I'll Catch You When You Fall
Summary: I know - I said I wouldn't do it, but have you seen Blair? He's cute. Anyway, summary. It's a SG/TS crossover FCOL. What more do you need? A bit of Jackwhumping but not much and not how you'd expect.
Mega thanks go to the amazing Alyjude for patiently answering my questions about the boys and canon; Wadjet for encouragement, and Joy for betaing and cheerleading.
Cheyenne Mountain; Colorado
"Dr. Jackson, come in. Can you tell me what this is all about?"
"This request for you to be transferred to SG-11."
Daniel sat down with a bump. He should have known that this was coming.
"General, I did not put that request in. I'm assuming that Jack did. If that's the case, then he obviously no longer wants me on his team. It's his team, he has the right to do this."
"What prompted this, Daniel?" Hammond realised that Daniel was as shocked as he was about this, so now his tone was much gentler.
"I have no idea, General. You know me, I hate making enemies. One day Jack and I were the closest of friends, the next day we weren't. And I still don't know why. I guess that he'd had enough of the geek." He laughed mirthlessly as he said that, prompting Hammond to say nothing more for fear of upsetting the man he thought of as a son.
Daniel straightened his back up and his chin jutted out. 'Not a good sign,' Hammond thought, 'he's bracing himself for a beating.' "Perhaps there's a misunderstanding, Daniel. I'll talk to him when he gets back."
"He didn't tell you that either?" Now Hammond was getting ready to kill O'Neill and spread his remains - thinly - over a wide area.
"No. We haven't seen each other in days. Not since the last mission. You know me, always busy."
Hammond's gut tightened. Yes, Daniel would lose himself in his work but Jack had always gone to his office, every day, to make sure he was eating and sleeping properly. "He's gone on a covert mission, off-world. I'm not surprised he didn't give you the details, Daniel, but I am surprised he didn't say goodbye."
"More surprised than you were to learn that he's kicked me off his team? I'm not. Nothing surprises me anymore."
A few more words, pleasantries really, were exchanged, then Daniel begged his leave. When it was granted he headed directly for his office, typed up his resignation letter, a-fuckin'-gain, but this time put it in the out-tray. He had one more month of this and that was it. He was so out of there. Where to, he didn't know, but he was gone.
Blair Sandburg looked over the desk and at his so-called partner. Jim Ellison, great detective, hell, Detective of the Year - this year, last year, whenever - sentinel of the Great City, one-time roommate and best friend to said Blair Sandburg. Ellison was pointedly looking elsewhere.
Blair couldn't believe it. Why was he still there? Was he some sort of masochist? Ever since the dissertation fiasco, when he had fucked up any chance he'd ever had of being accepted in the academic community ever again, given up his entire life just to protect said one-time roommate and best friend, Jim had shut him down and shut him out.
They'd talked. About work. Nothing else. Not even the weather got a look-in. Blair had taken the hint after two weeks and moved out. He'd said 'I've found somewhere to live, Jim' and Jim had said, 'good'. That was it. Three years, his entire life down the drain.
So Blair shut himself off from the world. He got up in the morning, ate when he remembered, went to work (he'd even done it, gone through the Police Academy, ignoring the taunts and the jibes as he did, and got himself turned into a real live cop), he rode out with Jim, sometimes he did his 'guide' thing. More often than not, he just did his job. He stopped smiling, stopped joking with Joel and Rafe and the guys. Stopped being Blair.
As far as he could tell, no one had noticed.
He stood up and looked out of the window and over the city. 'Home. Ha! Home is where the heart is. I've got no home.'
Captain Banks put his head out of his office.
"There's been a murder. Ellison, Sandburg, in my office."
Blair noticed that Jim didn't even look his way as he stood up and went to his captain's office to get the details. Oh boy, it was going to be a long day.
The gate sprang into life, the alarms sounded and security forces ran to cover. There were no teams scheduled to return, so it meant one was in trouble or an attack had been launched. Either way, they were on alert.
Daniel Jackson quietly strolled into the gate control room.
"Hey, what's going on?" he asked casually, ignoring the air of panic around him.
"It's SG-13, Sir. They're in trouble. Under attack."
"Well, open the iris then," Daniel encouraged. The sergeant looked at him, nodded and complied, then he realised that he had just taken an order from a civilian. Hammond was so going to have his hide.
"Wasn't Colonel O'Neill out with them?" he asked, almost as if he didn't care.
"Yes, Sir. I'm sure he's okay though," came the usual reply, the one they'd all learned to give when Jack had been in trouble and Daniel had been left behind. The tech sergeant's mouth opened wide when Daniel shrugged.
"Sure. He usually is. What possessed him to go out with a team called SG-13 in the first place is what I want to know. Asking for trouble if you ask me."
Then he turned and headed back the way he had come, the opposite way to the gate.
An hour later, Daniel put his head around the door of the infirmary, wanting to see if Janet Frasier was there. He had some information that she had requested. The sound of heels clip clopping along the floor drew his attention to the short but sometimes fearsome woman.
"Hey, Jan," he called out, "got the stuff you wanted."
Her head snapped around in surprise, then when she saw Daniel, her face dropped in sorrow.
"God, Daniel. Are you okay?"
"I'm fine. Why shouldn't I be? I've only been doing translations. Here, you asked for this."
She scurried across the floor and nearly bumped into him as she came to an abrupt halt.
"They'll find him," she said in a reassuring tone. "You know they will."
"Find who, Jan? Why do I keep hearing the Twilight Zone music in my head?"
"Colonel O'Neill," she said, her voice even more stunned. "Haven't they told you?"
"Hasn't who told me what? JAN! Please, just tell me. What's he done now?"
"He's still out there. SG-13 came under attack while they were on their operation. He got separated from them. They came back. He didn't."
"Oh shit. Looks like he's going to need therapy again when he gets back," Daniel muttered under his breath. One thing Jack O'Neill constantly spouted was the he never left his people behind. Unless they were Daniel, of course, the younger man thought. How many times had he left him behind?
"Daniel? Are you sure you're okay?" Janet was really worried now.
"Sure. I'm sure you're right, Jan. They'll find him. Just send SG-1 out and they'll get him, no problems."
"They? Don't you mean you?"
"Um, no. Seems I'm persona non grata. Not sure why. Do you know? No? Ah well, can't be helped. See ya."
With that he turned on his heel and walked off, apparently unconcerned by the disappearance of his one-time best friend. Janet got on the phone to Sam's office, found she wasn't there, tracked her down to the gate room and clued her in on the conversation. The news came as a shock to her too.
"Stay in the truck, Sandburg," Jim Ellison said as he got out.
Blair stayed. He no longer wanted to fight or argue, no longer wanted to be the cause of any dispute, so he did what he was told. Ellison was shocked, but carried on and started to trace the path that the murderer had taken. He got about fifty yards when Blair saw that he had stopped and seemed to be staring into space.
"Oh man, not again," Blair muttered to himself.
He got out of the truck and strolled up behind his partner, put his hand on his back and spoke.
"Wake up, Ellison. Time for little detectives to open their eyes."
Jim shook his head. He realised that he had zoned once again, something that he hadn't done in quite some time. He felt embarrassed by it, passers-by were staring at him, and so he snapped.
"I thought I told you to stay in the truck," he barked at Blair.
"Sure, fine. Next time you zone I'll stay there, shall I?" Blair's normally equal temper was starting to fray.
"You are the junior partner here, you will do as you are told." Jim's voice was as cold as ice and froze Blair to the spot. He didn't recognise this man at all
"So, you don't need me anymore?" he asked quietly, his blue eyes piercing the gaze of the taller man.
"No. I do not need you. Go to the truck."
Blair turned and walked away. Jim Ellison sighed as he saw the man he had once called friend leave him. Perhaps now he would get the message. Maybe now he'd quit.
And keep safe.
Blair got in the truck, sat, waited and considered his options. He knew that Jim needed him, whether the older man thought it or not. Only Blair could bring him out of one of those 'zones'. Perhaps it was karmic payback, he thought. The rest of his life was going to be a living hell. Maybe he'd been really bad in a past life. Or maybe it was payback for that thing with Alex. Though, he considered, being murdered by that woman should have been realised as payback. And seeing Jim kiss her. That hurt more than drowning. There was nothing he could do. He had nowhere to go. His academic credentials were shot to hell anyway. At least he had a job, money coming in, a roof over his head and so on. It wasn't much, but he wasn't homeless.
He had one last person he could turn to, an old friend, someone whose own academic life had been like his. Brilliant at first, the Wunderkind. Then the ability to see out of the box had him at loggerheads with his community. Blair wondered for a second which of them he was thinking about. He realised that soon he'd hear from him. He always did when he thought of him. Give it a week or two and he'd be on the phone.
With that comforting thought, he settled down and waited for the return of his partner.
When Ellison did finally come back to the truck, empty handed, Blair gave him a small, knowing smile. He said nothing, just let him drive. When they got back to the Precinct, they reported on what they'd done and Blair got it in the neck again for doing nothing. Instead of arguing with Captain Banks, he shrugged. "Just doing what my senior partner ordered me to, Captain," he said casually. "I thought I was supposed to listen to him in the field."
"You are, but you are supposed to be a detective!" The reply was almost yelled at him, but still Blair didn't react.
"Yeah, I know. Tell him that," he said quietly. Then, when he was dismissed, he worked at his desk, saying nothing to anyone unless spoken to. Finally, when the time was right, he went home.
In the meantime, Banks had pulled his friend into his office for a one-on-one chat.
"You're making him stay in the truck?" he asked.
"He gets in my way."
That answer surprised the hell out of Banks.
"He gets in your way. This is the man, who when he had no training, you dragged around and together you solved many crimes. Now that he's got the training, having come top of his class in all the academic work and damned near the top in his practical work, you think he gets in your way? What's wrong with this picture?"
"You know I prefer to work on my own," Jim's defensive reply came.
"It's not going to happen, Ellison. You told me I should sponsor him through the Academy. YOU! What's happened?"
"He's qualified," Jim said quietly.
"You thought he'd what, drop out? Go away? Run away? Is that what you thought?"
There was no answer.
"I thought you knew him, Jim. I thought you knew him better than anyone. You don't know him at all, do you?"
Empty blue eyes looked into the dark-brown eyes of Banks.
"No," he whispered. "And he doesn't know me, either."
Every day for three weeks the gate had been opened. They couldn't call Jack O'Neill on his radio because the noise might alert any Jaffa in his vicinity, if he was still alive and hiding, that was. For once, the Tok'ra had come up trumps and had brought a lot of visual communication devices. They'd send one through and scan the area, until a nearby Jaffa saw it and zatted it.
Daniel, despite his outward calm, was as upset as hell. He didn't want any harm to come to Jack, friend now or not. They'd been through too much together. On top of that, Daniel didn't know how, but he knew that Jack was still alive.
He was in the control room, watching the latest attempt. The device scanned, didn't get zatted and for once, hope flared. They saw nothing but the devastation of the village nearby. Nothing in the woodland to the side.
"General?" Sam was operating the controls and she was getting a little bit excited.
"Try the radio," Hammond ordered.
Sam pressed the button and spoke into the microphone.
"Colonel? Colonel O'Neill. Come in, Colonel."
She took her finger off the button and they waited. A few moments later, a husky voice broke through the airwaves.
Daniel's heart sank. Jack seemed to think that he was still his friend - only when they were friends would he call him that. He took over the mic.
"Jack, it's me."
"Yes, Jack. Are you okay?"
Nothing. No reply. Daniel called him a few more times but all they got back was static.
"SG's 2, 3 and 6 on standby for a search and rescue mission," Hammond announced over the base tannoy.
"We're going too, General," Daniel said, his voice brooking no argument.
"Are you sure, son?"
"He asked for me, didn't he? It will be okay."
Hammond nodded, and Sam followed Daniel out of the control room, Teal'c silently on their heels.
In the gear up room, they put on their uniforms, picked up their packs, stopped by the armoury and then met up with the other teams in the gate room.
The leaders of two of the teams looked down their noses at Daniel, and got Teal'c and Sam in their faces. They had heard second-hand that Daniel had been thrown off their team and were currently scared stiff about, and pissed off with, Jack in equal measure. He was going to get two new ones torn him when he got home.
The other leader was Ferretti, who just looked at Daniel and grinned in welcome. He got a smile back, the gate dialled up and they stepped through.
They were afraid that they'd be ambushed, that this was all a set-up, but they had to take a chance. The colonel in charge of the rescue effort, Wilkinson, was a dour man with no time for civilians. He pushed Daniel behind, muttering about having to keep him safe all the while trying to do his job. Daniel said nothing, just stood and looked around, studying the layout of the area.
He nudged Teal'c and pointed in a particular direction. Teal'c raised an eyebrow and then nodded. Wilkinson caught the exchange as he turned to yell at Daniel to get a move on.
"WHAT?" he barked.
"He's over there," Daniel said.
"Don't be ridiculous. Look at the terrain, it's too difficult, there's trees but no obvious food source," he said, scanning the area with his binoculars, "no water either. He'd never hide there, not knowing we were coming."
"Since when are you a search and rescue expert?" The sneer was as vocal as the look.
"I'm not," Daniel conceded, but when Wilkinson started to relax at his apparent victory, he said, "but I know Jack."
"Um, Colonel?" Sam put in. "Daniel's probably right. No one knows the Colonel the way he does. He knows how he thinks."
Ferretti muttered agreement, as did Teal'c. This though, only served to annoy Wilkinson even more.
"I am ordering you to go this way! Is this such a difficult concept for you? Damned civilians, think you know more than we do!"
Daniel shrugged and put his hand on Teal'c's shoulder, then shot Sam a glance, and then Ferretti. He got nods from all three.
They started out, Wilkinson pleased with his overcoming the archaeologist. After a couple of minutes, hearing Lou and Sam chattering to each other, and at first hearing Daniel and Teal'c answering, he realised that he hadn't heard the lower pitched voices for a while. He turned, looked, and only saw Sam and the leader of SG-2.
"Majors? Where is that damned civilian and the alien?"
Sam and Lou looked around, and with astonished expressions denied all knowledge. In the meantime, Daniel and Teal'c slipped silently into the trees.
"Fucking great," Wilkinson muttered to himself, then said, "now I have to go after them, do I?"
"Oh, I wouldn't worry, Sir," Lou Ferretti said, jovially. "Teal'c won't let anything happen to Daniel, and the other way around," he added the last bit, to Sam's amusement.
While Wilkinson stopped the troops and decided what to do, Daniel took off at top speed, Teal'c close by as they crashed through the undergrowth. They ran for twenty minutes, till Daniel stopped suddenly, Teal'c narrowly avoiding him as he, too, ground to a halt.
"He's here," Daniel said quietly. They stopped, looked around and waited.
Inspector Megan Connor, the Australian that was over on an exchange programme, strode into the office and looked around. She was greeted back from her three week holiday at home, looking tanned and relaxed. She chatted with the guys and then her eyes settled on her friend.
"Sandy? Are you all right?" she called out. The others looked, wondering what she was going on about.
"Hey, Connor, I'm fine thanks. Yourself? How was your vacation?"
"Great. But you're looking pale, have you lost weight?"
Joel, Henri and the others looked closer at Blair and all of a sudden, realised what she was saying. His eyes were a bit sunken, his cheeks hollower. He looked like he hadn't eaten a decent meal in months. And they hadn't known it. Of course, her perspective of having been away for a while helped. You rarely noticed something that gradually changed before your eyes.
"Nothing I didn't need to," Blair smiled back. "It's good to see you again, Megan. It's been... quiet without you." Megan noticed that his eyes looked like they were trying to twinkle with the good humour that she was used to seeing, but not quite making it. She put her hand on his arm and pulled him to one side, noticing as she did the copious layers that he had on.
"So many shirts, Sandy?"
"I'm cold, you know me," he shrugged.
"It's summer, Blair," she whispered, as if sharing a secret. "What's wrong?"
"Nothing, honestly." He wasn't convincing her though.
Jim Ellison stepped out of Banks' office, greeted the Aussie grumpily, then barked at Blair to follow him. Megan winced when she heard him yell out 'Sandburg', and then her mouth dropped open when she saw him quietly trotting off behind the older man.
"What the fuck has been going on?" she said, still astounded, when the door shut on the once inseparable partnership.
She looked at the men and they somehow managed to look guilty.
"What have you been doing to him?" she demanded.
"Hey, we've done nothing!" Henri Brown complained.
"Perhaps you should have done something! Have you seen him? That wasn't Sandy! That was a ghost!"
