Cover artwork for Driving me crazy by Nicci
Absolutely fab cover by Nicci [www]
Driving Me Crazy

Pairing: Jack O'Neill/Daniel Jackson
 
Category: Alternate Universe - Canon Divergence, Alternat Universe, First Time, Post, Post Season 7, Episode: s08e01 New Order (1)
 
Rating: R
 
Summary: In the days after Jack's return to wakefulness, he contemplates his new assignment. Daniel offers time to think and they go on a little trip in more than one sense.
 
Notes: Thanks to Nicci for the cheering on and Snowdrop for the beta. To the heartsisters for their seal of approval. All of you, I'd be stuck between a rock and a hard place if it weren't for you
 
A strange and odd bunny that bit and didn't want to let go. Slower than what I normally cook up, but according to Nicci it's entertaining enough *g*

SUNDAY

Jack took another look out of from behind the curtains and sighed. What a way to spend his downtime. He still had no idea why he had not simply gone to the cabin to get away, but with the reporters currently parked outside his door it no longer seemed a viable option.

He could of course try some kind of diversion but somehow he lacked the energy and the heart to really do it. No one knew exactly what had happened over the Antarctic, but somehow someone had leaked the information that he was somehow involved *and* that he was getting promoted.

One week.

One week and he would have to give up going through the 'gate with *his* team. Technically speaking, it was now Carter's team. Could they have a better CO? Jack sighed again. Outwardly he seemed very sure of it, but he still had a few doubts.

Heck, he had doubts about his own future place, as head of the SGC. Somehow that was one thing he had never envied Hammond.

He would miss the action, would miss being at the heart of it.

'Give it up, Jack. Old guy, old pal, you won't last forever and your body is giving you that proof each and every morning you get out of bed.'

The chirp-chirp of his cell phone pulled him back to the real world. Walking into the kitchen he checked the caller ID and smiled.

"Daniel," he said pleasantly a moment after he had picked up.

A low chuckle greeted him. - Going stir-crazy yet, Jack?

"Nah, but I'm getting there," Jack admitted as he pulled a beer out of the fridge. The last one. Damn. "What'cha up to?" he asked as he uncapped it.

- I... was considering a little trip... of the out of town kind.

Jack paused, the opening of the bottle resting against his lips. "You fishing for company, Dr. Jackson?"

Daniel's smile was more than evident in the voice. - Would you say yes?

Jack leaned back against the closed fridge door. "I'd love to Daniel. But I'm afraid it won't be that easy to get out of here."

- I know. The reporters outside your door are hard to miss.

"You noticed, huh?" Jack asked with a wry grin.

- I drove by two hours ago, Daniel admitted.

Somehow that confession warmed Jack more than anything else. "I just don't see how we're gonna pull this off." Damn, he would not have had any qualms about spending a little R&R with Daniel.

- Think you can get to the base's parking lot in two hours? Daniel asked.

"I should have known you'd already have a plan," Jack snorted. He pursed his lips for a moment. "Shoot."

- Just pack enough clothes for a week or so, something to drink and if you've got more of that chili in the fridge, bring it too.

"Where are we going?" Jack asked, frowning. He had known Daniel for years, but this did not seem like his normal method of operation.

- We're... just going. We get in the car and drive.

The cryptic answer was all Jack got and basically, it was all he needed. He *was* going stir-crazy and he might be capable of losing the reporters if he slipped into the base, or at least the base's parking lot. Speaking of parking lots... "The parking lot farthest from the main gate?" he asked.

- Yeah. Two hours, Jack.

"I'll be there," Jack agreed, smiling as he heard the *bli-ip* as Daniel hung up. Closing his own connection Jack set about gathering what he figured he might need for the trip. Daniel had been less than forthcoming on their destination.

Did it matter? No. Jack's smile widened as he realized that he gave less than a rat's ass about their destination, not with the company he had been promised.

Less than an hour later he had his bag packed, food was in the cooler and he had put some extra stuff from the fridge in there as well. If they were gone for most of the week, he would be coming home to some new and less than inspiring species in his fridge anyway, so he and Daniel might as well eat well.

Sighing deeply he locked up the house and met the stubborn group of reporters who had been camping out right outside his home. Ignoring their questions and their presence he put bag and cooler into his truck, whistling lightly. No way was he going to let these people ruin his day now.

A recorder was thrust so close to his face he had trouble focusing on it.

"Colonel O'Neill, rumor has it that you were involved in the encounter over the Antarctic," the redheaded male reporter stated in a steady voice.

Jack rolled his eyes. "And what encounter would that be?" he asked as he pushed his way to the driver's side of the truck.

"Cat's out of the bag, O'Neill. Why not just give us the down and dirty?" The question came from another reporter, nearly bowling over the guy who had addressed Jack in the first place.

"What do you want me to say?" Jack asked pleasantly, pushing the door open and forcing the reporters back a little. "That there was a so called... encounter of the 3rd kind?" Jack grinned. "If there were any little green men involved I didn't see any of them. Heck, I wasn't involved in whatever you think it was... Anyway, I suggest you ask the president at Wednesday's press conference what happened."

Sure, they had tried to cover it all up, but somehow losing so many lives and the huge fireworks from the battle, well, it was in itself a losing battle. The public would know, no later than three days from the present.

"Seriously, O'Neill, are you telling the public that nothing happened and that you did not participate in an intergalactic war?" The question came from slightly behind Jack and he did not even turn around.

"I can assure you that I remember no little green men." Strictly speaking he was telling the truth. If they had been there, the Asgard would have been grey and besides, Jack remembered next to nothing about the battle. His mind had shut itself down and most days he was happy that he remembered nothing. His memory had chosen to completely bail on him.

Until the nightmares came, the visions of thousands of Jaffa dying because they had followed Anubis and even worse, the human lives that he had had to wind his way around and yet many had been destroyed by the Goa'uld attack. He remembered nothing. He had to keep that his mantra or his intangible dreams would drive him stark raving mad.

Plastering on a fake grin, he elbowed his way into the truck and rudely slammed the door, watching a couple of reporters quickly pulling their hands back in fear of getting them caught in the door.

Some days he would take his fun where he could.

