The quiet of the Major Crimes department was shattered by Simon's bellow, even with his door closed, of, "You're what?"
Jim flinched at the sheer noise level that Simon had reached and looked around for escape. Blair was doing the same thing but the little bastard was already standing so his inching towards the door of Simon's office wasn't really noticeable. "We're giving our notice."
His voice sounding almost reasonable, Simon asked, "And why is that, detectives?"
Jim hated it when Simon sounded reasonable, bad things tended to happen directly thereafter. "I've been recalled to active duty and Blair's going with me because of the Sentinel stuff."
"I see. And they're just going to let him tagalong on whatever missions you might have," Simon said.
"Yes, sir," Jim said nervously.
Jim saw Blair edge slightly closer to the door and vowed revenge. Maybe waking his partner up with ice some day at five in the morning. Yeah. That sounded good.
"And just how much notice are you giving me?" Simon asked.
"Three weeks," Jim answered, reflexively shifting back in his chair.
"Oh knock it off, Ellison," Simon growled, pulling out a cigar and jabbing the air with it. "And plant your skinny ass down, Sandburg."
Somewhat guiltily, Blair moved to the chair beside Jim.
"Want to tell me what's really going on, gentlemen?" Simon asked wearily. "I think I've been pretty patient with all the cloak and dagger crap that you've been going through the last couple of months."
Leaning forward, Blair said, "We're really sorry, Simon, but we can't give you any details. We've both signed non-disclosure statements."
"Great," Simon growled. "Can you at least tell me where you'll be? Are you in trouble?"
"We're going to be in Colorado and no, we aren't in trouble," Jim said. "As a matter of fact, this is actually the safest place for me to be, Sandburg too."
"We'll still be in touch, Simon," Blair added. "It's not like we're just disappearing without a trace. We'll give you our new address and phone number and you can come visit."
Still obviously unhappy, Simon sighed. "Well, it's not like I have a choice here, is it?"
"Not really," Jim said apologetically.
"Colorado?" Simon repeated incredulously. "Sandburg, you hate the cold."
"I know," Blair said glumly.
"I'll have to ship Darryl to you for a trip in the winter. Joan sent him to ski camp a couple of years ago and he loved it," Simon said wryly.
"Hey yeah! That would be cool," Blair exclaimed with a grin. "You could do a Father/Son thing."
"The day you see me on skis is the day before I get carted off to the funny farm," Simon said flatly. An evil grin spread across his face as he asked almost cheerfully, "So, Sandburg. Talk to Naomi about this yet?"
Groaning, Blair shook his head. "No. And if you have any shred of feeling for me, you won't tell her what's going on if you talk to her before I do."
"You're going to have to tell her some time," Jim pointed out, his grin matching Simon's.
"You two suck, I hope you know that," Blair said sourly.
Jim chuckled, relieved when Simon joined in. "In any case, we wanted to tell you right away so you could start planning."
"We aren't going to find replacements by the time you leave," Simon said, mentally going through candidates. "Any suggestions?"
What followed was an hour-long brainstorming session on potential recruits and then an announcement to the rest of Major Crimes. There were shocked exclamations and demands from the rest of the group. Blair wasn't surprised that no work got done the rest of the afternoon.
By the time they got back to the loft, Blair was exhausted, both emotionally and physically. They'd been up since six a.m. Colorado time and it was almost seven p.m., Cascade time; fifteen hours of rushing around and travel. His eyes were barely open as he followed Jim up the stairs carrying their overnight bags as Jim hauled up the suitcases. They made it through the door before Blair dropped the bags and headed towards his room mumbling, "Bed now. See you tomorrow."
He heard a half-hearted good night from Jim just before collapsing on his futon and crawling under the covers, fully dressed.
* * * *
To Blair's surprise, he woke half under the near-crushing weight of his roommate the next morning. Jim was draped over him, one arm thrown possessively across his back and a long leg pinned his legs down. He could smell the ripe odor of his roommate and shivered lightly at the concentrated smell. Taking a deliberately calming breath, Blair pushed aside the desire with the ease of long practice and shifted, knowing it would wake the other man.
After a moment, Jim echoed the shift and yawned before pressing his face into the back of Blair's neck.
Grinning, Blair murmured, "Time to get up, big guy."
Jim stilled then pushed himself onto his elbow. "How the hell did I wind up in here?"
"Got me. I was here first," Blair teased.
Shaking his head in amusement, Jim rolled off the futon and groaned. "I am way the hell too old to be sleeping on a futon. Coffee?"
"Yes. Please, please, please," Blair begged shamelessly, getting up and heading towards the bathroom.
They were sitting comfortably at the kitchen table, eating as Jim read the paper and Blair slowly woke the rest of the way up. Blair didn't even move when the phone rang, he just continued to breathe in the elixir of life, otherwise known as coffee, and waited for Jim to get up. After two more rings, Jim rolled his eyes and did just that. Blair grinned into his coffee.
"Naomi! What a pleasant surprise," Jim greeted. "Why yes, he's right here. And he's got big news to tell you. Oh you did? I agree, must be mother's intuition."
Blair shot him a dirty look as he got up and snatched the phone from Jim and hissed, "Thanks, partner."
"Anytime, Sandburg. Just be thankful I've decided to forget about the ice," Jim answered.
Staring at his roommate, Blair shook his head at the weird comment and put the phone to his ear. "Mom. Hi."
"Blair! Sweetie! I am so glad I finally got a hold of you! Where have you been? I've had the strangest feeling the last couple of weeks that something major was going on with you," Naomi exclaimed.
"First, everything is just fine," Blair assured her firmly. "And there have been a few fairly major changes around here so it's good that you called."
"I knew it! So? What's going on?" Naomi asked.
"Um, Jim and I have been offered jobs," Blair explained. "They're in Colorado, though, so we're going to be moving."
"You've both been offered jobs? My goodness, Blair, that's wonderful," Naomi exclaimed. "What kind of jobs? Is it at a university?"
"No, not really," Blair said hesitantly. "Now, keep in mind that this is something that's very important to me. I don't want you to fly off the handle just because you never pictured me doing something like this."
There was a brief silence on the other end. "Oh my God. You've joined a cult."
"What? No!" Blair denied. "Nothing like that!"
"Oh thank goodness! Sweetie, you had me worried there for a minute," Naomi exclaimed. "So? What is it?"
"Well, I can't give you any details. But it will involve translations and working on exciting new projects with different cultures," Blair said.
"That sounds wonderful, Blair. What will Jim be doing?"
'Making sure we don't get killed or possessed by alien parasites,' he thought, half hysterically. "Well, he's going to be in charge of security. Sort of."
"Security? Why would you need security?"
"Well, they're going to be very old translations, mom, you know, valuable," Blair hedged.
"Sandburg!" Jim hissed.
Blair looked over to find a sympathetic look on his roommate's face and mouthed, 'What?'
"Band-aid," Jim prompted.
Good analogy. He was dragging it out so that it was more painful than not. Taking a fortifying breath, he said, "Mom, I'm going to be working for the military. The Air Force, specifically, as a special cultural liaison."
The silence on the other end of the phone was deafening.
"Mom?" he asked hopefully.
"I'm sorry, sweetie, what do you want me to say?" Naomi asked quietly.
Closing his eyes painfully, Blair answered, "I don't know. Maybe that this doesn't change our relationship? That you don't hate me?"
Blair was angry with the pathetic quiver to his voice but couldn't do anything about it as he waited for his mother's response.
"Honestly, Blair, I don't know. I mean, of course I don't hate you, you're my son, I love you. But...I don't know if I can process this latest change."
"Wh-what does that mean?" Blair asked.
"It means I need to think about this," Naomi answered.
"Um, okay. Sure. If you, if you want to get in touch later, we'll be in Colorado Springs in three weeks," Blair said.
"All right, Blair. Good bye sweetie."
Blair stared at the phone after she'd disconnected. Somehow, he hadn't really thought she'd react like that. She should have argued with him. Tried to get him to change his mind. She should have said that it didn't matter what he did. Jim took the phone from him then pulled him into his arms.
"Sorry, Chief," Jim said quietly.
Blair sighed. "Well, we knew she wasn't going to take it well."
"Yeah. And I'm sorry about how I acted earlier about it," Jim apologized.
Blair soaked in the comfort for another minute before pulling back. "It's all right. We should probably start getting ready, figure out what we need to do."
Jim wanted to say something else but something in Blair's eyes told him to stay quiet so he did. Instead, he just nodded and said, "No problem, Chief."
* * * *
"Umm, yeah, oh God, that's...really...good."
Jack looked up with a grin then returned to the bare patch of skin he'd been tormenting. Fresh Daniel, right out of the shower. Didn't get any better than this. Well, maybe dipped in chocolate sauce? Now there was a thought. Chuckling, Jack slid his tongue along the muscles of Daniel's abdomen and continued his way down, enjoying the mostly nonverbal noises Daniel was now making.