Simon Banks listened to his officer and harrumphed to himself. He knew she was right, but he was damned if he knew how to mend this.
"Jack? I know you're here. It's time to come out. They've gone. There are three rescue teams here, but only Teal'c and I are in this bit of the forest. Now, I know you don't like me anymore, and I know you've kicked me off the team, but for old time's sake, do me a favour and come out, please? That Colonel Wilkinson thinks I'm a geek, and whereas even though you know I'm a geek, I'm also the geek that's saved your ass on a few occasions. So, come on out and prove my hunch right, will you?"
Daniel and Teal'c stood in silence as they waited for a reply. A rustle in the leaves nearby alerted them, and then they heard, "Danny."
Daniel took off in the direction of the sound. He found Jack only twenty feet away, but sitting on the forest floor with his head in his hands.
"Noisy," he said. "So noisy."
Apart from the sounds of forest birds, Daniel heard nothing.
"Jack?" he whispered. "Just birds."
"No, the screams. Lots of screams."
"Are you talking about the attack? Where were you when it happened?"
"Over there." Jack pointed in the vague direction of the village and Daniel thought for a moment that Jack was suffering PTSD. But he'd been through so many attacks that this didn't ring true to him.
"Okay, Jack. Teal'c and I will take you home now, okay?"
Jack looked up, snapping his head in the direction of Daniel and Teal'c.
"Yes, Jack. Home. You look like you need a rest, some food and believe me, you need a shower."
"You stink, Daniel," Jack said, screwing up his nose.
"Now I'm hurt," Daniel said. "There was me, running for twenty minutes to get to you quicker and you complain about how I smell. And what with your three weeks in the forest, you're no fragrant flower yourself."
"No, you, you, you smell of herbs. Camomile. Sage. Something else."
"My shampoo? Dear God, three weeks away from the SGC and he turns into a hairdresser."
Teal'c swallowed back a snigger, Jack didn't, but called Daniel a prick while he smiled at him.
They helped him up, guided him back along the path, taking about an hour to reach the place at which Teal'c and Daniel had disappeared from the main body of troops.
"Sam?" Daniel called up with his radio. "We've got Jack, we're taking him home."
"Is he okay?"
"Yeah, seems to want a change of profession, but till we buy him the curlers you're stuck with him."
"See you on the flip side, Sam," Daniel laughed. They reached the DHD, he went to let go of Jack so that he could dial up, but Jack grabbed him and his eyes pleaded with Daniel to not let him go. Teal'c saw this and dialled up instead. Daniel sent the code and the three men stepped through.
Sam relayed the fact that Jack had been found and was now back at the SGC to Wilkinson. She figured that she deserved a medal for not laughing out loud at the colour the man went when he heard the news. Lou Ferretti wasn't so subtle. He disappeared around a corner and was later found with tear streaks down his face.
Jim Ellison and Blair Sandburg had had a busy day. They'd caught no less than four criminals, all of whom had decided to run for it. So, they decided, individually, to hit the shower block before they went home.
Luckily for them, they were on their own. Blair said nothing as he stripped, but deliberately looked away from Jim as they both undressed. Then he quickly slipped into the cubicle and washed as swiftly as he could. His now short hair didn't take long to wash and he was out in minutes.
Jim hadn't looked away though. He'd heard the despair in Megan's voice earlier, even through the door to the captain's office. Now he saw for himself just how thin Blair was. His cutting off of the friendship, to try to get Blair out of policing and keep him safe, had backfired. Slowly, inch by inch, Blair was dying. And Jim knew that he was the cause of it, killing him, just as surely as if he had pulled the trigger on a gun pointing his way. Somehow, he mused, as he too washed quickly, it would have been fairer on Blair to have done that.
There were voices outside, and even over the noise of the shower, he listened.
"Lookie here. If it's not the great Sandburg. Not got anything to say for yourself, squirt?"
"Fuck off, Jones," Blair muttered, "I'm not in the mood for this."
Jim left the water on, let the others think he was in the shower. He heard more taunting, then he heard a bang. Someone had been slammed against a locker. That was followed by a series of yells.
"Where's your protector, now, Sandburg?" A voice rang out through the changing rooms.
"Right here," Jim said quietly, standing with a towel wrapped around his hips and looking dangerous as the water dripped down his bare chest. "Get the fuck away from him before I end your family line with my bare hands." The words came in the most menacing tone the three interlopers had ever heard. They'd all been at the Academy with Blair and had taken it upon themselves to make his life a living hell. Jim fought back a grin when he saw that it was one of the three that had made the indent on the locker. Blair was almost dressed and looking as pissed as Jim had ever seen him.
The three left, rapidly, and Jim turned to Blair.
"What do you care? And what the fuck was that? I was dealing with them! Now they'll never leave me alone! Fuck off, Ellison, I've had enough of you."
He grabbed his shirt, flung it on, slipped his feet into his shoes, sockless, and stormed out of the locker room, leaving a totally dumbfounded Jim Ellison in his wake.
The door opened, it was Megan.
"You deserved every single word of that," she said. She'd seen the men go in, knew them for what they were, and followed, ready to go to her friend's aid if necessary. But she was prepared to give him the chance to deal with it. She had been stunned when she realised that she no longer trusted Jim to watch out for his partner. It was something that saddened her a great deal.
She shut the door and Jim sat, stunned by what had just passed. Something had to give but he wasn't sure what it was.
Daniel stepped through the gate on one side of Jack, Teal'c on the other. They weren't holding him up as such, just reassuring him that he had someone there with him at all times. Daniel put this down to three long weeks, constantly on the run, hiding from the Jaffa, little food or water or sleep.
As they emerged however, Jack collapsed to the floor, his head in his hands, blocking his ears.
"Noise!" he moaned.
"I know, you'll get used to it again, Jack," Daniel soothed. "Come on, let's get you to the infirmary." He waved away the gurney that had suddenly turned up, knowing that Jack would rather walk, and nodded to the General, putting his fingers to his lips in a request for silence. The General answered with a nod of his own. He'd see Jack later. His escort moved closer to him now, propping him up as the exhausted man stumbled towards his destination. As they approached the lifts, Jack said, "Shower. Need a shower."
"Yes, Jack, you do. But Janet will want to see you first."
"No, now. Please, Daniel. Need to change. Please." He pulled at his clothes as if they were hurting him.
Jack wasn't the man that Daniel had last seen, he was pleading with him, begging Daniel to do... something. Daniel was confused, he had no idea what Jack was wanting. Someone to take control for a moment?
"Do you want Teal'c to come in with you?" he asked gently as they changed course.
"Danny, don't go, please."
Daniel didn't know what to make of Jack's change of demeanour to him, but he realised that Jack was in no state to talk. He was totally exhausted.
"I'll stay with you. All three of us could do with a shower, eh?"
They got to the showers that SG-1 used and entered the shared locker room. Daniel was grateful that it was empty. Jack was too damned tired to do anything himself, so, with Teal'c holding Jack up, Daniel undressed him. Then they took it in turns to hold him while they got undressed. Daniel pulled his wash bag from his locker.
"Um, Jack? You know you talked about my shampoo? Well, is it upsetting you? The smell, I mean. I can get yours if you want."
"No, don't. It's nice, Daniel."
Shaking his head with bewilderment, Daniel led the way and put the water on. There was nothing untoward about this, nothing sexual at all. Just two tired men caring for one who was dead on his feet. But Jack moaned quietly as Daniel's hands sponged him, and again when he felt Daniel's hands washing his hair. Daniel couldn't help but notice a stirring of arousal in Jack. He put it down to Jack's tiredness and lack of control over his body. He would once have wished it meant something else, but he knew that it didn't, so he bit down quickly on any thoughts in that direction of his own.
Again, he and Teal'c took it in turns to hold Jack as they washed themselves, then they grabbed the towels and led him back to the lockers, just in time to see Wilkinson and the others come in.
Wilkinson glared at Daniel, but Daniel ignored him totally. He just picked up another towel and started to dry Jack, who was dropping off to sleep. Wilkinson slammed his locker shut and Jack shot up, planted his hands on the side of his head and virtually screamed. Teal'c spoke.
"Be quiet. All of you. No more noise. O'Neill has a problem with his hearing."
"Shouldn't you be in the infirmary?" Ferretti said gently as he came to his old friend's side. "Hey, Jack, you okay?"
"Lou," Jack smiled. "You came."
"I always do, buddy. I always do. Lucky for you, Daniel and Teal'c came too. They knew. Well, Daniel knew where you were."
"He always does," Jack whispered back.
"So, why no infirmary?" Lou asked again.
"He wanted to smell nice for the nurses," Daniel teased. "You know him, girl on every planet. He's just got to find one on Earth now and he'll have a set."
Jack gently slapped him with a back-hander on his chest.
"You," he said, "you're the love 'em and leave 'em guy."
"Me? Nah. I'm a nice guy."
By now, Teal'c was dressed and he took over, getting some clothes for Jack. Daniel quickly dried and got some fresh ones for himself, then between them, they dressed the once again almost sleeping man.
"You'll take care of him, won't you?" Lou asked Daniel.
"Um, for a few days," Daniel replied quietly.
"I leave on Saturday."
"Oh, going anywhere nice?" Lou thought he meant on holiday.
"Um, haven't decided yet. Probably go off on a little expedition somewhere."
"When are you coming back, Daniel?" Lou asked, now becoming suspicious of Daniel's offhand tone.
"I'm not. I'm leaving. Had enough."
Blair sat on his sofa, head in his hands. He wasn't sure what to do next. He couldn't leave Jim and he knew it. The older man could zone at any time and it could get him killed. Blair knew that he was the only one that could help him, could stop him going into them even. But Jim didn't want him around. It was a dilemma.
While he was thinking, a knock came on the door. He hauled himself off the sofa and looked through the spy hole, seeing Megan there, he opened the door.
"Hey Connor, what's up?"
"Um, hi, Sandy," she said quietly. "Can I come in? I bought too much takeout and it will only go to waste."
He let out a little laugh and let her in.
"Way to be subtle, Megan," he teased.
"So, have you eaten?" she asked, this time more emboldened.
"No, not yet. What have you got?"
She rattled off a long list of Chinese dishes, getting Blair's mouth watering at the thought of it.
"You've convinced me. Just to help out though," he said as he pulled out some plates and chopsticks. While she unpacked, he found a bottle of wine and opened it, took it to the table and placed a couple of glasses down and then joined her.
They chatted about her holiday, Blair gently encouraging her to tell all. He heard himself laughing for the first time in a long time at the tales of her antics and those of her family, who all seemed like they belonged in a rubber room. The wine flowed, a second bottle was opened and they both relaxed.
"You'll either have to get a cab home or stay here," he said.
"How comfy is that sofa?"
"Very. You can have my bed though, I'm used to sleeping on it."
"Oh, you know, reading late into the night, I fall asleep on it. No one to wake me up and tell me to go to bed anymore." He tried to laugh it off, but Megan saw the pain in his eyes.
"What's happening with him?" she asked quietly. "Something's really wrong. I was thinking about it, Sandy. This has been going on for months and we didn't notice it. I'm so sorry for not being there for you."
"Hey, it's okay. You don't have to be there for me."
"I do, dammit, I'm your friend. So, are you going to tell me? Tell me what's wrong with him, please."
"I don't know."
"No, seriously. He's not said. One day we were friends, he was helping me through the Academy and all, the next day, in fact the day after I graduated, he shut me out. I don't understand it. Perhaps he's fed up with being reliant on me."
"That doesn't sound like him," she said carefully. "I think there's something more to it."
"Maybe," Blair shrugged, "but he's not letting me in on it. Anyway, I've got a feeling things will change soon."
"Oh? What?" Her eyes opened wide as she saw a quiet grin appear on Blair's face.
"Daniel Jackson. An old friend of mine. I've been thinking about him a lot recently. He's going to call. When he does, it's going to change things."
"Why? Who's Daniel? Come on, tell me."
"Can you keep a secret?"
"Sandy, you know I can!"
It was the wine taking its toll, but Blair's tongue was a bit looser than it would normally have been.
"He's an ex."
"An ex what?"
"Boyfriend," he said casually.
She sat back in her chair hard. "You're gay? What about all those women?"
"I'm bi, I like women. I like 'em a lot. Prefer women as a rule. But D is special. You'll love him."
"Bit pointless if he's gay," she snorted.
"Nope, he's like me, though his preference is for guys. He was married though. Absolutely crazy about her."
"I'm not totally sure, he tends to clam up. But she was killed. Something to do with his work, I think."
"What does he do?"
"He's an archaeologist," Blair started.
"Ooh, a real live Indiana Jones," came the giggled reply.
"Yeah, and a linguist and an anthropologist. I met him years ago on a joint expedition organised by Rainier and his university."
"At that point, he was at Oxford, doing his masters in anth. But he's got a doctorate in linguistics from Harvard and another in archaeology from the Oriental Institute."
"Wow. Sounds smart."
"He's a genius. Super IQ."
"Like someone I know."
Blair grinned. "He's a good man, Megan. A good friend. No matter what happens between us," he nodded towards his bedroom and she got the idea, "it never affects our friendship. We keep in touch when we can, but we don't have to talk to be friends, you know?"
"Hmm," Blair waggled his head from side-to-side as he thought. "Not really. This is going to sound crazy, Megan, but I could live with him. For the rest of my life. And I'd never regret it, not for a moment. He'd make me happy. But he's not 'the one' and we both know it. I love him. He loves me. No question. He's one of the few people that I've never doubted. He doesn't trust easily, neither do I, yet the moment we met we knew we'd be friends for life and that we'd never hurt each other. We have a lot in common. Itinerant childhoods, interests, sense of humour, the works. But if we settled together, it would be second best."
"Who's he in love with?" she encouraged gently.
"Yeah, he's attached to some Air Force team. Don't ask, I have no idea what he does. He can't tell me so I don't ask. He's a civilian. Like I said, we have a lot in common."
A warm smile spread over the face of the woman that Blair was coming to think of as a sister.
"So, how do we help Jim fall in love with you?"
Jack had been placed in an isolation room. As soon as he'd got back to the noise and the smell of the strong antiseptic associated with the infirmary, he had blanked out. He was awake, but not there. Janet had tried everything to pull him out of it, as had Teal'c. Only when Jack had heard Daniel calling his name had he shaken his head, wondering what was going on. At least where he was now he was safe.
Janet had sedated him because even though he was exhausted, he couldn't sleep. Then she hooked up IVs to feed him and rehydrate him and generally try to get him back to good health. He wasn't ill, in fact it was nothing that a good sleep and plenty of food and drink wouldn't cure, but she wanted to make sure.
In the briefing room, as Jack slept, the mission debrief was happening. Wilkinson had railed against Daniel for not following orders and Hammond had sat and listened. Then he turned to Daniel.
"Is that true, Daniel?" he asked quietly.
"Yes, General. Absolutely."
Wilkinson looked pleased, as if he would be vindicated.
"And you went your own way why?"
"Oh, because I knew where Jack would be," came the light reply.
"Colonel Wilkinson, tell me, why didn't you listen to Dr. Jackson?"
"He's a civilian! He's not an expert in military matters."
"True, but he is an expert on Jack O'Neill. It would seem, Colonel, that you have a lot to learn about how things work around here."
He dismissed the man and the others, asking Daniel, Teal'c, Sam and Janet to remain behind.
Daniel was expecting an off-the-record dressing down for not following orders, but he didn't get one. Hammond was treading on eggshells with him, wanting his best linguist to stay.
"How is he, Doctor?" he asked Janet.
"Hypersensitive to, well, his senses," she said. "It's as if all of his senses have become heightened. Excess noise has him holding his head, but it's at the level that you and I would cope with. Someone spilled some bleach in the infirmary and he couldn't breathe. It was unpleasant, but not that bad."
"Jan? Have you tested his other senses yet?"
"Only taste," she answered. "He spat out the food he'd been sent from the commissary."
"We all do that," Sam muttered under her breath.
Daniel sniggered. "What had he been sent?"
"Chilli beef stew. Not what I would recommend for a person in his condition but it was all that they had ready at the time and he was hungry. He accused us of trying to blow his head off. Now I know that the commissary staff aren't always judicious in their use of chilli, but this was an overreaction."
Daniel muttered that they never usually used enough.
He stood up and walked around the room, looked at the window and saw his reflection coming back at him. Blue eyes stared right back.
"Blair," he suddenly said.
"Bleuch?" Sam asked. "I know the stew can be bad but..."
