Cheyenne Mountain was as quiet as it ever got. It was after midnight and, though the lights stayed at a constant flourescent brilliance, the people who moved through them were quieter, automatically falling into the cadence of late night. Daniel yawned and rubbed his eyes as he stared at the translation that just wasn't making any sense, even after four hours spent trying to figure it out. Or maybe because of the four hours spent trying to figure it out. If it hadn't been for the South Americanesque pottery and stylings in the temple, Daniel would've just thought it an alien language altogether.

"What the hell are you still doing here?"

Looking up at Jack's amused accusation, Daniel summoned a tired smile. "Hey Jack."

Moving into the cluttered office, Jack leaned on the table where Daniel was seated and demanded, "Well?"

"I can't figure it out," Daniel answered simply, frustrated.

Jack looked at him for a long moment then said, "And it's pissing you off."

Rolling his eyes, Daniel replied, "Of course it is."

"Did you eat supper?"

Daniel frowned, thinking. "I think...well...I do remember having an apple around eight."

"Danny, Danny, Danny. What are we going to do with you?" Jack asked, shaking his head with a grin. "C'mon. Let's get you fed, watered and rested."

Though he stood and allowed Jack to drag him out of the office, after grabbing his coat, Daniel muttered, "What'm I? A horse?"

"Mule maybe," Jack answered with another grin.

Daniel eyed him for a moment then nudged him with his hip, hard enough to shove Jack half a foot. "I don't appreciate being likened to an equine."

Dark eyes heated, Jack said, "Oh I don't know, Daniel. I've heard those little buggers have stamina like you wouldn't believe. And a really big..."

"Colonel! Daniel!"

Both men turned at Janet's call and waited for the petite doctor to catch up.

"Hey Janet. How's Ferretti?" Daniel asked with concern.

Smiling broadly, she answered, "He's going to be fine. I was just on my way to tell the General then head home. I assume that's where you're going?"

Jack hid a grin when Daniel assumed an innocent expression at Janet's pointed tone. The infamous 'Battle of Proper Nutrition and Sleep' had just been joined. So far, this week anyhow, it was Janet - 4, Daniel - 2. Although, if he managed to escape now without her discovering that he hadn't eaten supper...

"As a matter of fact I am," Daniel said, somewhat smugly. "And I even had an apple as a snack around eight tonight, thank you very much."

Janet's dark eyes looked at Jack suspiciously but Jack adopted his 'colonel' look and held his tongue. There was no way he was getting in the middle of the ongoing war between his doctor and his lover. Both of them had way too much personal access to very sensitive areas on his body.

"Uh huh," she said distrustfully. "All right then. I'll see you both tomorrow."

After they turned the corner, Jack murmured, "It's not nice to lie to your doctor, Dr. Jackson."

"I didn't lie," Daniel pointed out. "I did have a snack around eight."

Shaking his head, Jack said, "One of these days, she's going to catch on that you are not as innocent as you appear and then, my friend, the jig will be up."

Laughing softly as they approached the security checkpoint, Daniel said, "Well, as a reward for your assistance in my duplicity, how about I buy you a pizza?"

Jack glanced at his watch. "Pizza places are closed this time of night, Danny-boy."

Face falling Daniel said, "Oh. Right."

Grinning, Jack said, "But it just so happens that I've got pizza in the freezer. How about I let you slave over a hot oven instead?"

Happy again, Daniel nodded and agreed, "Sounds good."

They waved goodbye to the airmen on duty and exited the mountain. Daniel shivered in the cool spring night and Jack moved subtly closer. Though their relationship was an open-secret on base, there was no reason to give the security cameras any evidence. The SGC might be 100% behind them, even the marines, but the Air Force wouldn't be if it was ever brought to their attention.

"You know, I was thinking," Daniel said as they neared the cars.

"Uh oh," Jack muttered.

Rolling his eyes, Daniel said, "Funny. Look. I have a friend who specialized in South American cultures and languages when we were in college. He was only in Chicago for a semester, but we got to know each other really well. If anyone could make sense of these translations, it would be Blair."

Jack asked casually, "And just how well did you know this Blair?"

A sultry smile crossed Daniel's face as he turned and leaned back against his car, murmuring, "And wouldn't you like to know?"

Growling, Jack briefly leaned against his lover and warned, "Not a good idea to tease the colonel, Jackson."

An open smile returned to Daniel's face and he explained, "We were just good friends, Jack, definitely nothing for you to worry about. When Steven, Sarah and Dr. Jordan were despairing about my theoretical choices, Blair was supporting me. He actually encouraged me to take the chance if it was what I truly believed. He was like a brother to me, actually. A much younger and very hyper brother. He was something of a prodigy and a good four years younger than me."

Jack smiled at the fond tone in Daniel's voice. Anyone who had given his Danny support and encouragement automatically earned points in Jack's book. "We'll talk to the General about it tomorrow. You want to bring him in as a consultant, right? What's he been doing lately? Do you know?"

Sighing, Daniel shook his head. "I haven't talked to Blair since before Abydos. I'm sure he thinks I dropped off the face of the earth like everyone else. As far as I know, he continued on in his studies and has his doctorate by now. He was an anthropology major, psych minor, and one of the most empathic people I knew. His mother exposed him to all kinds of cultures growing up, so he's very adaptable and respectful of other cultures, extremely resourceful, too."

Thoughtfully, Jack observed, "Sounds like you're building up to something here, Danny-boy."

Daniel shrugged. "We could always use more people for first contact missions."

"Well, it can't hurt to look into his current situation. Get a security clearance for the guy for when Hammond gives you free reign to bring him in. Like always," Jack teased.

Indignant, Daniel protested, "He does not always give me free reign."

Snorting, Jack turned and unlocked his car. "Right. See you in twenty."

Daniel grinned and unlocked his own car. Now that he'd thought of Blair, he couldn't seem to stop. It would be so great to have him on the team!

* * * *

The gray, cloudy sky was a very familiar sight, but Blair stared at it as though he could divine the answers of the universe from it. Or at least the answer of how to straighten out his life. He didn't sigh, even though he wanted to. If he did, Jim would instantly be out on the porch and want to know what was wrong. And he couldn't lie to Jim. He literally could not bring himself to lie to Jim any more because the next time could very well be the last. Their friendship had withstood more than most marriages and Blair had no intention of losing Jim over anything.


Frowning at the familiar voice, Blair looked down into the parking lot where it had come from. Standing in the middle of it was a man with short brown hair and glasses. He looked familiar but for a long moment, Blair just couldn't figure out why. Then the man sneezed, twice, and pulled out a handkerchief, blowing his nose loudly.

Delight ran through him and Blair shouted happily, "Daniel! Oh my God, Daniel! Don't move! I'll be right there!"

He vaguely saw Jim track him through the living room but didn't pause, almost afraid that his first best friend would disappear in the time it took to reach the parking lot. He didn't though. Daniel was waiting outside the front door with a smile plastered on his face, blue eyes lit up behind his glasses. Blair burst through the door and threw his arms around the other man and held on tight. "Daniel! Oh my God, I can't believe it's really you!"

Strong arms, definitely stronger than he remembered, wrapped around him and held on, just as tight. They stood like that for a few minutes, not caring where they were or what they looked like. After too short a time, Blair pulled back and looked up into his friend's face, staring at the man who'd been as a brother to him. It had weathered over the years, matured in ways that spoke of pain and loss, Blair was sad to see. The eccentric and happily naive archeologist was long gone. But in his place was a good, strong man, a happy man, though one with a hard past. Sighing in relief, Blair repeated, "Daniel."

Daniel reached up to cup his face with a faint frown. "You look tired."

"I am," Blair answered simply.

Daniel nodded as though expecting that answer. "Shall we go in?"

Blair hesitated, unsure of Jim's reaction to bringing Daniel into the loft. To his surprise, Jim's voice said from behind, "Go on in, Chief. I was just heading out."

Turning, startled by his roommate's sudden appearance, Blair looked at Jim and this time, his sigh had nothing to do with relief. Though there was a polite smile on the cop's face, the look in his blue eyes spoke of nothing friendly and his nostrils flared a couple of times as he suspiciously scented Daniel. "Jim, this is an old friend, Dr. Daniel Jackson. Daniel, this is my roommate and partner, Detective Jim Ellison."

Daniel smiled and held out a hand. "Good to meet you, Detective Ellison."

After barely a hesitation, Jim took it and then, to Blair's surprise, relaxed with a more genuine smile.

"It's Jim. And it's good to meet you, too," Jim said, releasing the hold.

Daniel nodded and said, "Then you'll have to call me Daniel."

