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Back-Up Plan

Summary: When I wrote I'll Catch You, I had two plots. This is the other one. God I'm good at this summary lark, aren't I?
Notes: I've played fast and loose with the time setting, so that Nightwatch coincides with Menace. It's pretty much an AU from The Sentinel Too and The Sentinel (SG version).
Usual grovelling thanks go to my long-suffering betas, Joy and Alyjude. All cock-ups are my own.


Part One

He feels like I violated his trust in me. HOW FUCKING DARE HE? I told him that the dissertation was a scientific study, that our friendship was a separate thing. I fucking told him. Now, I don't know what to do. It doesn't matter that he's come to me and apologised, it's already too late.

Up till now, every time I've needed someone to talk to, I've either had Naomi, Jim or one other. Naomi's disappeared again, and no way can I talk to Jim. Time to bring in the big guns then. Someone who will understand the academic implications, will know how to handle this... and yes, is the one person that I trust to back me up.

That's a telling thing in itself. Do I love my mother? Without question. Do I trust her to help me when she can? Sure. Do I trust her to be there for me? No fucking way.

And Jim. What of him? Do I love him? He's a pal. He's good-looking. Okay, I love him, I admit it. Bit pointless because he doesn't feel the same way. Do I trust him to help me when he can? Yeah, I guess. Do I trust him to be there for me? Up till fairly recently, the answer would have been yes, without doubt. Now, I don't think so and that thought saddens me.

Time to pick up the phone. I just hope he's around somewhere. That's the trouble with this guy, he's often off on expeditions, it's the nature of his job. Short ones, admittedly, though he disappeared off the face of the earth for over a year about five or so years ago. Much to my relief, he dispelled rumours about his death by popping up again - apologising profusely for scaring me when he called. We've known each other for so long and he's never once let me down. He always calls me to let me know he's going to be away, always calls to say he's home. We share the same sense of humour, the same view of life. We rarely disagree on anything. Hell, we've never even fought over anything. He loves me, and he's the only person in the world - including my mother - that I've never doubted.

Come on, come on. Pick up, man.

Hello?

"Daniel! Oh man, am I glad to hear your voice."

Blair? What's wrong?

"I need to see you, Daniel. I need your advice, and maybe some moral support."

It just so happens I have some time off. Hang on.

He's gone from the phone, I hear a computer being booted up in the background.

Right, just hold a minute. Thank God for broadband. Come on... right. Let's get to the local airport, flights today to Cascade and... yeah, there's one leaving in three hours. Spaces available. Okay, B. Flight 923, departing at 14:00 from here, takes about two and a half hours so I'll be there at three thirty, your time. Can you meet me there?

"I'll be there, Daniel. And Daniel?"

Yeah?

"Thanks man, I owe you."

No sweat. I was at a loose end anyway. You're doing me a favour. I'll book us into a suite in an hotel, shall I? You said your roommate doesn't like people staying over, didn't you?

"Yeah."

He can tell that there's more to it than that, but Daniel being Daniel leaves it at that till we meet up. We say goodbye and hang up. That was so typical of him to drop everything like this and say he's grateful to me. I'll make it up to him when he comes. Ah well, one more class then it's time to go back to the loft and get my stuff. At least Jim will be at work so I won't have to face him.

-

Fuck. Jim's here.

"Sandburg?" he growls. "No classes?"

"No, not this afternoon."

"Are you coming into work with me then?"

I head off to my room, continuing to talk as I go. I'm obfuscating a bit, but Daniel will back me up.

"Nah, I'm off for a few days. A buddy of mine called, he's going to be in town in a few hours. We'll share a suite in an hotel while he's here."

I hear the shock in his voice but it soon turns to sarcasm. "A suite? In the money, are we?"

"Not me, man. Don't know about you though."

I'm trying to leave the subject as I get my clothes together, but he's now hovering in the doorway.

"So?"

"He's paying, okay? It was his idea, so I'm staying with him. I'll act as tour guide or something."

"Oh. Does he have a name?"

"Well, duh, Jim."

"What is it?" He's growling again. I don't know why I'm so reluctant to talk about him, but I am.

"Daniel. He's an archaeologist."

"You know him from Rainier?"

"No. He was at Harvard when we met. An expedition."

"When?"

FUCK. Will he leave it? Stupid question, he's a detective, of course he won't.

"When I was sixteen. It was my first expedition, he'd been on a few already. He took care of me, watched out for me and taught me a load of stuff." Did he ever? But no way is Jim going to find out all of what he taught me.

"So, you're just upping and leaving?"

What? The guy sounds put out! Why?

"Uh, Jim man, I'm going to be in town and it's only for a few days. I'm not leaving the country. If you need me, you know my phone number. It's not as if you want me around, is it?" I'm getting angry now and I don't think I'd better say anymore. I've packed my stuff and I'm outta here.

He's just standing open-mouthed as I pick up my bag and start toward him.

"Jim, I need to get going. I've got to meet his plane."

That seems to shake him awake. "What do you mean I don't want you around?"

"Fuck. Look, I don't have time to go into this, but perhaps you should think of what you've said to me recently. Now, I'm going, I'm going to spend a few days with my oldest friend and when I come back, you can tell me if you still want me around. I think a couple of days away from each other will be a good thing. We could both do with time to process what's been happening."

He steps to one side, probably to stop me smacking into him, and I go. I know he's probably listening to my heart and he can tell that it's beating fast. But I'm acting cool, my voice is calm, I'm pretty pleased with myself. Now all I need is for my hands to stop shaking and the car to start.

Daniel's going to hate the car. He likes old cars, but he's got long legs.


Well, that was strange. Blair usually only asks for help when he's really desperate. Just as well I'm at home. Medical leave, really, what with the broken wrist and all, but hell, I don't care if I'm supposed to stay around or not. I'm off. I know that Jack's at work, and I know I should ring him to tell him that I'm going to be away, but I really don't want to talk to him at the moment. Ever since the attack of the Replicators and him killing Reece, I've not wanted to even set eyes on the bastard. He wants to put me through a wall, eh? Okay, he hasn't done it, but I've seen in his eyes that he wants to from time to time. I doubt I'm going to be able to stay there for much longer. How can he expect me to work with him now?

I've called a cab, seeing as I can't drive at the moment, my bags are packed and I have the phone in my hand. Here goes. I'm taking the coward's way out and dialling his house.

I'm not in. Speak or put the phone down, it's your funeral. <beep>

"Yeah, Jack, suppose I'd better let you know. I'm going to be out of state for a few days. A friend wants to see me. I've got my cellphone if I'm needed. Bye."

Short, but sweet. Time to go get that cab.

-

You'd think that I wouldn't mind flying, what with all of the flying I've had to do. But I do. Not because I'm scared, but because I'm used to travelling millions of miles in a matter of seconds and here I am, leapfrogging a couple of states and it's taking me two hours. Not to mention check-in, baggage claim at the other end and so on. The flight to DC is way worse though. Have to go via Denver and it can take half a day to get there. At least Cascade has a direct flight.

We've landed and I'm getting off the damned thing. Just as well I went first-class, my legs got a good stretch. One of the better fringe benefits to being the chief civilian at the SGC is a seriously big salary, at least in comparison to other academic jobs. It took me about three years to stop thinking like a poor student and actually make the most of being well-off, by which time I'd saved a lot. Nick signed everything of his over to me too, not that there was a huge amount, but he owned a nice house which he'd been renting out to pay his bills at the hospital. He's never coming back, I know this now, but I'm okay with that. He's happy.

I don't spend much of my money and have an obscenely healthy bank account. I own the loft outright, have a nice but practical car, eat well and so on, but apart from food and utility bills, I actually spend little. And considering I spend precious little time at the loft, the food and utility bills are pretty small. So, when I do need to travel, I do it in style.

Having said that, if Blair wasn't going to stay with me, I'd have booked into a motel, most likely. But he sounded so bad on the phone that I think he needs a treat. I've booked us into the best suite available in the Grand Hotel, an aptly named place from what it said in the blurb on the net. Four stars, seafront, Victorian and according to them, good food which can be delivered to your room or eaten either in the dining room or on the terrace overlooking the sea. Our rooms are on the sea side so we get a nice view. We have a terrace where we can eat out, in private and watch the world go by. Sounds good to me.

I wasn't kidding when I told him he was doing me a favour. I need this break too.

Got my bags and I'm looking around. I can't see him anywhere. It's been two years since I saw him last. When Shau're died, I had no one to turn to. I tried to turn to Jack, but I guess that it was too close to home for him. He walked away from me. I couldn't turn to Teal'c, that was just not possible. And Sam's not exactly known for her empathy. To be fair, she'll listen to you, but she has no idea how to connect emotionally with people. Her idea of comfort is feeding me coffee and chocolate and getting me to help her out in her lab. Sometimes that's okay, but not then. I called up Blair, organised a ticket for him (I know how broke you get to be as a student) and he dropped everything and came running to me. It's the sort of relationship we have. Long-distance, sometimes a long-time in-between communications, but it doesn't matter. He's always there for me, as I am for him. He's about the only person ever that I've not doubted loved me. I even doubted Shau're at first, probably because she didn't have the option but to be my wife. I thought she was with me out of duty. But that did change and after that I didn't doubt her. With Blair, there was never that doubt. Even my parents caused me doubt - I guess a lot of kids go through that. When they see that they're not the centre of attention all the time, the doubt surfaces.

There he is. Wow, he's looking gorgeous. His hair's down, he's smiling fit to burst.

"DANIEL! Hey, man, you're looking good," he calls out.

"Could say the same about you," I say as I pull him into a hug. That's another thing. He's the only person that I do this with, that I want to do this with. "Thanks for picking me up."

He rolls his eyes and takes one of my bags off me.

"Where are we staying?" he asks.

"The Grand."

"Shit. I don't think I've brought the clothes for that place," he says looking down at his soft jeans and plaid shirt.

"Don't be silly. Besides, we can go shopping." I see the look in his eyes as I say that and smack him gently on the head. "Come on, let's get settled in and we'll talk. Don't worry about a thing, Blair. I'll show you why it's all okay when we're there."

He nods and then leads me to his car, saying he can always go back to the loft later and pick up some stuff.

"Hey, nice car. A classic."

"Glad you think so," he replies with a grin. "Just don't try sitting in the back. With your legs you'll end up with cramp."

We get into the car and he sees the strapping on my hand for the first time.

"What's up, Daniel? How did you hurt your hand?"

"Um, can't really tell you," I shrug. "It's just a couple of small bones broken, nothing serious. Just a nuisance, really. It's why I'm off work, so it's not such a bad thing. After all, I probably wouldn't have been able to come here so quickly if it wasn't broken."

He starts to laugh. "That's my Daniel. Look for the silver lining in every situation."

"One tries," I drawl.

"One is very trying," he drawls back.


I don't know how he does it. Daniel manages to look like a million dollars, and at the same time, looks like shit. His eyes are telling me that he's not been sleeping well, his face is filled with worry lines. Perhaps I shouldn't have called him.

"Don't," he says.

"Don't what?"

"Think that you shouldn't have called me. I need this break, B."

All I can do is laugh. Well, after all these years, it's not surprising that he can read my face.

"Nearly there, Daniel. It's a posh place, you know?"

"I know. I figured we both needed the treat."

"You could be right."

My voice is telling him way too much, I can tell.

"B, don't worry about it. It's my treat, okay? I'll explain everything in the hotel when we can sit in comfort."

"You're not comfortable?" I tease.

He just looks at me and grins.

-

We're there. It's got an imposing fašade, beachfronted, with a pavilion, painted with whitewash and glistening in the sun. The lawns run down to the beach and the terraces are incredible. It's filled with flowers native to the area and exotic grasses too - looks good. How I'm going to get away with being in here, I don't know.

I've pulled up out the front and a porter's turned up. He's looking at me as if I'm something the cat dragged in. Wearing chinos, a shirt, tie and a blazer, Daniel looks like he was made for this. He's out of the car and in the porter's face, directing all attention to him. The bags are out and a valet is taking my keys. He's looking at the car as if it's something out of the Stone Age.

"Careful with that," Daniel says, "it's a classic."

Damn, he's good. I say nothing, but follow him inside, watching the master at work. He's always done this, directed attention away from me. Back when we first met, it got me out of a lot of trouble. I was young, enthusiastic, and always going where I wasn't wanted. But he'd get people to look at him, allowing me to study what was going on. He taught me how to stay quiet and observe, gave me the chance to develop my techniques as a watcher.

Oh, oh, something's up.

"I booked the presidential suite," he says. The presidential suite? Holy shit.

"I know, sir, but something's gone wrong with the computer system. That suite is already taken. I am terribly sorry."

He sighs, sounding like he's really put out.

"What suites do you have available?"

"Only the bridal suite, sir," the receptionist cringes.

He looks at me and winks. "Does he look like a bride?"

I stand still, trying not to laugh and to look innocent.

More cringing and crawling from the receptionist. The manager has been called. There is no other room available. Oops.

"Daniel, we've shared many tents," I remind him.

"Yes," he agrees, "but you can take up an entire tent." I see mischief in his eyes though so I'm trying not to laugh out loud. "Very well, we'll take that."

The manager looks at once relieved and irked that I'm going to be staying here. Tough.

"We can make up a bed on the sofa in the suite for your, er, companion if you so desire?"

Daniel looks even more irritated now. "Why would I relegate him to a sofa? This was supposed to be a treat for my best friend. Sleeping anywhere other than a bed is insulting."

No, it's not, Daniel, but we've shared a number of beds as well as tents.

Ah ha, the manager has promised us dinner on the house tonight to make up for it. Given the prices here, that's a heck of a concession. Daniel's accepted it gracefully, but his tone of voice still manages to sound very offended. He really is good at this.

-

We're in the suite, the bell hop has gone, our bags are unpacked and finally he's holding me close.

"You okay?" he asks.

"Yeah, just don't snore too much, right?"

"As if I would," he laughs back. "Ah Blair, I've missed you so much."

"Same here, man. How about we sit somewhere comfortable, eh?"

He lets me go, then heads into the bedroom, kicks his shoes off, his jacket and tie have already gone, and he's lying down.

"C'mere," he says, "I could do with a cuddle."

I am so there.

"So, are you going to tell me what's up?" he asks when I snuggle into his arms. I love being here, it's always made me feel safe.

I tell him. How Jim looked at the opening chapter, how he accused me of betraying him, how things are bad, and how I doubt whether I could ever publish it and keep his anonymity anyway. But if I stop doing this, I'll lose the excuse to follow him around and help him out. He holds me tight as I talk and I can feel the anger in him on my behalf. Just as well we're not at the loft. I think he'd take Jim apart for what he did. I can feel that Daniel's a lot stronger than the last time we met.

He's silent, thinking through my words, trying to come up with a solution for me.

"What about a change of subject? Go to the board and tell them that the subject has nullified the validity of all of your work, then give them a back-up subject. Maybe the thin blue-line thing that you pretend it's all about anyway. You should already have a lot of evidence and information to get a good start on that. After that, you have two choices, the way I see it. One, you join the police and become his partner, one way or another. The other is that you sever your ties with him and do something else instead."

"Sever my ties?"

"Babe, you've been let down, you don't feel like he wants you around. Why make yourself miserable? These last three years have been hard on you, haven't they? You've given up a lot to help him out. Start to think of yourself for once."

I flop onto my back and look up at the cover of the four-poster we've got. "What could I do, Daniel? I can't see expeditions being as exciting as they once were. I actually enjoy police work."

"I can see that. There is, after all, a correlation between anthropology and detective work. Reading people and figuring out their motives for doing things is what we do. Okay, again, you have two choices if you want to stay with the police. One, stay in Cascade and with Ellison; two, move to another place and work there."

"I'm not sure I'd want to be a detective without Jim," I sigh.

"But you're not sure he wants you to be one with him?" he prompts. I just shake my head. "Right, I do have another option for you, but I'm not sure you'll like it."

"What is it?"

"Work with me."

"Why wouldn't I like that?"

He's up and off the bed and retrieving something from his hand luggage. It's a gun?

"Daniel?"

"I should wear this at all times. It's a new rule since one of my teammates was kidnapped not so long back. I hate the fucking thing, but I do 'carry' it, even if I don't always wear it. I have a permit to take it out of state, on airplanes, and so on. I even have the duty to use it in self-defence."

I look at him closely and study his face. He's comfortable in handling the thing, so I dare say he's already used it, but there is still distaste at having it with him.

"Have you used it in anger?" I ask.

"Many times."

"I'm not sure I could do that," I say. "Jim wanted me to carry a gun to back him up but I can't do it."

He sits on the bed and says, "If you become a cop, B, you'll have to. I know how you feel about guns, I feel the same way, but there are times that it's necessary to protect your team - or in your case, your partner. I've never used it unless I've had no choice in the matter."

"Have you killed?"

"Yes."

"Shit. How do you cope?"

"With difficulty. I could say it gets easier, but it doesn't. I comfort myself with the knowledge that the only times I've fired in anger, I've been in a position where it was necessary. I've been in battle, or I've had to use it or other weaponry to save innocent lives. I've only ever fired on the enemy."

"You're a soldier?"

"Not really. I'm still a civilian, though I hold a nominal rank because of my position. But I'm on a front-line team. You wouldn't be. I have the ability to hire people, B. I do it by getting to know the person I want and then sounding them out, just like this. You'd be perfect for us. Your training as an anthropologist and your experience with the police would make you the ideal candidate. We go places you couldn't begin to imagine, study people you have no idea existed. You'd get the opportunity to be an anthropologist in what is an anthropologist's fantasy. You'd work with earth scientists, physicists, chemists, biologists, botanists, archaeologists, linguists - the whole megillah working together on multidisciplinary expeditions. But you'd also have military back-up and you'd be required to train to use and be prepared to use a gun in defence of your team."

"How likely is it that I'd have to use it?"

"We only send scientific teams out where we believe that they will be safe from attack. There is an enemy out there, one I can't tell you about unless you join us, which strikes in places we don't expect. We've had a few attacks on such teams. It's not as dangerous as my job, but there are risks. I won't lie to you about that. But given what you've been doing, and also the fact that when you go on a university expedition, there is always the chance that you'll be attacked by raiders or guerillas or whatever, I don't think the risk is unacceptable. We do everything in our power to limit the risks."

"Can I think about it?"

"Well, duh, B," he laughs. "I don't want you jumping into this. I guess I want you to know that you have an option - an exciting one. You know you'll always have a home with me, so don't worry about that. I'm serious about you being right for the job, I'm not just saying it. Think on this, if I just hired friends, how soon would it be before some of them turned out to be wrong for the job? If that were to happen, I'd lose my ability to hire. So, I only recruit those that I believe will fit in. It is an Air Force base and as such, we live under military rules. However, as civilians, we have certain exceptions to those rules."

He looks at me and the bed pointedly and I laugh out loud.

"Would you want me to live with you like that?"

He's back by my side and holding me tight. "Yes and no. Look, I love you, you know that."

"Never doubted it."

I get the warmest smile and a kiss on my nose for that.

"You must know that I'm very attracted to you."

"You've mentioned it on one or two occasions," I say.

Now he's chuckling.

"The most important thing to me is our friendship, B. If you want to spend the next few days, or the rest of our lives as friends, then that's fine with me. To lose that friendship would be the worst thing in the world. If you want more though, it's no hardship on my part."

His eyes are smiling now, along with the rest of him. Damn, whenever I see that look I'm gone. Can't help it.

"Not hard?" I tease, running my fingers over his crotch. I feel him start to harden as I do.

"Blair, please. Don't start something you don't intend finishing, it's not fair."

"Who said I don't intend finishing? I'm not answering about the job thing, and I'm not making a decision about the rest of our lives, D. But for the next few days, I don't see why we can't lose ourselves, do you?"

"No, no I don't."

I push him onto his back and start to kiss his face. I'm kneeling over him now and we're starting to undress each other. Kisses continue, our lips finally touch. It's like the Fourth of July when our tongues connect, I can hear rockets and see flashing lights as the electricity between us goes into overload.

Our chests are bare and we make contact, causing a loud growl from us both. Pants are undone and pushed down and he's pulled me to lie flat on him, our cocks touching for the first time in two years. Oh fuck, it's good. We've broken the kiss, this is taking us over as it is. I push hard against him, grinding and thrusting as he grabs my ass and pulls me into him. We're going to leave bruises at this rate but I don't really care.