Another mantra-like thought filled his mind as his fake smile disappeared, replaced by a sincere one -- one name was all it took. It would be pure therapy to spend a week with Daniel. Who cared where they were going -- they had gone across the galaxy on a regular basis, what was a little road trip compared to that?


With a grin, Jack watched the reporters facing the one obstacle they could not get past. Jack had thought about giving them a merry chase, but figured he would let the guards at the main gate to Cheyenne mountain do the honor.

Checking with the guards he let them know that he was just there for a short visit. He still had no idea what Daniel was up to, but he would just go with the flow.

Jack nearly forgot to hit the brake when he finally did spot Daniel. Not that it was hard, there were no other people currently in the parking lot, but damn... Sure, Daniel had talked about finally getting a new car instead of the one he had borrowed at the SGC. But *seriously*.

Daniel's grin was wide and sincere as Jack finally managed to park and get out. "Like what you see?" he asked.

Jack bit his tongue before he actually went and embarrassed himself. "Daniel... a convertible?" Jack considered concentrating on the vehicle rather than the man dressed in soft jeans and a simple white t-shirt a little safer.

Proudly waving at the car he had been leaning against, Daniel held the truck door while Jack dug his own bag and the cooler out. "I had more money than I'd expected when I got ...'back' and I figured I might as well spoil myself a bit."

"You can say that again," Jack muttered as he put his bag next to Daniel's in the backseat of the silver Chrysler. Holding up the cooler he raised an eyebrow. Daniel grinned, reached inside the car and popped the trunk. "Just put it next to mine," Daniel said as he got into the car.

"Daniel... a *convertible*," Jack exclaimed as he slid into the seat next to Daniel, trying to ignore just how much the seat seemed to mold to his back, welcoming him in much like the car's owner.

"Comfy, huh?" Daniel teased with a soft smile. "Well? Buckle up, we're leaving via the other gate."

Jack laughed. "You don't think there'll be reporters there?"

"If there are," Daniel answered with a raised eyebrow. "Then they're in for quite a chase."

Jack shook his head. There was a certain something... a little different about Daniel. The smile seemed to come easier today than it had for ages and there was some trace of... recklessness was not the right word, but Jack had no other way of describing it. Freer, perhaps, as if he had come to terms with something that had been holding him back since his return from glowy-land.

Sure enough, they had hardly left the gate before Jack noticed the two cars following them. Much to his surprise, Daniel sped up and it did not take him long to lose them once the road evened out and allowed his fast driving. For a few moments Jack was worried. He preferred being behind the wheel, but Daniel was in perfect control and the long muscular body seemed at ease and the contented look on Daniel face was worth anything in the world, even letting him take control.

Jack watched as the dots that had been the other cars became indiscernible in the rearview mirror.

"Want to tell me what this is all about?" Jack finally asked.

"Not... yet," Daniel admitted as he took his clip-on sunglasses from the dashboard and snapped them on one-handedly with long earned practice. "Bear with me for a little?"

"Sure," Jack agreed readily. He was out and about, the air was warm and fresh and the wind tugged at his hair and clothes. Maybe the convertible was a good idea after all. Not that he was telling Daniel that, not just yet. Pulling his own sunglasses out from his breast pocket, Jack put them on and leaned back, enjoying the freedom and the fresh spring air. "So what do we do now?" he asked.

"Drive."

Jack raised an eyebrow but refrained from asking again. He had a feeling Daniel would let him know in time so for now he should just let go and enjoy it all.


Familiar roads gave way to longer stretches of less known territory. Daniel was quiet, eyes on the horizon and Jack felt no urge to break their easy silence. Instead his mind began tossing thoughts back and forth.

At home he tended to lose himself in the garden or something equally mindless to keep the invading thoughts at bay. Now, sitting in the car next to his friend, he could do little more than let it all wash over him. Still, he had known all along that he would eventually have to face it all and if anything, he felt he could do so in the present company.

Just let go.

Leaning his head back, Jack closed his eyes. The wind played merrily with his hair and shirt and the noise of the wind created a box around him, around the both of them - their own little, silver encased world.

Jack scrunched his eyes shut, seeing the flashes of the alien weapon in the dark behind his lids. There was no memory of sentient thoughts from the time, just disconnected flashes of images and emotional turmoil, the screams and the sense of fear...

Tightening his fist on his thigh, Jack tried to calm his breathing. A hand moved from the transmission to close over his and oddly enough, calm returned and Jack took a deep cleansing breath. It did not dispel the images, but it kept them at bay and for a little while he had room to live and breathe freely.

The hand slipped away and as Jack unclenched his fist, he thought he could feel the residual heat slowly receding, leaving behind a tingling, warm feeling that seemed to lazily wind its way through his body.


"So... just the two of us?" Jack asked as he watched Daniel fill up the car at a gas station out in the middle of nowhere.

"Just the two of us," Daniel agreed lightly, eyeing Jack over the top of his glasses. An expressive eyebrow was lifted and Jack smiled.

"Fine by me," he said lightly. As much as he loved his team, his kids, Daniel seemed to be the only one he could really relax with. Teal'c was his brother in arms and for all the Earthly understanding and adaptation the Jaffa had undergone over the years, they were still from two widely different cultures.

Carter? No... and Jack knew perfectly well that he had a few loose ends he needed to tie up... Especially now that he was no longer just a team leader, but had to think broader.

'Fool that I am, I thought her finding Pete would solve it for us... for me... God, my yellow streak is a mile wide.'

"I'm gonna head in and pay for the gas," Daniel said lightly and motioned toward the small store.

Jack nodded and moved to the car door again, getting in and leaning back in the seat.

'What I love about Daniel is that he gives me company, but enough room to think.'

Samantha Carter. Now there was a can of worms he should never have opened. He was a fool to have gone along with her infatuation. Flattered, sure, he had been flattered. Basking in her hero-worship, sure, but the woman had some serious daddy issues that never failed to make him cringe.

'She'll never call you anything but sir or Colonel... well, General now...' the voice in his mind once again chided him. Damn, but he could not figure out why the voice was so familiar. Jack scrunched his eyes shut, the glaring sunlight was suddenly too much to take. Jack snorted. Right, as if he did not know that his dear consciousness had taken on Daniel's voice and attitude years ago.