"Go on, Sandburg. Go catch up. I'm heading over to Simon's to help him rearrange his garage. If I'm not back in a week, send out the posse," Jim said wryly.

Blair grinned. "Will do. C'mon, Daniel."

They walked upstairs and Blair was grateful that Jim had both found Daniel acceptable by whatever test he always used, and had given them time to talk freely. He shut and locked the door behind them, motioning towards the couches. "Have a seat. You want some water?"

Daniel smiled. "Yes, thanks. And you remember."

"That you get drunk on one beer? Yeah, I remember," Blair said with a chuckle.

"Come to find out that I don't have the same problem with hard liquor, believe it or not," Daniel informed him with a lopsided grin. "My doctor thinks it has something to do with my allergies. Something about the yeast that affects my system."

Intrigued, Blair returned with two bottled waters and settled on the couch beside his friend, handing one over. "Really? I've never heard that before."

Shrugging, Daniel said, "Just a theory."

They sat in companionable silence, shoulder to shoulder, for several minutes. Then Blair sighed and said, "You saw the press conference."

"I did."

Blair was grateful for the neutral tone. "You want to know what happened."

"Only if you want to tell me," Daniel answered easily. "I'm actually here to offer you a job."

Shocked, Blair turned on the couch to face the other man. He searched his friend's face but found only honest sympathy there. "I have a job."

Daniel nodded and said, "I know. With the police department."

Again, there was no trace of censure, or even curiosity. Wherever Daniel had been the last six years, it had taught him how to control his expression. "And you don't have anything to say about that. Or the press conference."

A hint of pain crossed Daniel's face as he said, "I understand what it's like, Blair. I know what you're going through. It's not exactly the same, but pretty damn close."

"Daniel, where have you been all this time? I looked everywhere for you. Naomi looked everywhere for you and even she couldn't find a trace. And if Naomi couldn't find you..." Blair let his voice trail off uncertainly.

A faint smile crossed Daniel's face. "I got married."

Stunned, Blair repeated, "Married?"

Daniel nodded and pulled out his wallet. He opened it to a picture of a dusky-skinned, exotic beauty with cascading dark hair. Jaw dropping, Blair said, "You married her? Jeeze, Daniel, what did you do? Get her as a gift?"

Grinning, Daniel just looked at him.

Jaw dropping further, Blair exclaimed, "You didn't! Daniel!"

Laughing, Daniel said, "Her name was Shau'ri. I was on an expedition. Her family thought I was a representative of Ra, believe it or not. They wanted to keep me happy."

"And you married her?" Blair demanded in disbelief. Shaking his head at his own idiocy, Blair continued, "Of course you did. If she was given to you, to refuse would have shamed her and her entire family. She'd have been an outcast or even exiled. So what happened after the wedding?"

His smile turned bittersweet with memory as he answered, "We fell in love."

The 'but' at the end of the sentence was almost audible and Blair supplied it for his friend. "But?"

"She was kidnapped and then killed while trying to save me," Daniel explained with a sigh. "I'd gone after her, with a couple of very good friends, and though we found her, well, she was caught in the crossfire."

"Oh Daniel. I'm so sorry," Blair whispered. He pulled his legs up and leaned against the other man. After a moment, Daniel's arm lifted and surrounded his shoulder, accepting the comfort offered.

"That was about four years ago. I'm all right now," Daniel said. A smile tugged at his lips as he continued, "Actually, I'm in another relationship and very, very happy."

Blair smiled and rested his head on Daniel's shoulder. "I'm glad."

"Me, too," Daniel agreed. After a long moment of silence, he asked, "Do you want to hear about the job?"

Blair accepted the subject change, grateful for it since it meant that Daniel wouldn't ask about his love-life. He pulled away from his friend and sipped at the water before answering, "Sure. Why not?"

"It's a translation job. I was on an expedition recently and found some writings that don't seem to correspond to anything I've come across," Daniel explained. "The pottery and accessories found in the temple chamber suggest that they're of a native, South American, origin but you know me. Egyptology is my specialty. I immediately thought of you and my boss okayed coming out to ask if you'd like a shot at it."

"A temple? What sort of temple? What's the location?" Blair asked curiously.

"Doesn't really matter because we videotaped it and it's been transcribed for easy access," Daniel answered.

"Of course it matters, Daniel, you know that. If it was in southern Peru versus northern Brazil, it would matter a lot," Blair said, shaking his head.

"For all intents and purposes, it doesn't matter, Blair," Daniel said quietly.

Frowning now, Blair looked closely at his friend. He was a little disturbed to find the poker mask back in place. "Daniel, just who are you working for now?"

"Who do you think would hire an academically exiled archeologist?" Daniel asked sourly.

Blair sighed. "Oh Daniel."

With an ironic twist of the lips, Daniel acknowledged the guess. "I work as a consultant to a military organization. It's nothing underhanded, you know that I would never be involved in anything that would hurt innocent people. It was actually while working for them that I met Shau'ri. They were, ah, less than pleased when I went native without so much as a letter of resignation."

Snorting, Blair said, "I'll bet. So, they're really on the up and up?"

Daniel clasped his knee and said, "Honestly. I wouldn't lie to you about this. We're based in Colorado. You'd stay with me, or they can arrange for a hotel, if you'd rather. You'd have to sign a non-disclosure statement but that's pretty standard these days. I would ask as a personal favor that, no matter what you find in the translation, you don't go to the papers. I've vouched for you with them so it's my ass on the line if you cross it."

"What could I possibly find in an ancient archeological text that would send me to the papers?" Blair asked with a grin.

Daniel returned the grin a bit hesitantly, and pushed his glasses up. "You never can tell."

* * * *

Blair was again standing on the porch when Jim returned from Simon's. He waved to his roommate as he crossed the parking lot and then headed inside to wait for Jim to get inside, his stomach churning with the weight of his decision. Jim, of course, knew something was wrong the minute he walked through the door. Blair watched as the other man stopped, stiffening as his head swung in Blair's direction.

"What's wrong?" Jim asked quietly.

Blair knew better than to beat around the bush. "Daniel was here to offer me a translation job."

Jim stared at him for a moment before saying, "You're taking it."

Nodding, Blair explained, "It's temporary and I need a break."

Painfully, Jim asked, "From me?"

Horrified, Blair shook his head, crossing the distance between them and grasping Jim's arm. "No! Never from you!"

Jim relaxed a little, but not much. "You haven't been happy for a while now. I could tell. But I was hoping..."

"I know. So was I," Blair said when Jim's voice drifted off. It wasn't that he didn't like being a detective, exactly. It was more that being completely submerged in the police world was still so different from what he was used to. As an observer riding with Jim, he'd been able to keep a very necessary distance from the horror and violence. Now that he was a full detective, and had been for over a year, he couldn't keep that distance and be the partner Jim deserved.

"How long will you be gone?" Jim asked.

"I don't know. Daniel said that the translations worked out to about a hundred pages of text. If, and this is a big if, I recognize the language, I could be there for a few months. If I don't recognize it, I'll have had a nice weekend trip courtesy of the USAF."

Stiffening in alarm, Jim demanded, "The Air Force?"

Blair nodded and tightened his grip on the other man's arm. "Daniel swears to me that they're a good outfit, trustworthy. And really, he wouldn't work for someone that wasn't."

"Chief, you haven't seen this guy in how long? People change," Jim pointed out.

"I know but Daniel's still a good man," Blair insisted. "I trust him. He was like the brother I never had. He wouldn't lie to me. And he passed your inspection too, right?"

Reluctantly, Jim nodded. "He smelled happy and relieved, probably at seeing you again. I didn't sense anything deceptive about him. Of course, he wasn't talking about what he did for a living just then, either."

Blair sighed. "All right. I know we're both a little gun shy when it comes to military operations. How about I call him over for dinner and you can go over him with a Sentinel-toothed comb."

"Thanks, Chief," Jim said in relief.

* * * *

At seven forty-nine, the phone rang and, grinning, Blair picked it up. "Are you telling me that after working for the military for six years, you still can't manage to be on time?"

"I'm a lot better than I used to be," Daniel answered with a chuckle.

"I'll be right down," Blair said, hanging up.

A few minutes later, they were griping good-naturedly and walking back up the stairs to the loft. Entering, Daniel breathed in deeply and said in appreciation, "You made veggie lasagna! Blair, you're a God."

Grinning, Blair said, "How true."