I'm coming, so's he. I must have triggered it in him or something. He's grunting hard, I'm echoing his noise. Fuck finesse, that can come later.

"God, Daniel, I love you," I manage to gasp.

"Yeah," he pants. "Love you too."


We've had a shower and Blair's pulled out some decent clothes to put on. He looks good. Hell, he looked good in the jeans, but it's not really appropriate here.

"I should go back to the loft and get some different clothes," he says as he finishes.

"Would you like me to go with you?"

"Um, I'm not sure. Jim wasn't really in the best of moods when I said I was meeting with you."

"Oh?"

"He wasn't happy with the thought that I was 'leaving him'."

I laugh. "He sounds jealous, B."

"Nah, just put out that I'm not at his beck and call, I guess. Um, D, I told him you called me, okay?"

"Sure. When he sees my hand he'll see why I'm off work. Besides, like I said, you really are doing me a favour. It's not much fun on my team at the moment and I'm thinking of leaving it. I'll stay there, but in a non-field role most likely, or I'll go on scientific expeditions, but I can't see me staying on my team."

"Why not?"

"Let's just say that you're not the only one with personality clashes and leave it at that for now, eh?"

He grins and nods. I'm dressed and suggest we make a move. He's going to want to get something nice to wear as I'm going to treat him like a king over the next few days.

"D?"

"Yeah?"

"You said that this," he waves his hand around the room, "isn't a problem. What did you mean?"

"Quite simply, I'm paid very well, Blair. I have way more money than I can spend. In fact, I have too much. I have an accountant, believe it or not."

"Ouch!"

I laugh out loud as I see his face when I tell him that.

"Blair, what about you? I know you can't be earning much. And don't fudge - I was a student for a long time too, remember."

He's blushing. "You know, the usual. Student loans and so on."

"Can I help?"

"Huh?"

"Look," I get out my cheque book and show him the stubs. His eyes are popping out. "That's just what's in that account, B. I've got about $300,000 in savings. I had a different input to my income that I can't really tell you much about, but basically it was an inheritance from Nick - he's still alive by the way - that boosted things too. I've got a pension sorted out, I don't have medical bills, my daily expenses are minimal. I own my place, I own my car, I have no loans, nothing outstanding on anything. If you want me to pay off your loans and any other debts I'll do it gladly."

"No way, man," he says. "I borrowed the money, I'll pay it all back when I'm earning."

"Okay, how about I pay it off for now," I put up my hands as he's about to interrupt, "and you can pay me back when you have the money. No interest, no set payments. What you can, when you can, okay?"

"It's a lot, Daniel."

I sigh and roll my eyes. "Dammit, Blair, I know. I've paid off all of mine and I know how much they were. Think of it this way. You have been studying a rare anthropological phenomenon, right?"

"Yeah."

"If I were an academic body or an organisation that was going to give you a research grant to look into the phenomenon of sentinels, you wouldn't question it, would you?"

"No."

"Same thing. I am interested in the work you are doing. I believe in you and your ability to help Ellison out and to chart the information in a scientific manner. Let me give you a grant."

"That would be a fuck of a big grant, Daniel," he says, sitting down hard on the sofa.

"Maybe so, but I think it's worth it. I think you are worth it. Look, don't decide now, but the offer's there and doesn't have a time limit on it. I won't think ill of you one way or the other. I've been there, been broke, wondered how I was going to get through the next few days on many occasions. I'm in a position to help you out and I want to, but I know how proud you are too and understand that. I don't want to embarrass you, Blair, but I want you to sleep at night. If the positions were reversed, if you were the one with the money to spare and I was the one that needed it, what would you do?"

He's blushing and mumbling, but I know what he's saying. "I'd do the same thing."

I kneel in front of him and hold his hands in mine. "I know you'd help me, Blair. Don't you see? It's one of the reasons I feel I can offer this. I'd be embarrassed to offer it to anyone else, because they'd think that I was doing it with an ulterior, maybe suspect motive. You know that I don't have one because you wouldn't have one with me, would you?"

He shakes his head. "It's a lot to take in, Daniel."

"Like I said, something to think about. If you feel you want to take me up on the offer, give me the account details to anything you want paid off and I'll sort it. Medical bills, student loans, overdraft, credit cards, other loans, whatever. I'm not interested in knowing how much you owe, I don't really care. I'll do what I can to help you out though."

He looks up at me and smiles warmly. "Thanks, Daniel. I'll think about it, I promise. You will let me pay you back?"

"If you feel you have to, and only on the conditions I said before. No interest on it, and only what you can, when you can. There's no need to pay me back, but if it will make you happier, then I'd accept it."

"You are one hell of a friend," he finally says, wrapping his arms around my neck and hugging me tightly.

"Like I said, B, you're the only one I'd entertain doing this for. You've always been there for me, never questioned me or doubted me. You're worth your weight in platinum to me, more than that even. This is nothing, honestly."

I think he's finally accepted that. Maybe now he'll accept my help. I won't push it, but he now knows that whatever he decides to do with his future, he has a safety net and a back-up plan. His eyes are starting to soften and the haunted look is starting to dissipate. That's good.

-

So, this is the loft, eh? Nice. Funny how we both dislike heights yet we both live high up. Ellison isn't here, thank God. Though part of me wants to meet him. Curiosity, I guess. I've heard so much about him. I'm one of the very few than know about his abilities and Blair's role, his real role in Ellison's life. He swore me to secrecy - something that I'm very used to. I understand better than Blair does just what would happen if something got out about Ellison's talents. The NID would swoop on him before he knew what had hit him. No matter how much I want to smack Ellison for what he did to Blair regarding his dissertation, I wouldn't wish that on him.

Oh, oh, the door's open.

"Sandburg? I thought you were at the hotel."

We're in Blair's little bedroom - it is so Blair. I love it. We hear Ellison's footsteps as he approaches the room.

"You must be his friend," he snarls as he looks at me. I'm sitting on the foot of Blair's bed while watching him pack.

"Hi Jim," Blair says cheerfully, but his tone is forced. "Um, Jim, this is Daniel, Daniel, this is Jim."

"I'd guessed, B," I say as I stand up. I offer my hand to him and he takes it. No shake, just a firm grip. He's a couple of inches taller than me and he's looking down as if he's trying to intimidate me. Uh huh, buster, give it up. Jack O'Neill doesn't intimidate me, so you don't stand a chance. I know what Jack's capable of and it's every bit as bad as what you are, possibly worse. Instead of cowering, I just look him in the eye and smile. "Pleased to meet you at last," I say. "I've been wondering who it was that could get Blair interested in police work."

I'm not letting on that I know about the sentinel thing. I know B doesn't want me to tell him that he told me, so I won't.

"He's told you about me?"

"You're a friend of his," I say, "and you let him ride out with you to study the closed societal structure of the police and the extensive application of anthropology in a forensic role. It sounds quite fascinating."

I know that Blair's relieved by what I just said and I don't need to be a sentinel to pick that up. Ellison nods and agrees with it.

"I'm done," Blair finally says. "Had to get some different clothes. Didn't realise quite how upmarket we were going."

Ellison sees the suit bag that Blair now has and his eyes open wide.

"Where are you staying?" he's growling.

"At The Grand. And it is, man. We've got this really cool suite with a great view. Daniel's got good taste."

"I just wanted a break, B, I told you. This medical leave is a pain in the neck and I get bored really easily."

"Tell me about it," Blair laughs. He looks at Ellison as he picks up his stuff and heads to the door. "Daniel's more, er, mentally active than I am."

Ellison steps back as we leave the confines of the bedroom and head out to the door.

"What do you mean?" he says as we go past.

"It's not true," I counter. "Blair's one of the smartest people around. A rarity these days."

"Daniel," Blair drawls.

"Blair, how many other people go into the subject with such a fresh, unjaundiced eye as you? You're a breath of fresh air, trust me on this one. Anthropology can get very stuffy at times."

"I thought you were an archaeologist," Ellison growls. He growls a lot, I notice, especially where Blair's concerned. Hmm.

"He is," Blair says. "He's a doctor of archaeology, um, a doctor of archaeo-linguistics too, and he's got a separate masters in anthropology. All that by the time he was twenty-six."

I just shrug. It's true, so I'm not arguing with him. Ellison looks surprised.

"You'd have had all of those bits of paper and letters after your name if you'd done the same courses as me, Blair," I point out. "We just have different agendas."

"You ever going to do the PhD in anth.?"

"Who knows? If I leave the team I might finally have the time. Oh, I just thought. There's an academic option for you I haven't told you about. Come on, we've got dinner waiting, I'll tell you there."

I usher him out of the door before he can say anything more. The look on Ellison's face tells me I've hit a home run there. Good. He obviously needs a kick up the ass where his treatment of Blair is concerned. If he starts to think that I'm here to take Blair from him, then maybe he'll get the message and maybe he'll work harder to keep him.

Blair and I call out our goodbyes and head to the elevator quickly. B's looking at me, but knows better than to question me yet. My last vision of Ellison is one of a shocked man, standing in his doorway and looking like he's just been told his dog is dead.


Daniel and I said little of consequence on the way back to the hotel, we didn't really need to. I pointed out a few things of interest to him as we went, keeping the conversation to neutral topics. I nearly laughed back at the loft. Jim was in his full-blown alpha mode, the one that makes hardened criminals want to cry, and Daniel didn't even blink. I guess that his work with the military helps, but he's never been intimidated by anyone or anything. He was so calm that I don't think that even Jim would have detected how annoyed Daniel is with him. I only know it because I know him so well. Daniel wanted to hit him... hard.

We've gotten changed. I'm in my tux, he's in one too, and we're looking good. I've tied my hair back but he's looking at it and shaking his head, so I've taken the tie out. Now I'm getting that smile. Woof.

"Better," he says as he runs his finger through my hair. "If you've got it, flaunt it," he teases.

"You like my hair like this, don't you?"

"I think you look edible," he answers with a laugh. "You look gorgeous whether it's long or short, wearing it out or tied back, but this is best for me. It makes you look older too," he adds. "When your hair is short you look a lot younger."

"Jealous?" I joke.

"No, you're with me, how could I be jealous? Besides, there are going to be many people that are jealous, and they'll be jealous of me, not of you. After all, I am the one who's with you."

Damn, that man could sweet-talk a charging rhino.

He leans closer and we connect, holding each other tightly and kissing for a while.

"I'm getting your lips insured," I tell him when we break. "No one, and I mean no one kisses like you."

"I'm inspired," he replies.

-

We both get some different looks when we enter the dining room. The manager is completely changed in his attitude to me, that's for sure. He was there and waiting for us, making sure that everything is to our liking. I really like this sucking up, it's fun.

"Pick whatever you want, Blair," Daniel whispers. "We're not paying for this so make the most of it."

I am so there! Oh yes, lobster. Not kosher, but then neither am I. Daniel's called the waiter over and we give our orders. He's picked some wine that will suit our meals and we sit back and wait for it to be delivered.

"You said something about academic options, Daniel?"

"Ah, yes, of course. Because of the nature of our work, the various academics at our base can't publish much. As you can imagine, this is frustrating."

I nod. I hate not publishing.

"Some of the information is currently highly-classified, but there will come a time when that classification will be dropped. When the subjects that we deal with are made public, it's going to be hard to control the information that gets out, and there could be some academics who are not involved in the project but who will get interested in what we do. They may well research things that have already been studied and publish papers that could have already been written, but haven't been because of the security restrictions. That would mean that the ones that do the original work and make the notes aren't the ones that will headline the first papers. You know what the academic world is like for getting the first papers out on anything."

"Oh yeah. Cut-throat doesn't even begin to cover it."

"Exactly."

He's about to speak but the wine has just been delivered. He tastes it and nods, then we get our glasses poured and the wine waiter leaves.

"So, we came up with a solution. I don't know if you know, but the Air Force Academy is also an academic institution. They can award certificates, degrees, higher degrees and so on."

I didn't, but I nod anyway.

"Basically, the upshot is, they've cleared some of the higher staff to read the papers to act in a peer review capacity. When we research something, we write up reports that go to the Pentagon, but we can also write up the sort of paper that would go to a scientific journal. It gets the peer review, but then it's locked away in the Pentagon for safe keeping when it's passed. These papers are signed and dated. When our project goes public, we can release the articles for general publication straight away, so the original work is kept and the proper accreditation is given."

"Makes sense," I say. "Sounds fair too. After all, if you guys are the ones risking your necks to get the information..."

"Precisely. Anyway, what this is leading to is this. Given the nature of our studies, some of the time, dissertation length pieces are written which could be awarded a PhD in other realms. Some of the military personnel have also been working towards higher degrees. You have to have a masters degree to become a major, and a number of those with masters have wanted to go on to get a doctorate. We arranged with the Academy that the doctoral programmes could be done with classified materials in the same way that the articles are."

"Good thinking." I think I'm getting where this is going, but I'll let him finish.

"I know you want to keep your work a secret, babe, and I understand why. I agree, by the way. Information about your subject getting out could place him in danger and that isn't acceptable. What I'm proposing is this. Forget Rainier. I'll arrange for you to enter a doctoral programme at the Academy. You've already got more than enough research data to complete your dissertation, haven't you?"

"Yeah, loads more than enough. I've just been hanging on."

"I get that. So, the fact that Ellison's fucked it up will be irrelevant if you use what you've already got. I'll go into bat for you, Blair. We can change his name on the documents if you want. Then, when you get the degree - as I am more than confident you will - we'll bury the dissertation under so many layers of red tape that no one will even know where to look for it."

"You can do that?"

"I can do it," he grins. "I've got friends in low places."

I laugh out loud and chink my wine glass against his.

"It could be the answer to my prayers, Daniel," I say. "But will I have to join your project to do it?"

"I don't know," he answers honestly. "I'll try to arrange it so that you don't have to. But I couldn't promise that that would be possible. I'd do my best."

He looks sorry about that.

"Daniel, if you can do that, it would be amazing. If you can't, don't worry about it. I really appreciate all the ideas you've given me, all the options too. My future's looking a lot brighter now. I was so worried, you know? I know that my ride is coming to an end, but I've been so worried about what's going to happen to Jim that I've held off."

"Good, I'm glad. Now, let's kick back, the meal's coming over, we'll eat, drink, be merry and have fun for a couple of days. How does that sound?"

"Sounds like a plan to me."


Part Two

I stayed on the team and we've dealt with a thing called 'the sentinel'. That made me laugh. First trip out after that long weekend with Blair and I'm dealing with a sentinel. Not the same thing, but in some ways, it was. A protector. Funny how life throws up those little coincidences.

I have to call Blair when I get home. I need to know if he wants me to go ahead with getting him accepted for the programme at the Academy. I've sounded out the relevant people and they're keen to meet him. Hopefully, we'll be able to do this without making him join the programme. I know he doesn't want to do that, at least not yet. He's still too attached to Ellison. Hell, he's in love with him. That should upset me, but it doesn't. If it were anyone else that I loved I probably would be upset that he loved someone else, but Blair is first and foremost my friend and I want him to be happy.

I've never told him how much I love him, that I've always been in love with him. Can't help it. I should have said, but somehow I knew that that would have put a barrier up between us. He needs me as a friend more than anything. As a sixteen year-old, he needed a big brother. He knew that I was gay, some of the others on the expedition let him know in no delicate way. He told them that it was irrelevant. I saw then that he'd always be the one that would go the extra mile to protect those he loved and fell for him. But I was twenty at the time and he was under-age, so what interaction we had was limited at the time. He knew he was bi, had even dated guys fairly innocently a couple of times before we met, so it's not as if I used my influence on him to 'turn him'. We shared a tent, kissed a lot, even jerked each other off a couple of times (he started it, honest), but I couldn't and wouldn't let him take it further. We made sure that we were on the same expeditions over the next few years. In fact, he was the one that pushed me into going to Oxford to pursue my anthropology degree. He dated guys and girls in-between us meeting, but he wouldn't let anyone fuck him. He wanted me to be his first one. That was incredible, that level of confidence in me, his trust... I did what I could to make it good for him.

I know he hasn't been seeing men since he met up with Ellison and I can't blame him either. That isn't something that I can really allow to get out about me either. It's not been easy. Yeah, women are okay - and I was nuts about Shau're. I'll castrate anyone that says any different. However, I've always preferred guys. Since I started at the SGC, apart from a couple of meetings with Blair, there's only been one guy that I've been with and we have such an awkward relationship because of the distance. Still, he's a damned good friend and I do love him dearly.

Jack was pretty cool on this trip out. He showed that he had confidence in me, though he doesn't seem to be as protective as he once was. I don't know if I'm happy about that or not. I think I'm missing something.

Home at last. Pick up the mail and see it's all junk. Look at the phone and yeah, a message. It shouldn't be a telesales person, we all have unlisted numbers for security purposes.

Press the button and listen in.

Hey, Daniel, um, I'm off to Mexico. There's been a development that I can't go into over the phone. I'll call you when I get home. If I get home. I'll be frank, hun, things are not good. I don't want to worry you, I just wanted to tell you that I, well, I love you, man. And I'm grateful for everything. Hopefully I'll come home and we'll talk, maybe I'll take you up on your offer. I'm seriously considering it now, but if I don't come back, you have to know you made all the difference to me. Gotta go. Take care, okay?

Fuck. Don't worry? Yeah, sure! I dial his number at the loft and get an answerphone, but the message isn't Blair's. What's wrong? I dial his cellphone and get the usual 'the cellphone you are calling...' crap. He'd better call and soon. I'm not going anywhere till I've heard from him.


I feel like shit. Jim isn't talking to me, Simon isn't really talking to me. Megan is talking at me but I'm not in a position to answer. My chest feels like it's been kicked by a horse and my lungs are like bricks. Breathing isn't easy. We're coming into LA and we need to change planes here.

I hate this, the waiting, the silence. I can't talk, it hurts too much. I have to though. That message I left Daniel has probably worried him. Better let him know that I'm okay. Just hope he's there. I've had enough of this sentinel crap. If I never see another sentinel in my life it will be too fucking soon. Jim doesn't want me in his life, he's made that abundantly clear. I no longer live at the loft, no longer want to study him anyway. Sentinels seem to want me dead, so I'm taking the hint. As soon as we get back to Cascade, I'm going to tell him that it's over.

There, hit the speed dial and get Daniel's number. It's ringing, ringing... come on, D, answer please.

Hello?

"Daniel, glad you're there."

Blair! Where the fuck are you?

"LA. We're getting another plane and then I'll be home. I, er..."

I'm on the way. Shall I meet you at the loft?

"No, I don't live there anymore. Meet me at Rainier?"

Shall do. And Blair?

"Yeah?"

You sound like shit.

I'd laugh but it would hurt. "I feel like it, man. I'll see you there."

I sit back down in the waiting area. Megan's watching me, Simon's looking anywhere but at me and Jim? Jim's hurting about Alex, I guess. His face is stony. We've got a three hour layover and I want to go home.

-

Finally, Cascade. And for once it's not raining. Good, I couldn't cope with wet weather. I've got my stuff, better get a bus to the university as I came in Megan's car. I head for the bus stop, not even looking at the others as I go.

"Sandburg?"

Shit, I don't want to stop, I just want to go.

"Simon?"

"Where are you heading?"

"Uh, I didn't bring my car," I shrug. "I'll get the bus."

"Sandy, I'll give you a lift," Megan insists.

"It's okay, I don't want to put you out."

"Don't be silly. Where shall I drop you off?"

"Rainier," I say and finally get a reaction from Jim.

"Why there?"

"Because that's where my stuff is. I didn't have time to find anywhere else to live."

I see anger flash over Simon's face. Because I'm leaving or because Jim kicked me out? I don't know and I don't rightly care. I'm not getting into this, and I start to walk to the busses again. I can't face having to explain anything. Megan's grabbed my arm though and she's steering me to the parking lot.

"Uh huh, Sandy, I'll take you there. Come on, we can talk on the way."

"Connor, I don't want to talk, I want to sleep."

"Well shut your eyes then."

"I usually do when you drive."

She looks at me and grins, then wraps her arm around my shoulders as we walk. Jim and Simon have said nothing more. Good.

-

We're at my office and she's surprised to see it full of boxes.

"Sandy, will you talk to me now?"

"What's to say, Megan? He kicked me out of the loft, ran off with the woman that killed me, won't speak to me... it's over. I'm tired, I feel like crap and I don't want to fight him anymore. Do me a favour, will you?"