But yeah. Apart from the fact that he would always be her superior officer, probably even when he eventually retired. They would never manage to act as equals.

Unlike him and Daniel.

Did he find Carter attractive? Jack turned his head and watched a car passing the gas station. Probably normal people who had no idea that they were not alone in the universe...

Yes, he found Carter attractive. He was a living, breathing human being, right? Even if a second encounter with an Ancient repository sometimes in the deepest, darkest parts of his mind, spawned a scary feeling of doubt.

Jack closed his eyes. No, it was safe to say after all these years that he had no desire for the woman. Did he love her? Hell yeah. He loved his team for the family he did not have. He had never felt as close to his parents or Sara as he did with these three.

'It won't be easy to send them into battle.'

Jack sighed. No, but being the one to make those decisions was never going to be easy. At least the trust he needed in his teams was there with most of them. The trust born from necessity and, with some of the personnel, working together for years. It helped that SG-1 had earned the respect of most of them ages ago. You had to trust the people who watched your back.

The car door on the driver's side was opened and Jack didn't have to open his eyes to know that Daniel was back. He was so used to that presence, the scent of Daniel's aftershave...

Taking a deep breath and slowly opening his eyes, Jack watched as a bottle of beer appeared in front of him and could not keep himself from grinning. The bottle sparkled with condensation. Daniel had obviously stocked up while paying for the gas.

Daniel's only answer to Jack's mumbled 'Thank you,' was a low chuckle as he fired up the engine and pulled out from the gas station, back into the dark road, snaking its way through the landscape.


Jack speared another piece of pancake as he enjoyed their late lunch.

"Stocking up on the calories?" Daniel asked as he sipped his coffee, blue eyes sparkling above the rim of the cup.

Jack grinned at him. "Look who's talking -- you've finished off your share."

Daniel snorted, put down his coffee cup and before Jack could stop him, he had grabbed his own fork and stolen a chunk of Jack's pancake stash.

"Hey," Jack grumbled indignantly, but he really did not mind it at all. It was nice to feel so at ease with someone, no expectations, no specific time table to uphold... Just letting go seemed to have been one damned good idea, even if it could only be for a week.

"Have I thanked you for this yet?" Jack asked, motioning for the open road outside the greasy diner.

"No need for thanks, Jack," Daniel rumbled good naturedly as he picked the coffee cup up again.

For a little while they simply sat there, enjoying surprisingly good coffee and talking about nothing specific, nothing serious... And if asked, Jack was unsure he could think of a time he had been more contented, more at ease.

When they finally went back outside, Jack leaned against the car. He really could not fault Daniel for his taste in vehicle. It may not be a truck, but it was damned comfortable.

"Want me to drive for a bit?" he offered.

Daniel shook his head. "Just get in, Jack. Sit back and enjoy the ride."

Jack hid a smile as he did as he was told. Yeah, he was definitely enjoying this so far. So much, that he was not going to make any lewd comments about Daniel's choice of words. At least not yet.

The road disappeared under the front of the car and Jack once again lost himself in thoughts of the past and what would be happening after this week. A General. He was actually getting promoted and he was taking over the SGC. Dr. Weir had been remarkably happy to hand it all over to him. He could not really fault her. Getting a project like the SGC rammed down the throat was definitely not for everyone.

He knew exactly how she felt. Boy, did he wish they could have Hammond back.

Maybe he should turn the promotion down? He had yet to sign the final papers, to completely agree to take the SGC...

Sunset came faster than he had expected and Jack raised an eyebrow as Daniel pulled out unto the side of the road, turning the car off.

Daniel motioned outside and as Jack got out, he watched as Daniel rummaged through his own cooler in the back of the car. Walking around to the front of the car, Jack leaned back against the hood, stretching his arms above his head. He was not as stiff as he had expected to be after half a day in a car. He shivered as the cool evening air brushed up under his shirt as it gaped with his stretch.

Daniel joined him. Sliding back a bit, Daniel sat on the hood of the car, patting the warm metal next to him. "It's a sturdy car," he said as he lazily watched Jack.

With a smile, Jack slid back to sit next to Daniel. He watched as the colors of the sunset burst across the sky, looking as if someone had gone a little overboard on the orange, yellow and red nuances. It was beautiful.

"Breathtaking, huh?" Daniel muttered as he pulled the cap off the beer he had brought with him. Wrapping his lips around the top of the bottle he took a sip, then handed it over to Jack.

Jack watched Daniel watching the sunset, the brilliant colors painting their own work of art over his friend's features, mirroring in the glasses he was wearing.

Jack hid his smile with the bottle and took a good swig before turning it over to Daniel again. "Oh yeah," he agreed as he turned his head toward the colorful sky. "Absolutely breathtaking."


"So, do we sleep in the car or...?" Jack gestured outside where the brightly colored sky had long since gone dark and dusk had settled over the land. It was not that late yet, but he wondered if Daniel had any plans regarding sleeping arrangements.

"I figure we keep going for a little while," Daniel answered, eyes still on the dark road outside. "There's bound to be a motel here somewhere."

An hour later they hit the outskirts of a small town and as Daniel had predicted there was a motel. As Jack made to get out, Daniel put his hand on Jack's arm, shaking his head.

"I'll go get us a room," he offered and Jack knew that voice. Low, in charge and it never failed to wrap Jack in a strange calmness.

With a yawn, Jack undid the seatbelt, but stayed seated. He was more tired than he had thought and the idea of a shower and nice bed sounded perfect to him.

'Why is Daniel doing this?'

Daniel would have his own reasons, but Jack knew that whatever they were, he could go along with them, no trouble at all. Through the years he had learned that the kind of respect they had for each other was a rarity. And one that Jack treasured above all else.

He may not always have shown it and there had been a time where he had tried to push Daniel away -- partly for the man's own best, but mostly because Jack feared he might eventually hurt Daniel. Well, he had managed just fine with that by actually alienating Daniel.

The thing that really bothered him about that was that he had been given little time to rectify his stupid behavior. Jack scrunched his eyes shut. Now was not the moment he wanted to think about all those months without Daniel's presence at his side, without Daniel's presence in his *life*.