He hadn't even let Daniel get more then two steps out of the bathroom before yanking off the towel and pushing his lover onto the carpeting. He loved driving Daniel so far out of his mind that the archeologist didn't even notice the rug-burn until way after. Nuzzling the skin around Daniel's cock, Jack licked and sucked all around the needy shaft but didn't actually touch it.
"Jack, please," Daniel moaned, writhing under him.
Oh yeah, that was what he'd been waiting for. He drew out the torment for another couple of seconds but then sucked the tip into his mouth. Rolling his tongue around the hot flesh, he bathed it, greedily tasting every part he could reach. It had taken him a long time to figure out the trick of taking all of Daniel into his mouth and throat but now it was definitely one of his favorite things to do; mostly because it drove Daniel stark, raving, mad.
As expected, Daniel's shriek of pleasure reverberated through the bedroom the instant his cock slipped down Jack's throat. After a few swallows, he exploded into Jack's mouth and collapsed, chest heaving with exertion. Reluctantly, Jack released his lover's now limp cock, bestowing a possessive kiss on the tip. Feeling like the cat with the cream, literally, Jack crawled up to lay on his side, looking down at Daniel with a feeling of such love and completeness that it should have been frightening.
Instead, it just made him move closer to the younger man and press a happy kiss to Daniel's throat and whisper, "I love you."
Daniel managed a grunt which Jack took to mean, 'I love you, too, but I can't even think let alone speak right now.' Grinning, Jack pulled Daniel on top of him and wrapped his arms around him. Daniel snuggled close, resting his head over Jack's heart and drifting off to sleep.
* * * *
"Ah, not that I'm complaining, by any stretch of the imagination, but what was that for?" Daniel asked as Jack entered the kitchen.
Jack shrugged and moved to the coffee maker. "Because I felt like it."
Daniel eyed him thoughtfully for a second then looked back down at the book he'd been reading with a murmured, "Mmhmm."
"What?" Jack demanded, sitting across from him.
Jack opened his mouth then shut it with a frown, not sure what they were arguing about. Then he remembered. "That 'mmhmm' always means something. What did it mean, Daniel?"
Looking up from the book, Daniel pushed his glasses up then said, "I suppose jumping me this morning had nothing to do with the fact that I'm going on a mission without you today."
"I don't see why you have to go off with SG8 when we've got more than enough to keep you busy," Jack muttered.
"With Wilson down, they need someone to translate," Daniel said patiently.
"So? Have them use McLean or Bishop," Jack snapped. "You're part of SG1, not a inter-team library loan or something."
Daniel sighed and stood, moving around the table to wrap his arms around Jack, resting his chin on his lover's shoulder. "It's a peaceful planet. There haven't been any Goa'uld visits in decades. It's supposed to be warm and sunny. I won't even catch a chill because it's summer. I'm going to be just fine and when I get back, you're going to feel like an idiot for worrying."
Jack turned in the embrace and pressed his face to Daniel's chest. "I just have a bad feeling is all. I want to go with you. Or have Teal'c tag along."
Running his fingers through the silvered hair, Daniel smiled and kissed the top of Jack's head. "I love that you worry about me. Makes me feel safe and loved. But this is what I do and you know how important it is to me to do a good job."
Jack's arms tightened and he said, "I'm not trying to stop you from going, Danny. I wouldn't do that, much as I want to wrap you up and stash you somewhere safe."
"I know," Daniel soothed, again kissing Jack's head. He played with the soft strands and murmured, "You need another haircut, love."
Jack smiled and pulled back enough to look up. "I'll get one when you come back, how's that?"
Daniel smiled back and nodded, leaning in for a long, deep kiss.
* * * *
The loft was silent, echoing with a strange emptiness that had never before been present, even at the height of Jim's anti-decorating bent. All the furniture and their belongings had just left via a long-distance moving company. They didn't have a new home as yet so everything would stay in storage until they did. Looking around, Blair sighed, depression kicking up its heels as he thought about leaving.
Jim laid his arm on Blair's shoulder and said, "I thought you might like to know something."
Looking up at his friend, Blair asked, "What?"
Smiling, Jim answered, "Just in case this doesn't work out, we still have the loft."
Frowning, Blair said, "But you sold it."
"Yep. To a Mr. Rich Burton, in a private sale," Jim explained.
Mouth dropping open, Blair exclaimed, "You sold it to yourself?"
"Yeah. And I drive a hard bargain, too, lemme tell ya. The interest alone is going to kill me."
Unexpected relief flooded through him and Blair turned and wrapped his arms around Jim's waist gratefully. When his partner's arms returned the hug, he murmured, "You don't know what this means to me."
"Sure I do. Same as it does to me," Jim said softly. "This is home. First one you had and the best one I've ever had. It won't be our only home, but it was our first. There's no way I'd ever let it go."
Pulling back a little, Blair looked up at Jim and smiled. "Thank you."
Face softening with his own smile, Jim said, "You're welcome."
* * * *
Jack waved at Carter without looking up from the mission report he was working on. "C'mon in, Carter."
"Spelling problems? They've got a really neat computer program that does that for you these days," she teased, sitting on the chair in front of his desk.
Jack snorted then leaned back in the chair. There was something different about Carter, that he noticed right away. He looked her over carefully but couldn't put his finger on it. Damn. He'd always been bad about this stuff. He settled for something neutral. "You look cheerful."
Her grin said that she knew he had no idea what was different. Damn.
"New earrings?" he asked hopefully.
The grin broadened.
"You did your hair different," he guessed.
She was laughing now.
Groaning, he said, "I give up. What did you do?"
"Sir. May I respectfully ask how you achieved your rank when you don't even notice I'm wearing civilian clothing as well as being in a skirt?" Carter asked.
Shit. It was always the most obvious things. Grinning, he answered, "Trade secret. I could tell you..."
"But then you'd have to kill me," she finished with a chuckle.
"Are you ready, O'Neill?" Teal'c asked from the door.
Ready? What the hell was Teal'c doing in civvies too?
"I think he forgot, Teal'c," Sam commented.
"Forgot what?" Jack demanded. Had he missed another memo? One of these days it was going to be an important memo and he'd really be screwed.
"Forgot who. Blair and Jim? We're picking them up from the airport today?" Sam reminded.
"Oh crap," Jack muttered. "All right. Give me ten to change and I'll meet you up top."
* * * *
Jack was very relieved to see no sign whatsoever of hostility, repressed or otherwise, when Jim greeted Teal'c with a handshake at the airport. And Junior seemed to be on his best behavior too. He watched as the others exchanged greetings and chuckled when Jim found himself on the unexpected end of a hug from Carter. Blair had returned her hug enthusiastically, but Jim looked like he wasn't sure what to do. Taking pity, Jack said, "Carter, you can't be that hard up for a date. Let the man breathe."
Sam stepped back and said impudently, "Just welcoming him back, sir."
"He's welcomed already," Jack said, shaking his head. "Hey, Ellison. Blair. How was the flight?"
Blair gave a shudder and said, "Turbulence sucks, man."
Jim grinned and said, "We hit a few rough patches and Sandburg's allergic to air travel under the best of circumstances."
"Became acquainted with the upchuck bag, did you?" Jack asked sympathetically.
"Almost," Blair answered with another shiver.
Jim rubbed his back briefly and asked, "Where's Daniel?"
Trying not to scowl, Jack answered, "He was pulled into a translation job with another team for a few days."
"You mean he left you on your own?" Blair asked innocently.
Narrowing his eyes at Blair, Jack commented, "It does happen."
"Only when it can't be helped," Sam added.
Rolling his eyes, Jack said, "Why do I suddenly feel really outgunned here?"
Jim chuckled. "Just go with it. It's all you can do when surrounded by genius."
Laughing, Jack nodded and said, "True enough. Let's get your bags."
He was pleased with how easily the team was meshing together. Jim and Teal'c walked side by side, occasionally sharing quiet observations and comments while Blair and Sam talked a mile a minute in front of them. His kids. It wasn't patronizing, it just said, simply, how he felt about his team. They were his family and it was more than his duty to protect and guide them, it was who he was. If Daniel were here would be the only thing to make it perfect.
* * * *
The building was hidden away in the forest and Daniel had only discovered it by accident. He'd been helping search for a missing girl in the area, along with the rest of SG8, and tripped over an exposed root. He'd fallen against something hard, hidden by interwoven vines. Curious, he pulled at the vines and discovered rock beneath. It took a lot of effort, but eventually, he cleared away a good portion of the wall. It was stone and there were unfamiliar carvings inlaid along the top and bottom.
"Neat," he muttered, looking more closely at the carvings.
Wiping the sweat from his face, Daniel looked around and noticed that the sun was considerably further across the sky when he'd last looked. Glancing at his watch confirmed that three hours had gone by and he groaned. Sanderson was going to kill him for not checking in and then give him to Jack to be finished off. Sighing, Daniel pulled out his radio and turned it on. One of these days, Jack was going to beat him silly for not keeping it on at all times. "Sanderson?"
"Dr. Jackson! Where are you?" Colonel Nick Sanderson demanded immediately.
