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Title: Sonic Boom
Author name: Icarus
Author email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Sub Category: Drama
Summary: Jack takes Daniel for a wild ride in the F-15E Strike Eagle.
DISCLAIMER: The characters and universe contained in this story are Copyright MGM, Showtime, Gekko, Double Secret. No infringement on their copyright is implied, and the author relinquishes all right to litigation should a future storyline coincide with this story in any way (and in fact I would be quick pleased if the Jack and Daniel relationship developed in this way - though I doubt the Air Force would be happy). Copyright © 2004 by Icarus Ancalion. All rights reserved. This story may not be reproduced in whole or part without the author's explicit permission. Ask, guys. I'm easy to reach and usually quite generous.
Author notes: Thanks to Sharp Tongue for the beta suggestions, and for flying with our boys. Thank you to Wilderness Guru and his military expertise: the F-15E is what Jack would've flown in the Gulf. First abortive attempt at Destina's wish list, challenge number #1. If you're interested in the Strike Eagle, a pic can be found here: F-15E Strike Eagle.
The jet trainers screamed overhead like so many fierce hawks. Jack flipped the helmet in his hands and glanced at Daniel. His hair was blown about in the wind, shoulders hunched against the noise.
"It's great, isn't it?" Jack shouted, his voice sounding muted through the earplugs. "Look at those babies!"
"Wow." Daniel was starry-eyed as he followed their flight, confirming Jack's theory that there was no man in the world who didn't love aircraft. "So that's what you fly."
"Nuh-uh," Jack assured him. "They took my training wheels off a long time ago. Come'on!" He patted Daniel's shoulder and led him around the airfield, his old stomping grounds.
Daniel tore his eyes away from a sleek T-38 Talon taxiing down the runway, with its broad trademark tail and stubby wings. The supersonic jet trainer was not what they'd come to see.
Jack skipped a little as he passed Daniel and spun around, walking backwards as they turned a bend around the hangar. A refueling truck rolled past them, and Daniel edged out of the way.
Daniel paused as he stared at the attack fighter, primed and dangerous, taking up a sizable chunk of the tarmac. "We're flying that? It looks like a missile… or a fortress of some kind."
Actually, this was nothing; the armaments had been stripped off. This machine usually carried precision-guided missiles, and was designed for tactical nuclear warheads. Jack decided to leave out that little detail.
Jack gazed with open lust down the fierce swept-back wings, the pointed nose, twin engines and sharp twin vertical tails. The F-15E Strike Eagle sat delicately on her landing gear, barely touching earth. He knew just how she felt as the power surged through her engines, heavy, untamable and oh-so-fucking-fast. His hands itched in his gloves, ready to get his hands on the controls. He met Daniel's curious, fond gaze. "That's what I flew in the Gulf."
He wanted Daniel to feel it, that rush, head thrown back as the energy coursed through his body. Man and machine. "If you think this is nice, just wait'll you see what she's like in the air."
Daniel stood with his mouth hanging open stupidly. Jack swallowed a little, considering. He didn't think Daniel was the sort to get sick or scared. He'd taken up women who'd begged him to throttle back, pleaded to be set back on the ground. He hoped Daniel wouldn't be like that. Though he'd never taken a friend up before. It's not the sort of thing you shared with friends.
The soldier on the ground saluted smartly. "She's all fueled and ready to go, sir."
Jack returned it with a casual nod, eyes studying Daniel as he approached his baby. Hands out, like he wanted to touch it, the way he reached for old stone tablets. Reverently. Jack's eyes half-lidded. That was good. Really good. Jack's heart pounded.
Daniel glanced back at him eagerly, eyes alight. "So. Are we…?" He gestured to the plane, pacing like he wanted up but didn't know how to mount her.
Jack let out a breath. "Yeah."
He nodded to the airman, embarrassed, though unsure why. He wasn't the first airman to bring a civilian to fly with him. And he was supposed to keep his flight hours up. Jack shifted his weight from one foot to the other and studied the ground, admiring the sky reflected purple and pink in puddles.
"Helmet," he ordered Daniel gruffly, then tightened the chin-strap and helped him settle it as he had countless times for Sarah and others. Sarah hadn't been afraid. He remembered that with respect.
Daniel grinned at him awkwardly as Jack clapped his shoulder, but Daniel's attention had already returned to the aircraft, impatient, ready to go. Which was exactly how it should be. Jack felt something settle like a low purr. Satisfied and proud. If Daniel had a hard-on for this plane, all was right with the world.
Jack grinned behind his sunglasses at the crude airman's phrase. But it really was like that. It hit you like that.