"Name it."

"Watch out for him. You were right with your assumption. Make sure that he's careful with his senses. He forgets to dial things down."

"What do you mean?"

"He can control how far his senses go, but only if he concentrates. If you're going into a situation where there are bright lights or strong smells or something, just remind him to dial it down. He'll likely snap at you, but he could zone if you don't."

"Zone?"

"Literally fixate on one thing and it's like he's in a trance. He can come out of them himself, but usually you have to talk him out of them."

"You can talk him out of them, Sandy, can't you? He needs you."

"He doesn't want me around and now I don't want to be around."

"He does, he's just hurting," she tries.

"Hurting so much," I agree. "But because he's not with her, not because he's not with me. He's made it plain that I have no place in his life, so I'm taking the hint. I don't want to die again for him to prove his point."

She's hugging me hard and not letting go when there's a knock at the door. I call enter and in walks Daniel.

"I should be jealous?" he asks, his voice light but his eyes are dark with worry.

"Inspector Megan Connor," I say as I slip out of her arms, "this is my best friend, Doctor Daniel Jackson. And may I say, D, you were quick. I'm impressed."

"I pulled a few strings," he says distractedly. "You look fucking awful. What's wrong?"

"Long story," I say but I feel my voice getting further away. I want to collapse.

"What's wrong with him?" he's demanding of Megan as he steers me to a chair.

"I don't know. It could be his lungs. He drowned."

"Don't you mean nearly drowned?"

"No, they called it," she insists. I open my eyes and look at Daniel and Megan. She looks surprised when Daniel just nods and doesn't question it further. He's leaning me forward and now he's pressed his ear to my back.

"Fuck. I may not be a medical doctor but I know congested lungs when I hear them. B, did they give you any medicine to prevent pneumonia?"

"Backpack," I say.

Megan's got it out and she's pulling things out. "Here!"

"Damn it, Blair, you didn't take anything. What is it? Penicillin? Yeah, I seem to remember that that is what they treat you with. Take this now."

He's given me some tablets and some water.

"Blair, are these all of your things?" he asks. I can't really answer.

"I think so," Megan says. "Apparently Ellison kicked him out of the loft."

"He said he wasn't there anymore." I feel him kneeling in front of me and taking my head in his hands. The world is looking a lot hazy at the moment. "Blair, do you remember when I was here a couple of weeks back, and what we discussed?"

"Yeah," I gasp.

"Will you let me take control here? Let me make the decisions for you? I need to get you somewhere safe and take care of you. You know what I'm talking about, don't you?"

"Yeah." Oh God, this is it. But I can't go on like this. I can't. "Do it. Please."

"Relax then, babe, I won't let you down. Just let me handle everything. All you will have to do is concentrate on getting better."

I hear him speaking but now all I want to do is sleep.


This Megan character is still here, but I don't mind. She's giving off big sister vibes and Blair already told me about her. He trusts her, so I can. I pick up the phone and dial the General. He came up trumps earlier. I called to say that a friend needed me in a hurry and that he sounded really sick. He had his own private plane on standby at Peterson for me in minutes. It's at McChord now and waiting for me to come home in. Can you believe it?

I have a driver outside with a staff car. It won't be big enough for the three of us and his stuff, though, and I want a doctor to see Blair now.

"General Hammond, I'm glad to speak to you."

Doctor Jackson, how is your friend?

"He's very sick, Sir. I hate to ask this but I need another favour. I need a doctor to see him immediately, I think he has pneumonia. And I am bringing him home with me. He's just lost his home and everything he has is in boxes at the university."

Leave it with me, son. I know you wouldn't ask for something like this if it wasn't vital.

"No, General, I wouldn't. I think that if this doesn't happen immediately, he's going to die."

Is there anywhere there for a helicopter to land?

"There's a huge green, so sure."

Watch out of the window then, you'll soon be coming home.

"Thank you, George, I really appreciate this."

I put down the phone and start stacking the boxes so that it's going to be easy to move them. Megan's saying nothing but she's helping.

"What about your stuff here, Blair?" I ask.

He opens his eyes and I see that he's pointing with them to some things. We start to collect together his own personal effects and put them into the boxes that are here, it's a tight squeeze but eventually it's all done.

"Stay here with him," I say. I have to dismiss the driver and then go to find his head of department. I've got to tell them that he's quitting.

-

Done. They weren't happy but I pointed out to them that Blair was very sick. He may come back, he may not, it would depend on his recovery. Given his delays in submitting his dissertation, I think that it was felt it was for the best. His head told me that if Blair were to come back, he should choose another dissertation subject. He won't need to, but they don't have to know that.

Megan's still with him, holding him and stroking his back. He's finding breathing difficult. Damn it, where is that chopper?

"Blair? Hey, babe, keep sitting up and keep the pressure off your lungs." I hold him tight and upright.

"That's the second time you've called him 'babe'," she whispers.

"I've called him it a lot more times than that," I admit.

"You love him?"

"More than anything."

"You'll take care of him?"

"Better than anyone else has," I snarl.

"I tried to stop him going to Mexico," she snaps back. "In the end all I could do was go with him."

I shake my head. "Sorry, I didn't mean to snap at you. It wasn't you I was thinking of."

"Yeah, I know," she says softly. I can tell she's as worried as me. "Will you give me a contact number for him?"

I write down my home number. "This is for your use only," I say. "I work for a government agency and they don't like me to have lots of people knowing where I am and so on."

She nods as she takes it. "I'll try Blair's cellphone first, but then I'll call you if he's not there."

"Good idea," I agree. "I'll keep his phone charged and switched on. It'll be harder to trace than my phone. If anyone tries to trace you calling me," I say, "the security systems we have installed will know it. Whoever's doing it could get into trouble."

"I'll use my cellphone then," she says.

"Good. Give me your number."

"I think Sandy's pre-programmed it into his phone, but here's my card."

"Thanks. I'll let you know how he's getting on."

She smiles broadly at me for that. I can see that she really does care about him. "Now, tell me about the drowning. I may need to know everything."

I can tell that this isn't going to be easy for her, but she tells me. Blair's semiconscious and every so often, he moves closer to me. I'm holding him tightly now, making sure he stays upright. I've tipped his head back a bit to keep his airways clear, but he's not breathing well.


I can hear voices. I know that Daniel's holding me, I'd know him anywhere. I think he must be talking to Megan. I can pick up a few words. "Fountain... called it ... crying ... didn't believe ... hospital..."

I know what they're talking about now. Guess Daniel needs to know. He's holding me closer and closer as she tells the story. I feel him pressing his lips to my forehead, fiercely wanting to take the memory away I think. Sorry, D, it'll take more than that.

There's a thumping noise and now Daniel's moving.

"Blair? Let Megan hold you for a minute, babe, I'm going to sort some things out."

Okay, I can do that.

-

More voices now, more moving. I don't want this I want to sleep.

"Blair? Honey, there's a doctor here now. Just listen to him."

"Megan?"

"Shh, sweetie, it's all going to get better now. You're going to go with these people, okay? Daniel's going to take care of you now. I'm going to miss you so much. We'll keep in touch, I promise."

"Megs, be careful."

"I will honey, you too."

"Love you."

"Yeah, Sandy. Love you too. You're a good pal."

"Take care of him."

"Will do."

God, this hurts. Daniel's right, I can't stay here, not now. But it hurts. I want Jim, want him to hold me tight and make things better. He's never going to do that again, is he? Never going to see him again. Shit, I want to cry. There's something on my face. I hear quiet sobbing. What's going on?

"Blair? Hey buddy, the doctor's put an oxygen mask on you to help you breathe. We're going to fly to the air base and then I'm taking you home, okay? My doctor's on standby and waiting to see you. We'll make it all better soon. You just have to relax and trust us and let us help you."

-

I keep drifting in and out of consciousness. I'm so tired, so fucking tired. It hurts so much. Can't breathe too well, but it's better than it was. I'm in another helicopter I think. At least I'm in it this time. I'm still sitting up, Daniel's holding me tightly.

"Blair, you with us?"

"Hmm?"

"'sokay, don't speak. Megan was crying when we took you, she's going to miss you so much. I promised her I'll keep her posted as to how you are doing and I've told her she can call to check up on you. You'll see her again, I promise you."

I nod, sort of. It's about as good as I can get.

-

"He's sleeping again, Jan," I hear. We're in a car.

"No, he's not."

I look at the woman who spoke and I see dark hair and eyes full of concern.

"Hey," she says, "you're with us? Good. I'm Janet Frasier, Daniel's doctor. I'm going to take good care of you, honey."

I shake my head and try to claw at the oxygen mask.

"Hold on, here," she says as she pulls it away.

"No hospital," I gasp.

"You are as bad as Daniel. But actually I agree. Unless you take a turn for the worse, no hospital. It's the worst place to be when you have pneumonia anyway. We're just driving to Daniel's place, you'll stay there. He's going to stay with you and take care of you and I'll pop in to see you daily. You'll be sick of me in no time."

I'd chuckle but I can't. Hang on, driving to Daniel's?

"Where are we?"

"Colorado Springs, B," Daniel says. "You slept all the way from getting on the chopper at Cascade. You missed a ride in the General's jet. Well, you were there but sleeping. Just like a baby. I think I'll get a car seat for you so when you're hyper and can't sleep, I'll take you out for a drive."

"You're only *gasp* saying that *wheeze* 'cause I'm too tired *gasp* to smack you."

"Got it in one, Blair. I'm going to make the most of this."


Blair is dozing off again. He can't stay awake. He's beyond exhausted. If I ever get my hands on Ellison I am going to skin him alive.

Jan's being a trouper, as usual. She's barked out the orders and the concierge of my building is looking on in astonishment as he sees me with Blair in my arms and Janet with an oxygen bottle in hers. There are a couple of airmen following us up too. All of Blair's boxes are here, they were loaded at Rainier into the big chopper that was sent, then onto the jet and now they're in a truck. Talk about organisation. I owe George big time for this.

Typical, Jan's having to root in my pocket to get my keys. My trouser pocket.

"Behave, wench," I order. "You're getting way too much enjoyment out of that."

"Honey, I've seen and groped way more of you than just your keys. Don't think that that gave me much of a thrill."

The airman to our side is looking on in shock. Tough. She's a pal, one of my best ones, and we're always like this.

"Just put all of the boxes in the living room," I say as I take Blair to my bed. I haven't slept in it since I made it, so at least it's clean. Jan's propping up the pillows, I lay him on them and now she's sorting him out. The doctor from McChord sent her all the information he could get from the General Hospital in Cascade and about what he'd done, and now she's reviewing the treatment.

"We're going to have to make sure he gets his antibiotics inside him," she sighs. "I doubt he's going to be in a position to take tablets for a while. I'll set up an IV. At least if he gets the first couple of days' doses into him we'll see a huge improvement quickly, and then he can continue with the course orally."

Knowing that she was dealing with pneumonia and that this was a possibility, she's brought all of the things. I hear her calling out to an airman to fetch her stuff up from the staff car. I look inside the living room and see that about half of the boxes are already there. These guys are good.

"Thanks very much for helping out, guys," I say.

"No problem, Sir," one replies. "Hope your pal gets better soon. He doesn't look too good."

"No, he doesn't, but he will. He's tough."

"Known him long?"

"Long enough to be his big brother," I say. At the querying eyebrow I add, "Not by blood, just since we were not much more than kids."

"Must be tough seeing him so ill."

"It's not easy," I agree. "But I saw him this sick when he got bitten by a snake when he rescued one of the other expedition team... ah, long story," I shake my head as I remember that day.

"He's a hero?" Another airman has spoken.

"You have no idea."

"He'll pull through then, Sir. Don't you worry. If you need anything else done; moving, shopping, whatever, just put a call into the base. We'll arrange it."

I think I give the biggest smile I've done all day as I thank them for that. I may not always get on with the military personnel, but when it comes down to it, they're a great bunch. Time to go back and Blairwatch.

-

They're all gone, even Janet. She'll pop in tomorrow morning on her way to the mountain. I've called Megan to tell her that he's here and safe. Won't say sound yet, but he's getting there. I've also called the General to beg as much time off as is necessary. He heard my request, then said I could take whatever it took. I think that Janet had given him an update. He's also decided to postpone SG-1's next mission to, oh, wherever the hell it was. Some technology discussions. Yawn. We can go when Blair's better.

I've eaten, but unenthusiastically, and now I'm getting ready for bed.

Fuck.

There's a knock on the door. I look through the spy hole and see Jack. It would be, wouldn't it?

"Daniel."

"No, Maria Callas."

Well, what the fuck does he expect? I'm tired.

"Can I come in?"

"Sure, but I was just off to bed. I'm fucked."

He comes in, looking a bit annoyed and a bit concerned.

"What?"

"What?"

"Jack, don't. What do you want?"

"To find out why the next mission is postponed, why the General's going around in full-blown paternal mode, why Janet took off looking like she was making a house call and why you didn't tell me you were disappearing again."

"It happened in a hurry, Jack. I needed the General's help and he came through for me."

"Why didn't you ask me? I thought we were friends."

I'd argue that point but I'm tired, and the last mission was better so...

"Jack, do you have a jet for personal use?"

"No."

"Well then, George does. I didn't have time to soothe feelings, or go through the chain of command. My oldest and best friend is very sick and I needed to get to him in a hurry. Does that answer all of your questions?"

"It throws up a few more," he mutters, but seeing the warning in my eyes, he says, "but they can wait. Where is he?"

"In my bed."

I open the bedroom door and Jack gets his first look at Blair and how sick he is. I've got him in the middle of the bed and propped up on the pillows, he still has the oxygen mask on and the IV in. The light from outside is framing his face and making him look paler than he really is.

"He looks fucking awful, Daniel."

"He does. Now you see?"

"Yeah, sure. Do you want help setting a bed up?"

"Nah, I'm going to sleep with him. I won't sleep out there while he's got the drip in and the mask on."

Jack nods, understanding that. It's not that I won't sleep, I won't sleep. I need to be with him. I'm going to have to set an alarm to change his drip anyway. I can see that Jack has many questions about Blair and me, but I'm too tired to answer them.

"Jack, come back tomorrow, okay? I'll be more amenable to talking then."

"I could stay," he offers. "Help out?"

I can see that he really wants to, so I nod. I grab some bedding from the cupboard and get him a pair of old sweats and a T-shirt for him to wear. He's making the bed in the living room, pulling the sofa out till it's fixed up. He's done that in the past and knows how it's made up. I put the bedding and clothes down and am just about to say goodnight when he surprises me and puts his arms around me, pulling me into a hug.

"I know you want to take care of him, Daniel, but you don't have to do it alone, okay?"

Slowly, my arms creep around Jack's waist and I let him hold me for a while. His hand creeps up and cradles the back of my head so it's resting on his shoulder. I'm trying not to cry, but seeing Blair so sick has scared me. I'm too tired to fight back the tears.

"Let it go, Daniel," he whispers. "He'll be fine and you'll feel better when you've slept."

Finally, I pull back, letting him see the tracks of the tears down my face. He moves his hand around and gently wipes them with his thumb.

"He's a lucky guy, Daniel."

I cock my head to one side in query.

"You love him, don't you?"

"Yeah."

"Then he's a lucky guy."

I give him what probably looks like a watery smile. "So'm I, Jack. I've got you."

"You have."

We wish each other goodnight and then I go. Something just happened there. I'm not sure what it was, but something big just happened. It felt like all of the cracks that were in our friendship had just disappeared. I hope to God that that is the case. I've spent the last five years in a state of torment. I was desperately in love with Shau're but she had gone. I'd been in love with Blair for years, but we could rarely be together, even as friends. And I was in love with Jack, almost from the time I came back to Earth, but there was no way I could tell him that. No way I'll ever be able to tell him that.

I never, ever, stop being in love with anyone. These three are the only ones that have ever got this emotional response from me. I never stop loving someone I started to. I miss my parents even after all this time, I still love and miss my foster parents too. I loved Sarah in some ways, loved Steven, loved the others in their own way too. Still do. But when it comes to being in love, there have been three. One has gone for good, one's there and then not, and the other one will never be. I know for a fact that I'll never love anyone else like this. I don't want to. It hurts too much.

I'm ready for bed and I get in, propping myself up against the pillows and pulling Blair to rest on me. He's breathing easier now, so that's a relief. He should start feeling better soon.


Okay, where am I? And who's this? Oh, I know those arms wrapped around me, they're Daniel's. What the fuck?

"Hey, calm down, B. You have an IV in and a mask on. Let me help."

I feel myself being moved and propped on some pillows. He's taken the mask off and I can breathe a bit more calmly now.

"Better?"

"Yeah, hate masks."

"I know, hun, I know. You needed it, but if you're breathing better now, it can stay off. Janet gave me strict instructions that the IV was to stay in till she says so, though."

"Janet?"

"You don't remember?"

"Don't remember much. Lots of fuzzy images."

"What's the last thing you remember clearly?"

What indeed? Um, Mexico, chasing after stupid sentinels, nearly getting killed again, feeling like shit. Feeling worse than shit when we landed somewhere. That would be LA, I guess. Uh, phoning... phoning... ah yes, phoning Daniel. Which could explain why I'm here. I recognise this place now. It's been a couple of years since I was here, but this is his bedroom. I tell him that the phone call is the last thing that I remember clearly and then he fills me in with what he's done.

"The university said you can reregister if you want to in future, but for the time being, it was probably best for all concerned if you were put down as withdrawn due to medical conditions."

"Good idea," I say. At least when I start back somewhere, I won't have all of the unauthorised absences logged. I can start afresh.

"All of your boxes of things are here. Megan and I packed what we could in your office. Basically, if it looked personal, we took it. If it had a Rainier stamp on it, it stayed."

"That's about it. Why are they here?"

"It's giving you the option, B. We'll talk more when you're feeling better, but all of your stuff is with you. Now, that means you can stay, or you can go wherever the mood takes you. You don't have to chase back to Cascade to get anything."

"I see. Yeah. Thanks, D. How did you get it here?"

"Would you believe the Air Force?" he laughs. Then he tells me what else happened.

"Wow. You really can pull some strings, can't you?"

"You'd better believe it, hun."

I hear noise from another room. "Daniel? What's that?"

"Jack. My CO," he says with a grin.

"I thought you two weren't getting on."

"So did I. He turned up last night and insisted on staying to help keep an eye on you. I think... I hope that things may improve now."

"Good. Glad to be of service."

He bursts out laughing and then we hear a knock at the door.

"Come in, Jack," Daniel says, still looking at me.

"Hey," he calls out as he puts his head around the door. "You decent?"

"No, but come in anyway," Daniel answers with a grin. He's now sitting on the bed, facing me, his knees drawn up and his arms are wrapped around his legs. I see the look he gives this Jack as he walks in. Damn, I know that look. It's the one he's given me all these years. Shit. I know how he feels about Jack, he told me a long time ago. Daniel's in love with both of us. I know he loves me, but now I'm getting the feeling that there's more to it than that. Why didn't he say anything? I don't even have to ask myself that, do I? He didn't want to fuck things up between us. It's always been easier to keep the friendship thing going, with the sex as something that happens or doesn't. Oh God, how many times have I hurt him?

I put my hand out and take his in mine for a moment, then I squeeze it. I wish I could tell him that I know, that this won't change a thing. I've always been in love with Daniel, but my love for him as a friend, my need to have a big brother, has always taken priority. He's done everything in his power to let me lead the relationship. It's about time I gave some of this back to him. He's incredible.

He's also looking at me as if I've grown a spare head.

"B? What's up?"

"Uh, Daniel, I really need the bathroom."

He's off the bed in moments, his friend next to him. They lift me up - fuck, I'm as weak as a kitten - and Daniel takes the IV thing off the stand.

"Jack, could you make some coffee, please? Juice for Blair."

"Not coffee?"

"Not till Janet's been and gone, no. Orange juice or water."

"Juice will be fine, thanks."

At least I can speak for now. It's still hard, my chest's still painful, but I'm definitely feeling stronger than I was. He's wrapped his arm around my waist and he's helping me towards the bathroom. Jack's hovering. I'm not sure if he's more worried about me or Daniel.

"I'll just get the drinks. Anything you want to eat?"

"Not yet, Jack, thanks," Daniel says. "Blair?"

"A bit later, please. I'm hungry, but I can't face food just yet."

"Okay, later. You like pancakes?"