Wincing, Daniel answered, "I'm not ah, entirely sure. I was heading east, um, I think. I'm in the forest. I found a building of some kind and started clearing away the debris and I'm afraid the time just got away from me."
Sanderson snorted then said, "Understood, doctor. Leave your radio on and we'll come track you down."
"Thanks. I'll be here," Daniel promised. He set the radio in the shelter of a tree and turned back to the stone.
The symbols were definitely like nothing he'd seen before. Was it possible they were alien in nature? Running his fingers lightly over the carvings, Daniel wished that he had his gear with him. At least then he could take pictures or rubbings. Maybe Blair would recognize them. He started, realizing that he'd missed picking up Jim and Blair from the airport. The whole team had been planning to go.
Stepping back a little, Daniel's eye was caught by a flash and he turned towards it. It looked like metal catching the midday sun. Moving forward, Daniel stepped around a large tree and found the source of the glitter. It was hidden beneath more vines so he started pulling them away as well. Grunting with the effort, the vines seemed more firmly entrenched than the others, Daniel finally succeeded in clearing away a good portion of them.
Instead of carvings, this wall contained an image but it had been created by metal instead of paint or pencil. It was incredibly lifelike for all the choice of material, and Daniel traced his fingers over the form of a wolf. Were there even wolves on this world? His body jerked in shock as an electric charge ran from the wall into Daniel. Even as he fell, he heard the arrival of others and groaned in pain, hoping that Sanderson had something to treat electric shock.
But it wasn't Sanderson's fatigue-clad legs that stopped beside him. Leather boots came into sight and Daniel looked up to find an unfamiliar face staring coldly down at him. Even if he hadn't been in excruciating pain from the original shock, Daniel would have passed out from the second beam that hit him square in the chest.
* * * *
"What do you mean he disappeared?" Jack demanded tightly.
"We were looking for a missing child and he went towards the forest..."
"Alone?" Jack interrupted.
"Colonel," General Hammond warned.
Glaring, Jack subsided, crossing his arms over his chest.
Sanderson nodded and continued, "He checked in saying that he'd gotten lost. He'd found a building of some sort and was clearing away debris to check it out and then lost track of time. I told him to leave his radio on and we were on our way to find him when the signal just cut off. By the time we reached the area where he'd been, there was just nothing there. No any sign of a building, no sign of Dr. Jackson, nothing. The men are still searching the area but the locals seem scared to come anywhere near it."
"Very well, Colonel. Keep up the search. SG1 will be joining you shortly," Hammond ordered.
"Yes, sir. Sanderson out."
Jack looked away from the monitor to his CO and said, "I'll get the team together."
"Why don't you include Captain Ellison and Mr. Sandburg?" Hammond suggested.
"It's entirely likely that Dr. Jackson wandered off on his own, Colonel. You know how he is," General Hammond pointed out. "Especially if he found something interesting."
Jack sighed. "True."
"In any case, this would be a good test of Captain Ellison's senses. Maybe he can track Dr. Jackson somehow," General Hammond said.
"Yes, sir. I'll gather the team."
* * * *
"Okay Jim, remember what I said, okay? Just keep your dials down low and hopefully that'll deal with the sensory deprivation, or overload, or whatever it is," Blair said anxiously.
Jim smiled as they approached the shimmering pool and reached over to tweak Sandburg's hair. "I'll be fine, Chief."
Blair's expression was plainly unconvinced and he took a firm grip on Jim's arm as they stepped into the event horizon.
Lights. Darkness. Cold. Heat. Noise. Silence. Movement. Stillness. Overwhelming. Nothing. When Jim stumbled out of the wormhole, he dropped like a stone, curling into a ball as his senses tried to make sense of what had just happened. A gentle rumble, and the feeling of warmth surrounded him, permeating the confusion. When he opened his eyes, Jim found himself nose to nose with Blair, the anthropologist wrapped around him like a second skin.
Shaking his head, Jim groaned and said, "Anyone get the licence plate number?"
Relaxing, Blair pulled away and helped him stand. "You all right now?"
Jim nodded and said, "I think when we go back, I need to focus on something. Kind of block everything else out."
"Yeah, yeah of course! I don't know why I didn't think of that," Blair exclaimed.
"Because we didn't know what to think," Jim reminded. "You had a good idea, it just didn't work out."
"You all right, Captain?" Sam asked.
Jim looked over at the blond woman and nodded. He saw that Teal'c and Jack were already talking with the other team members. "Any news?"
"Not as yet," she reported.
They joined the rest of the team and were introduced. Jim liked Sanderson's no-nonsense manner right away. If the other Colonel thought there was something odd about Jim collapsing on this side of the wormhole, he said nothing about it.
"Sanderson's going to bring us to Daniel's last known location," Jack said.
The hike was almost an hour long and Jim was having more fun watching Blair look around than if he'd looked around himself. The world had a moderate climate and if you ignored the purplish tint to the sky, it would be a lot like taking a stroll through a late spring New England. The grass was soft and the trees in bloom. Blair took in every detail through wide-eyes and his expression was eager and excited enough to draw occasional chuckles from Sam and a light smile from Teal'c.
"This is so cool!" Blair repeated.
Jim grinned after the twentieth time he uttered it and said, "You might want to coin another phrase there, Chief."
Blair grimaced at him and continued to look around.
Jim looked over at Teal'c and answered, "Yeah, Teal'c?"
"Why do you not call Blair Sandburg by his name?"
Jim shrugged. "I've pretty much always called him Chief. It just fit him. And I do call him Blair."
"Usually when something's wrong," Blair commented wryly, proving that he was paying attention to more than just the scenery.
"I have observed that you also call him Darwin, Sandburg and Junior. Do not the Tau'ri settle on one nick-name as a rule?" Teal'c asked.
Grinning suddenly, Jim reached out and hit Blair upside the head. "He defies just one description, Teal'c."
Jim heard the hitch in Blair's breath and saw the faintest flush of pleasure on his partner's skin. He smiled, quietly happy to have pleased his partner, and turned his attention to the job at hand by striding forward to join Jack and Sanderson.
"You have anything?" Jack asked casually.
Jim shook his head. "It's pretty breezy, his scent's already dissipated."
Sanderson quirked an interested eyebrow but didn't comment on the odd observation. All he said was, "We're coming up on the spot."
They stepped into the forest and the air dropped a few degrees without the late afternoon sun to warm it. The trees were large and reminded Jim of the redwoods in northern California only they were dark brown. It was another ten minutes before Sanderson stopped and said, "This is where he should've been. He said he was going to wait for us."
Jim felt Blair come up behind him as he turned up his sight, scanning the ground for signs of Daniel. He frowned after a few minutes and said, "He was here. So was someone else, maybe a few someones."
"There aren't any tracks," Teal'c observed.
"It's too regular," Jim reported, dialing back his vision to look at Jack. "This whole area's been swept clean. They did a good job, too, but falling leaves just aren't this neat."
"Try smell," Blair suggested.
Dialing up, Jim took several deep breaths. He discounted the now-familiar scents of his teammates and Sanderson. He ignored the spicy pine smell of the trees around them. He stepped forward, following the distinctive smell of Daniel whispering, "Got him."
Everyone except Blair stayed exactly where they were, letting him work without interference. He vaguely thought about what a relief that was, not to have to cover up his abilities, then turned his full attention to tracking Daniel. He moved around a large tree, head swinging north where the scent was strongest. "Pain. Something hurt him badly. There's fear, too."
He heard Jack's sharp inhalation but ignored it to categorize the other scent. It held the tinge of undergrowth, the musty smell of things growing in the dark. There were four distinct smells, aside from Daniel's, but they all contained the same underlying hue of coming from underground. There was also a trace of ozone in the air, as though there had been an electrical charge.
Shaking his head as Blair's voice penetrated the fog surrounding him, Jim dialed down his sense of smell as his Guide instructed. Blinking, Jim discovered the others standing nearby, waiting for him to come out of a zone. "Damn. How long?"
Blair grinned crookedly and replied, "Almost fifteen minutes, partner. What did you find?"
"There were four of them," Jim reported. "An electrical device went off, maybe something like a Tazer. But I think Daniel was already down by then, that it was a second charge to knock him out altogether. They live underground, in caverns probably. Reminded me of something musty."
"Did the locals say anything about underground neighbors?" Jack asked Sanderson.
"Not to us they didn't," Sanderson answered flatly. "But maybe that's why they didn't want to come into the forest. And why they were so frantic to get the girl back. Daniel said there were some old legends about forest-dwellers but didn't go into any detail."
"Right. Ellison, do you see any kind of building around here?" Jack asked.
Jim looked around, just letting his vision coast over the forest for signs. The woods had their own symmetry but it wouldn't contain anything like man-made structures. Frowning after a couple of minutes, he shook his head. "I don't see anything."
"I have an idea," Blair said.
"We're all listening," Jack invited.
Instead of speaking, Blair walked away a good distance and then began walking towards them again. He was looking everywhere but where he was going, as though searching for something. He'd just about reached them when something caught his foot and he went flying, arms flailing unsuccessfully to stop him. They all heard him connect with something solid and groan in pain.