He got Daniel settled in the front - and no complaints about the tight space, despite a little squirming. Cool. Jack felt a tinge of guilt, because he'd sworn to Hammond they'd only take the Talon, which was slower and rigged for students. But this was the one he wanted, this was his aircraft and he'd certainly flown it enough single-handed.
Daniel shifted forward in his seat like an excited little kid, trying to adjust the angle. Jack smiled; he'd be glad of the incline in just a moment.
Jack shouted, "Ready?"
Daniel gave him a corny thumbs up, expression self-effacing and amused. Cool.
The airman pulled the blocks away and scrambled back. Jack ran through the pre-flight check, as natural as breathing, the engines firing, tarmac a slow steady rumble under his wheels. He felt her out, the unique idiosyncratic tug and pull of each Eagle, his senses attuned and extended to every sound and read-out. She was older; he could feel the looseness. A little rattle here and there. You and me both, baby.
Oh yeah, he was home. Daniel was bracketed in the front seat, practically between Jack's legs. Safe but face-first into the sky.
Jack could feel Daniel's tension as they slowly found the runway, the familiar disembodied voices giving them clearance for take-off, both guardian angels and den mothers. He felt Daniel grip the seat.
He let loose with all she had, rocketing down the runway. Daniel melted into the seat… mouth open in a drowned laugh as they jumped the runway and tore a hole in the sky.
He whipped the controls to the right, and heard distantly a string of curses and didn't know if that was a good or bad thing. He banked left, then down, and saw Daniel's hands leave the seat like a roller coaster rider. Face flushed raw with excitement.
Clouds snapped by them as he put her through some standard maneuvers required for his flight time, getting a feel for her. And Daniel. Watched his hands grip at every shuddering turn, responsive to the G's. The canopy reflected colored sky and Daniel's exhilarated, breathless smile./
Now it was time to really try her out.
Jack rolled her, and watched Daniel scramble, startled and scared. Then Jack pulled her up to almost 12 o'clock into an ear-popping climb, up and up. Daniel relaxed again, melted into his chair. Jack gave her two rolls - one, two - and Daniel punched the side of the plane. Jack peered at him. Wasn't sure if that was good or bad. Then he leveled off, communicated with 'Houston' … and let the throttle out, throwing them back against the seats.
The engines shrieked, boomed, then they left sound behind in an immensity of silence.
Daniel hunched. Then let his head fall back, gazing at the sky. Jack glanced up to see a vast, deep blue, sprinkled with stars, almost dizzying.
Yeah. That's it, Danny. That's where we are.
Jack shook his head to clear it, his breath coming short and fast. He checked the gauges and the oxygen was fine. But he felt light-headed anyway.
He turned back for home, though unable to resist a sudden plummeting dive. This time Jack heard Daniel's laugh, and as he pulled out, Daniel glanced back at him excitedly.
Baby, you understand.
Jack started at the words. All right, where did that come from?
He tried to take it back, but nothing could bottle up the surge of warmth and affection that came pouring out.
And Daniel had to pick right then to turn around and give him a big, goofy smile, soft lips parted, blue eyes as big as the sky. The colored clouds rolled past behind him. He mouthed words Jack couldn't understand, and Jack just shook his head slowly, took them into a crisp turn and aimed for home.
Jack resisted the urge to buzz the tower like a mischievous crow - he always wanted to buzz the tower, but it was something that pissed off the guardian angels. Who could resist? It was just… there. But he was good and only passed slightly closer than allowed, trusting to rank to spare him the lecture.
In the sudden silence of engines, the canopy dome creaked as it opened, letting in a cold rush of air. The wind had picked up, but it felt soft and breathless.
Daniel staggered out of the airplane, already unused to gravity. Jack gingerly helped him jump down with a hand on his arm, aware suddenly of his every move and gesture. The springy muscles in his shoulder and his buoyant step. Hyper-alive.
The sun had settled, leaving a purple and orange streak along the horizon, and the last of the sun burnished his hair a brassy gold.
"Oh Jack… that was… wow," he breathed. "That was amazing. No, amazing doesn't cover it. Nothing can." He tipped his head up at the sky, drunk with flight. He spun slightly on his heels. "It was incredible."
He was the sort to babble incoherently; that's how it took him.
Jack always felt strangely quiet after a hot run, like he'd left part of himself up there. It seemed like he'd barely touched ground, his nerves singing with life. Daniel swung his arms playfully and Jack felt a shiver down his spine. The hangar crew was already to work on the aircraft, ignoring them completely.
Daniel paused, his eyes full of sky and something.
"Thank you, Jack," he said very seriously. "I know what that meant to you." He looped an arm over Jack's shoulder companionably, and Jack let him.
"You wanna get a drink?" Daniel squeezed his shoulder.
"Yeah," Jack said. "Yeah, let's do that."