A/N: I received such positive reviews from the last story that I decided to write another one. This takes about two weeks after the ending of Loyalty. I've decided to put Mac at age 20, if he graduated early and only did two years at MIT, this would be possible. Also, I have no idea on how base rules actually work. Dlwells51, this ones for you :)
Mac jolted awake as Jack brought their hummer to a stop outside the EOD shed.
"You alright, kid?" Jack asked. "That was a rough re entry."
"Yeah, man. I'm fine." Mac sat up straighter, rubbing his red eyes, "just tired."
"Well, you should be," Dalton smiled. "You been up past your bedtime the last three nights in a row."
"You're hilarious." Mac popped the door open and climbed out. "You've had just as little sleep as I have."
"Yeah, but I'm used to it." Jack looked Mac in the eye and Mac saw the truth behind his words, not just bragging. Mac had developed a habit of volunteering himself and by default, Jack, for more assignments. Combine that with the already busy schedule they had and you got chaos on your body.
"I'm fine," Mac repeated, grabbing his gear and completely exiting the vehicle.
"Well, alright. You want me to wait for you?" Jack asked.
"No, I'll meet you in the mess." Mac closed the door and turned toward the shed.
Fifteen minutes later had Mac and another soldier entering the mess tent, talking excitedly at one another. Jack smiled at the two, both blonde with similar builds. Dalton watched their progress through the food line, noting that they both wore EOD patches. He was sitting with Davida and a few other soldiers that he'd known awhile. His smile quickly vanished when he noted that Mac's tray had nothing more than a small piece of chicken and a roll on it. The delta shot Mac a pointed glare.
The young man was completely oblivious, going on and on about about explosive ordinances and the latest IED's found. Jack was caught between not wanting to embarrass the younger man and desperately wanting him to eat. The last few days all seemed like one big blur. They had been going from one assignment directly to the next with little sleep and poor options for food. Jack had been dogging Mac to eat, but the kid made a good point of how bad the MRE's tasted.
"Hey, Jack, this is my buddy, Specialist Aaron Hash, we went to basic and EOD training together." Mac smiled at Jack, finally making eye contact. Jack made a pointed look at Mac's tray. Which Mac ignored. "Aaron, this is my cover, Sergeant Jack Dalton."
"Nice to meet you, sir," Hash extended a hand and they shook.
Mac speared a piece of the chicken he'd cut.
"You too, Specialist." Jack noticed Hash wasn't eating at all. "Not hungry?"
"Oh, I ate an hour ago, sir." Aaron nodded at Mac. "I'm just tagging along until Mac's done and then we're going to shoot some hoops and hang out."
Mac cast a look at Jack.
"Mac, can I talk to you a minute?" Jack asked, suppressing a sigh.
"Jaaack," Mac started, an edge in his voice. "I know we've been up a while. But, I'm not tired and I'll be good to go at 0600. Don't worry."
"Mac," Jack sighed. Aware that everyone at their table was watching and not willing to over do his role as Mac's cover in front of everyone in the mess, Jack gave in. "If you try sleeping on the way out tomorrow, I'll hit every pot hole I can find."
"How's that any different than every other day? See you later," Mac stood up, took his tray and returned it, grabbed his roll and took off with Hash.
"Protective, much?" Davida teased, with a smile.
"Davida, that boy is trying to get himself killed every time I turn my back." Jack let his Texan accent stand out. "Just this morning he walked right into a nasty group of towel heads trying to tie a bomb on a goat."
"I'm sure it's not that bad." Davida smiled.
"Oh, Yeah? He goes and puts himself in danger before I take position on a regular basis." Jack huffed. "What's that word you like to use for needy people?"
"High maintenance," Davida offered. "He doesn't seem to ask for much."
"He don't ask for nothing," Jack let out with a jaw cracking yawn. "That's his problem. I'm left trying to guess what he needs and take care of him that way."