Jack was pulled from his contemplations and unwanted memories as Daniel slipped back into the car. Pulling the car out of the parking spot he slowly drove down along the uniform looking doors that were only marked by numbers barely visible in the artificial lights.

Daniel parked in front of number 18.

"Ready to hit the sack?" Daniel asked as he slid out of the car.

Jack yawned again. "Yeah. A shower and some shuteye sounds good."

"Want dinner?" Daniel asked as he popped the trunk to get his own bag.

"Let's bring the coolers and see what we can put together?" Jack suggested as he pulled his own bag out.

Daniel nodded and took the coolers out as well before slipping into the seat again, throwing a switch that activated the top of the car and a moment later the convertible was covered.

"They said it might rain tonight," Daniel said with a shrug as he locked the car. Throwing his bag over a shoulder he tossed Jack the keys before grabbing both coolers. "Let's see what we're in for."

Jack grinned as he unlocked the door. As motels went it was not bad. Maybe not a four star hotel, but it looked and smelled clean and there were two nice beds lining one wall, a TV set taking up space at the opposite wall.


Jack lay back on the bed, hands behind his head. The TV droned on and the low speaker voice mixed with the sound of the shower.

Shivering, Jack wiped at the droplets still clinging to his chest hair. They still had to eat dinner, but with the late lunch they had had, the silent agreement had been to shower first.

Jack fiddled with the drawstring on his sweat pants. It was just the two of them so dressing up for dinner really was not part of the plan, meaning Jack had simply slipped into his old worn sweat pants.

The sound of running water ceased and Jack waited for Daniel to join him. He lost himself in staring at an indent in the ceiling, wondering what might have made it.

"So... dinner?"

Daniel's soft question tore Jack from his ponderings and turning his head Jack smiled up at his friend. Daniel was standing between their two beds, skin still damp from the shower, a towel wrapped around his waist and his hair standing up in tufts.

For a moment neither said anything then Jack managed to nod. "Yeah, let's see what we can put together."

Daniel nodded and put both coolers on Jack's bed. "Dig in -- I'm just gonna find a pair of sweats." Daniel rummaged through his bag on his own bed, pulling out a pair of grey drawstrings.

The towel was whipped off and Jack paused with the lid half off one cooler. In the old days, in the showers at the base, Daniel had rarely seemed comfortable with being naked, but here? There was no awkwardness and no embarrassed flush to his face. There was little left of the old Daniel, at least physically. Broader shoulders, muscular arms and a healthy tan.

Jack wondered idly when Daniel had had time to work on that color. Not that he was objecting to it. Not at all -- it looked good on him. Shaking his head, Jack turned his wayward gaze inside the cooler. Well, more than enough to make some pretty damn good sandwiches and as he opened Daniel's cooler, he found another six-pack of beer.

Grinning he pulled two bottles of beer out. "You've gotten used to drinking beer," he stated as he grabbed two plastic plates that he'd found in the cooler as well.

"Like you got used to drinking real coffee," Daniel retorted as he sat down, cross-legged on the foot end of Jack's bed.

Jack rolled his eyes as he took a bite of his sandwich. Daniel was right, the man had actually managed to make a coffee snob of Jack.

They barely spoke during dinner, but it did not bother Jack and Daniel seemingly did not mind either. Truth be told, Jack had to admit he felt more at ease now than he had at any point since he had returned from his... frozen state.

Damn, he would never live down the Star Wars jokes.

The coolers were back on the floor by the door and Jack was once again on his back on the bed. Turning his head he watched as Daniel lay sprawled on his own bed, writing in one of his journals.

"What are you putting in there?" Jack asked curiously.

Daniel shot him a in enigmatic smile. "Just... thoughts."

Jack nodded. He understood that. Maybe Daniel had things he needed to think through as well at the moment. Maybe he had suggested the trip for his own benefit as well.

Jack liked that idea. Liked the thought that Daniel wanted him around at a time where he needed to think something through.

Yawning, Jack realized that the long drive had tired him more than he had expected. A rustle from Daniel's side of the room told him that his companion was slipping under the covers of the bed.

"Bedtime?" Daniel asked.

Jack groaned as he managed to maneuver his stiff and tired body under his own covers. Maybe he was so tired tonight that the dreams would stay away? A soft click and Daniel turned off his bedside light, then fiddled with the remote and turned off the TV. The room was plunged into complete darkness until Jack's eyes got used to the change.

Not that it mattered, as Jack's eyelids slid down and a few minutes later he was fast asleep.


There was so much pain, fear and despair around him, that Jack felt as if it were choking him. He had no words or sentient thought to give it words to set it all free. It was just... there.

"Jack... please."

The words seemed to penetrate the weirdness of his dream and the warm hand on his bare chest grounded him.

Gasping, Jack dug his fingers into the arms cradling him, breathing raggedly into Daniel's shirt. The scent of shampoo, soap and something uniquely Daniel realigned his sleep hazed world.

"Memories?" Daniel's whisper was barely audible.

"Mmmyeah..." Jack managed to get out.

Daniel said nothing for a while, but continued to hold Jack tight. Then he pushed Jack's sheets aside and slipped in next to him, wrapping his arms around Jack's waist.

Jack never even thought about it, but slipped his arms around the broad shoulders, burying his face and fingers in Daniel's soft hair. Adjusting his breathing to match Daniel's, Jack focused on the puffs of heat against his neck, allowing calm to take him to a dreamless sleep.


MONDAY

Waking up was... different. Somehow Jack had imagined that since he had gotten so used to waking up alone, the strangeness of waking up in someone's arms, let alone those of another man, should have been beyond odd. It was not. The awkwardness was not there.

As always Jack woke at dawn, and for once he actually felt rested. Awareness came as it always did when he was off-duty. Slow and sweet. And even sweeter was the heat and comfort of the body wrapped around him. Maybe this was the perfect kind of therapy? To hold someone he cared about like this?

Jack stayed still for nearly half an hour, just basking in the scent of sleep-warm skin and he readily acknowledged it as the guilty pleasure it was. Too bad this would be a one-time occurrence, because he sure would have nothing against waking up like this on a regular basis.

Jack grinned as his mind told him in a serious voice that the reason his hand was still resting a bit low on Daniel's hip was his reluctance to disturb Daniel's sleep.