"No, Blair. A friend. He was, still is, obsessed by the legend of the sentinel. A human with enhanced senses. All of the senses must be enhanced though. It helps the sentinel protect his tribe. He recently completed his doctorate on it but there was a huge mix up. His mother sent it to a publisher and it exposed his friend, someone he'd been studying for three years. A detective. He retracted it, pretended that it was a work of fiction. He's been the laughing stock of the academic community ever since."
"What's he doing now, Daniel?" Sam was intrigued. There was a time when she would have laughed herself, but too many years with Daniel had long shown her that 'laughing stocks' sometimes should be listened to.
"I believe he's a detective himself now. Three years following one around trained him up, I guess. He said something about going through the Academy last time I spoke to him. I need to phone him, General. Better still, I need to bring him here. He's the only one that can help Jack."
"Give me his details, Daniel," Hammond said. Like Sam, he was well-versed in Daniel's sudden thoughts. "I'll get him the clearance. You and Major Carter go and get him. Where is he?"
"Washington State, General. Cascade."
"Good. Go to Peterson, I'll get my secretary to fix you up with transport. This needs to be sorted as quickly as possible, but it will have to be after dawn, it's too dark now. There have to be some advantages to being a general, time to pull some strings. By the time you get there, you'll have your clearance to bring him back."
Jim had actually been... well talkative wasn't quite the word that Blair would use, but he had been using words of more than two syllables, strung together in actual sentences and not one of them had been 'stay in the truck'. Blair considered that a result. He was back in the office, typing up the report and trying to figure out a way to say 'Detective Ellison sniffed the track of the criminal' without using those actual words. They'd already told Simon exactly how Jim had found his man, inhaling his scent and literally following his track like a bloodhound.
Jim watched him from his own part of the desk, barely moving his eyes but seeing clearly. Blair looked a little happier that day, but he was still quiet, acting as if he was desperate to not annoy his one-time friend. He was trying to consider his next move, wondering how he was going to explain without explaining, when there was a fuss at the main door.
An officer came in, closely followed by a woman in Air Force uniform and a man in civvies. She was about five ten, blonde, very pretty but serious looking. He was a little taller, light-brown hair and, truth be told, drop-dead gorgeous behind the cute gold wire-rimmed glasses. His eyes were darting around the office till they homed in on Jim's desk.
Blair's head lifted slowly, then his face broke out into a beautiful smile, something Jim realised he hadn't seen in a while.
"Daniel! Oh it's good to see you, man!" He jumped out of his chair and to the amusement of his colleagues, he was swept into the arms of his friend. They stood for a moment, hugging the crap out of each other, then broke apart grinning like idiots.
"I knew I'd be talking to you soon, D," Blair said, "but I didn't think you'd come all this way."
"I need you, Blair. Um, something's come up."
"Whatever, you know that. What can I do?"
Daniel's voice dropped and his face looked serious. Jim listened in, but found that they were now speaking in an unfamiliar language. There was surprise on Blair's face and then acceptance. He nodded, then said in English, "Sure. Not a problem. You've arranged it all?"
"The General said it should have been arranged by the time we got here."
Blair motioned that he had to go into see his captain and Daniel nodded.
"D?" Sam asked with a grin.
"Old nickname, old joke. Neither of us likes nicknames particularly but we always seem to end up with them. It came from a drunken night and us getting very silly."
Megan crossed the room with a smile on her face.
"Hi, I'm Megan, a friend of Sandy - um - Blair. You must be Daniel Jackson."
Daniel confirmed it, confused by her knowledge of him, and introduced Sam to her.
"He told me about you last night, funnily enough. He said you'd call him."
Daniel didn't look surprised. "Yeah, we always seem to know when the other one is going to call. I only knew I'd need him a few hours ago. I came straight here to get him."
"What do you need him for?" Jim's voice barked.
Daniel studied the man that had spoken. "You must be Detective Ellison," he said quietly.
Jim nodded in surprise.
"I'm afraid I can't tell you, it's classified."
"What has he done wrong?" he asked, looking now at Sam and wondering if he'd somehow got into trouble with the military.
"Nothing. Blair has knowledge of something and I need his expertise. He's the only one that can help me," Daniel said, very quietly this time. The others in the room were straining to hear, but it was crystal clear to Jim. He looked around and saw everyone's reaction and realised that Daniel had been testing him. Something about him got Jim's back up and his warning bells went off. All of a sudden, he felt very possessive.
"You don't take him without me," he announced.
"Excuse me?" Sam stepped in now. "I'm afraid you have no say. The only one that can say no is Mr. Sandburg himself. He doesn't have to come if he doesn't want to."
"That's true," Simon said as he stepped out of his room. "I've just got off the phone with the Pentagon. It seems that Sandburg is in demand."
"I'm going too," Jim reiterated.
Again, Daniel spoke in another language to Blair, getting a wary nod from his friend in reply. Daniel looked at Sam and nodded to her.
"May I use your phone?" she asked the captain. He stepped out of his office and let her in.
"So, have you been ill?" Daniel asked as he looked closer at Blair.
"No, no, I'm fine."
"Yeah, sure. When was the last time you ate properly?"
"Last night, if you must know."
"And the time before that?" Daniel's voice was light but filled with concern. Jim wasn't sure what to make of him now. Part of him felt like Daniel was there to take his guide from him for ever. Another part realised that Daniel cared a great deal about him. And a nagging thought in Jim's mind said there was something else too, but what that was he couldn't figure out.
Blair rushed home to pack some things with the idea that he'd meet Daniel back at the Precinct. Sam got the permission needed for Jim to accompany them, but while she was on the phone, Megan took Daniel to the cafeteria and they sat across a table, coffees in hand and talked about Blair.
"So, what's been happening to him?" Daniel demanded, looking a little angry that his friend had seemed so thin.
"Don't ask me, I've been away," she replied defensively, then her shoulders dropped and she moved closer to him. "It's Jim. Look, do you know about the... connection between them?"
"Yes, Ellison was his subject, wasn't he?"
"He was. They were close. Very close. But when Blair became a detective for real, he shut him out. It's eating Sandy alive."
"It suits him," she said with a grin. "He knows I only mean it as a friend," she added. "I care about him, Daniel. A lot. He's one of the dearest men I've ever met, a really good friend. And it's tearing me apart to see him like this."
"Do you think it has something to do with Ellison's feelings for Blair?" Daniel asked casually.
"What do you mean?"
"When I said I was taking him with me, I noticed Ellison's reaction. He became possessive, anxious, his whole body language spoke jealousy to me."
Megan laughed. "You sound like Sandy." Then she became serious again, her voice low so that no one could overhear her. "He's in love with Jim. I, well, I got him a bit drunk last night," she admitted, "he confessed. Being hated by Jim is killing him. He told me about you, about his 'friendship' with you. You will treat him well, won't you? He's vulnerable at the moment."
Daniel would have got cross with anyone else for doubting that he'd treat Blair well, but he could see that Megan was being protective because she cared a great deal. He just smiled. "I'll treat him right, I promise. I couldn't hurt him, it would break my heart to do that. He's very special to me. So, do you think that Ellison is in love with Blair?"
"I think it's highly likely. I'm guessing that he didn't want Sandy to join up for real, because now he can't keep him out of harm's way. Not that he managed that before, but now he doesn't have a leg to stand on when it comes to telling him to stay away."
"Well, we'll see if we can't give him a wake-up call," Daniel told her with a grin on his face. "I'll do my best, Megan," he promised. "I'll try to help Blair's sentinel to see clearly. God only knows he'd have to go a long way to find anyone as good as him."
Megan settled back into her chair with a grin. Blair had been right, she really did like Daniel. And she felt happy entrusting her friend to his care.
The flight back had been fun. Sam was piloting, using this trip as a chance to keep her flight hours up - something she didn't have much time to do. So the three men were in the back of the small private jet which was normally used for the General and loaned specifically for this purpose. Blair had been impressed, he teased Daniel about living the high life and wondered aloud what he wanted with a 'lowlife cop'. That had got him teased back and the two men laughed a lot during the flight. And they had flirted. At first, Blair had been reluctant to play that particular game, but when Daniel had whispered - again in another language - 'trust me, B, I'd never do something that could hurt you', Blair had relaxed. He wasn't entirely sure what Daniel had up his sleeve, but he knew that it would be okay.
On the drive up from Peterson, Daniel had reverted back to his more businesslike manner, and when they signed themselves in at the surface, he explained a few things.
"This is a military base," he stated rather obviously, "and as such, we have certain procedures to go through. You will be required to sign a secrecy statement. If you're not prepared to do that, we can't go down."
Both men said they'd happily do that.
"Anything you see or hear you will forget," Daniel stated clearly. "It wasn't there and it didn't happen. This is for your own safety as much as anything. If you see or hear anything that you're curious about, I'm sorry, but tough. Do not ask about it. You are here for one purpose only and that is to help Colonel O'Neill."
Even though Daniel's words were harsh, Blair understood the necessity behind them. Jim, the ex-soldier, understood even better.
"It's going to be okay, B," Daniel ended. "I had to say that and you have to believe it. But it's not going to be as bad as all that."
"Where is he?"
"In an isolation ward. It was easier to control the sensory input there."
"How long has he been like this?"
"Not sure. He was missing for three weeks, we only got him back last night. God, that reminds me."
"Reminds you of what?"
"I haven't slept in nearly two days. I need a coffee."
Sam growled. "Daniel, you need sleep. Remember that? You lie down, shut your eyes, snore."
"I don't snore."
"You do," both she and Blair said at the same time. Jim's eyes opened wide.
"How would you know that?" he demanded.
"Tents aren't very good at blocking out sound," Daniel answered for Blair. Yes, Jim would find out, but not yet.
The interminable lift journey ended and they got out on level 21 and went straight to the isolation room attached to the infirmary.
"Daniel! You're back. Good." Janet came rushing over to him, smiling widely.
"Hey Jan, how is he?"
"His sedation will be wearing off in about an hour," she reported. "He's been out cold all the time."
"Good, it's for the best. I'll get changed and get something to eat then, then I'll bring these people back. Oh, I'd better introduce you. Detectives Blair Sandburg and Jim Ellison, this is our CMO, Dr. Janet Frasier."
They greeted each other and Janet questioned them a little on what she should expect when Jack awoke.
"Assuming he's kept his senses, he's going to need to learn to control them and do it quickly," Blair told her. "Sensory overload isn't funny."
Jim looked askance. "I thought that I was the one that knew about that."
"Trust me, Jim, watching you go into it isn't pretty. Colonel O'Neill will need to learn how to dial them down."
"It can be done?" Janet asked in amazement.
"Yes," Jim got in before Blair could say anything further. "It can. It's easy enough when you know how."
"And when he learns it, he won't need any more help," Blair said overly cheerfully through gritted teeth.
Daniel raised his eyebrows when he heard that and saw Jim's reaction to it. He'd winced as if he was in pain. Without saying anything though, he nodded in the direction of the lifts again and they followed him.
"Daniel? How do you find your way around here?" Blair asked.
"Oh, you get used to it. I used to get lost at the beginning, but now I can find my way around with my eyes shut."
"How long have you been here? Or can't I ask that?"
"Five years. Though I was involved with the origins of the project the year before, but then I was only in a small part of the complex for a couple of weeks."
No more was said as the lift took them to Daniel's floor. He led them to his office and put the coffee machine on. Blair made himself at home, dropping his bag and forgetting it and then inspected some of Daniel's artefacts.
"D? These are..."
"I know," Daniel said hurriedly. He shook his head and Blair reluctantly put down the items which he knew to be extremely rare icons from a particularly remote African tribe. Daniel felt a little devilish and decided to test Jim's feelings. "If you want, I could get you a job here," he said. "It's dangerous, but I'm guessing no more so than your current job. Your training as both an anthropologist and a policeman would make you ideal for the task."
Jim's eyes opened wide and he started to complain. "He's a cop. It's what he does. He's needed back in Cascade."
Blair, knowing Daniel, picked up on the subtext immediately.
"But you keep telling me you don't need me, Jim," he said sweetly. "If Daniel needs me, then maybe I'll be of more use here."
"They've got anthropologists here," came the gruff reply. "We won't get one so easily. Not with your background. And who said we don't need you?"
Jim sat down on Daniel's sofa with a bump. He had said it, he knew that. Now all he needed was a way to retract it without making Blair want to stay in the job. He certainly didn't want him taking another dangerous job. Why couldn't he do something nice and safe like work in a library? Though knowing Blair, he'd end up getting attacked by some mad author hell bent on revenge for not having his book.
Coffee made, Daniel passed it out and then sat. Blair questioned him further on the nature of Jack's sudden acquisition of the heightened senses, and then his background.
"I can't tell you much," Daniel said. "All I can say is that he had to hide out for three weeks, little food and water and precious little sleep. He was probably on the run constantly. As to his 'nature', he's always been highly instinctual, very protective of his team, his family and so on. He's a top marksman, an explosives expert, a fighter pilot and he was involved in special ops. Without giving you details, he was held for four months, some years ago. A secret mission that went wrong. He was tortured, that much I do know."
"Was he held in isolation?"
"In-between torture sessions, yes."
"Damn. Four months?"
"How did he survive?"
"He had a wife and baby to come home to."
"His son died in an accident, not long before we met. We went out on... what was basically as suicide mission. I... uh, well, I changed the parameters of the mission," Daniel grinned, "I sent him home. His wife had left him when he got there."
"Shit. Poor guy. So, he may have had these senses before?"
"I don't think so, he never said anything. Believe me, if he was going to tell anyone, he'd have told me."
Blair nodded silently and Jim's estimation of Jack went up significantly. It was one hell of a story. Daniel led them out when they'd finished their coffee and to the locker room.
"I've got to get changed, I shouldn't be in civvies here, not unless I have to wear a suit. They're funny like that."
Blair's eyes nearly popped out when he saw Daniel pulling out the blue coverall uniform that he wore. When he saw the patch on his arm he realised that he shouldn't ask what it stood for but again, he wanted to know.
"You know, maybe I will take the job," he said.
"You can have mine. I leave on Saturday." Daniel said it so coolly that the others were stunned.
"I've had enough. Jack kicked me off the team without even telling me. Then he disappeared. I found him, but then..."
"Whoa! YOU found him?" Jim broke in.
"Yes. I did."
"Wasn't there a search and rescue team?"
"Three, plus my old team. Sam, you've met, and one other guy, Teal'c. You may meet him soon. Can't miss him really."
"So how did you find him?"
"I knew where he'd be."
"I know Jack. Besides, we always know."
"Always know what, Daniel?" Blair asked gently, a sinking feeling overwhelming him.
"I just know, B. He's disappeared for three months before, somewhere we knew exactly where he was but we were unable to get to him for reasons I can't explain. I knew he was alive. It didn't matter that we had no way of confirming it, but I knew. He knew when I was missing and alive, captured by someone that brainwashed him and the others into thinking I was dead. I knew he was alive when he went missing in Antarctica and I found him then. We always know."
"You're his guide," Jim said quietly. "You, you can't not be."
"Tough. He'll have to find another one," came the equally quiet reply.
"No, Daniel," Blair put his hand on Daniel's arm. "There is only one. Maybe after a while, he won't need you," Blair deliberately looked at Jim as he said that and was vaguely amused to see the man blush a little, "but for now, he will. Whether he wants to or not. I'm sorry."
"You're wrong. It's more likely Teal'c," Daniel said defiantly. "They're 'brothers'. They're closer." Even as he said it, Daniel knew that it was a lie.
He stalked out of the locker room, the others hot on his heels, and they made their way back to the isolation room.
"Jan? Is he awake?"
"Yes, Daniel," she sighed, looking tired. "He's awake and his usual self."
"Oh joy. Grumpy, biting everyone's heads off, generally being a pain in the mik'ta?"
"Got it in one."
"Mik'ta? I don't recognise that, Daniel."
"Ass. And don't.."
"Ask, yeah, I know."
Jack had woken up some ten minutes before and he was not amused. He'd made Jan take out the IVs and sent for some 'decent' (in other words, unspiced) food. He was currently working his way through a large plate of scrambled eggs and toast. Very large.
"You're up then," Daniel said quietly.
"Yeah. You found me."
Blair and Jim watched the terse interaction between the men, a little surprised by the harshness in the tone, but the body language said other things. "You're okay. You're safe. I missed you," from Daniel. "I was afraid, I was lonely, I needed you and you came... I love you," from Jack. Suddenly, things became a lot clearer to Blair.
"These are Detectives Blair Sandburg and Jim Ellison," Daniel said as he sat by Jack's side. Jack went to put his food down but wordlessly, Daniel directed him to keep eating - or else.