Jim was at his side in seconds and helped him up. "You all right, Chief?"
Rubbing his head, Blair nodded then reached out and rapped his knuckles on something hard. "Found it."
"How'd you do that?" Sam asked in curious amazement.
Grinning, Blair said, "One of the things Daniel and I have in common is if there's a way to get into trouble, we'll find it. I just figured that if I walked in the same general direction he was going while looking for the girl, I'd find what he walked into."
Shaking his head, Jim said with amusement, "Never thought I'd be grateful for your penchant for trouble, Chief."
They set about clearing the vines from the structure, seeking anything that would tell them what had happened to Daniel. Blair cut his hand on something and swore.
Jim straightened up and took his hand. "It's deep Chief, what did you cut it on?"
"Damned if I know," Blair muttered, holding his throbbing hand up to stop the bleeding. He waited impatiently as Jim pulled out a first aid kit then cleaned and bandaged it.
"All right, Chief. Sit the rest of this out. We'll clear it off and then you can put that noggin of yours to use," Jim teased lightly.
Grumbling, Blair sat down, resting against a tree. Figured. His first mission and not only did he knock himself on the head, but cut his hand open, too. It couldn't be a good thing that finding trouble didn't seem to be limited to his location on earth. Shaking away the somewhat disturbing train of thought, Blair looked around while the others were clearing away the stone building.
It was so weird. He really was on another planet. The people here spoke a derivative of ancient Latin and, while not his strong suit, Blair should be able to communicate no problem after a few sessions to pick up the accent. Gotta love those romance language antecedents.
It was as he looked around that he noticed a glint of light a short distance away. Frowning, Blair got to his feet and murmured, "Checking something out, Jim. Be right back."
He saw Jim look over at him briefly and nod before turning back to the stone wall. Stepping around a large tree, well, larger than the others anyhow, Blair saw only more vines. Then the sun hit again and Blair found the source of the reflection. Curious, he reached forward to pull off the vines but instead of hitting warm vegetation and solid rock, his hand pushed through an illusion. A split second later, something grabbed him and yanked him forward. He cried out in surprise and fear, but was pulled into the structure and heard something fall solidly into place behind him.
Complete darkness surrounded him as hands touched all over his body. Blair tried to squirm away and managed to shout Jim's name a couple of times before he was gagged. Then he was lifted and carried away.
* * * *
"Blair!" Jim shouted, hearing his Guide's cry of fear. He bolted towards the sound but, even though he could hear his name being shouted from within, there was no way through.
"Ellison! What happened?" Jack demanded.
"It's Blair. Someone grabbed him," Jim reported tensely. "I can smell them, same as the ones who took Daniel."
"Find the entrance," Jack ordered. Though he spoke to Jim, everyone responded by going back over the area even more closely. Sanderson called the situation in to the rest of SG8 and ordered them to remain by the Stargate and watch for trouble.
After another hour, with the sun almost gone, Jack had to call a halt. He was itching just to blow a hole through the wall but they didn't know how big the structure was, or how sturdy. Carter said that it was at least a couple hundred years old and he didn't want to bring it crashing down on Daniel and Blair's heads.
At first, Jim looked like he was going to disobey the order but then the other man just nodded and shut down. It was a little scary how fast he lost all expression on his face. He reached out and gripped the other man's arm. "You all right, Ellison?"
Jim nodded. "Fine, sir."
"Yeah. Okay. Let's get camp set up, kids. Teal'c, you and Ellison take first watch. Carter, you and I will take second. Sanderson, you've got morning shift," Jack ordered briskly.
They set up camp just outside the treeline, going through the familiar motions of getting ready for the night. Food was prepared and tents put together. Teal'c watched their newest teammate closely and noticed that he wasn't the only one to do so. O'Neill was also keeping an eye on Ellison. Without Blair Sandburg present, they had no way of knowing how long Ellison's abilities would remain under control.
Though that wasn't the only reason Teal'c was watching him. He was curious. There had been stories of Tau'ri Watchmen, but they'd been relegated to legend and wishful thinking on the part of slaves. To find out that such beings really did exist made Teal'c wonder about the presence of a true Divinity. One that would watch out for those unable to defend themselves by giving them protectors. It would make more sense to think that the Asgaard had something to do with their creation, or another race like the Asgaard, but this time, Teal'c wasn't looking for the practical.
"Something I can help you with, Teal'c?" Ellison asked quietly.
Though startled by the question, Teal'c didn't show it. He gazed openly at the other man and asked, "What do you believe of your origins?"
Ellison stared up at the sky for a long time before answering, "I don't know. Blair's always said that we developed to protect the tribe way back when. That we were used to scout for danger. Like a natural evolution. Didn't really make sense to me, though. If some of us can develop heightened senses, then why not all? Besides which, why would I have these abilities if we no longer live in a tribal society? Since we were brought in on the Stargate project, I've been thinking a lot about just this. Especially since meeting you," Ellison finished, his voice dry.
Teal'c acknowledged the comment with a short nod. "What conclusions have you come to?"
"None," Ellison answered softly. "As Sandburg would say, lots of theories but no conclusions. Could be a genetic line that remained intact until the Goa'uld returned. From the timeline General Hammond gave us to look over, it would just about coincide to when my senses came back online, maybe a little after. Of course, it could also be that I'm a throwback, like Sandburg's always maintained."
"Given the primitive response you had to my presence, that is indeed a possibility," Teal'c observed, hiding a smile.
But Ellison caught the teasing because his teeth shone brightly in a grin as he said, "I think that's the first joke I've heard you make, Teal'c."
"Thank you," Teal'c replied innocently.
They were silent for a long time, each facing opposite directions to keep watch. Towards the end of the shift, Teal'c murmured, "We will retrieve both Daniel Jackson and Blair Sandburg."
Ellison looked over at him and even in the dark, Teal'c saw the cold light in his eyes as the other man replied, "Yes. We will."
There was something in his voice that sent a shiver down Teal'c's spine, reminding him of just how dangerous this man was. Suddenly Teal'c wondered if Blair Sandburg was in charge of keeping the Watchman's senses in line, or the Watchman himself.
* * * *
Blair groaned and discovered that he couldn't move. Wonderful. Not only did he whack his head and cut his hand on his first mission, now he could add being kidnapped to the list.
"Blair? You awake?"
Surprised but thankful, Blair called back, "Daniel?"
"Yeah, you all right?" Daniel asked anxiously.
"Well, aside from the headache, hand-ache, being unable to move and hurt pride, I'm fine," Blair reported with a sigh.
"Hurt pride? And what did you do to your hand?"
"I cut it on something while we were pulling vines off that building you found. And yeah man! It's my first mission and I got kidnapped! Hammond's never going to let us through the gate again!" Blair exclaimed.
Daniel laughed. "Trust me. Hammond won't use that to disqualify you. If he did, I'd be stuck on the other side permanently."
A little reassured, Blair asked, "Where are you? And can you move?"
"I can't move no," Daniel said. "I think I'm in the cell next to yours though."
"Cell? Can you see? I can't but I'm really, really hoping it's because there aren't any lights," Blair said nervously.
"Well, there's a kind of glow in my cell, like a neon fungus or something," Daniel explained.
Breathing a sigh of relief, Blair asked, "So what now?"
"Got me. Usually at this point, the rest of the team comes to the rescue," Daniel said with a sigh.
Blair sighed. "Well, they are right outside, sort of. And if anyone can find a way in, it's Jim."
"And the rest of the team's no slouch either," Daniel pointed out.
There was a long pause before Blair asked thoughtfully, "So Daniel. How often do you get kidnapped in this line of work anyhow?"
* * * *
Daniel yawned, coming slowly awake without his usual infusion of caffeine. He was still strapped down to a relatively comfortable cot with no give to the straps. What was the purpose of kidnapping them if no one was going to do anything? Not that he was looking forward to whatever that might be, but it beat starving to death in a hole somewhere.
The glow from the fungus was at the same level and continued to show off the cavern-like cell where he'd been left. His mind roamed to the legends he'd heard from a few of the women in the town. Cavern and forest-dwellers who preyed upon the children of the townships for dark purposes. Evil men who stalked the innocent and lived underneath the forest. But if they only ever went after children, why bother taking him and Blair? He grinned suddenly. Blair might be short but there was no mistaking him for a child; way too much facial hair.
And speaking of whom. "Blair?"
Silence met his call and fear ran through him at the thought that they might have come when he was sleeping to take the other man. "Blair! Blair, are you still here?"
The unenthused response did a lot to reassure him and Daniel sagged back in relief. "How're your bonds today? Still strong or did you manage to get some wiggle room?"
"Well, I can move my left wrist a whole inch now. You?" Blair asked sarcastically.
Daniel shimmied around and found himself just as stuck as before. "Nope. You must be a better wiggler than me."
Blair's chuckle flowed over the air. "Thanks man."