"Love them," I say.

"Consider it done. In an hour or so?"

"That would be great, thanks."

He's left us and now we're there. Daniel's helping me go - that could be embarrassing, if it were anyone else holding me up while I take a piss, it would be.

"Jeez, D, I feel like crap."

"You look a lot better than you did in your office. You collapsed when I got there. Guess you held out too long, eh?"

"Guess I knew I was safe when you came."

He's smiling fit to burst at that. He's found my toothbrush in the vanity bag in my backpack and he's given it to me so I can clean my teeth. Good, they need it.

"You know what I want?"

"What's that?"

"A shower. I think that would help me a lot."

He looks at the shower, then at me and shakes his head. "I know you'll feel better, but I'm not sure that it's a good idea till Jan's seen you. I tell you what, I have an idea."

He's put the lid of the toilet down and told me to sit on it. Making sure that I'm okay, he's scooted out. I hear some clattering, then he's back. Ah, a chair. Why?

He's put it in front of the sink and now he's helping me to sit on it. Oh boy, he's shaving me. I've got an electric razor which I only ever used when Jim wasn't in the house as the buzzing drove him nuts. I need this, my face grows hair like a were-wolf. That's better, that felt so good having him do that. Now he's carefully undressing me, he's got some towels and a facecloth, and a shower attachment for the faucets.

"Tip your head back, babe," he says quietly. He's put the rubber hose onto the faucets and I feel the warm water raining on my hair. Oh God, this is wonderful. Having someone else wash your hair is quite erotic. He's sniggering.

"Daniel?"

"I hope you don't react like this when you go to the hairdresser and get your hair washed?"

He's just trailed a finger over my hardening cock which he's covered with a towel.

"Bastard," I hiss. "No fair. And no, I don't. It's only this time it's happened. It feels good."

"Good. Just enjoy it, hun. I'll make you feel a bit better."

And he does. His fingers are massaging my scalp, the warm water is making me feel a lot more human. Aw, it's over. He's gently towelling the worst of the wet out and now he's filling the sink with more water. Oh, he's washing me, softly, lovingly, making me clean and washing away the sweat and grime of the last day or so.

"Feel good, babe?" he asks. Then he freezes. I look at the door and see Jack standing there, drinks in hand.

"Um, I'll just put them in the bedroom, okay?" Jack says.

"Er, yeah, great Jack. Thanks. We're nearly done."

The door shuts behind him and Daniel continues to wash me carefully.

"Daniel? Doesn't he know?"

"Not for sure, no. I think he guessed something yesterday, but I've never told him."

"It's okay with me, D. I don't care if he knows or not. I don't want to hurt you though."

"You haven't hurt me, silly. You won't, either. If he doesn't like it, it's his problem, not mine."

He's finished with the washing and towelling me down, but he drops a kiss on my nose before he gets up.

"It will be fine, I promise. Love you, Blair, and I don't regret meeting you or loving you for one microsecond. You first, remember that."

"Man, you have no idea how much you mean to me," I tell him. "You're officially the best thing that ever happened to me."

I get another one of his million watt smiles. He's left me for a moment, and I hear him getting things from the bedroom.

"Jack, can you find the boxes marked 'clothes', please? I need to get Blair into something comfortable."

"Will do, Daniel. Just a minute."

There's some rustling and then an 'ah ha!' and I hear footsteps.

"Here you are, some sweats and a T-shirt. That should be a bit better for you."

He helps me get them on, then we head back to the bedroom. All of this activity has tired me. I drink up the juice as soon as he tucks me into bed and hooks up the IV again. I see him changing a small bag and query it.

"Janet showed me how to change this when the time was right. You have to have set doses of this stuff. The IV's likely to be in for twenty-four hours with the liquid antibiotic, then you can go onto the pill form."

"Is there no end to your talent?" I tease.

"Nope. I'm a pretty talented kinda guy," he says as he knocks back his coffee then gets out a hair dryer. I let him switch it on before replying, he's making sure that it's all dry. Don't want to make this pneumonia worse, I guess.

"Tell me about it. You never cease to amaze me."

I keep quiet now and let him finish drying my hair. He's done, he's making sure I'm okay and now he leans close and we kiss for a moment, till I involuntarily yawn.

"I didn't think that was boring at all," he says. Before I can answer, he makes sure I'm propped up and comfortable. "Sleep. You can eat when you wake up."

Then he leaves me in peace. I think he's needing to talk to his friend. Hope to God they're okay.


I'm back in the kitchen with Jack, my stomach's fluttering like it's got a whole host of butterflies in it.

"Why didn't you tell me?" Jack asks quietly.

"When could I have, Jack? And how does one say, oh by the way, I may well be married and like women, but really, I'm gay? Especially where we work."

"You could have told me, Daniel. I don't care about it. It's not important. I'm just a bit hurt that you didn't trust me to tell me."

"I didn't think it would make any difference, Jack."

"What do you mean?"

"Look, the only reason I would have for telling you would be if I wanted to start something with you. You, however, are straight, right?"

He nods.

"So, I wouldn't start anything with you. Not to mention you could lose your job if we did start something. I won't go there. Therefore, I figured that keeping quiet would be the better path."

"What about him?"

"Blair?"

He nods again.

"Sometime lover," I say with a sigh.

"Buddy?"

"No! Never that. Way more than that. I love him, Jack. He means everything to me. Don't say anything to him, please, but I'm in love with him, have been since I set eyes on him when he was the cutest sixteen year-old you've ever seen. I didn't do anything," I say in a hurry. "We became fast friends, lovers later on. But we rarely get a chance to see each other, so I keep having to say goodbye."

"That hurts, doesn't it?"

"Inasmuch as I'm never sure when I'm going to see him again. Sometimes when we meet up, one or the other of us is seeing someone else, so we do nothing except be friends. That's the mainstay of our relationship. We'll never be together in a long-term relationship, Jack."

"Do you want to be?"

"I'm not sure," I answer truthfully. "I could. Absolutely I could. I'd love having him here and waking up to him every morning. I'd be happy. But he's in love with someone else, and I..."

Fuck, nearly said it, didn't I? I'm trying to be so detached but it's not working.

"Daniel?"

"Never mind, Jack."

There was a time, up till today, that he would have let it go. Not today.

"I mind, Daniel. Tell me."

"Fine, I'm in love with someone else too, okay? Happy now?"

"Who is it?"

"That you don't need to know."

"I think I do, Daniel."

"No, Jack, you don't. You don't want to know. Please, trust me on this one."

I think he wants to push it but fortunately, there's a knock on the door. I go to answer it and find, as expected, Janet waiting.

"How is he?" she asks as she comes in.

"Off the oxygen. He woke up and wanted it off. He's breathing better. I took him to the bathroom, washed him and got him changed and then tucked him back in bed. I've changed the IV bag and he's had a drink of orange juice."

"You want a job as a nurse?" she retorts.

"Uh huh, I don't have that sort of patience. Don't know how they do it, especially with people like me in there. Some of your girls, and the guys, are nothing short of saints, Jan. They put up with a load of crap, have to know so much, but don't get treated as well as they should be."

"They're a great bunch, all right," she agrees. "It's way harder to be a nurse these days. Not so long back, you only had to know the basics, but these days they have to do a fair amount of what would be the doctor's work. They know you appreciate them though, Daniel. You always make sure that you apologise after you've gotten better."

"I'm a nice guy," I shrug.

She laughs, then she gives me a hug. "How are you coping?"

"Better than I was," I admit. "Jack's here, he's in the kitchen. Came over to help me out last night."

She hides her shock well and goes straight in there.

"Colonel, I'm glad you're here. I know Daniel will take on too much otherwise. Is that coffee I smell?"

He pours out a mug for her and the three of us sit.

"Blair's going to need some intensive nursing for a day or two, but, if the treatment works according to plan, he'll be a lot better in a couple of days. You'd be surprised how quickly an improvement can be seen. Having said that, he's not going to be cured for weeks. His lungs may well be permanently damaged. There's the chance that he's going to be asthmatic, either temporarily or permanently. We'll likely have him on steroids. It's something I'm reluctant to do unless he doesn't improve dramatically today as it can be nasty coming down off them. It will have to be done slowly and carefully or he can get sick again."

"He's going to go stir crazy in a short space of time," I tell her. "He's a real outdoors kind of person."

"You can take him up to the cabin when he's fit enough, Daniel," Jack offers. "The air's clean up there and it's still pretty warm."

"Wow, um, thanks Jack. He'd love that. I really appreciate that. If you can get time off, we could all go fishing? He loves to fish."

"You'd want me there too?"

"Sure. Of course I would."

I know which part of the cabin I'd like his company in too, but that's not going to happen. Seeing as he's apparently wanting to be my friend though, I am not going to miss any opportunity to reinforce that.

"That's a great idea guys," Jan says, "but not till I give the word, okay?"

"Wouldn't dream of it, Jan," Jack says. "I like my balls where they are, thanks."


What's going on? I'm being woken up again?

"Hey, sugar, how are you feeling?"

I know that face, I saw it before. Oh yeah, the doc. "Doc?"

"Call me Janet, honey. You remember me?"

"Just about. Wasn't really with it yesterday."

"So you don't remember asking me out?"

Wwwwha? No, I didn't. Did I?

She bursts out laughing. "Just yanking your chain, sugar. Though wait till you're better, you're about the right height for me and you're so cute I could eat you with a spoon."

"Jan, behave," I hear Daniel's voice from the door. "You have to watch her, B, she's a menace."

"You love me really," she replies as she helps me sit up.

"Now, who said something like that? Shift over, B, and I'll hold you while she listens in."

I lean forward and find myself in his arms again. Love it here. I follow her instructions and then flop back as Daniel helps me onto the pillows again.

"Much better already," she says. "I'm going to hold off the more aggressive treatment unless you don't improve by tomorrow. That's good news, by the way."

"I'm getting good care," I manage to wheeze.

Daniel grins. "Only the best for guests at Chez Jackson. When will he be allowed to have a shower, Jan?"

"I'd give it a couple of days, okay? I'll be back tonight and I'll remove the IV. Just keep changing the bag when it's time, Daniel. Then you can go onto pills."

"What about food and drink?"

"Juice, water or Gatorade," she insists. "No coffee."

"What about tea?" Daniel asks. "Blair likes herbal teas."

"No caffeine, but I don't see why not. Make sure you get them from a good herbalist and tell them what he's taking."

"There's a great one around the corner," Daniel says. "The lady that runs it was a more conventional nurse till she got interested in homeopathic remedies. She understands about being careful. I'll pop over and see her later."

"Good. As far as food goes, whatever you feel like, when you feel like it. Liquid is the most important thing though, but if you can eat, then that's all to the good. The stronger you are, the quicker you'll recover."

"What about the pain?" Daniel asks. I've not said anything about the pain. How does he know?

"Try over-the-counter drugs first, Daniel. If they don't work, then let me know tonight. I'll prescribe something stronger if necessary."

Daniel's glaring at me. "Okay, I admit it, it hurts."

Jan's got something from her bag. "Here, basically this is Tylenol. Take these with some juice."

Daniel's scooted off to get the juice.

"You and he close, eh?" she asks. At my raised eyebrow she says, "I know about him, honey. I'm the only one he felt he could tell. He loves you so much."

"Love him too," I reply. "He's special."

"That he is, sugar. I don't have to tell you to behave till you're strong, do I?"

"No, don't feel like anything and he wouldn't anyway. It's not why I'm here."

"I know that. But you're both edible, sweetie. If I were one of you, I'd have a hard time keeping my hands off the other."

She makes me chuckle, which then makes me cough. Daniel's come back in to find me in her arms as I ride out the spasm it's put me into.

"Typical. Turn my back for two minutes and you're running off with my doctor. Jeez, B, what am I going to do with you?"

I say nothing as I lay back on the pillow, but I see the concern in his eyes. I've been too far gone to cough till now.

"He's going to be okay, Daniel. Just give it time."

I take the tablets he offers me and then decide that napping would be a good thing. Maybe I'll have the pancakes for lunch.


Jan's gone. Jack stayed at my place while I ran out to get some herbal teas and some other things like juice. Oh, and food. Food's a good thing. Plenty of pancake mix because I know he loves that. I've come back with bag upon bag. I never normally stay at home for more than a few days at a time, so I don't tend to have much in. Certainly not much in the way of fresh food. So, I had to stock up on things like bread, milk, cheese, fruit and vegetables. All the things that go off quickly. I think I'm going to have to ask for the next week, maybe two weeks off. Hell, I haven't had more than a long weekend off in about two years, so it's about time.

"How is he?" I ask when I get back. Jack's helping me take the bags to the kitchen. There are enough of them.

"Still sleeping like a baby. I checked in on him every so often. His breathing's still rough, but he's not struggling for breath, so I left the mask off for now."

"Good. He hates anything on his face like that. If he woke up without me there and found a mask on his face, he might panic."

I've got everything away and go to move to the living room, but Jack's in the way.

"Daniel, we have to talk."

"Jack, not now." Not ever if I get my way.

"I need to know."

"No, you don't."

Damn it, does he have to look at me like that? I love those eyes.

"I do, Daniel," he says softly. It's all I can do to tear my eyes from those lips.

"Please, Jack, don't do this to me," I whisper. "Not this."

"Who is it, Daniel?"

I shut my eyes, it's the only way I have to protect myself from him. I can't see him or the expression on his face. I can, it's in my mind, but I can pretend.

"Why do you need to know?"

"I just do."

"Not good enough."

"Daniel, tell me."

"NO. Leave it, Jack. Please, leave it."

My eyes are still closed, but I know that he's right next to me, mere inches away. I can feel his hot breath on my skin, it's driving me nuts.

I open my eyes and see his so close. I take my glasses off and drop them on the table, uncaring as to how they land. He wants to know? Fine. He's going to find out. I put my hands on his face and pull him close, kissing him hard, pushing him against the wall, not letting up. My tongue demands entry to his mouth, he's kissing me back. Don't know whether that's because he wants to or if it's habit. Don't care. Just don't want this to stop. It's got to stop though. Won't jeopardise him.

I break, let go of his face, panting hard as I fight for my own breath. To prove the point, I grab his right hand and shove it onto my groin, letting him feel how damned hard I am, how much I want him.

"Happy now?" I snarl and walk away.

Sanctuary. Okay, it's the bathroom. I have got to do something about this hard-on. It won't take long. Can't picture Jack, no way. Asking for trouble. I see Blair, how he looks when I push into him, that beautiful face when he shuts his eyes and tips his head back, those red lips open slightly, panting through the initial pain and then welcoming the pleasure. My hand works harder, faster, I can see him as I thrust, following his commands to floor it, fucking him into the mattress, just the way he likes it. Hearing the grunts of 'yeah, man, so fucking good' as I hit the spot. Watching him come. Nothing's like watching him come. Nothing.

That moment when he opens his eyes and looks at me as if I'm the most incredible thing in the world. Nothing can replace that.

I can see it now, his face is building up to it, my hand's pumping harder, gripping tighter, working it better as I imagine those gasps. God, I'm getting close. I see his face crumple, his eyes screwed shut, his mouth wide open. I feel him coming, then he opens those eyes.

Brown? His eyes are blue! I pull back the vision and see Jack in his place, silver hair, big brown eyes, come splattered over his chest and I start to come. Start, don't seem to want to stop. Can't stop. God, no.

I catch my breath and clean up. I haven't shaved yet, so I do now, hoping that the aftershave gel will mask the smell of semen.

-

Jack's still there as I exit the bathroom, looking like a stunned mullet.

"I thought you'd have gone," I say.

"Why?"

"You know why."

He says nothing back, just looks at me.

"You love me," he finally says.

"Well done, congratulations, give the man a medal." I'm heading for the drinks cabinet. It's 10 a.m. and I need a fucking drink! I feel his hand on my hand, stopping me getting a bottle.

"Too early, Daniel, you know that."

"Not going to drive anywhere. What's it to you?"

"Why so angry?"

"You know why!" I repeat.

"You wanted to keep it a secret?"

"Well duh. It's hardly something I wanted you to know."

"Why not?"

"Oh for fuck's sake, Jack, stop being so fucking stupid! You know!"

"You think I don't feel the same."

"YOU DON'T feel the same," I lower my voice as I remember Blair's sleeping. "How could you feel the same?"

"You think I can't love you?"

"Maybe you can love me, Jack, but you're not in love with me. You're not gay, are you?"

"Nope."

"Ever been with a guy?"

"Nope."

"Ever wanted to be with one?"

"Not till fairly recently, no."

"Ah, so this is what, a mid-life crisis?"

"No, this is me falling in love with you, Daniel. This is me not being able to get off unless I picture you in my mind. This is me being a total bastard to you because I'm shit scared."

He stops me short. I think that's the most he's said to me in an age.

"Why, Jack?"

"What do you mean?"

"Why me? Why now?"

"Why you? You're my best friend. You're also a fucking babe, don't think I hadn't noticed. It's not a 'why now' either. It's been a while."

"What made you think that you... er, you know."

"Love you?"

"Yeah."

"Something stupid. I was in the gym showers. Just switched off and I was going to go get dressed when I heard these two guys talking. One was saying that he thought you were gay, the other disagreed. I was going to say something. Whether you are or you're not, you don't want that sort of talk in the showers, right?"

"Right," I agree, I don't want that.

"Anyway, I realised that the tone of the conversation was light. The one that was insisting you were gay was saying how great you were, how good-looking and so on. The other guy was agreeing with him. I knew then that they were trying to work out if you were, so one of them could ask you out. There was no threat there. I thought about what they were saying and knew that they were right. When I went home that night, I tried an experiment, I guess."

"What did you do?"

He's blushing. That's something I never thought I'd see.

"Jack? Tell me, please."

"I pictured you when I was, er..."

"Jerking off?"

"Yeah."

"And?"

"Came like a fucking freight train."

"Oh. So, what, you just want to have sex with me? Be a fuck buddy?"

"NO! No. It was just before the thing with the robots. You were off-world. I went to Juna, saw that headless body and I damned near freaked. I couldn't imagine life without you then. I fought it, tried not to need you, to want you. I realised that I'd been wanting you too much for a lot longer than I thought I had, too, which was why I turned from you. I was scared."

"And now?"

"Now I'm not so scared. I saw you and Blair, saw how good you looked with him, how gentle you are, how kind. I know you'd never hurt me, just as you don't hurt him. I've been in love with you for a long time, Daniel, but now it's real. Does that make sense?"

"Sort of. You've picked a fucking lousy time to tell me, Jack. I'm not abandoning Blair. If he needs me, he's got me. He's been through a lot recently."

I take Jack back into the kitchen and then tell him about Jim and the fountain and everything, swearing him to secrecy. I know he'll not even tell Blair that he knows. He understands why I can't be with him now, I think. If only he'd told me a couple of weeks ago.

"Daniel, I'm going to go to the mountain," he finally says. "I've got a couple of things I need to do. But I'll be back later, if you want me to."

"Yeah, please, Jack. I do want you here."

He smiles at me, then leans over and drops a kiss on my lips. "I know why we can't be together, Daniel, and that's okay for now. I'm glad we've got this out in the open though, really glad. No matter what, I love you, you have to know that."

"Same here, Jack. Love you too. Always have done, always will."

He goes without looking back.


I smell something cooking. Pancakes? Hmm, good.

"Ah, Sleeping Beauty has awoken. Here, try eating something."

He helps me to sit up and I take the plate. Just as I like them.

"Daniel? What's up?"

"Nothing, babe. Just a bit tired, I guess. How are you feeling?"

"Better. Every time I wake, I'm feeling better than the last time I woke."

He smiles at me, then says, "That is great news. Look, I've done something and I know you're not going to like it, but I had to do it."

"Daniel? What is it?"

"I was going through your things, trying to find the things you're going to need. More clothes, toiletries and so on."

"Yeah?"

"Yeah. And I found a folder with your student loans and other financial stuff in it."

"Oh, you didn't, did you?"

"Fraid so. It's all paid off, B. Don't worry about it, and don't get mad at me, please. Like I said before, if you really want to, you can give it back. But with no income for you, I was worried that the banks would start to come after you for payments and so on, and I didn't want you to get sleepless nights over it. This way, there's no pressure. You don't have to worry about interest accruing or anything like regular payments or stuff like that."

"I'm not mad at you, Daniel. I'm grateful. It's just a lot to take in."