"Hey. You come to arrest me?" Jack answered, only half-joking. He knew he'd not had time to pay the latest speeding ticket.
"Wrong jurisdiction," Blair told him. "I'm an old friend of Daniel's. He asked for us to come to help you."
"Your senses. They're hyper, aren't they?"
"Yeah," Jack drawled.
"Jack, it's okay, talk to them. Please," Daniel cajoled. Jack scowled but then he nodded before tucking back into his meal.
"Jim here has the same thing, the same abilities, Colonel."
"Jack," said Jack. "So, what do you do to control them?"
"You'll need to picture your senses as 'dials' so you can turn them down," Jim said. He'd got a good look at the man in front of him, saw scars on the semi-bare chest and bare arms caused by the open gown he had on. He realised that Jack had been through a lot in his past and his own past encouraged him to appreciate Jack's inner strength.
"Yeah. Sandburg figured out that if I saw my senses as individual dials I could turn them up or down as I needed. Heightened smell and sight can come in handy when you're tracking, heightened hearing for listening into criminal's conversations, that sort of thing. I still need to get physical evidence, but when they point me to it..."
"Yeah, I get you. So, how do I do this? I'm more a button man than a dial man," he added, referring to his hi-fi.
"Jack, what was your favourite plane to fly?"
"Jack, answer me," Daniel's voice broke through Jack's haze. He'd been stunned by the apparent diversion.
"F-111," he said.
"Did you have five separate controls or gauges on your panel that you could control directly? You know, like the altimeter," Daniel encouraged.
"Ah, I see what you're getting at. Yes, sure."
"Good. Fix a sense to each of the five, ones that make sense, so to speak. Height for sight, maybe."
"Gotcha." Jack's face was a picture of concentration as he saw in his mind's eye something that he knew like the back of his hand.
"Right. At the moment you are flying too high, too fast, the pressures are all wrong. Pull it back Jack, drop her to a comfortable cruise, make her feel just right. No one's chasing you, it's a joyride."
They watched as the face which had been screwed up, indicating the pain Jack was in, relax little by little. A quiet, "I'm cruising, Danny," came from Jack and he finally looked at peace.
They talked for quite some time, Blair gently probing, helping Jack and Daniel to control Jack's senses, but they knew that they'd need a lot more work. Janet came in and saw just how tired both her charges looked and made a decision.
"Colonel, you can go home. I suggest you take a few days off to get used to things."
"What about Daniel?" Jack asked.
"What about me?"
"Don't you need to come with me?"
"Um, no. You can manage without me. You've managed perfectly well for the last couple of years, Jack."
Jack's mouth opened and shut wordlessly. He knew precisely what Daniel was getting at though. Like Jim, he was fed up of his friend getting hurt and he'd hoped to persuade him to take a safer job, preferably a desk job. In a bookshop or something.
Daniel looked at Jim and said, "Would you mind staying with Jack tonight? He could probably do with having you there."
Before his brain could stop him, Jim's mouth agreed.
"We'll see you in the morning," Daniel said before anyone could argue. Then he ushered Blair out of the room. They went back to Daniel's office, picked up his and Jim's bags, went back to the locker room so Daniel could change again, dropped Jim's bag back at the infirmary with a nurse and left before they could be caught.
They said nothing as they left, nothing as they drove to town. Blair watched his friend, worried about him now, and considered the best way to help him. When they arrived, Daniel shut the door on the outside world, locked it and pulled Blair into a big hug.
"I've missed you so much, B," he said, whispering into his ear.
"Me too. There have been so many times recently when I've wanted you there."
"You should have called, I'd have come."
"I know. But I kept hoping things would change, you know?"
"Yeah, I know. All too fucking well."
They broke the hug and headed to the kitchen. Daniel grabbed some ready-made meals and threw them into the microwave to defrost and then cook, opened a bottle of wine and poured two glasses, then they sat at the table and waited for the food.
"You're tired, Daniel."
"Straight to bed after food then," Blair ordered, getting a weak smile back.
"Yeah. I will. You're going to have to share with me, or use the sofa. It's a bit small for me."
"Daniel, it's not as if we haven't shared before."
"True, but I don't want to either presume anything, or inadvertently start something in my sleep, if you know what I mean."
"I do. And it's okay. No matter what happens."
"'Course I am."
"Good. I do love you, Blair. As a friend, that goes without saying, but..."
"You are so beautiful, you know? I'm still very attracted to you. I can't help it." Daniel ended that with a warmer smile and Blair laughed.
"You looked at yourself in a mirror, recently, D? You're stunning. Never thought I'd see you with such short hair. It really suits you."
"Ditto. What possessed you to cut it?"
"Had to, really. Had to get the Academy to take me seriously."
"Tell me about it. I've had to become a fucking soldier."
Blair reached out and took Daniel's hand in his. They sat there silently commiserating for a while until the microwave bleeped and told them dinner was ready.
That night, after they'd got ready for bed, Daniel lay down and waited for Blair to join him.
"You're sure about this?"
"Absolutely. Look, D, I saw Jack's face. He's in love with you." Before Daniel could disagree, Blair knelt on the bed, straddling his thighs. "He is, Daniel. Trust me on this one. It's why he's been acting the way he has. He's probably trying to protect you."
"Jim's the same about you, you know," came the quiet reply. "I could see it in his eyes. So, what are we going to do about this?"
"Well," Blair said as he drew a finger down Daniel's chest, "seeing as you and I are so-called experts in men's behaviour, we should put our expertise to the test."
"Make them as jealous as hell. Bring out the old alpha male in them. If they don't have the balls to sling us over their shoulders and carry us off to their caves, we say 'fuck 'em' and go."
"A little expedition? Just the two of us?"
"Sounds good. I know just the place. Fancy a trip to Belize?"
"Oh, there's this lost temple."
"Let's just say I have insider information that there's more to the story than meets the eye."
"Okay, Belize it is. Not that I can afford to do that."
"Hey, I can pay. I've been paid ridiculous amounts of money for the past five years and have hardly spent any. I can bankroll us."
"Whoa! Last of the big spenders, eh?"
"Something like that." Daniel sat up and moved closer to Blair, their bare chests nearly touching. "So, how do you propose making the guys jealous?"
"How about we do this?" Blair moved closer and captured Daniel's lips with his own. It sparked a fire that had smouldered between them for fifteen years, occasionally blazing as now, but more often just dormant. Before Blair knew where he was, he was on his back and having the life kissed out of him. He'd really missed this part of Daniel.
For quite a while, they tussled, trading kisses and touches, losing their boxers along the way, till Daniel knew that it was time. He rolled onto his back and pulled Blair on top of him, urging him to move. Cocks clashed as they built up a rhythm, then they ground harder and faster, working together to achieve their common goal. It happened suddenly. Daniel stiffened and spilled, pushing Blair with him on the next thrust.
They lay there, unable to move, Blair held tightly in Daniel's arms as the older man acted as if he never wanted to let him go again.
"Wow," came the sticky voice of Blair.
"Hmm," the sated one of Daniel.
Blair found some tissue on the side table, grabbed them, cleaned them both up as best he could and then pulled the cover over them. Daniel was already out cold.
The insistent knock on the door barely disturbed Daniel. Blair opened his eyes and heard it again, then prodded Daniel to wake. Mumbling, Daniel said, "Come in Jack, use your key."
Jack heard him, as clear as if he'd been right next to him. Jim had been coaching him over breakfast, telling him that he could use one sense without the others. He'd been listening for Daniel's footsteps but shrugged when he heard the words. He got out his key and opened the door. There was no sign of the men when they stepped in and shut the door behind them.
"Daniel?" he called out.
Go away, too early. Daniel's reply was muffled by the shut bedroom door but Jack heard him.
"Daniel, it's oh nine hundred."
"Not nice, Danny, where are you?"
Figure it out. And put some coffee on.
Jack chuckled to himself and headed for the kitchen. He started the coffee going and watched it dripping from the filter to the pot.
Jim had located Blair's heartbeat. He was in the bedroom. With Daniel. A wave of jealousy flashed over him and he had to fight down the desire to rush in there after him. Following a hunch, he turned up the dial of his scent sense, and filtering out the background smells especially that of the coffee, he moved closer to the bedroom and realised what he was smelling. It was the scent of sex. Damn it. This Daniel really was there to take Blair away from him. Rather than confront him now, he turned and followed Jack to the kitchen. He and the new sentinel had spoken a lot the night before.
Actually talking was something new to both men, but for some reason neither could fathom, they both instinctually trusted the other. Jack knew that Jim wasn't a threat to him or his team, and Jim knew that Jack had no interest in Blair. Their military backgrounds, especially those in the more covert arena, had given them something else in common. Jack remembered hearing of Jim's disappearance and subsequent reappearance, and Jim had heard of Jack's own exploits from Daniel. An element of professional respect aided their trust.
Jack had quickly surmised that Blair wasn't happy with Jim, and knowing just how he had been to Daniel and the reasons behind it, he had confronted Jim over his feelings for the younger man. The answer was shocked out of the detective. It was true. He loved Blair. Once he had got over the shock of his admission, Jim had turned the tables and demanded the same confession from Jack. He'd got it. So, they'd come up with a plan. And that had been to go over to see the men in the morning and to explain things to them. But now? Jim was worried that he was too late.
He arrived in the kitchen and saw Jack. He shook his head and then studied the colonel. He wondered if he looked that dopey when he was zoning.
He tried to wake Jack up, even though he knew that it was a lost cause. A noise from the bedroom caught his attention and he turned and looked, catching his breath when he saw Blair walking out, only wearing his jeans, no top and no socks. He looked thoroughly rumpled - a good look on him.
"Jim? Why are you here?" Blair muttered as he headed for the pot. He stopped when he saw Jack. "Oh shit." He waved his hand in front of the open eyes, but got no response.
"D? You'd better come out," he called.
Daniel followed his friend, looking the same, half-dressed and mussed up. Jim had to appreciate both Blair's and Jack's good taste in men.
"Wassup?" came the sleepy reply. Daniel's eyes were half-shut still.
"Jack. He's zoned."
"Yeah. Look, see. He's gone."
"Oh, he did that at the infirmary when we got him there," Daniel said casually. He placed his hand on Jack's back and said, "Jack, wake up."
Jack's head snapped back and he wondered where everyone had come from. "What's going on?" he demanded, getting a little scared now.
"You blanked on me again," Daniel replied, not even looking at him. He poured four coffees, knocked his back in one go and then refilled it before sitting down. Blair put his hand on his arm and shook his head. Jim looked sympathetically at Jack.
"WHAT?" Jack was getting frustrated. "Why do I feel like I've just been given the death sentence?"
Daniel stood up and walked out. He knew what his being able to wake Jack up meant.
Before Jack could speak again, Blair stood up, picked up his mug and said, "No, you haven't. Daniel's just been handed a life sentence though," and he followed his friend back to the bedroom.
"What did he mean by that?" Jack growled at Jim, whose own heart had sunk at Blair's words.
"Daniel. He's your guide. No choice Jack. If you keep your senses, you'll need him."
"Shit." Jack sat heavily on the dining chair and banged his head on the table.
Daniel was sitting on his bed, nursing his mug when Blair came in.
"You knew it was that way, D, it's just been confirmed, that's all."
"So, what are you going to do?"
"What can I do, Blair?" he asked in frustration. He stood up, swallowed some coffee and then paced around his room. "I can't fucking leave him, can I? Just as you're stuck with Jim! It doesn't matter that they treat us like shit, we're going to have to put up with it!"
Knowing that the others were likely listening into their conversation, Blair spoke in their other common language.
"Daniel, come on, let's turn up the heat, shall we?"
"You know, what we were speaking of last night. Why don't we up the ante, increase the stakes, heighten the tension..."
"I get the message, Blair," Daniel sniggered. "You think it will work?"
"What have we got to lose? The way I see it is this, I'm in love with Jim. You think he's in love with me, right?"
"How could he not be?" Daniel retorted. Blair shook his head while laughing before carrying on.
"You're in love with Jack, he's definitely in love with you. So, seeing as you and I are..."
"Hot. Horny works though. But definitely hot," Blair added with a leer.
Daniel started laughing. "I'll give you that," he conceded. "So, what's the plan?"
"How about we dress up?"
"Have you brought anything special?"
"No, we'll have to go shopping."
Daniel quickly grabbed the coffee from Blair's hand and put it down on the side table, put his own to join it, and then pulled Blair to lie with him on the bed. Kissing his nose, he said, "You know, I have had a very long held fantasy where you are concerned."
"Oh yeah. You see, it involves you, some specific jewellery, and brown leather."
"Oh yeah. Most definitely. Will you let me get it for you?"
"Daniel, I can b..."
"B, please, this is my fantasy. Part of it is taking you shopping and getting it for you. Spoil me, please? Let me do this. I don't want to embarrass you but it would make me really happy."
Blair thought for a moment and then agreed on one condition. "I've always loved certain types of jewellery on you too, D. Let me get you some?"
"Great! What happens after that?"
"Do you want to go clubbing tonight?"
"Depends on what you're wearing." Blair chuckled, the excitement of their duplicity was building in him. There was no other person on the entire planet that he would have behaved like this with. No one he trusted more to treat him with respect.
Daniel got up and went to his wardrobe and pulled out a few items. Blair's eyes popped out of his head.
"You're on," he squeaked. "I'll give anything to see you in those."
"What language are they speaking?" Jim asked as they listened in from the kitchen.
"Modern Hebrew. It's spoken in Israel."
"Ah. How do you know?"
"Do you understand it?
"Okay, how does Daniel know it?"
"How does he know any of his languages? He speaks over twenty of them. The Middle East is his area of expertise. He's Egyptian by birth, grew up there till his parents were killed."
"Shit. How old was he?"
"Eight. He saw it."
Jim shook his head in sympathy. Jack carried on regardless. "He was passed around from one foster home to another till he settled with one in his teens."
"Does he still see them?"
"No, the parents were killed just before he went to Harvard at sixteen."
Jim really didn't know what to say to that. So he filled in a few blanks about Blair. "He doesn't know who his dad is, and his mother took him everywhere, sometimes leaving him with people when she went to 'find herself'."
Jack's paternal side came to the fore. "Bitch. How could she?"
"It's her way. He's okay about it, funnily enough. They get on well. Well, they did till she fucked things up again for him." He went on and explained the dissertation fiasco. Jack responded with Daniel's lecture disaster.
"They've got too much in common, haven't they?" Jim said after a silence descended.
"We're fucked, aren't we?"
"What are we going to do?"
For the first time in many months, Jim smiled. His mug to his lips, he grinned widely as he nodded to Jack.
They were startled as the bedroom door opened and Blair and Daniel fell out of the room, laughing and joking.
"We're off out, shopping," Daniel called and before the men could ambush them, they were gone.
Jack stood up, but Jim grabbed him. "Uh huh," he shook his head. "Give them a minute. Then we follow them. Got to take care of our guides, you know. Just doesn't always pay to let them know. Think of this as a lesson in tracking."
Jack smirked, finished his coffee and then they left the loft, strolling down the stairs and taking their time.
It had only taken the sentinels a moment to figure out that Blair and Daniel had walked, making it easier for them to track. As they walked, Jim whispered instructions to Jack, helping him concentrate on one sound only. They used their keen sight to keep their guides in view, laughing to themselves as they saw the wonderful mood they appeared to be in. Jack knew that he hadn't seen Daniel laughing and joking so much in a long time, Jim acknowledging the same to himself about Blair. Both men knew that they had the power to improve matters for them.
After about ten minutes of walking, they spotted the younger men going into a clothes shop. As they got closer, they were able to see inside through the window. Daniel's back was in view, but Blair wasn't.
"I wonder what they're getting," Jack muttered as they saw Daniel nodding enthusiastically at something that Blair obviously had tried on, still out of sight of the men.
"I have no idea. But it's leather."
For the first time, Jack paid attention to what was in the shop and he saw leather goods only. Jim shuddered at the thought of Blair in some of them, the thick silver studs and the dog collars weren't something that he really wanted him to wear. Though something about the collars...
"Don't tell me, you've threatened to put him on a leash?" Jack questioned. At Jim's embarrassed nod, Jack also nodded in understanding. "It's an anthropologist thing. It must be. Got to rush off and discover something new."
"Oh yeah. Rushing in..."
"Where the rest of us mere mortals wouldn't dare?"
"Got it in one. Do you have to be fearless to do that job?"
"No, just have an extraordinary level of curiosity."