"And as modest as ever," Daniel teased. He smiled at Jim as the older man came down from his bedroom. The tense but polite smile on his face would have told Daniel a lot, even if he hadn't seen the man's service record. He'd gotten a bad deal from the military and Daniel didn't blame him at all for being suspicious of someone showing up out of the blue from Blair's past. "Evening, Jim. Did you get the garage straightened out?"

Some of the tension left, but not all. "Not even close, but thanks for asking. So, did Blair learn being late from you or was it the other way around?"

Laughing, Daniel was about to answer when Blair cut him off with, "Depending on how you answer that, we have pie for desert."

"I think I'll claim the fifth, in that case," Daniel said.

Blair winked. "Good answer."

Dinner was a lively affair as Daniel and Blair strolled down memory lane and tried to outdo each other with stories about campus life for seventeen and twenty-one year old geniuses. By tacit agreement, no mention of the job was made until well after desert, when they were sitting in the living room with coffee.

"I understand that you want to know about the job," Daniel said, setting his coffee on a coaster.

Jim nodded.

"I can't give you details about where I work, or what we do, because it is classified. But I can tell you that the people I work with are among the most honorable and brave men and woman that it has been my pleasure to know," Daniel said simply. "What we do is vitally important and we need Blair's help. The text might or might not turn out to be important, we won't know unless it gets translated, but we can't let any stone go unturned."

The intensity of Jim's stare unnerved Daniel, reminding him of Jack in his covert-ops mode. He tried to project his sincerity and belief in what he was doing to the ex-military man. After what seemed like an eternity, the older man relaxed and nodded abruptly.

"All right. I believe you," Jim said at last. "So when do you leave?"

"I booked the return flight for tomorrow morning," Daniel said.

Dismayed, Jim looked at Blair as he asked, "So soon?"

"Well, I figured that I'd either convince Blair or not and I need to get back as soon as possible," Daniel explained apologetically. "We really need to get the text figured out."

Blair nodded and said, "That's all right, Daniel. We understand. What time tomorrow?"

"Ten fifteen, since I know you're probably still not much of a morning person," Daniel teased, trying to bring some humor back.

"Like you are," Blair retorted.

Daniel stood and said, "You'd be surprised."

Goodbyes were said and Daniel handed over the ticket, promising to meet them at the gate in the morning. When the door closed behind him, Blair turned back to Jim and held out his arms. As always, the embrace was both torture and comfort combined. He'd learned early in their friendship how to turn off the desire because he'd figured that Jim would be able to scent it on him. It was just a matter of will over hormones; now it was something automatically done. "You'll be fine. I'll call you the minute we get to Daniel's place and we'll do a little long-distance meditation."

Jim laughed briefly, the rumble deep in his chest. He buried his face in the hollow of Blair's shoulder and throat, where his scent was usually strongest, and took a deep breath. "I'm going to miss you."

"I know. Me, too," Blair sighed.

"You're going to call..."

"The second I get to Daniel's," Blair promised.

"You could call me from the plane," Jim suggested.

Smiling against Jim's chest, Blair said, "I am not calling you from the plane, it's too expensive and they make me nervous anyhow."

"Flying makes you nervous," Jim commented fondly, pulling out of the embrace.

"True," Blair agreed. "I'm going to pack. Make yourself useful and get me some tea."

Jim nodded, swatting his friend lightly on the back of the head, and went into the kitchen while Blair walked to his room. They both knew that he wasn't going to be able to sleep and needed something to do to occupy himself. When the tea was ready, he brought two mugs into the small bedroom and settled cross-legged on the futon, watching as Blair moved around, deciding what to bring. "Simon's going to be thrilled with me on the loose again."

Blair grinned but continued packing. "If you get yourself into trouble while I'm gone, don't expect me to bail you out before this job is done."

"I'll probably be assigned to Connor again."

The grin widened as he folded a sweater and put it in the suitcase. They went through this every time Blair went somewhere without Jim. "I'm sure you'll be able to expand your already very impressive vocabulary."

"I'll clean your room while your gone."

"Touch my room and I'll break your hands when I get back," Blair threatened easily.

"Are you coming back?"

Instantly, Blair stopped and turned to face Jim. A worried expression had taken up residence and Blair went to sit beside him. "This is temporary, Jim. My home is here, my friends are here, and my work is here. I'm coming back."

"What if you like the translation job more than police work?" Jim asked, almost fearfully.

Blair shrugged, knowing exactly what Jim needed to hear. "I probably will. But I won't like it more than I do being your partner."

"Are you sure?"


* * * *

Daniel respected Blair's need for privacy on the flight back to Colorado and opened up a book to read in place of conversation. He was surprised by the stillness of his friend but didn't comment on it. He knew that he wasn't the only one who'd gone through major changes over the last several years.

When they landed, he impatiently waited for the people in front of them to get off. He'd been three days without Jack and was definitely going into withdrawal. He needed to see those dark, humorous eyes and needed to see them now, damn it! He heard a quiet snort and turned to look at Blair. "What?"

"I thought I was the bouncy one in this friendship," Blair observed.

Smiling, somewhat abashed, Daniel said, "Jack's picking us up."

"Ah. The mysterious new relationship, of which you haven't said two words about," Blair guessed.

"I probably should have before now," Daniel said ruefully. "Look, Blair, Jack's Air Force so we're not out. On top of that, he's my team leader though, as a civilian, I have equal authority except in matters of security."

"Ouch," Blair commented.

Shrugging, Daniel said, "We take what we can get. He's not going to be in the Air Force forever and we both know that life and love are too precious to waste."

Blair smiled and said, "I'm happy for you, Daniel, really. And mum's the word, I swear."

Daniel returned the smile then exclaimed, "Finally! C'mon. Let's go."

It took several more minutes to get off the plane and down the ramp, but Daniel could see Jack hovering anxiously by the release gate. He was instantly wrapped in Jack's arms as his lover exclaimed, "Spacemonkey! God, I was starting to get worried!"

Daniel held tight for longer than was strictly normal for two friends but found he didn't care. He breathed in the familiar scent of Jack and leather and found himself losing a tension he hadn't even noticed until just then. Reluctantly, he stepped back and found Blair looking at them with a wistful smile. Reaching over, he dragged Blair closer and introduced, "Blair Sandburg, this is Colonel Jack O'Neill. Jack, this is Blair."

The two men shook hands and Blair questioned with a grin, "Spacemonkey?"

Blushing, Daniel said, "It's a long story and, thankfully, classified."

Chuckling, Jack countered, "It's not all classified, Danny-boy. I could probably fill Blair in on the pertinent parts."

"Only if you want to sleep on the couch tonight," Daniel said sweetly.

"Daniel!" Jack hissed, staring at Blair in alarm.

"It's all right, Jack," Daniel assured him.

"Daniel is like a brother to me," Blair said quietly, but firmly. "I would never do anything to jeopardize him or anyone he loves."

Blair found himself on the receiving end of a stare that felt suspiciously like one Jim would give. He suddenly realized just how unnerving that level of intensity was when you didn't know the source. This was, after all, a man who'd been in the Air Force for a long time, probably a good fifteen, twenty years. Blair easily recognized the cool edge of military on the casually dressed man; he saw it on Jim often enough after all.

But finally Jack nodded and said, "Good. Glad we won't have to pretend since you're staying with him."

Blair smiled and said, "Not at all."

They started walking and Jack said, "Carter's got the laptop all set up for the translation thingy. It's in the car. She said, and I quote, 'I better get it back in the same condition it left or it comes out of your hide, Colonel.' So do me a favor and take care of it, okay, Blair?"

Blair grinned and nodded. "Computers and I have long been friends. Who's Carter?"

"Major Samantha Carter, one of our team," Jack answered as they recovered the luggage. "You'll meet her and Teal'c at some point, I'm sure."

"Teal'c?" Blair repeated.

"The other member of our team," Daniel explained. "And we're having a cookout tomorrow, actually, so you can meet everyone. Janet, Cassie and the General will be there, too."

"They want to make sure our Danny-boy here is still in one piece," Jack said fondly. "We all get a little twitchy when he's out of sight for more than an hour at a time."

There was something almost patronizing in the statement, though the tone didn't quite match the words. Blair frowned to himself and wondered what sort of relationship Daniel and Jack had that the archeologist would permit it. Blair would've knocked Jim on his ass if he'd said something like that to him.

To his surprise, not only didn't Daniel call the older man on it, he grinned and agreed, "More like ten minutes at a time."

"Hey, I was giving you the benefit of the doubt," Jack said, running his hand along Daniel's shoulder lightly.

"Ja-ack," Daniel protested.