Right.

Good thing they both had a bit of a morning situation, or one of them would have been a bit embarrassed.

"'morning."

The gravelly voice made Jack smile. "'mornin' to you too, Daniel," he replied softly, wondering if Daniel would notice that Jack was stroking his hair. If he did, he refrained from mentioning it.

"This is..." Daniel stopped to search for the words for a moment and Jack felt conflicting emotions stir within him. Worry that this would make Daniel run and the knowledge that Daniel was his closest friend, a man who understood Jack to a point that was almost scary. It would not be Daniel's style to run from sharing a bed with him.

Actually, Daniel seemed as reluctant to let go of Jack as the other way around. Strong arms were still wrapped around Jack's waist and if Jack's hand on Daniel's hip was incriminating evidence, then Jack wanted to know what to call Daniel's hand cozily splayed across the small of Jack's back...

Daniel finally sighed and untangled their bodies. "Gotta go take a leak," he excused, eyes still soft with sleep and the smile on his face did strange things to Jack's heart.

Jack watched him disappear through the door to the bathroom. The rumpled t-shirt and boxers made him smile, especially the print on the boxers. Who would have thought that Daniel had a pair of Tweety and Sylvester ones. Well, Jack knew -- if he recalled it right, he had given them to Daniel ages ago.

Burying his face in the pillow and trying to find the traces of Daniel's scent, Jack wondered what the day would bring, but somehow it did not really matter. They would spend the day together again and all was right with Jack's world. No Goa'uld, no alien intrusion, no glowy beings that could take his friend away from him.

Just... Daniel, a nice car and the open road. At the moment there was little more Jack needed. A growl from his stomach told him that he should add a bit more to that equation. They still had a bit in the coolers, but he was sure he could talk Daniel into a *real* breakfast at the nearest diner.


Breakfast was more fulfilling than Jack had hoped for. They had checked out of the motel and with the car packed again, they had chased down a diner and were now happily waiting for their breakfast, both enjoying a cup of surprisingly good coffee.

Jack watched with amusement as the waitress flirted shamelessly with Daniel who politely warded off her advances. Occasionally Daniel gave him a strange look, but Jack merely smiled and hid his grin with a nice bit of scrambled eggs.

"Charming as always," Jack teased when their waitress finally left them alone.

Daniel gave him a quirky grin that made Jack smile softly at him. Oh yeah. Daniel definitely had charm, but there was more to Jack's appreciation of him. Charm was but a small portion of the man whom Jack had seen so pissed that he was spitting nails. He had seen Daniel at his lowest and his highest. Had seen him lift his head and give System Lords a taste of his sharp tongue.

Jack watched said tongue lick syrup off the fork as Daniel enjoyed his pancakes. Unabashed, Jack stole a piece of pancake, enjoying the sugary stickiness bursting inside his mouth. He tried not to laugh as Daniel speared a bit of scrambled eggs off Jack's plate.

The day sped off as the road was eaten away under the flashy car. The top was back down and the water drops on the car from the night's rain had long since blown off and dried up. The early spring morning air was cool but full of the rich smells of rain and wet soil and asphalt.

Jack's mind seemed to have calmed a lot since they had left Colorado Springs. His mind was back to the usual lazy habit of simply enjoying life. Lunch took care of most of the leftovers in Daniel's cooler and dinner found them in a new motel room, a bit more upscale than the previous night's accommodations -- this one with a small kitchenette.

Daniel dug out disposable plates and forks and Jack grinned as the blue eyes widened with pleasure as Jack dished out chili and put the plates in the small micro wave oven. The last two beers were pulled from Daniel's cooler and they soon sat down by the small table that the room provided as well.

Talk was easy and the evening flew by as they lounged on their beds, the TV droning on and on about this and that. Jack wondered how bad Wednesday night's news would be, press conference and all. Damn, but he was happy he would not be at home when the proverbial shit hit the fan.

Daniel was the first one to strip and slip under his sheets. Jack watched the movements under the white covers as Daniel wriggled around until he was comfortable.

Jack got rid of his own clothes save his boxers and did the same. The only light on was the lamp on the nightstand between the beds. Daniel lifted the remote and turned off the TV.

Jack lay on his side, one hand under his head and he had to smile when Daniel turned to mirror his pose. For a long time they stayed like that before a softly whispered, "Good night," reached Jack's ears.

"Night Daniel," he whispered back before reaching out to turn off the lamp. The room was dropped into darkness and as Jack closed his eyes to sleep, he kept seeing the blue bubbles that tended to flash before one's eyes after having looked into a light source.

As sleep drew him under, the light bubbles became something else, something more and before he knew it another nightmare dug its clutches into him. This time, however, the images vanished quickly and Jack sleepily realized that Daniel probably had not yet been asleep.

Arms once again surrounded him, grounding him in the real world.

"It's okay." Daniel's warm breath burst against his ear, making him shiver, though his body felt warm to the core.

"Promise?" Jack asked as he buried his face against Daniel's t-shirt.

A warm hand brushed soothingly up and down his bare back. "I can't promise you that, Jack." Daniel paused for a moment. "But I can promise you I won't leave you to deal with it on your own."

Jack drew in a long pull of air, reveling in the feel of Daniel's scent filling his nostrils.

"Then I think I might be okay," Jack finally admitted, surprised how true those words were. As long as he could turn to Daniel for help and understanding, he might just make it okay.


TUESDAY

The next morning should have been more awkward than it was. Or at least Jack figured it should have. It just... was not. Again he awoke before Daniel did and the cocoon of heat he was wrapped in kept Jack down with a slightly drowsy feel. His nose brushed the bare skin of Daniel's neck and Jack drew in a deep breath, allowing himself to enjoy the scent.

Jack's attention zeroed in on his own belly. The t-shirt he had gone to bed in had been pushed up a little during the night and since Daniel had worn nothing but a pair of boxers, Jack was aware of the heat of soft skin to skin. Their legs intertwined was one thing, but the more sensitive skin of their bodies was an entirely different case.

With every breath of air their skin, warm from sleep, brushed against skin and to Jack it felt as if, with every movement, tendrils of heat curled lazily through his body. It was beyond pleasant and Jack wondered, for the first time really, what would come of their impromptu little road trip.