"Anytime." Daniel squirmed again, unable to keep still. Finally giving it up, he said, "I was just wondering why they took us. Some of the women told me about them, but mostly the stories are about taking children, not adults."
"What kind of stories?"
"Oh the usual. The face of evil carting off the innocent," Daniel answered with a sigh.
"Well. That bodes well."
Daniel snorted agreement.
After a few minutes, Blair said, "Thing is, stories like that usually come out to be propaganda. Well, at least when you're talking about actual societies and not fairy tales."
Frowning, Daniel asked, "What do you mean?"
"Well. You've got the evil capitalists enslaving the working class. You've got the immoral witches worshipping Satan and eating children. Stuff like that," Blair explained.
"So they kidnapped us out of the goodness of their own hearts?" Daniel pointed out.
"Well, no," Blair said. "But we shouldn't automatically assume that the townsfolk are the good guys just because they live in houses and dress like us."
"Only one problem."
"The man who knocked me out. I saw his face, Blair and he was seriously pissed. I haven't seen hatred like that since Teal'c tried to kill Tannith and failed," Daniel said.
"Well, I don't know who Tannith is, but think about it. You're a stranger. For all we know, you disturbed their holy place. And if they've had problems with the townspeople for a long time, of course they'd assume you were with them," Blair observed.
"Which is why I'm an archeologist and you're an anthropologist," Daniel said dryly.
Another chuckle sounded and Blair said, "Yeah but just because they might not be bad, doesn't mean that we should just lay on our butts here, either."
"Well expert-wiggler, get to work then."
"This better not be the start of a new nick-name. I've got too damn many already," Blair said with a groan.
Daniel grinned and was going to reply when the sound of footsteps became audible. Blair had fallen silent as well, waiting for their captors to show themselves. He heard the clang of something metal and could see the glimmer of torchlight but nothing else. "Blair?"
"I'm okay but they're bringing me somewhere," Blair called back nervously.
Shit! Blair didn't even have any self-defense training that he knew of! Daniel could hear them moving away and shouted, "Just cooperate with them. Try and figure out what they want."
"Tell Jim I love him, just in case!" Blair called, his voice fading away.
Oh God. A shiver ran through him at the words and he struggled even more fiercely against the straps.
* * * *
The corridor was made of the same rough hewn rock as the cell he'd been in. The cell he hadn't been able to see because he didn't have any kind of glowing fungus. The torchlight had hurt his eyes at first and he'd stumbled on weak legs when they dragged him off the cot. He followed as best he could, but stumbled a few times at their quick pace. "Oh sure. Tie me up for a whole day and then walk my legs off."
The men surrounding him were roughly the same height as he was, broad shouldered and had long, curly, pale hair that almost glowed in the torchlight. When one of them met his eyes, Blair gasped at the nearly complete blackness and realized that the torch was solely for his benefit. There were a ton of questions he wanted to ask but he kept his mouth shut, hoping that they were bringing him to a leader of some kind. He stifled the slightly hysterical bout of laughter that threatened at the thought.
He was an alien and he wanted to be taken to their leader.
They entered a large room but it was in much better condition than the hall with squared off and polished walls. He was brought to a large stone desk where three men stood waiting for them. They were all older with white hair instead of pale blond, but still looked very physically fit. Taking Daniel's advice, he waited for one of them to speak.
The one in the middle started first. "Can you understand?"
Relieved, Blair nodded. "I can."
"Est good," the man continued, also relieved. "Mikas am I."
"Blair Sandburg," Blair replied.
"Not like others you are."
Not sure how to take that, Blair said, "Um, thank you?"
This brought a smile to Mikas' face. "Welcome given. Why at the Temple were you?"
"Looking for my friend I was," Blair answered, falling into their speech pattern. "In the other cell he is."
"Like the others he is," Mikas said, as though it was obvious.
"Did he do something wrong?" Blair asked.
"Others not tolerated here," Mikas explained.
"Oh. Um. With me he will go," Blair suggested. "I will send the others away."
"At home here you are," Mikas said.
The words were okay but the tone didn't sound so great. "With the others, home I am."
Shaking his head, Mikas repeated, "At home, here you are."
"What makes the others different than I?" Blair asked, starting to get frustrated. Just because he wasn't in danger didn't mean he wanted to take up residence.
Mikas reached across the table and touched his hair. "Of our kin you are, though different in color."
Oh crap. Blair took another, closer look at the men surrounding him and realized that there was a pretty strong similarity in their appearance. They were all roughly the same height and build, probably didn't grow taller than this because of living underground. And pretty much everyone in the earth party was tall and fair, except for Teal'c but he was still tall. "Oh no. Wait. I ah, with the others I came. Friends to me they are."
Frowning now, Mikas said, "Destruction to us they are. Saving you we did."
Great. Now he had to get himself and Daniel out of here without offending anyone. Well, time to use that famous mouth of his. Earn his keep. God, hopefully that didn't work out literally. Shaking the thought away, he said, "Know the Stargate do you?"
Mikas frowned and shook his head.
"Circle of metal, chariot of the false gods?" Blair offered.
"The Shapai," Mikas said suddenly.
"Uh, yes. The Shapai. Through there did my friends and I come," Blair explained. "Not with the others are we. Knowledge and friendship, allies do we seek. My friend, in the cell he is? For a little girl did he search. Found the Temple accidentally he did."
"The girl we have," Mikas informed him. "Safe she is."
"You do? That's great!" Blair exclaimed. "To her parents would my friend and I bring her."
"Belongs with us she does. Belong with us do you," Mikas said.
"Why?" Blair demanded.
"Of us you are," one of the other men said, speaking for the first time.
Frustrated, Blair shook his head. "No. I'm not."
The dark eyes smiled at him then the man waved a hand, sketching a pattern of light in the air. Startled, Blair stepped back but then moved forward to take a closer look. Eyes wide, he watched in fascination as the history of these people seeped into his mind. They were a Shamanic people, leaving beneath the earth, in harmony with their world in ways the Others did not. They had been brought to this world by the false gods a millennia ago as a single people but a natural catastrophe had divided them. Since then, they had lived separate lives and the villagers had deemed them little more than demons, forsaking their roots.
When one with the gifts came of age, they naturally found their way to the Temple and were welcomed. They took Daniel before realizing that he'd been there by accident. When Blair had arrived, they knew that it had been the Spirits' way of bringing him home.
Blinking as the lights faded, his eyes growing accustomed to the darkness once more, Blair took a few minutes to process everything he'd just learned. Incacha had passed on the way of the Shaman to him and he was Jim's Guide. It must have tripped their 'gift' radar, which was why he'd reached right through the illusion of a wall and why he hadn't been shocked into unconsciousness. Looking at Mikas, he said, "This is not my home. I fight the false gods and am Guide to a Sentinel. It is there that my heart lies."
This caused a stir but there was no beating around the bush, Blair knew that. As it was, he had no idea how long he'd been in the caverns. He had to get back to Jim and make sure that Daniel got out of here as quickly and safely as possible.
After several minutes debate, in which they spoke far too quickly for Blair to understand, Mikas turned to face him again and said, "Free to go you are."
Surprised, and very suspicious, Blair said, "I'm free?"
"What about my friend?"
"Punished for trespass he must be."
Groaning, Blair shook his head. "With me he must come! Look, it was an accident, he's very sorry and won't do it again. Besides, if he trespassed, so did I."
"Family you are, no trespass for you," Mikas said.
They just weren't going to make this easy. Taking a breath, Blair settled in for one of the most important arguments of his life.
* * * *
Jack kept waiting for Ellison to lose it but so far, it hadn't happened. When the sun had come up, Ellison had made like a bloodhound and gone over every inch of the building. He was quiet and determined but Jack still had the impression that he was a volcano waiting to explode. Of course, the rest of the team weren't slouching around, either. Carter and Sanderson had headed back to the gate at first light to get some sonar equipment to map it out, find any weak spots they could exploit. Teal'c had joined Ellison in his hunt and Jack was keeping a close watch on both of them as he did the same.
"All right guys, time for a break," Jack said at last. It was almost mid-day and none of them had eaten breakfast. Far as he knew, neither Ellison nor Teal'c had even had any water so far.
Both men looked mutinous but Jack glared at them until they reluctantly returned to the campsite for food and water. He waited until both their mouths were full before speaking. "Since we've pretty much exhausted any chance of getting through there, at least until Carter and Sanderson get back, we're going to do a perimeter walk and see if there's another way in."
Surprisingly, neither man argued, though Teal'c's eyebrow lowered in disapproval.
Jack's radio crackled and Carter's voice came over the air.
"We're having some trouble with the townspeople here at the gate," she reported.
Great. He just did not need this! "What kind of trouble?"
"It's hard to tell without Daniel or Blair to translate but I think that they think we had something to do with the little girl disappearing. I know they want us to leave."
"Beautiful. Look. Try and stall them. I'm betting that going through and getting the equipment isn't a great idea right now."
"Understood. We're still checking things out around here. We're going to see if there's a back door to this place. Check in every hour for a sit report," Jack ordered.