Blair's jaw almost dropped at the near-whining tone to his friend's voice. What the hell? Keeping his thoughts to himself, Blair resolved to wait and observe a lot more before saying anything. He was, after all, the outsider and he'd known Jack for less than a half hour. "So how long until we get to your place?"

"It's about an hour's drive," Jack supplied, reaching for the heavy suitcase just as Blair did. "I've got it."

Blair shook his head. "That's okay. I packed it, I'll carry it."

"No, really, I have it," Jack insisted.

Blair was going to protest but Daniel diverted him with, "I'm thirsty. How about coffee?"

"Daniel," Blair began. Daniel grabbed his arm and said, "We'll meet you at the car, Jack. It's in the loading zone?"

Jack nodded and shouldered Daniel's overnight pack with a smile before heading away.

"All right. What was that about?" Blair demanded as Daniel pulled him towards a coffee kiosk. At least he didn't have to worry about Sentinel hearing.

"Jack likes to take care of people," Daniel said simply. "It's just his way."

Blair forced himself not to say anything except, "I can take care of myself."

"I know. And so can I. But it's a small thing and makes Jack happy," Daniel said. "Please, just accept his help if he offers? As a favor to me."

Sighing, Blair looked into the earnest eyes of his friend and knew he'd give in. "All right, all right."

"I should probably warn you that they're all a little, um, over-protective of me," Daniel said as they waited for their order.

"They?" Blair questioned.

"My team," Daniel explained. "And um, I think Teal'c will probably react the same way towards you as Jack. It's a soldier thing. Sam will probably just try and make you eat more."

Shaking his head in confusion, Blair asked, "Why?"

"Well, at first because you're my friend," Daniel answered with a smile as they started walking towards the exit. "But I know that they're going to love you all on their own. They're all really, really great people, the best."

Blair had no idea what to make of the situation but he could tell that Daniel really wanted him to like his friends. And really, if they were friends of Daniel, then they were at the very least going to be interesting. Smiling, Blair shook his head again and said, "You don't have to try so hard, Daniel. I'm sure we'll all get along just fine."

* * * *

Jim picked up the phone on the first ring. "Ellison."

"Hey, big guy, it's me," Blair greeted, his smile evident over the phone.

"Blair! How was the flight? Did you have any trouble getting to Daniel's?" Jim demanded.

"It was fine and we had no trouble, aside from an over-eager Colonel," Blair answered wryly.

Tensing, Jim asked, "What do you mean?"

"Nothing. Daniel's team-leader, Colonel Jack O'Neill, met us at the airport and he wouldn't even let me carry my own suitcase!" Blair exclaimed, indignant. "He even carried the damn thing into my room. I mean, what am I? Helpless?"

Jim relaxed, a grin ghosting over his face. "Hey, you did look about fifteen with all that flannel and your hair down. Probably thought you'd fall over if you tried to pick it up."

"Ha-ha, very funny," Blair muttered.

"Hey Jim! Is that Sandy?" Connor asked, stopping at the desk.

Jim nodded.

"Tell him I said to hurry up and get his cute butt back here," Megan ordered loudly with a wink.

Rolling his eyes, Jim relayed the message and relaxed further at the sound of Blair's laughter.

"Ellison! Connor! My office!" Simon called from his office.

Groaning, Jim said, "Simon just bellowed. I have to go."

"All right. I still have some unpacking to do anyhow. Apparently there's going to be a cookout tomorrow at Jack's where I'll meet the rest of Daniel's team, but nothing else is scheduled so you can reach me here," Blair said.

Jim listened to the sound of his Guide's breathing and extended his hearing to pick up the necessary heartbeat. Reluctantly, he repeated, "I have to go."

"I know. Take care and if you have any problems, call me," Blair ordered sternly.

"I will. Be careful," Jim said.

"You too," Blair echoed.

"Ellison! Sometime today?"

"I'll talk to you in a couple of days then?" Jim asked, ignoring Simon as long as he dared.

"I'll call you after the cookout, how's that? I can't imagine it'll run that late," Blair said. "Go see what Simon wants and sass him for me."

Grinning, Jim promised, "I will. Bye, Chief."

"Bye, Jim."

* * * *

Having only been around Jim, Blair had an image of military people in his mind. It was one of repression, discipline and a distinct lack of humor. Not that Jim didn't have a sense of humor, it just had had to be excavated when they'd first met. The group milling in Jack's back yard did not, happily, fit that image.

Major Samantha Carter, a beautiful woman with long legs, deep blue eyes and short blond hair was both friendly and had a great sense of humor as well as an IQ that gave Daniel a run for his money. Which meant that she left everyone else, Blair included, in the dust. Teal'c was a large, black man, bigger even than Simon, with a strange gold tattoo on his forehead that reminded Blair of an Egyptian mark that he couldn't quite place. The large man was quiet and dignified and had a deep sincerity that instantly put Blair at ease; even more so than Daniel himself did.

General Hammond was a lot like a benevolent but stern grandfather who looked on the festivities with a kind smile and warm laugh. Dr. Janet Frasier was a small, maternal fireball who could give as good as Jack. Cassie was an open and lively teenager who Blair suspected Darryl would fall for in a New York minute.

All in all, they seemed more like a family than people who worked together. Much like the family Blair had found at the Cascade PD with Jim, Simon, Joel, Rafe, H and Connor. It was a chosen family, one that had shed blood and tears together, Blair recognized that right away. He was distressed that Daniel had been in combat situations but, having seen the way he interacted with the others, Blair knew that his friend was more than just a consultant.

"Are you all right, Blair Sandburg?"

Blair looked up at Teal'c and smiled, pointing to the empty seat beside him. "Fine, thanks. Just thinking."

Teal'c nodded and sat, remaining silent as they watched the others. Blair wasn't surprised that the other man understood his need for quiet, Teal'c struck him as a very perceptive man. After a few minutes, he asked, "How long have you known Daniel?"

"Five years," Teal'c answered.

"You're good friends," Blair observed, remembering the gentle smile Teal'c had bestowed upon Daniel when he'd arrived.

Teal'c inclined his head. "Indeed."

"I wouldn't have wished this for him, you know," Blair said quietly. "He's brilliant man and such a good soul. When everyone turned on him, when that bitch left him devastated, it was all I could do to remember my mother's teachings of peace and love and not hunt Sarah down. I looked for him, for years after. My mother searched for him, too, but we could never find him. It never occurred to me to look in the military."

"Life's journeys often take unexpected paths," Teal'c observed thoughtfully.

Blair grinned at him impishly and agreed, "Indeed."

Teal'c gave a faint rumble of laughter and his eyebrow rose, dark eyes shining with good humor at the teasing. "And what of you, Blair Sandburg? How has your life's journey brought you here?"

Smiling somewhat wistfully, Blair thought about Jim as he answered, "I almost got what I've always wanted most."

"A dangerous thing."

The teasing light was gone from Blair's eyes as he confirmed, "Indeed."

They sat in companionable silence until Sam wandered over carrying drinks. "Rootbeer for Teal'c and Daniel said you'd probably like a pilsner."

Blair accepted the beer with a nod and a smile. "Thanks, Sam. Enjoying the sun?"

"Definitely!" Sam agreed, pulling over an empty chair. "It's never this warm, this early in the year."

"That is untrue, Samantha Cater," Teal'c disagreed. "There have been a number of days in recent memory that have been an acceptable temperature to Daniel Jackson."

Grinning, Sam said, "And if it's warm enough for Daniel..."

"It's warm enough," Janet finished with a laugh, joining the small group.

"Hey now, let's not insult the man who's used to desert climates," Daniel protested from his spot at the grill.

Blair watched as Daniel laughed more softly in response to something Jack said. He was still surprised, pleasantly so, to find that everyone in the gathering took the two men's behavior as a matter of course. Even General Hammond looked on them fondly when they had started arguing shortly after everyone had arrived. Grinning, Blair insulted, "Desert heat is nothing compared to jungle heat."

"Oh please. I can take a far higher temperature than you can," Daniel dismissed.

"Right. And when you can say that slogging about in 110% humidity, I'll believe you," Blair teased.

"Why are they arguing about the temperature?" Cassie asked, leaning against her mother.

"They're men, honey," Janet reminded.

"They argue about anything and everything," Sam agreed with a grin.

"Chow's ready," Jack said firmly. "Who had the veggie burger? Blair?"

Chuckling, Blair reminded, "Teal'c said he was going to try one, too."

Everyone returned to their seats after dishing themselves some food and Blair settled in to watch. Conversation ranged from theoretical particle formations and ancient Celtic legends, to who had a shot at next year's hockey pennant and french homework assignments. At some point, music and lanterns were turned on and people wrapped themselves in warmer sweaters, but no move was made to go inside.

