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Posted August 23, 2009
Series: Eureka Moments
Title: Beneath the Milky Twilight
Author: Jedi Buttercup
Disclaimer: The words are mine; the world is not. I claim nothing but the plot.
Summary: He wasn't about to get caught up in a competition over another bright, beautiful woman. 1000 words.
Spoilers: Eureka post-3.15 "Shower the People"
Notes: This episode, augh! I had to continue the Jack/Tess from last week's; but I'll also have to go back and do another tag. Poor Henry. Title for this is from that Sixpence None the Richer song.
"So, what's the deal with Dr. Manly?" Jack drawled, glancing down at the woman at his side.
Tess tore her gaze away from the asteroid event long enough to look up at him and roll her eyes. "Slip of the tongue," she replied, with an amused, half-embarrassed little smile.
"Uh huh," he said, grinning at her. "C'mon. No awkward tales of T.A. crushes? I did go to college too, you know. Granted, it was mostly night classes, and certainly not grad school, but I remember what it was like."
She chuckled a little, tucked up against him. There wasn't any of that almost-a-date-but-not-quite maintaining of space going on like there had been the other evening-- and though Jack wouldn't lie and say his nerves weren't still swooping around like his stomach had been while hooked up to Allison's baby monitor, he was kind of enjoying it. More than kind of: the mess of petty jealousy and displaced desire that had tangled him up during the early stages of the syn-water crisis felt like it had happened ages ago. Something to shake his head about now-- and tease.
"Okay, you got me," she said. "Ally and I weren't exactly part of the popular crowd back then. We didn't spend a lot of time on style and makeup; we were too busy proving we could be serious scientists. It's better now than it used to be, but some of the male professors-- we had to be twice as impressive as the guys in our classes just to break even. Bruce wasn't like that; he took us seriously, and he was good-looking, too-- which is a lot rarer in the scientific world in general than you'd think from looking around Eureka."
Jack snorted at that; it was true, even the scruffiest scientists in town weren't exactly hideous. Maybe it was all the personal-use technology available to the G.D. employees? It really shortcut the morning getting-ready process, even for him.
"So I had a crush on him," Tess continued, shrugging. "So it was kind of an ego boost for him to show up here and look at me like that, like he finds me attractive. But it was never going to go anywhere then, and it isn't now." She tipped her head up again, smiling more sweetly. "You saved me first."
"My favorite rescue so far," he said warmly, then winced. "Except for the part where you were still choking, and everything. That sucked."
"Maybe you should try that CPR thing again, just to make sure it stuck?" she teased, raising her eyebrows and leaning up a little.
"I thought we established that that wasn't CPR," he teased back, moving just out of reach and grinning at her.
"I don't think we ever actually reached a conclusion," she replied, breathlessly.
He titled his head a little, thoughtfully. "Okay, point," he said, and gave in.
"Mmmm, going to miss your asteroid thing," he said a few minutes later.
"Like you're missing your birthing thing with Allison?" she replied lightly, ducking her head a little to rest it against his shoulder. She felt a little tense pressed up against him, nervous maybe, which surprised him-- until she continued. "I, um. I thought you were just blowing me off, at first."
Jack swallowed. He kind of had been, actually; a petty reaction to the little reunion he'd witnessed in the lobby, and it had been easier to take refuge in his lingering attachment to Allison than to take the chance of putting his heart out there further. The sympathetic pregnancy symptoms he'd begun experiencing thanks to the baby monitor had just amplified that-- made him feel connected in a less risky way. He wasn't about to get caught up in a competition over another bright, beautiful woman, not when he could only come out the loser in the end. Even if it was on a non-romantic footing, he no longer had to worry about that with Allison-- a thought that made him feel guilty and a little appalled at himself, but was nonetheless true.
The dramatic, manly way Dr. Manlius had lifted Tess out of the nutrient bath after the procedure finished expelling the synthetic water from her lungs hadn't helped his feelings on that score, even after everything else had been resolved. Jack wasn't sure if he'd have asked her out again if it hadn't been for Allison's nudge-- but he was glad now that he had.
"Call it an attack of nerves," he said. "I haven't exactly done this dating thing in a long time, not seriously. I kept worrying that I was reading you wrong."
She relaxed at that, idly fiddling with the placket of his shirt. "You shouldn't have. If there's one thing I've learned about you in the few weeks I've been in this town, it's that you're a genius at reading people and solving problems. For a town populated by scientists named after an exclamation of triumph at making a dramatic discovery, it's kind of amazing that the sheriff is the one whose intuition is off the charts. You belong here, just as much as any of the rest of us."
"Aw, I'm not that special," he replied, feeling touched.
"Yeah, you kind of are," she said, and kissed him again.
Part of the reason he kept staying in this crazy, life-threatening town was the fact that, no matter how cranky they could get in pursuit of their mad scientist goals the rest of the time, when push came to shove they wanted him there. He felt more appreciated here than he had in any other community or job his entire life.
And that Tess was saying it now? Warmed him inside, even more than she had already. Maybe that kiss had been CPR; waking his heart up again.
He just wished everyone else could have that feeling, too. He spared a regretful thought for Henry's grief, and Allison's, then tucked Tess closer as they gazed back up at the stars.
© 2009 Jedi Buttercup.