"I know, baby, I know. I shouldn't have done it without asking you again, but you did tell me to take over and organise things, so I kinda organised things."

He's looking sheepish. I don't believe it. My bills amounted to about a hundred thousand dollars and he just wrote them off. Fuck.

"I've done something else too, but this will only affect you if you want it to."

"Huh?"

"Well, as you know, this is one of the lofts in this complex. There are three, in fact. Each one takes up the equivalent of one and a third sides, which is why it's the L shape. Both of the others are for sale, and I've called up the realtor and I've bought the one. Well, I've put the wheels in motion."

"Why?"

"Couple of reasons. One, the last people that owned it were a pain, and to be honest, I want to have control over who lives there. I'd get back from missions only to discover they were having weekend-long parties and it stopped me sleeping. I couldn't even complain about it, they were really awkward."

I get his reasons for that then. No sleep isn't funny.

"Two, my accountant said I should turn some of my money into property as an investment. Three, if you want to work here but not live with me, it gives you somewhere to live. You can rent it from me if you want. You don't have to pay rent, but I know you'd rather do it if you have the money coming in. What I'm going to do, if you want the place, is put a connecting door between the two apartments. There's a dividing wall which isn't load-bearing, so it would work. That way, we could live together without living together - if that's what you want."

"What do you want, Daniel?"

"World peace?" he suggests. Then he says, "I want you to be happy, Blair. I want you to be fit and well. I'd like you to be near to me, but I won't pressure you to stay. If you feel that you have to go back to Cascade when you're feeling better, I'll help you get back there. I won't want you to go, but I won't stop you and I won't take offence. Whatever you decide won't affect our friendship, I promise."

Wow, I don't know what to say. To cover for my thoughts, I finish the pancakes, which were delicious, thanks for asking. I've never had anyone care for me as intensely as Daniel does and it's a bit overwhelming.

"I'm stunned," I say eventually. "I don't know what I'm going to want when I get better. I can't see me going back to Cascade, and I'm seriously tempted by the job offer."

"There's no rush to decide, Blair."

"I know. I just wish I could give you an answer now. You've been amazing, Daniel. I'd say thank you but it's a pretty pathetic way to describe how I feel. I think that I would have given up without you. If I'd been taken to the hospital, I doubt I'd have been coming out. I felt so low, so depressed."

"You've lost weight since we last saw each other, haven't you?"

"Haven't really wanted to eat. Being kicked out of the only place I'd ever thought of as home really hurt."

"I can imagine. I'm never going to kick you out of here, Blair. I promise you. If you want to go, I'll help you move, but you can stay here in whatever capacity you want, whether it's as a friend or a lover. This is your home as much as mine."

I put the plate on the bedside table and put my hands out to him. He lays against the pillow and then pulls me into his arms. We hold each other tightly for a while. I wish I could tell him that I love him so much. I could, but I think that he would be upset. He knows how I feel about Jim as I know how he feels about Jack. Talking about whom...

"Where is Jack?"

"Gone to work, he had a few things to do. He'll be back later."

"You two getting on all right?"

"We've cleared the air about some stuff, B, things are cool, I promise."

"Good, I'm glad. He seems like he's got a very kind side."

"He has. He's a very gentle man, Blair, but he's hard too. He intimidates the crap out of his subordinates."

"But not you?"

"Nah, not me. No one does that."

"I know. At the loft with Jim, I saw him try and fail miserably. Most people are shit scared when he looks at them like that."

"It's an act, B."

"Maybe, but he is an alpha male, you know?"

"Oh yeah, I got that. So's Jack. Never paid any attention to him either."

I'm grinning against him and he can feel my lips twitch. I know he's smiling too.

"I'm going to phone Megan and tell her you're feeling better, okay?"

"Now?"

"Sure, you can talk to her if you want?"

"I don't know, man."

"Wait and see. Here, I've got her card in my pocket... ah, there it is. Phone on the table and let's dial."

I know that Megan will be worried, so he's doing the right thing, but I don't want her to be talking in range of Jim's senses.

"Hello? Megan? Hi, it's Daniel."

He's put the phone near me so I can hear what she's saying.

Hi, Daniel. How is he?

"Much better. He's still sick, but he's off the oxygen, he's been sitting up and eating and drinking, taking his medicine like a good boy."

I'd pinch him but he'd yell and she'd know that I'm here.

That's great, she sighs. The others are worried about him.

They are?

"Who is?" Thanks, Daniel, you must have known that I'd want to know that.

Everyone. With Sandy missing, they're in a panic. The Captain isn't coping well. He's scared stiff about him I guess, and he's yelling at everyone. H and Rafe are sulking, Rhonda's snapping and Joel looks like someone kicked his cat.

"What about Jim?"

He's not even come into work today. I put it down to him being tired, but I'm not so sure. I'm going to check up on him later.

I look at Daniel and I know he can read my mind.

"Let me know how he is, will you?"

Will do. Blair being away may do him good. Make him appreciate him when they get back together.

"Who says they're getting back together?" Daniel says, winking at me. "If I have anything to say about it, Ellison will never step foot in the same state as Blair. If he wants to see Blair, he's going to have to come to him. I'm not about to let Blair go after that prick only to get kicked in the teeth again."

Oh. Okay, I'll pass on the message.

"You do that, Megan. Call me later?"

Shall do. Give Sandy my love, will you?

"Consider it done, Megan."

Daniel's voice softens as they say goodbye, then he holds me close. "He needs to come to you, Blair. I'm not letting you go back to him so that he can treat you like that again."

"He won't come, Daniel," I tell him.

"He may. If he doesn't, he's not worthy of your love. He's a lucky, lucky man, B, but he doesn't know it. So, he's a fool too."


Part Three

It's been ten days since Blair moved in. I say moved in because he's kind of taking over the loft. Not that I mind, it's fun. Jack's been away for a couple of days, he said it was SGC business, but he wouldn't tell me more. He and I are getting on fine now. However, I have to go to work tomorrow and to the lab. That mission SG-1 was supposed to be going on a few days ago has been scrubbed. We tried dialling in yesterday to rearrange the visit and the gate wouldn't engage. We're still trying, but there's no answer. Could be any number of reasons, so we're not giving up hope for meeting these people. They have some form of naquada which could be interesting, apparently. We've put the word out to our allies to check out the planet if they're in the neighbourhood. If it's something simple like an earthquake burying the gate, then maybe it will be worth continuing to dial up.

I have some special paperwork to do today though. Blair has decided that he's going to join us. As the days have gone by, the news from Cascade has depressed him more and more. Megan's still interested in how he is, but there are fewer queries from the others. Ellison has gone back to work, he's a grumpy pain in the ass but he hasn't even mentioned Blair. I didn't tell Blair that, but I think he's guessed. At least I can take his mind off things.

I've bought the loft next-door. Jack's viewed the other one with a mind to buying it. He says his house is too big for him, but I think he wants to be with me. Really wants to be with me. That's a stunning concept. He knows nothing can happen, but he says that being close to me is enough for now. If he does buy the apartment, there is the possibility of putting a connecting door to his place too. It will mean some remodelling, but it could be worth it.

Blair's decided to move next-door, but he wants to have that connecting door open all the time. It will double the size of the apartment in effect. I'd help him with furniture, but he wants to pay for everything himself, so he said he'll wait till he's had his first paycheque. In the meantime, the builders will be here in a few days and putting the doorway in. I've signed the paperwork, written the cheque and it's mine. It's amazing how quickly things can go when you're dealing with cash.

"Blair? Are you sure about this?" I ask for the nineteenth time.

"Yes, Daniel, I'm sure. The hints you've dropped about the place are too tempting."

I put the application forms in front of him and he starts to fill them in. The paperwork is a formality. He has to 'apply' but the job has been created for him. It's not as if we can advertise, is it? "Top secret base requires anthropologist to work off-world." When Jack went up to the mountain, this is what he was arranging. He got clearance for Blair, made sure that the whole thing was set up should he wish to join us. If that doesn't prove that he loves me, nothing will. He's prepared to stand by and watch as I love Blair. It made me love Jack more than ever before. Maybe, one day, something will happen.

There's a knock at the door and I go to it.

"General? Come in, Sir. What can I do for you?"

"I've come to meet our newest recruit," he says with a smile. I see, he's in 'dad' mode. He does that with me from time to time.

"Come in, come in. He's in the kitchen just filling out the forms."

"Have you told him what he's going to do yet?"

"No, General. I'm waiting till the last moment, just in case he changes his mind."

"I understand."

I watch as the General makes his way towards the kitchen, his sense of smell unerringly taking him to the coffee pot.

"Would you like a coffee?"

"I'd love one, thank you."

Blair looks up and sees my two-star general standing next to him. He takes off his glasses and smiles.

"Hi, I'm Blair Sandburg," he says, standing as he offers his hand.

"Blair, this is General Hammond," I tell him as George takes his hand. "He's the boss, so be nice."

Blair beams at him. "I hear you helped Daniel out a lot when he came to get me. Thank you, Sir. I was pretty sick and I needed a friend. Your help means a lot to me."

He's just won George over totally. I know straight men that fall for that smile.

I usher George to a chair and give him the coffee.

"You are more than welcome, son. How are you feeling now?"

"A lot better. Still weak, and I can't walk too far without getting wheezy. Janet says that I have asthma, but she's hopeful that it will go away with time. I'm getting fitter every day and she's checking me out constantly. She's been a godsend to me."

"She's one of the best," George agrees. "I'm glad to hear you're feeling better. When will you be ready to come and work with us? I'm assuming you're going to be grounded until you're fit?"

"Grounded?" Blair asks. I laugh.

"Don't worry, B, it's an air base, sort of, so we tend to use Air Force terms. We don't fly much. He's going to be flying a desk in the next few days, General."

"Uh, D, if we don't fly, how do we go on expeditions?"

"Well, that's the secret. Have you finished signing the papers?"

"Um, yeah, sure. There, the last signature. You can officially tell me now, man."

"When I tell you, there will be no backing out, you know this."

"Do it."

"Okay." I'm scared now, I feel like I'm trapping him. But this is an opportunity he'd give his right arm for if he'd heard about it in another way, so... "We don't fly because we don't explore on Earth."

I see the shock, then the sense of understanding creep across his face.

"You mean you..."

"Go to other planets, Blair. We use a device I'll show you when you get to the mountain, but that's what we do. Remember when I disappeared for that year or so?"

"Yeah, I do. You scared me rigid, man."

"Sorry," I shrug. "It wasn't intentional. Jack and I were on the first mission, with others, only one of whom is left. The three of us have been around a while," I say with a grin. "You'll like Ferretti, and he's really going to like you."

"Why?"

"You're shorter than him. It'll make a change." He can't help it, he laughs so hard that he needs his inhaler. I think it's just the shock of what I've been saying.

"Major Ferretti didn't like you to start with, from what I've heard," George says.

"Nope, he didn't. None of them did. But I kind of grew on them, especially Kowalsky."

"Kowalsky?" Blair asks.

"A long story, and one I'll tell you, I promise. In the meantime, why don't we go into the living room and sit in comfort. I've got another long story to tell you. General, if you don't want to hear it again, I won't be offended."

"Actually, son, I'd like to hear it from you. I read it in a briefing package and the rest is what I've learned as we have gone on. I've never heard one of your indoctrinations before."

"Sounds ominous," Blair snickers.

"It is. Just be glad there's no Power Point presentation."

George laughs out loud and then I sit on the floor in front of Blair, who's on the sofa. Then I tell him.

"Many thousands of years ago, there was a race of beings called the Ancients. Well, that's what we call them now, what they were called then, we don't know. They set up a system of intergalactic travel called the Stargate Network..."


Okay, that was at once the most fantastic and fascinating and scary and amazing and unbelievable story I have ever heard. Daniel's a heck of a storyteller. Even the General listened intently. The crazy thing is, I believe every single word.

"Wow. I'm stunned. So, I'm going to get to go to other planets?"

"As soon as Janet passes you fit, yes. You see, there's a major downside to gate travel and that is it's like going on a roller coaster in Antarctica. The first few times, you're frozen solid. You get used to it and after a while, it doesn't bother you, but to start with, you'll feel sick and you'll feel cold. You're in no fit state to go through it yet. When you are, you'll love it."

"Wow. These missions, they're scientific?"

"Yours will be. You're not on a military or first-contact team like me. Some of your missions will be follow-up ones with the one team, that's your main job so to speak, others will be major expeditions with other teams and extra scientists and soldiers. The soldiers that accompany you are chosen because of their own academic training and their known sympathy for study. Not all of the military personnel think that the science is worth the effort."

I see him looking at the General who gives him a sympathetic glance back.

"It is a military base though, so you have to accept that."

"I've been working with the police for three years," I say. "Not to mention, sharing a place with an ex-Ranger for most of that time. I get it, Daniel."

He grins and nods, then continues. "Some of the sites will be archaeological in nature. When I get the chance, I go on those missions," he adds with a grin. "Others are living studies of transplanted humans, ones which have had little or no further contamination by outsiders. You'll be getting the chance to study some tribes as they were a couple of thousand years ago on Earth."

If I say 'wow' again, the General's going to think I'm stupid. "I can't wait!" Yeah, I think that worked.

"You'll love this job, Blair. There will be times when your experience with the police will come in handy too. Some, er, fresh sites, where we need to figure out what happened and quickly. You may be called in to help out. Are you okay with that?"

"You mean recently dead bodies, don't you?"

"Yeah."

"It's okay, I've seen some pretty awful things in the last few years. Not saying I won't throw up now and then..."

The General puts his hand on my shoulder. "Mr. Sandburg, let me tell you something. You wouldn't be the only one to be sick. I've seen some terrible sights in my time. I was held in Vietnam, and most of the time I can stomach a battlefield. But occasionally, there'll be a body, usually alone, which will throw me for a loop. I'm not the only one that this happens to, so don't feel bad if it happens to you. I'm sure that Doctor Jackson will tell you the same thing."

I look at Daniel and he nods.

"Daniel?"

"Usually when I get home," he admits. "I'm normally okay in the field, but when I get home, I get drunk, then I throw up. It's kind of a routine. We all deal with the bad things in our own way. I've seen hardened soldiers break down and cry when confronted by a dead animal. They'll have walked through the aftermath of a massacre. Men, women, kids, the lot. Blood everywhere, mutilations even. But the sight of a dead cow or horse or the local equivalent has them crying like babies. It's just the last straw, you know?"

Yeah, I know. All too well.

"So, don't feel guilty if you show how upset you are, should you be drawn into a situation like that. We'll do our best to keep you away from them, but it's possible that you will end up in one."

I nod, knowing that Daniel wants to wrap me up in cotton wool but also knowing that he knows he can't. Shit, I realise now how painful this is for him. It's like a mother letting her kid fly the nest for the first time. He's scared shitless that what he's doing is going to hurt me.

"Daniel, nothing you have told me has put me off. I'm glad you've been so honest. But remember this. I would likely have joined the police in Cascade if this hadn't happened. I've died there. I've nearly died on a number of occasions. If something happens to me out there," I wave my hand in the general direction of the sky, "chances are, it would have happened here too. I'm at peace with this idea, man. I'm at peace with the idea of dying too."

"Are you at peace with the idea of carrying a gun?"

"Like you said, I'd have to carry one if I were a cop. It's not as if you're asking me to go into battle, is it? I know I may have to fight to protect, but you're not going to ask me to assassinate someone, are you?"

"No, you won't be asked to do that."

He's looking at the General as he says that, firmly keeping his gaze locked on the old man's eyes.

"You will not be asked that, son," the General says. "You have my word."

I'm thinking that Daniel's been asked to do this at some point. He and I are going to have words.

"Thank you, General. I'm down with the idea then. I can fire a gun, but I've not been signed off on one yet."

"I'll see you through the training," Daniel says. "God only knows I've done enough. There are some good teachers there, they're used to dealing with civilians. I'll make sure that you're assigned a good one. There is an alternate weapon that I prefer to use, and one I couldn't tell you about before as it's alien in origin. However, the main benefit of it is that you don't have to kill when you use it. I'll tell you more when you're there."

We go to say more, but there's a knock on the door. Daniel gets up and goes to answer it.

"Jack, you're back."

"Yeah, I've got someone here, too."

"Oh fuck."

I turn and look and see why he's said that. Oh fuck.

Jim.

Before I can say a thing, Daniel does what he's wanted to do for a while. He's just decked Jim.

"Daniel, what the fuck do you think you're doing?" Jack yells. "Oh, hello, General. What are you doing here?"

"Just welcoming our latest recruit, Colonel. What are you doing here?"

"Bringing someone to see Blair, Sir."

I make my way to the door, see that Daniel is shaking with anger and put my hand on him to calm him down.

"Should I stay or go?" Hammond asks.

"Your choice, General," Daniel growls. "You may not like what you see or hear though if you stay."

"I will assume you are not talking about further violence, Doctor?"

"Probably not," Daniel grudgingly admits.

"Good. Colonel, ensure that this stays civil, please."

"You got it, General. I think that that was brewing for a while though."

I wait until the General goes into the elevator and the door closes. Then I look at Jim who has gotten back up. Then I do what I've wanted to do for a while. A swift, right-hand uppercut to the chin and the Redwood is felled.

"What the fuck did you do that for?" Jim yells.

I'd answer, but I'm wheezing. I need my inhaler, it's not in my pocket. Daniel's picked me up in his arms. I can't breathe. He's carried me to the sofa and he's holding it in front of me.

"Breathe, Blair. Come on, breathe out, then in... good." He's puffed the thing. The wheezing is still there but it's starting to calm. "Right babe, next one. Your airways are open, now take the other inhaler. Breathe out, then deep breath in..."

Again, the stuff's in. I'm coughing now and he's right next to me, holding me close. I don't have to look to know that he's glaring at Jim.

Jack must have got him inside. I think that Daniel's planning a couple of homicides.

"You're too late. He's not going to Cascade," Daniel growls. "He's already decided to stay here."

"He's been told?" Jack asks.

"Oh yeah, that was why Hammond was here."

"What do you mean, too late? And why is he like that?" Oh, the big guy speaks.

"Too late because he's now going to be working with me."

"Doing what?"

"That, Detective, is classified."

"I have clearance for covert ops," he says, even knowing that that isn't good enough. I don't have to look at him to know that either.

"You don't have clearance to work the guard post at our base, Detective," Daniel says. He's really spitting tacks here.

"Daniel, cool it, man. It's okay."

"No, Blair, it's not okay. This is the guy that threw you out of your home, then ran off with your killer! If you hadn't been alone in your office, you wouldn't have been drowned. If he hadn't left you to go to Mexico, you wouldn't have left the hospital and not taken your medication and you wouldn't have spent the last ten days recovering from double pneumonia. Without that, you wouldn't have the asthma. So, no, Blair, it's not okay. And I'm not happy that he's here."

I put my arm around his back, holding him to me. He's literally rigid with anger here. I stroke his back, tell him that I'm okay with this. He's holding me too, as if he can protect me from Jim.

I look up at Jim properly for the first time. His eyes are full of pain.

"You okay?" I ask him.

"It's all gone, Chief," he whispers.

Shit.

"Jim, you know you can bring it all back. It's up to you to want to."

"I don't want to. I need you, Chief. I can't do this without you."

"Jim, man, you're too late. I can't back out of what I've signed up for now. Don't you see that? I waited. Waited for you to even ask about me. You didn't, did you?"

"No, I couldn't. It was too painful to even think about you."

"Can you blame me for thinking you didn't want me around?"

"No, I don't blame you. I blame me. I'm so sorry, Chief, so sorry. I've fucked everything up. I was so jealous when she turned up, I wasn't thinking straight. I need you to keep me going. If I could turn the clock back, I would. If I could do anything to make up for what I've done, I would. I couldn't give up at the fountain because I knew that I'd die without you, that I had to have you there. I wouldn't give up."

"Why did you deny the bond?"

"I was scared, Blair. So fucking scared. I didn't know what it meant, how it would be. I felt trapped. I still had to go after her, the cop in me knew that she was up to no good, and the draw, there was this draw inside me to go to the temple. I had to go there. I thought you'd be safe in the hospital, thought you'd be safe."

"Don't you know that I have to go with you when you do things like that, Jim? That I get the same draw? The same compulsion? I can't not go."

"I know that now, Chief. I didn't understand it then but I do now and I am so sorry."