By the end of the evening, Blair found himself almost as comfortable with Daniel's friends as he was among his own. And that, in itself, was disturbing. He was confused and more than a little wary at how easily they accepted his presence. He wasn't the smartest person there for a change and it was a relief. He wasn't expected to do anything except what he wanted, whether that was talking or not, and the amount of relief that generated also confused him.

The way Jack and Teal'c hovered didn't provoke him like Jim's hovering did and he couldn't figure out why. Daniel was right about Sam smothering him in attention and food and that, too, unsettled him. Janet and Cassie had made it their mission to make him laugh and he'd more than once been drawn into a frisbee game on the lawn.

When goodbyes were made, Blair found himself genuinely regretting that they had to leave and stood with Daniel and Jack in the driveway as everyone got into their cars. He made sure that Janet and Cassie had their seatbelts on. Had a quiet word with Teal'c. Found himself hugging Sam goodbye. Exchanged friendly smiles with the General and was told in a fatherly tone to take care of himself.

All in all, it was a thoroughly confused Blair who made his way back inside Jack's house.

* * * *

Jim scowled at the phone sitting innocently in its place and willed it to ring. It was almost nine which meant it was almost eleven in Colorado. Surely the cookout would be over with already. He was staring so intently at the phone that he nearly jumped out of his skin when it finally rang. Picking it up, he exclaimed, "Blair?"

"Yeah, Jim, it's me," Blair answered.

"You all right, Chief?" Jim asked, worried by the tired tone.

"Yeah, fine. Just, it's been a long day."

Frowning, Jim asked, "Did they give you a hard time at the cookout?"

"No! No, just the opposite actually. Everyone was really great," Blair said, a smile finally coming through his voice. "How about you? Any zones today? How's Simon doing? Did you guys get together for supper?"

"I'm fine, no zones and Simon's working on his high blood pressure, courtesy of the Mayor," Jim reported with a grin. "We've been volunteered to work security detail on the Best of Cascade Awards Ceremony next week."

"I bet that went over really well," Blair commented with a chuckle.

"Oh yeah. My ears were ringing and I wasn't even in the same building when he found out," Jim joked.

"I'm sure," Blair said wryly. "I think I'm going to turn in, okay Jim?"

"Sure," Jim agreed hesitantly. "Call me tomorrow night?"

"Why don't we make it for Thursday?" Blair suggested. "I'm going to dig into the translation tomorrow and if I get in a groove, I probably won't remember to call."

Grinning, Jim said, "All right. But I hope I can trust Daniel to remind you to eat, if not to sleep."

"No problem. Jack's going to be hanging around. If he didn't let me carry my own bag, I really doubt that he'll let me go without food," Blair said dryly.

"Good for him. I think I like him already," Jim said. He paused then continued, "Night, Chief."

"Night Jim. Sleep well, okay big guy?" Blair said.

"You too," Jim ordered lightly.

He listened to Blair's breathing and heartbeat for a few minutes before Blair asked, "Good for now?"

Sighing, Jim answered, "Not really, but it'll do. Night, Blair."

"Night, Jim."

* * * *

"But see, it's another symbol that totally doesn't match the language," Blair exclaimed, frustrated. "It's more like a hieroglyph than a character and certainly not one that I've ever seen before. They're all over the place, usually in sets of seven, and it's driving me nuts!"

Daniel nodded sympathetically. "Just create a list of the symbols, and where they appear in the text, and we'll figure them out later. You're doing a great job on the translation of the text and that's really all we need."

"But Daniel, it doesn't make any sense. Why would a variant of ancient Quechua even have hieroglyphs? It's just not that kind of language," Blair protested.

"Blair. You're getting sidetracked," Daniel said patiently. "We don't need you to translate the symbols, just the text."

Scowling, Blair nodded and temporarily set aside the mystery. It was nearing two months since he'd arrived in Colorado and the translation was actually almost done. Daniel had given him free reign and Blair had discovered that his friend's resources were considerable indeed. He'd been working out of Daniel's apartment instead of an office somewhere, which was a little weird, but didn't make a difference to Blair.

Daniel would disappear for a few days at a time for his work but that, too, didn't bother Blair. Daniel always gave him the time and date when he'd be back and simply said that it was work related. Unfortunately, when Daniel disappeared, everyone else did too because they were all on the same team. Though Janet and Cassie did stop in to make sure he ate and took care of himself whenever Daniel and Jack weren't there to do it.

Shaking his head, Blair returned his attention to the text in front of him and rubbed his eyes. He was getting more and more antsy without being able to see Jim and knew the Sentinel was starting to balk at the distance as well. They spent more and more time on the phone saying nothing, just listening to each other's breathing. It was almost a physical ache at not being able to touch and be touched by Jim.

"Hey, you all right?" Daniel asked softly. He reached over and rubbed Blair's shoulder, startled by the rock-hard tension in the muscles. "Blair, why didn't you say anything? You're a mess here."

Blair shrugged away from the touch, standing up and walking towards the balcony.

"You know, I'm surprised you made it this long away from him," Daniel said quietly.

Startled, Blair looked at his friend and asked, "What do you mean?"

"I mean I didn't think that Guides were able to be out of touch with their Sentinels for so long without something really adverse happening to one or both," Daniel clarified.

Stiffening, Blair said, "I don't know what you're talking about."

Smiling faintly, Daniel said, "C'mon Blair, it's me, remember? I remember everything that you used to spout about Sentinels and Guides. I also know for a fact that you would never falsify your results. That press conference was just to cover Jim's ass because your mother messed up."

Angry, Blair demanded, "What do you know about it?"

"I know what Jack found out," Daniel answered. "When I first brought up your name, he ran a security check on you. I've read Jim's service record. Combine what I know of Sentinels and Jim's circumstances, and the fact that you two are living together but not lovers, and it only makes sense that Jim really is a Sentinel. And that you're his Guide."

Feeling faint, Blair swore, "Fuck."

"Jack, General Hammond and I are the only ones who know," Daniel assured him. "We would never expose Jim to that kind of danger, even if you weren't a friend."

"But you figured it out! Daniel, you don't understand. We've already had trouble with the CIA and some of Jim's old military superiors," Blair wailed. Getting himself under control with an effort, Blair took a few deep breaths. "If you figured it out, it's only a matter of time before someone else does, too."

"What would you do if someone else did figure it out?" Daniel asked.

"We'd be gone so fast that you'd hear the sonic boom from here," Blair stated flatly. "We've already got escape routes planned for a bunch of different scenarios."

"What about an alternative?" Daniel offered.

Frowning suspiciously, Blair asked, "What kind of alternative?"

"I think it's time that you see exactly what I do for a living," Daniel said. "Get your coat, we're going to take a trip."

"Daniel, I don't want you to get in trouble for..."

"I won't get in trouble," Daniel interrupted with a smile. "We've been courting you, Blair."

"Pardon me?"

Grinning now, Daniel said, "We want you to work for us, you and Jim. General Hammond wanted to meet you and see how you interacted with everyone before making the offer. He's very impressed with you, likes you almost as much as he does me."

Snorting, Blair muttered, "Teacher's pet."

"You betcha," Daniel agreed easily. "Now get your coat and come on."

* * * *

Blair knew that he really should find a way to close his mouth, but couldn't seem to remember how. They'd arrived at the base and gone through security procedures that would do Fort Knox proud. Then he'd been treated to a hellishly long elevator ride and that had him anticipating decompression to get back to the surface. Almost everyone they passed by in the corridors had friendly words of greeting for Daniel, and that included a group of rather intimidating marines.

He was brought to a conference room where Jack and General Hammond were waiting for them. Jack, as usual, looked like he knew a joke that he wasn't going to share. The General greeted him with a smile and motioned him towards a wall. Blair stood there a moment then asked, "What am I looking for? Dirt?"

Grinning, Jack flipped a switch and Blair jumped back as the wall started to move, revealing clear glass beneath. On the other side of the glass was a large, metal circle with a ramp at the bottom. He instantly recognized the symbols as the ones he hadn't been able to translate and turned to Daniel accusingly. "You already know what those symbols are!"

"They're address symbols," Daniel confirmed.

"Address symbols? For where?" Blair demanded suspiciously.

"Other planets," Jack supplied helpfully.

"Right," Blair scoffed. Then he took in the General's expression and said, "You're not joking."

"No, son, we're not. That device is called the Stargate. This base is Stargate Command and we're on the front lines of a war that humanity can't afford to lose," General Hammond explained seriously. "Dr. Jackson can fill you in on the details, but I want to assure you that if you and Detective Ellison come work for us, you will be given the highest levels of protection possible."