Sighing briefly, he turned to the other two and said, "All right kids, you heard her. Let's check things out and do it double quick. We're running out of time here."
* * * *
Waiting was usually something Daniel was good at, but it was always hard when someone he cared about was in trouble. It felt like hours since Blair had been taken and he was no closer to getting free than the very first time he woke. He wasn't sure whether to be happy or scared when the footsteps returned. Not until he heard Blair's, "Daniel! It's me!"
He eyed the door to his cell until several men appeared with Blair in the center. "Blair! God, am I glad to see you! What's going on?"
"We're getting out of here," Blair answered, bouncing impatiently as one of the others opened the cell. He was inside the moment the door was unlocked and rushed to Daniel's side, pulling the straps free. "All you have to do is apologize for disturbing their Temple and swear you're never going to come back. You might even want to mention not returning to the planet."
"Ah, okay," Daniel agreed, sitting up with Blair's help. Dizziness assaulted him, both from a head rush and lack of food and water. Blair's arm wrapped firmly around his waist and hauled him to his feet, helping him outside the cell.
"Mikas, this is Daniel Jackson. Friend of mine he is," Blair introduced. He nudged Daniel and said in English, "Apologize, quick, before they change their mind."
"I am truly sorry for disturbing your Temple," Daniel said, sincerely if falteringly in their language. "I did not know that it was a Holy place. I will leave here and not return, you have my vow on that."
There were somber nods but the men remained silent.
Blair held out his hand to Mikas, who took it, and said, "Seeing you in the future, I will."
Mikas smiled and nodded. "Looking forward to it, we are. To the surface, these will guide you."
"Thank you, Mikas," Blair said gratefully.
He nodded again then motioned for them to go.
The trip through the caverns and corridors was a long one and Daniel started wondering just how far below ground they were. Since they kept going up, however, he wasn't about to complain about the length of the journey. He was exhausted and the only thought that kept him going was that Jack was waiting for him outside. He knew the colonel would be there, along with the rest of the team. All he wanted was his bed, with Jack in it.
That and a really big meal, he amended as his stomach again protested its emptiness.
Finally, they came to a flat wall that ended the journey. One of the men, an older one, raised his hand and waved it over the entrance whispering, "Reveal."
Sunlight poured in and Daniel blinked at the brightness, wincing as his eyes tried to adjust. He felt Blair do the same but the smaller man was already propelling him out and calling for his partner. He half turned and found the wall had already fallen back in place but had no way of knowing how.
Grateful when Blair finally let him stop walking, it wasn't until his friend lowered him to the ground that he realized they were in an SG camp.
"Jim! Get your ass back to camp now! Daniel needs help!" Blair shouted at the top of his lungs.
Blair knelt anxiously beside him. "What is it, Daniel?"
"Try a radio," Daniel suggested.
Embarrassed heat flushed across Blair's face as he started going for the nearest radio. "Man. I am so not used to actually having equipment. The shouting thing was pretty much all we ever had."
But before he could even pick the radio up, Jack, Jim and Teal'c came running out of the forest. Jack skidded to a halt beside Daniel, dropping to his knees and demanding, "Daniel? You all right? Where are you hurt?"
"I am starving and a little dehydrated, but fine," Daniel reassured him tiredly. He smiled when Jack's warm, strong hand cupped his face briefly and leaned into the caress.
Reluctantly, Jack removed his hand and stood up. "All right kids. Let's pack up and get the hell out of here. Oh no you don't, Jackson. Keep your ass right where it is."
Daniel froze in the process of getting up then lay back down. Jack was obviously in no mood to let him do anything. He groaned silently as he realized that it would be at least a week before his lover even let him out of his sight again. Oh well. He'd spend a day or so in the infirmary and then the team would get a few days downtime and by the end of that, Jack should be back to regular over-protective, instead of insanely over-protective.
He looked curiously at Blair and Jim and frowned when he saw that they weren't even touching. They were working quickly and efficiently with Jack and Teal'c to bring the camp down. Daniel remembered Blair's frightened words to tell Jim of his love and his frown deepened. What was going on with them? Vowing to get to the bottom of the mystery, later, Daniel closed his eyes and drifted to sleep.
* * * *
"Yes, Colonel, I'm sure. He's just tired and dehydrated. His readings show that he's fully recovered from the electrical charge," Janet reported firmly. "I'm only keeping him overnight to hydrate him and replenish his nutrients."
Jack nodded and turned his attention to Daniel who smiled at him from the hospital bed. "All right. I have to get to the debriefing but I'll be back later."
Daniel yawned. "I'll be here. Probably asleep, but I'll be here."
Jack brushed his hand over Daniel's head then turned and left the infirmary. Everyone had gone through the decon process already and they were waiting for him in the conference room for the debrief. He nodded to various people on the way there and entered without knocking. As expected, the team, plus Sanderson and Hammond, were seated at the long wooden table. "He's going to be fine. Just a little dehydrated. Frasier's keeping him overnight to fix that."
Everyone breathed a sigh of relief and Jack sat beside the General in his customary spot.
"Mr. Sandburg. Can you explain what happened?" General Hammond asked.
"Oh. Right. Well first off, the Jihan, as they call themselves, aren't the monsters that the Jikar paint them to be. They do live below-ground, went there during some cataclysmic natural event centuries ago. Now they have to live there because their eyes have adapted to working with so little light. They are a Shamanic people, believe in the Spirits of the Earth and live in complete harmony with their environment," Blair explained.
"Why did they take Daniel?" Sam asked.
Unaccountably flushing a little, Blair answered, "That was a mistake. See, only people who have the gift of being a Shaman are led to the Temple. They've never had someone show up who didn't have the gifts." Jim's eyes had narrowed at his words but Blair valiantly ignored the accusing gaze and continued, "When I explained that it was an accident, they were willing to accept Daniel's apology and let us go."
"Just like that?" Jack drawled.
"Well, I did have a bit of fast talking to do but yeah, essentially," Blair answered.
"Do we consider them hostile?" General Hammond asked.
Shaking his head, Blair said, "No. As a matter of fact, I was invited back to um, study with them. Permanently if I wished."
Jim's soft growl echoed through the room and Blair added hastily, "Not that I'm going to take them up on it or anything. But ah, we can at least let the Jikar know their children are safe. That the Jihan aren't bad people."
"We can't condone kidnapping, Mr. Sandburg," General Hammond said, troubled.
"It's not kidnapping," Blair insisted. "Think of it like these kids going on a vision quest and finding the end of their journey with the Jihan."
"But they are minors and their parents should be the ones to determine their lives," Hammond said.
Shaking his head, Blair said, "The children are free to leave at any time, sir. They choose not to go. They don't want to."
"Well sure. Who wouldn't jump at the chance to leave behind the rules and regs of their folks?" Jack pointed out sarcastically.
Angrily, Blair exclaimed, "It's not like that! Look. These people are good people. They care for the children as if their own and would never let anything harm them. And don't we have some sort of Prime Directive about not interfering in other people's cultures or something?"
There were a few hastily stifled chuckles and Hammond replied, "This isn't Star Trek, Mr. Sandburg."
Crossing his arms over his chest obstinately, Blair muttered, "Maybe we should emulate it in this case."
Jim murmured, "Chief."
Blair glared at him for a moment then sighed. "All right. Look. Maybe I can go back and arrange for the parents to see for themselves that the children aren't being harmed? I just don't want to start a war. And given the combative nature of the Jikar, that could very well happen."
"We'll figure something out," General Hammond assured him. "In the meantime, I think SG1 and SG8 are due for three days' downtime. Dismissed."
Jack made his way to Blair and Jim and said, "Blair. I'm not trying to be hard on you. It's just...I know what it's like to lose a child and that's not a hell I'd wish on anyone."
Blair nodded and smiled a little. "I know. And believe me, neither would I. I guess I'm just a little over-identified with the Jihan right now. We'll figure something out, like General Hammond said."
"You still have keys to Daniel's place, right?" Jack asked.
Blair nodded. "We were going to check on him and then head there."
"Why don't you just head there now? You look like you're about ready to drop," Jack suggested. "I'll tell him I ordered you away. We'll swing by tomorrow after Daniel's released."
"Sounds good to me," Jim said firmly, overriding Blair's protest.
Pursing his lips in irritation, Blair complained, "You know, it was bad enough when I only had one Blessed Protector to deal with."
Jim chuckled and said, "C'mon, Chief, let's get you to bed. See you, Jack."
Jack grinned and watched them leave before heading back to the infirmary.
* * * *
Jim steered a barely conscious Blair into Daniel's apartment, ignoring the curious neighbors who looked out their windows. Once the door was shut and locked behind them, he scooped Blair into his arms and walked towards the bedroom, mentally apologizing to Daniel for dirtying his sheets as he lowered his friend to the bed.
Blair didn't even stir as he took off the boots and just shifted sleepily as Jim pulled off the pants and t-shirt. Functioning mostly on auto-pilot himself, Jim undressed and crawled into bed beside his Guide, wrapping his arms around the comatose form. As his legs twined with Blair's, Jim's thoughts turned inward to a familiar subject with a deep sigh.