I look at Daniel and try to see what he's thinking. For once, he's unreadable. I look at Jack and get something similar. I don't know him though, so maybe Daniel can read him. They're looking at each other, something's passing between them. Daniel's standing up and walking into the bedroom, Jack's following him. I'm thinking they're telepathic.

"Can you tell me what you're going to do? A clue?"

"All I can say is that I'm going to be an anthropologist with the Air Force. I really can't tell you any more than that."

"When did you sign up?"

"About half an hour before you turned up. Daniel kept trying to make me delay it, I guess he was worried that I'd want to change my mind. But since I've heard what it's all about, Jim, I want to stay. I wish you were with me though."

"I'm a cop, Blair, it's what I do."

"You're a sentinel, Jim. Believe me when I tell you that you could be of use to these people. You need to get your senses back. If you do, maybe we can be together again."

"How am I going to do it? Would they really want me?"

"Hang on. Daniel?" I call out. He's opening the door slowly. Shit, I think he's upset.

"What can I do for you?"

"Could Jim work with us? You said that sometimes we need to do forensic investigations. He's got all the military training, I'm sure he'd get the clearance too."

Daniel nods. "Jack's already sorted that out. It would seem that he's been doing some investigating of his own."

I look at Daniel and see the pain in his face. He wants me to be happy but this is killing him. I stand up and move over to him, then put my hands out to him. He opens his arms a bit, letting me into them, then he's holding me like he won't let me go.

"Jack," I say, "take Jim for a walk, will you? Tell him what you can about the job."

"Shall do. Come on, Jim, let's go."

I don't look as they move on out, I just pull from Daniel's arms and take him into the bedroom.

We lay on the bed together. I'd start up with the kissing, but that tires me more than anything because of the lack of breath. Instead, I'm undressing Daniel, making him lie down and do nothing but feel. I see unshed tears in his eyes. He knows that if things go the way they could well go, this is it. Our clothes are off, I'm kneeling over him, trailing small kisses over his body, licking him, biting in some places. I do love him. I need to show him this.

I know that he's got what we need in the drawer next to the bed, so I lean over and get it. I can't go for a marathon performance here, it's going to have to be short but sweet.

"B, are you sure?" he gasps as he feels me rolling the condom on his hard dick.

"Never been more sure in my life. I need this, Daniel. You need this."

I've covered him with lube, now I'm doing it, lowering myself onto him, letting him fill me. It hurts a bit, it's been a good few weeks since we were together like this, but it will pass. There is no one on this Earth that I trust more than Daniel. I'm down, he's in, it feels fucking incredible.

He's letting me move, letting me dictate the effort. He doesn't want to tire me or pound the breath out of me. I'm going so slowly, trying not to wind myself, but the sensations are amazing. Oh God, he's just taken a hold of my dick and he's stroking it slowly in time to my movements, squeezing gently but firmly, making me shudder.

"Love you," he whispers as I lean forward. He's drawn his knees up to support me. Even now, he's backing me up.

"God, man, I love you so fucking much."

He must be feeling my hot breath on his skin now, my head has dropped right down. My hands are on the bed either side of him, I'm grinding back harder. He's pushing up to meet me, jerking me that little bit harder. Too good, too fucking good.

Nothing matters but this. Nothing. I raise my head and see him watching me intently. His eyes are nearly black, his mouth is slightly open as he pants, trying to hold back till I come. It's my cue to let go. He hears my grunt, speeds up his hand, jerks me hard and fast, just the way I like it. I'm coming all over him, it's incredible. His head tips back and he damn near roars as he pours into me.

I am fucked. Officially. Don't think I'm strong enough to move. He's slowly rolled me onto one side, cleaning us both up, now he's pulling a cover over us. I'm in his arms and feel his chest heaving. It's not because he's out of breath either. He's trying not to cry and it's not working. Shit, he's setting me off too. I wrap my arms around him tightly.

"Don't want to lose you," he whispers. "Can't lose you."

"Never going to lose me, D. Love you."

"I know. You need him though. He needs you."

"Yes, but not going to stop loving you."

"Me neither. Never stop loving you."

We stop talking, there's nothing more that needs to be said. We need to rest. I wish I could take away his pain.


A noise at the door wakes me. Jack's there, looking carefully around the slightly open bedroom door. He sees the two of us, wrapped up in each other and nods in understanding. He's taking it well, really. I let go of Blair and slide out of the bed. Blair's still sleeping. I grab a pair of jeans and put them on, then I creep out of the room so as not to wake him.

"He's sleeping?" Jim asks when I emerge.

"Yes."

I want to say so much but I see the pain that the man is in and it's getting to me. I know he loves Blair as much as I do. I have to let Blair go.

"Good, he probably needs it. I'm going to stay, Daniel. I'll follow Blair wherever he goes from now on. I can't do this without him."

I nod and head into the kitchen. Don't know why, I just need to for a moment. I pour myself a coffee and stand, looking out of the window. The world goes by, unconcerned by what's happening here. There are quiet footsteps behind me. It's Jack, I know it. I feel his arms carefully slipping around my waist, then his face as he puts his head on my shoulder.

"I know I'll never be Blair," he whispers, "but I'm here for you, Daniel."

I put down my mug and then turn in his arms. "You're not him, you're you. You don't have to be him, you're not a replacement. I love you for being you, Jack. Don't you get that?"

"I guess I do, it's probably why I'm okay with you being with him. If it were anyone else I think I'd be as jealous as hell, but I'm not. I see how you guys feel about each other, see how much, how fiercely you love each other, and I'm not jealous. It's crazy. I should be wanting to rip you away from him, should be wanting to kill him for looking at you, but I don't feel like that. I just feel privileged to be a part of this."

I can't reply to that, I just hold him close.

"It's not going to be easy, Daniel. You're going to see him daily."

"Don't care. Want him here, whether we're together or not."

"What if he decides that he wants to be with Jim?"

"He already has. We've split, at least like that."

"Shit, Daniel, I'm so sorry."

"Don't be. He still loves me, that's all I need. He's still alive, getting stronger by the minute. He'll revert to being my little brother and that's okay."

"I'll buy the other loft, that way we can be together without question. I'll put my place on the market today. How does that sound?"

"Sounds good, Jack. Sounds good."

I steel myself and we go back into the living room. I need to speak to Jim.

"I've bought the next loft to my own, Blair was going to live in there. If you want, you can live there too. It's big enough for two. We were going to put connecting doors in..."

"You still can. I know you guys need to be together."

"We're, er, not together now. I need to know something. How do you feel about him?"

"You mean...?"

"You know exactly what I mean."

"I love him. I am in love with him. It took me a long time to figure out my feelings for him but I know it. Seeing him on the grass, thinking that I was going to lose him, it hurt." I watch as he stands up and paces. "I couldn't give up on him because he has to be in my life. Has to. Understand?"

"I know about you, Jim, I know about his role in your life. Are you sure that this isn't just some connection you two have? That you're not projecting your need for a guide onto your sexual feelings?"

"No, I'm not sure. But I don't think it's going to make any difference. My senses have gone, Daniel. I still need him."

"To bring them back?"

"No. I could do that, if I wanted. I don't want them if he's not there to help me. As far as love goes..." he puts his head in his hands then looks back up. "I love him. I know it. How could I not?"

How indeed? I wonder if Blair really knows how much passion he engenders.

"I'll do what I can to help you out then," I say. "But I'm warning you. Hurt him again and I will kill you. Even with enhanced senses, you won't be able to stop me. I will tear you apart with my bare hands. Understand?"

My voice is calm, but cold. He knows I mean every word I say. He nods. "If I hurt him again, I'll let you kill me."


Part Four

It's a few days since he came here, but now Jim's gone back to Cascade to organise his move. Jack's gone with him to help out and make sure that he comes back, I think. I don't believe this is happening, but it is. He and I took the journey together. Not long after Daniel and I had our last time together, he and Jack left the loft and gave Jim and me time to talk. Jim talked. He actually talked. About everything; about how his senses affected his emotions, how sometimes the instinct in him made him act in ways that he couldn't explain. About how much he loves me. He told me that he accepts Daniel's love for me, and mine for him, that he would never stand in the way of our friendship. I believe him. We sat down on the floor and I helped him meditate and the weirdest, most wonderful thing happened.

We were in the spirit world. His jaguar was there, as was my wolf. I saw Jim and the jaguar merge, felt my wolf enter me. I saw the world differently, my perspective changed. I looked at myself and looked at Jim. We were still human, but I felt like an animal. He prowled, stalking catlike up towards me. I stood still, staring at him. Then he turned and ran off. I followed him, knowing that I had to keep up. He stopped dead at the edge of a cliff and put his hand out to me. I took it, and without a word we stepped off it.

Next thing I knew, we were back in the loft, he was grinning from ear to ear.

"They're back?" I asked.

"Oh yeah. You know the best thing about being a sentinel?"

"What's that?"

"You. Seeing you, seeing the many colours in your hair, seeing your eyes, hearing your heartbeat, smelling you. I want to add to that, I need to taste you, to touch you."

I sat still and let my pussycat come to me. He crawled towards me and then he tentatively kissed me for the first time. He could tell from my breathing that a deep, passionate kiss was out of the question, but he made it an exploration instead. He nibbled at my lips; barely touching his lips to mine he pushed his tongue inside my mouth and we started to stroke one against the other. He ran his hands over me, then pushed inside my shirt and touched my skin. It was like nothing else I've experienced. My love and attraction for Daniel has always made him extra special, made making love with him better than with anyone else, but this was different. We didn't make love. I certainly wasn't up to it. But we didn't have to. I felt the chemistry between us as it combined and it was incredible.

"I love you," he whispered and then he shattered every last defence that I had.

"Love you so much," I told him back and he smiled the biggest, warmest smile I've ever seen on him.

We left it there, talked about how he was going to handle the move. I called up Megan and talked to her, told her what was going on. She was pleased that we had sorted things out but she sounded upset that it meant that we wouldn't be coming back to Cascade. When I said that Jim was going to sell the loft though, she said that she'd try to buy it. She hates the place she's renting and now she's on the permanent staff there, she may get a mortgage. Fingers crossed. I don't know what Simon's going to do, but considering the circumstances, there's not really a lot he can do. He's losing his best detective, but without me, his best detective has lost his senses and won't be quite as sharp as before. Not to mention he's a pain in the ass without me there. Jim told me that Simon's not dealing well with me not being there, that he'd been gruff in Mexico because he was afraid for me. I think I get that.

I have some regrets, I guess, but this new life of ours is going to be so exciting.

Talking of which.

"B? You ready to go?"

"You bet. Can't say I'm not a bit scared though."

"Piece of cake, Blair. I'll take you through the day, introduce you to people, help you get geared up and so on. You'll be fine, I promise. Tomorrow, I'm going to take you to the Academy. You've finished the diss now, haven't you?"

"Yeah, put the finishing touches to it last night. Jim said that if they want him to go there to prove that he has the senses, he will do it willingly. I think he's glad to be working somewhere so secret that he can actually be who he is, you know?"

"I know. Maybe it will make him a bit less of a bear."

I laugh a bit, then head out of the door. These last couple of days I've been sleeping on the sofa, it seemed like the right thing to do. Not sure exactly what's going on between him and Jack, but they're getting closer, that's for sure.

"You and Jack getting together?" I ask as we enter the elevator.

"Maybe. We want that, but we have a lot of things to work out. He's my CO, and that's one of the barriers that's been between us. Whatever happens, things won't be like they were, that's for sure. Do me and yourself a favour though, when you're at the mountain, we're only friends."

"Don't worry, I understand that. No hints, no nothing. It'll be okay for Jim and me in one way, seeing as he's going in as a civilian consultant too, but that could raise questions about you, then Jack in turn. We will behave. Seeing as Jim can be a sentinel there though, when people understand that he needs a guide, they'll understand why I'm with him all the time."

Daniel grins and nods and the elevator door opens. It's time to drive up to the mountain.

-

Sheesh. Elevators everywhere. Daniel says we're about a mile down from the 'ground' level outside. That's deep. I've been to see the General. He was looking frazzled about something, there was a guy there called Major Davis, but the minute we walked in, Hammond smiled. He seemed really pleased to see me. Davis looked amused. Daniel greeted him warmly and asked him to come to his office later.

I've been geared up with uniforms, uh, BDUs I think Daniel called them. They're in the jungle camouflage, desert, forest and snow. He's taken me to a locker room with SG-5 and SG-11 written on the door, and we're in there now.

"This is going to be yours, B. Let's get your gear in here. You'll get more stuff as time goes on. I'm assigning you to a new team, which will be SG-14. They'll share this locker room, too. The reason you have this one is that SG-5 and -11 are science teams, so it's best you all get kept together. Jim will be on your team, and you have two others to meet."

"Who are they?"

"Come on, I know where they'll be. You'll like them."

I close up the locker and then we head out, down the corridor, back in the elevator, up a couple of floors and then to what looks like a lab of some sort. I see sparks flying from one corner. Daniel waits till the noise stops and then he calls out.

"Andrew, put that down for a minute, will you?"

A youngish man, though I guess he's a couple of years older than me, puts down the tool he has and removes the face mask he has on.

"Major Andrew Lee, this is Blair Sandburg. Your new teammate."

The guy virtually bounces over to see me, hand sticking out in welcome.

"Blair! At last. Daniel's told me a lot about you. You've been wanted, I can tell you. We can't get SG-14 out till you're well though, so hurry up and get fit."

I laugh, cough, then nod. "I'm working on it, I promise. You'll have to wait for Jim to join us, too. He won't be long."

"Ah, yes, the enigma. Daniel tells me that he's got special talents but he won't let on what they are. Will you tell me?"

"Why don't you wait till the four of you are together, Andy?" Daniel suggests. "Then you can see for yourself. Where's Rosy?"

"Gone to get something for me. She'll be back."

"Who's Rosy?"

"The other team member. As you can see, I'm an engineer, Rosy is interested in engineering, but she's mainly a soldier. She's working on learning about loads of things though. Basically, she's a sponge. Start talking about something scientific and she's there."

"She sounds great," I say. "I wish some of my students had had that mentality."

Daniel nods, knowing what I'm talking about.

"You'll love her. Everyone loves Rosy, she's just one of those people you like, you know?"

"Her special talent is rock climbing. So anytime you want something from high up, send her. She does that free climbing with no ropes and things for fun. Not with us, we won't let her because she scares us shitless, but she's seriously good at it. We call her 'Goat'."

"Goat?"

"As in mountain goat. It's pisses her off though."

"I'll refrain from calling her it then."

"Calling me what?"

I turn around and see this small, slender black woman, her face alternating between being annoyed that we were talking about her (I think) and being delighted to be here. Daniel was right, I think I'm going to like her.

"Your nickname. I don't like the ones I usually get, so I'll call you by your name if you want."

"Please!" she says, her face lighting up. "You must be our new boy."

"Blair Sandburg," I tell her. "And I'm older than I look."

"Don't tell me, you've got a portrait in the attic, like the Doc here?"

"Damn, our secret's out Daniel."

"Told you she was smart."

You know? I think I'm going to love it here.


It was a pleasure seeing Blair at the mountain. His bounce was back, though muted because of his chest, but that's getting better by the day too. Jan said that as soon as he's got the asthma under control, she'll clear him for scientific missions. Robert had asthma too, but he was allowed through the gate so there shouldn't be any problems. Blair's not panicking when he's fighting for breath now, he's controlling it well, keeping his inhaler with him at all times. All he has to do is prove to Jan that he's coping and she'll free him up. It will be a few weeks though, giving him and the others enough time to get to know each other well. He's been as good as gold, doing all of the exercises he's been given, taking measurements of his breath on the 'puff-o-meter' and he's blowing that indicator further down every day. She's really pleased with him and he's having a whale of a time flirting with her. I think the gossip level hit the roof when he went into the infirmary to see her there for the first time and she hugged him in welcome.

Paul came to see me in my office and met Blair. I introduced them both as friends, but I think they got the underlying message straight away. Paul teased me about needing my budget increased again. I asked him (after checking that the cameras were off and the door was closed, natch) if I had to sleep with the guy that set the budget?

He said no, but I may have to sleep with the guy that argues for the increases.

Blair fell about laughing at that, realising for sure what my relationship with Paul has been. He and I tease each other mercilessly, but these days it comes to naught. Then Paul welcomed Blair to the fold, a touch more warmly than he had done. He took his hand and held it for a moment longer than strictly necessary and promised that he'd keep an eye out for him, to watch over him.

Paul got treated to the Blair Sandburg shy smile and I think he's now smitten. I did warn Paul that B's taken, but he just shrugged and said, 'c'est la vie'.

We're back home. Blair's on the phone to Jim. I keep hearing his side of the conversation. He sounds excited by something.

"Yeah, man, you too... Hurry up and come home, will you?... Daniel's driving me nuts... What do you mean why?... Jack's not here, is he?"

I threw a cushion at him.

"What's the news?" I ask as he puts the phone down.

"Jack's arranged it so that Jim doesn't have to work his notice. Don't ask how, I don't know, neither does Jim. Anyway, instead of buying the loft, Megan's going to rent it from Jim for a nominal sum, so that when we finish at the SGC we'll have somewhere to live. She'll take care of all the expenses like the bills, any repairs, insurance and so on. It's hers for as long as she wants it. Jim's even writing it into a will that if something were to happen to the two of us, she'd inherit it so there's going to be no worry for her. It's not as if we have any dependants."

"Makes sense. I've done the same with the other apartment here, B. If anything happens to me, you get it."

He smiles at me and then comes to me for a hug. "I know we can't go there anymore, D, but this is something I'm not giving up."

"Don't you dare give this up," I warn. "Don't you fucking dare."

He stays put for a moment, then says, "They'll be home in a couple of days, Daniel. You really should sort out where you're going with Jack."

"I know. But it's going to take time, Blair. We've got it."

"No, you haven't. It's why I'm prepared to forgive and forget so quickly with Jim. I've died, Daniel. I know how little time we have."

I smile and sit, pulling him down with me.

"B, I've died. A few more times than you."

"What?"

"That first mission? I was blasted with a staff weapon. Dead. Fortunately, there's alien technology that can bring you back."

"The sarcophagus?"

"Yeah. I died from a staff weapon blast again in our first year as a team. This time, the Nox brought me back. They brought all of us back. Then I died in a rockfall. I also died when I was body-swapped with an old man and his heart gave out. I died when I was withdrawing from an addiction and my heart gave out. So I know all about dying and coming back. I've got too fucking close to it on too many occasions. I'm going to take my time with Jack because he and I have to get it right. We have too much to lose if we don't. You and Jim have to be together, so you can go a bit quicker, knowing you have that need to help you through. Jack and I don't have that."

His face is one of shock, horror and sadness. All he can do is hold me close.

-

Blair's been accepted into the doctoral programme at the Academy. He gave permission for his academic record to be brought from Rainier. This way, he's not going to have to attend any classes here as he's already been there and done that. He's explained his unauthorised absences on his record, telling them about the police work and so on. They were fascinated by what he had to say and promised that his attendance record would have no bearing on their reading of his work. I read his diss last night and I was stunned by it. The detail and attention to his scientific work is astounding, as I knew it would be. It's one of the most compelling dissertations I've ever read - and I've read a few. Hell, I've written a few. No way will he fail this.

All we have to do is to wait for all of the formalities to be gone through. We told the panel that he met, that Jim would verify anything, was willing to be subjected to testing to prove his abilities if necessary - though we never used his name. Even though people will know what he's capable of, we're still keeping him officially under wraps. Blair did a 'search and nuke' of Jim's name throughout the document and replaced it with 'Subject A' instead. Over time, and when his information is finally released, it's going to be nigh on impossible to tie anything in it with Jim.

As soon as Blair gets the go-ahead, he's going to submit and defend. He's bouncing like Tigger on acid.

"You think they liked me?" he's asking as we enter the apartment.

"Well, maybe," I tease. "I think that Colonel McGregor was taken with you."

"Man, she's a gorgon!"

"Maybe so, but she's also the one with the final say when it comes to the anthropology department there, so keep up with the flirting."

He's flopped onto the sofa, suddenly looking very tired.

"You okay?"

"Just coming down off the high. I get so tired, Daniel."

"I know, babe, I know. It's going to pass. You'll be better before you know it."

I move in front of him and take his hands in mine. "Tell me something, B. Do you regret coming here?"