"Penny for your thoughts." Daniel's voice broke the silence at some point.

"Nah... though I might be susceptible if you buy breakfast," Jack yawned, face happily squashed against Daniel's neck.

Strong fingers were once again petting his hair and once again, Jack did not say anything. He liked it. What did it matter that the real world would consider it odd even... perhaps wrong? This was Daniel and him and the rest of the world was not part of the equation... at least not at the moment.

"So, if I wine you and dine you, you'll tell me what is on your mind?" Daniel's voice was perfectly serious, but Jack knew the man a little better than that.

"Are you trying to seduce me?" Jack asked, just as seriously.

"If I were?"

"If you were mine at least you wouldn't fall prey to every damsel in distress and dominatrix all over the galaxy." Jack waited for the answer, but Daniel was more in control than that, although Jack could feel Daniel shaking with withheld laughter.

Neither elaborated and eventually Jack's stomach rumbled to remind Daniel of his offer. It took little time to shower and throw their things together, leaving another motel behind, and another night in the same bed.

They drove through dinner as Daniel had gone overboard on the breakfast offer. Not that Jack had kept up his part of the bargain, but he figured he would see exactly how far the wining and the dining would go.

Their road had a little more traffic this day and Jack tracked the cars flashing by without really noticing them. What was he really doing out here? Well, apart from enjoying some time off with Daniel.

Was he running?

Maybe.

The huge question would be if he was running to or from something and *what* that something was.

"How do you feel about a little shopping?" Daniel's question pulled Jack back to the present.

Checking his watch, Jack realized it was late afternoon. "Not a bad idea. We're a couple of miles from the nearest town, I'm sure we can find some convenience store."

"Any preferences for dinner?" Daniel asked.

"What? You're doing dinner as well?" Jack asked with a grin as he pushed his shades down his nose and turned his head to look at Daniel. He looked so at ease behind the wheel, hands resting lightly on the steering wheel. The wind was playing with his hair and a small, enigmatic smile on his face.

"Well, I figured wining and dining should hold more than just breakfast," Daniel argued lightly, the smile widening a little.

"Well, you're the brains of this outfit," Jack admitted with a laugh. "Can't argue with sound reasoning."

Daniel grinned. "Now if I could just get you to admit that in the field," he teased. The grin diminished a little. "If you *were* going into the field again."

Jack sighed as he relaxed into the seat. "Even if I didn't have the promotion to think about, Daniel... I... can't keep going through the 'gate forever."

Daniel nodded, eyes glued to the road ahead. "I know that, Jack. Trust me, I know."

They drove in silence for a while until Daniel took a right turn into a small town. They threw ideas for dinner back and forth as Daniel found a parking space by the small convenience store they found.

The store was the typical kind. Not that big, but just big enough to have a lot of good stuff. Browsing the aisles sometimes apart, sometimes together, Jack realized that it was odd how at ease he felt.

"This?" Daniel was currently checking through a variety of meat and Jack shrugged.

"You're the cook tonight. That makes it your decision," Jack grinned as he disappeared behind yet another aisle. Frowning he tried to remember if he needed anything specific. Right, shaving cream. It did not take long for him to find it, and he turned to make his way back to Daniel.

A quick glance at a passing shelf and Jack stopped. Looking at the packages of condoms, Jack wondered if he would ever need them again. Life had not exactly been offering him a lot of opportunities lately, and quite frankly he knew it would be the same in the future.

He remembered how it had been with Sara. How could he expect anyone to take part in his life again that way? The insane secrecy of where and why he disappeared off to. It was bad enough during his time in Spec Ops, what would happen if he tried it now that he was part of the SGC, a project even more secret than what he had done in the past?

Well, at least secret for the time being. 'Tomorrow night,' Jack thought to himself. 'Tomorrow night might turn it all upside down, inside out...'

Shaking his head, Jack turned his back to the shelf and made his way back to Daniel. His friend had his arms full of supplies and Jack could not help but smile. Oh yeah, dinner a la Daniel was never something he turned down.

As they stood in line at the register, Jack noticed the man in front of them. Young, barely more than sixteen and with a nervous tick to boot. Hands were buried deeply in a too-large jacket and a dark knitted cap was pulled down over the ears, tufts of blonde hair sticking out in the back.

Years of training and experience kicked in, but before Jack could even think about it, the teen was next in line, pulling out a gun and pointing it at the clerk.

The girl on the other side of the desk blanched. Jack feared for a moment that she would try to escape and probably put her own life in jeopardy through that, but she stayed put.

"Don't do anythin' stupid," the boy warned as he waved the gun at her. "Just put the money into a bag!"

The girl slowly did as she was told. Jack felt Daniel's shoulder against his. A warning to not do anything stupid.

Hands shaking, the girl tried to open the cash register, but her first try was in vain. The youth shook the gun a little more and a warning shot was released, the bullet shattering a bottle on the wall behind the desk.

Everyone was dead quiet for a moment, then Jack could hear the old lady who had been standing behind Daniel, whimper in fear. Obviously the sound had reached the kid as well, who swung around and in the process, the gun was pointed directly at Jack's chest.

Keeping calm, Jack met the kid's eyes. There was a certain hard edge to the watery blue eyes, but Jack was unsure if he would really follow through on his warning shot.

Jack felt how Daniel moved a step back, probably to soothe the woman, who was obviously distressed by the situation.

"Stay where you are," the kid warned, just as much to Jack as to Daniel behind him.

"Look, kid. No one has to get hurt," Jack tried, putting on his calmest and most reasonable voice.

"Shut up!" The guy's breathing picked up speed and Jack wondered if he would still be alive in a few heartbeats. Now, if he could just disarm the kid without the gun going off. Daniel was still close behind him and any stray bullets could hit anyone close by... could hit Daniel.

It just turned out that Daniel was a little faster or... perhaps a little more reckless than Jack was. The nervous kid reacted to some sound from the girl behind the counter and the moment he turned to swing the gun around, Daniel had him, the gun was sliding across the floor and Jack wondered what had just happened.

The cursing from the kid that Daniel was pinning against the counter made Jack raise an eyebrow. Had the youth of his time been as big in the mouth? Probably.