He'd been straight all his life. Never had any urge to look at another man, even at his most loneliest in the military. Even when Blair had come into his life, Jim hadn't so much as batted an eyelash of interest. More importantly, his dick had never so much as twitched. He knew Blair had wanted him by the second week the younger man had moved in with him. But Blair had respected him enough not to mention it, even though Jim could smell the strength of it on him.
Then, at some point, Jim had stopped smelling the desire. He'd thought that Blair had just settled into their friendship and been relieved. They'd grown so close that adding sex to the mix would have confused him so much, too much. Blair had probably figured that out on his own. Jim still wasn't sure how his friend did it, made himself not give off the pheromones, but that's just what happened.
He knew because of Alex, because of when his and Blair's spirits had merged. Jim had been submerged in the scent and found it...intoxicating. And every so often, when Blair was too tired to control his body's response, the familiar scent escaped to tease Jim. But still, they were happy in their friendship and Jim hadn't wanted to rock the boat. So even though they'd both stopped dating after the dissertation fiasco, no move had been made towards a physical relationship.
And Jim had been happy. He had his Guide and his best friend all to himself, but didn't have to broach the awkward subject of sex or intimacy. Blair had automatically given him whatever he had needed without even thinking of himself.
Ever since Blair had left to work on the translation job, even before they'd found out about the Stargate, Jim had known something was changing between them. Maybe it was all the silent times spent on the phone just listening to his friend breathe. Maybe it was all the time spent without being able to just turn around and reach out to the other man. For the first time in almost five years, Blair hadn't been at his fingertips and Jim had discovered just how much it bothered him. He wanted to touch Blair, wanted to feel the soft curls, wanted to smell the unique scent of his Guide.
Then they'd been told about the Stargate and the world had turned upside down. He had a very real enemy to fight and knew they were going into battle. Not every mission would be dangerous. Most missions wouldn't be. But there was always the chance that they wouldn't make it back. Jim knew that they wouldn't survive losing each other, knew it as surely as he breathed. If Blair died, Jim would force a zone from which he wouldn't recover. If he died, well, he wasn't sure what Blair would do, but knew that it would end the other man's life. They were just too dependent on each other to survive alone.
Strangely, it was a comforting thought, knowing that he would have Blair at his side through the next life.
The thing was, while they were alive in this life, Jim wanted the rest of Blair. He wanted to know his Guide's body as well as he knew his own. He wanted to please Blair, make him scream in ecstasy. He wanted to take his Guide, make and mark the other man as his and his alone. In return, he wanted to be possessed and marked by Blair so that everyone knew exactly who he belonged to.
As sleep overtook him, Jim sucked lightly on the gentle curve of Blair's shoulder then kissed the mark tenderly.
* * * *
Warm and comfortable, Blair yawned and tried to stretch but was buried under something heavy. Blinking awake, Blair smiled upon finding Jim sprawled over him. Sighing in contentment, he shifted closer, burrowing into the other man's heat. After a moment, Jim's arms surrounded him and one of his hands stroked lightly over his back. Far too comfortable to move, Blair murmured, "Morning."
"Morning," Jim whispered back.
Practically purring, Blair said, "This is nice."
"Mmhmm," Jim agreed. After a few minutes of silence, he continued, "Did some thinking last night."
"You had the energy to think?" Blair asked with a grin.
Jim snorted. "Been thinking about this particular subject for a long time, actually."
Shifting back a little so he could see Jim's face, Blair asked curiously, "Oh yeah? What subject?"
Smiling, Jim leaned down and pressed his lips to Blair's. After a stunned moment, Blair's mouth opened and Jim deepened the kiss. This was the taste he'd been craving: hot and wet and a little gritty from the previous day's adventure. He felt Blair relax completely in his arms and pursued an even deeper acquaintance with the heaven his tongue had found.
Unfortunately, they did need to breathe, and Jim pulled back, breathing heavily. After a few seconds, Blair's eyes drifted open and Jim's breath caught at the love shining out from the blue orbs.
Smiling lazily, Blair asked, "Been thinking about that a lot have you?"
Jim shivered at the heat that rolled through him at the sultry words. "Yeah, I have."
"I see. Come to any conclusions?" Blair asked, curling an arm around Jim's neck.
Nodding, Jim answered, "That I can't live another day without telling you how much I'm in love with you. That I need you more than I ever dreamed possible. That I've been entertaining the hottest thoughts of you for going on a year now, maybe longer if you don't count subconscious dreaming."
Pulling Jim close, Blair said, "It's about damn time you figured it out. I was starting to think you'd never catch on."
Stopping about a half inch from Blair's mouth, Jim griped, "You could've said something, Sandburg."
Blair shook his head. "Not this time, my love. This was the one thing I couldn't guide you in."
"I like the sound of that," Jim murmured.
"Sound of what?" Blair asked.
Nuzzling the side of Blair's throat, he answered, "My love."
Blair pulled Jim all the way on top of him and repeated, "My love. My life. My Jim."
Smiling, relishing the strong body beneath him, Jim countered, "My love. My life. My Blair."
"So. Ready to get this show on the road?" Blair asked, wriggling his eyebrows suggestively.
Laughing outright, Jim shook his head and said, "You're insane, you know that, Chief?"
In answer, Blair licked from Jim's collarbone to his chin, provoking a gasp from the older man. Smirking, he asked, "You were saying?"
Growling, Jim captured the willing mouth and devoured it. They traded control of the kiss back and forth with the ease of long-time lovers. One of Blair's legs hooked over Jim's hip, bringing their groins into closer contact and causing Jim to groan. He felt the smile as Blair's mouth widened and pulled back a little. "Something to say, Chief?"
Eyes darkened with desire, Blair nodded and said, "I don't know about you but I could use a shower."
Completely thrown by the statement, Jim stared at him in confusion. "Shower? Now?"
Grinning, Blair said, "Yep. I'm betting you've got your smell turned down, right?"
Busted. "Well, maybe a little."
Chuckling, Blair said, "That's what I thought. So. Get off me and let's get into the shower."
Okay. That sounded promising. "Let's?"
"Hell yeah. You don't think I'm going to let go of you this quick, do you?" Blair demanded. He slapped Jim's ass playfully and continued, "Besides. Think of all the possibilities of having a clean, wet, body as your playground."
Jim rolled off Blair and the bed and exclaimed, "Well? C'mon, Sandburg! Get a move on!"
Laughing in delight, Blair scrambled out of the bed and walked to the bathroom with Jim's hand in his. Morning breath and relieving the bladder pressure were taken care of first, then boxers were stripped off and the shower turned on. There was no shyness as they stepped into the shower, just a sense of rightness, almost a familiarity in the act. They had, after all, done just about everything else in the bathroom together, even being nude together wasn't all that unusual on a rushed morning.
But when Blair stepped into Jim's arms, he just about melted. The feel of being completely surrounded by Jim's hot, wet body was almost more than he could take. His head fell back and Jim softly plundered his mouth, turning them so Blair was mostly shielded from the hard spray. They made out like that forever, hands running over previously forbidden territory.
Jim pulled back then maneuvered him back under the spray and said, "Don't move. I'm going to take care of you now."
Blair smiled and stayed under the relaxing hot water. Jim came back to him with soap in one hand and a loofah in the other. He alternated moving first one than the other over Blair, rubbing and soothing muscles still tense from the captivity and release the day before. After several minutes, Jim borrowed some shampoo and lathered the thick curls, scratching the pads of his fingers into Blair's scalp until Blair was limp under the caresses.
"Keep it up and I might just go back to sleep."
Chuckling, Jim shielded Blair's eyes from the shampoo as he rinsed the hair clear. "I don't see any conditioner."
Blair grinned up at him and said, "I think Daniel's hair is just naturally gorgeous and besides, it's so short now he doesn't have to worry about it. He wouldn't know conditioner if it bit him on the ass."
Laughing, Jim said, "Right, Chief. Whatever you say."
"So. Jim. Now that I'm clean, what do you want to do to...I mean...with me?" Blair teased.
As sudden as if a switch had been hit, heat shocked through Jim's body and blood rushed to his cock, filling it. He pulled Blair to him, wrapping his arms around the smaller man and trapping him. Turning them around again, he sealed his mouth to Blair's, plunging his tongue into the waiting mouth. His hands slid down to grasp the firm ass, the water making his path ridiculously easy.
Blair groaned into his mouth when fingers ran between his asscheeks, one of them straying to caress his opening. Eager to provoke more of the same reactions, Jim cautiously pushed his finger further inside. This time Blair shuddered and groaned in pleasure. Pulling back from the kiss, Jim growled, "Oh I like this."
In response, Blair yanked his arms free, threw them around Jim's neck and hooked his leg over Jim's hip, eagerly opening himself for more.
Happy to oblige, Jim pushed his finger deeper and twisted it around, drawing out more shudders. His other hand reached down and grasped Blair's thigh, keeping his leg in place as he pushed their erections against each other. The water cut down on friction but the slip and slide almost made up for it.
