by: PhoenixE
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Author's Notes:  This one came to me in the middle of working on something else as an explanation for a reaction from one of the characters in that work in progress. Hopefully, it will continue to progress. This one, however, is finished, and here it is.

DISCLAIMER: All characters and property of Stargate SG-1 belong to MGM/UA, World Gekko Corp. and Double Secret Productions.  This fan fiction was created solely for entertainment and no money was made from it.  Also, no copyright or trademark infringement was intended.  Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.  Any other characters, the storyline and the actual story are the property of the author.

The ribbon of highway undulated before him in the sphere of his headlights, a beckoning enticement taking him farther and farther into the black night. Jack drove mechanically, with practiced detachment, his thoughts as dark as the night the vehicle he piloted cleaved through.

* Abydos. What the hell was it about Abydos? Nothing that ever started out with that place ever turned out right.*

* The reporter's broken body, bouncing off that car flying through the air like a discarded toy.

Trying to help - those accusing eyes

"You did this - you son-of-a-bitch."

Blood. His blood all over my hands.

"It WAS an accident."

'You did this."

Blood of the marked and betrayed staining his palms.

"You did this."*

Jack didn't know how long he had been driving. They had come back through the Stargate after that firefight on Abydos. He hadn't known what the hell was going on and frankly hadn't stuck around long enough to find out. Daniel's foster world had been crawling with Goa'ulds. Couldn't swing a freaking dead cat without hitting one. Maybe it was some sort of package deal. A group rate or something. Shoot this guy, hide from this guy - and look there, Amonet makes three. Goa'ulds and Jaffa and Daniel, oh my!

He was supposed to have been visiting the in-laws for cryin' out loud. Not getting bashed around by tall, bald and scary. Leave the kid alone for half a day and what the hell does he get himself into - again. Crap, crap and crap. He didn't have the energy to figure it all out.

Yeah, he had seen her. Sha'uri or Amonet or whatever the hell her name was now. Well, why shouldn't she have been there, half the Goa'uld universe had seemed to want to pick that particular day to take a tour of scenic Abydos. And he was sure there was a really nifty story to go along with it, but truth be told, he just didn't give a damn.

And Daniel?

Daniel had had this - look on his face, but for once in his life, Jack had hardened his heart and just - walked away.

He just didn't feel like dealing with Daniel - or anybody else for that matter. Didn't want to hear about it, didn't want to know. He had gone back to his quarters, divested himself of everything even remotely military, put on the closest thing he owned that was neither issue nor green and had just - gone.

He had taken only one thing with him that had been 'issued' to him. A small black box with a piece of metal in it that no longer meant anything to him because of what had happened in Washington before it had been given to him. It was sitting on the dashboard even now, a silent little mocking box. He brought it because he had some thinking to do. This was as compact and as neat a representative focus for his contemplation as he could think of, as well as an apt symbol of - hypocrisy.

Jack wasn't sure where he was going, he just drove. At first he had thought seriously about finding some roadside watering hole to toss back a few cold ones in, but then thought better of it. The mood he was in he would very most probably end up picking a fight with some poor unsuspecting slob, and the last thing he needed to do right now was drag another innocent into this mess.

No, there had been enough of that already.

There was already more than enough blood on his hands.

Jack O'Neill had been a soldier for a very long time. Almost his entire adult life he had given over to the service of his country, and he had done so proudly. He had never known a time when he had not been proud to wear the uniform, proud to call himself a soldier, proud to bear the responsibility of the rank he had achieved and the privilege to serve that it gave him.

He had been damned proud to be exactly what he was.

Now he felt ashamed to even admit that he had given one minute of his life to an organization that had used him so completely to murder a man in cold blood.

Simply to keep a secret.

He knew what Hammond had said to him.

How could he have said anything else?

How could he have admitted to such a terrible thing?

Since when did 'doing his duty' include allowing himself to be used as a Judas Goat?

Identify the problem so it can be 'dealt with' like a good little wind-up tin soldier.

Point the poor slob out so he could be taken out.

He might not have known it at the time, but that poor, dumb shit had been right.