"He's got that all right."
"So has Daniel. It's exhausting to watch him sometimes, isn't it?"
Jim sniggered. They were talking of the men as if they were a single entity. It wasn't so far from the truth.
A few minutes later, as at the loft, they came crashing out of the shop, laughing and joking. Jim listening in and heard them trading insults.
He was flirting with you Daniel.
Anyway, it was you, schmuck.
Nope, definitely you - putz.
Putz? I'll give you putz!
Ha! Take more than you've got.
Jim shook his head as the two of them cracked up and had to hold on to each other. He and Jack followed them again, this time to a jewellers. Again, they stood and watched as they saw the two men picking things out and holding them up. They looked like earrings. Jim shrugged, he knew that Blair wore them on occasion.
Having made their purchases, Daniel dragged Blair to his favourite coffee shop. They switched languages again, confusing the hell out of Jack and Jim. This time it was Arabic, something that Jack spoke a bit of. Before they had made the change, Blair had indicated that they were being followed and Daniel nodded that he knew. He'd chosen the language deliberately.
"So, when we go to Belize," he started, winking at Blair as he did as an indication to play along, "shall we go alone?"
"No point in taking a guide, D, seeing as we're both one!"
Jack listened in, picking up about one word in four, hearing enough though to make him really worried.
"I think they're planning on leaving the country," he gasped. "Something about searching for something. Jungles? Not sure. Oh crap. I think I know what he's on about."
"WHAT?" Jim demanded, attracting the attention of a couple of passers-by.
"Belize. There's a temple there. Daniel's grandfather was looking for it."
"You think they'd go there?"
Jack just gave him a 'what the fuck do you think?' look.
"We've got to stop them."
"Yeah. Tonight. I heard them say something about having fun tonight. We'll do it then. Here, this is my door key." Jack scribbled something down. "This is my address. You can take him back there if you get the chance. There's nothing there related to the project so it's okay to leave you alone."
Jim took it with a grin. "Right. Time to plan a military style ambush," he said.
"Yasureyoubetcha." And with that, the men sneaked off.
Daniel and Blair decided that they really should spend some time with the others, especially Jack, considering the circumstances, so Daniel called him on his cell and asked him to come back over to the loft. They ate while they waited for them, Daniel standing by the window. Then he saw Jack's car heading towards the car park and had an idea. He knew that Jack would listen in to him as soon as he was in range.
He gave it a little while and then said, "You know, I'm not sure how I'm going to cope with this."
"D? What's wrong?" Blair was at his side in moments, his hand on Daniel's arm and turning him to face him.
"Look, it's all very well being needed, but I can't go through life being hated by the man that needs me."
Blair scrumpled his face up at that, wondering what Daniel was going on about. He knew that Jack didn't hate him. Then the light dawned. Time for a few home truths.
"True. It's hard, you know? Those first three years, well, we had our ups and downs, but it was good. We were friends. But this last year or so, since I became a cop, it's been really hard. This last few months in particular. He got really bad after a raid went wrong and I ended up in hospital. He yelled at me, told me that I'd screwed up, blamed me for the whole thing. I was following orders!"
"Tell me about it. I've died, B, did you know that?"
"Me too. This other sentinel killed me, drowned me. Jim got me back somehow but then he blamed me for that as well, went off with her."
"Yeah, well, maybe it was my fault. I wouldn't be surprised. I'm always screwing up."
"You and me both, babe."
"So, how did you die?"
"What do you mean, which time?"
"I've died a few times. Um, first time I took a blast for Jack. Second time going after Jack when he'd been hit. Um, I can't go into details, certainly not about how I came back anyway, but I also died in a rockfall in a mine when Jack was trying to get everyone out. I was still chained up and couldn't move, I don't think he even looked to see if I was free. Mind, I fucked that up royally after that and nearly killed him. Then there was that time with Ma'chello - don't ask. And an addiction that I didn't mean to get killed me - at least temporarily. I think that's it. I lose track to be honest. But you know what hurt the most? That last one. He didn't really give a shit. He got my heart restarted, which was all well and good, but then he walked away from me, left me on my own."
"It's true. There have been many times when I wished he hadn't bothered. So, you see, spending the rest of my life with someone that doesn't care isn't going to be fun. He certainly doesn't trust me to wipe my own ass, so how he's going to trust me to be his guide I don't know. And I don't even know where I'm going to live."
"Why not? You've got a lovely place here."
"I gave up the lease. When I handed in my resignation at work. I've got five days left there and two weeks here. I'd have looked into moving somewhere but I had to look for Jack."
"Maybe you could move in with him?"
Daniel responded by laughing.
"Um, B, are you trying to make my life a misery? No way. Besides, even though we barely speak to each other, if for some ungodly reason he suggested it, he could get kicked out of the Air Force."
"You know, people would assume that there was something between us. Don't ask, and all that crap doesn't work."
"Ah. I don't suppose that they know about you, do they?"
"Most likely. Come on, B, it's not as if I ever hid the fact I'm bi before I went there. Jeez, that was hard. I couldn't go back into the fucking closet, I'd never been in it to start with. But there I was, having to hide out. It wasn't so bad when I was married, you know, but since then..."
"You've been hit on?"
"Taken anyone up on it?" Blair was teasing now and Daniel's eyes lit up.
"Just the one. You'd love him."
"Uh huh. He's cute."
Before Blair could ask the name of the cute man, there was a knock on the door. Daniel answered it and let Jim and Jack in. They'd gone over there, ready to grab their guides and explain just as they'd tried in the morning, but the mournful voices told them that now was not the time. They were going to have to rebuild the trust instead.
The four were quiet as they sat. Daniel and Blair deliberately sat closely together, and didn't miss the looks of guilt on the others' faces. So far, so good.
Blair used the tests that he'd tried on Jim, helping Jack to use one sense at a time, and helping Daniel in his understanding of how he'd be able to assist Jack. Whenever Blair said something that Jack didn't quite get, Daniel used his knowledge of both friends and turn Blairspeak into Jackspeak, converting the terms into something the military man would understand. Jack realised that he could use his own sight in the way he could previously use a gun sight, to home in on a specific target, at Daniel's suggestion of the analogy. He'd already got the hearing thing off pat with Jim's help, but with the guides, he learned how to use his sense of smell by homing in on specific things in Daniel's kitchen. That led to them tasting things from Daniel's fridge, which contained many different exotic foods as was his wont. Touch was the most difficult for him, but he was making inroads. He wouldn't allow himself to be blindfolded and Daniel stood up for him when Blair tried to insist that it was a good thing to do. He knew how much Jack would hate that. Instead he got Jack to stare at him while Jim and Blair put things into his hands and he told them what was there. In all that time he couldn't take his eyes from the blue of Daniel's. And he saw how sad they were. Jack's heart was breaking and he wanted to put things right, but he didn't know how.
After a few hours, Jack was tired, so they sat back down, ate some food and then retired to the living room with coffees in hand. Jack was questioned about his past, trying to get his sudden acquisition of heightened senses into perspective. He couldn't remember a thing.
"Jack, why don't you ask your mom?" Daniel asked quietly.
"Jack, please, drop the dumb act for a moment, will you? Your mother will know."
Jack nodded, picked up the phone, switched on the speaker and dialled.
Jack, hello darling, how are you?
"Um, a bit strange at the moment, but okay. Look Mom, this might sound odd, but can you remember when I was a kid?"
Jack, you're my son, of course I remember.
"Well, did I ever seem to be sensitive to things, like sounds, smell, that sort of thing."
There was a long silence on the end of the phone.
It's back, isn't it?
Your trouble? You're getting overwhelmed again, aren't you?
"Something like that. It's under control. Tell me, Mom, I don't remember. What happened? Why did it stop?"
There was another pause and then they heard her taking a deep breath.
You were about four years old, sweetheart. You'd always seemed to be alert, more so than your brother or sister. But you also craved the quiet and to be alone. Well, one day, I had to go up into the city, we were still in Chicago then, and we were walking along the road when suddenly a car came careening down the street. I grabbed you and pulled you over a wall to protect you, the car looked like it was coming our way. It ploughed into a group of people, hit another wall and burst into flames. There was a lot of noise, people screaming...
"Fire," Jack gasped. "The smell of burning flesh. I saw things, didn't I? I looked over the wall and saw it."
Jack's mother was almost whispering now.
You fainted, with the shock most likely, but your hands were over your ears when you collapsed. You were out for a couple of days, Jack, completely out. Not a coma, they said, but you were literally catatonic. When you came round, everything was normal, your sight, your smell, everything. We thought it best not to mention what had happened again, because your brain had obviously shut it out to protect you. We didn't want to hurt you.
"No, you did the right thing, Mom. I couldn't have coped with that. Thank you."
You're welcome. Jack? Are you sure you're all right?
"I'm fine. I'll cope. I've got help, people that know what's going on. It's not going to overwhelm me again. Look, I've got to go, I need to practise this control, but I needed to know that. Thanks Mom. I'll be in touch soon, I promise."
You'd better be, son. Take care of yourself, and you know where I am if you need me.
They signed off and Jack put down the phone. Daniel had moved to his side during the conversation and taken Jack's hand in his, gently stroking the back of it with his thumb. Jack knew that the contact had helped him, stopped him from remembering those tragic events too clearly.
"I'm okay. Honestly. At least we know now."
Jack's tone of voice was now businesslike and Daniel took it the wrong way. He felt like he was being brushed off again. Trying to keep his anger under control he returned to Blair's side, sitting as close as he could get. Blair was furious with Jack and shot him a glance that pierced Jack's heart. He'd fucked up again and he knew it.
"How did your mother know how to deal with you?" Jim asked Jack, trying to get the atmosphere to warm up a bit.
"She's a child psychologist," Jack admitted. "A good one. Practical. The only thing she wants is for kids to be safe, well-cared for and happy, ya know? She rarely had to raise her voice to any of us, just an eyebrow would do it. God only knows we wouldn't want to cross her."
"Why not?" Blair asked.
"Didn't you notice? Mom's Irish - you don't piss off Irish women," Jack added with a chuckle, "not if you want to live. Her punishments were inventive. She didn't hit us, but she made us do chores that we really didn't like."
"My mom never hit me," Blair said, "not once. In fact, I don't remember her ever punishing me. Maybe she should have."
"What, hit you?" Daniel asked in amazement.
"No, punished me. I was a bit of a brat at times. I guess she felt guilty, you know with the moves and all. She must have needed to keep disappearing just to build the patience back up to deal with me."
"B, she's Jewish. Of course she felt guilty," Daniel teased. "It's genetic. She can't help it."
Blair snorted and smacked Daniel gently with the back of his hand.
"You should know."
"Oy, tell me," Daniel rolled his eyes as he said it.
"My mom, foster mom - well, the entire family. They were Jewish. It wasn't the norm to put people into families that weren't of your religion or whatever, but the social services despaired of me. I wouldn't settle with an American family, couldn't. I had nothing in common with them. Well, these people were from Israel and at least that was close enough to my own home," he chuckled. "The best three years of my life were there, I think. I've never known so much love - at least until I was with Shau're. We laughed a lot. They taught me everything, listened with interest to me when I spoke of Egypt and my years there, accepted me for what I was. They helped me, taught me Ivrit and Yiddish, actually helped me keep up with my Arabic. A local grocer was from Cairo and they arranged that I could go and 'help' in the shop on Saturdays when they were at Synagogue. It was wonderful."
"Where was that?" Jim asked, enjoying the look of happiness on Daniel's face as he remembered.
"New York. You know what that place is like, a real melting pot. Given half a chance people will get on no matter where they're from. In some parts, it's like a United Nations there."
Silence fell once again, and the four men sat just drinking their coffees. Daniel looked at his wrist watch and noticed the time.
"Hey, B, are we going to get ready to go out or not?"
Blair looked at him and grinned. If this didn't make the others move, nothing would.
They excused themselves and headed for the bedroom. First they stripped off and headed to the shower, having deliberately skipped one in the morning to keep their scents on the other one, all the more to wind up the sentinels. They took it in turns, quickly cleaning up and getting out of there, rushing to get their new acquisitions on.
A towel around his hips, Daniel carefully slipped in the navel ring that Blair had bought him. He felt Blair's arms wrapping themselves around him from behind as he clicked it into place. Blair's head popped around and Daniel saw him grin.
"Oh boy, D, how am I going to keep my hands off you?" They reverted back to Ivrit to stop the others knowing that they were up to something.
"Put yours in and see how hard it is for me."
"Shut up. Come on, I can't wait to see you dressed up."
They got dried, found some brief briefs and slipped them on, then came the moment of truth. Blair put a matching ring through his nipple, getting a wince from Daniel as he did. Then they got their pants. Almost identical in style, Daniel's were black leather and tight. Blair's were brown leather and not so tight. Daniel had made him promise to eat more and fill them out, and as Blair's heart had lightened, his appetite was starting to return. That would likely be a promise kept. Next on, muscle shirts. Blair's was white and tucked into his pants, but the armholes were low enough cut so as to show his ring if he moved. Daniel gave a low growl as he saw it. Daniel's shirt was a pale-blue, not so low cut, but much shorter, sitting at the top of his waistband. If he stretched, his navel would be on display. Then the jackets. Both short, stopping at the waists, highlighting the neat asses of both men. By the time they'd popped on some socks and hiking boots, and put some earrings in, both men were looking to die for and were ready to go out.
"We're really going to do this?" Blair asked.
"Yeah. Time to test them to the limit, babe. If they don't declare eternal love now, they're in for it."
Daniel opened the bedroom door and walked out, Blair hot on his heels.
Jack and Jim had been talking quietly to themselves.
"They're going out. We have to make sure that it's with us," Jim had said.
"Yeah, I don't know what you think but Daniel's going to get into trouble without me."
Jim just nodded. "Trouble magnet."
"You know it."
"They don't mean it, do they? They just find it."
"Or it finds them, one or the other."
Commiserating together, they made their minds up. Jack would go to Daniel, tell him that if he was going out, he was going out with him. Jim would do the same with Blair. They were not going to take no for an answer. Then the men came out of the room.
Plans were forgotten and testosterone took over. As did the natural inclination to mother.
"YOU CAN'T GO OUT LOOKING LIKE THAT!" Jim yelled at Blair, pretty much the same time that Jack yelled it at Daniel.
It was exactly the wrong thing to say.
"WHY NOT?" came the equally stereo reply.
Jack marched over to Daniel and grabbed him, pulling him out onto the balcony as if it was going to give him some semblance of privacy. Meanwhile Jim was hovering over Blair, as if using his height to try to dominate the shorter man. Blair moved up a couple of the steps to the bedroom and looked down on Jim in reply.
The same argument was yelled between both pairs of men. 'You're asking for trouble'. 'I'm a grown man, I'll wear what the fuck I like.' 'You'll get beaten up.' 'I can deal with it!'. So on and so forth till at a similar moment, Jim grabbed Blair and kissed him, as Jack did the same to Daniel.
Somehow, though, they'd both got it totally wrong yet again. Neither guide wanted to be dominated, they certainly didn't want to be forced into this. So they reacted. Blair, being sensible enough to know his limits and knowing he'd have difficulty taking Jim, slammed his knee into Jim's groin. He watched as the shock of the strike made its way across Jim's face, then called out 'timber' as the large man fell to the ground.
Daniel, however, could take Jack any day he wanted and knew it. He pulled away, swung his fist towards Jack's face, but only caught the end of Jack's chin as he'd seen it coming and reacted. Unfortunately, Daniel was at the balcony railings as he did that, and the inertia of his more or less missed punch forced him to lose his balance. The next moment, he was falling, over the railings and down.
He caught one of them and then swung himself to catch another. Jack, fortunately, wasn't stunned by the punch and saw what was happening. He'd tried to grab Daniel as he fell, but missed, so he dived to the floor and caught hold of Daniel's arms, helping hold him in place while he screamed for help.
Blair came running and saw their state.
"Rope! Daniel, have you got rope?"
"Bedroom, bottom of the wardrobe," the breathless reply came.
"Hang on!" Blair ran indoors, yelling at Jim to dial down the pain, get up off the floor and get the fuck outside. He found the ropes, something that Daniel kept for tying stuff onto his roof rack, and ran back out.
"Sit down," he ordered Jim after eyeing up the length of the ropes, placing him just inside the loft. "Put your feet on the wall and brace yourself." Then he put a length of rope around Jim's back and tied one end around his waist and the other to one of the railings. Then he tied another rope to a different railing, ran that across Jim's back and headed for the edge. In moments he was over it, and down, tying the spare rope to Daniel's waist.
