Closer to Fine
Rating: G
Pairings: Gen, Jack Daniel Friendship
Categories: Friendship
Content Warning: None
Spoilers: Up to season 7, takes place after Fallen

Daniel is having insecurities about living up to the memory of what he used to be. Set in early season seven.

"You have no memory of ever driving?"

"I had a car?" Daniel asks, and Jack simply rolls his eyes and walks away without answering. Every time he stumbles over a task his former self could accomplish with barely an afterthought, Daniel can't help but wonder just how useful he's going to be.

If only it didn't take so much energy trying to be someone he supposedly already was. In the commissary people he can't recognize sit next to him and tell him how glad they are that he's back, and he wonders why.

"Earth to Daniel?" Jack wears the familiar, 'I'm only doing this for your own good', expression.

Right, he's supposed to be concentrating on driving.

Daniel rubs at his eyes and smiles back with as genuine a smile as he can muster, and then refocuses his attention on the Jeep. "Right. I have a car." Daniel says staring at Jack's Jeep again. More likely he had a car, past tense. Maybe Jack gave it to Jonas. "Not like I was using it anymore." Could that be bitterness in his tone? Really, it wasn't like he went on an extended vacation or anything, he died. Death is usually a permanent condition. He died. It wasn't unreasonable to…

"We gave it to Cassie. Do you want it back?"

Daniel can't read Jack's expression, and all of a sudden he feels sick to his stomach. "No, no, no. That's not what I meant. I was just…" And what were you just thinking, Daniel?

Jack coughs. "Do you want to drive or not?"

"Yes."

Jack opens the driver side door and waits for Daniel to climb in. "You read the learners manual?"

"Uh, yes." In theory Daniel understands how to drive because he knows the rules, but as he knows only too well, theory and application do not always coincide. At least he won't have to take an official driver's test. Apparently being dead for a year isn't on the list of things that make retesting necessary.

"It's automatic?"

"Yes Daniel." Jack pulls shut the passenger side door and settles in.

"I thought…"

"What?"

Closing his eyes for a moment Daniel tries to put words to memories he doesn't know how to interpret. "This is a new. You used to have a jeep, it was a standard."

"I bought this car three years ago. It's not new."

"We can do this another time."

"We're already here."

"It's not like I have anywhere to go. I don't think I'll need to drive anytime soon."

"You don't think it's about time you started getting your life back?"

What life? "So, about driving, the keys go here right?" The attempt at humour falls flat.

"Just start the damn car."

The jeep starts; Daniel easily shifts the gear into drive and carefully pulls into traffic. "Where do you want to go?" Maybe this driving thing isn't going to be so hard to catch after all.

"Where do you want to go?"

Several places come to mind, but he is pretty sure Jack means locally. As he thinks the jeep slows down and a line of cars starts filing up behind him waiting for a chance to pass. "Your place? You still have the same house?"

"Only one I've ever had since knowing you. Yes. You remember how to get there?"

"Not a clue." Two cars make it by before Daniel finally notices the speedometer; he accelerates back into traffic and concentrates on driving while Jack gives him directions.

The feeling of alienation takes hold as he pulls into the driveway of Jack's house. It is the same old frustrating sensation of a place feeling familiar, and yet not entirely complete. Like losing your wallet and not being able to pinpoint where you saw it last. Daniel turns off the ignition and leans back with his eyes closed.

On base things are getting easier. If he doesn't think to hard about where he's going, he doesn't get lost in the maze of halls. Old journals help jump start the technical side, the books lining the shelves of his old office are interesting in that he can read most of them without even knowing for certain what language they are written in. Learned knowledge is the easy part; the memories stay elusive.

"Want to go in?" Jack asks.

"You don't mind?"

"Uh, no. I offered didn't I?"

"Or we could keep driving." Daniel offers.

"I have coffee. Want some coffee?"

"Sure, thanks." Jack does seem to want him to come inside. The headache behind his eyes scaled up a notch while driving and he can't help but rub at his forehead. Maybe he'll ask for some Advil with the coffee.

Inside there are things that look familiar, the picture of the planet on the wall, the beige walls, and the hardwood floor.

"Want a beer?"

Not much of a foundation then is it?

"What?" Daniel asks.

"Beer or coffee?" Jack frowned.

The uneasiness resting in his gut increases. There are words floating around that he can't place, that he can't bring into context, and the feelings are overwhelming.

Daniel doesn't want to see ulterior motives behind every action, and he doesn't want to analyze motives too deeply. For now, playing with half a deck as it were, he prefers to take things at face value. Harder said than done.

The big question remains; What does Jack want, and he honestly can't think of anything Jack might want from him. It doesn't make any sense. The thing with Anubis is over, they needed him for his knowledge of Ancient, and now they could just as easily toss him into the linguistics department to shovel through whatever cryptic writing has piled up over the past seven years. Why is Jack so intent on getting him back into SG1 when it is obviously taking so much work to bring him up to snuff? Why even bother if, from what he can see, Jonas is doing just as well if not better at everything Daniel used to do?

"Coffee." Daniel answered finally. Don't analyze, just accept whatever comes. He followed Jack to the kitchen for the simple fact he doesn't know what else to do. Should he sit in the living room? It doesn't feel right. He sits at the kitchen table and watches Jack rummage through some cupboards until Jack triumphantly holds up a small colourful box.

"This is the stuff; do you think it's still good after a year?" Jack opens the lid and sniffs and then offers it to Daniel.

"I don't know, is anything still good after a year?" Daniel watches Jack scoop out the beans and put them in the grinder anyway. At least it smells good. "What kind?"

"You tell me, you're the one who bought it."

"Hacienda La Esmeralda." The name feels right, even though Daniel has no idea what it means. "Did I do that a lot?"

"Snub my taste in coffee?"

"Come over."

"Yeah, sure. Why?"

"I don't know." Daniel rubs his forehead again; he forgot to ask for-

"Advil?"

"Yeah, thanks."

He watches Jack leave the room, and then studies the kitchen. Things are out of place. The toaster should be silver not white, the coffee maker should be on the left. The phone is missing. The coffee cup in his hand is... it was... he squints at it. It was Daniel's cup that he kept on his desk at the SGC. He rubs his thumb over the chip in the handle before placing the mug back on the table.

Jack comes back with the Advil and looks at him with the same odd expression he's had since Daniel met him eight years ago.

"Ah." Daniel sighs softly; the realization has just sunk in. What he has been trying so hard to understand and what kept eluding him has right in front of him since he returned to SG-1 a few weeks ago. There are so many things that he knows and doesn't yet understand, and thus far what he has been doing is looking to understand the why, where what he should have been doing is contemplating the how. Why does Jack's hair look different, why has the coffee maker moved, why is the phone missing; none of it means anything. The key is how he knows. He knows Jack well enough to know his hair has more grey in it than it did before, he knows Jack's house well enough to recognise what has changed.

What it all comes down to is he knows Jack. Despite the confusion surrounding his fragmented memories, there is one thing he can rely on.

"Ah?" Jack asks.

Daniel smiles and nods, but he doesn't explain. Jack doesn't get it, and that's okay, because for the first time since returning, Daniel does.