"Oh God, oh God, oh God," Blair mumbled, hiding his face against Jim's shoulder. He was already so close and they'd only been touching for what, five minutes? It felt so good, all of it, better than he'd ever imagined and his imagination was pretty fucking good. Jim's finger in his ass was both rough and firm and it was only a matter of time until he hit... "Fuck!"
Jim froze at the expletive. "Blair? You okay?"
Growling, Blair grabbed Jim's face between his hands and gasped, "Stop and you're a dead man!"
Jim barely managed to suck air into his lungs before Blair attached to his mouth like a limpet. But he definitely got the message and pushed his finger deep again. Score! Another half-shout from deep within Blair. He'd heard stories about the prostrate but hadn't really believed them. Finding it again, this time he deliberately rubbed against it a few times and Blair jerked in his arms, his cock exploding with seed. Oh crap, he hadn't meant to do that! Now what?
Blair dragged his mouth away from Jim's, gasping weakly for air. He could feel Jim was still hard but he was too wiped out to do anything about it just then. Resting his forehead against Jim's shoulder, he just stayed put in Jim's arms until he felt like he could do more than gape like a fish. Finally he straightened and looked up at his lover. A snicker escaped him at Jim's dismayed but slightly smug expression. "Problem, big guy?"
"Very funny Sandburg," Jim growled.
Laughing in earnest now, Blair said, "Hey, you're the one who got a little over eager in his explorations. I was just along for the ride."
Sighing, Jim shook his head in amusement then captured Blair's mouth in a long, sweet kiss. "C'mon, Chief. Let's get dried off and fix some breakfast."
Eyebrow arching wickedly, Blair tightened his leg around Jim to keep him in place and asked, "I didn't say the ride was over now, did I?"
"But, I mean, you're not really in any condition to do anything else," Jim pointed out reasonably, his hands running lightly over Blair's back.
"Sure I am," Blair assured him, his eyes hot and liquid. "Just keep going with what you were doing only add another finger and stretch me out. Fuck me, Jim."
Even if the shower hadn't still been running steamy, Jim would've flushed as he realized what Blair wanted. His mouth dried in anticipation as he thought about taking Blair. Before he even realized it, he was doing it. His finger was back inside Blair while the other hand had grabbed the soap again, knowing they needed something slicker than water.
Blair pulled his leg down and turned, sighing in pleasure when a second finger joined the first. He leaned against the cool tile, thankful for its steadiness. It had been forever since he'd had anyone inside him but he was so relaxed and happy just then that he wasn't even sure he needed lube. The gentle stretching of Jim's fingers made him ache for his lover's cock and he pushed back against the pressure, his own cock sluggishly starting to harden.
Jim pressed open-mouthed kisses and bites to Blair's shoulder and neck, sucking a multitude of hickeys into existence, marking his lover. He was so hard and ready that he wasn't sure he'd be able to control himself much longer.
"Go on lover, take me, I'm all yours," Blair murmured, Sentinel soft.
Keeping strict control, Jim hesitantly pushed himself inside Blair and groaned at the tightness that gripped him. Forehead to Blair's neck, panting heavily with the effort not to plunge in willy-nilly, Jim slowly pushed in. Finally they were joined, balls to backside, and Jim wrapped his arms once more around Blair, this time his hands pressed flat against the broad chest. His fingers twined through the chest hair and he kissed the side of Blair's neck in between loving murmurs. His fingers played with hardened nipples as he listened to the breathy moans his lover uttered.
"Jim, man, now would be a really good time to move," Blair gasped, clenching his ass around the hard but welcome invader.
Jim grunted in surprise at the tightening of muscles around him. He pulled out a little then slid in, repeating the motion carefully until he felt the muscles loosen and relax enough so that he wouldn't hurt Blair. Then he started thrusting harder and shifted until he found the nub that seemed to give his lover so much pleasure. Blair cried out, hands clenching uselessly at the tile and Jim reached down to find his lover's cock hard again.
It wasn't going to take long to finish but this time he wanted them to come together so Jim gripped Blair's erection firm and started pumping him roughly in counter-rhythm to his thrusts. He could feel the pounding of blood through Blair, felt their pulse synchronize and jerked into Blair even harder, slamming into the heat of his lover, his mate. Blair drew in a shuddering breath just as Jim bit down on his shoulder to muffle his own shout of completion and they came together.
Blair had no strength left, not after coming so hard, twice in a row. He leaned lopsidedly against the wall, Jim plastered to every inch of him, feeling the sticky seed slowly spilling from him. Holding Jim's arms around him, Blair slowly got his breathing under control. Sensing that Jim was too far gone to do much of anything, Blair said quietly, "Jim? Jim, love, much as I hate to do this, really, really hate to do this, I need you to pull out so we can move somewhere a little less dangerous."
Sighing deeply, feeling too sated to move, Jim didn't hear much of anything except the words move and dangerous. That brought his attention back to the real world and this time his sigh was of regret. He kissed the spot that would soon be a bruised bite-mark on Blair's shoulder and carefully pulled out of his lover. He heard Blair's hiss of pain and resolutely gathered what little energy he had left.
Gently turning Blair's back to the shower, Jim washed his lover scrupulously. After a few minutes, he was satisfied by the job he'd done and turned off the shower. "Stay put. Let me get a towel."
Tired, Blair stayed where he was then allowed Jim to pull him out of the shower and dry him off. He almost cried at the tenderness in Jim's hand and that was when he figured he'd better get something to eat. He was definitely not the weepy sort but that's exactly what he felt like doing. To his surprise, after Jim pushed him back into bed, the older man disappeared. Frowning, he called out, "Jim? What're you doing, man?"
There was no answer and he was just about to climb out of bed when Jim reappeared carrying two plates of leftover pizza. "You need to eat and, while I'm sure Doc Frasier would question pizza as being nutritious, it'll do for now."
Yawning, Blair took the plate and ate it as quickly as he could, eager to just curl up and get to sleep. To his relief, Jim finished about the same time. They set the plates on a night stand table then Jim pulled Blair into his arms and Blair pressed his lips to Jim's chest. Sleepily, he asked, "Have I mentioned that I love you more than life itself?"
Absurdly pleased at actually hearing the words, Jim murmured, "No. But I kind of figured you felt something like that."
Snuggling as close as possible, Blair murmured, "I love you. More than life itself."
Nuzzling the stubble-roughened cheek, Jim whispered back, "I love you, Blair. More than life itself. Now go to sleep."
And who could resist an order like that?
* * * *
"Well that's weird," Daniel said, looking around the empty living room. "They wouldn't still be sleeping, would they?"
Jack shrugged as he pocketed his keys and followed Daniel further into the apartment. "No coffee. Maybe they are still sleeping."
Daniel headed towards the bedroom and stopped short at the sight of the two men wrapped around each other, naked, in his bed. Jack stumbled into him and complained, "Daniel! What are...oh."
Jim pushed himself into a sitting position with a grin. "I heard you come in but there wasn't enough time to actually get dressed. I figured I'd save your virgin eyes by keeping under the covers."
Laughing, Jack exclaimed, "Good plan. We'll just head to the kitchen and let you two get dressed. And bring your plates out while you're at it. Hard enough to keep Daniel in line about neatness. Don't need you giving him ideas."
Daniel just rolled his eyes and left the room. Jack set about making coffee and he pulled out some sandwich fixings, hungry again. Janet had said he would be hungrier than usual and had ordered him to eat more for a couple of days. "Want one?"
"Sure," Jack accepted, sitting easily at the table.
By the time the sandwiches were done, Jim and Blair were dressed and had joined them in the kitchen. Daniel saw the careful way Blair sat down and grinned to himself. Payback was a bitch and he didn't even have to do anything. Solicitously, he asked, "Feeling all right, Blair?"
Blair shot him a dirty look but only said, "Wonderful, thanks."
Jim sat as well and asked, "How are you, Daniel?"
Smiling, Daniel said, "Fine, thanks. Almost back to normal."
"Yeah right," Jack muttered with a knowing grin. Ignoring the irritated glare his lover threw at him, he looked at Jim and observed, "You two sure know how to complicate things."
Jim shrugged. "Like no one thought we were lovers before we actually were?"
"Not the point," Jack said easily. "You going to be able to do the job now that you are?"
Indignant, Blair exclaimed, "Of course we are!"
"Blair, he has to ask," Daniel soothed.
"Sure he did," Jim agreed. A hint of steel entered his voice as he continued, "We'll do our share, O'Neill, and do it without hesitation. But we won't be separated."
Jack stared at him for several long moments before nodding. "All right then. Just wanted to clear the air."
It occurred to Blair, not for the first time, that since Jim and Jack were both cut from the same cloth they would instinctively search out each other's boundaries. It would take a while for SG1 to mesh, for everyone to figure out their new places within the team. Still, as the two older men started talking about other things, with Daniel chiming in occasionally, Blair had the feeling that things would eventually settle down, that SG1 would become a good, strong team.
He just hoped that they had enough time for that to happen.