While this had been going on, Jack had been encouraging Daniel.
"Hold on, Danny, don't give up. We're going to get you out of here. Don't you dare fucking fall. We've been here before, haven't we? Didn't lose you then, not going to lose you now."
The reply from Daniel nearly made him cry.
"What do you mean?"
"Why did you pull me back? You didn't want me around, it would have been easier on me if you'd let me go."
"Don't you DARE fucking talk like that, Daniel. You scare me, ya know? You know why? Because I'm scared of fucking losing you. I can't fucking lose you."
"So you push me away? You kick me off the team? That's the way to keep me?"
"I'm sorry, okay? I just want to keep you safe. Is that so bad?"
"So you leave me? You don't talk to me? You let all the big-mouthed bastards at the base think that it's open season on me? That's your way of keeping me safe?"
"Shitshitshitshit!" Jack was frustrated and his arms were aching. Daniel's fingertip hold on the railings was starting to slip and he didn't look like he wanted to hold on. "You hold on, you bastard, or I'm following you down, ya hear me?"
Before Daniel could reply, Blair called out, "Pull him up."
Jim, however, was trying to take the weight of Blair and Daniel, even though they were both taking some of their own. Daniel was no lightweight.
"Jack!" he called, "you'll have to pull. Blair's okay for a minute, aren't you?" he redirected the question.
"I'm fine! Do it. You have to let go, Jack, trust me to hold him, okay?"
For a moment, there was silence. Then Daniel said, "Trust me to hold on, Jack."
A light went on in Jack's brain. He smiled. "I can do that," he said quietly, and let go.
Heart in his stomach, Jack felt his fingers opening. He prayed that Blair had tied the rope on well enough as he stood up and grabbed it. Relief took over when he felt Daniel's reassuring weight on the end and he hauled as hard as he could. Daniel did what he could, using the railings to help himself till he got to the top. He grabbed the hand hold and held, waiting for Jack to come to him. As soon as he did, Daniel let his left hand reach out, then his right, trusting Jack not to drop him.
"I won't drop you, Danny," Jack reassured. "You know me, I catch you, don't I?"
"You do," Daniel replied, but his words were quiet.
As soon as he was over the edge, Jim yelled for Blair. Jack grabbed his rope and between them they easily hauled him up. Both Jim and Jack were miffed though when Daniel and Blair, who were now on the floor, untied the ropes, crawled to each other and held on tightly.
"You came," Daniel said, "you came over for me. Oh God, B, you saved me. Thank you."
"Hey, you'd have done the same thing for me," Blair replied running his fingers through Daniel's hair as they rocked together.
A cough from Jack caught their attention. Daniel looked at both the other men and thanked them too. Then he stood up, shaking a little, caught Blair's hand and pulled him up and the two men made their way back into the living room. Daniel poured four whiskies, thinking they could do with them. He saw Jack come in first and gave him his, Blair was already sitting and nursing his. Jim was still on the floor.
"So, why did you end up...?" Blair motioned Daniel's fall with his hand.
"He kissed me," Daniel said, glaring at Jack. "He seemed to think that if he kissed me I'd come running. What the fuck do you think I am, Jack? Some sort of romance-novel woman? One kiss from the big guy and I'm yours?"
Jack didn't get a chance to answer because Blair continued. "So, what happened then?"
"I went to hit him but the bastard moved. Swung too far and..." he repeated Blair's hand movement, this time with a whistle through his teeth.
"Prick," Blair cursed at Jack. Jack looked sheepish.
"So, why is he on the floor?" Daniel asked of Blair, nodding towards the still sat Jim.
"He seemed to think the same thing. He kissed me too."
"I ended any chance he has of fatherhood."
"You got it."
Daniel put his hand up and 'high-fived' his friend. A squeak came from Jim's position. "Yeah, well, it's not as if he could reach to hit me on the chin, is it? So, he gives me a low blow."
"That's the only fucking blow you're gonna get off me anytime soon, Ellison, make the most of it," Blair snapped back.
Daniel started to snigger, but then he stopped. "Does he often make remarks about your height?"
"Ye-ah," Blair replied carefully.
"No, that's me, remember?"
"Shut up, B. How could you?" He yelled the question at Jim, who had now turned himself around. "If a person's physical stature was a reflection of their character, Blair would be the tallest one here. Just because we are the fucking freaks here, doesn't mean you have any right to have a go at him."
"Freaks?" Jim and Jack snapped back.
"Yeah. Most guys, I think you'll find, are between B's height and about five ten. I'm six foot, you two have two inches on me. We are the odd ones out."
Blair sat looking a little smug. Daniel had never teased him about his height. Many other things, yes, but not that. And he knew that his older and taller friend was inordinately protective of him, but it was never in a patronising way. It was because he loved him. Jim shifted about looking distinctly uncomfortable, but Blair wasn't sure if that was because of Daniel's scolding or the smack in the nuts.
Jack swallowed hard. He was going to eat crow and he knew it. However, if he was ever going to make up with Daniel, he knew it was necessary.
"Danny, I am sorry. I know I've treated you like shit and I didn't mean it I was just worried sick about losing you and I got overprotective and I was wrong because you can take care of yourself and I know it it's just I love you and I need you and I've lost you once too often and if you don't come back to me I'm going to die."
Then he took a breath and nudged Jim, who had crept back to his side. Jim looked at Blair and said, "What he said." He got an elbow in the ribs so he tried again. "I'm sorry okay? I love you and I got scared. I wanted you to do something safe. You don't need me to keep you safe, you do a better job of looking after me. I promise I won't be like that again, please don't go away."
Then the sentinels looked at their guides and tried not to laugh. Both men were sitting there, open-mouthed, silently trying to process what had been said. Their confessions had been better than any military style ambush. They'd rendered them speechless.
It took a good few minutes before the anthropologists recovered. Neither of the banes of their lives had ever been known to be verbal, especially when it came to apologies. But there they were, sitting on the sofa together, looking as smug as the cat that had finally got that bloody canary.
Eventually, they regained their voices.
"I suppose you think that we're going to race into your arms now, do you?" Daniel asked.
"Um," replied Jack.
"We're not. You're going to have to work harder than that," added Blair.
"Huh?" It was Jim's turn now.
Daniel and Blair looked at each other and grinned, Blair winked the eye that was hidden from their adversaries and got one back. Message received and understood. And they were going to play their friendship for all it was worth, knowing that whatever happened between them, their relationship was rock solid and nothing would spoil it. Daniel leaned in closer and so did Blair. They kissed, just briefly, but enough to underline the point. Jack and Jim were going to have to make it worth their while to separate.
They broke apart to hint-dropping coughs from the others.
"So, are we going out?" Blair asked Daniel.
"I don't see why not." Daniel stood up and put his hand out, Blair took it and allowed himself to be hauled up. Before they could take a step though, Jim and Jack interrupted.
"Um, guys, we get the message, honestly. Look, the way I see it is this," said Jack. "You don't trust us, do you? We've fucked up and we deserve this, but you have to know we don't want it to be like this. We want to be with you."
"Jack, you and I can't be together, can we?" Daniel sighed. "And it's probably not safe for Blair to be with Jim either." When Blair objected, Daniel explained. "B, you know I trust you and your abilities to deal with crap. I've shown that time and again. Remember the expedition in the Yucatan?"
Blair flushed a little and then sniggered.
"Yeah, I remember."
"Well, you know I trust you, then, don't you?"
"So, when I say this you also know I'm not being stupid about it, don't you? No one will touch Jim, they wouldn't dare, given his seniority, and so on. Not to mention they'd have a hard time creeping up on him. But the bullies don't know you the way I do. Come on, you've told me how much you got harassed at the Academy and in the last year, just imagine what they'd be like if they knew you and Jim were together?"
Blair's shoulders dropped and he sank back down onto the sofa.
"You're right," he whispered.
"Crap," Jim announced. "You didn't tell me you were getting hassle at the Academy," he said to Blair quietly, "I'd have stopped it. You don't have to worry about that continuing," he added, "I'll take care of you."
"Jim," Blair complained.
"You've missed the point," Daniel interrupted. "It's not that he needs taking care of, it's the fact that he's been getting and will continue to get the trouble when he shouldn't. If they were to think that you two were together he'd get it worse."
Jim let out a long sigh. "Blair," he said clearly, "you know as well as I do that the law is on our side. If you're up to facing them down, and I'm sure you are, I'm there for you, okay? I'll do what I can to prevent it from happening in the first place."
"Um, Jim, don't take this the wrong way, man, but I need to think on it, okay?" Blair pleaded.
"Okay. Take your time. Just don't leave me, Chief."
Blair's face broke into a wide smile. He hadn't heard that nickname in a long time.
"I won't," he promised.
Jack broke the silence that descended. "Danny?"
"Jack," Daniel sighed, pain written across his face, "you know we can't be together, not while you're in the Air Force. I will not be the cause of you being dishonourably discharged."
"It won't be so bad, Daniel. I've got some goodwill stored up, some dirt on some of the generals, I'd be allowed to retire."
Daniel gave a hollow laugh. "No, Jack. I will not be the reason for you leaving. You'd blame me. You'd end up hating me. No."
"I wouldn't, trust me on that one," Jack said, then realised what he'd said. "No, I don't suppose you can trust me, can you? I haven't give you much reason to in the last couple of years. What's it going to take to prove it?"
"Time, Jack. Just time."
Jack nodded, then he put his hand out to Daniel. Cautiously, Daniel stepped closer, then found himself in a once familiar place.
"Jeez, Danny, I've missed you so much," Jack whispered.
Taking their cue from Jack and Daniel, Jim and Blair allowed themselves a hug.
"I'm sorry," Jim whispered.
"So am I."
Life suddenly took on a rather surreal tone, even for four men that lived under such covert circumstances. For in time to stop the men from becoming overly sentimental, a flash of light was seen in the apartment and Thor appeared. Much to everyone's surprise, (including that of this storyteller) but especially that of Jim and Blair.
"Fuck!" Jim yelled, reaching for a gun that he didn't have on him.
"Whatthef..?" Blair started but Daniel put his hand up.
"Hey Thor, um, not that you're not welcome here, but why are you here?"
"Daniel Jackson, I require your assistance. And yours, O'Neill."
"Go on, buddy," Jack said, sitting back down to look his alien friend in the eye.
"My brother, Loki, has got himself into trouble... again."
"Again?" Jack asked. Daniel just sniggered.
"He's got a bit of a rep," he murmured. "So, how can we help?"
"He is prisoner on a planet where the Asgard are not welcome."
"Uh huh? So, I'll call up the SGC and get Carter and Teal'c. We'll come, you're taking us?"
"There is no gate, O'Neill. However, Major Carter and Teal'c cannot accompany you."
"Um, why? Or is it the symbiote thing again?"
"It is the case for Teal'c as the Goa'uld are not welcome either, however we are unsure as to the detection abilities of the planet's scanners. It would be unwise to risk her."
"Risk her? No, don't answer that," Jack sighed, "I'm not sure I want to know that. Danny and me, we'll be okay?"
"You will be. If you do not get caught."
"Same old, same old," Daniel muttered. He turned and looked at Jim and Blair and was amused to see them standing open-mouthed. "Um, Thor, these people may be able to help us. Jim here is a sentinel. Do you know of them?"
"Guardians, with enhanced senses," Thor said. "The Ancients genetically modified a handful of humans to help protect the tribes from outside danger. I was not aware that they still existed."
"Yeah, and Jack's become one too. Long story, we don't have time for it. Anyway, Blair is his guide. He'll need to come."
"Of course. A sentinel cannot function without his guide," Thor said in a throwaway manner as if everyone should know that. "You are O'Neill's guide, are you not?"
"Yes, I am," Daniel confirmed slowly.
"It is not a surprise. We must go."
"We'll need some things, Thor. I'll have to call the SGC. I'll get them to put it at the foot of the gate, okay? You can do the beam up thing?"
"I can. We must leave soon."
"Five minutes, Thor."
Jack grabbed the phone and called the General, barked his request at him and said when it had to be there. To mitigate his ordering the General around, Jack also said, "I think I've persuaded Daniel to stay."
Daniel no longer heard the General's voice complaining and wondered if Hammond would really want him to stay.
"Yes, General. Thanks. We'll be back as soon as possible."
Jack put the phone down with a smile. "You made his day, Danny. The relief in his voice was palpable."
"You haven't persuaded me yet," Daniel replied, his face as cool as Jack had ever seen.
"Oh, you will, Danny Boy, you will."
Blair sniggered and then gasped as he found himself engulfed in a bright light one second and looking down on the Earth the next.
"I will go to the bridge," Thor said. "You should explain to your friends."
The old SGC hands fought back a laugh as they watched their friends' eyes follow Thor out of the room.
"That's Thor," Jack offered.
"So we heard," Jim said absently, still looking at the now shut door.
"Supreme leader of the Asgard Fleet," Daniel added.
"Of course. Makes sense." Blair's reply was as dumbfounded as Jim's. "So, you make friends with aliens?" he asked.
"And enemies sometimes. There's a really nasty bunch out there, the Goa'uld, a.k.a. the snakes. We're at war."
"Could we be at anything else?" Jim now turned to look at them. "This feels like a bad sci-fi movie."
"No, not bad, it's good. Fun too sometimes. When I was missing? I was on another planet hiding from a nasty snake attack," Jack said.
Blair recovered his wits and started firing question after question at Daniel. Daniel answered as best he could without giving mission details away. Just the bare essentials were needed. Jim and Jack watched the verbal tennis match, turning their heads to each speaker in turn. After a few minutes they stopped, they were getting too dizzy.
Another flash of light told them that their equipment had been delivered and they left the two anthropologists to talk while they inspected it.
"Three P-90s," Jim said. "Why three?"
"Danny's signed off on one. Hey, Jackson, get your cute butt over here and check your kit out. And get changed. You guys aren't going down there looking like a biker's wet dream."
"Is he always like this?" Blair asked.
"Not usually so overt, but pretty much. Like I said, a pain in the mik'ta."
"I get you. I have to put up with the same sort of thing, but these days, fortunately, it's less military."
Daniel dug out his own BDUs and found a smaller set that had been sent up. Black gear had been sent too, just in case it was night on the planet.
"Here, B, get these on."
He handed the BDUs to Blair and then took off his jacket and shirt.
Jack pointed to Daniel's belly button with an eyebrow raised in query. Daniel just shrugged with a grin. Then he tried to get his pants off.
"Let's just say I usually have help with these."
Jack cracked up and went to help, but Blair brushed him aside. "I don't trust you," Blair said.
"To do what?"
"More like what not to do. Such as molest him. Keep your hands to yourself, O'Neill."
Before Jack could say anything, Daniel was lying on his back, Blair tugging on the skintight leather. It would have helped if they weren't laughing so much.
Trying to ignore what was going on, Jack and Jim got changed, Jim wearing a spare set of Jack's clothes. The giggles were too much though and they kept looking, then had to keep trying not to laugh themselves.
"When we get back, and everything is sorted out," Jack said casually to Jim, "you guys should come up to my cabin in Minnesota. You said you liked fishing, didn't you?"
"Yeah, I do. That would be cool. Let the little boys play," he added with a smirk.
Finally trouserless and clad only in those brief briefs, Daniel stood up and slinked over to Jim. "Little?" he asked. He may have been two inches shorter than the man, but Jim appreciated his build. Daniel was definitely broader than him. And more muscular. 'How?' he wondered. It wasn't as if he didn't spend enough time in the gym. Daniel grabbed his pants and put them on, leaving his top bare for the moment as a respite against the warmth of the ship.
"We're moving," Blair said as he looked out of the view port.
"Sure, we have been since this stuff came on board."
Jack wandered over to a control panel and picked up a familiar looking stone. "Hey, Thor buddy, when are you going to come and tell us what the story is?" Thor appeared on a view screen.
"I am afraid I am needed here at the moment, O'Neill. The automated flight controls are being..."
The image of Thor blinked. "Yes. However, if you use the device you are using now, and move the stone second from the top on the left to the bottom right, you will see a recorded message."
"Thank, pal. Shall do. How long before we get there?"
"About ninety of your minutes. It is on the other side of the galaxy."
"Okay. I'll call you up if we need anything."
"Very well. Would you like refreshment?"
"Um, no thanks, we haven't long been refreshed," Jack muttered.
He cut the comm and moved the rune stone and then settled back to listen to the instructions. It would seem that Loki had gone to this planet to find some information, against the explicit orders of the Asgard Council.
