water, handing it to Daniel. The man downed two pills as he leaned against the countertop edge.
“Out with it,” Jack said, putting a gentle emphasis in his tone. He leaned against the counter next to him and crossed his arms.
Daniel set the bottle on the counter and crossed his own arms. He stared at the floor. “I’m embarrassed.”
Jack stared at it too. “Kheb, huh?”
Daniel shrugged. “Duh.”
“Well,” Jack began, making a face. “You did kinda go a little too When In Rome.”
“Well duh. It’s who I am. I try to understand a place, not just throw my demanding weight around.”
Jack rolled his eyes. “Kinda our mission statement, like it or not.”
“I know,” Daniel sighed. He briefly, bared, bumped a shoulder against Jack’s. “Sorry.”
“No, I get it. Beautiful temple houses, lovely gardens. I didn’t stop to smell the alien roses. But c’mon. Given what had been around us—you know, crispy Jaffa, dead woman, et cetera—it was kinda the needed reaction to getting answers. Proved to be right, you know?”
“I know,” Daniel repeated. “And I kinda agree with you. But that place was just . . . amazing. I wanted to learn.”
Jack sighed as he said, “Yeah, I know.” He paused, then added, “No need to be embarrassed. You did what you did because that’s who you are. You stop to smell the alien roses. I don’t, unless it’s in our mission interest to do so.”
Daniel turned his head to look at him. “I don’t understand why we’re together. We’re opposites.” He suddenly smirked.
“I’m not saying it,” Jack said in a mock-growl, then his features smoothed out. “Screw it. Cliché time. We are what we are. Because it is what it is.” Daniel smiled and stared at the floor. “So, stop analyzing. C’mere.” He pulled Daniel into a hug. “Now, let’s go do something we’re both Sympatico on.”
Daniel buried his face in his neck and breathed in deeply. “Couldn’t agree more.”
Jack tried to focus his attention on the book he was reading. It was a bit difficult, given the headache that had returned. His achy head went through periods of pain like the moon cycles, waxing and waning, only a lot faster. The muon radiation’s effects had disappeared, but after returning from that damn planet, the crap had recurred despite their so-called protection from that pink skull. He wasn’t alone, either.
Carter was to his left, Daniel to his right. Daniel’s poisoning had been delayed, thanks to that phase shift he’d been drawn into, but there he was. Lying there. Earbuds in his ears. Listening to, of all damn things, rain sounds. AKA pink noise. It drove Jack nuts so he’d declined that form of therapy. Carter liked ocean sounds, AKA brown noise. White noise was shit like air conditioners. Black noise was silence.
Color noises. Fraiser’s idea. It helped regulate brain waves to induce better sleep patterns while they recovered. Jack had no problems sleeping. So what if he didn’t sleep long or snored like Godzilla? Soon that would go away and he’d return to sleeping through the night and snoring only a little. Probably. One of these days, he might just find that sleep devices would come in handy when he was . . .
Daniel looked over at Jack. He’d fallen asleep. Finally. He caught sight of Janet as she entered their ward and put a finger to his lips the minute he’d caught her eye. He pointed at Jack.
“How long?” she mouthed.
Daniel held up all fingers and mouthed, “Minutes.”
She pointed at his earbuds. “Work?”
He nodded. She patted his bed and moved to check on Sam, who was also sleeping with earbuds. The experiment with color noise had been a brilliant idea. Daniel closed his eyes. Too bad they didn’t work on Teal’c. He hoped Nick was okay. Soon things would be back to normal. And maybe he and Jack could find some alone time. Pity that Jack hadn’t been with him during that first phase shift. They could’ve experimented with a little exhibitionism while . . . doing . . . the . . .