"Maybe, you're taking the job as his cover a little too seriously, Dalton," Davida smiled and nudged his arm.
"Nah, he's a brilliant little idiot. He's gonna do big things and I want to be here to see it." Jack smiled at her.
"Big enough for you to delay retirement?" Davida raised an eyebrow.
"Yes, big enough. That kid's the smartest guy in any room when it come to math and science." Jack dragged a hand down his face. "Now, the everyday stuff, not so much. He's definitely lacking in the self preservation department."
"Well, kid's lucky to have you." Davida looked at her watch. "It's already late, I'm turning in."
"See ya," Jack stood to his feet, heading for his bed. He briefly considered swinging by the courts, but thought better of it. After the beating he gave to the last soldiers that had messed with Mac, no one was dumb enough to lay a hand on the kid. He headed for the wall tent that they shared.
"Sergeant Dalton! Sergeant Dalton!" Jack woke to Kristoph yelling his name and shaking him.
"Get out, Kristoph!" Jack shot the young man a squinty glare.
"I need you to come with me, it's urgent." Kristoph persisted.
"Kristoph, unless we're under fire, come back in..." Jack looked at his watch which read two a.m. "three hours."
"We're not getting shot at," Kristoph seemed offended.
"Good, show yourself out," Jack turned away.
"Specialist Macgyver's in trouble and-" Kristoph never finished his sentence.
"Where?" Jack jolted to a sitting position and pulled on the pants that he'd only discarded a couple hours ago. "What happened?"
"I'm not sure," Kristoph took a step back. Probably a smart move.
"Well, where at?" Jack slid on his boots and didn't bother lacing them. Jack gripped Kristoph's bicep and lead them both out of the tent.
"This way." Kristoph led.
"Do you know anything more than Mac's hurt?" Jack asked, Kristoph who looked highly uncomfortable. "Spit it out, kid."
"I don't think he's hurt, just in trouble... I think alcohol may have been involved," Kristoph said as they hurried along.
Jack swore under his breath as he hurried along. It irritated him, to no end that young soldiers could risk their lives for their country as young as eighteen years old, but not have a drink until twenty one. If it were just he and Mac, he'd gladly buy the kid a beer. But, technically the base was on US soil and depending heavily on who was in charge when the incident occurred, those rules needed to be followed. Jack mind quickly ran down a list of higher ranking soldiers that could already be on the scene. He thought of who owed him a favor and who didn't like him. It could really go either way. As Jack followed Kristoph like the guy owed him money they nearly stumbled into more soldiers. As it was, Jack tripped a little over his untied boot laces and fell headfirst into a camo clad body.
"Easy there, Tex." Friendly hands caught him and stood him back up.
"Gunner?" Jack asked.
"The one and only." Gunner stood two inches taller than Jack, black as night with an intimidating muscle mass. "Look, Tex, I'm kinda in the middle of something right now. Why don't you take those untied boots back to your bunk and I'll see you tomorrow, well later today, I reckon."
Jack spotted Mac and Hash. Mac looked about as guilty as a guy could, standing there in a thin T-shirt and helmet, his eyes red. Jack noted that several other soldiers stayed to watch.
"Thanks, Kristoph. I got it from here." Jack sent the soldier on his way. "As for you, rubber necks, get lost. None has work to do to in four hours?"
Gunner eyed Jack. "I see you haven't lost ability to clear a room."
"Well, Gunner, my man. That blonde kid from California is my EOD. If it's alright with you I'll take him and go." Jack said in a low voice. Then quickly added, "I'll handle him privately."
"That figures, the blonde kid from Colorado is my EOD," Gunner wiped a hand over his bald head.
Mac took a tentative step closer and Hash followed.
"Look, you know I ain't gonna go easy on him." Jack spoke softly to his fellow sniper, "truth is though, Mac's barely had any sleep in the last 72 hours and no good food to speak of. This is just some boys blowing off steam. No harm, no foul."
"You're boy's in some trouble." Gunner countered. "Underage drinking ..."