"Highest levels?" Blair asked faintly.

"I answer only to the President and Joint Chiefs, Mr. Sandburg," General Hammond stated simply. "You can't get much better than that. On top of that, Detective Ellison's abilities will not be noted in any medical record to help secure his safety, as we have had to deal with leaks in the past. Only us three and Dr. Frasier will know about his senses, unless you take it upon yourselves to inform the rest of SG1, of course."

"SG1?" Blair was starting to feel like a parrot.

Grinning, Jack said, "That's our team. Basically we go, we see and we contact. Or, Daniel does anyhow. We're mostly there to protect him and make sure no one gets hurt."

"But, but how would you explain Jim coming to work here? I mean, I gather you can explain me away without any problems, but Jim's another story," Blair pointed out.

Jack shrugged and said, "Given Ellison's expertise in survival, reconnaissance, and field medicine, we have plenty right there and then to bring him back to active duty."

"But he's not Air Force," Blair pointed out, worried. "They could take him away if he's active again."

"Special dispensation, son," General Hammond assured him. "I will make certain that Detective Ellison reports only to Jack and myself. And you would be working directly for Dr. Jackson."

Torn, Blair stared out at the Stargate.

"Teal'c is an alien," Jack said suddenly.

Startled, Blair looked over at the unusually serious dark eyes.

"Teal'c was First Prime, a general of sorts, for an evil snakehead named Apophis," Jack continued. "He has a parasite living in his belly that has replaced his immune system, gives him incredible healing abilities and will keep him alive decades longer than the normal human life span. If we can protect him from the scum-sucking assholes who want to dissect him, we can protect Ellison."

"Just think about it, Blair," Daniel urged. "Not only would Jim be safe, he would be working to protect more than just the immediate tribe of Cascade. He'd be working to protect his world. What kind of Sentinel wouldn't want that kind of opportunity?"

"And if he doesn't want it?" Blair countered.

"Then you finish your translation job and we'll contact you if any more come up," General Hammond said easily. "We're not going to do anything to jeopardize him, son. As a matter of fact, I've taken it upon myself to pull all of his service and medical records and keep them here at the SGC where they'll be free from prying eyes. No matter what your decision. If you want, I'll hand them over to you and you can burn them. Along with destroying the copy of your original dissertation."

Furious, Blair exclaimed, "All copies of that were already supposed to be destroyed! That bastard!"

"I think he was going to wait a couple of years and then try to ghost write it as fiction," Daniel said. "Fortunately, Jack gets paid the big bucks to be very good at sneaking around."

"Hey! I do not sneak," Jack protested. He winked at Blair and finished, "I skulk."

Just then, Blair's attention was drawn back to the Stargate as a strange, blue-white, mini-explosion occurred then stabilized into a pool in the center of the metal circle. From the pool came four people dressed in fatigues, carrying weapons and bags of some kind.

"Oh, sweet! It looks like Ferretti brought back more souvenirs," Jack crowed. "Permission to go harass SG3, sir?"

Obviously trying not to smile, Hammond nodded and said, "Permission granted, Colonel. Just watch out for the blue ones this time."

Grinning, Jack nodded and headed out of the conference room.

Blair was still staring open-mouthed at the Stargate that was now just a metal ring again. "This's just..."

"Overwhelming?" Daniel supplied helpfully.

Blair nodded.

"Take your time and think it over, Mr. Sandburg," General Hammond said. "We would love for both you and Detective Ellison to join us here, could use men of your talents. I can arrange a ticket for Detective Ellison whenever you wish."

"Thank you, sir," Blair said, finally shaking himself into some semblance of normality, however frail. The General nodded then left the conference room as well, leaving Daniel and Blair alone. He looked at his friend and said, "Damn, Daniel, you sure know how to show up a guy, don't you?"

Smiling, Daniel motioned to the table and took a seat as well. "Not on purpose, believe me, Blair. One minute I was standing on the sidewalk with two small suitcases as my sole belongings and the next, I was being offered a translation job by the Air Force. Oh! You have to meet Catherine! She's the one who found me and brought me in."

"Shau'ri was from another planet, right?" Blair guessed.

Daniel nodded. "We met on the first mission to Abydos. Jack, Feretti and I are the only surviving members of the original team. Catherine had given me a necklace that depicted the Eye of Ra and they mistook me for one of his agents. So, to keep their God happy, they gave her to me."

"Ra and Apophis. They're both Ancient Egyptian Gods," Blair said slowly.

Daniel nodded again. "Right. Many of our legends were subverted by the aliens. Thousands of humans were taken as slaves and scattered throughout the universe by the Goa'uld. So far we've met up with Hathor, Seth, Hueruer, Thor, and Sokar. The Goa'uld are evil, Blair, and they destroy whatever they touch. They take humans as hosts and imprison them in their own bodies, helpless to do anything but watch the horror these parasites bring about. Ahmonet, Apophis' queen, used Shau'ri as her host. Teal'c had to kill her to save my life."

"Oh Daniel, I'm so sorry," Blair breathed.

Sighing, Daniel managed a smile and said, "You can understand why this is a bit personal for me."

"Sure, absolutely," Blair assured him.

"But even if it wasn't, I'd still be here. Without the SGC, Earth doesn't stand a chance," Daniel stated. "As it is, we're on shaky grounds. SG1 is personally on the shit list of every major Goa'uld out there because we've taken down so many of them. If they ever all band together, Earth is in deep, deep trouble. That's why we go out on missions. To make allies and find technology that will help us in the war. Earth can't afford to remain as divided as it is or we're all lost."

Blair ran a hand through his hair and asked, "What, specifically, would Jim and I be doing?"

"You would be assigned to SG1 as Jim's Guide and first contact specialist and I would remain as linguist and archeologist," Daniel said. "Jim would be working with Jack and Teal'c on the military side of things, whatever that encompasses."

"What does Sam do?" Blair asked.

Daniel grinned. "Sam is there just to make the rest of us feel useless."

Blair chuckled and said, "I can see that."

"Sam is our payload specialist and mechanical expert. If it has moving parts, it falls under her jurisdiction. If it speaks a foreign language, it's mine. If it starts shooting, it's Jack and Teal'c's," Daniel explained.

"So, what...we get to a new planet, you see if we can talk to them. If we can, I take over and establish relations. If they start shooting, Jack, Teal'c and Jim grab us and send us running for cover?" Blair asked.

"Pretty much," Daniel agreed. "And Sam falls under that category too, don't forget. It's only you and me who're pushed to the middle of the group like the academics we are."

"Stay in the truck," Blair muttered with a reluctant grin.

Daniel frowned curiously at the comment then asked, "Thoughts?"

Grinning, Blair said, "Lots of them but really, I can't say anything until Jim gets here and sees everything for himself."

"Yes!" Daniel exclaimed.

* * * *

"I haven't seen you bounce like this since Cascade," Daniel observed with a grin, leaning against a pillar.

Blair ignored the teasing as he rolled again to his tip-toes looking for Jim through the crowd exiting the airplane. Finally, Jim appeared and it took all of Blair's will not to shove everyone aside to get to him. Jim's eyes locked onto his as he strode across the distance, discretely pushing through the crowd. He dropped his overnight bag and engulfed Blair in a hug.

For the first time in almost two months, Blair felt his body truly relax. The familiar heat of his Sentinel warmed him. The steady beating of his Sentinel's heart was beneath his ear, soothing him. The strength and protection of his Sentinel's arms surrounded him. Blair could feel the soft inhalations as Jim breathed him in, almost nuzzling at his throat in his greeting.

Daniel watched the reunion with something akin to awe. It was as though Blair soaked in Jim's strength, right before his eyes, when Daniel hadn't even realized that Blair was missing something so vital. The two men just stood there, completely oblivious to the stares they were getting. Someone nudged him and Daniel jumped, not having noticed Jack's approach.

"Do we do that?" Jack murmured into his ear.

Daniel shrugged and murmured back, "I have no idea. If we do, there's no way we're as in the closet as we thought we were."

Jack snorted softly and squeezed his arm. "Should we wait or attempt to pry them apart with a crowbar?"

"Crowbars are not recommended."

Startled that his quiet comment had been heard, Jack looked back at the two men to find the newcomer looking at him, no, scrutinizing him, his arm now around Blair's shoulder. Stepping forward, he held out his hand and greeted, "Jack O'Neill, fly-boy extrordinaire and all around pain in the ass."

A grin teased at Ellison's lips as he took the hand and replied, "Jim Ellison, detective and similar all around, pain in the ass. Or so I'm told."