"You might want to call the cops," Jack offered to the shocked girl, who nodded jerkily, but nevertheless went to do that.

'Oh boy," Jack thought as he shook his head at Daniel, who merely tightened his arm lock on the squirming teen. 'So much for a nice, relaxing evening.'

Hours at a local police station just was not on top of Jack's list of favorite things to do.

A sigh from Daniel told him that he was not alone with that point as two patrol cars pulled up in front of the store.


Jack leaned back on his bed and listened to the sound of the shower. 2300 hours and they had finally eaten dinner and were getting ready for bed. The police case had thankfully been over fairly fast, but half a day at a police station, their every second sentence sounding like:

Sorry, that's classified.

Jack closed his eyes. A lot about his life was classified, there were so many things he could never share with anyone outside work. Perhaps that was part reason why he enjoyed Daniel's company as much as he did?

Daniel understood and Daniel was in the same place.

The sound of the door to the bathroom opening made Jack open his eyes again. He watched as Daniel walked to his own bed and rummaged through his bag in search of a pair of boxers to sleep in.

The white towel, slung low around Daniel's hips, seemed to be fighting a losing battle with gravity. Jack tilted his head a little to the side to get comfortable. He watched the droplets of water hanging from Daniel's skin give into gravity along with the towel and slide down Daniel's body.

"Are you looking at my ass?" Daniel asked conversationally as he pulled the boxers on.

Jack grinned. "Yeah."

"Dare I ask why?" Daniel's voice was low but Jack did not miss the smile in it.

"You put it in the line of fire again today," Jack scolded good-naturedly. He had long ago given up yelling at Daniel when he did this shit. Yelling never got him more than an overbearing look from Daniel.

The man knew him far too well.

"And?" Daniel pulled the sheet back from his bed but did not get into it.

"I was considering that your ass needed a good disciplinary smacking," Jack admitted, trying to keep his voice serious.

"What, you wanna put me over your knee and give me a good spanking?"

"Don't tempt me and yes, damn it. That's how I feel half the time." Jack sighed. It was the truth.

"Your knees won't take the abuse," Daniel snorted as he finally turned around, squinting at Jack as he had left his glasses on the bedside table before his shower.

Jack glared at him but couldn't keep a straight face. The laughter that filled the room set something free in Jack, though he was unsure exactly what it was.

Jack's own smile faded a little. He was back at it again. Not fit for duty much longer.

"Do you think I'm too old to go through the 'gate?" Jack asked in all honesty and knew that Daniel would answer the same way.

Daniel watched him with a frown for a moment, then turned off the bedside lamp. Jack knew instinctively that Daniel crossed the distance between their two beds and a moment later slid into Jack's bed, his warm body more welcome than Jack would have thought.

"I think you need to decide for yourself when you are getting out of the actual 'gate travel." Daniel was silent for a moment. "Even when you're behind the lines, at the SGC, you'll be what might tip the scales in the future."

Jack took a deep breath, burying his nose in Daniel's damp hair. "And you?"

"I've got my own decisions to make," Daniel admitted in the dark. "Some harder to make than others."

Coldness gripped Jack's guts and his arms tightened around Daniel. "You're not thinking about leaving the project, are you?" he asked, his voice not showing his fear... much.

A puff of warm breath ghosted over Jack's collarbone. "No... I can't think of anywhere I *could* go that would be worth it all... and you guys are my family."

Jack let out a sigh of relief. "Will you eventually let me know what you're making decisions about?" he asked tentatively.

Daniel nodded and his newly shaven cheek caressed Jack's neck. Jack shivered a little and closed his eyes.

"Goodnight," Jack finally whispered.

"G'night," Daniel mumbled, probably already halfway to dreamland.

And it *was* a good night, if anyone had asked Jack. He was warm, safe and his sleep was devoid of any dying screams and exploding vessels.


WEDNESDAY

Jack wondered if maybe they should skip watching TV tonight. The press conference, whatever it might cause, would impact both Daniel's and his lives and for some insane reason, he wondered if perhaps not watching the conference would negate its outcome.

Daniel gripped the steering wheel a little harder and managed to voice pretty much what Jack was considering.

"Are we watching the press conference tonight?"

Jack took a deep breath. "Can we afford not to?" he asked, watching the green fields rush by the car.

"You're asking if we want to risk going back to the SGC blindfolded?"

Jack chuckled. "That's one way of putting it."

"So we book in early tonight and get ready for the shit to hit the fan?" Daniel's choice of words made Jack smile.

"Yeah, unless they've cooked up some lame ass cover up." Jack shrugged.

Daniel snorted. "Which they probably have. It's amazing what the government can cook up when it comes to stupid excuses."

"Burning gas," Jack commented, dredging up some age old conspiracy theory.

Daniel coughed to cover his laughter. "I can attest to that, having shared a tent off world with you several times."

"Hey!" Jack tried to sound pissed but in the face of Daniel's dry comment it was not exactly easy and he gave into a soul-deep, cleansing laughter. When he turned his head to look at Daniel's profile, Jack had to mirror the small smile playing on the pursed lips.

"Jack... You and I both know that tonight will most likely change our future quite a lot." Daniel's voice lost a bit of the mirth.

"Does it really change what we have to do?" Jack asked, dropping his own smile and suddenly feeling every one of his years, every ache and scar.

"You mean, are we going to stop going through the 'gate, stop defending this planet?" Daniel sighed. "The answer is no. How can we not fight what we know is out there?"

Jack did not answer, but the words sunk deeply into his mind, trickling into the darkest recesses of his thoughts. If he said no to take over the SGC, he would no longer be in the first line of defense. There was no way he could stay as an active team member, let alone a team leader for much longer. And Jack would be fooling himself if he thought he could leave the SGC and his friends behind.

Like Daniel had said; family. And family stuck together, protected each other... Much like Daniel had done yesterday. Jack realized that might have had an impact on his unconscious decision to not yell at Daniel for taking down the perp. Daniel was a grown man who had been an invaluable member of a military/scientific/first contact team for years. No one could say that he had less experience than the rest of the SGC personnel.

Sure, he had less of an ordinary military experience, but he had what counted. Experience in the field, wits and an ability for compassion that beat everything else.