"No, no way, man. It's incredible. This way I get the chance to guide Jim, protect him, but he gets to be what he is without worrying that the criminal fraternity will be trying to get one over on him. He's never really stopped being a soldier, but he didn't like the covert ops he was doing, which is why he got out. He wanted, no, he needed to protect. So, he became a cop. Now his tribe has extended, it's the entire planet! It's important work, man, and when he's told about it, he's going to be stunned. I know he's going to enjoy it."

"Blair, I asked about you, not about Jim. Now, I know that the two of you are more or less inextricably linked, but I need to know that you are happy."

"Daniel, I get to do what I have trained to do, I get to do what I was born to do. I'm getting the chance to submit without worrying about Jim, I'm getting to live with the guy properly. I'm going to be with you too. What's not to like?"

"As long as you're happy, babe. Now, I'm going to go finish the painting in the other apartment. You rest up."

He looks like he's about to argue, then he nods. "I'll cook something in about an hour or so, okay?"

"Sounds good to me."

-

There. Done. The place had been full of white walls before. It was okay, if dull, but Blair pointed out that that would be a nightmare to Jim's eyes. So, we've toned them down. Correction, I've toned them down. Even using the non-allergy paint was too much for Blair at the moment. He chose the colours and I painted. As there's no furniture here, it's a good time to get it done. Every room has been muted. Blair chose earth-colours. Terracottas, creams, greens and so on. It looks good.

"Hey, B, wanna come see it?"

He sticks his head through the connecting door and then comes in. I've got all the windows open so he can breathe.

"Great job, Daniel. Thanks, man. It looks really good. I don't know what furniture Jim's going to bring, but whatever it is, it will fit in here. I really appreciate you doing this."

"No problem. It's quicker while the place is empty anyway."

He's giving me a hug, grinning from ear to ear.

"Do you think that Jack's really going to get the other apartment?"

"He says so. He's already put in a bid for it. They want out soon and I know he's got enough in savings to buy the place without selling his own. When he's sold his own he'll be in a good position for when he retires. I'm kind of liking this semi-living together idea. I hated being alone all the time."

"I get that. It's not much fun."

"I think that's why Jack's moving. He's not overly attached to his house, but he loves his garden. At least if it's only us living in this loft he can put his telescope up on the roof without having to worry about other neighbours."

"He's got a telescope?"

"Yeah, loves astronomy."

"Wow. I've got one too."

"I know, you guys can have fun spying on the neighbours."

"Foiled again," he snickers.

Damn, the phone. I was enjoying that hug.

I pick it up and it's Jack.

Hey, Daniel, just thought you guys should know, we're in Reno.

"Why?"

Well, we decided that renting a truck and driving down with Jim's stuff would be easier in the long run than organising someone else to do it. We're taking it in turns to drive. Three hours on, three hours off. We're making good time.

"Jack, watch your speed. I know you flyboys. You can't drive slow."

Hey, I'm good.

"Jack, the speed limit is not a minimum recommendation."

Don't worry, the cop's driving at the moment.

"Somehow, that worries me more. How long before you get in?"

We're going to take a break for some food soon, we'll fuel up and then head down. So, sixteen? Seventeen hours? Something like that.

"You're not stopping for the night?"

No need.

"Jack O'Neill, you damned well stop! I'm sure Blair and I can manage perfectly well without you for another day."

Somehow, that worries me, he echoes.

"Well, don't let it. Just be safe, okay?"

Fuss. We'll take it easy, I promise. No point in taking risks, right, Jim? //Right, Jack, no risks.//

I've put the phone on the speaker and Blair's listening in.

"James Joseph Ellison."

Oh fuck. The full name... the guy's in trouble.

Blair?

His voice is faint, but I guess he doesn't need the phone near his head to hear B.

"None other. You will find a motel and stay there for the night. And I mean a motel. Not a fucking casino. Do I make myself clear?"

As a bell, Chief.

With more admonitions to our 'protectors' to be careful, we sign off. I look at Blair and we fall about laughing.

"Who said they are the ones that take care of us, eh?" he asks.

"Who indeed. Come on, you're supposed to be cooking. Then we plan a homecoming for them for tomorrow."


They're here. We can see them. It's Sunday (yeah, I went to the Academy on a Saturday. Don't these people know what a day off is?), so we don't have to be at work. It's mid-afternoon. They must have set out early. Not surprising, the military wake-up thing is a hard habit to break. We'll go and help them with the stuff in a bit. First things first.

I've put the kettle on, Daniel's making coffee. However, I think we have other things planned before we get to that.

Here they are. Daniel's opened the door and he's taken Jack by the hand. Now he's leading him to the bedroom. I'm taking Jim by the hand and leading him to our place. He sees Daniel's sofa bed set out in the middle of the living room. It's pulled out and in bed-form.

"You've been sleeping here?"

"Uh, no. I've been sleeping on that in Daniel's place. Didn't want to be alone. Stupid, I guess."

"No, Chief, not stupid. So why?"

"So this." I reach up and wrap my hands over his shoulders and pull him down and into a kiss. Ah, that's my sentinel, feel your way through this. I have no idea if he's ever been with a guy. That's just struck me. Should I ask? Nah, he seems to know what he's doing. I've planted the lube and condoms under the pillow just in case we go that far.

He's guided me to lay on the bed, and kicking his shoes off, he's joined me.

"I still can't kiss for a long time," I tell him. "I get out of breath too easy."

"I'm sure we can think of other things. Tell me if I'm going too far or too fast. Don't want to tire you."

"How about we lose the threads first, huh?"

"Let me, Chief," he whispers. Damn.

I'm lying here, letting him undress me. I'm feeling kinda exposed. It could be the lack of curtains on the windows, though we're high up on the eighth floor, so it's not as if anyone's gonna look in. It could be the way he's looking at me, studying my body as it appears, as if I'm some kind of painting.

"Jim?"

"Shh, babe, just looking at last. You are so beautiful."

Okay, now that is not a term I would use for me. Short, yes. Hairy, you bet. Cute - I hate that but hell, I've been called it on many occasions so I can live with it. But beautiful?

"Jim, man, you really need to get your eyes tested."

He laughs, then he kisses me till I'm breathless. About twenty seconds. Man, I really need to get over this.

"Why don't you even up the score, big guy?"

"Chief?"

"Strip. You're wearing way too many clothes."

"You sound lecherous, Chief."

"I am. I'm a guy that likes buff guys. And do you think you could remember my name while we're in bed? Just as a one-off?"

He's laughing again, but at least he's stripping. Howl.

"Okay, Fred, I'm sure I can manage that."

FRED? Bastard.

I love the twinkle in his eyes when he's teasing me, it's always had the effect that goes straight to my groin. Yep, there we go. Houston, we are ready for take-off. Resume the countdown.

He's lying next to me now, trailing kisses over my body. Oh shit, this is so good. He's going down, oh God, he's going down. He's wrapped his lips over my dick, taking more and more of me in as he slides his tongue up and down. I think I'm going to die.

"Jim, can't hold out. Too much, man."

I've got no control over my reactions. I'm too tired to control it. If he doesn't stop soon I'm gonna... oh boy, I am.

-

"You with me, Blair?"

"Just about. Fucking awful time to have an asthma attack," I wheeze. Just as well I had my inhaler on standby.

"That's pretty scary when you get like that," he says quietly, holding me close now.

"Try being on this side of it. I'll get used to it. It doesn't scare me as much as it did. I know I'm going to breathe again if I take it easy, so that helps. I'm sorry, kinda spoiled the moment, didn't I?"

He's finished wiping up the mess. He was about to take me whole, I could tell. But as I started to come, I stopped breathing. He shot up, I shot, and he got covered in it. In another lifetime I'm going to find that funny.

"It doesn't matter, Blair. All that matters is us being together again. Anything else is a bonus."

"You want me to do something for you?"

"Nah, that can wait. I got a bit deflated when you started turning blue."

I'm hoping that that was an exaggeration, but with him, it's possible that he saw a change in my colour.

"Didn't mean to scare you. Some homecoming that was."

"Blair, don't sweat it. We've got the rest of our lives, haven't we?"

"Yeah, we have. Come on, get dressed and I'll make some tea. We've got to get your furniture up here."

-

There are some noises coming from the bedroom in Daniel's place so we sneak into the kitchen.

"What are they doing?" I ask.

"I'm not listening in," he mutters.

"Why not?"

He looks at me in shock, then he grins. "I think that Daniel is quietly instructing Jack in the art of loving a man."

"Sounds good to me," I tell him. Daniel's one hell of a teacher.

"Jack and I talked a lot while we were sorting things out and driving. He's crazy about Daniel, you know. Been so scared though. He's never been in love with a guy before and it came as a shock. He's not narrow-minded though, so it's not as if he's hating Daniel. It was just his job that made him more scared. That and the fact that he's come so close to losing him so often. It made it hard for him to cope. Has Daniel forgiven him?"

"I think so. He loves Jack, has done for a long time."

"He loves you more than a lot of people love the person they spend their entire lives with," Jim says. "How can he love Jack, too?"

"How can I love you and him equally but differently?" I counter. "It's easy, Jim. I would die to protect Daniel, I'd die to protect you. Willingly. I love him with all my heart, I love you the same. I tend to think of him as a big brother first, then in the past I thought of him as a lover second. If I had a brother, I'd want him to be like Daniel. Tell me, do you think that you'd love your parents differently?"

"Given my parents, Sandburg, that's not a good analogy."

"Maybe not, but you know what I mean. Given a loving family, you have a good father and a good mother. You'd love your father for some reasons, your mother for other reasons, but neither of them would be more important than the other, would they?"

"No, I guess not."

"So accept that I can love you and him equally, as he can love me and Jack equally. You didn't see him when his wife died, Jim. He loved her every bit as much as he loves us. He can't turn his feelings off. Neither can I."

I think he gets it now.


"Uh, Daniel, I sort of know what I'm doing, given that I'm a guy and I know what I like, but I've not done this and..."

"Sh, Jack. You like kissing?"

"Love it."

"C'mere and kiss me then."

He does. Wow, does he. Damn, I am never letting him go. I know he could freak at some point, but if he does I'm going to sit on him till he calms down. He's good at this. I get the feeling that he's got gills. He doesn't seem to need to come up for air, that's for sure.

His hands are wandering over me, exploring, learning what it feels like to have a partner as big and as strong as himself - with no curves. Plenty of bumps, like the muscles in my arms, the bony hips and so on, but no curves. No tits either. I think he's disappointed.

"Tha's something else, Daniel," he finally pants.

"Tell me about it. You're one hell of a kisser, Jack."

He's grinning from ear to ear. I want to see if it's done anything for him, but I'm afraid to touch him where I'm not invited to, just yet.

"Are we really going to do this, Daniel?"

"You mean have sex or have a relationship?"

"Both, I guess."

I sit up and look at him, shrug my shoulders and say, "It's really up to you, Jack. You have the most to lose if something goes wrong. My biggest worry is that I'll lose you. You have your job and your pension to worry about."

"Don't you think that worrying about losing you is more important to me than that?"

I don't answer that; I just look at my hands.

"Daniel, for fuck's sake, I know I've not been the friend I should have been but I'm over that now. I want you. Hell, I need you. I'm not afraid anymore. I've gotten over the freaking thing; I've gotten over the job thing. This is the most important thing to me."

"Huh?"

"The relationship, Daniel. Not the sex. I know I've never been with a guy before but it's not bothering me. But I can't be without you anymore."

I lie back down and pull him into my arms.

"That's what I want too, Jack. I need you. I hate needing someone, but I need you."

"You want me?"

"Lie back and see how much. If I go too far, say stop, okay?"

"You got it."

He's lying back down, I've pulled off my T-shirt, now I'm undoing his shirt. I'm leaving below the waist for a minute. I push the cloth open and expose that incredible chest of his. Scarred, a bit hairy, so masculine it's overwhelming. I dip down and run my tongue over one of his nipples and he nearly takes off.

"FUCK! I didn't know they did that!"

"Didn't Sara do that?"

"No, she didn't. Wish she had. Do it again!"

It's no good, I'm laughing now. I'm trying to control it but it's not easy. Over to his other nipple and this time I bite. Just gently, but he's definitely feeling my teeth.

"JESUS DANIEL!"

"Sh, the guys will hear you!"

"Jim will hear me anyway. I feel like I'm on fire, my skin is tingling."

"Good. You want me to do more?"

"Be my guest."

So polite.

I trail my tongue down his chest till I reach his navel. A quick dip in and... yup, he's nearly knocked me off his body yet again. I'm not stopping now, he can tell me to stop if he wants. Here's the moment of truth. Undo belt, unbutton flies and I pull his jeans down a bit. He looks nervous, maybe he's worried that I want to fuck him or something. Not today. Today, he's going to just get the really good stuff. What am I thinking? I love being fucked. Nothing better for me. But I doubt he'll see it that way for a while. In the meantime, I see he's hard, so I'm not putting him off. That's good. I slide his boxers down and finally get what I want, what I have wanted for a long time.

He's moaning, twisting about as I take him into my mouth. He tastes good, feels good. His cut cock is hot and silky against my tongue. I let my fingers roam as I suck, playing with his balls, cupping them, holding them, cajoling him and urging him to come. He's trying not to thrust, so I tell him with my body that it's okay. I move my hands to his thighs and roll us till we're lying on our sides. Now I'm tugging his hips and he's getting the message. He's jerking into my mouth, probably not realising that my free hand is on his ass. I want to see how far I can go before he stops me. I'm running a finger down the crack and then I find my goal. I'm not going to push in, just tickling it, stimulating it. I feel him twitching and hear him groaning. He's coming now, pouring over my tongue. I open my throat and let it happen.

"Wow, Daniel, you are good at that."

I get my breath back and then crawl up to meet him face-to-face. I want him to know something so I kiss him, letting him taste himself on my tongue. He's not backing off though, so that's good.

"You okay?" I ask him.

"Better than okay. Thank you."

He's tentatively undoing my jeans now, I'm not going to stop him. He's pushed them down and he's looking at my cock with interest. I guess it's the first one other than his own that he's really had any interest in.

"I don't think I'm going to be able to do what you just did, at least, not for a while," he says distractedly.

Rather than answer, I take his hand in mine and then I wrap it around my dick. Hell, I need to get off. If he doesn't want to do this, I'm going to have to do it myself.

He's got the message and he's letting me move, holding me in a fist, urging me to fuck it. He's kissing my face, my neck, touching whatever skin he can. It's incredible.


Daniel's looking like the cat that got the cream. Jack's looking surprised but happy. They have so been at it. Jim and I moved the sofa back into Daniel's place after we drank our tea. I was trying not to laugh when I heard some yells coming from the bedroom. Jim said that he's going to have to learn how to filter those two out of his hearing at night or else he'll either never get any sleep or he'll be so permanently horny that I'll never get any sleep. I'm not complaining about that idea, I can tell you.

"We've got a lot of things to move up," Jack says. "We had some help loading it into the van in Cascade, so we could do with some help now."

"How about we call up the gang?" Daniel asks.

"Good thinking. You call."

"Why me?"

"Because if you ask they'll say yes. If I ask, they're busy."

"Okay, okay. I'll call Sam first."

I met Sam and Teal'c up at the mountain. Teal'c is strange, but oddly comforting to be around. Sam's great. She's like a big sister to Daniel in the same way that Megan is one to me. I miss Megan. I think that Sam's going to take her place in that role though.

"How will we organise things?" I ask.

"How about you and I stay up here," Jim says, "and some others can load the stuff into the elevator and just send it up? Well pick it up when the elevator gets here and then we can put it where we want it. That way, we don't have to keep shutting and locking up the truck when we leave it because someone will always be down there."

"Sounds like a plan," Jack agrees, so do I.

"They'll be here in about an hour," Daniel says. "I've called up Andy and Rosy too and they can't wait to meet Jim so they're coming."

"Great. You're going to love them, Jim."

"Who are they?"

Daniel tells him about our team, but we still can't tell him about the job. It's silly. He's not going to back out now, but 'rules is rules' and all that. He understands better than most.

I learned a lot more about Jack when the guys were away. Daniel told me what he could. Now I see why he and Jim get on well. They could either be close friends or bitter enemies as they're very much alike. They've decided to be friends because of Daniel and me, which is cool and makes life a lot easier. Jim's a little younger than Jack, but not much. Both were involved in operations that the public never finds out about; Jim with the covert ops in the Rangers, Jack with the special operations group of the Air Force. Jim missing for those eighteen months, Jack held prisoner for four. Given that Jim was taken in by people that liked him, I think that he had the better deal. Both were left by their teams one way or another. Jim's died, Jack's abandoned him. Both men are divorced. Jim, mercifully, didn't lose a child, but Jack has a family that has always cared about him, so they have good and bad family experiences. Nothing's worse than losing a kid though, I'm sure.

They have other similarities, some weird, some not so. They're both the same height. Both sports fans. Both are smart. Apparently Jack hides his intelligence well. Jim doesn't do that much, but there are times when I know he's smarter than he lets on. Both have an overwhelming need to protect, those they love and those they don't even know. Both are intensely private men who don't let people in under their protective shell too easily. Both are in love with blue-eyed anthropologists that dig and probe and get under their skin and watch Discovery Channel for a good evening's entertainment. Both started out as big brother to said anthropologists till we wore them down and they fell for us. Life's weird, isn't it?

"What are you thinking, Chief?"

Oh yeah, and both give nicknames to said anthropologists.

"Just thinking that you now have someone to watch your sports channels with and I have someone to watch documentaries with. Life's pretty good at the moment, isn't it?"

-

That was a hoot. Jim met Andy and Rosy and I can tell he liked them both immensely. With Rosy, it's a case of 'what's not to love'? She's got a lovely smile which lights up her face, she's interested in everything. She's also got a very stable character. I think she's going to be very reliable in the field and so does Jim. As for Andy, well, he's infectious. That's the best way of describing him. He's got those gorgeous almond eyes from his Chinese heritage and they twinkle like black diamonds. He's like Rosy, always smiling. I think he's really happy to be getting a command. It's his first, apparently, but he's been recommended by his last CO as ready for it. Having Jim on the team will be a great help to him and he knows it. He's already said, for the record, that any advice Jim can offer, he's going to be happy to take. That endeared him to Jim quickly.

Daniel explained that he had a lot of say in the make-up of the team. When he'd come back from the visit to Cascade, he'd sounded out the General about setting up another science team. He already knew Andy from his membership of SG-11, where he was the second-in-command, and Rosy when she was sent as extra help on a dig he was on. He suggested both of them, along with a number of alternates just in case. They would be his first choice, he said. Fortunately, it all worked out. When Jack organised everything, Hammond told him about the team choices and he agreed with them. Daniel chose them because he knew they'd get on with me. Typical of the man, eh?

Anyway, they came, we shifted furniture, I only had one asthma attack, we ate, we partied and now we're in bed. And Jim is still none the wiser about the job he's going to do. I'm kinda enjoying this.

"You going to tell me now, Chief?"

"Can't, Jim. You know that. You'll have to wait till Monday."

"It's Monday. Look. Zero twenty."

"That's twenty past midnight to us civilians. Which means I want to sleep. Remember that concept?"

"Just about. It was something I did a lot of before I met you."

We're already in bed. Together. One bed. The big bed. Andy helped us bring it in. I had to ask, didn't I? He just laughed. Said his identical twin brother is gay and he really couldn't give a shit. The only thing that bugs him is when he's at home with his bro and he keeps getting kissed by his brother's dates. He is straight. He said he'd even wondered whether he was repressing or something but in the end decided that guys left him stone cold. His brother teases him about being the one that got the testosterone in the womb. I don't think that goes down well with him. Andy's a great guy and apparently he and his brother are inseparable. I get the feeling that anyone that ever picked on his bro would wake up dead.

So, no problems there...

"Blair? You're thinking."

"Maybe."

"What about?"

"Not much. Just running stuff through my head. Kind of like keeping a mental journal. I do it before I go to bed every night. You should get used to it. It doesn't take long and it's not as if I'm talking, is it?"

"You're fidgeting."

"Ah, sorry. I'll try to keep the wiggles to a minimum."

"I like your wiggles, it's the fidgets that I could do without."

Rather than reply, I snuggle into his arms. He's really comfortable and I'm really tired. Can't wait to see his face when we get to the mountain.