"No, no, no. I keep telling you. You're a repressed pain in the ass," Blair corrected with a happy grin.

"Oh, right. How could I forget? Must've repressed it," Jim replied, smiling down at Blair. He turned his gaze to Daniel and said, "Good to see you again."

"You, too, Jim. Come on, let's get your things and we'll head back," Daniel suggested with a smile. "It's too late to meet up with everyone tonight so we're going in to the base tomorrow."

"Sounds like a plan," Jim agreed. He kept his arm around Blair's shoulder as they walked, soaking in the contact like a sponge.

"Oh, and we're going to bunk at Jack's since he's got the extra bedrooms," Daniel continued.

It didn't take long to get Jim's suitcase and return to the car. Jim didn't say a word when Jack picked up the luggage, he just tightened his grip on Blair and nodded his thanks to the other man. Jack half-smiled and nodded back. Jack and Daniel carried most of the conversation on the way to Jack's house, rambling on about sports and arguing about who's turn it was to cook. Jim and Blair were sitting almost on top of each other, keeping contact the entire ride.

"Nice place," Jim commented, getting out of the car.

Jack smiled proudly and said, "Thanks! I don't get to dig in the dirt as much as I want but that's okay, Daniel does it enough for the both of us."

"Ja-ack," Daniel groaned, unlocking the front door.

"So how'd your Captain take the news of your vacation?" Jack asked, motioning for them to follow down the hall. "This is your room."

Jim looked around the pleasant room and nodded in satisfaction. "He wasn't too happy, that's for sure. But then, I haven't been my most charming lately either, so he didn't put up too much of a fuss."

Blair laughed. "I'll bet."

"Are you hungry? We could put something together," Daniel offered from the door.

"Nah, I'm fine, thanks," Jim refused.

"Well, we'll leave you two to talk," Jack said. "Bathroom is the next door down and it's got a shower."

"Night Jack, Daniel," Blair said.

Jack and Daniel both said goodbye and left the room, closing the door behind them.

Blair instantly turned and walked into Jim's arms again. "God, I missed you!"

Jim tightened his grip briefly and said, "Missed you too, Chief. There's not a trace of you left in the loft and I was starting to go a little nuts. I know I was getting on Simon's last nerve, hanging around him so much."

Blair chuckled and looked up into Jim's eyes. "So you're saying that he's not going to give me any more vacation time ever, is that it?"

Grinning, Jim answered, "I'd say that's a definite. Unless I go with you, of course."

"Of course," Blair agreed. He squeezed Jim then moved them to sit on the bed.

"Time to talk, hm?" Jim guessed.

"What makes you think that?" Blair asked innocently.

"Uh huh," Jim said knowingly. "Talk, Junior."

Blair pushed Jim further onto the bed until they were both resting with their backs against the walls and leaning comfortably on each other. He pulled Jim's arm around his shoulder and said, "They've offered me a job here. Permanently."

Jim sighed. "I thought they might."

"They know we're a package deal, Jim. I'm not going to go anywhere without you," Blair said softly. "They have a position here for you, too and I think you're really going to like it."

Frowning, Jim asked, "What is it?"

Blair rested his head on Jim's shoulder and answered, "I don't want to tell you, I'd rather just show you tomorrow. And I'm not trying to make things difficult, I swear. It will just be a lot easier to show you what's involved than to try and explain it."

"All right."

Blair looked at him suspiciously. "That's it? You're agreeing to it just like that?"

Jim smiled and nudged him with his chin. "Tomorrow's not that far away and if it saves us from spending our first night back together talking, I'm all for it."

Rolling his eyes, Blair said, "I should've known."

They sat like that for a while then Blair asked, "So what do you want to do?"

Hesitantly, Jim asked, "Can I just ah, sleep with you here? I haven't had a decent night's sleep since you left."

Blair sighed deeply and pressed his ear to Jim's chest. "Me either, big guy. Let's get ready for bed."

* * * *

"It's awfully quiet in there," Jack repeated, glancing down the hall.

Daniel grinned and said, "I keep telling you that they're not lovers, Jack. I'm sure that they're sound asleep by now. Blair said that was probably what they'd do. He called it reconnecting."

"Pretty weird needing to have someone with you 24/7," Jack observed, settling down beside Daniel.

Daniel wrapped his arms around Jack's waist and said, "How's it different from us? You were positively insatiable when I got back with Blair and I'd only been gone three days."

"Yeah but, like you said, they're not lovers," Jack pointed out, rubbing his hand over Daniel's thigh. "Besides, I don't lose control of my senses if you're gone for a couple of days."

"Nope. Just your sanity," Daniel quipped.

Growling, Jack pushed Daniel onto his back on the couch and crouched over him. "Is that so, Dr. Jackson?"

Staring up at him, Daniel murmured, "Absolutely, Colonel O'Neill."

Jack leaned down and captured his lips, slowly lowering himself full-bodied onto Daniel, relishing the contact. Pulling back from the kiss, he said, "We could stand a little reconnecting ourselves, Spacemonkey."

Daniel smiled happily and wrapped his arms around Jack's neck, pulling him in for another kiss. It had been almost a week since they'd last been able to make love and he thought he was going to die with want. Still, as much as he wanted it... "Jack. Jack, stop. Jack!"

Irritated, Jack pulled up and demanded, "What?"

"Big ears, remember? Why don't we go upstairs," Daniel suggested.

It took a few seconds for Daniel's comment to penetrate the passion-induced fog surrounding Jack's brain. When it did, he sighed and rolled off of Daniel then helped his lover to his feet muttering, "He'd better be wearing ear plugs because I don't stay quiet for anyone in my own home."

* * * *

Eyes sparkling with mischief, Blair watched Daniel moving cautiously around the kitchen before sitting down with a wince. Blair entered the room and asked brightly, "Have a good time last night Daniel?"

Daniel glared at him sleepily and observed, "You're obscenely cheerful this morning."

"That's because some of us actually slept last night," Blair said, pouring two mugs of coffee. He fixed them how he and Jim liked them then moved towards the table, handing Jim his mug as the other man entered the kitchen.

"Slept like a baby, too," Jim added innocently.

Daniel looked at him suspiciously but refrained from comment. "Jack got called into the base about an hour ago. We just got an unexpected visitor."

"Really?" Blair asked excitedly.

Grimacing, Daniel nodded. "No one to be too thrilled with, don't worry. You could call them a necessary evil."

"Sounds like a bureaucrat," Jim commented with a grin.

Snorting, Daniel said, "Just about. In any case, I figure by the time we finish breakfast, Jack and the others should be done. Then Jim can meet the team and we can fill him in. Unless, did you already...?"

"Nope. I thought the same little demonstration you gave me would be more effective," Blair said with a grin.

Now it was Jim's turn to look suspicious. "Should I be worried?"

Bouncing in his seat, Blair intoned, "Be afraid, be very afraid, bwahahaha."

Rolling his eyes, Jim swatted Blair upside the head.

* * * *

There was something weird about the base. A smell that didn't make sense and it was putting Jim on edge. They went through what looked like normal security procedures and down an elevator. Jim was pleasantly surprised by the respect that both the officers and enlisted men showed Daniel as they walked through the halls. Jim stopped abruptly, catching a stronger patch of that disturbing scent.

"What's wrong, Jim?" Blair asked.

Shaking his head, Jim looked around and said, "I don't know. Something just...smells wrong."

Nonplused, Daniel asked, "What does it smell like?"

"No idea," Jim admitted. His skin was starting to crawl and he suddenly wanted the reassuring weight of his gun in his hand.

"Do you hear anything that sounds out of place? Maybe it's just because we're so far underground. That could be messing with you," Blair suggested, rubbing Jim's back soothingly.

"I guess," Jim agreed reluctantly.

"Well, everyone's in the conference room waiting for us, so why don't we go on," Daniel said, looking at Jim with obvious fascination.

Jim nodded but gripped Blair's sweater tightly, keeping his senses on alert for the danger. Blair accepted the grip without complaint and they started walking again. They walked a short distance further then entered a room. Keeping his fingers wrapped in Blair's sweater, Jim's nostril flared upon distinguishing a wrong smell in the room. His eyes scanned over the room's inhabitants and locked onto a large black man talking quietly with Jack.

Stopping short, Jim breathed deeply, inhaling the strange smell. Frowning, he demanded, "What is that?"

Surprised, Blair replied, "His name is Teal'c, he's a friend."

Staring at Teal'c suspiciously, Jim shook his head. "He doesn't smell right, Chief. But, I know that smell, I just don't know why."