How else could he have put up with Jack's antics for so many years?

"Daniel, why do you put up with my stupid behavior?" Jack asked, wondering what Daniel's answer would be.

"I don't know, Jack... I guess you kinda grew on me." Daniel's hand strayed from the transmission to brush lightly against Jack's arm before returning. "Maybe we get along so well because we *are* such opposites?" he asked while keeping his eyes on the road.

Jack thought about it for a while. "Maybe you're right," he admitted. If anyone had told him that Dr. Jackson would be a close friend of his the first day they had met, he was not sure what he would have done. Laughed or shot them... maybe both.

"You're not that bad," Daniel suddenly said, still smiling a little. "It's just a matter of getting behind your walls, then you're a pretty decent guy."

Laughing, Jack leaned back and enjoyed the rush of air. It sure was no truck, but he really liked Daniel's choice of car. "Speaking of walls," Jack grinned. "You're not exactly Mr. See-through yourself, ya know."

Daniel nodded in agreement. "Old habits die hard. I've always been too deeply immersed in something to let other people close -- you're just a stubborn old bastard who won't take no for an answer."

The wind carried off their laughter and Jack allowed himself to doze and just relax in this very fine company.


Maybe he should have been surprised when he entered the room Daniel had gone into the motel's office to rent. Yet, somehow he was not. This time there were no two beds, just one queen sized piece of furniture.

Jack raised an eyebrow and looked at Daniel who merely shrugged.

Daniel was right, they had been spending the last couple of nights in the same bed anyway -- why not just get a bigger bed in the first place. It sure bet sharing a single person bed.

While Daniel rifled through some take out menus on the table, Jack pulled his cell phone out and plugged it in to let it recharge. No calls. Nor were any showing on his pager. Either that meant no trouble... Or maybe the SGC had been overrun. Jack sat down on the bed. The SGC employees were intelligent, skilled people who knew what they were doing. The fact that no one had called him during his downtime was simply a good sign.

"How does Chinese sound?" Jack looked up as Daniel's voice brought him back to the present.

"Chinese is good," Jack agreed. It was already 1830 hours and in an hour and a half the press conference would launch, pretty much shaping their future one way or another.

Jack smiled as Daniel dialed in their order without even asking Jack what he wanted. Maybe it was a sign that they knew each other too well? Like an old married couple? Or maybe they simply ate too much take out.

Thankfully the Chinese place delivered quickly and soon Jack sat down, cross-legged on the bed close to Daniel while they both munched down some damned good Chinese.

Leaning close and across each other half the time, they snatched pieces from each other's cartons. Jack enjoyed the easiness and the closeness. The time drew nearer for the press conference, and Jack switched the small TV on and found the right channel.

The cartons were thrown out and they settled back, shoulder to shoulder, backs against the head of the bed. Jack looked down as Daniel's hand settled on top of his.

"So... you're taking the offered job as head of the SGC." It was not a question, simply a statement.

Jack smiled. Yeah, Daniel definitely knew him too well. Sometimes Daniel knew him better than Jack knew himself. "I'm taking it. And you're staying."

Daniel nodded. "But I'm probably going to ask for a transfer to the base itself. I'm not sure I want to keep going out there without you."

Jack swallowed around the lump that suddenly materialized in his throat. "Carter's a good team leader." He meant it. She just needed the opportunity to show it.

"I know," Daniel admitted, fingers playing with Jack's hand, rubbing lightly over his knuckles. "But I've mentioned it to both Sam and Teal'c the other day. I mean... I love the exploring part, but I never get to see things through. I'll... I'll go through the 'gate when it's needed, but apart from that?"

"You can't keep up with both the translations, the reports and the off world stints, huh?" Jack asked softly, turning his hand and capturing Daniel's. Rubbing his thumb along Daniel's thumb, he felt the shiver running through the body next to his.

"I want to settle down," Daniel admitted, his free hand curling around Jack's wrist, strong fingers caressing the soft skin on the underside. "I'm not looking for a white picket fence and 2.4 kids... just..." Daniel's hand stilled.

Jack nodded. He understood exactly what Daniel meant and wondered how the man always seemed to be able to put words to what Jack could not. "Daniel..." How the hell was he going to put this? Never had a simple 'yes' been so complicated.

Turned out he did not have to, at least not with words. Daniel let go of his wrist and twisted a little to curl his hand gently around Jack's nape. Jack smiled lightly as he was pulled forward, pausing less than an inch from Daniel's face, their breaths mingling.

A soft smile broke Daniel's serious expression and a moment later he felt the pressure of Daniel's dry lips and the heavy warmth of the hand on his neck.

Never had he felt as free as he did now.

Neither man noticed the press conference.

Jack was as engrossed in the task of unbuttoning Daniel's shirt as Daniel seemed dead set on getting Jack out of the t-shirt he was wearing. Daniel's skin was almost scalding under his hands and lips and the noises his touches drew from Daniel were near maddening.

They did not hear the admissions made, nor the assurances on the screen.

Their kiss went from tentative and dry to something far less civilized in the blink of an eye. Jack noticed through his own haze, how Daniel seemed to be giving the insides of his mouth the same kind of intense study that he did his ancient artifacts.

It was a slow exploration that dragged out all the way through the President's speech and quite frankly the world could have ceased to exist around them, for little else but their touches and kisses meant anything.

The moment they were skin to skin Jack realized that even the last few nights in each other's arms was nothing compared to this. For the first time since he had come out of cryo-stasis, Jack felt alive and whole. Daniel's hand on his cock and his mouth on Jack's neck only amplified the feel.

As drawn out as they tried to make it, Jack finally let go of his control and it did not take long for Daniel's touch to bring him into his own orbit. For an insane moment he wondered if NORAD might be picking him up on the radar.

Daniel's release was every bit as loud as Jack's and when they both finally returned to the land of the cognizant, Jack managed to pin a laughing and very naked and sweaty Daniel beneath him. While he looked down at Daniel, Jack felt and saw the air around them shimmer with a familiar tingle.

"Oh shit," Jack exclaimed, looking down into Daniel's surprised blue eyes. Someone really should talk to their little friend about timing and the merits thereof.

The End