Part Five

This is it. The moment Blair's been waiting for. Not to mention the rest of his team. Jim was briefed and inducted the day after they moved his furniture into the loft. Jack used his savings as I thought he would and bought the other apartment, afraid he'd lose it if he waited too long. We now have all three connected to each other, so it's like the four of us living together but having our own space too. It's cool. Jim and Jack go off and watch ESPN most evenings, Blair and I do other stuff. Neither of us feels bad for leaving the guys to their own devices either. Jack's house is on the market and hopefully will be sold soon.

Best of all, Blair's asthma is well under control. Jan's really hopeful that it will go away.

We've done everything we can to prepare SG-14 for this mission. They're going with us this time. It's not the normal thing to send a new team out on its own, not now that we have experienced teams anyway, but SG-1 doesn't usually baby-sit. Given the circumstances though, no eyebrows were raised when I asked if we could accompany them.

"Ready?" Jack asks. Rosy and Andy have been through loads of times, so they just nod. Jim's looking cool. He's used to BDUs. They gave him a P90 without a second thought and he's been pretty much accepted as someone special. His teammates know of his talents and are thrilled to have him on board. He's employed as a 'tracker', but I think we're going to need his expertise in many fields. Blair has amused, bemused and confused a heck of a lot of people. He's in proper fitting BDUs, his hair's tied back tight, he's carrying a zat (a good compromise with the gun thing, it's what I prefer too. He's turned out to be a natural with it in training), his pack's on his back and he looks excited. He also looks about sixteen. He'd kill me if I told him that. He told me that Jim called him beautiful and asked if I'd ever call him something like that. Told him the truth. I've thought it on many occasions but I was never stupid enough to say it.

They've already seen the gate in action, but this is the first time Jim and Blair will have seen it up close.

"C'mon," I say when it engages, whooshes into life and settles. "It's a piece of cake."

I put my hand on Blair's shoulder and propel him up the ramp. He's torn between running through it and standing back and studying it, I think. Teal'c walks through majestically, Sam's strolling through with Rosy.

"Let's go, or they'll leave us behind." I take one step closer and watch him as he stands open-mouthed, touching the event horizon as so many people do.

"Wow," he drawls.

"Yeah, it's pretty neat."

Knowing that he'll be there all day otherwise, I push him through and step into it myself.

-

"You are a dead man!" he yells when I emerge. He's got the frosty face and he's sitting on the floor.

"Sorry, but we didn't have all day."

I step off the platform in time to see Jack and Jim with Andy as they come through.

"That was one wild ride," Jim says.

"Roller coaster in Antarctica, that's what Daniel described it as to me. Not far off."

The rest of us are watching them as they talk, and we're all waiting for the realisation to dawn. They saw some of the pictures in the briefing, but this is a place where SG-1 has been before so we didn't show them everything.

All of a sudden, they quieten and look around. Then up. Two suns. Both are further away than our sun, and they give off a similar amount of heat as our own sun does to Earth. Not only that, the landscape is truly alien in some ways.

I see both their mouths open and close noiselessly, forming the 'wow' look.

"Welcome to M6R-9XT," I say. Oh yeah, this isn't a planet, it's a moon. Give them about an hour and they'll see the planet.

Blair's looking around, doing 360 turns on one foot, his mouth open, his eyes wide. He looks like a kid in a sweet shop that's just been told he can have what he wants. Jim's scanning the area, I think. He looks like he's listening. I watch as he takes a few steps in one direction and then he stands and stares into the distance.

"Jim, look over there," Blair calls as I point out the direction of one of the features we want to investigate. There's silence though. "Jim? Aw man, not now!"

"What's going on?" Andy calls out.

"He's freaking zoned. Hasn't done this in a while. Hang on."

We watch as Blair puts his hand on Jim's chest and starts to talk to him, his voice quiet, calm and soothing. He's telling him to wake up or something. I step closer to hear him.

"Hey Jim, come on. Time to come back to me. I know that whatever you're seeing is pretty cool, but I need you to listen to me now. It must look good to keep your attention like that, but it's not as good as me, eh? That's it, dial down your sight and start to focus on other things."

All of a sudden, Jim shakes his head and he's looking around himself.

"I didn't?"

"You did. Big time, man. What's over there?"

Blair's very matter-of-fact about this, so the rest of us are taking that as our cue.

"Something stupid," Jim mutters. "It's a waterfall. The light was catching it."

Blair laughs. "Come on, got something better for you to check out. You were a magpie in a previous incarnation, weren't you?"

Jim's trying not to laugh and he's pretending to be annoyed. The rest of us are fighting down the chuckles at their interaction. I think that Andy and Rosy just bought a clue as to how important Blair is.

"Uh, Jim, do you do that a lot?" Andy asks. "I mean, I don't want to be personal here, but this could be important."

"It's a fair question," Jim answers. "I'm not used to talking about it with anyone that isn't Blair though. Only two other people knew about it at the PD. Anyway, no, it doesn't happen a lot, but if my senses go into overload..." He regroups and continues, "If I'm not prepared for it, I zone. It's pretty embarrassing."

"Don't be embarrassed, Jim," Blair scolds. "It's up to me to prevent it, remember?"

"Why's that?" Sam asks.

"He's my guide," Jim says with a grin.

"You said that before but I don't know what it means," Sam insists.

"Basically he's my back-up. All sentinels had a guide, someone to accompany them, help them control their senses and so on. He's the only one I hear when I zone, he's the only one that can bring me out of them. If he's not around, and I think it's going to be permanent, I lose my senses. I think that part of the reason is because I'm sulking," he says with a grin. "The rest of it is because it's a safety net, to stop me going into overload."

"You had your senses before we met, Jim," Blair reminds him.

"Yeah, and when I was with the Chopec, Incacha guided me. He could do that because he was a shaman, but even he couldn't bring me out of a zone. After that I was going crazy because I couldn't control it. You know that." Jim looks at the others and then says, "Blair's presence grounds me. He prevents me from zoning most of the time."

They nod now, really appreciating just how much of a partnership they are.

"That doesn't explain why you've moved next door to Daniel, Colonel," Sam says, her eyes glistening. I think she's guessed something's going on.

"Simple. Jim likes ESPN and I like company to watch it. Besides, Daniel makes good coffee."

They look at me and I just smile and shrug. We're at the structure I wanted to show Blair anyway.


This is officially the most exciting day of my life. I'm on another planet! Jim zoning could have spoiled it but I think it's helped. Andy looked in his field glasses and still didn't see the waterfall.

Daniel's steered us to the structure he wants me to look at and I'm stunned. It's an Olmec statue.

"Daniel? Why didn't you tell me?"

"Surprise!" he says with a grin. I think I know why he's brought us here now. He's wanting to see how we deal with going into a situation without much prior information. He already knows about this, but the South American cultures aren't his thing. I've learned a lot about them since I met Jim.

"Hang on," Rosy calls, "I've seen something like this on TV. Some mystery show or other. Sounded like a load of crap from the guy that was spouting it, but he did seem to have a point. They do seem to have African faces."

I knew I'd like her. "Uh, Rosy, the Olmecs were the oldest civilisation in South America. They're descendants of people from Asia and the Pacific Islands. These features aren't uncommon there either."

She nods. "Said it sounded like crap."

I look at Daniel with a curious face. The Von Däniken experience isn't something that he's too happy with.

"He did a lot of harm to me, or at least his reputation did. I was trying to show the obvious connections between civilisations that up till then had been thought unable to meet, but then I got the 'alien' thing thrown at me. I didn't know about the stargate then, but even now, given the information I had at the time, I'd have assumed higher technological advancement for humans and not aliens. I had proof, but because of the sort of book he put out, and the TV shows and so on, no one would listen." Then he grins. "There are a few notable exceptions to that, of course."

Jack cocks his head to one side and then Daniel tells him. "I was on the phone to Blair the night before the lecture, Jack. He was the only one that backed me up. If he could have been there he would have been, fighting my corner and probably ruining his own career in the process, so I'm glad he wasn't. He was also the only one that would talk to me after the lecture."

Jack beams at me and then pats me on the back. He says nothing, but I think he's happy.

Jim's off. He's stalking through the undergrowth and he's called out to me. I'm off like a shot. Oh boy. I've never seen an Olmec statue quite like it. It's obviously a were-jaguar, but it's so lifelike.

"Blair?" Andy's right behind me.

"The were-jaguar was supposed to be the forerunner to the early gods," I tell him. "Half-human, half-jaguar. This one is unusual. You see, most jaguars are spotted, but every so often they have ones where they're black. You know, the melanin effect." Rosy's grinning at me and her eyes are saying, 'Well, duh'. I continue. "This statue has been painted. In black. What's stranger still is what's at its feet. A wolf. I mean, that's not possible."

I look at Jim and ask without words if I can go further. I get a slow nod, then he creeps off into the trees. I'll get a call from him soon, I guess.

"Now, I don't know how much of this you're going to believe, but Jim and I have spirit animals. They kind of represent us in the spirit world. Jim's is a black jaguar. It kind of means he's half-jaguar, half-human, but in the loosest sense. A lot of this stuff is beyond my understanding, but I'm working on it. My spirit animal is a wolf."

They're saying nothing, trying to take it all in, Daniel's the only one that knows about the spirit animals. I'm looking at the statue, studying it hard, but all of a sudden I know I have to go to Jim. I hear Jack complaining as I take off after him, then other footsteps crashing through the undergrowth behind me. I don't care. I know I have to be with him. Where is he?

I stop dead. I can't hear him or see him. The others stop by my side.

"Where is he?" Andy demands.

"Wait."

I turn slowly, then I drop my pack. I know I can't afford to be held back. I'm sure one of them will pick it up. There, he's gone there.

I run again, feeling my chest seizing up as I go. Hope I have my inhaler in my pocket. At last, Jim.

I stop, trying to catch my breath and starting to panic a bit when I find it hard. Next thing I hear is Daniel's voice, commanding me to relax and breathe easily. It's getting better, I've taken the inhaler and my breathing is easier. Damn, Jim's disappeared again.

"He went in there."

Jack's pointing to a building. It looks familiar. Oh crap, I know what that is.

"JIM! Not without me, you don't." I turn to the others and say, "Stay here!"

"Blair? What's going on?"

"It's a Temple of the Sentinels. Just like in Mexico."

I see Daniel's face look horrified as I tell him that. I shake my head, he can't come in there.

"Look, Jim," I say as I enter behind him. "The pools."

"They are for you and me," he says quietly. "To finish the journey together."

"What about the cliff, Jim? I thought that would be it."

"No, look." He's pointing to some writing on the wall. I can't read it.

"What does it say?"

"It's instructions. The sentinel and guide must enter the pools. One in each. If they face what they are together, they will be rendered as one."

"Jim, don't you remember what happened the second time Alex went into the pool? And that was for sentinels only. I wasn't supposed to be there, it's to enhance the senses."

"There, yes. Not here. Look!"

"Dammit, Jim, I don't read this!"

"YOU CAN!"

He's pointing out a part of the text. It's not something I've read before, not something I've learned. Uh uh, I can read it?

"Jim? How can I...?"

"Incacha?" he shrugs.

Shakespeare was right. Some things I am never going to understand. He got the location wrong though.

Okay, it says what Jim says it says. This temple isn't just a temple for sentinels, it's one for guides too. Cool.

"Ready to complete the journey, Chief?"

This is worse than stepping off a cliff - either for real or in my mind. I've done both, I should know. But I nod. I have to do this, don't I?


I have no idea what's going on in there, but I do know that I'm not going in there unless I hear my name being called. It's taking all I have to keep the others from going in there though.

"Look, Blair told me there's a place like this on Earth and it's a sentinel thing. I'm sure we're not supposed to be in there. They'll call us if they need us. We have to wait."

My eyes beg Jack to listen to me and eventually, he nods. He gives orders for a fire to be started and coffee to be made. We have no idea how long this is going to take.

Jack's sitting next to me, staring at the fire.

"What's up?" I ask.

"Ach, just worried, they've been in there for ages, haven't they?"

"You have to trust them, Jack."

"I do, it's just..."

"You're a born worrier. You care. They've grown on you, haven't they?"

"Yeah," he nods. "You know, when I met Blair, I wanted to hate him. You know, for..." I nod. He can't say it out loud but he means for being with me. "Anyway, I saw him lying on your bed, the IV in, the mask on his face. He looked so small, so young. I knew he'd been through a lot and I guess it brought out the dad in me, ya know?" Again, I nod. I know that interrupting now is the wrong thing. "You told me about him and Jim, and somehow I knew that I had to meet the guy. I had a gut feeling that things between them had gone that way for the same reasons that they'd gone like that between us."

He looks at me and shrugs in apology. All I can do is put my hand on his shoulder. The others are quiet and listening in, but Jack's speaking quietly.

"I got to the Precinct and found out where he was. The information you'd given me was enough. I stepped into that office and I knew it was him before I'd even been introduced. He looked so haunted. I went straight to him and asked him if he wanted information on Blair's whereabouts and his eyes lit up for a moment, then they were filled with pain. I knew it then, Daniel. I fucking knew it. I had to bring him to your place. I persuaded him to come with me, we went to a bar, sat down in a corner and talked over some beers. As you'd given me his name, I'd already checked out his record. Our similar backgrounds gave us a good starting point. It wasn't easy talking to him, he's worse than me for bottling things up. But I understood him, Daniel, I really understood him. He knew that too, I guess. I told him about you, explained some stuff about us. He got it straight away, he knew where I was coming from. It took a good few hours, but soon we both knew we could trust the other to help out. I'm a good judge of character, Daniel, and I knew that he wouldn't let Blair down again."

"I know, Jack. I trust your instinct about people - for the most part."

He winces, knowing what I'm talking about. There have been times when he's ignored his instinct, like on Euronda.

"I need a walk," he says suddenly, standing up and stretching. He's like a caged animal sometimes. Considering he's been known to wait for days on a stake-out, he actually has limited patience.

"I'll come with you," I offer.

"No need, Daniel. I'm a big boy now."

"Uh, Jack? What's rule number... three of SG-1?" I had to think then.

"Three? Oh yeah, Jack O'Neill is always right."

"No, that's number one and it's Daniel Jackson is always right. Number three is - no one walks alone."

"What's number two?" Andy calls with a grin.

"No one gets left behind," the four of us chant.

"It used to be number one rule," Jack says, "but we kept leaving Daniel behind. And he was always right, so we bumped him up."

I propel him away from the fire as I need to get him on his own. As soon as we're far enough away I pin him to a tree.

"Jack, you've never left me unless you had to. I've never blamed you for it."

"You should."

"No. No, I shouldn't. Ditch the guilt trip, O'Neill."

"Sorry, no can do. Kinda sucks, being a Catholic sometimes," he says with a grin.

"Just as well for you you're not a practising one."

"Why's that?"

"We wouldn't be doing this."

I kiss him, hard. He's responding, his arms are around my waist pulling me close to him. I break away before we get to the point where we can't stop.

"Love you," I mouth. I get one of his lovely warm smiles back and the sentiment is returned.


I have no idea where I am. I can't see Jim or the jaguar. Can't see me or my wolf. All I can do is feel. I'm floating, I think. Not sure if I'm real or not. "JIM?" Nothing. No reply. "Jim, this isn't funny anymore, man. You know me, I'm no hero, I just want this over and done with now."

Still nothing. Oh, hang on, what's that? Something white?

"Pin kanki?"

"Huh? I'm sorry, I do not understand."

"Pin kanki?"

"Okay, what's the first question I would ask? Uh, I know, 'who are you?'. Is that it? Who am I? I'm Blair Sandburg." I'll leave the doctor tag off. Yeah, I got it at last. Oh, for pity's sake, Sandburg, keep your mind on track.

"Imatan ruwanki?"

"You've got me there, I don't understand you. I've heard those word sounds before though. Where?"

"Imatan ruwanki?"

"It's Quechua, isn't it? That's where I've heard it. I've heard Jim speaking it a few times. JIM! Man, I need you. I am so going to learn that language when we get home."

The white thing, it's a cloud or something, is hovering in front of me. It's not one of those giant white aliens that Daniel told me about. He told me they were like, big. This isn't. Not to mention they lived in some other dimension in a pyramid.

"Damn, I wish I knew what you wanted. Look, I'm Blair Sandburg. I'm here with Jim Ellison. Uh, Enqueri. He's a sentinel, you know? I'm the guy that helps him out, his guide. I need to be with him. If he's not with me he's going to freak, man, and you do not want to see Jim freak. It's not pretty."

"Munanki?"

"What? Oh hell. I wish I knew what you wanted. I can tell you what I want. I want Jim, like now!"

There's a shimmer to my side. I turn and look and it's Jim. Sort of. He's fading in and out.

"Jim? Oh thank God. Can you hear me?"

"I can hear you, Chief. How are you doing?"

"I'll be honest, man, I'm a bit scared here. This, er, thing, being, person, whatever it is, is asking me stuff. I think he's speaking Quechua, but I don't understand it."

"You're doing well, Blair. I'm here now."

"Maytataq rinki?"

"Jim? What did he say?"

"He asked where we were going."

"Well, I don't know the answer to that, man, but wherever it is, we're going there together, right?"

"Right, Chief."

I'm guessing that the being understood my answer then because it's just pulled back and its forming into a shape. It looks human, but looks can be deceiving.

It's speaking, way too fast for my brain to catch up with it. Jim understands though and he's answering for us both. I trust that he's giving the right answers. I have to trust that he's giving the right answers.

Jim's grinning like a twit at me. Okay, I'll bite.

"Jim? What's up?"

"He's given you a Quechua name."

"Oh yeah? Cool. What is it?"

"Uchuk Kura."

"What does it mean?"

"Uh, you don't want to know."

"I do!"

"Enqueri."

Jim turns to look at the being and listens for a bit longer before answering. Next thing I know I'm awake, or back or whatever, and I'm naked, in the pool and wet.

"Jim?"

"I'm here, babe."

"Talk to me, tell me what just happened."

"Not sure I can tell you. The being was, um, I guess the nearest thing would be the spirit of the connection between sentinels and guides. Basically he said that we were now inextricably bound. No one would ever be able to come between us."

"Wow. I'm down with that. Now I want to get out of this pool and dried. Don't want to catch cold or anything."

-

I'm out, getting dressed, I'm still a bit damp but it's not too bad. It's pretty hot here.

"You going to tell me what the name means?"

"Okay," he sighs. "It means 'little priest'. I guess it's in recognition of you being a shaman, or something."

"Not a reflection on my height, I hope?"

"As if it would be, Chief."

Little priest indeed. Mom would get such a kick out of that one. Oh shit, that just reminded me.

"Uh, Jim? You know what I've forgotten to do over these last few weeks?"

"What's that?"

"Tell Naomi where I am. Damn, if it was hard keeping the secret before, it's going to be nigh on impossible now. She wasn't happy about me being with the police, she's going to need to meditate for six months to get over me working for the government!"

He's laughing. So much for being my supportive significant other.

We step out of the temple and see the others waiting near a fire. Good, I could do with a drink. Daniel's looking at me and wondering what's going on.

"What happened?" he asks as I sit next to him. I can see that Jack's checking us out to see if we're okay.

"Not really sure. The bond that Jim and I have was kind of reinforced though. Jim knows more, I think."

We look at him but he's saying nothing. He just shrugs and shakes his head.

"Jim, I hope you're not going to run off like that on future missions," Andy says with a growl.

"Sorry about that," he says. "The trouble with those temple things is that I get an urge, a need to go to them. Can't explain it, I just have to go. There must be one of those on Earth somewhere. Maybe the jungle has swallowed it up. The one for the Sentinels in Mexico would be difficult for just anyone to find."

Silence falls again, then Daniel nudges me and points to the sky.

"Wow. Jim? Look up there."

It's just dawned on me, we're not on a planet. We're on a moon. The sky, which I thought was red because of the sunset - or is that suns-set? - turns out to be red for another reason. There's a fucking huge planet in the sky. Red, orange, yellow, swirling like Jupiter. This must be a moon like one of the ones orbiting Jupiter or Saturn at home, but because of the two suns, it's really warm. This bit of the moon must have been facing the other way when we got here. It's like nothing else I've ever seen. It's so beautiful.

"You know that you were worried about hiding all this from Naomi, Chief?"

"Yeah?"

"I think it's going to be worth it, don't you?"

"I think I do, Jim, I think I do."


Quechua phrases from www.andes.org

Pin kanki - Who are you?

Imatan ruwanki - What do you do?

Munanki - What do you want?