"That's amazing!" Daniel exclaimed. "Teal'c is Jaffa, not human. That means that he has a larva Goa'uld as a symbiote that functions as his immune system."

The others had approached and were waiting while Daniel explained.

"Detective Ellison, I'm General Hammond," a portly older man with a mostly bald head said, holding out his hand.

Jim shook it but warily kept his eyes on Teal'c. He was introduced to Major Carter and Dr. Fraiser as well, and then Teal'c at the last. When they shook hands, a jolt of energy went through Jim. He was suddenly on the receiving end of a stranglehold around his throat. Large, dark hands had wrapped around his windpipe and were squeezing.

It took a few tries, but Jim managed to dislodge the grip with help from the others. He spun, grabbing hold of Blair in the process, and staggered to the door. He knew he would ultimately lose to the man in single combat, there was too much strength in that body. His job was to get Blair safe, then he could deal with the Jaffa thing as best he could.

"Wait! Wait! Jim, it's all right!" Daniel shouted.

Jim paused at the door, looking back over his shoulder.

Teal'c looked positively ashen as he stood in a ring of people. Jack was still holding onto a massive shoulder with one hand and the shirt with his other. Meeting the dark eyes, Jim saw shame and apology. It didn't reassure him enough to let Blair come out from behind him but Jim turned all the way around to face his attacker.

Blair's hands were twisted in his shirt, the smaller man's body pressed close to his back. Angrily, he exclaimed, "What the hell is going on!? You promised that Jim would be safe here! Teal'c, how could you?"

The jerk of anguish from Teal'c at the accusation and betrayal in Blair's voice was actually what convinced Jim not to take flight. Crossing his arms over his chest, Jim assumed a waiting stance.

"I am sorry," Teal'c said simply. "The Goa'uld within me compelled me to action. Please believe that I wish you no harm, Detective Ellison."

"Can't you control it?" Jim asked.

Pained, Teal'c replied, "I have been able to do so in the past. When we touched..."

"I felt it too," Jim confirmed.

"Felt what?" Blair demanded suspiciously.

"Felt like I'd been run through with electricity. My first impulse, after getting free, was to get you to safety," Jim explained, half-turning to Blair but keeping his eyes on Teal'c.

"I, too, felt a strong jolt of recognition. I do not know what Detective Ellison is, but he is no ordinary Tau'ri," Teal'c said. "I think the Goa'uld within me knows that he is a threat and moved to destroy him so swiftly that I had no forewarning. Rest assured, Blair Sandburg, it will not happen again."

Blair's fists slowly unclenced and Jim felt the hands spread over his lower back. He could practically hear the other man thinking the matter over. If it had been an offense against Blair himself, Jim knew Teal'c would already be forgiven. But the Guide within Blair wouldn't allow such a substantial threat to Jim go, not easily at any rate.

"Can I see it?" Jim asked suddenly.

The slight widening of his eyes was the only indication Teal'c gave of surprise. Wordlessly, he pulled up his shirt. After a moment, he touched the side of his abdomen and pressed in, forcing the Goa'uld within to come out.

Jim moved forward, Blair following closely. Under Teal'c's scent was the pure smell of the serpent and that he kept an internal lock on. He frowned, noticing something odd. But it, too, was wrong somehow. "When does it mature?"

"Within the year," Teal'c answered.

Jim moved even closer, ignoring the way Blair's hands tensed on his back as he scented the larger man carefully with a frown. There was something different...something not right. He fought down the primal sentinel's need to destroy it and listened to the noises within Teal'c for a long time, closing his eyes to concentrate. Teal'c's broad, strong hands grasped his shoulders as Jim lightly touched the opening in such a way that would keep the serpent exposed.

The sinuous form hissed and Jim carefully gripped it behind the neck, feeling the hands on his shoulders tighten almost imperceptibly in fear. He tilted the serpent for a better look then, with a silent snarl to the enemy, let it retreat within its bower and straightened. Looking Teal'c in the eye, he said, "This one will not mature."

Teal'c's jaw dropped slightly and he heard gasps from others in the room.

"It will reach the end of its juvenile period in approximately eight months," Teal'c informed him.

Jim shrugged and stepped back, turning to Blair and pulling him close to flush away the serpent's stink. "That may have been true but it has been...altered. Did you...did it die and then get revived somehow?"

From the looks that the team members exchanged, Jim knew he was right. He lowered his face into Blair's hair and breathed in the comfort his partner wordlessly offered. To be so close to the serpent and not kill it had drained him. He was aware of the curious stares everyone was throwing at him but ignored them.

"Are you sure?" Teal'c asked gravely.

Jim nodded, just as serious. "It's missing something. Don't know what, but it's not going to transform. You're safe from it."

There was a look of stunned disbelief on the black man's face and he said, "Excuse me, General Hammond. I need to..."

Everyone else was shocked enough not to make a sound as Teal'c strode from the room. It was Daniel who broke the silence with a vibrantly happy, "Welcome to Stargate Command, Detective Ellison."

That seemed to push everyone into remembering that they had voices and finally General Hammond looked pointedly at Jack who brought his fingers to his lips and gave a piercing whistle.

Jim groaned faintly as the whistle went right through him. He grimaced at Jack's look of apology but didn't say anything.

"All right, people. If you'll all have a seat, we can get this meeting under way. Gentlemen, you're excused," Hammond ordered the guards.

Jim took the seat between Daniel and Blair, still feeling awkward around everyone else, even Jack.

"For formal introductions, this is Detective James Ellison. Around the table we have Major Doctor Samantha Carter, Dr. Janet Frasier and you know Colonel O'Neill and Dr. Jackson," General Hammond introduced.

Jim nodded to the women and managed a smile.

"Detective Ellison, have you and Mr. Sandburg come to a decision about accepting positions with the SGC?" General Hammond asked.

"I have some questions first," Jim said.

"Of course. What are they?" General Hammond asked.

Trying not to be insulting, but needing to be as blunt as possible, Jim asked, "Do we just disappear from Cascade never to be seen again or are we allowed to maintain contact with family and friends?"

"This isn't Black Ops, Detective, this is the Air Force," General Hammond replied dryly. "You will sign a standard non-disclosure contract but are free to leave any time you wish with proper notification."

"Right. And how much notice would we be allowed to give at our current jobs?"

"We would, of course, like you here as soon as possible. Would three weeks be enough time?" General Hammond offered.

Surprised, Jim nodded and looked at Blair. He knew his partner was urging him to say yes but he wanted, no, needed to be thorough. "What sort of training will we have to go through?"

"You'll both be certified in self defense and weapons before you're allowed to go through the Gate," General Hammond answered.

Looking over at Major Carter, Jim questioned, "Do you like working here?"

Plainly startled, Sam said, "Yeah. Actually, I wouldn't want to be anywhere else."

"So you're treated well here."

Frowning, Sam answered, "I'm not sure what you're asking, detective. If you mean do I get hassled for being a woman, the answer's no. I mean, there are a few marines whose asses I've kicked over the years, but most of them have never bothered me. If you're asking is this a fair working environment, then the answer to that is yes. General Hammond is a great CO and Colonel O'Neill is competent and fair minded. We've had our share of personality conflicts," and here she grinned at Jack before continuing, "but we always manage to work through them."

"Just competent, Carter?" Jack complained.

She grinned but didn't reply.

Turning his attention to the doctor, he asked, "What sort of tests do you have in mind for me? For my abilities?"

Janet frowned. "I was under the impression that Mr. Sandburg already has all the pertinent information about your abilities so I wasn't planning on any tests. Should I be?"

Blair rolled his eyes at Jim and murmured, "That's not very nice, big guy."

Jim grinned at the nearly inaudible comment and said to the doctor, "No, you're right. Blair has all my info squirreled away somewhere."

In the entire room, there wasn't a dishonest heart beating. Jim knew that as surely as if they were all hooked up to lie-detectors. It was just hard for him to trust in the same military who had let his men die and discarded him to the jungle for a year and a half.

Almost as though he knew what Jim was thinking, Jack leaned around Daniel and said, "This isn't the military that you're used to dealing with, Jim. You aren't going to be carted away somewhere and dissected, or locked away and left to rot. We've dealt with NID goons who wanted to take Teal'c away for just those things and there's no way we'd let them take you. You and Blair would both be safe here. You've got all our words on it."

Jim looked away from Jack's earnest dark eyes to look into the eyes of his Guide. "You want to do this."

Blair nodded, barely breathing in his excitement.

Sighing faintly, praying that he wasn't going to regret this decision, Jim turned back to General Hammond and said, "You've got yourself two more men, sir."