"Aw come on, man," Jack gently slugged Gunner's arm. "We did the same thing. Lighten up."
"Look, Tex, if it was just the drinking, I'd let you handle your EOD. But, I saw them driving around the base, too."
Mac and Hash shared a nervous look.
"Drinking and driving!?" Jack's voice rose and he snapped his head around to Mac.
Macgyver took a step back and lowered his gaze.
"Who was driving?" Jack growled.
"That's Just it. I'm not sure." Gunner turned his whole body so he faced the younger men and Jack did the same. "They were both wearing helmets and they look so similar anyways."
"Well, let's take their helmets off, bang there heads together some and see who starts talking first," Jack was livid. Either Mac got behind the wheel of a big vehicle, a hummer and drove while intoxicated or he got in a hummer and let Hash drive him around in the same condition.
"Whoa, there, soldier." Gunner put a hand up to stop Jack's forward progress.
"Who all knows about this, anyway?" Jack seethed.
"No MP's, yet. If that's what you're asking."
"Gunner, we go back a long ways. We've saved each other's necks more than I could count. Now, I need a favor here. I'm taking Mac with me. I'll get to the truth and I'll come find you tomorrow. You do what you want with Hash." Jack stepped around Gunner. Gunner didn't make an attempt to stop Jack, he just watched as Jack roughly grabbed Mac by the arm and turned them both toward their tent.
Mac's stomach ached and his head swam as he allowed Jack to steer him back to their tent. Jack's grip tight on his bicep. The delta muttered threats of discipline the whole way back, Mac cringed when he heard 'whooping' for the third time.
"Jack," Mac tried.
"Not a word," Jack wanted to wait until they were in the relative privacy of their tent for this conversation.
"Easy, big guy. It's not what you think." Mac held his hands in surrender.
"You didn't get drunk and drive around the base?" Jack growled.
"Yes, well no. Well, yes." Mac stuttered.
"Maaac?" Jack sat the younger man down. "What's going on? You know I'll believe you and you know I've got your back. If you made a mistake, then I'll help you fix it. We have the benefit of no MP's in the direct vicinity. So, that's a plus."
"Jack, I don't want to get anyone's in trouble."
"I knew it. It wasn't you driving." Jack pumped his first in the air. "Tell me you had nothing to drink."
"I'm not gonna lie to you, Jack. I respect you too much." Mac ran a hand through his blond mop and started to unlace his right boot. "We played basketball, like I said we would. Then, I was getting so tired that we stopped and sat in a nearby hummer. Hash had the drinks and I only had one, then I...I..."
"You what now?" Jack nudged his leg.
"I fell asleep in the hummer." Mac said it so fast Jack had to take a moment to clear it all up.
"Ooooh, I bet that hurt ya," Jack barked out on a laugh. "I told you that you needed to rest. You're all 'I can take care of myself' or whatever and what? You make one round of one on one, then one alcoholic beverage and you're out!"
Dalton imagined getting his hands on Hash. Jack barely tried to smother his glee.
"You know, you don't have to enjoy this quite so much." Mac finally succeeded in tugging off his right boot.
"Oh, yes I do." Jack slipped his own boots off, then the pants and got into bed. "You realize I'm going to have to kill your buddy tomorrow, right?"
"You're such a bulldozer," Mac tugged off the other boot.
"You don't respect personal boundaries, you don't let me take care of stuff on my own. You just bull doze your way right in." Mac huffed.
"Huh," Jack muttered. "Must be a side effect of protecting know it all, bomb nerds. You'll get used to me. And you're welcome. Now go to sleep. We'll figure all this out in the morning."
"It is the morning."
"Mac." Jack warned.
"Fine." Mac stripped down to his boxers and got in bed. He let out a jaw cracking yawn. "I was glad you came. Even if I didn't need a rescue and could totally handle it myself. But, I could get used to having you to rely on."
"That's me, ole reliable." Jack smiled.