He had done that to him.

He was a bastard.

Ignorance is no excuse.

Jack tightened his grip on the steering wheel as if the device had suddenly become slick and slippery.

Slick with the blood that was staining his hands.

Wait a minute. He had come full circle.

He was home. He didn't even remember driving back here.

He pulled into the driveway to find it already occupied by another car.

Daniel's car.


* Oh, Daniel, you shouldn't have come. Not here. Not tonight. You don't want to see me like this.

I don't know what I might do.*

Jack reached for the hated box and thrust it into his jacket pocket as he turned off the vehicle and got slowly out. Didn't take him long to spot Daniel, sitting on the step waiting. Jack stood by the side of the truck, not willing to get any closer to the man he was going to do his damndest to get rid of.

"What are you doing here, Daniel?" Ah, that sounded suitably hostile and definitely unfriendly. Well done, Jack.

"Waiting for you."

Leave it to the kid never to miss an opportunity to state the obvious.

"I'm really not in the mood for company tonight."

"That's exactly why I'm here, Jack."

He was getting up, starting to walk over. Don't DO that Daniel. I want you to leave. Don't push it - don't push me.

"Sam told me what happened in Washington, Jack."

"Did she now?" Jack snapped back. "Well maybe I should tell her that she should mind her own goddamned business. And so, for the matter, should you."

* Still coming, Daniel? Still walking forward, fearlessly, like your namesake, into the lion's den? Still as thick as the day you were born? Well, don't say I didn't warn you.*

"I hope you are coming over here to get into that car and leave."

"What do you think, Jack?"

"I think you are going to get your head handed to you in a minute if you don't get out of my face."

Daniel had closed the space between them and stood a few feet away from him, looking at him with those eyes.

"If it would make you feel better to take a poke at me, well then by all means, be my guest."

Jack glared at him, trembling, fists clenched in rage. For several long, cracklings seconds he glared at the man who stood calmly before him, then with a howl of frustration he tore his eyes away, whirled and brought both his fists down on the hood of his truck with a resounding smash.

Oh my, that was going to really hurt in a couple of minutes.

He charged at Daniel and brought himself up short only just in time, inches from his face, then stood there, bellowing at him.

"Dammit - You WOULD - wouldn't you? You'd just STAND there - and let me punch your lights out!"

Daniel sighed and placed a hand on his shoulder. He locked his fearless eyes with the furious ones of the man before him and smiled.

"It was all right, Jack. I knew you wouldn't."

Jack felt the rage in him beginning to drain away at the touch of Daniel's hand. "I'm not so sure I was," he replied softly.

"Yeah, you were," Daniel slid his hand behind Jack's neck and his arm followed it to come to rest around Jack's shoulders. He then used it to begin to steer his suddenly tractable friend toward his house.

"Come on Jack, let's go inside. It's getting a little chilly out here."

Okay, so the sneaky bastard had talked his way into the house. That didn't mean anything. Didn't mean he was going to talk to him or listen to him or - well, it just didn't mean anything..

He was a part master of the stone-cold, silent routine.

Just ask his ex-wife.

Jack threw himself on the couch in a satisfyingly petulant gesture of defiance. Daniel ignored him and started to walk toward the kitchen.

"Think I need some coffee. How about you?"

"Suit yourself. You know where it is."

"Ah, ever the gracious host, " Daniel laughed. "So was that a yes, or a no?"

Jack heaved an annoyed sigh and kicked the coffee table, just because it was there and just because he could.

"Yes or no WHAT?" He hurled the reply back the man in the kitchen.

"Yes or no do you want some coffee?"

"I don't care. Whatever."

"Hmmm, " Daniel's amused voice floated out of the kitchen. "Welcome to another episode of 'Men Behaving Badly,' starring the one and only Jack O'Neill.

"My house," Jack grunted. " I can behave as badly as I want. You don't like it, you can LEAVE."

There was suddenly, from the other room, the distinctive sound of glass breaking. Something had just gotten smashed. Into a great many little tiny pieces.

"Whups! Ahhhh - Jack?"