"Sounds like someone I know," Jack muttered. A now clothed and standing right next to him Daniel smacked him.
Jack stared up at the screen and listened to the voice of his little alien friend. Next thing he knew, Daniel was shaking him.
"Jack! Oh thank God, I thought I was never going to get you out of that one."
"You blanked on me again."
"Shit. This could be dangerous."
"You should be okay in the field," Blair said, "just listen to Daniel and concentrate on his voice. Fixating on something will put you into this trancelike state. He'll ground you, prevent it from happening. Daniel, you'll need to watch him, make sure that he's aware of you. Jim's not so dependent on me now, but at the beginning I was always issuing instructions on which sense to use et cetera."
"Okay, thanks," Jack said, then he sighed. "I'll have to watch that again, won't I?"
"No, don't worry, I'll tell you. Come on, break out some rations and we'll talk. We still have seventy minutes before we arrive."
They sat and ate, Daniel passing the information he'd heard from Thor to Jack so that he was fully briefed.
"Why did you turn down Thor's offer of food?" Blair asked Jack.
"Ah, Carter didn't turn it down and regretted it. Let's just say, considering the Asgard have known us for so long, you'd have thought that they'd have learned that we don't survive on small food cubes that taste like sh..."
"Jack! Behave. Anyway, how are we going to tackle this?" Daniel interrupted.
"As you said, Thor said he's going to put us down a couple of miles from our destination, right? We have to get there and then break into the holding facility. It's not going to be easy. As Thor didn't know the codes, Danny, I'm going to rely on you to break the code if it's not easily overcome."
"D? You can break into places?"
"Let's just say it's a talent I don't put on my résumé," Daniel answered with a grin. "It all depends on the lock system. If it's tonal, alphabetic or numeric, I usually manage it. But if it's mechanical, I leave it to Jack. He's good at lock picking."
"Should you be telling this to two cops?" Jim sniggered.
"Probably not," Daniel admitted, "but we only tend to do it off-world. It's outside your jurisdiction."
"Yeah. And back on Earth, I usually have a good reason."
Daniel dropped his head and studied his knee. Damn, but it was fascinating. Jack chuckled. "Come on, Danny, there was a very good reason for you breaking into the ladies' locker room that time."
"Oh I know," Daniel said casually, "but you promised that you'd keep watch. And you swore that it was empty."
Jack lost it, lying back on the floor and laughing his ass off.
"God, Daniel, that was so funny though. I didn't know that she was in there."
"No, neither did I. I'm telling you now, Jack, I'm never doing that again."
"A tyrant. Airman Trent. A.k.a. Queen Kong. She's big. Very big. And she was naked when I got the door open. I thought I'd never recover from that. I mean, losing Shau're meant that I wasn't keen on the idea of being with another woman ever again, but seeing that completely killed any element of heterosexuality I had left. She was like a guy without a dick. A dickless, ugly, bodybuilding, ex-failed-boxer-type with cauliflower ears, bearded man. It killed that side of my libido stone dead."
Jack was now crying with laughter, Jim and Blair joining in. Daniel was trying to look annoyed but failing miserably.
"Hey, it's okay for you but I used to love tits. I miss that," Daniel complained indignantly.
"Why did you have to break into the locker room?" Blair finally gasped.
"It was Jack's idea," Daniel said, "we were trying to get our own back on Sam. Let's just say it was an escalation of a series of practical jokes."
"Which you started, Daniel," Jack pointed out.
"Which Teal'c started," Daniel insisted. "He was the one testing the Tauri concept of the April fool's joke. It went on."
"Yes, Jack, till I got caught by Trent and fucking hauled over the coals by the General."
"You and me both!"
"Yes, well, you're used to it."
Daniel glared, then said, "How come Teal'c didn't get yelled at? Or Sam?"
"Because Hammond's 5'9", Teal'c is 6'4" and built like a brick shithouse."
"She's too fucking nice. He never believed me when I told him she was involved."
"He believed you when you told him about me."
"You were caught redhanded!"
"Red-faced more like. I had nightmares about that."
Daniel gave in and joined in the next round of laughter, grabbing his ribs as he howled. It wasn't the situation that was so funny, it was Jack. His laughter was infectious and Daniel had missed hearing it so much.
"Don't say it, Jack."
" 'Ah, trees'. You come off as some sort of frustrated lumberjack."
Blair started whistling the Monty Python Lumberjack Song and Daniel started to snigger.
"Um, guys, I think we should move. Thor said the facility was that-a-way," Jack pointed, trying to change the subject.
Jim put up his hands for silence. Then he and Jack concentrated hard. All they could hear was four heartbeats among the noise of the forest.
"I think we're okay, but we'd better move just in case the sensors picked us up. Come on." Jim took off at a run, Jack close on his heels. Daniel and Blair shrugged and followed in their footsteps, hoping the guys knew where they were going.
They ran for ten minutes, walked briskly for another ten, then came to a stop on the edge of that stretch of forest.
"Down there," Jack said, pointing into the distance.
"Agreed. It's not heavily guarded. Two? No, three that I can see."
Daniel looked at Blair and got a shrug in return. No, he couldn't see the facility either, let alone the guards.
"Should we go down?" Blair asked.
"No, we can't go into the place till dark. If nothing else, night-time raids cause more confusion. We'll go into the middle of this next wood, halfway down, and hide out till dark. It's only about midday now, looking at the sun. And I don't know about you but I'm tired."
It would have been about one in the morning on Earth now, so they all agreed. This time they walked, taking about twenty minutes to get into the thick undergrowth and out of sight of anything.
"Which watch do you want to take?" Daniel asked.
"No need," Jim said. "Jack and I can hear anyone coming even in our sleep."
"We can? Cool," said Jack, getting more and more impressed with his abilities as time went on.
They pulled out the space blankets from the packs and went to settle down. Without thinking, Daniel put his hand out to Blair and the two of them lay together, facing the same way, Daniel's larger body enclosing Blair's as he wrapped his top arm over him and allowed Blair the use of his other arm as a pillow. It was, in fact, the way that they'd always slept on expeditions, even when they weren't together.
As they shut their eyes, they heard the quiet call, "Chief? Please."
Blair sat up and saw Jim holding out his hand. He twisted in Daniel's arms and got a sad smile and a small nod from him. That would be the last time they'd ever be like that and they knew it. Tears filled both their eyes as Blair got up and walked to Jim. It was the end of an era, though not the friendship. Blair soon found himself in a similar position, but now with Jim in Daniel's place. A small, chaste kiss was placed on his cheek as he burrowed against Jim's body.
Jack watched Daniel's body language as he settled back down. He could feel the younger man's heart breaking, and he knew the he didn't need sentinel sense for that. He only had to know Daniel. And he did, he knew Daniel like no one else. As he saw Daniel changing position, curling up into a ball and wrapping his arms around himself, he was telling himself that he was on his own again, and telling the world to stay away to protect himself from more hurts. He'd wanted to make things better for Blair the second he'd seen how bad his friend looked, and he'd managed that. That made him happy. But in the process, he'd hurt himself again. How many more loves would he lose?
Daniel was startled when he felt a body close to his. Jack's. He knew that man without even opening his eyes.
"I'm here, Danny, I'm not going anywhere. I promise," Jack whispered, wrapping his arm around him and pulling him close. "Don't you think that the Air Force means more to me than you do, it's not true. You first, okay? First and always. I'm not going to fuck up again."
Slowly, inch by inch, Daniel relaxed a little. Not totally, Jack knew that he'd have to go a long way for that, but nearly there. They shut their eyes and drifted off, a surprisingly calm sleep on the soft moss bed that they lay on.
They stood on the edge of the clearing, dressed in black, camouflage make-up on to tone down the glaring white of their skin as it reflected in the bright moonlight.
Jim and Jack were armed to the teeth, machine guns, hand guns, knives... Blair shook his head in amazement as he watched the pinup boys for 'Gun-Lover's Monthly'. What he couldn't get over was the fact that Daniel was carrying precisely the same armaments but still managed to look like a peaceful explorer. His tendency to carry the P-90 as if it was just a piece of luggage probably helped, he mused. As for himself, a rifle, as he had learned to use at the Academy, along with the handgun carried by them all. A 9 mm Beretta. It wasn't his normal one, but he could use it. He had the knife too, but he wasn't totally sure that he would be able to use it on someone.
"So, what now?" Daniel whispered. He was used to Jack's ways, but now the methods were going to change.
"We'll get you to the door, Danny, then you check out the lock."
"I'd like to see someone else use it first," Daniel said. "Some locking systems are one try only. If I get it wrong..."
Jack nodded, "I understand, but our time is limited. You heard what Thor said. These people are ransoming Loki. If we don't get him back by sundown tonight, tomorrow night, whenever, and they haven't paid the ransom, Loki's going to die. If you can't get in, we'll have to do this the old-fashioned way."
Jack patted his pack and Daniel knew what he meant. C4, blast the door down, and then create as much havoc as possible while rescuing Loki. The more noise, the more of a diversion they'd get.
They crept across the clearing to the facility, getting within about twenty feet, when both sentinels put their hands out. They signalled to the others to step only where they did. Shrugging, both men took the exaggerated steps that they were shown, the length of them making it harder on the shorter-legged Blair. But he coped, silently bounding from one footprint to another. When they reached the path surrounding the building, they got the nod that they were through it.
"What was it?" Daniel hissed.
"Some sort of minefield," came the equally quiet reply.
"Shit, that's going to make a quick getaway difficult."
"Not necessarily. Thor said that we only have to get Loki from inside the building as that's the only thing that's shielded. We don't have to take him back to the drop-off point."
Daniel nodded and then turned to look at the lock while the others watched his back. It was a testament to his level of trust in them that he didn't even look over his shoulder. He pressed one of the buttons and heard a note. Then another gave a different note. There were twelve keys and they played a chromatic scale. Fortunately, no alarms were set off. Daniel wondered if he needed to type them into a chord. He tried a few combinations, ones he recognised as C major, G major and D major. Nothing. He tried a few minor chords. Still nothing. Okay, not necessarily musical, unless it was a tune. Before he could go on, a hand on his back made him stop. He turned and followed Jack's retreating body. Jim and Blair were already out of sight.
Daniel grinned when he realised that Jack had trusted him to follow, hadn't even looked back to see if he was coming. He released an internal sigh, one that indicated that Jack's relationship with him was strengthening by the minute.
They hid in the shadows and watched as a human male came marching past them and to the door. Daniel listened hard and heard a short 'tune'. All twelve notes were used but in an apparently random order. He committed the sound to memory and when the door shut, he let Jack lead him back. He ran the tune through his mind again, his eyes tight shut as if opening them would allow the sounds to escape. Jack saw that and lifted Daniel's hand to the keypad, putting his fingers on the middle keys and guiding Daniel's index finger over the others to let him know what position he was in. Jim and Blair were back at their sides and they watched in fascination as Daniel reproduced the order, including the slightly syncopated rhythm. He opened his eyes and the door slid to one side.
Blair looked in and his stomach sank. Soft, multicoloured flashing lights strobed the hall. He turned to Jim to guide him in, but the man was lost, as was Jack.
Blair nudged Daniel and he turned to Jack. He was staring at the lights, totally entranced by them. Quietly, Blair and Daniel talked to their sentinels and persuaded them to come back to them. Jim came back first, then a few moments later, Jack returned.
"Jack, feel my hand," Daniel whispered, "hold my hand and concentrate on it. Try not to look at the lights. They're hypnotic." Blair was repeating similar words to Jim, stroking the man's back to keep him focussed.
"Where do we go?" Daniel asked.
Jim and Jack both listened, but there was no sound that would tell them where Loki was being kept. The lights were interfering with their vision and the place smelt only of some sort of cleaning fluid or antiseptic. It was as if the place was a giant laboratory.
They followed their instincts and crept down the main corridor, each pair taking it in turns to watch the other's backs when they looked through windows in doors. By the time they'd got to the far end of the corridor, they'd inspected no less than twenty rooms. The corridor went both ways at the end. Jack was tempted to split the pairs up.
"No, what if we find Loki and have to get out in a hurry?" Daniel argued.
"We don't have time for this, Daniel. They'll be fine. Jim can hear us if we call him, I can here them if they call me. It's not as if we need radios."
Daniel looked at his friend and Blair nodded in agreement.
"Okay, but stay out of sight and call us if you see Loki or any trouble."
Jim and Blair went right, Daniel and Jack took the left.
After a few more empty rooms, they started to see people occasionally walking up and down the corridor and had to hide. Jim listened in and heard an unfamiliar language, but the voices were all human in quality. He couldn't hear anything that resembled Thor's voice at all. Further down, the corridor darkened, so much that Blair couldn't really see where he was going. He kept his hand on the small of Jim's back, partially to remind Jim of what he was supposed to be concentrating on, and partially so that he could walk in the dark without bumping into things.
On the other side, things were going about the same. Daniel's hand firmly gripped Jack's arm, both men were too new to this sentinel thing to trust the light touches that were used by their friends. The advantage that they had over Jim and Blair when they were starting out together was that they already knew each other well. Even in the dark, Daniel could chart Jack's changes in emotion just by holding the top of his arm. A slight tensing had Daniel on alert. Total muscle lock had Daniel's own highly-instinctive nature on red alert. A relaxation let him take it a little easier. Even those touches weren't totally necessary, Daniel could tell a lot by Jack's breathing pattern.
Jim reckoned that they must be nearing the far end of the building. It was very dark now, and he was wondering if he'd ever find anyone down there. Then he heard something. A heartbeat. Not Blair's. Not his. And it wasn't human, the rhythm was different, it was much slower. Perhaps this was it.
'Jack, I think I've found Loki,' Jim whispered as quietly as he'd ever done.
'How far down are you?'
'Must be nearing the end of the building. Hang on I'm going to look.'
'Must be nearing the end of the building. Hang on I'm going to look.'
Blair had his gun primed and ready, just in case, then he looked at the windowless door. There was a similar lock to the one on the front. Should he try it?
Jim shook his head. Not yet.
'Jack, get down here, there's a lock. If we get this wrong and an alarm goes off, we'll need to be together.'
'On our way.'
'On our way.'
They waited for what seemed like an eternity till they heard footsteps. Blair grinned then gasped when Jim grabbed him and pulled him into the darkness.
Angry voices told them that this wasn't Jack and Daniel. Doors were heard to open and slam shut. Jim kept his eyes focused on the lock, just in case someone went to check on the occupant.
'Jim? You okay?'
'Yes. In the shadows.'
'Yes. In the shadows.'
More of the loud steps came close and Blair could feel Jim tensing up, getting ready to pounce.
'Not yet, Jim. Let them do what they want to do. It might help.'
Jim nodded, and though Blair couldn't see him he felt the movement. Blair was right. One of the guards, or whatever he was, viciously stabbed at the pad. Blair heard the order and did his best to store it in his memory, humming it silently as if it were a tune in his head. Jim's eyes then looked through the crack afforded by the door and saw inside. Loki. Or another Asgard, they all looked the damned same to him.
The guard came out, apparently satisfied that his charge was still there. Then he left and marched back towards Jack and Daniel. Jim heard a nearly silent 'oof' and thud, then the sound of dragging. A minute later, Jack and Daniel were with them. They said nothing, just waited for their friends to make the next move.
It was Blair's turn to reproduce the sound and he quickly typed it in, making sure, as Daniel had, to reproduce the rhythm as it seemed important.
The door opened, and Jim and Blair stayed behind, leaving Jack and Daniel to deal with the alien. They were more used to it after all.
They heard quiet talking, Daniel telling Loki that Thor sent them. Then they saw Loki's head sticking out of the door and looking around.
"Loki, I'm going to have to carry you," Daniel said quietly. "We may need to run and I don't mean to be insulting but..."
"I understand. Under the circumstances, it is acceptable," Loki agreed.
Jack and the others took Daniel's pack and weapons off him and they watched as he crouched down.
"Climb on my back, it will be easier for us both."
Loki did as he was told, and Daniel felt like he was carrying an eight year-old on his back. A very heavy eight year-old. He'd had no idea how solid those Asgard were.
He nodded when he was ready. Jim led the way, Blair at his shoulder, then Daniel and Loki, with Jack behind him.
'Jack, just concentrate on us and what's in front of you. Don't look at the lights," Daniel murmured as low as he could.
Daniel kept listening for Jack's footsteps as they walked, terrified that Jack would blank out on him as he walked. So far, so very good. It couldn't last.
They got down the bright corridor, nearly to the end, when the alarm sounded. That set them off at a sprint. Daniel's fear had come to fruition and he was grateful that he already had the Asgard on board.
