Far and Near

Jack lay back, half in the fresh-cut grass, half in the shaggy tangle that had grown up while he was…oh, a long way away. The soft brush of the long blades tickled his ears and neck, cushioned him.

He looked up, which was why he'd lain down in the first place, after a casual upward glance had ensnared him, and was drowned, submerged in the blue.

Endless, limitless blue… but it wasn't really. He knew that. Not too far up and it thinned to black and the stars came out. Endless night, then.

He'd flown in it. In space. Out there.

It still left him breathlessly grateful, even now. Never expected -- not at his age -- never dreamed… Well. He'd dreamed.

Stepping through the Stargate was a thrill, sure, but sometimes it felt like cheating. A short cut he hadn't earned the right to use by going the long way first. The brief, intense buffet of the wormhole, twisting and shaking his body apart, had nothing on the chew and bite of air, pressing hard against the wings of his plane, howling by his ears as he fell, supplicant fingers locked around a ripcord.

Not a single cloud. Just sky blue blue sky, sun-lit, and the scent of the grass to anchor him, stop him falling up, floating away…

"Jack! My God, Jack!"

What the hell? Batting irritably at Daniel's fluttering, panicking fingers as they reached for him, he opened eyes which had unaccountably closed at some point, although the drenched blue had been painted on the inside of them, because even with Daniel's head blocking out the sky, he could still see it…Oh. Just Daniel's eyes. Which weren't sky-coloured. Just plain blue.

"Daniel. What can I do for you?"

"What can you --" Daniel rocked back on his heels, exasperation replacing concern. "I thought you'd had a stroke or something."

"Not that old, thank you."

"You don't have to be."

"I get checked out, Daniel. Weekly. You know that."

Daniel's lips pressed together and then parted to let the words fly out. "I came around the corner --"

"Thanks for knocking."

"Saw you lying there, flat on your back, mower just standing there, grass half-cut…" Daniel's face screwed up. "I thought you were dead."

Jack sighed. "I suppose," he conceded. "Next time, check my pulse. And save the kiss of life stuff for when you're really sure I'm dead; my yard's overlooked and Mrs. Barrington gossips."

"I didn't --"

"But you would have, right?" Jack squinted at him feeling indignation rise as he took in Daniel's wrinkled nose. "Hey, I'm dying, you can go for a lip-lock, right? You wouldn’t hold back?"

"No." Daniel pursed his lips. "Might gargle with mouthwash after. You had hot dog with onions for lunch, didn't you?"

Jack smiled, reassured, and patted the grass. "Lie down. Look up. Broaden your horizons."

Daniel cautiously eased over to his back and stared up obediently. Jack found the true blue again and gave a contented sigh. "Yeah…"

It took Daniel thirty seconds to clear his throat and murmur, "Jack? What am I supposed to be looking at exactly?"

"The stars, Daniel."

"Oh." Beat. "I know that they're there in a hypothetical sense --"

"Oh, they're there, you betcha."

"If I can't see them, then it's a moot point--"

"You're not looking right." Exasperated, Jack rolled to his side, facing Daniel, who'd turned his head. Their gazes locked. Game on. "You're a dirt-grubber. Head down, plodding and scratching, and never seeing beyond your nose. You've got to see deep to see the stars."

Daniel's eyes narrowed. "I see deep. I see centuries deep." His hand grabbed Jack's shoulder, tugging him face-down, so that he had to tuck his arms under him to get his face out of the grass. "You look."

Daniel flopped onto his stomach, his shirt brushing Jack's bare arm --flannel. It was 80 in the shade and Daniel was wearing flannel, for God's sake -- and became instantly absorbed in staring at root-bound earth.

Jack tried. Really did. He saw brown and green; too close to make sense of even after he'd blinked and refocused. He snuck in a sidelong look and found Daniel poking at the earth with a twig, scratching and scraping, mouth ajar, lost to him.

"What'cha doing, Daniel?" He resisted the kindergarten urge --Daniel brought it out in him, more than anyone in the known universe -- to joggle his arm.

"Digging. In the dirt. Ah…" Daniel smiled, triumphant and gleeful, and stroked a loving finger across something that didn't sparkle because it was filthy. "All yours. A lucky penny."

Jack accepted the dirt-encrusted lump with a grunt. "I'll retire. Buy a boat. Oh, wait. I'd have to invest this, then wait a century or three." He studied it. "Why is it lucky?"

Daniel gave him one of his 'I'm being serious, so listen hard' blinks that generally meant he was laughing inside, usually at Jack. "It was buried. Buried items tend to work their way up to the surface --"

"Not sink?"

"Sometimes they sink," Daniel allowed.

"Covering all your bases." Jack gave him a sour smile. "Nice one."

"And if it had surfaced, well, one day you'd have been cutting the grass and boom!" Daniel threw a handful of clippings up to illustrate his point and then sneezed and didn't stop until Jack had hauled him to his feet.

"Bless you."

Daniel sniffed comprehensively. "Yeah. Thanks."

"Come inside and I'll get you a drink. The grass can wait."

"If you're sure…"

They reached the door and Jack turned his head to give the sky a last look. "Like blue best," he muttered, turning to meet Daniel's eyes.

"Really? I like brown," Daniel said.

And blinked.

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