Jack threw his head back and wiped his eyes with a weary hand.

"WHAT, Daniel - WHAT?"

He was just going to go mad. Any second now, stark raving loony toons.

"Did you have any serious emotional or sentimental attachment to this coffee mug?

"What coffee mug, Daniel?"

Where was his gun? As soon as he found it he was going to blow his brains out.

"The one that said 'Dickhead' on it."

That was it. If he had done it on purpose, it couldn't have been more appropriate.

But he hadn't. Daniel just wasn't that devious.

Clumsy, yes.

Devious, no.

Jack leapt up from the couch and loped into the kitchen. Before Daniel even knew he was behind him Jack grabbed him by the shoulders and slammed him back into the fridge. Not really hard, just enough for effect. Restraining his shoulder in an implacable grip, he jammed a forearm against Daniel's neck and under his chin, levering it roughly up, pinioning him there like a butterfly to the mounting board. Again, not hard, just enough to make sure he wasn't going anywhere. He held him there, keeping his eyes cruel, and watched as Daniel's eyes widened in shock, becoming tinged with just the slightest edge of disbelief and uncertainty.

Wasn't quite so sure of himself anymore. Good. Just what he was going for.

Jack held him there for a few moments longer. Saying nothing, not letting his gaze waver.

"Jack," Daniel finally said in a voice that was just a bit tremulous. "It was only a coffee cup.."

"But it was MY coffee cup.." Jack replied slowly in a low, menacing voice.

Wait a minute, there was just the slightest hint of a smile curling around Daniel's mouth. Those blue eyes had a definite glint in them that wasn't there before.

"Somehow," Daniel replied, the laughter in his voice barely suppressed. "I had no doubt of that."

They both burst out laughing at the same time. With a disgusted snort Jack let him down, smoothed out the front of his ruffled shirt and gave him an affectionate slap on the side of his face.

"Aw, you're no fun anymore. Can't fake you out no how."

Daniel gave his friend's shoulder a warm squeeze as he passed by him on his way to finish dealing with the coffee. "Been hanging around you too long, O'Neill. Pretty much seen all your tricks."

"That's what you think," Jack complained as he made his way back to the couch. "A good operator always keeps one or two tricks up his sleeve."

"Uh, that may be," Daniel murmured as he came back into the living room with two mugs of coffee. "But we're talking about you now, Jack, don't forget that."

"Don't start with me, Jackson!" Jack grumbled, taking the mug that Daniel extended to him. "The night is still young. Many quality bashing hours still remain to us."

"Huh," Daniel's expression quite eloquently conveyed how intimidated he felt by that comment. "You'll have to catch me first, old man."

They said nothing for a time, simply sitting in silence on the couch, sipping coffee, neither man looking at the other. Jack took another pull from the mug, set it down, fished in his jacket pocket until he found the box and then flipped it at Daniel.

"Here." He grunted as he threw himself back into the couch, crossed his arms and stared up at the ceiling. "Present for you. Maybe you can find a use for it. Just a piece of crap to me"

Daniel held the box in his hands for a moment, turning it over once or twice. He looked at it, and then he turned and cast a deeply worried look at Jack that the other man pretended he did not see. Then he opened it.

"Jack," Daniel said in a hushed, disbelieving voice. "This is - your medal. You can't - I can't - take this!"

"Yeah, you can," Jack found himself unable to look at Daniel as what he had decided suddenly came out of his mouth. " You can take everything that goes along with it as well, as far as I am concerned."

* Geez Daniel, don't look at me like that, I can't take it when you look at me like that.

Maybe you should just go. I want you to leave.

No - wait. don't. Don't go.*

"What are you saying, Jack?"

Kid was scared. Could hear it plain in his voice.

Funny, that made two of them.

"What are you saying, Jack?"

* Look at his face. Shoulda punched him after all. It would have been kinder.*

"What does it sound like I'm saying?" Jack hunched forward, clenching his fists in his lap. "I'm resigning my commission. Those murdering bastards will never use me to kill an innocent man again."

Part 1    Part 2

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