Voices sounded as they approached the door, then a bang. Then lots of them. Jack had fired his P-90, killing a few of the guards and scattering the rest. Blair was at the door, opening it. Mercifully, the keypad was only needed to get into the facility, not back out. He cautiously opened the door, just in case he'd come face-to-face with a guard. No one.
"Move it!" he called out, and all four piled out of the door. They ran around the corner and as far away from the building as they could without straying into the minefield, and straight into the sights of the external guards. Shots rang out again, Jack though had to concentrate on contacting Thor.
"Thor! Buddy, it's time to beam us up. In a hurry. Now would be a good idea CRAP that was close! Come on, Thor, we're out of the building. I'd really like to see you right about now."
"Perhaps we need to get further away," Daniel shouted back, ducking the power blasts as they came their way. Jim was having a fine old time getting reacquainted with a machine gun and Blair was firing both his and Daniel's hand guns in the general direction of anything that moved.
They managed to get a few more feet from the building, Jack still yelling into the communicator.
"Thor! Thor! Now would be good! We've got your..."
"...brother Loki," Jack finished more quietly as they appeared on the ship.
"So it would seem," Thor replied, with what almost looked like a smile. "Thank you." Then, when Daniel put Loki down, he moved over to his brother and put his hand out. To the outside observer, the movement was quite tender. Loki was looking as sheepish as Jack had ever seen an Asgard look. Hell, he looked as sheepish as any sheep Jack had ever seen.
"I am sorry," Loki said to Thor.
"Again?" came the reply.
Loki looked at his four rescuers and blinked. "I am grateful," he said.
"You're welcome," came the quadraphonic reply.
He nodded, blinked, and then followed his brother out.
"Someone's in deep shit," Jack muttered.
Daniel started to snigger. "Oh yeah."
Jim and Blair joined in the giggles, and soon they turned to laughs. No reason, just relief. It had been getting a bit hot on the planet after all.
The younger men had got changed again, back into their leathers. They'd replaced their gold earrings too, something that they'd had to take out before going onto the planet in case they'd glistened in the dark. Thor had let them use a sonic shower which had got a load of Star Trek jokes flying between the four hyped-up friends.
Jack had asked that they be dropped off at the SGC as he knew that Hammond would want a report as soon as they returned.
"You two aren't going down there dressed like that, are you?" he asked as they approached Earth.
"Why not? Don't we look good?" Daniel had teased.
"Fucking gorgeous," had come the growled reply from Jim.
Blair moved closer to him. "You really think so?"
Jim's only answer had been to wrap his arms around his friend, pull him close, and kiss him. Jack was sniggering as he watched the tall man bending, and Blair standing on tiptoes as they deepened their kiss. Daniel, though, was looking everywhere but at them.
He wandered over to the view port and watched the galaxy streaking by, knowing that anytime soon they'd be there. He didn't hear Jack sighing as he turned and saw Daniel's body language giving his feelings away again. He didn't hear him approaching either. But for some reason, he didn't jump when he felt Jack's arms wrap around his waist and Jack's head rest on his shoulder.
"You can move in with me, Danny. I'll tell the General that I need you around, to stop me blanking out. If we make this official, it will be okay. He'll move heaven and earth to protect us, you know that."
"Jack, you know what will happen if the NID get hold of you. If they hear about your senses."
"True, but Jim's told me how I can lose them too. If they take me, I'll stop being a sentinel. It's a lose-lose situation for them. If they want me, the human bloodhound, to be on their side, they'll have to leave us alone."
"Do you really think that will stop them?"
"I'm almost certain," Jack admitted. "But I think it's worth the risk. I think that we are worth the risk."
"I'm not sure that I'm worth the risk to you." Daniel's answer was blunt, but it didn't shock Jack. He knew how little Daniel felt his worth.
"I think you are, Daniel. I've been such a prick to you."
"A complete dickwad."
Jack started to snigger at that.
"Yeah, I have been. I'm going to stop, I promise. I only wanted you to leave to team to keep you safe. I kept forgetting that having you on the team kept me safe. Even before this sentinel business, you were my guide, Danny. I guess I never really appreciated it till you weren't there on that damned planet. I was so lonely, so afraid. And all I could think about was you. How you'd react to certain circumstances, how you would have dealt with hiding out, how you would have helped me through it. Thinking of you kept me sane. Knowing that you would come for me kept me going. Love ya, ya know?"
Daniel turned with a smile to Jack and wrapped his own arms around Jack's waist. He mirrored Jack's stance, each one just holding, heads resting on the other's shoulders. They stood there for a while till the ship came to a halt in Earth's orbit. Before Thor came into them, Daniel whispered, "I love you too, Jack."
Jack's body totally relaxed when he heard that. He knew then that they were okay.
All hell broke loose when the four men and their kits appeared in the gate room. Jack yelled out for the SFs to stand down, which they did as soon as they recognised him. But they took a while to recognise Daniel.
Hammond appeared in the control room and called out to let the men free, so they headed up to the room, Jim and Blair quietly following their friends' lead.
"General, we have a tale for you," Jack announced jovially as they entered the control room. "And it's a good one."
Hammond groaned and shook his head good-naturedly and beckoned them to follow him.
After a long debrief in which Jim and Blair were made to promise (and sign God only knew how many secrecy statements) that they'd never reveal what had happened (to which their reply was 'who in hell's name would believe it anyway?') they were allowed to go. Jack stayed back for a while, wanting to explain about Daniel moving in with him and to ask the General to allow Daniel back on SG-1, so Daniel took the others off to the commissary.
As they approached, Daniel saw Teal'c.
"Hey Teal'c, how are you?"
"Better for seeing you, Daniel Jackson. These must be your friends."
Daniel introduced them and the four went to get a coffee. Or rather, three coffees and one prune juice. Teal'c had been watching Star Trek Deep Space 9 again and had decided that what was good for such a warrior as Worf was good enough for him.
Blair questioned Teal'c about his symbiote, getting a few answers, but not too many details.
"B, you don't want to know," Daniel said. "And please, Teal'c, don't get it out. Not in the commissary. People are eating."
Teal'c smiled and nodded.
"You are looking different, Daniel Jackson. I have not seen you wearing those clothes before, or jewellery."
"Ah. Well, Blair and I were going to go clubbing before Thor popped in. You know how it goes."
"Indeed. You look most attractive."
"Um, well, thanks Teal'c. I can honestly say I never expected that from you."
Blair chuckled into his coffee, getting a filthy look from Daniel and an amused one from Jim. Then Daniel's face dropped.
"Oh great, the big mouth again."
Wilkinson had come in. He looked at Daniel and smirked.
"Well, look what we have here. I knew you were queer, Jackson," he said.
"Excuse me?" Daniel stood up, his three friends standing at the same time.
"Look at you. Earrings? Leather?"
"Oh? And straight men can't wear them? I didn't know there was a law against it."
"You're nothing but a queer geek," Wilkinson barked, "and you shouldn't be in the SGC."
"Ah well, as they say, it takes one to know one. What, your gaydar going off?" Daniel drawled.
Wilkinson's team were trying not to laugh at that one. Then Daniel moved, slowly, towards him, not taking his eyes off the colonel's.
"I've got news for you," Daniel said. "Whatever I may or may not be," he closed the gap, "it is no concern of yours. I'm telling you now, hassle me, and you'll be out on your ass before you can click your heels together and say 'there's no place like home'."
"You haven't got the clout," Wilkinson sneered.
"Yes he has, Colonel." The voice of the General sent cold water down the veins of the colonel. "I can assure you that Dr. Jackson is far more valuable to this facility than you, or most other people on this base. One more word from you and you will find yourself guarding our outpost."
"The Alpha Site?" Wilkinson gasped.
Daniel grinned. "Everything okay, General?"
"Everything is fine. Are you sure it will be all right, you taking care of Colonel O'Neill like this? I know it's going to be a strain, living with someone after all this time."
"Oh, I'm used to him grouching. I used to live there when I first came home," Daniel sighed. "He even got me a little door sign - 'Danny's Room' - for my bedroom. I wouldn't have minded but it had a teddy bear on it."
Hammond laughed and went to get himself a coffee. He rarely took refreshment in the commissary, but felt he would enjoy the change. Jack was there too, looking at Daniel and grinning, enjoying the way that he'd dealt with Wilkinson.
"You did good, Dr. J.," he said as they went to sit back down.
Daniel just grinned.
Hammond had given SG-1 leave for the next ten days so that Daniel could move and help Jack at the same time. Jim had phoned Simon and managed to scrounge a few days' leave for him and Blair. The four piled into a staff car and were driven back to Daniel's place, where Blair packed up his things and with a hug and a quick kiss for Daniel, he left with Jim, borrowing Jack's truck so they could get back to Jack's place and be alone.
As Daniel shut the door after watching them leave, he felt Jack's arms wrap around him again.
"No more talking, Danny. Please. Let me."
Given that Daniel now had Jack exactly where he wanted him, he let Jack lead the way to the bedroom.
Jack shut the bedroom door and pounced. He grabbed Daniel and kissed him soundly, rather enjoying it when Daniel's tongue fought back. Frantic fingers pulled at jackets, lifted T-shirts and fumbled with fly buttons and zips. Feet danced as they toed off their shoes and socks before falling onto the bed. Daniel pushed Jack onto his back and grabbed his pants, pulling them down in one swift movement before reaching his goal.
He let out a low, hungry moan when he saw Jack's hard cock spring forth and did something that he'd dreamed about many, many times. He went down. Jack shot up. Daniel hummed as he sucked him hard. Jack yelled. Daniel tried not to laugh as his hands roamed while his head bobbed up and down. Jack giggled as Daniel's roaming fingers tickled his sensitive skin.
"Jack, you need to turn it down," Daniel said as he stopped what he was doing and looked up with a grin.
"You stopped!" Jack squeaked.
"Turn it down, Jack."
"Okay, okay," he muttered, then concentrating for a moment, he brought his senses down to a 'normal' level. "I'm cruising, Danny. Get back down there."
Sniggering 'slave driver' as he went, Daniel returned to his job in hand. Or mouth. Whatever.
Jack seemed to be enjoying the hell out of himself now, if the moans and groans were anything to go by. Daniel's tongue was every bit as talented in bed as well as out of it. Daniel was enjoying himself too, making the most of this, tasting, licking, sucking... his fingers continuing their movements as he worked. Jack gasped as he felt his balls taken in one hand, as the other made its way up his stomach. He was in awe of Daniel's co-ordination as he worked, doing three things at once.
It couldn't last, the feelings were way too intense. He called out a warning to Daniel, but he just redoubled his efforts and sucked harder. That was enough for Jack and he came hard, moaning Daniel's name over and over again until it was over.
Both men were panting, Jack harder than Daniel, but still Daniel fought for air. He crawled up the bed and reached over to the bedside table.
Daniel got out the lube and a condom and waved them in Jack's general direction as a query. Jack's wide-open eyes said it all to him.
Jack looked like he was about to make a wisecrack, but then he thought better of it.
"Do it," he said.
"Daniel, you and I are going to be living together for the rest of our lives, this is going to happen at some point. I'd rather it was now when I'm sober, with it, not scared shitless... you get my drift?"
"I do, Jack, but I thought you'd... oh hell. I can't now."
Daniel looked down and Jack's eyes followed him. He'd got deflated the second he'd seen the 'oh fuck' look in Jack's eyes. Jack pulled him into his arms and held him tightly.
"Daniel, I love you, okay? I want you. No, I've never done it before but I've had the offers. I've just never wanted another guy to do it, and I've never trusted another guy to do it. I'm not scared, well, maybe a little. But I know you'll treat me with respect, I know you'll do your best not to hurt me. Tell me one thing, though."
"Will you still respect me in the morning?"
Daniel smacked him and started to laugh. "Who says I respect you now?"
The smile in Jack's eyes when he harrumphed indignantly mitigated any negative sounds or words. When Daniel found himself being turned gently onto his back and Jack's lips on his, he knew that whatever they decided to do, whenever they decided to do it, it would be just fine.
"Do you think they're okay?" Jim asked as they drove to Jack's place.
"They'll be fine. Daniel loves Jack, has done for a long time. Now I know Jack loves Daniel, I'm happy to leave them alone."
"He loves you too, you know."
"I know. If I hadn't already known it before, I knew it on the planet."
"When he gave you to me?"
"He didn't give... oh, maybe he did. He was telling you to take care of me for him, you know. Trusting you to do it, too."
Blair looked out of the window as he spoke, a little part of him still unwilling to completely trust Jim.
"I won't let him down, Chief, I promise. I won't let you down either. When we get home, you're moving back in with me. No one is going to stop us."
"Do you think we'll get trouble? I mean, if people figure us out?"
"Possibly. But, you have to tell me, Chief. Daniel was right, they won't have a go at me, most likely, but they may pick on you. I can't help you if you don't tell me."
"And if I don't want your help? If I need to deal with it myself?"
Jim swallowed hard and then said, "Tell me anyway. I'll wait for you to deal with it. Then I'll help you to gloat."
Blair's head turned to look at his friend and Jim saw, out of the corner of his eye, the broadest grin he'd seen in a long time.
They arrived at Jack's place and entered, Blair noticing the similarities between the house and Jim's place. Neat and tidy, a home but still much more immaculate than you'd normally expect for a single male. Jim shut the door and then led Blair to the spare bedroom without a word.
"God Chief, you are so beautiful," he whispered as he stared at him when they reached the edge of the bed.
Blair was about to reach out, to say something in return when Jim shook his head. "Please, Blair, let me," he murmured. Blair gasped as he heard his name spoken, as if it was a prayer. He let Jim do what he had to do, let him 'take care' of him for once. He'd get his own back later, he thought. Kisses were exchanged, then Jim reverently undressed Blair, trailing kisses and licks over his skin as it became exposed. As he ran his tongue through the nipple ring and pulled, he heard Blair cry out with need. It spurred him on. Slow and gentle could wait till later.
Before he knew what had hit him, Blair was naked, on his back and watching Jim's clothes fly off him. He leered suggestively at his lover, making Jim laugh. Then he was lowering himself down carefully, trying not to squash the smaller man as he held himself up on his forearms.
"Jim, I won't break."
They kissed again, reacting to each other's touch as they went, getting harder by the moment. Then it happened, the first touch of cock on cock, the first push, the first 'oh-h-h fuck ye-ah' from Blair. They moved together, working as a team, settling into a rhythm that suited them both well. Kisses were forgotten as they concentrated on getting off.
"Harder," Blair ordered. "Push up more," Jim countered. Hips ground into each other until Jim saw Blair's eyes open as wide as he'd ever seen them, his head tipped back and he came with a yell. For some reason that tickled Jim's funny bone and he started to laugh. Blair got annoyed and slammed his hips up, having the desired effect and pushing Jim over the edge too.
"Gerroff. You h'vy."
Jim rolled off him, keeping one arm wrapped around Blair's sticky waist. Blair scowled.
"Yee ha, Chief?"
"Yup, got one."
"Yeah, I think we need one." As Jim went to stand up though, Blair caught his arm in his hand. "Jim?"
"Are we okay?"
Jim just smiled. "Yeah, Chief. We're just fine. C'mon. Shower, then we'll eat and um, go for another 'work out'?"
"Sounds good to me, Ellison. Sounds good to me."
A few days later and the four men were saying goodbye at the airport. The General had arranged tickets for them on a commercial flight, getting them first-class by way of a thank you for all their help. Their flight was called and they were just leaving, Blair and Daniel hugging each other as if they'd never see each other again, Jim and Jack shaking hands and reluctant to let go.
"Take care of him," the sentinels said together.
Two pairs of blue eyes rolled into their heads as the guides turned to their lovers.
"Excuse me? Take care of whom?"
"Forget we said anything, please," Jack got in quickly, hands up in submission.
"Don't forget to call when you get there," Daniel reminded Blair.
"You are worse than my mother. I'll call!"
"Don't forget to pack your fishing gear next time," Jack reminded Jim.
"As if I would."
Time ran out and they had to go. With heavy hearts the four friends parted.
"Come on, Danny, we've got to go. There's a lot of work to be done so you can move in."
Daniel's head was turned over his shoulder as he walked away, watching the departing back of his oldest friend.
"Yeah, I suppose so," he replied. Then, still looking in the opposite direction to the way he was going, he felt something at his feet and lost his balance, quickly finding himself in Jack's arms.
"Told you I'd catch you, didn't I?"
"Yes, Jack. You did."
"Always will too, Danny. Always will."